HAA (Sudan) v Refugee Appeals Tribunal, Minister for Justice and Equality, Attorney General and Ireland

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Respondent/Defendant:Refugee Appeals Tribunal, Minister for Justice and Equality, Attorney General and Ireland
Court/s:High Court
Citation/s:[2015] IEHC 144
Nature of Proceedings:Judicial Review
Judgment Date/s:05 Mar 2015
Judge:Stewart J.
Category:Refugee Law
Keywords:Asylum, Asylum (Application for), Persecution, Refugee, Refugee Law
Country of Origin:Sudan
Geographic Focus:Ireland

The applicant claimed to be a Sudanese national and a member of the Nubian ethnic group. He said that he had opposed the building of a dam along with a Nubian political party. This drew the adverse attention of the authorities and resulted in his arrest and imprisonment. He was released on condition that he refrain from campaigning against the dam. He later attended a peaceful protest, after which he was again arrested and detained. He was again released on condition that he not oppose the dam, but he continued to do so secretly. He was accordingly re-arrested and detained. Upon being released, he attended a protest where four protesters were shot by government forces. He managed to escape arrest and left Sudan by boat before being transported by smugglers to Ireland.

He claimed to have been told by family members in Sudan that state agents were seeking his whereabouts and had been to his home on a number of occasions.

Having investigated his claim, the Refugee Applications Commissioner recommended that he not be declared a refugee. He appealed to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, which affirmed the Commissioner’s recommendation. He challenged the Tribunal’s decision in these proceedings.

The Tribunal made a number of credibility findings against the applicant. First, it noted that he did not refer in his ASY1 form or his initial questionnaire to his alleged arrests, only doing so at the interview stage. Secondly, it found that he did not correctly identify photographs of four people who were killed during a protest he claimed to have attended. Thirdly, whilst a SPIRASI report had been submitted in support of his claim to have suffered torture whilst in detention, it took the view that his difficulties could have been caused by other agents and for other reasons.

The applicant contended that, whilst his credibility had been rejected, the Tribunal ought to have applied a forward-looking test by assessing whether or not he would be at risk on the ground of his ethnicity. It was contended that he was still being sought in Sudan and had submitted country of origin information indicating that Nubians who were apprehended by the authorities were at risk of suffering harm, thereby providing the necessary Convention nexus.

The applicant also contended that the Tribunal had not dealt properly with the medical evidence, including the SPIRASI report, which found that some of the injuries on his body were “consistent” or “highly consistent” with the allegations of torture outlined by him.

Finally, he claimed that the Arabic interpreter provided to him at his interview with the Commissioner had spoken with an Algerian Arabic dialect and accent and that he was unable to properly understand him.

The Tribunal contended that his credibility had been properly assessed, pointing to the fact that he had changed his story on a number of occasions. It took issue with the contention that all Nubians were persecuted, noting that the applicant’s family were all still in the area and they remained there without being persecuted. It was contended that his claim was solely based on his alleged political activities, which were not held to be credible, and not his ethnicity.

The Tribunal contended that the applicant’s complaint about the interpreter had not formed part of his notice of appeal, and could not be claimed to be central to the case.

Finally, it argued that it was for the Tribunal to attribute weight and probative value to the SPIRASI report. If its probative value was considered to be low, as in the instant case, then the Tribunal did not have to deal with it in detail. It contended that it was justified in its conclusion given the serious adverse credibility findings made by it following a detailed assessment of the applicant’s claim. There was no causative link between the injuries and the allegations of torture made by the applicant.

The court upheld the Tribunal’s decision.

It held that the credibility findings made by the Tribunal were substantial and definitive. They were so strong as to fall within the parameters of the decision of Peart J. in Imafu v. Refugee Appeals Tribunal, the result of which was that the Tribunal was not obliged to proceed to carry out a forward-looking test.

The court also held that the Tribunal had considered the medical reports in the context of determining the applicant’s credibility. The weight to be attached to them was a matter for it alone. The only function of the High Court was to ensure that the process adopted by the Tribunal was fair and that the evidence was considered. It held that that had been the case and that the Tribunal was entitled not to attach any probative value to the reports.

The court therefore refused leave and upheld the Tribunal’s decision.


Where the subjective credibility of a claim for international protection is lacking, there is no need for a decision-maker to carry out a forward-looking test to establish if the applicant would be at risk of persecution or serious harm.

The weight to be attached to evidence, including medical evidence, is a matter for the decision-maker.

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