O.D. v. Bulgaria: Expulsion to Syria would amount to a violation of Articles 2, 3, and 13 ECHR

Monday, October 14, 2019

On 10 October 2019, the European Court of Human Rights published its decision on the case of O.D. v Bulgaria (Application No. 34016/18) concerning an order for the expulsion of an applicant of international protection.

The applicant, a Syrian national, arrived in Bulgaria from Turkey in 2013. His request for international protection was rejected, and an expulsion order to Syria was issued on 6 November 2013 on the basis that he posed a threat to the national security of Bulgaria. The applicant was held in a temporary detention centre until January 2015. While in Syria, the applicant was a member of the national army before he deserted and joined the Free Syrian army. He therefore complained that he would face a real risk of death or ill-treatment if returned to Syria, relying on Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention. He also complained under Article 13 of the Convention that his circumstances as an applicant of international protection had not been properly assessed, and no effective remedy existed to guarantee protection in relation to Articles 2 and 3.

The Court noted that the security and humanitarian situation in Syria had deteriorated dramatically since the applicant’s arrival in Bulgaria. It added that there is substantial evidence of executions, arbitrary detention, and ill-treatment of individuals who have deserted the Syrian national army. Moreover, there have been large scale arbitrary arrests and detentions in 2019 in the vicinity of Homs, the applicant’s city of origin.

The Court held that the applicant’s return, if carried out, would amount to a violation of Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention due to the real risk of death or ill-treatment in Syria. In refusing to grant the status requested, the Supreme Administrative Court, while noting the existence of a serious and widespread situation in Syria, had given precedence to considerations relating to the threat to national security over an evaluation of the risk in the destination country. The remedy in question had therefore failed to provide sufficient consideration of the risk posed to the applicant should he be returned. Moreover, the Government had not referred to any other remedies available in Bulgarian law for that purpose. Hence, under the legislation as it currently stood, the applicant would have had no other means of obtaining effective scrutiny of his complaints under Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention. A violation of Article 13 of the Convention was therefore found. The Court stated that it would continue to apply Rule 39 of the Rules of the Court requesting interim measures to prevent the applicant’s expulsion.

Based on an unofficial translation by the EWLU team.

Photo: Afhsin Rattansi, October 2010. 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.

Effective remedy (right to)
Inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment