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Top EU court rules refugee status prevents extradition of Kurdish man to Turkey

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The European Union’s highest court ruled Tuesday that a Kurdish man with refugee status in Italy cannot be extradited from Germany to Turkey, where he is accused of murder.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) determined that a refugee recognized by one EU country cannot be extradited by another without thorough communication and consultation with the state that granted the refugee status. The ruling was made in a case involving A., a Turkish national of Kurdish origin, who received refugee status in Italy in 2010 and has resided in Germany since 2019.

A.’s extradition was sought by Turkey for a 2009 murder, but the CJEU ruled that Germany must respect Italy’s decision to grant A. asylum, barring new evidence justifying a different assessment of the risk of persecution. The German court had previously declared the extradition admissible, but the decision was challenged and set aside by the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany, leading to the CJEU referral.

The court’s judgment emphasized that EU law, including the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, must prevent extradition if it risks subjecting the refugee to persecution or inhuman treatment. The principle of non-refoulement, a cornerstone of international refugee law, prohibits returning individuals to countries where they face serious threats to their life or freedom.

A., who left Turkey in 2010, was granted asylum in Italy due to his political persecution risk for supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) a Kurdish militant group designated as a terrorist organization by Ankara. In Germany, he was arrested in 2020 following an INTERPOL alert issued at the request of Turkey, accusing him of murdering his mother during a family dispute in 2009. A.’s mother was allegedly shot after a verbal altercation with his father and brother.

German authorities initially deemed the Italian refugee status decision non-binding for their extradition procedure, but the CJEU clarified that mutual trust between member states in recognizing refugee statuses must prevail.

The German court must now initiate an exchange of information with Italian authorities before proceeding with any extradition, ensuring that A.’s refugee status and associated protections are respected unless Italy revokes his status.

The ruling is significant for the EU’s asylum framework, affirming the principle of non-refoulement and ensuring that refugees cannot be extradited without thorough consideration of their granted protections.

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