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Government Review into Muslim Brotherhood criticised by senior MP committee

David Cameron's controversial Review into the Muslim Brotherhood came under heavy criticism today in a report released by the Foreign Affairs Committee.

The Committee said that the Review had "damaged the UK's reputation for fair dealing" and appointing Sir John Jenkins to lead the Review whilst he was UK's ambassador to Saudi Arabia was "misguided". It "created the impression that a foreign state, which was an interested party, had a private window into the conduct of a UK Government inquiry" and "undermined the confidence in the impartiality of the FCO's work".

The Committee's report vindicates the Muslim Brotherhood who criticised the Review when it was published in December 2015 containing damaging criticism. The Muslim Brotherhood were blocked from seeking redress in the Courts as the Prime Minister had used Parliamentary privilege to prevent legal action being taken.

The Muslim Brotherhood's participation and promotion of democracy has caused several autocratic regimes to become openly hostile to them. The Muslim Brotherhood had complained to the Review panel that removing their right to reply to criticisms meant that unfounded and improper allegations could not be properly addressed rendering the Review seriously flawed.

A number of Middle East regimes have accused the Muslim Brotherhood of being involved in terrorism, however, the Committee agreed with the UK's decision not to designate them as a terrorist organisation. It said that the "evidence so far in Egypt is that if the Muslim Brotherhood supported or condoned violence, then Egypt would be a far more violent place today".

The Committee said that the Government had "hindered" its scrutiny of the Muslim Brotherhood Review and the published Main Findings of Review had "significant shortcomings".

It said that it was disappointed that in a Review with the objective of "getting to grips with the background behind the Muslim Brotherhood in order to fully understand them" had failed to mention the "most significant event in the Brotherhood and Egypt's modern political history; its removal from power a year after being democratically elected and through military intervention". In 2013 the military regime in Egypt forcibly removed the democratically elected President in a violent coup which killed thousands of supporters. To this day thousands of members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood remain in unlawful detention in Egypt.

The Committee spent several months hearing evidence as part of its own inquiry into Political Islam. It concluded that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) should use three criteria in determining which political Islamists the UK should engage with but importantly said that "[Political Islamists] should be allowed to freely participate in democratic processes, and the FCO should use the ability of political Islamists to take part as one of the key criteria for defining free elections the MENA region".

The Committee made clear that the "FCO should condemn the influence of the military in politics as contrary to UK values" and said that the FCO should "not let itself be seen as justifying the way in which the FJP was removed from power in Egypt and, it should be forthright in highlighting to the Egyptian Government the contradictions inherent in forcibly excluding the Muslim Brotherhood in the democratic process".

They went on to say "Political Islam…in the Muslim World is a vehicle through which a significant element of citizens can and should be able to address their grievances. The Committee advised the FCO that they "should highlight and condemn all human rights abuses, including those against political Islamists".

Tayab Ali, Partner at London law firm ITN Solicitors who represented the Muslim Brotherhood during Foreign Affairs Committee inquiry said:

"The Committee's report completely vindicates my client and sets the record straight following the extremely disappointing Review ordered by David Cameron and carried out by Sir John Jenkins.

My client offered the Jenkins Review open and sincere engagement but that engagement was not reciprocated. Instead, they were met with a Review that was flawed from its outset, riddled with impropriety and lacking any form of transparency. It concerns me that FCO "hindered" the Committee's scrutiny and treated them with the same contempt it showed my client. The FCO should now publish the full Review report.

Failing to engage with political Islamists is a failure to understand the dynamics of the Middle East and North Africa region. A proper democratic process should include all the people that choose to participate in it and not just the people we would like to include.

It is crucial that that the FCO takes account of the words of Crispin Blunt MP, who chairs the much-respected Foreign Affairs Committee. The FCO must learn from the failings of the Muslim Brotherhood Review and not allow them to be repeated".

 

ITN solicitors are a leading Criminal and Human Rights law firm based in London. Further details at www.itnsolicitors.com. Tayab Ali is solicitor advocate and partner at ITN Solicitors www.itnsolicitors.com.

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