Violent jihadist loses Dutch nationality

The Minister of Security and Justice will soon be able to withdraw Dutch nationality from jihadists fighting alongside a terrorist organisation abroad without there having been any prior criminal conviction. On returning to the Netherlands, such jihadists can, after all, constitute a direct and immediate threat to national security. In such a case, it is necessary to react quickly and withdraw Dutch nationality without waiting until the person concerned has returned and been sentenced.

This was announced in a bill sent today by Minister Opstelten (Security and Justice) to various advisory bodies. including the Council of the Judiciary. The new regulation results from the action programme A comprehensive approach to jihadist extremism earlier submitted by him to the Lower House. This action programme was necessary in view of the increased threat of international jihadist terrorism and the consequences of this for the Netherlands.

Withdrawal of Dutch nationality will be possible as soon as somebody joins a group appearing on a specific list of terrorist organisations: The central issue is that such groups must constitute a threat to national security. This is the case if the organisation rejects Dutch society - or more broadly: Western society - and in order to achieve its ideals without shunning the use of force. Examples of this type of organisation are ISIS and Al Qaida. This list will be determined by the National Council of Ministers and be published. In this way, jihadists will be able to know what the consequences are if they get involved with such an organisation.

Once Dutch nationality has been withdrawn, the jihadist will be declared an undesirable foreign national. These two measures are in addition to the current possibilities - under criminal law - for combatting terrorism. They prevent any legal return to the Netherlands and the Schengen area.

It can be established from several sources whether the jihadist has joined a terrorist organisation that appears on the list. For example, from official reports by the intelligence and security services, information from the Public Prosecution Service (tapped sms and telephone messages) and public sources, such as weblogs and videos on the Internet. It must in any case be clear that somebody has physically joined the terrorist organisation; virtual signs or indications alone are not sufficient. It is for the Minister to weigh up all the information and decide whether this is sufficient for the withdrawal of Dutch nationality.

Such a measure is radical and requires a careful balancing of interests, also in view of legal protection. The Minister feels that a judicial review of the decision is very important. For this reason, he will inform the court of the decision to withdraw nationality if the person in question does not him/herself lodge an appeal within a period of four weeks. This means that the judge can always make a ruling. The court's decision can be appealed to the Council of State.