FIRST SECTION

PARTIAL DECISION

AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF

Application no. 52750/99 
by  Jacobus LORSÉ, Everdina LORSÉ-QUINT, Pieternella Johanna LORSÉ, Paula Martina LORSÉ, Jacobus LORSÉ (Junior), Maria Petronella VAN ESCH, Johanna Maria LORSÉ, Neeltje Maria LORSÉ and Hubertus Joseph LORSÉ

against the Netherlands

The European Court of Human Rights (First Section) sitting on 18 January 2000 as a Chamber composed of

Mrs E. Palm, President
 Mr J. Casadevall, 
 Mr L. Ferrari Bravo, 
 Mr Gaukur Jörundsson, 
 Mr C. Bîrsan, 
 Mr B. Zupančič, 
 Mrs W. Thomassen, judges,

and Mr M. O'Boyle, Section Registrar;

Having regard to Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;

Having regard to the application introduced on 19 November 1999 by Jacobus Lorsé, Everdina Lorsé-Quint, Pieternella Johanna Lorsé, Paula Martina Lorsé, Jacobus Lorsé (Junior), Maria Petronella van Esch, Johanna Maria Lorsé, Neeltje Maria Lorsé and Hubertus Joseph Lorsé against the Netherlands and registered on 19 November 1999 under file no. 52750/99;

Having regard to the report provided for in Rule 49 of the Rules of Court;

Having deliberated;

Decides as follows:

 

THE FACTS

The first applicant is Mr Jacobus Lorsé, who was born in 1945. His profession is given as managing director/trader.

The second applicant, Ms Everdina Lorsé-Quint (born in 1961), is the wife of the first applicant. The third, fourth and fifth applicants, Pieternella Johanna Lorsé (born in 1985), Paula Martina Lorsé (born in 1987) and Jacobus Lorsé junior (born in 1992), are the children of the first and second applicants.

The sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth applicants, Maria Petronella van Esch (born in 1965), Johanna Maria Lorsé (born in 1966), Neeltje Maria Lorsé (born in 1968) and Hubertus Joseph Lorsé (born in 1970), are children of the first applicant born out of previous relationships.

The first applicant is in detention in the Extra Security Institution (Extra Beveiligde Inrichting, “EBI”) which is part of the Nieuw Vosseveld Penitentiary Complex in Vught (Netherlands). The other applicants are all resident in Roosendaal, with the exception of the ninth applicant who resides in Rotterdam.

All applicants are Netherlands nationals. They are represented before the Court by Mr A.A. Franken, a lawyer practising in Amsterdam.

A. Particular circumstances of the case

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

The first applicant, hereinafter referred to as Mr Lorsé, was taken into police custody (in verzekering gesteld) on 24 July 1994 and subsequently placed in detention on remand (voorlopige hechtenis). He was initially detained in ordinary remand institutions (huizen van bewaring).

Mr Lorsé was convicted of drugs and firearms offences. He was sentenced at first instance to twelve years' imprisonment and a fine of of one million Netherlands guilders (NLG). On appeal the prison term was increased to fifteen years' imprisonment, the fine remaining the same. His conviction and sentence became final on 30 June 1998 when his appeal on points of law was rejected by the Supreme Court (Hoge Raad). He is now serving that sentence. He will be eligible for provisional release no sooner than July 2004. It would appear that he has been sentenced in Belgium to an eight-year prison sentence for drugs-related crimes but that proceedings there are still pending.

On 14 September 1994, while the criminal proceedings were still pending, Mr Lorsé handed his counsel a letter from the prison authorities from which it appeared that it was intended to place him (Mr Lorsé) in an extra security institution. The following day Mr Lorsé's counsel wrote a letter of protest to the Ministry of Justice, for the attention of the Chairman of the Extra Security Institutions Board (EBI Commissie).

