Article 4 - Prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Key facts of the case:
The public prosecutor had requested in the court of first instance that a Romanian national (A) is surrendered to Romania where he was to serve a five-year prison sentence and a three-year supplementary sentence. A referred to various national (Ombudsman) and international (CPT) reports on prison conditions in Romania and objected to the request. The court of first instance found that despite the assurances given by the Romanian judicial authorities, there were reasonable grounds to suspect that A was in danger of being subject to treatment violating human dignity, because of the poor conditions and overcrowding in the prisons where A was to serve his sentence. The court denied the request. The prosecutor appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court applied the Act (1286/2003) on Surrender Procedures between Finland and Other EU Member States, which implements Council Framework Decision 2002/584/JHA on the European Arrest Warrant. The court also referred to the relevant case law of the CJEU.
Key legal question raised by the Court:
In order to decide on the request for surrender, the court had to assess first whether A would face the risk of inhuman treatment because of the deficiencies in prison conditions in Romania. In this assessment, the court considered, in particular, the significance of the supplementary information and assurances provided by the competent Romanian authorities.
Outcome of the case:
Section 5 of the Act on Surrender Procedures provides for a list of mandatory grounds for refusal, among them reasonable grounds to suspect that the requested person is in danger of being subject to torture or other treatment violating human dignity. The section is not explicitly based on the grounds for non-execution in Articles 3 and 4 of the Framework Decision but can be derived from the human rights obligations binding on Finland. The Framework Decision does not have the effect of modifying the obligation to respect fundamental rights (Article 1). The CJEU has held that the executing judicial authority has an obligation to bring the surrender procedure to an end where surrender may result in the requested person being subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment. The Supreme Court found that section 5 of the Act on Surrender Procedures should therefore be interpreted as far as possible in line with the interpretation given by the CJEU to Article 4 of the Charter and the related human rights obligations.
In its case law, the CJEU has found that the mere existence of evidence that there are deficiencies with respect to detention conditions does not necessarily imply that, in a specific case, the person, whose surrender has been requested, will be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment. When considering whether a request for surrender should be denied on grounds of a real risk of inhuman or degrading treatment, the assessment must be specific and precise and based on objective, reliable, and properly updated data. The Romanian judicial authorities had submitted a detailed report on the conditions in the prisons where A would be placed. Based on the report it seemed that a minimum personal cell space of 3 m2 could not be guaranteed throughout the execution of A’s prison sentence. The CJEU, the ECtHR and the Supreme Court (KKO:2020:25) have found that when the personal space available to a detainee is below 3 m2, it creates a strong presumption of a violation of the prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment.
Following the request by the public prosecutor, the Romanian Ministry of Justice, as the competent central authority, provided assurances, given by the prison service authorities, to the effect that A will have a personal cell space of at least 3 m2 for the entire duration of the execution of his sentence. According to the case law of the CJEU, the European arrest warrant system is based on mutual trust. Assurances given or endorsed by the issuing judicial authority after the assistance of a central judicial authority, are as a rule considered reliable. It is only in exceptional circumstances, and on the basis of precise information, that the executing judicial authority can find that, notwithstanding an assurance, there is a real risk of the person concerned being subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment, because of that person’s detention conditions.
The assurances given by the competent Romanian authorities applied to this specific case only and were explicitly concerning A. In their report the Romanian judicial authorities had also described in detail the arrangements for sanitation, hygiene, health care and social support in the prisons were A would be detained. The Supreme Court held that the generic, national and international reports on overcrowding and conditions in the prisons where A was to be detained, were not sufficient to show exceptional circumstances where the request for A’s surrender could be denied, notwithstanding the assurances.
5. In decision KKO 2020:25 (paras 3-7), the Supreme Court has discussed the grounds for refusal in section 5(1)(6) of the Act on Surrender Procedures and explained the relation between the national provision, the grounds for non-execution in Articles 3 and 4 of the Framework Decision and Article 1(3) of the Framework Decision, which provides that the Framework Decision shall not have the effect of modifying the obligation to respect fundamental rights and fundamental legal principles as enshrined in Article 6 of the Treaty on European Union. As indicated in the decision, it is justified to interpret section 5(1)(6) of the Act on Surrender Procedures as far as possible in line with the interpretation given by the CJEU to Article 1(3) of the Framework Decision, Article 4 of the Charter and the related human rights obligations.
