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No Strasbourg ruling for gang rape victim

The European Court of Human Rights has accepted a unilateral declaration of the Polish Government and decided to strike the case of the minor victim of a gang rape committed by three then-underage pupils of her middle school. At the time of the incident, the woman was not yet 15 years of age.

The proceedings in the case were pending in Poland. In 2011, a family court found the pupils guilty of an offence, referring to the particularly drastic circumstances of the case. The court sentenced the perpetrators to a young offender institution but their convictions were suspended for a probation period. During the probation, they were placed in non-custodial, reformatory training programme. However, since the proceedings were governed by the juvenile justice procedure, the victim had only a limited standing in the case, for instance she was unable to use any appellate measures.

A large number of mistakes have been made in the proceedings, too. The minor victim was heard by the family court three times and in an inappropriate way, considering the circumstances of the committed offence and her age.

The girl and her mother filed an application with the ECtHR, submitting that the proceedings had violated a number of their legal rights. The applicants alleged a violation of the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment (Article 3 of the Convention), a violation of the right to a private life (Article 8), and the lack of an effective remedy (Article 13).

In the proceedings before the ECtHR, the Polish Government issued a unilateral declaration in which it admitted the Convention violations and agreed to pay to the applicant EUR 10,000 as a compensation for moral losses. Pursuant to the Strasbourg Court’s rules of procedure, the submission of a unilateral declaration may result in striking a case from the case list. Responding to the Government’s submission, the applicants asked the Court to enter the judgment.

In January 2015 the ECtHR accepted the Government’s declaration and decided to strike the case from the case list.

The present Court’s decision is an example of a more common practice. Increasingly often the Polish Government opts to conclude cases before the ECtHR by a unilateral declaration. If the case was concluded with a judgment, it could be of a crucial importance for defining the exact scope of victims’ rights in juvenile justice proceedings.

The victim is represented pro-bono by advocates Małgorzata Surdek and Adam Jodkowski of CMS Cameron McKenna. The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights is observing the case.

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