Inner House rejects asylum case of Sudanese man who claimed involvement with resistance movement

A Sudanese man who made an asylum claim based on his alleged involvement in an anti-government movement has had his petition for judicial review of the decision to reject his claim refused by the Court of Session.

The petitioner and appellant, AHT, originally had his petition refused by the Outer House in January 2021. He challenged the Lord Ordinary’s finding that his petition had no real prospect of success.

The Inner House appeal was heard by Lord Turnbull, Lord Woolman, and Lord Doherty. The appellant was represented by Forrest, advocate, and the Home Office by Pirie, advocate.

Country guidance

The appellant claimed to have been involved in the Justice and Equality Movement in Sudan, part of the anti-government Sudanese Revolutionary Front, and to have continued his involvement with the UK arm of the JEM after arriving in the country in 2009. His account also included details of being arrested, detained, and mistreated while in Sudan but managing to escape.

In his first appeal against the decision not to grant him asylum, the First-tier Tribunal disbelieved the appellant’s account, with the Upper Tribunal holding on appeal that there was nothing to mark him out as being a perceived threat by the Sudanese authorities, taking into account the country guidance for Sudan.

A third hearing before the FtT found that the appellant had not established his claim of being involved in the Scottish division of JEM and noted that on the appellant’s own evidence he had not attended any protests since 2018. The FtT also rejected an argument by the appellant that a country guidance case, IM and AI (2016) considered by the FtT could not apply to his case because he came from western Sudan while the case concerned applicants from eastern Sudan.

It was submitted for the appellant that the case of IM was not a proper comparison with his own case. Further, the evidence of an expert witness who had given evidence in IM, Dr Verney, that there were different considerations that applied to people from western Sudan, had been ignored by the FtT insofar as he said the application of IM was restricted to persons from eastern Sudan.

On behalf of the respondent, it was submitted that the appellant had failed to identify any part of the decision in IM which suggested that the guidance in that case did not relate to a returnee from his part of Sudan. There was therefore no identifiable error in the reasoning of the FtT and the petition did not raise an important point of principle.

Matter of law

Delivering the opinion of the court, Lord Turnbull began by noting: “Counsel for the appellant’s submission was that a country expert witness who had given evidence before a country guidance tribunal is entitled to inform a subsequent tribunal that the country guidance decision was wrong, or was entitled to inform a subsequent tribunal as to the scope of that country guidance decision. He was however, unsurprisingly, unable to offer any authority in support of this proposition.”

He continued: “The proper interpretation of IM and AI is a matter of law for this court. It is not a matter upon which Dr Verney is competent to give opinion evidence. Insofar as he purported to give such evidence it was clearly inadmissible.”

Contrasting the appellant’s position with the claimant in IM, he said: “The appellant’s evidence as to the extent of his involvement with the JEM was rejected. He had no other involvement beyond attending a demonstration in 2018. It was not accepted that he would be at risk upon return. In the lengthy history of the appellant’s asylum claims, the risk he has consistently relied upon was based on his association with the JEM. He does not appear to have advanced a claim that he was at risk as a returnee on account of his geographical origin.”

Lord Turnbull concluded: “Having rejected the evidence relied upon by the appellant in the hearing before him [the FtT judge] was bound to conclude that there was no risk to the appellant on return. There is no basis in Dr Verney’s evidence, or any other reason to think that the appellant’s geographical origin introduces any further risk factor. The Upper Tribunal was correct to reject the criticisms of the First-tier Tribunal decision.”

The appeal was therefore refused.

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