Anas Almustafa is the first Syrian to take a state, Turkey, to court and win the process. He is one of many Syrian refugees that the Turkish government is illegally repatriating to Syria, despite an ongoing war and despite the repressive regime of Bashar Al-Assad. Almustafa was incarcerated and tortured in Turkish prisons, had to forcibly sign a voluntary repatriation sheet, was left on the border with Syria, spent months in a detention center and finally managed to return to Turkey, where he has been living in hiding for six months, in fear that the police will return to knock on his door.

This is why he turned to the UN working group on arbitrary detention, with the support of international lawyers who are following his case pro bono, especially the Turkish lawyer Kurtulus Bastimar. After a long wait, the verdict: Anas Almustafa was illegally deprived of his freedom because of his refugee status and for his humanitarian work towards orphans and war widows, through his NGO, A friend indeed.

The verdict

According to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Turkish government “violated Articles 2, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 2, 9, 13, 14, 16 and 26 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”.

During his detention in Turkish prison, Anas Almustafa was prevented from receiving visits from family and friends, which failed to comply with the conditions of respect for human dignity provided for by international law

The Turkish government will now have to guarantee the Syrian refugee the regularization of his status in Turkey, and at the same time facilitate his possible movement to third countries. As he told NRW, Anas Almustafa has a job waiting for him in Italy with A.cross onlus. Under international law, Anas Almustafa is also entitled to compensation from the Ankara government, which will have to launch an investigation to ascertain the actions that led to the unlawful detention and repatriation of the refugee.

The pioneering case of Anas Almustafa

This verdict marks a drastic change in the systems of international protection, a precedent that opens the way to many refugees, not only Syrians, who, according to lawyer Kurtulus Bastimar, “were waiting for this verdict. After this victory, many Syrians will follow in his footsteps.” Refugees who, like him, have been left at the border without legal proceedings that have led to their expulsion – and without which it is not possible to appeal to the Court of Human Rights. Brought back in defiance of international law, then forced into detention centers, in a country where there is a repressive regime, especially against those active in the humanitarian sector.

Translated by Adam Clark