The European Court of Human Rights found that Hungary has breached the ban on inhuman and degrading treatment in the case of Csüllög v Hungary. The applicant was represented by the Helsinki Committee’s lawyer. The case concerned the placement of a prison inmate in a special security regime in the Satoraljaujhely prison for two years. The applicant had no opportunities to challenge his placement in the regime. It follows from the Court’s judgment that Hungary has to improve detention conditions and revise rules on legal remedies available to inmates.
The European Court of Human Rights, in its judgment dated 7 June 2011, established that the Hungarian authorities violated the prohibition on inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 3) concerning a client, represented by an HHC lawyer, for the cumulative effects of being detained in a special security ward within the prison administration. The client, Mr. Zsigmond Csüllög, was detained for the majority of his prison term (approx. 2 years) in the special security ward of the Sátoraljaújhely Prison. Because of the special security regime, he had almost no human contact for a period of nearly two years and was never informed about the reasons for being kept separate from the other inmates (according to the current legislation, no reasoning and right to appeal have to be provided for such decisions). There was only artificial lighting in his cell, ventilation was insufficient, the toilet had neither a seat nor a cover and he had to endure full body cavity searches on a daily basis. In addition, he was always hand-cuffed when he was outside his cell, could not keep a watch, a pen, a comb, plastic cutlery, teabags or stationery, and he could only keep a limited number of books or newspapers.
The ECtHR emphasized that solitary confinement was only appropriate as an exceptional and temporary measure and the Hungarian authorities had given no reasons when applying or extending the solitary confinement of the client, neither during his detention, nor upon his subsequent release in early 2010, nor in the procedure before the ECtHR. He perceived his solitary confinement as an arbitrary decision, which in turn caused feelings of total dependence, powerlessness and humiliation. The cumulative effects of the strict security regime in which Mr. Csüllög had been kept for a long time and the inadequate material conditions in his cell had resulted in inhuman and degrading treatment, in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The ECtHR awarded EUR 6,000 as just satisfaction for the HHC’s client, along with EUR 2,680 for costs and expenses.
The case also had an important impact in terms of domestic legislation. In November 2011, the problem of placing detainees into a special security cell or unit in an arbitrary manner (i.e. without giving any reasons for their placement and not ensuring the right to appeal), criticized by the ECtHR in the above decision, was addressed by Parliament as it adopted an amendment that ensures the right to appeal against decisions on placement in a special security cell or unit.
The Court’s judgement is available here.