When she was four years old, Tabitha Mitunga was detained by the Belgian authorities for almost two months – without family, friends, or anybody assigned to look after her. She suffered psychological damage and the Strasbourg court ruled that her rights had been violated. Her case highlighted the need for better protections for unaccompanied children in Belgium and led to substantial reforms.
In February 1992, over 25,000 people living in Slovenia were automatically stripped of their residency rights. Many of them – including Mustafa Kurić – had their papers taken away, were evicted from apartments, could not work or travel, lost personal possessions or lived in poor conditions. The law was changed and a compensation scheme set up after a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights.
David Norris suffered from anxiety attacks and depression after realising that any open expression of his homosexuality could lead to a criminal prosecution. The Strasbourg court ruled that the criminalisation of his sexuality breached his basic rights. In 1993, this led to the full legalisation of homosexual acts between consenting adults under Irish law.
When Vladimír Zavřel’s wife left the family home, she took the couple’s six-year-old son and prevented Vladimir from seeing him. Vladimir got a court order for contact with his boy, but the authorities failed to enforce it. The European court ruled that this had violated the right to family life. Contact was re-established and the law was changed to prevent similar situations happening again.
Mentally handicapped Miss Y. was subjected to sexual abuse the night after her sixteenth birthday. Y.’s father tried to bring a criminal prosecution against the attacker, but Dutch law stated that only the victim could start such a prosecution. Y.’s condition meant she was incapable of doing this, so her attacker was not brought to justice. The European court ruled that this violated her basic...
Loreta Valiulienė told the authorities that she had been attacked by her partner. However, the public prosecutor repeatedly failed to investigate properly, until the case became time-barred and the partner never faced justice. The European court ruled that these failures had violated Ms Valiulienė’s basic rights. A series of reforms were carried out to combat domestic violence in Lithuania.
Cvetan Trajkoski tried to report a dangerous situation to the police. He was then allegedly beaten by a group of officers – apparently because he had parked his car in the wrong place. The European court ruled that the authorities had failed to properly investigate the alleged attack. This and other cases led to reforms to ensure proper investigations of alleged police brutality.
Elisaveta Talpis’s husband physically abused her for years. She complained to the police, but they took no action for months. One night Elisaveta’s husband attacked her with a knife, wounding her and killing her son when he tried to intervene. The European court condemned the police’s inaction, leading to reforms to address domestic violence in Italy.
In September 2004, over 330 people were killed (including over 180 children) and 750 injured in the Beslan hostage crisis. The authorities had had enough information to know that there would be an upcoming terrorist attack, but had not increased security or warned the public. Due to this shortcoming and others, the European Court ruled that the authorities had failed to properly protect the...
Sergey Solovyev lost three years of his life in a cell, after being falsely accused of manslaughter. At one point his detention was extended without an order from a judge and contrary to Russian law. The European court ruled that Mr Solvyev’s right to liberty had been breached. Russia changed its criminal laws to prevent unlawful detention orders and protect the right to liberty.
Gregor Šilih was 20 when he died in hospital. His parents believed that medical negligence was to blame. They launched legal proceedings to find out the truth. Thirteen years later their claim had still not been resolved. The European court ruled that the authorities had failed to take effective steps to discover the truth. The case led to reforms to prevent the same thing from happening again.
When Karol Rummi’s husband died, his valuable possessions were arbitrarily confiscated by the police. When Mrs Rummi tried to get them back, she was not allowed to make her case in court and told that the property now belonged to the state. The European court ruled that her right to property had been breached. She was compensated and the law was changed to prevent similar problems happening again.
For decades, Cypriot law criminalised homosexual relationships between men. Alecos Modinos suffered from strain, apprehension and fear of prosecution due to his relationship with another man. The European court ruled that the criminalisation of Alecos’ sexuality violated his basic rights to a private life. In 1998, Cyprus decriminalised homosexual relationships.
After the fall of communism in Romania, laws were passed giving people the right to claim back property nationalised by the old regime. Tens of thousands of people made such claims, but a huge number faced delays and failures to deal with their applications. The European court ruled that the system must be reformed – leading to a new law which made the restitution system more effective.
Paula Marckx was unmarried when she had a baby girl. Paula was shocked to discover that, because she was single, her child would not be recognised as being hers unless she went through a legal process. Even after this, her daughter would have a reduced legal status and would not inherit from her. The European court ruled this violated their right to family life – leading to a change to Belgian...
Wrongfully accused of murder and attempted burglary, Andrzej Leszczak was detained for almost three years before finally being acquitted at trial. The European court ruled that the Polish authorities had not given proper reasons for holding Mr Leszczak and had not explored different ways of making sure he attended his trial. Following a series of such cases, Poland changed laws to protect...
