ECtHR - Gebremedhin (Gaberamadhien) v France, Application No. 25389/05

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Country of Applicant: 
Eritrea
Date of Decision: 
26-04-2007
Citation: 
Application No. 25389/05
Court Name: 
European Court of Human Rights - Second Section
Relevant Legislative Provisions: 
International Law
International Law > 1951 Refugee Convention
Council of Europe Instruments > EN - Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms > Article 5 > Art 5.1 > Art 5.1 (f)
Headnote: 

The case concerns access to a remedy with suspensive effect by an asylum seeker, who claimed asylum at the French border, against a potential removal from France to a country where there is real reason to believe he would face the risk of being subjected to ill-treatment contrary to Article 3 of the ECHR.

Facts: 

The Applicant is an Eritrean national. In 1998 he and his family were displaced from Ethiopia to Eritrea, where he worked as a reporter and photographer for an independent newspaper. In 2000 he and the newspaper’s editor-in-chief were arrested, apparently on account of their professional activities. Both men were imprisoned for several months. In September 2001 the Applicant fled the country. He was arrested and questioned about his friend, and was subjected to ill-treatment. He was imprisoned for six months before managing to escape from the prison hospital, where he had been transferred after contracting tuberculosis. He fled to Sudan from where, believing his life to be in danger, he travelled on to South Africa. Using a Sudanese passport in a different name and without any travel papers, he arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. On 1 July 2005 he applied for leave to enter French territory in order to lodge an application for asylum with the French authorities. He was placed in the airport’s waiting area. On 5 July 2005, after interviewing the Applicant, the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) issued the opinion that the Applicant should not be admitted to France on account of inconsistencies in his claims which suggested that he had tried to falsify his past. The following day the Ministry of the Interior refused the Applicant admission to French territory on grounds of asylum and gave directions for his removal to Eritrea or any other country where he might be legally admissible. If the Applicant had been granted leave to enter the country, he would have been issued with a safe conduct by the border police, authorising him to enter the country and remain there for eight days with a view to lodging an asylum application with the relevant authority under the ordinary-law asylum procedure. Persons who are not admitted are removed immediately.

The Applicant made an urgent application to the Administrative Court requesting leave to enter the country with a view to applying for asylum. He reiterated his claims that he had been persecuted and his life had been threatened. The urgent applications judge rejected his application on the following day, 8 July 2005.

The Applicant lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights, which on 15 July 2005 indicated to the French Government, under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court (interim measures) that it was desirable not to remove him to Eritrea for the time being. The Applicant was still being held in the waiting area in Roissy airport. On 20 July 2005 the French authorities, on the basis of the indication from the European Court, granted the Applicant leave to enter France and to remain there for eight days in order to visit the Prefecture and apply for a temporary residence permit on grounds of asylum. The Applicant took the appropriate action and was granted a French residence permit valid for one month, enabling him to lodge an application for asylum with OFPRA. In November 2005 OFPRA granted him refugee status.

Decision & Reasoning: 

Article 13 in conjunction with Article 3

Under French law, a decision refusing entry to the country acted as a bar to lodging an application for asylum; moreover, such a decision was immediately enforceable, with the result that the person concerned could be removed straight away to the country he or she claimed to have fled. In the instant case, following the application of Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, the Applicant had ultimately been given leave to enter the country and had hence been able to lodge an application for asylum with OFPRA, which granted him refugee status. From that point on the Geneva Convention of 28 July 1951 relating to the Status of Refugees stood in the way of his expulsion. The Applicant was accordingly no longer a victim of the alleged violation of Article 3.

The Court considered that the Applicant’s allegations as to the risk of ill-treatment in Eritrea were sufficiently credible to make his complaint under Article 3 an “arguable” one. The Applicant could therefore rely on Article 3 taken in conjunction with Article 13. The latter provision required that foreign nationals whom it had been decided to remove to a country where there was real reason to believe that they faced the risk of being subjected to ill-treatment contrary to Article 3 should have access to a remedy against that decision which had suspensive effect. In the case of asylum seekers who claimed to face such a risk and who had already been granted leave to enter French territory, French law provided for a procedure which met some of these requirements. The procedure did not apply, however, to persons claiming to run such a risk who turned up at the border after arriving at an airport, for instance. In order to lodge an asylum application with OFPRA, foreign nationals had to be on French territory. If they turned up at the border, they could not make such an application unless they were first given leave to enter the country. If they did not have the necessary papers to that effect, they had to apply for leave to enter on grounds of asylum. They were then held in a “waiting area” while the authorities examined whether or not their intended asylum application was “manifestly ill-founded”. If the authorities deemed the application to be “manifestly ill-founded”, they refused the person concerned leave to enter the country. He or she was then automatically liable to be removed without having had the opportunity to apply to OFPRA for asylum. While the individual in question could apply to the administrative courts to have the Ministerial decision refusing leave to enter set aside, such an application had no suspensive effect and was not subject to any time-limits. Admittedly, he or she could apply to the urgent applications judge, as the Applicant had done without success. However, this remedy did not have automatic suspensive effect either, with the result that the person could also be removed before the judge had given a decision. Given the importance of Article 3 and the irreversible nature of the harm that might occur if the risk of torture or ill‑treatment materialised, it was a requirement of Article 13 that, where a State Party decided to remove a foreign national to a country where there was real reason to believe that he or she ran a risk of this nature, the person concerned must have access to a remedy with automatic suspensive effect (a remedy with such effect “in practice” was not sufficient). The Applicant had not had access to such a remedy while in the waiting area. The Court found a violation of Article 3 in conjunction with Article 13.

