Submitted by :
S.L. (name withheld) [represented by counsel]
against Torture, established under article 17 of the
Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment
on 11 May 2001,
concluded its consideration of communication No. 150/1999, submitted
to the Committee against Torture under article 22 of the Convention
against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,
taken into account all information made available to it by the author
of the communication, his counsel and the State party,
its Views under article 22, paragraph 7, of the Convention.
1.1 The author
of the communication is Mr. S.L., an Iranian citizen currently residing
in Sweden, where he is seeking refugee status. The author arrived in
Sweden on 8 February 1998 and applied for asylum the following day.
Mr. S.L. claims that he would risk torture upon return to the Islamic
Republic of Iran and that his forced return to that country would therefore
constitute a violation by Sweden of article 3 of the Convention. The
author is represented by counsel.
1.2 In accordance
with article 22, paragraph 3, of the Convention, the Committee transmitted
communication No. 150/1999 to the State party on 18 November 1999. Pursuant
to rule 108, paragraph 9, of the Committee's rules of procedure, the
State party was requested not to expel the author to the Islamic Republic
of Iran pending the consideration of his case by the Committee. In a
submission dated 21 December 1999 the State party informed the Committee
that the author would not be expelled to his country of origin while
his communication was under consideration by the Committee.
as submitted by the author
to the author, he has never been politically active in the Islamic Republic
of Iran. He was a respected Muslim of firm conviction who studied agronomics
at Tehran University and who was financially well off from his own poultry
farming business. In December 1988, having left university after a few
years of study, the author was drafted and was eventually, at his own
request, placed with the Sepah-Pasdaran in Tehran.
2.2 The author explains that in the early 1990s the Pasdaran (Iranian
Revolutionary Guards) and the police were joined together, coming under
the Ministry of the Interior. At the same time, a new security force
body, the Sepah-Pasdaran, was created directly under the Supreme Commander,
Ayatollah Khamenei, with the task to "protect the system, defend the
values of Islam and the revolution". There are also counter-intelligence
units within the Sepah-Pasdaran with responsibility for internal control
and surveillance of the rest of the Sepah-Pasdaran. The author was placed
in the Tehran office of one of these units, where he soon gained everyone's
confidence and was appointed personal secretary to the commander of
the office. As such he had access to all files and all cupboards, except
one to which only the commander had the keys.
2.3 One day,
the commander accidentally left his keys in the office when he left
for a meeting. Out of curiosity, the author opened the "special cupboard"
and found personal files containing information about immoral and criminal
acts committed by well-known, highly respected individuals considered,
not least by the author, as pillars of society. In his submission to
the Committee, the author gives detailed information, including names
of the individuals concerned and the nature of the crimes supposedly
committed, including rape, illegal trade in arms, drug dealing and embezzlement.
2.4 The author
took copies of the files and hid them in his home. He thought that if
the allegations were forwarded to the right quarters, the individuals
in question would be investigated, sentenced and punished properly.
In February/March 1990, the author gave anonymous information to the
Sepah-Pasdaran operational group, which resulted in a raid and the discovery
of illegal weapons and ammunition. The author continued to submit anonymous
information to the operational group which resulted in further raids.
However, due to the influential status of the individuals involved,
the discoveries were covered up and no arrests were made. Convinced
that the allegations were true, the author also sent copies of the files
to the office of Ayatollah Khamenei.
to the author, the Sepah-Pasdaran must have become suspicious of him,
because in April/May 1991, shortly after having finished his military
service, the author was arrested and held in one of Sepah-Pasdaran's
secret prisons, the so called "No. 59", for six months. According to
one of the medical statements supporting the author's claim, the author
was subjected to torture and ill-treatment. He was handcuffed behind
his knees, and with a stick placed between his upper arms and thighs
he was hung up to rotate, sometimes for hours. The author also claims
that he received beatings with batons on the kneecaps and elbows. Although
he was interrogated about the secret reports, the author denied everything,
knowing that a confession would be the end of him. After six months,
in November/December 1991, the author was transferred to a hospital
for medical treatment and thereafter released on bail.
