Citation: 2020 RLLR 111
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: December 11, 2020
Panel: Erin Doucette
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Sherif R. Ashmalla
RPD Number: TB9-25353
Associated RPD Number(s):
ATIP Number: A-2021-00945
ATIP Pages: 000179-000184
 MEMBER: So, I’m ready to render my oral decision, and before I read everything through I’ll just let you know that I am accepting your claim for refugee protection. Okay.
 So, this a decision for the following claimants, [XXX] and [XXX].
 Interpreter, just to confirm, are we going to do simultaneous for the … for the decision?
 COUNSEL: We can’t do simultaneous because, like you said earlier, everything else … it will cover everything you’re saying.
 INTERPRETER: Do you want … if you want…
 COUNSEL: Do you want to just listen in English? Are you … do you understand any of … same when I spoke you understood everything pretty much.
 CLAIMANT: Perfect, yeah.
 MEMBER: Is that okay? Sorry, I … I’m also cognizant of the time. So, okay.
 INTERPRETER: Okay.
 MEMBER: Okay. So, you’re claiming to be citizens of Columbia and are claiming refugee protection pursuant to Sections 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
 I’ve considered your oral testimony and the other evidence in the case and Section … offering my decision now.
 I find that you are Convention refugees on the grounds of your political opinion as animal rights activists who spoke out against government corruption facing a government run shelter and as a result, you face a serious possibility of persecution, and this is for the following reasons.
 So, you’ve alleged the following. You are citizens of Columbia. You allege that you are animal rights activists who ran a [XXX] providing support to street animals and assisted with adoptions.
 Your work involved volunteer work at a government funded shelter in [XXX]. While volunteering at the shelter and facilitating adoptions, you discovered that malpractice and misallocation of funds had occurred.
 You raised your concerns several times to the municipality through the mayor’s office, as well as escalating your complaints to the ombudsperson’s office and the Attorney General. After raising these concerns you allege you began to receive threatening phone calls and text messages ultimately escalating to experiencing an in person threat outside your home in Bogota.
 You allege that complaints to the police were ineffective.
 You had planned a vacation to the USA and Canada in [XXX] and [XXX] of 2019. You alleged you hoped the problems at home would settle and that you had planned to return to Columbia.
 You alleged that while in Toronto in [XXX] 2019, you received a distressing call from the female claimant’s mother advising that a threatening letter had been left by the Black Eagles, as well as a dead dog on the doorstep. The letter threatened both of your lives due to your animal rights activism.
 You alleged you felt you could not at that point return to Columbia and immediately initiated a refugee claim without … without delay.
 You allege if you return you will be physically harmed, killed, and you also would not be able to continue your animal rights activism.
 You allege that there is no State protection for you or an internal flight alternative.
 With regards to identity, your personal identity as citizens of Columbia has been established by your testimony and the supporting documents, namely those in Exhibit 1 the … the Columbian passports, your USA and Canadian visas, and I find, on a balance of probability, that identity and country of reference have been established.
 With regards to nexus, I find that there is a link between what you fear and one of the five grounds, namely political opinion, opposition to government corruption, and as animal rights activists. Therefore, I’ve assessed this claim under Section 96.
 In terms of your general credibility, I found you to be credible … both credible witnesses and I therefore believe what you have alleged in your oral testimony and in your Basis of Claim Form.
 Specifically, your testimony was provided in a spontaneous and genuine way without any inconsistencies or contradictions with the numerous documents that you’ve disclosed.
 Your … your testimony about your animal rights activism was … was detailed and genuine, and without hesitation or preparation, you permitted me to view your social media pages for the … for your foundation, which … which provided consistent evidence about your adoption, process, animal welfare work, your animal activism, and your interaction with your … with your community.
 Your knowledge and history provided about your motivation to become animal rights activists was detailed, genuine, and very personal, specifically, as it relates to the issue regarding street animals, which you explained is, you know, quite problematic in Columbia, and that was your main focus.
 Your testimony about your reasons for speaking out and about the issues you incur at the government animal shelter were not only consistent with your very detailed and genuine documents, but also with your testimony about your convictions and your beliefs. You simply could not stay silent or not speak out. In doing so you drew unwanted and dangerous attention.
 I find your testimony and supporting evidence in this regard to be credible and uncontested.
 The copies of the threatening text messages that relate to the threats to your complaints about the concerns at the shelter and the corruption you uncovered, the transcript of the call received from a former shelter worker who had also been threatened, the numerous and extremely detailed right of request letter sent to the mayor’s office and the municipal Unit of Agriculture and Technical Assistance or UMATA for short.