Article 5(1)(f)

After being placed in the “waiting area” of the airport on 1 July 2005, and before being granted leave to enter France on 20 July, the Applicant had been subject to a “deprivation of liberty”. On 15 July the Court decided to indicate to the French Government, under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, that it would be desirable in the interests of the parties and the proper conduct of the proceedings before the Court not to remove the Applicant to Eritrea until midnight on 30 August 2005. Accordingly, from 15 July 2005 onwards, the Government could not remove the Applicant to Eritrea without being in breach of their obligations under the Convention. However, there was nothing to prevent them from removing him to a different country provided that it was established that the authorities of that country would not send him on to the country referred to by the Court. Accordingly, the Applicant’s detention for that purpose, after Rule 39 had been applied, could be said to amount to the “lawful” detention of a person “against whom action [was] being taken with a view to deportation or extradition” within the meaning of Article 5(1)(f) of the Convention. In addition, where, following the application of Rule 39, the authorities had no option but to end the deprivation of the person’s liberty with a view to his deportation, and that implied granting him leave to enter the country, it could prove necessary to keep him in detention for the time strictly necessary for the authorities to verify whether his entry into the country was lawful. This could be said to amount to the “lawful detention of a person to prevent his effecting an unauthorised entry into the country” within the meaning of Article 5(1)(f).

The Government argued that this had been the case in relation to the Applicant and the Court saw no evidence to suggest that, between 15 and 20 July, the Applicant had been arbitrarily deprived of his liberty. In short, the Court accepted that the Applicant’s detention in the “waiting area” after 15 July 2005 had amounted to the “lawful detention of a person to prevent his effecting an unauthorised entry into the country” within the meaning of Article 5(1)(f) and found no violation of Article 5(1)(f).

Outcome: 

A violation of Article 13 of the Convention taken in conjunction with Article 3;

No violation of Article 5 § 1 (f) of the Convention;

The finding of a violation constitutes in itself sufficient just satisfaction for the non-pecuniary damage sustained by the Applicant;

The Respondent State is to pay the Applicant, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final in accordance with Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, EUR 8,300.60 in respect of costs and expenses, plus any tax that may be chargeable.

Subsequent Proceedings : 

In March 2013, the CoE Committee of Ministers adopted a final resolution (CM/ResDH(2013)56), wherein it found that adequate execution measures had been adopted by France. As far as individual measures are concerned, the applicant received refugee status in November 2005. With regard to general measures, the Court was satisfied with the amendments to the code regulating the admission and residence of aliens and the right of asylum (CESEDA). According to those, the decision to refuse entry for the purpose of making an asylum application cannot be executed before the expiry of a period of 48 hours following notification of the decision or, if the matter is referred to an administrative court, until the court has given its decision (within 72 from the referral) on the issue.

Observations/Comments: 

The Court applied Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, indicating to the Government that it was desirable in the interests of the parties and the proper conduct of the proceedings before the Court not to remove the Applicant to Eritrea.

For more information on the effective remedy in accelerated asylum proceedings, see UNHCR Statement on the right to an effective remedy in relation to accelerated asylum procedures, issued in the context of the preliminary ruling reference to the Court of Justice of the European Union from the Luxembourg Administrative Tribunal regarding the interpretation of Article 39, Asylum Procedures Directive (APD); and Articles 6 and 13 ECHR.

 

Case Law Cited: 

ECtHR - Shamayev v Georgia (April 2005) (Application no. 36378/02)

ECtHR - Jabari v Turkey, 11 July 2000, (Application no. 40035/98)

ECtHR - Amuur v. France, Application No. 19776/92

ECtHR - Rotaru v Romania [GC], Application No. 28341/95

ECtHR - I.J.L. and Others v UK, Applications No. 29522/95, 30056/96 and 30574/96

ECtHR - Association SOS attentats and de Boëry v. France [GC], Application No. 76642/06

ECtHR - Mazelié v. France, Application No. 5356/04
Other sources cited: 

Recommendation No. R (98) 13 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on the right of rejected asylum-seekers to an effective remedy against decisions on expulsion in the context of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights;

“Twenty Guidelines on Forced Return”, Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (2005);

Recommendation 1236 (1994) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the right of asylum;

Recommendation 1327 (1997) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the protection and reinforcement of the human rights of refugees and asylum-seekers in Europe;

Resolution 1471 (2005) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on accelerated asylum procedures in Council of Europe Member States;

Recommendation of the Commissioner for Human Rights concerning the rights of aliens wishing to enter a Council of Europe member State and the enforcement of expulsion orders (CommDH(2001)19).

Authentic Language: 
French
State Party: 
France
National / Other Legislative Provisions: 
France - Ceseda (Code of the Entry and Stay of Foreigners and Asylum Law)
France - Decree no. 82-442 of 27 May 1982 as amended implementing s.5 of Ordinance of 2 November 1945 as amended in respect of leave to enter French territory
France - Code de justice administrative (Code of Administrative Justice) - Loi 2000/597 of 30/6/2000