Article 4 | Anti-slavery
(1) No one shall be held in slavery or servitude.
(2) No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.
(3) For the purposes of this Article “forced or compulsory labour” shall not include:
(a) any work required to be done in the ordinary course of detention imposed according to the provisions of Art.5 of the Convention or during conditional release from such detention.
(b) any service of a military character, or in the case of conscientious objectors in countries where they are recognised, service exacted instead of compulsory military service.
(c) any service exacted in case of an emergency or calamity threatening the life or well-being of the community.
(d) any work or service which forms part of normal civic obligations.
This Article admits of no derogations or limitations in respect of slavery or servitude. Forced labour may, however, be imposed in circumstances set out in Art.4(3).
In reality, most applications are made under Art.4(2). There are two elements in the definition of forced labour derived from International Labour Organisation Convention No. 29 (1930) (incorporated into Convention jurisprudence in X v Federal Republic of Germany (1974) 17 YbK 148):
(1) the work must be performed involuntarily;
(2) the requirement to do the work must be unjust or oppressive or the work itself involve avoidable hardship.
An early authority on forced labour was Iverson v Norway (1963) 6 YbK 278. The applicant was convicted after abandoning his post in the public dental service in a northern district which he had been required to take up under Norwegian legislation for a year. The European Commission of Human Rights held that the public dental service ordinance had not imposed forced labour for the purposes of Art.4 since it did not fulfil the conditions set out by the ILO (above). The work was “for a short period, provided favourable remuneration and did not involve any discriminatory, arbitrary or punitive application”.
Recently the Strasbourg Court has ruled that trafficking in human beings, although not epxlicitly mentioned in the ECHR, falls within the scope of Article 4: Rantsev v. Cyprus and Russia In this case, the Court laid down the obligations of governments under Article 4 in the modern climate of trade in humans:
… in addition to criminal law measures to punish traffickers, Article 4 requires member States to put in place adequate measures regulating businesses often used as a cover for human trafficking. Furthermore, a State’s immigration rules must address relevant concerns relating to encouragement, facilitation or tolerance of trafficking.