In March 2022, the European Commission put forward its ‘Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on combatting violence against women and domestic violence’. Under this proposal, the Commission seeks to criminalise at EU level various offences including certain forms of cyber violence and female genital mutilation - but not forced sterilisation.

Ben and Annahita were instructed to advise on whether the EU has the competence to criminalise forced sterilisation at EU level and therefore whether forced sterilisation should be included within the Commission’s proposal.  In summary, their legal opinion (accessible here) provides:

  • Forced sterilisation impacts the human rights to healthcare, and private and family life; and against torture and other ill-treatment
  • Forced sterilisation is not consistently or adequately criminalised by all EU Member States 
  • The EU has the competence to criminalise forced sterilisation

Ben Keith of 5 St Andrew’s Hill says:

“We hope that this advice makes clear the case that the issue of forced sterilisation is brought to the urgent attention of the EU and Council of Europe for inclusion in the new Directive. The barbaric practice should be outlawed. It is particularly alarming that these attacks on the fundamental rights of the person are carried out mainly on women and those with disabilities.”

Annahita Moradi-Balf of One Pump Court says:

“There is clear concern from reputable sources that forced sterilisation is being systematically practised within the EU. Women with disabilities and/or from certain racially and ethnically minoritised backgrounds are particularly at risk. The European Court of Human Rights has found violations of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights in such cases. Without question, joint EU efforts are needed to effectively prevent this crime and to protect and promote the human rights of all affected individuals and individuals at risk.”

The opinion is available here.

For more information on EDF’s work on criminalising forced sterilisation in the EU, click here.

Ben Keith is a leading barrister specialising in cross-border and international cases. He deals with all aspects of Extradition, Human Rights, Mutual Legal Assistance, Interpol, Financial crime and International Law including sanctions. He represents governments, political and military leaders, High Net Worth individuals, human rights defenders and business leaders in the most sensitive cases.

He has extensive experience of appellate proceedings before the Administrative and Divisional Courts, Civil and Criminal Divisions of the Court of Appeal as well as applications and appeals to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and United Nations. A specialist in political cases and those arising from corporate raiding (see recent seminar at Chatham House here).