ICCPR Case Digest

CCPR/C/12/D/3106/2018-3122/2018

Communication

3106/2018-3122/2018

Submission: 2018.01.19

View Adopted: 2020.07.21

A.G. et al. v. Angola

Turkish followers of the Gülen Movement at risk for refoulement, Committee notes a violation and condemns State party for lack of implementation of protective laws

Substantive Issues
  • Non-refoulement
  • Torture / ill-treatment
Relevant Articles
  • Article 13
  • Article 14
  • Article 7
Full Text

Facts

The authors are followers of the teachings of Fetullah Gülen and travelled to Angola between 2011 and 2016 to establish a school there. After the attempted coup d’état in July 2016, Turkey put international pressure to close international schools associated with the Gülen movement and expel teachers and other Turkish nationals living abroad who were perceived as their followers. After several visits from Turkish government officials, the President of Angola issued a decree ordering the closure of  the Colégo Esperança Internacional and the expulsion of all Turkish citizens associated with the school. 

In February 2017, police officers came to the school, brutally pushed all the Turkish teachers and other family members present – including children – into two vehicles for short drive and then returned to the school. The authors were told that they have 5 days to leave the country and their passports were confiscated. No information or reasons were given for their expulsion.

The authors requested protection from the UNHCR office in Luanda,. Yet, the pressure from the Government onto the authors to leave the country continued. In May 2017, the authors and their families were issued notices as to when their departure would be, according to instructions given by the Angolan Migration and Foreigners Service. The Turkish asylum seekers were then divided into groups and a list was prepared – indicating which individuals or families were allowed to leave.
Depsite the issuance of protection letters and several meetings between the Angolan authorities and the UNHCR representatives - the Government of Angola have insisted that the authors would need to leave the country without their asylum claims to be assessed. Their work visas were not renewed and the authors faced  constant risk of refoulement. The status and treatment of asylum seekers in Angola is governed by the Right of Asylum and Refugee Status Act (Law No. 10/15) adopted in 17 June 2015, but is not yet implemented. Since the adoption of the law, no asylum seekers claims have been assessed. 

The authors complain that the expulsion order issued by the Government of Angola would undoubtedly put the authors of risk of refoulement if returned to Turkey. As those that have a real or perceived association with the Gülen movement have suffered torture or cruel and inhuman treatment in violation of ICCPR art. 7. Additionally, the authors state that Turkey has been violating their rights to a fair trial and to due process of law (art. 14 ICCPR) through the treatment afforded to those with a real or perceived affiliation with the Gülen movement – to which they have been accused as terrorists.  Finally, the authors state that they have the right to have their expulsion order to be reviewed by a competent tribunal before their removal from the country as set in ICCPR article 13. 

The authors state that they were not able to exhaust domestic remedies, as this would put them more at risk for expulsion due to the judicial nature and processes of the Angolan judicial system.

Admissibility

Regarding the exhaustion of domestic remedies, the Committee further notes that the authors have claimed that the domestic remedies available would be ineffective, as they would not be able to contest the presidential decree that ordered their expulsion. The Committee notes that there has been a lack of implementation of Law No.10/15, and  that the State has failed to demonstrate an effective domestic remedy that would be available to the authors.

Furtherly, the committee takes notes of the authors claims under article 14 of the Covenant, that if they returned to Turkey, that they would be at risk of being subjected to an unfair trial, conviction based on their association with the Gülen movement and could be arbitrarily detained and ill-treated on this basis. The committee considers that this claim cannot be dissociated from those presented under article 7, so they will examine these claims under article 7 instead of 14.

Finally, the Committee considers the authors’ claims under articles 7 and 13 of the Covenant to be sufficiently substantiated for the purposes of admissibility.

Merits

The Committee notes that according to General Comment No.31, States have the obligation to not extradite, deport, expel or otherwise remove a person from their territory when there are substantial grounds for believing that there is a real risk of irreparable harm such as contemplated in articles 6 and 7 of the covenant. The Committee states that this risk must be personal and there are substantially high grounds for proving that this risk is a real risk. The organs of state should examine the facts and evidence on a case by case basis to determine if such a risk exists.

The Committee notes that in this present case, the State Party has not demonstrated that the administrative or judicial authorities have conducted such an individualised assessment into the real and substantial risks associated with such an expulsion. Therefore, the State party has failed to comply with their obligations under article 7 of the covenant in light of non-refoulement.

On the basis of article 13 of the Covenant, the Committee notes that the authors were not able to challenge the decision on their deportation. The authors were not told the reasons for the expulsion, were not given time to explore effective remedies or to have their case reviewed by a competent authority.

Therefore, the Committee notes that the presidential decree expelling all the teachers and their families from Angola without giving them reasons, no due individual process into the asylum requests, no effective or domestic remedies available to them, no chances at an appeal process and at the real risk of refoulement if deported to Turkey - went against the principles enshrined in the Covenant.

Bearing all these factors in mind, the Committee is in the view that the author’s removal from Angola to Turkey, if implemented in the absence of due procedure which guarantees a proper assessment of the real and personal risk that the person might face if deported – would violate the rights of the authors and their families under articles 7 and 13 of the Covenant.

Recommendations

The State party is under an obligation to proceed to a review of the authors’ cases taking into account the State party’s obligations under the Covenant and the Committee’s present Views.

The State party is requested to:

  • refrain from expelling the authors and their families until their request for asylum is properly considered.
  • take all steps necessary to prevent similar violations from occurring in the future, including by ensuring the prompt implementation of the law on the right to asylum and refugee status, and by putting in place fair and effective asylum procedures, offering effective protection against refoulement. 

Deadline for implementation: 21 January 2021.

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