Why stripping jihadists’ French nationality is mad

While 90 percent of the French population support the move to strip convicted terrorists of their nationality, a leading human rights chief tells The Local the reform is doomed to fail and is just what the jihadists would have wanted.

Why stripping jihadists' French nationality is mad
Photo: AFP

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Do you have dual French nationality?If so, how do you feel about being those convicted of terrorist attacks being stripped of their French citizenship?

Posted by The Local France on Monday, 4 January 2016

On the face of it stripping a dual national born in France of his or her French passport after they have been convicted of a terrorist attack on France seems like a no-brainer.

They’ve lost their right to be French when they chose to attack their country and kill their fellow citizens and should be kicked out, so the basic argument goes.

And it’s a message that has won over 90 percent of the French population according to recent opinion polls.

But the measure, which President François Hollande wants written into the constitution and will be debated by MPs in February, has not convinced many in his own party and certainly not human rights organisations.

“We are just falling into the trap that the terrorists have set,” Patrick Baudouin, honorary president of the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) told The Local.

“The fear they provoked in the attacks is pushing France to rush through measures that have not been thought through,” Baudouin said.

“Every time there is an attack in France, the French government’s reaction is to push through a law even more repressive than before,” said Baudouin. “They are just reacting to public opinion.

“They want to show they are fighting terrorism but it’s a just a trick.”

'It will do nothing to prevent an attack'

(French people, demonstrate against Isis in Paris. Photo: AFP)

Despite criticism from within his own Socialist party Hollande has remained defiant.

Speaking in his New Year’s address he said while it was “legitimate” to have a debate about the proposal, “when it comes to your protection, France must not be divided”.

But the International Federation of Human Rights and dozens of other organisations who signed a petition against the move, argue that it will be anything but effective in “protecting” France.

“Everyone knows this will do nothing to prevent any kind of attack,” Baudouin said.

“Taking someone’s passport off them will hardly affect anything. Have we forgotten that French people who don’t have dual nationality can also commit terrorist attacks?”

Critics also point out that France will find it tough to send citizens stripped of their French passports back to war torn countries like Syria or North African countries, where they may face torture or the death penalty.

“And it’s mad to think that France will send convicted terrorists to another democratic country, like Germany and expect them to take charge of them,” Baudouin said.

Not only that but critics argue it will only make matters worse in France, a country that continues to struggle to integrate immigrants, both first and second generation.

By suggesting the three million dual nationals in France are different from everyone else the reform will only make it harder for that section of the population to feel French, critics argue.

Which again is exactly the aim of the terrorists from Isis, who are desperate to recruit more disaffected French youths to the Jihadi cause.

'Liberté, egalité, fraternité is not the reality'

Baudouin warns that it will “destabilise and divide” the whole country.

“These people will feel stigmatised, left aside from everyone else and considered different,” he said. “They will look at France and its principles of liberté, égalité and fraternité and think those are just words because in reality they don't exist.”

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.

While the reform may send a symbolic message to the would-be jihadists, it also presents a negative image of France and touches a raw nerve.

The Vichy regime, which collaborated with the Nazis in the 1940s, stripped thousands of Jews and foreigners of French citizenship during World War II.

“Our country has always protected the idea of “droit du sol”, so a dual national who is born in France and has French nationality has the right to remain French. But now we are putting this in doubt,” said Baudouin.

“It reminds us of one the worst period of our history,” he said referring to Vichy France.

Worse still in the eyes of the left, it was an idea first mooted by the far-right, anti-immigrant National Front (FN).

FN leader Marine le Pen happily took credit when the new reforms were outlined last week, saying it was a direct result of her party's record tally in recent polls.

“Removal of nationality: the first effect of the 6.8 million votes for the National Front in regional elections,” Le Pen wrote on Twitter.

“An idea put forward by the far right is being pushed through by a left wing government, which claims it is acting in the interests of our country,” Baudouin lamented.

“It’s a real shame”.

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