Three Greek air force officers were members of the Pentecostal Church. They were all convicted for promoting their religion and given suspended prison sentences of over a year. The European court ruled that convicting the men for these conversations with civilians had violated their right to religious freedom. The Greek government took steps to ensure that no such prosecutions happened again.
Four Ukrainians formed a group to help protect their local environment. However, when they tried to register their association the authorities refused, relying on administrative technicalities. The group had to dissolve. The European court ruled that this had violated the group’s right to freedom of association. In 2013 a new Law on Civil Associations created proper rules to protect such groups.
Dana Kontrová repeatedly warned the police that her husband was violent and unstable. One day the police failed to take action after being told the man was threatening his family with a shotgun. Two days later he murdered his children before committing suicide. The European court ruled that the authorities had failed in their duty to protect the children, violating the right to life.
Aged 24, Hoda Jabari was suspected of adultery in Iran. The crime could be punished by stoning to death. Ms Jabari fled to Istanbul. However, the Turkish authorities decided to send her back. The European court prevented her from being returned to face a possible stoning. Ms Jabari was allowed to stay in Turkey and eventually leave to seek a new life Canada.
Man given 3 months’ detention for a crime he didn’t commit - and reforms to protect the right to liberty
Locked in a windowless cell, I. I. spent 3 months in pre-trial detention for a crime he did not commit. After he developed various illnesses, the charges against I.I. were dropped because of a lack of evidence and he was released. Following a series of similar cases, the law in Bulgaria was changed to protect people’s right to liberty.
Hyde Park is a free speech NGO. It organised a series of protests in Chişinău in 2005 and 2006. However, the authorities banned the events, giving reasons such as the fact that they disagreed with the point the protest was making. The European court ruled that the bans violated the right to free assembly. This and other cases led to reforms to protect free assembly in Moldova.
Jacques and Janine Huvig were a retired couple who had run a fruit-and-vegetable business. Police tapped their phone and listened to their conversations. At the time, investigators had almost limitless powers to tap the phones of almost anyone for almost any reason. The European court ruled that there must be clear legal limits and safeguards to protect people’s privacy – leading to a change in...
When Teuvo Hokkanen’s wife died he temporarily allowed her parents to look after his daughter, Sini. The grandparents then refused to return Sini or to let Teuvo see her. The Finnish courts ordered regular meetings to take place between Teuvo and his daughter, but the authorities failed to enforce that order. The European court ruled that this had violated Teuvo’s right to family life.
Ingrid Hoffmann was a Jehovah’s Witness. When she got divorced, a child psychologist advised that Ingrid should be given custody of her two children, because of their close emotional ties. However, a court ruled that the father should get custody, because of Ingrid’s religion. The European court ruled that this had been discriminatory – leading to changes to prevent the same happening again.
Nadia Eweida worked for British Airways (BA). She wore a small silver cross around her neck, as a sign of her religious faith. BA suspended Nadia from work without pay because her cross violated its uniform policy. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that this was an unreasonable interference with Nadia’s right to freedom of religion - leading to a change in relevant standards in the UK.
Man persecuted for his sexuality wins landmark judgment – transforming the law in Northern Ireland and beyond
Since the age of 14, Jeffrey Dudgeon experienced fear, suffering, and psychological distress because his sexuality was regarded as a crime. His house was raided by police and he was interrogated for hours. In a test case, the European court ruled that law violated the right to private life. In 1982, Northern Ireland legalised homosexual relationships – followed by many other European countries.
Hundreds of migrants were forced to work for months unpaid. When they demanded their pay, armed guards shot at them, seriously injuring 30 people. The guards and the employers were merely fined. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the authorities had failed to properly address forced labour and human trafficking in this case – leading to widespread ongoing reforms.
Jürgen Buck ran a small business in a town near Frankfurt. One afternoon police suddenly raided his house and office. Jürgen alleged that suspicions were raised locally that he was involved in crime, leading to a loss of business. Yet the raid had merely been an unnecessary step in proceedings against Jürgen’s son for speeding. The European court ruled that the raid had been disproportionate.
Bruised and beaten, Angelica Bălșan suffered eight assaults from her husband and sustained injuries that required up to ten days of medical care. She made many complaints to the authorities, but they took no proper steps to protect her. The European court held that Ms Bălșan had been inadequately protected against the abuse – leading to ongoing reforms to combat domestic violence in Romania.
In February 1992, 25,671 people in Slovenia were automatically stripped of their right to live there. Many people – including Ana Mezga - had their papers taken away, were evicted from their homes, could not work, lost personal possessions or had their families broken apart. The law was changed and a compensation scheme set up after a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights.
Two 21-year-olds absconded from military service and went to see their grandmother. When military police arrived, the men were unarmed and non-violent - and tried to run away. Nevertheless, they were shot dead. The Strasbourg court ruled that the military police had used grossly excessive force. This case, and others, led to changes in the rules on the authorities’ use of firearms.
