Citizenship deprivation in a context of terrorist violence: (multiple) membership and citizenship in France and the Maghreb

Published: 15/Jun/2022
Source: GLOBALCIT ( European University Institute)

By Delphine Perrin (Aix Marseille University)

Since the turn of the millennium, citizenship deprivation, which had previously seemed to be falling into abeyance, has experienced a remarkable resurgence in Western countries, especially in relation to the threats posed by terrorism and terrorists: the act of terrorism as an additional legal ground for citizenship deprivation has been introduced in a growing number of states; actual deprivation measures have multiplied; and reforms have sometimes widened, or attempted to widen, the scope of deprivation powers more generally.

The draft reform of the French Constitution debated in 2015 and eventually abandoned some months later is an illustration of such attempts. This aimed to remove the restriction of deprivation powers to nationals ‘by acquisition’ and to extend it to French nationals ‘by origin’ who were guilty of crimes ‘constituting a serious attack on the life of the nation’, including terrorist acts, provided they also held another citizenship. In April 2021, Algeria likewise abandoned a bill which would have made provision for the deprivation of citizenship, either ‘acquired or by origin’, from any Algerian committing abroad acts ‘willfully causing serious damage to the interests of the State’, attacking national unity or ‘activating or adhering to a terrorist organization, as well as those who finance it or who defend it’. The ultimate abandonment of these projects is indicative of the sensitivity of the debates, which touched on national identities and social cohesion.

As in France, the Maghreb citizenship codes provide for the possibility of citizenship deprivation, though this became unconstitutional in Tunisia in 2014, and only Morocco has added the specific ground of terrorist acts. The Maghreb states are obviously also both victims of terrorism and suppliers of jihadists in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. As such, they may be tempted to deprive the perpetrators of their citizenship, as provided for by Morocco in 2007, and as was debated in Tunisia in 2017. They are, however, affected differently than Europe in at least two ways. First, when terrorists have a Maghrebi citizenship, it is usually a citizenship by origin and thus not subject to deprivation. Second, individuals deprived of a European citizenship, particularly in France, are typically returned to the country of their ‘other’ citizenship, even if they have never lived there, which is sometimes in the Maghreb.

This short blog post presents some reflections on the evolution of legal frameworks and political debates relating to citizenship deprivation in France and the Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia).[1] It explores two stumbling blocks – the restriction of citizenship deprivation to those who hold another citizenship and to citizens by acquisition – which are widely shared across the world. The blog concludes by exploring what it terms the new ‘identity turn’ in questions of deprivation.

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Themes: Loss and Deprivation of Nationality
Regions: Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia
Year: 2022