An activist waves an LBGT flag at a rally against racism and discrimination in Berlin, June 2020/Photo: AfricanCourierMedia

Switzerland should not deport Gambian homosexuals – European court rules

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has forbidden Switzerland from deporting a homosexual Gambian to his homeland.

The Swiss authorities had failed to consider whether The Gambia would protect the man against attacks by non-state actors, the court ruled in Strasbourg on Tuesday.

Therefore, the deportation would violate the prohibition of inhuman treatment if carried out. Switzerland must also reimburse the man 14,500 euros for expenses, the court ruled (Ref: 43987/16 and 889/19).

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The ECHR agreed that a mere prohibition of homosexual acts in a country did not make deportation there a human rights violation. In the specific case of the Gambian, however, it would be a violation. The court noted that homosexual acts remained criminalised in Gambian legislation and carried severe prison sentences, adding that independent authorities had established that the Gambian state was not prepared to protect members of sexual minorities against attacks by third parties.

The ECHR contradicted Switzerland on another point. The deportation decision had also been justified by the fact that the homosexuality of the man in Gambia would not be made public. The court objected, saying that sexual orientation was a basic component of a person’s identity and that no one could be required to hide it.

The ECHR, based in Strasbourg, is a supranational or international court of the Council of Europe which interprets the European Convention on Human Rights. Applications by individuals against signatory states, alleging that the state violates their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, can be made by any person, non-governmental organisation or group of individual.

Austin Ohaegbu

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