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Report to UK Parliament encourages lifting ban on organisations

July 24, 2011 | By

  • International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) gets special mention due to political pressure exerted by India

London (July 24, 2011): The ISYF was banned in the UK more than 10 years ago in March 2001 and this was widely acknowledged at that time by many UK politicians, including Ministers that this was a direct result of pressure from the Indian authorities.

After considerable working behind the scenes with politicians from across the political spectrum for more than two and a half years the Sikh Federation (UK) was set up in September 2003 and is now recognised as the leading lobbying Sikh organisation in the UK and Europe.

It is also well known that the Indian authorities have for many years been complaining to the UK Government the Sikh Federation (UK) is the successor body to the ISYF and should therefore be banned. The UK Government and all the main political parties to their credit are however on record as recognising the Sikh Federation (UK) is a legitimate organisation operating within the law and has every right to continue its activities, even though India may find these activities objectionable.

Earlier this week David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of the operation of the terrorist legislation presented a 100+ page report to the UK Parliament where he made specific reference to the ISYF and the pressure exerted by foreign governments. He has reached a number of conclusions and made recommendations in his report to Parliament. He has confirmed:

i) Banning of some organisations is heavily influenced by foreign policy concerns and this is being used to appease other governments. He has concluded there are significant obstacles of a political or foreign policy nature that makes the lifting of the ban on some organisations difficult as this would be unpalatable to foreign governments.

ii) It is too easy and convenient for the UK Government to ban organisations; on the basis of nothing more than a belief, but the process to lift the ban is ineffective. The annual internal review over the last 10 years has never resulted in any bans being lifted. All 11 applications over the last 10 years to have bans lifted have also been refused by the Home Secretary.

David Anderson QC has recommended the process for lifting the ban should be eased and time-limited requiring the Home Secretary to satisfy Parliament on why the ban should be retained and supporting this with specific evidence.

The report specifically states:

‘I have been approached on behalf of one banned organisation, the International Sikh Youth Federation, whose supporters believe that it continues to be banned only as a sop to the Indian Government. They wish the ban to be lifted but have no faith in the process of internal review, and after spending some £50,000 in 2001-03 are unwilling to contemplate recourse to what they describe as the “slow, secretive and costly” procedure.’

It is to the credit of the Sikh Federation (UK), that its leadership continues more than 10 years later to politically and legally challenge the improper ban on the ISYF. Bhai Amrik Singh, the Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK), reacting to the report presented by David Anderson QC to Parliament said:

‘We welcome the reports conclusions and recommendations with respect to changing the process for lifting the ban on organisations. The Government must now respond positively to the report presented to Parliament and we and politicians supporting us will watch carefully what emerges from the next internal annual review of the ISYF later this year.

Given the democratic values that the UK holds so dearly it would be a shame if the outcome of the internal review reinforced the view that foreign policy sensitivities are deemed more important than the rights of law-abiding Sikhs in the UK to organise themselves to openly express their views about the human rights violations in India and the right of Sikhs to peacefully campaign for a homeland.’

A spokesman for the Federation added:

‘Following this report if the internal review continues to be ineffective a formal application to have the ban lifted is likely to be made to the Home Secretary by those that remain affected by the ban. There remain law-abiding Sikhs who are denied British nationality, have no travel documents, prevented or harassed from travelling to certain countries and because they remain politically active and criticise India are falsely labelled as terrorists by the media and political opponents. Ironically political opponents that have disassociated from the Sikh Federation (UK) or set up new organizations and silent or given up on the need for a separate Sikh homeland seem to have little difficulty traveling to India and elsewhere.’

A Home Office spokesman said Mr Anderson had raised a number of issues and they would respond formally in the autumn.

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