Shamima Begum should be allowed to challenge citizenship case, says human rights lawyer

Watch: Shamima Begum should be allowed to challenge citizenship case, says human rights lawyer

Shamima Begum should be allowed to challenge the removal of her British citizenship, a human rights lawyer has said.

On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that the 21-year-old cannot return to the UK to pursue an appeal.

Ms Begum was 15 when she and two other east London schoolgirls travelled to Syria to join the so-called Islamic State group (IS) in February 2015.

Her British citizenship was revoked on national security grounds by then home secretary Sajid Javid shortly after she was found in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019.

Read more: Shamima Begum's return to UK would be 'significant national security risk'

Last week’s ruling was backed by the government, with chancellor Rishi Sunak calling it “the right decision”.

However, Adam Wagner, a human rights barrister at Doughty Street Chambers in London, said Ms Begum is entitled to contest the removal of her citizenship.

Shamima Begum lost a Supreme Court ruling over her citizenship last week. (BBC)
Shamima Begum lost a Supreme Court ruling over her citizenship last week. (BBC)

In an interview with ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Monday, he said: “She’s done some terrible things, going out to fight for a foreign army which is against everything we stand for.

“The things she’s said are despicable. But this really comes down to due process.

“She’s not been charged with a crime. She’s not been convicted of a crime. What is at issue here is whether if someone has their citizenship taken away, should they be able to challenge that.

“If everything is right and the secretary of state has made the right decision then there’s no risk, but what if he’s wrong?

“What if he has rendered her stateless, which is against international law? She has to have the opportunity to challenge that as any British citizen should have.

“She was born here, she was raised here, she has no other citizenship.”

Ms Begum, who is currently in a refugee camp in Syria, was filmed by ITV News walking silently after learning of the Supreme Court decision.

In 2019, she said in interviews she had been “brainwashed by IS” and that she was being “punished because I’m famous”.

In another interview, she said the Manchester Arena bombing had been “justified”.

Last July, the Court of Appeal ruled that “the only way in which she can have a fair and effective appeal is to be permitted to come into the United Kingdom to pursue her appeal”.

Shamima Begum went to Syria to join IS when she was 15. (PA)
Shamima Begum went to Syria to join IS when she was 15. (PA)

But the Home Office challenged that decision at the Supreme Court in November, arguing that allowing her to return to the UK “would create significant national security risks” and expose the public to “an increased risk of terrorism”.

On Friday, the court ruled that Ms Begum should not be granted leave to enter the UK to pursue her appeal.

Announcing the decision, Lord Reed, president of the Supreme Court, said: “The right to a fair hearing does not trump all other considerations, such as the safety of the public.”

Read more: Shamima Begum should return to UK to face justice, says London mayor Sadiq Khan

Home secretary Priti Patel said: “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.”

Javid, who took the decision to revoke Ms Begum’s citizenship, said: “I strongly welcome the Supreme Court’s ruling on Shamima Begum.

BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE Handout file still taken from CCTV issued by the Metropolitan Police of (left to right) 15-year-old Amira Abase, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Shamima Begum, 15, at Gatwick airport in February 2015. Shamima Begum will find out if she can potentially return to the UK to pursue an appeal against the removal of her British citizenship when the Supreme Court rules on her case. Issue date: Friday February 26, 2021.
Shamima Begum, far right, was 15 when she flew out of Gatwick Airport near London in February 2015 to join IS. (PA)

“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.”

On Sunday, Sunak told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge: “I’m glad the Supreme Court has made the decision that they have. I think that’s the way it should be.

“I think the Supreme Court has supported what the government was trying to do and I’m glad that it has. I think that it is the right decision in this case that we’ve been able to reach.”

Watch: Shamima Begum silent after learning she can't return to UK