Women and Justice: Topics: Harmful traditional practices, Honor crimes (or honour crimes), International law

International Case Law

D.T. v. Canada Human Rights Committee (ICCPR) (2017)

Harmful traditional practices, Honor crimes (or honour crimes), International law

D.T., a Christian born in Nigeria, married a Muslim.  Her parents were against the marriage, and when she was pregnant, they threatened to kill the baby.  After her husband died, she was forced to drink the water used to bathe his corpse and to sleep in the room with the corpse for three days.  With help, she escaped and traveled to Canada where she gave birth to her son.  Her son suffers from conditions, including a heart murmur, malformation of his meniscus and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  D.T. applied for asylum, but Canada denied her application because it found that she failed to provide materials or documentation establishing her identity and her claims.  Canada dismissed her application for judicial review and ordered her to leave Canada with her seven-year-old son.  To the Committee, D.T. argued that Canada’s decision violated articles 17 and 23(1) of the Covenant, that her son is also the victim of a violation of article 24(1), and that they face a risk of irreparable harm if deported to Nigeria, which has education and health care facilities inadequate to meet her son’s needs.  Further, if her son remained in Canada as a citizen, it would result in family separation from his sole caregiver.  The Committee concluded that given that there was no evidence that that the child had any alternative adult support network in Canada, it was foreseeable that D.T. would take her son to Nigeria.  Therefore, Canada did not adequately explain why its legitimate objective in upholding its immigration policy should have outweighed the best interests of the D.T.’s child nor how that objective could justify the degree of hardship that confronted the family because of the decision to deport the mother.  Acting under article 5(4) of the Optional Protocol, the Committee found the removal resulted in arbitrary interference with the right to family life in breach of article 17(1) and article 23(1) of the covenant with respect to D.T. and her son, and that it violated article 24 due to a failure to provide her son with the necessary measures of protection owed to him by Canada.  Canada was ordered to provide D.T. with an effective re-evaluation of her claims, based on an assessment of the best interests of the child, including his health and educational needs, and to provide her with adequate compensation.  The Committee stated that Canada also is under an obligation to avoid similar violations in the future and to publish the Views and have them widely disseminated in Canada in French and English. 

Her Majesty the Queen v. Shafia Ontario Superior Court of Justice (2012)

Honor crimes (or honour crimes)

Mohammad Shafia, his second wife, and his son were convicted of the June 2009 murders of his three teenaged daughters and his first wife. Their bodies were found submerged inside a car in a canal near Kingston, Ontario. The Shafia family was originally from Kabul, Afghanistan, fled to Dubai before moving to Australia, and then finally moving to Montreal, Canada in 2007. The three defendants were found guilty of four counts of first degree murder and each sentenced to life in prison with parole eligibility in 25 years. The prosecutor argued that the murders were honor killings – because the three Shafia daughters had shamed the family by adopting Western lifestyles and the two older daughters had boyfriends, and because his first wife wanted a divorce and supported the three girls in their pursuit of western lifestyles. The Crown sought to admit expert trial testimony relating to the relationship between culture, religion, patriarchy and violence against women in the Middle East, Eastern Asia and around the world, specifically as to honor killing. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice held the topic of honor killing was properly the subject of expert opinion evidence, finding the presentation of expert evidence respecting culture to be routinely admitted in Canadian trial courts and the concepts of honor, family and gender dynamics within Middle Eastern and East Asian communities to be knowledge outside the scope of a typical Canadian jury. Specific questions to the expert mirroring the facts of the case were not allowed; only generic questions relating to circumstances where honor killings might take place were allowed.

Domestic Case Law

Claimants (on their own behalf and on behalf of their minor children) v. the Secretary of State for Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service District Court of the Hague (2010)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Gender discrimination, Gender-based violence in general, Harmful traditional practices, Honor crimes (or honour crimes), Sexual violence and rape

The claimants, on behalf of themselves and their two minor daughters, sought residence permits under the Aliens Act 2000. The claimants stated that if they returned to Afghanistan, the mother and daughters would be subjected to inhuman treatment under Article 3 European Convention on Human Rights. The claimants noted that women were systematically disadvantaged and discriminated against in Afghanistan. Women were subject to violence throughout the country, including the claimants’ area of origin, and had no protection from the government (if they even had the opportunity of access to the courts). Women suffer domestic violence, sexual violence, honor crimes, and arranged marriage. Women do not have the same rights as men (even though the constitution states that men and women are equal), are seen as property, and have little to no access to education or health care. The District Court found the mother’s and daughters’ appeals well-founded and ordered the government to consider the applications.

Erdogu v. Canada Federal Court of Canada (2008)

Gender-based violence in general, Honor crimes (or honour crimes)

Ms. Erdogu, a Turkish national, fled to Canada and filed a claim for refugee protection to escape persecution for her political and religious activity in Turkey. Because she was both an ethnic and religious minority (Kurdish/Alevi), she was arrested in Turkey on a number of occasions, during which she was detained, interrogated, beaten, and sexually molested. Further, she claimed to be at risk because a violent ex-boyfriend had informed her father of the former couple’s sexual relationship, leading her father to declare his intent to kill her in order to preserve the family’s honor. Ms. Erdogu’s application was denied, and she applied for judicial review of that decision. The judge noted that the documentary evidence clearly demonstrated continuing problems with the Turkish government’s efforts to address the issue of honor killings, finding that the officer who had made the initial decision on Ms. Erdogu’s case had failed to consider such evidence. Because of the high risk of honor killing that Ms. Erdogu faced, and due to the officer’s failure to justify his denial of her initial application for protection, the judge ruled that judicial review would be allowed, and that the decision on Ms. Erdogu’s application was to be set aside and redetermined by another officer.

Muhammad Siddique v. State High Court of Pakistan (2002)

Harmful traditional practices, Honor crimes (or honour crimes)

Murder conviction for father's honor killing of daughter, son-in-law and grandchild upheld on the grounds that an honor killing is murder. The Court found that "[n]o tradition is sacred, no convention is indispensable and no precedent worth emulation if it does not stand the test of civil society's fundamental principles. In particular, the law must reflect changing needs and promote social progress. Accordingly, any judicial response to S's crime must serve as a deterrent.  Any other response could amount to appeasement or endorsement since a society which fails to effectively punish such offenders becomes privy to their crimes."

Muhammad Akram Khan v. State Supreme Court of Pakistan (2001)

Harmful traditional practices, Honor crimes (or honour crimes)

The Supreme Court for the first time ever approached the issue of honor killings from a victim's rights perspective. The Court found that no one had the right to take law into their own hands to take a life in the name of ghairat. The Court stated that "neither the land nor the religion permits so-called honour killing, which amounts to murder simpliciter." The Court added that such a murder was a violation of the Fundamental right to life of the victim as enshrined in Article 9 of the Constitution, which states that no person would be deprived of life and liberty except in accordance with law and any custom or usage in that respect is void under Article 8(I) of the Constitution.