ECHR delivers justice to a Bulgarian trafficked person

On 28 November, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in the case of Krachunova v. Bulgaria that there had been a violation of Article 4 (prohibition of slavery and forced labour) of the European Convention on Human Rights

The case concerned a trafficked woman’s attempts to obtain compensation of BGN 22,500 (EUR 11,504) for the earnings from sex work that her trafficker had taken from her. The Bulgarian court stated at its first hearing that Krachunova’s claim for pecuniary damages could not be examined as it concerned money earned through “lewd and immoral acts”. The court reasoned that “Each contract for sexual services made between [the applicant] and the respective client was void as infringing good morals … and there [could] be no question of damages”.

The ECHR held that States had an obligation to enable victims of trafficking to claim compensation for lost earnings from traffickers. Concerning the question of “good morals”, the Court stated that human rights should be the main criterion in designing and implementing policies on prostitution and trafficking. The Court stated that, in this case, ordering the trafficker to return the money taken from the victim would not have offended public morals.

This was the first time the ECHR had found that a trafficking victim had a right to seek compensation for pecuniary damages from her trafficker.

The woman had been assisted by Animus/La Strada Bulgaria and was represented in the ECHR case by Natasha Dobreva.