16 January 2015

In its judgment in Mahammad and Others v Greece, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled yesterday (15 January) that 14 foreign nationals detained in the Greek centre of Fylakio were held in conditions amounting to inhuman and degrading treatment, under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The Court further found there to have been a violation of the right to a speedy review of the legality of their detention before a legal body. 

The Court agreed with the applicants that the centre was in a state of serious and continued overpopulation, leading to a large number of detainees having to sleep on the floor. The Court noted that the large shared dormitories as well as the beds and facilities were not of an acceptable level of cleanliness. Personal hygiene products were rarely available and the quality of the food provided was also at times inadequate. Detainees could not go outside on a regular basis. Proof of these conditions had been provided in numerous reports by bodies such as the European Committee on the Prevention of Torture (CPT), the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, as well as by local NGOs.

Furthermore, the ECtHR ruled that the applicants did not receive an examination of the legality of their detention that meets the standard required by the Convention. Instead, the judge in Greece who should initially have examined the legality of the detention had simply repeated that the applicants constituted a danger to the public as they would not be able to support or provide for themselves outside the centre without committing a crime. The tribunal judge had also argued that it was only necessary to examine the legality of the decision to detain and not to examine the conditions of the detention, despite the existence of this provision in an amended piece of domestic legislation.

A third violation alleged by the applicants was found to be inadmissible. The applicants had argued that their detention was not lawful due to the fact that no travel documents could be produced in order to facilitate their removal from Greece. However, citing previous cases such as Chahal v UK, the Court reiterated that the mere fact that removal procedures were in existence was enough to justify the deprivation of liberty. These grounds for detention were therefore not found to be in violation of the Convention.



 This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 16 January 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.