On 27 September 1994 Mr Lorsé was transferred to the Temporary Extra Security Institution (Tijdelijke Extra Beveiligde Inrichting, “TEBI”) in the Nieuw Vosseveld complex.

By a letter of 28 September 1994 the Minister of Justice informed Mr Lorsé that apart from the fact that he was suspected of very serious crimes, official information (ambtsberichten) were available from which it appeared that he was likely to use violence in an attempt to escape. Reference was made to the fact that he had already once managed to avoid being arrested, endangering human life in so doing. Reference was also made to the prison sentence awaiting him in Belgium. In these circumstances it was considered that public order would be severely affected should Mr Lorsé manage to escape.

Mr Lorsé was subsequently notified, by letters couched in similar terms and dated 21 November 1995, 29 May 1996, 5 December 1996, 16 June 1997, 9 December 1997, 19 June 1998 and 21 January 1999, of the prolongation of his detention in the TEBI and – following the rejection of his appeal on points of law on 30 June 1998 – in the EBI. Beginning with the letter of 29 May 1996 reference was also made to a telephone conversation between the applicant and another person, which had been intercepted between November 1995 and May 1996, in which the applicant had said that he had assistants outside who would do anything he asked and that he could have a car registration number traced within five minutes.

The decision of 21 January 1999 was handed to Mr Lorsé on 27 January. On 1 February 1999 Mr Lorsé, through his counsel, lodged an appeal against it to the Central Board for the Application of Penal Law (Centrale Raad voor de Strafrechtstoepassing, “the Central Board"). In addition to stating that there was no factual justification for his continued detention in the EBI, he complained about the regime which he describe as “ill befitting a state governed by the rule of law”. Privacy was entirely lacking. Human contact with his wife and children was excessively restricted, any kind of intimacy with them being impossible. His psychological and physical health were affected, the symptoms being daily headaches, shaking and loss of concentration, and he had had to seek the help of the prison psychologist. He referred to the findings of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT – see below).

A hearing took place on 12 April 1999 before a single member of the Central Board.

The Central Board gave its decision on 31 May 1999. It noted that Mr Lorsé had at some time between November 1995 and May 1996 had, in one telephone conversation, made a statement which, although Mr Lorsé had provided a different explanation, had apparently led the authorities to believe that he might try to escape. There had been no new information since then which would tend to justify such fears. Moreover, the remainder of his sentence had significantly decreased and that, together with the nature of the offences of which he had been convicted, reduced the prospect that public order would be affected if he did escape. Finally, his behaviour was reported to be good. In these circumstances any doubt should benefit Mr Lorsé. Accordingly, the competent authorities were ordered to reconsider their decision within three weeks taking the decision of the Central Board into account.

On 10 June 1999 the applicant's counsel wrote to the competent Ministry of Justice official. Mr Lorsé had been informed the previous day that it would be proposed on the basis of new, apparently official information to prolong his detention in the EBI yet again. He asked to be allowed to take cognisance of this new information and comment on it, and if possible to be heard.

Mr Lorsé was heard on 14 June 1999 by a Ministry of Justice selection official. It appears that he expressed dismay at the sudden emergence of new information, which in his contention could not be correct. He had no idea where any such information might have come from.

On 15 June 1999 the selection official gave a recommendation to the effect that Mr Lorsé should remain in the EBI. This opinion was based on the applicant's having violently evaded arrest on 16 May 1994; official information dating from July and September 1994 which indicated that he intended to escape; the above-mentioned telephone conversation intercepted between November 1995 and May 1996; the sentence imposed; and the seriousness of Mr Lorsé's crimes. It was mentioned that Mr Lorsé's situation was “relatively stable”, the fact that his prolonged detention in the EBI was becoming more and more of a burden to him being a normal reaction to a situation that wasin many respects extreme (waarbij het feit dat een verblijf in de EBI steeds zwaarder gaat wegen een normale reactie is op een in veel opzichten betrekkelijk extreme situatie).

