16 Oct 2020 17:18:00Strasbourg 16 October 2020
Ahead of the 14th European Anti-Trafficking Day (18 October), the Council of Europe’s Group of...
09 Oct 2020 17:37:00Strasbourg 5-9 October 2020
The Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) held its 38th meeting...
06 Oct 2020 11:42:00Strasbourg 06/10/2020
From 28 September to 5 October 2020, a delegation of the Council of Europe's Group of Experts on...
02 Oct 2020 17:08:00Strasbourg 02/10/2020
A delegation of the Council of Europe's Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human...
18 Sep 2020 09:00:00Strasbourg 18 September 2020
GRETA has issued a new Compendium of good practices in addressing trafficking in human beings for...
The terms of office of 8 of the 15 current members of the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) will expire on 31 December 2020. The elections to fill the vacant seats will be held at the 27th meeting of the Committee of the Parties of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, which will take place on 4 December 2020.
S.M. v Croatia
Grand Chamber judgment clarifies the definitional scope of Article 4 of ECHR
The case of S.M. v. Croatia (application no. 60561/14) concerns a Croatian woman who had lodged a criminal complaint against T.M., a former policeman, alleging that he had physically and psychologically forced her into prostitution within Croatia. The Court found that the relevant authorities had not fulfilled their procedural obligations of effective investigation under Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The applicant’s personal situation undoubtedly suggested that she had belonged to a vulnerable group, while T.M.’s position and background suggested that he had been capable of assuming a dominant position over her and abusing her vulnerability. While the prosecuting authorities had reacted promptly to the applicant’s allegations, they had failed to follow some obvious lines of inquiry capable of elucidating the circumstances of the case and establishing the true nature of the relationship between both parties.
The Grand Chamber concluded that the criminal investigation by the domestic authorities and the subsequent criminal proceedings had ‘significant flaws’, thus violating the procedural obligation under Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
GRETA made a third-party written submission to the European Court of Human Rights in the case of S.M. v. Croatia, following its referral to the Grand Chamber of the Court on 3 December 2018. In its decision, the Grand Chamber draws on GRETA’s submission and the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings in interpreting the positive obligations under Article 4 of the ECHR. The judgement highlights in paragraph 344 that “there may be different reasons why victims of human trafficking and different forms of sexual abuse may be reluctant to cooperate with the authorities and to disclose all the details of the case. Moreover, the possible impact of psychological trauma must be taken into account. There is thus a risk of overreliance on the victim’s testimony alone, which leads to the necessity to clarify and – if appropriate – support the victim’s statement by other evidence.”
The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings entered into force on 1 February 2008, following its 10th ratification. While building on existing international instruments, the Convention goes beyond the minimum standards agreed upon in them and strengthens the protection afforded to victims.
The Convention has a comprehensive scope of application, encompassing all forms of trafficking (whether national or transnational, linked or not linked to organised crime) and taking in all persons who are victims of trafficking (women, men or children). The forms of exploitation covered by the Convention are, at a minimum, sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude and the removal of organs.
The main added value of the Convention is its human rights perspective and focus on victim protection. Its Preamble defines trafficking in human beings as a violation of human rights and an offence to the dignity and integrity of the human being.