Categories
All Countries Zimbabwe

2020 RLLR 53

Citation: 2020 RLLR 53
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: December 18, 2020
Panel: Isis Van Loon
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Jane G. Rukaria
Country: Zimbabwe
RPD Number: VC0-00752
ATIP Number: A-2021-00655
ATIP Pages: 000154-000158


DECISION

MEMBER:

[1]       This is the decision of the Refugee Protection Division in the claim of [XXX], a citizen of Zimbabwe who is claiming refugee protection pursuant to Section 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. In rendering my reasons, I have considered and applied the Chairperson’s Guidelines on women refugee claimants fearing gender related persecution.

[2]       Your allegations are set out in your Basis of Claim form and by your testimony, the following is a brief summary.

[3]       You disagree with the current government of Zimbabwe and you’ve supported the movement for democratic change, the opposition party MDC as a volunteer. You fear persecution on this basis. It states that your risk is exacerbated due to the gender-based violence inflicted by state actors on women who are perceived to be opposing the government.

Determination

[4]       I find that you are a Convention refugee as you have established a well-founded fear of persecution based on a Convention ground namely political opinion. I also acknowledge that you have a Nexus to membership in a particular social group as a woman facing persecution based on your gender and I’ve considered this in conjunction with your political Nexus in this claim.

Identity

[5]       I find your identity as a national of Zimbabwe is established by your testimony and the supporting documentation on file including certified true copies of your passport in Exhibit 1.

Credibility

[6]       The presumption before me is that your testimony is true. However, this can be rebutted in appropriate circumstances such as inconsistencies, contradictions, omissions or undetailed testimony. You were straightforward and forthcoming in your testimony. There were no relevant inconsistencies between your testimony or other documents before me, other evidence. You did not appear to embellish your description of events and actions, even when it might have appeared favourable to your claim to do so. You provided credible documentation. You explained that you tried, with limited success to obtain documents from Zimbabwe in support of your claim. You said there were problems with COVID as well as not having anybody in Zimbabwe that you could ask to give you assistance with this. However, you were able to provide a number of documents, particularly late disclosures, Exhibit 5 and 6. There is a copy of your membership in the [XXX] dated [XXX] 2020 in Exhibit 5. As well, there’s a letter from [XXX] at the [XXX] Harare that confirms the injuries that you sustained when you visited the clinic on [XXX] of 2019. You have a paystub showing that you worked for a [XXX] from 2012.

[7]       Your husband provided an affidavit with a copy of his photo ID which corroborates the assault that you sustained on [XXX] of 2019 and that he and your sons have largely remained out of Zimbabwe. There’s an affidavit from a colleague in the MDC Women’s Assembly that confirms your participation. This too is accompanied by a copy of the writer’s photo ID. Exhibit 6 includes a letter from the Department of Legal Affairs of the MDC Alliance in Zimbabwe. This letter documents your membership since 2007 and describes your voluntary service in promoting economic activities with the [XXX] and various support services such as typing and distributing materials. The letter includes references to the events that you describe and states that it is a common occurrence for members to be intimidated and assaulted as the brutal crackdown on those opposed to the government is a reality. It’s signed by the [XXX], who provided a phone number and offered to give more information if the Board required. I found these documents relative and probative and that they supported your allegations.

[8]       Based on your testimony and your documentation, I find you are a credible witness and therefore believe what you’ve alleged in support of your claim. I find the persecution that you face has a Nexus to two of the five Convention grounds that of political opinion as well as your membership in a particular social group as a woman facing gender-based violence and therefore, I’ve assessed your claim under Section 96.

Well-Founded Fear

[9]       In order to be considered a Convention refugee, you must demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution including both a subjective and an objective basis for that fear. Based on your testimony, your supporting documents and the country condition documents. I find that you have a well-founded fear of persecution for the following reasons.

[10]     You’ve supported the MDC as a volunteer for the [XXX]. You described your role and support work and you told me that if you’re a woman in Zimbabwe, you need to do something to be able to help yourself. You said that you used to [XXX], to sustain themselves and feed their families. You testified that the party ZANU-PF does not allow you to share your views. They want you to listen to what they say whether it is right or wrong. You spoke of corruption and misuse of public fonds and the need for those at the top to address this. Also, you said that if you spoke about this openly in Zimbabwe. You would face the threat of harm from the state. You testified that you want to see change and that people should be treated humanely and be able to live safely without fear in Zimbabwe.