At age 20, Oxana Rantseva was allegedly trafficked from Russia to Cyprus for sexual exploitation. Two weeks later, she was found dead beneath a balcony after trying to escape. The Strasbourg court found that the authorities had failed to protect her and also failed to properly investigate after her death. Following the events, a series of measures were carried out to fight human trafficking.
From the age of 14, Henriette Akofa Siliadin was kept in domestic servitude. She worked all day, 7 days a week for over 4 years, for no pay. The people responsible could not be properly brought to justice, because French law had not criminalised their actions. The case helped bring about legal reforms to combat human trafficking.
All of the Roma inhabitants of a village had their houses burnt down by other locals. The authorities were warned, but refused to intervene. After the attack, the authorities did not investigate properly and the courts failed to give the victims a fair trial. Their application to Strasbourg led to compensation and local programmes to combat discrimination and exclusion.
Oleksandr Volkov was dismissed from his role as a Supreme Court judge. His lawyer argued that he had been the victim of political corruption, which sought to undermine the independence of the Ukrainian judiciary. The Strasbourg court ruled that his dismissal had been filled with bias and manipulation, in breach of his basic rights. Mr Volkov was reinstated as a Supreme Court judge in 2015.
A human rights NGO planned a march in Yerevan, to commemorate a man who had died in police custody. The Mayor’s office banned the march. The Strasbourg court ruled that the ban had not been properly justified, breaching the NGO’s right to free assembly. After the ban, reforms were made to protect the right to hold public demonstrations in Armenia.
Whilst in their parents’ care, four children were exposed to terrible neglect and emotional abuse. The Strasbourg court found that the local authority had known about the abuse, and had the power to take steps to protect the children, but it had not done so for four-and-a-half years. The children were awarded damages which provided funds for future psychological care.
In 2001 the Christian Democratic People’s Party of Moldova organised peaceful public protests calling for elections and European democratic values. The authorities banned the meetings. The Strasbourg court ruled that the ban had been disproportionate, and violated the right to free assembly. This case and others led to substantial reforms to protect the right to free assembly in Moldova.
Four Belgian journalists were targeted by the police in a huge search and seizure operation aimed at identifying the source of leaked government information. The Strasbourg court ruled that the operation had been unjustified and disproportionate. The case influenced new legislation to improve protections for journalists and their sources.
Neđo Ajdarić was 52 when he was given an unfair trial, wrongly convicted of three murders, and sentenced to 40 years in prison. He was released after winning his case in Strasbourg, and changes were introduced to help ensure fair trials in the future.
When João Salgueiro da Silva Mouta got divorced, the Court of Appeal granted his wife custody of their daughter. A decisive reason was the fact that Mr Salgueiro da Silva Mouta was gay. The Strasbourg court ruled that this had been discriminatory, and without proper justification – leading to a change in Portuguese court practices.
Brigitte Heinisch was a geriatric nurse. She claimed that practices in the old people’s home where she worked were putting patients at risk. After she made her allegations public, she was fired. Yet, the German courts found that her dismissal was lawful - so Mrs Heinisch took her case to Strasbourg. Her case was then re-opened and she won compensation.
Italian television was dominated by a small number of channels, with little diversity of ownership. When Centro Europa 7 tried to set up new channels, they were refused access to a broadcast frequency. The company complained to the Strasbourg court that the authorities were maintaining the concentration of media power in Italy. The case led to new rules for protecting media pluralism.
Zoran Lepojić wrote an article saying that a mayor had wasted public money. The mayor successfully brought defamation charges, and Mr Lepojić was fined more than 8 average monthly salaries. The Strasbourg court ruled that this had been unreasonable, violating Mr Lepojić’s right to free speech. The Supreme Court of Serbia took steps to protect freedom of expression in such circumstances.
César Igual Coll was cleared of failing to pay family maintenance, because he was unemployed and had no money. However, his case went to appeal. The appeal court held no public hearing and no evidence was taken from him. Nevertheless, César was convicted and sentenced to jail. The European court ruled that he had been denied a fair hearing. Changes were made to protect fair trials in Spain.
Emílie Wallová and Jaroslav Walla’s five children were taken away by the authorities, on the grounds that the parents did not have enough money to look after them. The Strasbourg court ruled that taking the children away in these circumstances had breached the parents’ right to family life. New legislation banned putting children in care just because of the financial situation of their parents.
Arrest of human rights campaigner during his anti-corruption protest sparks freedom of assembly reforms
Human rights defender Oleksiy Vyerentsov organised demonstrations to protest against corruption. The peaceful gatherings were banned, Mr Vyerentsov was convicted of an offence and he was sentenced to three days’ detention. The European court ruled that his rights had been breached. The case led to ongoing reforms to protect the right to peaceful demonstrations in Ukraine.
