Article 18 - Right to asylum
Article 19 - Protection in the event of removal, expulsion or extradition
Article 47 - Right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial
Article 52 - Scope and interpretation
Key facts of the case:
The citizen of Panama was arrested in 2017 upon arrival at the airport in Dubrovnik, Croatia, based on an international search for arrest and extradition launched by Interpol Panama for committing the offense of fraud as prescribed by the criminal law of Panama. After the lengthy process regarding the approval of his extradition to Panama, the competent court ruled against his extradition because legal preconiditons for extradition had not been met.
In parallel, in October 2018 the applicant submitted a request for international protection to the Shelter for asylum seekers in Zagreb. International protection was denied by the Ministry of Interior and the applicant appealed to the courts of all instances which confirmed the Ministry’s decision.
Before the Ministry and the administrative courts the applicant claimed that he will be prosecuted in the country of origin for belonging to a particular social group and race, that there is a serious threat to his life i.e. that upon returning to his country of origin he would be prosecuted in a politically motivated proceedings that would not meet the standards of a fair trial and would, consequently, be placed in a prison where he would be abused and his life would be endangered. Finally, the applicant filed a constitutional complaint which was rejected by the Constitutional court of the Republic of Croatia which found that the institutions of lower instance decided correctly when deciding against granting international protection to the applicant .
Key legal question raised by the Court:
The Constitutional Court assessed the grounds for deciding against granting international protection to the applicant. When deciding whether the competent authorities decided correctly concerning the applicatn’s request for international protection, the Constitutional Court assessed the alleged violation of constitutional and conventional rights to life and prohibition of torture, humiliating and inhuman treatment in relation to the constitutional right to asylum as well as the alleged violation of the constitutional right to a fair trial.
Outcome of the case:
The Constitutional court of the Republic of Croatia rejected the constitutional claim and found that the institutions of lower instance decided correctly when deciding against granting international protection to the applicant.
The applicant complained that, among other things, the Ministry and the administrative courts did not correctly assess when they decided that the applicant’s fear of prosecution in Panama is unfounded and that there are no objective assumptions that would indicate a reasonable fear of prosecution and the danger to his life i.e. that he will be subject to inhuman or degrading treatment in Panama.
When assessing the general situation in Panama, the Ministry of Interior concluded that Panama is a country with a relatively stable political and social situation and that no reports were found on arbitrary general violence and situations of international or internal armed conflict. The Administrative Court in Split and the High Administrative Court confirmed the Ministry's assessment by concluding that there were no objective circumstances for granting subsidiary protection to the applicant. The Constitutional Court has also assessed the issue and concluded that the current general security situation in Panama does not represent a general state of violence which would mean that the return of the applicant to Panama represents the breach of the non refoulement principle.
19. Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (Official Journal C 326, 26 October 2012, p. 391-407; Croatian translation: OJ C 202, 7 June 2016, p. 389-405; (hereinafter referred to as the Charter), in Article 18 guarantees the fundamental right to asylum interpreted in accordance with the Geneva Convention of 28 July 1951 and the Protocol of 31 January 1967 relating to the Status of Refugees (hereinafter referred to as the Geneva Convention), whose signatories are all Member States, and in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Official Journal C 202, 7 June 2016, p. 1-388; hereinafter: TEU and TFEU).
19.1. Article 19(2) of the Charter embodies the non-refoulement principle and stipulates that no one shall be removed, expelled or extradited to a State where there is a serious risk of being subjected to the death penalty, torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
19.2. As the Charter contains fundamental rights equivalent to the rights guaranteed by the Convention, Article 52(3) of the Charter seeks to ensure the necessary alignment of the interpretation of the Charter with the interpretations given by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), without jeopardizing the autonomy of the law of the European Union (hereinafter: the EU) and the Court of Justice of the EU. The Court of Justice therefore ensures that its interpretation of the Charter provides a level of protection that does not violate the protection guaranteed by the Convention, as interpreted by the ECtHR (see judgment of 15 February 2016, N., C‑601/15 PPU, EU:C:2016:84, paragraphs 47 and 77 and judgment of 20 March 2018, Menci, C‑524/15, EU:C:2018:197, paragraph 62).
