Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

Denmark: Supreme Court Decides Person Born in Denmark Can Lose Citizenship After Joining ISIS

(Nov. 28, 2017) On November 14, 2017, the Danish Supreme Court (Højesteret) stripped a Danish-born citizen of his Danish citizenship for having joined and fought in Syria for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS or IS).  (Høejesterets dom [Supreme Court Verdict] (Nov. 14, 2007), Case No. 119/2017, Supreme Court website (in Danish).)  This is the second time a Danish citizen has been stripped of his citizenship for having committed terrorist acts.  (Elin Hofverberg, Denmark: Court Strips Terrorist of Danish Citizenship, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (June 13, 2016).)

It is the first time, however, that a Danish-born citizen has lost his/her citizenship. The man was a dual Danish and Turkish citizen who was born in Denmark in 1992 and who lived in Denmark until 2013 when he went to Syria to fight for IS.  He was caught when he tried to re-join the terrorist group in 2015.  He also supported IS both financially with DKK20,000 (about US$3,200) and vocally by celebrating the deeds of terrorist Omar El-Hussein, who attacked Copenhagen in 2015.  (Case No. 119/2017, at 4.)

Loss of Citizenship for Terrorist Crimes Under Danish Law

Under Danish law, persons who are sentenced for violations involving the terrorist or treasonous crimes under chapters 12 and 13 of the Criminal Code may also lose their Danish citizenship, as long as it does not render themr stateless. (§ 8 B, stk 1 Lov om dansk indfødsret (Infødsretslov) [Citizenship Act], Lovbekendtgørelse [LBK] nr 422 af 07/06/2004, RETSINFORMATION; Straffeloven [Criminal Code], LBK nr 977 af 09/08/2017, RETSINFORMATION.) The citizenship is not stripped if losing Danish citizenship would be “disproportionate,” weighing on the one hand the gravity of the offense and on the other hand the impact on the person of the denial of citizenship.  (Case No. 119/2017, at 4-5.)

To determine whether repeal of a person’s citizenship will be a disproportionate action, the Court looks at family, social, and cultural ties to Denmark, as well as at the other citizenship country involved. According to the Supreme Court, very serious reasons must be present to strip a Danish-born citizen of his or her citizenship when he or she has grown up in Denmark (relying on Maslov v. Austria, June 23, 2008, European Court of Human Rights, App. No. 1638/03 [GC], HUDOC database).  (Case No. 119/2017, at 5.)

The Decision

The Danish Supreme Court noted that whether the person who might be stripped of Danish citizenship would receive degrading treatment in the country of his other citizenship was not a test in determining whether citizenship should be lost, but a test only at the point of deportation. Thus, a person could lose his citizenship and still not have his deportation executed because of possible threats to his person in the receiving country.  (Id. at 6.)

The Court began its deliberations by determining that the factual circumstances in the case, i.e., the conviction of the person for terrorist crimes, allowed the stripping of his citizenship and that therefore the test before the Court was whether such a move was proportional. (Id. at 6.)

The Court found the man had a strong connection to Denmark: he was born in the country, had lived his whole life there, had graduated high school there, and since then worked at his parent’s pizzeria. He is unmarried and has no children. (Id. at 6-7.)

The Court noted, however, that the man did not lack connections to Turkey. He has been in Turkey on vacation, and his parents own a house there.  He also speaks, reads, and understands Turkish and knows some Kurdish.  Moreover, he had previously been engaged to a woman with Turkish roots, and the engagement party was held in Turkey in 2013.  The Court thus found that his connection to Turkey was “not negligible.”  (Id. at 7.)

Because of the connection to Turkey, the Supreme Court found that stripping him of Danish citizenship would not be disproportionate. The Court thereby affirmed both the Appeals Court and the lower court decisions to strip the man of Danish citizenship.  He will also lose his right to return to Denmark.  (Id.)