On 18 January, a Romanian citizen died at a hospital in Krakow after being transported there from a detention awaiting trial. Doctors stated extreme emaciation of his organism as a result of a four-month-long hunger strike. The 33-year old Claudiu Crulic (1.75 m in height) weighed 40 kg at the time of death. The case was recently described by the weekly ‘Tygodnik Powszechny’. (09-APR-08)
Written by: Agnieszka Chmielecka/ HRH Warsaw
Source: Tygodnik Powszechny, Gazeta Polska
Image by: Wikipedia
On 11 July, a certain judge was robbed while shopping in Krakow. A wallet with credit cards went missing. Shortly afterwards 22 thousand zlotys disappeared from his bank accounts. On photographs shown to him by the police, the judge recognized Claudiu Crulic. Two months later Crulic and Lice Tomescu (a second suspect) were detained and on 13 September the court issued a three-month arrest warrant against the two suspects. Four days later Crulic wrote a letter to the director of the remand center, in which he demanded the opportunity to contact a Romanian diplomatic post “in connection with the arrest and detention” and stated that he is about to go on hunger strike.
The result of the hunger strike
On 3 January 2008, Crulic was transported on a stretcher to the prison hospital. His state was described as generally bad. His organism was emaciated and dehydrated, but “he could be subject to treatment at the prison hospital”, as can be read in the case documentation. On 11 January, it was written that: “the patient can remain at the penal institution”. In the documentation there is mention that if need be “life saving medical procedures will be carried out, and if necessary using direct coercion measures”. On 14 January 2008, the court issued consent to examine the patient’s blood and to feed him using a probe. On 17 January, the remand center’s director approached the court with a request to quash the pre-trial arrest against Crulic, because the patient had to be transported to a hospital. At the Ministry of Interior and Administration hospital in Krakow his state was assessed as: “very critical, the patient is extremely emaciated, unable to make any movement”. The detainee weighed ca. 40 kg. He died on 18 January.
The manner, in which doctors should deal with starving prisoners and detainees, is regulated by the provisions of criminal law. They can be given additional food when their life is threatened. Article 260 of the Code of Criminal Procedure precisely states that pre-trial detention should be abandoned, if this detention may cause a threat to the health and life of the prisoner.
Since 1989, no prisoner has died as a result of a hunger strike at any Polish detention center or prison.
In connection with this case, the Head of the Sejm’s Justice and Human Rights Committee wants the committee to hold a discussion on the issue of dealing with prisoners, who go on hunger strike or mutilate themselves. The commission will also examine the prison guards’ attitude towards these individuals, the forms of medical treatment, as well as the correctness of all activities that are carried out in such cases.
Professor Zbigniew Holda, criminal law expert, Vice-president of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights: “The Romanian, through his hunger strike, exposed the structural deficiencies of the Justice System in Poland as a whole. Following his arrest, the court applied the penalty of detention for a period of as much as three months. Why three?” Ill-considered judgments regarding arrests and their extension are a shortcoming of our justice system. Polish law and European Court of Human Rights regulations contain provisions that should bar such actions. The Romanian did not protest against the prison system, but questioned the legitimacy of the detention and the court’s sluggishness.
The family of the 33-year-old Romanian, who starved himself to death at the Krakow detention center, is preparing a lawsuit against Poland – according to the Romanian media.
Pre-trial detention was abused already in the period of the Polish People’s Republic. At that time, the public prosecutor’s decision was sufficient to apply this measure. This situation lasted until the year 1996, in which the Code of Criminal Procedure was amended and courts where given the authority to issue judgments regarding pre-trial detention. Repressive application of detention for the period of investigation still occurs in Poland. This was pointed out at the end of last year by the ECHR in Strasbourg, which is being flooded with complaints. For many years now, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights has been dealing with cases of pre-trial detainees, whose trials have dragged on for years and preventive detention has been abused. The HFHR even found a case, where a wrongfully accused person spent nearly eight years in detention. The Minister of Justice, Zbigniew Cwiakalski, recently stated that: “pre-trial detention is the most stringent preventive measure and it is necessary to really deeply consider, whether it is crucial to apply it in a particular case”. Professor Zbigniew Holda: “Judges must think through their actions. They must fear the ill-considered application of detention. Otherwise Poland will continue to lose cases lodged to the Court in Strasbourg by people groundlessly placed in detention.”