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ECHR Case Law Monitoring

By December 28, 2023April 9th, 2024News
Ruben Dos Santos
Thu 28 Dec 2023 14:37
European Court of Human Rights / t Credit - Canva

ECHR Case Law Monitoring

In 2023, Victim Support Europe continued to regularly monitor case law stemming from the European Court of Human Rights. This document provides a summary of relevant judgements, covering various topics ranging from the inadequate protection of domestic violence victims, the right of victims of human trafficking to seek compensation, and the ineffective investigation in cases of state violence.  

 

Krachunova v. Bulgaria (application no. 18269/18) 

Underlying issue: The case concerned Ms Krachunova’s attempts to obtain compensation for the earnings from sex work that X, her trafficker, had taken from her. The Court observed whether, regardless of the national legislation that refers to legality of sex-work, in the circumstances where a victim of trafficking in human beings is forced to provide sex in exchange for money, they have the right to claim compensation for lost earnings (European Court of Human Rights, 2023).  

Legal matter: Violation of Article 4 (prohibition of slavery and forced labour). 

Summary of facts: The applicant began sex work in 2012, when she moved in with X, her partner. After an unsuccessful attempt to quit, she run away. X found her, took her identity card, and she felt forced to return to sex work. In 2013, she was intercepted and interviewed by the police, and X was convicted of her human trafficking.  

The applicant filed a claim for compensation on two grounds: for (a) moral damages, for being a victim of trafficking, and (b) for the lost earnings, given that she had never been paid for the work that she had been forced to do. The domestic courts acknowledged and awarded the former, while for the latter, the claim was rejected, on the basis it concerned money earned in an illegal and immoral manner. All the applicant’s appeals in this regard were dismissed. 

Legal reasoning: The Court reiterated that Article 4 conferred positive obligations on the States, including putting in place a legislative and administrative framework that prohibits and punishes trafficking, taking operational measures to protect victims in some cases, and investigating situations of potential trafficking.  

The Court held that States had an obligation to enable victims of trafficking to claim compensation for lost earnings from traffickers, and that the Bulgarian authorities had failed to balance Ms Krachunova’s right under Article 4 to make such a claim with the interests of the community, who were unlikely to find the payment of compensation in such a situation immoral.  

This was the first time that the European Court had found that a trafficking victim had a right to seek compensation in respect of pecuniary damage from her trafficker under Article 4.  

Concerning the question of “good morals”, the Court stated that human rights should be the main criterion in designing and implementing policies on prostitution and trafficking. Even if there existed sound public-policy reasons to dismiss a claim relating to earnings obtained through prostitution, in this case, such claims came up against trafficking and in favour of protecting its victims. (European Court of Human Rights, 2023). 

 

Lapunov v. Russia (application no. 28834/19) 

Underlying issue: The case concerns the abduction, unlawful detention and torture of Mr Lapunov by State agents in Chechnya on account of his sexual orientation in 2017. The Court examined the applicant’s account of ill-treatment, qualified as torture, and called attention to the faulty investigation conducted by the state, which did not consider the possible homophobic motivation behind the event (European Court of Human Rights, 2023). 

Legal matter: Violation of Article 3 (prohibition of torture), violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination), and violation of Article 5 (right to liberty and security). 

Summary of facts: The applicant, an openly homosexual person, was abducted from his place of work in Grozny, detained and ill-treated by State agents at the police headquarters in Chechnya between 16 and 28 March 2017. He was badly beaten and threatened seriously by police officers because of his sexual orientation. The allegation surfaced against a background of a reported “purge” of homosexual or presumed homosexual people in the Chechen Republic by the authorities.   

The applicant’s sister reported his disappearance to the Chechen police, but no criminal case was opened. The applicant met with the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the Russian Federation who requested an investigation of the incident. A pre-investigation was carried out, but the investigators repeatedly refused to open a criminal case. The applicant unsuccessfully appealed. 

Legal reasoning: The Court found that the applicant had provided a compelling account of ill-treatment by State agents, which the Government had failed to refute. The Court concluded that the investigation into the applicant’s allegations had been ineffective, as it had been plagued by serious shortcomings, had lacked independence and had failed to properly take into account and investigate possible discriminatory motives. Therefore, the Court found that the treatment amounted to torture, whereby the Russian Federation has been in violation of Article 3 of the ECHR (the prohibition of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment).  

