ECtHR – L. E. v Greece, Application No. 71545/12, 21 January 2016

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Country of Applicant: 
Nigeria
Date of Decision: 
21-01-2016
Citation: 
ECtHR – L. E. v Greece, Application No. 71545/12, 21 January 2016
Court Name: 
European Court of Human Rights (First section)
Relevant Legislative Provisions: 
Headnote: 

The Court found that Article 4 had been violated because of delay by national authorities in formally recognising that the Applicant was a victim of human trafficking, and because of failings of the police and the courts in prosecuting the individuals suspected of being responsible. Further, Articles 6(1) and 13 had been violated because of delays in the length of criminal proceedings against those individuals, and because the Applicant did not have recourse to an effective remedy to complain about this.

Facts: 
The Applicant is a Nigerian national living in Athens. She was brought to Greece in 2004 by a certain K. A., who had promised to find her work in bars and nightclubs in exchange for €40,000 and on condition that she not tell the police about her activities. On arrival in Greece, K. A. confiscated her passport and forced her into prostitution, which she did for approximately two years in order to pay him the debt. On 12 July 2004, she applied for asylum but did not go to the reception centre allocated to her.
 
The Applicant was arrested a number of times for prostitution, being acquitted each time. In light of her irregular status in Greece, on 18 November 2006 she was placed into detention for a period of three months pending deportation. While in detention, she filed a criminal complaint against K. A. and his wife, D. J., whom she claimed had trafficked her and forced her into prostitution, along with two other Nigerian women. The claim was dismissed by the Athens Criminal Court, the judge noting that there was nothing in the case file to indicate that she had been a victim of human trafficking. The Applicant joined proceedings as a civil party on 26 January 2007 and later applied for re-examination of the criminal complaint. On 21 August 2007, the public prosecutor brought criminal proceedings against K. A. and D. J. On the same day, the Applicant was officially recognised as a victim of human trafficking and on 24 August her deportation order was suspended. 
 
On 20 July 2009, the hearing in the case against K. A. and D. J. was suspended as they could not be located. On 19 May 2011, D. J. was arrested and remanded in custody, and on 20 April 2012, the court found that she was not an accomplice but rather another victim of K. A., who had been forced into prostitution and also sexually abused. The relevant administrative authorities renewed the Applicant’s residence permit until 2 November 2014.
 
Before the ECtHR, the Applicant alleged that Greece had failed to comply with its positive obligations towards her as a victim of human trafficking and prostitution under Article 4. Furthermore, relying on Article 6(1) and Article 13, she complained about the length of the criminal proceedings in which she was claiming civil damages, and submitted that at the relevant time no effective remedy was available in Greece in respect of complaints concerning the length of proceedings.
 
Decision & Reasoning: 

Article 4

Following its decision in Rantsev v Cyprus and Russia, the Court first emphasised that Article 4 imposes three positive obligations on states, and  then considered whether each of these had been breached. Firstly, states are required to adopt an effective legal and regulatory framework, offering protection to actual and potential victims of trafficking. The Court found no breach in this regard, because there is national legislation in place criminalising trafficking and offering protection to victims. It was also added that Greece has ratified the UN Trafficking Protocol and the CoE Convention on Action against Human Trafficking, and has transposed the relevant EU Directive (2011/36).

Secondly, states must take protective operational measures. The Court identified a breach here due to the delay in formally recognising that the Applicant was a victim of human trafficking. Specifically, nine months had lapsed between the date on which the Applicant explicitly informed the authorities of her situation, and the conferral of victim status.

Thirdly, states must conduct effective investigations and criminal proceedings. The Court also found a breach in this respect, identifying multiple failings by both the courts and police. The Applicant’s first criminal complaint was rejected before an important witness testimony, corroborating her situation, had been included in the record, owing to negligence by the police. Once included, the competent authorities failed to re-open proceedings, leaving this up to the Applicant herself. There was also a long period of inactivity before criminal proceedings were brought. Similarly, the police investigation had been slow and inefficient. They had failed to search other addresses mentioned by the Applicant and did not attempt to gather additional information.

