Valiuliene v. Lithuania – domestic violence

March 26, 2013

“The very act of domestic violence has an inherent humiliating and debasing character for the victim, which is exactly what the offender aims at. Physical pain is but one of the intended effects. A kick, a slap or a spit is also aimed at belittling the dignity of the partner, conveying a message of humiliation and degradation.”

– Concurring opinion of Judge Pinto de Albuquerque in Valiuliene v. Lithuania case

Proceedings initiated: 2011

Proceedings closed: 2013

Case in brief:  the woman suffered her spouse’s abuse for a long-time, but all the pre-trial investigations were discontinued

Outcome of the case: by failing to protect the applicant and her children from domestic violence, Lithuanian law enforcement authorities violated Article 3 of the ECHR (prohibition of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment)

Facts of the case:

The applicant logged a complaint with local court in 2001 regarding the continuous physical and mental abuse she suffered from her partner. Her case was transferred from courts to prosecution offices and vice versa. By a final ruling of 8 February 2007, the local court dismissed the applicant’s appeal, finding that any kind of prosecution had become time-barred.

Proceedings before the ECtHR:

After exhausting domestic judicial remedies, the applicant submitted an application to ECHR. In response, the Government acknowledged the violation of Article 8, whilst refusing to acknowledge the violation of Article 3 of the Convention.

Human Rights Monitoring Institute submitted observations to the Court on behalf of the applicant arguing that the treatment the applicant was subjected to amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment under Article 3, and that the State failed to fulfil its positive obligation to effectively investigate the allegations of such treatment.

On 26 March 2013, the ECtHR adopted its first judgment in the domestic violence case against Lithuania. The court concluded that the criminal investigation into domestic violence acts was ineffective and did not meet the standards raising from Article 3 of the Convention. “Article 3 requires States to put in place effective criminal-law provisions to deter the commission of offences against personal integrity, backed up by law-enforcement machinery for the prevention, suppression and punishment of breaches of such provisions, and this requirement also extends to ill-treatment administered by private individuals”, – para. 75 of the ECtHR judgment reads.

Documents of the case:

Response to Government’s observations prepared by the HRMI

European Court of Human Rights judgment