European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association

Sweden violated human rights by compulsory isolating HIV positive person

On 25 January 2005, the European Court of Human Rights delivered a judgement in which Sweden was found violating Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention on Human Rights for compulsory isolating an HIV positive person.

Sweden violated human rights by compulsory isolating HIV positive person

The applicant is a Swedish national who in 1994 discovered he was infected with the HIV virus and transmitted the virus to another man in 1990. The local medical officer applied at the court for an order to keep the applicant in compulsory isolation in a hospital in order to prevent him from spreading the HIV infection. The applicant’s actual deprivation of liberty lasted almost one and a half years altogether.

The Court held unanimously that the compulsory isolation of the applicant was not a last resort in order to prevent him from spreading the HIV virus after less severe measures had been considered and found to be insufficient to safeguard the public interest. Moreover, by extending over a period of almost seven years the order for the applicant’s compulsory isolation, with the result that he had been placed involuntarily in a hospital for almost one and a half years in total, the authorities had failed to strike a fair balance between the need to ensure that the HIV virus did not spread and the applicant’s right to liberty.

Brigit Jaksa of the Habeas Corpus Working Group said: ‘Due to the long window period of the HIV infection and the fact that it is not reversible after a few days, HIV cannot be handled on the basis of traditional methods like quarantine. The Court made a stand against deprivation of liberty in case of arbitrary acts of authorities that mainly resonates uneducated public hysteria.’

For more information please contact:

Juris Lavrikovs 
Information & Communications Officer 
Telephone: + 32 – 2 609 54 16 
E-mail: juris@ilga-europe.org

Notes to editors:

  • Full text of the European Court of Human Rights media release regarding the case of Enhorn v. Sweden (application no. 56529/00) can be found on the Court’s website: http://press.coe.int/cp/2005/027a(2005).htm.
  • The Habeas Corpus Working Groups is a Hungarian NGO providing legal advice to victims of discrimination and abuse including women, lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people, and HIV positive people. More information at: www.habeascorpus.hu.