The Parliament will not reach a consensus on a bill proposed by the Flemish nationalist rightwing N-VA party that would increase the possibility of stripping convicted terrorists of their Belgian nationality.
The bill led to a long discussion on Wednesday in the Chamber’s Justice Commission.
Since 2015, anyone convicted of terrorism and sentenced to at least five years in prison can be stripped of their citizenship at the request of the Public Prosecutor’s Office. This provision was applied, for example, against Sharia4Belgium leader Fouad Belkacem.
The bill proposed by N-VA MP Koen Mestu toughened the provision considerably, since it would automatically strip anyone convicted of a terrorist offence of their nationality. However, the Council of State issued a critical opinion on the text, namely on the automatic nature of the revocation, prompting N-VA to file an amendment, providing for the judge to revoke the convicted terrorist’s nationality upon the request of the prosecutor.
Members of the governing coalition were hesitant to agree to the bill. The liberals had not yet taken a position on it on Wednesday, nor has the centrist CD&V party, while MR’s Philippe Privin said the conviction would have to be one entailing jail time, and not a suspended sentence.
The scope of the proposed provision is also under discussion. In fact, such a law can only apply to dual citizens since, under international conventions, a person cannot legally be rendered stateless.
Many other parties have criticized the proposed bill outright.
Khalil Aouasti, a socialist MP of Moroccan origin, commented: “I do not have the right to give up my dual nationality, nor will the children and grandchildren that I do not have, have that right. An exception is being created for a specific category of the population, to which the message is being given: ‘you’ll never be totally Belgian’,” he said.
Ecolo-Groen’s Zakia Khattabi was concerned that the bill violated the basic principle of equal treatment of all citizens before the law, while Vanessa Matz (cdH) slammed the text as simply seeking to “up the ante” in a bid to woo extreme-right voters.
The Justice Commission has submitted a report of Wednesday’s discussion to the Home Affairs Commission, which will issue its opinion in the next few weeks.