European court sides with Pakistani Christian convert

2560px European Court of Human Rights European Court of Human Rights. | CherryX/wikmedia. CC BY-SA 3.0

The European Court of Human Rights ruled this week that Swiss authorities were wrong to reject a Pakistani Christian convert’s asylum claim.

The court in Strasbourg, France, said on April 26 that the expulsion of the applicant, identified only as M.A.M., to Pakistan would violate the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to life and prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading treatment.

M.A.M. is a Pakistani national who converted from Islam to Christianity after he arrived in Switzerland in 2015. His asylum application was rejected in 2018.

The court said that Swiss officials should have examined his request, which was based on his conversion, in greater detail and taken into account the overall situation of Christian converts in Pakistan as well as the applicant’s specific circumstances.

It ordered Switzerland to pay the applicant 6,885 euros (around $7,300) in respect of costs and expenses.

The Italian sociologist of religion Massimo Introvigne described the decision as “significant” because it related to a conversion that took place after the asylum seeker left his country of origin.

Pakistan, a South Asian nation of 220 million people officially known as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is ranked as the eighth-worst country in the world in which to be a Christian by the charity Open Doors.

Lorcán Price, legal counsel for the Christian group ADF International at the court in Strasbourg, said: “Nobody should be persecuted for their faith. Pakistan is one of the most dangerous countries for Christians with its draconian blasphemy laws and increasing violence against this religious minority.”

“Converts face not only socio-political marginalization and institutionalized discrimination, but also blasphemy charges, arrest, long prison sentences, and vigilante mob violence.”

“We welcome the court’s decision that such factors must form part of any risk assessment for those, such as M.A.M. who are claiming asylum based on religious grounds.”

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