Speedy judicial review of migrant detention
Aden Ahmed v. Malta, 23 July 2013:
“115. The Court notes that the courts exercising constitutional jurisdiction in the Maltese legal system would have been competent to examine the lawfulness of the applicant’s detention in the light of the Convention. The Court notes, however, that it has held on numerous occasions that constitutional proceedings in Malta are rather cumbersome for Article 5 § 4 purposes, and that lodging a constitutional application does not ensure a speedy review of the lawfulness of an applicant’s detention (see Sabeur Ben Ali v. Malta, no. 35892/97, § 40, 29 June 2000; Kadem, cited above, § 53; Stephens v. Malta (no. 2), no. 33740/06, § 90, 21 April 2009; and Louled Massoud, cited above, § 45). Where an individual’s personal liberty is at stake, the Court has very strict standards concerning the State’s compliance with the requirement of a speedy review of the lawfulness of detention (see, for example, Kadem, cited above, §§ 44-45; Rehbock v. Slovenia, no. 29462/95, § 82-86, ECHR 2000 XII, where the Court considered periods of seventeen and twenty-six days excessive for deciding on the lawfulness of the applicant’s detention; and Mamedova v. Russia, no. 7064/05, § 96, 1 June 2006, where the length of appeal proceedings lasting, inter alia, twenty-six days, was found to be in breach of the “speediness” requirement).
116. The Court notes the failure of the Government to submit any caselaw capable of showing that proceedings before the courts exercising constitutional jurisdiction, whether brought together with a request for hearing with urgency or otherwise, could be considered speedy for the purposes of Article 5 § 4. Moreover, the Court cannot ignore the statistics and the examples supplied by the applicant: one of these, which concerned the lawfulness of immigrants’ detention and the conditions of such detention, was still pending six years after it was lodged and a second example regarding the lawfulness of detention had taken more than six months to be decided. Such examples show little respect, if any, for the standards announced in the subsidiary legislation cited by the Government.
117. To sum up, the Government have not submitted any information or case-law capable of casting doubt on the Court’s prior conclusions as to the effectiveness of this remedy. In these circumstances, the Court remains of the view that, in the Maltese system, pursuing a constitutional application would not have provided the applicant with a speedy review of the lawfulness of her detention.
118. The Government can hardly be said to have contested the Court’s findings in respect of other available remedies, as they merely noted that the Court had already found these to be inadequate for the purposes of Article 5 § 4. They did, however, submit that a request for bail was an effective remedy for the purposes of the complaint under Article 5 § 1.
119. In that connection the Court notes that Article 5 § 4 requires a remedy to challenge the lawfulness of detention and providing for release if the detention is not lawful. Thus, even assuming that a request for bail was available in the applicant’s situation and that it could have resulted in temporary release, it would not have provided for a formal assessment of the lawfulness of the detention as required under Article 5 § 4. Moreover, the Government failed to submit evidence that bail proceedings under Article 25 A(6) were heard speedily.
120. In this connection the Court notes that it has already held that proceedings before the IAB under Article 25A of the Act could not be considered to determine requests speedily as required by Article 5 § 4 of the Convention (see Louled Massoud, cited above, § 44). The Government submitted no new examples capable of altering that conclusion. Moreover, the proceedings instituted by the applicant in the present case reaffirm that finding. Indeed in the applicant’s case the IAB failed to deliver a decision for more than six months, after which the proceedings were discontinued as the applicant had been released. The Court reiterates that where a decision is not delivered before the actual release date of the detainee, such a remedy is devoid of any legal or practical effect (ibid., and see, mutatis mutandis, Frasik v. Poland, no. 22933/02, § 66, 5 January 2010). In this connection the Court finds it relevant to note that a former detainee may well have a legal interest in the determination of the lawfulness of his or her detention even after having been released (see S.T.S. v. the Netherlands, no. 277/05, § 61, ECHR 2011).
121. Moreover, it appears that the length of proceedings before the IAB is problematic for the purposes of Article 5 § 4, irrespective of whether they are brought under the Act or under the regulations emanating from LN 81. Indeed the Court considers that proceedings to contest the lawfulness of detention under Regulation 11 (10) of LN 81 which are also lodged before the same board (even assuming they apply to persons in the applicant’s position) also fail to fulfil the speediness requirement, as is evident from the cases cited by the applicant, particularly that of Ibrahim Suzo where it took the IAB more than a year to determine the claim. Moreover, in the other three cases cited by the applicant the individuals were also released before a decision on the matter had been delivered despite the periods in question having ranged from two to nine months.
