Shamima Begum: Appeals Court Tells UK Government It Was Unlawful to Strip Citizenship of ISIS Child Bride

British citizen Shamima Begum, photographed in the Al Hawl camp in Syria in 2019, where captured ISIS brides and children were being held. She is holding her week-old son, who subsequently died.

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It’s a sign of the extent to which commonly accepted standards of justice and decency have fallen that I even have to write the headline for this article, but the sad truth is that, in the UK, government officials, at the highest level, believe that it is entirely appropriate to strip a British citizen of her citizenship, making her stateless, if, as a 15-year old, she took the decision to travel to Syria to become a “jihadi bride.”

On one level, this is completely wrong because all countries that claim to respect the rule of law, Britain included, have signed up to treaties recognising that juveniles (those under 18) should not be held responsible for their actions. In my main line of work over the last 14 years — writing about the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, and campaigning to get it closed — one of the most shocking aspects of that whole sordid story is the way that the US government ignored its obligations to treat juveniles as distinct from adults, and, in fact, denied that such distinctions even existed.

“These are not children”, foreign secretary Donald Rumsfeld claimed when the story first broke that children were being held at Guantánamo. At least 23 of the prisoners were juveniles — under 18 — when they were first seized, including the most famous Guantánamo child of them all, Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen who was 15 when he was seized after a firefight with US soldiers, and whose rights were not only denied by the US, but also by his own government in Canada, which eventually had to be told by Canada’s Supreme Court that Canadian agents had deprived him of his rights when they visited him at Guantánamo to interrogate him.

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Ask Your MP to Tell Boris Johnson to Demand the Release of UK Citizen Andy Tsege, Kidnapped and on Death Row in Ethiopia

Andy Tsege, photographed with his family before he was kidnapped and illegally imprisoned by the Ethiopian government in 2014.Please ask your MP to demand action from Boris Johnson in demanding Andy Tsege’s release.

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of meeting Yemi Hailemariam, the partner of Andy Tsege (Andargachew Tsege), a prominent opponent of the Ethiopian government, who, as I explained when Yemi subsequently stood for a photo for the Countdown to Close Guantánamo, “was kidnapped” in Yemen “and rendered to Ethiopia on the command of the Ethiopian government” in June 2014, as his lawyers at Reprieve explained, adding that he was “held in secret detention and in solitary confinement for over a year, without access to any form of due process. He has been paraded on Ethiopian TV looking ill and gaunt. He was given an in absentia death sentence in 2009. He could be executed at any time.” Andy is pictured above, with Yemi and their three children.

I noted the above when I posted Yemi’s photo, back in May, at a time when the British government, with Phillip Hammond as foreign secretary, had refused to act decisively on Andy’s behalf. Since then, of course, David Cameron has resigned following the EU referendum debacle, Theresa May has become our new and unelected Prime Minister, and Hammond has become home secretary, with May surprising everyone by appointing Boris Johnson as foreign secretary, a man with a history of racist comments about countries and people he is now supposed to be presenting himself to as a responsible and statesman-like figure.

No one who has seen the footage of John Kerry wincing as Johnson was grilled by journalists at one of his first outings as foreign secretary (a joint US-UK press conference) can be in any doubt that Johnson is ill-suited to the role, but he is now responsible for Britain’s position with regard to Andy Tsege, and answerable to the more than 130,000 people who have signed a 38 Degrees petition calling for Andy to be freed. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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