Elham Asaad Buaras
The advocacy group CAGE announced it has started legal action against the Charity Commission on June 3, for what it called an unlawful exercise of powers in the wake of the Mohammed Emwazi row and the subsequent pressure exerted by the Commission on charities associated with CAGE.
CAGE came under fire from both the media and politicians in February when it suggested through harassment the MI5 may have inadvertently radicalised Emwazi believed to be the ISIS killer in several beheading videos.
The Daily Mail led a campaign against CAGE following the Mohammed Emwazi row
CAGE claims that the Commission acted outside of its powers by exerting unauthorized demands on charities to cut ties with CAGE, despite CAGE not being a charity itself.
The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (JRC) said that they had been pressured by the Commission not to fund CAGE. Other charities were also questioned. The Charity Commission said it asked both the JRC and the Roddick Foundation about donations to CAGE and had requested that no more grants be awarded.
It said: “Given the nature of [CAGE’s] work, and the controversy it has attracted, the Charity Commission has been concerned that such funding risked damaging public trust and confidence in charity.”
However, CAGE told The Muslim News the Charity Commission is exceeding its powers. “This is underlined by the announcement in April that the National Council for Voluntary Organisations would review the Commission, because of an ‘accusation that as appointees of the government of the day they [the commissioners] are in some way politically biased’.”
CAGE said the perception of political motivations infringes upon the rights of charities, who may be chilled into silence by a regulator that is liable to clamp down on them when they do not align with what is seen to be its politics. Zoe Nicola of HMA Solicitors said the admission by JRC that its decision to withdraw funding from CAGE was due to regulatory pressure is evidence the Commission is exceeding its powers. Adding the Commission had, “curtailed” CAGE’s “freedoms of expression and association” raising concerns that CAGE is being penalised for expressing views unpopular with the Government. “The actions of the Charity Commission in this instance will have a chilling effect on the ability of third sector and charitable organisations to engage in controversial debates and are counter-productive.”
CAGE spokesman Ibrahim Mohamoud, said, “This case is an important test case for the charity sector. At a time when the Commission is being given more powers, it is important that it does not deviate from its crucial role as an impartial regulator and become an instrument of state policy in a political agenda against unpopular causes.”
The Charity Commission told The Muslim News it’s aware the law suit but refused to comment.