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Germany: Government Proposes Loss of German Citizenship for Foreign Fighters with Dual Citizenship

(May 20, 2019) On May 3, 2019, the press services of the German Bundestag (parliament) reported that the German government had submitted a draft act to amend the rules on German citizenship so that foreign fighters with dual citizenship would automatically lose their German citizenship. (Press Release, German Bundestag, Loss of German Citizenship (May 3, 2019), German Bundestag website (in German); BT-Drs. 19/9736, German Bundestag website (in German); Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz [StAG] [Nationality Act], July 22, 1913, REICHSGESETZBLATT [RGBl.] [REICHS LAW GAZETTE] I at 583, as amended, German Laws Online website.)

Content of Proposal

Currently, German citizenship is lost only if a person voluntarily joins the regular armed forces or a comparable armed organization of a foreign state. (Nationality Act § 17, para. 1, no. 5, § 28.) However, going abroad to actively fight for a foreign terrorist militia does not have any consequences. The proposal states that an amendment of the rules is necessary because fighting for a foreign terrorist organization equally means that someone has turned away from Germany and its fundamental values. (BT-Drs. 19/9736, at 1.) German citizenship would not be lost if the person concerned would thereby become stateless or were still a minor. (Id.)

The proposal defines “foreign terrorist militia” as a “paramilitary organized armed organization that, in violation of international law, aims to remove the structures of a foreign state by force and to establish new state or state-like structures in its stead.” (Id. at 4, art. 1, § 28, para. 3.)

The new rules would not apply to foreign ISIS fighters or fighters for other terrorist organizations who have fought for these groups in the past and who would like to return to Germany, as such retroactive rules would be unconstitutional. (Id. at 6.) However, as long as foreign ISIS fighters remain in the areas held by ISIS and the fight resurges after the amendment has entered into force, a loss of citizenship is generally possible. (Id.)