ECtHR convicts Turkey in child abuse case

The ECtHR has pronounced its judgement in a child abuse case and concluded that the authorities failed to protect the child. She will be paid 28 thousand Euro in damages.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) pronounced its judgement in a child abuse case today (February 9). Examining the application, the ECtHR has ruled that she shall be paid 25 thousand Euro in non-pecuniary damages and 3 thousand Euro for court expenses.

In its judgement, the ECtHR has said:

“The Court found that the lack of support for the applicant, the failure to protect her against the defendants, the unnecessary reconstruction of the rape incidents, the repeated medical examinations, the lack of a calm and secure environment at the hearings, the assessment of the victim’s consent, the excessive length of the proceedings, and, lastly, the fact that two of the charges had become time-barred, amounted to a serious case of secondary victimisation of the applicant.”

The judgement of the court has further underlined that “the national authorities’ conduct had been inconsistent with the obligation to protect a child who had been the victim of sexual exploitation and abuse.”

Court alleged that ‘she had consent’
In Turkey’s southeastern province of Mardin, a child was raped by 24 people in 2002, when she was 12 years old. In the ensuing trial, the local court gave its ruling 10 years later. This ruling was partly overturned by the Court of Cassation and the trial started again.

In the retrial held by the Mardin 1st Heavy Penal Court (Assize Court), 25 defendants, five of whom were arrested, were given prison sentences of 5 to 9 years for rape and forced prostitution for money.

The local court ruled that the prison sentences should be given on the lower limit on the grounds that the child “had consent.”

‘No professional support during proceedings’
Following this ruling, the attorneys of the girl appealed to the ECtHR and made the following complaints about the judicial process:

“Relying on Articles 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), 6 (right to a fair hearing), 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the Convention, the applicant complained that she had received no professional support during the proceedings, that she had been humiliated before the defendants and that she had been threatened by them with the knowledge of the judicial authorities.

“She also complained that two charges had been struck out as being time-barred, and that the defendants’ sentences had been mitigated on the grounds of good conduct at the hearings. She considered that she had not been protected during the proceedings, and that those proceedings had been ineffective on account of both their length and the outcome.

“Relying on Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination), she alleged that she had been discriminated against on account of her gender.”

‘No steps taken to separate her from defendants’
Examining the application, the ECtHR has reached the following conclusion:

“Regarding the lack of support for the applicant the Court noted that, from the lodging of her complaint on 8 January 2003 until 12 May 2004, the applicant had not at any stage been accompanied by a welfare assistant, a psychologist or any kind of expert, either before the police or the public prosecutor or during the Assize Court hearings.

“The Court therefore concluded that the applicant had not been cared for adequately during the proceedings in question.

“As to the failure to protect the applicant against the defendants, the Court noted that no steps had been taken to separate the applicant from the defendants during the hearings before the Mardin Assize Court.

“At several hearings, until 26 June 2003, the applicant had been placed opposite her assailants and had been obliged to recount in detail the threats and rapes of which she had been a victim.

“There was no indication in the case file that she had requested this confrontation or that it had been necessary for an adequate and effective exercise of the rights of the defence.

“Accordingly, the Court held that the authorities had not conducted a proper balancing exercise and that they had failed to protect the applicant from the defendants in this serious case of prostitution and sexual abuse against a child aged under fifteen.

‘She was examined on 10 occasions’
“As to the medical examinations, the Court noted that the applicant had been examined on ten occasions at the request of the judicial authorities.

“This excessive and unexplained number of medical examinations, many of them extremely intrusive, represented unacceptable interference with the victim’s physical and psychological integrity.

‘Considerable delays in proceedings’
“As to the effectiveness of the investigation, the Court observed that the criminal proceedings had lasted for approximately eleven years and that the case had been examined on four occasions at two levels of jurisdiction.

“It also noted that the unexplained large number of medical examinations had caused considerable delays in the proceedings. There had been an unexplained period of inactivity between July 2005 and June 2010, and no explanation had been offered either for the length of time for which the case had been pending before the Court of Cassation.”

28 thousand Euro damages in total
All in all, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has concluded that the Articles 3 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), namely the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment and right to respect for private and family life, have been violated.

“The applicant’s complaint of discrimination on grounds of gender, submitted on 1 December 2018, was rejected as out of time since the proceedings in question had ended in January and March 2014.

“The Court held that Turkey was to pay the applicant 25,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 3,000 in respect of costs and expenses,” the court has ruled. (AS/SD)