The Public Defender of Rights

Protection of Persons Restricted in their Freedom

What is ill-treatment

Ill-treatment in the general sense is understood to mean any conduct that shows disregard for human dignity.

Depending on the degree of violation of human dignity or even physical integrity, ill-treatment can take the specific forms of torture, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, disrespect for the individual and the rights of the individual, disregard for an individual’s social autonomy, privacy and the right to partake in the decision-making process to determine one’s own life, or taking advantage of an individual’s dependence on the provision of care or its further intensification.

Formally, ill-treatment not only means infringement of fundamental rights stipulated by the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms or by international conventions, the breaking of laws and administrative regulations, but it is also understood to mean the failure to fulfil more or less binding instructions, guidelines, norms on the quality of provided care, or principles of good practice or procedures.

In case of prisons, police cells or facilities for foreigners, ill-treatment may take form of disrespect for the right to privacy, degrading treatment (e.g. during personal searches), or punishment, or unsatisfactory material and hygienic conditions. On the other hand, in school and healthcare facilities or in social services facilities, ill-treatment could involve disrespect for the right to privacy, the right to a family life, intensification of dependence on the provided care, disrespect for social autonomy and the right to partake in the decision-making process to determine one’s life.   

The term ill-treatment can be found in connection with the judicial decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. The European Court of Human Rights states ill-treatment, i.e. the breach of Article 3 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, in particular in case of complaints about the conditions of imprisonment or custody, to a lesser extent in cases of complaints about confinement and conditions in psychiatric hospitals (in these cases, potential breach of Article 5 of the quoted Convention, i.e. the right to personal freedom, is considered).

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