In December 2002, Sahide Goekce was murdered by her husband following years of domestic violence. Between 1999 and 2002, she had repeatedly reported incidents of violence to the authorities. On two occasions the public prosecutor refused police requests to arrest and detain Mr. Goekce. In October 2002, as criminal proceedings were ongoing, Mr. Goecke violated an injunction forbidding him from contacting Ms. Goekce or returning to the family home. Police were informed of the situation, including that Mr. Goekce owned a handgun and that he had made further threats to his wife’s life. However, in December 2002 the prosecutor ended the criminal proceedings on grounds that there was insufficient reason to prosecute Mr. Goecke. Two days after the proceedings ended, Ms. Goekce called emergency services but received no official response. A few hours later Mr. Goekce shot his wife in their apartment. He was later tried and convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Two Austrian civil society organizations, the Vienna Intervention Centre against Domestic Violence and the Association for Women’s Access to Justice, filed a communication on Ms. Goekce’s behalf to the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, alleging that Austria had violated articles 1, 2, 3 and 5 of the Convention.
The Committee recognized that States must not only put in place an adequate legal framework to protect individuals at risk of domestic violence, but must also effectively implement that framework in each case. The Committee held that Austrian authorities had failed to exercise due diligence to protect Ms. Goekce and to prevent further episodes of domestic violence. It found that the authorities were on notice as to the risk and should have arrested and detained Mr. Goekce, as requested by the police; in addition, the police should have known Mrs. Goekce was in danger at the time of her last telephone call, and should have treated it as an emergency meriting an immediate response. It held that the State had thus failed to protect Mrs. Goekce’s rights to life and to physical and mental integrity under the Convention. It outlined that the State should: ensure that officials exercise due diligence to prevent and respond to domestic violence; vigilantly prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence in a timely manner; enhance coordination among law enforcement and judicial officers and ensure official cooperation with civil society organizations; and strengthen domestic violence training programs and education for judges, lawyers and law enforcement officials.