29. In their reports and assurance, the Romanian authorities do not deny that there are general deficiencies with respect to detention conditions in Romania. The Supreme Court finds that the reports and assurances provided by the Romanian authorities nonetheless provide sufficient grounds for assessing whether A will run a risk of being subject to inhuman and degrading treatment. The assurance by the Romanian authorities has been given for the purpose of the current case only and it states explicitly that it is possible to reassess the arrangements for A’s accommodation so that A will have a personal cell space of at least 3 m2 also in Focșan prison.
30. In addition to the assurance, the Romanian issuing authority has in a report, submitted on 24 December 2020, given a detailed account of A’s detention conditions in the prisons in Bacӑu and Focșan. The report describes, among other things, hygiene and sanitary conditions in the said facilities as well as issues concerning health care and social support provided for prisoners. The Supreme Court finds that other general reports presented in the case on overcrowding and conditions in the prisons in Bacӑu and Focșan would, moreover, not be sufficient to prove the existence of exceptional circumstances and precise data on the basis of which it could be determined that there is a real risk that A will be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment in Romania, within the meaning of Article 4 of the Charter.
5. Korkeimman oikeuden ratkaisussa KKO 2020:25 (kohdat 3-7) on selostettu EU-luovuttamislain 5 §:n 1 momentin 6 kohdan kieltäytymisperustetta ja sen suhdetta puitepäätöksen kieltäytymisperusteita koskeviin 3 ja 4 artikloihin sekä puitepäätöksen 1 artiklan 3 kohtaan, jonka mukaan puitepäätös ei vaikuta velvoitteeseen kunnioittaa Euroopan unionista tehdyn sopimuksen 6 artiklassa taattuja perusoikeuksia ja keskeisiä oikeusperiaatteita. Ratkaisussa todetulla tavalla EU-luovuttamislain 5 §:n 1 momentin 6 kohtaa on perusteltua tulkita mahdollisimman pitkälle yhtenevästi sen tulkinnan kanssa, jonka Euroopan unionin tuomioistuin on antanut puitepäätöksen 1 artiklan 3 kohdalle ja perusoikeuskirjan 4 artiklalle sekä niihin liittyville ihmisoikeusvelvoitteille.
29. Romanian viranomaisten toimittamissa selvityksissä ja vakuutuksessa ei ole kiistetty, etteikö Romanian vankilaolosuhteissa olisi yleisiä puutteita. Korkein oikeus katsoo, että Romanian viranomaisten antamien selvitysten ja vakuutusten perusteella on kuitenkin riittävät perusteet arvioida vaaraa, että A joutuisi epäinhimillisen tai halventavan kohtelun kohteeksi. Romanian viranomaisten antama vakuutus on annettu ainoastaan nyt käsiteltävänä olevaa asiaa varten ja siinä on nimenomaisesti vakuutettu A:lle järjestettävän majoituspaikkojen uudelleentarkastelulla kolmen neliömetrin henkilökohtainen yksityinen tila myös Focșanin vankilassa.
30. Vakuutuksen lisäksi pidätysmääräyksen antanut Romanian oikeusviranomainen on selvityksessään 24.12.2020 kuvannut yksityiskohtaisesti A:n vankilaolosuhteita Bacӑun ja Focșanin vankiloissa. Selvityksessä on muun ohella kuvattu asianomaisten vankiloiden hygienia- ja saniteettiolosuhteita sekä vankien terveydenhuoltoon ja sosiaaliseen tukeen liittyviä seikkoja. Korkein oikeus katsoo, ettei asiassa esitetty muu yleinen selvitys Bacӑun ja Focșanin vankiloiden yliasutuksesta tai olosuhteista muutoinkaan riitä muodostamaan sellaisia unionin tuomioistuimen ratkaisukäytännössään edellyttämiä poikkeuksellisia olosuhteita ja täsmällisiä tietoja, joiden perusteella voitaisiin todeta olevan olemassa todellinen vaara siitä, että A:ta kohdeltaisiin Romaniassa perusoikeuskirjan 4 artiklassa tarkoitetulla epäinhimillisellä tai halventavalla tavalla.