The European Court of Human Rights found that the government of Slovakia failed to fulfill its obligations arising from the European Convention on Human Rights. In this case, the applicant’s abusive ex-husband was ordered to receive psychiatric treatment at a hospital. When he was prematurely released after one week, the government did not try to enforce its order and the ex-husband began threatening the applicant and her attorney. The Court concluded that the government’s failure to enforce the order and return the ex-husband to the hospital violated the Convention and that the government had a duty to prevent the applicant’s psychological harm (caused by the ex-husband’s threats).
Criminal proceedings were brought against A., the ex-husband of the applicant, after he verbally and physically attacked the applicant and threatened to kill her and a few other individuals. During the criminal proceedings, it was established that A. suffered a serious personality disorder and experts recommended that A. receive treatment at a psychiatric hospital. A. was convicted at a district court and it was ordered that he be transferred to a hospital for psychiatric treatment as opposed to serving a prison sentence. The hospital did not carry out the treatment and A. was released a week later- the district court, however, did not try to enforce its order and return A. to the hospital to receive treatment. After his release, A. continued to threaten the applicant and her lawyer until he was arrested again. The district court arranged for psychiatric treatment in accordance to his conviction.
Afterwards, the applicant filed a complaint with the Slovakia Constitutional Court arguing that the district court’s failure to place A. in the hospital immediately after his conviction violated her constitutional rights. The Constitutional Court rejected her complaint.
The applicant filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights (“Court”) alleging that the government of Slovakia violated Article 8 (the right to respect for private life) and Article 5 (the right to physical liberty) of the European Convention for Human Rights. Further, the applicant sought damages under Article 41. Under a unanimous opinion, the Court concluded that the government violated Article 8 and the Court awarded the applicant damages. It found, however, that there was no violation of Article 5.
Article 8: Right to respect for private and family life
With respect to the applicant’s Article 8 claim, the government argued that it was inadmissible because the applicant did not exhaust all legal remedies available in Slovakia as required by Article 35 of the European Convention. The Court rejected this claim finding that certain relevant legal options would have been inapplicable to this case because A.’s conduct occurred before they became established. The Court also concluded that the government failed to show that the applicant had guaranteed access to legal remedies that would have protected her from A. and the remedies would have had at least some prospects of success. Notably the Court also took into consideration the applicant’s vulnerability as a domestic violence victim and the need for state protection to be practical and effective.
After determining the admissibility of the Article 8 claim, the Court considered its merits and held that Slovakia violated the article. Once again, the Court noted the need for active State involvement for the protection of domestic violence victims because of their particular vulnerability. Because the district court failed to order A’s detention for psychiatric treatment after his conviction, Slovakia did not protect the applicant from A. as mandated by Article 8 (States have the duty to protect individuals from the harmful conduct of others). The government had reason to know (due to the criminal proceedings) that A. was a danger to the applicant.
When arriving at this conclusion, the Court noted that its previous judgments with similar findings had focused on cases in which the failure of state protection for a domestic violence victim led to the physical harm of the victim (Bevacqua and S. v. Bulgaria, no. 71127/01) or even death (Kontrová v. Slovakia, no. 7510/04, and Opuz v. Turkey , no. 33401/02). Although A. did not physically harm the applicant after he was discharged from the hospital, the Court reasoned that his threats were significant enough to harm the applicant’s psychological integrity and well –being. This type of harm is sufficient for requiring Slovakia to have undertaken measures to prevent the harm from occurring.
Article 5: Right to liberty and security
The Court rejected the applicant’s claim that the government violated her Article 5 rights. Because the article is concerned with a person’s physical liberty as opposed to physical security, the Court concluded the article is irrelevant to the case.
Under a unanimous opinion, the European Court of Human Rights (“Court”) concluded that the applicant’s Article 8 claim was admissible and the government of Slovakia violated Article 8. The Court awarded the applicant damages with interest; $4000 Euros were awarded as non-pecuniary damages and $1000 Euros were awarded for costs and expenses. The Court found, however, that there was no violation of Article 5.