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Human trafficking criminalised after 14-year-old girl kept in domestic servitude in Paris

Siliadin v. France  | 2005

Human trafficking criminalised after 14-year-old girl kept in domestic servitude in Paris

I was a slave … I knew that what was happening to me was unfair because I had a family before and knew how human beings should be treated.

Henriette Akofa Siliadin, interview with Human Rights Europe - © Photo Council of Europe

 

Background

Henriette Akofa Siliadin arrived in France from Togo when she was 14 years old. She was vulnerable and dependent on others. However, the people accompanying her took away her passport and made her work as an unpaid servant, all day long, 7 days a week for over four years. When the authorities intervened, she had to stay in hospital for six months to recover.

Legal proceedings followed her release, which allowed Ms Siliadin to be awarded unpaid wages. However, the people responsible were never convicted of a crime in the French courts.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The court found that, according to French law at the time, keeping a person in domestic servitude or slavery was not explicitly outlawed. Therefore, the law had not properly protected Ms Siliadin or criminalised the actions of her captors – in violation of her basic rights.

Follow-up

After these events, servitude, forced labour and slavery all became criminal offences in France. The judgment of the Strasbourg court led to further changes in the legislation in order to properly protect people in similar situations. Human trafficking was criminalised in France in 2007.

In 2008 France ratified the Council of Europe’s Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.