FIFTH SECTION

DECISION

Application no. 16510/06 
by Ivan Vasilev ANGELOV and Elena Ivanova ANGELOVA 
against Bulgaria

The European Court of Human Rights (Fifth Section), sitting on 7 December 2010 as a Chamber composed of:

Peer Lorenzen, President, 
 Renate Jaeger, 
 Karel Jungwiert, 
 Mark Villiger, 
 Mirjana Lazarova Trajkovska, 
 Zdravka Kalaydjieva, 
 Ganna Yudkivska, judges, 
and Claudia Westerdiek, Section Registrar,

Having regard to the above application lodged on 14 April 2006,

Having deliberated, decides as follows:

THE FACTS

The first applicant, Mr Ivan Vasilev Angelov, was a Bulgarian national who was born in 1959 and lived in Simeonovets. He died on 15 July 2007. On 15 November 2007 one of the first applicant's heirs, his daughter Ms Elena Ivanova Angelova, informed the Court of his death and requested to continue the proceedings in his stead.

The second applicant, Ms Elena Ivanova Angelova, is a Bulgarian national who was born in 1985 and lives in Simeonovets.

The circumstances of the case

The facts of the case, as submitted by the applicants, may be summarised as follows.

1.  The criminal proceedings against the first applicant and the suspension of his sentences

On 27 February 1997 the Sofia District Court found the first applicant guilty of theft and sentenced him to ten years' imprisonment. The first applicant did not appeal against the judgment so it became final.

On 9 September 1997 the Pazardzhik District Court found the first applicant guilty of escaping from prison and sentenced him to one year and eight months' imprisonment. The first applicant did not appeal against the judgment so it became final.

In 2005 the first applicant suffered two heart attacks, the first in February and the second on an unspecified date. He was transferred on an unspecified date to Sofia Prison Hospital. On 30 June 2005 the prosecution authorities suspended the first applicant's sentences on medical grounds pending his recovery. On 11 July 2005 he was transferred to a civilian hospital. The first applicant was discharged on an unspecified date.

On 24 December 2005 the first applicant was arrested for breaking into a house and for molestation. On 28 December 2005 the prosecution authorities revoked the suspension of his sentences and he was returned to Pazardzhik Prison.

On 11 December 2006 the Pazardzhik District Court found the first applicant guilty of breaking into a house and for molestation and sentenced him to seven years' imprisonment. The first applicant did not appeal against the judgment so it became final.

2.  The alleged inadequate conditions of detention and medical care and the first applicant's action for damages

Until his death on 15 July 2007 the first applicant served his sentences primarily in Pazardzhik Prison, except for several periods of hospitalisation in Sofia Prison Hospital.

The first applicant maintained that after the deterioration of his health in February 2005 he was held in conditions that were inadequate for his health and that the medical care he received in prison was unsatisfactory, which amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment.

(a)  The alleged inadequate conditions of detention

The first applicant contended, in particular, that: (1) although placed in a non-smoking cell the smoke of cigarettes from the neighbouring cell was constantly penetrating through the cell window; (2) the cell lacked fresh air and smelled musty while in summer the temperatures reached forty degrees Celsius; (3) he had to climb three flights of stairs from the prison canteen to his cell if he wanted to get food which caused him tachycardia and was in contradiction with the treating physicians' recommendation to avoid all physical exertion; although he requested on several occasions to receive food in the cell, the Pazardzhik Prison authorities refused which led to him having to starve for long periods of time; (4) for the same reason he could not go out for outdoor walks and take showers as the bathrooms and the courtyard were three floors below; (5) no diet appropriate to his heart problems was provided; and (6) before June 2005 the prisoners were forced to wear military clothing, including during visits, and were punished if they refused to wear them.