Before a presidential election, the newspaper The Day published articles criticising two of the candidates. The politicians sued the owners of the newspaper for damages and won. The Strasbourg court found that the owners had been punished merely for publishing opinions, violating their right to free speech. The case influenced reforms to protect freedom of expression in Ukraine.
Eliza Söderman was 14 when she found out that her stepfather had hidden a secret camera to record her undressing. The police got involved, but the stepfather was cleared of any crime because his actions had not been illegal under Swedish law. The Strasbourg court found that this violated Ms Söderman’s right to privacy. The case highlighted the need for legal reforms.
Aleksandr Mihhailov claimed that he had been violently beaten by police officers – both in a public place and after regaining consciousness in a police station. The Strasbourg court ruled that the subsequent investigation was not independent and suffered from serious flaws, such as a failure to collect relevant evidence. Reforms were carried out to make investigations more independent.
The Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia is an Orthodox Christian Church. The Moldovan authorities refused to register it as a religious organisation, meaning that it could not own property and its members could not meet to practice their religion. The Strasbourg court ruled that the authorities’ refusal to recognise the church had been disproportionate. Substantial reforms were made to protect...
When L.E. was 22 she was tricked into travelling to Greece with a human trafficker. When they arrived, the trafficker took L.E.’s passport and made her work as a prostitute. The Strasbourg court found that after the authorities had been alerted, their response suffered from significant shortcomings and delays. Since that time, considerable reforms have been introduced to help tackle human...
Vladimir Kummer was a dental technician. One night he was allegedly found urinating in the street. Police officers put him in a cell, where he was shackled to a wall and allegedly beaten. The Strasbourg court ruled that Mr Kummer had been subjected to degrading treatment and that there had not been a proper investigation. The incident led to significant changes to avoid such treatment in future.
Retired journalist Veseljko Koprivica was ordered to pay huge damages after losing a defamation case. The Strasbourg court ruled that the damages awarded were so excessive that they violated his right to free speech. A ruling by the Supreme Court of Montenegro specified that damages for defamation should not be high enough to discourage journalists from playing their key role in society.
Valdis Jasinskis was deaf and mute. He fell down some stairs outside a party and banged his head. The police were told about his injury and his disability, but they locked him in a cell and ignored his attempts to communicate. Mr Jasinskis later died in hospital, and the incident was not properly investigated. This led to a series of measures to help make sure that the police can be properly...
Frits Winterwerp was detained in a psychiatric hospital. He said that he was not mentally ill and he should be released. However, he was repeatedly prevented from making his case in the Dutch courts, which kept extending his detention without hearing from him. The European court ruled this had violated his right to liberty. Reforms were made to protect people in Mr Winterwerp’s situation.
With the help of an international agency, Jeanne Wagner adopted a child from an orphanage in Peru. However, after they travelled back to Europe, the Luxembourg courts refused to recognise the full adoption because Jeanne was not married. The European court ruled that this was unfair and violated the right to family life. The adoption was recognised and the ban on single-parent adoption was ended.
In the early 1980s Thorgeir Thorgeirson wrote articles claiming that there was a problem with police brutality in Reykjavik. His reporting was based on the prosecution of a police officer and various public allegations. Nevertheless, he was convicted for defaming the Reykjavik police. The European court ruled that this had violated his right to freedom of expression, leading to free speech...
The European court identified numerous cases where legal proceedings in Lithuania had taken an unreasonably long time. One example was that of Donatas Šulcas, whose case lasted for almost nine years. Following rulings by the European court, a wide range of reforms were made to reduce delays in civil, commercial, administrative and criminal cases.
Dozens of applicants complained of excessive delays to legal proceedings in Germany. One was Rüdiger Rumpf, who waited for over 13 years to have an administrative issue decided upon. The Strasbourg court identified a structural problem concerning a lack of remedies for excessively long proceedings in Germany. This led to significant reforms to tackle the problem.
Artur Mrozowski was on the train home from work when the police arrived in response to disruption caused by other passengers. Mr Mrozowski was sober, peaceful and calm but an officer beat him in the face with a truncheon, knocking out three of his teeth. An investigation found that the police had done nothing wrong, but the European court ruled in his favour. Following this and other cases,...
The magazine Mladina published an article criticising a politician for homophobic remarks in a parliamentary debate. The politician sued the magazine because he had been offended by its criticism. The Slovenian courts ruled against the magazine, ordering it to pay damages. The European court ruled this had violated the magazine’s rights – leading to reforms to protect free speech.
M.D. lost custody of her two children after the authorities found that her former partner had been beating them and she had not protected them. M.D. then ended her relationship with the abusive partner and tried to get her children back. However, under Maltese law she had lost custody of the children forever, and she had no way to challenge this in the national courts.
