CEDAW Committee, A.T. v. Hungary, Comm. No. 2/2003, CEDAW/C/32/D/2 (2005), excerpt | Samuel Moyn | August 10, 2016


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CEDAW Committee, A.T. v. Hungary, Comm. No. 2/2003, CEDAW/C/32/D/2 (2005), excerpt

CEDAW Committee, Ms. A. T. v. Hungary

Comm. No.: 2/2003, CEDAW/C/32/D/2 (2005)

2.1 The author states that for the past four years she has been subjected to regular severe domestic violence and serious threats by her common law husband, L. F., father of her two children, one of whom is severely brain-damaged. Although L. F. allegedly possesses a firearm and has threatened to kill the author and rape the children, the author has not gone to a shelter, reportedly because no shelter in the country is equipped to take in a fully disabled child together with his mother and sister. The author also states that there are currently no protection orders or restraining orders available under Hungarian law.

2. ... The author claims that he did not pay child support for three years, … and that he has used this form of financial abuse as a violent tactic in addition to continuing to threaten her physically. Hoping to protect herself and the children, the author states that she changed the lock on the door of the family’s apartment on 11 March 2000. On 14 and 26 March 2000, L. F. filled the lock with glue and on 28 March 2000, he kicked in a part of the door when the author refused to allow him to enter the apartment. The author further states that, on 27 July 2001, L. F. broke into the apartment using violence.

2.3 L. F. is said to have battered the author severely on several occasions, beginning in March 1998. Since then, 10 medical certificates have been issued in connection with separate incidents of severe physical violence, even after L. F. left the family residence, which, the author submits, constitute a continuum of violence. The most recent incident took place on 27 July 2001 when L. F. broke into the apartment and subjected the author to a severe beating, which necessitated her hospitalization.

2.4 The author states that there have been civil proceedings regarding L. F.’s access to the family’s residence, a 2 and a half room apartment (of 54 by 56 square metres) jointly owned by L. F. and the author. …On 4 September 2003, the Budapest Regional Court (Főrvărosi Bíróság) issued a final decision authorizing L. F. to return and use the apartment. The judges reportedly based their decision on the following grounds: (a) lack of substantiation of the claim that L. F. regularly battered the author; and (b) that L. F.’s right to the property, including possession, could not be restricted. Since that date, and on the basis of the earlier attacks and verbal threats by her former partner, the author claims that her physical integrity, physical and mental health and life have been at serious risk and that she lives in constant fear. …

2.5 The author states that she also initiated civil proceedings regarding division of the property, which have been suspended. She claims that L. F. refused her offer to be compensated for half of the value of the apartment and turn over ownership to her. …

2.6 The author states that there have been two ongoing criminal procedures against L. F [but] L. F. has not been detained at any time in this connection and that no action has been taken by the Hungarian authorities to protect the author from him. [Austria did, eventually, fine L.F. approximately $365.]

2.7 The author also submits that she has requested assistance in writing, in person and by phone, from the local child protection authorities, but that her requests have been to no avail since the authorities allegedly feel unable to do anything in such situations….

4.2 On 20 October 2003 (with a corrigendum on 17 November 2003), a note verbale was sent to the State party [from the CEDAW Committee Working Group] for its urgent consideration, requesting the State party to provide immediate, appropriate and concrete preventive interim measures of protection to the author, as may be necessary, in order to avoid irreparable damage to her person. …

4.7 On 13 July 2004, …  [t]he Working Group requested that A. T. be immediately offered a safe place for her and her children to live and that the State party ensure that the author receive adequate financial assistance, if needed. The State party was invited to inform the Working Group as soon as possible of any concrete action taken in response to the request. …

5.6 The State party maintains that although the author did not make effective use of the domestic remedies available to her, and although some domestic proceedings are still pending, the State party does not wish to raise any preliminary objections as to the admissibility of the communication. At the same time, the State party admits that these remedies were not capable of providing immediate protection to the author from ill-treatment by her former partner.

5.7 Having realized that the system of remedies against domestic violence is incomplete in Hungarian law and that the effectiveness of the existing procedures is not sufficient, the State party states that it has instituted a comprehensive action programme against domestic violence in 2003. On 16 April 2003, the Hungarian Parliament adopted a resolution on the national strategy for the prevention and effective treatment of violence within the family, setting forth a number of legislative and other actions to be taken in the field by the State party. These actions include: introducing a restraining order into legislation; ensuring that proceedings before the Courts or other authorities in domestic violence cases are given priority; reinforcing existing witness protection rules and introducing new rules aimed at ensuring adequate legal protection for the personal security of victims of violence within the family; elaborating clear protocols for the police, childcare organs and social and medical institutions; extending and modernizing the network of shelters and setting up victim protection crisis centres; providing free legal aid in certain circumstances; working out a complex nationwide action programme to eliminate violence within the family that applies sanctions and protective measures; training of professionals; ensuring data collection on violence within the family; requesting the judiciary to organize training for judges and to find a way to ensure that cases relating to violence within the family are given priority; and launching a nationwide campaign to address indifference to violence within the family and the perception of domestic violence as a private matter and to raise awareness of State, municipal and social organs and journalists. …

5.9 …The Government has prepared a draft law, which will enter into force on
1 July 2005, that provides for a new protective remedy for victims of domestic violence, namely the issuance of a temporary restraining order by the police and a restraining order by the Courts, accompanied by fines if intentionally disregarded, and has decided to improve the support services available to such victims….

