Human rights court criticises Switzerland over gay Gambian

Gambia was particularly tough on homosexuals under its former president Yahya Jammeh (pictured here). Since his ouster in 2017 the country has a democratic government, but homosexual acts are still illegal. Keystone / Rebecca Blackwell

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled against Switzerland’s intended deportation of a homosexual Gambian man, saying Switzerland has not properly examined the risks to which the man would be exposed. 

This content was published on November 17, 2020 - 13:55

In a decision handed down on Tuesday, the court unanimously decided that this would violate Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which bans inhuman and degrading treatment.  

The Swiss Federal Court had considered in 2018 that the man’s family network would be enough to protect him from harmful treatment and that the situation of homosexuals in Gambia had improved. The European judges disagreed. They said Switzerland should have made sure that local authorities there were “willing and able” to protect the man against possible mistreatment by non-state actors.  

The European court decision rests notably on opinions of the British home office and third parties saying Gambian authorities currently refuse to grant protection to LGBT people.  

The decision may be appealed if one of the parties decides to do so within three months.  

Registered partnership 

The Gambian man came to Switzerland in 2008, aged 34 at the time. His asylum request was refused because Swiss authorities did not find credible his claims that he had been mistreated in his country. He subsequently received several convictions for remaining in Switzerland illegally and for extorsion. In 2014 he entered into a civil partnership with a 66-year-old Swiss man, who requested family reunion rights for his partner before dying in 2019.  

However, a court in St. Gallen ruled against this request, saying that given the Gambian’s judicial track record, the public interest of deporting him justified violation of his rights. This decision was upheld by the Federal Court.  

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