Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Pride in Our Supreme Court


Yesterday I posted abouthow the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had condemned Britain's return with discretion policy to sexuality refugees which were followed under Labour. Today the UK Supreme Court has stood up for sexuality refugees as well. They ruled in favour of two men one from Iran and the other from Cameroon.

They had been asked to consider if a gay applicant could be refused asylum on the grounds that he could avoid ill treatment if he concealed his sexuality. (I could use a gender neutral term here but the applicants were both male on this occasion and the Supreme Court was considering that specific case to set precedent). The Court of appeal had previously thrown out the cases as they stated that by concealing their identity their situation could be regarded as "reasonably tolerable".

The applicants had gone to the Supreme Court to challenge the tolerability test, saying it was contrary to the Refugee Convention Act of which the UK is a signatory.The Supreme Court Agreed Lord Hope read out their findings saying:

"To compel a homosexual person to pretend that his sexuality does not exist or suppress the behaviour by which to manifest itself is to deny his fundamental right to be who he is.

"Homosexuals are as much entitled to freedom of association with others who are of the same sexual orientation as people who are straight."


Now don't forget that Labour were saying that they were the champions of LGBT rights, yet under them the 'tolerability test' and 'discretion precedent' where the preferred way of dealing with people fleeing persecution because of their sexuality. Both could easily have been overturned by legislation or guidance from the Minister.

I suppose we should thank Labour for setting up the independent Supreme Court who have now ruled that their guidance was actually incorrect. Good to see the independent judicial body standing up for human rights in our country.

In the case of Iran and other countries the people who come to our country seeking asylum because of their sexuality are facing a death penalty if they return. It is a subject I have blogged about too often in the past and expect to sadly have to return to again in the future.

1 comment:

lizw said...

The judgment is really excellent (I was one of the lawyers for UNHCR, which intervened in the case). It refers explicitly to gay men, lesbians and bisexuals, so I think you can be gender-neutral if you want! I think it has implications for refugees who fear persecution on grounds of gender identity as well, though we'll have to wait for another case to be sure. The principles as set out in the judgment all seem to be applicable.

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