ECtHR - J.R. and others v. Greece (application no. 22696/16) [Articles 3, 5(1), 5(2), 34 ECHR], 25 January 2018

Thursday, January 25, 2018

On 25 January 2018, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) published its judgmentin case J.R. and others v. Greece (application no. 22696/16), which concerned the detention of three Afghan nationals in the VIAL hotspot in Chios.

First, the ECtHR assessed the admissibility of the applicant’s claim under Article 5 ECHR. The Court affirmed that from the day of their arrival (21 March 2016) to the day the VIAL hotspot was transformed into a semi-open centre (21 April 2016), the applicants had to be considered “detained” for the purposes of Article 5 ECHR. Contrary to the Greek government’s submission, the Court found that the applicants had not failed to exhaust domestic remedies as they did not have access to a remedy: they had not received legal assistance and could not understand the information regarding the possibility to appeal since they could not read Farsi or Greek and the information provided was not precise enough.

Secondly, the Court  was of the view that the one-month period of detention, whose aim had been to guarantee the possibility of removing the applicants under the EU-Turkey Statement, was not arbitrary and could not be regarded as “unlawful” within the meaning of Article 5 § 1 (f). It also ruled that the one-month period of detention could not be considered excessive in view of the purposes of detention. Therefore, the ECtHR found that there had not been a violation of Article 5(1) ECHR. However, the ECtHR ruled that there had been a violation of Article 5(2) ECHR since, even if the applicants had received the brochure with information on the reasons for their detention, the content of this brochure was not clear and precise enough to inform the applicants of the reasons for their detention and the possibilities to appeal against it.

Thirdly, with regard to Article 3 ECHR, the Court ruled that the conditions in the VIAL hotspot did not attain the necessary gravity to be considered inhumane or degrading treatment under that article. It also stated that, while different NGOs and international organisations had raised concerns over the conditions in the hotspot, these had been mostly related to access to health care, lack of information and legal assistance, and poor quality of the water and food provided, which the Court found not to reach the severity required to constitute a violation of Article 3 ECHR. The ECtHR also took into account the “brevity” of the applicants’ detention (of one month before the centre became a semi-open facility).

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Effective remedy (right to)
Inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Legal assistance / Legal representation / Legal aid