Justice from the European Court of Human Rights: ensuring effective protection for minor victims

A mother and daughter whose case concerned the sexual abuse of a toddler by their father faced a significant legal and societal problem in the Estonian judicial system. The father was convicted in the district and circuit courts but acquitted by the Supreme Court, which cited procedural errors in the investigation (e.g. failure to inform a 4-year-old witness of their obligation to tell the truth and the option to not testify against a close family member).

The case raised important issues about the protection of minors and the rights of victims of sexual offences, as well as the complexity of the application of procedural law and the need to ensure effective protection for the most vulnerable members of society.

The European Court of Human Rights found that the Estonian state had violated Articles 3 and 8 of the Convention on the prohibition of torture and the right to respect for private and family life, and awarded damages to the victim. The ECHR found that there were significant procedural errors that did not ensure effective protection for the minor victim and criticised the Supreme Court’s approach, which undermined effective prosecution and called into question the application of the victim’s rights and obligations for a four-year-old.

The client was represented by attorneys-at-law Maria Mägi and Marta Lember.

Read the detailed information of the case in Estonian.

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