Friday 3 December 2010

Protection Against Domestic Violence Extended

This week, the European Court of Human Rights re-emphasized state obligations to protect victims of domestic violence in the case of Hajduová v. Slovakia. The case concerned a mother who had been verbally and physcially attacked by her husband - attacks which included death threats.

The Court seems to extend state duties under Article 8 ECHR (protection of private life). Whereas in the landmark case of Opuz v Turkey Article 8 had been violated because of domestic violence which had already occurred, in Hajduová the emphasis was on the real risk of future violence, even if it did not materialise in fact:

49. The Court observes that the instant application is distinguishable from the cases to which it has referred concerning domestic violence resulting in death (see, in particular, the Court's judgments in the cases of Kontrová v. Slovakia, no. 7510/04, ECHR 2007-VI (extracts) and Opuz cited above, in which it found violations of Articles 2 and 13 and Articles 2, 3 and 14 of the Convention respectively). It is clear that A.'s repeated threats following his release from hospital, which constitute the basis of the applicant's complaint under Article 8 of the Convention, did not actually materialise into concrete acts of physical violence (compare and contrast the case of Bevacqua, cited above, in which the Court found that the State had breached its positive obligations under Article 8). Notwithstanding, the Court considers that given A.'s history of physical abuse and menacing behaviour towards the applicant, any threats made by him would arouse in the applicant a well-founded fear that they might be carried out. This, in the Court's estimation, would be enough to affect her psychological integrity and well-being so as to give rise to an assessment as to compliance by the State with its positive obligations under Article 8 of the Convention.
Real vigilance and concrete action bu states is thus called for in such cases. The press release on the judgment can be found here.