Tag Archive | European Convention on Human Rights

Social rights of failed asylum seekers and Art. 3 ECHR

In an interesting decision, Hunde v. Netherlands, 05/07/2016, the Strasbourg Court elaborated on a question concerning fundamental social rights (housing and emergency social assistance) of a failed asylum seeker and their interplay with Art. 3 ECHR. The decision is of particular interest because it differentiates the status of a failed, and allegedly uncooperative, asylum seeker from that of an asylum seeker whose application is pending as was the case in M.S.S.

The decision contrasts with those adopted by the European Committee of Social Rights in 2014 in  Conference of European Churches (CEC) v. the Netherlands (complaint no. 90/2013) and in European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless (FEANTSA) v. the Netherlands (complaint no. 86/2012). Therein ECSR  found that the Netherlands had violated Article 13 §§ 1 and 4 of the European Social Charter, which guarantees the right to social assistance, and Article 31 § 2 of the Charter, the right to housing, by failing to provide adequate access to emergency assistance (food, clothing and shelter) to adult migrants in an irregular situation

Excerpts of decision:

1. General principles

45. Article 3 of the Convention enshrines one of the most fundamental values of democratic societies and prohibits in absolute terms torture and inhuman degrading treatment or punishment irrespective of the circumstances and of the victim’s conduct (see, among many authorities, Labita v. Italy [GC], no. 26772/95, § 119, ECHR 2000‑IV). The prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is a value of civilisation closely bound up with respect for human dignity (Bouyid v. Belgium [GC], no. 23380/09, § 81, ECHR 2015).

46. Unlike most of the substantive clauses of the Convention, Article 3 makes no provision for exceptions, and no derogation from it is permissible under Article 15 § 2 even in the event of a public emergency threatening the life of the nation. Even in the most difficult circumstances, such as the fight against terrorism and organised crime, the Convention prohibits in absolute terms torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, irrespective of the conduct of the person concerned. (see, among other authorities, Chahal v. the United Kingdom, 15 November 1996, § 79, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1996-V; Georgia v. Russia (I) [GC], no. 13255/07, § 192, ECHR 2014 (extracts); and Svinarenko and Slyadnev v. Russia [GC], nos. 32541/08 and 43441/08, § 113, ECHR 2014 (extracts)).

47. The Court has held on numerous occasions that to fall within the scope of Article 3 the ill-treatment must attain a minimum level of severity. The assessment of this minimum is relative: it depends on all the circumstances of the case, such as the duration of the treatment and its physical or mental effects and, in some instances, the sex, age and state of health of the victim (see for example Kudła v. Poland [GC], no. 30210/96, § 91, ECHR 2000‑XI).

48. Ill-treatment that attains such a minimum level of severity usually involves actual bodily injury or intense physical or mental suffering. However, even in the absence of these aspects, where treatment humiliates or debases an individual, showing a lack of respect for or diminishing his or her human dignity, or arouses feelings of fear, anguish or inferiority capable of breaking an individual’s moral and physical resistance, it may be characterised as degrading and also fall within the prohibition set forth in Article 3 (see, among other authorities, Vasyukov v. Russia, no. 2974/05, § 59, 5 April 2011; Gäfgen v. Germany [GC], no. 22978/05, § 89, ECHR 2010; Svinarenko and Slyadnev, cited above, § 114; and Georgia v. Russia (I), cited above, § 192).

49. The present case concerns the question whether the State had a positive obligation under Article 3 to provide the applicant – a rejected asylum-seeker at the material time – emergency social assistance. In that regard, the Court reiterates that Contracting States have the right, as a matter of well-established international law and subject to their treaty obligations, to control the entry, residence and expulsion of aliens (see, for example, Hirsi Jamaa and Others v. Italy [GC], no. 27765/09, § 113, ECHR 2012; Üner v. the Netherlands [GC], no. 46410/99, § 54, ECHR 2006-XII; Abdulaziz, Cabales and Balkandali v. the United Kingdom, 28 May 1985, § 67, Series A no. 94; and Boujlifa v. France, 21 October 1997, § 42, Reports 1997-VI). The corollary of a State’s right to control immigration is the duty of aliens to submit to immigration controls and procedures and leave the territory of the Contracting State when so ordered if they are lawfully denied entry or residence (Jeunesse v. the Netherlands [GC], no. 12738/10, § 100, 3 October 2014).

50. Aliens who are subject to expulsion cannot, in principle, claim any entitlement to remain in the territory of a Contracting State in order to continue to benefit from medical, social or other forms of assistance and services provided by the expelling State (see N. v. the United Kingdom [GC], no. 26565/05, § 42, 27 May 2008).

51. Moreover, Article 3 cannot be interpreted as obliging the High Contracting Parties to provide everyone within their jurisdiction with a home (see Chapman v. the United Kingdom [GC], no. 27238/95, § 99, ECHR 2001‑I). Nor does Article 3 entail any general obligation to give refugees financial assistance to enable them to maintain a certain standard of living (see Müslim v. Turkey, no. 53566/99, § 85, 26 April 2005).

52. In the case of M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece ([GC], no. 30696/09, ECHR 2011), the Court, attaching “considerable importance to the applicant’s status as an asylum-seeker and, as such, a member of a particularly underprivileged and vulnerable population group in need of special protection” (§ 251), considered, in so far as relevant:

“252. … the Court must determine whether a situation of extreme material poverty can raise an issue under Article 3.

253. The Court reiterates that it has not excluded the possibility ‘that State responsibility [under Article 3] could arise for “treatment” where an applicant, in circumstances wholly dependent on State support, found herself faced with official indifference when in a situation of serious deprivation or want incompatible with human dignity’ (see Budina v. Russia (dec.), no. 45603/05, 18 June 2009).”

2. Application of the general principles to the present case

53. The main thrust of the applicant’s complaint pertains to Articles 13 and 31 of the Charter and the decisions adopted by the ECSR on 1 July 2014 (see paragraph 37) which, in his view, lead to the conclusion that the denial of shelter and social assistance diminished his human dignity in a manner incompatible with Article 3 of the Convention. The Court acknowledges the importance of the economic and social rights laid down in the Charter and the issues raised in the two decisions by the ECSR. However, it cannot accept the applicant’s argument that the findings by the ECSR under the Charter should be considered to lead automatically to a violation of Article 3 of the Convention.

54. Whilst the Convention sets forth what are essentially civil and political rights, many of them have implications of a social or economic nature (see Airey v. Ireland, 9 October 1979, § 26, Series A no. 32). Furthermore, inherent in the whole of the Convention is a search for a fair balance between the demands of the general interest of the community and the requirements of the protection of the individual’s fundamental rights (see Soering v. the United Kingdom, 7 July 1989, § 89, Series A no. 161). While it is necessary, given the fundamental importance of Article 3 in the Convention system, for the Court to retain a degree of flexibility to prevent expulsion in very exceptional cases, Article 3 does not place an obligation on the Contracting State to alleviate such disparities through the provision of free and unlimited health care to all aliens without a right to stay within its jurisdiction. A finding to the contrary would place too great a burden on the Contracting States (see A.S. v. Switzerland, no. 39350/13, § 31, 30 June 2015).

