The UN Committee against Torture rules in a case of persecution of Christians in China

D.Z. v. Switzerland, Communication No. 790/2016

The U.N. Committee against Torture found that the expulsion of our client who alleges persecution by the Chinese authorities on account of her Christian faith, would constitute a violation of Article 3 of the Convention against Torture and Other forms of Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

D.Z. became a member of the Church of Almighty God, a Christian group professing the gospel of Jesus Christ and the omnipresence of God. She was baptised in 2010. In 2014, the Chinese authorities cracked down on their underground church and arrested and tortured its members including a sister in D.Z.’s congregation.  

In 2015, D.Z. applied for asylum in Switzerland. Her claim was denied by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) who found her account to be “contrary to all logic and the general experience”. D.Z.’s appeal to the Federal Administrative Court (TAF) was rejected because she could not afford to pay the advance fees imposed by the Court who found that her arguments were “bound to fail from the outset”. D.Z. filed an application before the European Court of Human Rights which dismissed her complaints in an unreasoned inadmissibility decision.      

In D.Z. v. Switzerland, the Committee against Torture noted that D.Z. had duly substantiated key aspects of her claim and observed that the Swiss authorities had not disputed D.Z.’s adherence to the Christian faith, even though they found other aspects of her claim to lack credibility. The Committee further noted that “the increasing incidence of persecution of Christians in China” was undisputed between the parties, and also referred to its Concluding Observations on the fifth periodic report on China highlighting “consistent reports that members of different groups including religious minorities continue to be charged, or threatened to be charged, with broadly defined offences as a form of intimidation”.

Under these circumstances the Committee concluded that it would be reasonable to assume that D.Z.’s removal to China “would put her at risk of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. The Committee requested Switzerland to reconsider her claim for asylum and to apply suspensive effect to the new proceedings. Switzerland must report to the Committee within 90 days on measures it has taken to implement the decision.