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Case Law Last update : 19.08.2013

This section provides an overview of Case Law on trafficking in human beings considered by the European Court of Human Rights as well as an overview of Case Law from EU Member States. It will be regularly updated.

  • Koolvis case

    Country: the Netherlands

    Court: Zwolle District Court

    Sentenced date: 10 December 2009

    Purpose of exploitation: Exploitation of the prostitution

    In May 2006, the Netherlands Centre of Expertise on Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling (EMM) received a report from a lawyer who suspected that her Nigerian client was a victim of human trafficking. An analysis of flights at Schiphol Airport, carried out in response to this report, showed that a relatively large number of unaccompanied underage aliens from Nigeria had entered the country in the period from October 2005 to May 2006. It was also observed that after October 2005, more unaccompanied underage Nigerians had disappeared without a trace from shelters and safe houses for victims of human trafficking throughout the Netherlands. More than 30 incidents similar to the original notification were identified. The Netherlands was being used by Nigerian criminal organisations as a transit country in human trafficking. It was being used as the port of entry to the Schengen area through the misuse of the asylum procedure or, in some cases, the B9 regulation for victims of human trafficking, and the associated shelter. The final destination was usually Italy or Spain, where the unaccompanied underage Nigerians were then exploited by being forced to work as prostitutes.

    The entire criminal organisation was exposed and more than 140 victims were ultimately identified. This led to coordinated international raids in October 2007 (and in January 2008 in Italy) and the successful arrest of dozens of suspects, including ‘fixers’ who arranged accommodation and connecting travel in the Netherlands, and madams (pimps) in Italy who had ‘ordered’ the victims, etc. The four primary suspects included the main sponsor (who had his own travel agency in Nigeria and who arranged the false documents) and three leaders of the organisation in Great Britain, Ireland and the United States. Some of the suspects had remarkable police records, which showed that some of them had repeatedly been arrested over the years for practices related to human trafficking. Nigeria, Italy and the Netherlands prosecuted the suspects; the other countries involved have extradited the suspects they arrested. In December 2009, six suspects were convicted for human smuggling in association with others and leading a criminal organisation or participating in one. They were acquitted of trafficking in human beings, since the court found that it could not be concluded that the suspects had knowledge of the things that had happened to the girls in Nigeria or the things that would probably happen to them in Italy and/or Spain, including forced prostitution. They received sentences of between one year and four and a half years in prison.

  • Cesar et al

    Country: Spain

    Court: Supreme Court

    Sentence date: 18 October 2010

    Purpose of exploitation: sexual exploitation

    The defendant, known as Cesar, owned and managed an establishment called “Night Club 2000” in Murcia, Spain, dedicated to the exercise of prostitution.

    All women involved in this case were foreigners, did not speak the language (only one did), had been threatened or physically abused, had entered the country on a vacation visa (and thus worked illegally), had been taken to isolated areas away from any urban center or town, and had been forced to live at the brothels.

  • CASE OF M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece, Application no. 30696/09

    Country: Belgium, Greece
    Court: Council of Europe: European Court of Human Rights
    Sentenced date: 21/01/2011

    On the 21st of January 2011, the European Court of Human Rights issued the M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece judgment, on the asylum seekers transfer system within the European Union. The Court held that asylum conditions in Greece were so bad that not only Greece had violated the ECHR, but also Belgium for having transferred an asylum seeker back to Greece. On the 22nd of September 2011, according to the opinion of Advocate General Trstenjak, asylum seekers may not be transferred to other Member States if they could there face a risk of serious breach of the fundamental rights which they are guaranteed under the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

  • Albert X. v. Ministère Public français et Alain Y

    Country: France

    Court: Court of Cassation

    Sentence date: 15 June 2010

    Purpose of exploitation: Forced Labour

    Mr A.Y. worked for Mr Albert X., a carpentry entrepreneur, for two years.  He worked every day even on weekends, being often insulted, mocked, and hit.  Mr A.Y. was provided housing with unhealthy conditions. A psychiatric report showed that Mr A.Y. was a lonely and inhibited man with a low level of intelligence.  With the assistance and support of the "Comité contre l'esclavage moderne" (Committee against Modern-Day Slavery), Mr A.Y. made a complaint to authorities.

    The Court of Cassation upheld the Court of Appeal’s decision on the basis that all the constituent elements of the offences had been proven. Mr X. was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment for breaching articles 222-12 (violence), 225-13 (performance of services from a vulnerable or a dependant person without payment) and 225-14 (having subjected a vulnerable or a dependant person to working and living conditions that were incompatible with human dignity) of the Penal Code (France).

