The recent ruling of the European Court of Human Rights which found that lack of prisoner space in Tallinn Prison amounts to inhuman treatment has triggered similar claims from several prisoners, writes Postimees.
Eleven inmates held in Tallinn prison have now sued the Estonian state claiming compensation for their "inhuman treatment", saying that the ratio of prison cells per prisoner is below the statutory limit.
Their compensation claims range from a few hundred to tens of thousands of euros.
One of the prisoners, Marko Kalev, is claiming 90,000 euros as compensation for "inhuman conditions”. Kalev also claims that the state must pay him in addition 6.6 milion euros as he could not protect his interests in court cases linked to his companies.
In April Tallinn Administrative Court ruled that Kalev’s claim should be satisfied in part, but said that monetary compensation was out of the question. Prisoners say that since Estonian courts are likely to rule against these 11 claims, many of them are prepared to appeal up to the European Court of Human Rights.
ECHR: 3 sqm as minimum
ECHR ruled at the end of last year that 2.55 sqm of prison cell floor area per inmate is inhuman and that it should be at least 3 sqm.
The ruling concerned Terki Tunis, a well-known criminal who has been repeatedly convicted for producing and dealing narcotic drugs, and has had three prison sentences in the last ten years. Tunis sued the Tallinn Prison claiming that in three years he developed back problems because of too small prison cells.
Although Tunis lost in all Estonian courts, he appealed to the European Court of Human Rights which in December ruled that the Estonian state must pay Tunis 10,000 euros in compensation and 3,000 euros in court fees. The ruling entered into force on March 18.
Problems only in Tallinn Prison
The problem concerns Harku, Murru and Tallinn Prison where the ratio of floor area per prisoner is currently under 3 sqm. As for the more modern Tartu and Viru prisons, inmates have at least 4 sqm per person of floor space.
ECHR has ruled, however, that it is difficult to stipulate a minimum required floor area because it depends on relevant circumstances, including time spent in prison, possibilities to move outside the prison cell, the physical and mental condition of the inmate, etc.