Russia must reduce the number of remand detainees, the European Court of Human Rights ruled as concern over the country’s jail system persists.
In a judgment on Tuesday, which is not final and can be appealed, the court said detainees were subjected to inhumane treatment and had no avenues available to them to complain about inadequate detention conditions.
“Detainees suffered inhumane and degrading treatment because of an acute lack of personal space in their cells, shortage of sleeping places, limited access to light and fresh air and non-existent privacy when using the sanitary facilities,” the court said.
The judges said the problem, which they said was a “recurrent structural problem in Russia,” was “the result of a malfunctioning of the Russian penitentiary system and insufficient legal and administrative safeguards.”
In one case brought before the court, Gennady Bashirov spent more than three years with two square meters of personal space and the number of detainees “significantly exceeded” the number of sleeping places.
He and another applicant, Sergey Anayev, were only allowed out of the cell for a one-hour period of outdoors exercise and had to eat their meals and use the toilet with other inmates in the cell.
The judges said a further 250 cases were pending before the court in which the applicants complained about their detention conditions.
The Russian government will have six months, from the date on which the judgment becomes final, to produce a binding timetable to adopt a host of reforms aimed at improving conditions, the court ruled.
These include the scaling down of prison populations, the provision of privacy to use the toilets in cells, ensuring that pre-trial detention is only used in the most serious cases as well as establishing maximum capacity for each remand prison.
The Russian authorities must also ensure that detainees can complain effectively about their detention conditions, the court said.
There has been increased concern over jail conditions in Russia since the high-profile death of campaigning lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009.
Magnitsky uncovered a massive tax scam allegedly involving senior Russian officials but died in police custody after being denied medical care.