A €2 million settlement has been reached in a human rights complaint against the contamination of blood in Italy, according to the European Court of Human Rights
Judges struck out the case of G.N. and Others v. Italy (application no. 43134/05) on 15 March. Under the terms of the settlement, Italy must pay damages to a victim and the families of others contaminated by blood transfusions in the 1980s.
This judgment follows the principal judgment delivered by the Court on 1 December 2009 in the case, in which the applicants complained that they or their relatives, who suffered from thalassaemia, had been contaminated by the human immunodeficiency virus (“HIV”) or hepatitis C following blood transfusions and the administration of blood products carried out by the State health service.
The applicants, Mr G.N., Ms G.S., Mr D.C., Mrs G.D.M., Mr S.C., Mrs E.S. and Mrs D.C., are Italian nationals who were born in 1950, 1957, 1937, 1938, 1965, 1920 and 1973 respectively and live in Italy.
The first six applicants are the relatives of people who died after contracting HIV or hepatitis C in the 1980s following blood transfusions carried out by the State health service. The same thing happened to the seventh applicant, Mrs D.C., who is the only surviving member of the infected group. The victims had thalassaemia, a hereditary disorder whose sufferers need to be given blood and blood products in order to survive.
Relying on Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, the applicants complained about court decisions to the effect that, prior to the discovery of hepatitis C and HIV by the global scientific community, there was no causal link between the conduct of the Ministry of Health and the damage sustained. Under Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the Convention, they also complained about the authorities’ refusal to reach friendly settlements with them, as had been done in the case of haemophiliacs who had been contaminated in the same manner, a possibility that was not open to the applicants as thalassaemia sufferers.
In its Judgment of 1 December 2009, the Court concluded that there had been no violation of Article 2 concerning the obligation to protect the life of the applicants/the applicants’ relatives, a violation of Article 2 with regard to the conduct of the civil proceedings and a violation of Article 14 in conjunction with Article 2.
With regard to just satisfaction, the Court held that Italy was to pay, in respect of non-pecuniary damage, 39,000 euros (EUR) each to: Mrs D.C.; Mr D.C. and Mrs G.D.M. jointly; Mr G.N. and Mrs G.S. jointly; Mrs E.S. and Mr S.C. jointly, and EUR 8,000 to the applicants jointly for costs and expenses. The Court found that the question of application of Article 41 was not ready for decision and reserved it for later consideration.
Decision of the Court
The court stated that it had been notified of a friendly settlement reached between the Italian Government and the applicants in respect of the latter’s claims under Article 41. As that agreement was equitable within the meaning of Rule 75 § 4 of the Rules of Court and was based on respect for human rights, the Court took formal note of it and concluded that it was appropriate to strike the remainder of the case out of the list. It took note of the parties’ undertaking not to request a referral of the case to the Grand Chamber.
Under the friendly settlement reached by the parties, Italy is to pay a total of EUR 2,324,056.05 to the applicants, broken down as follows:
- EUR 464,811.21 to Mrs D.C.
- EUR 619,748.28 to Mr G.N. and Mrs G.S. jointly,
- EUR 619,748.28 to Mr D.C. and Mrs G.D.M. jointly,
- EUR 619,748.28 to Mr S.C. and Mrs E.S. jointly.