55. In the case at hand and during the period complained of, the applicant was not entitled to any social assistance in the Netherlands. Referring to M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece (cited above), the applicant argued that the situation he found himself in was very similar to the situation in that case. However, there are crucial differences in that, unlike the applicant in M.S.S who was an asylum-seeker, the applicant in the present case was at the material time a failed asylum-seeker under a legal obligation to leave the territory of the Netherlands. Furthermore, even though the applicant’s loss of entitlement to legal residence in the Netherlands after the rejection of his asylum claim did not automatically affect his vulnerability as a migrant, the situation in which he found himself remained significantly different from that of M.S.S.. In the latter case, the relevant facts which had culminated in a finding of violation of Article 3, were the long duration in which the applicant had lived in a state of the most extreme poverty (the lack of food, hygiene and a place to live), and of fear of being attacked and robbed together with the fact that there had been no prospect of improvement. Furthermore, that situation was linked to his status as an asylum-seeker and, consequently, the applicant’s suffering could have been alleviated if the Greek authorities had promptly assessed his asylum application. By failing to do so the applicant was left in uncertainty.

56. Turning back to the present case, and emphasising once more that the applicant was a failed asylum-seeker at the material time, the uncertainty he found himself in was inherently different from M.S.S. in that it was not linked to the Netherlands authorities’ assessment of his asylum request. His asylum statement had already been examined and his asylum application refused, of which the applicant has not complained before the Court. Furthermore, it cannot be said that the Netherlands’ authorities have shown ignorance or inaction towards the applicant’s situation. After the applicant’s asylum proceedings had come to an end, the applicant was afforded a four week grace period to organise his voluntary return to his country of origin during which period he retained his entitlement to State-sponsored care and accommodation. Moreover, after he had overstayed this grace period, the applicant had the possibility of applying for reception facilities at a centre where his liberty would be restricted (see paragraph 31 above). The fact that admission to this centre was subject to the condition that he would cooperate in organising his departure to his country of origin cannot, as such, be regarded as incompatible with Article 3 of the Convention.

57. The Court also takes into account the fact that if it had been impossible for the applicant to return to his country of origin – either voluntarily or involuntarily – for reasons which cannot be attributed to him, he had the possibility of applying for a residence permit for persons who, through no fault of their own, are unable to leave the Netherlands (see paragraph 32 above). Nothing in the case file shows, however, that he has ever applied for such a residence permit. Nor has he ever contended at any stage during the domestic proceedings that he could not leave the Netherlands through no fault of his own.

58. The Court further observes that according to the general information provided by the Repatriation and Departure Service, returns to Ethiopia – voluntary or not – are possible, albeit with the alien’s cooperation if he or she is not in the possession of an original passport (see paragraph 39 above). The applicant submitted that he was released from immigration detention in July 2013 because an effective removal to his country of origin proved impossible, however without explaining why this was so. As the applicant was an undocumented migrant at the material time (see paragraph 6 above), his cooperation – in the form of expressing a willingness to return to Ethiopia and signing the request for a laissez-passer – was required in order to obtain a laissez-passer. However, in the applicant’s own admission, he did not wish to cooperate with the domestic authorities in organising his departure to Ethiopia.

59. The Court reiterates that there is no right to social assistance as such under the Convention and to the extent that Article 3 requires States to take action in situations of the most extreme poverty – also when it concerns irregular migrants – the Court notes that the Netherlands authorities have already addressed this in practical terms. In the first place, the applicant had the possibility of applying for a “no-fault residence permit” and/or to seek admission to a centre where his liberty would be restricted. It is furthermore possible for irregular migrants to seek a deferral of removal for medical reasons and to receive free medical treatment in case of emergency (see paragraph 30 above). In addition, the Netherlands have most recently set up a special scheme providing basic needs for irregular migrants living in their territory in an irregular manner (see paragraph 5 above). It is true that that scheme was only operational as from 17 December 2014, one year after the applicant had taken shelter in the Refuge Garage. However, it is inevitable that the design and practical implementation of such a scheme by local authorities of different municipalities take time. Moreover, the scheme was brought about as a result of a series of elements at the domestic level, including the applicant’s pursuit of domestic remedies in connection with his Article 3 claim. In these circumstances it cannot be said that the Netherlands authorities have fallen short of their obligations under Article 3 by having remained inactive or indifferent.

60. Considering the above, the Court finds that this part of the application is manifestly ill-founded and must be rejected in accordance with Article 35 §§ 3 (a) and 4 of the Convention.

Link: http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-165569

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PACE Resolution 2109 (2016) The situation of refugees and migrants under the EU-Turkey Agreement of 18 March 2016

1. The Parliamentary Assembly takes note of the European Union-Turkey Agreement of 18 March 2016, adopted against the background of the unprecedented numbers of refugees and migrants arriving in western Europe via the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Balkans route in 2015, which had generated political tensions in many States and an institutional crisis in the European Union. It recalls the fact that Turkey currently hosts over 2.7 million Syrian refugees, on whom it estimates to have spent over €7 billion.

2. The Assembly considers that the EU-Turkey Agreement raises several serious human rights issues relating to both its substance and its implementation now and in the future, in particular the following:

2.1. the Greek asylum system lacks the capacity to ensure timely registration of asylum applications, issue of first instance decisions or determination of appeals; the new Greek Law 4375/2016 may help to address earlier shortcomings but will not ensure adequate capacity;

2.2. detention of asylum seekers in the “hotspots” on the Aegean islands may be incompatible with the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5), due notably to procedural failures undermining the legal grounds for detention and inadequate detention conditions;

2.3. children and vulnerable persons are not systematically referred from detention to appropriate alternative facilities;

2.4. returns of Syrian refugees to Turkey as a “first country of asylum” may be contrary to European Union and/or international law, as Turkey may not ensure protection that is “sufficient”, according to the position of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and there have been reports of onward refoulement of Syrians;

2.5. returns of asylum seekers, whether Syrians or not, to Turkey as a “safe third country” are contrary to European Union and/or international law, as Turkey does not provide them with protection in accordance with the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, non-Syrians do not have effective access to the asylum procedure and there have been reports of onward refoulement of both Syrians and non-Syrians;

2.6. remedies against decisions to return asylum seekers to Turkey do not always have automatic suspensive effect, as required by the European Convention on Human Rights;

2.7. resettlement of Syrian refugees from Turkey is made conditional on the number of returns from Greece and will subsequently depend on a “Voluntary Humanitarian Readmission Scheme”, which is likely in practice to generate unacceptably low levels of resettlement;

2.8. there have been unreasonable delays in the European Union’s disbursement of Financial assistance promised to Turkey to help support Syrian refugees in Turkey, which should not depend on developments in the Aegean Sea.

