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Centre for Legal Resources on behalf of Valentin Câmpeanu v. Romania

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Centre for Legal Resources on behalf of Valentin Câmpeanu v. Romania

European Court of Human Rights

Application no. 47848/08

14 July 2014

Instrument(s) Cited:
European Convention on Human Rights, Article 2: Right to life
European Convention on Human Rights, Article 3: Prohibition of torture
European Convention on Human Rights, Article 13: Right to an effective remedy
UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Article 5: Equality and non-Discrimination
UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Article 10: Right to life
UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Article 12: Equal recognition before the law
UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Article 13: Access to justice
First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Articles 1 and 2

Case Summary:

Valentin Campeanu had resided in orphanages and other state institutions in Romania since he was abandoned at birth. He was diagnosed as HIV positive and with profound intellectual disability from an early age, and later developed pulmonary tuberculosis, pneumonia and chronic hepatitis, which meant that under national law he was considered to suffer from ‘severe’ disability.

In September 2003, following a hearing at which he was not present or represented by anyone else, the relevant authorities determined that Mr Campeanu should no longer be cared for by the State because he had turned 18 and was not enrolled in education. His health was later reassessed as placing him in the ‘average’ disability group potentially in an attempt to get some institution to accept him. It was decided that he will be transferred to the Poiana Mare Neuropsychiatric Hospital (“PMH”). The PMH initially refused to accept him. The institution that accepted him had difficulties with Mr Campeanu and did not provide him with antiretroviral medications. He was moved back and forth between PMH and that institution while his health worsened.

When observers from the non-governmental organisation Centre for Legal Resources (“CLR”) visited PMH in February 2004, they found Mr Campeanu sedated and left in a room by himself for days with no food or heat, and no clothes other than a pajama top. The next evening, he passed away. No autopsy was conducted in violation of national law, and the cause of death was cited as HIV and intellectual disability.

The CLR established that no legal representative or guardian was ever appointed for Mr Campeanu, and his consent was apparently never sought or obtained for any transfers or medical treatments. They launched numerous criminal complaints to urge prosecution of the government and health officials who contributed to Mr. Campeanu’s death, but in the end, all of efforts failed to result in any criminal prosecution. A court and one Chief Prosecutor supported the CLR’s request for additional investigation and information disclosure, but the others (including a different Chief Prosecutor) and the appellate courts in the end all overturned or rejected efforts to continue proceedings based on medical and forensic reports claiming that the treatment was correct and appropriate, and the death resulting from HIV and complications and not from his treatment, with no violence involved.

Finally, the CLR filed a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights alleging violations of a number of rights in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), including the right to life (Article 2), the right to freedom from torture, inhuman or degrading treatment (Article 3), the right to an effective remedy (Article 13) and other. The respondent government challenged the CLR’s legal standing to represent Mr Campeanu.

Issue and resolution:
Right to life; access to justice. There were two principal issues to be decided – whether Mr Campeanu’s rights under the Convention had been violated and whether the CLR has standing to bring proceedings on behalf of Mr Campeanu. The Court found violations of the right to life under Article 2 and the right to an effective remedy in Article 13 and ruled that, given the particular circumstances of the case, the CLR has standing to sue on behalf of Mr. Campeanu because otherwise Romania’s violations of Mr Campeanu’s rights would permit Romania to escape scrutiny.

Court reasoning:
On the issue of standing, the Court held that the application by the CLR should be held admissible, given the specific facts of the case, and allowed the CLR to appear as a de facto representative of Mr Campeanu. The facts identified as important by the Court were that the CLR had met with Mr Campeanu, that he had no next of kin or legal representative and that he was unable to initiate proceedings while alive due to his disabilities and lack of legal representative, as well as the fact that so far the CLR was able to represent him before domestic Romanian authorities unchallenged. The Court also stressed that declining CLR’s standing would mean that the Romanian authorities’ failure to appoint a guardian allows them to evade responsibility for Mr Campeanu’s death.

On the issue of substantive rights violations, the majority found that State had failed to provide adequate care and treatment to Mr. Campeanu, resulting in his death, including the transfer to the PMH while Mr. Campeanu was highly vulnerable at a time when other patients were regularly dying as a result of lack of heating, food, medical staff and medical resources, at all times while in the care of the state and unable to act on his own behalf. Accordingly, the majority found that the authorities’ actions constituted violations of the right to life under Article 2 of the ECHR. Furthermore, the procedural requirements of Article 2 were also violated by the failure to carry out an effective investigation into the circumstances of his death.

The Court concluded that the Convention requires a thorough and effective investigation capable of leading to the identification and punishment of those responsible, including access to the investigation procedure, conducted by the authorities where (as here) the wrongdoing alleged is by state officials or bodies. In this case, the authorities failed to conduct such an investigation, so the majority held that there had also been a violation of Article 13 ECHR, which guarantees the availability of a remedy to enforce the substance of the rights of the Convention.

In light of the finding of violations of Articles 2 and 13, the Court did not consider the other alleged violations, including the claim of a violation of the right to freedom from torture, inhuman or degrading treatment in Article 3.

Concurrent opinion of Judge Pinto de Albuquerque: 
Judge Pinto de Albuquerque disagreed with the majority’s decision to limit the recognition of standing to the particular facts of this case and not to articulate a clear standard for cases in which NGOs can act on behalf of an individual without express authorisation. His opinion points out the contradiction between the majority’s position that Mr. Campeanu’s circumstances were ‘exceptional’ with regard to standing, but that they were indicative of a broader problem in terms of the violations that occurred. Judge Pinto de Albuquerque proposes that NGOs should be able to file cases on behalf of victims of alleged violations where the victims are (i) extremely vulnerable and (ii) without relatives, legal guardians or representatives.

The ruling includes a recommendation that Romania envisage the necessary measures to ensure that mentally disabled persons in situations like Mr Campeanu are afforded independent representation and enabled to make complaints relating to their health and treatment to be examined by a court or other independent body.

Link to Full Judgment:

This case summary is provided by the Child Rights International Network for educational and informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.