The Minister of Justice gave a new decision on 17 June 1999 again prolonging Mr Lorsés detention in the EBI. It was stated that a new decision had been made taking into account advice given by the governor of the Nieuw Vosseveld penitentiary complex and the decision of the Central Board. In addition, reference was made to official information (ambtsberichten) dated 4 June 1999 from which it appeared that there was new and recent information to the effect that Mr Lorsé still constituted an increased security risk. The nature of this information was not disclosed but it was concluded that Mr Lorsé was planning an escape with the help of persons outside the institution and possibly involving the use of violence against persons. Reference was also made to the prison sentence which he would have to serve in Belgium. Finally, the Minister was of the opinion that in view of inter alia the seriousness of Mr Lorsé's offences public order would be seriously affected if he managed to escape. Thus, although account had been taken of the decision of the Central Board, this latter decision could not prevail over the new official information.

Mr Lorsé, through his counsel, lodged a new appeal to the Central Board on 22 June 1999. He noted that the new official information had been received subsequent to the decision of 31 May 1999, which he regarded as in itself objectionable (hetgeen te denken geeft). He further denied that any such information had a basis in fact. It did not appear from the Minister's decision that the new official information had been examined for relevance and reliability. The Minister's decision was therefore unreasonable and unjust. Moreover, the elementary principle audi et alteram partem had not been observed.

A hearing took place on 22 July 1999 before a single member of the Central Board for the Application of Penal Sanctions.

The Central Board gave its decision on 10 November 1999. Mr Lorsé's appeal was rejected. This decision was based on an opinion obtained from the governor of the Nieuw Vosseveld penitentiary complex, the recommendation dated 15 June 1999 of the Penitentiary Selection Centre and the opinion of the Ministry of Justice official. The decision appealed against could not, in the circumstances, be considered unreasonable and unjust. Moreover, since it was apparent that Mr Lorsé had had the opportunity to comment on the opinion of the governor, the decision-making process had been attended by sufficient guarantees.

Of all prisoners subject to the extra security regime in the Netherlands, Mr Lorsé is by far the longest-serving. On 17 November 1999 he began a hunger strike.

B. Relevant domestic law and practice

1. The Central Board for the Application of Penal Law

The Central Board for the Application of Penal Law is constituted of members who are appointed and dismissed by the Minister of Justice. Its duties include advising the Minister, at the latter's request or proprio motu, on matters concerning the application of policy and legal rules relating to the prison system (sections 4 (1) and 5 (1) of the Prison System (Basic Principles) Act – Beginselenwet gevangeniswezen). It also has other duties, including the hearing of appeals as set out below.

2. The decision to detain a person in a particular institution; legal remedies

(a) The decision to detain a person in a particular institution

All Netherlands penal institutions fall into one of five security categories, ranging from very limited security (zeer beperkt beveiligd) to extra security (extra beveiligd). The Minister of Justice lays down criteria according to which prisoners are to be selected for each such category (section 13 (1) and (3) of the Penal System (Basic Principles) Act – Penitentiaire beginselenwet).

The actual selection is carried out by a Ministry of Justice selection official (section 15 (1) and (3) of the Penal System (Basic Principles) Act).

A special Ministry of Justice circular governs decisions to detain a prisoner in an extra security category institution or EBI (Ministry of Justice circular no. 646188/97 of 22 August 1997).

EBIs are intended for prisoners who, in descending order of importance,

1) are considered extremely likely to attempt to escape from closed penal institutions and who, if they succeed, pose an unacceptable risk to society in terms of again committing serious violent crimes; or

2) if they should escape, would pose an unacceptable risk to society in terms of severe disturbance of public order, the risk of escaping being, as such, of lesser importance.

If a prisoner is to be placed in an extra security institution or EBI the advice of a special EBI selection board is sought beforehand .

