UK Charity Commission Under Fire
9 June 2015 at 11:39 am
The UK Charity Commission is facing legal action after an advocacy group accused it of exceeding its role and acting like “counter-terrorism police”.
Controversial advocacy organisation Cage, which describes its purpose as supporting communities impacted by the war on terror, said that the charity regulator was guilty of an “unlawful exercise of powers” and that it would launch judicial review proceedings against the Commission.
Cage attracted controversy earlier this year when one of its directors, Asim Qureshi, described ISIS member Mohammed Emwazi, or “Jihadi John”, as a beautiful man.
The organisation also claimed that Emwazi had been radicalised by spy agency MI5.
Cage claims after the publicity received around Emwazi, the Charity Commission acted outside of its powers by exerting unlawful pressure on charities not to fund or associate with Cage, despite the organisation not being a charity itself.
Cage said as a result it was finding it difficult to fund its advocacy and charities had been deterred from sharing a platform with it.
Cage communications officer, Ibrahim Mohamoud, said the Charity Commission was becoming too powerful.
“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,” Mohamoud said.
“Charities must be able to function with a regulator that does not create a climate of fear and undermine the fundamental freedoms of expression and association. In recent years, the Charity Commission appears to be assuming the role of Counter-Terrorism Police, rather than a charity sector regulator.”
One of the world’s best known philanthropic foundations, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, said that it had been pressured not to support Cage.
“The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust has previously funded Cage to promote and protect human rights. In December 2013, the Charity Commission opened an operational compliance case in respect of this funding relationship. We have cooperated fully with the Commission’s enquiries over an extended period,” the Trust said.
“Our last payment to Cage was in January 2014. In the last week, we have been put under intense regulatory pressure to rule out any future funding of Cage regardless of any future changing circumstances.
“In the light of regulatory pressure, and to protect the interests of all our grantees and the other work of the Trust, we have decided to publicly confirm that we will not fund Cage either now or in the future.”
A spokesperson for the UK Charity Commission told The Independent that it was aware of the legal action against it.
“We can confirm that the Commission is aware of this legal claim and that we are considering it carefully. We cannot comment further at this stage,” the spokesperson said.
Last week Pro Bono Australia News reported that independent Senator Nick Xenophon called for more funding for Australia’s charity regulator, the ACNC, so that it could play a greater role in fighting terrorism.