Poland - Supreme Administrative Court in Warsaw, 4 June 2002, V SA 2817/01

Country of Decision:
Country of Applicant:
Date of Decision:
04-06-2002
Citation:
V SA 2817/01
Court Name:
Supreme Administrative Court in Warsaw
National / Other Legislative Provisions:
Poland - Ustawy o udzielaniu cudzoziemcom ochrony na terytorium Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej (Act on granting protection to foreigners in the territory of the Republic of Poland)
Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version
Headnote: 

When assessing an application for refugee status, what is important is whether the acts of persecution were carried out for the reasons identified in the Geneva Convention, and not whether or to what extent the victim of persecution can be identified with those reasons.

Fear of persecution within the meaning of Article 1A(2) of the Geneva Convention need not mean that persecution is certain or even probable. Recognition of refugee status is already justified where there are reasonable grounds for asserting the possibility of persecution. “Possibility” means that persecution may take place although it is neither certain nor probable, and the “reasonable grounds” requirement indicates the need to establish real and objective evidence of the risk of persecution. The plausibility of the threat is shown by the situation in the country of origin of the person applying for refugee status as well as that person’s experience to date.

Facts: 

S.E. submitted an application for refugee status in Poland. In the grounds of his application, S.E. explained that he had left Chechnya due to the ongoing armed conflict. His house had been bombed and he and his family had lived in constant fear of persecution from Russian soldiers, despite the fact that he had avoided involvement in the Chechen–Russian conflict and had defied the Chechen fighters when they had asked him to join them.

The Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration declined to grant the Applicant protection on the grounds that he did not meet the criteria for recognition of refugee status as laid down in the Convention. The Minister came to the conclusion that the foreigner could return to Chechnya or settle in another part of the Russian Federation, especially as there were approximately 300,000 people from the Caucasus living in Moscow alone. The application was also rejected due to the low credibility of the foreigner’s testimony and his lack of attachment to Chechen tradition.

The Polish Refugee Board dismissed the party’s appeal. It found that, although the foreigner was a victim of the civil war, he was not at risk of persecution and had come to Poland for economic reasons. The foreigner lodged an appeal against this decision with the Supreme Administrative Court.

Decision & Reasoning: 

The Court overturned the decision of the Polish Refugee Board in full.

The Court found that the fact that the foreigner had not participated in the fighting did not mean that he was not a Chechen. Indeed, even if he were not connected to his homeland through cultural, religious and family ties, this would not preclude the possibility of persecution for reasons of religion or nationality given that the state authorities commit acts of persecution precisely for those reasons. This statement would also be true if the state authorities had a mistaken belief about the Appellant’s religion or nationality. When assessing an application for refugee status, what is important is to determine whether the acts of persecution were carried out for the reasons identified in the Geneva Convention, and not whether or to what extent the victim of persecution can be identified with those reasons.

Secondly, the assertion that Chechens who were not involved in the armed conflict are not at risk of persecution from the Russian authorities is not sufficiently supported by the evidence gathered. The Court also stressed that fear of persecution within the meaning of Article 1A(2) of the Geneva Convention need not mean that persecution is certain or even probable. Recognition of refugee status is already justified where there are reasonable grounds for asserting the possibility of persecution. “Possibility” means that persecution may take place although it is neither certain nor probable, and the “reasonable grounds” requirement indicates the need to establish real and objective evidence of the risk of persecution. The plausibility of the threat is shown by the situation in the country of origin of the person applying for refugee status as well as that person’s experience to date.

Outcome: 

The Court overturned the decision appealed against.

Observations/Comments: 

The importance of the ruling consists in the detailed reference made by the Court to the issue of assessing the likelihood of persecution in relation to the standards of the Geneva Convention. In particular, the Court emphasised that in order to meet the criteria for recognition of refugee status, it is not necessary for persecution to be certain or even probable; it is sufficient for it to be “possible” and for the fear of persecution to be “well-founded”.

The content of the judgment is available from the Central Database of Administrative Court Judgments:

http://orzeczenia.nsa.gov.pl/doc/B5520ACAC5

Other sources cited: 

Commission on Human Rights resolution 2001/24 – “Situation in the Republic of Chechnya of the Russian Federation”.