[11]     In the runup to the 2018 elections, you worked as a volunteer for a leader Mwayemureyi Saungweme but you were warned by the MDC liaison officer about a pending crackdown. Fearing sexual assault and other forms of gender-based violence that women supporters are subjected to, you stopped volunteering. A few days after you stopped, there were several photographs of you volunteering for the MDC with a note saying, we know who you are, dropped off at your house. On [XXX] of 2019, you were caught up in violence when the police attacked a peaceful MDC march. You were merely waiting for a bus at that time and you were beaten by the police. Fearing gender-based violence, you hesitated to see a physician about your injuries and stayed home until [XXX] of 2019. On the [XXX] of January, your house was vandalized. At first you thought it was due to thieves but her neighbours told you that it was the police and you realized that your National ID and other documents had been taken.

[12]     You and your spouse moved to another area in Harare on [XXX] 2019, and after that you only went out to go to and from work and you avoided any active participation in MDC activities due to your fear of persecution. You kept a low profile. On [XXX] 2019, there was more violence during an MDC demonstration. You were working at a [XXX] and injured protesters came for treatment followed by police who ordered the staff not to treat them. When the [XXX] refused to follow these orders, the police dragged the front-line staff including yourself outside and assaulted you. You had already realized after the [XXX] assault that you had to leave the country for your safety but first you needed to ensure your sons were safe and to get the fonds for you to be able to leave yourself.

[13]     You stated that one of your sons was already out of the country studying at that time and that you ensured that he was not going to come back and you arranged for your other son to leave Zimbabwe on [XXX] of 2019. Your mother, who was visiting relatives in Canada became very ill and this enabled you to get a visa to come to Canada. However, you still didn’t have the funds to leave at that time. On [XXX] of 2019, the police attacked the MDC office in Harare. This raised your level of concern even higher and your brother bought you a ticket so that you could leave for Canada on [XXX] 2019. You claimed asylum in Canada and signed your Basis of Claim form on the 21st of January 2020. In the meantime, your spouse has also left Zimbabwe and [XXX] in the [XXX] through to [XXX] only passing through Zimbabwe as necessary. Since coming to Canada. You’ve joined the MDC North America. You said we are organizing and trying to see how we can contribute to help our youth in Zimbabwe to start some projects, so they can help themselves.

[14]     I found that you have adduced sufficient credible evidence by your actions; also which is supported by the country documents to establish that you do have a subjective fear of persecution in Zimbabwe. The country condition documents show that the ruling government of Zimbabwe the ZANU-PF has come down hard on the opposition such as the MDC. NDP 2.2 Freedom in the World says despite President Mnangagwa repeatedly voicing his commitments to human rights reforms Zimbabwe remained highly intolerant of basic rights, peaceful dissent and free expression in 2019. During nationwide protests in mid-January, security forces responded with lethal force, killing at least 17 people, raping at least 17 women, shooting and injuring 81 people and arresting over 1000 suspected protesters during door-to-door raids. In the months that followed several civil society activists, political opposition leaders and other critics of the government were arbitrarily arrested, abducted, beaten or tortured. Little or no efforts were made to bring those responsible for the abuses to justice. Following the protests security forces intensified a crackdown on supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change Alliance, among others. The U.S. Department of State echoed this description of the poor performance of the Zimbabwe government with respect to human rights and notes that impunity remains a problem. Amnesty International also described the treatment of opposition members and supporters particularly during that January 2019 protest, where security agents opened fire on protesters.

[15]     The police also threatened and arrested journalists, medical doctors and lawyers, monitoring the protests or assisting protesters. They used tear gas, baton sticks, water cannons and live ammunition to disperse protesters. The crackdown on protesters included torture and other ill-treatment and mass arrests. By the end of February, over 600 people have been arrested in connection with the January protest that’s NDP 2.4. The UK Home Office further notes direct targeting of opposition and perceived opposition, including NGOs that continued after the initial violence through house raids, arrests and detentions. The NDP provides evidence women are targeted, specifically in election times, as candidates and election workers. Women have also stated that they feared not only the direct act of violence but potential repercussions associated with it. For example, they’re concerned that being politically active may result in getting caught in a mob or arrested and brought to jail where they could be raped. Impunity plays a large role in allowing this climate of fear to persist. Interviewees frequently referred to the role of the police in failing to protect or of even actively contributed to the violence against women in election times.

