F.G. v. Sweden (2014)
ADF International supports Christian convert fleeing persecution
What was at stake?
- The right to freedom of religion
- The right to asylum on the grounds of religious persecution
True freedom of religion allows people to practise their faith openly and without fear of repercussions. Sadly, there are many countries around the world that do not allow their citizens this kind of freedom. Iran is one such country. So when an Iranian man sought asylum in Sweden, he hoped that he would finally be able to freely practise his Christian faith.
He initially applied for asylum and a resident permit in 2009 after suffering political persecution for working as a web publisher in Iran and opposing the Iranian regime. A year later, he converted from Islam to Christianity. But the man’s hopes of freely practising his newfound faith were dashed. Swedish authorities failed to see the danger that he would face as a Christian convert if he was to return to Iran.
In November 2011 Sweden denied his request for asylum and residency. He then appealed the decision, but in January 2014 a lower Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights found that his expulsion to Iran did not violate his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court reasoned that Iranian authorities may have been unaware of his religious conversion, and he could avoid any danger by keeping his faith a ‘private matter.’
Several months later, ADF International and the Jubilee Campaign were given permission to submit legal arguments to the Grand Chamber of the Court. The submission challenged this reasoning and highlighted the dire situation facing Christian converts in Iran. It argued that the lower chamber’s decision limited religious freedom, and that the Court had previously ruled that ‘freedom of religion is not limited to private conscience; it “also encompasses the freedom to manifest one’s belief, alone and in private, but also to practise in community with others and in public.”’
In November 2016 the court issued its final judgment. It found that if the Swedish authorities sent the man back to Iran without making an up-to-date assessment of the consequences of his conversion, it would be a violation of Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This overruled the bad precedent that was set by the earlier judgment.
‘We encouraged the Grand Chamber to protect this citizen’s freedom of religion,’ said ADF International Executive Director Paul Coleman. ‘The human rights situation for Christians in Iran has been well-documented, and there is little doubt that a Christian convert from Islam would face a real risk of harm if he is forced to return to his country. We’re very pleased that the court has recognized that Christians should be able to practise their faith openly without fearing for their lives.’
Our Role in the Case
ADF International and the Jubilee Campaign were given permission to submit legal arguments to the Grand Chamber of the Court on the legal and social challenges facing Christian converts in Iran.