Update: 'war on terror' deportations
In November the UN Human Rights Committee found that the Swedish authorities' summary expulsion of Mohammed El Zari to Egypt in 2001 breached the prohibition of refoulement (involuntary return of anyone to a country where they would be at risk of serious human rights abuses), and that the diplomatic assurances obtained from Egypt in this case were insufficient to eliminate the manifest risk of torture. These findings confirmed the conclusions of the UN Committee against Torture in 2005 in respect of a complaint against Sweden by another Egyptian asylum-seeker, Ahmed Agiza, jointly expelled to Egypt with Mohammed El Zari.
The Human Rights Committee also found that the Swedish authorities were responsible for the ill-treatment at the hands of US agents on Swedish soil immediately before the expulsion; failed to instigate a prompt, independent and impartial investigation into the ill-treatment and bring appropriate charges; and failed to provide an effective, independent review of the decision to expel Mohammed El Zari, despite the real risk of torture in Egypt. The Swedish authorities also breached his right of complaint by immediately expelling him despite advance notification that he would be seeking international interim protection measures in the event of a negative decision on his asylum claim.
The government continued to insist that such decisions by UN Committees were not legally binding, and provided no legal ground for compensation.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
In March a new Aliens Act entered into force, dissolving the Aliens Appeals Board and establishing a right to appeal against negative asylum decisions, among others, to higher courts. Appeals against first instance decisions of the Swedish Migration Board would be lodged with the Migration Courts, whose decisions in turn could be the subject of appeal to the Migration Court of Appeal. The Act also heralded a greater possibility for oral hearings.
However, in many cases, the Migration Courts did not maintain the confidentiality of personal information or details of persecution, including torture. Nor did they always accede to asylum-seekers' requests for closed hearings, giving rise to concerns about personal safety, particularly where rejection of applications could lead to deportations. The Migration Board did not respond to AI's call for asylum-seekers to be informed that confidentiality might not be respected in appeal proceedings.
Sexual orientation and gender-based persecution were introduced as grounds for seeking refugee status.
• In September the Stockholm Migration Court rejected the appeal of an Iranian asylum-seeker who had sought asylum on the grounds of his sexual orientation. The Court used only one source of country information, a Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs report, concluding that he was not at risk of persecution in Iran solely on these grounds, particularly if he concealed his sexual orientation. AI criticized the decision and the Ministry report, arguing that persecution based on sexual orientation was enshrined in law in Iran and could lead to the imposition of the death penalty. In December the Migration Court of Appeal declined to hear an appeal against the lower court's decision, which therefore became final.
The authorities actively sought to deport rejected Eritrean asylum-seekers, despite recommendations to all states by the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, to refrain from forcible returns to Eritrea.
From September, under a Migration Board decision, all asylum-seekers were to be granted an appointed legal representative, apart from those whose claims would be determined by another European Union member state in accordance with the so-called Dublin Regulation.
Violence against women
In June a Commission established in 2005 to look at municipalities' responsibilities on violence against women made public its recommendations. Several corresponded to issues that had been raised by AI. They included the need to amend the Social Services Act to increase municipalities' responsibilities for improving support and protection for women subjected to violence, among them women with special needs. In June the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, on a fact-finding mission to Sweden, highlighted considerable differences in the way municipalities discharged these responsibilities. She called for greater public scrutiny and guidance.
AI country reports/visits
• Partners in crime: Europe's role in US renditions
(AI Index: EUR 01/008/2006)
• Sweden: The case of Mohammed El Zari and Ahmed Agiza - violations of fundamental human rights by Sweden confirmed (AI Index: EUR 42/001/2006)olations of fundamental human rights by Sweden confirmed (AI Index: EUR 42/001/2006