SMM v. UK, ECtHR judgment of 22 June 2017
This is an interesting Chamber judgment that highlights the need for prompt state action and review of the lawfulness of detention of particularly vulnerable migrants, such as those suffering from mental illness.
In addition, the judgment sheds some light at the long-standing issue of migrant detention in the UK which remains with no fixed time limits, despite the repeated recommendations made by national and international human rights institutions.
In view of these two major elements, the Court found a violation of Article 5§1 ECHR having considered the fact that the applicant (national of Zimbabwe) had been detained for over two and a half years.
Link to judgment: http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-174442
In five judgments rendered on 12 July 2016 by the Strasbourg Court France was found to have violated, inter alia, Art. 3 ECHR due to the administrative detention of minor migrants along with their parents subject to deportation in Toulouse and Metz. The cases are: A.B. and Others v. France, R.M. and M.M. v. France, A.M. and Others v. France, R.K. v. France, and R.C. v. France.
The issues had been raised in another widely-cited case, Popov v. France, 2012. The repetitive nature of these judgments is indicative of the structural problems inherent in migrant detention in France and the rest of Europe. It also shows the need for establishing clearly in national law a prohibition of migrant children and a clear framework for applying alternative to detention measures. The “last resort” rule appears to be highly dysfunctional in practice.
Excerpt on violation of Article 3 from: A.B. et autres c France, arrêt du 12 juillet 2016:
1. Principes applicables
107. La Cour rappelle que l’article 3 de la Convention ne ménage aucune exception. Cette prohibition absolue, par la Convention, de la torture et des peines ou traitements inhumains ou dégradants montre que l’article 3 consacre l’une des valeurs fondamentales des sociétés démocratiques qui forment le Conseil de l’Europe (Soering c. Royaume-Uni, 7 juillet 1989, § 88, série A no 161).
108. Pour tomber sous le coup de l’article 3, un mauvais traitement doit atteindre un minimum de gravité. L’appréciation de ce minimum est relative par essence ; elle dépend de l’ensemble des données de la cause, et notamment de la nature et du contexte du traitement, ainsi que de ses modalités d’exécution, de sa durée, de ses effets physiques ou mentaux, ainsi que, parfois, du sexe, de l’âge et de l’état de santé de la victime (voir, entre autres, Raninen c. Finlande, 16 décembre 1997, § 55, Recueil des arrêts et décisions 1997-VIII).
109. La Cour rappelle qu’elle a conclu à plusieurs reprises à la violation de l’article 3 de la Convention en raison du placement en rétention d’étrangers mineurs accompagnés (voir Muskhadzhiyeva et autres c. Belgique, no 41442/07, 19 janvier 2010 ; Kanagaratnam c. Belgique, no 15297/09, 13 décembre 2011 ; Popov, précité) ou non (voir Mubilanzila Mayeka et Kaniki Mitunga c. Belgique, no 13178/03, CEDH 2006‑XI ; Rahimi c. Grèce, no 8687/08, 5 avril 2011). Dans les affaires concernant le placement en rétention d’enfants étrangers mineurs accompagnés, elle a notamment conclu à la violation de l’article 3 de la Convention en raison de la conjonction de trois facteurs : le bas âge des enfants, la durée de leur rétention et le caractère inadapté des locaux concernés à la présence d’enfants.
2. Application au cas d’espèce
110. La Cour constate qu’en l’espèce, et à l’instar de l’affaire Muskhadzhiyeva et autres, l’enfant des requérants était accompagné de ses parents durant la période de rétention. Elle estime cependant que cet élément n’est pas de nature à exempter les autorités de leur obligation de protéger l’enfant et d’adopter des mesures adéquates au titre des obligations positives découlant de l’article 3 de la Convention (ibid., § 58) et qu’il convient de garder à l’esprit que la situation d’extrême vulnérabilité de l’enfant est déterminante et prédomine sur la qualité d’étranger en séjour illégal (voir Popov, pécité, § 91 ; comparer avec Mubilanzila Mayeka et Kaniki Mitunga, précité, § 55). Elle observe que les directives européennes encadrant la rétention des étrangers considèrent à ce titre que les mineurs, qu’ils soient ou non accompagnés, comptent parmi les populations vulnérables nécessitant l’attention particulière des autorités. En effet, les enfants ont des besoins spécifiques dus notamment à leur âge et leur dépendance.
