- European Court of Human Rights rules against Switzerland in case of Christian convert
- ADF International intervened to argue no one should be forced to hide their faith
STRASBOURG (6 November 2019) – Today, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favour of an Afghani citizen who sought asylum in Switzerland and faced deportation. ADF International intervened in the case of A.A. v. Switzerland. The applicant would have faced severe persecution if deported back to Afghanistan. In the country, conversion from Islam to another religion is illegal “apostasy” with punishments ranging from lengthy imprisonment to death.
“Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith. Our society has a responsibility to protect those who are facing torture, imprisonment, or death due to their religious beliefs. Afghanistan counts as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for Christians and, in particular, for converts. ADF International’s intervention sought to highlight the severe breaches of human rights in Afghanistan against religious minorities and especially the widespread persecution of Christians. We welcome this important judgment from the European Court of Human Rights, affirming that Christians should not have to hide their faith to avoid persecution,” said Robert Clarke, Director of European Advocacy for ADF International.
Persecution of Christians in Afghanistan
While the Afghan Constitution protects religious freedom in general, it also defines Islam as the state religion and prohibits the enactment of any law contradicting Islamic beliefs. This creates a parallel legal system based on Islamic Sunni law, enforced by so-called jirga civil courts. These civil courts investigate “crimes against God.” Such “hudud” crimes like apostasy, blasphemy, anti-Islamic writings or speech, and proselytism are considered serious and punishable by beheadings for males, life imprisonment for females, confiscation of property, and inheritance limitations.
Judgment a clear sign to protect those fleeing religious persecution
“Today, the Judges of the Strasbourg Court held that the applicant (identified only as ‘A.A.’) would be compelled to conceal their Christian faith and would in effect ‘be forced to live a lie’ if deported to Afghanistan by the Swiss authorities. The Court was critical of the Swiss authorities and their failure to properly conduct an assessment of the risks and consequences of deporting a Christian convert to Afghanistan. It concluded that this was in breach of Switzerland’s obligations to protect individuals from torture under the European Convention of Human Rights,” said Lorcán Price, Legal Counsel for ADF International in Strasbourg.
“We are glad that the Strasbourg Court has used this case to uphold the rights of Christians to openly profess their faith without facing the threat of physical violence, imprisonment, and possibly the death penalty. Switzerland, and every other member state of the European Convention on Human Rights, has an obligation in international law to protect those fleeing religious persecution,” said Price.