UK woman who joined ISIS loses appeal over revocation of citizenship News
Elisa.rolle, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
UK woman who joined ISIS loses appeal over revocation of citizenship

Former ISIS affiliate Shamima Begum on Friday lost her appeal regarding the British government’s 2019 decision to strip her of British citizenship. Begum left the UK aged 15 to travel to Syria and join the Islamic State. The ruling from the Court of Appeal was unanimous, and as such, Begum must remain in Syria.

The three judges wholly dismissed Begum’s arguments, which will mean her chances of appeal to the UK Supreme Court are lowered. As a result of the decision, Begum is now stateless. Her legal team said in a statement that they were “not going to stop fighting until she does get justice.”

Hearing the case from the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, the Court of Appeal held that then-Home Secretary Sajid Javid had acted lawfully by removing Begum’s citizenship despite concerns that she had been a victim of trafficking. The decision also found that any arguments based on a violation of Article 4 of the European Convention of Human Rights (prohibition of slavery and servitude) were bound to fail as Begum fell outside its jurisdictional scope when she left for Syria.

The Home Office’s decision effectively rendered Begum stateless at the time, but Javid’s actions were not deemed illegal as Begum was technically entitled to Bangladeshi citizenship through her parents’ heritage until her 21st birthday in 2021. An additional argument that citizenship deprivation is a breach of equalities law as it disproportionately affects British Muslims was also rejected due to an explicit exemption for cases involving national security within the Equality Act 2010.

Although the issue heard had inherently political elements, Dame Sur Carr, the most senior judge in England and Wales, stated:

It could be argued that the decision in Ms Begum’s case was harsh; it could also be argued that Ms Begum is the author of her own misfortune. But it is not for this court to agree or disagree with either point of view. Our only task is to rule on whether the decision made under s 40 was unlawful

The decision has been welcomed by the Home Office who announced their “priority remains maintaining the safety and security of the UK.” However, the decision has also received criticism; for example, from Maya Foa, the director of Reprieve, an NGO that represents British women detained in north-east Syria. Foa argued that stripping citizenship was a policy aimed at “scoring cheap political points,” advocating instead for Begum to return to the UK to face prosecution in a British court.