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Van Volsem v. Belgium , app. 1464/89, ECommHR decision of 9 May 1990.

Facts: the applicant was a Belgian national and obtained the custody of her two children following her divorce. As she was unable to hold a stable job because of psychological problems, she lived from the alimony of her former husband and on social security. She was living in a low income habitation where the consumption of electricity was disproportionate and high so she could not pay her bills. The company providing electricity, a public entity, thereafter cut off the electricity.

Complaint: the applicant claimed that the electricity company was a representative of the Belgian State which violated article 3 of the Convention because the cutting off of electricity in a very cold period and subsequently the supply of a low power voltage amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment.

Holding: the Commission did not find a violation of article 3

Reasoning: article 3 could be applied to social and economic treatment of persons that amounted to inhuman treatment. However, the cutting of electricity to the applicant did not amount to inhuman and degrading treatment and therefore there had not been a violation of article 3.



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