The decision to detain a prisoner in an EBI is reviewed every six months. The EBI governor must submit a report at corresponding intervals, the purport of which he must discuss with the prisoner. The governor transmits his report to the selection official. If the  
latter considers that the prisoner's detention in the EBI should continue, he so informs the EBI selection board, to which it falls to decide. Should the EBI selection board be unable to reach an agreement on the matter, a decision is made by the Director of the Prison System (directeur gevangeniswezen).

Decisions as referred to above are nominally those of the Minister of Justice.

(b) Legal remedies

If the prisoner wishes to contest the selection decision, he may lodge an objection to the selection official (section 17 (1) of the Penal System (Basic Principles) Act), after which an appeal lies against the decision on the objection. However, no objection need be lodged if the selection official has heard the prisoner before taking his decision (section 17 (5)).

Appeals against decisions of the selection official are decided by three-member committees of the Central Board (section 73 (1) of the Penal System (Basic Principles) Act). The Central Board may delegate the hearing of the prisoner to one of its members or it may decide to dispense with a hearing altogether (section 73 (4)).

If the Central Board considers the appeal well-founded, it may instruct the Minister to make a new decision in which its own decision is to be taken into account, for which it may set a time-limit. It may also rule that its decision is to take the place of the decision appealed against, or confine itself to annulling the latter decision (section 68 (3) and (4) taken together with section 73 (4) of the Penal System (Basic Principles) Act).

C. The findings of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The CPT visited the Netherlands from 17 until 27 November 1997. Its findings with regard to the (T)EBI and the EBI were the following (Report to the Netherlands Government on the visit to the Netherlands carried out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 17 to 27 November 1997, CPT/Inf (98) 15, excerpt):

63. The delegation found that, in practice, out-of-cell time in the (T)EBI and EBI on a given day varied from a minimum of one hour (of outdoor exercise) to a maximum of some four and a half hours (of outdoor exercise/recreation and/or sport). Depending upon the regime in which an inmate had been placed (A/B) and the group to which they had been allocated, these activities would take place with between one and three other inmates.

The outdoor exercise yards in the EBI were of a reasonable size and a "running strip" was available for inmates who wished to engage in more strenuous physical activities. The exercise yards in the (T)EBI were also large enough to enable prisoners to exert themselves physically; however, their cage-like design rendered them rather oppressive facilities.

During recreation periods (of one to two hours), inmates were allowed access to communal areas where they could associate with each other, cook and eat their own food, use a computer and/or play games including table tennis.

As regards facilities for sport, each of the four units in the EBI was equipped with an impressive array of exercise equipment, located in a lofty glass atrium. However, inmates only had access to this equipment for one or two 45 minute sessions per week. Again, the equivalent facilities in the (T)EBI were of a lower standard. The EBI also had a large and well-equipped gymnasium but, at the time of the visit, it appeared that comparatively little use was being made of this facility.

There were no organised education activities. There was also no out-of-cell work; some in-cell work was offered to inmates, but it was of a very unchallenging nature (e.g. stringing plastic curtain hooks onto short rods).

64. All inmate activities within the (T)EBI and EBI were subject to a high level of staff surveillance (which is perfectly understandable in a unit of this type); however, direct contacts between staff and inmates were very limited (staff and inmate usually being separated by armoured glass panels). This is not conducive to building positive relations between staff and prisoners. Contact with non-custodial staff - including medical staff - was also subject to a number of very significant restrictions (cf. paragraph 76).

65. It should also be noted that prisoners were regularly strip searched (a practice euphemistically referred to as "visitatie"). Such searches - which included anal inspections - were carried out at least once week on all prisoners, regardless of whether the persons concerned had had any contact with the outside world.

66. Concerning contact with the outside world, it should be noted that the house rules for the (T)EBI and EBI units provide that prisoners have the right to receive one visit of one hour per week from family members and other persons approved in advance by prison management. In principle, visits took place under "closed" conditions (i.e. through an armoured glass panel in a visiting booth). Prisoners also had the right to request one "open" visit per month from family members; however, physical contact during such visits was limited to a handshake on arrival and leaving. Prisoners and their families remained separated by a table equipped with a chest-high barrier and prison staff stood directly behind the prisoner throughout the visit. A number of inmates interviewed by the delegation indicated that, given the upsetting effects which these restrictions had had upon their families, they no longer requested "open" visits.

