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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.

  • Tribunal Correctionnel de Nivelles - Begging conviction

    Country: Belgium

    Court: Criminal Court of Nivelles

    Sentence date: 25 January 2013

    Purpose of exploitation: Forced begging

    A Hungarian person residing in Slovakia had allegedly deceived some people in order to exploit them for begging. These people were highly impaired and in such a poor social or health condition that they had no alternative but tolerating this person’s mischief.

    First of all, the trafficker often pretended to be a relative of the above people for taking them away from the places they lived in. They were then forced to live together in the perpetrator’s flat (or even sleep four in a car) and beg within supermarket parking yards in Belgium. They were left there on wheelchairs with placards soliciting for money. This was subsequently extorted by the perpetrator, along with all social allowances the impaired people benefitted from in Slovakia.

    A 6-years detainment penalty and a 30,000 EUR fine have been inflicted on the trafficker. 

  • M. and Others v. Italy and Bulgaria

    Country: Italy

    Court: European Court of Human Rights

    Date: 1 August 2012

    Purpose of exploitation:  Article 4 (slavery)

    The applicants, M. and parents, went to Milan following a promise of work in the villa of a Roma man of Serbian origin. M.’s parents alleged that six days later, beaten and threatened with death, they were forced to go back to Bulgaria, leaving their daughter at the villa.

    The applicants complain that Italy has breached Article 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment), because the authorities did not prevent further ill-treatment by securing M.’s speedy release. They also complain about trafficking, based on Article 4 (the slavery prohibition) and about racial discrimination (Article 14, prohibition of discrimination). 

    The Court rejects all the complaints and finds just the complaint based on Article 3 admissible, and finds only a violation on the grounds of ineffective investigation. The Court agreed that the circumstances, as alleged by the applicants, could have amounted to human trafficking. However, the evidence submitted had not allowed it to establish whether their allegations were truthful. Consequently, the Court did not accept that the circumstances had amounted to the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons for the purpose of exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. Since it had not been established that L.M. had been a victim of trafficking, the Italian authorities had not been obliged to penalise and prosecute trafficking


  • Case of Osman v. Denmark

    Country: Denmark

    Court: European Court of Human Rights

    Sentence date: 14 June 2011

    Purpose of trafficking: Forced Labour

    The case concerned a Somali national who had been living in Denmark from the age of seven. At the age of fifteen, she was taken by her father to Kenya, where she provided round-the-clock care to her very ill grandmother. The AIRE Centre had argued that the applicant was a victim of human trafficking, because, as a child, she had been transported to Kenya and exploited there.

    The European Court of Human Rights found a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to respect for private and family life) due to the Danish authorities’ failure to re-instate the applicant’s residence status.

  • C.N. and V. v. France

    Country: France

    Court: ECHR

    Sentence date: 11-10-2012

    Purpose of exploitation: Forced Labour

    The applicants, two sisters, are French nationals, who were born in 1978 and 1984 respectively in Burundi. They left that country following the 1993 civil war, during which their parents were killed. They arrived in France in 1994 and 1995 respectively, through the intermediary of their aunt and uncle (Mr and Mrs M.), Burundi nationals living in France. The latter had been entrusted with guardianship and custody of the applicants and their younger sisters at a family meeting in Burundi. Mr and Mrs M. lived in a detached house in Ville d'Avray with their seven children, one of whom was disabled. The applicants were accommodated in the basement of the house and alleged that they were obliged to carry out all household and domestic chores, without remuneration or any days off. C.N. claimed that she had also been required to take care of Mr and Mrs M.'s disabled son, including occasionally at night. The applicants allege that they lived in unhygienic conditions (no bathroom, makeshift toilets), were not allowed to share family meals and were subjected to daily physical and verbal harassment.

    Relying on Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment), V. alleged that she had been subjected to ill-treatment. Under Article 4 (prohibition of slavery and forced labour), the applicants submitted that they had been held in servitude and required to perform forced or compulsory labour. Lastly, relying on Article 13 (right to an effective remedy), they also claimed that no effective investigation had been carried out in response to their allegations.

    The Court held that France was to pay C.N. 30 000 euros (EUR) to cover all heads of damage.

    Full case:

  • Kodos v Prosecutor General´s Office of the Republic of Lithuania

    Country: UK

    Court: Queen’s Bench Division

    Sentence date: 28 April 2010

    Purpose of exploitation: Sexual exploitation

    The Prosecutor General’s Office sought the defendant for the purpose of prosecution in respect of a total 22 offences of people trafficking concerning 8 women, earning from the prostitution of another person and engaging another person in prostitution in accordance with Article 147, 307 and 308 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Lithuania.

