Liberia: Law Authorizing Dual Citizenship and Allowing Women to Pass Citizenship to Their Children Enacted
Source: US Library of Congress
On July 25, 2022, Liberia enacted an amendment (Amendment Law) to the 1973 Aliens and Nationality Law (1973 Law). Among the key changes that the Amendment Law brought about are the replacement of a provision that allows only men to pass on their Liberian citizenship to their children by one that affords women the same right and the repeal of a ban on dual citizenship.
Birthright Citizenship Clause
One of the key provisions of the Amendment Law abrogates a discriminatory provision in the 1973 Law barring women who have children outside of Liberia from passing on their Liberian citizenship to their children. The 1973 Law provided that “[t]he following shall qualify to be citizens of the Republic of Liberia at birth: … A person born outside Liberia whose father (i) was born a citizen of Liberia; (ii) was a citizen of Liberia at the time of the birth of such child, and (iii) had resided in Liberia prior to the birth of such child.” (1973 Law § 20.1.) The Amendment Law replaced the above language to afford the mother the same right as the father, stating that “[t]he following shall qualify to be citizens of the Republic of Liberia at birth: … A person born outside of the Republic of Liberia, whose father or mother (i) was born a citizen of Liberia; or (ii) was a citizen of Liberia at the time of birth of such person.” (Amendment Law art. 1(1).)
The Amendment Law also repealed a ban on dual citizenship under the 1973 Law and accorded Liberians the right to hold dual citizenship. The 1973 Law expressly barred dual citizenship and made acquisition of citizenship of another country cause for the loss of Liberian citizenship. (1973 Law § 22.1.) Such loss was automatic upon the acquisition of another citizenship “without the institution by the Government of any proceedings to nullify or cancel such citizenship.” (§ 22.2.) In a 2019 decision, the Liberian Supreme Court found section 22.2 of the 1973 Law unconstitutional on the basis that a mandate that stripped Liberian citizenship automatically upon the acquisition of another citizenship constituted a violation of the due process clause of Liberia’s Constitution (section 20(a)). The court stated:
We reiterate that Article 20(a) of the Constitution mandates that there must be a hearing before deprivation of any right or privilege may occur. Section 22.2 of the Aliens and Nationality Law, on the other hand, provides that loss of citizenship under Section 22.1 shall result solely from the performance by a citizen of the acts or fulfillment of the conditions specified in that Section. This, in our view, connotes automatic loss of citizenship without resort to any judicial proceedings to nullify or cancel citizenship. Clearly, Section 22.2 of the Aliens and Nationality Law is in conflict with Article 20(a) of the Constitution which guarantees to all the right to due process, and we cannot imagine how this conflict can be reconciled. …
… Section 22.2 of the Aliens and Nationality Law, to the extent that it provides for loss of citizenship solely on account of the performance by a citizen of the acts or fulfillment of the conditions specified in Section 22.1 without the institution by the Government of any proceedings to nullify or cancel citizenship in violation of the due process clause under Article 20(a) of the 1986 Constitution, is hereby declared null and void without any force and effect of law. (Alvin Teage Jalloh v. Minister of Foreign Affairs & Others (Dec. 23, 2019) at 1, 6 & 9.)
Nevertheless, this decision did not invalidate the ban on dual citizenship; it merely required that the relevant state institutions afford Liberian citizens who acquire citizenship of another country due process before they take away their citizenship.
The Amendment Law goes one step further and invalidates the ban on dual citizenship, stating that
[t]o promote reconciliation, unity, social harmony, and in order to be in compliance with the modern trend of the nationality laws of most countries, the right is reserved to a Liberian citizen to acquire the citizenship of another country without affecting his/her Liberian citizenship and the rights and emoluments attended thereto. (Amendment Law art. 3.)
Article 1(7) of the Amendment Law also repealed section 22.1 (Acts causing loss of citizenship) of the 1973 Law, which, among other things, listed acquisition of citizenship of another country as one of the causes for the loss of Liberian citizenship. It also repealed section 22.2 (Citizenship lost solely from performance of act) of the 1973 Law, a provision that made loss of citizenship upon acquisition of citizenship of another country automatic without any proactive action on the part of state institutions. Significantly, the Amendment Act nullified these provisions nunc pro tunc (retroactively).
Limitations of Dual Citizenship
According to article 4 of the Amendment Law, Liberians who hold dual citizenship will be ineligible to hold any elected public office, and any such person interested in holding an elected public office must renounce the citizenship of the other country at least one year before making an application to the National Election Commission to be a candidate. In addition, a Liberian citizen who holds citizenship of another country is ineligible for appointment as minister of finance and development planning, minister of defense, and executive director of the Central Bank of Liberia.
Hanibal Goitom, Law Library of Congress
October 13, 2022