Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School - Green Background

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  • B.S. v. Spain, Spain, European Court of Human Rights, 2012.
    A Spanish woman of Nigeria origin was allegedly verbally and physically abused when she was stopped and questioned while working as a prostitute in the street on two occasions. She lodged a complaint with the investigating judge who asked the police headquarters to produce an incident report in which the identities of the police officers on patrol at the time of the incidents differed from those indicated by the applicant. The judge subsequently made a provisional discharge order and discontinued the proceedings on basis of insufficient evidence. The applicant applied for a review, asking to identify the police officers and obtaining witness statements, but the request was rejected. She lodged an appeal, leading to the reopening of the proceedings at which the police officers were acquitted on basis of the police headquarters’ report. The applicant was again stopped for questioning. Her criminal complaint, review request and subsequent appeal were all unsuccessful. The ECtHR considered that the investigative steps taken had not been sufficiently thorough and effective to satisfy the requirements of Article 3 of the Convention, and found a violation of Article 3. With respect to allegations of ill-treatment, the Court was unable to find a violation in this respect due to inconclusive evidence. The Court considered that the domestic courts had not taken into account the applicant's special vulnerability inherent in her situation as an African woman working as a prostitute. The authorities had not taken all possible measures to ascertain whether or not a discriminatory attitude might have played a role in the events. The Court therefore concluded that there had been a violation of Article 14 in conjunction with Article 3.