On the 16th February 2023, the CJEU published an Opinion in respect of case C-756/21. The case concerned a Pakistani national who unsuccessfully applied for international protection in Ireland, firstly on the basis of a false statement which he retracted on his first opportunity, and then on the grounds of his mental health condition and fear to go back to Pakistan after a traumatic event he had experienced there.
Advocate General (AG) Szpunar firstly analysed the first, second, third and sixth questions which considered the scope of the duty to cooperate, as laid out in Article 4 (1) of Directive 2004/83/EC, and the consequences of a breach of that duty. The AG referred to the judgment in M.M and outlined that the Asylum Procedures Directive requires that if elements provided by an applicant are not complete, up to date or relevant the determining authority should cooperate actively with the applicant to receive the needed information. Furthermore, when there is evidence of mental health problems potentially resulting from a traumatic event in that country, the MS should obtain a medico-legal report when relevant for the assessment of the application. Moreover, the AG considered that in the event of a breach of this obligation, the state is required to conduct an appropriate examination of the application and that the burden of demonstrating that its decisions may have been different if there was no breach, must not be borne by the applicant.
The AG noted that although MS remain competent to determine procedural requirements in the absence of EU rules, the requirement for genuine access to international protection status means that the application should be considered within a reasonable period of time. Referring to Articles 41 and 47 of the EU Charter, the AG concluded that where the total duration of the procedure for granting international protection results in an infringement of the rights of defence of the applicant, the disregard of the reasonable time limit may justify the annulment of the decision rejecting those applications.
The AG further considered that it has already been established under Article 4 (3) and Article 13 (3) (a) of the Directives 2004/83/EC and Directive 2005/85/EC, that interviews should take account of the personal or general circumstances surrounding the application, and the vulnerability of the applicant. He therefore concluded, that the fact that an applicant has submitted a false statement does not mean that that statement is decisive for the outcome of his application and it would not be proportionate to take the view that the applicant is not credible on the basis of a single false statement which has been retracted.