By: William Krueger
Impunity Watch Staff Writer
STRASBOURG, France – On January 21, 2021 the Fourth Section of the European Court of Human Rights (Court) joined together and dismissed 19 applicant complaints of Article 3 of the Convention violations by the Romanian government. In the decision of Vanghele and Others v. Romania, the Fourth Section was composed of Armen Harutyunan, Jolien Schukking, Ana Maria Guerra Martins, and Viktoriya Maradudina.
The first application was introduced to the Court on May 1, 2016 by Adrian Vanghele, with other applications arriving from George Orbulescu, Florin Gabriel Popescu, Petrică Dobre, Gavril-Lucian Ciupea, Silviu-Sorin Ungureanu, Ion Horga, Dumitru Ignat, Fănel Serea, Mădălin-Ionuț, Adrian Stoica, Gabriel Dorel Popu, Dănuț-Marian Nastas, Marian Dincă, Alexandru-Cristian-Anton Gheorghe, Mihai Dumitru, Gheorghe Albu, Ambrosie Teglaş, and Alin Dondoți. Three of the applicants had even included notice of a representative to act on their behalf: Stocia Nicolae of Norway, Daniela Voduță of Vaslui, Romania, and Titiana-Daniela Satnoianu of Braşov, Romania. The three represented Horga, Ignat, and Teglaş respectively. The letters of all nineteen applicants were introduced to the Court from May 1, 2016 to March 13, 2017. Generally, in the applications the nineteen had complained that their detentions in Romanian facilities were in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention. Article 3 states that: “No one shall be subject to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” After the introduction of the letters, the Court informed the Romanian government of the complaint levied against it. The Romanian government submitted a response to the Court of its opinion on the admissibility of the complaints and the merits of an Article 3 violation. The applicants were invited to give their own observations; but none of the nineteen applicants replied.
In September 2020, the Court had sent each applicant a letter via registered mail that any observations submitted would be invalid as time had expired. The Court had set a new deadline however for all applicants in the same letter while reminding them of Article 37 in the European Convention. Article 37, specifically section 1(a), grants the court the right at any stage of a proceeding to strike an application from the list of cases if “the applicant does not intend to pursue his application.” All nineteen of the letters would be returned to the court in November 2020 without response. Most of the applicant’s letters would be returned to the court unclaimed, with four being returned as the applicant had been released from incarceration. According to court records, all nineteen applicants had been released from prison before the mailing of the letters. The Court was not notified of a change of address by any applicant and never received correspondence by an applicant or their representative.
In the Court’s decision, the Fourth Section concluded that the nineteen applicants must not desire continuing litigation. The Court then applied all of Article 37 section 1 to find there was no special circumstance that would lead the court to continue on the applicant’s behalf. The Court finished by joining all nineteen applications together and then striking the applications from the list of cases.
Vanghele and Others v. Romania was not the first time that alleged abuse of incarcerated individuals may have occurred under Romanian authority as according to a State Department of the United States Report on Human Rights Practices in Romania: prisons are overcrowded and undermaintained by Council of Europe standards, 633 complaints made by incarcerated persons to the National Penitentiary Authority in Romania were not referred to prosecutors, and medical care in Romanian prisons was insufficient.