G.J. v. Spain and Access to Justice for Victims of Human Trafficking

Guest post by Ruth M. Mestre i Mestre, Human Rights Institute, University of Valencia.

The G.J. v. Spain Decision (App. no. 59172/12) shows many of the problems victims of human trafficking encounter to access justice. It is, sadly, one of those cases where formalities swallow justice, since the outcome could have been totally different had the Court considered that the circumstances of the case required examination, in spite of, or precisely because of the failure to comply with the “written authority” requirement of submission (Rule 36.1 and 47(5)(1)(c) of the Rules of Court).

The challenges posed to the Court were interesting from the perspective of analysing the gender aspects of human trafficking and specially for determining whether the procedures for the identification of victims of trafficking that subordinate their protection to cooperation in criminal procedures against traffickers are compatible with the positive obligations arising from article 4 ECHR. The inadmissibility of the application leaves these questions unanswered. My comments will briefly engage with two sets of issues, the missed opportunity with regards to trafficking, and its connection to the substantive inadmissibility decision of the Court.

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L.E. v. Greece: Human Trafficking and States’ Positive Obligations

By Vladislava Stoyanova, Postdoctoral Researcher, Faculty of Law, Lund University, Sweden. Author of Human Trafficking and Slavery Reconsidered. Conceptual Limits and States Positive Obligations in European Law (Cambridge University Press, 2016 forthcoming)

Against the backdrop of the rich judicial output of the ECtHR, the case law under Article 4 of the ECHR is scarce. This is more than surprising against the backdrop of ample empirical evidence showing that migrants, including sex workers, are subjected to severe forms of exploitation in Europe (see, for example, the report by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency published in 2015 Severe Labour Exploitation: Workers Moving within or into the European Union. States’ Obligations and Victims’ Rights). To be more precise, the existing judgments in which the Court has dealt with abuses inflicted by non-state actors (i.e. employers) reaching the level of severity of Article 4 are five:[1] Siliadin v. France, Rantsev v. Cyprus and Russia, C.N. and V. v. France, C.N. v. The United Kingdom and M. and Others v. Italy and Bulgaria (the complaint under Article 4 was found inadmissible in this case). On 21 January 2016, the ECtHR delivered L.E. v. Greece, which is the sixth judgment in this context. It is an important judgment not only because it is a positive step for remedying the above mentioned dearth of judicial engagement with exploitation of migrants in Europe, but also because it raises some intriguing questions about positive obligations under the ECHR. In this note, I will cover some of these.

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C.N. v. United Kingdom: the Court addresses domestic servitude

Amongst all the rightful concerns about the Strasbourg Court’s case-overload, I often find myself wondering about the cases that the Court isn’t getting. Some structurally occurring human rights violations aren’t receiving the attention of the Court – at least not in any amount that is proportionate to their scale. Domestic violence against women is one example, as is trafficking and domestic servitude. There is an extremely worrying dearth of judgments on these issues.

C.N. v. the United Kingdom, a case about a woman who was held in domestic servitude, is therefore a welcome ruling. This is just the fourth judgment in which the Court finds a violation of the prohibition of slavery, forced labor and servitude (Article 4 ECHR).[1] In this post I will highlight the most salient aspects of the Court’s reasoning. Continue reading

Trafficking in Persons and the European Court of Human Rights

This guest post was written by Dr. Roberta Avellino. Dr. Avellino studied Law at the University of Malta where she graduated as Doctor of Laws. She has moreover obtained a Master of Laws in International Law following research on trafficking in persons, security governance and State responsibility. She has recently published an article on the subject entitled ‘Trafficking in Persons: A Contemporary Threat to Human Dignity’ (please note that the file takes a while to open) in the first issue of a new law journal, the ELSA Malta Law Review. We are thankful to Dr. Avellino for her contribution to our blog and wish the European Law Students’ Association Malta all the best with their newly founded journal!

The European Convention on Human Rights makes no direct reference to the modern crime of trafficking in persons. However, Article 4 prohibits slavery, servitude and forced labour. But how should the parameters of servitude and the prohibition thereof be delineated? Is trafficking in persons included within the considerations of the Convention? The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has attempted to clarify this issue through the case of Siliadin v France[1] and held that a number of international human rights treaties aimed at protecting human beings from slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour. In referring to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Court also officially recognized the unfortunate truth of modern day slavery despite the abolishment of this practice more than 150 years ago.[2]

On the 7th of January 2010, the European Court of Human Rights delivered what has been considered ‘a historic first judgment concerning cross border human trafficking in Europe’[3] in Rantsev v Cyprus and Russia[4] and unanimously found that trafficking in persons falls within the parameters of Article 4 of the Convention.

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