20 March, 2013

Mariam Rajavi ~ exclusion from the UK

The Home Secretary (Theresa May) decided that prominent Iranian Mrs Maryam Rajavi may not enter the United Kingdom on the basis that her entry into the United Kingdom would not be conducive to the public good. The reasons are based principally on foreign policy and security grounds, not on fears about Mrs Rajavi's conduct here. 

A judicial review of Mrs May's decision failed when heard in the High Court and that decision has been upheld in the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) - R (Lord Carlile of Berriew and others) v Secretary of State for Home Affairs [2013] EWCA Civ 199 (Arden, Patten and McCombe LJJ).  Mrs Rajavi is the leader of two groups in Iran opposed to the government there. She is the de facto leader of the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran ("PMOI") and the "President-elect" of the National Council for the Resistance of Iran (NCRI) since 1993.

Mrs Rajavi has visited the United Kingdom on four previous occasions, without any consequences to British interests and the Secretary of State had no dispute with what Mrs Rajavi might say.  Other member states of the EU have admitted Mrs Rajavi and she has attended a dozen meetings at the European Parliament, most recently in February 2012.

Mrs May made her decisions on the recommendation of the Foreign Secretary and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office ("FCO"). They considered that, if the Secretary of State permitted Mrs Rajavi to enter the United Kingdom for the desired purpose of speaking to members of Parliament, there will be not only representations by the government of Iran and demonstrations, but also a risk of unlawful reprisals. The present apprehended risk includes the risk of damage to the British Embassy in Tehran and mistreatment of the Embassy's local staff.

The right to freedom of expression (Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights) was seen as particularly important where those involved are members of the legislature and the meeting was to be held in the Palace of Westminster (or Houses of Parliament). 180 members of both Houses had indicated their intention to attend, including former Secretaries of State and members with expertise in foreign policy and security matters.

PMOI was a proscribed organisation under the Terrorism Act 2000 from 29 March 2001 until 30 November 2007. On that date, the Prescribed Organisations Appeals Commission ("POAC") allowed an appeal against the Secretary of State's refusal to de-proscribe the organisation.  POAC found that there had been a significant change in PMOI's activities dating from June 2001 onwards, and that PMOI could no longer be said to be concerned with terrorism within the meaning of section 3 of the Terrorism Act. The Secretary of State appealed to this court.  In 2008 the Court of Appeal upheld POAC's decision (see [2008] EWCA Civ 443).

Lord Carlile of Berriew QC

Judgment in the High Court - Stanley Burnton LJ and Underhill J - [2012] EWHC 617 (Admin)

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