Sula and Sula v The International Protection Appeals Tribunal and The Minister for Justice and Equality

CourtHigh Court
JudgeMr Justice Max Barrett
Judgment Date29 May 2021
Neutral Citation[2021] IEHC 295
Date29 May 2021
Docket Number[2019 No. 906 JR]

[2021] IEHC 295


[2019 No. 906 JR]

Sula and Sula
The International Protection Appeals Tribunal and The Minister for Justice and Equality

International protection – Credibility – Unreasonableness – Applicants challenging two decisions of the first respondent affirming a refusal of international protection – Whether the decisions should be quashed

Facts: The applicants, Mr and Ms Sula, two Albanian nationals, applied to the High Court challenging two decisions of the first respondent, the International Protection Appeals Tribunal (IPAT), affirming a refusal of international protection. Mr and Ms Sula contended that there were errors in the Tribunal decisions that were of such a quality that the court should quash those decisions and remit matters to the Tribunal for fresh consideration. The IPAT decisions had been challenged by Mr and Ms Sula on the grounds of the findings made by the IPAT as to credibility.

Held by Barrett J that certain findings of the IPAT were marred by unreasonableness and irrationality. He held that the decision involved the implicit illogical proposition that Mr Sula’s claim to international protection (by reference to election-/politically-related violence allegedly done to him) would have been stronger if he could have shown himself to be a generic opposition supporter rather than a supporter of the main opposition party. Barrett J held that it was not open to the IPAT, when confronted with uncontradicted evidence supportive of an applicant’s claim for international protection, to reject the probity of that evidence on the ‘gut sense’ basis that more detail would have been desirable. Barrett J held that it was difficult to see that a breach of s. 28(7) of the International Protection Act 2015 did not present. He held that one cannot hope to satisfy the requirements as to adequacy of reasoning where, as in this case, there is no evidence that is in conflict with the country of origin information and there is no reason identified as to why such evidence as is before the IPAT is unreliable without further corroborative evidence.

Barrett J held that the court would quash the impugned decisions and remit the appeals to the IPAT for fresh consideration. He held that, given that Mr and Ms Sula had succeeded in their application, they would seem, ostensibly, to be entitled to their costs.

Application granted.

JUDGMENT of Mr Justice Max Barrett delivered on 29th April, 2021.


Albania is very different today from the way it was in Byron's time. But there is a thread in this case that links his time to ours. For the applicants claim to have fled Albania from savage mafiosi. Their flight has taken them to Ireland where they have pleaded to be granted refugee status or subsidiary protection. Thus far, Ireland has said ‘no’.


The kernel of Mr and Ms Sula's story (that is not their real surname) is well told and best told in the words used by Mr Sula in his international protection application form. It is a little long and the English is not perfect – though I wish my Albanian was as good as the translator's English. Yet for all its weaknesses, it captures the substance of the story that is at play in these proceedings. That makes it worth the read:

“I had rented a bar-café where I secured my monthly expenses. I know many important people from the Democratic Party starting from the Deputies to the lower rank of this political force. I joined this party after the Communist dictatorship since all the properties we had were taken away during that time but worst of all they took away our dignity and freedom which is the base foundation of Ireland. Democracy entered into force in the 90s when I was young but I was already feeling relieved somehow. We thought that now everything would get fixed but we thought wrong. It was a harsh transition like the jungle law where the strong one governs and the weak one is left the mercy of its fate. In Albania you have to be a member of a political party if you want to find a good job if your party wins the elections. I chose the Democratic Party since I wanted to take back the properties which were taken from me during the Communist dictatorship. I was told to convince as many relatives, friends and people I knew to vote for this political party. I was lucky because I had a bar in [Place A] and manty friends in [Place B] because I lived there for many years. In [Place A] I had many relatives and friends which I convinced to vote for the party I was a member of. In [Place B] also I convinced many people from the Socialist Party to vote for the Democratic one. For this last move of mine my life was threatened because people from the Socialist Party were scared they would lose the elections since some of them were going to vote for the Democratic Party. Many friends and relatives had told me not to be so open about my ideas because it would be dangerous but I continued to support my party. One night [I] was having a coffee with some friends and after I left them I noticed some people were following me and after them was a black Mercedes. I continued walking and thought they did not have anything to do with me since I have never harmed anyone and I never will….While I was walking I felt a hand which landed on my shoulder and told me ‘Wait you son of a *****, of Sali’. Sali was the leader of the Democratic Party from 1991–2013 when he lost the parliamentary elections. I turned back scared and someone slapped me hard in the face. I tried to see their faces but I couldn't because it was dark and they were wearing masks. They threw me inside the car and put a gun to my head and said ‘You want to win the elections?’ I was scared because I had never been in a situation like that and I did not talk at all. I only told them that I had done nothing wrong. ‘Please, why are you doing this to me because I do not understand? Maybe you have confused me with someone else? For me [Stated Date] has been the most difficult night in my life. Even in the Civil War of 1997 I wasn't as scared as in that moment. I closed my eyes for a moment since I felt like I was going to faint and everything was turning black. ‘Let's beat him,’ someone said. ‘No, the boss said only to warn him the first time,’ someone else answered. ‘You want to do politics? Why do you involve yourselves in situations where you shouldn't?’ I told them to forgive me if I had done something wrong. ‘Why should we forgive you? So you can go and report us?’ they said. ‘I don't know you and I don't want to know you’ I said afterwards. ‘We will let you go only if you leave Albania and we never see your face again or else we will not forgive you anymore’. I told them okay so I could leave or better save my life. After they hit and punched me they got me out of the car and left me in the outskirts of [Place B]. I called one of my friends and told him if he could come pick me up. When I went home I looked like a ghost and my wife asked if I had drunk something but I just told her I was sick because I did not her to get worried since she gets scared easily. After I talked to one of my close friends he told me what to do and I did not go out during those days since I could be seen in every moment. The Socialist Party won the elections and I was feeling very bad psychologically since the ones who threatened my life were the ones who won. Some of the politicians who won the election are involved in organised crime and with the Mafia. The elections were corrupted and they were won with threats and I am sure about this because I experienced it myself. I am not saying that all the people in my party are the best when it comes to this but as we say in Albania ‘There's no forest without pigs’. After some days passed, something unexpected happened. My wife called me terrified and told me that two unknown people had threatened and pushed her out of the bus. I couldn't think anything at that moment. They had offended, pushed and threatened her. Why? Because she was my wife. After she came home she asked me who those people were and what had I done to them. After that I told her everything that had happened. ‘What are we going to do now?’ she asked me.”


What the Sulas did was to flee Albania, come to Ireland, and seek international protection here. They failed before the International Protection Office. They failed before the International Protection Appeals Tribunal. Now they have come to court contending that there were errors in the Tribunal decisions that were of such a quality that the court should now quash those decisions and remit matters to the Tribunal for fresh consideration. As explained in this judgment they are right in these contentions and the court will order as they have asked.


The IPAT decisions have been challenged by Mr and Ms Sula on the grounds of the findings made by the IPAT as to credibility. Before proceeding to consider that aspect of matters the court notes that the credibility findings in Mr Sula's case are linked so closely to Ms Sula's case – which was that she experienced intimidation/assault that the applicants believe occurred in an incident linked to the first applicant's claim – that if an order of certiorari issues in Mr Sula's case then it will of necessity issue in Ms Sula's case also.


When it comes to consideration of objective evidential support for Mr Sula's claim, the IPAT observes as follows:

“[4.3] Country of...

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