By Saron Messembe Obia
Cultural integration and human security, two aspects of contemporary crimes (organized crimes, terrorism, religious extremism and jihadist tendencies). The emergence of regional and international actors (jihadists, terrorist or extremists) instrumentalizing individuals “foreign fighters” either for religious or political agenda is not new. Over the past years’ human security has been the main agenda of the United Nations, European Union and African Union, due to internal wrangling, fragmentation of states and the rise of terrorist organizations. For example; the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), about 50,000 volunteers from more than 50 countries were involved, representing both sides of the conflict. The term “foreign fighter” was first used in reference to fighters travelling from outside the conflict zone to fight for Al-Qaida in Afghanistan. In relation to menace on human security, the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights defines:
“A foreign fighter is an individual who leaves his or her country of origin or habitual residence to join a non-State armed group in an armed conflict abroad and who is primarily motivated by ideology, religion, and/or kinship”.
On September 24, 2014, the United Nations Security Council, expressing grave concern about the increasing threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters and by individuals who are recruited by the so-called Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIL or ISIS); the Al-Nusrah Front; and other cells, unanimously adopted Resolution No. 2178 of 2014 condemning such groups and individuals. The Resolution was adopted under chapter VII of the UN Charter and is binding on the Member States. However, there exist limits, as the Resolution is not self-executing and requires UN Members to adopt domestically or internationally strategy through bilateral or multilateral agreements to curb the emergence of foreign fighters.
According to Resolution 2178/2014 requires that the UN Member States take action to prevent and suppress “the recruiting, organizing, transporting or equipping of individuals who travel to a State other than their States of residence or nationality” with the intent to commit, plan, or participate in terrorist acts or to be drilled as terrorists, as well as the financing activities. Prevention of Entry or Transit Member States are required to take measures to prevent the entry or transit through their territories of any person for whom the state “has credible information that provides reasonable grounds to believe that he or she is seeking entry into or transit through their territory” in order to commit the acts described above, including any acts or activities demonstrating that an individual or entity is associated with Al-Qaeda, as provided for in Resolution No. 2161/2014.5 As in Resolution No. 2178/2014, Member States are not obliged to deny entry to or order the departure from their territories of their own nationals or permanent residents.
This paper explores the impact of the return of Shamima Begum as from a legal perspective, by first examining her departure from her country of origin to Syria, and then the legal prerogatives that can limit her return to UK.
Application of the Stylized Fact Model on Shamima Begum’s Case
One of the most strategic model that conceptualizes the menace on human security in the 21st century is the stylized fact model by Professor Tilman Brück, Professor Friedrich Schneider & Marie Karaisl (2007), which examines the Dynamics between security and insecurity. The impact of security measures in relation to counter terrorism, particularly of the terrorist behavior should is economically challenging. Security measures aim to limit or mitigate impacts of modern terrorism. This paper uses the stylized facts model, to point out how terrorists undermine defensive policies, target selection, pattern of attack and timing.
With respect to defensive measures taken by regional and international organizations to decrease resource endowments of sovereignty free actors or jihadi groups, the actors adopt different trends; structural and managerial rehabilitation to circumvent restrictions on their activities. Strategic response to terrorism and jihadist tendencies has become more severe for returning fighters or jihadists from the Middle East and Asia evading proactive policies as illustrated for example by the elusive network structure of al-Qaeda and ISIS. The case of Shamima Begum continues to moderate international and regional debates amongst scholars and security experts.
The absence of consular in Syria to provide assistance for British nationals is very strategic in relation of the territory being alienated to a terrorist base with transnational networks like Al Qaeda and ISIS. As such, Shamima Begum is of the competence of intelligence services, counter-terrorism police, and specialist security and legal officials in the Home Office of United Kingdom. Dealing with returning terrorist fighters will be a phenomenal cancer with the recent case and ISIS aspiration to create a Caliphate in Syria, while soliciting supporters from other state or region to travel to Syria for training. The present situation does not only to those involved in active combat, but also to non-combatants aspiring or have been of assistance to proscribed organizations. Shamima Begum was 15-years old, when she and other youngsters (girls) East London adhere to Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria crusade in 2015. Her (Shamima Begum) media interview with the Times in a refugee camp (al-Hawl refugee camp in north-eastern Syria) in Syria in February 2019, revealed she was nine months pregnant and expressed a wish of returning to her country of origin, with no regret for her links to jihadism.
The Government estimates that approximately 900 people have travelled to Syria and Iraq for global jihad, of which approximately 40% have returned. The territory controlled by ISIS in Syria and Iraq has shrunk since 2014 as a result of military efforts by an international coalition of forces. The geostrategic advancement of the coalition in controlled territory will eventually appeal for more fighters, seeking to return. But the threat posed is not ignored by Alex Younger, Chief of MI6, subscribing to the return of British nationals, but also exposing a threat to the public and need of significant level of resource.
Although the stylized fact model has proven useful, there exist some limitations in relation to the nature and characteristics of individual terrorists and terror organizations as a whole: first, it does not differentiate between differing motivations and preferences of individual terrorists that will determine how willing individuals are to give up their violent activities; second, the model does not account for factors that will determine the “price” or “value” of terrorist actions besides security measures themselves.
The British legal prescription for returning foreign fighters
Drawing from the British Nationality Act 1981 the Home Secretary has the legal power to deprive a person of British nationality if convinced that it is “conducive to the public good” provided that they would not be made stateless. The case study is critical to national security, following recent events in Britain, followed by intelligence breach and terrorist aspirations. The act equally prescribes that, the Home Secretary can also deprive a person of their citizenship or nationality obtained through naturalization, if they have conducted themselves, “in a manner which is seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the [UK]”, and there are reasonable grounds to believe they could become a national of another country. Ms Begum Bangladeshi citizenship could be evoked to limit her return to UK, if proven.
An appeal by Ms Begum to the Special Immigration Appeal Commission, can equally be counter with temporary exclusion order (TEO). Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 through a TEO enables the Home Secretary to prevent any individual suspected of having been involved in terrorism related activity outside the UK from returning to the UK, unless they accept certain specified conditions.
With the implementation of TEOs, the Government can engage legal proceedings or prosecute anyone who has travelled abroad to engage in terrorism related activity. Despite the existence of several terrorist offences that could be raise, which are but not limited to; adherence to ideology or terrorist organization supporter, and attendance at a place used for terrorism training. However, there may be some challenges in obtaining evidence of an individual engage in terrorist activities abroad, if the territory does not cooperate with the functioning criminal justice system of UK.
In addition to the above, the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 introduced a new offence of “entering or remaining in a designated area” aimed at addressing the global menace to human security. The new offence applies to individuals who travel to certain designated parts of the world, without the need to provide evidence of terrorism-related activity whilst there. But, the legal position with respect to members of proscribed organizations seeking to return to the UK depends on their nationality and immigration status. However, the Government have the sole power to prevent anyone from returning to UK base on legal and intelligence facts.
CTA, FOREIGN FIGHTERS AND RETURNEES FROM A COUNTER-TERRORISM PERSPECTIVE, IN PARTICULAR WITH REGARD TO SYRIA (May 28, 2013), http://www.statewatch.org/news/2013/jul/eu-council-terr-coordinator-syria-9946-13.pdf.
Richard Barrett, “Foreign fighters in Syria” (Soufan Group, June 2014), p. 9; Security Council 7272nd meeting, 24 September 2014 (S/PV.7272).
Richard Barrett, “Beyond the caliphate: foreign fighters and the threat of returnees” (Soufan Center, October 2017 ).
S.C. Res. 2161, U.N. Doc. S/RES/2161 (June 17, 2014), http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol= S/RES/ 2161%282014%29.
Security Council resolution 2178 (2014), seventh preambular paragraph.
(The Author is the Editor of crimeandmoreworld.com)
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