Women and Justice: Keywords

International Case Law

Case of W. v. Slovenia European Court of Human Rights (2014)

International law, Sexual violence and rape

In 1990 at age 18, W. was raped by a group of seven men.  Three other men aided and abetted the rape.  Seven months later, the court acquitted the men of all charges, finding that the victim had not “seriously resisted sexual intercourse.”  The Public Prosecutor appealed the judgement and in 1991, a year after the assault, the appellate court overturned the acquittal.  The Slovenian authorities attempted to locate the perpetrators, but two defendants had emigrated to Austria and could not be found.  Between 1995 and 2001, the victim wrote eight letters to the court urging the proceedings to continue and five hearings were adjourned for failure of some of the defendants to appear.  Various excuses, such as frequent changes in the presiding judges, were offered to the victim as excuses for the stalled proceedings.  Finally, in May 2001, the authorities issued an international arrest warrant for the defendants located abroad.  In June 2002, six defendants were found guilty of rape and aggravated rape.  However, due to the passage of time, they were only sentenced to eight months to one year of prison.  The last defendant was extradited in 2004, convicted of aiding and abetting the rape, and sentenced to eight months in prison.  The victim received €5,000 from the Slovenian government in recognition of delay in prosecuting the defendants; however, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found that this amount (while the statutory maximum in Slovenia) was insufficient redress.  The ECtHR noted that Slovenian authorities failed to proceed with the case in a diligent manner and that the defendants received prison sentences of less than the minimum sentences prescribed by law.  Thus, the domestic authorities failed to comply with their obligations under Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights.  The ECHR, deciding in equity, awarded the victim €15,000 in addition to the €5,000 she received from the domestic authorities.