EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Press release issued by the Registrar
TODOROVA v. ITALY
The European Court of Human Rights has today notified in writing its Chamber judgment1 in the case of Todorova v. Italy (application no. 33932/06).
The Court held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Under Article 41 (just satisfaction) of the Convention, the Court awarded the applicant 15,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 2,150 for costs and expenses. (The judgment is available only in French.)
1. Principal facts
The applicant, Temenuzhka Ivanchova Todorova, is a Bulgarian national who was born in 1967 and lives in Bari (Italy).
On 7 October 2005 the applicant gave birth to twins. She did not recognise the children as hers and requested anonymity.
On 10 October 2005 the public prosecutor at the Bari Youth Court requested the court to make an urgent order placing the children in residential care.
Ms Todorova asked for time to reflect before taking a decision on whether to recognise the children as her own and requested their temporary placement in residential care or with a family in the meantime. She also expressed a wish to appear before the Youth Court.
On 13 October 2005 the children were placed in residential care and a temporary guardian was appointed. On 2 November 2005 the Youth Court declared the twins eligible for adoption.
On 2 December 2005 Ms Todorova requested leave to give evidence before the court and applied for a stay of the proceedings. The latter application was rejected on 21 December, as the children had already been declared eligible for adoption and had been placed with a family on a provisional basis on 6 December 2005 with a view to their adoption.
On 20 March 2006 the register office of the Bari municipal authority informed the Youth Court that Ms Todorova had applied on 17 March to be allowed to recognise the twins as hers. On 12 April 2006 the court informed the register office of the decisions taken with regard to the twins, emphasising that a child who had been declared eligible for adoption and placed with a view to adoption could no longer be recognised.
On 14 July 2006 the Bari Court of Appeal declared inadmissible an application made by Ms Todorova on 21 March 2006 seeking to have the declaration of eligibility for adoption set aside.
2. Procedure and composition of the Court
The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 17 August 2006.
Judgment was given by a Chamber of seven judges, composed as follows:
Tulkens (Belgium), President,
Ireneu Cabral Barreto (Portugal),
Vladimiro Zagrebelsky (Italia),
Danutė Jočienė (Lithuania),
Dragoljub Popović (Serbia),
András Sajó (Hungary),
Işıl Karakaş (Turkey), judges,
and also Sally Dollé, Section Registrar.
3. Summary of the judgment1
The applicant relied, in particular, on Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) with regard to the decision to declare her twins, whom she had not recognised as hers, eligible for adoption 27 days after their birth. She complained of the decision which, she claimed, had been taken in haste by the Youth Court without evidence being taken from her first.
Decision of the Court
The Court noted that the Italian authorities had taken all necessary measures to protect the twins and had endeavoured in good faith to secure their well-being. The children had been placed in residential care, a temporary guardian had been appointed and the procedure for putting them up for adoption had been initiated.
The Court observed that, in complex cases of this type, where the various interests at stake – those of the biological mother, the children, the adoptive family and the public interest – were difficult to reconcile, the best interests of the child must take precedence. It stressed that, in that context, compliance with the procedural obligations arising out of Article 8 was particularly important.
While an early decision on the children’s future had been desirable, the Court nevertheless considered that declaring them eligible for adoption 27 days after their birth, without hearing evidence from their mother, had been a drastic step. It noted that Ms Todorova had requested leave to give evidence, having begun to entertain doubts as to her decision to give up the children. The Court therefore considered that the procedure followed had prevented the applicant from protecting her right to private and family life.
The Court stressed that disputes of this kind concerned family ties and had extremely important ramifications. The Italian State had therefore failed to ensure that the applicant’s consent to giving up her children had been given in full knowledge of the implications and had been attended by the appropriate guarantees, in violation of Article 8.
The Court’s judgments are accessible on its Internet site (http://www.echr.coe.int).
Turner-Tretz (telephone : 00 33 (0)3 88 41 35 30)
Paramy Chanthalangsy (telephone : 00 33 (0)3 88 41 28 30)
Kristina Pencheva-Malinowski (telephone : 00 33 (0)3 88 41 35 70)
Céline Menu-Lange (telephone : 00 33 (0)3 90 21 58 77)
The European Court of Human Rights was set up in Strasbourg by the Council of Europe Member States in 1959 to deal with alleged violations of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights.
1 Under Article 43 of the Convention, within three months from the date of a Chamber judgment, any party to the case may, in exceptional cases, request that the case be referred to the 17 member Grand Chamber of the Court. In that event, a panel of five judges considers whether the case raises a serious question affecting the interpretation or application of the Convention or its protocols, or a serious issue of general importance, in which case the Grand Chamber will deliver a final judgment. If no such question or issue arises, the panel will reject the request, at which point the judgment becomes final. Otherwise Chamber judgments become final on the expiry of the three-month period or earlier if the parties declare that they do not intend to make a request to refer.
1 This summary by the Registry does not bind the Court.