The applicant was an Iranian national of Kurdish ethnicity who claimed asylum in Ireland. He worked as a mechanic in a garage. One day he took delivery of a car for repair. It transpired that the car had been used in anti-government operations and his employer was subsequently arrested. The applicant’s uncle told him that the Iranian authorities had gone to his home to arrest him too, and made arrangements to send him abroad.
Having investigated his claim, the Refugee Applications Commissioner made a negative recommendation on it, which was affirmed by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, whose decision the applicant challenged in these proceedings.
The Tribunal was not satisfied as to the applicant’s credibility. It considered that an Iranian court ruling recording a conviction against him in absentia, which he had submitted in the course of his appeal, contradicted information given by him during the earlier asylum process. It referred to his having confessed to the crime for which he was ultimately convicted, something which the applicant had never mentioned. It also referred to the make of the car being a Toyota, whereas the applicant had said it had been a Kia. It also took the view that the date of the ruling preceded the date on which the authorities had impounded the car and arrested his employer. Finally, it considered it incredible that the applicant’s uncle or sister were unaware of the court hearing that resulted in his conviction. In reaching its decision, the Tribunal held that it had considered all country of origin information submitted to it.
The court quashed the Tribunal’s decision.
It noted that country of origin information indicated that most trials in revolutionary courts took place behind closed doors and held that the Tribunal had erred in drawing an adverse inference from the applicant’s uncle’s and sister’s lack of knowledge of his conviction without making any reference to that information. Had it done so, it might have come to a different conclusion on the point.
The court also took the view that the Tribunal had effectively queried the Iranian court ruling’s authenticity and that it was not absolved from making some inquiry about that simply because its contents differed in certain respects from the applicant’s narrative. In its view, the inconsistency in the evidence regarding the description of the car was a peripheral matter; it also noted that the applicant had contested the accuracy of the translation of his questionnaire with regard to the make of the car, and that his averments in that regard had not been challenged by way of replying affidavit.
Finally, it noted that although the date of the ruling appeared to precede the impounding of the car and the arrest of the applicant’s employer, the date of the document post-dated that date. It held that the ruling was sufficiently ambiguous on its face as to make it unsafe for the Tribunal to rely on a contradiction in dates as a factor to undermine the applicant’s credibility. The court therefore held that the Tribunal had erred in its assessment of the Iranian court ruling and that it ought to have retained the original of it, which had been furnished by the applicant in the course of his appeal, so that it could carry out an inquiry (via the Commissioner under s. 16(6) of the Refugee Act 1996) as to whether or not it was authentic.
The court therefore quashed the Tribunal’s decision.