  • Rantsev v. Cyprus and Russia, Application no. 25965/04

    Country: Cyprus

    Court: European Court of Human Rights

    Sentenced date: 07/01/2010

    In the case of Rantsev v. Cyprus and Russia, the applicant, a Russian national, brought a complaint against the Republic of Cyprus and Russia in the European Court of Human Rights in relation to the death of his 20 year old daughter. The European Court of Human Rights found in particular a violation of Article 4 of the European Convention (Prohibition of slavery and forced labour). The Court clarified the positive obligations upon States to investigate allegations of trafficking and to implement measures to prevent and protect people from human trafficking. The Court unanimously found that trafficking fell within the scope of art. 4.

    Trafficking in human beings is not specifically referred to in the European Convention and has only ever been considered by the Court on one prior occasion (see Siliadin v France Application 73316/01).

  • Siliadin v. France, Application no. 73316/01

    Country: France

    Court: European Court of Human Rights

    Sentenced date: 26/10/2005

    Purpose of exploitation: Forced labour or services

    In the case of Siliadin v. France, trafficking in human beings was considered by the European Court of Human Rights for the first time. The applicant, a female Togolese national who lived in Paris, had served as an unpaid servant for several years as minor and her passport was confiscated. Relying on Article 4 of the European Convention (Prohibition of slavery and forced labour), the applicant submitted that French criminal law did not afford her sufficient and effective protection against the "servitude", or at the very least against the "forced and compulsory" labour which in practice had made her a domestic slave. In t his case the Court considered that the applicant had, at the least, been subjected to forced labour and held in servitude within the meaning of Article 4 of the Convention. However, the Court held that it could not be considered that the applicant had been held in slavery in the traditional sense of that concept.

  • The SNEEP Case

    Country: the Netherlands

    Court: Aimelo District Court

    Sentenced date: 11/07/2008

    Purpose of explitation: Exploitation of the prostitution

    In this case there were six defendants, all guilty of trafficking in women with respect to one or more women. Partial acquittal on this point partly as a result of the formulation of the indictments. Five defendants in addition guilty of participation in and/or leading a criminal organisation. 'A characteristic feature of the organisation was its ruthless and violent conduct. The case file is bursting with violence and intimidations.The five defendants have 'no respect at all for the physical and mental integrity and right of self-determination of these women'. Convictions also for assault of individual women, among other things. In determining the punishment to be imposed, the court sought attunement with convictions by other courts of justice in the country. The court has deemed rape and coercion into breast enlargement or abortion as aggravating circumstances. Sentences varying from eight months to seven years and six months. Partial awarding of compensation of victims' claims for damages. Advance payments of up to EUR 50,000.

  • C.N. v. the United Kingdom

    C.N. v. the United Kingdom

    Court: European Court of European Rghts

    Sentence date: 13 November 2012

    Purpose of exploitation: Forced labour/domestic servitude

    In the case of C.N. v. the United Kingdom, the European Court of Human Rights held that there had been a violation of Article 4 (prohibition of slavery and forced labour) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

    The case concerned allegations of domestic servitude by a Ugandan woman who complained that she had been forced into working as a live-in carer.

    The Court found that the legislative provisions in force in the United Kingdom at the relevant time had been inadequate to afford practical and effective protection against treatment contrary to Article 4. Due to this absence of specific legislation criminalising domestic servitude, the investigation into the applicant’s allegations of domestic servitude had been ineffective.

  • Thailand v. Secretary of State for the Home Department

    Country: United Kingdom

    Court: Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber)

    Sentenced date: 26/01/2010

    Purpose of exploitation: Exploitation of the prostitution

    In this case, the appellant is a female Thai citizen who has been trafficked to the UK for sexual exploitation. She appeals against the decision of the Tribunal to remove her from the UK to Thailand as an illegal entrant

    The original Tribunal was found to have made a material error in the decision. The appeal was allowed on asylum grounds and on Article 3 grounds of the  European Convention on Human Rights (Article 3 prohibits torture, and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment).

  • Albania v. Secretary of State for the Home Department

    Country: United Kingdom

    Court: Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber)

    Sentenced date: 18/03/2010

    Purpose of exploitation: Exploitation of the prostitution

    In this case the appellants are young female citizens of Albania, with young children, who have been trafficked to the UK for sexual exploitation.

    The case is a reconsideration of the decision of dismissing their applications for asylum. The appeals are reconsidered with a view to give country guidance on the conditions the women are facing if they return to Albania.  Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights was specifically emphasised because each appellant has a young child (which provides a right to respect for one's "private and family life).

    In each of these appeals, the Tribunal found that the previous decision involved an error and each of the appeals was allowed on asylum and human rights grounds.

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