Pygmy woman offered asylum retrial in Dublin court after ‘fetish priestess’ ordeal

Ireland's four courts: Pygmy woman offered asylum retrial in Dublin court after ‘fetish priestess’ ordeal

A pygmy woman who claims she was ordered to become a fetish priestess in Botswana is to take a new case to remain as an asylum seeker in Ireland.

The 34-year-old has been granted leave to mount the new legal challenge by Dublin’s High Court.

The Irish Times reports that woman claims she had to flee Botswana because she refused to train for a tribal role known as a ‘fetish priestess’ in her village.

She has now been given the go-ahead to bring a new legal challenge to a decision refusing her protection in Ireland.

The report says the woman is a pygmy and Pentecostal Christian. She told the court that it would be contrary to her beliefs to become a fetish priestess.

She explained the fetish priestess is a figure who seeks the favour of the god of a fetish shrine by offering money, liquor, animals and, in some places, human sex slaves.

Her claim says the elders of her village had insisted she become a fetish priestess at 30 when she was taken to local caves.

The paper reports that the woman escaped when the elders went to gather roots for the induction ceremony.

She first travelled to Botswana capital Gaborone and stayed with an aunt before village elders and family insisted she return.

She then flew to Britain but was refused entry and returned to Botswana. The woman arrived in Ireland in January 2009.

The Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner turned down her initial application for asylum after finding her claims lacked credibility.

An appeal was rejected by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal and the Minister for Justice made a deportation order in January 2011 which she challenged in the High Court.

The court refused judicial review and also refused a certificate for leave to appeal that decision to the Supreme Court.

The Irish Times says that, following a European Court of Justice decision in 2011 in a separate case, the woman brought further proceedings arguing that an EU court decision allowed her bring a new challenge to the Minister’s refusal of subsidiary protection.

She claimed the European decision meant her lawyers should be allowed argue there must be an independent assessment of her credibility before refusing subsidiary protection.

Justice Gerard Hogan has now granted leave to bring a new case based on the subsidiary protection issue and ruled she was entitled to rely on the decision in the separate European Court case.