Klaus and Yuri Kiladze were eleven and nine years old when their father was killed by the Soviet authorities. Their mother was then sent to a gulag, their family apartment was seized and they were taken into abusive State custody. Decades later, a Georgian law was passed establishing a right to compensation for victims of Soviet oppression. Yet the national courts still denied them justice.
The director of a school asked for the police to be present outside his school gates, due to significant problems between young people. No help was provided. 15 year-old Sedat Kayak was stabbed to death by another student just outside the school. The European court ruled that the authorities had failed in their duty to protect children. The case led to a series of reforms to help prevent school...
Tiborné Daróczy was 71 years old when the government made her change the name - even though she she had used it for fifty years. Mrs Daróczy saw her name as a strong link to her late husband. She did not want to be forced to change it. The European court ruled in her favour and the Hungarian authorities then allowed Mrs Daróczy to keep her old name.
Greater protections for free speech after journalist sued for reporting on alleged political corruption
In July 2000 Ilnar Gorelishvili wrote an article about a politician who owned various expensive properties. She questioned how he had bought these whilst working in public service on a moderate salary. The politician sued her for defamation and won. The European court ruled that Georgian law had not properly protected Ms Gorelishvili’s right to give her opinion.
Matti Paloaro and Pentti Eerikäinen were journalists. They reported on the prosecution of a businesswoman, who had abused public funds and was later sentenced to prison. The businesswoman sued the journalists, claiming they had invaded her privacy by publicising her prosecution. The businesswoman won in the Finnish courts – but the Strasbourg court ruled in favour of the journalists.
DMD Group was involved in a valuable legal claim against other companies. A judge in charge of allocating cases arranged to hear the claim himself, then abruptly dismissed it. The DMD Group suspected the judge had deliberately arranged to reject their case. The European court said that the rules allowing the judge to control the case had been unfair – leading to reforms to the justice system.
In a report on alleged corruption in Portuguese football, José Manuel Colaço Mestre asked questions to an interviewee about the dual role played by Mr Pinto de Costa, who was then both Chairman of FC Porto and President of the Portuguese Football League. Because of these questions, Mr Colaço Mestre and his employer were both found guilty of criminal defamation in the Portuguese courts.
Senator Miguel Castells wrote an article claiming that the government was failing to investigate a series of murders. He was convicted of insulting the government and sentenced to a year in prison. The European court ruled that his right to free speech had been violated. The Spanish Constitutional Court then developed its case law to provide greater protection to free speech in Spain.
In 1988 the local newspaper Bladet Tromsø published claims by a government inspector alleging misconduct by certain seal hunters. The Norwegian courts found the newspaper liable for defamation, saying that it had relied too heavily on government reports. The Strasbourg court ruled that this violated the paper’s right to free speech – leading to reforms to protect freedom of expression.
After a row started in a bar in Štip, everyone present was taken into police custody. According to Pejrusan Jasar, once he was in a police cell he was severely beaten by a police officer. Mr Jasar lodged a criminal complaint but the public prosecutor took no steps to investigate. The European court ruled this had violated Mr Jasar’s basic rights – leading to a series of reforms.
Ruža Jeličić was a citizen of the former Yugoslavia. She worked in Germany in the 1970s and 80s and kept savings of German marks in a bank in the former Yugoslavia. However, along with thousands of others with foreign currency savings, she was banned from withdrawing the money after moving back home. After Mrs Jeličić stopped working and her husband died, she had no money to live on.
Horst Zaunegger had a daughter and separated from the child’s mother. German law limited his chances to obtain joint custody, because he and the mother had never been married. After he won his case in Strasbourg, the law was changed to give fathers such as Mr Zaunegger more rights.
Iakovos Thlimmenos was a Jehovah’s Witness. He refused to do military service on religious grounds, and was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment. Upon his release, he was also prevented from working as an accountant. The Strasbourg court ruled that this had been unreasonable and unjustified - amounting to discrimination based on religion. Laws were changed as a result.
Under Austrian law, custody of a child born out of marriage was automatically given to the mother, with few exceptions. Meanwhile, custody of children born within marriage was decided according to the child’s best interests. At the Strasbourg court, Mr Sporer successfully argued that this was unfair – leading to a change in Austrian law.
Verica Šobota-Gajić was given custody of her children after her relationship ended. However, her former husband took their son away. Due to the authorities’ inaction, Ms Šobota-Gajić only regained custody 6 years later. The case led to reforms to make sure the right people have custody of a child.
Two men from Sheffield had DNA samples taken by the police. Criminal charges against them were dropped. However, under British law the police could retain their DNA forever. The Strasbourg court ruled that keeping DNA records of innocent people breached their right to privacy.
