Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) addresses the prohibition of slavery, servitude, forced labour, and human trafficking. This article is designed to protect individuals from various forms of exploitation and forced labour.
Article 4 – Prohibition of Slavery, Servitude, Forced Labour, and Human Trafficking
Prohibition of slavery and servitude: Article 4(1) explicitly states that no one shall be held in slavery or servitude. This means that individuals cannot be treated as property, owned, or subjected to conditions akin to slavery or servitude.
Prohibition of forced labour: Article 4(2)(a) prohibits forced or compulsory labour. Forced labor refers to any work or service that a person is compelled to perform against their will and under the threat of penalty. It includes situations where individuals are coerced into labour through threats, violence, or other forms of intimidation.
Exceptions: While Article 4 establishes a general prohibition on slavery, servitude, and forced labour, it allows for certain exceptions, provided that they are not applied inhumanely. These exceptions include:
- Work required as a consequence of a conviction: Article 4(3)(a) allows for compulsory labour or service that is required as a consequence of a conviction in a court of law. However, even in such cases, the work or service must not be performed under conditions that violate human dignity.
- Work required in cases of emergency or calamity: Article 4(3)(b) permits forced labour or service that is required in cases of an emergency, such as a natural disaster or other serious calamity, to protect life or well-being. Again, it emphasises that the work must not be performed under conditions that violate human dignity.
Prohibition of human trafficking: Article 4(2)(b) addresses human trafficking, explicitly prohibiting the trafficking of persons for various purposes, including exploitation. Human trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, or receipt of individuals through the use of force, coercion, fraud, or deception for the purpose of exploitation.
Positive obligation: Article 4 places a positive obligation on state parties to take effective measures to prevent and combat slavery, servitude, forced labour, and human trafficking within their jurisdiction. States are required to enact laws, provide protection and assistance to victims, and prosecute those responsible for such practices.
No derogation: Unlike some other articles in the ECHR that allow for derogation in times of public emergency, Article 4 explicitly states that there can be no derogation from its provisions, emphasising the importance of protecting individuals from these forms of exploitation under all circumstances.
In summary, Article 4 of the ECHR is a vital provision that prohibits slavery, servitude, forced labour, and human trafficking in all circumstances. It places both negative and positive obligations on state parties to prevent and combat these practices, protect victims, and ensure that individuals are not subjected to exploitation or forced labour.