3. The Assembly also has concerns relating to certain parallel initiatives in areas closely related to the EU-Turkey Agreement, in particular the following:

3.1. the closure by “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” of its southern border, coupled with the EU-Turkey Agreement, has added to the pressure on Greece, a country already struggling with the effects of budgetary and financial austerity;

3.2. most European Union member States have effectively failed to honour their pledges to relocate refugees from Greece, despite the growing pressure that country is under;

3.3. it is premature to consider resuming transfers to Greece under the Dublin Regulation given the continuing inadequacies of its asylum system, the additional pressure of its current situation and the fact that the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has not yet closed supervision of execution by Greece of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of M.S.S. v.Belgium and Greece.

4. The Assembly therefore recommends that Greece, as an implementing party of the EU-Turkey Agreement, and the European Union, insofar as it provides relevant operational assistance to the Greek authorities:

4.1. refrain from automatic detention of asylum seekers and ensure strict adherence to the requirements of national law, the European Convention on Human Rights and European Union law concerning both the grounds for and conditions of detention, with adequate provision for alternatives where detention is not justified or otherwise inappropriate, including following the expiry of time limits;

4.2. systematically ensure that children and vulnerable persons are promptly excluded from detention and referred to appropriate alternative facilities;

4.3. ensure that the rights and provisions under the European Union Reception Conditions Directive are fully respected for all refugees and migrants arriving in Greece;

4.4. refer the question of interpretation of the concept of “sufficient protection” in Article 35 of the

European Union Asylum Procedures Directive to the Court of Justice of the European Union and, until such interpretation has been given, refrain from involuntary returns of Syrian refugees to Turkey under this provision;

4.5. refrain from involuntary returns of asylum seekers to Turkey in reliance on Article 38 of the Asylum Procedures Directive;

4.6. ensure that sufficient resources, from within the Greek administration and seconded from other European Union member States, are rapidly made available so as to allow effective access to a proper asylum procedure and rapid first instance decisions and appeal determination, in accordance with European Union law, especially for applicants in detention;

4.7. revise the legislation to ensure that all appeals against decisions to return to Turkey have an automatic suspensive effect;

4.8. ensure that all migrants and asylum seekers whose applications are not accepted are treated with dignity and in full compliance with the European Union Return Directive.

5. The Assembly also recommends to the European Union, its member States, and States participating in European Union resettlement schemes, as appropriate:

5.1. resettlement pledges made under the 20 July 2015 European Union agreement on resettlement should be rapidly and fully honoured, regardless of developments in the implementation of the EUTurkey Agreement; beyond that, substantial numbers of Syrian refugees should be resettled from Turkey;

5.2. family reunion of refugees should be allowed without any delay or complicated procedures, in order to prevent family members from being forced to take an irregular route to reunification;

5.3. the financial assistance promised to Turkey in November 2015 to help support Syrian refugees should be disbursed without further delay;

5.4. commitments to relocate refugees from Greece should be rapidly fulfilled;

5.5. there should be no further consideration of resuming transfers to Greece under the Dublin

Regulation until the Committee of Ministers has closed its supervision of execution by Greece of the M.S.S. judgment.

6. Finally, the Assembly recommends that Turkey:

6.1. withdraw its geographical limitation to the 1951 Refugee Convention and recognise the status and fully respect the rights of refugees under that convention;

6.2. refrain from any onward refoulement of asylum seekers returned from Greece, ensuring access to the asylum system and to an effective remedy with suspensive effect against removal as required by the European Convention on Human Rights;

6.3. ensure that all migrants and asylum seekers  returned from Greece are treated in full accordance with international standards, including on detention.

Link:

http://assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/News/News-View-EN.asp?newsid=6132&lang=2&cat=8

 

Iraqi Mandaean single woman may safely be returned to Iraqi Kurdistan

W.H. v. Sweden, 27 March 2014

“…(b)The general situation in Iraq

60.The Court notes that a general situation of violence will not normally in itself entail a violation of Article 3 in the event of an expulsion (H.L.R. v. France, cited above, § 41). However, the Court has never excluded the possibility that the general situation of violence in a country of destination may be of a sufficient level of intensity as to entail that any removal to it would necessarily breach Article 3 of the Convention. Nevertheless, the Court would adopt such an approach only in the most extreme cases of general violence, where there is a real risk of ill-treatment simply by virtue of an individual being exposed to such violence on return (NA. v. the United Kingdom, cited above, § 115).

61.While the international reports on Iraq attest to a continued difficult situation, including indiscriminate and deadly attacks by violent groups, discrimination as well as heavy-handed treatment by authorities, it appears that the overall situation has been slowly improving since the peak in violence in 2007. In the case of F.H. v. Sweden (no. 32621/06, § 93, 20January 2009), the Court, having at its disposal information material up to and including the year 2008, concluded that the general situation in Iraq was not so serious as to cause, by itself, a violation of Article 3 of the Convention in the event of a person’s return to that country. Taking into account the international and national reports available today, the Court sees no reason to alter the position taken in this respect four years ago.

62.However, the applicant is not in essence claiming that the general circumstances pertaining in Iraq would on their own preclude her return to that country, but that this situation together with the fact that she is a Mandaean and a single woman would put her at real risk of being subjected to treatment prohibited by Article 3.

(c)The applicant’s family situation

63.While it is not in dispute in the case that the applicant is a Mandaean and that, as a consequence, she belongs to a religious group that is in a vulnerable situation in Iraq, the Government has questioned her claim that she has no relatives left in the country and have asserted that she has made conflicting statements concerning her family situation there. It is therefore necessary to first look at that issue, in order to determine whether she would be alone without male protection upon return to Iraq.

64.The Court notes, in this respect, that the applicant stated that her family had frozen her out when informed of her new relationship with a Muslim man. While the Government have asserted that the applicant must have referred to relatives in Iraq and that this statement therefore showed that she would not be without family support upon return, the Court is of the opinion that her claim that she was talking about her family in Sweden cannot be considered implausible or incongruous, especially when assessed in the context of her repeatedly insisting that no relatives remain in Iraq (with the exception of the mother who, at the time of the applicant’s arrival in Sweden, was still living in Iraq, but allegedly disappeared in 2010). The Court also notes that the applicant’s brother, in November 2013, was granted a two-year residence permit in Sweden based on his marriage to a Swedish citizen. Consequently – and as it does not find reason to question the other family information supplied by the applicant – the Court will examine the case on the basis that, if returned to Iraq, she will live as a single woman.

(d)The situation of Mandaeans in Iraq

65.In several recent judgments (see, for instance, M.Y.H. and Others v. Sweden, 50859/10, 27 June 2013) the Court examined the present situation for Christians in Iraq and concluded that the number of targeted attacks by extremists against this vulnerable minority appeared to have escalated. The Mandaean community is much smaller than the Christian group and, consequently, the recorded attacks and the number of reports concerning Mandaeans are naturally less frequent. It appears, however, that the Mandaeans are in much the same situation as the Christians in the southern and central parts of Iraq, being attacked because of their faith, their profession and their perceived wealth (see, for instance, the UNHCR Guidelines, at p. 29; § 33 above). Obviously, the low number of remaining Mandaeans in the country and the fact that the community is not uniformly organised – the members living mainly in scattered groups – further contribute to their vulnerability.

