Norway: Court of Appeal criticises credibility assessment by Directorate of Immigration

Date: 
Friday, February 13, 2015

The case relates to a review of the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration’s evidentiary assessments in two asylum applications relating to Rwandan ethnic Hutus who feared persecution on account of a relative’s murder and their subsequent open investigation into said murder. The Directorate’s decision concluded that the applicants had not sufficiently substantiated their application on account of internal discrepancies, incoherencies and ambiguities within their statements. Further advancing that the applicants did not face a risk of persecution given that the case had occurred many years ago, the Directorate also surmised that there was no proof that it was an ethnically motivated murder.

Proceeding with a thorough analysis of evidentiary requirements and credibility assessments in asylum applications, the Court of Appeal submitted that where an applicant’s account appears credible the applicant should, unless there are good reasons to the contrary, be given the benefit of doubt. Moreover, whilst there may be some contradictions within an applicant’s statement, the individual’s credibility should not falter if satisfactory explanations are given as to the inconsistencies. In this particular case the Court notes that translation difficulties, linguistic nuances as well as legitimate police summons and documents attesting to the applicant’s relationship with the deceased rendered the Directorate’s assessment of a lack of credibility incorrect.

Moving onto the fear of persecution the Court of Appeal rejected the “discretion” argument whereby the applicants could avoid persecution if they were to discontinue with the investigation and instead noted that it was understandable that loved ones would want to get to the bottom of a relative’s death. Referring to witness reports, country of information guidance and credible evidence that the applicant’s had been arrested several times in conjunction with their involvement with the case, the Court of Appeal concludes that this in itself constitutes persecution. The Court further surmises that there is a link between these arrests and the applicants ethnicity and therefore decides to quash the Directorate’s decision, allowing the applicants’ appeals. 

N.B. The decision is final, and can no longer be appealed to the Supreme Court.
The ELENA Legal Update would like to thank Halvor Frihagen for informing us of this case.


13 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.

                                                     

 

Keywords: 
Assessment of facts and circumstances
Burden of proof
Country of origin information
Persecution Grounds/Reasons
Race
Relevant Facts
Serious harm