French justice minister quits over nationality measure

27th January 2016, Comments 1 comment

French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira quit Wednesday, apparently in protest at government efforts to strip convicted French-born terrorists of their citizenship if they have a second nationality.

Taubira, popular among the ruling Socialists of President Francois Hollande but a target of criticism from right-wing politicians, tweeted: "Sometimes to resist means staying, sometimes resisting means leaving."

The outspoken 63-year-old, who is from French Guiana, became France's most senior black politician when she was named to the justice ministry post in 2012.

She has often been at the centre of controversy, whether as the victim of racial slurs or as she forged the country's same-sex marriage bill despite fierce opposition from conservatives in the country.

Her latest battle saw her unable to see eye-to-eye with members of her own party over the controversial "loss of nationality" measure.

Hollande called for the measure to be written into the constitution in the aftermath of the November jihadist attacks in Paris which left 130 people dead.

It is part of a string of reforms meant to boost security as hundreds of French citizens -- many holding dual nationality -- leave to fight alongside the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, and in the case of the attackers, return to wreak devastation in France.

"Removing French nationality from those who blindly kill other French in the name of an ideology of terror is a strong symbolic act against those who have excluded themselves from the national community," Prime Minister Manuel Valls said after the measure was announced.

But many in the Socialist party see the proposal as an act of ideological treason that discriminates against one part of the population.

Just a day before the reforms were presented, Taubira announced the measure would be dropped, only to be overruled at the last minute by Hollande.

The reforms also aim to inscribe the right to declare a state of emergency into the constitution, including powers to raid homes and place people under house arrest without judicial oversight.

Valls will present the revised constitution to parliament on Wednesday, and the debate starts in early February.

- Some more French than others? -

Hollande named Jean-Jacques Urvoas, the current president of the parliamentary laws commission, as Taubira's successor to "carry out... the constitutional reform", according to a statement from the presidency.

One of the main criticisms of the nationality clause is that it will drive a wedge between those who are only French, and those who hold a second nationality.

A law already exists that allows for naturalised citizens to be stripped of their nationality.

But political scientist Patrick Weil told AFP in December that France would become "the first democracy in the world" to enshrine in its constitution the principle of unequal treatment of dual nationals.

Parliamentary sources said Wednesday that the phrase "dual citizen" would not feature in the reforms -- to avoid this discrimination.

But it was not clear if this would allow purely French citizens to be stripped of their nationality, creating stateless citizens, which has been another debate in the country.

The measures have been praised by right-wing politicians.

Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen said Taubira's resignation was "good news for France".

Taubira, who tweeted that she was "proud" of her time in office, has previously admitted it was "very hard" at times as she was repeatedly called or depicted as a monkey by far-right politicians and magazines.

She became a hate figure among many in French society for her involvement in two landmark pieces of legislation -- a 2001 law which classified the slave trade as a crime against humanity and the gay marriage act which triggered massive protests.

© 2016 AFP

1 Comment To This Article

  • Wastrel posted:

    on 27th January 2016, 14:07:22 - Reply

    Her thinking is inconsistent. Her stands against the slave trade and in favor of gay rights are for the benfit of French citizens and people everywhere. Yet she would not be in favor of punishment for terrorists? And let's not beat around the bush -- these are Muslim terrorists, and Islam still practices slavery and executes gay people.