The Supreme Court in the United Kingdom (UK) has announced today that Shamima Begum is not allowed to return from a refugee/detention camp in northern Syria to fight a case in which her citizenship was taken from her. The case of Ms Begum has attracted considerable media attention in the past few years as it has illustrated the controversy surrounding the repatriation of European ISIS affiliates from Syria and Iraq.
In our report that we published in November 2020, we called upon the majority of European states to repatriate their citizens who had left their countries to fight for ISIS, a particularly relevant phenomenon in the years from 2014 and 2015.
We also discussed the case of Shamima Begum who has dual nationality and managed to get quite some media attention as the then-Home Secretary Sajid Javid stripped her of her nationality. She travelled to Syria in February 2015 and she is thought to have been imprisoned in the al-Hol camp since 2019.
We, and many security experts and other human rights organisations, believe that repatriation is in the best interest of everyone involved.
First and foremost, it would demonstrate a high level of commitment and seriousness regarding the respect of international human rights on behalf of the countries involved if they would repatriate their own citizens. The poor conditions in the camps due overcrowding and the shortcomings of the Iraqi legal systems are all blatant violations of the basic human rights that these European countries are supposed to promote and live by.
Secondly, the repatriation of all men, women, and children would be the safest way to make sure that they these people stay out of the hands of ISIS or any other similar destructive terrorist group.
The president of the Supreme Court, Lord Reed, argued that Shamima Begum no longer has a right to a fair trial – as a fair trial would allow her to come to the UK and present her case – as her repatriation would pose too much of a threat to the national security of the UK.
However, to leave people like Shamima Begum behind and pretend they no longer exist will only exacerbate the feeling of alienation and aggravate one’s extreme points of view. Local Kurdish groups have repeatedly appealed to all states to repatriate their citizens as they are struggling to maintain a firm and secure grip on the camps and ISIS has made clear in the past that prison breaks are one of their core strategies in regaining strength.
We once again call upon all involved governments to make the right decision and repatriate all of their citizens, regardless of any other nationalities that they might have.