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Application no. 43008/16
against Poland

The European Court of Human Rights (First Section), sitting on 17 January 2023 as a Committee composed of:

Lətif Hüseynov,
Krzysztof Wojtyczek,
Erik Wennerström, judges,
and Liv Tigerstedt, Deputy Section Registrar,

Having regard to:

the application (no. 43008/16) against the Republic of Poland lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) on 15 July 2016 by a Polish national, Mr Piotr Marciniak (“the applicant”), who was born in 1970 and is detained in Warsaw, and who was represented by his father, Mr P. Marciniak, residing in Warsaw;

the decision to give notice to the Polish Government (“the Government”), represented by their Agent, Mr J. Sobczak, of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, of the complaint under Article 3 of the Convention concerning unjustified and intrusive strip-searches, and to declare the remainder of the application inadmissible;

the parties’ observations;

Having deliberated, decides as follows:


1. The case concerns strip-searches to which the applicant had been subjected during his detention.

2. The applicant has been detained on remand since 2013. Between 26 September 2013 and 14 September 2015 he was classified as a “dangerous detainee” (see Piechowicz v. Poland, no. 20071/07, §§ 110-11, 17 April 2012). The applicant lodged a civil claim for compensation in respect of allegedly inadequate conditions of detention (including overcrowding) and frequent strip-searches in the period from 2013 to 2015. On 3 December 2018 the Warsaw Regional Court dismissed his claim as unfounded. The applicant lodged an appeal, but it was rejected on the grounds that it had not complied with the relevant formal requirements.

3. The applicant submitted before the Court that he had been subjected to strip-searches even after the “dangerous detainee” regime had been lifted. He failed to specify the dates on which he had been searched but from the complaints lodged with the prison governor, it appears that the searches took place in February and March 2016, and also on some three occasions in March and April 2018. The applicant lodged complaints challenging the necessity of the above-mentioned body searches. On each occasion he was informed by the authorities that the searches had been legal under section 116(3) of the Code of Execution of Criminal Sentences and carried out with respect for the applicant’s dignity. Furthermore, the authorities indicated that the searches had been necessary for the security of the prison.

4. The Government indicated that the complaints had been further examined and dismissed by the Prison Judge.

5. During the body searches carried out on three occasions in March and April 2018 the applicant had refused to remove his underwear and submit to the search. He received a disciplinary punishment for disobedience. Following his complaint, the Prison Judge on 7 May 2018 explained to the applicant that the searches had been necessary for the security of the detention centre after he had had contact with the outside world.

6. The applicant complained to the Court that the strip-searches to which he had been submitted amounted to inhuman or degrading treatment, in breach of Article 3 of the Convention.


7. The Court firstly notes that the applicant’s submissions are abundant, chaotic and contradictory.

8. Part of his complaint appears to be about strip-searches which took place in the period between 26 September 2013 and 14 September 2015, when the applicant had been classified as a “dangerous detainee”. Since the application was lodged with the Court on 15 July 2016, this part of the application has been lodged out of time and must be rejected in accordance with Article 35 §§ 1 and 4 of the Convention.

9. The applicant also complained about strip-searches to which he had been subjected in March 2016 and afterwards in 2018. He submitted that they had been invasive, unnecessary, debasing and humiliating, without providing any more details as to the manner in which they had been carried out. In his view, they had amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment, in breach of Article 3 of the Convention.

10. The Government contested that argument and submitted that the searches had been performed in accordance with the law and with respect for the applicant’s personal dignity.

11. As the Court has stated on many occasions, illtreatment must attain a minimum level of severity if it is to fall within the scope of Article 3 (see Labita v. Italy [GC], no. 26772/95, § 120, ECHR 2000IV). Allegations of illtreatment must be supported by appropriate evidence. To assess that evidence, the Court adopts the standard of proof of “beyond reasonable doubt”, but adds that such proof may follow from the coexistence of sufficiently strong, clear and concordant inferences or of similar unrebutted presumptions of fact (ibid., § 121).

12. The Court has found that strip-searches may be necessary on occasion to ensure prison security or to prevent disorder or crime (see Iwańczuk v. Poland, no. 25196/94, § 59, 15 November 2001, and Van der Ven v. the Netherlands, no. 50901/99, § 60, ECHR 2003II). They should be carried out in an appropriate manner with due respect for human dignity and for a legitimate purpose (see Wainwright v. the United Kingdom, no. 12350/04, § 42, ECHR 2006X). Even single instances of strip-searching have been found to amount to degrading treatment in view of the manner in which the search was carried out, the possibility that its aim was to humiliate and debase and the lack of any justification for it (see Valašinas v. Lithuania, no. 44558/98, § 117, ECHR 2001VIII).

13. The Court notes that the applicant did not make any particular allegations regarding the manner in which the searches had been performed. In particular, he did not allege that any unauthorised person had been present or that the search had been carried out in a place that had not been designated for it. The Court notes that it was open to the applicant to request the prosecutor to institute a criminal investigation in connection with any improper behaviour on the part of prison staff or if the search had not been carried out properly (a remedy used by the applicant on several occasions in connection with other complaints relating to his detention). Also, it is not clear why the applicant did not extend his civil claim for compensation to cover the searches that had taken place from 2016 onwards.

14. The prison governor found no irregularities as regards two searches performed in 2016 and four in 2018 and informed the applicant that they had been carried out in accordance with the relevant provisions and with respect for his personal dignity. Moreover, they had been considered necessary for the security of the prison given that the applicant had had contact with the outside world.

15. On the basis of the file before it, and taking into account the applicant’s confused submissions, the Court considers that there is no basis for finding that the searches complained of included any element of debasing or humiliating treatment which might have given rise to a violation of Article 3 of the Convention (contrast Iwańczuk, cited above, § 57). Moreover, during the period under consideration the applicant was no longer classified as a “dangerous detainee” and there is no evidence whatsoever that he was still subjected to searches with a similar frequency (compare and contrast Piechowicz, cited above, § 176, where strip-searches were systematic, intrusive, exceptionally embarrassing and performed daily, or even several times a day, in addition to other security measures).

16. On the basis of the above findings the Court considers that it has not been shown that the authorities’ treatment of the applicant during the searches attained the minimum level of severity necessary to bring Article 3 of the Convention into play (see Dejnek v. Poland, no. 9635/13, § 65, 1 June 2017, and Pawełkowicz v. Poland (dec.) [Committee], no. 59460/12, § 29, November 2018).

17. It follows that this part of the application is manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention and must be rejected in accordance with Article 35 § 4.

18. Lastly, in his observations of 8 April 2020, the applicant complained of overcrowding, without referring to any specific detention centre or period of time. The Court has previously held that a civil action under Article 24 taken in conjunction with Article 448 of the Civil Code was an “effective remedy” for the purposes of Article 35 § 1 of the Convention (see Łatak v. Poland, no. 52070/08, § 85, 12 October 2010). As the applicant did not fulfil the formal criteria for lodging an appeal in his action for compensation as regards the complaint concerning the conditions of his detention, this part of the complaint must be declared inadmissible on the grounds that the effective remedy available under domestic law was not pursued as required by Article 35 § 1 of the Convention and rejected pursuant to Article 35 § 4 of the Convention.

For these reasons, the Court, unanimously,

Declares the application inadmissible.

Done in English and notified in writing on 9 February 2023.

Liv Tigerstedt Lətif Hüseynov
Deputy Registrar President