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Court clarifies meaning of 'act of persecution'

The Court of Justice of the European Union has given an Opinion on what constitutes an 'act of persecution' for the purposes of recognition of refugee status for asylum seekers.

Under minimum standards established for all member states, the recognition of refugee status requires that the third country national concerned faces a well-founded fear of persecution in his country of origin for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group. The concept of an act of persecution covers serious acts which, on account of their nature or repetition, constitute a severe violation of basic human rights, in particular indefeasible rights.

The Federal Administrative Court of Germany had asked the Court of Justice to set out the circumstances in which an infringement of the freedom of religion, and in particular of the right of an individual to live his faith freely and openly, may constitute an ‘act of persecution’ within the meaning of the directive.

In his Opinion, Advocate General Bot recalled that the aim of the common European asylum system is not to grant international protection whenever an individual cannot fully and effectively exercise the freedoms guaranteed by the conventions on the protection of human rights in his country of origin, but limits the recognition of refugee status to an individual who may be exposed to persecution in his country of origin, that is to say a serious and intolerable attack on his person and, in particular, his indefeasible rights, and whose life has become intolerable in that country.

Therefore, the Advocate General states that a serious infringement of the freedom of religion may constitute an ‘act of persecution’ within the meaning of the directive where the asylum seeker, by exercising that freedom or as a result of infringing the restrictions placed on the exercise of that freedom in his country of origin, runs a real risk of being executed or subjected to torture, or inhuman and degrading treatment, being reduced to slavery or servitude, or being prosecuted or imprisoned arbitrarily.

In that context, it is for the authorities responsible for examining the application for asylum to verify specifically the rule invoked in the country of origin and the repressive practice in a broad sense.


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