The High Court of England and Wales has rejected an Islamic State volunteer’s bid to overturn a Government decision to deprive him of UK citizenship.
In the United Kingdom, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, or Home Office, has the power to strip a person’s citizenship provided it would not render them stateless — i.e. they would still have citizenship in another country — or if he or she “has reasonable grounds to believe that the person is able to become a national of another country or territory under its laws”.
These powers are typically applied only to individuals who have acquired their citizenship fraudulently, or if they are serious organised criminals or terrorists — and even in these cases they have been used much more sparingly than might be expected.
Islamic State volunteers are one group against whom successive Home Secretaries have exercised these powers with some regularity, however, and the High Court has just upheld a decision by former officeholder Amber Rudd to use them against one of them, identified as Ashraf Mahmud Islam.
The jihadist’s father, Abdullah Islam, had challenged the decicision to remove his 22-year-old son’s citizenship on on grounds that he should face justice at the hands of the British authorities, not the Kurds who are detaining him, and to make sure there was no possibility he might face the death penalty for his crimes.
The judge ruled that Islam’s case, which is reportedly a first-of-its-kind, had “no merit” and that his son was facing his current predicament “entirely because of his own actions in travelling to Syria and engaging in jihad.”
“The only action taken by the Home Secretary in this case has been to deprive Ashraf of his citizenship. He is not in peril in Syria because of that decision, but because he is being held on suspicion of involvement in the [Islamic State] insurgency,” he said.
The ruling may have implications for the case of Shamima Begum, a jihadi bride who has enjoyed a much higher media profile than other Islamic State volunteers, for some reason, and who like Ashraf Mahmud Islam was able to be deprived of her British citizenship due to her citizenship or eligibility for citizenship in Bangladesh.