The European Court of Human Rights(ECtHR) decided in I v Sweden that the deportation of a Chechen family to Russia would give rise to violation of Article 3 (prohibition of torture and of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The family lodged a claim for asylum in Sweden in 2007. The family submitted that both Mr and Ms I had been tortured in Chechnya and that Mr I was wanted there on account of having documented in photos the execution of Chechen villagers by Russian federal troops and on account of his contacts with a journalist who was subsequently killed. According to the applicants, Ms I had been kidnapped by the Russian Federal Security Service and Mr I had been arrested by a military guard, detained in a cellar and forced under torture to provide information about the Chechen rebels.
The Swedish Migration Board rejected their claim finding in particular that the situation in Chechnya or the situation for Chechens in Russia alone could not justify the granting of asylum and that the applicants’ account had been incoherent and partly inconsistent.
The family claimed that they would face a real risk of treatment in breach of Article 3 if they were returned.
The ECtHR stated that it was well aware of the on-going disappearances, arbitrary violence, impunity and ill-treatment in detention facilities in Chechnya. It was also aware of interrogations of returnees and of their harassment and possible detention and ill-treatment by State officials. Nevertheless, the Court considered that the general unsafe situation was not sufficiently serious to conclude that the return of the applicants to Russia would amount to a violation of Article 3.
The Court agreed with the Swedish Migration Board that there were certain credibility issues with regard to the applicants’ submissions. However, taking individual factors into account cumulatively, the Court found that there were substantial grounds for believing that the applicants would be exposed to a real risk of being subjected to ill-treatment if removed to Russia.
In particular, the Court noted there had not been a separate assessment of the specific risk in the applicants’ case, notably the fact that Mr I had significant and visible scars on his body. In case of a body search of Mr I by State officials upon his return to Russia, it would be immediately visible that he had been subjected to ill-treatment for whatever reason, and it would be visible that his scars had been caused in recent years, which could indicate that he had actively taken part in the second war in Chechnya.
This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 6 September 2013.
You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.