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Stripping French citizenship: What all the fuss is about

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Photo: AFP
07:37 CET+01:00
A measure to strip convicted terrorists of their nationality has sharply divided opinion in France, where it may become enshrined in the constitution. What issues are involved?

A Dark history

During World War I, a law allowed people from enemy countries such as Germany, Austria and Hungary to be stripped of their French nationality.

During World War II, the practice affected some 15,000 people, including 7,000 Jews.

Also targeted were those who joined Charles De Gaulle's Free France movement, including the general himself.

The law today

Under current law, no one may be stripped of French nationality who would become stateless as a result.

The measure can be imposed on those who have acquired French citizenship and been convicted of treason or terrorism.

Only 13 people with terrorism convictions have lost their French citizenship since 1996.

The proposal to enshrine the measure in the constitution stipulates that it would be applied only to those dual nationals born in France, and not to naturalized French citizens.

Critics say the change should simply be made to the law without writing it into the constitution.

Either way, many fear that dual nationals will be targeted.

"These people will feel stigmatized, left aside from everyone else and considered different," France's leading human right's lawyer Patrick Baudouin told The Local. 

Patrick Weil, a political scientist who met Hollande and advised him against the decision told AFP: "The constitution is a text that is written to unify the people and this does the opposite. People know that reinforcing the cohesion of the nation is, in the long term, the only way to defeat terrorism, and this proposal creates an immediate division in the country," he said.

SEE ALSO: Why stripping jihadists' French nationality is wrong

Why stripping jihadists' French nationality is mad

What about statelessness?

As it stands, the proposal could theoretically make it possible to leave a person stateless.

France has pledged to ratify the 1961 UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, but the treaty makes exceptions in certain cases, notably for a person who "has conducted himself in a manner seriously prejudicial to the
vital interests of the State".

World variations

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Some states such as Germany have no provision for stripping people of their nationality, while in others it can apply to all, and in still others it applies only to dual nationals.

Canada's liberal new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has vowed to repeal the provision imposed after a 2014 attack on parliament by a jihadist.

Croatia, Finland, Japan, Hungary, Portugal, Serbia and Sweden have no such law.

Treason is a basis for losing US nationality, while British citizenship can be withdrawn in cases of terrorist activity, espionage, organized crime and war crimes.

Bahrain and Kuwait regularly withdraw nationality in cases of terrorism and state security.

Dual nationals convicted on terror charges in Belgium face losing their Belgian citizenship, while Bulgaria, Denmark, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Romania and Spain have similar laws.

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