September 23, 2009
Press Release
from Iranian Refugees' Alliance, Inc.


Turkey's deportation and detention practices condemned by European Court of Human Rights

Iranian Refugees' Alliance, Inc. (IRA-INC) welcomes yesterday's unanimous judgment by the European Court of Human Rights which found Turkey in violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), Article 13 (right to an effective remedy), and Articles 5 §§ 1, 2, and 4 (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention on Human Rights and awarded damages to the applicants in the case it lodged on 30 June 2008 on behalf of Iranian nationals Messrs. M. Abdolkhani and H. Karimnia.

Both applicants, former members of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran, had been recognized as refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) while they were in a temporary refugee camp in Iraq in 2006-07. When the camp was closed, they fled to Turkey but were immediately arrested and illegally deported to Iraq. After re-entering Turkey a second time they were again arrested on 21 June 2008 and detained for a week without access to the outside world. They declared that they were UNHCR recognized refugees and that their lives would be in danger if deported to Iran, but Turkish authorities violently transported them to the Iranian border on 28 June 2008 and attempted to hand them over to the Iranian authorities. Miraculously, the deportation failed because the Iranian authorities doubted the applicants' nationality. Since then the applicants have been detained in foreigners' detention facilities, still at risk of deportation allegedly for "being arrested while staying illegally" in Turkey and for creating "a risk to national security, public safety and order." The two applicants had also been prevented from challenging their deportation and detention in Turkish courts.

Based on evidence submitted by the applicants and the UNHCR, which was granted leave to intervene in the proceedings as a third party, the Court held that there was a real risk of the applicants being subjected to treatment contrary to Article 3 if they were returned to either country. These include evidence concerning torture, execution and deaths in custody of PMOI members in Iran, the unknown fate of those who have returned voluntarily, UNHCR's verification of applicants' fears, as well as the fact that removals to Iraq take place in the absence of a proper legal procedure and that those who have been removed to Iraq have possibly been subsequently removed to Iran. The Court reaffirmed the absolute nature of Article 3, noted that applicants had left the PMOI and had been recognized as refugees by UNHCR, and completely rejected the Turkish Government's excuse that the continued presence of the applicants presented a "security risk".

The Court also remarked upon the administrative and judicial authorities' total disregard for the applicants' genuine fears of ill-treatment and death if returned to Iraq or Iran, and concluded that the applicants were not afforded an effective and accessible remedy as required by Article 13 of the Convention.

The Court also concluded that the applicants' detention is unlawful since there were no clear legal provisions for detention of foreigners subject to deportation, as is required by Article 5 § 1 of the Convention.. The Turkish government was also found to have violated Articles 5 §§ 2 and 4 of the Convention in failing to tell the applicants why they have been detained and failing to provide them with any remedy whereby they could challenge the lawfulness of their detention speedily by judicial review.

The Court awarded the applicants EUR 20,000 each in non-pecuniary damages and EUR 3,500 in cost and expenses under Article 41 (just satisfaction) of the Convention.

"This decision represents an important victory for refugee rights in Turkey," said IRA-INC's director Deljou Abadi who represented the applicants before the Court. "It is especially significant in light of Turkish authorities' systematic practice of unlawful deportation and detention of asylum seekers and refugees in recent years and a string of similar cases currently pending before the Court. The ruling underlines the longstanding call for Turkey to bring its laws and practices relating to asylum, deportation and detention of refugees and asylum seekers in line with international standards."

UNHCR figures show that after the United Kingdom, Turkey remains the second most important destination country for Iranian asylum seekers, with an average of 2,650 applications per year over the last decade. Nearly 14,000 persons from various nationalities applied for asylum in Turkey in 2008. Half were Iraqi nationals.

The Court's press release and judgment are accessible on its Internet site:

For further information regarding this case please contact the Iranian Refugees' Alliance, Inc. at the address below.

Iranian Refugees' Alliance, Inc., is a non-profit NGO in the U.S. assisting and advocating on behalf of Iranian asylum seekers and refugees nationally and internationally.


Iranian Refugees' Alliance, Inc.
Cooper Station
P.O.Box 316
New York, NY 10276-0316 USA

tel: 212-260-7460
fax: 267-295-7391