Friday, June 12, 2015

12-Jun-15: Citizenship: is it becoming a counter-terrorism tool?

Bahraini passport [Image Source]
Last month, we noted here ["22-May-15: Yet another Australian "normal guy" joins barbarians as government announces passport-driven counter-strategy"] how Australia is evaluating a counter-terrorism strategy that involves passports.

The plan (detailed here) addresses "the growing threat of homegrown jihadi­sts" by threatening to strip "second-generation Australians involved in terrorism", as well as what are being called "dual nationals", in order "to tighten national security laws":
National security agencies are watching a large number of radic­alised second-generation Australians... [T]he government is examining ways to revoke or suspend the ­citizenship of hate preachers and foreign fighters, including Australians who have one or both parents born overseas, in a bid to tackle the growing threat of homegrown jihadists... Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said... "It is a privilege to be an Australian citizen even by birth and if people are involved in terrorist activities the government is examining what options might be available in terms of suspension of privileges..."  [The Australian, May 21, 2015]
There's been Australian criticism of the proposal:
Revoking citizenship is pointless and absurd | Andrew Zammit ("a researcher at Monash University's Global Terrorism Research Centre") | The Age, Melbourne | May 28, 2015 | "There may be many terrorist suspects currently in Lebanon who hold Australian citizenship. Australia would not appreciate it if the Lebanese government said "not our problem", revoked their citizenship and deported them. But this is effectively what Australia could end up doing to other countries. Currently only a few countries, such as Britain, take this approach. If more countries adopt it, it could undermine the international counter-terrorism co-operation that is needed to tackle this global threat and that Australia itself benefits from...
DVD "Muslims in Australia Since the 1600s"
[Image Source]
And critical voices are being heard from leaders of Australia's Muslim community:
Silma Ihram, of the Australian Muslim Women’s Association, has also warned that some Muslim Australians could end up like the Rohingya people of Burma, left stateless or “shipped off to Cambodia”. She has joined the growing chorus of criticism by some government ministers and backbenchers, legal experts and community groups, over attempts to increase executive powers to revoke citizenship of suspected terrorists... "What the government is doing is to make this whole scenario of fear. Yes we have potential for [a terrorist] problem, no one is denying that. But the debate is had like the ‘reds under the bed’ so that [Abbott] can come out with solution and be voted back in"... Ihram said young Muslims were already contributing to Australian society with high levels of tertiary entrance rates and community participation but the government’s unhelpful rhetoric, such as Tony Abbott singling out the community, was isolating. "When the government suggests Muslims don’t have the same values Australians do – which is rubbish, [Isis] will say over social media to young Muslims, ‘they will never understand you, they will always fight against you’ and it all feeds straight into their rhetoric," Ihram said... "Everyone is going to lose so many freedoms under these laws." ["Tony Abbott using citizenship debate to win next election, Muslim leader says", The Guardian, June 8, 2015]
We quoted the same Australian lady three months ago ["26-Mar-15: Australia's rising pre-occupation with its death-cultists"] when she offered a stupefyingly simplistic cause-and-effect view of Australia's growing pre-occupation with terror:
Silma Ihram, a member of the Australian Muslim Women’s Association based in Sydney, says youths are drawn to IS because the Australian government "continues to create an us versus them" mentality... Ms Ihram, born Anne Frances Beaumont, is an articulate advocate for racial tolerance and the notion that it isn't Moslems but just some angry peripheral people that give Islam a bad name. A 2006 Australian movie review called her "Erin Brockovich in a hijab". 
At the time, we noted that, if she's right, this will all end up peacefully but it might all get a lot more serious if she's wrong.

A little closer to where we live, there's recent evidence that countering terrorism via citizenship and passports has some powerful advocates. This report appeared yesterday in Gulf Daily News, a newspaper published in the Kingdom of Bahrain:
"Terror cell 57 jailed for blasts" | Noor Zahra | June 12, 2015 | FIFTY-SEVEN men have been handed jail sentences ranging from 10 to 25 years after being convicted of being part of an Iranian-backed terrorist cell that orchestrated a bombing campaign in Bahrain. They were found guilty of arms smuggling and plotting a string of attacks on security personnel and landmark structures, including the Saudi Embassy and King Fahad Causeway, by Bahrain's High Criminal Court yesterday. The court heard that members of the cell received militia training in Iraq and Iran... Four of the 61 defendants were acquitted due to lack of evidence by judges, who revoked the Bahraini citizenships of all of those found guilty... Eighteen defendants found guilty are still at large and have been on the run since police first launched a series of raids targeting the group in May 2013. [The text of the verdict includes this:] "They tried to establish terrorist groups by recruiting Bahraini youth and using their connections with the Sadr movement in Iraq and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. They then sent Bahraini youth to receive militia training in Iran and Iraq to carry out terrorists attacks in Bahrain and to overthrow the government..." In addition to life sentences for five defendants, judges sentenced 22 others to 15 years behind bars and handed 10-year sentences to another 30 defendants.
Though the Bahraini paper does not mention it, most if not all of the accused are Shi'ites, the branch of Islam espoused by 10-15% of Moslems worldwide and by the majority of people in Bahrain (and backed by Iran, a Shi'ite-majority country). A solid majority of Bahrain's Moslems, about 70%, are Shia. However the tiny island state of 742,600 (2006 official estimate) of whom nearly 300,000 are non-citizens to begin with, has been controlled since the 18th century by the al-Khalifa family. It's a self-declared monarchy, like most of the statelets in the oil-drenched Persian Gulf. The al-Khalifa clan are Sunni Moslems. Hence the instability, particularly since 2011.

From a website that helps aliens acquire US citizenship
What are other states doing?
  • In Canada, The Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act 2014 includes "new grounds to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens who are convicted of terrorism, high treason, treason or spying offences, depending on the sentence... The majority of revocation cases will be decided by the citizenship and immigration minister, or his delegate", according to the Canadian government's backgrounder on the legislation. "This includes cases of convictions of terrorism, treason and spying offences."
  • The United States (according to this source) has not recently passed any laws that would penalise foreign fighters by revoking their citizenship. The United States Constitution makes change difficult though current US legislation does allow citizenship to be revoked if a citizen displays an "intent to relinquish their citizenship". Fighting in a foreign army may be deemed an indicator of such intent and thus lead to loss of US citizenship.
  • Under French law, the government may strip citizenship from dual nationals if a person has been convicted of terrorism within 15 years of becoming a French citizen. This past January, France's Constitutional Court upheld the law in a case involving a French Moroccan dual national convicted of terrorism offences… the court ruled the removal of his citizenship was permitted (and not a prohibited form of discrimination) if and only if that person had held French citizenship for more than 15 years. If less than 15 years, the principle of equality would be violated. Le Monde says there have been eight cases of dual citizens being stripped of French citizenship since 1973.

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