MLTT (Cameroon) v Minister for Justice , Equality and Law Reform & Refugee Appeals Tribunal

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Respondent/Defendant:Minister for Justice , Equality and Law Reform & Refugee Appeals Tribunal
Court/s:High Court
Citation/s:[2012] IEHC 568
Nature of Proceedings:Judicial Review
Judgment Date/s:27 Jun 2012
Judge:Clark J
Category:Refugee Law
Keywords:Asylum, Asylum application (Examination of an), Geneva Convention & Protocol, Protection, Protection (Application for International), Refugee, Refugee (Convention), Refugee Law
Country of Origin:Cameroon
URL:https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/a8f33703-323c-49c0-bcb0-253dc5df3567/2012_IEHC_568_1.pdf/pdf#view=fitH
Geographic Focus:Ireland

Facts

The applicant was a national of Cameroon and claimed refugee status on the basis of a well founded fear of persecution arising out of his involvement as a student in political demonstrations which were suppressed by the authorities and several students had been killed, others arrested and female students raped. The applicant claimed he was arrested and detained in very poor conditions and frequently beaten. He was released having agreed to cease his involvement in student politics. For over a year he no difficulties but after he again became involved in  organising a student march he was warned that he was in danger of imminent arrest and received death threats.

The Tribunal appeared to accept that he was a student, that the human rights situation in Cameroon was far from satisfactory and that the government did not tolerate anti government activities especially by students. The Tribunal made no comment on the previous negative credibility findings and accepted at face value the new documents produced at the appeal which included a medico-legal report and (what seemed in the opinion of the Court to be) a very detailed and genuine looking hospital record of medical treatment following his release from custody in 2005.

The Tribunal accepted the medico-legal report and considered whether the previous detention and ill treatment in custody could amount to persecution. He found that such ill treatment did not amount to persecution. The Tribunal made two credibility findings against the applicant as to the source of the information warning him about his imminent arrest and that he was targeted again after 18 months without problems.

Reasoning

The Court held that the issue was that, on the basis that the Tribunal accepted that the applicant was a student from Cameroon, he should have considered whether there was any risk of persecution to him on his return. Clark J held that it was well established as a matter of international law and domestic refugee law that the test for determining whether a person is a refugee is forward looking. The Court held that the principle that the decision maker may look to the past as a guide to what is likely to occur in the future but the past is not determinative was consistently accepted and applied.  She held that in circumstances where the applicant’s core claim to have been a student activist in Cameroon appeared to have been accepted the Tribunal was bound to give consideration to and ought to have gone on to ask himself whether the applicant has a well founded fear of persecution if returned to Cameroon, in the light of the accepted past experiences and to objective country information relating to previously arrested students there. The Court found there were substantial grounds that the Tribunal erred in law in failing to apply a forward looking test when assessing whether the applicant had a well founded fear of persecution.

Decision

Where the applicant’s core claim to have been a student activist in Cameroon appeared to have been accepted the Tribunal was bound to give consideration to and ought to have gone on to ask himself whether the applicant has a well founded fear of persecution if returned to Cameroon, in the light of the accepted past experiences and to objective country information. The Court found there were substantial grounds that the Tribunal erred in law in failing to apply a forward looking test when assessing whether the applicant had a well founded fear of persecution.

Principles:

It is well established as a matter of international law and domestic refugee law that the test for determining whether a person is a refugee is forward looking. The principle that the decision maker may look to the past as a guide to what is likely to occur in the future but the past is not determinative was consistently accepted and applied.

Where an applicant’s core claim is accepted the Tribunal is bound to give consideration to and ought to go on to ask whether the applicant has a well founded fear of persecution if returned to his country of origin, in the light of accepted past experiences and to objective country information. The Tribunal must apply a forward looking test when assessing whether the applicant had a well founded fear of persecution.

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