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Denmark: Court Strips Terrorist of Danish Citizenship

(June 13, 2016) On June 8, 2016, the Danish Supreme Court decided that convicted terrorist Said Mansour, who holds dual Moroccan and Danish citizenship, will lose his Danish citizenship, affirming the appellate court verdict. (Højesterets dom [Supreme Court Verdict] (June 8, 2016), Case No. 211/2015, Supreme Court website.)  The case is the first of its kind in Denmark. (Nikolaj Skydsgaard, Denmark Strips Man of Citizenship After Terrorism Conviction, REUTERS (June 8, 2016).)

Relevant Provisions of Danish Citizenship Law

Danish law provides that a Danish citizen who commits terrorist crimes can be stripped of his or her Danish citizenship, provided that doing so will not result in statelessness. (§ 8 B ¶ 1 Infødsretsloven [Citizenship Act], LBK no. 422 of June 7, 2004, RETSINFORMATION.DK .) Stripping the person of citizenship is based on the person’s commission of acts that cause “serious harm to the vital interest of the State” and is only permissible if the acts fall under article 8, paragraph 2, of the European Convention on Human Rights. (Supreme Court Verdict, supra, at 3 & 6.) Moreover, the person must be sentenced to deportation in order to be stripped of citizenship. (Id. at 6.)

Under Danish law, a determination of whether citizenship can be lost requires that a proportionality test be made, weighing the seriousness of the crime against the effects of the person’s loss of Danish citizenship. Such a determination involves evaluating the person’s ties to Denmark compared to his or her ties to a country of another citizenship, including family ties in both countries. (Id. at 4-5.)

The Court Decision

In accordance with the provisions cited above, the Supreme Court took the following circumstances into consideration when it found that Mansour should be stripped of his Danish citizenship:

  • the severity of his crime: he has been convicted of several terrorist crimes, including spreading propaganda on behalf of Al-Qaeda;
  • his ties to Denmark: he only speaks a little Danish and has not worked in Denmark since 1994; and
  • his family ties: he has a former wife and children in Morocco and a former wife and adult children in Denmark. He has never lived together with a third woman to whom he is religiously (not legally) married, who is of Moroccan nationality and with whom he claims to have a daughter born in October 2015. Mansour has been incarcerated since February 2014. (Id.)

The Supreme Court concluded that Mansour has no real family ties to the woman to whom he is religiously married and that his Danish children are all “grown up and can take care of themselves.” (Id. at 6.) As he also has real ties to Morocco, the land of his birth and where he remains a citizen, the Court ordered that his Danish citizenship be stripped. (Id. at 6-7.) Attorneys acting on behalf of Mansour responded to the verdict by saying that they will appeal the case to the European Court of Human Rights. (Mansour går til menneskerettighedsdomstol efter udvisning [Mansour Goes to the Court of Human Rights After Expulsion], POLITIKEN (June 8, 2016).)

The Supreme Court did not settle the issue of whether the deportation of Mansour can be executed or must be suspended on the grounds of fear for the person’s life, an issue left to be decided by the authority that is tasked with deporting him. (Supreme Court Verdict, supra, at 7-8.)

Minister of Immigration Reaction to the Case

The Danish Minister for Immigration, Integration and Housing, Inger Støjberg, announced that she will make every effort to make any stay in Denmark as unpleasant for Mansour as legally possible. (Støjberg lover utåleligt liv for Mansour i Danmark [Støjberg Promises Unbearable Life for Mansour in Denmark], POLITIKO (June 8, 2016).) Støjberg has previously been criticized and reported to the police for having made public, prior to the case being finally settled, her desire that Mansour be deported, an accusation against which she has successfully responded that she is merely using her right to free speech. (Id.)