Boiata: Ignorance of a country’s background information does not excuse judges – ignorantia facti non excusat

by , under Boiata

There is an old legal maxim in latin that confirms the principal,  “ignorance of the law does not excuse” (ignorantia iuris non excusat). On the other hand there is a principle that the court or the judge has to know the law,  iura novit curia. One is entitled to expect that the judges know what they are doing and what laws they are applying to various cases. 

In asylum and immigration cases knowing the law is not enough. The judge has to take in consideration also the facts concerning the country where the asylum seeker is coming from. Does this sound reasonable? Let’s make an easy example. Every judge in Finland by now is well aware that in Iraq there is severe tension between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. (That was really easy.) But how many judges in Finland (or inspectors of the Finnish Immigration Service) know something about Iraqi tribal customs?

This is a really important question since the outcome of so many applications depend on it! As Finns, we have difficulties in understanding the tribal customs in Iraq and the decisions made by tribal leaders, also called Sheikhs. I suspect that many asylum applications handled by the Finnish Immigration Service and the Administrative Court of Helsinki are outright faulty because of the misleading thought: If it doesn’t happen in Finland, it cannot happen elsewhere.

…Well, I have news. People in Iraq don’t ask themselves if it is allowed, accepted or possible, or consider reasonable or logical in Finland.  It is not the custom that the Iraqi police is meddling in tribal affairs. Many a time one can read in a decision made by the Finnish Immigration Service that the decision or the document signed by the Sheikh is fake since it sounds illogical to a Finn.

One the most infuriating decisions that I have seen lately was taken by the Helsinki District Court. The judges claimed in this particular decision that the poor Iraqi woman  – who was harassed and threatened  by a Sheikh – should have made a complaint to the local police station in her country against her own tribe’s decision regarding honour crimes. (And thus her asylum application was rejected).

Well, the latter makes one really think. Where do they (immigration officers and judges) get their facts from? Didn’t they ever study Iraqi tribal customs? Either the judges really just wanted to deport the lady or they just didn’t understand the matter they were supposed to rule on. Both alternatives are really sad and alarming! And this example is just one among many of the same. Dear Judges, ignorantia facti non excusat!

For your knowledge, and for fairness’ sake, there are some really good judges but in these times they appear to be  minority.