Sweden also has company in its attempts to send Iranian Christians back to Iran. Last month, Canada’s federal court ordered the Immigration and Refugee Board to re-examine the case of an Iranian police lieutenant-colonel who fled to Canada after converting to Christianity. Mohammadreza Habibi was considered a war criminal because he worked for the government, and the refugee board denied him asylum. But the board didn’t properly apply the war crime complicity law, the federal court said.
Yet the Scandinavian country can no longer deport one migrant—an Iranian Christian man identified only by the initials F. G.—back to Iran without first considering how its Islamic regime will treat him due to his conversion from Islam, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled last month.
F. G., who was born in 1962, had been arrested three times in Iran for helping to create and publish web pages that were critical of its government. When he was summoned to the Revolutionary Court in 2009, he fled to Sweden.
F. G. did not relay his conversion to Christianity during his asylum proceedings, preferring to keep it private. And since the summons to the Iranian court weren’t repeated, and his family hadn’t been targeted by Iranian authorities, the Swedish Migration Board ruled that he was safe to return to his home country.
When F. G. requested a stay on his deportation order, based on his conversion to Christianity, the migration board dismissed the evidence as old, and his case not worth reconsidering.
F. G. appealed to the ECHR. At first, a chamber court said he wasn’t at risk in Iran because the authorities there didn’t know about his conversion.
Last month, the ECHR’s Grand Chamber unanimously disagreed.
“[R]egardless of the applicant’s conduct, the competent national authorities have an obligation to assess, of their own motion, all the information brought to their attention before taking a decision on his removal to Iran,” the court wrote. “It follows that there would be a violation of Articles 2 (right to life) and 3 (prohibition of torture and of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the Convention if the applicant were to be returned to Iran without an ex nunc assessment by the Swedish authorities of the consequences of his conversion.”