ECtHR - B.K.A. v. Sweden, Application No. 11161/11

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Country of Applicant: 
Date of Decision: 
Application No. 11161/11
Court Name: 
Fifth Section; European Court of Human Rights
Relevant Legislative Provisions: 
Council of Europe Instruments

The reasonable possibility of relocation to the Anbar governorate rendered a Sunni Muslim’s return to Iraq Article 3 compliant in spite of the personal risk he faced in Baghdad from a blood feud. His former membership of the Ba’ath party and military service was no longer regarded as a threat by the Court.


The Applicant, a Sunni Muslim from Baghdad, faced deportation from Sweden back to Iraq, on account of his asylum claim having been rejected in 2010, three years after his arrival. In Iraq, the Applicant was a member of the Ba’ath party, and worked as a professional soldier for over a year for the regime of Saddam Hussein. He was also involved in a blood feud after unintentionally killing a relative.He fled Iraq and relies on his rights under Article 3 to resist his return. 

Decision & Reasoning: 

The Court first declared the general situation in Iraq to be not sufficiently serious to warrant the conclusion that any return to Iraq would violate Article 3 irrespective of personal circumstances.

Turning to the Applicant’s particular situation, the Court ruled that B.K.A.’s membership of the Ba’ath party and former military service no longer posed a threat to him, given the long time that had since passed, his low-level role in both, and the lack of any recent threats related to his involvement.

The Court also dismissed his fears of persecution by Iraqi authorities, given he had successfully applied for a passport from them. The Court, however, accepted the risk posed by the blood feud, notwithstanding the lack of evidence, due to the obvious difficulties in obtaining such evidence.

Despite this risk, a majority of the Court decided that it was geographically limited to Baghdad and Diyala, and that B.K.A. could reasonably relocate to the Anbar governorate, the largest province in Iraq.

Judge Power-Forde dissents from the majority on the previous point, arguing instead that the possibility of relocation offered by the Swedish government and accepted by the majority as reasonable did not include the requisite guarantees for the individual set out in Salah Sheek v. the Netherlands no. 1948/04, §§ 141-142, 11 January 2007. In particular, no arrangements for safe travel to Anbar have been made. The dissenting judge therefore concluded that there was no reasonable relocation alternative to nullify the risk of Article 3 violation on return to Iraq.


No risk of violation of Article 3

Case Law Cited: 

ECtHR - Hakizimana v. Sweden, Application No. 37913/05

ECtHR - Abdulaziz, Cabales and Balkandali v. the United Kingdom, Application Nos. 9214/80, 9473/81 and 9474/81

ECtHR - Boujlifa v. France, 21 October 1997, § 42, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1997-VI

ECtHR - Üner v. the Netherlands [GC], Application No. 46410/99

ECtHR - Collins and Akaziebe v Sweden (Application no. 23944/05)

ECtHR - F.H. v Sweden (Application no. 32621/06)

ECtHR - Hilal v United Kingdom, Application no. 45276/99

ECtHR - Mamatkulov Askarov v Turkey, Applications nos. 46827/99 and 46951/99
Other sources cited: 
  • 31 May 2012 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Eligibility Guidelines for Assessing the International Protection Needs of Asylum-Seekers from Iraq;
  • Report on Human Rights in Iraq: July – December 2012, published in June 2013, Human Rights Office of the United Nations Mission for Iraq (UNAMI);
  • UK Border Agency Iraq Operational Guidance Note of December 2012;
  • Danish Immigration Service, “Security and Human Rights in South/Central Iraq” September 2010
Authentic Language: 
State Party: 
National / Other Legislative Provisions: 
Sweden - Utlänningslagen (Aliens Act) (2005:716) - Chapter 12 Section 1
Sweden - Utlänningslagen (Aliens Act) (2005:716) - Chapter 12 Section 2
Sweden - Utlänningslagen (Aliens Act) (2005:716) - Chapter 4 Section 1
Sweden - Utlänningslagen (Aliens Act) (2005:716) - Chapter 4 Section 2
Sweden - Utlänningslagen (Aliens Act) (2005:716) - Chapter 5 Section 1
Sweden - Utlänningslagen (Aliens Act) (2005:716) - Chapter 5 Section 6
Sweden - Government Bill 2004/05:170 - pp. 190-191