‘Jihadi Jack’ and the folly of revoking citizenship: Macklin

Understandably, Macklin is the most quoted expert on citizenship revocation:

The British government has just stripped Islamic State recruit Jack Lettsof his United Kingdom citizenship.

In one sense, the move was unsurprising. The U.K. has been the undisputed leader in reviving banishment as punishment for “crimes against citizenship,” deploying it primarily against those deemed threats to national security.

The country’s Home Secretary favours stripping citizenship of nationals already abroad, which has the convenient effect of circumventing legal accountability and human rights impediments to deportation.

The mildly surprising feature of the U.K.‘s decision is that it has opted to make Letts Canada’s problem. Letts is currently being held in a jail in northern Syria after being captured by Kurdish forces in 2017.

Letts’ father is a Canadian citizen and, therefore, his son is a Canadian citizen by descent. As a result, the U.K. can deprive him of citizenship without rendering Letts stateless because he will remain a citizen of Canada.

With limited exceptions, international law prohibits rendering people stateless, though the U.K. plays fast and loose on that front. It strips citizenship from those who are dual citizens as well those who are not, but whom the Home Secretary speculates could, in the future, possibly obtain citizenship from some other country.

It doesn’t much matter to the U.K., really. Once discarded, the former citizen might be executed by drone strike, transferred elsewhere for prosecution or persecution or detained indefinitely by non-state armed forces. Wherever they go, it won’t be back to Britain, and whatever happens to them, they are someone else’s problem. That’s what makes citizenship deprivation, in the language of the British law, “conducive to the public good.”

No espionage or treason

Why another country should bear sole responsibility for a citizen that the U.K. disavows is an interesting question. These are not classic instances of espionage or treason, where the historic narrative underwriting stripping citizenship was that the individual betrayed one state in the service of the other state.

Shamima Begum, a British citizen who joined the Islamic State as a 19-year-old in 2015, was not working for Bangladesh in Syria. Jack Letts was not a Canadian spy.

I speculate that the British government has, until Letts, traded on a tacit understanding that British Muslims with brown skin inherently “belong” less to the U.K. than to some other country where the majority of people are Muslims with brown skin — even if they were born in Great Britain and have never even visited the other country of nationality.

On this view, stripping citizenship merely sends the targets back to where they “really” come from. Citizenship deprivation thus delivers an exclusionary message to all non-white, non-Christian British citizens that their claim to U.K. membership is permanently precarious, however small the literal risk of citizenship deprivation.

Indeed, British legal scholar John Finnis explicitly flirted with a similar idea a few years ago by proposing the “humane” expulsion of all Muslim non-citizens from Britain.

The Letts conundrum

But Letts is white, his parents are middle class and Christian in upbringing (though secular in practice). His other country of citizenship, Canada, is also predominantly white and Christian in origin.

Canada is a staunch British ally, an important diplomatic and trading partner and a G7 member. Queen Elizabeth remains the formal head of state in Canada.

The illogical underpinning of citizenship deprivation now emerges clearly, shorn of implicit appeals to racism, Islamophobia and colonial arrogance. Letts is no more or less a risk to national security in Canada than the U.K. In no sense does Letts “belong” more to Canada than to the U.K., the country where he was born, raised, and that formed him.

The world is not made safer from terrorism when the U.K. disposes of their unwanted citizens in Canada, Bangladesh or anywhere else. The very phenomenon of foreign fighters testifies to that.

Claims that “citizenship is a privilege, not a right” or that the undeserving citizen forfeits citizenship by his actions is flimsy rhetoric intended to distract from the grubby opportunism that motivates citizenship revocation.

The U.K. does this not because it enhances the value of citizenship or makes the world safer from terrorism. It does it because it can.

If the British government thinks stripping citizenship is a good way for a state to respond to the challenges of national security, it must think it’s a good idea for all states. So imagine that Canada also had a citizenship revocation law. In fact, Canada’s Conservative government did enact such a law in 2014 (inspired by the U.K.), though it was repealed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government in 2017.

Here is the scenario: Letts, ISIS foreign fighter, is a citizen of the U.K. and of Canada. Neither country wants to claim him. Each has the possibility of revoking his citizenship as long as Letts is not rendered stateless.

The result?

Race to the bottom

An arbitrary race to see which country could strip his citizenship first. To the loser goes the citizen — maybe Canada, maybe the U.K.

This every-state-for-itself race to the bottom is the antithesis of co-operation in a global struggle against radicalizaton and terrorism; one need not be schooled in game theory to recognize it as counterproductive parochialism. Once states contemplate the possibility of being on the receiving end of citizenship stripping, the tactic doesn’t look quite so clever.

Until now, the U.K. has targeted individuals whose other state of nationality lacked the resources or diplomatic heft to challenge the British practice under international law. Maybe it’s time for Canada to step up, and to work with other countries, to pressure the U.K. and other states to abandon citizenship revocation as a means of disavowing “bad citizens.”

The Letts case reminds us that citizenship revocation policies can bite back. Any country that seeks to dispose of their citizens in this way may some day be a disposal site for other countries. If human rights aren’t enough of a reason to abolish citizenship revocation, and undermining global co-operation isn’t enough either, perhaps self-interest can tip the balance.

Source: ‘Jihadi Jack’ and the folly of revoking citizenship

Chris Selley: With Jihadi Jack, Britain gives Canada a taste of its own medicine

Good column by Selley. Nails country responsibility:

On Sunday we learned that Jack Letts, known in the British press as Jihadi Jack, is no longer a British subject. Then-home secretary Sajid Javid and then-prime minister Theresa May reportedly approved stripping the alleged ISIL fighter of his citizenship as one of their administration’s final acts and it seems they didn’t even send a telegram. Instead Letts was informed by an ITV News crew interviewing him at the Kurdish prison where he has been held for two-and-a-half years. Now, some fear, he will eventually wind up in Canada: He holds citizenship through his parents.