(e)The situation of single women in Iraq

66.Reports from national and international organisations attest to the difficult situation of women in Iraq (ibid., at p. 27; § 33 above; see also the UNAMI Report; § 28 above). As noted above, the present applicant, if returned to Iraq, is likely to live on her own, without the protection of a social network, in particular the protection potentially provided by male relatives. Nevertheless, in the Court’s view, the general risks attached to the status of being a single woman in Iraq cannot be considered of themselves to reach the threshold of ill-treatment prohibited by Article 3 of the Convention (cf. M.Y.H. and Others v. Sweden, cited above, § 71). However, in addition to being a single woman, the applicant is also a member of a small religious minority. As noted by the Minority Rights Group International (§ 32 above) and the UNHCR (§ 33 above), minority women face a particular security risk, being subjected to violence, discrimination and religiously driven pressure to convert or change their appearance.

67.The two characteristics – being a single woman and a member of an ethnic or religious minority – must be examined together. Having regard to the country information available to the Court, which appears to focus on the situation in southern and central Iraq, the Court considers that women with these characteristics in general may well face a real risk of being subjected to treatment contrary to Article 3 if returned to the mentioned parts of the country. This view is reinforced in the present case by the fact that the applicant belongs to a particularly small and vulnerable minority.

(f)The possibility of relocation to the Kurdistan Region

68.It remains to be determined whether the applicant would be able to relocate internally in Iraq to the Kurdistan Region.

69.The Court reiterates that Article 3 does not, as such, preclude Contracting States from placing reliance on the existence of an internal flight or relocation alternative in their assessment of an individual’s claim that a return to the country of origin would expose him or her to a real risk of being subjected to treatment proscribed by that provision. However, the Court has held that reliance on such an alternative does not affect the responsibility of the expelling ContractingState to ensure that the applicant is not, as a result of its decision to expel, exposed to treatment contrary to Article 3. Therefore, as a precondition of relying on an internal flight or relocation alternative, certain guarantees have to be in place: the person to be expelled must be able to travel to the area concerned, gain admittance and settle there, failing which an issue under Article 3 may arise, the more so if in the absence of such guarantees there is a possibility of his or her ending up in a part of the country of origin where there is a real risk of illtreatment (Sufi and Elmi v. the United Kingdom, nos. 8319/07 and 11449/07, § 266, 28 June 2011, with further references).

70.The three northern governorates – Dahuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah – forming the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, or KRI, are, according to international sources, a relatively safe area. As noted in the UNAMI 2011 report, community representatives had stated that the Mandaeans do not face any threat or persecution in the Kurdistan Region and are supported by the regional government (§ 31 above). The UNHCR has concluded that, in the KRI, “the rights of religious minorities are generally respected and groups can worship freely without interference”. Specifically mentioning the Mandaean minority, the Finnish/Swiss report expressed the same opinion (at pp. 49-50, § 41 above).

71.The Court further notes that, while the Representative of the UN Secretary-General expressed concern over sexual and gender-based violence in the Kurdistan Region following a visit to Iraq in late 2010 (§ 31 above), the situation for women appears to have developed favourably since (as noted in the UNAMI Report for the second half of 2012; § 28 above).

72.As regards the possibility of entering the KRI, some sources state that the border checks are often inconsistent, varying not only from governorate to governorate but also from checkpoint to checkpoint (see the UNHCR Guidelines, § 37 above, and the Finnish/Swiss report, which appears to rely heavily on the UNHCR’s conclusions in this respect, § 41 above). However, the difficulties faced by some at the KRI checkpoints do not seem to be relevant for certain groups. In regard to Christians, this has been noted by, among others, the UNHCR. While the country information documents available to the Court do not mention any specific entry procedures for Mandaeans, the fact that many members of that community have taken refuge in the KRI and are living there alongside other minorities give the impression that they benefit from a similar preferential treatment as the Christians (see § 70 above).

73.Moreover, whether or not members of the Mandaean community have to provide documentation in order to enter the three northern governorates, in any event there does not seem to be any difficulty to obtain identity documents in case old ones have been lost. As concluded by the UK Border Agency (§ 38 above) and the UK Upper Tribunal in the recent country guidance case of HM and others (§ 40 above), it is possible for an individual to obtain identity documents from a central register in Baghdad, which retains identity records on microfiche, whether he or she is applying from abroad or within Iraq. As to the need for a sponsor resident in the Kurdistan Region, the Upper Tribunal further concluded, in the case mentioned above, that no-one was required to have a sponsor, whether for their entry into or for their continued residence in the KRI. It appears that the UNHCR is of the same opinion as regards entry, although its statement in the Guidelines directly concerns only the requirements of a tourist (§ 37 above).

74.The Court further notes that there are regular flights from Sweden to the airports in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah without stopovers in Baghdad or other parts of Iraq. The applicant would thus be able to arrive in the Kurdistan Region without having to go through the southern or central parts of the country.

75.Internal relocation inevitably involves certain hardship. Various sources have attested that people who relocate to the Kurdistan Region may face difficulties, for instance, in finding proper jobs and housing there, not the least if they do not speak Kurdish. Nevertheless, the evidence before the Court suggests that there are jobs available and that settlers have access to health care as well as financial and other support from the UNHCR and local authorities. As noted above, Mandaean community representatives have attested that Mandaeans are supported by the Kurdistan Regional Government (UNAMI 2011 report, § 31 above). In any event, there is no indication that the general living conditions in the KRI for a Mandaean settler, whether a single woman or not, would be unreasonable or in any way amount to treatment prohibited by Article 3. Nor is there a real risk of his or her ending up in the other parts of Iraq.

76.In conclusion, therefore, the Court considers that relocation to the Kurdistan Region is a viable alternative for a Mandaean fearing persecution or ill-treatment in other parts of Iraq. The reliance by a Contracting State on such an alternative would thus not, in general, give rise to an issue under Article 3 of the Convention.

(g)The particular circumstances of the applicant

77.It remains for the Court to determine whether, despite what has been stated above, the personal circumstances of the applicant would make it unreasonable for her to settle in the Kurdistan Region. In this respect, the Court first notes that the applicant’s accounts were examined by the Migration Board and the Migration Court, which both gave extensive reasons for their decisions that she was not in need of protection in Sweden. The applicant was able to present the arguments she wished with the assistance of legal counsel.

