KHPG lawyers uphold rights of HIV-positive prisoners in Strasbourg


The European Court of Human Rights has issued four chamber judgements against Ukraine over the right to proper medical care of HIV-positive prisoners. with three of the applicants represented by lawyers from the Kharkiv Human Rights Group’s Strategic Litigations Fund.   In all four cases, Ukraine was found to be in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The problems faced by Ukrainian prisoners with medical conditions requiring treatment are enormous and Strasbourg’s findings an important step.

Congratulations to KHPG lawyers Aigul Mukanova; Natalya Okhotnikova; Yury Ovsiyenko; Olha Semenyuk; Yana Zayikina for their success in the cases of Sergey Antonov v. Ukraine; Andrey Lunev v. Ukraine and Maksim Sokil v. Ukraine. 

We hope that the Ukrainian authorities will give due note to these cases, as well as that of Eduard Savinov v. Ukraine and take the appropriate measures to rectify the situation. 

All four applicants had alleged inadequate medical care in detention, and two also said that they had been put under psychological and/or physical pressure in order to discourage them from bringing their complaints before the European Court of Human Rights.  The applicants had all been suffering from HIV for several years before they were taken into custody.

Sergey Antonov was arrested in September 2012 on suspicion of theft and his case was transferred to court for consideration on the merits in June 2013. The last known information as to his whereabouts is that he was transferred to a correctional colony in Buchanska in September 2013 to serve a sentence.

He alleged that despite the prison authorities being aware that he was HIV-positive, the first attempt to find out what kind of medical treatment he required had only been made at the beginning of January 2013, four months after he had been placed in pre-trial detention. He was prescribed with antiretroviral therapy in March 2013.

Andrey Lunev had been arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking in January 2012 and sentenced in February 2013 to six and half years’ imprisonment. That decision was however subsequently quashed and the criminal case against him remitted for fresh consideration by a court. Ultimately, in June 2013 he was placed by a court under house arrest in the town of Bryanka, Ukraine, given that he required medical treatment which he could not receive in detention. He alleges that, despite being diagnosed as HIV-positive on being placed in pre-trial detention, he was only given a cell count test one year later in February 2013 and prescribed with antiretroviral therapy only in April 2013.

Eduard Savinov was sentenced in 2008 to a combined term of nine years’ imprisonment following convictions of drug-related offences, theft and inflicting grievous bodily harm. He was, however, released in June 2013 in view of his serious health problems. Mr Savinov, HIV-positive for 20 years, alleges in particular that he only started receiving antiretroviral treatment at the end of December 2012 through the assistance of an NGO.

Maksim Sokil was placed in pre-trial detention in February 2012 and sentenced in September 2012 to two years’ imprisonment for drug-related offences and theft. He was released in January 2014 having served his sentence. Mr Sokil alleges that, although he had been HIV-positive since 2008 and spent the majority of his detention as a patient in various medical facilities, the treatment prescribed to him was mainly symptomatic. He thus only received antiretroviral therapy in August 2013, nearly a year and half after he had been placed in detention.

In all cases the Court found that there had been violation of Article 3, prohibiting inhuman and degrading treatment over the lack of adequate medical treatment. 

Mr Antonov and Mr Savinov also alleged under Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) that national legislation had not provided for effective remedies with which to complain about inadequate medical care in prison.

Mr Antonov also complained under Article 34 (right of individual petition) that he had been subjected to psychological pressure to dissuade him from maintaining his application to the European Court, alleging that, as a result of the intimidation, he had signed a note in July 2013 stating that he had had no complaints about the prison medical staff. This note was submitted by the Government to the European Court in the current proceedings.

Mr Lunev further alleged under Article 3 and Article 34 that he had been ill-treated in detention in January 2013 by two police officers who had wanted to intimidate him into withdrawing his complaint to the European Court about the inadequate medical care and that the ensuing investigation into his allegation, terminated after one month due to lack of evidence and then on two further occasions following remittals by a court or the prosecutor due to shortcomings, had been ineffective.

In the case of Sergey Antonov, the Court found violation of Articles 3; 13 and 34, awarding 7 thousand EUR.

In the case of Andrey Lunev it found violation of Article 3 in respect of the failure to provide adequate medical treatment in detention and over failure to investigate the allegations, but rejected a third claim, alleging ill-treatment and his reference to Article 34.  He was awarded 10 thousand EUR.

In the case of Eduard Savinov the Court found violation of Article 3 in respect of the failure to provide adequate medical treatment in detention and of Article 13.  He was awarded 10 thousand EUR. 

In the case of Maksim Sokil, the Court found violation of Article 3 in respect of the failure to provide adequate medical treatment in detention and awarded 7, 500 EUR. 

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