VICTORY! (for now): Shamima Begum cannot return to Britain from Syria to fight for citizenship

I didn’t think they would rule in this way but they did and we will take it.


Full article from the Times below…

Shamima Begum, the Bethnal Green schoolgirl who travelled to join the Islamic State, will not be allowed to return to Britain to fight the stripping of her citizenship, the Supreme Court has ruled.

Judges found that Begum’s right to a fair and effective appeal, by returning to the UK, did not trump other rights such as public safety.

Their ruling, released this morning, pointed to the government’s concerns that Begum, 21, remained a security threat.

Begum’s legal team had argued she could only have a “fair and effective” appeal if she was allowed to return to the UK because she could not properly participate in proceedings from the al-Roj camp in northeast Syria.

The former home secretary Sajid Javid revoked her British citizenship on national security grounds in February 2019 after The Times found Begum in a refugee camp in Syria.

Today’s ruling leaves Begum in limbo in the Kurdish-controlled camp although she is expected to continue the citizenship case. She does not have any travel documents.

The Supreme Court judgment presents a victory for home secretary Priti Patel, who vowed in September 2019 there was “no way” that Begum could come home.

Patel said today that the ruling had “reaffirmed the home secretary’s authority to make vital national security decisions”.

She added: “The government will always take the strongest possible action to protect our national security and our priority remains maintaining the safety and security of our citizens.”

Begum, who had three children, all of whom died, was 15 when she travelled to Syria from Bethnal Green in 2015. She had spent nearly four years with the terrorist regime and was initially unrepentant, saying she was unfazed when she saw a severed head in a bin. She has since asked for forgiveness.

The Home Office took her case to the country’s highest court after the Court of Appeal ruled last year that Begum should come home to fight the citizenship case.

James Eadie QC, for the Home Office, had claimed there was no guarantee Begum could be monitored by MI5 and it would expose the public to an “increased risk of terrorism”. He said it would create significant national security risks.

Lord Reed, the president of the Supreme Court who read out the judgment today, said the Court of Appeal did not give the security assessment the “respect” it should have received.

He said appeal judges were mistaken to believe that Begum’s right to a fair appeal hearing should prevail over “requirements of national security”.

“The right to a fair hearing does not trump all other considerations, such as the safety of the public. If a vital public interest makes it impossible for a case to be fairly heard, then the courts cannot ordinarily hear it. The appropriate response to the problem in the present case is for the deprivation appeal to be stayed until Ms Begum is in a position to play an effective part in it without the safety of the public being compromised. That is not a perfect solution, as it is not known how long it may be before that is possible. But there is no perfect solution to a dilemma of the present kind.”

The case has implications for more than 20 British or former British adults detained by Kurdish authorities in Syria, and their 35 children. Some were awaiting the Begum judgment before proceeding with their challenges over the deprivation of their citizenship at the Special Immigration and Appeals Commission.

Begum travelled to the Isis stronghold of Raqqa with two school friends, Kadiza Sultana, then 16, who died in a drone strike, and Amira Abase, then 15, whose family believes she is dead. Her citizenship was stripped on the basis that she would not be stateless as she could claim Bangladeshi citizenship through her parents.

Her lawyers had said that she could not play “any meaningful part” in her case from the refugee camp, which is controlled by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

In written submissions Lord Pannick outlined how detainees are not permitted visits from lawyers, or to speak with lawyers. Communications with Begum were not confidential or secure, were intermittent and unreliable, and would not allow detailed or confidential instructions to be taken on the national security case against her.

Liberty, the human rights group which joined the appeal, said today that stripping someone’s citizenship without due process undermined the rule of law and everyone’s right to a fair trial.

It pointed out that hundreds of people who returned from Syria had been safely managed by MI5.

Rosie Brighouse, Liberty’s lawyer, said: “The right to a fair trial is not something democratic governments should take away on a whim, and nor is someone’s British citizenship. If a government is allowed to wield extreme powers like banishment without the basic safeguards of a fair trial it sets an extremely dangerous precedent.

“The security services have safely managed the returns of hundreds of people from Syria, but the government has chosen to target Shamima Begum. This approach does not serve justice, it’s a cynical distraction from a failed counter-terror strategy and another example of this government’s disregard for access to justice and the rule of law.”

Javid said he strongly welcomed the ruling.

“The home secretary is responsible for the security of our citizens and borders, and therefore should have the power to decide whether anyone posing a serious threat to that security can enter our country.

“There are no simple solutions to this situation, but any restrictions of rights and freedoms faced by this individual are a direct consequence of the extreme actions that she and others have taken, in violation of government guidance and common morality.”