Shamima Begum not allowed to return to UK, Supreme Court rules

Katie Ramirez
February 26, 2021

The UK Supreme Court ruled Friday that Shamima Begum, who left London as a teen to join the Islamic State in Syria, can not return to the United Kingdom to fight the British government's decision to revoke her citizenship.

Announcing the decision, Lord Reed said: "The Supreme Court unanimously allows all of the Home Secretary's appeals and dismisses Ms Begum's cross-appeal".

The government stripped the Londoner of her citizenship, citing security grounds, after she was found in a detention camp for suspected IS members and their families in Syria by a journalist from the Times newspaper.

Begum, 21, who is being held in a detention camp in Syria, was stripped her of her British citizenship in 2019 but the Court of Appeal previously agreed she could only have a fair appeal of that decision if she were allowed back to Britain.

Britain's Court of Appeal ruled last July that Begum could return to Britain to fight a legal battle over her citizenship.

The Home Office subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court to reconsider the Court of Appeal's judgement, arguing that allowing her to return to the United Kingdom "would create significant national security risks".

On Friday, Lord Reed, president of the Supreme Court, said the government had been entitled to prevent Ms Begum from returning to the UK.

Begum is of Bangladeshi heritage but the country's foreign minister has said he will not consider granting her citizenship.

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But while the commission noted that Begum's appeal would not necessarily succeed, it also said that because of her status living under armed guard in the Al-Roj camp run by the Syrian Democratic Forces, her appeal process could not be seen as fair or effective.

"That is not a flawless solution, as it is not known how long it may be before that is possible", the court stated.

The government's barrister Sir James Eadie QC said the home secretary believed Shamima Begum posed a real threat.

"The Court of Appeal's approach did not give the Secretary of State'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", the judgment said.

Her legal team argued that this did not override the need for a fair hearing. Her two other children also died in infancy under IS rule.

The human rights group Liberty said the court's ruling sets "an extremely unsafe precedent".

"If a government is allowed to wield extreme powers like banishment without the basic safeguards of a fair trial it sets an extremely unsafe precedent". Shortly after arriving in the Islamic State capital of Raqqa, then-15-year-old Begum married a Dutch militant. She was nine months pregnant at the time.

Begum's baby subsequently died about three weeks after birth in the camp, which is located in the far northeast of Syria near the borders with Turkey and Iraq.

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