Backlund v. Finland

European Court of Human Rights
6 July 2010


The applicant, Mr Backlund, was born out of wedlock in 1937. Mr Backlund wanted to establish the paternity in 2002 after receiving positive DNA confirmation of the suspicion that Mr N.S. is his father. However, the national courts refused to do it, as the Paternity Act provided a time limit of five years for claims relating to children born before its coming into force in 1976. Namely, Mr Backlund should have made his claim no later than 1981.


Mr Backlund complained that the time-limit for establishing the paternity gave rise to a violation of his rights under Article 8 as he could not have the paternity established, despite the conclusive DNA tests.

Court's ruling

The Court reminded that paternity proceedings fall within the scope of Article 8 as the right to know one's ascendants falls within the scope of the concept of “private life”. Concept of “private life” includes important aspects of one's personal identity, such as the identity of one's parents. Therefore the time bar to establish the paternity limits the right to private life.

The Court found that the limitation prescribed by the Paternity Act had a legitimate aim - to protect the interests of putative fathers from stale claims concerning facts that go back many years, interest of putative father's family members and general interest in legal certainty

In order to analyze whether the fair balance was struck between the applicant’s right to private life and the legitimate interests of others, the Court weighted as follows:

  • even though the applicant had a DNA test indicating with conclusive certainty that N.S. was his biological father, he was deprived of the possibility of having this fact legally confirmed
  • there were no possibilities to re-open the time bar or other kind of remedies available to Mr Backlund

Because of the absolute nature of the time-bar and the consequences of it, the Court ruled that a fair balance had not been struck between the competing interests and, consequently, that Mr Backlund’s right to private life protected under Article 8 of the Convention has been violated.

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Last updated 08/11/2023