Spain – Supreme Court, 16 February 2009, 6894/2005

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Headnote: 

The Applicant appealed before the Supreme Court against the decision of the High National Court to reject his application for refugee status. The applicant, his wife and their children claimed asylum alleging persecution on the basis of membership of a particular social group. Their claim was rejected at first instance on the grounds that the facts presented lacked credibility and the applicants could avail themselves of an internal protection alternative. On appeal before the Supreme Court, the decision of the High National Court was revoked and refugee status was granted.

Facts: 
The applicant, his wife and their children, holding Colombian nationality, claimed asylum based on a well-founded fear of being persecuted due to their membership of a particular social group.

The applicant alleged that as he was working with a regional authority with public visibility, he was persecuted as a result of his professional status by serious death threats. He did not know the origin of these threats.

The High National Court considered, and the Attorney General reiterated, that the origin of the threats were unknown; therefore, this fact couldn’t be assessed. Also, it was stated that the applicant could have relocated to another part of the country where there was no well-founded fear of being persecuted. Contradictions were identified in the applicant’s case and it was also decided that the documentation provided by the applicant to prove the persecution alleged had only established his personal identity and some other personal characteristics but had not demonstrated the circumstances related to persecution he claimed to face.
 
Decision & Reasoning: 
The Supreme Court ruled that the applicant established a well-founded fear of being persecuted.

This Court highlighted that the finding of serious flaws in the Colombian judicial system resulted in individuals being unable to flee persecution. The Court found that the applicant lived in a “red area” (an area controlled by Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) paramilitary) and that the professional status of the applicant was especially relevant in that area.

The Supreme Court also considered the applicant’s claims credible and consistent with country of origin information on Colombia.  The Court further held that being unaware of the origin of the death threats was credible and realistic when the circumstances of the applicant were assessed, and it is taken into account how the non-identification of agents of persecution is common in Colombia.

Regarding the availability of an internal protection alternative, the Court declared that internal relocation in Colombia could not be considered as a safe and effective option.
 
Outcome: 

The appeal was successful and the Court declared that refugee status had to be granted (to the applicant with extension to his wife and their children).

Case Law Cited: 

CJEU - C-212/04 Konstantinos Adeneler and Others v ELOG