Italy ‘failed to protect domestic violence victims’

family law

Authorities in Italy did not do enough to protect a mother and child from domestic violence, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has declared.

The woman had been the victim of violence and abuse at the hands of her alcoholic husband on several occasions. In 2012, he ordered her at knifepoint to have “sexual relations with his friends”. However when she reported the incident to the police she was told to return home and the husband was only charged with carrying a prohibited weapon. The attacks continued, with police responding to four incidents of domestic violence in an 18-month period. The most punishment he received for any of these was a €2,000 (£1,700) fine for causing her bodily harm.

This pattern of abuse culminated a year later when the husband tried to attack his wife with a knife again. On that occasion, the couple’s son attempted to break up the fight. He was stabbed for his efforts and later died of his injuries. The boy’s mother was also stabbed several times in the chest but survived. The husband was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his son and attempted murder of his wife.

The ECHR ruled that the Italian authorities had failed to protect the family from the man. They unanimously declared that these failures represented a violation of the mother’s human rights as set out by Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This is a prohibition of “inhuman or degrading treatment”.

The Court also ruled that the violence inflicted “should be considered as being grounded on sex and that it consequently amounted to a form of discrimination against women”. Therefore by a five-to-two margin, they said her Article 14 rights had also been breached. This part of the Convention is a ban on discrimination based on “sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion” among others.

Italy’s authorities were ordered to pay the woman €40,000 (£34,500) in damages and to cover her legal costs.

For more information on this judgment, click here.

Photo of the European Court of Human Rights by Denis Simonet via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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