The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg | Photo: Picture-alliance/imageBROKER
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg | Photo: Picture-alliance/imageBROKER

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has convicted Hungary of inhuman and degrading treatment of an Iraqi refugee family. The family in question was detained in the transit zone between Serbia and Hungary for more than four months in 2017.

According to ECHR court documents, the family was forced to leave Iraq after the Kurdish father had allegedly been tortured by the national security services. After travelling through several countries, they arrived at the Tompa transit zone at the border between Hungary and Serbia on April 3, 2017, where they submitted their initial asylum requests.

The family was then forced to stay in a converted container within the transit zone while their application was being processed. They were only allowed to leave the facility under police surveillance for the purpose of attending important appointments, such as for medical reasons. 

The wife was pregnant at the time, and her pregnancy was deemed to be of high risk. During a hospital visit of the wife, the accompanying husband was put in handcuffs and held on a leash in front of his children.

For the first three months of the asylum proceedings, there was reportedly no progress in the case, resulting in the pregnant wife entering a hunger strike for a number of days as a sign of protest, as per the court documents.

Read more: Orban says EU can't force Hungary to change immigration rules

'Humiliating' treatment

The case states that "(r)elying mainly on Articles 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) and 5 §§ 1 (right to liberty and security) and 4 (right to have lawfulness of detention decided speedily by a court), the applicants complained about the conditions and the unlawfulness of their confinement and the way they had been treated in the transit zone."

The Strasbourg judges found Hungarian authorities to be in violation of the ban on degrading treatment, according to the ruling published on Thursday. In addition, the court determined that the man's deprivation of liberty was also unlawful, as this had not been "imposed in connection with lawful arrest or detention." 

 "(T)he fact that he had been handcuffed and publicly attached to a leash on one occasion was humiliating," the court further said.

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee, a human rights organization that works closely with refugees, said that the family bore considerable trauma from the event: "Having suffered severe traumas at the transit zone detention and facing a complete lack of integration assistance by the Hungarian state, trying to escape the prospect of destitution, the family found a new home in Germany after their release. There, psychologists also found that the harmful psychological consequences of their detention in Hungary were borne both by the mother and one of the younger children."

Read more: Hungarian top court declines to rule on EU law in asylum case

Similar case pending

The verdicts were unanimous, handed down by seven judges from Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia. Sweden, Italy, Greece, Croatia. The court awarded the father €3,000 in damages and the mother and children €12,500 jointly, in addition to the reimbursement of €1,500 in legal costs. The applicants, however, had claimed a total of €5,300 in respect of costs and expenses incurred before the court, which the ECHR did not find reasonable.

A similar case involving an Afghan family held at the Röszke transit zone in Hungary, also dating back to 2017, is currently pending before the ECHR.

🎧 Listen to the InfoMigrants' podcast Tales from the Border: Serbia -- Jalal's tale (Episode 3/8)

With KNA, ECHR, Hungarian Helsinki Committee


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