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Thursday, May 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Rights court slams Denmark for banishing mentally ill Turkish convict

After his involvement in a fatal assault, a Turkish man was told he could never return to Denmark, where he had grown up and was a legal resident.

(CN) — A divided European Court of Human Rights found Tuesday that Denmark needs to reconsider a lifelong expulsion it imposed on a mentally ill Turkish man who'd grown up in Denmark before he was involved in a fatal assault.

The outcome triggered six of the grand chamber’s 17 judges to write in dissent that the court was too lenient toward immigrants who commit serious crimes.

Arif Savran, 36, was deported to Turkey in 2015 after he and others beat a 19-year-old man to death in May 2006 near Christiania, an area in Copenhagen where cannabis has long been sold openly. Savran was convicted of aggravated assault, and Denmark expelled him because it said he posed a threat.

Although Danish law allows foreigners who commit serious crimes to be deported, Savran's case was complicated because he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and he'd been living in Denmark ever since he was 6 when he moved from Turkey with his mother and four siblings to join his father. He was a legal resident in Denmark.

After he was deported to Turkey, he appealed his expulsion to the Strasbourg-based human rights court, arguing that his health was put at risk by his banishment to Turkey and that Denmark had violated his right to a family and private life.

Sixteen of the 17 judges found Denmark had not treated Savran inhumanely by expelling him to Turkey, even though he was receiving clinical help for paranoid schizophrenia. One judge disagreed and found Denmark had violated Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which forbids inhumane treatment.

But a majority of judges found Denmark's permanent reentry ban was disproportionate and a violation of Article 8 of the convention, which protects the right to a private and family life.

The ruling calls it unjust for Savran not to be given a chance to get his reentry ban reviewed or shortened. The court noted that Danish authorities could also deny him even a visitor’s visa. Savran argued that his expulsion from Denmark deprived him of his family and friends and that he did not know many people in Turkey and did not speak Turkish.

“It is clear that the possibility of the applicant re-entering Denmark, even for a short period, remains purely theoretical,” the ruling states. “As a result, he has been left without any realistic prospect of entering, let alone returning to, Denmark.”

The majority held that Savran's mental illness needed to be taken into account because he was more vulnerable than the average person.

The dissenting opinion calls the court's ruling a “regrettable development” that diverges from previous rulings in similar cases. The judges complained that the ruling provides “protection of the individual at the expense of the general interest of society in the protection of public order and the prevention of crime.”

They added that despite the ruling Savran was not guaranteed entry back into Denmark because the ruling gave “limited guidance” to how Danish courts should handle his case.

The ruling can be downloaded here: https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng#{"itemid":["001-214330"]}

Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.

Follow @cainburdeau
Categories / Civil Rights, Criminal, International

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