COVID, restricting prisoners’ worship and Article 9 ECHR: Spînu

In Constantin-Lucian Spînu v Romania [2022] ECHR 810 [in French], Mr Spînu, a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, had been detained since June 2019 in  the open prison at Jilava. From 2019 until 29 February 2020 he had been allowed to leave the prison and to attend the religious services of the Adventist Church; however, the National Prisons Administration (NPA) refused to allow him to do so while precautionary measures were in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, and his application to the Bucharest Court of First Instance to overturn that decision had been rejected [4-10].

The arguments

Before the Fourth Section ECtHR Mr Spînu argued that he had suffered an interference with his Article 9 rights that had not been “in accordance with the law”. The refusal had been based on decisions by the Director General of the NPA, which in his view could not be considered as “law” within the meaning of the Convention [29]. Article 38 of Romania’s Law no. 254/2013 established an absolute right to move around inside and outside an open prison that could be curtailed only by regulations implementing the law rather than by an administrative decision [30]. Continue reading