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ECHR rules on suit by Roman woman that she was sterilised without informed consent

A Slovak woman of Roma origin who sought compensation before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for alleged forced sterilisation by a public hospital in Prešov eleven years ago was supported by the court. The court ruled in her favour on November 8, finding violation of her right to protection against inhuman and humiliating treatment and of her right to protect her private and family life and awarded her financial compensation, the SITA newswire reported.

A Slovak woman of Roma origin who sought compensation before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for alleged forced sterilisation by a public hospital in Prešov eleven years ago was supported by the court. The court ruled in her favour on November 8, finding violation of her right to protection against inhuman and humiliating treatment and of her right to protect her private and family life and awarded her financial compensation, the SITA newswire reported.

Slovakia’s Justice Minister, Lucia Žitňanská, expressed regret about this individual case and told SITA that the ECHR identified shortcomings in legislation valid at that time related to informed consent and performance of sterilisations.

"But it did not confirm serious accusations concerning an organised policy of sterilisations of Roma women in Slovakia. When assessing the objection of the applicant according to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms forbidding discrimination, it [the ECHR] noted that information available did not prove sufficiently that doctors proceeded in performing of plaintiff's sterilisation in bad faith, that their behaviour was intentionally racially motivated, or that sterilisation was in fact part of more general organised policy," Žitňanská said in a statement published on the Justice Ministry's website.
The minister also pointed out that shortcomings in legislation at that time led in 2004 to adoption of a new law, the Health Care Act, SITA wrote.

In its verdict the ECHR rejected the argument that the sterilisation had to be performed due to "health reasons", ruling that sterilisation is not a life-saving surgery and the informed consent of the plaintiff was required.

SITA wrote that the women was sterilised at the Prešov hospital on August 23, 2000 after the birth of her second child via Caesarean section. The applicant alleged that shortly before she gave birth to her child, she was asked whether she wanted to have more children and was told that if she did have more either she or the baby would die. She said that in pain and scared she signed the sterilisation consent form but that she did not understand at that time what sterilisation meant, the nature and consequences of the procedure, or its irreversibility.

The plaintiff has been demanding an apology and compensation in Slovak courts since 2004 but all complaints had been rejected. She filed suit with the ECHR in 2007.

Source: SITA

Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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