[Op-ed] ‘UK, Australia and the Netherlands should not evade responsibility through citizenship stripping’

Published 3 March 2021


Foreign fighters and their families have been in the news a lot lately. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern blasted Australia for shirking responsibility by stripping a dual national terror suspect's citizenship. Recently, the UK Supreme Court decided that Shamina Begum, who joined Islamic State in 2015, cannot return to the UK to challenge her citizenship removal. In Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant, Asser senior researcher Christophe Paulussen and ISI Co-Director Laura van Waas voice their opinion on citizenship stripping as a counter-terrorism measure. The expulsion of a citizen from society may have great symbolic power, but that does not make him or her disappear from the globe.”

The authors stress the importance of bringing foreign fighters to justice, rather than expelling them from society in the hope that others may deal with the issue. A government that wants to stand up against impunity should (…) not be tempted to take this measure. And a country that recognises the importance of international cooperation in the fight against terrorism must realise that relinquishing all responsibility to the country of second nationality is not the way to go. […] Australia, the UK and the Netherlands have plenty of options to repatriate people like Begum and bring them to justice. From an international legal, moral and security perspective, this is the only correct solution.”

Read the full op-ed (in Dutch).

Christophe Paulussen is a senior researcher at the T.M.C. Asser Instituut. He is coordinator of the research strand 'Human Dignity and Human Security in International and European Law', coordinator of the inter-faculty research platform ‘International Humanitarian and Criminal Law Platform’ and research fellow at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague.

Laura van Waas is co-director of the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion and assistant professor (Tilburg Law School).

Further reading

Blog post: ‘The counter-productiveness of deprivation of nationality as a national security measure’
Governments struggling with the potential threat of returning former ISIS fighters and their families are increasingly turning to citizenship stripping as a counterterrorism measure. In this blog post, Dr Christophe Paulussen, senior researcher at the T.M.C. Asser Instituut  & Dr Laura van Waas, co-director of the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, call for a careful review of this trend.

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

‘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.

Will a Dutch man who fought in Syria be stripped of his citizenship?
A Dutch-Moroccan citizen is waiting for a court to decide whether his Dutch nationality will be revoked after he admitted to fighting in Syria. Although his name was removed from the terrorist watch list in 2018, Maher could still lose his Dutch citizenship. Interview with Asser researcher Dr Rumyana van Ark (née Grozdanova).

Should Europe uphold the right to return even for Daesh families? 
European powers are yet to claim their citizens, who want to return home from former Daesh-held territories in Syria, posing a significant question over whether the legal principle of the right to return will be applied. An interview in TRT World, featuring Dr Christophe Paulussen.

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