Y. v. Slovenia |2015

Official apology for woman asked offensive questions by alleged abuser in court

. . . cross-examination should not be used as a means of intimidating or humiliating witnesses.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, May 2015


Y. fought for years to bring her alleged abuser to justice, only for him to be given an opportunity to humiliate her in a court of law. 

At the age of 14, Y. told her mother that she had been repeatedly sexually assaulted by a family friend. Y.’s mother went to the police. But she found it very difficult to get answers from them about the progress of the investigation into her daughter’s claims. 

It took almost seven years for Y.’s case to come to trial, by which time she was a young woman who had been forced to relive her trauma over and over again. 

At one court hearing, Y.’s alleged abuser directly asked her over a hundred questions, some of which were offensive. The cross-examination lasted for four hours. 

The man was cleared of all charges.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The European court found that the Slovenian authorities had failed to protect Y.’s personal integrity during the criminal investigation and trial. They should have prevented her alleged abuser from using offensive and humiliating remarks while cross-examining her. The authorities also failed to promptly investigate Y.’s complaints. These failures violated her rights. 

. . . personal cross-examination by defendants should be subject to most careful assessment by the national courts, the more so the more intimate the questions are.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, May 2015


In December 2015, following the European court's judgment, Slovenia’s Minister of Justice apologised to Y. for the “inefficient administration of justice in her case”. 

Slovenia has since taken measures to prevent excessively long criminal proceedings, including by changing the law and increasing the use of IT case management systems and awareness-raising initiatives.  

Child victims of crime now have special protection under Slovenia’s Criminal Procedure Code. From the start of criminal proceedings, a child victim should have a lawyer to care for their rights, particularly when it comes to protecting their personal integrity during examination before a court. The direct examination of a child under 15 years old, who has been a victim of such a crime, is not permitted in a main court hearing.