Rishi Sunak says Supreme Court made 'right decision' over Shamima Begum

Rebecca Speare-Cole
·4 min read
Rishi Sunak says Supreme Court made the
Rishi Sunak says Supreme Court made the "right decision" over Shamima Begum (PA/Sky News)

Rishi Sunak has said the Supreme Court made “the right decision” in the case of IS bride Shamima Begum.

Five Supreme Court justices on Friday unanimously refused the 21-year-old’s request to be able to return to Britain to fight for her citizenship to be restored.

Begum was 17 when she left the UK and travelled to Syria to join the Islamic State group alongside two other east London schoolgirls.

In 2019, then-home secretary Sajid Javid stripped Begum of her citizenship on national security grounds.

Read: ’Oh my god!’: MP’s reaction as government admits extent of COVID outbreak in asylum seeker accommodation

Javid was criticised for essentially leaving her stateless and catering to popularist opinions but the government argued that she has the right to Bangladeshi citizenship.

The chancellor on Sunday told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge that the Supreme Court had made the right decision.

File photo dated 23/11/20 of the UK Supreme Court in Parliament Square, Westminster, where Shamima Begum will find out if she can potentially return to the UK to pursue an appeal against the removal of her British citizenship when the Supreme Court rules on her case. Issue date: Friday February 26, 2021.
The UK Supreme Court in Parliament Square, Westminster.

Asking him about the case, Ridge said: “The government was able to take away her citizenship because her parents were born abroad, that they were born in a different country.

“So if someone, whose parents had been born in this country, had done exactly the same thing as Shamima Begum, she wouldn’t have been treated in the same way. Is that fair? Are you comfortable with that?"

Sunak said: “I’m glad the Supreme Court has made the decision that they have,” and added: “I think that’s the way it should be.

“I think the Supreme Court has supported what the government was trying to do and I’m glad that it has. I think that it is the right decision in this case that we’ve been able to reach.”

BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE Handout file still taken from CCTV issued by the Metropolitan Police of (left to right) 15-year-old Amira Abase, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Shamima Begum, 15, at Gatwick airport in February 2015. Shamima Begum will find out if she can potentially return to the UK to pursue an appeal against the removal of her British citizenship when the Supreme Court rules on her case. Issue date: Friday February 26, 2021.
Left to right - 15-year-old Amira Abase, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Shamima Begum, 15, at Gatwick airport in February 2015.

It comes after home secretary Priti Patel welcomed the news, saying it "reaffirmed the home secretary's authority to make vital national security decisions".

Javid, her predecessor, said: “There are no simple solutions to this situation, but any restrictions of rights and freedoms faced by this individual are a direct consequence of the extreme actions that she and others have taken, in violation of government guidance and common morality."

Begum is currently living in the Roj refugee camp in northern Syria.

Footage obtained by ITV News showed the 21-year-old walking silently through the camp after learning she cannot return to the UK. Sky News also reported that Begum is “very angry, upset and crying” over the ruling.

Watch: Shamima Begum silent after learning she can't return to UK

Last July, the Court of Appeal ruled that Begum should be allowed into the UK to appeal against the Home Office’s decision.

But the Home Office then appealed to the Supreme Court to reconsider the Court of Appeal's judgement over national security concerns.

On Friday, Lord Reed, president of the Supreme Court, said the government had been entitled to prevent Begum from returning to the UK.

He said the Court of Appeal's judgment "did not give the home secretary's assessment the respect which it should have received".

He said the right to a fair hearing did "not trump all other considerations, such as the safety of the public".

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However, the decision immediately drew criticism from legal experts.

Devyani Prabhat, a professor of law at the University of Bristol, told The Guardian that the judgment was “a classic instance of deference to the powers of the home secretary in matters of national security”.

Prabhat added: “From a human rights perspective, this is a very disappointing decision as it seems to offer complete and whole discretion to the home secretary and has an unsatisfying view on fair trial rights and how people can be kept ‘in limbo’.”

Rosie Brighouse, a lawyer with Liberty, also told the newspaper: “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.”

Watch: Who is Shamima Begum?