Elina Goussev and Michael Marenk were protesting against the fur trade. Police searched their homes and seized campaign materials. The Strasbourg court ruled that this had breached their right to free speech, as the seizure had not been clearly justified by Finnish law. After the case had been submitted to the court, reforms were made to prevent arbitrary seizures.
R.V. was a postman. Along with 200 others, he was put under secret surveillance by security services – allegedly for being part of the Peace Movement. The European Commission for Human Rights found that Dutch law had not properly protected the applicants, violating their right to privacy. A new law was passed to clearly set out the circumstances and conditions in which secret surveillance can...
A local authority’s CCTV cameras recorded a man attempting suicide. The local authority released the pictures to the media, after which they appeared in newspapers and on television. The Strasbourg Court ruled that the release of the images had been an unnecessary violation of the man’s privacy.
Hotel director Juozas Jėčius was held for over 14 months whilst awaiting trial for murder. However, there had never been any proper evidence against him, and he was acquitted at trial. The Strasbourg court ruled that Mr Jėčius’ incarceration had violated his right to liberty. Following the Court’s judgment, new measures were introduced to help avoid unjustified detention.
Mrs M had her legal dispute presided over by a judge who was closely related to two of the lawyers representing the other side. The Strasbourg court ruled that Mrs M’s fears of impartiality had been justified and her right to a fair trial had been breached.
Two men were convicted of a robbery on the basis of evidence which had been manipulated by police. The Strasbourg court ruled that the defendants had an unfair trial. The law was changed to improve the identification of suspects and protect the right to a fair trial in Albania.
One night in the village of Gánovce-Filice, Roma villagers were beaten with baseball bats and iron bars by other locals. The Strasbourg court ruled that the authorities failed to properly investigate, or punish those responsible. The case was re-opened and legal changes were made to help the authorities’ tackle racist crimes.
After committing an administrative offence, Arnis Kadiķis was kept with four other detainees in a cell measuring only 6m2, with no window, bed or opportunity to leave for 15 days. The Strasbourg court ruled that these conditions amounted to degrading treatment. After the imprisonment, substantial reforms were made to conditions in Latvian prisons.
Olsi Kaçiu was tortured by police and forced to give a statement which was later used to convict him. The Strasbourg court found that his torture and unfair trial had violated Mr Kaçiu’s basic rights. As a result of this case and others, a range of reforms were introduced to prevent the ill-treatment of detainees and the use of evidence obtained through ill-treatment.
Nessa Williams-Johnston could not be legally recognised as her father’s daughter, because her father had previously been married to someone other than Nessa’s mother. After the Strasbourg court ruled in the family’s favour, new legislation was passed to give children in Nessa’s position proper legal status.
A young man suffering from psychosis and depression was imprisoned for theft. Whilst in jail, he committed suicide. The Strasbourg court ruled that the authorities had not done enough to protect his life. New rules were set up to help prison staff prevent inmates committing suicide.
When María Iglesias Gil had a son by her ex-husband, she was given custody of the child. However, her ex-husband took the child away to the United States. When Mrs Iglesias Gil went to the Spanish courts, they refused to issue an international arrest warrant and closed the case. The Strasbourg court ruled that this decision had breached Ms Iglesias Gil’s right to family life.
In 1995 the Bulgarian government removed the elected Chief Mufti of Bulgarian Muslims and appointed a different leader. The Strasbourg court ruled that this had been arbitrary government interference with a religious organisation, which breached the right to religious freedom. A new law was passed to end government control over the registration of religious groups.
Allar Harkmann was arrested and detained, without a court hearing his case or examining the legality of his detention. He was only released after 15 days. The Strasbourg court ruled that the failure to have Mr Harkmann’s detention promptly reviewed by a judge, and the lack of any opportunity for him to obtain compensation, had violated his right to liberty.
Isaak Grinberg wrote an opinion article criticising a local governor. The governor sued Mr Grinberg for defamation, making him pay a fine. The Strasbourg court ruled that Mr Grinberg had been punished for giving a value judgment about a public figure. This violated his right to free speech. Mr Grinberg was awarded €1,120 in compensation.
Greater protection for the media after journalist fined for refusing to reveal the identity of his source
Journalist William Goodwin was given leaked information about a company. The company wanted to sue the source of the leak - but Mr Goodwin refused to reveal their identity. The UK courts fined Mr Goodwin 5,000 pounds for contempt of court. The Strasbourg court ruled this had violated his right to receive and give out information.
The government evicted the inhabitants of a small village for counter-terrorism purposes. They were not allowed to return for over 10 years. In the meantime, they were given no alternative housing or money, and they lived in extreme poverty. The Strasbourg court ruled that their rights had been violated. A new law introduced compensation for damages suffered during anti-terrorist activities.
