Wednesday, October 31, 2012
In the case of P and S v. Poland, the European Court of Human Rights issued a decision yesterday finding that Poland had violated several articles of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in connection with its treatment of a 14-year old rape victim.
The victim was raped in April 2008 and the rape resulted in a pregnancy. When she attempted to obtain an abortion with the consent of her parents, the Polish hospital refused. The hospital then released details of the victim's situation to the media and her case became national news. When the applicant and her parents went to another hospital in an attempt to obtain the abortion, the applicant was removed from her parents' custody and detained in a juvenile home. After a hearing, the victim was released to her parents and was able to obtain an abortion. However, the state brought criminal charges against her for unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor and brought charges against her parents for attempting to coerce her into having an abortion. Both of those cases were eventually dropped.
The Court found that Poland's actions violated Convention Article 8 (right to respect for private life), Article 5 (right to liberty and security), Article 3 (prohibition on torture and inhumane, cruel or degrading treatment or punishment). With respect to Article 8, the Court stated:
"The Court is of the view that effective access to reliable information on the conditions for the availability of lawful abortion, and the relevant procedures to be followed, is directly relevant for the exercise of personal autonomy. It reiterates that the notion of private life within the meaning of Article 8 applies both to decisions to become and not to become a parent . . . Having regard to the circumstances of the case, the Court concludes that the authorities failed to comply with their positive obligation to secure to the applicants effective respect for their private life. There has therefore been a breach of Article 8 of the Convention." The Court also found that "the disclosure of information about the applicants’ case was neither lawful nor served a legitimate interest" and, thus, also violated the right of privacy under Article 8.
The Court further held that Poland violated Article 5 of the Convention by removing the victim from her parents' custody and keeping her detained. Finally, the Court "conclude[d], having regard to the circumstances of the case seen as a whole, that the [victim] was treated by the authorities in a deplorable manner and that her suffering reached the minimum threshold of severity under Article 3 of the Convention." As a result of these violations, the Court awarded reparations to the victim and her mother.
The full text of the decision may be found here.