X v. Spain
OHCHR – Human Rights Committee
Communication No. 1456/2006
27 July 2008
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: articles 14, paragraph 1 (Presumption of innocence); 17 (Right to privacy/family life) and 24, paragraph 1 (Special protection of children).
X, the author of the communication was a Spanish national acting on her own behalf and on behalf of her daughter, Y, born in 1994. She claimed that her daughter was a victim of violations by Spain of article 14, paragraph 1, and of article 24, paragraph 1, read in conjunction with article 17, of the Covenant.
In this case, a very young child – 3 years old at the time of the facts – was allegedly the victim of serious sexual abuse by her father during the visits to him who was legally separated from her mother. Criminal proceedings, initiated by X occurred, but the Spanish court concluded that the evidences failed “to provide solid grounds for the conclusion that abuse actually occurred”. A videotaped statement by the child was especially excluded by the Spanish criminal courts, because it consisted of leading questions and suggested answers, repetitively put to the child, and the child was no longer able to testify to the events in open court because of loss of memory. The father was therefore acquitted.
In her complaint before the Committee, the mother claimed “that there was a denial of justice constituting a violation of article 14, paragraph 1, because the trial courts invalidated an item of evidence, the video‑recording of the minor’s statement, which by its very nature could not have been submitted in any other form because of the minor’s young age and the delay in bringing the legal proceedings”.
In its decision, the Committee referred to its well-established jurisprudence, according to which it is generally for domestic courts to evaluate facts and evidence, unless it can be ascertained that such evaluation was manifestly arbitrary or amounted to a denial of justice. The Committee noted that the Provincial Court thoroughly analysed each and every item of evidence, including the video-recording of the minor, and concluded that it was inadequate on account of the circumstances in which it was taken and the minor’s young age. The Committee considered that it was not in a position to rule on the soundness of the arguments advanced by the Provincial Court to dismiss the probative value of the evidence, in the light of the Court’s detailed reasoning and line of argument. Therefore, the Committee considered that there was insufficient basis for the conclusion that the domestic courts acted arbitrarily in evaluating the evidence. Having failed to find a violation of article 14, paragraph 1, the Committee also considered that the complaints under articles 17 and 24 had no basis in law.
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