European court finds against Bulgaria in case of Iraqi national

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights ruled on May 17 that Bulgaria had violated the right to liberty and security of an Iraqi national, Hamid Ali Reza, against whom steps were taken after he was declared a threat to national security in connection with alleged involvement in trafficking migrants.

The court upheld his application for 3500 euro in damages from Bulgaria for violating Article 5.1 of the European human rights convention, the right to liberty and security.

It rejected his applications under Article 3 (prohibition of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment) Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and Article 13 (right to an effective remedy).

The applicant, who was aged 27 when he arrived in Bulgaria in 2000, was granted subsidiary protection in the country because of the war in Iraq. He was issued with a residence permit in 2003.

In 2015, he was issued with an expulsion order on the grounds of national security. He appealed in the Supreme Administrative Court, but his appeal was rejected.

A separate order in 2015 by the State Agency for National Security saw him held in the Busmantsi detention centre for foreigners in Sofia for six months. He appealed in the Supreme Administrative Court, and lost. His detention was subsequently extended for a further six months.

In 2016, the Migration Directorate wrote to the embassy of Iraq in Sofia inquiring about travel documents for him. The embassy replied that it did not issue travel documents to Iraqis who did not wish to return to Iraq.

In January 2016, the Supreme Administrative Court annulled his detention order, on the grounds that he had proven domicile and sufficient resources, while the Bulgarian authorities had not been particularly diligent in trying to obtain travel documents to make his expulsion possible.

The Migration Directorate withdrew his detention order, and placed him under administrative supervision, ordering him to report to a police station once a week. He married his Bulgarian partner in December 2016 and, according to court records, lives in Sofia.

The European Court of Human Rights said that it considers that the reason which initially justified the applicant’s detention – the pending expulsion proceedings against him – did not remain valid throughout the duration of his deprivation of liberty, given the the lack of sufficient diligence on the part of the authorities in carrying out this measure. This meant that Article 5.1 of the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated, the court said.

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