Criminal responsibility may be invoked for such offences as intentional bodily injury, murder, threatening to commit murder or to inflict serious bodily injury, rape and others. 

Making perpetrators responsible for domestic violence demonstrates the ability of the State to enforce human rights. The failure of the State to conduct appropriate criminal or administrative proceedings and convict the perpetrator may result in a violation of human rights.  

Criminal responsibility & Human rights

The right to life, the prohibition of inhumane or degrading treatment and the right to private and family life

Conducting effective criminal proceedings and calling perpetrators of domestic violence to criminal responsibility is an essential remedy of the State to protect the rights of victims and to prevent human rights violations. If the pertinent authorities fail to protect the victim by effectively investigating, charging, trying and, if appropriate, convicting the perpetrator, it may result in a violation of the right to life, the prohibition of inhumane or degrading treatment and the right to private and family life.

Prohibition of discrimination

Domestic violence is considered to be a form of discrimination against women, as it affects mainly women. If the State (in this case – the pertinent authorities) fails to conduct effective criminal proceedings and call the perpetrator to responsibility, it may result in a violation of the prohibition of discrimination in conjunction with a violation of the right to life, the prohibition against inhumane or degrading treatment, and the right to private and family life.

Right to a fair trial

If the victims of domestic violence have been recognized as victims in criminal proceedings, they have a number of rights pertinent to a fair trial. For example, under certain circumstances, they have the right to free legal aid. If the failure of the State to ensure those fair trial guarantees towards the victims has resulted in an unfair process for the victims, it may lead to the violation of the right to a fair trial

About this section

This section of the Guide will explain the types of criminal offenses which may be committed in the context of domestic violence and how to invoke the responsibility of the perpetrator.

Human Rights Guide

A European platform for human rights education