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Right to an appeal

UNHCR’s Procedural Standards for RSD under UNHCR’s Mandate

Quick reference guide

The following is a RSDWatch summary and analysis of UNHCR’s Procedural Standards for Refugee Status Determination under UNHCR’s Mandate, published by UNHCR in September 2005.  All references (i.e. section x.x) are to these Standards, unless otherwise noted.

Right to an independent appeal

In its RSD procedures, UNHCR recognizes that all rejected applicants have the right to appeal, but limits the independence of the appeal. UNHCR’s standards provide: “The appeal should be determined by an Eligibility Officer other than the Officer who heard the claim in first instance.” (section 7.1.1)

In this, UNHCR RSD procedures only partially comply with international standards because there is no separate authority or unit within UNHCR to consider appeals, a measure of independence which UNHCR described in 2001 as a “key procedural safeguard:”

A key procedural safeguard deriving from general administrative law and essential to the concept of effective remedy has become that the appeal be considered by an authority different from and independent of that making the initial decision. (UNHCR, Asylum-Processes: Fair and Efficient Asylum Procedures ¶ 43 (May 2001)

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has emphasized that the means by which adjudicators are appointed, compensated, dismissed, and promoted are critical factors in ensuring the competence, impartiality, and independence of any judge or tribunal. (U.N. Human Rights Committee General Comment No. 13 at para. 3, 1984).

Time limits on appeals: UNHCR’s RSD standards allow for a time limit on appeals of not less than 30 days after the applicant was notified of his or her first instance rejection (section 7.2). However, UNHCR’s standards require that such time limits be applied flexibly and that files should not be closed if appeals are submitted within six weeks of the deadline (section 7.2.).

Basis for appeals: Appeals may be granted on new evidence, or on errors of fact or law (section 7.4).  However, UNHCR standards do not require as much detail be given in decisions to reject appeals as first instance applications (section 7.5).

Applicants who are rejected on appeal or who do not exercise their right to appeal generally have their files closed (section 9.1)

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