78.The Court has already had regard to the applicant’s special situation as a single woman of Mandaean minority denomination and found that these characteristics would not prevent her from settling safely and reasonably in the Kurdistan Region. As regards the specific incidents to which the applicant and her family have been subjected in Iraq, the Court notes that she received a threat on one single occasion in June 2007, more than six years ago. Furthermore, following the end of the ordinary asylum proceedings, the applicant has claimed that her mother was kidnapped and presumably is dead. There are no indications, however, as to why she may have been kidnapped or killed. Furthermore, both this event and the threat received in 2007 occurred in Baghdad where the applicant should not be returned (see § 67 above). They do not show that she would face a risk of treatment prohibited by Article 3 in the Kurdistan Region.

79.The applicant has also referred to her brother’s alleged active duty in the Iraqi army and her new relationship initiated in Sweden with a Muslim man from Iraq. However, also with respect to these circumstances, the Court cannot find that they would put the applicant at particular risk if she is deported to the Kurdistan Region. This is all the more so as the brother may not return to Iraq, following his marriage to a Swedish citizen. As regards the applicant’s partner, according to information supplied by the parties, he left Sweden for Syria in October 2010 and, allegedly, cannot return to Iraq. Noting that the relationship was first invoked in the applicant’s appeal to the Migration Court and thus appears to have started after the applicant’s deportation had been ordered by the Migration Board, the Court finds that no evidence has been presented which shows that he would be unable to enter the Kurdistan Region or that they would face ill-treatment there based on their relationship.

(h)Conclusion

80.Having regard to the above, the Court concludes that, although the applicant, as a Mandaean single woman, may face a real risk of being subjected to treatment contrary to Article 3 of the Convention if returned to the southern and central parts of Iraq, she may reasonably relocate to the Kurdistan Region, where she will not face such a risk. Neither the general situation in that region nor any of the applicant’s personal circumstances indicates the existence of said risk.

Consequently, her deportation to Iraq would not involve a violation of Article3, provided that she is not returned to parts of the country situated outside the Kurdistan Region.

Strasbourg Court stops extradition of Chechen recognised refugee to Ingushetia

M.G. v. Bulgaria, 25 March 2014

“84.La Cour rappelle que, dans plusieurs dizaines d’affaires dirigées contre la Fédération de Russie, elle a constaté l’existence de graves violations des droits de l’homme dans le Caucase du Nord, y compris en Ingouchie, qui étaient perpétrées au cours d’opérations antiterroristes ou dans le cadre de poursuites pénales menées contre des personnes soupçonnées d’appartenir à des groupes d’insurgés. Il s’agissait notamment de cas de disparitions forcées, de torture et de traitements inhumains et dégradants, ainsi que d’absence d’enquêtes effectives sur les allégations relatives à ces violations (voir, parmi beaucoup d’autres, Bazorkina c.Russie, no 69481/01, 27 juillet 2006, Loulouïev et autres c. Russie, no69480/01, CEDH 2006XIII (extraits), Mutsolgova et autres c. Russie, no2952/06, 1er avril 2010, Shokkarov et autres c. Russie, no 41009/04, 3mai 2011, et Velkhiyev et autres c. Russie, no 34085/06, 5 juillet 2011). S’il est vrai que ces constats de violation des articles 2 et 3 de la Convention se réfèrent pour la plupart à des événements datant de la première moitié des années 2000, il n’en reste pas moins qu’il s’agit d’un élément pertinent qui doit être pris en compte par la Cour pour l’établissement de la situation générale dans cette région de la Russie. Par ailleurs, en l’espèce, l’ouverture des poursuites pénales contre le requérant et son départ précipité du Caucase du Nord en direction de la Pologne datent précisément de cette période (paragraphes 8-14 ci-dessus).

85.La Cour constate ensuite que le rapport du Commissaire aux droits de l’homme du Conseil de l’Europe à la suite de sa visite de 2011, le rapport du CPT consécutif à sa visite de la même année et les observations finales du Comité contre la torture des Nations unies de 2012 témoignent de la situation fortement dégradée des droits de l’homme dans le Caucase du Nord, y compris en Ingouchie (paragraphes 47-54 ci-dessus). Elle relève que les forces de l’ordre et les responsables politiques locaux étaient la cible d’attaques violentes des insurgés et que la population civile de la région était également affectée par la violence et l’insécurité. Elle note que les rapports mentionnent plusieurs cas de violations graves des droits fondamentaux attribuées aux forces de l’ordre russes, telles que des exécutions extrajudiciaires, des disparitions forcées, des punitions collectives de civils suspectés de liens avec les insurgés, et des cas de torture et autres traitements inhumains et dégradants infligés aux détenus soupçonnés d’appartenir à des groupes d’insurgés.

86.La Cour prend également note des deux derniers rapports annuels de l’organisation Human Rights Watch, et notamment des données suivantes y figurant: les groupes islamistes continuent leur insurrection dans le Caucase du Nord; plus de 700 personnes, dont 180 civils, ont été blessées ou tuées pendant les neuf premiers mois de 2013; certains groupes de la population locale, suspectés de coopérer avec les insurgés, sont soumis à des persécutions de la part des autorités russes et de milices locales soutenues par celles-ci; des cas récents de disparitions forcées en Ingouchie sont recensés; et un attentat mortel contre un haut responsable politique dans cette dernière république a eu lieu en août 2013 (paragraphes55-58 cidessus).

87.À la lumière de ces informations, la Cour ne peut que constater que le Caucase du Nord, y compris l’Ingouchie, continue d’être une zone de conflit armé, marquée par la violence et l’insécurité et par de graves violations des droits fondamentaux de la personne humaine, telles que les exécutions extrajudiciaires, les disparitions forcées, la torture ou d’autres traitements inhumains et dégradants, ou encore les punitions collectives de certains groupes de la population locale. Cela étant, la Cour doit à présent se pencher sur la question de savoir si la situation individuelle du requérant est telle qu’il puisse craindre d’être soumis à des traitements contraires à l’article3 de la Convention s’il était extradé vers la Fédération de Russie.

88.À cet égard, la Cour note que le requérant s’est prévalu de son statut de réfugié en vertu de la Convention de Genève et de la règle de nonrefoulement prévue à l’article 33 de celle-ci pour prouver l’existence d’un danger de persécution dans son pays d’origine. Il apparaît que, dans le cadre de la procédure interne d’extradition, cette question a été longuement débattue par les parties et que les tribunaux de première et deuxième instance ont expressément abordé ce problème dans leurs décisions (paragraphes 20-31 ci-dessus). La Cour rappelle qu’il ne lui appartient pas d’interpréter le droit interne bulgare concernant l’octroi du statut de réfugié et de l’asile politique. Elle n’a pas pour rôle de répondre à la question de savoir si la décision d’octroyer le statut de réfugié prise par les autorités d’un pays contractant à la Convention de Genève doit être interprétée comme conférant à l’intéressé le même statut dans tous les autres pays contractants de ladite convention. Elle n’a pas non plus pour mission de se prononcer formellement sur le respect des actes législatifs des institutions de l’Union européenne en matière d’asile et de protection équivalente. Cependant, aux fins d’examen de la présente affaire, la Cour estime qu’elle doit prendre en compte l’octroi du statut de réfugié par le requérant dans les deux autres pays européens précités, à savoir la Pologne et l’Allemagne (voir, mutatismutandis, Abdolkhani et Karimnia c. Turquie, no 30471/08, §§ 8, 9 et 82, 22 septembre 2009). Elle souligne qu’il s’agit là d’une indication importante démontrant que, à l’époque où ce statut avait été accordé à l’intéressé, respectivement en 2004 et en 2005, il y avait suffisamment d’éléments démontrant que celui-ci risquait d’être persécuté dans son pays d’origine. Elle considère toutefois que ceci ne représente qu’un point de départ quant à son analyse de la situation actuelle du requérant.

