updated on 20 September 2017
Home Secretary Amber Rudd is in contempt of court after ignoring the orders of successive judges not to deport an asylum seeker to Afghanistan, where he faced being killed by the Taliban.
Asylum seeker Samim Bigzad had arrived in Istanbul, en route to Kabul when High Court judge Mr Justice Morris ordered the Home Office to bring him back to the United Kingdom on 12 September. Morris ruled that Bigzad could not be deported while legal proceedings were ongoing, while Bigzad said in his asylum application that he fled to the United Kingdom in 2015 because the Taliban had threatened to behead him for being employed on US construction projects. However, the Home Office ignored the judge’s order and decided that Bigzad should continue his journey to Kabul. When Bigzad arrived, he was warned not to leave his hotel room.
While Bigzad was holed up in Kabul, Rudd’s department refused to comply with orders from two more High Court judges for his return, despite one, Mr Justice Jay, describing the department as in “prima facie contempt of court”. The Home Office only complied with a final order made by a Court of Appeal judge, and Bigzad arrived back in the United Kingdom on 17 September.
In this case Rudd was trying to exercise the Home Secretary’s controversial ‘deport first, appeal later’ powers which came into effect in late 2016, but have since been thrown into question in the courts. Jamie Bell, Bigzad’s caseworker at Duncan Lewis Solicitors, said that her department’s actions were “unprecedented in scope and gravity.”
Meanwhile Charles Falconer, a former lord chancellor, has said that Rudd’s noncompliance with the law is a test of current Justice Secretary David Lidington’s mettle, and that the case could decide Lidington’s future. Writing in The Guardian, Falconer said: “In addition to [Rudd’s] own duty, there is another figure in government charged with ensuring compliance with the rule of law – the lord chancellor. The test for former lord chancellor Liz Truss came when the Brexit judges were undermined by government ministers as seeking to thwart the will of the people. Instead of coming to the judges’ defence, which was her duty, irrespective of collective responsibility, she desperately sought instructions from the PM’s special advisers about what to do. They told her to keep quiet, and she lost her job as a result.
“The test for her successor, David Lidington, has come now. He is the defender of the rule of law in the executive. He must make it clear that this arrogant disdain for the law will not occur in the future, or ensure that Rudd does so. If he does not act, I cannot see him lasting much longer than Truss did.”