Prisoners’ religious rights: Wojciechowski v Poland

In Janusz Wojciechowski v Poland [2016] ECHR 586 the applicant complained about the inadequate conditions of detention after a criminal conviction: overcrowding, inadequate medical care for a skin condition that he had contracted in the remand centre and unreasonable restrictions on his attending Sunday Mass in the remand centre. The domestic courts had upheld his complaint about overcrowding but had rejected his complaints about inadequate medical care and attendance at Mass. Mr Wojciechowski complained of breaches of Article 3 ECHR (inhuman or degrading treatment) and Article 9 (thought, conscience, and religion).

The Court held the complaint under Article 3 in respect of inadequate conditions during the applicant’s detention admissible and the remainder of the application inadmissible and held that there had been a violation of Article 3.

On the Article 9 point, the Government had argued that the applicant had had every possibility to attend religious services at the remand centre, provided he signed up to them with his supervisor. He had followed the required procedure only four times and, as a result, he had been granted authorisation to attend four Sunday masses in September and November 2008. He had also been free to have individual meetings with a prison chaplain but had never requested one [66]. His right to practise his religion had not, therefore, been unreasonably restricted during his detention [67]. The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, as a third-party intervener, had submitted detailed information about the opportunities to practise religion in Polish detention facilities and had concluded that, in principle, convicted prisoners had adequate opportunities to attend religious services [68].

The Court was, in any case, doubtful about the credibility of Mr Wojciechowski’s evidence on the point [70]; and the allegation that he had been unable to attend his parents’ funerals did not appear ever to have been put before the domestic authorities and was not supported by any evidence. Therefore, the Court was unable to conclude that his religious practice and attendance at Sunday Mass had been made impossible by the prison authorities [71]. That part of his complaint was therefore inadmissible.

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "Prisoners’ religious rights: Wojciechowski v Poland" in Law & Religion UK, 29 June 2016,

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