I.K. (Sierra Leone) v Switzerland
ECHR rules on credibility of sexual claims as a ground for international protection
According to the ECHR Press Release:
In its decision in the case of I.K. v. Switzerland (application no. 21417/17) the European Court of Human Rights has unanimously declared the application inadmissible. The decision is final. The case concerns an allegation by the applicant, who claimed to be homosexual, that he would be at risk of ill-treatment if he were to be returned to Sierra Leone. Noting the lack of credibility in his allegations or of conclusive documents in support of them, the Court considered that there were not substantial grounds to believe that the applicant would be exposed to a real risk of treatment contrary to Article 3 in the event of his return to Sierra Leone.
Regarding article 3 , the Court considered that sexual orientation was a fundamental facet of an individual’s identity and awareness and that, in consequence, individuals submitting a request for international protection based on their sexual orientation could not be required to hide it. The Court noted, however, that the merits of I.K.’s case had been examined by the SEM and by the TAF. Both had found that his statements failed to meet the requirements of plausibility, and that the documents that he had produced were not such as to call into question that finding. In consequence, they had considered that I.K. would not run a real risk of treatment contrary to Article 3 in the event of his being returned to Sierra Leone. The Court was mindful of the difficulties faced by I.K. in substantiating his allegations. Nonetheless, it considered that he had not adduced sufficient evidence capable of proving that he would be exposed to a real risk. Thus, he had not submitted documents proving his alleged imprisonment following a demonstration in support of homosexuals’ right to marriage or the payment of bail for his release. The document “Invitation form, family support unit” produced by him in support of his appeal before the TAF contained numerous inconsistencies, particularly with regard to dates, which had been identified by the TAF. The Court further noted that I.K. had been unable to substantiate his alleged LGBTI activism. Lastly, the NGO Queeramnesty had merely copied his account, without recounting any event which one of its members had personally witnessed. The Court concluded that there were not substantial grounds to believe that the applicant would be exposed to real risks of treatment contrary to Article 3 in the event of his return to Sierra Leone. It did not consider it necessary to carry out a separate examination under Article 14. The application was manifestly ill-founded and had therefore to be rejected.
Assessment of Application; Country of Origin Information; Sexual Orientation;
ECHR Press Release
EASO Courts and Tribunals Network
Council of Europe, European Court of Human Rights [ECHR], I.K. (Sierra Leone) v Switzerland, Application No. 21417/17, ECLI:CE:ECHR:2017:1219DEC002141717, 19 December 2017. Link redirects to the English summary in the EASO Case Law Database.