122. In the light of the above factors, the Court cannot but reiterate that proceedings before the IAB cannot be considered to determine requests speedily as required by Article 5 § 4 of the Convention.
123. The foregoing considerations are sufficient for the Court to conclude that it has not been shown that the applicant had at her disposal an effective and speedy remedy under domestic law by which to challenge the lawfulness of her detention.
124. Article 5 § 4 of the Convention has therefore been violated.”
New ECtHR judgment casting doubt on evidence evaluation and reasoning by French authorities in asylum cases
In the case of N.K. c. France, 19 December 2013, the Court cast again, similarly to the case of K.K. c. France, 10 October 2013, doubts on the assessment by the French authorities of persecution-related evidence and on the reasoning of the relevant décisions:
“44. Le requérant allègue avoir fui en raison des violences et persécutions subies de la part de sa famille et des autorités du fait de sa conversion à la confession ahmadie. Il dit être toujours recherché au Pakistan.
45. La Cour constate, tout d’abord, que le requérant présente un récit circonstancié et étayé par de nombreuses pièces documentaires, dont son acte de conversion, son acte de mariage attestant que chacun des mariés est de confession ahmadie, un mandat d’arrêt du 27 juillet 2009 et des copies de plaintes déposées contre lui. Elle observe que les documents produits tendent à corroborer les faits exposés. Elle note toutefois les réserves émises par le Gouvernement, au regard des décisions de l’OFPRA et de la CNDA, quant à la crédibilité du récit du requérant. La Cour relève qu’en l’espèce, les éléments apportés par le requérant – tant son récit que les preuves documentaires – furent écartés par les autorités au moyen de motivations succinctes. L’OFPRA, en premier lieu, a rejeté la demande d’asile, sans même avoir entendu le requérant, au seul motif que ses déclarations écrites étaient sommaires, peu crédibles et dénuées de précision personnalisée et argumentée. Statuant en appel, la CNDA s’est limitée à affirmer que les pièces du dossier ne présentaient pas de garanties d’authenticité suffisantes et qu’elles ne permettaient pas de tenir pour établis les faits allégués. Saisis à l’occasion de la demande de réexamen, l’OFPRA et la CNDA se sont bornés à indiquer que les faits allégués ne pouvaient être considérés comme nouveaux. Il en résulte que la Cour ne trouve pas d’éléments suffisamment explicites dans ces motivations des instances nationales pour écarter le récit du requérant. Elle observe, par ailleurs, que le Gouvernement ne lui a soumis aucun élément mettant manifestement en doute l’authenticité des documents produits. Eu égard à ce qui précède, la Cour estime que le Gouvernement n’a pas apporté d’informations pertinentes donnant des raisons suffisantes de douter de la véracité des déclarations du requérant quant aux événements à l’origine de son départ et, partant, qu’il n’existe aucune raison de douter de la crédibilité de ce dernier. Dès lors, il ne saurait être attendu du requérant qu’il prouve plus avant ses dires et l’authenticité des éléments de preuve par lui fournis.
46. La question demeure de savoir si le requérant court le risque de subir des mauvais traitements en cas de retour. Pour établir ce risque, le requérant produit notamment les rapports d’enquête préliminaire établis à la suite des plaintes déposées à son encontre. Ces documents, dont le Gouvernement ne conteste pas l’authenticité, attestent, à tout le moins, de ce que la confession ahmadie du requérant est connue des autorités et qu’elle a donné lieu à des poursuites notamment du chef de blasphème. La Cour en conclut que le requérant est perçu par les autorités pakistanaises non comme un simple pratiquant de la confession ahmadie mais comme un prosélyte et, partant, qu’il possède un profil marqué susceptible d’attirer défavorablement l’attention des autorités en cas de retour sur le territoire.
47. En conséquence, la Cour considère que, faute pour le Gouvernement de parvenir à mettre sérieusement en doute la réalité des craintes du requérant et compte tenu du profil de ce dernier et de la situation des Ahmadis au Pakistan, le renvoi du requérant vers son pays d’origine l’exposerait, au vu des circonstances de l’espèce, à un risque de mauvais traitements au regard de l’article 3 de la Convention.”
