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Durham Law School

Staff Profiles

Publication details for Dr James A. Sweeney

Sweeney, James A. (2009). Credibility, Proof and Refugee Law. International Journal of Refugee Law 21(4): 700-726.

Author(s) from Durham


Assessing credibility is a legitimate and significant step in determining refugee status, but the term ‘credibility’ is employed with a range of descriptive intentions and legal consequences. It may be used loosely to express the strength of the case, or it may be given a very specific role in relation to the admissibility of the applicant's unsupported statements as evidence. By introducing some basic concepts from the law of evidence, the threshold of ‘credible’ can be set much lower than ‘proven’. It is shown that credible but unproven statements may play an important role in satisfying the standard of proof in asylum cases.
This article takes as its starting point the UK's ‘Asylum Policy Instruction’ (API) on credibility. APIs are statements of the government's asylum policy, and are followed by asylum ‘case owners’ and other decision makers. Although well-intentioned, the API runs the risk of confusing credibility and proof. In order to explore the issues of credibility and proof, this article analyses the API itself, the UK's primary legislation, Immigration Rules, and case law, EU law, and guidance provided by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR).