A.N. vs. Switzerland: Dublin transfer to Italy suspended
Communication No. 742/2016, decision of 3 August 2018
The UN Committee against Torture (CAT) has made a ground-breaking decision. It has prohibited the transfer to Italy of an Eritrean man who was tortured in his country of origin. Since access to medical aid was not granted, a transfer within the framework of the Dublin procedure would amount to inhuman or degrading treatment and therefore be in violation of the UN Convention against Torture.
The A.N. case
The complainant, A.N., is an Eritrean man who requested asylum in Switzerland in September of 2015. He was imprisoned in his home country for five years, partly in solitary confinement, and was repeatedly interrogated and tortured. He has been seriously traumatised by this experience and requires medical treatment. Geneva University Hospital medical reports confirm that A.N. is suffering from severe physical and psychological limitations because of the torture.
Swiss authorities did not conduct all necessary investigations
Although A.N. obtained medical treatment in Switzerland, Swiss authorities ignored his medical needs when they decided to return him to Italy according to the Dublin procedure. No individual investigations were carried out to ensure that A.N. would have access to adequate medical treatment in Italy. Instead, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) ordered him deported. The Federal Administrative Court supported this decision twice.
Complaint with the UN Committee against Torture
As a result, the CSDM (Centre Suisse pour la Défense des Droits des Migrants) lodged a complaint with the UN Committee against Torture. It argued that sending A.N. to Italy violated his right to rehabilitation (according to Art.14 Convention against Torture) because he would be denied access to specialised medical treatment. The deportation would therefore be inhumane and in contradiction of Articles 3 and 16 of the agreement.
Committee finds a potential infringement of the non-deportation principle
In its conclusions from 3 August 2018, the Committee stated that Swiss authorities should have investigated the possible consequences of a forced deportation. Furthermore, there was a considerable risk that A.N. would have been denied access to necessary medical treatment in Italy. The transfer would have separated him from his brother who lives in Switzerland and would have deprived him of a stable environment, which is essential in treating post-traumatic stress disorder. The Committee therefore concluded that Articles 3, 14 and 16 of the Convention against Torture were violated and asked Switzerland to examine A.N.’s request for asylum.
The Committee’s decision makes clear that the Dublin Regulation must be implemented in accordance with human rights. The A.N. case shows that cases must be assessed individually within the framework of the Dublin procedure, especially in severe medical cases. Deporting particularly vulnerable people constitutes inhumane treatment and the non-deportation principle must be applied.
The CAT’s decisions are authoritative but legally non-binding. By ratifying the Convention against Torture, Switzerland voluntarily accepted the jurisdiction of the CAT for individual complaints procedures. Swiss authorities should therefore reassess all current proceedings, taking into account the Committee’s assessment, and to abstain from deporting people, if necessary.
- The United Nations rules that the expulsion of a torture victim to Italy under the Dublin Regulation violates Convention against Torture
Centre Suisse pour la Défense des Droits des Migrants media release, 10 September 2018 (pdf, 2 pages)
- UNO stoppt Dublin-Ausweisung eines Folteropfers nach Italien
Amnesty International media release, 10 September 2018 (in German)
- UNO rügt die Schweiz wegen Ausweisung von Folteropfer
Article on NZZonline, 14 September 2018 (in German)