Valašinas v. Lithuania

(Arrest & Detention - Strip search)
European Court of Human Rights
24 July 2001

Facts

The applicant, Mr Valašinas, served a prison sentence for a theft, possession and sale of firearms. During his imprisonment he was allegedly searched and made to take his clothes off in front of a female prison officer. The male officers searching him wore no gloves, touching the applicant’s sexual organs. The applicant was also ordered to do sit-ups to establish whether he had concealed anything in his anus. No unauthorised item was found on him. He argued that the purpose of the check had been to ridicule him in front of a woman.

Complaint

The applicant claimed that the way in which the search was conducted violated the prohibition of inhumane and degrading treatment. 

Court's ruling

The Court reiterated that under Article 3 of the Convention the State must ensure that a person is detained in conditions which are compatible with respect for his human dignity. The manner and method of the execution of the measure must not subject him to distress or hardship of an intensity exceeding the unavoidable level of suffering inherent in detention. The Court emphasized that whilst strip searches occasionally may be necessary to ensure prison security, they must be conducted in an appropriate manner. In the Court’s opinion the way in which the search of the applicant had been conducted showed a clear lack of respect for the applicant, and diminished his human dignity. The Court ruled that it had constituted degrading treatment in breach of Article 3 of the Convention.

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Last updated 08/11/2023