The Federal Administrative Court is granting asylum to a Kazakh couple who are now divorced. It rules that the couple, who previously held high-ranking positions in the Kazakh regime, are at risk of being subject to unfair criminal proceedings if they return to the country.
This couple, who entered Switzerland in 2007, submitted their first application for asylum in 2011, followed by a second in 2013. The Federal Office for Migration (FOM) rejected the asylum seekers’ application for the first time in July 2013, deeming the reasons put forward irrelevant to the recognition of their refugee status within the meaning of Article 3 of the Asylum Act (AsylA). In December 2013, asserting the existence of new information, the couple submitted another asylum application. The FOM, which had since become the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), rejected their application for a second time in November 2016, judging that the new reasons cited were still not relevant within the meaning of the AsylA. This time the couple appealed the SEM’s decision to the Federal Administrative Court (FAC).
In its judgment, the Court states that the couple’s flight abroad and political opposition activities represent an act of disloyalty to the former president of Kazakhstan who, despite his resignation in 2019, still exerts some influence on his country’s legal system. If the couple were to return to the country, they would risk being subject to legal proceedings that would be unfair in the specific context of this case. This risk of unfair proceedings is relevant under Article 3 AsylA. It is also important to note that the couple has been targeted by press campaigns orchestrated by the Kazakh regime in both Kazakhstan and Switzerland. They have also been subject to cyber attacks, surveillance by the Kazakh secret service in Switzerland and multiple criminal proceedings in their country of origin and abroad. In addition, the husband has published a book which is critical of the former president of Kazakhstan.
This couple therefore has a special profile which would put them at particular risk were they to return to the country. For this reason, the FAC rules that asylum must be granted to these people. These judgments are final and may not be appealed to the Federal Supreme Court.