Published On: Wed, Mar 30th, 2016

Christian converts denied asylum in Sweden, ADF fights against deportation

The European Court of Human Rights ruled Wednesday on the case of an Iranian who converted from Islam to Christianity and who was denied asylum by Sweden. The Grand Chamber of the court found inF.G. v. Sweden that Swedish authorities will violate the European Convention on Human Rights if they fail to assess the risk that the applicant might encounter as a result of his conversion to Christianity upon returning to Iran.

The court deferred the case back to Swedish authorities to reassess the consequences the man would be facing due to his conversion if returned to his home country. The Grand Chamber’s judgment overrules the initial decision of the court, which found against the applicant.

“Sadly, the anti-conversion laws in Iran pose a direct threat to those who have converted to Christianity, and we must ensure that a convert’s right to life is being upheld by all means,” said Paul Coleman, senior counsel and deputy director for ADF International. “We welcome the court’s decision, which took ADF International’s arguments into account and found a breach of the applicant’s right to life and right of protection against torture if the applicant were to be returned to Iran without an appropriate assessment of the risk and consequences he would be facing as a Christian.”

 photo/screenshot of video coverage

photo/screenshot of video coverage

“In light of the material presented before the Court and of the material previously submitted by the applicant before the national authorities, the Court concludes that the applicant has sufficiently shown that his claim for asylum on the basis of his conversion merits an assessment by the national authorities,” the Grand Chamber wrote in its judgment. “It is for the domestic authorities to take this material into account, as well as any further development regarding the general situation in Iran and the particular circumstances of the applicant’s situation. It follows that there would be a violation of Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention if the applicant were to be returned to Iran without an ex nunc[forward-going] assessment by the Swedish authorities of the consequences of his conversion.”

Despite conversion being punishable by death in Iran, a chamber of the European Court of Human Rights ruled in January 2014 that the applicant’s rights had not been violated because a risk did not yet exist that Iranian authorities knew of his conversion. On appeal, ADF International supported the applicant’s case as a third-party intervener, providing legal analysis and background information on the situation for Christians in Iran.

“The first ruling of the court ignored the fatal consequences a conversion to Christianity in Iran might have,” explained Robert Clarke, director of European advocacy for ADF International. “It also disregarded former decisions of the court concerning Iranian converts, where judgments were issued in favor of the converts.”

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