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Spain sets milestone in international human rights law, say UN women’s rights experts

Spain sets milestone in international human rights law

08 November 2018


GENEVA (8 November 2018) — The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) welcomes the decision by Spain’s highest court in favour of a victim of domestic violence, which reaffirmed that Spanish law must incorporate the rights and freedoms of human rights treaties.

This historic judgment centres on the CEDAW’s decision in an individual complaint case brought by Angela González Carreño against Spain. In 1999, when her daughter Andrea was three years old, Ms.González Carreño left her husband after he threatened her with a knife. Over a number of years, she brought complaints against him to the Spanish legal system, seeking to protect her daughter from having to spend time with her father, as ordered by the courts. On 24 April 2003, following a judicial hearing on the matter, Ms. González Carreño’s husband "approached her and told her that he was going [to] take away what mattered most to her," according to CEDAW’s documents on the case. Later the same day, the police found the lifeless bodies of Andrea and her father, and concluded that he had shot his daughter and then committed suicide.

"I was struck by the gravity of this case, which is one of the most disturbing and critical complaints received over the years. An innocent girl was murdered by her father despite her mother’s repeated requests to Government authorities to prevent any harm," said Yoko Hayashi, a member of CEDAW.

In 2012, Ms. González Carreño took her case to CEDAW  alleging that the actions of the police, administrative and judicial authorities constituted a violation of her right not to be subjected to gender based discrimination. In 2014, CEDAW found that Spain had violated her human rights under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Among other recommendations, CEDAW recommended Spain pay Ms. González Carreño compensation, and to take measures to ensure that past acts of domestic violence are taken into consideration when determining custody and visitation rights regarding children.

Ms. González Carreño was obliged to take the case to the Spanish courts to enforce compliance with the Committee’s recommendation; a case that went all the way to Spain’s Supreme Court. On appeal, the Supreme Court enforced compliance with the Committee’s recommendations, and recognized the violation of her rights by Spain, ordering the Government to pay 600,000 Euros as compensation for the moral damages she had suffered.

In reaching its decision, the Supreme Court acknowledged that the provisions of international treaties to which Spain is a party, form part of its law and that the recommendations of CEDAW are binding in nature. Therefore, the findings of the Committee need to be effectively respected and applied so that the rights and liberties provided for in such treaties are "real and concrete" in Spain.

"This case is a milestone for international human rights law. We hope that Spain will apply the other recommendations we made with regard to custody and visitation rights, the application of due diligence in domestic violence cases and the provision of mandatory training for judges and law enforcement officers," said Hayashi.



For more information and media requests, please contact Julia Grønnevet (+41) 22 917 93 10 / [email protected])

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women monitors States parties’ adherence to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which to date has 189 States parties. The Committee also has the authority to undertake confidential inquiries in States which have ratified its Optional Protocol. The Committee is made up of 23 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties. 

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