When it decided that Shamima Begum, who was just 15 when she fled to Syria to join the Islamic State (ISIS), could not return to Britain to contest the government’s deprivation of her citizenship, the UK supreme court decided legal action and dealt a stunning blow to justice. Despite the Supreme Court’s acknowledgment that her detention in northeast Syria precluded a fair hearing, she was nonetheless denied a hearing.
Instead, the supreme court judgment that her due process rights must be temporarily suspended until she can participate “effectively in her appeal without endangering the public’s safety.” Still, it did not specify a timeframe and left the choice to the government. Begum is now locked in an unjust detention facility in northeastern Syria where thousands of people are in appalling conditions that constitute torture or cruel treatment.
Table of Contents
Who is Shamima Begum?
Ms. Begum was born to Bangladeshi-born parents in the UK. She and two other schoolgirls traveled from the UK to Syria when she was 15 to join IS. Shamima Begum traveled via Turkey to the IS’s Raqqa headquarters, where she married a recruit from the Netherlands.
She was discovered in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019 when nine months pregnant after more than three years of living under the control of IS. Later, the infant died from pneumonia, and Ms. Begum revealed that she had already lost two other children.
Ms. Begum sometimes referred to as the “ISIS bride,” left the United Kingdom when she was 15 years old to go to Syria and wed an ISIS fighter. The decision to strip Shamima Begum of her British citizenship, which she has held since her birth in the UK, was made by Home Secretary Sajid Javid on February 19. The decision was made because Shamima Begum was protected from statelessness by her parent’s Bangladeshi citizenship and the ruling served the greater good.
Three legal arguments have been brought together to oppose the Supreme Court’s ruling. One related to a judgment rendered by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, a body that adjudicates immigration matters raising concerns about national security. The deprivation decision was not issued in violation of the government’s human rights policy, according to SIAC, and even if Ms. Begum was unable to have a fair and effective hearing, her appeal did not necessarily follow as a result.
The evaluation of deprivation
Ms. Begum was stripped of her citizenship because, as she held dual citizenship with Bangladesh and the United Kingdom, doing so would not make her stateless. There are two deprivation tests in UK law. The test for deciding whether to deport an international law under Section 3(5) of the Immigration Act of 1971 also applies to dual nationals, including those born in the United Kingdom, as stated in Section 40(2) of the British Nationality Act of 1981.
A stricter standard for deprivation is required under section 40(4A) of the 1981 Act for those who would become stateless, but, essential and absolute importance for Ms. Begum, only persons who became British citizens as adults can be stripped of their citizenship were doing so leads to statelessness.
The Immigration and Asylum Chambers
The Immigration and Asylum Chambers of the tribunals hear appeals in immigration cases first. The Secretary of State, however, has the authority to redirect patients to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission regarding national security matters. The Secretary of State determines that the facts in the case should not be made public.
The appellant and their legal team cannot examine the evidence against them in the bizarre world of the Commission’s closed material procedures. At the same time, the Special Advocate assigned by the Court can see the evidence but cannot speak with the individual or their legal team after seeing it.
The Home Office guided how to deal with British citizens with children attempting to return from Syria in its 2018 Counter-Terrorism Strategy, which is eerily similar to Shamima Begum’s case. The procedure it outlines suggests a restricted return to the UK and a review of whether the person should be held accountable for any criminal behavior they may have undertaken while in Syria. Ms. Begum’s case was not handled according to this protocol.
The ability to eliminate nationality has led to the creation of a selective punishment. It is forbidden to take away someone’s race if doing so would make them stateless (without nationality). This means that someone with British ancestry could never lose their British citizenship. Shamima Begum is the sole person who could be subject to the restriction because her parents are Bangladeshis, making it possible for her to seek Bangladeshi nationality. She has never owned a passport from Bangladesh.
What led to the Supreme Court hearing the case?
According to the British Nationality Act of 1981, the individual impacted by the Home Secretary’s use of his authority to strip British nationals of their citizenship—which is allowed in certain circumstances—has a right to appeal. As per her legal right, Ms. Begum attempted to appeal this decision before the Special Immigration Appeal Commission (SIAC). The Home Secretary was authorized to revoke Shamima Begum’s citizenship, according to the SIAC’s decision, which was against her.
Ms. Begum appealed the decision to strip her of her citizenship in July 2020. The Court of Appeal determined that because she could not give instructions to her attorneys or participate in any proceedings, she did not have a proper and effective appeal. Ms. Begum must be permitted to return to the UK to exercise her right to challenge the decision to strip her of her nationality, the Court ruled.
The Supreme Court heard an appeal about this ruling on November 23–24, 2020, and issued its judgment on February 26, 2021.
The Special Immigration Appeals Commission’s rulings The decision to strip Ms. Begum of her British citizenship was challenged.
The Special Immigration Appeals Commission received the appeal as required. On February 7, 2020, the Commission determined that Shamima Begum was a citizen of Bangladesh and that the deprivation had not rendered her stateless. Despite claims to the contrary from the Bangladeshi administration. The Supreme Court was not presented with this issue.
The decisions of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission
Ms. Begum lost on this preliminary issue before the Commission; the Supreme Court was not involved. No meaningful appeal against deprivation was made; Shamima Begum was unsuccessful in this preliminary matter before the Commission, filed a judicial review, and lost in the Divisional Court. She appealed, but the Supreme Court ruled against her.
Breach of the extraterritorial human rights council:
Ms. Begum lost the preliminary case before the Commission on this issue, but she filed a legal challenge and prevailed in the Divisional Court. The Supreme Court dismissed Ms. Begum’s appeal after the Secretary of State filed one.
Ms. Begum appealed the denial of her request for entry;
She was unsuccessful before the Commission but successful before the Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court ruled against Ms. Begum after the Secretary of State appealed.
The legal appeal of denying permission to enter:
Ms. Begum won at the Court of Appeal but lost in the High Administrative Court. The Supreme Court ruled against Shamima Begum after the Secretary of State appealed.
What was the subject of the Supreme Court case?
The Supreme Court thought on the following three issues:
- Should Shamima Begum be permitted to travel to the UK so she can file a petition to challenge the decision to strip her of her British citizenship?
- Did the Special Immigration Appeals Commission evaluate Shamima Begum’s earlier appeal using the correct standards?
- Should Shamima Begum’s appeal against losing her citizenship be successful if she is denied permission to visit the UK?
Why is this case important?
A decision to strip someone of their citizenship alters their life forever. For anybody impacted by this decision to be able to confirm that the law made it, there must be a right to a fair and effective appeal.
Everyone must be given a fair hearing, which is especially important to remember when decisions involving individuals raised and recruited by an armed group. Shamima Begum was 15 years old when a terrorist group recruited her. She should not have been allowed to leave the country in the first place since the British government is responsible for safeguarding children from being targeted and recruited by these organizations.
Because the British government failed to protect her and left her in Syria indefinitely, this incident occurred. All of this shows how significant it would be for Shamima Begum to be determined to be stateless. It also demonstrates what a horrible muddle the legislation that the Supreme Court was interpreting has become.
Despite the support of outstanding legal teams, the experienced Court of Appeal had made several legal errors. It is improbable that anyone could negotiate such complexity if they were stripped of their citizenship and prevented from returning to the UK to fight this.
The ruling is challenging to read and comprehend in terms of content. However disappointed you may be, try to comprehend what went wrong. The main focus of this narrative is on how the UK government has restricted the courts to debating specific, technical issues, with the Supreme Court’s rulings coming in a distant second