Nine men originally from northern Cyprus came to work in the south.They were taken into custody by Cypriot police, beaten, and expelled from the country. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that they had been subjected to inhuman treatment. Along with another earlier case, this judgment led to reforms to protect detainees from police abuse.
Anatoliy Burdov was exposed to radiation whilst working on the emergency response to the Chernobyl disaster. He was entitled to certain social benefits, but the authorities refused to pay - even when ordered to do so by Russian courts. The Strasbourg court said that this violated Mr Burdov’s rights. As a result, reforms were introduced to improve the enforcement of judgments.
Snežana Boucke had a baby daughter out of marriage. The father was ordered to pay child support. The authorities failed to make sure the order was enforced, and the payments were not made for 13 years. The Strasbourg court ruled that this breached Ms Boucke’s right to have court rulings properly enforced. The case led to significant reforms to improve the enforcement of court orders.
Vahan Bayatyan is a Jehovah’s Witness. Aged 18 he asked to do civilian rather than military service, due to his religious beliefs. He was convicted of draft evasion, and sentenced to over two years’ imprisonment. The Strasbourg court ruled that this had violated Mr Bayatyan’s right to religious freedom. Subsequent changes were made to the system of national service.
An NGO organised a series of demonstrations in Warsaw, to highlight discrimination against women and minorities. The gatherings were banned, after the city’s mayor said that he was against them because they included support for homosexual rights. The Strasbourg court ruled that the ban violated the right to public assembly. This led to changes to Polish law to protect the right to protest.
Miss B was registered as a man at birth. Later she adopted female behaviour, underwent feminising hormone therapy, and had genital surgery. However, the authorities refused to register her as a woman – causing her daily problems. The Strasbourg court ruled that her fundamental rights had been violated. French law was changed to properly recognise the identity of post-operative transgender.
Legal aid system introduced after woman suffering from domestic violence was unable to access the courts
Mrs Airey wanted to be legally separated from her husband, who was allegedly a violent alcoholic. However, there was no legal aid and she could not afford the lawyers’ fees. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the lack of legal aid effectively denied Mrs Airey access to a court, breaching her basic rights. Legal aid for such cases was introduced in Ireland in the following year.
Jens Jersild is a journalist. He was convicted for filming a news report in which extremists made racist remarks. The Strasbourg court found that convicting Mr Jersild for his work was disproportionate and violated his right to free speech. The case helped improve legal protections for media freedom in Denmark.
Market trader Ágoston Kmetty was allegedly beaten for 3 hours by officers in a police station. However, no charges were brought against any officers. The Strasbourg court held that the prosecutor had never properly investigated – refusing even to question the officers allegedly involved. Subsequent changes improved the remedies available to victims to ensure that crimes are properly investigated.
Ionel Dălban was a Romanian journalist and ran a local weekly magazine, Cronica Romaşcană. He was convicted and given a prison sentence for writing about an alleged fraud by public figures. The Strasbourg court ruled that the conviction had violated his right to freedom of expression. The case triggered reforms to free speech protections in Romania.
Mr Millan wanted to appeal his case to the Constitutional Tribunal. However, the law said that a government body could refuse permission – which it did. Whilst the case was in Strasbourg, the government settled the case – agreeing that people should be able to appeal without government permission.
Child unable to discover identity of her father for 5 years – and reforms to protect children’s rights
A child was born outside of marriage. The mother asked the courts to establish who the father was. Due to legal delays and the father’s refusals to have a DNA test, the case lasted over 5 years. The Strasbourg court ruled that children’s rights were not properly protected. Laws were changed to help prevent the problem from happening again.
The authorities tapped the telephone of lawyer Hans Kopp and listened to confidential conversations. The Strasbourg court ruled that Swiss law had not properly limited the interception of confidential communications by the authorities. This violated Mr Kopp’s right to respect for privacy, leading to stronger legal protections.
During the 1970s and 1980s, various Austrians wanted to set up local TV or radio stations. However, Austrian law banned them from doing so, as it gave the Austrian Broadcasting Company a monopoly. The Strasbourg court ruled that the ban was disproportionate and violated the right to free speech. The judgment led to the opening up of broadcasting regulations.
Josette Prencipe was in her mid-sixties when she was arrested and detained for almost 4 years, without facing trial. She was accused of making illegal bank transfers. The Strasbourg court ruled that the authorities had breached Mrs Prencipe’s right to liberty. The case triggered a series of reforms, including a new time limit on pre-trial detention.
Hundreds of applicants complained of excessively long proceedings in Turkish courts. One was Fatma Ormancı, whose claim that the government had failed to protect her husband from terrorism was undecided for almost 6 years. The Strasbourg court found that applicants in over 280 cases faced excessively long delays in Turkish legal proceedings – leading to substantial reforms.
