Judge criticises ‘unfair and irrational’ Refugee Appeals Tribunal decision

Strongly worded judgment quashes tribunal decision that ‘lacked justice and understanding’

 Ms Justice Maureen Harding Clark

Ms Justice Maureen Harding Clark

Mon, Mar 10, 2014, 01:10

In a written judgement published in February, High Court judge Ms Justice Maureen Harding Clark aimed withering criticism at the Refugee Appeals Tribunal over a decision it made concerning a Sudanese asylum-seeker. That a judge would criticise the appeals tribunal is not particularly remarkable in itself, but the strength of Ms Justice Clark’s language suggested a considerable level of exasperation at what she described as an extraordinary, “unfair and irrational” decision, one reached seemingly more out of dislike for the individual than anything else.

AAMO, as he is referred to in the judgment, was seeking judicial review of a ruling by the appeals tribunal upholding a decision to refuse him asylum in Ireland. “Sometimes,” Ms Justice Clark wrote in her opening paragraph, “the court is called upon to review a decision which is so unfair and irrational and contains so many errors that judicial review seems an inadequate remedy to redress the wrong perpetrated on an applicant. This is such a case.”

The applicant applied for asylum in Ireland in July 2009, alleging he would be at risk of persecution in Sudan because of his work as a human rights defender and opposition party activist, as well as past persecution.

After qualifying as a doctor from Juba University in the Sudanese capital Khartoum in 2002, AAMO travelled to the war-ravaged Darfur region where he worked with aid organisation Médecins Sans Frontières between October 2004 and May 2005. While there, he documented human rights violations, in particular the incidence of widespread rape being committed by the government on the Darfuri population.

Report on sexual violence
His observations and those of other doctors would form the basis of a report on sexual violence in the region. Soon after its publication, AAMO learned he was at risk: the Sudanese authorities, sensitive as they were to any criticism of their conduct in Darfur, were displeased with his work.

Fearing for his safety, AAMO left Médecins Sans Frontières and relocated to a village in the north of the country where he worked as a GP. He continued, however, to highlight human rights violations in Darfur by holding local meetings and publishing articles online. This activity earned him several warnings and in 2008 members of the Sudanese security forces attacked his medical practice, destroying three of its six rooms.

When the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for president Al Bashir in March 2009 the Sudanese authorities started to crack down on human rights organisations. They kicked NGOs out of Darfur and set upon activists. That month, members of the security services came looking for AAMO at his clinic but the doctor managed to flee, escaping to the capital.

Some days later, while grocery shopping, he was confronted by armed guards who abducted, beat and tortured him, eventually kicking him unconscious. He came to in the back of a truck just before his abductors, thinking him dead, threw him from the vehicle onto the street.

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