31 January 2014

According to the EU Qualification Directive, subsidiary protection shall be granted to persons who have substantial grounds for believing that, if returned to their country of origin, they will face ‘real risk of suffering serious harm’ by reason of indiscriminate violence in situations of international or internal armed conflict’. In C-285/12 Diakité, delivered on 30 January 2014,the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) decided that in this context the definition of ‘internal armed conflict’ must take the usual meaning in everyday language: armed groups confronting each other or the State armed forces and not as defined under international humanitarian law.

According to the Qualification Directive, not all ‘internal armed conflicts’ will warrant subsidiary protection. Only those conflicts where there are ‘substantial grounds’ for believing that the applicant if returned would face a ‘real risk’ of being subjected to ‘a serious and individual threat’ to their life. Therefore, given this existing requirement, the CJEU held it unnecessary to impose extra conditions relating to the intensity, level of organisation and duration of the relevant conflict. Such conditions would not help the aim of the Qualification Directive to aid the identification of persons genuinely in need of international protection.

The CJEU’s judgment arose from the application of a Guinean national whose asylum claim was refused because the situation in Guinea was not regarded as constituting ‘armed conflict not of an international character’ under international humanitarian law. The applicant appealed, arguing that he had sought protection under EU law, and international humanitarian law was irrelevant. The highest court in Belgium asked the CJEU to clarify what the Qualification Directive means by ‘internal armed conflict’.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 31 January 2014
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