Archive for the ‘Syria’ Category


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.


Parliament’s concerns are very partial

This week saw parliament reconvene and a major debate take place concerning the attack on chemical weapons facilities in Syria.  These attacks took place in a coordinated way by British, French and American forces and the reason for them was claimed to be the crossing of a ‘red line’ by Assad because of his use of chemical weapons in his latest attack.  This led to calls for parliament to be recalled and considerable debate about whether we should have joined in the bombing.  The Labour leader Jeremy Corbin called for a War Powers Act to be enacted to clarify when a prime minister could and could not engage in military actions.

The death and destruction in Syria is appalling.  The use of barrel bombs dropped on civilian areas has caused terrible damage and thousands of innocent citizens have been killed.  The Syrian Network for Human Rights estimates that over 217 thousand civilians have been killed; over 13 thousand have been tortured to death and over 27 thousand children have been killed.  Of those, 80% were killed by Syrian forces and 6% by Russians.  These figures have been broadly supported by the Syrian American Medical Society and White Helmets, an aid agency working in the country.  There has been universal condemnation including by the UN’s Secretary General.

Meanwhile, in Yemen, another conflict is underway also causing considerable death and destruction.  As we noted in an earlier post, thousands have died, cholera is widespread, and the country is being steadily bombed back to the stone age.  Millions have been displaced and medical and other humanitarian supplies are prevented from entering the country because of a blockade.  There has not however been much in the way of outrage from parliamentarians about this and no calls to recall parliament.

Another key difference is while Assad is treated as a pariah, the Saudis who are carrying out the Bin Salman sits flanked by Theresa may and Boris John <figcaption> Boris Johnson and Theresa May rolled out the red carpet for the Saudi Crown Prince. c. Getty Images/Bloomberg </figcaption> </figure> son, with members of his entourage and other Government Ministers seated in rows behind bombing of Yemen – including schools, hospitals, civilian facilities and weddings – are feted in the UK, get to meet the Queen and receive visits by Prince Charles and other members of the royal family.  This is because we are major suppliers of weapons to the regime.  RAF personnel are involved in some way helping the Saudis. (Picture: Campaign Against the Arms Trade)

It was claimed that the justification for the bombing of Syria was the crossing of the red line.  This suggested that Assad had used chemical weapons for the second time and we had to send a message to deter him.

One problem: it is not the first or even the second time he has done this.  The SNHR estimate that he has used them on 207 occasions and on 174 occasions since the Ghouta attack.

207 chemical weapons attacks by Assad

The very notion that a red line has been crossed is therefore not tenable as Assad has regularly used these weapons, on average three times a month.  In addition to chlorine he has on occasion used Sarin.

Tens of thousands of people have lost their lives or have lost loved ones in these terrible conflicts.  The destruction of buildings will take decades to do and billions to repair.  In one case we continue to profit from the supply of arms and roll out the red carpet to those who are responsible: in the other case we say a red line has been crossed – which it has on many, many occasions – and bomb the country.


UPDATE 23 April:

Over 50 stopped to sign and we are grateful to those who did.  If you have come to this site having read the leaflet we gave out – welcome.  We hope you mark it as a favourite site and visit us from time to time.  Details of other events can be found here.

On Saturday 22 April, we asked people to sign a petition concerning the atrocious conditions and executions in Saydnaya Prison in Syria.  We were in the Library passage for an hour.

factsheet (pdf)


Amnesty publishes a report today on the programme of mass executions in Syria

A terrifying and sickening report on the execution of possibly 13, 000 Syrians is published in a major report by Amnesty.  The report makes chilling reading as testimony from survivors and guards describe the horrific process of killing and disposal of bodies by the regime.  A summary of the report is published in the Guardian today.  There is also a piece by Kate Allen, director of Amnesty describing the prison as a slaughterhouse.

Saydnaya report

Graphic: The Guardian


It is reported today that the government’s use of drones to kill people overseas is to be reviewed by the Human Rights Committee.  This is welcome news.  Clearly, ISIS is an unpleasant organisation and is acting in a brutal and uncivilised way.

When it was revealed that a drone was used to kill two people in Raqqa in August, David Cameron said it was done as an act of ‘self defence’.  Quite how someone in Syria was a threat to the UK was not explained and seemed very unlikely.

Earlier this week is was reported that the government was removing adherence to international treaties from the ministerial code.  It is these treaties which prevent use of force without UN sanction or because there is a genuine need for purposes of self defence.

The Raqqa attack was the first case in the modern era that such an attack took place in a country with whom we were not at war.  Caroline Lucas – the Green party MP – was reported as saying the use of a drone in this case was done ‘with a complete absence of parliamentary scrutiny or approval.’

We look forward to some serious questions being asked of ministers.