Detention of migrants if expulsion impossible at odds with Article 5 para. 1 f ECHR
Mikolenko v. Estonia, 8 October 2009:
“59. The Court reiterates that Article 5 § 1 (f) does not demand that detention be reasonably considered necessary, for example to prevent the individual from committing an offence or fleeing. Any deprivation of liberty under the second limb of Article 5 § 1 (f) will be justified, however, only for as long as deportation or extradition proceedings are in progress. If such proceedings are not prosecuted with due diligence, the detention will cease to be permissible under Article 5 § 1 (f) (see A. and Others v. the United Kingdom [GC], no. 3455/05, § 164, 19 February 2009, and Chahal v. the United Kingdom, 15 November 1996, § 113, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1996‑V).
60. The deprivation of liberty must also be “lawful”. Where the “lawfulness” of detention is in issue, including the question whether “a procedure prescribed by law” has been followed, the Convention refers essentially to national law and lays down the obligation to conform to the substantive and procedural rules of national law. Compliance with national law is not, however, sufficient: Article 5 § 1 requires in addition that any deprivation of liberty should be in keeping with the purpose of protecting the individual from arbitrariness. It is a fundamental principle that no detention which is arbitrary can be compatible with Article 5 § 1 and the notion of “arbitrariness” in Article 5 § 1 extends beyond lack of conformity with national law, so that a deprivation of liberty may be lawful in terms of domestic law but still arbitrary and thus contrary to the Convention (see Saadi, cited above, § 67). To avoid being branded as arbitrary, detention under Article 5 § 1 (f) must be carried out in good faith; it must be closely connected to the ground of detention relied on by the Government; the place and conditions of detention should be appropriate; and the length of the detention should not exceed that reasonably required for the purpose pursued (see A. and Others v. the United Kingdom, cited above, § 164, and, mutatis mutandis, Saadi, cited above, § 74).
61. As concerns the compliance of the applicant’s detention with national law in the present case, the Court observes that the domestic courts, in extending his detention every two months, found it lawful. The Court further observes that sections 23 and 25 of the Obligation to Leave and Prohibition of Entry Act, relied on by the domestic authorities, provided a legal basis for such detention.
62. However, as noted above, compliance with domestic law is not in itself sufficient to establish lack of arbitrariness and further elements, referred to in paragraph 60 above, must be examined in this context. One of these elements is the length of the detention, which should not exceed that reasonably required for the purpose pursued.
63. The court reiterates that deprivation of liberty under Article 5 § 1 (f) is justified only for as long as deportation proceedings are being conducted. It follows that if such proceedings are not being prosecuted with due diligence, the detention will cease to be justified under this subparagraph (see, mutatis mutandis, Quinn v. France, 22 March 1995, § 48, Series A no. 311).
64. The Court observes that the applicant’s detention with a view to expulsion was extraordinarily long. He was detained for more than three years and eleven months. While in the beginning of his detention the domestic authorities took steps to have documents issued to him, it must have become clear quite soon that these attempts were bound to fail as the applicant refused to co-operate and the Russian authorities were not prepared to issue him documents in the absence of his signed application, or to accept a temporary travel document the Estonian authorities were ready to issue. Indeed, the Russian authorities had made their position clear in both respects by as early as June 2004. Thereafter, although the Estonian authorities took repeated steps to solve the situation, there were also considerable periods of inactivity. In particular, the Court has been provided with no information on whether any steps with a view to the applicant’s deportation were taken from August 2004 to March 2006 (see paragraphs 18 to 33 above).
65. What is more, the applicant’s expulsion had become virtually impossible as for all practical purposes it required his co-operation, which he was not willing to give. While it is true that States enjoy an “undeniable sovereign right to control aliens’ entry into and residence in their territory” (see, for example, Saadi, cited above, § 64, with further references), the aliens’ detention in this context is nevertheless only permissible under Article 5 § 1 (f) if action is being taken with a view to their deportation. The Court considers that in the present case the applicant’s further detention cannot be said to have been effected with a view to his deportation as this was no longer feasible.
66. It is true that at some point the Estonian authorities could legitimately have expected that the applicant could be removed on the basis of the EU-Russia readmission agreement once it entered into force, as under this agreement the Russian authorities were required to issue travel documents to persons to be readmitted irrespective of their will. However, the agreement entered into force only on 1 June 2007, which was about three years and seven months after the applicant was placed in detention. In the Court’s opinion the applicant’s detention for such a long time even if the conditions of detention as such were adequate could not be justified by an expected change in the legal circumstances.
67. The Court also notes that after the applicant’s release on 9 October 2007 he was informed that he still had to comply with the order to leave. He was obliged to report to the Board at regular intervals (see paragraph 35 above). Thus, the authorities in fact had at their disposal measures other than the applicant’s protracted detention in the deportation centre in the absence of any immediate prospect of his expulsion.
