Expert medico-legal reports: The relationship between levels of consistency and judicial outcomes in asylum seekers in the Netherlands

  • Rembrant Aarts ARQ psychotrauma expert group
  • Lennard van Wanrooij Foundation Centrum ’45, Diemen, The Netherlands
  • Evert Bloemen Pharos, Dutch Centre of Expertise on Health Disparities
  • Geert Smid Foundation Centrum ’45
Keywords: Asylum seekers, refugees, torture, legal medicine, post-traumatic stress disorder, Istanbul Protocol

Abstract

Introduction: If asylum applicants need to prove that they have been persecuted in their home country, expert judgment of the psychological and physical consequences of torture may support the judicial process. Expert medico-legal reports can be used to assess whether the medical complaints of the asylum seeker are consistent with their asylum account. It is unclear which factors influence medical expert judgement about the consistency between an asylum seeker’s symptoms and story, and to what extent expert medico-legal reports are associated with judicial outcomes. Methods: We analysed 97 medico-legal reports on traumatised asylum seekers in the Netherlands. First, we evaluated the impact of trauma-related and other variables on experts’ judgments of the consistency of symptoms and story. Second, we evaluated the effect of experts’ judgments of symptom-story consistency on subsequent judicial outcomes. Results: Gender, receipt of mental health care and trauma-related variables were associated with symptomstory consistency. Positive asylum decisions were predicted by expert judgments about the presence of physical signs and symptoms of torture, and ill-treatment and their consistency with the refugee’s story, but not psychological symptoms. Conclusion: These results suggest that standardised procedures for the documenting of medical evidence by independent experts can improve judicial decision quality and the need to improve psychological and psychiatric assessments.

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Published
2019-05-22
How to Cite
Aarts, R., Wanrooij, L., Bloemen, E., & Smid, G. (2019). Expert medico-legal reports: The relationship between levels of consistency and judicial outcomes in asylum seekers in the Netherlands. Torture Journal, 29(1), 36-46. https://doi.org/10.7146/torture.v29i1.111205