Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Proscribing foreign fighters‏

This comment was submitted to the Daily Telegraph on 25 November
In his commentary “Can Theresa May get the right balance between liberty and security?” ("Can Theresa May get the right balance between liberty and security?"Daily Telegraph, 25 Nov. Johnson emphasised that the Home Secretary told the Daily Telegraph that “Islamist fighters returning from Iraq or Syria represent a greater threat than any previous terror group, including al-Qaeda-trained extremists or the Provisional IRA.”
But the problem for Government legislation is how do you discriminate between one group of British citizens who chose to go abroad and fight for one  foreign power and  others fighting for a different foreign power?
Labour MP for Newport West, Paul Flynn, tried to  clarify this in a question he  submitted on 29 August to the Home Secretary, asking what estimate she had made of the number of (a) British citizens, (b) British residents holding dual passports and (c) British residents holding foreign passports who left the UK in 2014 to fight for the (i) Israeli Defence Force in Gaza, (ii) Koma Komalên Kurdistan (KKK) in Syria and Iraq and (iii) ISIS Islamic State in Syria and Iraq in 2014.
The question was finally answered on 20 November  questions are usually answered within 5  days) by junior Home Office minister James Brokenshire, who said:
“We do not hold data on British nationals fighting with the Israeli Defence Force: many foreign nationals (including British nationals) serve in the IDF, and also hold dual (Israeli) nationality. We do not hold data on British nationals fighting with the Koma Komalên Kurdistan in Syria/Iraq.”

But he had a lot more to say on those who have  joined up with ISIS, stating:
“We believe that more than 500 individuals from the UK have travelled to Syria since the start of the conflict. It is estimated half of these have returned. We judge that a significant minority of UK extremists currently fighting in Syria are affiliated with ISIL. British citizens fighting with proscribed terrorist organisations would clearly pose a threat to the UK should they return. Such individuals are among our primary counter-terrorism concerns… Those who become involved in fighting abroad can potentially be prosecuted under UK law on their return including under terrorism or other offences.”
He then stressed that: “Fighting in a foreign conflict is not automatically an offence but will depend on the nature of the conflict and the individual's own activities." adding:
"Any allegation of an offence will be a matter for investigation by the police. Whether an individual is arrested or prosecuted will always depend on the facts and circumstances of the case and is an operational decision for the police and Crown Prosecution Service. Safeguards are built in to our legislation and we rely on the police and Crown Prosecution Service to make sure that prosecutions are pursued in appropriate cases. Whether any specific act falls within the definition of terrorism and whether any individuals or groups have committed an offence will always depend on all facts and circumstances of the case. Prosecutions can only be sought where the Crown Prosecution Service is satisfied that there is sufficient evidence of any offence having been commissioned and that it is in the public interest to prosecute.” (question number: 207355)
Mr Cameron told MPs in the House of Commons on 25 Nov. that the new counter terrorism controls will ensure those suspected of fighting abroad will only  be able to return “on our terms.”(
The conclusion to be drawn is if you go abroad to fight for parties with whom our Government agrees, such as Israel in its fight with Palestinians, or with freedom fighter groups such as the Kurdish KKK, that is fine.
But if you chose to fight for entities whom the Government do not agree, or are totally hostile to the United Kingdom, such as the extremist ISIS - fighting, raping and murdering for an Islamic State caliphate - expect to be in trouble sometime very soon.

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