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Revoking Shamima Begum’s citizenship breaches her human rights, say MRG and ISI

21 February 2019

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) and the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion (ISI) are deeply concerned with the UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s decision to order Shamima Begum to be stripped of her British citizenship.

‘Depriving one’s citizenship is a draconian penalty,’ says Joshua Castellino, Executive Director of MRG. ‘Especially in response to an action that was taken by Shamima when she was still a child.’

The UK authorities have claimed that international law validates the decision as Shamima’s Bangladeshi heritage makes her eligible for citizenship from the South Asian nation.

‘The UK unilaterally deemed Shamima to be eligible for Bangladeshi citizenship, even though it is only the competent authority of the concerned state which can declare someone to be a citizen or not,’ says Amal de Chickera, Co-Director of ISI. ‘Indeed, Bangladesh has since confirmed that she is not a Bangladeshi citizen. The Home Secretary’s decision – unless reversed – risks leaving both Shamima and her baby stateless, contrary to national and international standards. The decision also raises questions of arbitrariness and runs counter to commitments towards international cooperation and responsibility sharing when combatting terrorism.’

Indeed, while her parents are Bangladeshi citizens, Shamima is British-born, and has lived in East London her whole life prior to travelling to the Syrian border at the age of 15 to join ISIS in December 2014. Her case returned to the spotlight this month, when she gave an interview to The Times from a refugee camp in North-eastern Syria, expressing her wish to return to the United Kingdom.

‘These kinds of measures only create further exclusion,’ adds Castellino. ‘Instead of bringing Shamima Begum home and holding her accountable for any potential wrong-doing with due process of law, the United Kingdom shuts the door in her face, condemning her to live in a legal and factual limbo with no protection of the law and risking further exposure to radicalisation for herself and her child.’

MRG and ISI call on the UK government to respect Shamima Begum’s right to not be arbitrarily deprived of her British citizenship and if there are sufficiently strong grounds for a prosecution, that she is given a fair trial.

Notes to editors

  • Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is the leading international human rights organization working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples. It works with more than 150 partners in over 50 countries.
  • The Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion (ISI) is an independent non-profit organisation with the mission to promote inclusive societies by realising and protecting the right to a nationality. It works to address discrimination and promote inclusive citizenship, realise every child’s right to a nationality, tackle statelessness as a cause and consequence of displacement, make the stateless visible to development programming and counter arbitrary deprivation of nationality, particularly in security contexts.

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