ECHR: No effective remedy for inhumane conditions after prisoner incurred a debt to the French state


The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that France failed to provide an effective remedy to an individual held in inhumane detention conditions. The individual ended up owing the state €237 after having to pay for an expert to inspect the cell in which they were detained.

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Summary by the ECHR

In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of Barbotin v. France (application no. 25338/16) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the Convention read in conjunction with Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights

The case concerned the compensation awarded to the applicant by the domestic courts in respect of his conditions of detention in Caen remand prison. The applicant complained of the ineffectiveness of the compensatory remedy of which he had availed himself, in view of the low amount awarded and the fact that he had had to pay the expert’s fees incurred to inspect the cells in which he had been held.

The Court ruled that the applicant had benefited from an appropriate remedy affording him compensation for the damage which he had sustained. This was the first time the compensatory remedy exercised before a French administrative court on grounds of inhuman conditions of detention had been acknowledged as being effective under Article 13 of the Convention. In the present case, however, the domestic court had decided to order the applicant to pay the expert’s fees on the grounds that the expert assessment ordered at first instance had been cancelled on appeal. On account of the modest amount which had been awarded to the applicant in compensation for the non-pecuniary damage caused by his conditions of detention, which had been incompatible with human dignity, he had thus found himself, after receipt of his compensatory remedy, owing the State 273.57 euros (EUR). The Court considered that the outcome of the proceedings brought by the applicant had deprived the remedy of its effectiveness.

See: ECHR press release: An applicant who had been detained in conditions incompatible with human dignity was awarded insufficient compensation (pdf)

Judgment: AFFAIRE BARBOTIN c. FRANCE (French only, pdf)

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