“Justin Trudeau must assure Canadians today that he isn’t trying to bring Jihadi Jack back to Canada,” Conservative public safety critic Pierre Paul-Hus said in a statement, calling it “naïve and dangerous” to think “anyone who signed up to fight with ISIS can be reformed.”

Paul-Hus does not exaggerate Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s remarkable rhetorical commitment to rehabilitating ISIL fighters. “Someone who has engaged and turned away from that hateful ideology can be an extraordinarily powerful voice for preventing radicalization in future generations and younger people within the community,” he told CTV’s Lisa LaFlamme in 2017. The Liberals didn’t just revoke the Conservative law allowing dual-citizen terrorists and traitors to be stripped of their citizenship; they made a big, principled show of it. “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian,” Trudeau would gravely intone, explicitly asking audience members to put themselves on the same level as Zakaria Amara, the Toronto 18 ringleader who lost his citizenship under the Conservatives and got it back under the Liberals.

The talking point is altogether ridiculous — Canadian citizenship is stratified according to criteria as basic as whether it can be passed on to foreign-born children — but like it or not, it was a brave stance.

The Liberals seemed less proud of Canadian consular officials making contact with Letts, refusing to comment when CBC got hold of audio tapes and transcripts of their meetings last year. Perhaps that’s because Letts said he would be happy to relocate to a Canadian prison if it would get him out of his current accommodations. Since then, Foreign Affairs seems to have lost interest in his situation entirely. Now, weeks out from an election, the Conservatives have been served a soft-on-terror talking point on a silver platter.

This case hardly illustrates the wisdom of the Conservative and British approaches

To their credit, neither Paul-Hus nor party leader Andrew Scheer has suggested this is a legislative problem. “(Letts is) in prison now and that’s where he should stay. I won’t lift a finger to bring him back to Canada,” Scheer said in a statement on Monday. Perhaps surprisingly, Paul-Hus wouldn’t even confirm to the National Post that a Conservative government would reintroduce the citizenship revocation provision.

Conservative partisans have been more than happy to draw the link, however.

“Under Stephen Harper, dual nationals could be stripped of their Canadian citizenship if they were convicted of terrorist offences. Justin Trudeau changed that law,” the pro-Conservative advocacy group Canada Proud tweeted. “So now, Canada is stuck with this ISIS terrorist.”

Letts hasn’t been convicted of anything, but he could theoretically have lost his citizenship under a different section of the law allowing the minister to seek revocation if he “has reasonable grounds to believe that a person … served as a member of an armed force of a country or as a member of an organized armed group and that country or group was engaged in an armed conflict with Canada.”

This case hardly illustrates the wisdom of the Conservative and British approaches, however. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale quite rightly accused the Brits of attempting to “off-load their responsibilities” — Letts was born, raised, educated and lost the plot on British soil. Canada would be no better off at this point with the Conservative-era law in place: It only applied to dual citizens, and Letts is no longer one of those. From a hawk’s perspective, the best-case alternative scenario would be that we had denationalized Letts first, leaving Britain holding the bag. This would arguably be fairer, but surely a never-ending game of terrorist tag with our foreign allies — You’re it! No givebacks! — is a pretty lousy excuse for a national security strategy.

As annoyed as Canadians are right now with the prospect of helping or even housing this cretin, that’s precisely as annoyed as the Conservative legislation was sure to make other countries. That those countries might more often be Jordan or Egypt or Saudi Arabia than the United Kingdom does not redeem the exercise — rather, it raises the question of why we would want any more terrorists running around those countries instead of under close watch here at home. I happen to agree with Trudeau that dealing with our own trash is the right moral and ethical thing to do. But morals and ethics aside, purely as a practical matter, it strikes me as the only sensible approach.

Source: Chris Selley: With Jihadi Jack, Britain gives Canada a taste of its own medicine

And it appears that the Conservatives have no plans to re-introduce citizenship revocation should they win the election:

Mr. Letts’s case has refuelled a debate in Canada over dual citizens convicted of terrorism.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper passed a law in 2014 that gave Canada the power to revoke the citizenship of dual nationals who had been convicted of terrorism, treason or espionage. The Trudeau government reversed the law in 2017 after campaigning on the slogan “a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.”

Despite Mr. Scheer’s opposition to repatriating Canadian foreign fighters, his office said the Conservatives “would not re-introduce grounds for the revocation of Canadian citizenship that relate to national security.” The Conservatives did not explain why Mr. Scheer would not reinstate the law.

Legal experts say the former law, if re-introduced, would likely lead to a legal challenge on the grounds that it would create a two-tier citizenship system.

Audrey Macklin, a law professor and chair in human-rights law at the University of Toronto, said these kinds of citizenship revocation laws encourage an “arbitrary race to see who could strip citizenship of dual nationals first.”

“It’s hard not to recall that Canada had such a law inspired by the U.K. itself but now it finds itself on the receiving end of another state’s practice. It just reminds us that this is a parochial, unhelpful, kind of grubby response,” Prof. Macklin said.

‘Naïve and dangerous’: Conservatives blast Liberal policy after U.K. strips ‘Jihadi Jack’s’ citizenship

Of the many articles on Jack Letts, I picked this one, given the Conservative’s implementation revocation provisions is C-24. During parliamentary hearings on C-24 (and the subsequent repeal under the Liberals in C-6), the risk of “beggar the neighbour” approaches between countries was raised by Audrey Macklin among others.

