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Court: Italy’s human rights failures left killer father free to stab wife and son

Judges have ruled that a killer father was free to attack his wife and son because Italian authorities failed to respond quickly enough to complaints against the violence.

As Just satisfaction (Article 41) , the European Court of Human Rights held that Italy was to pay the applicant Elisaveta Talpis, a Romanian national who was born in 1965 and lives in Remanzaccio (Italy), 30,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 10,000 in respect of costs and expenses.

According to the court’s judgement, Italian authorities failed to protect Talpis and her son because they did not take prompt action on a complaint concerning conjugal violence.

On 25 November 2013, Talpis called the police concerning an argument with her husband, who was taken to hospital in a state of intoxication. After his discharge from hospital, A.T. was asked for his identity papers at around 2.25 a.m. as he was walking along the street in a drunken state. He was given an on-the-spot fine and allowed to go home.

At around 5 a.m., armed with a kitchen knife, A.T. entered the family apartment and attacked Talpis. He stabbed his son, who had tried to separate his parents and who died of his injuries. A.T. also stabbed Talpis in the chest several times as she was attempting to escape. In January 2015 A.T. was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his son and the attempted murder of his wife, for carrying a prohibited weapon and for the ill-treatment of Talpis and her daughter.

In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of Talpis v. Italy (application no. 41237/14) the European Court of Human Rights held:

-by six votes to one, that there had been a violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights on account of the murder of Talpis’ son and her own attempted murder,

-unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) on account of the failure of the authorities in their obligation to protect Talpis against acts of domestic violence,

and

-by five votes to two, that there had been a violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) in conjunction with Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention.

The court found, in particular, that by failing to take prompt action on the complaint lodged by Talpis, the national authorities had deprived that complaint of any effect, creating a situation of impunity conducive to the recurrence of the acts of violence, which had then led to the attempted murder of Talpis and the death of her son. The authorities had therefore failed in their obligation to protect the lives of the persons concerned.

The court also found that Talpis had lived with her children in a climate of violence serious enough to qualify as ill-treatment, and that the manner in which the authorities had conducted the criminal proceedings pointed to judicial passivity, which was incompatible with Article 3 of the convention.

Finally, the court found that Talpis had been the victim of discrimination as a woman on account of the inaction of the authorities, which had underestimated the violence in question and thus
essentially endorsed it.

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