Shamima Begum allowed UK return for citizenship battle, court rules
Shamima Begum has won the right to contest the UK government’s decision to repeal her citizenship in person on Thursday, after the Court of Appeal said she has been denied a fair hearing on the matter.
Begum, now 20, was one of three British schoolgirls who travelled together to Islamic State group-controlled territory in 2015.
“I have reached the firm conclusion that given that the only way in which she can have a fair and effective appeal is to be permitted to come into the United Kingdom to pursue her appeal, fairness and justice must, on the facts of this case, outweigh the national security concerns,” one of the three judges on the case, Lord Justice Flaux, said.
Begum’s lawyers argued to the country’s judiciary that the 20 year-old woman currently residing in a refugee camp in Syria could not be expected to argue her case and have a fair hearing in such conditions.
"Ms Begum has never had a fair opportunity to give her side of the story. She is not afraid of facing British justice, she welcomes it. But the stripping of her citizenship without a chance to clear her name is not justice, it is the opposite,” said Daniel Furner, Ms Begum's solicitor.
The ruling in her favour means she could appear before the court in London despite UK authorities continuously declaring they would not help her return from Syria.
But the government said they would appeal this decision, and called the decision of the court “disappointing”.
Begum, left London aged 15 with two other schoolgirls to join the IS militant extremist group.
Her legal defence team argued that the decision to revoke her citizenship was illegal under international law covenants as it rendered her stateless.
The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) ruled in February that Begum could claim Bangladeshi citizenship due to her parents’ heritage, namely her mother’s nationality.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid was criticised over his decision to revoke Begum's citizenship after her three-week-old baby passed away from pneumonia in March last year.
Begum's lawyers told the court that she was at risk of "death, inhuman or degrading treatment", and could be hanged if forced to go to Bangladesh.
Her legal team also argued that the "wretched and squalid" conditions in Syria's Al-Roj camp, where Begum resides after being moved from Al-Hol camp for her safety, breached her human rights.
British security sources said Begum is a security threat due to her alleged role in IS’ morality police, her use of a firearm and her alleged stitching of bombs to explosive vests, according to The Guardian.