Saturday, 31 January 2015

Oxana Rantseva (1981-2001), human trafficking and the ECHR

Since 2005, for the European Court of Human Rights (Siliadin v. France), trafficking in human beings falls within the scope of Article 4: prohibition of slavery, servitude and forced labour. The French legal system was condemned for failing to punish a couple who trafficked a girl, and used her as their maid. The target of the ECHR here was criminal law: traffickers must be punished.

The ECHR passed another landmark judgment (Rantsev v. Cyprus and Russia) on human trafficking in January 2010. Oxana Rantseva, a Russian citizen, had a working permit in Cyprus, but was effectively used as a prostitute in a cabaret. After two weeks, she tried to escape, but her employer denounced her to the police. The police detained her and handed her back to the employer. The same day, she died in ‘mysterious circumstances’. She ‘fell from her balcony’, just like Giuseppe Pinelli did in a Milan police station in 1969. Police failed to investigate her death.

The ECHR held the following (para. 284): 

The Court considers that the spectrum of safeguards set out in national legislation must be adequate to ensure the practical and effective protection of the rights of victims or potential victims of trafficking. Accordingly, in addition to criminal law measures to punish traffickers, Article 4 requires Member States to put in place adequate measures regulating businesses often used as a cover for human trafficking. Furthermore, State’s immigration rules must address relevant concerns relating to encouragement, facilitation or tolerance of trafficking.

The target of the ECHR is: states. States of origin, transit and destination must prevent trafficking AND protect victims and potential victims.

In addition, the ECHR found that the police had violated Rantseva's right to liberty (article 5).

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