BH v Refugee Appeals Tribunal and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform

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Respondent/Defendant:Refugee Appeals Tribunal and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform
Court/s:High Court
Citation/s:[2014] IEHC 163
Nature of Proceedings:Judicial Review
Judgment Date/s:28 Mar 2014
Judge:Barr J.
Category:Refugee Law
Keywords:Asylum, Persecution, Refoulement, Refugee
Country of Origin:Ethiopia
URL:https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/ca178c5b-7b1a-46da-847f-b9456a491316/2014_IEHC_163_1.pdf/pdf#view=fitH
Geographic Focus:Ireland

Facts:

The applicant was a national of Ethiopia who claimed to have been forced to join the army there. He claimed asylum in Ireland, contending that he was at risk of persecution on account of having divulged information to an opposition party about a secret cession of certain lands by Ethiopia to Sudan. This culminated in a meeting to determine who bore responsibility for the leak, at which shooting broke out, causing the applicant to flee for his life, after which he made arrangements to leave Ethiopia with an agent, ultimately arriving in the State.

The Refugee Applications Commissioner recommended that he not be declared a refugee, and he appealed unsuccessfully to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, which did not consider him to be credible, although it accepted that he had been a member of the Ethiopian army. He challenged the Tribunal’s decision by way of judicial review.

The applicant claimed that, even though the Tribunal had not found his account of what had happened to him in Ethiopia to be credible, it should still have considered whether he had a well-founded fear of persecution in Ethiopia on the grounds that

(i) he was a deserter from the army;

(ii) he had sought asylum in Ireland; and

(iii) he had provided confidential information to the opposition political party in Ethiopia about the government having transferred certain lands to Sudan.

The Tribunal argued that it had only gone so far as to hold that he might have been in the army at some stage, and not his account of what had happened whilst he was in it. It contended that country of origin information relied upon by the applicant which reported the imposition of the death sentence on four Ethiopian air force pilots who had sought asylum whilst participating in a training exercise in Israel was a very specific case, and had no bearing on the applicant’s position.

Reasoning:

The High Court quashed the Tribunal’s decision. It held that the Tribunal was entitled to reject the applicant’s narrative but that, having held that he was in the army, it should have considered the likely fate of a deserter who might be repatriated to Ethiopia. It noted that the evidence before the Tribunal in that regard concerned four air force pilots who deserted and sought asylum in Israel, and who were sentenced to death in absentia. The court held that the Tribunal should have considered what fate the applicant would likely meet if repatriated as a deserter from the army, as a whistleblower in relation to the land allocation, and as a failed asylum seeker. It having failed to do so, its decision was in error and was quashed.

Decision:

The High Court quashed the Tribunal’s decision.

Principles:

Where an applicant’s credibility has been impugned, save as to an aspect where country of origin information shows a risk of persecution may exist, a protection decision-maker must assess whether or not the fear pertaining to that aspect is well-founded.

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