THE MICHIGAN GUIDELINES ON RISK
FOR REASONS OF POLITICAL OPINION
The Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (“Convention”) recognizes as refugees those who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted on the basis of inter alia “political opinion,” are unable or unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of their home country.
State practice acknowledges that protection based on “political opinion” should not be limited to those individuals at risk by reason of their views about partisan politics. Beyond this, the absence of an authoritative definition of “political opinion” in either the Convention or international law more generally has allowed interpretive inconsistencies to emerge, both within and among jurisdictions. Further complicating the search for a consistent approach is a lack of clarity about how best to ensure that the social and political context of the country of origin is meaningfully taken into account in assessing the existence of a “political opinion.”
With a view to promoting a shared understanding of the proper interpretation of “political opinion” within the context of Article 1(A)(2) of the Convention, we have engaged in sustained collaborative study and reflection on relevant norms and state practice. Our research was debated and refined at the Seventh Colloquium on Challenges in International Refugee Law, convened in March 2015 by the University of Michigan’s Program in Refugee and Asylum Law. These Guidelines are the product of that endeavor, and reflect the consensus of Colloquium participants on how best to interpret “political opinion” in a manner that ensures both fidelity to international law and the continuing vitality of the Convention. Continue reading