Keywords: vulnerable persons, case-law, European Court of Human Rights, European Convention on Human Rights, definition
Abstract: The aim of this paper is to reflect on three research questions, namely: 1) how to define the term “vulnerability”, 2) what are the vulnerability criteria, and 3) what is the effect of categorizing a person as “vulnerable”. The answer to these three questions is sought through the prism of the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The analysis of the ECHR case-law indicates that there is no precise definition of the term “vulnerable person”. The ECHR identifies some people as vulnerable, but the inclusion of people into this category is often very subjective, although it can rely on international documents. The designation of people as vulnerable usually means that the ECHR will require active behaviour from the state to protect them. In addition, the ECHR has ruled that in cases concerning vulnerable persons, the state has a narrow margin of appreciation. Under certain circumstances, in view of the particular vulnerability of some individuals, the ECHR has even allowed exceptions to its procedural rules.