Emir Lenjinac entered the United States as a refugee, after Serbian forces burned his home to the ground and took several relatives prisoner during the Srebrenica massacre. Lenjinac later became a lawful permanent resident, but in 2010, pled guilty to dealing in cocaine. He was placed in removal proceedings, where he was eligible only for protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT) because of his conviction. His mother and brother testified in support of his application for protection under the CAT, describing fears that members of the military might kill Lenjinac because they previously killed other male family members during the civil war. Lenjinac testified that given his criminal history in the United States, he would likely be detained upon his return and tortured while in the Bosnian prison system.
The Immigration Judge initially granted his application for protection under the CAT, but the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) overturned that decision, finding that there was insufficient evidence that parties in Bosnia-Herzegovina retained an interest in harming Lenjinac or would torture him upon his return, or evidence that he would be imprisoned for the purpose of causing him pain and suffering,
Lenjinac appealed to the Seventh Circuit, arguing that the BIA misstated the applicable burden of proof by requiring him to prove “that authorities will imprison him in order to cause him pain and suffering.” The Seventh Circuit rejected this contention, finding that although the BIA may have used this phrase, it had considered all of the evidence in the record to determine if it was more likely than not (the proper standard for a CAT application) that Lenjinac would be tortured in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Lenjinac also argued that the fact that he is likely to be imprisoned or detained upon his return combined with evidence that torture is commonplace in Bosnian prisons satisfies his burden of proof. The Seventh Circuit disagreed. Although the court acknowledged the reports of life-threatening prison conditions and incidents of torture in Bosnian prisons, it determined that this evidence did not establish that it is more likely than not that Lenjinac would be tortured or abused; the court also noted that there was no evidence that these harsh prison conditions were intended to inflict pain or suffering on prisoners. Finally, neither Lenjinac’s familial losses during the Bosnian civil war, his heritage, nor his lack of home to return to, established that he would be more vulnerable to mistreatment than the general prison population.
The full text of Lenjinac v. Holder can be found here: http://media.ca7.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/rssExec.pl?Submit=Display&Path=Y2015/D03-17/C:14-1807:J:Bauer:aut:T:fnOp:N:1518299:S:0