- Sometimes people are detained by governments without proper justification. They could be charged with a crime without any proper evidence, for example, or imprisoned for political reasons.
- Under the European Convention on Human Rights, we have the right to be free – apart from in certain circumstances, such as when someone has been convicted of a crime or is a threat to the public.
- Cases brought to the European court have led to the release of people who should not be in jail – including political prisoners and people who are innocent of any crime.
Ilgar Mammadov was detained after writing a blog post criticising the government. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that his detention was politically motivated. For the first time ever, the Council of Europe launched a special procedure against a member state over Azerbaijan’s response to the judgment. This eventually caused Azerbaijan to release Ilgar and quash his conviction.
Jaroslav Červenka was held against his will in a social care home after his public guardian decided he was not fit to look after himself. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Jaroslav’s right to liberty was violated. Anticipating the court’s judgment, the Czech Republic introduced better protections for people placed in social care homes.
H.L., who has autism, was kept in hospital as an “informal patient” after he suffered a mental health crisis. The European court ruled that this amounted to detention and UK law had not sufficiently protected him. In response, the UK introduced legal safeguards for the placement and detention in psychiatric facilities of vulnerable people who cannot make legal decisions for themselves.
Sergey Solovyev lost three years of his life in a cell, after being falsely accused of manslaughter. At one point his detention was extended without an order from a judge and contrary to Russian law. The European court ruled that Mr Solovyev’s right to liberty had been breached. Russia changed its criminal laws to prevent unlawful detention orders and protect the right to liberty.
Wrongfully accused of murder and attempted burglary, Andrzej Leszczak was detained for almost three years before being acquitted at trial. The European court ruled that the Polish authorities had not given proper reasons for holding him and had not explored different ways of making sure he attended his trial. Following a series of such cases, Poland changed laws to protect liberty rights.
Man given 3 months’ detention for a crime he didn’t commit - and reforms to protect the right to liberty
Locked in a windowless cell, I. I. spent 3 months in pre-trial detention for a crime he did not commit. After he developed various illnesses, the charges against I.I. were dropped because of a lack of evidence and he was released. Following a series of similar cases, the law in Bulgaria was changed to protect people’s right to liberty.
Frits Winterwerp was detained in a psychiatric hospital. He said that he was not mentally ill and he should be released. However, he was repeatedly prevented from making his case in the Dutch courts, which kept extending his detention without hearing from him. The European court ruled this had violated his right to liberty. Reforms were made to protect people in Mr Winterwerp’s situation.
Hotel director Juozas Jėčius was held for over 14 months whilst awaiting trial for murder. However, there had never been any proper evidence against him, and he was acquitted at trial. The European court ruled that Mr Jėčius’s incarceration had violated his right to liberty. Following the Court’s judgment, new measures were introduced to help avoid unjustified detention.
Allar Harkmann was arrested and detained, without a court hearing his case or examining the legality of his detention. He was only released after 15 days. The European court ruled that the failure to have Mr Harkmann’s detention promptly reviewed by a judge, and the lack of any opportunity for him to obtain compensation, had violated his right to liberty.
Josette Prencipe was in her mid-sixties when she was arrested and detained for almost 4 years, without facing trial. She was accused of making illegal bank transfers. The European court ruled that the authorities had breached Mrs Prencipe’s right to liberty. The case triggered a series of reforms, including a new time limit on pre-trial detention.
Peter Frommelt asked to be released whilst awaiting trial for financial crimes. When this was considered on appeal, neither he nor his lawyer were allowed to make any legal arguments. The European court ruled that this had been unfair. The procedures were changed, allowing people to make comments to a court in such circumstances.
Giuseppe Toniolo was detained in San Marino for five weeks whilst awaiting extradition. The European court ruled that the law in San Marino did not set out clear rules for his imprisonment, meaning that he could be detained arbitrarily and could not effectively make a claim to be released.