On the 16th of January 2023, the CAT published its communication no. 972/2019. The case concerned a Zimbabwean lawyer which represented victims of state violence and members of the opposition party. He allegedly received threatening text messages discouraging him to represent his clients, was physically assaulted and escaped an attempted kidnapping. In addition, an arrest warrant was issued in relation to him. The applicant fled to Switzerland where he applied for asylum but his application was rejected. The applicant requested a reconsideration which was rejected. Subsequently, the applicant argued that his removal to Zimbabwe would violate the Convention.

The CAT first stated that the second decision by the Secretary of State was only subject to an early and summary assessment by the national court. Furthermore, the Committee highlighted that the fee of CHF 1,500 for introducing the appeal was unfair considering the applicant’s precarious financial situation. Consequently, the Committee decided that the applicant exhausted all available domestic remedies.

The Committee then ruled that the Swiss authorities did not give the complainant the opportunity to demonstrate the risks he would face in the event of his removal. Only on the second occasion, the national court made an early and summary assessment of the applicant’s arguments questioning the authenticity of the documents but without taking any steps to verify them. Moreover, the requirement to pay the fees for the proceedings, when the applicant was in a precarious financial situation, deprived him of the possibility to have his application examined by the court. Therefore, the Committee concluded that the absence of an effective, independent and impartial review of his removal decision constitutes a breach of the procedural obligation of Article 3.

Based on an unofficial translation from within the ELENA team