On appeal from:  [2009] EWCA Civ 222; [2010] EWCA Civ 1407

Both appellants were refused refugee status on the grounds of the Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees, art 1F(c), which excludes from protection “any person with respect to whom there are serious reasons for considering that . . . he has been guilty of acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations”. Al-Sirri’s asylum claim was refused due to his contribution to books connected with Al Qaeda and his alleged involvement in a murder in Afghanistan, and DD’s claim was refused as he had been engaged in fighting against a UN-authorised force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed both appeals, remitting the cases to the relevant tribunal for reconsideration. It was held that art 1F(c) should be interpreted restrictively with a high threshold, considering serious reasons that the person concerned bore individual responsibility for their acts. Crimes capable of affecting international peace and security would fall under the definition of art 1F(c).

Although the Supreme Court allowed that the ISAF force DD had been fighting against did not attract the same protection under international law against attack as peacekeeping forces, it was not material to exclusion under the Geneva Convention. The fundamental aims of the force, namely to assist in maintaining international peace and security, accorded with the purposes of the UN as set out in the UN Charter and DD was seeking to frustrate that purpose.

In the case of Al-Sirri the burden of proof issue was considered, and it was held that “serious reasons” had an autonomous meaning that was not the same as the criminal standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt, so the fact that Al-Sirri’s charge for murder at the Old Bailey was dismissed due to inconsistent evidence did not affect the task of applying the words of art1F(c) to the present case.

For judgment, please download: [2012] UKSC 54
For Court’s press summary, please download: Court’s Press Summary
For a non-PDF version of the judgment, please visit: BAILII