Enea v Italy: ECHR 17 Sep 2009

(Grand Chamber) The applicant, a prisoner serving a long sentence for Mafia-type criminal offences, was subjected to a special regime by ministerial decrees. The restrictions included not only very limited family visits but also a long period (seemingly about three years) in a special form of high-security unit which involved separation from prisoners in other units but not total segregation.
Held: In deciding that there was a dispute over a ‘right’, the Grand Chamber referred to the European Prison Rules, observing that although they are not legally binding on the Member States, ‘the great majority . . recognise that prisoners enjoy most of the rights to which [they refer] and provide avenues of appeal against measures restricting those rights’.
As to the question whether the disputed right was a ‘civil right’ for the purposes of Article 6, the Grand Chamber stated: ‘some of the restrictions alleged by the applicant – such as those restricting his contact with his family and those affecting his pecuniary rights – clearly fell within the sphere of personal rights and were therefore civil in nature (see Ganci).’ It added ‘The Court is well aware that it is essential for States to retain a wide discretion with regard to the means of ensuring security and order in the difficult context of prison . . Any restriction affecting these civil rights must be open to challenge in judicial proceedings, on account of the nature of the restrictions (for example, a prohibition on receiving more than a certain number of visits from family members each month or the ongoing monitoring of correspondence and telephone calls) and of their possible repercussions (for instance, difficulty in maintaining family ties or relationships with non-family members, exclusion from outdoor exercise). By this means it is possible to achieve the fair balance which must be struck between the constraints facing the State in the prison context on the one hand and the protection of prisoners’ rights on the other.’
As to the three years in the high security unit: ‘The Court observes that, while it is true that a prisoner cannot challenge per se the merits of a decision to place him or her in an EIV unit, an appeal lies to the courts responsible for the execution of sentence against any restriction of a ‘civil’ right (affecting, for instance, a prisoner’s family visits or correspondence). However, given that in the instant case the applicant’s placement in the unit did not entail any restrictions of that kind, even the possible lack of such a remedy could not be said to amount to denial of access to a court.’


Jean-Paul Costa, P


[2009] ECHR 1293, 74912/01




European Convention on Human Rights


Human Rights


AppliedGanci v Italie ECHR 30-Oct-2003
The applicant was serving two life sentences for Mafia related activities. He challenged nine decrees issued by the Minister of Justice under which he was held under a special prison regime for a period of four years. His case related to delays by . .
CitedGulmez v Turkey ECHR 20-May-2008
The applicant complained inter alia of successive decisions which had deprived him of visitation rights for about a year as punishment for disciplinary offences whilst in prison.
Held: ‘the restriction on the applicant’s visiting rights . .
See AlsoEnea v Italy ECHR 23-Sep-2004
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Cited by:

CitedStegarescu and Bahrin v Portugal ECHR 6-Apr-2010
The two applicants complained that they had been held in solitary confinement for seven months after receipt of intelligence about an escape plan.
Held: There had been a violation of the prisoners’ article 6 rights. They had been given no . .
CitedKing v Secretary of State for Justice Admn 13-Oct-2010
The claimant sought judicial review of decisions that the claimant had committed a disciplinary offence whilst in custody at a Young Offenders Institute.
Held: The claim failed.
Pitchford LJ considered the ECHR jurisprudence, and said: . .
CitedBoulois v Luxembourg ECHR 14-Dec-2010
The applicant was serving a long sentence for serious offences. He had submitted several requests for ‘prison leave’ in order to carry out tasks in preparation for his eventual release. These had been refused by the Attorney General. The domestic . .
CitedKing, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Justice CA 27-Mar-2012
In each case the prisoners challenged their transfer to cellular confinement or segregation within prison or YOI, saying that the transfers infringed their rights under Article 6, saying that domestic law, either in itself or in conjunction with . .
CitedBourgass and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Justice SC 29-Jul-2015
The Court considered the procedures when a prisoner is kept in solitary confinement, otherwise described as ‘segregation’ or ‘removal from association’, and principally whether decisions to keep the appellants in segregation for substantial periods . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Human Rights, Prisons

Updated: 12 November 2022; Ref: scu.468875