M.A. and Others v. Bulgaria: Removal of applicants to China in violation of Article 2 and 3 ECHR

Thursday, February 20, 2020

On 20 February 2020, the European Court of Human Rights (the Court) published its judgment in M.A and Others v Bulgaria (Application No. 5115/18) concerning the extradition of five applicants to China.

The applicants, who are Uighur Muslims, fled to Turkey from China due to various threats of violence. They arrived in Bulgaria in 2017 after discovering that Turkish authorities had started proceedings to deport Uighurs residing in Turkey to China. Their applications for asylum and subsequent appeals were rejected and the Head of State for National Security ordered their expulsion, although it is noted that no destination country was explicitly stated. In particular, the second, third and fourth applicants were seen to pose a threat to national security due to links with the East Turkistan Islamic Movement. The first and fifth applicants had since left Bulgaria and abandoned proceedings before the Court. The applicants complained that their removal to China would violate their rights under Articles 2 and 3 ECHR respectively.

The Court noted, inter alia, the clear evidence of arbitrary detention, torture and executions for Uighurs returning to China, as well as the use of ‘re-education’ camps, where long term detention without due process was common. The Court was therefore satisfied that there were substantial grounds for believing that the applicants would face a real risk of treatment contrary to Articles 2 and 3 ECHR. It highlighted that the Bulgarian authorities had not provided effective guarantees that, in the process of the implementation of the repatriation or the expulsion decisions, the applicants would not be removed to China. The Court therefore concluded that, if implemented, the removal of the applicants would amount to a violation of Articles 2 and 3 ECHR.

Photo: Travis Olbrich, June 2013, 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