The applicant had been subjected to targeted violence solely on account of his sexual orientation, which was characterised as a hate crime in the relevant international material. In the domestic proceedings it did not appear that any reasonable steps had been taken to examine the role which homophobic motives might have played in the applicant’s ill-treatment. The repeated refusals to open a criminal case had further contained no assessment of the possible homophobic motives behind the ill-treatment and had provided no explanations as to the conclusion that no such motives had existed. Therefore, the Court found that the state had been in violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) in conjunction with Article 3. 

The Court also found, unanimously, a violation of Article 5 on account of the applicant’s arbitrary detention by State agents during the above period which had had no legal grounds and had not been officially acknowledged (European Court of Human Rights, 2023). 

 

A.E. v. Bulgaria (application no. 53891/20) 

Underlying issue: The case explored the authorities’ failure to provide adequate protection, in law and in practice, to Ms A.E., a 15-year-old domestic violence victim. Through the circumstances of the case, the Court examined the situation of domestic violence victims in Bulgaria, observing the policies implemented at state level for the protection of domestic violence victims and the punishment of offenders (European Court of Human Rights, 2023).  

Legal matter: Violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), and violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination).  

Summary of facts: The case concerned complaints brought to prosecutors in Bulgaria that Ms A.E., then aged just 15, had been a victim of domestic abuse, including being beaten, kicked and strangled, by the 23-yearold man with whom she was living.  She was examined in an emergency room by a forensic doctor who, in his medical report, concluded that she had suffered traumatic injuries that could have been caused in the manner and at the time she described and had caused her pain and suffering.  

The social services gave the prosecution service notice that a crime had been committed against a minor, describing the above incident as well as several earlier beatings, and requested that pre-trial criminal proceedings be opened. However, the district prosecutor, after preliminary police checks, refused to do so, finding that only an offence subject to private prosecution, namely minor bodily harm, had been committed and that the legal conditions for prosecutors to exercise their discretionary power to open criminal proceedings had not been met. The applicant’s subsequent appeals were dismissed.  

Legal reasoning: The Court found that the State had failed to protect A.E. in law – domestic-violence legislation was deficient – and fact – prosecutors had not opened criminal proceedings despite her vulnerable situation and the report that she had been subjected to repeated domestic violence. The Court held that Bulgaria had not put in place an effective system to punish all forms of domestic violence and provide sufficient safeguards for victims. The State failed to protect A.E. adequately either in law or in fact, leading to a violation of Article 3. 

The Court held that the Government had failed to disprove institutional inaction on the part of the authorities. The authorities had not disproved the applicant’s prima facie case of a general institutional passivity in matters related to domestic violence in Bulgaria. As the statistics provided by the applicant showed, for a sustained period of time women have continued to suffer disproportionately from domestic violence. The authorities had not shown that they had engaged adequately with the problem. It was not thus necessary for the applicant to show that she had been individually a target of prejudice by the authorities. Therefore, the Court found that the state of Bulgaria had been in violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) in conjunction with Article 3 (European Court of Human Rights, 2023). 

  

M.L. v. Poland (application no. 40119/21) 

Underlying issue: The case concerns the restriction of abortion rights following amendments introduced by the Polish Constitutional Court, resulting in the applicant being forced to travel abroad to terminate her pregnancy. The Court assessed whether, in the context of the case, the implementation of the legislative amendment had a psychological impact on the applicant, examining the lack of proper safeguards to protect her against arbitrariness (European Court of Human Rights, 2023). 

Legal Matter: Violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life).  

Summary of facts: The applicant alleged that she had been banned from having access to a legal abortion in the case of foetal abnormalities, following a 2020 Constitutional Court judgment.  

The applicant became pregnant in 2020 and the foetus was subsequently diagnosed with trisomy 21, a genetic disorder. A scheduled hospital abortion had been cancelled when the legislative amendments resulting from the Constitutional Court ruling had come into force. Unable to have an abortion in Poland, the applicant ultimately had to travel to a private clinic abroad for the procedure.  

Legal reasoning: The Court analysed the applicant’s complaint as one concerning negative obligations. Having regard to the broad concept of private life within the meaning of Article 8, including the right to personal autonomy and to physical and psychological integrity, the Court found that the applicant’s being prohibited from terminating her pregnancy on the grounds of foetal abnormality, where the termination had been sought for reasons of health and well-being, had amounted to an interference with her right to respect for her private life. 

