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On March 17th 2011, Mr. Joseph Etute detained at the prison of Sandweiler (CPL), received a letter of the Court dated March 9th 2011. The letter was already opened. The applicants complained to the prison officials who apologized. They explained to the Ombudsman of Luxembourg, ECHR ex-Judge Fischbach (1998-2003) that it was their policy to open all large envelope and parcel received by detainees.

Under executive order of March 29th 1989 of unelected Grand Duke Jean, the right to correspondence of detainees is severely restricted. Under article 219, convicted detainees require an authorization of the director of the prison to write to anyone other than their family, lawyers, Luxembourg officials (judges, prosecutors, public servants, congressmen and the head of state) and consulate officers. The content of the letters can only be about family and private matters and cannot contain any “allegation” or “accusation” (art. 221).

The prison officials can routinely open all the letters and read them (art.223) except for the letters to lawyers and Luxembourg officials. The director of the prison can censor and seized any letter which he considers in violation of article 221 (art.224 and 225). The investigating judge can read all letters of detained suspect (art.218) and can order suspension of his right to correspondence except to his lawyer (art.226). Detainees in disciplinarian cells have also their right to correspondence automatically suspended except to their lawyers, Luxembourg officials and consulate officers (art.199)

On April 2nd 2011, Mr. Etute filed an application with the ECHR arguing that the opening by prison officials of his correspondence with the Court was a violation of article 8 of the Convention. On May 6th 2011, the applicant received a letter of the Court dated April 11th 2011. The letter was already opened. On June 27th 2011, he received another letter of the Court already open, dated June 17th 2011.

On December 5th 2011, the Court communicated the application to the agent of Grand Duchy of Luxembourg with questions to be answered within 16 weeks. On December 22th 2011, the minister of Justice Bilgen announced a bill on the rights of detainees. But article 31 on the right of correspondence still doesn’t authorize detainees to have a private correspondence with the European Court of Human Rights (see below).

On June 10th 1998, Mr. Kamel Ketreb was detained without bail in the notorious prison “La Santé” awaiting trial on assault charge. He was examined several times by psychiatrists. Despite his mental illness, he was placed three times in solitary confinement as a displinary measure. During his second placement in solitary confinement, he attempted two times to hang himself according to a doctor of the prison.

On May 20th 1999, he was placed for the third time in solitary confinement for 15 days. On the same day, prison guards pepper sprayed him in his displinary cell. On May 21st 1999, he showed his injured forearms to his sister and his t-shirt was covered with blood. On May 24th 1999, a prison guard found him dead, hung to the ceiling of his cell. On June 17th 1999, the prosecutor of the Republic of Paris closed his administrative investigation on the cause of death and didn’t request the opening of a criminal investigation.

On July 27th 1999, the sister of Mr. Ketreb filed a criminal complain to the investigating judge for “involuntary manslaughter“.

In January 2000, Doctor Veronique Vasseur published a book on his experience of 8 years as the chief doctor of the ethnically segregated prison “La Santé”. She described nightmarish condition of detention and the lack of access to health care for detainees suffering from mental illness. The book stirred such an outcry that a group of Senators opened a full investigation with public hearings and visits of French prisons. On June 29th 2000, they published an extensive report on the condition of detention in French prisons with alarming conclusions. It confirmed many of the findings that the CPT made following its visits of the prison “La Santé” in 1996 and 2000.

On April 8th 2008, an investigating judge sent the ex-director of the prison “La Santé” and the health care provider AP-HP to trial. But the prosecutor of the Republic of Paris, Jean-Claude Marin appealed the decision to the judges of the investigation chamber of the appeal court of Paris. On December 3rd 2008, the 3 judges of the investigation chamber dismissed all charges.

