against Torture, established under article 17 of the Convention against
Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,
Meeting on 11 May 2001,
Having 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,
Having taken into account all information made available to it by the author
of the communication, his counsel and the State party,
Adopts 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.
The Facts as Submitted by the Author
2.1 According 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
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.
2.5 According 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
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 via Denmark.
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 territory.
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
The State 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
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 completely trustworthy.
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.
4.8 Finally, 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.
5.1 Counsel 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.
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.
5.3 Counsel 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.
5.4 Counsel 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
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.
5.7 Finally, 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.
Issues and Proceedings Before the Committee
6.1 Before 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
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.