Women and Justice: Location

International Case Law

Abromchik v. Belarus Human Rights Committee (ICCPR) (2018)

Custodial violence, Gender discrimination, International law

Abromchik attended a peaceful assembly on 19 December 2010 with friends in Minsk following the announcement of presidential election results.  After the event, when she and her friends were stopped by a special unit of riot police and tried to escape, they were blocked and beaten.  An officer punched her on the leg with a rubber truncheon several times.  She realized she had a broken leg and told the police officer.  She was not taken to the hospital for several hours.  She made a complaint to the prosecutor of Minsk about the unlawful actions of the police.  She provided details about the incident and witnesses were questioned, but no other actions were taken to investigate the incident or to identify the police officer who had beaten her.  The prosecutor’s office suspended the investigation, stating that it was impossible to find those responsible.  The office resumed the investigation and then suspended it again on the same grounds.  In her appeal to the Committee, Abromchik claimed that she was physically assaulted and affected mentally in violation of article 7 of the Covenant because authorities wanted her to feel helpless and to victimize her and that her age and gender should be taken into account when assessing the gravity of the ill treatment.  She also noted that her complaint of ill-treatment was not investigated promptly and impartially by the authorities, contrary to article 7.  The Committee found that, in the absence of any information from Belarus that it undertook to address the allegations made, due weight must be given to the allegations.  On this basis, the Committee concluded that Belarus failed in its duty to adequately investigate the allegations made in violation of article 7, read in conjunction with article 2(3) of the covenant.  The Committee determined that Belarus was required to provide an effective remedy, including conducting a full investigation of the ill treatment in order to prosecute the perpetrators and to punish them with appropriate sanctions, providing adequate compensation, including reimbursement of legal and medical expenses and non-pecuniary losses, and issuing a formal apology to Abromchik.  Further, the Committee stated that Belarus was under an obligation to take necessary steps to prevent similar violations from occurring in the future.



Abramova v. Belarus CEDAW Committee (2011)

Gender discrimination, Sexual harassment

Ms. Abramova, a citizen of Belarus, is a journalist who was arrested for her activism on behalf of the “For Freedom” movement and convicted of “minor hooliganism.” She was held in a temporary detention facility for five days, where she shared a small, unheated cell with an unenclosed toilet area that lay in open view of the all-male staff. During her detention, the male prison staff directed numerous humiliating comments at Ms. Abramova, treatment that the male detainees at the facility did not receive. Upon her release, Ms. Abramova submitted a complaint of violation of her rights in detention to authorities at the Interior Department, who informed her that her allegations had not been verified. Ms. Abramova then filed a complaint with the Prosecutor’s Office, again with a response that her claims had not been confirmed. Next, Ms. Abramova filed an application to the District Court under civil procedure, but the court claimed that it lacked jurisdiction and rejected her application. She appealed, and the Judicial Board rejected her appeal. Ms. Abramova proceeded to file a complaint to the District Court under administrative procedure, which again refused to initial civil proceedings. On appeal, the Judicial Board reversed the decision of the District Court and remanded the case for new consideration; on remand, the District Court dismissed Ms. Abramova’s complaint on procedural grounds. She submitted a complaint to the CEDAW Committee alleging that the conditions under which the State detained her constituted inhuman and degrading treatment, and that such treatment amounted to discrimination against her on the basis of gender. The Committee found that Ms. Abramova’s temporary detention in poor, unhygienic conditions, in a facility staffed exclusively by men, amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment and discrimination on the basis of her gender. Further, the Committee found that the State was in violation of its obligations under the Convention (CEDAW).