Article 25 of the French Civil Code provides that an individual may be stripped of their French nationality where, inter alia, it was acquired by naturalization and where the individual has been convicted of a crime that constituted an attack on the fundamental interests of France or an act of terrorism. Deprivation of French nationality is not allowed where it would render the individual stateless. The applicant was deprived of his French nationality, which he had acquired by naturalization, following a decision of the Paris Criminal Court (Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris) convicting him for his participation in an association of criminals with a view to preparing an act of terrorism. That court found that he had joined a terrorist group and participated in training and armed operations of that group. The Council of State (Conseil d’État) upheld the decree of deprivation of nationality because the applicant held Algerian nationality since birth and could not be deprived of it since the Algerian code of nationality only authorises the deprivation of nationality for persons who have acquired it after birth. Therefore, the loss of French nationality would not render him stateless and was thus not illegal under French law. The Council of State also ruled on the proportionality of the decree with regard to the European Convention on Human Rights and found that, given the seriousness of the crimes committed by the applicant, the challenged decree did not disproportionately infringe the right to respect for his private life guaranteed by Article 8 of the ECHR.
- European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) - Article 8;
- Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union;
- French Civil Code;
- French Criminal Code;
- Decree No. 93-1362 of 30 December 1993;
- French Code of Administrative Justice.
The applicant was living in France and acquired French nationality in 2007.
Sometime in 2013 and 2014, he joined a terrorist group and participated in the training and armed operations of that group in and around Paris, in Turkey and in Syria. A 2017 decision of the Paris Criminal Court (Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris) sentenced him for his participation in an association of criminals with a view to preparing an act of terrorism, under Article 421-2-1 of the French Criminal Code. By decree dated 23 December 2020, the applicant was deprived of his French nationality on the basis of that conviction. The applicant requested the Council of State: i) to annul the decree of 23 December 2020 for excess of power and ii) to impose a €3,000 costs award on the State.
The applicant argued that the decree should be set aside by virtue of Decree No. 93-1362 of 30 December 1993 and the Code of Administrative Justice because it was enacted following an irregular procedure and without justification. He also argued that he would be stateless if he were to be stripped of his French nationality, which would be illegal under French law. He further argued that the decree stripping him of his nationality infringed his right to respect for his private life guaranteed by Article 8 ECHR.
The decision of the Council of State essentially adopted the bulk of the State’s arguments (these are set out below). Its other arguments were not developed in the decision.
The Council of State (Conseil d’État) started with a discussion of Article 25-1 of the Civil Code and noted that it only allowed an individual to be deprived of French nationality if the underlying criminal acts were committed within 15 years of the decision to strip nationality and if they were committed either before the acquisition of French nationality, or within fifteen years of it having been acquired.
The Council of State then took note of the criminal acts for which the applicant was convicted in 2017, on the basis of which he was deprived of his French nationality in 2020. It found that the decision to deprive him of his nationality followed due process. The Council of State then observed that the applicant had held Algerian nationality since birth and that he could therefore not be deprived of it – that is, stripping the applicant of his French nationality would not render him stateless and was therefore not illegal under French law.
On the one hand, the Council of State noted that the relevant provisions of the French Civil Code (i.e. Article 25) could not be challenged before it on the basis of the French Constitution and thus could only be reviewed in light of France’s obligations under international conventions. It also observed that the motivation behind the ability to strip French nationality as provided by Articles 25 and 25-1 of the French Civil Code is to reinforce the fight against terrorism. It further noted that depriving an individual of French nationality did not necessarily prevent that person from residing or visiting France or affect their connections with their family members; it therefore did not affect the right to respect for family life.
On the other hand, the Council of State agreed that such a decree affected a fundamental aspect of an individual’s identity and thus infringed on the right to respect for one’s private life. However, it refused to annul the decree on the basis that it did not impose a disproportionate burden or punishment on the applicant in light of the crimes he committed; it therefore determined that the decision to strip the applicant of his French nationality did not disproportionately infringe his right to respect for his private life guaranteed by Article 8 ECHR.
The Council of State upheld the decree dated 23 December 2020 depriving the applicant of his French nationality because it did not place him in a situation of statelessness or infringe his right to respect for his private life guaranteed by Article 8 ECHR. The application for annulment was then rejected.