How Do You Solve a Problem Like Mohamed?
02/03/2013 2 Comments
The UK has a Jihadi tourism problem. Since 2001 young Jihadis holding British passports have been quietly slipping out of the country to spend their gap years gaining valuable combat experience in hot and dusty places around the world. If they aren’t killed in action, they return home (as UK passport holders they can’t be denied re-entry to Britain) helping to spread the Jihadi gospel in cold, wet Britain and plan acts of ‘home-grown’ terrorism. Since they’re UK passport holders, they can’t just be executed abroad or quietly kidnapped and imprisoned by US forces. What to do?
The solution was simple, elegant, legal and lethal.
Since 2010, at least 16 dual citizenship British passport-holding Jihadis have been stripped of their citizenship, (thus removing the protection given by a UK passport) allowing the Brits to wash their hands of any responsibility for their fate. And fate has been very unkind. At least two dual nationality British Jihadis have been killed in US drone-strikes, others have been kidnapped by the US and locked up in their network of secret prisons. And others stranded in unpleasant countries with no prospect of returning to Britain.
Strip, Outsource, Execute – Simple, Elegant and Lethal
The outsourced execution/indefinite detention scheme works like this: The Home Secretary (Interior Minister) strips UK citizenship from dual nationals who had done something ‘seriously prejudicial’ against the State. To appeal against this action, you have to be present in the UK. But you can’t appeal, because your UK passport’s been cancelled, preventing travel to the UK on your other, non-UK passport. The perfect closed loop. The closed loop is tightened even further at the appeals stage which are heard by the semi-secret Special Immigration Appeals Commissions (SIAC), a genuinely Kafaesque court.
- Evidence is heard in ‘closed’ proceedings’ i.e. where the accused and their legal team can’t learn the detail of the evidence against them.
- Instead, a special advocate – a carefully vetted barrister – challenges the government’s account.
- Once this barrister’s seen the secret evidence he can’t speak with the defendant without the court’s permission.
Result: a closed circle, within a closed circle with icing on top.
Bilal al-Berjawi – Hardcore Jihadi or Innocent Family Man?
Bilal was a British-Lebanese citizen who came to the UK as a baby, grew up in London, but left for Somalia in 2009 with his close friend the British-born Mohamed Sakr, who unfortunately also held Egyptian nationality. In Somalia, the two (allegedly) became involved with al-Shabaab, the Islamist militant group linked to al-Qa’ida. Bilal was said to have risen to a senior position in the organisation, with Mohamed his “right-hand man”. In January 2012, Bilal and his friend Mohamed were killed by a US drone strike, after making a call to his wife who had given birth to their child. Bilal’s relatives “dismissed allegations that he was a senior al-Qaida figure in the region” Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?
But Al-Shahab’s eulogy from Somalia left no doubt that Bilal was an important commander in the organization. “Bilal Al Birjawi, a great Mujahid brother who was in Somalia for a long time was killed today. We take his death as congratulation, Thanks to Allah, because he met what he has migrated to Somalia. His martyrdom dream has just become true. The Americans killed our brother and we will not sit, we will revenge for him in Allah’s wishes” Sheikh Ali Dhere vowed in a press conference in Elasha in Mogadishu’s outskirts.
Omar Jamal, Somalia’s man in the UN unequivocally welcomed Bilal’s death: “Good riddance, and I hope the al-Shabab leadership will come to their senses and cease the hostility in Somalia,”.
Why Did It Take So Long?
After the initial shock of losing 67 Brits to Al-Quaeda’s 9/11 attack, it took the mass murder of 52 Londoners by homegrown British Jihadis on 7th July 2005 to get the British government to find this neat legal solution of outsourced justice. Unsurprisingly, the overwhelming majority of dual citizens who’ve been stripped of their UK passport just happen to be of Pakistani, Somali, Sudanese and other Arab extractions.
Mahdi Hashi, a young ex-care worker was unfortunate enough to spend time in Egypt (“studying Arabic”) and Somalia, then disappeared until suddenly emerging in New York on trial for terrorism charges. According to the Independent, “despite Mr Hashi being brought up in the UK, the British Government has washed its hands of him, having stripped him of his citizenship shortly before he disappeared in Somalia last summer.” The poor guy’s probably innocent, but so many UK and US-born Somali youth have joined the Jihadis in Somalia that they’ll probably find him guilty by association.
Don’t Buy a Return Ticket
So, if you’re a dual national or a naturalised Brit from a country experiencing heavy Jihadi activity, and if you’re already on the security services’ radar, you’d better have a good reason for visiting the homeland. “Learning Arabic” won’t be good enough.