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Jason Dzubow on Political Asylum


  1. Somali Asylee Sues His Torturer in U.S. Court

    A Somali human rights activist who received asylum in Great Britain has sued his alleged torturer, Abdi Aden Magan, in a U.S. District Court in Ohio.  According to the Associated Press:
    Abukar Hassan Ahmed filed suit against his alleged torturer.
    The lawsuit claims Abdi Aden Magan of Columbus[, Ohio] authorized the torture of Abukar Hassan Ahmed when Magan served as investigations chief of the National Security Service of Somalia, a force dubbed the "Gestapo of Somalia."  The suit... seeks unspecified damages from Magan, who served under Somali dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.
    The allegations are a chance for Ahmed to tell the world what happened to him, said Andrea Evans, legal director of the Center for Justice & Accountability, a San Francisco-based center that has brought a number of similar lawsuits.  "We see it as a much broader call for justice than just financial gain," Evans said. "It really is kind of telling history accurately."
    Last week, the State Department weighed in with a letter indicating that Mr. Magan does not enjoy immunity from suit:
    [T]aking into account the relevant principles of customary international law, and considering the overall impact of this matter on the foreign policy of the United States, the Department of State has determined that Defendant Magan does not enjoy immunity from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts.
    I wonder about the immigration status of the alleged torturer, Mr. Magan.  If the civil suit demonstrates that he is, in fact, a torturer, it seems to me that DHS should move to deport Mr. Magan, or perhaps DOJ would choose to prosecute him criminally (for the torture and-most likely-for committing immigration fraud by lying to cover up the torture).  Our nation should not be in the business of harboring human rights abusers, and once such an abuser is identified, we should move swiftly to see that justice is done.
    Originally posted on the Asylumist:
  2. Mexican Asylum Seekers Form Coalition

    I've written before about the escalating violence in Mexico and the corresponding increase in people seeking asylum in the United States.  The chances of a Mexican person gaining asylum in the U.S. are very low - only about 2% of Mexican asylum cases are granted.  Now, apparently, Mexican asylum seekers and their advocates have formed a coalition to support each other in their case.  From the Americas Mexico Blog:
    Cipriana Jurado: El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido!
    Immigration attorneys and immigrant-rights groups in the Texas border city of El Paso said they have formed a coalition aimed at providing greater support for asylum seekers facing a hurdle-ridden application process.
    The director of the Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, Louie Gilot, said cases of Mexicans fleeing drug-related violence have risen significantly over the past two years and that the asylum seekers include former police officers, rights activists, journalists, business leaders and even government officials.
    Announcement of the coalition of asylum applicants coincides with a statement by Mexican activist Cipriana Jurado that she has begun the process of seeking political asylum. Jurado told Efe Tuesday that she had kept up her activism over the past five years despite the slayings of more than 19 colleagues and family members but finally decided to flee Mexico to save her own life and seek protection for herself and her children in the United States.
    The violence in Mexico is some of the worst in the world.  Perhaps the new coalition will help improve the chances for Mexicans seeking asylum in the United States.  Given the low success rate of Mexican asylum cases, it is apparent that those fleeing the drug violence need all the help they can get.
    Originally published on the Asylumist:
  3. Asylum for an Anti-Semite?

