ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The European Court of Human Rights ruled Tuesday that authorities in Greece violated the privacy rights of a group of women who were arrested and publicly identified in 2012 as HIV-positive prostitutes who allegedly endangered public health.
The case was brought to the Strasbourg, France-based court by 11 Greek women, 10 of whom had been arrested and charged with intentionally attempting to inflict serious bodily harm by allegedly having unprotected sex with customers.
The 11th woman was mistakenly identified as a sex worker instead of her sister. Five of the case’s original petitioners have since died.
The court found that Greek authorities had violated the privacy of two women by forcibly subjecting them to blood tests, and of four of the women by publishing their personal details. It awarded a total of 70,000 euros ($76,000) in damages.
“The information disseminated concerned the applicants’ HIV-positive status, disclosure of which was likely to dramatically affect their private and family life, as well as social and employment situation, since its nature was such as to expose them to opprobrium and the risk of ostracism,” the court said in a news release about the ruling.
The prosecutor who ordered the publication of the women’s personal information “had not examined … whether other measures, capable of ensuring a lesser degree of exposure for the applicants, could have been taken,” it added.
In the run-up to Greece’s 2012 elections, the country’s health minister at the time, Andreas Loverdos, championed a crackdown on unlicensed brothels following a spike in reported HIV cases. He had warned of an increase in the incidence of customers having unprotected sex with prostitutes for an additional fee.
Prostitution is legal in Greece, with regular health checks for sex workers required.
As part of the crackdown, women were rounded up from illegal brothels and streets and forced to undergo HIV testing at police stations. Criminal charges were filed against more than 30 women, with authorities publishing the personal details, photos and HIV status of most of them, along with the accusation that they had deliberately endangered their clients by having sex without condoms.
Several of the women involved have since died, including one who was reported to have taken her own life.