Rights court says NL undervalued mental illness in deportation

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg Photo: Dutch News

The European Court of Human Rights said on Tuesday the Dutch government was at fault for failing to give sufficient weight to a Moroccan man’s mental illness when immigration authorities revoked his residency permit in 2018.

The Strasbourg-based court found that Karim Azzaqui, who was convicted of rape in 1996, was trying to reintegrate into Dutch society after being released from a psychiatric clinic in 2016.

Azzaqui moved to the Netherlands with his father when he was ten. He had been convicted of multiple crimes, including theft and robbery, before he was sentenced to two years in jail for sexual assault. The court in Arnhem recommended TBS, a compulsory assessment and treatment for criminals with mental health problems.

The 51-year-old was held in a treatment facility for a decade before experts determined he could be released as he had consistently shown good behaviour.

In 2017, the foreign affairs ministry informed Azzaqui that his residency permit would be revoked and he couldn’t return to the Netherlands for 10 years, citing his criminal history.

The move violated his right to private life, as protected by the European Convention of Human Rights, the court said. “Little attention was paid to the issues concerning the applicant’s personal circumstances,” the seven judges wrote, criticising the Dutch for not considering his reduced culpability in the rape prosecution because of his mental illness.

The court also noted that immigration officials failed to consider the difficulties he might encounter in Morroco as a result of his mental health problems.

Azzaqui was sent back to a TBS clinic in 2019, citing the stress of the immigration proceedings as the cause for a breakdown in his mental health.

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