Police probe possible forged death certificate of Iraqi man in European Court of Human Rights judgment

In November 2019 the court ruled that Finland had breached international human rights law - now the dead man at the centre of the case might still be alive.

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File picture showing exterior of European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg / Credit: iStock

The National Bureau of Investigation says it is looking at whether a death certificate for an Iraqi man was forged, and that he might be still alive.

In November 2019 the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled that Finland violated the European Human Rights Convention in the case of an Iraqi asylum seeker called Ali, who was killed in his homeland after his application for asylum was rejected by Finnish authorities.

The case was brought by Ali’s daughter, Noor, who was awarded €20,000 by the court when it ruled that Finland had breached Article 2 and 3 of the Human Rights Convention.

Now the NBI says they suspect the documents which lead to the court ruling against Finland were forged, and that Noor’s father Ali might actually still be alive.

“The National Bureau of Investigation has obtained information on the matter, and a response to a request for legal assistance has been received from Iraq” says NBI’s Jan Aarnisalo.

“The case is being investigated and one person has been arrested” he says.

At the time the case was heard by the European Court of Human Rights, they did not review the original death certificate, but were satisfied with a photocopy to base their ruling on.

What’s the history behind this case? 

Iraqi asylum seeker Ali came to Finland in 2017, citing dangers in his home country where, as a Sunni civil servant in Iraq’s Ministry of Interior, he faced death threats from Shiia militias.

Despite the seemingly strong case the Finnish Immigration Service Migri rejected the application saying he did not meet the criteria for asylum.

Ali took the option to return voluntarily to Iraq rather than wait to be forcibly removed by Finnish authorities, but he was killed soon after arriving there. An autopsy revealed he was shot three times in the head and body but now all of that is in doubt.

The Human Rights Convention Article 2 says that “everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law”; while Article 3 states that “no-one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or pnishment.”

The Strasbourg court also decided Ali’s expulsion and his death in Iraq cause considerable suffering to his daughter Noor when it awarded her compensation. Noor’s own asylum claim was rejected by the Finnish Immigration Service Migri in 2016.

What is the political reaction?

At the time of the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling in November, Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo (Green) said that it was a “very weighty and significant” decision.

She said it was a serious matter that the rule of law in Finland had failed to protect Ali’s most important right – life.

The court’s ruling had wider implications beyond just the scope of this one case, with deportations to Iraq halted temporarily while a number of cases were reviewed to make sure they had been dealt with in strict compliance with human rights laws.

Now, Ohisalo says that it is not for politicians to challenge the decisions of the court, and that the investigation is the responsibility for the National Bureau of Investigation.

Meanwhile the chairman of the Finns Party Jussi Halla-aho says Ohisalo used the case last autumn to score political points, and asks “if the case turns out to be fraudulent, are you going to seem less genuine in future if you champion sob stories?” such as this.