French minister quits over anti-terror measure

French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira disagreed with members of her own party over the proposed nationality clause.
French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira disagreed with members of her own party over the proposed nationality clause.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

She opposes plan allowing dual-nationality French terrorists to be stripped of citizenship

PARIS • French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira quit yesterday, apparently in protest against government efforts to strip convicted French-born terrorists of their citizenship if they have a second nationality.

Ms Taubira, who is popular among the ruling Socialists of President Francois Hollande but has been a target of criticism from right-wing politicians, tweeted: "Sometimes to resist means staying, sometimes resisting means leaving."

The outspoken 63-year-old, who is from French Guiana, became France's most senior black politician when she was named to the Justice Ministry post in 2012.

She has often been at the centre of controversy, whether as the victim of racial slurs or as she forged the country's same-sex marriage Bill despite fierce opposition from conservatives in the country.

Her latest battle saw her being unable to see eye to eye with members of her own party over the controversial "loss of nationality" measure.

Mr Hollande called for the measure to be written into the Constitution in the aftermath of the November terrorist attacks in Paris which left 130 people dead. It is part of a string of reforms meant to boost security as hundreds of French citizens - many holding dual nationality - leave to fight alongside the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militant group in Iraq and Syria, and in the case of the attackers, return to wreak devastation in France.

But many in the Socialist party see the proposal as an act of ideological treason that discriminates against one segment of the population. Just a day before the reforms were presented, Ms Taubira announced that the measure would be dropped, only to be overruled at the last minute by Mr Hollande.

The reforms also aim to inscribe the right to declare a state of emergency into the Constitution, including powers to raid homes and place people under house arrest without judicial oversight.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls presented the revised Constitution in Parliament yesterday, and the debate will start early next month.

Mr Hollande named Mr Jean- Jacques Urvoas, the current president of the parliamentary laws commission, as Ms Taubira's successor to "carry out... the constitutional reform", according to a statement from the presidency.

One of the main criticisms of the nationality clause is that it will drive a wedge between those who are only French, and those who hold a second nationality. An existing law already allows for naturalised citizens to be stripped of their nationality.

But political scientist Patrick Weil told Agence France-Presse last month that France would become "the first democracy in the world" to enshrine in its Constitution the principle of unequal treatment of dual nationals.

Parliamentary sources said yesterday that the phrase "dual citizen" would not feature in the reforms, to avoid this discrimination.

But it was unclear if this would allow purely French citizens to be stripped of their nationality.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2016, with the headline 'French minister quits over anti-terror measure'. Print Edition | Subscribe