Europe court finds France violated suicidal inmate's human rights

[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] on Thursday ruled [judgment, DOC text; press release] that France [JURIST news archive] had violated the human rights of a psychotic inmate by failing to prevent his suicide. The court unanimously found that French authorities had breached Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights [PDF text] by failing to protect Joselito Renolde's right to life and had violated Article 3 of the convention by treating him in an inhumane and degrading manner. According to the judgment,

the Court is struck by the fact that, despite Joselito Renolde’s suicide attempt and the diagnosis of his mental condition, it does not appear that there was ever any discussion of whether he should be admitted to a psychiatric institution. The experts noted in their report that “[his] disorders could perhaps have called for a discussion of the advisability of admission to a psychiatric unit”. However, not until Joselito Renolde’s lawyer requested steps to be taken on 12 July 2000 was an expert assessment envisaged as to whether his condition was compatible with detention.

In the light of the State’s positive obligation to take preventive operational measures to protect an individual whose life is at risk, it might have been expected that the authorities, faced with a prisoner known to be suffering from serious mental disturbance and to pose a suicide risk, would take special measures geared to his condition to ensure its compatibility with continued detention.
The court further found that the authorities had imposed inappropriate punishment by failing to account for Renolde's mental condition when they sent him solitary confinement for attacking a guard. Renolde's survivors did not submit a claim for damages under the convention. AFP has more. Le Monde has local coverage, in French.

Last week, after a 16-year-old inmate killed himself [AFP report, in French] at a jail in northeastern France, the the International Observatory of Prisons (OIP) [advocacy website] called on the French government to release statistics about the number of suicides in prisons during 2008 and reports by committees that monitor prison suicides. The group said in a statement [text, in French] that the number of French prisoners committing suicide had increased 27 percent in the first half of 2008 compared with the same period last year.


 

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