So no surprise that it has happened, and from an overall security perspective, offloading a suspected terrorist to another government, does not increase security. That Britain did so, when Letts only has a formal connection to Canada, having been raised and grown-up in the UK, only makes it worse.

Conservative leader Scheer did not include citizenship issues when he unveiled his immigration policy a few months ago:

The Conservatives on Sunday renewed their condemnation of the Liberal government’s position on citizenship rights for terrorists, following news that U.K. officials had stripped former ISIL member Jack Letts — known as “Jihadi Jack” — of his British citizenship.

Conservative public safety critic Pierre Paul-Hus did not commit to overturning a policy introduced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2015 that would prevent Canada from making a similar move, but said the Liberal government must fight to keep Letts out of the country. 

“The idea that anyone who signed up to fight with ISIS can be reformed is naïve and dangerous to the safety of Canadians,” Paul-Hus said in a statement on Sunday. Justin Trudeau must assure Canadians today that he isn’t trying to bring Jihadi Jack back to Canada.”

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale on Sunday confirmed reports that the United Kingdom had revoked Letts’ citizenship, saying in a written statement that Canada was “disappointed” by the move, and accusing Britain of trying to “off-load their responsibilities.”

The move means that if Letts is deported, he would become the sole responsibility of Canada.

The issue might have set off a behind-the-scenes diplomatic row between the two countries, according to media reports and private emails from Canadian consular officials unearthed by the National Post. It could also refuel debate over whether Ottawa should be allowed to revoke dual citizens of their status as Canadians if convicted of terrorism, treason or espionage.

Letts, who was dubbed “Jihadi Jack” by British media, is being held by Kurdish forces in northern Syria. The longtime U.K. resident, now 24 years old, converted to Islam at a young age and eventually left the country to join the extremist organization, eventually settling in the ISIL stronghold of Raqqa. He was arrested and imprisoned in 2017.

His entire family are dual British-Canadian citizens, including his father, John Letts, who was born in Ontario, and his U.K.-born mother, Sally Lane.

In June, Letts’ parents were found guilty of funding terrorism after they wired their son money in a bid to help him escape an ISIL-controlled region of Syria.

The court heard that a member of Letts’ mosque in the U.K. had warned the parents that their son might have been radicalized, and that they should take away his passport as a way to protect him. But Letts and Lane reportedly ignored the advice and bought him a plane ticket to Jordan in 2014 for a “grand Middle East adventure,” according to one recollection of events.

According to media reports, Letts became known to authorities after a spate of violent Facebook posts, in which he said he would “happily kill each and every one” of the members of a British military regiment of which a former schoolmate was a member.

There is no clear evidence whether Letts personally carried out any violent acts during his time with ISIL.

Citing private emails from Global Affairs Canada, the National Post reported last October that Canadian consular officials had been in contact with Letts’ parents for months. The officials went as far as to discuss possible escape routes for Letts out of Syria, and assured his parents they were “working diligently on your son’s file,” according to the emails.

But their tone shifted abruptly in early 2018, the emails show, leading the family to believe that British officials had struck down those efforts behind closed doors.

The diplomatic spat could refuel a long-standing debate in Canada. Because international law prevents governments from making anyone “stateless,” only people with two passports can have their citizenship stripped.

In 2014, former prime minister Stephen Harper amended the Citizenship Act to allow Canada to strip the status of any dual citizen who is found guilty of terrorism, among other things. The Liberal government under Trudeau reversed that decision in a bill that passed through the Senate in 2017.

Some experts say efforts by Britain are counterproductive and run afoul of human rights laws.

“I think there’s a real question here as to whether Britain is violating international law by doing this, and whether Canada could seek to hold the U.K to account,” said Audrey Macklin, a human rights law professor at the University of Toronto.

Macklin said moves to render people stateless can in turn stymie efforts to snuff out terrorist organizations.

“If you are serious about global co-operation in combatting terrorism, you would realize that citizenship stripping is inimical to that,” she said. 

Trudeau is due to meet the new British prime minister, Boris Johnson, at a Group of Seven meeting in France that starts on Aug. 24.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab met Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland in Toronto earlier this month. The two ministers discussed Letts during the visit, yesterday’s statement from Goodale’s office said.

“While we are disappointed in their decision, we do not conduct tit-for-tat diplomacy. Canada and the U.K. continue to work closely together on a number of issues, including the situation in Hong Kong,” the statement added.

Source: ‘Naïve and dangerous’: Conservatives blast Liberal policy after U.K. strips ‘Jihadi Jack’s’ citizenship

Sensible commentary by Doug Saunders:

The Easter Sunday atrocities in Sri Lanka have not only brought horror to the island’s tiny, impoverished Christian community and threatened an end to the country’s decade of unsteady peace. They’ve also struck fear in the governments and security agencies of many countries, including Canada, which have been struggling to deal with a steady trickle of their citizens seeking to return home from Syria and Iraq.

We don’t know whether reports are true that two or more of the Sri Lankan terrorists had gone to Syria to fight with the terrorist army that calls itself Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh), and returned after that organization’s self-proclaimed caliphate was crushed and defeated last year. It is clear, however, that the attacks are linked to a desire among some of that organization’s former fighters to bring revenge to their own countries.

There are currently several hundred European, U.S. and Canadian alleged IS fighters being held in northern Syria by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (the number of Canadians may be as low as 10). Whether they should be returned to their home countries is the subject of an intense international debate.

