(CN) – The 3rd Circuit reversed a ruling against an immigrant seeking deportation relief, saying his head scars were consistent with his claim that government troops beat him with sticks at a military camp in Cote d’Ivoire.
The Philadelphia-based federal appeals court also urged the Board of Immigration Appeals to remand the case to a new immigration judge, because it appeared the original judge tried to undermine the petitioner’s credibility rather than fairly assess it.
Bayo Issiaka said he came to the United States in 2003 as a stowaway on a cargo ship. He claimed he fled after government troops murdered his father, a former chauffeur for deposed military leader Gen. Robert Guei, who was killed on the same day in September 2002.
He testified that soldiers stormed his house, killed his mother and forcibly took Issiaka and his brother to a military camp, where they beat Issiaka with sticks and tied his brother to a car and dragged him to death.
A family friend named Colonel Bakayioko allegedly helped Issiaka escape.
At his deportation hearing, Issiaka showed the immigration judge scars on his head from the alleged beating.
The judge peppered him with questions about the wounds, such as “What did the original wounds look like?” and “[H]ow deep were they?”
Issiaka responded a few times by stating, “I did not understand the question.”
The 3rd Circuit sympathized with Issiaka’s inability to understand the questions. “[W]e have difficulty understanding them, too,” Judge McKee wrote.
The immigration judge acknowledged the scars, but nonetheless held that Issiaka “lacked credibility because of his inability to describe his injury.”
“It is hard for us to imagine how one would describe a bleeding head wound (or wounds) other than to say that he was bleeding from the head after being hit on the head with sticks,” McKee wrote. “That is what Issiaka said. The (immigration judge’s) insistence that Issiaka testify about how ‘deep’ his wounds were is not only illogical, it is more consistent with an effort to undermine his credibility than to fairly assess it.”
The court granted Issiaka’s petition for review and remanded for a ruling on whether he is entitled to relief under the Convention Against Torture.