  • O.O.O. and others v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis

    Country: UK

    Court: Queen’s Bench Division

    Sentence date: 20 May 2011

    Purpose of exploitation: Forced labour

    Four women were brought to London from Nigeria as children. The women were made to work for long hours with no pay in various households between 1997 and 2006. They were often physically and emotionally abused.

    Each are to receive £5,000 from the (London) Metropolitan Police Service for their failing to investigate allegations of slavery.

  • Sierra case: Bulgarian traffickers conviction including compensation to victims

    Country: the Netherlands

    Court: District Criminal Court Alkmaar

    Sentence date: 3 February 2012

    Purpose of exploitation: Exploitation of the prostitution

    The Bulgarian offender was convicted in the District Criminal Court of Alkmaar together with other offenders. This conviction was for trafficking in human beings with regard to 7 victims from Bulgaria. He had forced them to work in the sex industry for several years within different cities in the Netherlands. This had been made through violence and violence threat. The victims were forced to earn a minimum sum of 500.- EUR a day. Moreover, they had to work for long shift hours and many days in a row, including when they were sick. All proceeds were cashed by the offenders for their personal gain. The Court also ruled that the offender had to pay compensation to 4 of the victims under the criminal proceeding. Said compensation was for material and immaterial damages they had suffered for a total of 150,800.- EUR.

  • R v L.M. and others

    Country: UK

    Court: Court of Appeal, Criminal Division

    Sentence date: 21 October 2010

    Purpose of exploitation: sexual exploitation

    The UK Court of Appeal, Criminal Division, allowed three appeals against conviction of offences of controlling prostitution for gain in circumstances where the defendants had themselves been the victims of people trafficking. Consideration was given to the issue of whether persons thought to be trafficked should be prosecuted for crimes committed as a result of the trafficking.

  • Nigeria v. Secretary of State for the Home Department

    Country: United Kingdom

    Court: Asylum and Immigration Tribunal / Immigration Appellate Authority

    Sentenced date:23/11/2009

    Purpose of ecploitation: Exploitation of the prostitution

    This is a Court of Appeal case concerning a female citizen of Nigeria who was a victim of trafficking.

    She arrived in the UK in January 2005 persuaded by a man that she could earn a good living in the UK. Once in the UK she discovered that the agent’s true purpose was prostitution. She was arrested in March 2005 and it became apparent that she was an illegal immigrant. She explained her ordeal to the police and claimed asylum.

    In April 2005, the appellant’s asylum claim was refused by the Secretary of State for the Home Department. In October 2005, the appellant’s appeal was allowed on both asylum and human rights grounds. In March 2007, the appellants appeal was dismissed on asylum, human rights and humanitarian protection grounds. The woman appealed to the Court of Appeal which was granted. The Case was remitted for further consideration.

    The case was heard at the Court of Appeal in order to deal with criticisms raised regarding the country situation for Nigeria and whether the appellant was trafficked by a single individual or a gang.
    The Court looked at the appellant’s evidence which suggested that her agent had indeed been a member of a gang in Nigeria which would in turn, render the appellant at risk on return from the gang members.

    In February 2011, it was found by the Court of Appeal, Civil Division, that the burden of proof in establishing that an individual was trafficked by a gang as opposed to a single trafficker does not fall on the applicant who is applying for protection. The Asylum and Immigration Tribunal had failed to take into account the claimant's evidence, which suggested that the people trafficker in the instant case had not worked alone.

  • Jose and Florencia

    Jose and Florencia

    Country: Spain

    Court: Supreme Court

    Sentence date: 23-03-2011

    Purpose of exploitation: sexual exploitation

    Carlos José and his wife Florencia brought several women from Brazil to Spain during 2006 and 2007. These women were brought to work as prostitutes at the brothel “Las Musas” in Castellón. They knew they were coming to Spain to work as prostitutes and that they would have to pay back the cost of their airplane tickets. In order to pay back this debt, the women had to perform sexual services for clients designated by the defendants until their debt had been repaid.

    The appeal was dismissed by the Supreme Court. The Spanish Supreme Court held that the elements of deception, abuse of power or a position of vulnerability, and threat or coercion were not present in this case. This was, according to the Court, because the women came to Spain knowing that they would work as prostitutes and would have to pay back a debt.

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