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Narrating Atrocity: Obstacles to Proving Credibility in Asylum Claims

Citation: Bohmer, Carol and Shuman, Amy Narrating Atrocity: Obstacles to Proving Credibility in Asylum Claims. [Discussion or working paper]


Creative Commons: Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0

Political asylum is one remedy for human rights abuses. By offering safe haven to people fleeing persecution in their homelands, countries providing political asylum acknowledge that violence can make some places too dangerous for members of particular groups. Asylum law addresses human rights abuses on an individual basis and does not apply to many of those who, it could be argued, suffer from such abuses. Discourses about human rights abuses play a significant role in particular political asylum cases. It has been argued that a human rights vision of refugee law would refocus away from the provision of individual sanctuary in the host country and toward an emphasis on the refugee’s right to return to his country of origin to live a life without human rights abuses. In this paper, we first briefly discuss the history of political asylum policy in relation to its connection to human rights, and then turn to a particular case in which the violations of human rights are unquestionable but the individual’s application was twice denied before being granted asylum status. We examine in depth the case of a woman who fled Cameroon to the US where she claimed asylum. We argue that these denials illustrate the ways in which credibility concerns and the asylum hearing officers' reliance on scenarios that meet their assumptions and expectations often outweigh an assessment of the human rights violations involved in the case.

Creators: Bohmer, Carol and Shuman, Amy and
Subjects: Human Rights & Development Studies
Sociology & Anthropology
Keywords: Human Rights, Asylum-framing Claims
Divisions: Human Rights Consortium
Refugee Law Initiative


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