UN Committee against Torture blocks return of rejected asylum-seeker from Switzerland to Eritrea

Friday, December 7, 2018

On 7 December, the UN Committee against Torture (CAT) ruled on an individual communication concerning the decision of Swiss authorities to return an Eritrean deserter back to his home country.

The applicant had escaped forced recruitment by the Eritrean armed forces and left his country to apply for asylum in Switzerland in 2014. His account was rejected as not credible and he challenged the first-instance decision before the Federal Administrative Tribunal (TAF).

Following a prima facie consideration, the appeal was rejected as inadmissible as the applicant failed to pay the procedural fee. The case was then brought before the CAT, which issued a request for interim measures to prevent the applicant’s deportation. Upon examination of the communication, the Committee relied on the latest Report of the Special Rapporteur, reiterating the serious situation of human rights in Eritrea and particularly stressing that the forced and indefinite military service constitutes enslavement of an entire population, amounting, thus, to a crime against humanity.

It then went on to consider the handling of the applicant’s case by the Swiss authorities, identifying significant procedural errors at both instances. Taking note of the Swiss government’s claim that the applicant’s account was inconsistent and contradictory, the Committee observed that proper legal counselling was not made available to him during the asylum proceedings, while his request to have interpretation in his mother tongue was also not respected. Lastly, the hasty and costly procedure at the TAF level made it impossible for the applicant to effectively address the risks he would face upon return and to properly contest negative findings regarding the authenticity of the documents he had presented.

The Committee found that the applicant’s expulsion to Eritrea would amount to a violation of Article 3 of the Convention against Torture and ordered Switzerland to re-examine the applicant’s case.

Based on an unofficial translation by the ELENA Weekly Legal Update. Many thanks to Boris Wijkström, lawyer at the Centre Suisse pour la Défense des Droits des Migrants, for bringing this case to our attention.

This item was reproduced with the permission of ECRE from the weekly ELENA 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 published but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by ECRE.   



Crime against humanity
Inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Legal assistance / Legal representation / Legal aid
Medical Reports/Medico-legal Reports
Procedural guarantees