The christian witness case

The applicant Mr. Z.S is an ethnic Ghazalbash from Kabul, Afghanistan. The applicant fears commander T and his supervisor, commander S because commander T killed the author’s father and took the family land.

The applicant fled to Denmark and applied for asylum. The applicant was rejected by the refugee board and thus the case was sent to UNHCR. The Refugee Board however decided to reopen the case because of the applicant’s new asylum motive due to his conversion to Christianity.

In the new oral hearing on September 28, 2016, the applicant stated that he began to receive lessons in Christianity even before the first meeting of the refugee board. During that time, he also began reading the Bible and talked with others in the asylum center about Christianity. When he told his wife about his interest in Christianity their relationship fell apart. Since then, he has not been able to see his children as often as he would like.

The applicant also established a Facebook profile in 2013 with Christian texts and images. He now has over 1,400 ‘friends’ on facebook. His facebook page is public, as he uses it to proselytize others. He has helped to convince eight to nine asylum seekers who hereafter have converted to Christianity. If he returns to Afghanistan, he will continue to proselytize his Christian faith, and he will be killed. The applicant has in recent years received several verbal threats as well as threats on his Facebook page. He has followed the advice of his pastor and erased most of the threats, but has saved a number of threats, from January 2015. The applicant talked on phone with his spouse’s brother, who said that the family in Afghanistan were aware of the applicant’s conversion and that the family considered him an heretic.

In previous cases, asylum seekers were not allowed to bring a witness into the court. However, in this court hearing, a majority of the board members granted the applicant’s request for testimony of Helge Gimm. The applicant had stated he has had a close, personal relationship with Helge Gimm for several years and together they participated in a number of church bodies. In his testimony, Helge Gimm expressed that he was very sure that the applicant’s conversion is real.

At this point the Refugee Board was contemplating whether the applicant’s conversion is real.

On the one hand, the applicant’s explanation about his relationship to Christianity until the fall of 2013 has been characterized by a large degree of uncertainty, and the board’s decision of 6 February 2014 raised serious doubts about the candidate’s original motive to be baptized.

On the other hand, the applicant explained convincingly about the many Christian or church events, which he has participated in over a long period of about three years, and the many written statements from Ministers support this part of the applicant’s explanation. In addition, the applicant was able to answer follow up questions adequately. He has also demonstrated a significant general knowledge about Christianity.

After an overall assessment, the Refugee Board took the view that the applicant currently has a heartfelt Christian view of life, and that therefore his conversion to Christianity must now be regarded as genuine. The Refugee Board also took the view that if he were in Afghanistan, he has the right to live an openly Christian life and to try to recruit followers for his new faith. It must be assumed that the applicant’s spouse’s family and many other Muslim Afghans must now be familiar with the applicant’s conversion. The Refugee Board thus decided that the applicant has adequately substantiated that if returned to Afghanistan, he will risk persecution due to his new faith.
Thus the case was discontinued at the UNHRC. This case puts emphasis on how important it is to allow witnesses to give a testimony. It is a clear example of the kind of positive impact a testimony can have on the Board’s decision.

11. May 2017

CCPR 2352/2014
  • Decision: 28. September 2016
  • Comm: Human Rights