The Applicant was a national of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (‘DRC’) who had arrived in Ireland in 2003 as an asylum seeker. He claimed to have been an editor at the State-controlled television network RTNC and to have been imprisoned and tortured as a result of broadcasts which connected Congolese President Joseph Kabila to a massacre in a refugee camp. The Refugee Applications Commissioner did not find his narrative credible and found no evidence of the massacre referred to by the Applicant.
A first appeal to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal was unsuccessful, but the recommendation of the Tribunal was quashed by the High Court and remitted for consideration by another member. The Applicant’s second appeal was heard in September 2008. The Tribunal was furnished with medical reports which contained objective findings in relation to the injuries on the Applicant’s body and described them as ‘highly typical’ and ‘highly consistent or typical of’ the maltreatment he described. The Tribunal was also supplied with evidence that there had in fact been a massacre at the refugee camp referred to by the Applicant and that Kabila had been involved. Contradictory information relating to the closure of the prison in which the Applicant claimed to have been tortured was also before the Tribunal. In his decision, the Tribunal found held that there was a possibility that the prison in question had been closed since 2001 and that he was entitled to take this into account in assessing the Applicant’s credibility. In view of his misgivings as to the Applicant’s personal credibility, the Tribunal rejected the findings in the medical reports and dismissed the Applicant’s appeal.
The Applicant obtained the leave of the High Court to challenge the Tribunal’s decision by way of judicial review on the grounds that the Tribunal’s finding with respect to the closure of the prison was irrational and that the manner in which the Tribunal dealt with the medical evidence was unlawful. In its judgment on the substantive application for judicial review, the High Court (Clark J.) held that while medical reports are rarely capable of providing clear corroboration of a claim, there are occasions when examining physicians report on objective findings and use language which attach a higher probative value to those findings. Such reports, the Court said, are capable in an objective way of supporting the claim. In such cases, clear and strong reasons must be given if the probative value of the report is to be rejected. The Court found that the manner in which the medical evidence was rejected by the Tribunal was irrational and that the evidence had not been given adequate consideration. On the grounds that the Tribunal’s finding as to credibility lacked the strength and clarity required to reject the findings in the medical reports, the Court granted an order of certiorari quashing the Tribunal’s decision and remitting the appeal for reconsideration by another Tribunal Member.