111. La Cour note que, lors de la rétention en cause, l’enfant des requérants était âgé de quatre ans et qu’il fut retenu avec ses parents pendant dix-huit jours au centre de Toulouse-Cornebarrieu.
112. Concernant les conditions matérielles de rétention, la Cour constate que le centre de Toulouse-Cornebarrieu compte parmi ceux « habilités » à recevoir des familles en vertu du décret du 30 mai 2005 (voir paragraphe 26 ci-dessus). Il ressort des rapports de visite de ce centre (voir les paragraphes 31 à 40 ci-dessus) que les autorités ont pris soin de séparer les familles des autres retenus, de leur fournir des chambres spécialement équipées et de mettre à leur disposition du matériel de puériculture adapté. La Cour relève d’ailleurs que les ONG ont reconnu que, contrairement à ce qui était le cas dans l’affaire Popov précitée, les conditions matérielles ne posaient pas problème dans ce centre.
113. La Cour constate cependant que le centre de rétention de Toulouse‑Cornebarrieu, construit en bordure immédiate des pistes de l’aéroport de Toulouse-Blagnac, est exposé à des nuisances sonores particulièrement importantes qui ont conduit au classement du terrain en « zone inconstructible » (voir paragraphes 33, 37 et 40). La Cour observe que les enfants, pour lesquels des périodes de détente en plein air sont nécessaires, sont ainsi particulièrement soumis à ces bruits d’une intensité excessive. La Cour considère, en outre et sans avoir besoin de se référer au certificat médical produit par les requérants, que les contraintes inhérentes à un lieu privatif de liberté, particulièrement lourdes pour un jeune enfant, ainsi que les conditions d’organisation du centre ont nécessairement eu un effet anxiogène sur l’enfant des requérants. En effet, celui-ci, ne pouvant être laissé seul, a dû assister avec ses parents à tous les entretiens que requérait leur situation, ainsi qu’aux différentes audiences judiciaires et administratives. Lors des déplacements, il a été amené à côtoyer des policiers armés en uniforme. De plus, il a subi en permanence les annonces délivrées par les haut-parleurs du centre. Enfin, il a vécu la souffrance morale et psychique de ses parents dans un lieu d’enfermement ne lui permettant pas de prendre la distance indispensable.
114. La Cour considère que de telles conditions, bien que nécessairement sources importantes de stress et d’angoisse pour un enfant en bas âge, ne sont pas suffisantes, dans le cas d’un enfermement de brève durée et dans les circonstances de l’espèce, pour atteindre le seuil de gravité requis pour tomber sous le coup de l’article 3. Elle est convaincue, en revanche, qu’au-delà d’une brève période, la répétition et l’accumulation de ces agressions psychiques et émotionnelles ont nécessairement des conséquences néfastes sur un enfant en bas âge, dépassant le seuil de gravité précité. Dès lors, l’écoulement du temps revêt à cet égard une importance primordiale au regard de l’application de ce texte. La Cour estime que cette brève période a été dépassée dans la présente espèce, s’agissant de la rétention d’un enfant de quatre ans qui s’est prolongée pendant dix-huit jours dans les conditions exposées ci-dessus.
115. Ainsi, compte tenu de l’âge de l’enfant des requérants, de la durée et des conditions de son enfermement dans le centre de rétention de Toulouse-Cornebarrieu, la Cour estime que les autorités ont soumis cet enfant à un traitement qui a dépassé le seuil de gravité exigé par l’article 3 de la Convention. Partant il y a eu violation de cet article à l’égard de l’enfant des requérants.
On 19 May 2016, in J.N. v UK the Strasbourg Court provided a useful detailed overview of its case law principles concerning lawfulness of migrant detention in view of deportation:
74. Article 5 of the Convention enshrines a fundamental human right, namely the protection of the individual against arbitrary interference by the State with his or her right to liberty. Subparagraphs (a) to (f) of Article 5 § 1 contain an exhaustive list of permissible grounds on which persons may be deprived of their liberty and no deprivation of liberty will be lawful unless it falls within one of those grounds. One of the exceptions, contained in subparagraph (f), permits the State to control the liberty of aliens in the immigration context (see, as recent authorities, Saadi v. the United Kingdom [GC], no. 13229/03, § 43, ECHR 2008, and A. and Others v. the United Kingdom [GC], no. 3455/05, §§ 162‑63, 19 February 2009).
75. It is well established in the Court’s case-law under the sub‑paragraphs of Article 5 § 1 that any deprivation of liberty must, in addition to falling within one of the exceptions set out in sub-paragraphs (a) to (f), be “lawful”. In other words, it must conform to the substantive and procedural rules of national law (Amuur v. France, 25 June 1996, § 50, Reports 1996‑III, and Abdolkhani and Karimnia v. Turkey, no. 30471/08, § 130, 22 September 2009).
76. In assessing the “lawfulness” of detention, the Court may have to ascertain whether domestic law itself is in conformity with the Convention, including the general principles expressed or implied therein. On this last point, the Court stresses that, where deprivation of liberty is concerned, it is particularly important that the general principle of legal certainty be satisfied.
77. In laying down that any deprivation of liberty must be effected “in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law”, Article 5 § 1 does not merely refer back to domestic law; like the expressions “in accordance with the law” and “prescribed by law” in the second paragraphs of Articles 8 to 11, it also relates to the “quality of the law”. “Quality of law” in this sense implies that where a national law authorises deprivation of liberty it must be sufficiently accessible, precise and foreseeable in its application, in order to avoid all risk of arbitrariness (see Nasrulloyev v. Russia, no. 656/06, § 71, 11 October 2007; Khudoyorov v. Russia, no. 6847/02, § 125, ECHR 2005‑… (extracts); Ječius v. Lithuania, no. 34578/97, § 56, ECHR 2000-IX; Baranowski v. Poland, no. 28358/95, §§ 50-52, ECHR 2000-III; and Amuur, cited above). Factors relevant to this assessment of the “quality of law” – which are referred to in some cases as “safeguards against arbitrariness” – will include the existence of clear legal provisions for ordering detention, for extending detention, and for setting time-limits for detention (Abdolkhani and Karimnia, cited above, § 135 and Garayev v. Azerbaijan, no. 53688/08, § 99, 10 June 2010); and the existence of an effective remedy by which the applicant can contest the “lawfulness” and “length” of his continuing detention (Louled Massoud v. Malta, no. 24340/08, § 71, 27 July 2010).
78. In addition to the requirement of “lawfulness”, Article 5 § 1 also requires that any deprivation of liberty should be in keeping with the purpose of protecting the individual from arbitrariness (see, among many other authorities, Saadi v. the United Kingdom, cited above, § 6; and Chahal v. the United Kingdom, 15 November 1996, § 118, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1996‑V). It is a fundamental principle that no detention which is arbitrary can be compatible with Article 5 § 1 and the notion of “arbitrariness” in Article 5 § 1 extends beyond lack of conformity with national law, so that a deprivation of liberty may be lawful in terms of domestic law but still arbitrary and thus contrary to the Convention.
79. While the Court has not formulated a global definition as to what types of conduct on the part of the authorities might constitute “arbitrariness” for the purposes of Article 5 § 1, key principles have been developed on a case-by-case basis. It is moreover clear from the case-law that the notion of arbitrariness in the context of Article 5 varies to a certain extent depending on the type of detention involved.
80. One general principle established in the case-law is that detention will be “arbitrary” where, despite complying with the letter of national law, there has been an element of bad faith or deception on the part of the authorities (see, for example, Bozano v. France, 18 December 1986, Series A no. 111, and Čonka v. Belgium, no. 51564/99, ECHR 2002-I). Furthermore, the condition that there be no arbitrariness further demands that both the order to detain and the execution of the detention genuinely conform with the purpose of the restrictions permitted by the relevant sub‑paragraph of Article 5 § 1 (see Winterwerp v. the Netherlands, 24 October 1979, § 39, Series A no. 33). There must in addition be some relationship between the ground of permitted deprivation of liberty relied on and the place and conditions of detention (see Aerts v. Belgium, 30 July 1998, § 46, Reports 1998-V; and Enhorn v. Sweden, no. 56529/00, § 42, ECHR 2005-I).
81. Where a person has been detained under Article 5 § 1(f), the Grand Chamber, interpreting the second limb of this sub-paragraph, held that, as long as a person was being detained “with a view to deportation”, that is, as long as “action [was] being taken with a view to deportation”, Article 5 § 1(f) did not demand that detention be reasonably considered necessary, for example, to prevent the individual from committing an offence or fleeing. It was therefore immaterial whether the underlying decision to expel could be justified under national or Convention law (see Chahal, cited above, § 112; Slivenko v. Latvia [GC], no. 48321/99, § 146, ECHR 2003 X; Sadaykov v. Bulgaria, no. 75157/01, § 21, 22 May 2008; and Raza v. Bulgaria, no. 31465/08, § 72, 11 February 2010).
82. Consequently, the Grand Chamber held in Chahal that the principle of proportionality applied to detention under Article 5 § 1 (f) only to the extent that the detention should not continue for an unreasonable length of time; thus, it held that “any deprivation of liberty under Article 5 § 1(f) will be justified only for as long as deportation proceedings are in progress. If such proceedings are not prosecuted with due diligence, the detention will cease to be permissible” (Chahal, § 113; see also Gebremedhin [Gaberamadhien] v. France, no. 25389/05, § 74, ECHR 2007-II). Indeed, the Court of Justice of the European Union has made similar points in respect of Article 15 of Directive 2008/115/EC (in the 2009 case of Kadzoev) and in respect of Article 9(1) of Directive 2013/13 (in the 2016 case of J.N.) (see paragraphs 42 and 44 above).
83. The Court has unequivocally held that Article 5 § 1(f) of the Convention does not lay down maximum time-limits for detention pending deportation; on the contrary, it has stated that the question whether the length of deportation proceedings could affect the lawfulness of detention under this provision will depend solely on the particular circumstances of each case (see A.H. and J.K. v. Cyprus, nos. 41903/10 and 41911/10, § 190, 21 July 2015; Amie and Others v. Bulgaria, no. 58149/08, § 72, 12 February 2013; Auad v. Bulgaria, no. 46390/10, § 128, 11 October 2011; and Bordovskiy v. Russia, cited above, § 50, 8 February 2005). Consequently, even where domestic law does lay down time-limits, compliance with those time-limits cannot be regarded as automatically bringing the applicant’s detention into line with Article 5 § 1(f) of the Convention (Gallardo Sanchez v. Italy, no. 11620/07, § 39, ECHR 2015; Auad, cited above, § 131).
84. In a series of Russian cases the Court has considered the existence ‑ or absence – of time-limits on detention pending extradition to be relevant to the assessment of the “quality of law” (see, for example, Azimov v. Russia, no. 67474/11, § 171, 18 April 2013; Ismoilov and Others v. Russia, no. 2947/06, §§ 139-140, 24 April 2008; Ryabikin v. Russia, no. 8320/04, § 129, 19 June 2008; Muminov v. Russia, no. 42502/06, § 121, 11 December 2008; and Nasrulloyev v. Russia, no. 656/06, §§ 73-74, 11 October 2007). In these cases the Court was addressing a recurring problem of uncertainty over whether a provision of domestic law laying down the procedure and specific time-limits for reviewing detention applied to detention pending extradition. In light of this uncertainty, in a number of those cases the Court held that the domestic law was not sufficiently precise or foreseeable to meet the “quality of law” standard. In other words, the deprivation of liberty to which the applicants were subjected was not circumscribed by adequate safeguards against arbitrariness (see, for example, Nasrulloyev, cited above, § 77).
85. The Court adopted a similar approach in Louled Massoud, cited above, § 71, in which it found that the Maltese legal system did not provide for a procedure capable of avoiding the risk of arbitrary detention pending deportation. It reaching this conclusion it noted that, in the absence of time‑limits, the applicant was subject to an indeterminate period of detention, and the necessity of procedural safeguards (such as an effective remedy by which to contest the lawfulness and length of his detention) therefore became decisive.
86. In Abdolkhani and Karimnia, cited above, § 135 and Garayev, cited above, § 99 the Court held that in the absence of clear legal provisions establishing the procedure for ordering and extending detention or extradition with a view to deportation and setting time-limits for such detention, the deprivation of liberty to which the applicants were subjected was not circumscribed by adequate safeguards against arbitrariness. Similarly, in Mathloom v. Greece, no. 48883/07, § 71, 24 April 2012, although the Court’s conclusions refer to the fact that “the relevant provisions of domestic law governing the detention of persons under judicial expulsion do not set the maximum length of such detention”, it is clear from the preceding paragraphs that it also viewed as significant the fact that the applicant had been detained for “an unreasonably long period” (more than two years), during which time his expulsion had not been possible. Consequently, the relevant authorities had failed to exercise “due diligence”.
(iii) Automatic judicial review
87. Although the Court has made it clear that the existence of an effective remedy by which to contest the lawfulness and length of detention may be a relevant procedural safeguard against arbitrariness (Louled Massoud, cited above, § 71), it has not, to date, held that Article 5 § 1(f) requires automatic judicial review of detention pending deportation. In fact, as with time-limits, it has found that the existence of such a remedy will not guarantee that a system of immigration detention complies with the requirements of Article 5 § 1(f) of the Convention; for example, in Auad, cited above, § 132 it found that the fact that the applicant’s detention was subject to automatic periodic judicial review provided an important safeguard against arbitrariness but could not be regarded as decisive.
88. In the context of Article 5 § 4, the Court has made it clear that that provision’s requirement that “everyone who is deprived of his liberty … shall be entitled to take proceedings by which the lawfulness of his detention shall be decided speedily by a court” does not impose a uniform, unvarying standard to be applied irrespective of the context, facts and circumstances (Louled Massoud, cited above, § 40). Nevertheless, the Court has provided some guidance on what might constitute an “effective remedy”. First, the remedy must be made available during a person’s detention to allow that person to obtain speedy review of its lawfulness. Secondly, that review must have a judicial character and provide guarantees appropriate to the type of deprivation of liberty in question (see Louled Massoud, cited above, § 40 and A. and Others v. the United Kingdom [GC], no. 3455/05, § 203, ECHR 2009‑…). Thirdly, the review should also be capable of leading, where appropriate, to release. Finally, it must be sufficiently certain, not only in theory but also in practice, failing which it will lack the accessibility and effectiveness required for the purposes of that provision (see Muminov, cited above, § 113, and Ismoilov, cited above, § 145, 24 April 2008).
Mikolenko v. Estonia, 8 October 2009:
“59. The Court reiterates that Article 5 § 1 (f) does not demand that detention be reasonably considered necessary, for example to prevent the individual from committing an offence or fleeing. Any deprivation of liberty under the second limb of Article 5 § 1 (f) will be justified, however, only for as long as deportation or extradition proceedings are in progress. If such proceedings are not prosecuted with due diligence, the detention will cease to be permissible under Article 5 § 1 (f) (see A. and Others v. the United Kingdom [GC], no. 3455/05, § 164, 19 February 2009, and Chahal v. the United Kingdom, 15 November 1996, § 113, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1996‑V).
60. The deprivation of liberty must also be “lawful”. Where the “lawfulness” of detention is in issue, including the question whether “a procedure prescribed by law” has been followed, the Convention refers essentially to national law and lays down the obligation to conform to the substantive and procedural rules of national law. Compliance with national law is not, however, sufficient: Article 5 § 1 requires in addition that any deprivation of liberty should be in keeping with the purpose of protecting the individual from arbitrariness. It is a fundamental principle that no detention which is arbitrary can be compatible with Article 5 § 1 and the notion of “arbitrariness” in Article 5 § 1 extends beyond lack of conformity with national law, so that a deprivation of liberty may be lawful in terms of domestic law but still arbitrary and thus contrary to the Convention (see Saadi, cited above, § 67). To avoid being branded as arbitrary, detention under Article 5 § 1 (f) must be carried out in good faith; it must be closely connected to the ground of detention relied on by the Government; the place and conditions of detention should be appropriate; and the length of the detention should not exceed that reasonably required for the purpose pursued (see A. and Others v. the United Kingdom, cited above, § 164, and, mutatis mutandis, Saadi, cited above, § 74).
61. As concerns the compliance of the applicant’s detention with national law in the present case, the Court observes that the domestic courts, in extending his detention every two months, found it lawful. The Court further observes that sections 23 and 25 of the Obligation to Leave and Prohibition of Entry Act, relied on by the domestic authorities, provided a legal basis for such detention.
62. However, as noted above, compliance with domestic law is not in itself sufficient to establish lack of arbitrariness and further elements, referred to in paragraph 60 above, must be examined in this context. One of these elements is the length of the detention, which should not exceed that reasonably required for the purpose pursued.
63. The court reiterates that deprivation of liberty under Article 5 § 1 (f) is justified only for as long as deportation proceedings are being conducted. It follows that if such proceedings are not being prosecuted with due diligence, the detention will cease to be justified under this subparagraph (see, mutatis mutandis, Quinn v. France, 22 March 1995, § 48, Series A no. 311).
64. The Court observes that the applicant’s detention with a view to expulsion was extraordinarily long. He was detained for more than three years and eleven months. While in the beginning of his detention the domestic authorities took steps to have documents issued to him, it must have become clear quite soon that these attempts were bound to fail as the applicant refused to co-operate and the Russian authorities were not prepared to issue him documents in the absence of his signed application, or to accept a temporary travel document the Estonian authorities were ready to issue. Indeed, the Russian authorities had made their position clear in both respects by as early as June 2004. Thereafter, although the Estonian authorities took repeated steps to solve the situation, there were also considerable periods of inactivity. In particular, the Court has been provided with no information on whether any steps with a view to the applicant’s deportation were taken from August 2004 to March 2006 (see paragraphs 18 to 33 above).
65. What is more, the applicant’s expulsion had become virtually impossible as for all practical purposes it required his co-operation, which he was not willing to give. While it is true that States enjoy an “undeniable sovereign right to control aliens’ entry into and residence in their territory” (see, for example, Saadi, cited above, § 64, with further references), the aliens’ detention in this context is nevertheless only permissible under Article 5 § 1 (f) if action is being taken with a view to their deportation. The Court considers that in the present case the applicant’s further detention cannot be said to have been effected with a view to his deportation as this was no longer feasible.
66. It is true that at some point the Estonian authorities could legitimately have expected that the applicant could be removed on the basis of the EU-Russia readmission agreement once it entered into force, as under this agreement the Russian authorities were required to issue travel documents to persons to be readmitted irrespective of their will. However, the agreement entered into force only on 1 June 2007, which was about three years and seven months after the applicant was placed in detention. In the Court’s opinion the applicant’s detention for such a long time even if the conditions of detention as such were adequate could not be justified by an expected change in the legal circumstances.
67. The Court also notes that after the applicant’s release on 9 October 2007 he was informed that he still had to comply with the order to leave. He was obliged to report to the Board at regular intervals (see paragraph 35 above). Thus, the authorities in fact had at their disposal measures other than the applicant’s protracted detention in the deportation centre in the absence of any immediate prospect of his expulsion.
68. The foregoing considerations are sufficient to enable the Court to conclude that the grounds for the applicant’s detention – action taken with a view to his deportation – did not remain valid for the whole period of his detention due to the lack of a realistic prospect of his expulsion and the domestic authorities’ failure to conduct the proceedings with due diligence.
There has accordingly been a violation of Article 5 § 1 of the Convention.”
Louled Massoud v. Malta, 27 July 2010:
“63. The Court notes that the applicant’s detention in prison fell initially under Article 5 § 1 (c), namely, the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence. It subsequently fell under sub-paragraph (a), namely, the lawful detention of a person after conviction by a competent court. These periods do not raise an issue before the Court.
64. After he served his sentence, the applicant was transferred to a detention centre and detained “with a view to deportation” within the meaning of Article 5 § 1 (f). It follows that the period of detention to be considered for the purposes of this complaint is that from 27 June 2007, the date when the applicant was placed in a detention centre pending the processing of his asylum claim, to 6 January 2009, when he was released. The duration of the detention therefore amounted to eighteen months and nine days. The Court notes that the entire duration of the detention was subsequent to the rejection of his asylum claim at first instance, on 24 April 2007, and that the final decision on his asylum claim was delivered three weeks after the commencement of his detention in the detention centre.
65. The Court must determine whether the duration of the detention was excessive and whether the authorities pursued the deportation proceedings with due diligence.
66. The Court observes that the delay in the present case is not as striking as that in other cases (see Chahal, cited above, and Raza v. Bulgaria, no. 31465/08, 11 February 2010, where the duration was of more than three and two and a half years respectively). However, the delay was not due to the need to wait for the courts to determine a legal challenge, the applicant’s asylum claim having been determined before his detention. Although the identity and nationality of the applicant had been determined, the Government submitted that repatriation had been difficult as the applicant was undocumented, the Algerian authorities had refused to issue the relevant documents and the applicant had been unwilling to cooperate. The Court notes that the Government have not submitted any details as to the procedures initiated save that the police had attempted to obtain such documents through the intervention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They have not submitted information about the frequency of such requests or whether any other avenues were explored. The Court considers that while it is true that the Maltese authorities could not compel the issuing of such a document, there is no indication in the Government’s observations that they pursued the matter vigorously or endeavoured entering into negotiations with the Algerian authorities with a view to expediting its delivery (see Raza v. Bulgaria, cited above, § 73; Tabesh v. Greece, no. 8256/07, § 56, 26 November 2009; and, conversely, Agnissan v. Denmark (dec.), no 39964/98, 4 October 2001).
67. The Government blamed the applicant for his unwillingness to cooperate. However, assuming the Government were right in their allegation, the Court considers that it must have become clear quite early on that the attempts to repatriate him were bound to fail as the applicant had refused to cooperate and/or the Algerian authorities had not been prepared to issue him documents. Detention cannot be said to have been effected with a view to his deportation if this was no longer feasible (see Mikolenko v. Estonia, no. 10664/05, §§ 64-65, 8 October 2009). Indeed, the Court notes that to date, a year and a half after his release, the applicant is still in Malta.
68. Moreover, the Court finds it hard to conceive that in a small island like Malta, where escape by sea without endangering one’s life is unlikely and fleeing by air is subject to strict control, the authorities could not have had at their disposal measures other than the applicant’s protracted detention to secure an eventual removal in the absence of any immediate prospect of his expulsion.
69. In the light of the above, the Court has grave doubts as to whether the grounds for the applicant’s detention – action taken with a view to his deportation – remained valid for the whole period of his detention, namely, more than eighteen months following the rejection of his asylum claim, owing to the probable lack of a realistic prospect of his expulsion and the possible failure of the domestic authorities to conduct the proceedings with due diligence.
70. In such circumstances the Court will move on to determine whether the detention was lawful under national law, effected “in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law” and, in particular, whether there existed sufficient guarantees against arbitrariness.
71. The Court is ready to accept that notwithstanding the various policies, the accessibility and precision of which are doubtful, the applicant’s detention was based on Articles 5 and 14 of the Immigration Act. However, the Court must consider whether Maltese law guaranteed a particular procedure to be followed which could offer safeguards against arbitrariness. The Court primarily notes that the Immigration Act applied no limit to detention and that the Government policies have no legal force. In consequence, the applicant was subject to an indeterminate period of detention (see, mutatis mutandis, Muminov v. Russia, no. 42502/06, § 122, 11 December 2008). In such circumstances the necessity of procedural safeguards becomes decisive. However, the Court has already established that the applicant did not have any effective remedy by which to contest the lawfulness and length of his detention (see paragraphs 46-47 above), and the Government have not pointed to any other normative or practical safeguard. It follows that the Maltese legal system did not provide for a procedure capable of avoiding the risk of arbitrary detention pending deportation (see, mutatis mutandis, Soldatenko v. Ukraine, no. 2440/07, § 114, 23 October 2008).
72. In these circumstances the Court finds it unnecessary to examine the applicant’s conditions of detention, which it reiterates must be compatible with the purposes of detention.
73. The foregoing considerations are sufficient to enable the Court to conclude that the national system failed to protect the applicant from arbitrary detention, and his prolonged detention cannot be considered to have been “lawful” for the purposes of Article 5 of the Convention.
74. There has accordingly been a violation of Article 5 § 1 of the Convention.”
C.D. et autres c. Grèce, 19 December 2013:
“72. En outre, en ce qui concerne la durée de la détention, la Cour rappelle que, dans le contexte de l’article 5 § 1 f), seul le déroulement de la procédure d’expulsion justifie la privation de liberté fondée sur cette disposition et que, si la procédure n’est pas menée avec la diligence requise, la détention cesse d’être justifiée (Chahal, précité, § 113 ; Gebremedhin [Gaberamadhien] c. France, no 25389/05, § 74, CEDH 2007‑II). En l’espèce, la Cour note que la détention des requérants, ordonnée en vue de leur expulsion, n’était pas possible dans l’immédiat en raison des démarches administratives nécessaires à l’égard de chacun d’entre eux pour assurer leur expulsion. Comme il ressort du dossier, la durée de la détention de chaque requérant dépendait de la spécificité de son cas.
73. Ainsi, en ce qui concerne les requérants identifiés sous les nos 4, 6 et 8, ils ont été transférés en Turquie les 19 et 14 janvier 2010 respectivement, en vertu du Protocole de réadmission signé entre la Grèce et la Turquie. Etant donné que ces requérants avaient été mis en détention les 26 novembre et 20 octobre 2009 respectivement, la Cour estime qu’un délai de deux à trois mois environ ne peut pas être considéré comme excessif pour l’accomplissement des formalités administratives entre les autorités grecques et turques dans ce but. En ce qui concerne les autres requérants, les autorités internes n’ont pas fait preuve d’une approche uniforme à leur égard mais ont suivi la procédure pertinente dans chaque cas spécifique, ce qui a entraîné des répercussions diverses mais raisonnables sur la durée de leur détention. Ainsi, à titre d’exemple, les requérants identifiés sous les nos 1 et 7 ont été expulsés les 25 juin et 26 mars 2010 respectivement, lorsque le consulat de leur pays d’origine leur a délivré les documents de voyage nécessaires. En outre, en ce qui concerne les cas où le consulat d’Irak à Athènes n’a pas délivré certains documents aux intéressés, comme dans le cas des requérants identifiés sous les nos 2 et 5, la chambre du tribunal correctionnel compétent a ordonné le 30 août 2010 leur élargissement avec imposition de mesures restrictives de liberté moins strictes, en l’occurrence une simple obligation de se présenter une fois par mois au commissariat de police de leur lieu de résidence. De façon générale, la Cour estime raisonnable un prolongement de la durée de détention des requérants ayant été condamnés le 5 février 2010 par le jugement no 175/2010 du tribunal correctionnel de Rodopi, du fait que la procédure relative à leur expulsion a été arrêtée pour mettre en œuvre le processus d’expulsion judiciaire. En somme, la Cour considère que pendant la période en cause, les autorités nationales n’ont pas fait preuve de passivité dans le déroulement de la procédure d’expulsion des requérants (voir, en ce sens, Agnissan c. Danemark (déc.), no 39964/98, 4 octobre 2001).
74. En dernier lieu, ayant conclu à une violation de l’article 3 en raison des conditions de détention dans le centre de rétention de Venna, la Cour n’estime pas nécessaire de se placer une fois de plus sur ce terrain sous l’angle de l’article 5 § 1 f) (voir Horshill c. Grèce, no 70427/11, § 65, 1er août 2013).
Par conséquent, il n’y pas eu violation de l’article 5 § 1 de la Convention.”