Spain – Supreme Court, 11 May 2009, 3155/2006

Country of Decision:
Country of Applicant:
Date of Decision:
Nº 3155/2006
Court Name:
The Supreme Court
Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionPDF version of SummaryPDF version of Summary

The applicant claimed asylum on the grounds of having suffered female genital mutilation (FGM) and being subject to a forced marriage. The Ministry of Interior refused the application and the applicant lodged an appeal before the High National Court who also rejected the appeal (the applicant was granted a residence permit for humanitarian reasons). The applicant filed an appeal to the Supreme Court.


The applicant claimed that she had a well-founded fear of persecution based on her membership of a particular social group, namely a female from Nigeria who had been subjected to FGM and forced marriage. The application was rejected on the grounds that her identity wasn’t sufficiently proven and her account upon which her claim was based was deemed to lack credibility. Additionally, it was stated that she did not have a collaborative and helpful attitude while the examination of her claim was taking place.The Attorney General argued that the applicant was aware of the plans for the forced marriage, as well as the FGM and did not show any opposition. She did not ask for protection from the national authorities, even though FGM was prohibited in Nigeria from 2000, therefore, she could be expected to receive protection from the national authorities.The applicant challenged the decision to the Supreme Court.

Decision & Reasoning: 

The Supreme Court stated that if an applicant established that the state would not be able to protect them and that social, political and legal exclusion would take place in their country of origin, constituting a violation of their human rights, then this would constitute a well-founded fear of persecution sufficient to warrant refugee status.

In challenging the reasoning of the High National Court and the Attorney General, the Supreme Court stated that: The UNHCR Guidance Note on FGM states that even if the practice is banned in some countries, many specific reports on Nigeria confirm that effective protection is not available from the national authorities. Moreover, these reports confirm that the practice is widespread in Nigeria.

In relation to establishing proof the applicant’s country of origin and national identity, the Supreme Court found that her identity must have been Nigerian as the High National Court when selecting COI reports and/or when describing and assessing the particular social and political situation, referred to Nigeria. Even though, in contradiction, the High National Court then rejected her claim on the grounds that her identify was not credible.

Finally, the allegations concerning the inconsistencies encountered were refuted; it was stated that the applicant’s allegations were sufficiently well-founded when considered in light of the cultural practices.


Refugee status was granted and the previous decision refusing refugee status was overturned.


The Supreme Court provided a broad interpretation in this particular case when determining persecution and the assessment of the evidence (considering data and information contained in several reports about the cultural and social norms in Nigeria).

Other sources cited: