Right to Asylum: the Court of Justice of the European Union defines religious persecution and reinforces freedom of religion

September 5

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Luxembourg has issued an important sentence in favor of religious freedom. The sentence defines what type of infringement on freedom of religion justifies the granting of refugee status. According to this directive, Member States of the European Union should in principle grant refugee status to foreigners who face persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a social group in their country of origin.

The specific case concerns two Pakistani nationals belonging to the Ahmadi Muslim minority (a minority not recognized by the Muslim majority) and seeking asylum in Germany. According to the Pakistani Penal Code, the two were liable to up to three years imprisonment if they claimed to be Muslims, preached or tried to spread their religion. The German authorities have rejected their application on the ground that the restrictions on the practice of religion in public imposed on Ahmadis were not “persecution” in the eyes of the right of asylum. Both applicants then complained to the German administrative courts, arguing that the German authorities’ position was contrary to Directive 2004/83/EC.

By declaring that “certain forms of serious interference with the public manifestation of religion may constitute persecution for reasons of religion”, the Court corrected this interpretation, and admitted the possibility that two Pakistanis are given refugee status.