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ECtHR rules that Bulgaria violated the right to family life and did not provide an effective remedy when it issued an expulsion order based on national security

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Other Source/Information:
Referral to the CJEU
Original Documents
Relevant Legislative Provisions
European Convention on Human Rights;
Council of Europe, European Court of Human Rights [ECtHR], Bou Hassoun (Syria) v Bulgaria, 59066/16, 06 October 2020. Link redirects to the English summary in the EUAA Case Law Database.
Permanent link to the case
Case history
Related cases:

Mr. Bou Hassoun arrived in Bulgaria in 2009 and started a relationship in 2010 with Ms G.M., a Bulgarian national. In 2013 he was granted asylum and in 2014 the couple had a son.

On 22 October 2015 the Head of the National Security Service issued an expulsion order on the grounds that his actions potentially posed a “serious threat to national security”. A 5 years entry ban to Bulgaria was also issued. No factual grounds were given, in accordance with section 46(3) of the Aliens Act and the reasons stated in the proposal for expulsion were classified and the applicant was not informed about them. The expulsion order was immediately enforceable but with the possibility of judicial review.

On 26 October 2015 the applicant applied for judicial review before the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) against the expulsion order, claiming that no factual circumstances and no reasons were provided. He further argued an expulsion to Syria would expose him to a risk in the view of the conflict there and it will interfere with his right to respect for family life. By a final judgement of 30 May 2016, the Supreme Administrative Court rejected the application for judicial review after having considered the lawfulness of the expulsion order, issued in compliance with law provisions and by a competent authority. The SAC stated that there was data indicating the applicant’s implication in illegal transportation of foreign nationals. However, the final decision did not answer the applicant’s claims regarding the interference in his family life in case of expulsion. The possibility for the applicant's lawyer to consult the materials in the case, including the classified documents was not clear.

The ECtHR found that the expulsion of the applicant represents an interference with his family life and further assessed if such interference met the requirements of Article 8 (2) of the ECHR. It stated the case is similar with previous case law against Bulgaria, namely C.G. and Others v. Bulgaria (no. 1365/07, 24 April 2008) and that the expulsion had been ordered on alleged national-security grounds that did not offer a minimum degree of protection against arbitrariness. The expulsion order was based solely on the assessment of the National Security Services and the judicial review did not provide any meaningful evaluation of the expulsion measure. The Court concluded that the interference with the applicant’s right to respect for family and private life was not “in accordance with the law” and there had been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention.

The Court also concluded that there was a violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) due to deficiencies in the proceedings for judicial review of the expulsion orders. The domestic court did not carry out a proper examination of the executive’s assertion that the applicant presented a national security risk and did not offer an effective remedy in respect to the applicant’s complaint regarding the breach of his right to respect for his family and private life.

Country of Decision
Council of Europe
Court Name
CoE: European Court of Human Rights [ECtHR]
Case Number
Date of Decision
Country of Origin
Effective remedy