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Credibility assessment is often the single most important step in determining whether people seeking protection as refugees can be returned to countries where they say they are in danger of serious human rights violations. Despite its importance, credibility-based decisions in refugee and asylum cases are frequently based on personal judgment that is inconsistent from one adjudicator to the next, unreviewable on appeal, and potentially influenced by cultural misunderstandings. Some of the people who need protection most are especially likely to have trouble convincing decision-makers that they should be believed.

This article sets out principles, standards, and criteria drawn from international refugee law that should govern credibility assessments. It argues that adjudicators making credibility decisions should rely on concrete factors and analysis. It proposes a framework for analyzing an individual’s testimony to give credibility findings a more reliable, reviewable, and objective basis. Finally, this article argues that appellate tribunals should review how first instance decision-makers make credibility assessments.

Publication Citation

17:3 Geo. Immigr. L.J. 367 (2003).