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“Right to say goodbye” versus pre-trial detention

The HFHR has intervened in the case of X, a suspect put in pre-trial detention who wanted the attended his father’s funeral.

Case of X

X’s father died on 29 July 2017. Two days later, the suspect’s attorney filed a motion to allow X to attend the funeral, which was scheduled for 3 August. According to the motion’s justification, the detainee was very attached to his father and the bond between them grew even stronger after the father fell ill, as the son was the only source of aid and comfort for the ailing father. Moreover, X cannot imagine being absent during the burial ceremony.

The attorney said that on 1 August he was verbally informed at a prosecutor’s office that his motion was dismissed. He did not receive any written answer, though.

HFHR intervenes

On 2 August 2017, the HFHR sent an intervention letter to the prosecutor’s office, invoking Article 8 ECHR and stating that the right to say last goodbyes to a deceased person is an expression of the right to respect for private and family life.

“In our letter, we pointed to several legal authorities, including the ECHR judgement in Czarnowski v. Poland, in which the Court held that refusing an inmate the right to attend a funeral, even by way of an escorted leave, had violated the inmate’s right enshrined in Article 8”, HFHR lawyer Katarzyna Wiśniewska says.

In the end, in the consequence of a negative decision of the prosecutor’s office, X was unable to attend his father’s funeral.

“The refusal of consent to X’s attendance at the funeral and the way in which this case was processed show that ECtHR standards are still not fully implemented in cases involving Poland”, notes Adam Klepczyński, another member of the HFHR legal team.

Problems with protection of right to say goodbye

This is yet another HFHR’s intervention regarding the “right to say goodbye”. Last year, a court ruled in the case in which the family of a deceased prisoner requested that a penitentiary facility apologise to them and compensate them for the moral injuries they suffered after the prison had refused to let them say goodbye to an inmate dying in a prison hospital. The court ordered the prison to issue an official apology and ruled that the State Treasury should pay compensation to the deceased’s family members.

In Giszczak v. Poland, another case brought against Poland, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2011 that Poland had twice violated the right to respect for private and family life. The case concerned refusing an inmate a leave to see his 11-year-old daughter staying at a hospital ICU ward after she fell into a coma following a traffic accident.

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