In a landmark decision, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that a victim of human trafficking had the right to seek compensation from their trafficker under Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which prohibits slavery and forced labor.

The case reached the European court following a complaint filed by a female sex worker from Bulgaria who sought compensation for loss of earnings gained from sexual activities, which had been extracted from her by her trafficker.

In the unanimous ruling, the European Court of Human Rights found a violation of Article 4 of the ECHR. Bulgarian courts had initially denied compensation, arguing that the woman had engaged in prostitution and that returning the profits to her would contradict “good morals.”

The Strasbourg Court ruled that states are obligated to allow human trafficking victims to claim compensation for lost profits from traffickers. It emphasized that Bulgarian authorities had not properly weighed the right of the plaintiff, under Article 4, to make such a claim, deeming it unlikely to consider the payment of compensation in such a situation as unethical.

The ECHR unanimously found a violation of Article 4 (prohibition of slavery and forced labor) of the ECHR and awarded the woman, who had filed the appeal, €6,000 for moral damages and €3,100 for expenses.