THE EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS FINDS THAT STATES HAVE POSITIVE OBLIGATIONS TO COMBAT AND INVESTIGATE HUMAN TRAFFICKING AND THAT HUMAN TRAFFICKING FALLS WITHIN THE PROHIBITION IN THE CONVENTION OF SLAVERY, SERVITUDE AND FORCED AND COMPULSORY LABOUR.
CASE OF RANTSEV v. CYPRUS AND RUSSIA
Date: 7th January 2010
Judges: Mr. Christos Rozakis, President, Mr. Anatoly Kovler, Ms. Elisabeth Steiner, Mr. Dean Spielmann, Mr. Sverre Erik Jebens, Mr. Giorgio Malinverni, Mr. George Nicolaou
The ECtHR found Russia and Cyprus in violation of the Convention for failing to protect a young woman from human trafficking and failing to adequately investigate her death. The case concerned Ms. Oxana Rantseva, a 20 year old Russian woman, who came to Cyprus to work as an 'artiste' in a Cabaret. She attemped to escape from the cabaret by jumping off the balcony, the police found her and brought her back to the owner of the cabaret. Some time later she was found dead. Her father brought the claim arguing that Cypriot police had inadequately protected her while she was alive from trafficking and sexual exploitation and had failed to punish the persons responsible for her ill treatment. He also complained that Russia had not effectively investigated his daughter's dead and had not taken steps to protect her from trafficking.
The Court held for the first time that human trafficking is a form of exploitation in which ownership is exercised over a person. It stated in paragraph 282 that '[T]here can be no doubt that trafficking threatens the human dignity and fundamental freedoms of its victims and cannot be considered compatible with a democratic society and the values expounded in the Convention. In view of its obligation to interpret the Convention in light of present-day conditions, the Court considers it unnecessary to identify whether the treatment about which the applicant complains constitutes “slavery”, “servitude” or “forced and compulsory labour”. Instead, the Court concludes that trafficking itself, within the meaning of Article 3(a) of the Palermo Protocol and Article 4(a) of the Anti-Trafficking Convention, falls within the scope of Article 4 of the Convention.
The Court found that under the rubric of Article 4, which bans slavery, servitude and forced and compulsory labour, that High Contracting Parties to the Convention also have positive obligations to investigate when there is suspicion of trafficking and to cooperate with other States in their investigations in compliance with the Palermo Protocol.
As well as Article 4, the Court found Cyprus to be in violation of Article 5 of the Convention, which protects persons against arbitrary detention. The Court found that the Cypriot police were complicit in the detention by the traffickers who ran the club since they released the deceased to the owner of the club after her escape and arrest rather than letting her go free.
The Court ordered Cyprus to pay the applicant 40,000 Euro in damages and Russia to pay 2,000 Euros.