Strasbourg (AFP) - Europe's top rights court rapped France Thursday for failing to recognise the relationship between two French couples and their children born to surrogates in the United States.
France had refused to register the three children born as a result of surrogacy arrangements as the couples' legal offspring, a fact which would secure them nationality and full inheritance rights.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that this denial by French authorities ran contrary to the European Convention of Human Rights.
Dominique and Sylvie Mennesson and Francis and Monique Labassee turned to the ECHR in 2011 after a French court rejected their bid to have the children registered as their own.
In both cases, the couples went to the United States for surrogacy, the practice of making an arrangement for a woman to carry a pregnancy for intended parents.
Twin girls were born to the Mennessons in 2000 while a girl was born to the Labassees a year later.
The children had received legal recognition in the United States as their parents' offspring and hold US nationality, but in France any surrogacy arrangement is illegal.
French authorities "suspecting that the cases involved surrogacy arrangements, refused to enter the birth certificates in the French register of births, deaths and marriages," the court said.
The "right to respect for their private life, which implied that everyone should be able to establish the essence of his or her own identity, including his or her parentage, was significantly affected," the ECHR said.
It said there had also been a violation "concerning the children's right to respect for their private life."
The court ordered France to pay 5,000 euros ($6,800) to each of the Mennesson twins as damages and 15,000 euros to their parents for legal costs and expenses.
In the Labassee case, the court ordered France to pay 5,000 euros to the child and 4,000 euros to her parents towards legal costs.