67. To sum up, prisoners held in the (T)EBI and EBI units were subject to a very impoverished regime. They spent too little time out of their cells; when out of their cells they associated with only a small number of fellow inmates and their relations with staff and visitors were very limited; consequently, they did not have adequate human contact. Further, the programme of activities was underdeveloped. This was particularly the case as regards education and work. However, even as regards sport, inmates had insufficient access to the very good facilities available. Moreover, certain aspects of the regime (in particular, systematic strip searching) did not appear to respond to legitimate security needs, and are humiliating for prisoners.

68. The delegation's lengthy interviews with eight prisoners held in the (T)EBI and EBI indicated that the regime as a whole was having harmful psychological consequences for those subjected to it. Indeed, the interviews revealed a consistent association of psychological symptoms which appeared to have been induced by the regime. The inmates concerned displayed the following symptom profile:

- feelings of helplessness, which took the form of a disturbance of normal identity and severe difficulty of projection into the future; in certain cases, the loss of identity was associated with definite episodes of depersonalisation;

- feelings of powerlessness, closely linked to helplessness, and leading to regression and excessive pre-occupation with bodily functions;

- anger, the predominant emotion being one of rage (clearly linked to feelings of powerlessness) and directed against self (with expressions of low esteem, lack of confidence and associated depressive symptoms) and others;

- communication difficulties, associated with the above-mentioned depersonalisation symptoms.

The delegation's concerns about the harmful psychological consequences of the regime were reinforced during its subsequent visit to the Dr S. van Mesdag Clinic, where it interviewed a number of patients who had previously been held in the (T)EBI or EBI, in whom persistent psychological sequelae (insomnia; anxiety symptoms; disturbance of identity; emotional liability and psychosomatic symptoms) were clearly present.

The CPT would add that it is aware that the psychologist employed in the (T)EBI and EBI has publicly expressed the conviction that the regime has led to "no significant harmful effects on prisoners". However, this opinion has never been subject to any form of peer review or professional assessment. It should be added that the Psychiatric Adviser to the Ministry of Justice Forensic Health Bureau expressed a contrary view to the delegation, citing as an example a case of a prisoner who had developed a florid paranoid psychosis while held in the (T)EBI.

69. In the light of all of the information at its disposal, the CPT has been led to conclude that the regime currently being applied in the (T)EBI and EBI could be considered to amount to inhuman treatment. To subject prisoners classified as dangerous to such a regime could well render them more dangerous still.

70. The facilities in the extra security institution are of a high standard. They are quite capable of offering a regime meeting the criteria set out in paragraph 61 without jeopardising legitimate security concerns.

The CPT recommends that the regime currently applied in the extra security institution be revised in the light of the remarks set out in paragraphs 61 to 67. In particular, the existing group system, if not discarded, should at least be relaxed and inmates should be allowed more out-of-cell time and a broader range of activities. Further, the current searching policies should be reviewed in order to ensure that they are strictly necessary from a security standpoint. Similarly, current visiting arrangements should be reviewed; the objective should be to have visits taking place under more open conditions.

The Netherlands Government responded in the following terms (Interim report of the Dutch Government in response to the report of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) on its visit to the Netherlands from 17 to 27 November 1997, CPT/Inf (98) 15, excerpt):

3. The 'Extra Security Institution' ((T)EBI/EBI) at the Nieuw Vosseveld Prison Complex

Recommendations by the CPT

28. (...)

(...)

29. The CPT recommends that the regime currently applied in the extra security institution be revised in the light of the remarks set out in paragraphs 61 to 67. In particular, the existing group system, if not discarded, should at least be relaxed and inmates should be allowed more out-of-cell time and a broader range of activities. Further, the current searching policies should be reviewed in order to ensure that they are strictly necessary from a security standpoint. Similarly, current visiting arrangements should be reviewed; the objective should be to have visits taking place under more open conditions (paragraph 70)

Response: The (T)EBI houses prisoners who are deemed exceptionally likely to attempt to escape, either with help from outside or by violent means. Generally speaking, they fall into three categories: prisoners believed to be members of criminal organisations; prisoners serving sentences for manslaughter or murder; and prisoners who have escaped from prison in the past either by taking staff hostage or by using firearms (and perhaps with help from outside). Arrangements for the detention of such prisoners needs to be based first and foremost on systematic, fail-safe security arrangements, though a humane regime should then be provided within that context. The task of the EBI, like any other prison, is to execute custodial sentences without disruption. The restrictions imposed on prisoners should be no more than are necessary to deprive them of their liberty. What distinguishes the EBI from other prisons is the nature of the restrictions required to achieve that purpose. They must be more severe because the prisoners present, by definition, an above-average risk of escape or disruption of the normal prison regime. In practice, this means that the purpose of the (T)EBI and EBI is to create a place and regime from which it is impossible to escape, even by taking staff hostage.

The regime in the EBI is the most severe anywhere in the Netherlands. For that reason, use of the institution is kept to a minimum and the decision to place prisoners there is taken and later reviewed at frequent intervals by a broad-based external committee. Despite the severity of the regime, prisoners in the EBI are offered sufficient out-of-cell time (paragraph 63) and have the opportunity to take part in recreational, sporting, musical, creative, educational and other activities. The range of activities on offer gives prisoners regular opportunities for human contact and the staff of the EBI deliberately strive to encourage such contact and participation in activities wherever possible. The small size of the unit's population (paragraph 67) is essential to the maintenance of order, security and control and to the prevention of escapes. It is true that there are special restrictions on contact with the outside world (in the form of the glass partition separating prisoners from visitors), but the frequency of visits is the same as in a normal remand centre.

The arrangements for searches in the (T)EBI and EBI are essential to ensure the safety of staff. They have been evaluated in the past, as part of the six-monthly assessment of the EBI, and it has been decided that prisoners should not be searched more often than strictly necessary. This means that prisoners are not always searched on return to their cells, but only if they have been out of sight of the warder who let them out.

Visits are organised in such a way as to permit visual, verbal and non-verbal contact while preventing direct physical contact. The special visiting arrangements are among the most important security measures to prevent escapes. If visits were more "open" and there were any chance of smuggling contraband into the prison, there would be little point in the existence of the EBI.

30. The CPT recommends that the Dutch authorities commission an independent study of the psychological state of current and former inmates of the extra security institution (paragraph 70)

Response: The Ministry of Justice intends to investigate the performance of the EBI in early 1999. It will then consider instituting a further study of the impact of the EBI regime on the psychological state of inmates if the outcome of that investigation gives reason to do so.

Requests for information by the CPT

31. (...)

(...)

32. (...)

(...)

COMPLAINTS

The applicants complain, under Article 3 of the Convention, about Mr Lorsé's detention, which they consider to constitute “inhuman” or at the very least “degrading” treatment and punishment of Mr Lorsé. They also complain of the restrictions on contacts between Mr Lorsé and the other eight applicants, which constitutes “inhuman” or “degrading” treatment with respect to the latter as well. The refusal to allow the sixth applicant, Maria Petronella van Esch, to visit Mr Lorsé is seen as a separate violation of Article 3 with regard to her.

The applicants complain under Article 6 of what they perceive as the lack of fairness of the proceedings leading to the decision of the Central Board of 10 November 1999.

The applicants complain, finally, under Article 8 of an interference with their private and family life which, being in their submission disproportionate, is not justified under the second paragraph of that Article.

