Counter-terrorism expert Paulussen in NRC: “It is an illusion to think that citizenship stripping is effective”

Published 8 January 2019

Dr Christophe Paulussen is a senior researcher at the T.M.C. Asser Instituut and coordinator of its research strand 'Human Dignity and Human Security in International and European Law'.

Deprivation of nationality as a counter-terrorism measure is ineffective, says Asser Institute researcher Dr Christophe Paulussen in NRC Next. The Dutch newspaper writes that despite compelling advice from anti-terrorism advisors not to deprive jihadists from their Dutch nationality, successive ministers of the Dutch Justice and Security department have done so. According to NRC, this increasingly leads to tensions between the ministry and organisations in charge of counter-terrorism.

NRC asks: So why does the Ministry continue to use citizenship stripping as a counter-terrorism measure? "For the stage", says Paulussen, who investigates anti-terrorism measures, including citizenship stripping, for the T.M.C. Asser Instituut and the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism in The Hague. Paulussen: "The minister mainly does this to show that such behaviour is not tolerated. But citizenship stripping has little to do with effectiveness or problem solving.” According to Paulussen, it is an illusion that a jihadist no longer poses a threat once he no longer has Dutch nationality. "Current transnational terrorism does not detract from national borders." It is easy for Syrian people to cross the European border, either via smuggling routes or with fictitious passports.

Different treatment
The stripping of citizenship measure is not only ineffective, says Paulussen, but it can also increase problems. The measure, for example only applies to people with dual nationality as the cabinet does not want to make people stateless. This thus creates a different treatment for population groups: while Moroccan or Turkish Dutch citizens can be deprived of Dutch citizenship, Dutch nationals without dual nationality do not face the same fate. This can lead to feelings of discrimination among minority groups, says Paulussen. "And research shows that this is one of the factors that can play a role in radicalisation."

Further reading
Countering terrorism through the stripping of citizenship: ineffective and counterproductive
In this perspective, Dr Christophe Paulussen examines the scope and nature of citizenship stripping as a counter-terrorism measure and argues that it stands out in comparison to other counter-terrorism measures. This is because of its highly symbolic nature, its far-reaching effects, as well as its emphasis on ‘addressing’ the problem by making it the problem of other states. (ICCT Perspective, 2018)

Citizenship stripping in Bahrain
Several states have been stripping citizenships of their nationals as a way to fight terrorism, as is the case in Bahrain. In many cases, this leaves the affected persons stateless, which means they are no longer granted pensions, health care, or housing benefits. It also denies them access to justice, as they lose their right to appear before courts, says Christophe Paulussen in a recent article in the Voice of America. Additionally, as Dr Paulussen points out, when people are expelled after they have been deprived of their citizenship, they simply become the problem of another state.

‘Legislative fever is not a long-term solution for stopping terrorism incitement’
Legislators and policy-makers should put more emphasis, expertise, and resources towards resolving the root causes of terrorism, rather than trying to curb the spread of extremism by feverishly expanding counter-terrorism legislation. That is the main conclusion of a new ICCT Perspective ‘Incitement to Terrorism – Treating the Symptoms or Addressing the Causal Malady?’ by Asser researcher and ICCT research fellow Dr Rumyana Grozdanova.

Policy brief: ‘Counter-terrorism measures need to be evaluated’
Read the full policy brief in which Asser researcher Dr Berenice Boutin discusses methods for evaluating counter-terrorism measures and provides suggestions for policy-makers. 

Asser International Crimes Database
The International Crimes Database, offers an extensive online collection of international crimes broadly defined, such as genocide, war crimes, terrorism and piracy. It provides access to a range of information, not just for scholars and practitioners (such as judges, prosecutors and defence counsel), but also for students, journalists, families and communities of victims of crimes.