Begum denied fair hearing because of Syrian refugee camp, court told

Shamima Begum. Pic : BBC

Shamima Begum was unable to have a fair court hearing against her loss of British citizenship because of the circumstances under which she continues to live, her lawyers argued today.

On the second and final day of Begum’s Supreme Court hearing Lord Pannick QC, representing the former Bethnal Green schoolgirl said: “There is a fundamental difference between difficulties appealing abroad and a case like this where a person does not have the ability to have a meaningful appeal.”

Lord Pannick explained that the Syrian camp where she is currently detained does not allow detainees to use their phones. The camp has also denied access to lawyers, making communication extremely difficult.

Tom Hickman QC, who also represents Begum, highlighted the risks that Begum faces as a result of the deprivation of her citizenship.“We say that the deprivation of citizenship would give rise to a real risk of transfer to Iraq where there would be risk of mistreatment or death.”

Begum could also potentially be transferred to Bangladesh, where she holds dual nationality. This would be equally dangerous as the foreign minister has previously threatened the death penalty for terrorism. Alternatively, Begum may remain in poor conditions in detention in Syria for a longer period of time than if she was a British citizen.

Begum was one of three Bethnal Green schools who went to Syria in 2015 to become ‘ISIS brides’. She married an ISIS fighter ten days after arriving in Syria. The couple had three children, all of which died. She was discovered last year living in a refugee camp and was later stripped of her citizenship by the Home Office. She is appealing that decision. Yesterday, the court heard that she was still considered a threat to national security by Mi5.

Representing the Home Office, Sir James Eadie was clear that her present situation was down to the choices she has made rather than any action the government has taken against her.

“She was already in the camp as a result of her own actions, the deprivation did not contribute to that” said Sir James.

Sir James emphasised that considering national security is a prevalent issue in this case, despite Lord Pannick’s submission that “national security cannot be the answer to the right to a meaningful appeal.”

“It cannot be assumed that because Ms Begum travelled to Syria and aligned herself with ISIS that it therefore constitutes a continuous threat” said Lord Pannick.

“This is not about assuming the worst when the appeal has yet to be determined” said Sir James. “This is about the decision makers having to operate against the threats of terrorism with the materials they have available at the time.”

Judgement was reserved and is expected to be delivered at a later date.

Supreme Court. Pic : PA Media

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