[16]     A review of online content showed that 60 percent of violent discourse and content in the political space was directed at women for the period between January 2013 to April 2018 according to NDP 5.7. You also provided country documentation detailing the heightened risk faced by women who are in opposition to the government. A February 2020 survey found that an astounding 75 percent of women surveyed by Transparency International Zimbabwe have been forced to exchange sex for jobs, medical care and even seeking placement in school for their children, that’s Exhibit 4 on page 22 and it notes that even police officers are involved in this form of extortion. An academic article from the Journal of International Women’s Studies on page 27 includes that gender-based and politically motivated violence has an ongoing negative impact on women and girls and has led to a broad acceptance of violence against women and girls in Zimbabwe. An August 30, 2019, article by Newsday reports on the MDC Women’s Assembly’s concerns over the growing abductions and abuse of women being perpetrated by suspects, state security agencies and members of the ruling ZANU-PF party. Another article from The Guardian of January 31, 2019, states that scores of women and girls say they have been raped over the past two weeks by army officials who have ransacked houses ostensibly in search of protesters and another article on pages 69 to 70 states that most rapes by soldiers and security forces go unreported to the security forces due to fears of reprisals.

[17]     I’m satisfied that opponents of the government such as you, yourself face a serious possibility of persecution. Furthermore, your risk is compounded by the threat of sexual assault, which women, particularly women who are in political opposition face in Zimbabwe. Based on all the evidence before me, I find you would face a serious possibility of persecution if you were to return to Zimbabwe.

State Protection and Internal Flight Alternative

[18]     In this case the agent of persecution is the state and its supporters. The persecution that you would face if returned to Zimbabwe is at the hands of the authorities. Accordingly, I find there is no state protection available to you and the presumption of state protection is rebutted. The state is in control of all of its territories and therefore on the evidence before me, I find there is a serious possibility of persecution throughout Zimbabwe and that there is thus no viable internal flight alternative available for you in your particular circumstances. Based on the totality of the evidence, I’ve concluded that you are a Convention refugee and accordingly, I’m accepting your claim.

———- REASONS CONCLUDED ———-

Categories
All Countries Zimbabwe

2020 RLLR 52

Citation: 2020 RLLR 52
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: March 10, 2020
Panel: Miryam Molgat
Counsel for the Claimant(s): N/A
Country: Zimbabwe
RPD Number: VB9-08524
ATIP Number: A-2021-00655
ATIP Pages: 000149-000153


— DECISION

[1]       PRESIDING MEMBER: I have considered your testimony and the other evidence in the case and I’m ready to render my decision orally. I would like to add that in the event that written reasons are issued, a written form of these reasons may be edited for spelling, syntax and grammar, and references to the applicable case law and documentary evidence may also be included.

[2]       The claimant, [XXX] claims to be a citizen of Zimbabwe and is claiming refugee protection pursuant to ss. 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

DETERMINATION

[3]       I find that the claimant is a Convention refugee as the claimant does have a well-founded fear of persecution on a Convention ground; namely, her political opinion. She’s an active member of the main opposition alliance in Zimbabwe.

ALLEGATIONS

[4]       The claimant’s complete allegations are set out in the basis of claim form and need not be repeated here in detail. To summarize briefly, the claimant is a woman born in [XXX]. In [XXX] 2019, there were unprecedented riots in Zimbabwe. The claimant is a long time political and social activist. She was active in the ZTCU Union, which was the steppingstone for the MDC under Morgan Tsvangirai; the MDC being one of the main opposition parties in Zimbabwe.

[5]       The claimant became an active member of the MDC which is the — just a minute, please — the Movement for Democratic Change and she is now a member of the MDC alliance. In addition, the claimant’s work history has resulted in problems with the authorities, as result of which, her husband left her.

[6]       In [XXX] 2019 the claimant’s sister [XXX] and her husband were killed in a vehicle accident near a police camp. The claimant started the guardianship process for the children of her late sister. The claimant fears that her sister was mistaken for her when her sister was chased in the course of this fatal accident. The claimant is a victim of sex abuse and assault from the Zimbabwe police and the Zimbabwe military. This is as she was employed by an [XXX] and she is also an active member of the MDC.

[7]       On [XXX] 2019 the claimant suffered at the hands of the police, the military and the ZANU-PF, which is the ruling party of Zimbabwe. While among 200 protesting citizens and activists, the claimant was hit, she was arrested and sexually abused. She passed out. The police recorded her name and threatened her against engaging in protest against the government. They said that she has always been on their close watch and that her movements would be monitored. They said that they would harm her more and eventually kill her.

[8]       On [XXX] 2019, two police officers who she knew from their previous visits to her workplace went again to her workplace looking for her. They caught her and took her to the Harare Central Police where they said her name is on the top list for elimination. The claimant had to relocate to another suburb in [XXX] some [XXX] away. Her family is in danger; her mother has been visited by the police approximately seven times since [XXX] 2019. Her mother has since relocated to be with the claimant’s children. When the claimant reported to the police, they refused to take the report at face value. She then asked for a request for a medical report form, this was in order to seek treatment for health issues that she suffered from as a result of mistreatment by the police authorities.

