The UK Government's actions over the Shamima Begum case has set a dangerous precedent. Civil libertarians and all those who support individual freedom must be concerned by this case, argues Saeed Khan.

The recent decision by the British Supreme Court to deny Shamima Begum the right to return to the United Kingdom calls into question the commitment of the UK Government to uphold the principles of citizenship rights and due process; the hallmarks of the country's preservation of the rule of law.

British-born and Bangladeshi Muslim by heritage, Shamima languishes in a Syrian refugee camp, prohibited from returning to the UK to face justice or even the opportunity to assert a defence in person. Irrespective of the Government's hackneyed arguments invoking national security, the seemingly arbitrary and categorical determination for the state to disenfranchise and make stateless one of its citizens sets a dangerous precedent. It jeopardises the safety and security that citizens possessing the correct documents currently feel. Equally disturbing are the grounds upon which the Government's decision rests and whether it bears any rational and legitimate justification.

Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, has openly described the conditions of these camps as ones in which "thousands of people" are held and are "exposed to violence, exploitation, abuse and deprivation in conditions and treatment that may well amount to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under international law, with no effective remedy at their disposal."

The UN has since called on 57 countries to repatriate their women and children from these camps and not abandon them to oblivion.

Shamima Begum was only 15, by any definition, a minor at the time she left for Syria, ostensibly to "join" ISIS. It is highly questionable she possessed the legal capacity to renounce her citizenship. Conversely, a 15-year-old would lack the ability to apply for citizenship, though somehow, the UK believes she can give it up, an unconscionable double standard.

If, in fact, Shamima Begum "joined" ISIS, questions abound whether this constitutes giving allegiance to a well-defined enemy, pursuant to international law, and one that has sovereignty from which citizenship can even be granted; ISIS is not a sovereign state. Is the UK ironically recognising ISIS to be a state by claiming Shamima became a "citizen:" of it?

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If Shamima had in fact had the agency and ability to "voluntarily" renounce her citizenship, and ISIS is not a recognised sovereign state that can grant citizenship, then she would in effect be stateless, a category which generally applies to refugees. It is questionable if someone, especially at the age of fifteen, can choose to be stateless in such a manner.

The British Government's position on Shamima Begum appears to go well beyond the immediate case on determining whom it can categorically deny admission into the country. It also seeks to block children born in Syria to British nationals, under the criminally cruel conceit that they are not British citizens as their parents purportedly renounced their own citizenship. They are affirmed in their policy of allowing innocent children to languish in a foreign land that is in a catastrophic crisis, rather than have them be connected, or reconnected with perhaps their only blood relatives, who happen to live in the UK.

London based NGO the International Observatory of Human Rights has been running a campaign for over two years to bring UK Children home; it recently appealed again to UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to repatriate UK children and their mothers, in line with the UN human rights council call for action.

But the UK appears to contend that an infant, toddler or even a five year-old constitutes a national security threat. The British Government wishes to peddle the absurd notion of presuming the potential for future crime from these children. The future "crime" of these children is actually a crime in the present: they are the wrong ethnicity, religion and colour.

If these children indeed have the potential to become future terrorists, it is exactly because of being stranded in Syria, in conditions of severe deprivation, suffering from PTSD and potentially ripe to be groomed by extremists in the camps. Thus, all the more reason to repatriate them to be cared for and reintegrated into British society.

The UK Government's overzealous treatment of Shamima Begum demonstrates the rank impunity by it considers exclusion and expulsion acceptable solutions, applying the axiom that out-of-sight means out-of-mind, or more accurately, out-of-conscience. Civil libertarians and others who support individual freedom should be highly concerned by this case.

It is the height of hypocrisy for the British Government to accuse Shamima Begum of renouncing her citizenship, while simultaneously renouncing its responsibilities under its own professed allegiance to the rule of law. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to disenfranchise one minority community of its citizenship could be seen as an accident of policy; to disenfranchise another minority community makes it a conscious pathology.

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