Back Judgments on pushbacks and refoulement

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Judgments on pushbacks and refoulement

In its Chamber judgment in Kebe and Others v. Ukraine, handed down on 12 January 2017, which concerned attempts by nationals of Eritrea and Ethiopia to obtain asylum in Ukraine, the Court found in particular a violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) in conjunction with Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of one of the applicants. The applicants complained, inter alia, that when the ship they were travelling on had arrived in the port of Mykolayiv, the border guards had prevented them from entering Ukraine and stopped them from lodging claims for asylum. That exposed them to the risk of ill-treatment in their countries of origin by ensuring that they remained on the vessel (which was headed to Saudi Arabia). The Court struck out the application concerning the two applicants. But in the case of the remaining applicant, it held that, after it had indicated an interim measure in March 2012, the applicant should have been allowed to leave the ship and make an asylum application in Ukraine. He was therefore no longer at immediate risk of ill-treatment in his country of origin. However, the Court found that the applicant had not been provided with an effective remedy in relation to complaints about the threat to remove him from Ukraine. Before the Court’s intervention, the border guards had prevented him from disembarking. This had made him liable to be removed from Ukraine at any time without having his claim of potential ill-treatment being examined by the authorities.

In its Chamber judgment in X v. Switzerland, handed down on 26 January 2017, concerning the deportation of a Sri Lankan Tamil man and his subsequent ill-treatment while imprisoned in Sri Lanka (which included beatings), the Court held that there had been a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the Convention. The Court found in particular that the Swiss authorities should have been aware of the risk that the applicant might be subjected to ill-treatment if deported, as there had been ample evidence of this at the time. They had therefore failed to properly assess the applicant’s asylum application, in violation of Article 3. The applicant had continued to be a victim of the violation because, although the Swiss Government had apologised and subsequently granted him asylum, he had not been paid any compensation; and the Government had not demonstrated that he could have acquired any through domestic proceedings.

The official opening of the Court’s judicial year took place on 27 January 2017. Some 300 senior judicial figures from European States took part in a seminar on the theme: Non-refoulement as a principle of international law and the role of the judiciary in its implementation.