Case C-285/12 – Aboubacar Diakité v Commissaire général aux réfugiés et aux apatrides

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Diakite
Respondent/Defendant:Commissaire général aux réfugiés et aux apatrides
Court/s:ECJ
Citation/s:C-285/12
Nature of Proceedings:Preliminary ruling
Judgment Date/s:30 Jan 2014
Judge:CJEU, Fourth Chamber: L. Bay Larsen (Rapporteur), President of the Chamber, K. Lenaerts, Vice-President of the Court, acting as Judge of the Fourth Chamber, M. Safjan, J. Malenovský and A. Prechal, Judges
Category:Refugee Law
Keywords:Protection (Subsidiary), Refugee
Country of Origin:Guinea
URL:http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=147061&pageIndex=0&doclang=EN&mode=lst&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=173363
Geographic Focus:Europe

Facts:
The applicant, a native of Guinea, applied twice for asylum and subsidiary protection in Belgium, being unsuccessful on both occasions. The Commissaire Général’s refusal to grant subsidiary protection was based on the finding that there was no situation of indiscriminate violence or armed conflict in the applicant’s country of origin. The applicant appealed against those decisions and the Belgian Conseil d-Etat referred a question to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) for a preliminary ruling, essentially raising the matter of whether the concept of “internal armed conflict” contained in Article 15(c) of the Qualification Directive (Council Directive 2004/83/EC) was to be interpreted by reference to international humanitarian law, in particular the four Geneva Conventions of the 12th August, 1949, or whether it was to be given an independent interpretation, in which case, it asked what were the criteria for determining whether such an “internal armed conflict” existed.

The CJEU held that an independent interpretation of Article 15(c) was required and that, in deciding whether an “internal armed conflict” existed, it was necessary to give that phrase its usual meaning in everyday language.

Reasoning:

The CJEU stated that, in deciding whether an internal or international armed conflict existed within the meaning of Article 15(c) of the Qualification Directive, it was not necessary for all of the criteria referred to in the four Geneva Conventions, and other relevant provisions, to be satisfied. It pointed out that international humanitarian law and the subsidiary protection regime, introduced by the Qualification Directive, pursued different aims and established quite distinct protection mechanisms.

In deciding whether “internal armed conflict” existed, the usual meaning of that phrase in everyday language was to be considered, whilst also taking into account the context in which it occurred and the purposes of the rules of which it was part. It noted that the usual meaning of the phrase in everyday language concerned a situation in which a state’s armed forces confronted one or more armed groups, or in which two or more armed groups confronted each other.

It emphasised that the existence of an internal armed conflict was a cause for granting subsidiary protection only where confrontations between a state’s armed forces and one or more armed groups or between two or more armed groups were exceptionally considered to create a serious and individual threat to the life or person of an applicant for subsidiary protection for the purposes of Article 15(c) of Directive 2004/83 because the degree of indiscriminate violence which characterised those confrontations reached such a high level that substantial grounds were shown for believing that a civilian, if returned to the relevant country or, as the case may be, to the relevant region, would – solely on account of his presence in the territory of that country or region – face a real risk of being subject to that threat.

Decision:
The CJEU held that an independent interpretation of Article 15(c) was required and that, in deciding whether an “internal armed conflict” existed, it was necessary to give that phrase its usual meaning in everyday language.

Principles:

When deciding whether an “internal armed conflict” existed within the meaning of Article 15(c) of the Qualification Directive, an autonomous interpretation was required, independent of the meaning of that concept in the Geneva Conventions.

The usual meaning of that phrase in everyday language was to be considered, account being taken of the context in which it occurred and the purposes of the rules of which it was part. The usual meaning of the phrase in everyday language concerned a situation in which a state’s armed forces confronted one or more armed groups, or in which two or more armed groups confronted each other.

The existence of an internal armed conflict was a cause for granting subsidiary protection only where such confrontations were exceptionally considered to create a serious and individual threat to the life or person of an applicant for subsidiary protection for the purposes of Article 15(c).

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