Kurdish Iraqi citizen who claimed to be victim of blood feud has asylum petition refused by Inner House
The Inner House of the Court of Session has refused an Iraqi citizen of Kurdish ethnicity who claimed to be involved in a blood feud permission to appeal the refusal of his judicial review petition against the Upper Tribunal.
HMH, the appellant, claimed that he was at a real risk of persecution from members of his family having been accused of a crime he did not commit. He argued that there were identifiable errors of law in the UT’s decision in that it had failed to give proper consideration to social issues in Iraq.
The appeal was heard by Lady Paton, Lord Malcolm, and Lord Turnbull. The appellant was represented by Winter, advocate, and the respondent, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, by Pirie, advocate.
The appellant claimed that he had falsely been accused of killing his maternal cousin, who had disappeared on a trip to Iran to purchase sheep for the family farm. He left Iraq after receiving death threats from his cousin’s family and had passed through Turkey, Bosnia, Italy, and France on his way to the UK. His passport had been confiscated in Bosnia and he had no identification with which to return to the Iraqi Kurdistan region to live and work.
After his initial claim was rejected by the Home Office, he appealed to the First-tier Tribunal, which found that there were several inconsistencies between his initial claim and the position he later adopted. In particular, it was noted that the appellant had changed the reasoning behind his initial departure from Iraq from a threat by a business associate and that in his first claim he stated his passport had been left behind in Iraq.
The FtT concluded that there were safe places in Iraq that the appellant could return to and that he did not qualify for refugee protection. In refusing permission to appeal the FtT’s decision, the Upper Tribunal held that the FtT judge had made conclusions on the evidence that were open to him.
The Lord Ordinary who considered the petition in the Outer House determined that the alleged errors of the UT founded upon by the appellant related to factual determinations by the FtT and therefore refused permission for the petition to proceed.
It was submitted for the appellant that the complaints made against the FtT decision did not relate to factual errors but to errors of law which vitiated the findings of the FtT judge. There had been inadequate assessment and consideration of the country information relied upon before the FtT, including that the police were reluctant to become involved in blood feuds and often treated Kurds poorly.
The opinion of the court was delivered by Lord Turnbull, who said of the inconsistencies in the appellant’s account: “There was no mention in either the screening interview, or the proposed amendments of 17 June, of the appellant’s cousin going missing, nor of the appellant receiving threats from members of his cousin’s family. It was only later that the appellant gave an account of his trip to Iran and the subsequent blame which he claimed was attached to him for his cousin’s disappearance.”
He continued: “The inconsistency which he noted was in the identity of the source of perceived harm to the appellant. The first account was that he had received threats from his maternal cousin, his business partner. On his subsequent account that could not possibly have been true, as it was his business partner who had gone missing. The FtT judge was perfectly entitled to take note of what was in fact an inconsistency and to treat this as bearing upon an important issue at the heart of the appellant’s claim.”
Considering the country information relied upon, Lord Turnbull noted: “The facts which were before the Tribunal were that the Iranian authorities were not notified, that the appellant did not seek any assistance from the Iraqi police, or authorities, and that he did remain living with his family for a period of a year or so after his cousin’s disappearance. The FtT judge was entitled to consider that these were relevant features which raised questions over the credibility of the appellant’s account.”
He went on to say: “He required to determine what to make of these matters in light of any explanation given by the appellant. The Country Information could only have a part to play if it chimed with the appellant’s account.”
Lord Turnbull concluded: “We do not consider that the FtT judge can be said to have erred in law in taking account of the facts in the manner in which he did. The conclusion which he reached was that the appellant’s account was in no way credible and lacked coherence. That conclusion was arrived at in light of the totality of the evidence, including the FtT judge’s assessment of the appellant’s changing account of what became of his passport and other identification document.”
For these reasons, the appeal was refused.