89.En effet, la Cour relève que le requérant, dans ses observations devant elle, expose qu’il est recherché par les autorités russes à cause de sa participation à la guérilla tchétchène et qu’il a adopté la même position devant la cour d’appel de Veliko Tarnovo dans le cadre de la procédure interne d’extradition (paragraphe 30 ci-dessus). Elle note que ces allégations sont amplement corroborées par les autres pièces du dossier et notamment par celles envoyées par les autorités russes aux autorités bulgares dans le cadre de la procédure d’extradition. Il ressort de ces éléments que le requérant fait l’objet de poursuites pénales dans la République d’Ingouchie pour participation à un groupe armé, préparation d’actes terroristes, trafics d’armes et de substances toxiques, que peu avant son départ pour la Pologne les agents du FSB avaient saisi une grande quantité d’armes à feu, d’explosifs et de munitions à son domicile, et que l’intéressé est soupçonné par les autorités russes d’appartenance à un groupe armé djihadiste qui combattait en Tchétchénie et en Ingouchie (paragraphes 8, 9, 12, 13 et 18 cidessus).

90.La Cour note que les autorités russes ont recherché activement le requérant, qu’elles ont lancé un avis de recherche international à son encontre par le biais d’Interpol (paragraphe 13 in fine ci-dessus) et que, peu après l’arrestation de l’intéressé en Bulgarie, elles ont promptement sollicité des autorités bulgares l’obtention de son extradition vers la Russie (paragraphe 18 ci-dessus).

91.La Cour observe que le tribunal pénal de Nazran, en Ingouchie, a ordonné le placement du requérant en détention provisoire (voirparagraphe13 ci-dessus) et que, si ce dernier venait à être extradé vers la Russie, il est vraisemblable qu’il serait incarcéré dans un des établissements de détention provisoire du Caucase du Nord. Or, étant donné que l’intéressé est inculpé pour des infractions liées aux activités d’un groupe armé d’insurgés, elle estime qu’il serait particulièrement exposé au danger d’être torturé pour livrer des aveux ou de subir d’autres traitements inhumains et dégradants. À cet égard, la Cour s’appuie sur les constats du rapport du CPT suivant sa visite de 2011 dans le Caucase du Nord (paragraphes 53 et 54 ci-dessus). Elle note ainsi que, selon ce rapport, les membres de la délégation du CPT ont entendu de nombreuses allégations de mauvais traitements infligés aux détenus, ont trouvé dans les registres des établissements pénitentiaires des preuves médicales qui corroboraient ces allégations et ont eux-mêmes observé des traces de violences sur les corps de certains détenus. Elle note aussi que, d’après ce rapport, les détenus soupçonnés des mêmes infractions que celles reprochées au requérant dans la présente affaire étaient systématiquement soumis à la torture et à des traitements inhumains ou dégradants. De même, elle observe que les rapports du Commissaire aux droits de l’homme et les observations finales du Comité contre la torture des Nations unies vont dans le même sens (paragraphes 47-52 ci-dessus).

92.Par ailleurs, la Cour relève que, au cours de l’examen de la demande d’extradition devant les tribunaux bulgares ainsi que dans ses observations écrites devant elle, le requérant a soutenu que ses proches en Ingouchie avaient été harcelés par les forces de l’ordre russes, qu’il a relaté des cas de perquisitions et saisies arbitraires, menaces et maltraitances, et qu’il a expliqué que sa sœur avait disparu (paragraphes 24 et 68 in fine ci-dessus). Elle note qu’il n’a pas présenté d’autres preuves à l’appui de ces allégations. Cependant, elle constate que les rapports internationaux dont elle dispose témoignent de persécutions et punitions collectives de la part des forces de l’ordre russes à l’encontre des proches des personnes soupçonnées de participation à la guérilla dans le Caucase du Nord (paragraphe 49 ci-dessus). La Cour est d’avis qu’il s’agit là encore d’une circonstance qui justifie les craintes du requérant quant à un risque de mauvais traitements qu’il pourrait se voir infliger par les autorités dans son pays d’origine.

93.S’agissant ensuite de la position du Gouvernement, la Cour note que dans ses observations, celui-ci a mis l’accent sur les assurances données par le parquet général russe aux autorités bulgares que l’intéressé ne serait pas soumis à des traitements inhumains et dégradants s’il était extradé vers la Russie (paragraphe 73 ci-dessus). La Cour rappelle à cet égard que les assurances données par les autorités d’un pays de destination ne représentent qu’un des facteurs à prendre en considération pour l’examen de la situation personnelle de la personne menacée d’extradition et qu’elles ne sont pas en elles-mêmes suffisantes pour garantir une protection satisfaisante contre le risque de mauvais traitements. Elle estime que le poids à leur accorder dépend, dans chaque cas, des circonstances prévalant à l’époque considérée (Saadi, précité, § 148, et Othman (Abu Qatada) c.Royaume-Uni, no8139/09, §§ 187-189, CEDH 2012 (extraits)).

94.La Cour ne perd pas de vue que, dans la présente espèce, les assurances en question ont été données par le parquet général de la Fédération de Russie, un pays contractant à la Convention qui, de ce fait, s’est engagé à respecter les droits fondamentaux garantis par celle-ci. Elle considère cependant que, dans les circonstances spécifiques de la présente affaire, ces assurances ne sauraient suffire à écarter le risque de mauvais traitements encouru par le requérant. Elle observe en particulier que les rapports internationaux dont elle dispose relèvent que les personnes accusées à l’instar du requérant d’appartenance au groupe armé en cause opérant dans le Caucase du Nord sont souvent soumises à la torture lors de leur détention et que les autorités compétentes russes manquent souvent à leur obligation de diligenter des enquêtes effectives dans le cas d’allégations de maltraitances subies dans les établissements de détention provisoire du Caucase du Nord (paragraphes 51-54 ci-dessus). En outre, elle note que le Gouvernement n’a pas précisé quelles seraient concrètement les démarches qu’il comptait entreprendre pour s’assurer du respect des engagements des autorités russes, ni si ses services diplomatiques avaient déjà coopéré par le passé avec les autorités russes dans des cas similaires d’extradition vers le Caucase du Nord.