(b)  The alleged inadequate medical care

The first applicant contended, in particular, that: (1) the prison doctors often refused to treat him because they and the Pazardzhik Prison authorities believed that he was pretending to be ill; (2) in February 2006 his blood pressure meter was seized by the Pazardzhik Prison authorities so he could not monitor his blood pressure and pulse rate, while such monitoring was rarely done by the prison doctors – only around 20 times for the period from September 2006 to May 2007 – in spite of the treating physicians' recommendation for regular supervision thereof; (3) the prison doctors substituted the medication prescribed by the treating physicians and gave him a different medicine that was allegedly inappropriate for his slow heart rhythm; (4) medical care was available only according to a schedule and during the rest of the time he could not receive first aid; (5) during his first heart attack in February 2005 the Pazardzhik Prison authorities negligently delayed calling an ambulance; (6) the Pazardzhik Prison authorities delayed, sometimes for months, his transportation for the regular check-ups by the treating physicians; (7) they delayed by twenty days his transportation to a hospital where he had to undergo surgery; (8) in September 2006 he was taken to a court hearing in spite of his unstable health condition – immediately after his discharge from the Prison Hospital and in spite of his complaints about that – and transported in a car where the temperature was unbearably high as a result of which he suffered a cardiac episode and was taken to hospital; (9) the prison doctors refused him access to his medical file; (10) he received his medication once a week and if he did not feel well and could not go to the doctor's office to get his medicine the prison doctors would leave him without it for a whole week; and (11) on 18 May 2007 he suffered a cardiac episode and requested to see a doctor but was refused; on the next scheduled date for doctors' visits he requested that the prison doctor carry out medical examinations on him but the doctor refused.

(c)  The first applicant's action for damages

On an unspecified date in 2006 the first applicant filed a civil claim for damages concerning the alleged inadequate conditions of detention and medical care.

On 28 February 2007 the court instructed the first applicant to correct certain deficiencies in his claim. In particular, it instructed him to specify the nature of his claim, the factual grounds for his action, the respondent parties and their addresses. The first applicant received the court's instructions on 3 March 2007 but did not act on them.

In a final decision of 6 April 2007 the Sofia Court of Appeal rejected the first applicant's action because of his failure to comply with the court's instruction of 28 February 2007.

3.  Correspondence of the first applicant to the Court

On several occasions in 2007 the first applicant sent letters to the Court from Pazardzhik Prison accompanied by statements from other inmates describing events of alleged ill-treatment in the prison. The first applicant contends that the letters were opened and inspected because the Pazardzhik Prison authorities returned them to him and the prison warden explained to him that he was not allowed to send such statements and questioned him about the reason for sending them. The first applicant further contends that the Pazardzhik Prison authorities required prisoners to hand all letters addressed to the Court to the prison administration in open envelopes.

4.  Alleged ill-treatment and subsequent punishment of the first applicant by the Pazardzhik Prison authorities

On 14 February 2007 following a strike in the prison the first applicant was requested to leave his cell for security reasons. Apparently he refused and the prison officers used force to make him comply with the order.

Following the incident, the first applicant was examined by a doctor who certified the existence of a several band-shaped bruises on his neck, left armpit, left thigh and right knee.

The first applicant requested the prosecution authorities to initiate criminal proceedings against the prison officers claiming that they had ill-treated and beaten him. On 24 April 2007 the Pazardzhik district public prosecutor's office refused on the ground that sufficient evidence existed that the first applicant had injured himself after the incident in order to claim that he had suffered injuries inflicted by the prison officers. In May 2007 the first applicant appealed against the refusal to the Pazardzhik regional public prosecutor's office. The Court has not been informed of any subsequent developments in these proceedings.

On 20 March 2007 the warden of Pazardzhik Prison imposed a sanction on the first applicant under section 76 (d) of the Enforcement of Sentences Act – reduction of the amount of personal expenses up to fifty per cent for the period of one month – on the ground that he had breached the prison rules by injuring himself for the purpose of discrediting the prison staff. The first applicant maintained that he appealed against the sanction but that the Pazardzhik District Court upheld it in a closed session. The first applicant further maintained that he requested from the Pazardzhik Prison authorities to provide him with copies of the court decisions but that they refused.

