Revoking citizenship for terrorism – Ukraine

March 16, 2016

In the aftermath of the latest terrorist outrage in Paris, the French politicians decided that the removal of citizenship for those involved in and convicted of terrorist offences should be a legal option.

The UK too has raised this issue several times in the House of Commons historically.

Some time ago in Ukraine, a petition to deprive citizenship for terrorism gathered the necessary 25,000 (and more) signatures to warrant consideration by the President.

(Yes 25,000 signatures within a country of 45 million is a low bar on a national scale, however it is also quite a high bar if the issue is peculiarly local and sees no remedy from the local and/or regional government.)

For the French such a measure would require amendments to their constitution.  A quick glance at the Constitution of Ukraine would suggest the same requirement to make amendments.  Less of a problem for the UK that has no written constitution to amend.


Wisely, the French sent their proposed constitutional amendments to the Venice Commission for their considered and official “opinion”.  That official “opinion” has now been published.

Within that “Opinion” particular emphasis is placed upon any such removal/revoking/stripping of citizenship being subject to both due process and proportionality – quite rightly.

“In the opinion of the Commission, the introduction of a citizenship revocation scheme and the rights attached thereto, common to all the French, origin or naturalized mononational or bi- or multinational n ‘ is not in itself contrary to international standards. It nevertheless recommends clarifying in the Constitution that the forfeiture is an “additional punishment”, applying therefore a criminal judge individualized and proportionate manner, after a fair trial.”

This naturally has ramifications for any Ukrainian decision to deprive/revoke/remove citizenship for terrorism too – particularly when considering it is an “Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO)” that legally defines the war in the occupied Donbas.

Reading between the lines, President Poroshenko clearly has no desire to provide for such a legal option and therefore the presidential response to the Ukrainian petition was to encourage the government to study international experience upon such issues.  Such advice however, may be little more than kicking the can down the road if traction is found among 300 or more MPs – for Ukraine is a parliamentary/presidential democracy and not the other way around (despite appearances).

Just how far the presidential boot has kicked the citizenship removing/revoking terrorist can down the road may very well depend upon the speed of actions and their outcomes within the French parliament following this Venice Commission “Opinion”.

It is an issue to keep an eye on from a Ukrainian perspective – as well as from the perspective of international law, regional treaties, and human rights instruments.


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