Brussels, 1 February 2008 – UNHCR published last week a `Statement on Subsidiary protection under the EC Qualification Directive for people threatened by indiscriminate violence’ in relation to two preliminary questions presented in October 2007 by the Dutch highest Administrative Court to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
The Dutch Council of State’s questions concern the interpretation of articles 2(e) and 15(c) of the Qualification Directive. Those articles provide the granting of “subsidiary protection” to civilians facing a “serious and individual threat … by reason of indiscriminate violence in situations of international or internal armed conflict”.
UNHCR published this Statement to express its interest in seeing that EC law on subsidiary protection adequately reflects international standards, and avoids protection gaps.
In its Statement, UNHCR `welcomes the opportunity for the Court to clarify these questions, with a view to ensuring subsidiary protection for all who need it, and a more harmonized application of the Qualification Directive’s minimum standards’. UNHCR gives recommendations for the interpretation of article 15(c) and provides background information on similar international and regional law as well as on Member States’ practices.
UNHCR interprets the term “indiscriminate violence” or “generalized violence” to mean “the exercise of force not targeted at a specific object or individual”. The term “persons threatened by indiscriminate violence” is understood to refer to people outside their countries of origin (or in the case of stateless persons, outside their countries of habitual residence), who cannot return because there is a real risk that they would face threats to life, to physical integrity or freedom resulting from such violence”.
UNHCR adds that “the requirement for an “individual” threat should not be interpreted in an excessively narrow manner, but rather as requiring that the risk faced by the individual claimant is real, and not remote, in his or her individual circumstances”. The practice in several Member States shows that that the criteria for granting subsidiary protection to people fleeing indiscriminate violence should not be interpreted too narrowly. In UNHCR’s view, these good practices should guide interpretation of the scope of the provision.