ECtHR – L. O. v France, Application No. 4455/14, 26 May 2015

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Country of Applicant: 
Nigeria
Date of Decision: 
26-05-2015
Citation: 
Application No. 4455/14
Court Name: 
European Court of Human Rights
Headnote: 

Considering the general situation in the country and the circumstances specific to the Applicant, the ECtHR held that there were no serious and current grounds to believe that she would be at real risk of treatment contrary to Article 3 upon her return to Nigeria. 

Facts: 

The Applicant, a Nigerian national, had been working in a restaurant in Benin City. One of the regulars, a certain A., offered her work as a babysitter for his family in France. She accepted and A. made all of the administrative arrangements for her departure, including obtaining a passport for her, which he kept in his possession. The Applicant arrived in France on 16 December 2010. She was locked up in A.’s apartment for the first week and raped by him repeatedly. He then forced her into prostitution, telling her that she owed him €50,000 for her travel and accommodation costs, and that she would have to pay this back in weekly payments of €1,000. She therefore began prostituting herself in Paris. Whenever she was unable to pay the weekly sum, she was beaten and raped by A. He also personally threatened her family on one of his visits back to Nigeria.

In 2011, under A.’s instructions, the Applicant claimed asylum on the basis of a risk of FGM and arranged marriage. Her application was rejected by the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless People (‘OFPRA’) in its decision of 23 September 2011, confirmed on appeal on 16 April 2012. On 30 December 2013, she was arrested, detained and ordered to leave the French territory. While in detention, she filed a subsequent application, explaining that she had been a victim of a human trafficking network and that she had been unable to disclose this in her original application due to pressure from her trafficker. Her application was rejected on 14 January 2014 on the grounds that she had not provided sufficient evidence for the credibility of her application to be assessed.

On 15 January 2014, she applied to the European Court of Human Rights (‘ECtHR’) on the grounds that her rights under Article 3 of its Convention would be violated if she were forced to return to Nigeria. She also sought interim measures under Article 39 of the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’). The following day, the ECtHR advised the French Government not to return the Applicant to Nigeria pending the outcome of proceedings. She was subsequently placed in administrative detention in Lille. Her appeal was still pending at the time of the present ECtHR decision. 

Decision & Reasoning: 

The Court noted that an applicant has the burden of providing evidence that he or she would be at real risk of treatment contrary to Article 3 upon return to the country of origin (Saadi v Italy; NA v U.K.). The evidence should then be considered by the relevant state authorities. Where there are issues concerning the credibility of the evidence, the applicant should ordinarily be given the benefit of the doubt; however, the applicant should be prepared to explain any inconsistencies in his or her account (N. v Sweden; Collins and Akaziebie v Sweden) as well as to dispel doubts concerning the authenticity of the documents provided (Mo P. v France).

Applying these findings to the facts, the Court acknowledged that the Applicant’s account of how she had been led into prostitution in France was detailed and consistent with numerous reports from reliable sources. Furthermore, it found that the fact that the Applicant had lied to the French authorities in the past did not deprive her later statements of probative value, given that this was common behaviour among victims of prostitution. Notwithstanding, the Court held that there were no serious and current grounds to believe that the Applicant would be at real risk of treatment contrary to Article 3 upon her return to Nigeria. The Court first noted that the risk alleged by the Applicant concerned not the State, but rather the actions of an individual. In light of the evidence provided, it appeared that A. had acted independently and was not part of a trafficking network. Moreover, it was not apparent that the Applicant remained under his influence, as she had stopped making the payments to him. In addition, relying on its previous finding in V. F. v France, as corroborated by more recent country reports from the U.S. Secretary of State and the U.K. Home Office, the Court was not convinced that the Nigerian authorities would not be able to offer the Applicant sufficient protection and assistance, as it was continuing in its efforts to protect the victims of human trafficking. The application was rejected as manifestly unfounded in accordance with Articles 35(3)(a) and 4 of the ECHR. As a result, the Article 39 interim measures were also brought to an end.

Outcome: 

Application denied.

Case Law Cited: 

ECtHR - V. F. v France – Application No. 7196/10

ECtHR - H.L.R. v. France, Application no. 24573/94

ECtHR - Mo P. v. France, Application No. 55787/09

ECtHR - Klaas v Germany, Application No. 15473/89

ECtHR - N. v Sweden, 20 July 2010, no. 23505/09

ECtHR - Collins and Akaziebe v Sweden (Application no. 23944/05)
Attachment(s): 
Other sources cited: 

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Nigeria – June 2014

U.K. Home Office Report on Nigeria – December 2013

Authentic Language: 
English
State Party: 
France