Friday, June 19, 2009

Landmark Domestic Violence Judgment by European Court of Human Rights

In a landmark decision, the European Court of Human Rights has unanimously found that a state violated the human rights of the applicant and her mother in failing to protect them against domestic violence. In Opuz v Turkey, discussed in a previous post on IntLawGrrls, the applicant alleged that the state bore responsibility under the European Convention on Human Rights for its failure to take action against her violent husband who repeatedly attacked her and killed her mother.
The European Court had previously found state responsibility in a domestic violence case in Bevacqua and S. v. Bulgaria (2008), grounding its decision in article 8 (right to respect for family life) of the European Convention. In Opuz v Turkey, however, the Court found violations of:
  • the right to life (art. 2) "in respect of the death of the applicant's mother"

  • the prohibition of torture (art. 3) "in respect of the authorities' failure to protect the applicant against domestic violence perpetrated by her former husband"

  • and -- significantly -- the right to non-discrimination on the basis of sex (art. 14). It explicitly recognized domestic violence as a form of gender discrimination that gives rise to state responsibility.
Regarding the latter, the Court found:
the existence of a prima facie indication that hte domestic violence affected mainly women and that the general and discriminatory judicial passivity in Turkey created a climate that was conducive to domestic violence ...
the criminal-law system, as operated in the instant case, did not have an adequate deterrent effect capable of ensuring the effective prevention of [domestic violence] ...
Bearing in mind its finding above that the general and discriminatory judicial passivity in Turkey, albeit unintentional, mainly affected women, the Court considers that the violence suffered by the applicant and her mother may be regarded as gender-based violence which is a form of discrimination against women. Despite the reforms carried out by the Government in recent years, the overall unresponsiveness of the judicial system and
impunity enjoyed by the aggressors, as found in the instant case, indicated that there was insufficient commitment to take appropriate action to address domestic violence.

Read the Court's decision here.
Watch the Court hearing in the case in October 2008 here.
A report issued in May 2009 on the Caselaw of the European Court of Human Rights on Violence against Women, prepared by Christine Chinkin, is available here.


Rj said...

This is great. Now can we get a leg up here in the Great U.S.?

Cold North Wind said...

And Canada - -pretty please- I would like to have a hand in slowing (at least) ,the carnage.

Michaela Raab said...
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