Albanian authorities must establish a special medical institution for the mentally ill persons who were deprived of their liberty

In the case of Strazimiri v. Albania (application no. 34602/16) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

  • a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights because of inadequate living conditions in the prison hospital where applicant was detained and insufficient psychiatric care
  • violations of Article 5 §§ 1, 4 and 5 (right to liberty and security), in particular because of his continued deprivation of liberty in a prison rather than a medical institution and because his appeal against his detention had been pending before the Supreme Court since 2016. 

The case concerned the detention of the applicant, Arben Strazimiri, who had been exempted from criminal responsibility on account of mental illness, in a prison rather than a medical institution. Both the courts and the prosecuting authorities found in particular that until such time as specialised institutions for mentally ill individuals who were exempted from criminal responsibility and were subject to court-ordered medical treatment had been built, it was not contrary to the law for them to be placed in an establishment which had been adapted to their needs, such as the special wing of Tirana Prison Hospital.

The Court found in particular that there had been a longstanding failure by the Albanian authorities to set up a special medical institution for the mentally ill who were deprived of their liberty on the strength of court-ordered compulsory treatment. That was in breach of its domestic statutory obligations, and pointed to a structural problem. 

The Court found that Albanian legislation did not provide for a right to compensation for unlawful detention of individuals in Mr Strazimiri’s specific situation. Nor had the Government submitted any domestic case-law to prove otherwise. 

The Court held under Article 46 (binding force and implementation) that the authorities should as a matter of urgency ensure that the applicant receive individualised therapy and consider placing him in an alternative setting, outside a penal facility. It also considered that Albania should take measures as soon as possible to provide appropriate living conditions and adequate health care to mentally ill persons who were subject to deprivation of liberty because of the courts ordering their compulsory medical treatment. Such measures should include either refurbishing existing facilities or creating new specialised facilities whose purpose was to cure or alleviate the mental health of detainees, reduce their dangerousness and facilitate their reintegration into society. Lastly, the authorities should recruit sufficient qualified mental health care workers in such facilities and consider, where appropriate, the possibility of outpatient treatment. 

References from the official website of the European Court of Human Rights