Supreme Court rules Shamima Begum cannot return to UK

Shamima Begum

The Supreme Court has ruled that Londoner Shamima Begum, who ran away to join ISIS at the age of 15, cannot return to the UK.

This morning Lord Reed ruled that the Court of Appeal, which had previously ruled that Begum should be allowed to return, was in error.

He said the Court of Appeal’s assessment of the threat to national security her return could pose did not give the Home Secretary’s assessment “the respect which it should have received, given that it is the Secretary of State who has been charged by Parliament with responsibility for making such assessments, and who is democratically accountable to Parliament for the discharge of that responsibility.”

He added that an individual’s right to have a fair appeal hearing does not prevail over the requirements of national security or the safety of the public.

In 2019, Begum was stripped of her British citizenship because she was “a British/Bangladeshi dual national who it is assessed has previously travelled to Syria and aligned with ISIL”, and that “[i]t is assessed that [her] return to the UK would present a risk to the national security of the [UK].”

The Home Secretary confirmed that his decision had been taken partly in reliance on information which, in his opinion, should not be made public in the interests of national security and in the public interest.

Ms Begum was at that time, and still is, being held at a camp in Syria by the Syrian Democratic Forces. On May 3, 2019, she made an application for leave to enter the UK in order to be able to pursue an appeal against the deprivation decision, and to avoid the risk of mistreatment.

Begum, from East London, and two other schoolgirls left the UK for Syria to join ISIS,  travelling via Turkey to ISIS headquarters in Raqqa, where she married a Dutch recruit.

She lived under ISIS rule for more than three years, and was found, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019. The baby later died of pneumonia and Ms Begum said she had previously lost two other children.

Shamima Begum says she wants forgiveness – but all she’s achieved after two years of battles over her citizenship is legal limbo.

Liberty, the human rights group which intervened in Ms Begum’s case, said the latest ruling sets “an extremely dangerous precedent.”

Rosie Brighouse, a lawyer with Liberty, 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.”

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