On the 24th of May 2023, the Committee Against Torture (CAT) published its case CAT/C/76/D/984/2020. The case concerned Mr. Nijimbere, a Burundian national, who was a member of the Burundian opposition party for which he was detained and tortured by the police. Furthermore, the applicant’s motorcycle was stolen by a person who killed two police officers, but Nijimbere’s party membership card was among the documents left on the vehicle. Given the delicate situation, the complainant decided to leave the country and applied for asylum in Sweden but his application was rejected.
The CAT first considered that Nijimbere submitted sufficient elements to suggest that he would be at risk of being subjected to treatment that violates article 1, read in conjunction with article 2, of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment if returned to Burundi. The Committee based itself primarily on Nijimbere’s arguments, elements of which were recognised by Sweden, stating that he was a member of a political party, that he was subject to detention for this political affiliation and that during one period of detention he had been tortured. The lack of an important position within the opposition does not exclude the possibility that the complainant faces a risk that he could be subjected to torture again, especially considering the prior detention and torture. The Committee also noted that political activists at the local and grass-roots level face a particular risk given the country dynamics in Burundi and that mainly opposition political parties and their members were victims of human rights violations during the time of submission of the complaint.
The CAT then observed that the Migration Court rejected the applicant’s appeal despite the Swedish Migration Agency’s torture-related injury assessment which indicated that the assessment was consistent with the psychological and somatic findings. Moreover, the domestic court noted that the complainant’s previous torture was a serious indication that something similar could happen again, that the complainant had plausibly demonstrated previous torture due to his political views, that the complainant’s alleged involvement in the motorcycle-taxi incident could imply that the local authorities are still looking for him, and that some returnees have continued to face hostility from local officials and the youth league of the ruling party. According to the Committee, these elements should have caught the attention of Sweden and should have prompted the authorities to investigate the alleged risks more thoroughly. The CAT therefore held that Sweden violated Article 3 of the Convention as Nijimbere provided sufficient evidence to consider that a possible foreseeable consequence of his return would be a real, present and personal risk of being subjected to torture.