Imprisoned former police officer wins €5,000 for no effective remedy about detention conditions

A former police officer who was jailed on drug-related charges won €5,000 in damages from the Maltese government after the European Court of Human Rights found that he had no effective remedy in connection with complaints made about his detention conditions.

Jean Pierre Abdilla had been jailed for 16 years after being found guilty by a 2009 jury of trafficking in heroin, possession of the drug, trying to corrupt an immigration officer official and being in possession of protected birds and reptiles.

He was also found guilty of conspiring with another person to sell the drug, but this charged was dropped by an appeals court in 2013. He had also been fined €40,000.

In his application before the European Court of Human Rights, Abdilla claimed a breach of Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights that states “no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

He complained that the prison conditions he had been subjected to in Division 2 at the Corradino Correctional Facility “resulted in him suffering inhuman and degrading treatment”.

Abdilla also claimed a breach of Article 13 of the Convention in conjunction with Article 3 – that he had no effective remedy concerning his conditions of detention. According to Article 13, everyone whose rights and freedoms are violated “shall have an effective remedy before a national authority notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity.”

In its judgment, the ECHR found there was a breach of Article 13. Referring to previous case law involving Malta, the Maltese government should introduce a proper administrative or judicial remedy “capable of ensuring the timely determination of such complaints, and where necessary, to prevent the continuation of the situation but no new remedy has yet been put in place.

“It therefore finds that the applicant had no effective remedy in connection with his complaint concerning his conditions of detention,” the court said.

However, the court dismissed Abdilla’s complaint that his prison stay left him suffering degrading treatment and said “the overall conditions of detention of the applicant did not subject him to distress or hardship of an intensity exceeding the unavoidable level of suffering inherent in detention”.

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