[9]       The claimant obtained medical treatment, she then sought [XXX]. She did this at the [XXX]. She was [XXX]. The claimant applied for a Canadian visitor visa on [XXX] 2019. She obtained it on [XXX] 2019 and she left for Canada on [XXX] 2019. She later learned from her party, the MDC Alliance that the authorities of Zimbabwe are after her.

[10]     The claim was referred on October 30th of 2019. The claimant alleges fear of risk to her life, risk of torture or risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment at the hands of the same agent of harm, and she also alleges that neither state protection nor safe and reasonable internal flight alternatives are available in her country of nationality.

ANALYSIS

[11]     The main issue is credibility.

Identity

[12]     The claimant’s national identity has been established by the testimony and supporting documentation filed and entered in these proceedings. The current passport is on file along with other documents. I am satisfied as to the claimant’s identity.

Credibility

[13]     When credibility is assessed, there are two principles that are followed. Firstly, when the claimant swears to the truthfulness of certain facts, there is a presumption that what the claimant is saying is true unless there is reason to doubt it. Secondly, when assessing credibility, the panel is entitled to rely on rationality and common sense. The determination as to whether a claimant’s evidence is credible is made on a balance of probabilities.

[14]     The panel found the claimant to be a credible witness. Her testimony contained many details which added credibility and context to her allegations. Her testimony was consistent with her allegations. Her testimony helped the panel to make sense of the allegations by putting them into the claimant’s personal and national context. The claimant did not embellish. The claimant was able to answer difficult questions in a credible manner. The claimant provided original copies of multiple corroborating documents.

[15]     The claimant has established her profile as a long time social and political activist who has consistently worked for the opposition and/or the founding ZCTU Union, which predates the MDC and/or NGOs perceived to be anti-government. The panel finds that the claimant would be treated upon returning to Zimbabwe in a manner consistent with this profile, as she has come to the attention of the authorities as recently as [XXX] 2019. The panel finds that the claimant would resume these political and/or anti-government activities in Zimbabwe should she return there as she has done this at her own risk for decades.

Similarly Situated Persons and Objective Basis

[16]     The claim is objectively based as per the country conditions documents. In the United States Department of State report at Item 2.1 of the National Documentation Package it says that the government of Zimbabwe restricts the rights to freedom of association and that ZANU-PF supporters, sometimes with government support or acquiescence intimidated and harassed members of organizations perceived to be associated with other political parties.

[17]     Another document which is at item 10.1 of the National Documentation Package and which was published in June 2019 and which is called, On the Days of Darkness in Zimbabwe, an Updated Report on the Human Rights Violations committed between January 14, 2019 and February 5th, 2019 states as follows,

“The Zimbabwean army unlawfully deployed into the streets and residential areas where it unleashed a reign of terror on anyone they came across. The Human Rights NGO Forum published a report which details more than 1800 such violations of human rights since January 14, 2019 across the whole country. This was in response to mass protests among the Zimbabwean population in January 2019 following an increase in fuel prices”.

[18]     Another document, which is part of the National Documentation Package at Item 4.7 of the National Documentation Package, which is a British document called, Country Information and Policy Notes, Zimbabwe Opposition to the Government, also published in 2019, states that,

“The ruling ZANU-PF uses the state security apparatus to harass and intimidate those in opposition to it. The levels of politically motivated violence and human rights violations by state security forces and ZANU-PF supporters, fluctuate with recent peaks. With regards to those perceived to have been in the opposition to the government at the time of the January 2019 demonstrations, it is established that they faced serious human rights violations against them. This was followed by further direct targeting of opposition, perceived opposition and NGOs which continued after the initial violence through house raids, arrests and detentions.”

[19]     This is very close to the experience of the claimant.

[20]     Moving to the question of state protection, the panel finds that state protection in Zimbabwe would not be forthcoming in this case as the claimant fears the Zimbabwean state itself. That state has already abused her rights to political expression and freedom of association and assembly.

[21]     The Zimbabwe government is described in the United States Department of State report as only taking limited steps towards potential consequences for security sector officials who committed human rights violations. This document states that impunity remained a problem in this regard. The presumption of state protection has, therefore, been rebutted based on the objective country conditions information.

[22]     Moving to the last question, which is whether there is an internal flight alternative where the claimant would not face a serious possibility of persecution, the panel finds that the analysis of internal flight alternative fails on the first prong as the claimant, on a balance of probabilities does face a serious possibility of persecution throughout Zimbabwe as a result of her profile and of the stated country conditions information.

