24 January 2014
On 25 November 2013, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) (IACtHR) gave judgment for the first time on the issue of a state’s obligation to give proper consideration to asylum requests and the principle of non-refoulement. In the judgment, the IACtHR establishes a series of minimum guarantees for asylum and expulsion proceedings derived from the ACHR.
The IACtHR has found that the Bolivian authorities summarily refused to consider the asylum request of the Pacheco Tineo family, nationals of Peru and recognised as refugees by Chile, and carried out their expulsion with neither an oral hearing nor an opportunity for the family to give reasons. The expulsion had been executed in an unreasonably short time frame with no assessment of the risks faced by the family in the destination country. Given that the authorities knew the family were recognised refugees in Chile, they had a special duty of care, diligence and caution in processing the asylum application. Further, the refusal decision was not notified to the family, which prevented them from understanding the reasons and exercising an appeal.
In their country of origin, the parents had been imprisoned for three years and the father was a survivor of a Peruvian prison massacre. Following their deportation to Peru, the parents were imprisoned on false terrorist charges for four months.
The Court declared that the family’s expulsion was incompatible with the right to seek and be granted asylum under Article 22(7) of the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR), the principle of non-refoulement under Article 22(8) ACHR, the right to a fair trial pursuant to Article 8 ACHR, and the right to judicial protection under Article 25 ACHR. In addition, the mother’s arbitrary detention in Bolivia prior to their deportation, the retention of documents, and the situation of grave uncertainty and concern constituted a violation of the family’s right to mental and moral integrity contained in Article 5 ACHR. Finally, the Court declared violations of the rights of the family and the child under Articles 17 and 19 ACHR.
The Court ordered the Bolivian government to provide training programs for immigration officials concerning contact with asylum seekers and to pay the family compensation for material and immaterial damage.
Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Extended Press Summary (Spanish only)
Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Press Summary (Spanish only)
US Department of State, 2012 Human Rights Report: Bolivia
Inter-American Court of Human Rights, 2012 Annual Report
Ben Batros, Open Society Foundations, Case Watch: Inter-American Court to Consider Refugee Status Determinations
Organisation of American States, IACHR Takes Case Involving Bolivia to the Inter-American Court
This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 24 January 2014
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