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

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  • González Carreño v. Spain, Spain, CEDAW Committee, 2014.
    In 2003, a father murdered his seven-year-old daughter Andrea during a court-approved parental visitation. Ángela González, Andrea’s mother, had previously reported instances of physical abuse to the police on numerous occasions and sought court-ordered restraining orders against him to protect herself and her daughter. The father had refused to accept supervised visitations with his daughter. After killing his daughter, the father committed suicide. The mother brought suit in national court against Spanish authorities. The court ruled against her, deciding in April 2011 that the visit regime was sound and denied the case any constitutional relevance. As a result, the mother brought this complaint to the CEDAW Committee. The Committee found for the mother, stating that in deciding the parental visitation scheme the Spanish authorities should have taken into account the existing context of domestic violence in the family. Instead, the Spanish authorities had made a routine decision that this type of visitation scheme was appropriate without taking the specific facts of this case into consideration. The Committee held that the Spanish authorities thereby failed to take the best interest of the child into account. The Committee has repeatedly found that a State can be held responsible for acts of individuals if it fails to exercise necessary diligence in order to prevent violations of the CEDAW Convention. Specifically, Spain had violated articles 2 a), d), e) and f), 5 a) and 16 paragraph 1 of CEDAW. Additionally, CEDAW ruled that Spain must provide training to judges and other professionals to avoid similar failures in the future. Spain has since stated that it will introduce new mechanisms to protect children in gender violence cases, such as requiring judges to act with precaution in their decision-making.
  • 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.
  • Sentencia Número 677 (Ruling 677), Spain, Provincial Court of Madrid, 2012.
    In 2010, Spain amended its Penal Code by enacting Article 177 to prohibit human trafficking. Spain did so in response to international human rights agreements regarding human trafficking. This ruling was the first conviction under this new article. Two women reported to authorities that the defendants had lured them from Paraguay under false pretenses, forced them to work as prostitutes, and physically and emotionally assaulted them. The Provincial Court of Madrid found that the defendants' actions constituted: 1) crimes against the rights of foreign nationals (Article 318 bis), 2) human trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation (Article 177 bis), 3) solicitation by coercion to commit prostitution (Article 188.1), and 4) sexual assault (Article 179). According to the court, the fact that the defendants promoted, encouraged, or facilitated illegal immigration with the intention of using the women for prostitution was enough to find criminal sexual exploitation. The court found the victims’ testimony to be credible, realistic, and consistent, and used their testimony as the base for this decision.