Life imprisonment is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, as long as prisoners have some chance of being released and it is possible for their sentences to be reviewed. According to the European Court of Human Rights, national laws concerning life imprisonment must be sufficiently clear and certain.
Prisoners should also know from the outset what they must do to be considered for release, and under what conditions. The Council of Europe’s Department for the Execution of ECHR Judgments has published a new factsheet on cases concerning life imprisonment.
The factsheet summarises steps taken by nine member states on this issue in response to 20 different judgments from the European Court of Human Rights. It covers a number of specific issues relating to life sentences, including review mechanisms, conditions of detention and the risk of irreducible life sentences in extradition cases.
This is the latest in a series of thematic factsheets on changes to national law, policy and practice across Europe linked to the implementation of the European Court’s judgments. Other factsheets cover issues including the environment, children’s rights, domestic violence, freedom of expression and data protection.