19.3. However, Article 52(3) of the Charter also indicates that EU law may provide for higher standards of protection of fundamental rights than the minimum standards guaranteed by the Convention.
21.5. In addition to the above, the right to an effective remedy is also a fundamental right of the EU guaranteed by Article 47 of the Charter, which requires the existence of an ex lege legal remedy with suspensive effect against the execution of the return decision (see judgment of the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice of the EU of 19 June 2018, Gnandi, C‑181/16,EU:C:2018:465, p.54, and the practice cited therein) and, in that sense, the right to remain in the territory of a Member State in which the request was submitted until the end of the proceeding regarding the legal remedy filed against the decision to reject the request. However, these rights are limited only to the duration of the first instance proceedings before the court (see the judgment of 30 May 2013, Arslan, C-534/11, EU:C:2013:343,p. 47-49).
19. Povelja Europske unije o temeljnim pravima ("Službeni list" C 326, 26. listopada 2012., str. 391. - 407.; hrvatski prijevod: SL C 202, 7. lipnja 2016., str. 389. - 405.; u daljnjem tekstu: Povelja) u članku 18. jamči temeljno pravo na azil koje se tumači sukladno Ženevskoj konvenciji od 28. srpnja 1951. i Protokolu od 31. siječnja 1967. o statusu izbjeglica (u daljnjem tekstu: Ženevska konvencija), kojih su potpisnice sve države članice, te sukladno mjerodavnim odredbama Ugovora o Europskoj uniji i Ugovora o funkcioniranju Europske unije ("Službeni list" C 202, 7. lipnja 2016., str. 1. - 388.; u daljnjem tekstu: UEU i UFEU).
19.1. Članak 19. stavak 2. Povelje utjelovljuje non-refoulement načelo te propisuje da nitko ne smije biti udaljen, protjeran ili izručen u državu u kojoj postoji ozbiljna opasnost da će biti podvrgnut smrtnoj kazni, mučenju ili drugom nečovječnom ili ponižavajućem postupanju ili kazni.
19.2. Budući da Povelja sadržava temeljna prava ekvivalentna pravima zajamčenima Konvencijom, člankom 52. stavkom 3. Povelje nastoji se osigurati nužna usklađenost tumačenja Povelje s tumačenjima koja Europski sud za ljudska prava (u daljnjem tekstu: ESLJP) daje o pravima zajamčenim Konvencijom, a da se pritom ne ugrožava autonomnost prava Europske unije (u daljnjem tekstu: EU) i Suda EU-a. Stoga Sud EU-a osigurava da njegovo tumačenje Povelje pruža razinu zaštite koja ne krši onu zajamčenu Konvencijom, kako je tumači ESLJP (vidi presudu od 15. veljače 2016., N., C‑601/15 PPU, EU:C:2016:84, t. 47. i 77. i presudu od 20. ožujka 2018., Menci, C‑524/15, EU:C:2018:197, t. 62.).
19.3. Međutim, članak 52. stavak 3. Povelje također upućuje na to da je pravom EUa moguće osigurati više standarde zaštite temeljnim pravima od minimalnih standarda zajamčenih Konvencijom.
21.5. Pored navedenog, pravo na djelotvoran pravni lijek je i temeljno pravo EU-a zajamčeno člankom 47. Povelje, a koji zahtijeva postojanje pravnog lijeka s ex lege suspenzivnim učinkom protiv izvršenja odluke o vraćanju tražitelja (vidjeti presudu Velikog vijeća Suda EU-a od 19. lipnja 2018., Gnandi, C‑181/16, EU:C:2018:465, t. 54., i tamo citiranu praksu) te u tom smislu i pravo ostanka na teritoriju države članice u kojoj je podnesen zahtjev sve do okončanja postupka u povodu pravnog lijeka podnesenog protiv odluke o odbijanju zahtjeva. Međutim, ova prava ograničena su samo na trajanje prvostupanjskog postupka pred sudom (vidi presudu od 30. svibnja 2013., Arslan, C-534/11, EU:C:2013:343, t. 47. - 49.).