Belgium: Human rights breach over work-place sex assault allegations leads to €33,000 award

Judges have awarded €33,000 to a woman who complained that Belgium breached her human rights, following allegations that she had been sexually assaulted by a work colleague.

According to the European Court, the Belgian authorities did not take the necessary steps to establish the circumstances surrounding alleged acts of rape and indecent assault.

In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of B.V. v. Belgium (application no. 61030/08) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of the procedural aspect of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

As Just satisfaction (Article 41), the court held that Belgium was to pay the applicant 20,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 13,000 in respect of costs and expenses.

The case concerned the investigation carried out by the Belgian authorities after the applicant had lodged a criminal complaint alleging rape and indecent assault.

The applicant, B.V., is a Belgian national who lives in Brussels. She alleged that she had been raped twice and indecently assaulted once by X, a work colleague, between 1996 and 1998.

The court found in particular that the applicant’s allegations were arguable and could therefore be regarded as complaints of treatment breaching Article 3 of the convention.

Accordingly, in view of the state’s obligation to carry out an effective investigation, the authorities should, as soon as she had lodged her complaint, have made prompt use of all the available opportunities to establish the facts and, as appropriate, the circumstances surrounding the alleged acts of rape and indecent assault.

The court concluded that the investigation could not, in such circumstances, be said to have been serious and thorough.

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