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Mennesson v. France

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Mennesson v. France

European Court of Human Rights

Mennesson v. France, Application no 65192/11, Council of Europe: European Court of Human Rights, 26 June 2014

26 June 2014

Instrument(s) Cited:
European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR): Article 8 (Right to respect for family and private life)

Case Summary:

The four complainants are two parents and their daughters. The first two complainants – Mr and Mrs Mennesson – are French citizens who concluded an international surrogacy agreement with a woman from California in the United States, where such agreements are recognised by law. The surrogate underwent in vitro fertilisation treatment with embryos conceived using donor egg cell and sperm from Mr Mennesson and became pregnant with twins. The children, who are the third and fourth complainants in the case, were born in the United States in 2000 and issued a birth certificate recognising Mr and Mrs Mennesson as their legal parents. On the complainants’ return to France, the French authorities refused to issue a French birth certificate for the children recognising Mr and Mrs Mennesson as the legal parents, meaning that the children could not acquire French nationality. The refusal was made on the grounds of public policy because surrogacy agreements are not recognised by French law. The complainants asked the European Court to review the decision’s compatibility with their right to respect for private and family life.

Issue and resolution:
Refusal of birth certificate. The Court found unanimously that the French authorities’ refusal violated the children’s right to family life under the European Convention.

Court reasoning:
Examining the rights of the parents, the Court considered that the effects of the French authorities’ decision did not cause excessive disruption to their family life that would amount to a violation of their human rights. As they were able to reside in France together as a family, a just balance was achieved between the interests of the parents to care for their children and the interests of the state to discourage the practice of surrogacy.

However, in relation to the right of the children complainants, the Court decided that the refusal to issue a birth certificate, which put the children in a position of legal uncertainty, constituted a violation of the right to respect for their private life. Considering the fact that they are related biologically to one of their parents, it cannot be claimed that it is in the interest of the children to be deprived of that legal relationship. Therefore, given the serious restriction on the children’s ability to establish their identity in law, the right to respect for private and family life protected by the Convention has been violated.

The French government has indicated that it will not seize the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights to review this decision, it remains to be seen what impact, if any, this development will have on French law in this area.

See also Labassee v. France.

Link to Full Judgment:

This case summary is provided by the Child Rights International Network for educational and informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.