5.  The first applicant's death

The second applicant contends that the first applicant was scheduled to undergo an unspecified operation in Sofia Prison Hospital in the summer of 2007. The first applicant was transferred to Sofia Prison Hospital on an unspecified date where he died on 15 July 2007 without the operation having been performed. An autopsy was performed on an unspecified date. No documents have been provided to the Court regarding the planned operation or the first applicant's cause of death.

COMPLAINTS

1.  The first applicant complained under Articles 3 and 13 of the Convention in respect of (a) the conditions of detention in the detention facility of the Sofia Investigation Service during the period 1994-1995; (b) the alleged ill-treatment in Pazardzhik Prison in 1999; (c) the conditions of detention and the medical services provided in Pazardzhik Prison after the deterioration of his health in February 2005 and (d) that he lacked an effective remedy in that respect.

2.  The first applicant also complained that after his arrest in December 2005 he was subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment by having been deprived of his medication and proper medical care in spite of his critical health condition at that time.

3.  The first applicant complained that he was ill-treated by prison officers in February 2007.

4.  The first applicant complained that the civil courts arbitrarily refused to examine his claim for damages for the inadequate conditions of detention and lack of adequate medical care.

5.  The first applicant also complained that although his sentences were suspended on 30 June 2005 he was released only on 11 July 2005 when he was transferred to a civilian hospital.

6.  The first applicant complained, invoking Articles 5 §§ 4 and 13 of the Convention, that the decision of the public prosecutor's office to revoke the suspension of his sentences was unlawful.

7.  The first applicant complained under Articles 6 § 1 and 13 of the Convention in respect of the outcome and fairness of the three criminal proceedings against him for (a) theft, (b) escaping from prison and (c) breaking into a house and molestation, as well as in respect if the alleged impartiality of the court in the proceedings for the theft.

8.  The first applicant also complained that he was not heard by the court which reviewed the punishment imposed on him by the Pazardzhik Prison authorities on 20 March 2007.

9.  The first applicant complained that the prosecution authorities refused to open criminal proceedings against certain witnesses for perjury.

10.  The first applicant complained that the Pazardzhik Prison authorities monitored his correspondence with the Court, that they questioned him regarding them and instructed him on their content. He also complained that the authorities refused to provide him with copies of documents which he needed in support of the present application concerning the three criminal proceedings against him, the proceedings before the domestic court that reviewed his punishment imposed by the Pazardzhik Prison authorities and the alleged ill-treatment by the prison officers in February 2007.

11.  On 15 November 2007 the second applicant claimed that her father's death had been caused by the prison authorities' failure to provide him with timely and adequate medical care. In particular, she claimed that the Pazardzhik Prison authorities failed to timely transfer her father for the operation in Sofia as a result of which he passed away prematurely.

THE LAW

A.  Complaints concerning the first applicant's correspondence with the Court

The first applicant complained that the Pazardzhik Prison authorities inspected his letters to the Court, that they questioned him regarding them and instructed him on their content. The complaint falls to be examined under Articles 8 and 34 of the Convention, the relevant parts of which provide:

Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life)

“1.  Everyone has the right to respect for his ... correspondence.

2.  There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

Article 34 (individual applications)

“The Court may receive applications from any person, non-governmental organisation or group of individuals claiming to be the victim of a violation by one of the High Contracting Parties of the rights set forth in the Convention or the Protocols thereto. The High Contracting Parties undertake not to hinder in any way the effective exercise of this right.”

The Court observes that the first applicant died in 2007 and that one of his successors – the second applicant – informed the Court on 15 November 2007 that she wished to continue the proceedings on behalf of her father.