Some have suggested stripping them of their citizenship – which was a legal option, rarely if ever applied, under Stephen Harper’s Conservative government – thus making them the responsibility of some other country. Others wonder why we should be responsible for investigating and trying Canadians who allegedly have committed grave crimes abroad; in other circumstances, they’d be tried and sentenced in the place where their crimes took place.

But they are, ultimately, our problem. They aren’t foreign – almost all the Canadians accused are Canadian citizens born here to Canadian families, and their radicalization took place here, in the dark corners of Canadian society. To attempt to dump them on another country, or on a poor and struggling Kurdish-led Syrian democracy movement that has already been betrayed by Canada and its allies, would be both immoral and dangerous.

There are good reasons why nobody is eager to see them returned. The probability of any returned foreign fighter committing violence is low – a 2015 study found that only 0.2 per cent of returned fighters, or one in 500, had been charged with terrorism offences. The return of IS fighters has not produced the wave of attacks that many had anticipated. But the few who do maintain their violent commitments are noted, in the words of a study published last year by the United Nations Security Council, for their “increased lethality, both as attackers and as attack planners,” making them responsible for “some of the most lethal terrorist attacks.”

But the flaw in the citizenship-stripping approach becomes apparent when you take a close look at those who have dual citizenship, and would therefore be eligible.

Typical of them is Syrian detainee Jack Letts, who holds both Canadian and British citizenship. Neither Canada nor Britain wants him back. Political leaders in both countries have suggested revoking his citizenship – and thus dumping his case, and the considerable security and justice costs associated with his case, on the other country.

As a result, he waits in Syria. If he is guilty of atrocities or war crimes – and simply being a member of IS could qualify as one – neither country is willing to expend the investigative and judicial resources to prove it and bring him to justice. If he is innocent, as he claims, neither country is willing to try to clear him.

The Kurds have made it clear that they do not want hundreds of people such as him on their hands. Ilham Ahmed, a leader of the Kurdish-led SDF, says it is straining their resources just to hold people such as him. “We have provided the support we can by arresting them and detaining them in prisons, but who is going to take them to court?” she told the Financial Times. “Who is going to [be] carrying out the prosecution?”

Another horrific news story this month illustrated the risk of not taking these people back. Germany is currently trying a 27-year-old woman from Lower Saxony known as Jennifer W. for allegations that she, as an IS “morality policewoman” in Syria, tortured a 5-year-old Yazidi slave girl to death. Prosecutors consider themselves lucky to have found a phone containing what they say are incriminating messages.

If kept in Syria or foisted on another country, she would never have been charged. Trials such as hers are expensive, difficult and risky, but the expense is necessary, and the risk would be greater if these people were left at large. Some of them may be the world’s worst people, but they are our people. If they are truly to be brought to justice, or at least kept under watch so they pose less danger, it is far more likely to happen here.

Source: Canadian extremists returning from Syria are a big problem – but they’re our problem

Countries urged not to strip terror suspects of citizenship

More on citizenship revocation for treason or terror:

Stripping terror suspects of citizenship does not increase national security and may even make it worse, legal experts told a conference on ending statelessness.

They are particularly concerned over the increasing use of the measure by Britain which this year revoked the nationality of “jihadi bride” Shamima Begum who left London to join Islamic State in 2015 at the age of 15.

Britain is also considering the case of British-Canadian Muslim convert Jack Letts who joined ISIS as a teenager and is now being held in a Kurdish-run jail in northern Syria.

“Stripping nationality is a completely ineffective measure – and an arbitrary measure,” said Amal de Chickera, co-founder of the Institute on Statelessness, which is hosting the conference in The Hague.

He said countries should retain responsibility for nationals accused of supporting ISIS and ensure they are prosecuted.

“Stripping nationality when people are abroad merely exports the problem to other countries,” he said, adding such measures were also likely to have a serious impact on families back home.

Countries should recognize that women married to ISIS fighters, and their children, may have been victimized, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Friday.

The conference heard that Britain stripped nationality from more than 100 people in 2017, compared to a total of 12 people between 1950 and 2002, but most cases were done quietly.

De Chickera said it was crucial that all countries’ counterterrorism policies should not result in more people becoming stateless – which means someone is not recognized as a national by any country in the world.

To avoid making people stateless, Britain has focused on dual nationals.

But Audrey Macklin, a human rights law professor at the University of Toronto, said if all countries had laws to revoke citizenship from dual nationals then you would get a race to see who could do it first “and to the loser goes the citizen.”

“Is this a policy that makes sense as a global practice directed at making the world more secure, at reducing the risk of terrorism? To my mind, not so much,” she said.

She said citizenship was a right rather than a privilege and described citizenship deprivation followed by expulsion as the “political equivalent of the death penalty.”

The conference comes midway through a UN campaign to end statelessness in a decade. An estimated 10 to 15 million people are stateless worldwide, often deprived of basic rights.

Jawad Fairooz, a former Bahraini MP who was rendered stateless after being stripped of his nationality in 2012, said revoking citizenship should never be used as a political tool or a punishment.

Bahrain has stripped hundreds of people of nationality since a 2011 uprising although many have since regained citizenship.

“If you lose [citizenship], you lose the rest of your rights,” said Fairooz, chairman of Salam for Democracy & Human Rights.

“If you are born in a country and serve the country and you [are] part of it and quite suddenly your name is deleted from that country it is really heartbreaking.”

Source: Countries urged not to strip terror suspects of citizenship

Sajid Javid’s decision to strip Shamima Begum of her citizenship questioned by one of UK’s most senior judges

On the statelessness aspect:

One of Britain’s most senior judges has called into question Sajid Javid’s decision to strip Isil bride Shamima Begum of her British citizenship.

