Finland – Supreme Court rules in a case of exclusion from international protection

Friday, November 2, 2018

On 2 November, the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland ruled on a case of exclusion from international protection due to the suspected commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

This case concerns a Syrian national whose fear of persecution was considered by the Finnish Immigration Service (FIS) to have been established, but international protection was refused due to the applicant falling under an exclusion clause. According to the domestic services, the appellant’s activities as a member of the Syrian army amounted to war crimes, or crimes against humanity.

The applicant appealed before the Helsinki Administrative Court, which annulled the contested decision, remitting the case back to the FIS, due to the applicant's role in the hostilities remaining unproven. According to the Court, the applicant’s military membership at the time of the Homs bombings cannot automatically mean that he had committed war crimes, or that he was a direct factor in those bombings. The Court also gave weight to the applicant’s denial of any involvement in the bombings. In this connection, the Administrative Court recalled the UNHCR’s line of a narrow interpretation of exclusion clauses, while also citing UNHCR’s relevant guidelines to reiterate that the burden of proof in exclusion cases lies with the state. As the FIS had not been able to prove that there are serious reasons to believe the applicant indeed participated in war crimes, exclusion clauses could not be triggered.

The immigration services sought permission to annul the decision before the Supreme Administrative Court. The Supreme Court upheld the Administrative Court’s reasoning as it stood, reaffirming that the determination process did not meet the necessary conditions set out in UNHCR’s guidelines regarding sufficient evidence and interpretation. The Court decided to not amend the contested decision.

Based on an unofficial translation by the ELENA Weekly Legal Update.

This item was reproduced with the permission of ECRE from the weekly ELENA legal update. 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.




Burden of proof
Exclusion from protection
Standard of proof