Non-refoulement, or Nonreturn


Non-refoulement, also known as nonreturn, is a principle of international law that prohibits the expulsion, deportation, or return of individuals to a country where they may face persecution, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, or other serious human rights violations. It is a fundamental principle of refugee and human rights law and is widely recognized and protected under various international and regional human rights instruments.

The principle of non-refoulement is rooted in the idea that every individual has the right to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution. It is embodied in several international legal instruments, including the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, which define the rights and status of refugees. Article 33(1) of the Refugee Convention specifically prohibits the expulsion or return of refugees to territories where their life or freedom would be threatened based on race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.

Non-refoulement applies not only to refugees but also to other individuals who may be at risk of serious human rights violations if returned to their home countries, such as victims of torture, human trafficking, or other forms of persecution.

The principle of non-refoulement is considered customary international law, meaning it is binding on all states, regardless of whether they have ratified specific international treaties. It is also considered a jus cogens norm, a peremptory norm of international law that cannot be derogated from or overridden by any other legal provision.

States are obligated to respect and adhere to the principle of non-refoulement and provide individuals with the opportunity to present their case for protection. They are also required to assess the individual’s claims in a fair and effective manner to determine whether the person is at risk of persecution or serious harm if returned to their country of origin. If such a risk is identified, the individual should be granted protection, which may include refugee status, subsidiary protection, or other appropriate forms of legal stay.

In summary, non-refoulement, or nonreturn, is a crucial principle of international law that safeguards individuals from being expelled or returned to a country where they may face persecution or serious human rights violations. It is a fundamental aspect of refugee protection and human rights and reflects the international community’s commitment to upholding the dignity and safety of individuals fleeing persecution.

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