6.1 By her submission of 23 June 2004, the author states that, in spite of promises, the only step that has been taken under the Decree/Decision of Parliament on the Prevention of, and Response to Domestic Violence is the entry into force of the new protocol of the police, who now respond to domestic violence cases. She states that the new protocol is still not in line with the Convention and that batterers are not taken into custody, as this would be considered a violation of their human rights. Instead, according to the media, the police mostly mediate on the spot.

6.2 The author further states that the parliamentary debate on the draft law on restraining orders has been postponed until the autumn. Resistance to change is said to be strong and decision-makers allegedly still do not fully understand why they should interfere in what they consider to be the private affairs of families. The author suggests that a timely decision in her case may help decision-makers understand that the effective prevention of, and response to domestic violence are not only demands of victims and “radical” non-governmental organizations but also of the international human rights community….

9.3 With regard to article 2 (a), (b), and (e) [ie. of CEDAW], the Committee notes that the State party has admitted that the remedies pursued by the author were not capable of providing immediate protection to her against ill-treatment by her former partner and, furthermore, that legal and institutional arrangements in the State party are not yet ready to ensure the internationally expected, coordinated, comprehensive and effective protection and support for the victims of domestic violence. While appreciating the State party’s efforts at instituting a comprehensive action programme against domestic violence and the legal and other measures envisioned, the Committee believes that these have yet to benefit the author and address her persistent situation of insecurity. The Committee further notes the State party’s general assessment that domestic violence cases as such do not enjoy high priority in court proceedings. The Committee is of the opinion that the description provided of the proceedings resorted to in the present case, both the civil and criminal proceedings, coincides with this general assessment. Women’s human rights to life and to physical and mental integrity cannot be superseded by other rights, including the right to property and the right to privacy. The Committee also takes note that the State party does not offer information as to the existence of alternative avenues that the author might have pursued that would have provided sufficient protection or security from the danger of continued violence. In this connection, the Committee recalls its concluding comments from August 2002 on the State party’s combined fourth and fifth periodic report, which state “… [T]he Committee is concerned about the prevalence of violence against women and girls, including domestic violence. It is particularly concerned that no specific legislation has been enacted to combat domestic violence and sexual harassment and that no protection or exclusion orders or shelters exist for the immediate protection of women victims of domestic violence”. Bearing this in mind, the Committee concludes that the obligations of the State party set out in article 2 (a), (b) and (e) of the Convention extend to the prevention of and protection from violence against women, which obligations in the present case, remain unfulfilled and constitute a violation of the author’s human rights and fundamental freedoms, particularly her right to security of person.

9.4 The Committee … has stated on many occasions that traditional attitudes by which women are regarded as subordinate to men contribute to violence against them. The Committee recognized those very attitudes when it considered the combined fourth and fifth periodic report of Hungary in 2002. At that time it was concerned about the “persistence of entrenched traditional stereotypes regarding the role and responsibilities of women and men in the family …”. In respect of the case now before the Committee, the facts of the communication reveal aspects of the relationships between the sexes and attitudes towards women that the Committee recognized vis-à-vis the country as a whole. For four years and continuing to the present day, the author has felt threatened by her former common law husband, the father of her two children. The author has been battered by this same man, her former common law husband. She has been unsuccessful, either through civil or criminal proceedings, to temporarily or permanently bar L. F. from the apartment where she and her children have continued to reside. The author could not have asked for a restraining or protection order since neither option currently exists in the State party. She has been unable to flee to a shelter because none are equipped to accept her together with her children, one of whom is fully disabled. None of these facts have been disputed by the State party and, considered together, they indicate that the rights of the author under articles 5 (a) and 16 of the Convention have been violated….

9.6  Acting under article 7, paragraph 3, of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Committee is of the view that the State party has failed to fulfil its obligations and has thereby violated the rights of the author under article 2 (a), (b) and (e) and article 5 (a) in conjunction with article 16 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and makes the following recommendations to the State party:

I.Concerning the author of the communication

(a) Take immediate and effective measures to guarantee the physical and mental integrity of A. T. and her family;

(b) Ensure that A. T. is given a safe home in which to live with her children, receives appropriate child support and legal assistance as well as reparation proportionate to the physical and mental harm undergone and to the gravity of the violations of her rights;

II. General

(a) Respect, protect, promote and fulfil women’s human rights, including their right to be free from all forms of domestic violence, including intimidation and threats of violence;

(b) Assure victims of domestic violence the maximum protection of the law by acting with due diligence to prevent and respond to such violence against women;

(c) Take all necessary measures to ensure that the national strategy for the prevention and effective treatment of violence within the family is promptly implemented and evaluated;…

(f) Investigate promptly, thoroughly, impartially and seriously all allegations of domestic violence and bring the offenders to justice in accordance with international standards;

(g) Provide victims of domestic violence with safe and prompt access to justice, including free legal aid where necessary, in order to ensure them available, effective and sufficient remedies and rehabilitation…


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August 10, 2016

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Samuel Moyn

Harvard Law School

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