The British government has secretly been stripping citizenship status from British nationals it suspects of terrorism, some of whom were later targeted and killed by drone attacks abroad.
According to an report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and published in the UK's Independent on Thursday, the investigation "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."
Subsequently, at least two of these individuals were targeted and then killed in Somalia by missiles fired from US drones.
According to the investigation:
At least five of those deprived of their UK nationality by the Coalition were born in Britain, and one man had lived in the country for almost 50 years. Those affected have their passports cancelled, and lose their right to enter the UK – making it very difficult to appeal against the Home Secretary’s decision.
In the US, where controversy has surrounding the targeted killing of US citizens abroad, no attempt was made to strip those individuals of their citizenship prior to their assassination. But the program in the UK, by stripping legal standing prior to targeting, seems to be an attempt to avoid the contentious idea that the government would kill its own citizens without trial or due process.
In response to the revelations, Clive Stafford Smith, director of the UK-based human rights group Reprieve, tweeted:
What is means to be an ally: Theresa May strips nationality of UK citizens, US kills them with drones, independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/…
— Clive Stafford Smith (@CliveSSmith) February 28, 2013
And as the report describes:
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In February last year, international agencies in Africa reported that “four foreign Islamist militants” had been killed in a drone strike south of Somalia’s capital, a day after the country’s Prime Minister called for foreign air strikes against the terror group al-Shabaab.
At the time a senior Western intelligence officer was quoted as saying that a “very senior Egyptian was killed” in the raid, along with three Kenyans and a Somali.
That was technically true – but in reality the Egyptian had not even been born in the country for which he held a passport. It would have been more accurate to describe him as a British terror suspect who once ran a car valeting business in London.
The Bureau has established that the victim of the February air strike was Mohamed Sakr, who was born and brought up in the UK before having his citizenship revoked in September 2010 by the Home Secretary, Theresa May.
Gareth Peirce, a leading immigration defense lawyer in Britain told the TBIJ that the situation “smacked of medieval exile, just as cruel and just as arbitrary”.
“British citizens are being banished from their own country," she added, "being stripped of a core part of their identity yet without a single word of explanation of why they have been singled out and dubbed a risk.”
And Asim Qureshi, executive director of the human rights group CagePrisoners, responded to the the Bureau’s investigation by saying that the findings were especially troubling for Britons from an ethnic minority background.
“We all feel just as British as everybody else, and yet just because our parents came from another country, we can be subjected to an arbitrary process where we are no longer members of this country any more,” he said.
“I think that’s extremely dangerous because it will speak to people’s fears about how they’re viewed by their own government, especially when they come from certain areas of the world.”
Read the TBIJ full report here.