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Egypt: Draft Amendment to Citizenship Law

(Oct. 4, 2017) On September 21, 2017, the Council of Ministers of Egypt (the Cabinet) approved an amendment to Law No. 26 of 1975 on Citizenship. The Council has referred the new amendment to the Council of Representatives (Egypt’s unicameral parliament) for a vote. (Egypt Amends Law to Strip Citizenship from Those Convicted in Crimes ‘Harming Public Order’, Egypt Independent (Sept. 21, 2016); Law No. 26 of 1975, 22 AL-JARIDDAH AL RASMYAH (May 29, 1975), available at REFWORLD.)

The new amendment allows the Prime Minister to strip the Egyptian citizenship of individuals who are seeking to undermine the public order of the state or who have been convicted of crimes related to endangering state security. (Egypt Amends Law to Strip Citizenship from Those Convicted in Crimes ‘Harming Public Order’, supra.)  The new amendment will be added to article 15 of Law No. 26 of 1975 and will read as follows:  Nationality can be withdrawn, if [a person] joins any group, association, body, organization, gang, or any entity of any nature with the aim of harming the public order of the state or undermining the social and economic order by force or by any unlawful means.  (Ahamed Imam (Undersecretary of Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Interior), The New Amendment to the Law of Citizenship Is a Challenge to the Muslim Brotherhood Organization, AL-AHRAM NEWSPAPER (Sept. 24, 2017) (in Arabic).)

There are a number of lawsuits pending in Egyptian courts to strip the Egyptian citizenship of various public figures in the country, such as Youssef al-Qaradawy, a religious cleric affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood organization, and Ayman Nour, a former 2006 presidential candidate. (Id.)

After the Council of Ministers announced the new amendment on September 26, 2017, a representative of the Egyptian government stated that there is a possibility that the new measure will apply to former President Mohamed Morsi because of his conviction of crimes related to endangering the national security, including espionage and joining and supporting a terrorist organization. (Egypt Gov’t to Decide on Morsi’s Citizenship, TURKISH NEWS AGENCY (Sept. 26, 2017).)

Some legal scholars suggest that the new amendment of the citizenship law may open the door to an unprecedented legal dilemma by creating Egyptians who have no nationality of any state and who are therefore without legal rights. Those individuals will be deemed “stateless” and as such they might be denied access to government health care, education, and all government services.  Those legal scholars have highlighted the fact that the new amendment will authorize the Egyptian authorities to target Egyptian citizens worldwide who voice their political opposition to the current regime.  (Mohammed Hamama, Amendments to Egypt’s Nationality Law: An Obscure State for the ‘Stateless’, MADAMASR (Sept. 26, 2017).)