Jean Allain, “Rantsev v Cyprus and Russia: The European Court of Human Rights and Trafficking as Slavery” (2010) Human Rights Law Review 10:3(2010), 546-557
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On 7 January 2010, the European Court of Human Rights (the ‘Court’) rendered judgment in Rantsev v Cyprus and Russia, a case that will be laurelled for revealing the human cost of sex tourism in Europe and the Court’s willingness to take on the issue of trafficking of women. That human cost is brought into sharp relief with the fate of Oxana Rantseva, a 21-year-old woman from Russia, who stepped off a plane in Cyprus in 2001 and less than a fortnight later was dead. As important as this case is for taking aim at the exploitive nature of the sex industry and the willingness of States to turn a blind eye to it, Rantsev brings with it questions regarding the very ability of the Court to adjudicate over issues emanating from Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). With the determination of the Court that obligations emanating from Article 4 of the ECHR come into play because trafficking is based on slavery, the Court reveals itself as not having truly engaged with the legal distinctions that exist between these two concepts. As a result, the Court has further muddied the waters as to where legal distinction should be made regarding various types of human exploitation, be it the forced labour, servitude or slavery.