European Court of Human Rights orders Russia to release AIDS prisoner

22 Dec 2008

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) held in a judgment issued today, 22nd December 2008, that the continued detention of Vasily Aleksanyan by the Russian authorities is ‘unacceptable’.

STRASBOURG, 22nd December 2008: The ECHR, in a judgment issued this morning, ordered the release of Mr Vasily Aleksanyan, a 37 year old lawyer who has been held in detention by the Russian authorities since April 6th 2006 (991 days). Mr Aleksanyan suffers from AIDS and a number of concomitant diseases, including AIDS – related lymphatic cancer, and is nearly blind.

Following Mr Aleksanyan’s detention and the diagnosis of HIV in 2006, his health declined rapidly. On 26 November 2007, Mr Aleksanyan lodged a request for urgent intervention by the ECHR on the basis that he was not receiving treatment appropriate to his condition and necessary to preserve his life. In response, on several occasions in November and December 2007 the ECHR issued interim measures, (injunctions) requiring the Russian authorities to transfer Mr Aleksanyan to a hospital specialized in the treatment of AIDS and concomitant diseases. The Russian authorities refused to transfer Mr Aleksanyan for treatment for over two months.

Today the ECHR, finding violations of several articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, held that the Russian authorities’ failure to provide timely treatment to Mr. Aleksanyan ‘undermined [his] dignity and entailed particularly acute hardship… which amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment’. The ECHR also noted that ‘[it] is clear… that for over two months the Government continuously refused to implement the interim measure, thus putting the applicant’s health and even life in danger’.

Finally, the ECHR found that ‘in view of the gravity of the applicant’s illnesses, [his] continued detention is unacceptable’ and ‘has lost any meaningful purpose… further maintaining of [detention] is incompatible with Article 5 of the Convention’ (right to liberty and security of person).

Drew Holiner, who is also a member of the Russian Bar, represented the applicant.

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Drew Holiner