Judges back domestic violence victim’s complaint against Hungary

Judges have awarded more than €5,000 to a Hungarian woman failed by authorities after complaining about her abusive partner.

In today’s judgement in the case Kalucza v. Hungary (application no. 57693/10),no. 57693/10), which is not final, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Court found that the Hungarian authorities had not taken sufficient measures for Matild Kalucza’s effective protection from her former partner’s violent behaviour, despite criminal complaints lodged against him for assault, repeated requests for a restraining order against him and civil proceedings to order his eviction from their flat.

Principal facts

The applicant, Matild Kalucza, is a Hungarian national who was born in 1969 and lives in Budapest (Hungary). She unwillingly shares her flat with her violent partner, Gy.B., pending numerous civil disputes concerning the ownership of the flat.

Divorced, Ms Kalucza started a relationship with Gy.B. in April 2005. Ms Kalucza had joint ownership of a flat with her ex-husband and, at the start of her relationship with Gy.B., he decided to pay her ex-husband’s share in the flat. He officially acquired ownership of this share in January 2006 and the flat was registered as his place of residence in November 2006.

The couple’s relationship, involving regular mutual verbal and physical assaults, deteriorated and ended in about January 2007. Since that time, Gy.B. has continued to stay in the jointly owned flat against Ms Kalucza’s wishes and their disputes still take place. She has requested the help of the authorities on numerous occasions, lodging criminal complaints for rape, assault and harassment. On four occasions, Gy.B. was acquitted of the charges.

On five occasions, the proceedings were discontinued as Ms Kalucza did not wish to continue them or failed to prosecute privately. On two occasions Gy.B. was found guilty of assault, released on parole and ordered to pay a fine. On three occasions Ms Kalucza herself was found guilty of disorderly conduct, grievous bodily harm and assault.

Criminal proceedings for trespassing brought by Gy.B. are currently pending against her because she had the flat’s locks changed. During these criminal proceedings, Ms Kalucza also made two requests for a restraining order to be brought against Gy.B.. Her first request, made in June 2008, was dismissed by the courts in January 2010 on the ground that both parties were responsible for their bad relationship. Her subsequent second request was dismissed for the same reason.

There are also three sets of civil proceedings, suspended since 2007 and 2008, concerning the flat: one set was brought by Ms Kalucza requesting that Gy.B. be ordered to leave the flat; and, two sets concern ownership of the flat.

Between October 2005 and August 2010, 13 medical reports were drawn up which recorded contusions mostly to Ms Kalucza’s head, face, chest and neck with an expected healing time of eight to ten days.

Decision of the Court

Article 8 (private life)

The Court considered Ms Kalucza’s claims concerning Gy.B.’s threat to her physical integrity in their shared flat, including the allegation that he had frequently attacked her, to be credible.

There was therefore, no doubt that Ms Kalucza’s application fell within the sphere of private life under Article 8 of the Convention. The Hungarian authorities were therefore obliged under the Convention to take measures to protect Ms Kalucza from her former partner’s violent behaviour in her home.

However, the Court was struck that it had taken the authorities more than one-and-half years to decide on Ms Kalucza’s first request for a restraining order, despite the fact that the fundamental reason behind such a measure was to provide immediate or at least prompt protection to victims of violence. Nor had sufficient reasons been given for dismissing the restraining order requests, the courts relying simply on the fact that both parties were involved in the assaults.

Indeed, if such a measure could not be ordered in the event of a mutual assault, the possibility of a victim having acted in legitimate selfdefence would be ruled out and the aim of providing effective protection to victims would be seriously undermined. Moreover, restraining orders could have been issued against both parties.

Lastly, the courts had also failed to comply with their obligation to decide on the civil cases concerning the flat, within a reasonable time. Notably, those proceedings are still pending since 2007 and 2008 despite the fact that they would, in theory, eradicate the root of the problem, namely the unwanted residence of Gy.B. in the flat.

The Court therefore found that, even though Ms Kalucza had lodged criminal complaints against her partner for assault, had repeatedly requested restraining orders to be brought against him and had brought civil proceedings to order his eviction from the flat, the Hungarian authorities had not taken sufficient measures for her effective protection, in violation of Article 8.

Other articles

Given the finding under Article 8, the Court further held that there was no need to examine separately Ms Kalucza’s complaints under Article 2 (unanimously) or under Articles 3 and 13 (six votes to one).

Article 41 (just satisfaction)

The Court held that Hungary was to pay Ms Kalucza 5,150 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage.

The Essential

Podcast: “Safe from fear, safe from violence”

Podcast: Eliminating domestic violence

Website: Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence

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