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UK entitled to revoke terrorism suspect's citizenship, ECtHR rules

9 March 2017

The United Kingdom was entitled to revoke the UK citizenship of a Sudanese man  suspected of taking part in terrorism-related activities in Somalia, and his application to the European Court of Human Rights was inadmissible where no article 8 issue arose and his case had been fully reviewed by the UK courts, the Strasbourg court ruled today.

In a unanimous, and final, decision a seven judge chamber rejected the case of a man referred to as K2, who had arrived in the UK in 2000 as a child but who in 2010 was deprived of his UK citizenship by the Hiome Secretary and barred from re-entering the country. K2 claimed that these decisions had violated his right to respect for private and family life under article 8, and had been discriminatory.

The court ruled that the complaints were inadmissible, as they were clearly without merit. Although an arbitrary denial or revocation of citizenship might in some circumstances raise an issue under article 8, because of its impact on the private life of an individual, no such issue arose in the present case. K2's wife and child had left the UK and could freely go to Sudan, and his own natal family could visit him reasonably often. The Home Secretary at the time had acted swiftly and diligently, and in accordance with the law. K2 had had a statutory right to appeal and access to judicial review but the UK courts had rejected his claims after giving them a comprehensive and thorough examination. Though some of the case against K2 had been kept secret for security reasons, his special advocate had had access to this information, and the nature of the case was broadly known to K2.

K2 also argued that he could not properly make his case from abroad, because of fears that his communications could be intercepted by Sudanese counter-terrorism authorities who would then harm him. However the court held that article 8 could not be interpreted so as to impose an obligation on states to facilitate the return of every person deprived of citizenship in order for them to pursue an appeal against that decision. K2 had left the UK of his own volition; the UK court had rejected K2’s claims about not being able to argue his case from abroad, and the court did not consider itself in a positon to call into question that finding.

Furthermore, the UK court had adopted a cautious approach to the case given the absence of instructions from the applicant, but still found conclusive evidence that he had been engaged in terrorism-related activities. In any case, it was K2 who had originally chosen to leave the country.

K2 would not be left stateless by the loss of UK citizenship, as he had Sudanese citizenship, and the interference to his private and family life caused by the deprivation of citizenship was limited. In these circumstances, the deprivation of citizenship had been lawful under article 8. 

Click here to view the decision.

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