Articles 6(1) & 13

The Court found that delays in the length of proceedings, amounting to two and a half years from the time the Applicant joined proceedings as a civil party, were unreasonable, constituting a breach of Article 6(1). In addition, it held that Article 13 had been violated because the Greek legal system did not provide an effective remedy for the Applicant to complain about the length of proceedings.

Outcome: 

The Court found that Articles 4, 6(1) and 13 had been violated.

Observations/Comments: 

There is limited case law from the ECtHR on Article 4 ECHR. This decision follows, notably, Siliadin v France, Rantsev v Cyprus and Russia, C. N. and V. v France, C. N. v UK and M. and others v Italy and Bulgaria. Within this context, it offers an important clarification on the positive obligations owed by states towards actual and potential victims of human trafficking. 

 

 

This summary was written by Georgia Kandunias, GDL student at BPP University. 

Case Law Cited: 

ECtHR – Taymuskhanovy v Russia, Application No. 11528/07, 16 December 2010

ECtHR - McKerr v. the United Kingdom (no. 28883/95, ECHR 4 May 2001)

ECtHR - Kudla v Poland [GC], Application No. 30210/96

ECtHR - Manoussakis and Others v. Greece, Application No. 18748/91

ECtHR- Paul and Audrey Edwards v. the United Kingdom, Application No. 46477/99

Vallianatos and Others v. Greece [GC], nos. 29381/09 and 32684/09

ECtHR - Siliadin v. France (no. 73316/01)

Perez v. France (no. 47287/99)

ECtHR - Doğan and Others v. Turkey (nos. 8803-8811/02, 8813/02 and 8815-8819/02)

ECtHR - Dink v Turkey, nos 2668/07, 6102/08, 30079/08, 7072/09 and 7124/09

ECtHR - Giuliani and Gaggio v. Italy [GC], no. 23458/02, §§ 179-80, ECtHR 24 March 2011

ECtHR – Parlak, Aktürk and Yay v Turkey, Application Nos. 24942/94, 24943/94 and 25125/94, 9 January 2001

ECtHR – M. and others v. Italy and Bulgaria, 31 July 2012, 40020/03

ECtHR - Logothetis and Others v. Greece, no. 740/13, §§ 37-48, 25 September 2014

ECtHR – Amadayev v Russia, Application No. 18114/06, 3 July 2014

ECtHR - Chapman v Belgium, Application No. 39619/06, 5 March 2013

ECtHR - Glykantzi v Greece, Application No. 40150/09, 30 October 2012

ECtHR – Gongadzé v Ukraine, Application No. 34056/02, 8 November 2005

ECtHR – Gorou v Greece (No. 2) (GC), Application No. 12686/03. 20 March 2009

ECtHR – Jarnevic and Profit v Greece, Application No. 28338/02, 7 April 2005

ECtHR - Marikanos v Greece, Application No. 49282/99, 29 March 2001

ECtHR – Okkali v Turkey, Application No. 52067/99, 17 October 2006
Attachment(s): 
Other sources cited: 

1926 Slavery Convention.

 

Authentic Language: 
French
State Party: 
Greece
National / Other Legislative Provisions: 
Greece - Greek Constitution
Greece - Greek Constitution - Art. 2.1
Greece - Law No. 2247/1997 (protection of personal data)
Greece - Law No. 3064/2002 - Articles 8
Greece - Law No. 3064/2002 - Articles 12
Greece - Law No. 3875/2010 (ratifying the Palermo Protocol)
Greece - Law No. 4216/2013 (ratifying the Council of Europe Convention Against Human Trafficking)
Greece - Law No. 4198/2013 (transposing EU Directive 2011/36)
Greece - Act to the Civil Code - § 932
Greece - Code of Criminal Procedure – Article 486