Amnesty International says a European court ruling in favour of the right of three gay Africans to claim asylum in the EU does not go far enough.

On Thursday, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled the claimants, from Sierra Leone, Uganda and Senegal, had the right to apply for asylum in Denmark because they feared persecution in their home nations due to their sexual orientation. 

However, the ECJ said the mere existence of a ban on homosexuality is not grounds in itself for approving an asylum request.

Amnesty International argues that the presence of anti-gay laws can amount to fear of persecution in itself.

Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Amnesty International’s head of refugee and migrants’ rights, said: “The court skirted around the real issue in this case and missed a key opportunity to state clearly that to criminalise consensual same-sex conduct ultimately amounts to criminalising people for who they are”.

He concluded: “And therefore, amounts to persecution per se, regardless of how often sentences of imprisonment are enforced”.

Livio Zilli, senior legal adviser at the International Commission of Jurists, added: “The court should have found that these laws, even when they have not recently been applied in practice are capable of giving rise to a well-founded fear of persecution in lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, and who accordingly should be recognised as refugees when they apply for asylum”.