5 Essex Court
Temple, London, EC4Y 9AH
Phone: 020 7410 2000
AH was an Algerian Citizen who had been tried in his absence and sentenced to death for terrorist offences. At the time of the trial he was in France and eventually received UN documents as a stateless person. Those documents were not accepted by the French authorities who instead indicated that he should seek asylum. AH then procured a false passport and neglected to continue with an asylum application. This led to him being arrested and charged with possessing false documents and being a member of a terrorist organisation. On appeal he was convicted of both offences.
The French government then issued an expulsion order against AH which resulted in him travelling to the UK. On arrival he claimed asylum and an application to extradite him to Algeria was refused. The refusal was on the basis that insufficient evidence of his involvement in the acts of terrorism had been presented. AH’s asylum application was also later refused in reliance of Article 1F of the Refugee Convention. This provides that a person is not a refugee if there are serious reasons for considering inter alia that he or she has committed a serious non-political crime outside the country of refuge prior to his or her admission as a refugee.
The Secretary of State concluded that the decision of the French court provided serious reasons to consider that AH had committed serious non-political crime. AH appealed the Secretary of State’s decision to the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal which upheld the decision and declined to go behind the findings of the French courts.
AH’s appeal succeeded, primarily on the ground that the tribunal had erred in relying on the decision in Gurung v Secretary of State for the Home Department  Imm AR 115, which was a relevant authority at the date of the determination but which had subsequently been disapplied.
In the course of the appeal the court was invited to provide further guidance on the meaning of ‘serious crime’ within Article 1F, which may be of assistance to immigration practitioners.
The court emphasised that each signatory to the refugee convention was not free to adopt its own definition of what constituted a serious offence. They therefore held that while the Convention left it to domestic courts to decide whether a non-political crime was serious in any particular case that decision was to be made from a single starting point as to the level of seriousness that must be demonstrated.
However, whilst the tribunal should have considered the seriousness of the crimes in this case (and their failure to do so meant that the case would be remitted back), the words "serious crime" are ordinary words and should be given their ordinary universal meaning appropriate to the context in which they are used and it was not necessary for the courts to provide further guidance on their interpretation.