SLAVERY AND SERVITUDE THE CASE OF SILIADIN V. FRANCE, AN ANALYSIS
Slavery and servitude dated back to antiquity and were some of the most heinous and inhumane treatment that human beings were subjected to, mostly based on their race, age, or nationality. It involved subjecting people to hard work with no remunerations’ in slavery and subjecting people to hard inconsiderate labor as a form of debt servicing in servitude. Due to civilization and the age of enlightenment, most dominions abolished slavery and servitude in their jurisdiction, commonly referred to as ‘abolitionism.’ The abolition of slavery and servitude was meant to protect the fundamental human rights and freedoms, which are universal. Besides, various countries enacted different laws and conventions to provide an umbrella body to protect human rights and freedoms. One such authority is the European Convention on Human Rights, which was drafted in 1950 and took effect from 1953 from among member states of the European countries that ratified it.
However, even after numerous efforts to eradicate slavery and servitude, the practice still exists. One such case is the famous Siliadin v France case, which brought to the core the issues of slavery and servitude in France, a member and signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights. The case sparked a debate on the evolutive aspect of the interpretation of human rights by the courts.
The Issues that arose out of the case are:
1. Whether the court interpretation on the Issue of Article 34 of the European Convention on Human Rights was rights?
2. Whether the court erred in judgment in its decision on matters about Article 4 of the ECHR?
3. Whether the court’s decision of not awarding damages was fair and just?
4. Does the court at its interpretation promote the need to have a development mode of interpretation that suits the changing times and needs?
Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights defines the offense of slavery and servitude and provides the ingredients that form up it, as seen in Art 4(1); and (2) (para.50).
Article 41 of the ECHR provides that if the court finds it in its decision a violation of the convention and the internal laws of the high contracting party allows for partial reparation, the court shall in its wisdom allow necessary satisfaction to the injured party (para.150).
Article 34 European Convention on Human Rights avers that,
“The Court may receive applications from any person, non-governmental organization, or group of individuals claiming to be the victim of a violation by one of the High Contracting Parties of the rights outlined in the Convention or the Protocols to that. The High Contracting Parties undertake not to hinder in any way the effective exercise of this right. ”
Article 225-13 and Article 225-14 of the criminal code at the material time and after the amendment of the same laws on March 18, 2003 (para. 46,47) .
Article 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights states that,
“The High Contracting Parties shall secure to everyone within their jurisdiction the rights and freedoms defined in Section I of this Convention.”(para.50)
Relevant judicial authorities from the cases of; Malama v Greece (1999); Association Ekin v. France (2001) ; Calvelli and Ciglio v. Italy (2002) ; X and Y v. the Netherlands (1985) ; and Brumărescu v. Romania (1999) (paras 61,66,73, 79).
The first issue concerns whether the applicant was a victim of the violation of human rights (para. 53). The respondent averred that she had previously sought the services of the Paris Tribunal de Grande Instance (para.21) , where she was granted damages by the court worth FRF 100,000 for violation of her rights as per section 225-13 in the criminal code (paras.135,136,137). The Versailles court also upheld the decision of the court at first instance on violation of Section 225-13 of the criminal code (para. 44), further, the Paris Industrial Tribunal had awarded her It awarded her 31,238 euros (EUR) in respect of arrears of salary, EUR 1,647 in respect of the notice period and EUR 164 in respect of holiday leave (para. 45). Thus, the government argued by the liberal interpretation of the statutes she could not claim to be a victim, whereas the courts had equitably compensated her. Further, the sanctions imposed by the Versailles Courts of Appeal had offered enough redress on the case (para. 55), further , the government had made effort by regularizing her immigration status and it would be wrong for her to claim to be a victim of the same system which had made necessary efforts to ensure she benefited(para.56). The applicant claimed that the remedies provided by the courts were civil, and the government had not acknowledged its failure to put in place a mechanism to ensure that the provisions of Article 4 are adhered to (para.58). She also averred that the provisions of Art 225-13 and 225-14 were too ambiguous and had left the courts in an awkward position since they could not serve both purposes of interpretation and legislation (para.59).
In matters of article 4, the court made judicial notice that the respondent did not contest about its jurisdiction in the case (para.62). The applicant-imposed liability and failure of not making positive steps to ensure compliance with the provision of Article 4 to avoid slavery and servitude (para. 65). She averred that from judicial precedents, the respondent states had been held to be liable on account of their contempt, in the application of Article 1 of the Convention, to set up a system of criminal prosecution and punishment that would ensure tangible and effective protection of the rights guaranteed by Articles three and eight against the actions of private individuals (paras.66, 67). Therefore, it would be fair and just that the state is also held liable for its failure to comply with Article 4.
In matters of awarding damages, the applicant made no applications for the damages, so the court did not grant any (para 151).
A complex, progressive, liberal, and versatile interpretation of human rights should be granted, taking into account people’s ideals, socio-economic, political, and cultural values to broaden them to the greatest possible extent. The reasoning is that permanent protections for human rights are built to provide for all times to come.
In its decision, the court held that indeed there was a violation of Article 4 of the convention and awarded the applicant costs and excesses as demanded by the applicant (para.152, 153,154). The court’s decision thus promoted a method of interpretation that recognizes the changing needs in society and the need to protect and promote human rights.