The Court found that the legislative amendments in question, which had forced her to travel abroad for an abortion at considerable expense and away from her family support network, had to have had a significant psychological impact on her. Such interference with her rights, and with a medical procedure for which she had qualified, and which had already been put in motion, had created a situation which had deprived her of proper safeguards against arbitrariness (European Court of Human Rights, 2023). 

 

Vuckovic v. Croatia (application no. 15798/20)  

Underlying issue: The applicant was a victim of sexual violence committed by her work-colleague. The perpetrator was sentenced by the first-instance court to 10 months in prison. However, on appeal, the second instance court converted his sentence to community service. The Court considering whether such a commutation of sentence was in line with Article 3 of the ECHR, in particular given the second-instance court’s failure to consider the interests of the victim (European Court of Human Rights, 2023).  

Legal matter: Violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment), and Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life).  

Summary of facts: In June 2015 the applicant filed a criminal complaint against her work colleague M.P., accusing him of sexual violence committed in the workplace. M.P was subsequently found guilty of two counts of committing lewd acts under the Criminal Code and sentenced to ten months’ imprisonment by the first-instance court. On appeal that sentence was upheld but the appellate court replaced imprisonment with community service which was duly served. 

Legal reasoning: The Court found it concerning that the appellate court had chosen to replace the prison sentence with community service without giving adequate reasons or considering in any way the interests of the victim. Such an approach suggested that the Croatian courts were lenient in punishing violence against women (European Court of Human Rights, 2023). 

 

References 

European Court of Human Rights. (2023, November 28). Krachunova v. Bulgaria, Trafficking victim has right to seek compensation from trafficker. [Press release]. 

https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/app/conversion/pdf/?library=ECHR&id=003-7811893-10838069&filename=Judgment%20Krachunova%20v.%20Bulgaria%20-%20Trafficking%20victim%20has%20right%20to%20seek%20compensation%20from%20trafficker%20.pdf
 

European Court of Human Rights, HUDOC. (2023, November 28). Krachunova v. Bulgaria, Trafficking victim has right to seek compensation from trafficker. [Legal summary].  

https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-229129 

European Court of Human Rights. (2023, September 12). Lapunov v. Russia, Applicant tortured by State agents in Chechnya because of sexual orientation. [Press release]. 

https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/app/conversion/pdf/?library=ECHR&id=003-7741682-10713052&filename=Judgment%20Lapunov%20v.%20Russia%20-%20Applicant%20tortured%20by%20State%20agents%20in%20Chechnya%20because%20of%20sexual%20orientation%20.pdf
 

European Court of Human Rights. HUDOC. (2023, September 12). Lapunov v. Russia, Applicant tortured by State agents in Chechnya because of sexual orientation. [Legal summary].  

https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/?i=002-14175 

European Court of Human Rights. (2023, May 23). A.E v. Bulgaria, Inadequate protection for 15-year-old domestic-violence victim. [Press release]. 

https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/app/conversion/pdf/?library=ECHR&id=003-7654573-10548603&filename=Judgment%20A.E.%20v.%20Bulgaria%20-%20Inadequate%20protection%20for%2015-year-old%20domestic-violence%20victim%20.pdf
 

European Court of Human Rights. HUDOC. (2023, May 23). A.E v. Bulgaria, Inadequate protection for 15-year-old domestic-violence victim. [Legal summary].  

https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-224778

European Court of Human Rights. (2023, December 14). M.L. v. Poland, Woman forced to travel abroad to have an abortion following legislative amendments breached the Convention. [Press release]. 

https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/app/conversion/pdf/?library=ECHR&id=003-7828161-10867355&filename=Judgment%20M.L.%20v.%20Poland%20-%20woman%20forced%20to%20travel%20abroad%20to%20have%20an%20abortion%20following%20legislative%20amendments%20breached%20the%20Convention%20.pdf 

European Court of Human Rights. HUDOC. (2023, December 14). M.L. v. Poland, Woman forced to travel abroad to have an abortion following legislative amendments breached the Convention. [Legal summary].  

https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-229424

European Court of Human Rights. (2023, December 12). Vuckovic v. Croatia, Sexual Violence in the workplace. [Press release]. 

https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/app/conversion/pdf/?library=ECHR&id=003-7824950-10861965&filename=Judgment%20Vuckovic%20v.%20Croatia%20-%20sexual%20violence%20in%20the%20workplace.pdf
 

European Court of Human Rights. HUDOC. (2023, December 12). Vuckovic v. Croatia, Sexual Violence in the workplace. [Legal summary].  

https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/fre?i=002-14261 

 

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