Two sisters, C.N. and V., were orphaned when their parents were killed during the civil war in Burundi in the early 1990s. Their family decided that the girls should go and live with their aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. M., near Paris.
When the sisters arrived in France, Mr. and Mrs. M. housed them in a cold cellar and made them do housework, with no pay or time off. The youngest girl, V., went to school, but her aunt refused to pay for her lunch and bus fare.
Social services were made aware of the situation, and, in 1995, the police were told that the girls were possibly being exploited. Nothing came of the report.
Several years passed before prosecutors launched a criminal investigation after a children’s rights charity made a complaint.
In 2007, a French court found Mr. and Mrs. M. guilty of abusing C.N. and V.’s vulnerability by making them live and work in poor conditions. Mrs. M. was also convicted of assaulting V.
However, after the couple appealed, a higher court cleared them of the first charge and upheld only the assault charge against Mrs. M.