Thursday, 28 February 2013

Deprivation of Citizenship - Justice and Security Bill condemned again

In an exclusive story, The Independent (27th February) tells of individuals being stripped of British Citizenship and then being killed by drones -  Exclusive: Secret war on enemy within - British terror suspects quietly stripped of citizenship ... then killed by drones

According to the article - 'The Government has secretly ramped up a controversial programme that strips people of their British citizenship on national security grounds – with two of the men subsequently killed by American drone attacks.  An investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism for The Independent has established that since 2010, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, has revoked the passports of 16 individuals, many of whom are alleged to have had links to militant or terrorist groups.  Critics of the programme warn that it allows ministers to “wash their hands” of British nationals suspected of terrorism who could be subject to torture and illegal detention abroad.  They add that it also allows those stripped of their citizenship to be killed or “rendered” without any onus on the British Government to intervene.'

It is also alleged
that the Secretary of State is depriving certain dual nationality individuals of their citizenship when they are out of the UK.  This makes it difficult (if not impossible) for them to return and challenge the decision.

The argument here is NOT there should be no such power.  Clearly, some individuals would not merit retention of citizenship if their activities were particularly inimical to the interests of the UK.  However, the argument is about the method of exercising the power.  Surely, natural justice requires that individuals be notified of an intention to revoke citizenship so that they have a proper opportunity to make representations and, where appropriate, challenge the decision before a court.  That is the true rule of law in operation.

In fact, this is not the first time that this matter has come to public attention.  For example, on 15th August 2011, The Guardian reported that the Home Office was stripping more dual nationality Britons of citizenship.

The Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 s.56 amended the British Nationality Act 1981 s.40 so as to enable the Secretary of State to deprive a person of a citizenship status "if the Secretary of State is satisfied that deprivation is conducive to the public good.”  The amendment to the law took effect on 16th June 2006 but, since 2010, use of the power has increased under the coalition government.

What is particularly interesting here is that the Secretary of State's power was effectively increased by this change.  Previously, the law stated:

"The Secretary of State may by order deprive a person of a citizenship status if the Secretary of State is satisfied that the person has done anything seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of — (a) the United Kingdom, or (b) a British overseas territory."

See Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 s.4 which also amended the British Nationality Act 1981.

Returning for a moment to The Independent's article.   It is said that, in 2010, Theresa May stripped a man (Mr Berjawi) of  his British citizenship and, soon afterwards, he was killed by a United States drone attack.  This, it is claimed, was within  hours of calling his wife in London to congratulate her on the birth of their first son.  His family argue that US forces were able to pinpoint his location by monitoring the call he made to his wife in the UK.

It is worth reflecting whether such allegations could ever come to public notice if the Justice and Security Bill becomes law with its provisions for closed material procedure in civil proceedings as opposed to just in particular instances such as hearings before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission.

Kenneth Clarke
The Justice and Security Bill is the subject of earlier posts on this blog and has very recently been condemned yet again - see The Guardian 28th February 2013 (Kenneth Clarke's plans for secret courts savaged by lawyers).  Some 702 lawyers - including many of the country's most eminent Queen's Counsel - have condemned this Bill as 'dangerous and unnecessary.'  For the letter from the lawyers to the Daily Mail (27 February) - see No to Secret Justice: The letter from 700 legal professionals

The controversial use of drones is the subject of a number of posts on my companion blog Watching the Law - e.g. here.

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