The Court notes that in several cases in which an applicant has died after having lodged the application, it has taken into account the intention of the applicant's heirs or close members of his or her family to pursue the proceedings (see, for example, Malhous v. the Czech Republic (dec.) [GC], no. 33071/96, ECHR 2000-XII, and Kovačić and Others v. Slovenia [GC], nos. 44574/98, 45133/98 and 48316/99, §§ 189-192, ECHR 2008-...). In this connection, the Court has considered whether or not the persons wishing to pursue the proceedings were the applicant's close relatives (see Thévenon v. France (dec.), no. 2476/02, ECHR 2006-III, and Scherer v. Switzerland, 25 March 1994, §§ 31-32, Series A no. 287). Moreover, as a second criterion, the Court has examined whether the rights concerned were transferable. On the one hand, the Court has continued the examination of cases involving pecuniary claims that were transferable to the deceased applicant's heirs (see, for example, Ahmet Sadık v. Greece, 15 November 1996, § 26, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1996-V; and, mutatis mutandis, Karner v. Austria, no. 40016/98, § 25, ECHR 2003-IX). On the other hand, the Court has found that certain other rights, such as those guaranteed by Articles 5 and 8 (Thévenon, cited above) or Articles 2, 3, 5, 8, 9 and 14 (Sanles Sanles v. Spain (dec.), no. 48335/99, ECHR 2000-XI) were of an eminently personal and non-transferable nature (see Vääri v. Estonia (dec.), no. 8702/04, 8 July 2008, with further references).

Separately, the Court has also considered that human-rights cases before the Court generally also have a moral dimension and persons close to an applicant may have a legitimate interest in seeing to it that justice is done even after the applicant's death (see, mutatis mutandis, Lukanov v. Bulgaria, 20 March 1997, § 35, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1997-II; Pisarkiewicz v. Poland, no. 18967/02, §§ 30-33, 22 January 2008; and Horváthová v. Slovakia, no. 74456/01, § 25-27, 17 May 2005).

The Court has also considered whether the case concerned involved an important question of general interest transcending the person and the interests of the applicant (see Karner, cited above, §§ 25-27; Marie-Louise Loyen and Bruneel v. France, no. 55929/00, § 29, 5 July 2005; and Biç and Others v. Turkey, no. 55955/00, § 23, 2 February 2006).

Turning to the present case, the Court observes that the second applicant wished to continue the application lodged by her father – the first applicant – as it related, inter alia, to his complaints of alleged interference with his right to respect for his correspondence and the alleged hindrance with the effective exercise of his right of application. Thus, the first condition of close kinship is met. However, these complaints concern issues falling under Articles 8 and 34 of the Convention, which are so closely linked to the person of the original applicant that they cannot be regarded as transferable. Therefore, the Court finds that the second applicant does not have standing to continue the proceedings in the first applicant's stead as they relate to the aforesaid complaints under Articles 8 and 34 of the Convention.

Consequently, considering that there exists no general interest in the present case which necessitates proceeding with the examination of the aforesaid complaints, the Court finds that the conditions in which they may be struck out of its list, as provided in Article 37 § 1 of the Convention, are satisfied.

B.  The remainder of the applicants' complaints

The Court has examined the remainder of the applicants' complaints as submitted by them. However, in the light of all the material in its possession, and in so far as the matters complained of are within its competence, the Court finds that they do not disclose any appearance of a violation of the rights and freedoms set out in the Convention or its Protocols.

It follows that this part of the application must be rejected as being manifestly ill-founded, pursuant to Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.

For these reasons, the Court unanimously

Decides to strike the application out of its list of cases as it relates to the first applicant's complaints under Articles 8 and 34 of the Convention;

Declares the remainder of the application inadmissible.

Claudia Westerdiek Peer Lorenzen Registrar President

ANGELOV and ANGELOVA v. BULGARIA DECISION


ANGELOV and ANGELOVA v. BULGARIA DECISION