95.La Cour observe par ailleurs que le tribunal interne de deuxième instance s’est appuyé exclusivement sur ces mêmes assurances données par les autorités russes pour autoriser l’extradition du requérant: la question de savoir si ce dernier encourrait un risque sérieux et avéré de subir des maltraitances dans son pays d’origine a été traitée de manière insuffisante dans la décision de cette juridiction (paragraphe 31 ci-dessus). La Cour est cependant d’avis que, dans le cadre d’une procédure d’extradition, l’appréciation du risque pour la personne concernée de subir des maltraitances dans son pays d’origine est une question essentielle qui mérite une attention particulière de la part des tribunaux internes. Il apparaît que tel n’a pas été le cas en l’occurrence et que le requérant a été privé des garanties requises par l’article 3 de la Convention (voir paragraphes 74 à 82 ci-dessus, avec les références).

96.Ces éléments suffisent à la Cour pour conclure que le requérant encourt un risque sérieux et avéré d’être soumis à la torture ou d’autres traitements inhumains et dégradants dans son pays d’origine. Dès lors, la mise à exécution de la décision de l’extrader vers la Fédération de Russie emporterait violation de l’article 3 de la Convention.

Belgium obliged to review remedies against expulsion orders – Strasbourg Court renders quasi-pilot judgment

Josef c. Belgique, 27/02/2014

“95. La Cour constate qu’en droit belge, le recours porté devant le CCE visant l’annulation d’un ordre de quitter le territoire ou d’un refus de séjour n’est pas suspensif de l’exécution de l’éloignement. La loi sur les étrangers prévoit par contre des procédures spécifiques pour en demander la suspension, soit la procédure de l’extrême urgence, soit la procédure de suspension « ordinaire » (voir paragraphes 64 à 73 ci-dessus).

96. La demande de suspension en extrême urgence a pour effet de suspendre de plein droit la mesure d’éloignement. Le CCE peut, dans ce cas, sur la base notamment d’un examen du caractère sérieux des moyens fondés sur la violation de la Convention, ordonner, dans un délai de 72 heures, le sursis à l’exécution des décisions attaquées et prévenir de la sorte que les intéressés soient éloignés du territoire avant un examen approfondi de leurs moyens, à effectuer dans le cadre du recours en annulation.

97. Le Gouvernement fait valoir, ainsi que le CCE l’a souligné dans son arrêt du 27 novembre 2010 (voir paragraphe 46 ci-dessus), que la suspension peut également être obtenue par le jeu d’une autre combinaison de recours : d’abord, un recours en annulation et une demande de suspension ordinaire dans le délai de trente jours à compter de la notification de la décision faisant grief ; ensuite, au moment où l’étranger fait l’objet d’une mesure de contrainte, une demande de mesures provisoires en extrême urgence. Le CCE est alors dans l’obligation légale d’examiner, dans les 72 heures et en même temps, la demande de mesures provisoires en extrême urgence et la demande de suspension ordinaire introduite auparavant. L’introduction de la demande de mesures provisoires en extrême urgence a, à partir du moment de son introduction, un effet de suspension de plein droit de l’éloignement.

98. En vertu de l’interprétation qu’a donnée le CCE de la notion d’extrême urgence, tant la demande de suspension en extrême urgence que la demande de mesures provisoires en extrême urgence nécessitent, pour pouvoir être déclarées recevables et fondées, l’existence d’une mesure de contrainte (voir paragraphes 46 et 67 ci-dessus).

99. En l’espèce, la requérante a saisi le CCE d’un recours en annulation et d’une demande de suspension en extrême urgence dirigés contre la décision de rejet de la demande de régularisation de séjour et l’ordre de quitter le territoire délivrés par l’OE les 20 octobre et 22 novembre 2010 respectivement. Le CCE a constaté qu’en l’absence de mesure de contrainte prise à son égard, la requérante n’avait pas démontré l’extrême urgence de sa situation. Le CCE a donc rejeté la demande de suspension en extrême urgence pour ce motif par un arrêt du 27 novembre 2010.

100. La requérante allègue qu’en rejetant ainsi sa demande de suspension, le CCE l’a privée, en violation de la jurisprudence de la Cour relative à l’article 13 combiné avec l’article 3 de la Convention, de la seule possibilité en droit belge d’obtenir la suspension de plein droit de son éloignement alors que celui-ci pouvait être exécuté à tout moment après le 22 décembre 2010.

101. Le Gouvernement soutient, quant à lui, que la requérante aurait dû utiliser, comme le lui suggérait le CCE par son arrêt du 27 novembre 2010, l’autre combinaison de recours, à savoir un recours en annulation et une demande de suspension ordinaire de l’ordre de quitter le territoire assortie, le moment venu, d’une demande de mesures provisoires en extrême urgence.

102. La Cour observe que ce système, tel que décrit ci-dessus (voir paragraphes 96 et 97 ci-dessus), a pour effet d’obliger l’étranger, qui est sous le coup d’une mesure d’éloignement et qui soutient qu’il y a urgence à demander le sursis à exécution de cette mesure, à introduire un recours conservatoire, en l’occurrence une demande de suspension ordinaire. Ce recours, qui n’a pas d’effet suspensif, doit être introduit dans le seul but de se préserver le droit de pouvoir agir en urgence lorsque la véritable urgence, au sens donné par la jurisprudence du CCE, se réalise, c’est-à-dire quand l’étranger fera l’objet d’une mesure de contrainte. La Cour observe au surplus que, dans l’hypothèse où l’intéressé n’a pas mis en mouvement ce recours conservatoire au début de la procédure, et où l’urgence se concrétise par après, il est définitivement privé de la possibilité de demander encore la suspension de la mesure d’éloignement.

103. Selon la Cour, si une telle construction peut en théorie se révéler efficace, en pratique, elle est difficilement opérationnelle et est trop complexe pour remplir les exigences découlant de l’article 13 combiné avec l’article 3 de disponibilité et d’accessibilité des recours en droit comme en pratique (Çakıcı c. Turquie [GC], no 23657/94, § 112, CEDH 1999‑IV, M.S.S., précité, § 318, et I.M., précité, § 150). Elle note en outre que si, dans l’hypothèse précitée (voir paragraphe 102 in fine), l’étranger ne retire pas son recours en annulation initial et ne le réintroduit pas, cette fois accompagné d’une demande de suspension ordinaire, le système préconisé par le Gouvernement peut mener à des situations dans lesquelles l’étranger n’est en fait protégé par un recours à effet suspensif ni durant la procédure contre l’ordre d’expulsion ni face à l’imminence d’un éloignement. C’est cette situation qui s’est produite en l’espèce, alors même que la requérante était conseillée par un avocat spécialisé. Eu égard à l’importance du droit protégé par l’article 3 et au caractère irréversible d’un éloignement, une telle situation est incompatible avec les exigences desdites dispositions de la Convention (voir, parmi d’autres, Gebremedhin [Gaberamadhien] c. France, no 25389/05, § 66, CEDH 2007‑II, M.S.S., précité, § 293 et 388, Diallo c. République tchèque, no 20493/07, § 74, 23 juin 2011, Auad c. Bulgarie, no 46390/10, § 120, 11 octobre 2011, Al Hanchi c. Bosnie-Herzégovine, no 48205/09, § 32, 15 novembre 2011, I.M., précité, § 58, De Souza Ribeiro, précité, § 82, Mohammed c. Autriche, no 2283/12, § 72, 6 juin 2013, et M.A. c. Chypre, no 41872/10, § 133, CEDH 2013 (extraits)).

