Right to Life

  • Under the European Convention on Human Rights, everyone’s right to life is protected by law.
  • This means no unlawful killing, but also protecting people whose lives are in danger.
  • The European Convention on Human Rights has been used to tackle excessive police violence, to force the authorities to properly investigate murders and to highlight government failings in response to terrorist attacks.

 

Examples

Deadly attack on woman and her son leads to ongoing reforms to combat domestic violence

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.

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Court win for victims of the Beslan school terrorism attack

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...

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Parents win fight for justice following their son’s death

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.

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Justice for the mother of two murdered children

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.

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Reform of gun laws after police shoot dead unarmed men

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.

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Death of an alleged victim of human trafficking

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.

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Failure to investigate death of a disabled man in police custody leads to reforms

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...

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15-year-old boy stabbed to death outside a school after authorities failed to act

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...

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Death of a detainee leads to changes to medical practices in prison

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.

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"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.

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USEFUL LINKS

 Factsheets on the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights:

 Right to life PDF (220 Ko)

 Abolition of the death penalty PDF (235 Ko)