2.6 The author
claims that after his release he was kept under close surveillance by
the Sepah-Pasdaran. He was eventually asked to spy for the Sepah-Pasdaran
on some of the leaders of the State-controlled farmers' cooperative
in which he was active. He was also supposed to go with the cooperative
to international fairs and report on the leaders' behaviour and contacts
abroad and for this purpose the author had a passport issued. The author
tried to keep the Sepah-Pasdaran satisfied by providing some information,
but of limited interest. In August 1995, the Sepah-Pasdaran arrested
him again and he was first brought to the Evin prison. The author had
to leave samples of his handwriting, presumably to compare it with the
writing on one of the envelopes in which he had sent anonymous information.
According to the allegations, the author was again tortured and kept
in solitary confinement for several months.
2.7 In June
1996 the author was brought to trial, convicted and sentenced to one
year's imprisonment and a fine for check fraud, a verdict which the
author presented to the Swedish immigration authorities. According to
the author, the charges were fabricated. He was not represented by a
lawyer during the trial and did not know any of the alleged plaintiffs.
After the verdict, the author was transferred to Qasar prison, where
he claims that conditions improved and although he was subjected to
ill-treatment he was never tortured.
2.8 The author
claims that he escaped from prison on 22 June 1997. His wife and a number
of close friends arranged the flight, by reporting him to the prosecutor
on false grounds. As a consequence the author was summoned and transported,
together with two other prisoners, to the court in Kosh district, accompanied
by two police officers and three soldiers. The guards were bribed by
the author's wife and friends to allow him to escape.
2.9 After his
escape, the author remained in hiding with friends in Karach. An influential
friend of the author's family, with business contacts in Germany, arranged
for the author to receive a tourist visa. The author already had a passport
which he had been issued in 1991 (see para. 2.6). With the help of a
smuggler the author left the Islamic Republic of Iran illegally via
the Kurdish mountains to Turkey. From Ankara he went legally by air
to Germany on his tourist visa and was thereafter taken by car to Sweden
2.10 The author
entered Sweden on 8 February 1998 and applied for asylum the following
day. The immigration authorities ordered his expulsion to Germany, in
accordance with the Dublin Convention, but before the execution of the
expulsion, the author escaped to Norway. From Norway he was returned
to Sweden. He was again expelled from Sweden to Germany on 9 November
1998, but subsequently returned to Sweden due to the fact that he had
been outside European Union territory since his initial arrival on German
2.11 The Swedish
Immigration Board rejected the author's asylum claim on 13 September
1999. The author's appeal was rejected by the Aliens Appeal Board on
4 November 1999.
3.1 In view
of his past experiences of imprisonment and torture, the author claims
that there exist substantial grounds to believe that he would be subjected
to torture if he were to be returned to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
His forced return would therefore constitute a violation by Sweden of
article 3 of the Convention.
3.2 In support
of the claim, counsel provides several medical certificates. One of
the certificates is from the Centre for Torture and Trauma Survivors
in Stockholm, stating that the author suffers from a post-traumatic
stress disorder and that both medical and psychological evidence indicate
that the author has been subjected to torture with typical psychological
effects as a result. In addition, a certificate from a psychiatrist
states that the "circumstances, together with [the author's] whole attitude
and general appearance, indicate very strongly ... that he for a long
time has been subjected to severe abuses and torture" and that the author
is considered "completely trustworthy".
party's observations on admissibility and merits
4.1 By submission
of 21 December 1999, the State party informs the Committee that, following
the Committee's request under rule 108, paragraph 9, of its rules of
procedure, the Swedish Immigration Board decided to stay the expulsion
order against the author while his communication is under consideration
by the Committee.
4.2 By submission
of 2 March 2000, the State party informs the Committee that it does
not raise any objection as to the admissibility of the communication.
It confirms the author's account of the internal remedies exhausted.
4.3 With regard
to the general situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of
Iran, the State party notes that although there are at present signs
that Iranian society is undergoing changes that may entail improvements
in the human rights field, the country is still reported to be a major
abuser of human rights.
