Russia’s 30-day Detention of a Mentally Ill Minor Was Unjustified

Ivan Blokhin, was arrested on January 3, 2005, and taken to a police station for questioning after his 9 year old neighbor accused him of extortion.  The police urged him to sign a confession statement, which he subsequently retracted after being allowed to speak with his guardian.  Blokhin was 12 years old at the time of the arrest, and he suffered from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and enuresis.  Two specialists examined Blokhin in December 2004 and January 2005, and prescribed medication and regular consultation appointments with a neurologist and psychiatrist.

The police relying on Blokhin’s confession and the statements of the 9 year-old boy and his mother determined that Blokhin’s actions contained elements of extortion.  On February 21, 2005, the district court ordered that Blokhin be placed in a juvenile detention center for the next 30 days.  Blokhin’s grandfather appealed the decision stating that the detention was unlawful and incompatible with his grandson’s state of health.  In March of 2005 the regional court dismissed the detention order.  But upon re-examination in May of 2006 the same court held that the original detention order had been lawful.

After his 30-day detention Blokhin was taken to hospital to receive treatment.  Blokhin’s said that he did not receive appropriate medical care in the detention center.  He was not given the medication necessary for his hyperactivity disorder and despite his enuresis disorder his access to the toilet was very limited causing him to endure bladder pain and humiliation.  Blokhin also stated that inmates were kept in a large empty room, rarely allowed to go outside, and that the math and grammar classes were taught only twice a week to a group of 20 children all of different ages and school levels.

On November 14, 2013, in this case of first impression the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security); and Article 6 §§ 1 and 3 (right to a fair trial).  “The Court found in particular: that the boy had not received adequate medical care for his attention- deficit hyperactivity disorder and enuresis at the detention center; his detention had not served an educational purpose and had not been justified by the need to prevent him from committing an offence; and, his defense rights had been violated because his confession had been obtained without legal assistance and the statements of two witnesses whom he was unable to question had served as a basis for his placement in the detention center.”  Do you think there was even adequate evidence to place Blokhin in the juvenile detention center in the first place?

Source: HUDOC

Picture: USA Today

3 comments

  1. As the title of this post suggests, I think that his detention was unjustified. It seems like there as no effort to conduct a full investigation after they took his statement. The police and the courts should have not relied solely on the statements of a two minors, one which is mentally ill. While prosecuting authorities opted not to open a criminal case against Blokhin, that is not sufficient. Taking into consideration that Blokhin had not reached the age of criminal culpability, the court should have ordered treatment, what he needed, and not detention. While the decision was made with an aim to incapacitate Blokhin and stop him from committing similar acts, that is not the help that a boy with his condition needs.

    Ultimately, the ECHR ordered Russia to pay out EUR 7,500 in non-pecuniary damages and EUR 1,493 in costs and expenses to Blokhin. This compensation is an adequate remedy for Blokhin, but it shouldn’t stop there. I truly hope that the ECHR’s ruling changes the approach police, prosecuting authorities and courts take towards case of this kind in the future. I hope this case beings this wave of change, not only in Russia, but all over the world.

  2. First, the conviction was unjustified, considering Blokhin’s confession and statements were the major source of the so-called evidence. He was a minor, and should not have been spoken to without a guardian. When he did come in contact with his guardian, he conveniently retracted his statement. This shows he was probably under duress, because he was in jail and a scared young boy.

    As for his thirty day prison sentence, if even justified at all, it should have been to a mental health facility, where he could have gotten proper treatment for his ADHD and enuresis. Even though the ECHR ordered Russia to pay out EUR 7,500 in non-pecuniary damages and EUR 1,493 in costs and expenses to Blokhin, this does not give him back those thirty days of humiliation.

  3. I agree with the European Court of Human Rights with its decision in this case. Not only is the evidence poor since it relies on both a minor and his mother who are both interested parties in the suit. But, the confession of a 12 year old who was provided with no legal assistance and suffers from a mental illness cannot be enough to hold him liable. No direct evidence was supplied to link the child to the crime committed. The punishment awarded served no particular purpose of specifically deterring the child from potentially committing the crime again. The child’s physical and mental health, were instead affected to the point that he had to be admitted into a hospital after his release. What point did it serve to place a child with already deficient health in a detention center that would only make his health even worse. Even if it was found that the child had committed the crime and there was sufficient evidence provided, I feel that a different punishment could have been utilized.

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