Key facts of the case:
These references for a preliminary ruling concerned the interpretation of Article 11(1)(e) of Council Directive 2004/83/EC on minimum standards for the qualification and status of third country nationals or stateless persons as refugees or as persons who otherwise need international protection and the content of the protection granted. The applicants were Iraqi nationals who had obtained asylum in Germany prior to 2003 on the basis of the threat of persecution from the regime of Saddam Hussein. After the fall of that regime, the applicants’ refugee status was revoked by the German authorities. A ruling was sought as to the interpretation of the Directive in relation to these circumstances.
Results (sanctions) and key consequences of the case:
The ECJ held that:
- Refugee status ceases to exist when, having regard to a change of circumstances of a significant and non-temporary nature in the third country concerned, the circumstances which justified the person’s fear of persecution for one of the reasons referred to in Article 2(c) of Directive 2004/83, on the basis of which refugee status was granted, no longer exist and that person has no other reason to fear being ‘persecuted’ within the meaning of Article 2(c) of Directive 2004/83” - “for the purposes of assessing a change of circumstances, the competent authorities of the Member State must verify, having regard to the refugee’s individual situation, that the actor or actors of protection referred to in Article 7(1) of Directive 2004/83 have taken reasonable steps to prevent the persecution, that they therefore operate, inter alia, an effective legal system for the detection, prosecution and punishment of acts constituting persecution and that the national concerned will have access to such protection if he ceases to have refugee status”
- When the circumstances which resulted in the granting of refugee status have ceased to exist and the competent authorities of the Member State verify that there are no other circumstances which could justify a fear of persecution on the part of the person concerned either for the same reason as that initially at issue or for one of the other reasons set out in Article 2(c) of Directive 2004/83, the standard of probability used to assess the risk stemming from those other circumstances is the same as that applied when refugee status was granted.
- In so far as it provides indications as to the scope of the evidential value to be attached to previous acts or threats of persecution, Article 4(4) of Directive 2004/83 may apply when the competent authorities plan to withdraw refugee status under Article 11(1)(e) of that directive and the person concerned, in order to demonstrate that there is still a well-founded fear of persecution, relies on circumstances other than those as a result of which he was recognised as being a refugee. However, that may normally be the case only when the reason for persecution is different from that accepted at the time when refugee status was granted and only when there are earlier acts or threats of persecution which are connected with the reason for persecution being examined at that stage.
Interpretation of article(s) and implications for the resolution of the case:
EU Charter of Fundamental Rights - Articles: 18 and 19(2): The judgment clarifies the evidential standards to be applied where circumstances that originally led to a person obtaining asylum have changed but it is claimed there remains a risk of persecution if that person is returned to their country of origin.