Landmark Court Decision Saves People from Double Proceedings

In December last year, the Supreme Court decided that courts should not send back for review to the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) applications for international protection that have been denied. Instead, they must decide themselves whether the appellant deserves international protection or not.

In the spring of 2022, a citizen of the Russian Federation submitted an application for international protection to the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), justified by persecution due to political beliefs and association with a well-known opposition figure. The Police and Border Guard Board rejected the application on the grounds that the circumstances presented in the application do not give reason to believe that the person’s life and health would be in danger in Russia. After appealing the decision, the Tallinn Circuit Court sent the application back to the PPA for re-examination. The PPA challenged the decision, and the case reached the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court’s decision was unprecedented.

On December 12, 2023, the Supreme Court decided that the courts should have assessed the circumstances that had emerged by the time of the court decision themselves and, accordingly, either left the PPA’s decision in force or – if convinced of the need for protection – obliged the PPA to grant the appellant international protection. According to the lawyers of the Estonian Human Rights Centre, Uljana Ponomarjova and Kertu Tuuling, the decision is positively significant for two reasons: “In addition to significantly reducing administrative burdens, it saves people from a long and exhausting double procedure.”

In mid-February, the Tallinn Circuit Court made a decision* that followed the Supreme Court’s practice, obliging the Police and Border Guard Board to grant international protection to an asylum seeker from Belarus. The applicant, who had already been actively expressing political sentiment and whose family includes several political activists, was represented by the lawyers of EHRC.

*The court decision has not yet come into force, and the PPA has the right to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court until 03/18/2024.

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