In February 2015, at the age of 15, Shamima Begum (‘Shamima’) was one of three schoolgirls who left the UK to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria.
Shortly after arriving in Syria she was married and her two children subsequently died. Four years after her initial departure from the UK she was found by a reporter from The Times, pregnant, in a Syrian detention camp.
She told the reporter of her desire to return to the UK to save her child who had not yet been born. Following this, her British citizenship was revoked by the Home Secretary on the basis of security concerns. Her case, which was widely reported, drew attention to the predicaments of children formerly associated with ISIS.
In accordance with international law, revocation of someone’s citizenship can only occur where that person is entitled to the citizenship of another country. Earlier this year the Special Immigration Appeals Commission ruled that she had not been illegally rendered stateless as she was entitled to Bangladeshi citizenship (by descent) through her mother. However, the Court of Appeal has now partially overturned this ruling, having decided that she should be allowed to return to the UK to challenge the Home Secretary’s decision to revoke her British citizenship in person. Lord Justice Flaux stated that “[f]airness and justice must, on the facts of this case, outweigh the national security concerns”. This judgment means that the UK government must devise a way of allowing Shamima to appear in court in London.
The Home Office stated that the Court of Appeal’s decision was “very disappointing”. This case is an interesting example of the UK’s implementation of the system of the separation of powers. Whilst there is no absolute doctrine of the separation of powers, the UK’s concept is that Parliament, the executive and the judiciary each have their own parameters and each should exercise their powers accordingly. Whilst there remains an overlap between these pillars, the separation prevents the concentration of power and allows for checks and balances.
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