Jonathan Sumption, who retired as a justice of the Supreme Court in December, indicated that the Home Secretary may have breached international law by effectively making Ms Begum stateless.

Mr Javid claimed that Begum, 19, whose parents came to the UK from Bangladesh, was a Bangladeshi citizen under that country’s law even though she had never been to Bangladesh.

This meant he could remove her British citizenship without making her stateless.

Speaking on the BBC’s Reith Lecture today, however, Lord Sumption said: “I am frankly surprised at the suggestion that she can be regarded as the citizen of a country with which she has never had anything to do but that is the Government’s position and I have no doubt it will be tested in the courts in due course.”

The Bangladesh Government has rejected the British claim that she is a Bangladesh citizen and said it would refuse to accept her, although its nationality laws do include a right of “citizenship by descent” to anyone who is born to a Bangladeshi parent.

This right only lapses when a person reaches the age of 21.

Lawyers for Begum, who fled London to join Isil in Syria and married an Isis fighter with whom she had three babies, all of whom died, are however appealing the Home Secretary’s decision.

Asked if the removal of citizenship also meant a person lost their standing under human rights, Lord Sumption said: “What they lose is their citizenship. That doesn’t necessarily deprive them of their standing when it comes to human rights.

“I have no problem with the notion of depriving people of their citizenship who have gone abroad to fight in foreign wars save this.

“It’s an established principle of international law that you cannot deprive somebody of his or her citizenship if the result would be to render them stateless.

“And whatever they may have done in Syria or anywhere else, that rule has always been applied and will no doubt be applied in this case.”

Source: Sajid Javid’s decision to strip Shamima Begum of her citizenship questioned by one of UK’s most senior judges

Qatar Arbitrarily Revoked a Dissident Qatari Clan’s Citizenship

More on citizenship stripping in Qatar:

A bombshell report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) alleges that Qatar arbitrarily stripped the citizenship of thousands of members of the large Ghufran clan, and that though citizenship has been restored to many, dozens are left stateless with no clear recourse.

Qatar’s move to revoke the citizenship of members of the Ghufran clan came after members of that clan, itself a small part of the larger, semi-nomadic al-Murrah tribe, backed a botched coup attempt in 1996. In the years since, Ghufran members’ citizenship were steadily stripped from them. HRW has found 28 former Qatari citizens who remain stateless and unable to access basic services or see their rights protected.

Throughout the Middle East, states have granted and revoked citizenship status for political reasons.

Israel offered citizenship to Syrian Druze living in the dospited Golan Heights after Israel invaded and claimed the region from Syria during the 1967 war. In April 2019, Bahrain stripped the citizenship of over 130 people alleged to have taken part in 2011 protests. In 2014, Kuwait revoked dozens of dissidents’ citizenships in several waves, reinstating only ten in 2018.

The opaque process under which Qatar decides who gains and loses citizenship has come under fire by HRW, who call it ‘arbitrary.’

An Arbitrary Process

“I have no property in my name, no house, no income, no health card, I can’t even open a bank account, it’s like I don’t even exist.”

Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (AFP/FILE)

“The restoration of citizenship appears to be taking place in as arbitrary a manner as the revocation of citizenship,” Hiba Zayadin, a HRW researcher focused on the Gulf, told Al Bawaba.

“In the 20 years since the state of Qatar began to target families from the Ghufran clan, it has not provided any comprehensive or transparent information on how many people it arbitrarily stripped of citizenship, how that process was carried out, or how people could go about seeking to restore their citizenship,” she said, adding that nobody knows with any certainty how many people remain stateless as a result of Qatar’s decision.

Though Qatar has not publicly stated its motivations behind the mass move to revoke Ghufran clansmen’s citizenships, members of the clan suspect it is linked to their involvement in the failed 1996 coup attempt.

In Feb 1996, an internal plan by members of Qatar’s ruling al-Thani party, to overthrow Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani was stopped before it could get underway. Almost immediately, members of the Ghufran clan were suspected to have taken part in the conspiracy, and Qatar began revoking their citizenship en masse. The process appears to have continued well into the 2000s, leaving thousands of Ghufran clansmen stateless; many were forced to acquire citizenship in neighboring countries.

Most citizenship claims have since been restored, but HRW documented dozens of former Qatari Ghufran members who remain in a virtual limbo, without access to basic rights protections or services.

“I have no property in my name, no house, no income, no health card, I can’t even open a bank account, it’s like I don’t even exist,” a 56 year-old man, whose citizenship was revoked in 2004, told HRW.

“When I get sick [instead of going to a doctor or hospital] I take Panadol [a non-prescription painkiller] and hope for the best.” According to the report, his five children’s citizenships were also revoked.

Another interviewee described that in a world where one’s well-being is entirely determined by citizenship status, being stateless means he has had to rely on others’ charity for over 20 years. “We live in suffering because we are stateless,” he said. “If we remain this way, we will have no future.”

Without a legal claim to citizenship within Qatar, those interviewed have no access to Qatar’s public or private schools and universities. They cannot legally work and have had difficulty accessing Qatar’s health care system.

Many cannot leave the country and are routinely stopped by police. Once stopped, they cannot provide a valid Qatari identity card, so they are detained and have to be bailed out. One 58 year-old interviewed has been stuck in Saudi Arabia as she waits to get a Saudi passport. Until then, she cannot even travel anywhere within Saudi.

“The most difficult thing for me is that I can’t visit my family in Qatar. I miss visiting home, I miss al-Wakrah, al-Rayyan, the corniche, the sea. I missed my nephew’s wedding and many other family events. There are some loved ones that I haven’t seen since the day I was stripped of citizenship,” she said.

