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Hungary condemned by the European Court of Human Rights for its treatment of an Iraqi asylum seeker attached to a leash

Hungary has been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights because the use of handcuffs and leash to an asylum seeker "amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment".

Building of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France
Building of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France | © Mitko Denev

The European Court of Human Rights condemned Hungary for its treatment of an Iraqi asylum seeker. The father of four children was attached to a leash in front of his children and remained handcuffed while he acted as translator for his pregnant wife who was taken into hospital.

In 2017, the Iraqi family stayed in a transit zone for more than four months at the border between Hungary and Serbia where they submitted asylum requests after fleeing Iraq and travelling through several countries. The father had allegedly been tortured by national security services of his country.

At the transit zone, the family was housed in a container and was only allowed to leave for medical and other appointments, always under police escort.

The mother was pregnant and had to be taken into hospital several times. On one such occasion, ten days
after their arrival in the transit zone, her husband went with her and was handcuffed and attached to a leash in full view of his children. He remained handcuffed throughout the hospital visit while acting as interpreter for his wife.

The plaintiffs filed a lawsuit to the European Court of Human Rights in 2017 about the way they were treated in the transit zone.

The Court found that the fact he had been handcuffed and attached to a leash publicly "had not imposed in connection with lawful arrest or detention" and that it was "humiliating". There was no evidence that the father posed any danger to himself or to everyone else, the press statement published on June 2 said.

Moreover, the family's stay for over four months in the transit zone "amounted to deprivation of liberty" and that their detention was not "lawful".

The seven judges unanimously agreed that Hungary was in violation of European Convention on Human Rights articles that prohibit inhuman or degrading treatment, that give the right to liberty and security and to have lawful detention decided speedily by a court.

The Court imposed a fine to Hungary to pay 3,000 euros to the father, 12,500 euros to the mother and children jointly in respect of non-pecuniary damage, and 1,500 euros for all costs and expenses.

The family was transferred from the transit zone to an open reception facility after the fifth child was born. They now live in Aachen, Germany.

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