[23]     In conclusion, having considered all of the evidence, the panel determines that there is a serious possibility that the claimant would be persecuted in Zimbabwe for her political opinion. Her claim is accepted.

— DECISION CONCLUDED

Categories
All Countries Zimbabwe

2019 RLLR 146

Citation: 2019 RLLR 146
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: March 22, 2019
Panel: Harvey Savage
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Victoria A Bruyn
Country: Zimbabwe
RPD Number: TB8-12629
ATIP Number: A-2021-00256
ATIP Pages: 0000168-000172


REASONS FOR DECISION

INTRODUCTION

[1]       These are the reasons for the decision for [XXX] and [XXX] who claim to be citizens of Zimbabwe, and are claiming refugee protection pursuant to sections 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

[2]       In rendering my reasons, I have considered and applied the Chairperson’s Guidelines on Women Refugee Claimants Fearing Gender-Related Persecution.

[3]       In rendering my reasons, I have considered the Chairperson’s Guidelines on Proceedings Before the IRB Involving Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression.

ALLEGATIONS

[4]       You allege the following: You have identified as having a same sex preference from a young age. You had several relationships with women, and the most serious one was with [XXX]. She was with you when the father of your son entered an eating establishment and verbally assaulted you because of your sexual preference. Shortly after, you and [XXX] both became members of Gays and Lesbians in Zimbabwe (GALZ). At the end of January 2018, that same person, [XXX] came to your house and forced you to perform oral sex on him. He was violent with you. You did not report this to police because you feared being arrested because of your sexual orientation. After you were terminated from your employment in April 2018, due you feared because of your sexual orientation, you left Zimbabwe fearing continued persecution and eventually entered Canada from the United States. You were also fleeing from [XXX] whose father raped your sister in Zimbabwe. [XXX] father is also the nephew of [XXX] was threatening you to produce your sister, and unbeknownst to him, she had fled to Canada where she made a successful refugee claim. You fear not only for yourself but for your son who is a co-claimant because if he returns to Zimbabwe he will face the wrath of both [XXX] because of you and your identity as a lesbian, and you will not be able to protect him.

DETERMINATION

[5]       I find that you are Convention refugees as you have established a serious possibility of persecution should you return to Zimbabwe based on the grounds in section 96.

ANALYSIS

Identity

[6]       I find that your identities as nationals of Zimbabwe are established by the documents provided: passports and birth certificates.

Nexus

[7]       I find that you have established a nexus to section 96 by reason of your membership in a particular social group, a lesbian in Zimbabwe.

[8]       Based on the documents in the file, and the testimony at this hearing I have noted no serious credibility issues. In particular, the evidence establishes the allegations as set out above. Your sister [XXX] whom you mentioned in your narrative, was a witness at today’s hearing and she confirmed many aspects of your claim. In particular, she confirmed your sexual orientation as a lesbian, your various relationships while she was still living in Zimbabwe, and her agent of persecution, [XXX] who plays a central role in why you fear returning to Zimbabwe. I found her testimony credible.

[9]       I further considered the letter from [XXX] with whom you had a relationship in Zimbabwe and she confirmed the events with [XXX] which culminated in your decision to flee Zimbabwe with your son and various other written correspondence including from your mother. I also note your attested to membership in the GALZ organization. After reviewing the documents, I have no reasons to doubt their authenticity.

[10]     I have also considered the evidence of bullying and harassment experienced by your son when word spread that his mother is someone perceived as gay.

Objective basis of future risk

[11]     Based on the credibility of your allegations, and the documentary evidence set out below, I find that you have established a future risk that you will be subjected to the following harm: retribution by violent assaults and inability to obtain adequate state protection.

[12]     The fact that you face this risk is corroborated by the following documents: National Documentation Package (NDP) for Zimbabwe – June 29, 2018, items 1.4, 2.6, 6.2 and 6.3, as well as, Exhibit 5.

Nature of the harm

[13]     This harm clearly amounts to persecution.

Internal flight alternative

[14]     I have considered whether a viable internal flight alternative exists for you. On the evidence before me, I find that there is a serious possibility of persecution throughout Zimbabwe. Anti-gay legislation criminalizing same sex relations is operative throughout Zimbabwe and carries a maximum penalty of three years.

[15]     On the evidence before me, I find that it is not objectively reasonable, in all the circumstances, including those particular to you, for you to seek refuge in Zimbabwe for the following reasons. Anti-gay legislation criminalizing same sex relations is operative throughout Zimbabwe and carries a maximum penalty of three years.

CONCLUSION

[16]     Based on the analysis above, I conclude that you are convention refugees. Accordingly, I accept your claims.

(signed)           Harvey Savage

March 22, 2019