 I find your evidence credible about not claiming in the USA or Canada, given you had filed police reports and that it wasn’t until the threats escalated further with the … with the female claimant’s mother receiving the threatening letter from the Black Eagles as well as the dead dog on the door, and you determined at that point essentially your fear was quite crystalized and you have alleged you were no longer safe in Columbia and you initiated a refugee claim without delay.
 Additionally, the other documents support your claim. The … the registration for the [XXX], the registration for your businesses, the Facebook and Instagram pages, the copies of numerous texts between clients who had adopted animals from the shelter only to find out that they were sick and had not been properly cared for there. And, of course, that’s what led you to initiate your investigation.
 And the threats were directly related to your activism and your investigation and complaints of government corruption, and that’s also what brought about obviously the … the persecution.
 So, I find that your subjective fear is established by your credible testimony and I believe what you have alleged, on a balance of probabilities. There’s also an objective basis for your fear.
 So, with regards with the Black Eagles, I’m referring to NDP Item 7.10 and Item 7.11, specifically about the Black Eagles that notes that they have a known political agenda. They are involved in social and political extermination of social and political activists, as well as disappearances, homicides, and extortion.
 And the country condition documents that your counsel provided in Exhibit 6 also confirm as well that the means of their communicating their threat was in keeping with essentially their style or their … their sort of modus operandi if you will, threatening letters left under the door as well as the letter had an insignia match, the letter that you provided.
 With regards to … so, there is a well-founded fear. Your subjective fear has an objective basis and I find you have a well-founded fear of persecution.
 With regards to the issue of State protection, the presumption of … there is a presumption that a State can protect its citizens unless the State is in a complete breakdown or there’s past personal experience where the State was not forthcoming, or we look to similarly situated persons. Okay. And to rebut the presumption there must be clear and convincing evidence.
 I found that both of you are credible and that there is clear and convincing evidence to rebut the presumption of State protection.
 You made efforts at many levels to get assistance with your concerns. When the threats were escalated you went to the police who advised you and you took them at their word, that they couldn’t do much other than, you know, call us every now and then for a … for a patrol. They referred you to the fiscalia. I find that you’re credible in stating that you went to the fiscalia. The fiscalia was not able to help you. But at that point too, you know, you were … you were in the process of doing everything that you could.
 You took a vacation and that again, is where things shifted. There … it’s almost like a bit of sur place claim. The situation happened where your mother received the threatening letter and the dead dog, and at that point you realized that, you know, your lives were truly in danger and that if you had waited and stayed, you know, maybe things wouldn’t have turned out as they had.
 There was an objective basis for you not feeling that protection was forthcoming. And the evidence throughout the NDP, specifically, in 2.1 the DOS report, 2.17 speaks about social leaders.
 9.2 and 9.5 confirm that despite efforts to put protection in place, activists, social leaders, and those that expose and speak out on government corruption are the most vulnerable and that protection is often delayed, ineffective, and essentially not adequate at an operational level, this was what you were experiencing. So, your experience is … is manifest in the objective evidence.
 The claimants … you made efforts that were reasonable, but I find that your reason for not pursuing further protection is also to be reasonable, given your personal circumstances, as well as the objective country documentation, and I do find that you have rebutted the presumption of State protection.
 State protection would not be reasonably available to you in your particular circumstances, especially considering the level of corruption within the government, and that you were specifically speaking out about government corruption. As such, the State is somewhat of an agent of persecution and as such, it’s not reasonable to expect adequate protection from the State.
 Flowing from that, we consider IFA, internal flight alternative. And yes, I did flag Barranquilla and Cartagena, but I find that … again, this is a two prong test. The first prong is about safety. Would you be safe from persecution in the IFA? I find that you would not. Therefore, there is no IFA. A … a suitable IFA does not exist.
 You cannot be expected to stop your activism. It’s been very clear from your testimony that that is core to your beliefs and … and it’s just the same as, you know, a SOGIE claim. We couldn’t ask someone to stop being gay. We cannot ask someone to stop their activism. This is something that’s true to your … to the core of your beliefs.
 You also were located in Bogota, which is a major metropolitan.
 The Black Eagles do have connections throughout Columbia. They often fill in the gaps left by other paramilitary and narco-military groups when they disband. As well there’s the corruption connection with the government corruption.
 The first prong, as I said, is not met. You would not be safe and I do find that there is a serious possibility of persecution throughout the country.
 Therefore, in conclusion, based on the totality of the evidence and your counsel’s submissions, I find that the claimants [XXX]and[XXX] to be Convention refugees and I accept your claim.
 CLAIMANT: Thank you.
 COUNSEL: Very good. Thank you.
———- REASONS CONCLUDED ———-