By Fenella Breaks and Monet Olrod
Shamima Begum, the former Tower Hamlets schoolgirl who became a Jihadi bride in Syria cannot return to the UK to continue to fight for British Citizenship, the Supreme Court has ruled.
The court ruling determined that the long established principle of a right to a fair trial was trumped by considerations of public safety.
Last year the Court of Appeal ruled that Begum, now 21, who fled to Syria in 2015 to join the ISIS terrorist group and is now in a refugee camp, should be able to return to the UK to fight for her citizenship, which was removed in 2019 by then Home Secretary Sajid Javid. The Appeal judges rejected the Home Office argument that she should not return because she remained a threat to national security.
However, the Government appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the threat to national security should have greater precedence than her ability to fight her citizenship case. Announcing the ruling, Lord Reed said: “The Supreme Court unanimously allows all of the Home Secretary’s appeals and dismisses Ms Begum’s cross-appeal.”
Without her citizenship, Begum can no longer return to the UK. Her lawyers, who are unable to consult with her in person have argued this was an unjust and unfair ruling which denied her fundamental rights.
The Supreme Court identified errors made in the judgment of the Court of Appeal, who carried out its own assessment of the requirements of national security and whether Begum was still a national threat. The Supreme Court ruled that it did not given sufficient respect to the former Home Secretary’s own review of her security status.
Lord Reed said: “It did not give the Home Secretary’s assessment the respect which it should have received, given that it is the Home Secretary 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.”
Understanding the elements of the right to a fair trial and public safety was another mistake found to be made in the appeal. Lord Reed said: “The right to a fair hearing does not trump all other considerations, such as the safety of the public.”
He then added: “The Court of Appeal mistakenly believed that, when an individual’s right to have a fair hearing… came into conflict with the requirements of national security, her right to a fair hearing must prevail.”
In February 2015 Begum left East London with 2 other schoolgirls. Begum was found in 2019 in a refugee camp and the Home Office revoked her citizenship when she was found to be a threat to public security.
After arriving at the IS headquarters in 2015, Begum married a Dutch convert recruit Yago Riedijk, later giving birth to three children. There, Begum met Yago Riedijk, a Dutch convert, who she married and had three children with. All the children are now deceased.
Begum began her quest to re-enter the UK as she was seeking protection for her since-deceased son, claiming that she was “groomed” by the Islamic State and was now in danger and seeking refuge.
Begum, is currently residing in a camp run by armed guards in the northern part of Syria. She is said to be unable to speak to her lawyers.
In todays judgement, Lord Reed said: “The appropriate response to the present case is for the deprivation appeal to be stayed or postponed until Ms Begum is in a position to play an effective part in it, without public safety being compromised.”
He admitted that “it was not a perfect solution,” but then added, “there is no perfect solution to our dilemma at the present time.”