Three applicants of Roma ethnic origin were sterilized without full and informed consent in a public hospital during childbirth.

The first applicant, I.G., was sterilized in 2000 during her second childbirth via Caesarian section. After the childbirth, a doctor asked her to sign a document that all women who had Caesarean sections had to sign. I.G. learned about the sterilization a few years later during an investigation into her case. She submitted that her sterilization had been contrary to Slovak law, as at the relevant time she was 16 years old and her legal guardians had not consented to the procedure. She was living in constant fear that her partner would leave her because she cannot bear him anymore children.

The second applicant, M.K., was sterilized in 1999 during her second childbirth via Cesarean section. She was 17 years old and neither she nor her legal guardians signed any document consenting to sterilization. She learned about the sterilization a few years later during a criminal investigation into her case. Due to M.K.’s inability to have more children, her partner left her and her social status in her community fell and, as a result, it was very difficult for her to find a new partner. M.K. suffered serious medical side-effects from her sterilization.

The third applicant, R.H., was told she would have to deliver her twins by Caesarean section. She was given a pre-medication injection which made her dizzy. She was then asked to sign a paper because she was going to have a Caesarean section. R.H. died eight years later, from causes unstated in the case. The third applicant’s children pursued the application.

All three applicants also claimed they received inferior treatment in the hospital because of racial prejudices. In particular, the applicants stated that they had been accommodated separately from non-Roma women in the so called “Gypsy rooms”. They had been prevented from using the same bathrooms and toilets as non-Roma women, and could not enter the dining room, where there was a television set.

A long process of criminal and civil proceedings was instituted which ended in the General Prosecutor’s Office finding that contrary to what the prosecuting authorities at the lower level had held, the applicants could not be considered injured parties for the purpose of the criminal proceedings, as they had suffered no harm to their health, nor any other damage, and their rights had not been infringed. As for civil proceedings, the first applicant was not entitled to compensation since she had undergone a hysterectomy several days after her sterilization. The second applicant was compensated 1,593.3 euros. The third applicant’s proceedings were discontinued by the court because under the relevant law the right claimed had been extinguished upon her death. The applicants also lodged a complaint with the Constitutional Court which ultimately said it lacked jurisdiction since the applicants had exclusively challenged the decision of the regional prosecutor’s office, and since the Constitutional Court was bound by the way in which they had specified the subject matter of their complaint.

The applicants then filed a complaint before the European Court of Human Rights, alleging violations of their right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 3), right to respect for private and family life (Article 8), right to found a family (Article 12), right to an effective remedy (Article 13), and freedom from discrimination (Article 14) read in conjunction with Articles 3, 8, and 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights.