LONDON, (AP) – Britain’s highest appeals court is scheduled to decide this week whether a divorced woman and her son should be deported to Lebanon, where she claims her abusive husband will gain custody under Sharia law.
The case will address the issue of Islamic law and the extent to which Britain is obliged to provide asylum to those wishing to flee countries that practice it.
Lawyers acting for the 34-year-old woman are expected to tell the House of Lords on Monday that her human rights would be violated if she were forced to return to Lebanon. They plan to argue that she has a right to a family life that will be lost in Lebanon.
According to Sharia, or Islamic law, that operates in Lebanon, a divorced mother can only have custody of her children until their seventh birthday. After that, the father can claim custody, and the mother will only be awarded visitation rights.
The woman, known only as EM, sought asylum after she came to Britain with false papers in December 2004 with her 8-year-old son. She told immigration officials she had divorced her violent husband in an Islamic court in Lebanon and came to Britain to retain custody of her child.
Her name has not been disclosed because she fears she may be in danger if she is forced to return to Lebanon.
Her asylum application was rejected in 2005. Judges who presided over her two consequent appeals agreed that she would lose custody of her child and possibly face prison for kidnapping charges if she returned to Lebanon. But they argued that she is obliged to live under the laws of her own country.
Judge William Gage, who rejected her appeal in November 2006, said she would still have some visitation rights in Lebanon, so her rights to family life “cannot be said to be completely nullified.”
He said in his ruling that he has “not found this an easy case.”
Civil rights group Liberty has since helped EM take her case to the House of Lords.
“We cannot deny this child the right to be with his mother,” Liberty legal officer Alex Gask said. “How can the same government which champions equal treatment under British law now deport mother and child to face certain separation under Sharia?”
The House of Lords will hear the case Monday and Tuesday, and will reveal their judgment within a few weeks. Britain’s Home Office, responsible for the country’s borders and immigration, did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the case.