LONDON: A woman stripped of her UK citizenship after joining the Daesh group in Syria may not pose an ongoing security risk to Britain, the Supreme Court was told on Tuesday.
Lawyers fighting for Shamima Begum’s right to return to the UK to challenge the 2019 decision to revoke her citizenship said her case must be heard with the 21-year-old present.
“What security threat Ms Begum will pose... will inevitably depend on the circumstances of her case (and) an assessment of her, of the risk — if any — that she as an individual poses on her return,” her lawyer David Pannick said.
“It cannot be assumed... that because Ms Begum traveled to Syria and because there is evidence she aligned with Daesh, it therefore follows that she constitutes a continuing threat,” he added.
Britain’s ruling Conservative government has asked the Supreme Court to decide if Begum can return to pursue an in-person appeal.
The Court of Appeal ruled in her favor in July but the interior ministry immediately appealed, insisting she remains “aligned” with the proscribed terrorist organization.
Begum was 15 when she and two other schoolgirls from Bethnal Green, east London, left home to join the extremist group on February 17, 2015.
She claims she married a Dutch convert soon after arriving in Daesh-held territory. She was discovered, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February last year.
Her newborn baby died soon after she gave birth. Two of her other children also died under Daesh rule.
Then-home secretary Sajid Javid annulled Begum’s British citizenship on national security grounds.
She took legal action, arguing the decision was unlawful as it had made her stateless and exposed her to the risk of death or inhuman and degrading treatment.
British-born Begum is of Bangladeshi heritage. But Bangladesh’s foreign minister has said he will not consider granting her citizenship.
A lawyer for the government on Monday told the five-judge panel hearing the appeal over two days that allowing Begum to return would expose the public to “an increased risk of terrorism.”
“What we submit is that those who traveled (to Syria)... pose a clear and present threat specifically on return,” James Eadie said.
But rebutting the claims, Pannick said security assessments had not advised the home secretary that the risk posed by Begum’s return was “unmanageable.”
He added Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIMs) as well as her potential prosecution, which have been used for other people returning from Daesh territory, could be utilized.
“The court cannot assume, should not assume, that... TPIMs and criminal prosecution are inadequate to protect this country from her when she returns,” Pannick said.
Addressing the arguments that Begum posed a security threat, he added that was not a legal basis for preventing her in-person appeal.
“The requirements of procedural fairness... cannot be overridden by national security without express statutory authority,” Pannick added.