Case of Izevbekhai and Others v. Ireland. European Court of Human Rights; 2011. Publisher's VersionAbstract{"fulltext":["IZEVBEKHAI"],"documentcollectionid2":["JUDGMENTS","DECISIONS"]}

The Applicants were a mother and two daughters who arrived in Ireland in January 2005. Mrs. Izevbekhai applied for declarations of refugee status on her own behalf and on behalf of her daughters. The basis of her claim for refugee status was that she was in fear for her own life and the lives of her daughters if they were returned to Nigeria, as a result of threats from the family of her husband to carry out female genital mutilation on her daughters. She claimed that an elder daughter had died in Nigeria as a result of complications arising from female genital mutilation. The Applicants’ applications for refugee status in Ireland were refused, and they made representations to the Minister for leave to remain temporarily in the State. These representations were rejected and the Minister made deportation orders in respect of all three Applicants in November 2005. Mrs. Izevbekhai went into hiding and her children were taken into care by the HSE. She was later apprehended by Gardaí and placed in detention. The Applicants obtained the leave of the High Court (McKechnie J.) to challenge the deportation orders by way of judicial review but the substantive applications were refused by the High Court (Feeney J.) in January 2008. In March 2008, the Applicants made applications to the Minister for subsidiary protection pursuant to the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations (S.I. No. 518) 2006. The Minister refused to consider their applications for subsidiary protection because the deportation orders had been made before the coming into force of the Regulations. In an earlier case (N.H and T.D. v. Minister for Justice and Law Reform [2007] IEHC 277) the courts had identified a discretion on the part of the Minister to accept such late applications, but the Minister refused to exercise this discretion in favour of the Applicants. In March 2008 the High Court (Edwards J.) granted to the Applicants leave to apply for judicial review of the Minister's decision. In January 2009, the High Court (McGovern J.) delivered judgment on the substantive application for judicial review, and held that the Minister had acted properly. The Applicants appealed this decision to the Supreme Court.

In the meantime, the Minister’s officials reopened their investigations into Ms Izevbekhai’s claims about the death of her eldest daughter in Nigeria. The Minister concluded that the documents relied upon by Ms Izevbekhai in support of her claim were forgeries and that no such child had ever existed. Affidavits to this effect were filed in the Supreme Court.

Following the hearing on the preliminary issue of whether the Minister had jurisdiction to entertain the application for subsidiary protection, the Supreme Court found that he had no discretion to do so. Consequently, the substantive appeal did not proceed and thus no findings were made by the Supreme Court as regards the Minister’s allegations of forgery.

The Applicants took their case to the ECHR and complained under Article 3 that there was a real risk that the minor Applicants would be exposed to FGM if they were expelled to Nigeria. They also invoked Articles 6, 13 and 14 of the Convention about the domestic remedies available to them in that respect. The ECHR found that the information presented by the Government with respect to the documents relied upon by Ms Izevbekhai gave strong reasons to question the veracity of the Applicants’ core factual submission concerning the death of a child in Nigeria as a result of FGM. The Court considered the Applicants’ response to the core issue of credibility to be unsatisfactory.

Case of A, B, and C v. Ireland. European Court of Human Rights; 2010. Publisher's VersionAbstract

A., B. and C. v. Ireland concerned three Irish applicants who, in their first trimester of pregnancy, had travelled to England to have an abortion because they believed they would not be allowed to have one in Ireland.

The Irish Constitution, unlike the European Convention on Human Rights, explicitly extends the right to life to the unborn foetus. Abortion is moreover prohibited under the criminal law by section 58 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 (“the 1861 Act”) providing as penalty “penal servitude for life”. However, this does not mean that abortion constitutes a criminal act in all circumstances in Ireland. The 1861 legislation needs to be read in light of the amended Irish Constitution, which states in Article 40.3.3: “3° The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right; This subsection shall not limit freedom to travel between the State and another state; This subsection shall not limit freedom to obtain or make available, in the State, subject to such conditions as may be laid down by law, information relating to services lawfully available in another state.”

However, no legislation or other regulatory measures have been adopted to clarify what is meant by the “equal right to life of the mother” and in which situations there is a real and substantial risk to that right to life such as to outweigh the right to life of the unborn foetus.

In A., B. and C. v. Ireland the Grand Chamber of the Court first distinguished between the circumstances of the first and the second applicant on the one hand and the third applicant on the other. It found that the first and second applicant travelled for an abortion for reasons of health and/or well-being, while the third applicant travelled for an abortion as she mainly feared her pregnancy constituted a risk to her life. Moreover, the third applicant complained that she required a regulatory framework by which any risk to her life and her entitlement to a lawful abortion in Ireland could be established, so that any information provided outside such a framework was insufficient. The Court consequently treated the complaint of the third applicant separately.