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.

Continue reading