On the 20th of December 2022 the ECtHR delivered its judgment in S.H. v. Malta, application no 37241/21. The case concerns an applicant, S.H., who arrived in Malta by boat and was immediately detained. He claimed being a journalist in Bangladesh persecuted by the ruling party due to reporting irregularities during the national elections. His asylum applications were rejected in first instance and on appeal. Under Articles 3 and 13 ECHR, S.H. complained that the Maltese authorities failed to properly assess his asylum claims, that his asylum procedure was deficient and he had no effective remedies available.
Addressing the complaints under Article 13, the Court first noted the lack of access to legal assistance for people in Malta’s detention centres including the applicant, while adding that access to such assistance was further reduced during the Covid-19 pandemic. Second, the ECtHR reiterated the principle of benefit of doubt that needs to be accorded to asylum applicants while assessing their credibility, especially considering that in the present case the applicant was legally unrepresented and detained. Third, the Court ruled that Malta should have provided detailed reasons as to why the applicant’s evidence has been disregarded. Fourth, the ECtHR stated that the appeals were superficial because the national decisions were taken within twenty-four hours and resulted in brief stereotype decisions. Fifth, the Court stated that effective asylum proceedings require a reliable communication system between the authority and the applicant. S.H. was informed about his first appeal decision several months after the ruling, which discloses that the communication system was clearly deficient. Lastly, the Court highlighted that Malta’s constitutional redress is not an appropriate remedy as it has no suspensive effect. Within the context of these six elements, the Court decided that S.H. had no access to an effective remedy under Article 13 for the purposes of his claim under Article 3.
Regarding the complain under Article 3, the Court found that there would be a violation of Article 3 if the applicant were to be removed to Bangladesh without a fresh assessment of his claim that, as a journalist who reported on the 2018 election irregularities, he would be at risk of treatment contrary to Article 3 if returned.