The European Court of Human Rights has instructed the Portuguese State to award a Cape Verdean woman living in Portugal, €15,000 in compensation for the forced adoption of her seven children.
The European Court's judges considered the adoption decisions taken by the court in Sintra as illegal, even though these later were confirmed by Portugal's Supreme Court, as they forced Liliana Melo to hand over her children for adoption.
In a ruling released today, seven judges at the the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, considered that there had been a clear violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to respect a private and family life, and instructed that the case should be re-examined to look at "appropriate measures in the best interests of the children."
The court also provided for the payment of €15,000 in compensation to the children's mother for 'moral damages.'
Liliana Melo’s children were taken from her and placed in institutions for later adoption. The Cape Verdean, who has lived in Portugal for twenty years, had her children taken in 2012, the youngest being only six months old, the eldest was seven, by a decision made in Sintra court.
The European Court concluded that these adoptions did not reach "a fair balance between the interests at stake," in that Liliana Melo was deprived of her parental rights and contact with her children.
The Sintra court said that Liliana’s children must be vaccinated, she must maintain good housing conditions for them and be able to provide for them but, worst of all, she must undergo a sterilisation operation.
The European judges found that Liliana’s refusal to be sterilised was one of the aspects of her case that was used against her in Portugal’s court system and was a particularly serious issue.
Social services "could have recommended less intrusive contraception" and Liliana's refusal to be sterilised clearly worked against her in court.
"In the opinion of the European court, the use of a sterilisation procedure should never be a condition for maintaining parental rights," reads the judgment which added that taking away the children was not justified as there were no signs of violence towards them.
The children also had been separated from each other and placed in three different institutions "making it difficult to maintain ties between brothers" and "was contrary to the best interests of the children."
The absence of an independent psychological report also was noted by the European judges whose criticism of the Portuguese justice system extended to the Supreme Court which merely "copied and pasted" the decision of the Sintra court.
The European Court considers that "the authorities should reconsider the situation of Liliana Melo, with a view to taking appropriate action in the best interests of her children.”
The inclusion of a sterilisation clause had long been denied by social services and Portugal’s judges but it was found to have been the case.