Ineffective official response to violence against women

In the case of Tërshana v. Albania (application no. 48756/14, 04.08.2020) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously that there had been no violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and a violation of Article 2 (investigation) of the Convention. 

The case concerned an acid attack on the applicant in 2009. The applicant was walking along a street in Tirana when an unidentified assailant threw acid over her. She was taken to hospital in a critical condition, suffering with 25 per cent burns to her face and upper body. Soon after the attack, she went to Italy for specialist treatment, undergoing at least 14 operations between 2009 and 2012. The prosecuting authorities immediately opened an investigation into the attack. The applicant gave a statement, saying that she did not recognise her assailant but suspected that the attack had been organised by her former husband, who had been violent towards her and threatened to kill her in the past.

The Court found in particular that the State could not be held responsible for the attack. If it had been aware of a risk to the applicant, it would have been its duty to take preventive measures. In the present case, however, the national authorities had only found out about the violent behaviour of the applicant’s former husband after the incident. 

On the other hand, the investigation into the attack, which had had the hallmarks of gender-based violence and therefore should have incited the authorities to react with special diligence, had not even been able to identify the substance thrown over her. The investigation was moreover stayed in 2010, without identifying the person responsible, and the applicant has not been given any information about its progress since, despite her repeated enquiries. The Court could not accept in such circumstances that the authorities’ response to the acid attack had been effective. There had therefore been a procedural violation of Article 2.

References from the official website of the European Court of Human Rights