Hans Moor was exposed to asbestos during his work in the 1960s and 70s. This gave him cancer, which was diagnosed in 2004. Hans Moor died in 2005, aged 58. Just before his death, Mr Moor had brought a claim for damages against his former employer for failing to take precautions against exposure to asbestos. The claim was continued by his wife and children.
Björk Eidsdottir is a journalist who claimed that the owner of a strip club was making his staff work as prostitutes. The issue was a matter of public interest, and her article was published in good faith and with due diligence. Nevertheless, the club owner sued Ms Eidsdottir for defamation and won. The Strasbourg court held that this had breached the journalist’s right to free speech.
Peter Frommelt asked to be released whilst awaiting trial for financial crimes. When this was considered on appeal, neither he nor his lawyer were allowed to make any legal arguments. The Strasbourg court ruled that this had been unfair. The procedures were changed, allowing people to make comments to a court in such circumstances.
Small political parties received virtually no television news coverage, and were banned from TV advertising. The Strasbourg court ruled that this left the Pensioner’s Party no way of transmitting its message on TV, violating its right to freedom speech. Reforms were made to political broadcasting rules, requiring the national broadcaster to include smaller parties in its TV coverage.
Mihai Ciubotaru is a writer and a professor. He wanted to have his ethnicity registered as Romanian. The authorities refused his request, despite his clear links with the Romanian ethnic group. The Strasbourg court ruled in Mr Ciubotaru’s favour, and later reforms gave people more control over their registered ethnicity.
"Totally insufficient" investigation of a suspicious death and the reform of criminal investigations
Tatiana Trufin’s brother was killed in suspicious circumstances. Despite evidence of an attack, the authorities did very little to investigate for the next 12 years. The Strasbourg court ruled that their efforts had been totally insufficient. This influenced reforms to improve the effectiveness of criminal investigations in Romania.
Reforms to protect access to justice after applications to Strasbourg highlight unreasonably long legal proceedings
The European Court of Human Rights identified well over a thousand cases where Italian legal proceedings had taken an unreasonably long time. One example was the case of Mr Ceteroni , whose litigation about his family business had lasted for over a decade. A wide range of reforms were introduced to reduce delays.
Aleksandar Caminski was attacked by five people. Charges were brought against the suspects, but it took 11 years for them to be brought to trial. The Strasbourg court found that this delay was unreasonably long. Along with other cases, this helped bring about significant changes to cut the length of proceedings in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Giuseppe Toniolo was detained in San Marino for five weeks whilst awaiting extradition. The Strasbourg court ruled that the law in San Marino did not set out clear rules for his imprisonment, meaning that he could be detained arbitrarily and could not effectively make a claim to be released.
Sofija Tešić received a monthly pension equivalent to 170 euros. After she lost a defamation case, every month two-thirds of her pension was taken to pay off her debt – leaving her without money to pay for medication. The Strasbourg court ruled that this had been disproportionate. The Serbian courts changed their case law to limit defamation awards, and enforcement proceedings were also...
Vidadi Sultanov complained of a range of human rights violations, including ill-treatment in police custody. He died before his case could be decided upon, but his wife continued his application. The Azerbaijani government settled the case, agreeing to pay Mrs Sultanova 10,000 euros.
Stefano Bianchi was given custody of his son when he separated from his wife. However, his wife took the child abroad and refused to return. When Mr Bianchi complained to the Swiss authorities, they failed to take action to reunite father and son. The Strasbourg court ruled that this breached Mr Bianchi’s right to family life. The relevant procedures were subsequently reformed.
Two families owned some land in Thessaloniki. The authorities took away part of the land to carry out public works - but the families were paid only a fraction of the land’s true value. The Strasbourg court found that this violated their right to property. Greek case-law was subsequently changed, requiring courts to properly compensate people when their property is expropriated.
Surveillance material on five Swedes was collected by the secret services in the 1960s and 1970s. The Strasbourg court ruled that the continued storage of material on four of them had not been justified, and breached their right to privacy. Reforms were made to give people more power over personal information in the government’s possession.
Catherine Schneider was ethically opposed to hunting, but she was forced to allow it on her land under an old law. The Strasbourg court ruled that forcing her to be part of a hunting syndicate breached her basic rights. The law was changed to allow people to follow their conscience on hunting.
Mr C was infected with HIV by a hospital blood transfusion. He claimed compensation. However, five years of delays in Danish courts meant that he died of AIDs before the case was examined. The European Court of Human Rights found that the delays had breached Mr C’s right to have access to a court in a reasonable time. Danish court practice was changed to help avoid such delays in future.
Hervé Eon waved a satirical sign at President Sarkozy. He was then charged with offending the President of France, a crime dating from the 19th Century. Mr Eon was convicted and given a suspended fine. The Strasbourg court ruled that this had breached Mr Eon’s right to free speech. The offence of insulting the President of France was abolished later that year.