No Clear Path Forward 

“Interviewees said they never received any formal or written communication informing them of the decision.”

A delegation from the Ghufran clan at the U.N. (Ghufran clan/Arab News)

Though Bahrain and Kuwait stripped some of their dissidents’ citizenship in a similar manner to Qatar, Hiba Zayadin of HRW said Qatar’s handling of the manner stands out. In both Bahrain and Kuwait’s case, “often the government either announces the citizenship revocations or formally informs those being targeted and refers to court decisions, decrees, or executive orders calling for the stripping of citizenship.”

“In the case of members of the Ghufran,” she said, “the Qatari government did not make public any decree mandating the stripping of citizenship and in the cases Human Rights Watch documented, interviewees said they never received any formal or written communication informing them of the decision.”

Because the process has been kept from public view, there are no clear venues for the stateless to appeal the revocation. For the time being, they are stuck without citizenship.

The report itself details the futile attempts of the stateless members of the Ghufran clan to reach out to Qatar’s Interior Ministry only to be met with radio silence.

When asked if there was any feasible way those stateless could regain their Qatari citizenship, Zayadin of HRW recommended that the international community step in and speak on their behalf in order to try and pressure Qatar to re-integrate them.

In other words, the fate of the remaining stateless Ghufran clanspeople rests in the hands of external state delegations who may simply forgo pressuring Qatar if it is deemed too politically risky or extraneous.

In Sep 2018, members of the Ghufran clan staged a sit-in outside the U.N.’s headquarters in Geneva to demand the reinstatement of clansmen’s’ citizenships.

Source: Qatar Arbitrarily Revoked a Dissident Qatari Clan’s Citizenship

Germany, New Zealand approaches to citizenship revocation for strip IS fighters – Statelessness

Both countries provide an exception for those who would be left stateless and appear to be applying that consistently unlike recent cases in the UK (Begum) and Australia (Prakash).

Starting with Germany:

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and their Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partners have agreed a plan to strip some Germans who fight for the Islamic State militant group of their citizenship, a German newspaper reported on Sunday.

More than 1,000 Germans have left their country for war zones in the Middle East since 2013 and the government has been debating how to deal with them as U.S.-backed forces are poised to take the last patch of territory from Islamic State in Syria.

About a third have returned to Germany, another third are believed to have died, and the rest are believed to be still in Iraq and Syria, including some detained by Iraqi forces and U.S.-backed fighters in Syria. The Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, citing unnamed government sources, said three criteria must be met to allow the government to denaturalise Germans who take up arms for the Islamist group.

Such individuals must have a second citizenship, be adults and they would be stripped of their citizenship should they fight for Islamic State after the new rules go into effect.

The compromise ends a dispute over the issue between conservative Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and SPD Justice Minister Katarina Barley.

Spokesmen for both ministers were not available to comment on the report.

U.S. President Donald Trump last month urged Britain, France and Germany to take back more than 800 captured Islamic State fighters and put them on trial.

Germany said it would take back fighters only if the suspects have consular access.

Last month Britain revoked the citizenship of a teenager who had left London when she was aged 15 to join Islamic State in Syria.

The case of Shamima Begum highlighted the security, legal and ethical dilemmas facing European governments dealing with citizens who had sworn allegiance to a group determined to destroy the West.

Source: Germany to strip IS fighters of citizenship under certain criteria – report

New Zealand:

A New Zealand man detained in Syria after joining the Islamic State militant group will not be stripped of citizenship but could face criminal charges if he returns, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday.

New Zealand is the latest of a number of countries, from Australia and Britain to the United States, forced to grapple with legal and security challenges in dealing with former members of a hardline group that had sworn to destroy the West.

Mark Taylor, who traveled to Syria in 2014, told Australian broadcaster ABC from a prison in the Kurdish-run north that he expected to face time in prison if he returned to New Zealand.

Taylor’s joining the group was illegal and could have legal ramifications, Ardern said, but added that her government would provide him with a travel document to return, if possible.

“We have long had plans in place in the event that a New Zealand citizen supporting ISIS in Syria were to return,” Ardern told reporters, using an alternative name for the group.

“Mr Taylor only holds New Zealand citizenship and the government has an obligation not to make people stateless.”

Ardern said officials had identified that a small number of New Zealanders had joined IS, but declined to give an exact number.

New Zealand law allows revocation of citizenship only in limited situations, Ardern said, adding that the government could not render stateless anyone who did not have dual citizenship.Officials had told Taylor he would need to travel to a country where New Zealand has a diplomatic presence, such as Turkey, to receive an emergency travel document to return, said Ardern, adding that would be difficult as he is in detention.

In an interview aired on Monday, Taylor told the ABC that he had worked as a guard for the group for five years and had been detained in its prisons a number of times, such as after he accidentally leaked location details in a tweet in 2015.

He also appeared in an IS promotional video that year, calling for attacks on ANZAC Day celebrations in Australia and New Zealand.

Taylor told ABC he had witnessed executions while with the group and was sorry.

“I don’t know if I can go back to New Zealand, but at the end of the day it’s really something I have to live with for the rest of my life,” he said.

In February, Britain said it was revoking the citizenship of 19-year-old Shamima Begum, who had left London with two school friends to join up when she was 15, but now sought to return with her newborn son.

Source: New Zealand Islamic State recruit will not be stripped of citizenship

 

Punishment or Banishment?

A rather curious article that lumps some of the Canadian worries regarding returning ISIS fighters (including wives)  with citizenship revocation.

