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NL: The Council of State clarifies the assessment procedure in cases regarding conversion to a new faith

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Referral to the CJEU
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National law only (in case there is no reference to EU law/ECHR);
Netherlands, Council of State [Afdeling Bestuursrechtspraak van de Raad van State], Applicant (Iran) v State Secretary for Security and Justice (Staatssecretaris van Justitie en Veiligheid), 201902732/1/V2, NL:RVS:2021:977, 12 May 2021. Link redirects to the English summary in the EUAA Case Law Database.
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Case history
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The case concerned an Iranian national who applied for asylum on grounds of his conversion to Christianity, which caused him problems in Iran. He claimed that in 2015 the police raided his home and workplace, finding two copies of the Bible and a statue of Jesus. He left Iran with his wife as a result of this. The State Secretary considered that the alleged conversion to Christianity and the resulting incidents were not credible. On appeal, the Court of the Hague confirmed the judgement of the State Secretary.

This decision concerns the consequences of WI 2018/10 by which the House of representatives replaced the standard line used to investigate and assess an alleged conversion. The Council considered that WI 2018/10 confirmed an already existing line of conduct by making it public, and there is therefore no question of new policy. The policy established that, within the assessment of the three elements (motives and process of conversion, knowledge, and activities), the focus should be on the answers of the foreign national about his own experiences and the personal perception of a stranger about these three elements.

The Council further considered that, in this case, the State Secretary did not clearly substantiate how the statements of third parties were  weighted in the light of the statements of the foreigner that were not deemed plausible. Additionally, the State Secretary did not provide insights into how statements on some personal circumstances affected his conversion and placed the emphasis of the assessment on the applicant’s statements about his own experience with regards to the motives and process of his conversion, rather than carrying out a full credibility assessment and considering the applicant’s personal background. The Council ruled that the Court of the Hague should have upheld the appeal against the initial decision, and therefore quashed the Court’s decision and considered the appeal well-founded.

The Council of State further clarified how the assessment should be conducted in similar cases. Precisely, teh State Secretary shall clearly state the considerations for the applicant's statements about the first two questions, even when decisive weight is attributed, in the credibility assessment, to inadequate statements by a foreigner about the motives for and the process of conversion eleements (knowledge of the new faith and activities undertaken within the framework of the new faith) and why those explanations cannot compensate for the inadequate explanations about the first element. 

For a previous negative decision, where decisive significance has been assigned to the motives for and the process of conversion, without there being any apparent motivation in the decision on the other two elements, the claims can also be done in a decision over a subsequent application.

The Council of State concluded that the State Secretary will have to clearly explain the reasoning and the way it weighed statements submitted and which are considered implausible about the alleged conversion, thus allowing further the administrative court in the review process.

Country of Decision
Court Name
NL: Council of State [Afdeling Bestuursrechtspraak van de Raad van State]
Case Number
Date of Decision
Country of Origin
Religion/ Religious Groups