ECHR rules Croatia violated human rights through prolonged compulsory psychiatric treatment News
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ECHR rules Croatia violated human rights through prolonged compulsory psychiatric treatment

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) Thursday ruled that by subjecting a man to prolonged compulsory psychiatric treatment, Croatia had violated his right to liberty and security under Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The applicant, Luka Miklić, faced criminal proceedings as a minor in 2016 following complaints of stalking and harassment by a minor teenage girl. In June 2017, the Rijeka Municipal Court found Miklić guilty of criminal offences on counts of intrusive behaviour and threat while lacking mental capacity when he was a minor. It relied on psychiatric and psychological expert opinions obtained during the criminal proceedings to commit him to a psychiatric unit for six months.

However, based on expert opinions, his confinement was repeatedly extended. Miklić then brought a case against the country. In July 2019, the Constitutional Court dismissed his complaint asking the domestic courts to duly consider replacing his compulsory confinement with a milder measure. Miklić then lodged an application with the ECHR against his compulsory confinement in the psychiatric hospital.

The ECHR noted that under Section 37(2) of the Protection of Persons with Mental Disorders Act, the court must obtain a fresh expert opinion from a person not employed by the concerned institution when deciding on the periodic prolongation of a person’s compulsory confinement.

Miklić had been denied a fresh expert opinion by both the county and the appellate courts without any justifiable reasons. The domestic courts were relying on expert evaluations that had been carried out one or two years ago. Since Miklić had previously shown improvements in his condition, these expert evaluations could not be considered “the most accurate information on his mental state at the time of his request for discharge.”

As Miklić’s confinement was not based on objective and recent evaluations, and the domestic courts did not order a fresh expert evaluation, the ECHR held that his rights under Article 5 § 1 of the Convention had been violated.