The Liberal government reversed the Conservative government’s change to the Citizenship Act that allowed for revocation in cases of terror or treason

The statelessness provisions in most other countries require having a second nationality in order for citizenship to be revoked which makes the process more difficult to implement (as UK is finding out with respect to Begum not having Bangladeshi citizenship  and Australia with Prakash not having Fijian citizenship).

In the Canadian case, the issue is whether or not Canada should provide normal consular services (e.g., as we do to Canadians on death row in the USA) or make efforts to facilitate their return to Canada.

The former may be difficult given where they are being held and the latter, as many have noted, raises the possibility that there may not be enough evidence to prosecute successfully in Canada.

And while all have justified sympathy for their children, no sympathy for the mothers who made a conscious decision to support ISIS and its horrors and thus have to live with the consequences.

While the mothers have the right to return to Canada, no need for special government efforts to facilitate their return:

So-called jihadi brides are in the news, accused of supporting terrorism by having travelled to ISIS territory to marry ISIS fighters in support of the caliphate. Three Western states are implicated: the UK, the US, and Canada.

UK citizen Shemima Begum left the UK four years ago, when she was 15 years old, and surfaced last month at a Syrian refugee camp, heavily pregnant. US citizen Hoda Muthana, then a college student, left the US four years ago, using her tuition money to buy a ticket to Turkey, from which she was smuggled into ISIS territory. She is now detained in refugee camp in northeastern Syria. Kimberly Gwen Polman, born in Hamilton, Ontario, is a dual Canadian–US national who converted to Islam. She became persuaded by a Syrian fighter online that her incipient nursing skills would be of great value to the caliphate. She left the US in 2015 to join the caliphate, only to attempt to escape nearly a year later. But then she was jailed (and raped) and forced to sign a document acknowledging that if she were to attempt escape again, her punishment would be death. All three women have publicly announced their desire to return home this week.

The UK government reacted swiftly, announcing its intention to remove the citizenship of Begum, thereby denying her the right to return home. Recent official statements suggest UK authorities believe she is entitled to Bangladeshi citizenship, so revoking her British citizenship will not result in statelessness. US President Donald Trump announced over the weekend that all states should be ready to repatriate (i.e., bring home) and punish their “own” foreign fighters, but then tweeted that he had directed Mike Pompeo “not to allow Hoda Muthana back into the Country!” Canadian officials have been relatively quiet on their intentions. A spokesperson for Public Safety Canada statedonly that “The government is aware of some Canadian citizens currently detained in Syria. There is no legal obligation to facilitate their return.”

These cases are not identical. Begum was a child when she left the UK and is now a mother to a newborn baby boy. Muthana’s choices were exacerbated by her use of social media to celebrate and encourage violence. Polman is known to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. What they share is the right to return home to face trial and punishment in their countries of citizenship.

All states have justice systems in place so that suspected wrongdoers can be tried and punished. Democratic justice systems are those that respect due process rights: the rights to a fair trial, including adequate legal representation, which permits the relevant evidence to be adjudicated by trained judges and, where relevant, juries of their peers.

It is conventional to say that citizens must be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and this convention holds even where there appears to be incontrovertible evidence of guilt. Its purpose is to allow the possibility that what looks like a slam-dunk case is murkier upon examination, to ensure that in collecting evidence all of the rights of the accused were respected, and furthermore to allow for the presentation of extenuating circumstances that can complicate what seems like a simple guilty verdict.

There is more to criminal justice in democracies, moreover, than how the accused are treated during the trial phase. The punishments must also meet democratic criteria. It is a principle of punishment in democratic states that any citizen, no matter how criminal, must be treated as someone who can re-enter the community of equals from which she was temporarily excluded by punishment. This principle is why the death penalty must be rejected. It is also why denationalization must also be rejected.

Denationalization of terrorists, the process of revoking citizenship from those suspected of terrorist activities, is gaining in popularity in democratic states, who are rushing to prove they are tough on terror. Denationalizing terrorists is good politics.

Nevertheless, denationalization is unjust and undemocratic. It permits states to abandon citizens who are entitled to their protection in dangerous locations, in principle free to commit additional crimes. The Trudeau government recognized as much when it overturned the parts of the Strengthening Citizenship Act that permitted the revocation of citizenship. Weaselly words stating that Canada is not under the obligation to facilitate the return of suspected wrongdoers reveal an unwillingness to stand by the commitment implied by Mr. Trudeau’s now famous statement, “A Canadian is a Canadian.” Canadians, even criminal Canadians, are entitled to have their rights protected by Canada.

By revoking citizenship, states punish citizens suspected of criminal activities by banishing them, in advance of conviction. They treat them as unworthy of having their rights protected, as beyond the pale, rather than as individuals who in time can learn the error of their ways. These women must be returned to their states of citizenship so that we, their fellow-citizens, can judge their actions and, if appropriate, witness their just punishments.

Source: Punish homegrown terrorists. Don’t revoke their citizenship

Sajid Javid: difficult to strip Shamima Begum of UK citizenship

An important nuance to the UK’s citizenship revocation policy – must already have another citizenship, not just (theoretically) be able to obtain one:

Sajid Javid has indicated it could prove hugely difficult to strip Shamima Begum of her UK citizenship, telling MPs such action would not normally be taken against someone without another nationality and who was born in Britain.

Answering questions before the home affairs committee, Javid refused to discuss specifically the case of the 19-year-old, who travelled from east London to Syria to join Islamic State in 2015, but wants to return with her newborn baby.

But speaking more generally about the policy of stripping citizenship from UK nationals who are deemed a danger to the country, the home secretary said this action had never been taken if it would have left someone stateless.

