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Czech Republic / Constitutional Court / II. ÚS 3436/14

Plaintiffs: Pham Hung Long, Hoang Quang Huy, Nguyen Van Nam, Nguyen Van Tuan, Le Anh Hung, Bui Dinh Chien, Nguyen Van Thang, Le Thi Mai, Le Van Thuyen, Vu Van Cuong, Pham Xuan Kiet, Nguyen Van Hien, Duong Van Tue, Khuc Tien Toan, Le Van Nam, Nguyen Van Huy, Dao Van Hong, Bui Thi Anh, Nguyen Van Ben

Policy area:
Justice, freedom and security
Deciding Body type:
National Court/Tribunal
Deciding Body:
Constitutional Court
Type:
Decision
Decision date:
19/01/2016

Key facts of the case: 

The plaintiffs, citizens of Vietnam, signed a contract of employment and were then forced for a year to perform hard work in the forest. They got no wage and they could not leave because they were threatened. Afterwards, the plaintiffs reported this to the Police, but neither the Police nor the Public Prosecutor’s Office (Státní zastupitelství) started criminal proceedings for formal reasons, even though this was likely a case of human trafficking. After exhausting all other legal options, the plaintiffs filed a constitutional complaint. The plaintiffs claimed that there was a breach of a right to a fair trial, equality, human dignity and the right not to perform forced or compulsory labour. The Police and the Public Prosecutor’s Office claimed that they followed the correct procedure as allegedly no criminal offences had been committed.

The Constitutional Court stated that there was a high probability that human trafficking had been committed. Therefore the investigation of the Police and the Public Prosecutor’s Office should have been exhaustive, not negligent. This duty arises not only from the importance of the right to personal freedom, but also from EU law commitments, especially Directive 2011/36/EU on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims, and Article 5 of the Charter. 

Outcome of the case: 

The Constitutional Court stated that the process of the authorities involved in criminal proceedings was negligent. The authorities involved in criminal proceedings must proceed exhaustively, especially when the interests at stake are so important (such as life, personal freedom etc.). Also, the proceedings must be free of arbitrariness. Therefore the Constitutional Court annulled the decisions of the authorities involved in criminal proceedings and ordered them to judge the case again.