New Judgment: RT (Zimbabwe) & Ors v SSHD; KM (Zimbabwe) (FC) v SSHD  UKSC 38
25 Wednesday Jul 2012
The case concerned the scope of the ‘HJ Iran principle’. HJ Iran established that individuals claiming refugee status could not be expected to modify their behaviour and deny their sexuality in order to escape persecution in their country of origin. The question facing the Supreme Court was whether the principle extended to a person with no firm political views but who might be willing to lie in order to avoid persecution.
The Court dismissed the Home Secretary’s appeal in the case of RT & Ors and allowed KM’s appeal. The HJ Iran principle applies to applicants who claim asylum on the grounds of a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of lack of political belief. There are no hierarchies of protection amongst the Refugee Convention reasons for persecution. The Convention affords no less protection to the right to express political opinions openly than it does to live openly as a homosexual. The HJ Iran principle applies to any person who has political beliefs and is obliged to conceal them in order to avoid persecution. The right to freedom of thought, opinion and expression protects non-believers as well as believers and extends to the freedom to hold and not to have to express opinions. There can be no distinction between a person who is a committed political neutral and one who has given no thought to political matters.
Accordingly, it is it is difficult to see how an asylum claim advanced on the basis of imputed political opinion could be rejected, unless the judge was able to find that the claimant would return to an area where political loyalty would be assumed and where, if he was interrogated, he would not face the difficulties faced by those who were not loyal to the regime in other parts of the country. If the claimant would return to any other parts of the country, the judge would be likely to conclude that there was a real and substantial risk that a politically neutral person who pretended that he was loyal to the regime would be disbelieved and therefore persecuted.