Landmark judgment on interpretation of the Refugee Convention

On 21 November 2012 the Supreme Court handed down a landmark judgment on exclusion from refugee status. In Al-Sirri and DD (Afghanistan) v SSHD the Court rules that individuals accused of involvement in acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the UN are disqualified from refugee status only if it can be shown that there are serious reasons for considering that actions for which they are responsible have a serious effect on international peace and security. It is not sufficient simply to label a person a 'terrorist' in order to meet that test. Moreover, the Court holds that 'serious reasons' are unlikely to exist unless the decision-maker can be satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the applicant has in fact carried out the acts of which they stand accused. That represents a major departure from the position traditionally taken by the courts in the UK and elsewhere, according to which the correct standard of proof has been seen as significantly lower than that.

 

The appellant Mr Al-Sirri was represented by Edward Fitzgerald QC and Alasdair Mackenzie before the Supreme Court, and previously by former members of Doughty Street Andrew Nicol QC and Simon Cox before the Court of Appeal.

 

To view the judgment see the Supreme Court's website.

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