Revocation of Citizenship
Supreme Court hears from IHREC on citizenship
In light of the decision in Charaf Damache v The Minister for Justice and Equality in October 2020, the Supreme Court will decide whether Ireland’s law on of the revocation of citizenship is unconstitutional.
The Respondent, an Algerian national, was provided with notice that his citizenship was to be revoked because he pleaded guilty to terrorist activities. Mr. Damache was extradited to the US from Spain in 2017, after he left Ireland.
The case examined the lawfulness of the existing procedure under section 19 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, which provides for a power to revoke Irish citizenship from people who acquire Irish nationality, which was found to be unconstitutional. Following this declaration of unconstitutionality, the Court stated: “The process provided for in section 19 does not provide the procedural safeguards required to meet the high standards of natural justice applicable to a person facing such severe consequences as are at issue in these proceedings by reason of the absence of an impartial and independent decision maker.”
In response to pleading guilty in a Philadelphia court to a charge that while resident in Ireland around 2010, Mr Damache admitted to assisting in an Islamist terrorist conspiracy. He was then sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, and was given consent to be deported to serve this sentence in either Ireland or Algeria, upon serving his sentence. In the aftermath of the sentencing, the Minister for Justice in Ireland announced that he intended to revoke his Irish citizenship on grounds of disloyalty to the Irish State.
The Supreme Court then invited submission from parties, of which the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) in its role as amicus curiae put forward a submission. The commission submitted that it must be ensured that the person whose citizenship the Minister is attempting to revoke, has been granted procedures in that process, in line with human rights law. The Commission concluded that the correct order from the Supreme Court would be an order striking down section 19 of the 1956 Act in its entirety. Which would then in turn lead the Oireachtas to enact legislation, that would provide for a procedure which outlines the revocation of naturalisation, legislation that upholds the standards laid out by the Court its October judgment.