The European Human Rights system and the right to life seen through suicide prevention in places of detention: Between risk management and punishment
Cliquennois, G., Snacken, S. & van Zyl Smit, D.
This paper analyses the shortcomings of European suicide prevention policy in places of detention, a topic that has been neglected in the European legal literature. Four interrelated characteristics of the suicide prevention policies developed by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) are responsible for the failures of these policies. First, the risk-based approach relies on individual risk calculations by national detention authorities to the detriment of environmental factors and a holistic approach. Second, there is an unacknowledged tension in the jurisprudence of the ECtHR between the right to life of detainees and the right to life of potential victims of terrorism and other serious crimes. Third, the jurisprudence on state liability, with its individual risk-based approach, has been translated into highly restrictive death avoidance national practices, which infringe human dignity and reinforce detainees’ willingness to commit suicide. Finally, the right to life does not effectively limit the inherent punitiveness of suicide prevention policies.