The Point (Banjul)

22 August 2014

Gambia: 'War Crime Screening' for British Citizenship Applicants

Human rights lawyers and activists are rejoicing following the UK government's decision to have 'war crime screening' of certain people who wish to apply for British citizenship.

Even though it is already mandatory to complete sections of application forms asking whether an applicant had 'criminal convictions; civil judgments or civil penalties' made against them, the government has now decided to include the issue of 'war crime'.

A Written Statement in the House of Commons by the Minister for Immigration and Security, James Brokenshire MP, and in the House of Lords by Lord Taylor of Holbeach, noted among others: 'Applications from certain nationalities for British citizenship to more rigorous scrutiny than others for the purposes of determining whether the applicant has committed, been complicit in the commission of, or otherwise been associated with, the commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide'.

Patrick Goodman, human rights activist and proponent against torture and other inhumane and degrading treatment told The Point:

'Due to the fact that war crime is a 'serious violation of the law and international regulations... and sometimes done intentionally with impunity, perpetrators must be held accountable... we are in total support... '

It is vital to add that the UK government has been in the forefront against such transgressions and Home Office officials are mandated to carry out 'criminal record checks on all applicants and dependants' applying for UK immigration status.

Applicants are always reminded to provide details of all 'unspent and spent criminal convictions,' and failing to do so may render an application to be 'invalid'.

Consequently, such application will be returned to the applicant or to his or her representative.

Also it is an offence under 'section 26(1)(c) of the Immigration Act 1971 to make a statement or representation which is known to be false or is not believed to be true'.

Thus Home Office officials are mandated to check with other agencies or organisations to verify such claims.

However, the Statement added: 'The condition for subjecting these applications to more rigorous scrutiny is that the applicant is a national of a state specified on a list approved personally by me for the purpose of the arrangements... I have now reviewed and approved this list in accordance with our commitment to do so annually.

"I am satisfied that the conditions set out in the arrangements are met in respect of the countries on the list. The arrangements will continue to be reviewed on an annual basis and will remain in force until revoked... '

Human rights organisations representing or supporting victims of abuse and cruelty have been calling for a 'more rigorous manner' in dealing with such crimes, and noted that 'the announcement is timely'.

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