378 F.3d 361 (4th Cir. 2004), 03-1435, Camara v. Ashcroft

Docket Nº:03-1435
Citation:378 F.3d 361
Party Name:Camara v. Ashcroft
Case Date:August 06, 2004
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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378 F.3d 361 (4th Cir. 2004)

Djenaba CAMARA, Petitioner,

v.

John ASHCROFT, in his official capacity as Attorney General of the United States, Respondent.

No. 03-1435.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

August 6, 2004

Page 362

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 363

ARGUED:

Christopher James Flack, Arnold & Porter, L.L.P., Washington, D.C., for Petitioner. Catherine Yvonne Hancock, Civil Division, Appellate Staff, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., for Respondent.

ON BRIEF:

Susan G. Lee, Paul S. Feira, W. Daniel Deane, Arnold & Porter, L.L.P., Washington, D.C., for Petitioner. Peter D. Keisler, Assistant Attorney General, Thomas M. Bondy, Colette G. Matzzie, Civil Division, Appellate Staff, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., for Respondent.

Before WILKINS, Chief Judge, and NIEMEYER and TRAXLER, Circuit Judges.

Petition for Review granted and agency order and decision vacated and remanded by published opinion. Judge NIEMEYER wrote the opinion, in which Chief Judge WILKINS and Judge TRAXLER joined.

OPINION

NIEMEYER, Circuit Judge:

Djenaba Camara's claims for asylum under 8 U.S.C. § 1158(b), for withholding of removal under 8 U.S.C. § 1231(b)(3), and for relief under the United Nations Convention Against Torture were denied based on the Immigration Judge's finding that Camara's testimony was not credible. Because the Immigration Judge failed to consider other, independent evidence presented by Camara and applied the incorrect standard for relief under the Convention Against Torture, we grant Camara's Petition for Review, vacate the order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (as well as the Immigration Judge's decision, inasmuch as it was made the final agency determination), and remand for further proceedings.

I

Djenaba Camara, a 34-year-old Guinean national, entered the United States on a tourist visa on April 22, 2000, stating that she was coming to attend a wedding but actually intending to seek asylum here. On August 2, 2000, she filed a Form I-589 with the INS,1 applying for asylum and for withholding of removal, stating that she was eligible for asylum "because [she] was raped, arrested, imprisoned and tortured on several occasions in [her] home country for being politically active in the opposition party ... RPG." Camara also applied for relief under Article 3 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading

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Treatment or Punishment, which was implemented by § 2242 of the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998, Pub.L. No. 105-277, Div. G, 112 Stat. 2681, 822 (Oct. 21, 1998) (codified at 28 U.S.C. § 1231 note) ("Convention Against Torture" or "CAT"). Camara attached to her application for asylum numerous documents, including a personal statement of her circumstances, her membership card for the RPG, a warrant for her arrest that led to her imprisonment, a warrant for her arrest following her escape from prison, and official statements about the political conditions in Guinea. Camara's application was referred to the Immigration Court by the INS.

At her asylum hearing, Camara testified that she was a member of a political party known as the "Rassemblement du peuple de Guinee" (Rally of the Guinean People) ("RPG"), which not only is a political party but also is composed mostly of the Malinke ethnic group to which Camara belongs. The government is composed of members of the Soussou ethnicity. Camara claimed that, because of her participation in activities of the RPG, she was arrested, imprisoned and tortured on three separate occasions, beginning in 1993.

Camara testified that her first arrest was in 1993 for demonstrating with students, after which she was imprisoned at the Central Prison in Kankan, Guinea, for two weeks. She asserted that she was "beaten every day, every morning" and that because she did not have money to bribe the guards, they would not release her unless she had sex with one of them. Eventually, she said that she decided to do so and was released.

She testified that she was imprisoned a second time, in 1996, after an unsuccessful coup d'état. On this occasion, she said that she was taken to Camp Alpha Yaya in Conakry, Guinea, a military camp, where she was accused of having participated in the coup attempt. She testified that she was detained a little over a month at Camp Alpha Yaya and again beaten on the hands and the feet in order to extract a confession. When the government, however, determined that the RPG had not organized the coup d'état, Camara was released.

Camara testified that her third imprisonment followed the Guinean presidential election on December 14, 1998. On the day after the election and before the votes were counted, incumbent President Lansana Conté had several opposition leaders arrested, including Alpha Condé, the leader of the RPG. In response to President Conté's interference with the election and the imprisonment of Condé, the women of the RPG organized protest marches, in which some women marched naked. Camara presented a Canadian article describing a protest march that took place on December 21, 1998, but she stated that she participated in a march on December 28, 1998. Following this demonstration, on January 2, 1999, a warrant for Camara's arrest was issued, and on January 5 Camara was arrested and taken to Camp Alpha Yaya, where she spent two weeks before being transferred to the Central Prison of Conakry. After four months at the Central Prison, Camara was transferred back to Camp Alpha Yaya for another seven months. Her imprisonment totaled 11 months, during which she claimed that she was beaten, tortured, and raped. She also stated that she miscarried a pregnancy during this detention. (In her personal statement accompanying her Form I-589, however, she had described this miscarriage in detail as happening during her 1996 imprisonment at Camp Alpha Yaya.) After her husband bribed officials and contacted an underground member of the RPG, who was also a police commissioner, a guard allowed Camara to

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escape from Camp Alpha Yaya on December 23, 1999. Camara provided a copy of an official document giving notice of her escape and a "search warrant" directing that she be found, apprehended, and brought to the Central Prison in Conakry.

Camara provided evidence of several incidents following her escape that revealed that government officials were seeking to rearrest her. In the last of these incidents, the military broke into the home of a friend to search for her, and the friend died of a stroke. After that incident, Camara decided that she would have to leave Guinea. The police commissioner who had helped Camara escape from prison in December 1999 also helped her leave the country, telling her that if she knew anyone at the District Court, she should go to that person and have him obtain copies of various papers to show that she had been persecuted by the government. Her mother's cousin worked at the District Court, and Camara engaged the cousin to obtain copies of her original arrest warrant, her notice of escape, and the warrant for her arrest following her escape.

In the application form she filed with the INS, Camara stated that she had no children, despite the fact that she had left two children in Guinea with her grandmother. She testified at her hearing before the IJ that the reason she lied about her children on the asylum application was that she had received advice from a Guinean friend who had been in the United States longer than she had. He told her to say that she had no children on her initial asylum application because if she admitted to having children, "the Immigration Service would consider [her] a bad mother for having left [her] children there." She supported this explanation at the hearing with a detailed affidavit from the friend who had wrongly advised her.

Camara also presented the testimony of an expert psychologist who specialized in evaluating and treating torture victims. He termed Camara "highly credible" and stated, "I know she's a victim of torture.... [I]t's not just the reporting, it's that her symptoms are so pervasive...

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