On June 3rd 2009, the applicants, sisters of Mr. Ketreb submitted an application to the European Court of Human Rights arguing that the absence of health care in the prison and lack of surveillance of their brother were a violation of article 2 of the Convention. They added that the disciplinary measures of solitary confinement were a violation of article 3 of the Convention. They are represented by Me J. Bertrand (Paris). On March 29th 2010, the application was communicated to the agent of the French government with questions to be answered within 16 weeks.

On February 27th 2011, Mr. Jean-Marie Delarue controller of the French detention facilities refused to communicate us the report of his 2009 visit of the prison “La Santé” even though the French FOIA agency (CADA) was favorable to this release (2011/0462). Mr Jean-Marie Delarue is also one of 4 adhoc judges submitted by the French government to the ECHR.

From October 3rd 2004 to November 22th 2005, Mr. Luc Lienhardt was detained pending investigation at the jail of Saint-Paul in the second largest city in France, Lyon. On January 19th 2006, a court-ordered report on the conditions of detention was released.

It was revealed that the jail was overcrowded to a critical point. More than 800 detainees were detained in that jail built for 360 detainees. The applicant was detained in a cell with 2 other detainees. The conditions of detention were appalling as shown is this picture taken in a cell with 4 detainees.

During his detention, the applicant suffered “brief psychotic disorder” for 3 months as a result of his detention. No medical treatment or therapy were provided to the applicant.

On March 25th 2008, the applicant filed a criminal complaint to an investigating judge for “torture” and “degrading treatment resulting from housing condition” (art. 225-14 of penal code). On January 20th 2009, the supreme court (Cour de cassation) ruled that article 225-14 of penal code didn’t apply to jails (case 08-82807).  On September 18th 2008, the applicant filed a lawsuit at the administrative tribunal of Lyon for compensation for his condition of detention.

On February 17th 2010, Mr. Luc Lienhardt filed an application with the E.C.H.R arguing that his conditions of detention during more than 13 months were a violation of article 3 of the Convention, and that the lack of effective remedy was a violation of article 13 of the Convention. On June 2th 2010, the application was communicated to the agent of the French governement with questions to be answered before 16 weeks. The applicant is represented by Me Sylvain Cormier (Lyon) who didn’t answer our request for information.

The jail of Saint-Paul was definitely closed on May 3rd 2009. It was then revealed that more than 900 detainees were held in this jail in February 2008.

Update :

On December 6th 2010, it was announced that the administrative tribunal of Lyon awarded the applicant €2,000  for his 13 months detention in the horrendous jail Saint-Paul but declined to find a violation of article 3 of the Convention.

On September 13th 2011, the Court ruled the application inadmissible on the ground that the applicant didn’t appeal the judgment of the administrative tribunal of Lyon.

On July 31th 2008, a court mandated architect  Jean-Paul Lanquette submitted his report on the detention conditions in the jail of Clermont-Ferrand. The jail is composed of 19 cells of up to 12 detainees with no closed bathroom or mechanical ventilation.

On December 1st 2008, 3 detainees pressed charges to the local district attorney for “degrading conditions of detention” prohibited by article 225-14 of the penal code and violations of articles D349 to D358 of the code of penal procedure. No investigation was opened and no decision was taken by the local district attorney.

On January 20th 2009, the Cour de cassation ruled that article 225-14 of the penal code couldn’t be applied to detention conditions in jail.

On July 3rd 2009, 6 detainees and the lawyers union SAF filed their application with the E.C.H.R  arguing that the detention conditions and the absence of criminal investigation constituted violations of articles 2,3,5 with articles 6-1,13. The applicants are represented by Me Edgard Kiganga-Siroko (Clermont-Ferrand)

On August 31th 2010, the Court found SAF didn’t have the quality of victim (art. 34) and found inadmissible the allegations of violations of articles 2,5,6-1 . The Court communicated the application to the agent of French Republic with questions to be answered before January 5th 2011.

CGLPL the national preventive mechanism of OPCAT, informed of the detention conditions by the lawyer of the applicants refused to visit the jail of Clermont-Ferrand. His office didn’t return our e-mail for comment.

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