Scots judge rejects ‘Jewish bias’ in ruling on Palestinian refugee
A JUDGE who upheld a decision to refuse asylum to a Palestinian woman has rejected suggestions that her Jewish background influenced her decision.
Lady Cosgrove, Scotland’s first female judge, told the JC that the claim by Fatima Helow, a survivor of the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp killings, was “totally unfounded.”
She had dispensed justice “without fear or favour. There was no question of bias,” said the now-retired judge, a member of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists.
Three appeal judges at Edinburgh’s Court of Session this week dismissed claims that Lady Cosgrove’s impartiality had been compromised by her membership of the organisation.
Backing the 2004 decision to reject Ms Helow’s application for asylum in the UK, Lords Nimmo Smith, Kingarth and Kirkwood ruled there were no grounds for fearing that the judge may have been “unconsciously or unwittingly influenced” in her decision.
The senior judge, Lord Nimmo Smith, told the hearing that while a fair-minded and informed observer might assume that Lady Cosgrove’s membership of the IAJLJ implied sympathy to Israel, only the “unduly sensitive” would see anything wrong in her judging the case.
He added: “We see no reason to suppose any intelligent and independentlyminded judge of the Court of Session, having taken the judicial oath and being well able to form her own views, would be influenced in this way.”
Ms Helow’s legal challenge was launched after Lady Cosgrove turned down her application for review of a decision to refuse her asylum in the UK. She said that her grandmother, aunt and uncle were among those killed by Phalangist gunmen who entered Sabra and Shatila in 1982. She claimed asylum and human rights protection because of her Palestinian background, her Muslim religion, gender and her support of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
The chairman of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which had supported her case, said the Court of Session decision had “rubbed salt in the wound.” Mick Napier believed that “the reputation of the judicial system has suffered a serious knock... There will be a widespread perception that there was a very strong danger of bias.”