“If an individual only has one citizenship, then generally the power cannot be used because by definition if you took away their British citizenship they would be stateless,” Javid said in answer to a question from the former Labour MP John Woodcock.

“I certainly haven’t done that and I am not aware that one of my predecessors has done that in a case where they know an individual only has one citizenship, as that would be breaking international law as we understand it.”

Last week, it emerged that the Home Office had written to Begum’s family to inform them an order was being made under the 1981 British Nationality Act, which allows the home secretary to remove someone’s citizenship if they are “satisfied that deprivation is conducive to the public good”.

A 2014 amendment to the Nationality Act allows UK citizenship to be removed if there are “reasonable grounds for believing” the person would be able to become a citizen of another country.

Asked about this by Woodcock, Javid stressed this could happen only if the person involved was a naturalised UK citizen originally from another country.

Javid said: “I have not deployed the power on the basis that someone could have citizenship to a second country. I’ve always applied it on the strict advice of legal advisers in the Home Office and more broadly in the government that when the power is deployed, with respect to that individual, they already have more than one citizenship.”

This measure had never seemingly been used, he added: “I have not used that power, and to the best of my knowledge none of my predecessors have used the power that was given in 2014.”

Begum’s family has stressed she does not have Bangladeshi citizenship, while Bangladesh has also said she does not, and will not be allowed into the country.

Assuming she does not have Bangladeshi nationality, it appears hard to see how Javid could enforce the order set out in the letter, which has prompted criticism that he was seeking to exploit populist feeling without proper attention to the law.

Javid was asked by the Labour MP Kate Green whether it was “morally right to export the problem” to Bangladesh, rather than deal with Begum through UK courts.

The home secretary argued that his priority had to be to protect the UK. Asked again if he thought this was morally suspect, he added: “I’m afraid I just don’t see it like that.”

He also confirmed that Begum’s baby would be a UK national, saying that children of British-born mothers had that right. However, he added, it would be “incredibly difficult” to assist the infant, as Begum was in a refugee camp in northern Syria.

Begum left the UK along with two schoolfriends. Her case was thrust back into the spotlight last week when she declared her wish to return for the sake of her child in an interview with the Times.

Source: Sajid Javid: difficult to strip Shamima Begum of UK citizenship

Gurski: Citizenship revocation is not the answer to terrorism

From my friend Phil Gurski, sensible comments on the limits of revocation in curbing radicalization and extremism:

In light of the announcement by the UK government that it is considering revoking the citizenship of clearly unrepentant jihadi Shamima Begum, claiming that she is “eligible for that of another country” (Bangladeshi apparently although she has never been there), I thought I would reproduce what I wrote about citizenship revocation in my second book Western Foreign Fighters: the threat to homeland and international security back in 2016. While I am not in favour of foreign terrorist fighter repatriation, nor am I keen on stripping one’s status, as the following paragraphs should make clear.

In the midst of the 2015 Canadian federal election campaign, the governing Conservative government announced that it was taking steps to revoke the citizenship of convicted terrorists in Canada, although it was unclear what implications this move would entail.  There were voices calling for similar steps to be taken against foreign fighters with IS.  After the Liberals won a majority, they quickly put a hold on this measure in Canadian courts.

Part of me feels that this is just displacing, and not solving the problem.  If we deport a terrorist to the country where s/he holds other citizenship (assuming that the other country agrees to take the individual – cases in Canada show that this can be convoluted), aren’t we just giving our problem to someone else?  What if that country practices torture or has no decent Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) programming?  What is to stop that individual from re-engaging?

Furthermore, and I do not think that this aspect has been discussed nearly enough, it seems that the individuals subject to possible citizenship revocation and deportation were actually radicalized in the West.  Getting rid of them does not address the environment and the players where the radicalization occurred.  In a sense, we own them.   So, how does offing our problem make things better?  Does it act as a deterrent?   Those whose citizenship was revoked could just as easily return on false documentation.  Legislation along these lines strikes me as vindictive and knee-jerk.

Another weakness in citizenship revocation is its limited application.  States cannot render an individual stateless, hence a person can have his or her citizenship removed only if s/he has another one to fall back on.  In the absence of dual citizenship governments cannot use this tool.  By doing so they in effect create two tiers of citizenship and apply laws discriminately against one section of society.  This strikes me as counter to the democratic systems we have built in the West.

Nevertheless, a number of countries have indicated that they will enact legislation to remove citizenship from terrorists.  Among those are:

  • In December 2015, Australia passed a law to remove citizenship from those under four criteria: engaging in terrorist acts, provide or receive training in preparation for a terrorist act, direct activities of a terrorist organisation, recruit or finance terrorists or terrorism; fighting in the service of a declared terrorist group;  convicted of a terrorism offence and sentenced to at least six years’ jail; or convicted of terrorism in the previous decade – retrospective measures allowing citizenship to be revoked for convicted terrorists in jail.

  • In October 2015 France announced plans to strip citizenship from five terrorists in its counter-terrorism struggle  This promise, repeated after the November 2015 attacks in Paris, was rescinded the following December when politicians decided it would be too divisive, only to be re-instated a day later  It would be applied to dual citizens convicted of terrorism offences.  The move led to accusations that France was pandering to the far right and was following in the footsteps of the WWII Vichy regime that stripped Jews of their French citizenship.  The planned measure remained controversial as of January 2016.  At the end of March 2016 the government finally announced it would not implement the measure.

  • Other countries considering such measures include Russia, Israel, Belgium and Norway.

Source: https://borealisthreatandrisk.com/citizenship-revocation-is-not-the-answer-to-terrorism/