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González Carreño v. Spain
UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (“Committee”)
16 July 2014
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Articles 1 (definition of discrimination against women), 2 (condemnation of discrimination against women in all forms), 5 (State party responsibilities under the Convention), 16 (State party obligation to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations) and 17 (establishment of the Committee)
Rules of Procedure of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Articles 64 (method of dealing with communications) and 72 (views of the Committee on admissible communications)
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Articles 4 (exhaustion of domestic remedies) and 7 (decision in light of all available information)
General Recommendation No. 19 (violence against women) of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
Spanish Organic Law 6/1985 of the Judicial Power, Article 292 (responsibility of the state for the functioning of the administration of justice)
A seven-year-old girl, Andrea, was murdered by her father during a court-approved visit in 2003. The girl’s mother, Ángela González, brought a complaint against the Spanish authorities before the national courts, which ruled against her. Prior to the murder of her daughter, González had reported the father, her former husband, to the police on 30 occasions between 1999 and 2001 for threatening and physically abusing her. She had repeatedly gone to court seeking measures to restrain her ex-husband in order to put an end to threats, harassment and persecution against her and her daughter. The father had refused to accept supervised visits with his daughter. After killing the child he committed suicide. The Spanish Constitutional Court ruled on 13 April 2011 that no ”judicial anomaly” could be found in the approved visit regime and denied the case any constitutional relevance. This led to the mother’s complaint against Spain in front of the Committee in which she was supported by Women’s Link Worldwide.
Issue and resolution:
Child abuse; child protection. The Committee ruled against Spain for acting negligently in failing to protect the mother and daughter from the abusive father. The Committee held that the Spanish government should compensate the mother and should provide training to judges and other professionals so as to avoid similar cases in the future.
The Committee found that enough proof had been provided by the claimant regarding the fact that the murder of the child had been committed in a context of long-standing domestic violence. The State could therefore have foreseen that the visit by the father posed an imminent danger to the child’s life and physical and mental wellbeing. The Committee stated that every time national authorities make decisions on parental visits, such as in this case, an existing context of domestic violence needs to be taken into account. In spite of all indications of domestic violence in this case, the decision was taken to grant the father visiting rights, without consideration of necessary safeguards.
In addition, the Committee found that the decisions taken by the authorities of Spain regarding the visiting scheme showed a lack of interest in properly evaluating all aspects of the case and the implications the father’s visit would have for the child. The administration of the case by the authorities reflected a stereotypical concept of dealing with a parental visit scheme. The best interests of the child always has to be considered in these cases, and the State failed to take this into account in this case.
The Committee held that discrimination against women, as defined in article 1 of CEDAW, is not limited to acts of State, but State parties have to take all necessary steps to eliminate such discrimination by other parties as well, such as individuals, organisations or companies. The Committee found that the State can be responsible for acts of individuals if it fails to exercise its necessary diligence in order to prevent violations of CEDAW, investigate acts of violence or compensate victims.
The Committee held that Spain had violated its obligations under articles 2 a), d), e) and f), 5 a) and 16 paragraph 1 of CEDAW by establishing an unmonitored parental visit regime which applied stereotypical and as such discriminatory standards in a context of domestic violence, and failed its obligation to exercise necessary oversight. The Committee concluded that the lack of compensation paid to the claimant constitutes a violation by the State party of its obligations based on article 2 b) and c) of CEDAW.
Spain was ordered to submit a report to the Committee specifying the steps it has taken to comply with the decision. The Spanish authorities now have six months to decide how much to compensate González and should widely disseminate the decision. Additionally, CEDAW’s ruling requires Spain to provide training to judges and other professionals so as to avoid similar cases in the future.
The Spanish Ministry of Health responded to the Committee’s decision saying that it is introducing new mechanisms to protect children in gender violence cases, such as requiring judges to take precautionary measures from the outset.
Women’s Link Worldwide welcomed the Committee’s decision. Paloma Soria, one of the lawyers who handled the case, said: "Angela relied on the justice system. She went to court to denounce all episodes of violence, harassment and persecution, but all systems failed… In campaigns against gender violence, victims are told to report and seek help. Angela's case shows that it is important to have a coordinated response from the State. Nevertheless, the judicial authorities did not act because they considered that such a measure hindered the 'right' of the aggressor to visitation with his daughter."
See the following links for news reports on the Committee’s decision:
Link to Full Judgment:
This case summary is provided by the Child Rights International Network for educational and informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.