4.4 The State
party further states that it refrains from making an evaluation of its
own regarding whether or not the author has substantiated his claim
that he would risk being tortured if expelled, and leaves it to the
discretion of the Committee to determine whether the case reveals a
violation of article 3 of the Convention. It notes that in its jurisprudence,
the Committee has observed that past torture is one of the elements
to be taken into account when examining a claim under article 3 of the
Convention but that the aim of the Committee's examination is to determine
whether the author would at present be at risk of being subjected
to torture if returned. The State party does not wish to question that
the author has spent some time in prison, nor that he was at that time
subjected to ill-treatment. Without making an assessment of its own,
the State party reminds the Committee of the opinions put forward by
the Swedish Immigration Board and the Aliens Appeal Board.
4.5 The Swedish
Immigration Board rejected the author's application for asylum on 13
September 1999, on the basis that the circumstances invoked by the author
lacked credibility. The credibility of the author was questioned on
the following grounds: (i) the fact that the author had not presented
his Iranian passport or any other travel documents to the Swedish authorities;
(ii) that the author had not applied for asylum either in Germany or
in Denmark, indicating that he could not have regarded his situation
in his home country as particularly serious; (iii) the Board found it
difficult to believe that the Iranian security police wanted someone
they were suspicious of to act as a spy for them; (iv) the circumstances
regarding the author's escape from prison were not considered credible;
and finally (v) the Board questioned the authenticity of the judgement
regarding check fraud submitted by the author.
4.6 The Aliens
Appeals Board dismissed the author's appeal on 4 November 1999. The
Board found no reason to question the author's identity, nor did it
question that the author had been sentenced by a court in Tehran for
check fraud in accordance with the submitted judgement, which the Swedish
Embassy in Tehran had had examined by legal experts who concluded it
was authentic. The Aliens Appeals Board does not rule out that the author
had been deprived of his liberty while under suspicion for check fraud,
nor that he had served a prison sentence for the said crime, or that
he had been ill-treated during his imprisonment. In all other aspects,
the Aliens Appeals Board questioned the credibility of the author on
the same grounds as the Swedish Immigration Board and in the light of
the submitted medical certificate which indicates that the author seems
4.7 The Swedish
Embassy in Tehran further noted that check fraud cases are very common
in the Islamic Republic of Iran and that at present there appears to
be thousands of such cases pending before the courts in Tehran. The
Embassy does not rule out the possibility that on the whole, the author
has submitted reliable information in support of his reluctance to return
to his country of origin. With regard to the author's passport, the
Embassy states that the fact that a person has legal problems with the
Iranian authorities does not necessarily mean that he is refused a passport,
whereas he would normally not obtain an exit permit.
the State party points out that the author claims that the judgement
concerning check fraud was presented to him in February or March 1996,
after he had spent six months in prison. However, it appears from the
judgement itself that it was given on 6 June 1996. The Aliens Appeals
Board held the view that the author may have been found guilty of check
fraud and served a prison sentence for that crime.
notes the immigration authorities' reference to the fact that the author
had not presented his travel documents and that it therefore cannot
be excluded that the author had destroyed his Iranian passport and that
his exit from the Islamic Republic of Iran was legal. She further notes
that the authorities do not find it credible that the author was issued
a passport while under suspicion by the Iranian secret police. With
regard to the first matter, counsel submits that rejection by the immigration
authorities with the indication that the author may have destroyed his
travel documents in bad faith is a common phrase automatically used
to question the general veracity of a claim. With regard to the second,
counsel reminds the Committee that the author has given a plausible
explanation of why he was granted a passport despite being under surveillance
(see para. 2.6).
5.2 With reference
to the immigration authorities' argument that it does not seem likely
that the secret police would use a person under surveillance to spy
for them, counsel submits that it is common knowledge that in dictatorships
the secret police do force persons over whom they have a hold to work
for them in different ways.
notes the contradictions with regard to the Swedish Immigration Board's
and the Aliens Appeals Board's argumentation concerning the judgement
for check fraud presented by the author. One of the main reasons for
the Immigration Board's doubts as to the credibility of the author was
that it questioned the authenticity of the judgement. When it was ascertained,
through the Swedish Embassy in Tehran, that the judgement was in fact
authentic, the Aliens Appeals Board in turn used the authenticity of
the document as an argument against the author, indicating that the
author had been imprisoned for check fraud and had not been persecuted
on political grounds. Counsel submits that the use of false charges
in suppressive States in general, and in the Islamic Republic of Iran
in particular, is common to dispose of persons seen as a threat against
the State and at the same time create an image of a legitimate rule
of law. The Committee's attention is drawn to the fact that the author's
account in this respect was considered not credible by the Aliens Appeals
Board without giving any reason therefor. Counsel further points out
that for the author, it was obvious that he had been judged on false
charges, which was why he presented the verdict to the Swedish immigration
authorities in the first place. No person would present a real verdict
and expect to be granted asylum on that ground alone.
recalls that the Aliens Appeals Board does not question the fact that
the author had been imprisoned in the Islamic Republic of Iran, nor
that he was at that time subjected to torture and ill-treatment.