PROCEDURE

The applicants introduced the application on 19 November 1999, at the same time requesting the Court to indicate an interim measure to the respondent Party (Rule 39).

On 29 November 1999 the President of the First Section decided not to indicate any interim measure.

On 30 November 1999, pursuant to a decision of the President of the First Section taken the day before, the respondent Party was informed of the introduction of the application and of a summary of its objects (Rule 40).

THE LAW

Article 3 of the Convention provides as follows:

“No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Article 6 of the Convention, in so far as relevant, provides as follows:

“1.  In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a fair ... hearing ... by [a] tribunal ...

2. ...

3. ...”

Article 8 of the Convention provides as follows:

“1.  Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and 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.”

1. The applicants argue that Mr Lorsé is detained in conditions which, in the opinion of the CPT, could be considered to amount to inhuman treatment. In particular, they state that Mr Lorsé, like the other prisoners detained in the EBI, has been and continues to be subjected to frequent and systematic strip searching, which includes anal inspections.

The applicants also submit that the restrictions on contacts between Mr Lorsé and his family constitute “inhuman”, or at least “degrading”, treatment of the other eight applicants as well. They are deprived of all physical contact with him, including the possibility to touch him, put their arms around him, sit on his lap and hug him.

The complete refusal to allow the sixth applicant, Maria Petronella van Esch, to visit Mr Lorsé constitutes in their view a separate violation of Article 3.

The applicants submit that this treatment reaches the “minimum level of severity” required by the Court's case-law for finding a violation of Article 3, the more so since this situation has been in existence for five years already. They also pray in aid the CPT's opinion that the conditions of detention in the EBI are not justified by legitimate security needs.

The Court notes that the complaint about the complete refusal to allow the sixth applicant access to Mr Lorsé was not made before the Netherlands authorities. It follows that the domestic remedies have not been exhausted in this respect.

However, the Court considers that it cannot, on the basis of the case file, determine the admissibility of the remainder of these complaints and that it is therefore necessary, in accordance with Rule 54 § 3 (b) of the Rules of Court, to give notice of them to the respondent Government.

2. The applicants allege a violation of Article 6 of the Convention in that the proceedings before the Central Board, which were decisive for their “family life” and thus for their “civil rights and obligations”, were conducted without Mr Lorsé or his counsel having had access to crucial information, namely the official information submitted to the Minister of Justice and the Central Board on 4 June 1999 to the effect that Mr Lorsé was liable to make an escape attempt. They state that nothing was disclosed to them as regards the exact content of the information, its provenance and its background. They were therefore deprived of the possibility to challenge it.

The Court considers that it cannot, on the basis of the case file, determine the admissibility of these complaints and that it is therefore necessary, in accordance with Rule 54 § 3 (b) of the Rules of Court, to give notice of the application to the respondent Government.

3. The applicants' complaints under Article 8 are largely identical to their complaints under Article 3. They state, in addition, that it is not possible for them to discuss private matters privately: their contacts are systematically monitored and observed, conversations are recorded, Mr Lorsé and his family are separated by a glass screen. Given that, as they submit, these restrictions are not justified by legitimate security needs, they constitute a disproportionate interference with the applicants' right to respect for their “private life” and “family life”.

The Court again notes that the complaint about the complete refusal to allow the sixth applicant access to Mr Lorsé was not made before the Netherlands authorities and that consequently the domestic remedies have not been exhausted in this respect.

However, the Court considers that it cannot, on the basis of the case file, determine the admissibility of the remainder of these complaints and that it is therefore necessary, in accordance with Rule 54 § 3 (b) of the Rules of Court, to give notice of them to the respondent Government.

For these reasons, the Court, unanimously,

DECLARES INADMISSIBLE the complaints concerning the refusal to allow the sixth applicant access to the first applicant;

DECIDES TO ADJOURN the examination of the remainder of the applicants' complaints.

Michael O'Boyle Elisabeth Palm 
 Registrar President

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