68. The foregoing considerations are sufficient to enable the Court to conclude that the grounds for the applicant’s detention – action taken with a view to his deportation – did not remain valid for the whole period of his detention due to the lack of a realistic prospect of his expulsion and the domestic authorities’ failure to conduct the proceedings with due diligence.
There has accordingly been a violation of Article 5 § 1 of the Convention.”
Louled Massoud v. Malta, 27 July 2010:
“63. The Court notes that the applicant’s detention in prison fell initially under Article 5 § 1 (c), namely, the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence. It subsequently fell under sub-paragraph (a), namely, the lawful detention of a person after conviction by a competent court. These periods do not raise an issue before the Court.
64. After he served his sentence, the applicant was transferred to a detention centre and detained “with a view to deportation” within the meaning of Article 5 § 1 (f). It follows that the period of detention to be considered for the purposes of this complaint is that from 27 June 2007, the date when the applicant was placed in a detention centre pending the processing of his asylum claim, to 6 January 2009, when he was released. The duration of the detention therefore amounted to eighteen months and nine days. The Court notes that the entire duration of the detention was subsequent to the rejection of his asylum claim at first instance, on 24 April 2007, and that the final decision on his asylum claim was delivered three weeks after the commencement of his detention in the detention centre.
65. The Court must determine whether the duration of the detention was excessive and whether the authorities pursued the deportation proceedings with due diligence.
66. The Court observes that the delay in the present case is not as striking as that in other cases (see Chahal, cited above, and Raza v. Bulgaria, no. 31465/08, 11 February 2010, where the duration was of more than three and two and a half years respectively). However, the delay was not due to the need to wait for the courts to determine a legal challenge, the applicant’s asylum claim having been determined before his detention. Although the identity and nationality of the applicant had been determined, the Government submitted that repatriation had been difficult as the applicant was undocumented, the Algerian authorities had refused to issue the relevant documents and the applicant had been unwilling to cooperate. The Court notes that the Government have not submitted any details as to the procedures initiated save that the police had attempted to obtain such documents through the intervention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They have not submitted information about the frequency of such requests or whether any other avenues were explored. The Court considers that while it is true that the Maltese authorities could not compel the issuing of such a document, there is no indication in the Government’s observations that they pursued the matter vigorously or endeavoured entering into negotiations with the Algerian authorities with a view to expediting its delivery (see Raza v. Bulgaria, cited above, § 73; Tabesh v. Greece, no. 8256/07, § 56, 26 November 2009; and, conversely, Agnissan v. Denmark (dec.), no 39964/98, 4 October 2001).
67. The Government blamed the applicant for his unwillingness to cooperate. However, assuming the Government were right in their allegation, the Court considers that it must have become clear quite early on that the attempts to repatriate him were bound to fail as the applicant had refused to cooperate and/or the Algerian authorities had not been prepared to issue him documents. Detention cannot be said to have been effected with a view to his deportation if this was no longer feasible (see Mikolenko v. Estonia, no. 10664/05, §§ 64-65, 8 October 2009). Indeed, the Court notes that to date, a year and a half after his release, the applicant is still in Malta.
68. Moreover, the Court finds it hard to conceive that in a small island like Malta, where escape by sea without endangering one’s life is unlikely and fleeing by air is subject to strict control, the authorities could not have had at their disposal measures other than the applicant’s protracted detention to secure an eventual removal in the absence of any immediate prospect of his expulsion.
69. In the light of the above, the Court has grave doubts as to whether the grounds for the applicant’s detention – action taken with a view to his deportation – remained valid for the whole period of his detention, namely, more than eighteen months following the rejection of his asylum claim, owing to the probable lack of a realistic prospect of his expulsion and the possible failure of the domestic authorities to conduct the proceedings with due diligence.
70. In such circumstances the Court will move on to determine whether the detention was lawful under national law, effected “in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law” and, in particular, whether there existed sufficient guarantees against arbitrariness.
