Belgium - Belgian Council for Alien Law Litigation on credibility assessment in forced marriage cases

Monday, February 9, 2015

The facts of the first case in front of the Council for Alien Law Litigation (CALL) relate to a Guinean minor who had been refused status by the Office of the Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons (CGRS) on account of a lack of factual credibility of the claimant’s testimonies. In response to the applicant’s submissions that if returned to Guinea she would be forced to marry and would run the risk of undergoing a second circumcision, the CGRS held that the evidence presented was contradictory, full of gaps and lacked consistency.

The CALL, in this full judicial review, noted, however, that the CGRS’ reasons for rejection related to unimportant aspects of the applicant’s claim and could also be reasonably countered by plausible explanations. The CALL further noted that the CGRS had not taken on board that the applicant was an unaccompanied minor, requiring greater attention to be paid to certain objective factors and a liberal application of the benefit of the doubt.  This coupled with the fact that the applicant is pregnant and may face marginalisation if returned necessitates a thorough analysis of all evidence presented.  Surmising, therefore, that the case lacked essential information and that neither a confirmation nor an amendment to the CGRS decision could take place without further examination, the CALL cancelled the CGRS decision remitting it back to the Commissioner for further analysis.

Based on an unofficial ELENA translation.

The ELENA Weekly Legal Update would like to thank Selma Benkhelifa for notifying us of this decision. 

The facts of the second case relate to a Guinean national who had applied for refugee status in Belgium on the basis that if she were returned her father would force her to marry her deceased husband’s brother. The CGRS, however, rejected these submissions on account of a lack of credibility, notably that the applicant had not proved that the marriage would be a forced one and that she would be persecuted for refusing to marry her brother in law.

Noting that the applicant was first married at the age of 15, the CALL highlighted that this marriage had been “consented” to by the applicant under circumstances of fear and thus constituted a forced marriage. This, in itself, amounted to persecution and was a crucial element to the case which had to be taken into account when assessing the applicant’s fear of persecution. In this respect, the Council noted that the applicant had clearly explained the reasons for her refusal to marry her brother in law, notably his particularly violent personality. Crucially the Council went onto note that the applicant’s submissions were consistent and clear, particularly with regards to her accounts of infibulation carried out at the age of 10 years old. In this regard the Council advanced that there was no doubt that the applicant had undergone two FGM operations. In light of the extreme gravity of these mutilations as well as the first forced marriage, which confirmed the credibility of the applicant’s submissions, the Council held that the applicant should be given the benefit of the doubt as to the risk of a second forced marriage.  Finding a well-founded fear of persecution the CALL subsequently granted the applicant refugee status.

NB. A possibility of onward appeal against decisions of the CALL exists before the Council of State (CS). To find out more please see the AIDA national report on Belgium. 

Based on an unofficial ELENA translation.

The ELENA Weekly Legal Update would like to thank Cécile Ghymers for notifying us of this decision. 

9 February 2015

This item was reproduced with the permission of ECRE from the weekly ELENA legal update supported by the Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Funding Programme and distributed by email. 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 published but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by ECRE, the IRC or its partners.



Assessment of facts and circumstances
Burden of proof
Credibility assessment
Gender Based Persecution
Medical Reports/Medico-legal Reports
Persecution Grounds/Reasons
Previous persecution