Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll be well aware of the Shamima Begum controversy – we’ll unpick it shortly, but before we dive in, let’s have a brief think about who we are as a country.
(This is only a summary of some very complex areas.)
All of us within the boundaries of the United Kingdom agreed to accept the “Rule of Law” that prevails in the United Kingdom.
For example, we accept:
- The sovereignty of parliament to make laws;
- The judiciary to make decisions when there is a dispute about those laws;
- In certain defined circumstances the state can exercise power by force over our bodies (normally through the police);
If we are not all “singing from the same hymn sheet” chaos reigns, and chaos is usually dominated by the psychopaths and the fanatics.
The “Rule of Law” is therefore not just a legal concept – it is literally part of our makeup, our constitution, our “DNA” – as the common parlance puts it.
The Rule of Law is embodied in the law which reflects our shared values.
(Conflicts in our values work themselves out through the democratic process.)
Shamima Begum must be treated according to law. Whether we like her or what she has done or not done or what she says is irrelevant.
All of the papers are saying that the Secretary of State cannot deprive someone of their British citizenship if that makes them “stateless”, as this would be a breach of their human rights.
But this isn’t quite right.
We have to look in Section 40 of the British Nationality Act 1981, which you can find here (https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1981/61)
Here are the relevant parts, with my emphasis:
40 Deprivation of citizenship.
(1) In this section a reference to a person’s “citizenship status” is a reference to his status as—
(a) a British citizen,
(b) a British overseas territories citizen,
(c )a British Overseas citizen,
(d) a British National (Overseas),
(e) a British protected person, or
(f) a British subject.[F117(2) The Secretary of State may by order deprive a person of a citizenship status if the Secretary of State is satisfied that deprivation is conducive to the public good.]
(4) The Secretary of State may not make an order under subsection (2) if he is satisfied that the order would make a person stateless.[F118(4A) But that does not prevent the Secretary of State from making an order under subsection (2) to deprive a person of a citizenship status if—
- the citizenship status results from the person’s naturalisation,
- the Secretary of State is satisfied that the deprivation is conducive to the public good because the person, while having that citizenship status, has conducted him or herself in a manner which is seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the United Kingdom, any of the Islands, or any British overseas territory, and
- the Secretary of State has reasonable grounds for believing that the person is able, under the law of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom, to become a national of such a country or territory.]
To my mind the “and” at the end of Section 40 (4A)(b) is conjunctive, which means the Secretary of State can only deprive under Section (b) if (c) applies, i.e. she has a right to acquire Bangladeshi citizenship.
So, she doesn’t have to be a Bangladeshi citizen – she just has to be able to become one.
We will keep following this and bring you the true facts from the court!