UK Supreme Court overturns finding that torture of asylum seeker was self-inflicted

The UK Supreme Court has overturned a finding of the Upper Tribunal that the torture of an asylum seeker was self-inflicted.

The applicant, a Sri Lankan national of Tamil ethnicity, applied for asylum in the UK due to persecution and torture by the Sri Lankan government.  The applicant gave evidence of scars which he claimed were the result of torture. His account, however, was rejected by the Home Office for being inconsistent. The applicant was heard before the Upper Tribunal, where medical evidence was presented that stated the wounds were “high consistent” with the account of torture however the evidence lacked credibility. The Tribunal found against him, suggesting the scars were self-inflicted by proxy.

The Supreme Court held that the conclusions of the medical expert before the Tribunal were in line with the Istanbul Protocol on the effective investigation of torture, and the witness could offer legitimate assistance to the court regarding the consistency of an account of torture with clinical findings. The Court found, however, that it was beyond the professional capacity of the expert to adjudicate on the applicant’s credibility as this was the remit of the Tribunal.

The Supreme Court held that the Tribunal also failed to take into account that it was highly unlikely that the wounds were self-inflicted. There was wide ranging evidence of torture inflicted by forces of the Sri Lankan government at that time, with little evidence of self-inflicted wounds of such severity by asylum seekers. The Court concluded that the rare case of self-inflicted torture should have held decisive weight in the case.

The Court allowed the appeal and remitted the case to the Upper Tribunal.

Click here for the case of KV (Sri Lanka) (Appellant) Secretary of State for the Home Department (Respondent).



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