104. La Cour observe en outre que ce système accule les intéressés, qui se trouvent déjà dans une position vulnérable, à agir encore in extremis au moment de l’exécution forcée de la mesure. Cette situation est d’autant plus préoccupante dans le cas d’une famille accompagnée d’enfants mineurs sachant que l’exécution de la mesure sous la forme d’un placement en détention, si elle ne peut pas être évitée, doit être réduite au strict minimum conformément, notamment, à la jurisprudence de la Cour (Muskhadzhiyeva et autres c. Belgique, no 41442/07, 19 janvier 2010, Kanagaratnam c. Belgique, no 15297/09, 13 décembre 2011, et Popov c. France, nos 39472/07 et 39474/07, 19 janvier 2012).

105. La Cour n’estime pas nécessaire de se prononcer sur la possibilité qu’avait la requérante de saisir le juge judiciaire des référés (voir paragraphes 75 à 77 ci-dessus). Il lui suffit de constater que ce recours n’est pas non plus suspensif de plein droit de l’exécution de la mesure d’éloignement et qu’il ne remplit donc pas non plus les exigences requises par l’article 13 de la Convention combiné avec l’article 3 (voir, mutatis mutandis, Singh et autres c. Belgique, no 33210/11, § 97, 2 octobre 2012).

106. Au vu de l’analyse du système belge qui précède, la Cour conclut que la requérante n’a pas disposé d’un recours effectif, dans le sens d’un recours à la fois suspensif de plein droit et permettant un examen effectif des moyens tirés de la violation de l’article 3 de la Convention. Il y a donc eu violation de l’article 13 combiné avec l’article 3 de la Convention.

153. En l’espèce, la Cour estime que l’État belge doit aménager le droit interne pour assurer que tous les étrangers qui se trouvent sous le coup d’un ordre de quitter le territoire puissent introduire, dès que l’exécution de la mesure est possible ou au plus tard au moment où l’exécution forcée est mise en mouvement, une demande de suspension de l’exécution de cette mesure qui ait un effet suspensif automatique et qui ne dépende pas de l’introduction préalable d’un autre recours que le recours au fond. Elle précise également qu’un délai suffisant doit être ménagé pour introduire cette demande et que l’effet suspensif de la mesure d’éloignement doit demeurer jusqu’à ce que la juridiction compétente ait procédé à un examen complet et rigoureux du bien-fondé de la demande de suspension au regard de l’article 3 de la Convention. Cette indication ne concerne pas les cas où, avant la délivrance de l’ordre de quitter le territoire, l’étranger a pu faire examiner l’ensemble de ses griefs tirés de l’article 3 de la Convention par une juridiction au terme d’une procédure répondant aux exigences de l’article 13 de la Convention.”

Migrant ‘Push Backs’ at Sea are Prohibited ‘Collective Expulsions’

In the early hours of 20 January 2014, a boat coming from Turkey carrying twenty-seven Afghan and Syrian migrants was intercepted by the Greek coast guard near the isle of Farmakonisi, in the southeast Aegean Sea, and later capsized. Eight migrant children and three migrant women drowned. While this operation was described by the Greek authorities as a rescue, the migrant survivors adamantly alleged that it was, in fact, a ‘push back.’ ‘Push back’ is a widely-used term that has overshadowed the legal term, ‘collective expulsion,’ the prohibition of which was expressly provided for in 1963 in the one-sentence, oft-forgotten, Article 4 of Protocol No. 4 (‘Article 4-4’) to the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’).

In the case of Becker v. Denmark, the former European Commission of Human Rights defined collective expulsion as any measure ‘compelling aliens as a group to leave the country, except where such a measure is taken after and on the basis of a reasonable and objective examination of the particular cases of each individual alien of the group.’ The purpose of Article 4-4 is to enable migrants to contest the expulsion measure, thereby guarding against state arbitrariness and safeguarding fairness in forced return procedures.

Under the Strasbourg Court’s established case law, the fact that members of a group of migrants are subject to similar, individual expulsion decisions does not automatically mean that there has been a collective expulsion, insofar as each migrant is given the opportunity to argue against this measure to the competent authorities on an individual basis.

Moreover, there is no violation of Article 4-4 if the lack of an expulsion decision made on an individual basis is the consequence of applicants’ own ‘culpable conduct’.  For example, in Berisha and Haljiti v.“the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,” the applicants had pursued a joint asylum procedure and thus received a single common decision.  Another example is the case of Dritsas v. Italy, in which the applicants had refused to show their identity papers to the police and as a result, the latter had been unable to issue expulsion orders to the applicants on an individual basis.

The locus classicus case involving interception at sea is Hirsi Jamaa and others v. Italy. This case concerned the 2009 interception and forced return to Libya of a large group of African migrants by Italian navy ships in the Mediterranean, based upon relevant bilateral agreements between Italy and Libya.  The Court in this case noted that Article 4-4 is applicable not only to migrants lawfully within a state’s territory but also to all foreign nationals and stateless individuals who pass through a country or reside in it.  The Court found Italy to be in violation of the above provision on the grounds that the migrants’ transfer to Libya was carried out without any examination of their individual situations, there was no identification procedure conducted by the Italian authorities, and the staff aboard the transporting ships were not trained to conduct individual interviews and were not assisted by interpreters or legal advisers.

State responsibility in this context also arises under Article 2 ECHR (right to life), as demonstrated in another, earlier Strasbourg Court case, Xhavara and fifteen others v. Italy and Albania.  This case concerned the interception in 1997 of a group of Albanian irregular migrants in the Mediterranean by an Italian navy ship. Fifty-eight migrants drowned as a result. The Court held that, given that the fatal accident was caused by an Italian navy ship, the Italian authorities were under an obligation, pursuant to Article 2 ECHR, to carry out an investigation that was ‘official, effective, independent and public.’ On this point, the Court concluded that the criminal investigation initiated by the Italian authorities had provided adequate safeguards with respect to the effectiveness and independence requirements.

The tragic migrant interception operation in the Aegean Sea last January is part of the long list of tragedies in the Mediterranean and a consequence of long-standing European migration policies and practices that make migrants’ lawful entry into Europe overly difficult. Although European states have no legal obligation to change their policies, they are nonetheless under a clear legal obligation to provide adequate redress to migrants who have undergone such painful odysseys due to ‘push back’ or rescue attempts.

published at: http://ohrh.law.ox.ac.uk/?p=4322

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.”

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