France looks to revoke dual nationality for convicted terrorists

A new constitutional measure is being considered in France that would allow the country to revoke the nationality of terror convicts.

REUTERS/Etienne Laurent/Pool
French President Francois Hollande delivers a speech during "La France s'Engage" (France makes a commitment) ceremony at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, December 22, 2015.

The French government is hardening its position toward dual-nationals, in what is part of a new series of constitutional changes following the Nov. 13 attacks: French nationals who who have participated in acts of terrorism and who are also nationals of other countries could have their nationality revoked.

This measure, along with a move to uphold the state of emergency imposed by President François Hollande by enshrining it in the constitution, would require a three-fifths majority in the lower and upper houses of France's Parliament. Debate on these measures will begin Feb. 3, according to Agence France-Presse.

“The threat has never been higher,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls told reporters on Wednesday. “We must face up to a war, a war against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islam.” 

The state of emergency, which was declared by Mr. Hollande the night of the attacks, gives special policing powers to the French military – including authority to impose house arrests and to raid houses without judicial oversight. 

A 1961 United Nations convention, which France co-signed, seeks to ensure the right of every person to a nationality. The new security reform therefore only applies to dual nationals. 

Over 1,000 people have left France to join jihad in Syria and Iraq, and over 3,000 raids have taken place since the Paris attacks, leading to 360 house arrests and 51 people put in jail.

“Everyone has a right to their doubts, their queries, their questions,” Mr. Valls told reporters.

The decision to revoke the nationality of terror convicts is controversial. Justice Minister Christiane Taubira was one of the first to voice doubts, but stated that Hollande had the final word.

Many civil rights groups also have voiced criticism over the surge in house arrests and police violence, saying there have been many cases of mistaken identity. 

"Emergency powers are only supposed to be used in relation to an imminent threat," John Dalhuisen, director of Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia program, told Al Jazeera. "It's hard to judge the imminence of a threat from the outside… But it doesn't take a mathematical genius to figure out that much more of this was preventative and speculative rather than linked to intelligence on [the attacks]," he said. 

The emergency in France has been extended from 12 days to three months following a series of other terror threats across Europe, including a recent scare in Switzerland.

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