ECHR condemns France for abuse of child by Jehovah's Witnesses
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. mrallen / stock.adobe.com

France: ECHR condemns France for the sexual abuse suffered by a child in care of Jehovah’s Witnesses

The young girl, placed in a family of members of Jehovah’s Witnesses, had suffered rape and sexual abuse for 13 years.

Originally published in French on Le Figaro on Thursday, November 3, 2022.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) condemned France on Thursday for the rape and sexual abuse suffered by a child placed in a foster family of Jehovah’s Witnesses by the services of Childhood Social Assistance (ASE).

The young girl, placed in a family of members of Jehovah’s Witnesses by the ASE of Tarn-et-Garonne, suffered rape and sexual abuse over a period of 13 years, between 1976 and 1988. It was committed by the father of the host family. He admitted some of the accusations.

In its decision, the Court considers that the French authorities “did not implement the preventive measures for detecting the risks of ill-treatment provided for by the texts“. France is ordered to pay 55,000 euro to the applicant in compensation for “non-pecuniary damage“, a particularly high sum in view of the case law of the ECHR.

The Court reveals in particular that “only six visits were made” to the family over the entire period, and that no document attests to any follow-up with the schools attended by the child.

“Manifest deficiency”

There was a manifest deficiency in the regular monitoring as provided for by the legal provisions then in force“, the ECHR points out.

The European judges also deplore that the officials of the ASE did not “implement the necessary measures” to enforce the “religious neutrality clause” that the host family had to observe: this involved the child in its religious activities, even though the child’s family of origin was of the Muslim faith. Informed of this situation, the ASE took no action at the time.

Finally, they find the French administrative courts were wrong by rejecting the action for compensation led by the child who is now an adult, as having shown “excessive formalism“.

The ECHR condemns France for violating articles 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), 9 (freedom of religion) and 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights.