Human Rights Guide


Judgment No SKA-160/2010

(Prisons – Conditions)
Supreme Court of the Republic of Latvia
6 May 2010


The applicant, Mr. R., complained that during his imprisonment he had not received toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper and soap for washing his clothes. He requested these items to the prison administration, but his requests were denied.


The applicant complained that lack of hygiene products caused deterioration of his dental health and made him feel dirty thus violating the prohibition of degrading treatment. He also asked for a moral compensation which lower courts had failed to award.

Court's ruling

The Court emphasized that Article 95 of the Constitution (Satversme) protects one of the basic values of a democratic society – prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment. Such prohibition is absolute – no circumstances can justify a failure to observe it. The Court emphasized that prisoners should only be subject to such restrictions which are inherent in deprivation of liberty and are compatible with the respect of human dignity. The Court considered it obvious that a person deprived of liberty should have a possibility to maintain his/her hygiene. In this regard a prisoner shouldn’t be treated differently from any other person.

In the case at hand the Court also emphasized that lack of toiletries, except one tooth brush, for a year and a half, inevitably makes a person feel humiliated. The Court also emphasized that other toiletries, in this case – soap, cannot be uses as a substitute for toothpaste. Taken into account the prohibition of degrading treatment is absolute, the Court rejected that lack of financial resources could justify the lack of toiletries. Thus the lower Court concluded that the lower court should have awarded the applicant appropriate moral compensation for a serious violation of the prohibition of degrading treatment.

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