Valedictory lecture by Prof. Gerard-René de Groot

'Suspected terrorism is no reason to revoke citizenship'

According to Professor Gerard-René de Groot, revoking the citizenship of Dutch nationals suspected of participating in terrorist organisations is an extraordinarily bad idea. De Groot, a professor of Comparative Law and International Private Law, believes that the bill currently being reviewed by the Dutch House of Representatives is totally unnecessary and can only be understood in terms of political opportunism and proselytism. In his valedictory speech on 14 October, the international expert on nationality law will express his anger at these and other missteps in nationality law. 'You shouldn't undermine the principles of your own legal system because you're afraid of people threatening that system.'

Rene de Groot valedictory lecture

This month, the Dutch House of Representatives will rule on a bill that would grant the Minister the power to decide on this issue. Professor De Groot can list several reasons why the House should reject this proposal. 'First of all, the ultimate goal of this bill is unclear and more importantly, a decision like this is often based on information provided by the secret service, which is inherently secret and therefore difficult to assess. There's also the issue of discrimination. This law could only be applied to people with dual nationalities, because a law can never render a citizen stateless. People with a history of migration are the only people at risk here. In practice, we're dumping the problem on the other side of the fence; with countries like Morocco, for example. Taking joint action is extremely important in the fight against Jihadism. Revoking a person's nationality is counterproductive because it makes it that much harder for the Netherlands to impose criminal sanctions.'

The professor cannot understand that the principles of non-discrimination and procedural guarantees in the Dutch legal system are being sacrificed in an effort to combat the Jihadi threat. 'More importantly, this proposal is totally unnecessary. We already have a legal provision that gives the Minister the power to revoke your nationality if you've been convicted of certain crimes, including terrorism. But this new bill makes it possible to revoke a person's nationality before the case has even gone to trial. That terrifies me.'

In his valedictory speech titled, ‘Towards a toolbox for nationality legislation', De Groot challenges these and other missteps in Dutch nationality law. He also presents a toolbox that can help countries interested in modifying their nationality laws make the right decisions. De Groot recently published a standard reference book together with Olivier Vonk titled, International Standards on Nationality Law, which offers an overview of all documents related to nationality law. The professor understands that this tome will not be read by all government officials and therefore recommends developing a practical and concise guideline that explains the options countries have at their disposal within the international standards. What are the advantages and disadvantages of a specific decision? Which countries have this well-regulated and which countries need to make improvements? De Groot hopes the next generation of lawyers, many of which he helped to train, will help him further develop this toolbox.

A farewell after 35 years
After 35 years of dedicated service to Maastricht University, Gerard-René de Groot (65) will bid farewell to his 42-year career in academics. He was one of the pioneers that established and developed the UM Faculty of Law and is an expert in the field of nationality law, legal names, comparative law and international private law. In that capacity he was closely involved in the creation of several international documents in the field of nationality law. De Groot will remain affiliated with UM in the form of a zero-hour appointment, which means he will reduce his teaching load and publish less, while continuing to supervise PhD candidates with undiminished enthusiasm.

Also read