Altaf Hussain & the British Laws

Cross Post

BY  ArticleYAA

The question as to whether or not the UK government can take any step against Altaf Hussain on his diatribe, hate speech and incitement to violence on varied occasions has been hotly debated on various forums and mainstream media in Pakistan. More so now than ever before. This piece is an effort to cut through the flak.

Unlike most nations, UK does not enjoy a written/codified Constitution. It is largely based on court judgments, Acts of Parliament, Conventions etc. The Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression was not explicitly recognized under the Common Law as opposed to other rights like the right to reputation (Law of Torts) or the right to own property and other similar rights. Howe ever, as a result of Human Right Act of 1998, the status of Fundamental Rights including Freedom of Expression has changed in UK.

Article 10 of the ECHR provides: (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requesting the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises. (2) The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

There are nonetheless, reasonable restrictions (exceptions), provided for in the provisions in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act of 2005, Terrorism Act of 2006 and the Racial and Religious Hatred Act of 2006.

The question that is pertinent is can the UK government punish any naturalized citizen (dual citizen) for making speeches or taking any action that may negatively affect another country?

One needs to read the British Nationality Act 1981 (with Amendment : inserting section 66 of Immigration Act 2014 to deprive a naturalized person  of British citizenship “on the grounds that they had conducted themselves in a manner “seriously prejudicial” to the vital interests of the UK, and there are reasonable grounds to consider that they could be eligible for another nationality. In reaching a decision to deprive on these grounds, the Home Secretary can take into account conduct which took place prior to this section coming into force.” (Deprivation of British citizenship & withdrawal of passport facilities: Melanie Gower: Standard Note SN/HA/6820, House of Commons)

The present shape of law as enunciated in Section 40 gives the Home Secretary the following powers, thereby revoking British citizenship status if:

  • The person obtained their citizenship status through registration or naturalization, and the Home Secretary is satisfied that this was obtained by fraud, false representation or the concealment of any material fact (s40(3));
  • The Home Secretary considers that deprivation “is conducive to the public good”, and would not make the person stateless (s40(2); s40(4));
  • The person obtained their citizenship status through naturalization, and the Home Secretary considers that deprivation is conducive to the public good because the person has conducted themselves “in a manner which is seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the United Kingdom, any of the Islands, or any British overseas territory”, and the Home Secretary has reasonable grounds to believe that the person is able to become a national of another country or territory under their laws (s40(4A)).

“A person may be deprived of their British citizenship even if this would leave them stateless. “Conducive to the public good” means depriving in the public interest on the grounds of involvement in terrorism, espionage, serious organized crime, war crimes or unacceptable behaviors.” (Deprivation of British citizenship & withdrawal of passport facilities: Melanie Gower: Standard Note SN/HA/6820, House of Commons)

“Baroness Smith also noted, “Currently, the law allows the Home Secretary to deprive a person of their citizenship status for two reasons: first, if the person acquired it using fraud, false representation or concealment of a material fact; or, secondly, if the Home Secretary is satisfied that, in doing so, it is conducive to the public good and that the person would not be left stateless as a result. Clause 60 seeks to amend the second condition to, in the words of a Minister in the other place, ‘ensure that individuals who are a serious threat to this country cannot retain citizenship simply because deprivation would leave them stateless.’” (Making UK Citizens Stateless: Full Text of the Lords’ Debate on Theresa May’s Citizenship-Stripping Powers, March 17, 2014: Andy Worthington)


However, how will UK law view such behavior exacted towards Pakistan by their naturalized citizen ? Can this behavior be considered and translated as prejudicial to the vital interests of the United Kingdom? Can it be interpreted as a serious threat to UK herself? Will the alleged crimes by Altaf Hussain  be deemed as having committed a crime under British Law? Will it mean that an individual allegedly inciting violence and named in many cases in another country be deemed as a security threat damaging UK interests as well by damaging its standing in international comity of nations and negatively effecting friendly relationship with the grieved nation? Yes and no. It will depend upon the interpretation entirely that can go either way.

Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi in a letter to the Home Secretary,” found it incredulous that despite numerous speeches from his home in London through which he clearly incites his followers to commit murder and violence that no action has been taken by the authorities.” (News Report in local daily August, 31, 2016) This is in relation to Scotland Yard’s view that information provided to them is inadequate.

In the famous Chahal Case 1996, Court in Strasbourg ruled that, “the British Home Secretary cannot balance the human rights risk to an individual if they are deported against the security risk to the UK if they stay. This applies once it is established that the person to be deported is at substantial risk of suffering torture or inhuman or degrading treatment.” (The Guardian UK June 26, 2006)

In December 2013 however the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported a significant increase in the use of deprivation powers in 2013, in part due to British citizens travelling to fight in Syria. (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, ‘Rise in citizenship-stripping as government cracks down on UK fighters in Syria’, 23 December 2013)

“A Home Office response to a Freedom of Information request, published in December 2014, stated that 37 individuals had been deprived of their British citizenship on either “conducive to the public good” grounds, or grounds of fraud, false representation or concealment of material fact. None of the individuals were sole British nationals.” (Deprivation of British citizenship & withdrawal of passport facilities: Melanie Gower: Standard Note SN/HA/6820, House of Commons)

Interestingly, another piece of legislation The Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill 2014-2015 allows seizure of British passport and expulsion from UK without repudiating their citizenship.

Viva Zapata!

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