Spain - High National Court, 17 January 2011, 680/2009

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Headnote: 

The case concerned an appeal lodged before the High National Court against the decision of the Ministry of Interior to refuse to grant refugee status based on the application of two exclusion clauses, Art 1F(a) and 1F(b) of the 1951 Refugee Convention. The applicant challenged the application of the exclusion clauses arguing an individual assessment was required, as well as evidence of participation in the crimes mentioned. The appeal was rejected. 

Facts: 
The applicant’s claim for asylum was refused by the Ministry of Interior based on the application of two exclusion clauses (Art 1F(a) and 1F(b) of the 1951 Refugee Convention) preventing the granting of refugee status. The exclusion clauses were applied as a result of the applicant’s alleged participation in crimes against humanity and his participation in serious non-political crimes in Colombia.

The applicant claimed there was no evidence of his participation in the crimes outlined in Article 1F(a) and 1F(b) of the 1951 Refugee Convention. While the Ministry of Interior cited crimes committed by a group of which he was a member, there was no evidence of his direct participation in these crimes. Moreover, the applicant was not convicted of an offence by the Colombian authorities.

The applicant argued that there had been a lack of individual assessment and that the interpretation of the exclusion clauses had to be restrictive.
 
Decision & Reasoning: 
The High National Court considered that when interpreting the application of the exclusion clauses in the 1951 Refugee Convention, a high degree of evidence of participation in the mentioned crimes is not required to be proven. Instead, sufficient evidence (“slight evidence”) proving participation in these crimes is sufficient. Therefore, the declaration by the Colombian authorities that the applicant was not criminally responsible was not an obstacle to applying the aforementioned exclusion clauses.

Consequently, the High National Court upheld the decision of the Ministry of Interior to refuse to grant refugee status based on the application   of Art 1F(a) and 1F(b) of the 1951 Refugee Convention.
 
Outcome: 

The appeal was not successful and refugee status was not recognised.

Other sources cited: 

EU Harmonized approach to the Refugee Concept (Common Position 96/196/JAI 4th March 1996).