Aid worker Tox Sharif boycotts British “secret” court

Tox Sharif

A British human rights worker in Syria who had his passport stripped from him has said he will boycott the controversial legal process over his citizenship removal.

Tauqir “Tox” Sharif said there was no chance of a fair trial in the partially secret Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) courts, and he does not want to be party to a process that “only reinforces this oppression.”

He is also calling on all people facing a similar situation, and especially lawyers, to boycott the SIAC courts which he says only serves as a rubber stamp to government decisions rather than a mechanism to deliver justice.

Sharif, who is currently stranded in Idlib, Syria, is believed to be the first person to boycott the secretive citizenship legal process. SIAC deals with appeals from people deported by the Home Secretary and is usually related to matters of national security. SIAC also hears the cases of people deprived of British citizenship.

At the court an appellant is represented by a special advocate who is a person vetted by the Security Service. The advocate is not at liberty to disclose any details of the state’s case to the defendant, so an individual cannot see or challenge the evidence being used against them.

Commenting on his decision Tauqir “Tox” Sharif, said: “The life saving work I do today was inspired by what I believe are the British values of compassion and doing good for others. But the British Government has made it a crime to care and rendered me stateless.

Tauqir Sharif in Syria

“The SIAC and special advocate system which reinforces it is an affront to justice. Not being able to see, let alone challenge the evidence used against me, made me realise very quickly that there would be absolutely no chance of a fair trial.

“These courts cannot exist in a country which respects any semblance of due process. I hope my actions will inspire others who are facing a similar situation, and lawyers who believe in due process to also boycott the SIAC and not be complicit in it’s injustice.”

Moazzam Begg, Outreach director for CAGE added: “I have known Tauqir ‘Tox’ Sharif since we first travelled together on an aid mission to Syria in 2012. He’s been there since and has dedicated his life to helping the Syrian people – after making great personal sacrifice. Part of that sacrifice has been the loss of his citizenship which was revoked by a government that, instead of recognising his service to humanity, chose to punish him on the basis of secret evidence in the SIAC courts.

“These courts have a history of making decisions on the basis of ‘closed evidence’ which cannot be reasonably seen let alone challenged. Government-appointed ‘special advocates’ at SIAC can never properly represent people like Tox and instead perpetuate the cycle of discrimination and injustice that has become so prevalent over the past two decades.”

Sharif, who is from East London, moved to Syria seven years ago with his wife and currently works for an aid distribution charity in Idlib.

In 2017, the Home Office removed his British citizenship, saying it had seen secret intelligence and believed he had links to a group aligned with al-Qaeda. Mr Sharif denies the links and called the decision “unfair” and “racist.”

The Home Office says any decision to deprive someone of their citizenship was based “on all available evidence and not taken lightly.”

As Mr Sharif is entitled to Pakistani nationality through his father, the UK government was allowed to deprive him of his British citizenship as he would not become stateless.

Mr Sharif’s wife is British, as are their five children who have all been born in Syria since they moved there. The couple have been unable to obtain passports for their children.

Around 150 dual nationals have had their British citizenship removed by the Home Office to date.

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