Two orphaned Burundi sisters were forced into servitude by the relatives after escaping civil strife in Burundi, human rights judges have learned.
In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of C.N. and V. v. France (application no. 67724/09), which is not final, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:
a violation of Article 4 (prohibition of slavery and forced labour) of the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of the first applicant (C.N.), as the State had not put in place a legislative and administrative framework making it possible to fight effectively against servitude and forced labour;
no violation of Article 4 in respect of the first applicant (C.N.) with regard to the State’s obligation to conduct an effective investigation into instances of servitude and forced labour;
no violation of Article 4 in respect of the second applicant (V.).
The case concerned allegations of servitude or forced or compulsory labour (unremunerated domestic chores in their aunt and uncle’s home) by two orphaned Burundi sisters aged 16 and ten years.
The Court concluded, in particular, that C.N. had been subjected to forced or compulsory labour, as she had had to perform, under threat of being returned to Burundi, activities that would have been described as work if performed by a remunerated professional – “forced labour” was to be distinguished from activities related to mutual family assistance or cohabitation, particular regard being had to the nature and volume of the activity in question.
The Court also considered that C.N. had been held in servitude, since she had felt that her situation was unchanging and unlikely to alter. Finally, the Court found that France had failed to meet its obligations under Article 4 of the Convention to combat forced labour.
The Court held that France was to pay C.N. 30 000 euros (EUR) to cover all heads of damage.