Case of Bigović vs Montenegro

In the case Bigović vs Montenegro the European Court of Human Rights found a violation of Article 5 § 1, violation of Article 5 § 3 and violation of Article 3 (concerning the conditions of detention) of European Convention on Human Rights.

The applicant, Ljubo Bigović, is a Montenegrin who is currently serving a 30-year prison sentence in Spuž (Montenegro) for, among other things, the aggravated murder of a high-ranking police investigator. The case concerned his complaints about his detention, including poor conditions and inadequate medical care.

Mr Bigović was arrested in February 2006 and placed in detention because of the risk of him absconding. His detention was extended during the next four years and seven months for the same reason. After that, the courts considered, in addition, that his release would seriously breach public order and peace. Throughout his detention he has suffered from various illnesses, including ulcerative colitis, cataracts, problems with his knees and depression. He unsuccessfully applied for release on numerous occasions, primarily for health-related reasons, while complaining about the length and lack of review of his pre-trial detention as well as the reasons for it, inadequate medical care and poor conditions in detention.

The Court did not find a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights (the “Convention”) with regard to the medical care of the applicant in detention, but pointed out that the applicant had received adequate medical assistance over a long period of time.

The applicant’s submissions about the conditions of his detention were supported by the CPT, which observed in its 2008 report “the alarming level of overcrowding” in the remand prison at the relevant time, the cells being stuffy and humid. On the other hand, the Government provided no evidence contradicting the applicant’s submission in respect of his detention between 16 February 2006 and 5 August 2009, for which apparently there are no records. Having in mind that, the Court found a violation of Article 3 regarding the conditions of detention.

The Court furthermore found that there has been a violation of Article 5 § 1 of the Convention with regard to the lack of precision in detention orders in respect of the duration of extensions and periods where more than two months passed after the indictment was issued without new orders extending the applicant’s detention.

The Court further considered that, apart from the fact that the applicant was a relatively young person the courts, when extending his detention, failed to consider his personal circumstances, such as his character and morals, home, occupation, assets, family ties and various links to the country in which he was being prosecuted. Those are all factors in the light of which the risk of absconding has to be assessed. Moreover, the Court observes that the domestic courts did not make any express assessments as to the proportionality of the applicant’s continued detention, in particular in the light of his state of health and the lapse of time. Thus, there has been a violation of Article 5 § 3.

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