The Individual Right to Asylum Under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights

International law does not recognize an individual right to be granted asylum. The emergence of a variant of such a right under the European Convention on Human Rights, albeit under limited conditions, therefore marks a major departure from customary law, a departure particularly noteworthy given that the parties to the Convention represent some of the most advanced legal systems in the world. The recognition of a right to asylum not only establishes a valuable precedent, but also has a direct impact on the status of refugees in Europe. Although no right of entry is provided, aliens already in countries of refuge in Europe are now protected from forced return to countries where their fundamental human rights might be denied. To appreciate the significance of such a development, the right recognized by the Commission, limited as it is, must be evaluated with three objectives in mind: to examine how the doctrine evolved through the decisions of the European Commission of Human Rights, to isolate the substantive features of the doctrine, and finally to identify limits to future applications of the doctrine. Before exploring the content and ramifications of the asylum decisions of the Commission, however, it is necessary to understand the role of the Commission in the enforcement of the European Convention on Human Rights.