Should We Render British ISIS Militants Stateless to Reduce the Risk of Terrorism to National Security?

Contributed by Joe Timmins

Finding the Balance between the Human Rights of UK Citizens engaging in ISIS Activities and the Risk to National Security

The Islamic State of Iraq, more commonly known as ISIS, has dominated the press in recent months. ISIS is like an Iraqi franchise of al-Qaeda that rebranded itself as ‘ISIS’ in April last year. ISIS is an extremist Islamic group that wants a Caliphate, a huge Islamic state that encompasses all Sunni Muslims in the world. But why does this concern the UK? ISIS claim to have fighters from Britain, as well as the United States, France, Germany and other European countries. There is much confusion over how many Britons have gone to fight in Iraq and Syria, with the Foreign Secretary William Hague claiming the number to be about 500 people however some people such as Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham claim this number to realistically be more like 1500 people. My article does not focus on the activities of ISIS, but more on the Human rights of the young Britons who have travelled to Iraq and Syria to fight, and whether it is legal to render them stateless by refusing the previous citizens entry back into the UK.

Using a cost-benefit analysis process, we can assess the possible long term danger of allowing ISIS militants back to the UK. Firstly, If Britain opens its doors to IS jihadist members; an international terror threat could be posed to Britain. Britain would face the long term effects of the conflict as young British Muslims who fought in Iraq and Syria, war-torn countries, would return to the UK possibly increasingly radicalised and pose the threat of committing violence within the UK. On balance, it would seem reasonable to assume that if any ISIS militants travelled to the Middle East to fight, aware of the possibility they could not return to the UK, it would be fair to bar militants returning. However, originally the first Britons to travel to the Middle East were British Syrians, followed by the Kurdish community. There is no evidence to suggest that these people have took part in any terror related activities, and played any other role than to protect their family homeland from ISIS militants who attempted to sweep through the whole of Iraq and Syria. It was only two years ago that the first British Muslims went, bringing the possibility of them joining the violent ISIS group. Consequently, it is very difficult to bar entry to UK citizens returning to the UK from ISIS states as little evidence can be proved as
to who participated in violent crimes and who did not.

In September of this year, the prime minister proposed new laws giving police temporary power to seize passports of citizens suspected of joining ISIS in order to prevent them from re-entering the country. This temporary emergency power was prompted by a video showing an apparent British national ISIS militant, beheading the American journalist James Foley. This gruesome act alone is indicative of the ideology of the group -dangerous and destabilising. There are two United Nations Conventions that cause a legal problem here though. The Status of Stateless Persons 1954 and 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness serves to prevent the State from rendering a citizen stateless. Moreover, rendering a person stateless, and refusing them access to the UK is arguably contravening the Right To Family Act.

Regardless of this, I support David Cameron’s decision to refuse ISIS militant’s access back to the UK. The purpose of the rule of law is to ensure peace; made possible through a code of accepted behaviour. If somebody, including an ISIS militant, chooses to break this peace and bring harm and terror to somebody else’s life, I would argue that they have lost certain rights as a citizen under a particular rule of law. In addition, under David Cameron’s proposals, sufficient evidence must still be attained proving a person is going to be engaging in terrorist activity before their passport can be taken ensuring a just use of the legal system. As David Cameron said, “Adhering to British values is not an option or a choice. It is a duty for all those who live in these islands…Passports are not an automatic right”. Trying to protect the UK against terrorism, while still allowing members of terrorist organisations certain liberties to comply with Human Rights Laws and Laws banning a state from rendering a citizen stateless, is ineffective and hampering the fight against global terrorism. Otherwise, leaders have to fight the war against terrorism with their arms tied behind their backs.


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