ECHR Condemns Romania for Refusing To Provide Education to a Detainee

In a Romanian prison, access to secondary education was refused for an inmate based on cost arguments. Read the takeaways of the related ECHR case about guaranteeing access to education for people in the penitentiary system.
On 19 March the ECHR ruled that the Romanian state had violated the right to education of Marian Flămânzeanu, a prison inmate, as provided for in Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention.

Prison inmate denied secondary education

In 2008, 27 year-old, Marian Flămânzeanu was sent to prison for theft. He was incarcerated at Rahova prison where he took courses equivalent to the last two years of primary education, which he finished in 2009.

In 2010 he was transferred to Jilava prison where he made numerous requests to start his secondary education. The prison initiated discussions with the School Inspectorate, but finally reached the conclusion that, due to the small number of eligible inmates, special secondary classes could not be started.

Flămînzeanu was allowed to come before the delegated judge from the prison, complaining that his right to education had been violated. The judge dismissed his application as unfounded, arguing that the Prison Administration had done all it could, but could not provide a teacher for a single student. Mr. Flămînzeanu appealed this decision before the Bucharest Tribunal, which also rejected his request.

In 2011, while still in detention, Marian Flămînzeanu wrote to APADOR-CH, asking for help in writing to the ECHR. The case was taken over by Nicoleta Popescu, an APADOR-CH lawyer.

Romanian Government said it had done all it could

Flămînzeanu referred to Law 84/1995, which stipulates that education is compulsory up until the 10th grade, and Law 275/2006, on the execution of punishments, which also stipulates the requirement that detainees follow compulsory educational courses whilst in prison. He also highlighted the importance of the role of education in finding a job once he was released.

The Romanian Government defended itself before the European Court saying that states have a lot of leeway when it comes to organising their educational systems, and that it largely depends on the needs and resources of the community in question. In the present case, the state argued that it had tried to provide educational opportunities, but securing a teacher for three to five inmates would have been too costly.

ECHR rules in claimant’s favour

The ECHR admitted that the right to education is not absolute, but noted that the Romanian authorities did not take sufficient steps to find solutions in the case of Flămânzeanu.

The Court found the arguments provided by the Government unconvincing and, on the basis of the submitted evidence, it ruled that the refusal to enrol the applicant in secondary education did not have a legitimate and proportionate purpose.

The Court therefore found in this case a violation of Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 which states that no person shall be denied the right to education. Marian Flămînzeanu was awarded 2,000 euros in damages.