    A recent editorial in the Moscow Times calls on the U.S. to deny political asylum to Ashot Yegiazaryan, a member of the Russian Duma from the nationalistic Liberal Democratic Party, who fled to the United States to escape criminal charges related to some shady business deals.
    For these guys, you can't spell Russia without SS.
    Like a number of Russian oligarchs, Mr. Yegiazaryan made his money in the freewheeling 1990?s and then entered politics.  His troubles began when a multi-billion dollar business deal in Moscow went bad, and lawsuits and criminal accusations followed.  Ultimately, Mr. Yegiazaryan left Russia and made his way to (where else?) Beverly Hills.  Now, depending on the rumor you choose to believe, he will be seeking political asylum in the United States, or he already has a green card.  Mr. Yegiazaryan has denied the latter rumor, as it is apparently illegal for a member of the Duma to hold residency in another country.  In the mean time, the Russian Duma has stripped Mr. Yegiazaryan of his immunity and the Russian government is pursuing criminal charges.
    This scenario-of a businessman rising rapidly to wealth and prominence only to be brought down by criminal charges and accusations of fraud-seems common in Russia these days.  When I was a law clerk at the Arlington Immigration Court (in 1999), I worked on such a case.  Alex Konanykhin, was a Russian businessman whose case bounced between the Immigration Court, the BIA, and the U.S. District Court.  In the end, he received asylum and wrote a book about his experience.  Then, of course, there is the case of Russia's richest businessman, Mikhail Kho****ovsky, who is currently sitting in a Russian prison, convicted of criminal fraud.
    Like these other cases, it is difficult to tell whether Mr. Yegiazaryan is a criminal or a victim.  What's clear in his case, however, is that he is a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, a party founded and dominated by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who has made many anti-Semetic and rascist remarks. 
    Whether, as the Moscow Times posits, Mr. Yegiazaryan should be denied political asylum (assuming that he qualifies for asylum in the first place) on account of his membership in the LDP may be a complex question.  If the LDP has "ordered, incited, assisted, or otherwise participated in" the persecution of people based on a protected ground, than Mr. Yegiazaryan would not be eligible for asylum.  The key word here is "incited."  I do not know what Mr. Yegiazaryan might have said or done, but others in his party, in particular the party's leader, Mr. Zhirinovsky, have accused Jews of ruining Russia, sending Russian women to foreign countries as prostitutes, selling children and organs, and provoking the Holocaust.  That sounds like incitement to me.  At the minimum, for Mr. Yegiazaryan to win asylum, he will have some explaining to do.
    Originally posted on the Asylumist:
  4. A New Guide to Establishing Asylum Eligibility for Victims of Human Trafficking and Forced Marriage

    The World Organization for Human Rights USA has recently published a Guide to Establishing the Asylum Eligibility of Victims of Human Trafficking and Forced Marriage.  Even a cursory review of the new guide reveals that it will be an important new resource for attorneys and others who represent people seeking asylum on the basis of gender persecution.  From the World Organization for Human Rights USA website:  
    Human trafficking - as well as forced marriage, often a form of trafficking - is indisputably recognized around the world as an egregious human rights abuse, and many victims of this abuse fear that they cannot safely return to their home countries after escaping.  Increasingly, courts around the world are concluding that victims of trafficking and forced marriage are eligible for refugee protection.  While some U.S. immigration judges and asylum officers have also recognized this principle, there is not a large body of binding U.S. precedent specifically addressing trafficking or forced marriage.  But with a targeted litigation strategy, attorneys can convince more and more adjudicators to recognize what is becoming firmly established in international law.
    The guide is designed to assist attorneys in crafting arguments and writing briefs to support their clients' asylum applications based on trafficking and/or forced marriage. 
    I've litigated a few cases like this, and they can be tough.  Although both human trafficking and forced marriage are types of persecution, they do not easily fit into the protected grounds set forth in asylum law.  I suppose that was once true for persecution based on female genital mutilation and sexual orientation, but now, persecution based on those grounds may form the basis for an asylum claim.  Hopefully, the new guide will help establish trafficking and domestic violence as basis for asylum, so that people fleeing such persecution can gain protection in the United States.
    Originally posted on the Asylumist:
  5. Asylum Training for Health Professionals

    Physicians for Human Rights will conduct a training for health professionals on April 9, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  The program is titled, Aiding Immigrant Survivors of Torture and Other Human Rights Abuses: Physical and Psychological Documentation of Trauma.  It aims to instruct health professionals on the skills necessary to perform physical and psychological evaluations of survivors of human rights abuses:
    PHR's volunteer network of over 400 health professionals assists survivors of human rights abuses by conducting forensic psychological and physical evaluations to document evidence of torture and abuse. Our clinicians have specialized training and expertise in recognizing and documenting the trauma of conflict, displacement, abuse, discrimination, and oppression--issues at the heart of many humanitarian relief applications. The medical-legal affidavits that they submit to courts on behalf of survivors are frequently the determining factor when judges grant asylum or other relief from deportation.
    Even the best doctors will benefit from this training.
    I often use reports from health professionals to help bolster my cases, particularly where there are physical scars caused by torture, so I can attest to the value of such reports to asylum seekers.  A well-written report can often sway the fact finder and help a client gain asylum. 
    For those interested in the training, more information is available here.
    Originally published on the Asylumist:
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