You are on page 1of 3

issued by the Registrar of the Court ECHR 315 (2013) 29.10.


Latvian authorities failed to ensure safety of prisoner at risk of violence from other prisoners
In todays Chamber judgment in the case of D.F. v. Latvia (application no. 11160/07), which is not final1, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been: a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The case concerned D.F.s complaint that, as a former paid police informant and a sex offender, he was at constant risk of violence from his co-prisoners when held in Daugavpils prison between 2005 and 2006, and that the Latvian authorities failed to transfer him to a safer place of detention. The court held that, owing to the authorities failure to coordinate effectively, D.F. had been exposed to the fear of imminent risk of ill-treatment for over a year, despite the authorities being aware that such a risk existed.

Principal facts
The applicant, D.F., is a Latvian national who was born in 1963 and is currently serving a prison sentence in Riga. D.F. alleges that he worked as a police informant during the 1990s. In October 2005 he was arrested on charges of rape and indecent assault on minors and placed in pre-trial detention. In March 2006 he was convicted of those charges and sentenced to 13 years and one months imprisonment. The judgment was upheld by the Supreme Court in December 2006. Between 25 October 2005 and 26 October 2006, D.F. was kept in Daugavpils prison. He alleges that during this period he was subjected to violence by other inmates because they knew he had been a police informant and a sex offender. He maintains that the prison administration frequently moved him from one cell to another, exposing him to a large number of other prisoners. D.F. made numerous applications to be moved to a specialised prison, but these were repeatedly rejected, in particular because the Prisons Administration did not find it established that he had been a police informant. In August 2006 he asked the Prosecutor General to initiate criminal proceedings against the police, for their failure to acknowledge his collaboration with them. In October 2006 he was informed that his collaboration had been confirmed, and he was transferred to another prison.

Complaints, procedure and composition of the Court

Relying in particular on Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment), D.F. complained that he had been unable to obtain a transfer to another prison and therefore had been exposed to violence, humiliation and mental suffering in Daugavpils prison. He also complained that he had no effective remedy in that regard. The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 20 February 2007.
1 Under Articles 43 and 44 of the Convention, this Chamber judgment is not final. During the three-month period following its delivery, any party may request that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber of the Court. If such a request is made, a panel of five judges considers whether the case deserves further examination. In that event, the Grand Chamber will hear the case and deliver a final judgment. If the referral request is refused, the Chamber judgment will become final on that day. Once a judgment becomes final, it is transmitted to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe for supervision of its execution. Further information about the execution process can be found here:

Judgment was given by a Chamber of seven judges, composed as follows: David Thr Bjrgvinsson (Iceland), President, Ineta Ziemele (Latvia), Pivi Hirvel (Finland), George Nicolaou (Cyprus), Ledi Bianku (Albania), Zdravka Kalaydjieva (Bulgaria), Vincent A. de Gaetano (Malta), and also Franoise Elens-Passos, Section Registrar.

Decision of the Court

Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment)
The Court found that the first part of the complaint - that D.F. had been ill-treated in Daugavpils prison - was inadmissible, as he had failed to submit any details of his ill-treatment, or supply any proof that he had suffered any injuries. As regards the second part of the complaint that the Latvian authorities had exposed D.F. to the risk and fear of ill-treatment by keeping him detained at Daugavpils the Court referred to reports of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT). The CPT had found that prisoners charged with sexual offences were exposed to a heightened risk of violence by other prisoners. It had also repeatedly expressed particular concern about such violence in Daugavpils Prison. In line with the CPTs recommendations, the Court underlined that the responsible authorities in the Member States had an obligation to take all steps that could be reasonably expected to prevent ill-treatment of prisoners of which they had or ought to have had knowledge. The Latvian authorities had been aware that D.F. was at a heightened risk of violence by other prisoners, as the prison administration knew he had been charged with sexual offences against minors. Moreover, some authorities had information about his work as a police informant in the past, but that information had not systematically been passed on between the relevant authorities. D.F. had made repeated requests to be transferred to another prison, alleging threats to his life and health. Moreover, according to D.F.s submissions uncontested by the Latvian Government he had been frequently moved between cells, for which the Government had not submitted any convincing justification. Referring to the recommendations of the CPT, the Court pointed out that transfers of vulnerable prisoners should form part of a carefully designed strategy to protect them from violence by other prisoners. The Court was concerned by the fact that D.F.s request to the law-enforcement agencies to confirm his previous collaboration with the police had turned into a lengthy procedure, to which the lack of sufficient coordination between the relevant authorities further contributed. The possibility of requesting an interim measure before the administrative courts could not remedy this situation, as there had not been any time-limit for those courts to deal with requests for interim measures under the relevant provisions in force at the time. The system in place for transferring vulnerable prisoners had therefore not been effective, either in law or practice. Given D.F.s fear of the imminent risk of ill-treatment at Daugavpils prison for over a year, and the lack of an effective remedy to resolve that problem, the Court concluded that there had been a violation of Article 3.

Just satisfaction (Article 41)

The court held that Latvia was to pay D.F. 8000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage. The judgment is available only in English. This press release is a document produced by the Registry. It does not bind the Court. Decisions, judgments and further information about the Court can be found on To receive the Courts press releases, please subscribe here: or follow us on Twitter @ECHRpress. Press contacts | tel: +33 3 90 21 42 08 Nina Salomon (tel: + 33 3 90 21 49 79) Tracey Turner-Tretz (tel: + 33 3 88 41 35 30) Denis Lambert (tel: + 33 3 90 21 41 09) Jean Conte (tel: + 33 3 90 21 58 77) The European Court of Human Rights was set up in Strasbourg by the Council of Europe Member States in 1959 to deal with alleged violations of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights.