The Italian authorities could be forced to free prisoners from jails that have suffered a coronavirus outbreak after an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, writes Erica Di Blasi in Turin.
Lawyers in Turin have petitioned the court over an individual prisoner with the virus, but said they hoped any decision by the court in his favour would apply to all prisoners. If the court decided that keeping prisoners locked up in infected jails amounted to a breach in their human rights, it could in principle demand their release.
Benedetta Perego, the lawyer who is bringing the case, told The Telegraph: “The appeal is over a single person but we hope it will benefit all detainees. If there are no means to prevent contagion among prisoners, our hope is that they will be released into house arrest.”
The Turin jail has a capacity of 1,061 inmates but currently contains 1,437, an excess of 35pc. Another inmate in a jail in the north-eastern town of Tolmezzo has made a similar submission to the court.
The court initially asked the Italian government to report on conditions in the prison and the measures taken to control the risks posed by the disease. After it received the Italian government’s response, which said the individual prisoner concerned had recovered and the necessary measures to avoid infection in prison had been taken, the court rejected the case.
However, Ms Perego described the government’s response as “vague” and said she would shortly submit a new appeal to the court.
A spokesman for the court said: “Up to May 4, the court had received two requests for interim measures from detainees who tested positive to Covid-19 infections, both from Italy. These requests concerned detainees in pre-trial detention in Tolmezzo and Torino prisons respectively. “The applicants requested mainly to be released and placed under house arrest. After having received the factual information requested, the court rejected the two requests.”