ECtHR: F.G. v. Sweden (no. 43611/11) [Articles 2 & 3 ECHR], 23 March 2016, Grand Chamber

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Grand Chamber has given its ruling in the case of F.G. v. Sweden (no. 43611/11), in which ICJ, the AIRE Centre and ECRE jointly intervened.

The case relates to an Iranian national who claimed asylum in Sweden in 2009, based on his political activities and his conversion from Islam to Christianity shortly after arrival to Sweden. The Swedish Migration Board questioned him on his conversion but the applicant stated that he did not wish to rely on it as a ground for asylum as he considered it a private matter.

The Migration Board rejected his asylum claim finding that his political past did not put him at risk from the Iranian authorities and that he would not be at risk of persecution for privately pursuing his faith. This finding was upheld by the appeal court which gave no consideration to the applicant’s religious views. The applicant applied to stay the enforcement of his deportation order as he now sought to rely on his conversion. The Swedish authorities did not consider this to be a new circumstance and his deportation order became enforceable. However, in October 2011 the ECtHR indicated Rule 39 interim measures preventing his expulsion for the duration of the proceedings. The applicant claimed that upon removal to Iran he would be at risk the death penalty due to his conversion and/or subject to ill-treatment, contrary to Articles 2 and 3 ECHR. The ECtHR dismissed these claims by a 4-3 majority in a Chamber judgment of 16 January 2014. The case was referred to the Grand Chamber on the basis of Article 43 ECHR.

The Grand Chamber finds that generally in relation to an asylum claim based on an individual risk, as opposed to a well-known general risk, the asylum seeker must rely on and substantiate the risk. However where a State is made aware of facts that could expose an applicant to an individual risk of ill-treatment upon expulsion, regardless of whether the applicant chooses to rely on such facts, it is obliged to assess this risk of its own motion [para.127]. This is due to the absolute nature of the rights guaranteed by Articles 2 and 3 ECHR and the vulnerable position of asylum seekers.

With regard to his political past, the ECtHR finds that this claim was properly assessed by the Swedish authorities. There was no evidence opposing its conclusion that his activities were low level, and would not expose him to Article 2 or 3 harm upon return to Iran.

Turning to the applicant’s conversion, the ECtHR found that the authorities were aware of this and thus knew that he might belong to a group of persons at possible risk of ill-treatment in Iran. Despite this, they had erroneously never carried out a thorough examination of this risk on the basis that the applicant had not invoked it as a ground for asylum. An individual could not forego the absolute protection given by Articles 2 and 3 ECHR. The national authorities therefore had an obligation to assess all information brought to their attention of their own motion, before deciding whether the applicant could be removed to Iran [para.156]. Furthermore, additional documents had been submitted to the Grand Chamber which had not been assessed by the Swedish authorities. The ECtHR concluded that there would be a violation of Articles 2 and 3 ECHR if the applicant were removed to Iran without an ex nuncassessment by the Swedish authorities of the consequences of his conversion. 

This item was reproduced with the permission of ECRE from the weekly ELENA legal update supported by the Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Funding Programme and distributed by email. 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, the IRC or its partners.



Country of origin
Country of origin information
Inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Relevant Documentation
Relevant Facts