As published in The Hull Daily Mail
‘British jihadists who take up arms should be stripped of citizenship’
British jihadists who leave the UK to take up arms in the Middle East should be stripped of their citizenship, Haltemprice and Howden MP David Davis has said.
The former Shadow Home Secretary said that in order to minimise the threat posed by homegrown terrorists, public trials should be held so that justice could “be seen to be done”.
He warned, however, there was just a “narrow window of opportunity” to introduce new laws revoking British passports from Islamists on national security grounds.
Mr Davis said any trials would most likely be conducted in their absence.
“We would have to notify them, of course, or, in the case of a trial in absentia, their families. Absence would not preclude them from an open trial, which is the only way that you would be able to do this,” he said.
“It can’t be done by the Home Secretary, though, that’s the sort of thing dictatorships do.”
Mr Davis’s intervention comes in the wake of the murder of US journalist James Foley, who is believed to have been beheaded by a British citizen, dubbed “Jihadi John”.
The senior Tory backbencher said: “They are effectively claiming their allegiance to the Islamic State and revoking their own citizenship. The fact that we don’t recognise it as a state ourselves is neither here or there.”
Mr Davis, who is an outspoken campaigner against the erosion of civil liberties, said: “I don’t view it as a civil right to go off and kill other people.”
In the unlikely event that suspects who have exposed themselves on social media return to the UK, he said they would most likely end up in prison.
Asked about concerns that prisons were often fertile breeding grounds for extremists, he said: “That’s not a reason to not lock people up; that’s a reason to make sure that prisons are not recruiting sergeants for extremists.”
Mr Davis said he had no plans to find out whether there were any suspects believed to have gone over from East Yorkshire.
“That’s not for me to do,” he said.
“The reason I raise this issue is because, it seems to me, that the Government is in a strategic cul-de-sac.”
He suggested it was lacking in confidence after last year’s Commons defeat on military intervention in Syria. MPs – led by Mr Davis – voted 285 to 272 against intervention.
He said: “Interestingly, if the Government had won that vote they would effectively have made themselves allies of the Islamic State, given that many of the rebel fighters are now believed to be part of it.
“The whole Western alliance is struggling to understand and implement an effective foreign policy.”
“Jihadi John” is believed to be one of about 500 British passport holders who have gone to Syria, Iraq or Libya to fight. While dozens of militants are believed to have died, half are thought to have returned.