LONDON: Britain’s highest court on Friday rejected a bid by a woman who was stripped of her UK citizenship for joining the Islamic State group to return to challenge the decision.
Five judges at the Supreme Court gave a unanimous decision in the case of Shamima Begum, whose legal battles have come to be seen as a test of how Britain treat nationals who joined the Jihadists.
They found her right to a fair hearing did not override considerations such as public safety, and that the decision to block her return should remain until she can participate “without the safety of the public being compromised”.
“That is not a perfect solution, as it is not known how long it may be before that is possible,” the head of the Supreme Court, judge Robert Reed, said in a written judgment. “But there is no perfect solution to a dilemma of the present kind.” Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said the government was pleased with the ruling, telling reporters “decisions to deprive individuals of their citizenship are not taken lightly”.
“The safety and security of the UK must come first,” he added. Now 21, Begum left her home in east London at the age of 15 to travel to Syria with two school friends and married an IS fighter.
Britain’s then-interior minister Sajid Javid revoked her citizenship in 2019 on national security grounds amid an outcry led by right-wing newspapers. The Conservative lawmaker welcomed Friday’s verdict, noting it underlined that the government must be able to decide if someone poses too serious a threat to enter the country.
“Any restrictions of rights and freedoms faced by this individual are a direct consequence of the extreme actions that she and others have taken,” Javid added. In 2019 Begum told The Times newspaper that she did not regret travelling to Syria and had not been “fazed” by seeing a severed head dumped in a bin.
Although Britain has blocked her return, the United States and several European countries have accepted the repatriation of their citizens accused of joining the IS group overseas, with some facing charges in their home countries.