Belgium - Council for Alien Law Litigation, 23 February 2011, Nr. 56.584

Country of Decision:
Country of Applicant:
Date of Decision:
23-02-2011
Citation:
Nr. 56.584
Court Name:
Council for Alien Law Litigation
Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version
Headnote: 

This case concerned the approach to be taken with evidence from witnesses. The CALL ruled that a witness statement from a private source cannot be automatically disregarded. The authority in charge of examining an application should examine whether the author of a witness statement can be identified, whether its content can be verified, and whether the information contained therein is sufficiently precise and coherent to usefully contribute to the assessment of the facts of the case.

Facts: 

In 2008, the applicant, of Burundian nationality, lodged an application for asylum, based on the risk he would face as someone who is perceived to be a political collaborator with the FNL (National Forces of Liberation) and supporter to H.R. The Office of the Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons (CGRS) rejected the applicant’s application and his appeal with the CALL was dismissed because it had been lodged too late. In 2010, the applicant filed a second asylum application. In support of this application he produced a number of new documents, including three witness statements and a series of documents from the internet regarding the general situation in Burundi. The CGRS refused this application as well and the applicant filed another appeal with the CALL.

Decision & Reasoning: 

In its second decision the CGRS considered that the principle of res judicata did not permit a re-examination of issues that had been decided in earlier asylum applications, unless the new evidence could demonstrate that, had this evidence been submitted in time to the authority that took the final decision, the decision would have been different. In the case at hand the CGRS ruled that this was not the case, and it dismissed the witness statements on the basis that the credibility of the witnesses could not be verified and that the statements were not accurate in certain respects.

Before the CALL, the applicant argued that he had satisfied the evidentiary conditions set out in Art 4.5 of the Qualification Directive. Along with this argument, he submitted the identification documents of two of the three witnesses.

In its ruling, the CALL confirmed that “the fact that a witness statement comes from a private source is insufficient to deny it automatically of all evidential value. It should be examined whether its author can be identified, whether its content can be verified and whether the information contained therein is sufficiently precise and coherent to usefully contribute to the establishment of the facts of the case. This assessment must be done on a case-by-case basis. When the witness can be heard, it is the responsibility of the authority in charge of the investigation to evaluate whether it is appropriate to hear the witness in order to verify his/her credibility.”

While it is true that the applicant had not produced the identification document of the witnesses until the appeal before the CALL, the CALL criticised the CGRS, commenting that at least one of the witnesses “could have been easily contacted, because the statement was from a woman residing in Belgium who presides over a registered organisation. That witness was sufficiently identified and had communicated, in the letterhead of her statement, her contact details. The witness statement of this woman being potentially a determining factor in the case, as it appeared to indicate that the applicant was still being persecuted, the CGRS could not reject the asylum application without taking it into consideration, nor without having rigorously examined it, if needs be after hearing the witness.”

In the absence of a rigorous examination that would have permitted the assessment of the credibility of the author of the witness statement, the file was lacking essential elements necessary to reach a final decision.

Outcome: 

The decision of the CGRS was quashed and the case was sent back to the CGRS for further investigation and a new decision.