71. The Court is ready to accept that notwithstanding the various policies, the accessibility and precision of which are doubtful, the applicant’s detention was based on Articles 5 and 14 of the Immigration Act. However, the Court must consider whether Maltese law guaranteed a particular procedure to be followed which could offer safeguards against arbitrariness. The Court primarily notes that the Immigration Act applied no limit to detention and that the Government policies have no legal force. In consequence, the applicant was subject to an indeterminate period of detention (see, mutatis mutandis, Muminov v. Russia, no. 42502/06, § 122, 11 December 2008). In such circumstances the necessity of procedural safeguards becomes decisive. However, the Court has already established that the applicant did not have any effective remedy by which to contest the lawfulness and length of his detention (see paragraphs 46-47 above), and the Government have not pointed to any other normative or practical safeguard. It follows that the Maltese legal system did not provide for a procedure capable of avoiding the risk of arbitrary detention pending deportation (see, mutatis mutandis, Soldatenko v. Ukraine, no. 2440/07, § 114, 23 October 2008).
72. In these circumstances the Court finds it unnecessary to examine the applicant’s conditions of detention, which it reiterates must be compatible with the purposes of detention.
73. The foregoing considerations are sufficient to enable the Court to conclude that the national system failed to protect the applicant from arbitrary detention, and his prolonged detention cannot be considered to have been “lawful” for the purposes of Article 5 of the Convention.
74. There has accordingly been a violation of Article 5 § 1 of the Convention.”
C.D. et autres c. Grèce, 19 December 2013:
“72. En outre, en ce qui concerne la durée de la détention, la Cour rappelle que, dans le contexte de l’article 5 § 1 f), seul le déroulement de la procédure d’expulsion justifie la privation de liberté fondée sur cette disposition et que, si la procédure n’est pas menée avec la diligence requise, la détention cesse d’être justifiée (Chahal, précité, § 113 ; Gebremedhin [Gaberamadhien] c. France, no 25389/05, § 74, CEDH 2007‑II). En l’espèce, la Cour note que la détention des requérants, ordonnée en vue de leur expulsion, n’était pas possible dans l’immédiat en raison des démarches administratives nécessaires à l’égard de chacun d’entre eux pour assurer leur expulsion. Comme il ressort du dossier, la durée de la détention de chaque requérant dépendait de la spécificité de son cas.
73. Ainsi, en ce qui concerne les requérants identifiés sous les nos 4, 6 et 8, ils ont été transférés en Turquie les 19 et 14 janvier 2010 respectivement, en vertu du Protocole de réadmission signé entre la Grèce et la Turquie. Etant donné que ces requérants avaient été mis en détention les 26 novembre et 20 octobre 2009 respectivement, la Cour estime qu’un délai de deux à trois mois environ ne peut pas être considéré comme excessif pour l’accomplissement des formalités administratives entre les autorités grecques et turques dans ce but. En ce qui concerne les autres requérants, les autorités internes n’ont pas fait preuve d’une approche uniforme à leur égard mais ont suivi la procédure pertinente dans chaque cas spécifique, ce qui a entraîné des répercussions diverses mais raisonnables sur la durée de leur détention. Ainsi, à titre d’exemple, les requérants identifiés sous les nos 1 et 7 ont été expulsés les 25 juin et 26 mars 2010 respectivement, lorsque le consulat de leur pays d’origine leur a délivré les documents de voyage nécessaires. En outre, en ce qui concerne les cas où le consulat d’Irak à Athènes n’a pas délivré certains documents aux intéressés, comme dans le cas des requérants identifiés sous les nos 2 et 5, la chambre du tribunal correctionnel compétent a ordonné le 30 août 2010 leur élargissement avec imposition de mesures restrictives de liberté moins strictes, en l’occurrence une simple obligation de se présenter une fois par mois au commissariat de police de leur lieu de résidence. De façon générale, la Cour estime raisonnable un prolongement de la durée de détention des requérants ayant été condamnés le 5 février 2010 par le jugement no 175/2010 du tribunal correctionnel de Rodopi, du fait que la procédure relative à leur expulsion a été arrêtée pour mettre en œuvre le processus d’expulsion judiciaire. En somme, la Cour considère que pendant la période en cause, les autorités nationales n’ont pas fait preuve de passivité dans le déroulement de la procédure d’expulsion des requérants (voir, en ce sens, Agnissan c. Danemark (déc.), no 39964/98, 4 octobre 2001).
74. En dernier lieu, ayant conclu à une violation de l’article 3 en raison des conditions de détention dans le centre de rétention de Venna, la Cour n’estime pas nécessaire de se placer une fois de plus sur ce terrain sous l’angle de l’article 5 § 1 f) (voir Horshill c. Grèce, no 70427/11, § 65, 1er août 2013).
Par conséquent, il n’y pas eu violation de l’article 5 § 1 de la Convention.”