The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Thursday ordered French authorities to pay thousands of euros in damages to 32 inmates due to violations to fundamental human rights caused by prison overcrowding.
The collective action brought by 32 inmates from six prisons was an accumulation of complaints lodged from 2015-2017. Representatives of the International Prisons Observatory (OIP) stated that there was severe overcrowding and lack of privacy in lavatories. This amounted to a breach of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) and Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Referring to Article 13, the court found that preventative strategies put in place by French authorities were insufficient to remedy for the violations. In regards to Article 3, the court noted that the government was required to provide evidence of prison conditions in response to any allegations made by prisoners. There were cases where information on conditions was “non-existent” or “limited.” In other cases, the records were incomplete, and the court found that some detainees were living in spaces below the minimum standard of 3 square feet, supporting the claim of overcrowding.
Concluding the judgment the court invoked Article 46 (whereby the authorities are to abide by the final decision of the courts), insisting that France should adopt measures to improve the “conditions of detention.” The aim was for preventative and compensatory remedies to allow prisoners to receive compensation for their treatment, deterring further human rights violations.