European Court of Human Rights Holds France Violates Slavery Law

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Tuesday, November 1, 2005
Bruce Zagaris
On July 26, 2005, the European Court of Human Rights held that, in the context of a Togolese national, France had violated its obligations under Article 4 (prohibition of slavery and forced labor) of the European Convention of Human Rights. The applicant came to France in 1994 at the age of 15 with Mrs. D, a French national of Togolese origin. Mr. and Mrs. D took her passport and held the applicant as an unpaid servant in their house. The arrangement called for the applicant to stay with the couple until she had earned sufficient money to repay the airfare from Togo to France. The same year Mrs. D loaned the applicant to another couple, where she was to help in the household for a few weeks. She ended up working fifteen hours daily without any days off and with no remuneration. In 1998, the applicant told a neighbor about her plight and the neighbor notified the Committee against Modern Slavery. Thereafter, on July 28, 1998, the police came to the residence of Mr. and Mrs. B. French prosecutor started criminal proceedings against Mr. And Mrs. B for wrongfully obtaining unpaid or insufficiently paid services from a vulnerable or dependent person, and for subjecting the applicant to working or living conditions incompatible with human dignity. On June 19, 1999, the court rendered a judgment, which was appealed, and on May 15, 2003, the Court of Appeal of Versailles rendered a verdict. Mr. and Mrs. B were found guilty of obtaining unpaid or insufficient paid services but were found not guilty of subjecting the applicant to conditions incompatible with human dignity. The court ordered them to pay the applicant damages?[more]