Meeting via Zoom

After an absence of a year, the group is to hold a meeting on Zoom next Thursday, 11th March at 7:30 pm.  It will mostly be a working meeting but any local supporter is welcome to join.  If you would like to, leave a message here or via Facebook or contact one of us.


Shamima Begum, who left east London to join IS when she was 15, will be not allowed to return home to challenge the Home Office’s decision to revoke her citizenship, after a decision by the UK’s highest court

[We have used much of the text from Each Other in the preparation of this post.]

There can be few people reading about the Shamima Begum case, who will not recall something they did or said when they were 15 and quietly shudder.  That period between childhood and adulthood is filled with embarrassments, misjudgements and actions best forgotten.  For most, these events were inconsequential and caused no harm.  For Shamima Begum they resulted in the Supreme Court and a life in limbo.  Her three children have all died.  She and two others, left the UK to join ISIS, a barbaric regime which committed multiple acts of terror and carried out multiple executions by beheading.

The Supreme Court has now ruled she cannot return to the UK.  The decision by the Supreme Court follows an earlier ruling where the Court of Appeal said she should be allowed to return.  Currently Ms Begum, now 21, is in a camp controlled by armed guards in Syria, where she is currently unable to speak to her British lawyers.

Announcing the judgement, Lord Reed said the Court of Appeal was ‘mistaken’ in believing that ‘her right to a fair hearing must prevail’ when it came into conflict with the requirements of national security.  “The right to a fair hearing does not trump all other considerations, such as the safety of the public,” he added.

However, the move has been heavily criticised by human rights groups, who say it creates a ‘dangerous precedent’ and is a ‘misuse of extreme power’.

In a statement, Liberty lawyer Rosie Brighthouse said:

The right to a fair trial is not something democratic Governments should take away on a whim, and nor is someone’s British citizenship.  If a Government is allowed to wield extreme powers like banishment without the basic safeguards of a fair trial it sets an extremely dangerous precedent.  If a Government is allowed to wield extreme powers like banishment without the basic safeguard of a fair trial it sets an extremely dangerous precedent.  Rosie Brighthouse, Liberty

Similarly, Maya Foa, director of Reprieve calling the move a ‘cynical ploy to make her some one else’s responsibility’. She added:

The Government should bring the British families back to the UK so that children can be provided with support they need, and adults can be prosecuted where there are charges to answer.  Abandoning them in a legal black hole – in Guantanamo-like conditions – is out of step with British values and the interests of justice and security.

What’s The Background To This Case?

In 2015, Begum left her family in Bethnal Green behind to travel to the city of Raqqa, with two school friends, and marry a Dutch fighter.  She was just 15 at the time, and still legally a child.  She was found, heavily pregnant, by a Times journalist in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019.  Former home secretary Sajid Javid stripped her of her British citizenship later that month.

Begum and her lawyers appealed the move, arguing it was illegal under international law and exposed her to a real risk of death or inhuman and degrading treatment.

The now 21 year old has given birth to three children in Syria – all of whom have died from illnesses.

Begum and her legal team lost the first stage of their appeal at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) – the specialist tribunal which hears challenges to decisions to revoke people’s citizenship on national security grounds – in February 2020

The tribunal decided that Begum was lawfully made stateless because she could turn to Bangladesh, her parents’ country of origin, for citizenship – despite this being refuted by authorities in Bangladesh.  She has never held a Bangladeshi passport.  That is not a perfect solution, as it is not known how long it may be before that it is possible. But there is no perfect solution to a dilemma of the present kind.

Lord Reed

However, the decision was then overturned by the Court of Appeal, who said ‘the only way in which she could have a fair and effective appeal is to be permitted to come to the United Kingdom’.  The Government, however, appealed.  This is the judgement that has just taken place at the Supreme Court.

In today’s ruling, Lord Reed said the ‘appropriate answer’ was not to force the Government to bring her back to the UK – but instead to pause her legal fight over citizenship until she was in a safer position to take part in the appeal.  He added: ‘That is not a perfect solution, as it is not known how long it may be before that is possible. But there is no perfect solution to a dilemma of the present kind.’

What Is Statelessness?

Under international law, a stateless person is someone who is “not considered as a national by any state under the operation of its law.”  This definition derives from Article 1 of the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons.

The UK uses this definition to provide rules about who can stay in Britain as a stateless person.  Under the Immigration Rules Part 14, a person may not be given permission to stay if they can live permanently in another country or if they have a criminal record.

The United Nations High Commissioner Report (UNHCR) estimates that there are around 10 million stateless people living globally, although the exact figure is not known.

Is Nationality A Human right?

Yes, and it is internationally recognised as such.  The legal instruments that describe nationality as a human right include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and many more.

