Izevbekhai Supreme Court Appeal to be Heard Next Year
Thursday saw the latest installment in the long-running case of Pamela Izevbekhai (pictured above). Ms Izevbekhai first sought asylum in 2005 on the basis that her two young daughters Naomi and Jemima were at risk of female genital mutilation in their home country of Nigeria. See here and here for information on female genital mutilation and refugee law. Ms. Izevbekhai says that her eldest daughter Elizabeth bled to death as a result of the practice. The Times gives further details of the story here. A documentary on the case is on Youtube and details of a grassroots campaign in support of the Izevbekhais are here. Amnesty International, Residents Against Racism, the NWCI, Fine Gael, The Rape Crisis Centre and the Children’s Rights Alliance, have all at various points expressed support for the family.
Ms. Izevbekhai has been through the asylum process and her application has been rejected. In I v. MJELR  IEHC 23 Ms. Izevbekhai asked the High Court to quash the deportation orders made by the Minister on foot of his decision to deport her and her daughters. The High Court failed to find any basis for judicial review and refused to quash the order. Ms. Izevbekhai has appealed to the Supreme Court. The State has brought a motion to have her appeal struck out on the grounds that fraudulent statements were made in her original High Court actions. The State sets out that a death certificate and medical documents used by her to evidence the death of her daughter Elizabeth’s death as a result of female circumcision were forgeries. Ms Izevbekhai represented herself on Thursday after her fourth set of lawyers sought to withdraw from the case, apparently because they had received certain threats, which are reportedly the latest in a series made to Ms. Izevbekhai and her supporters. A fifth legal team will take up her case in time for next year. Maeve Sheehan reported on this week’s Supreme Court proceedings in the Independent here. Ms Izevbekhai plans to rely on alternative documents in the course of her appeal. Her position is that while the documents were forged (she insists that her husband obtained them without her knowledge) the facts that they were used to prove are true. A series of conflicting media interviews with men claiming to be the doctor who attended Ms. Izevbekhai at the time of her daughter’s death have further muddied the waters in this respect, as has the Nigerian government’s much-disputed claim that female genital mutilation is unknown in Nigeria. The State has insisted on engaging with the case to the full extent permitted by the law, on the basis that Mrs Izevbekhai has engaged in ‘deception’ and has abused the asylum process. On Thursday, the Chief Justice ruled that due to the volume of cases waiting to be heard by the court, her appeal could not be given the priority being sought by lawyers for the State. It will be heard next year.