The story of Mr. J.D. throws a dark shadow over Switzerland’s humanitarian tradition.

J.D. v. Switzerland, Communication no. 700/2015   

Our client, a Syrian national and torture survivor, is stuck in legal limbo. He is waiting for the outcome of the Dublin Regulation procedure that Switzerland launched almost 4 years ago to have him deported to Italy. And while Switzerland fights tooth-and-nail to keep him out, no one has yet heard his story, or even asked him why he left his country.

Mr. J.D. was imprisoned in Syria for 5 years. During his detention, he was regularly tortured and forced to witness the ill-treatment and summary execution of fellow prisoners. In 2012 the prison was bombed by an armed opposition group and he escaped with hundreds of other detainees.

He was subsequently wounded when Syrian soldiers stationed at a checkpoint fired a grenade at him as he fled to safety on the Turkish side of the border.

Mr. J.D. is suffering from severe psychological trauma (PTSD) due to torture, and has complex medical needs because of the injuries he sustained while trying to reach safty in Turkey. After a period of recovery in Turkey, he crossed the Mediterranean and entered the Schengen/Dublin space through Italy. In January 2015, he requested asylum in Switzerland where his two brothers, both recognized refugees, are living.

The Swiss authorities promptly ordered him expelled to Italy under the Dublin Regulation without taking into account his extreme vulnerability due to torture and war injuries, nor his dependence on his brothers in Switzerland. He has undergone multiple surgeries which have not succeeded in removing all of the shrapnel embedded in his left leg. Additional surgical interventions are currently scheduled, and his mobility is reduced. He can walk only about 100m without having to stop to rest.

The CSDM filed a complaint with the UN Committee against Torture alleging that Mr. J.D.’s expulsion to Italy would breach Articles 3, 14 and 16 of the Convention against Torture because it would deprive him of the specialized medical care necessary to treat the after-effects of torture and separate him from his brothers living in Switzerland. It is widely recognized that reception conditions for asylum seekers in Italy are disastruously poor, leaving asylum seekers without access to basic necessities such as food, housing and medical care.

His complaint is currently pending before the Committee against Torture. Redress Trust, a charity based in London, supported our litigation with a legal opinion on Article 14 of the Convention against Torture.

Despite the recent decision of the Committee against Torture in a similar case, A.N. v. Switzerland where the Committee blocked the expulsion of a torture victim to Italy because of lack of access to specialised medical treatment, and even after we submitted a formal request for reconsideration to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), Switzerland continues to refuse to cancel Mr. J.D.’s expulsion order.

And so, more than four years after entering Europe, Mr. J.D., a victim of war and torture in Syria, still has not had access to an asylum procedure in any European country to determine his need for international protection. In the mean time, his wife and two young children are languishing in a refugee camp in Greece, waiting for his situation to be resolved, so that they can join him. Somewhere.

For a critique of Switzerland’s practice of blanket expulsions under the Dublin III Regulation, see our submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council of 1 October 2018 below:

CSDM’s urgent communication to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants of 1 October 2018, regarding Switzerland’s practice under the Dublin III Regulation.

(After Mr. J.D. went public with his story in an article that appeard in Swissinfo in December 2018, the Swiss migration authority (SEM) quickly agreed to drop the Dublin proceedings and granted him refugee status).