Human Aid UK has accused the Charity Commission of undue scrutiny of Muslim charities after the regulator opened a statutory inquiry into the organisation due to what it calls “mismanagement and/or misconduct.”
The action comes after cash funds were seized by police from Human Aid UK workers at Heathrow Airport in July while they were on their way to deliver aid to Gaza.
Human Aid UK provides food and health provisions to needy in areas including Yemen, Syria and Gaza. It says it is preparing a legal challenge against UK border police after its aid workers were stopped under controversial Schedule 7 counter terrorism laws.
Schedule 7 allows UK Border Police to stop anyone to determine whether they are involved in planning terrorist acts. The powers do not require officers to have any reason for suspicion.
Responding to the Charity Commission statutory inquiry announcement, Human Aid UK said its trustees are concerned with this escalation, and whilst complying and working closely with the Charity Commission they are also taking legal advice on “challenging this undue scrutiny.”
Saghir Hussain, the solicitor representing Human Aid UK, said: “There will always be tension between the realpolitik of governments and the concerns of the humanitarian sector. The UK government has to act within its own limitations on Assad’s tyranny of his own people and Israel’s cruelty towards Palestine, especially the ongoing siege of Gaza. However, when concerned citizens take personal risks to help the people of Syria and Gaza, they should be applauded rather than be subjected to petty and coercive policies.”
Nur Choudhury, the chair of Human Aid UK added: “Human Aid UK itself has endured bank account closures, denial of service and a Commission inquiry that lasted in practise over five years. Despite these obstacles and challenges, we have continued to deliver the funds entrusted to us by donors in services and food and medical provisions for needy people around the world.”
In a press statement on Monday the Charity Commission said that on July 9, 2019 charitable funds were seized by the police during a “port stop” from individuals carrying cash on behalf of the charity.
“Cash couriering is a live risk in the wider charity sector and of regulatory interest to the Commission. The Commission’s regulatory advice, issued in 2017, cautions against cash couriering,” the Commission said.
“As a result of regulatory concerns the Commission opened a statutory inquiry into Human Aid UK on 2 August 2019. As a temporary and protective measure, the inquiry has exercised its power to restrict the trustees from certain cash transactions in order to protect the charity’s property.”
The charity was previously under inquiry in 2014 due to concerns regarding its governance and finances.
The inquiry is examining:
- The trustees’ management and administration of the charity, including their compliance with both charity law and the law as it relates to the charity and its administration; and
- The charity’s governance, adherence to policies and procedures, use of partners and monitoring and verification of overseas expenditure.