‘Arbitrary deprivation of nationality’, which means deliberately moving to make a citizen stateless, is prohibited under these instruments.   Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is particularly explicit on this point.

Making someone stateless doesn’t just impact a person’s right to a nationality, it affects their access to other human rights too.  Without a nationality, a person will not be able to travel, to have access to healthcare, employment, and not have any way of supporting themselves.  There is no recourse of any state to help them survive.  They will never be able to involve themselves in education, social security, political discourse or protect themselves legally.

The legal decision was welcomed by the government and the Home Secretary, Priti Patel.  It is likely that the home secretary thought this would be a popular decision with the right wing media but surprisingly, an article in the Daily Mail, pointed out that she was a child when she left and also, that many jihadis have returned to Britain to face trial.  If male members of ISIS can return, why cannot a female member?  The Sun also reported it in less than exultant terms.

We are grateful to Each Other for use of much of their text

Good news

Posted: February 27, 2021 in Syria
Tags: , , ,

Good news concerning Syria

Extract from Amnesty’s Group News

We hope you saw the very good news that a court in Germany sentenced Eyad al-Gharib, a former Syrian intelligence officer, to four-and-a-half years in prison for his role in aiding and abetting the torture of detained protesters in Damascus.  This was an incredibly important moment in the long campaign for justice for Syrians.

It’s a historic verdict – the first of its kind for crimes under international law committed by a Syrian regime official and a big victory for all the Syrian victims, witnesses, investigators, campaigners, and lawyers who worked on this case.  They helped ensure crimes were documented and legal files built for prosecution and without them this trial would not have been possible.

Many of these Syrian HRDs are AIUK’s partners who we’ve been assisting and training for several years in Germany, France, Turkey, Lebanon, the US and UK.  Most are victims of torture themselves.  The Syrian Centre for Media (SCM) is one of AIUK’s key partners and we’ve delivered a range of training for them, including nine holistic security workshops which we finished last week.

Their director is Mazen Darwish – he’s a torture survivor and a human rights lawyer and he was instrumental in securing this verdict.  We made a video of him as the news of the verdict was coming in. The video is here and in this link.

This was the first guilty verdict but there will be more, including hopefully in the case of Anwar Raslan – a more senior figure than al-Gharib. The verdict on that case should be in September or October this year and we will make sure we are amplifying our Syrian partners again when that verdict is heard.


Two prisoners at risk of execution in Iran

Death row prisoners from Iran’s Baluchi ethnic minority, Hamed Rigi and Mehran Naru’i, are at risk of execution. They have been subjected to serious human rights violations including enforced disappearance and torture and other ill-treatment to extract “confessions” used to convict and sentence them to death in unfair trials.

Since mid-December 2020, the Iranian authorities have executed 18 Baluchi men, raising fears that Hamed Rigi and Mehran Naru’i may be executed imminently.

Fuller details and a model form of words can be found here and we hope you can find time to write.


Members of the Salisbury group might like to know we hope to hold a Zoom meeting on 11 March in the evening.

Princess Latifa

Posted: February 21, 2021 in "Amnesty International"
Tags: , , ,

The disappearance of Princess Latifa 

We are sure you will have seen the extensive coverage surrounding the shocking treatment of Sheikha Latifa in UAE and we welcome the UN intervention.  We thought it would be helpful to share Amnesty’s response in the words of our Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Deputy Director:

“The contents of the videos Sheikha Latifa recorded are chilling, and we are extremely concerned for her safety, as friends say all contact with her stopped in recent months.  Sheikha Latifa has been subjected to a catalogue of human rights violations – including abduction, forcible return and being held incommunicado or almost three years now.

“Dubai and the UAE must immediately ensure she is released and respect her freedom of movement.  Amnesty International calls on the international community to turn its attention to Sheikha Latifa’s pleas for help; the UN’s public statement that it will raise the issue with the authorities is welcome, as would be a visit by the Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary Detention to investigate her continuing detention. The UAE has in effect closed its doors to the scrutiny of UN experts on civil and political rights since 2014. 

“Sheikha Latifa’s case also lends itself to a broader examination of the UAE’s human rights record.  The UAE authorities operate a policy of systematic repression of any form of dissent or criticism.  Since 2011, the authorities have systematically cracked down on their critics, including activists, judges, lawyers, academics, students and journalists by way of arbitrary detentions, and crimes under international law, including enforced disappearance, torture and other-ill-treatment.  Sheikha Latifa’s case is simply the most public example of this alarmingly oppressive climate.” 


Campaign Against the Arms Trade nominated for the Nobel peace Prize

We are delighted to report this news today (19 February 2021).  We have often featured CAAT in our posts especially concerning the UK arms industry’s supply of weapons to Saudi Arabia.  These weapons have been used to cause immense harm and destruction in Yemen.  The Saudi air force has bombed markets, schools, hospitals, clinics and wedding ceremonies killing many thousands of people and wounding many more.  UK personnel are ‘advising’ the Saudis, ostensibly to help them observe international human rights standards.  They carefully stop short of actually attaching the weapons as this would make them mercenaries.

The UK government was stopped from granting licenses but they have resumed.

The link shows how this award will help CAAT in their work.

 


The latest monthly death penalty report is attached with thanks to group member Lesley for the work in compiling it.

Report (Word)


Loujain al-Hathloul released today

It is good to report that the Loujain al-Hathloul was released from prison in Saudi today (10 February 2021).  Amnesty and other human rights groups have campaigned on her behalf for some time following her arrest, imprisonment, including time spent in solitary confinement.  She alleges being tortured in prison which included the use of electric shocks, flogging as well as being sexually assaulted.  These allegations are entirely believable since torture is routinely practised in the kingdom.

Loujain was one of the campaigners arguing for allowing women to drive, which they now can do, but this did not absolve her from arrest.  Her sentence has been suspended and she is not allowed to talk about her time in prison or to leave Saudi.  If she does so, she faces being rearrested.

Two events might have combined to achieve this result.  A concerted campaign by human rights campaign groups to secure her release has led to continuous bad publicity for the kingdom and for Mohammed bin Salman.  The arrival of President Joe Biden who is noticeably cooler towards the kingdom and has already suspended arms sales is likely to have been a factor.  However, Grant Liberty is among those arguing that pressure must continue to secure other releases of people held in prisons after spurious trials.  They point out that the country still carries out arbitrary arrests; people are tortured; there are many executions; children are treated as adults by the courts; women’s rights are ignored; there is no free speech and human rights organisations are banned in the country.

Sources: Grant Liberty, al Jazeera, the Guardian


Young man at risk of execution in Nigeria for alleged blasphemy

Yahaya Sharif-Aminu. Pic: thewillnigeria

Yahaya Sharif-Aminu (pictured), 22, a singer, is in prison in Kano, Nigeria and is at risk of execution for alleged blasphemy.  This is an urgent action asking you to write to the authorities for his release.

The death sentence handed down to Yahaya Sharif-Aminu by the Upper Sharia Court in Kano state, Nigeria was widely criticized across Nigeria and also by Amnesty International after a huge outcry by several individuals and religious bodies urging the Governor of Kano state not to sign his execution warrant.

There were serious concerns about the fairness of Yahaya Sharif-Aminu’s trial and the framing of the charges against him. Before and during the trial, he was not permitted legal representation.  He was granted access to legal advice to prepare an appeal after human rights lawyers and activists pressured the court to respect his right to legal representation.

In Kano state under the Sharia law, blasphemy is a criminal offence with a death penalty.  The death penalty remains a legal sanction in Nigeria and continues to be imposed throughout the country.  In 2019, over 54 death sentences were recorded. In total, over 2,700 people were under death sentence by the end of the year.  In Nigeria, the 2004 National Study Group on Death Penalty and the 2007 Presidential Commission on the Administration of Justice both stressed that the Nigerian criminal justice system cannot guarantee a fair trial and called for a moratorium on the death penalty.

Sentence of death for singing a song

In 2008, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) adopted its second
resolution on the death penalty, calling on States Parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights –
such as Nigeria – to “observe a moratorium on the execution of death sentences with a view to abolishing the
death penalty” and to ratify the ICCPR-OP2.  In a study published on 19 April 2012, the Working Group on the
Death Penalty of the African Commission reaffirmed the necessity of the abolition of capital punishment and
suggested ways for its achievement.

We would be grateful if you can find time to write.  There is an email address as well.

Urgent Action

 


IAPL Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers

29/01/21

Faisal Yousef Mohamed

On 17 January 2021, human rights defender Faisal Yousef Mohamed was killed in his house in El Genena city, West Darfur by unknown individuals from armed militant groups. Two of the human rights defenders brothers were murdered in the same incident.

Faisal Yousef Mohamed was human rights defender and paralegal training to become a lawyer. The human rights defender was a member of Hay El Ameerya resistance committee, a committee that frequently organises peaceful demonstrations to promote civil and economic rights in Sudan. Faisal Yousef Mohamed was a member of El Geneana Para Legal Network, a network of paralegals who offered legal assistance to internally displaced people (IDPs) in refugee camps in West Darfur. One of his main areas of human rights work was helping IDPs who had been victims of human rights violation seek justice by connecting them with lawyers.

On 16 and 17 January 2021, Faisal Yousef…

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