5.5 With regard
to the author's escape, counsel points out that the author has given
such a detailed description of the events that there should be no doubt
about its veracity. Details were also given to the examining psychiatrist
who in his medical certificate judged the author to be completely trustworthy.
5.6 The authorities
question why the author did not apply for asylum in Germany if, as claimed,
he feared persecution by the Iranian authorities. Counsel points out
that the author has given a clear and plausible explanation of why he
did not do so. The author would not have been able to get his passport
renewed or a tourist visa for Germany if it had not been for a close
and influential friend of the author's family with business contacts
in Germany. The author was therefore determined not to seek asylum in
Germany since doing so would likely compromise the friend. The author,
like everyone else, was aware that immigration authorities in Germany
and elsewhere take note of the sponsor of a person who seeks asylum
after having been granted a tourist visa.
counsel points out that the transcripts of the one and only interrogation
of the author by the Swedish immigration authorities is of poor quality.
The interpretation and translation of the author's account are of a
low standard and even the Swedish text is sometimes incomprehensible.
According to the transcripts, the author did not seem to be allowed
to tell his story and was constantly interrupted by provocative questions.
The torture is not questioned. As an example of the poor translation,
counsel points to an instance where "prosecutor" was replaced by "Chairman
of the Court", thereby leading the Swedish Immigration Board initially
to doubt the authenticity of the judgement.
and proceedings before the Committee
considering any claims contained in a communication, the Committee against
Torture must decide whether or not it is admissible under article 22
of the Convention. The Committee has ascertained, as it is required
to do under article 22, paragraph 5 (a), of the Convention, that the
same matter has not been and is not being examined under another procedure
of international investigation or settlement. The Committee is further
of the opinion that all available domestic remedies have been exhausted.
The Committee finds that no further obstacles to the admissibility of
the communication exist. Since both the State party and the author have
provided observations on the merits of the communication, the Committee
proceeds immediately with the consideration of those merits.
6.2 The issue
before the Committee is whether the forced return of the author to the
Islamic Republic of Iran would violate the obligation of Sweden under
article 3 of the Convention not to expel or to return a person to another
State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he or she
would be in danger of being subjected to torture.
6.3 The Committee
must decide, pursuant to article 3, paragraph 1, of the Convention,
whether there are substantial grounds for believing that the author
would be in danger of being subjected to torture upon return to Iran.
In reaching this decision, the Committee must take into account all
relevant considerations, pursuant to article 3, paragraph 2, of the
Convention, including the existence of a consistent pattern of gross,
flagrant or mass violations of human rights. The aim of the determination,
however, is to establish whether the individual concerned would be personally
at risk of being subjected to torture in the country to which he would
return. It follows that the existence of a consistent pattern of gross,
flagrant or mass violations of human rights in a country does not as
such constitute a sufficient ground for determining that a particular
person would be in danger of being subjected to torture upon his return
to that country; additional grounds must exist to show that the individual
concerned would be personally at risk. Similarly, the absence of a consistent
pattern of gross violations of human rights does not mean that a person
cannot be considered to be in danger of being subjected to torture in
his or her specific circumstances.
6.4 The Committee
has taken note of the arguments presented by the author and the State
party and is of the opinion that it has not been given enough evidence
by the author to conclude that the latter would run a personal, real
and foreseeable risk of being tortured if returned to his country of
7. The Committee
against Torture, acting under article 22, paragraph 7, of the Convention
against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,
considers that the author of the communication has not substantiated
his claim that he would be subjected to torture upon return to the Islamic
Republic of Iran and therefore concludes that the author's removal to
the Islamic Republic of Iran would not constitute a breach by the State
party under article 3 of the Convention.