EN - UNHCR: Guidance Note on refugee claims relating to crimes of ‘Lèse Majesté’ and similar criminal offences

UNHCR has published a Note aimed at facilitating the determination of claims for refugee status related to national crimes of lèse majesté and similar criminal offences against the State and its officials. According to the Note, crimes of lèse majesté may be incompatible with the freedom of opinion and expression as enshrined in Article 19 of the ICCPR. Therefore, the right of freedom of expression may be subject only to certain restrictions in accordance with Article 19(3).

It notes that the main risks associated with such crimes are prosecution and punishment upon conviction as well as potential extrajudicial punishment and ill-treatment in detention. For lèse majesté laws to be considered persecutory, they will usually impose penalties such as imprisonment, physical labour or other physical punishment or be applied or enforced in a discriminatory manner related to one or more of the Convention grounds. The assessment of well-founded fear is forward looking, and as such a sur place claim may arise.  It also highlighted that such crimes are political in character, therefore falling within the "political opinion ground" of the Convention. Finally, it noted that exclusion from international refugee protection based on a person’s involvement in criminal acts is justified only if the acts in question fall within the scope of Article 1F of the 1951 Convention.

Resource category: 
Resource date: