Munich Administrative Court rejects suit by U.S. AWOL soldier André Shepherd
Observers have impression of bias in asylum proceedings
(18.11.2016) The suit brought against the negative ruling in U.S. AWOL soldier André Shepherd's application for political asylum was rejected in the decision by the Administrative Court published yesterday. Two days ago the Administrative Court had reviewed the case in a five-hour hearing, taking into account a fundamental decision by the European Court of Justice.
As it turned out, the panel of five concentrated entirely on the plaintiff's credibility, asked about things that happened up to twelve years ago, and believed they could assess the plaintiff's conscience precisely at all times. On the one hand, they expected the plaintiff to describe his views in the situation at that time, and on the other, the panel evaluated the decisions he made then from the point of view of the present.
"If the court's criterion were applied, someone who refused to participate in an illegal war or actions in violation of international law would have to act completely consistently and uncompromisingly from the start," says Bernd Mesovic of PRO ASYL. "That a decision of conscience may develop over a period of time does not fit into the logic of the Munich Administrative Court."
After his lengthy questioning, André Shepherd said, "I described all the essential facts comprehensively from the beginning. I wish the court would have acknowledged the difficulty in reaching a position that corresponded to my conscience within the U.S. military." He added, "The point of this hearing was to establish the reasons why I left the military based on factual evidence. That the court decided to focus instead on hypothetical scenarios that had nothing to do with the actual empirical evidence leaves me with the impression that we were simply not heard."
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In today's press release, the Court focuses on an apparent lack of an attempt to achieve conscientious-objector status. But André Shepherd stated very clearly in yesterday's hearing that, with his view that he would have been willing to fight in "necessary wars to protect our own people", he would not have met the very clearly formulated guidelines for recognition as a conscientious objector. "And the way other US conscientious objectors were dealt with, such as Agustín Aguayo, who was sent to the war zone despite his refusal, and was finally sentenced for desertion, was a clear sign for me that this was not an option."
"Essentially the court based its decision on a single sentence in the ruling by the European Court of Justice, from which it follows that strict standards should be applied to asylum applications by soldiers who volunteered for military service," Reinhard Marx, Mr. Shepherd's counsel, explained after the hearing. "Interpreted that strictly, no regular soldier would ever have a chance of obtaining political asylum." And he emphasized, "Quite obviously, the court wanted, by this sort of inquiry into the facts, to avoid dealing with the undeniable war crimes committed by the U.S. Army during the period since 2007."
"The conduct of the proceedings was marked by prejudice," said Rudi Friedrich of Connection e.V. "As an observer, one could not avoid the impression that the decision was fixed in advance, and the panel of judges wanted to regard the decision and André Shepherd's application for asylum entirely separately from the reality of the war in Iraq."
Attorney Reinhard Marx made it clear afterwards that he will prepare an appeal for his client.
Connection e.V. and PRO ASYL: Press Release, November 18, 2016