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World Organisation Against Torture v. Portugal

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Court/Judicial body:: European Committee of Social Rights

Citation: No. 34/2006
Date: 5 December 2006
Instrument(s) cited: European Social Charter

Case summary

In May 2007, the European Committee of Social Rights ruled that Portugal was in breach of its obligations under the European Social Charter for failing to ban corporal punishment in legislation in all settings, as required under  Article 17. The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) lodged a collective complaint against Portugal after the Portuguese Supreme Court decided, in April 2006, that “moderate punishments administered to the minor by the person end to do it and whose purpose is exclusively educational and adequate to the situation, are not unlawful.” The case concerned an allegation of cruelty and ill treatment against children. OMCT complained on the grounds that the new interpretation of the law, by Portugal’s highest Court, amounted to a toleration of corporal punishment and set a dangerous precedent. OMCT originally lodged a complaint against Portugal in 2003, arguing that the law in question failed to protect children from corporal punishment and other humiliating treatment. However, in its response in June 2005, the European Committee of Social Rights decided that Portugal’s caselaw did in fact prohibit all corporal punishment.  OMCT complained again in 2006, but its second complaint was declared admissible. The Portuguese Government maintained that its Criminal Code explicitly prohibits violence against children. It added that the Criminal Code is currently being revised to establish a new offence, in articles 152 and 152A, for inflicting physical or psychological ill-treatment, including corporal punishment, in cases where the infliction is “intense or repeated”. 

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