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Application to ECtHR on behalf of incarcerated schizophrenia patient

The Helsinki Foundation has prepared an application to the European Court of Human Rights for Daniel Boczarski*, challenging conditions of his incarceration. In February, the HFHR contacted the governor of Mr Boczarski’s prison, asking for a comment on the allegations made by the Foundation’s client.

Approximately 10 years ago, Mr Boczarski has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He was serving a prison sentence of 9 months in a Polish prison after he was convicted for the preparation to falsify a document. Initially, he was sentenced to an electronically monitored curfew but later damaged the tagging device. According to his mother, he complained that the radiation emitted by the device might have harmed him. Before his committal to prison, Daniel has been hospitalised in psychiatric wards on many various occasions.


In the application prepared on behalf of Daniel Boczarski, the HFHR noted that Poland might have violated Articles 3 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibit torture and ensure the right to respect for private and family life. According to the existing jurisprudence of the ECtHR, domestic authorities should take all efforts to ensure the proper conditions of Daniel Boczarski’s incarceration, which should be adjusted to his medical condition.

Conditions of incarceration

Upon his committal to prison, Daniel Boczarski was given the P-1/p security categorisation, which refers to the category of inmates serving custodial sentences in closed prisons for the first time. In his letters to the HFHR, Daniel noted that the conditions applicable to his category were not adjusted to his mental disorder. He, therefore, felt that he was not treated in a humane way. As he argued, he stayed in his cell 23 hours a day and had only two hours of visiting time a month during which he could see his mother. He also complained about very limited access to the library.

On the arrival to prison, Daniel was examined by a prison doctor who did not diagnose him with paranoid schizophrenia but preventively prescribed further medication. In doctor’s opinion, Daniel faked the condition.

“A week before his committal to prison, Mr Boczarski was released from a psychiatric hospital”, says Adam Klepczyński, a lawyer working for the HFHR. According to his patient discharge notice, he should receive a follow-up outpatient treatment. Daniel wrote in his letters that while staying in prison he received medication different from that prescribed by the doctor. He went on a hunger strike to protest against the improper treatment. This led to him having been transferred to a single monitored cell. “Daniel continued his hunger strike even after he was moved to solitary confinement. Due to concerns regarding his health condition, a decision was taken to transfer him to a hospital ward in another prison, where he was immediately diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic patient”, adds Mr Klepczyński.

Prison conditions for inmates with mental disabilities

“The treatment of persons suffering from schizophrenia consists of many different elements”, says Piotr Kubaszewski, a member of the HFHR legal team. “Referring to psychiatric literature, we argued in the application that pharmacotherapy was only one of the elements of an effective treatment process. Apart from proper medication, a schizophrenic patient should be given access to psychotherapy, psychoeducation and family counselling”, Mr Kubaszewski adds. The above means that the treatment of schizophrenia should be comprehensive and adjusted to the needs and health condition of a patient.

Moreover, vocational activation is a crucial element of the rehabilitation process. Mr Boczarski has repeatedly tried to find employment. “Through work, I could present myself as a valuable human being”, he wrote emphatically in a letter to the HFHR. Unfortunately, he was unable to find a job because of his security categorisation.

“The conditions of incarceration of persons with a diagnosed mental disability should be adjusted to the needs of such persons in a way that ensures these conditions have the least possible impact on their health”, says Katarzyna Wiśniewska, an attorney working with the HFHR. “This has not happened in Daniel’s case. While arguing the violation of Article 3 ECHR, we pointed out that Daniel had not been provided with proper medical care. The Strasbourg Court has repeatedly reiterated, also in judgments issued in cases against Poland, that a state had the duty to ensure that inmates serve their sentences in dignified conditions, which includes a duty to ensure a proper level of healthcare in prisons”, Ms Wiśniewska adds.

The application to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg was prepared by the Legal Intervention Programme and Strategic Litigation Programme.

Daniel Boczarski is represented in the proceedings before the ECtHR by Dr Piotr Kładoczny.

* The applicant’s name has been changed to avoid identification.

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