A.A v Switzerland: Return of Afghan national who converted from Islam to Christianity would breach Article 3 ECHR

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

On 5 November 2019, the European Court of Human Rights delivered its judgment on the risk of ill-treatment for an applicant upon his return to Afghanistan.

The applicant, an Afghan national of Hazara ethnicity, fled his home province of Ghazni due to the lack of security in Afghanistan and his conversion from Islam to Christianity. The Swiss Office for Migration (SEM) did not find the applicant to be credible due to several contradictions in his story and a lack of thorough knowledge of Christianity. The Federal Administrative Court found that the risk of persecution for converts in Afghanistan was not concerning and, in any case, he would be able to return to Kabul, since he had relatives there and he had not revealed his conversion to them.

In assessing the case, the Court did not find a reason to depart from its previous conclusions on the safe conditions for returnees to Afghanistan and went on to assess the risk on the basis of the applicant’s personal situation. Drawing from information gathered by EASO and UNHCR, the Court noted that Afghans who had converted to Christianity or those suspected of conversion risk persecution.

Referring to previous case law, it further reiterated that in a religion-based claim the authorities have to examine whether the applicant can be expected to live out his new faith upon return to his country of origin. The Federal Administrative Court failed to do that, as there was no evidence that the applicant had been asked to describe how he was going to live and express his faith in Afghanistan. It merely assumed, instead, that the applicant would not encounter any problems with family in Kabul. This assumption meant that the domestic court accepted that the applicant would be forced to change his social behaviour and to confine his faith to a strictly private context, given the problems that apostates face in Afghanistan. Lastly, the fact that he is a member of the Hazara ethnic group would also render the applicant’s situation more difficult due to the general discrimination against this group. The Court found that the applicant’s return to Afghanistan would constitute a breach of Article 3 ECHR.

Thank you to Stavros Papageorgopoulos, Legal Officer at ECRE, for assisting us with the summary. Based on an unofficial translation by the EWLU team.

Photo: Kevin Baird, December 2010. Flickr (CC)

This item was reproduced with the permission of ECRE from the ELENA Weekly Legal Update. The purpose of these updates is to inform asylum lawyers and legal organizations supporting asylum seekers and refugees of recent developments in the field of asylum law. Please note that the information provided is taken from publicly available information on the internet. Every reasonable effort is made to make the content accurate and up to date at the time each item is pusexblished but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by ECRE.



Inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Persecution Grounds/Reasons