France did not break the law by stripping terrorists of nationalities, top court rules

The five dual nationals had been convicted on terror charges for links to an Al Qaeda affiliate

An artist rendering shows (From L) Rachid Ait El Hadj, Bachir Ghoumid, Mustapha Baouchi, Hassan Boutani and Fouad Charouali, accused of being members of a terrorist cell that helped stage the 2003 Casablanca bombings which killed 45 people and left dozens injured, waiting for the beginning of their trial, 04 June 2007 in Paris. Eight men -- a Turkish national and seven Moroccans or French nationals of Moroccan origin -- were arrested in a Paris suburb in 2004 and face charges of criminal conspiracy in relation with a terrorist undertaking. They are accused of being members of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM), which is suspected of having links to Al-Qaeda and of involvement in the Madrid train bombings in 2004. The trial is scheduled to continue until 20 June 2007.  AFP PHOTO BENOIT PEYRUCQ (Photo by BENOIT PEYRUCQ / AFP)
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France did not break the law when it stripped five dual nationals of their French nationality over their ties to an Al Qaeda-affiliated group linked to attacks that have killed hundreds, a top European court has ruled.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found there had been no violations to Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights, which allows for the right to respect for private life.

Bachir Ghoumid, Fouad Charouali, Attila Turk, Redouane Aberbri and Rachid Ait El Haj were informed in 2015 that the government had begun steps to strip them of their citizenship for being convicted of terror offences.

In 2007, the Paris Criminal Court convicted them for participating “in a criminal conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism” between 1995 and 2004.

The group were convicted for their connection to the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, an Al Qaeda linked terror organisation which has been linked to the 2003 Casablanca bombings that killed 33 and injured more than 100, and the 2004 Madrid train attack that killed 191 people and wounded well over 2,000.

Bodies of victims are evacuated after a train exploded at the Atocha train station in Madrid 11 March 2004. At least 173 people were killed and some 600 injured early 11 March 2004 in near-simultaneous explosions on three trains in Madrid at the height of morning commuter traffic, the Spanish interior ministry said. In what appeared to be a deliberate attack staged only 72 hours ahead of Spanish general elections, the blasts went off on a long-distance high-speed carrier and two suburban trains packed with commuters. AFP PHOTO PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP)
At least 173 people were killed and some 600 injured on March 11, 2004, in near-simultaneous explosions on three trains in Madrid at the height of morning commuter traffic. AFP

The men were accused of sheltering the group’s leaders and of attempting to join a training camp in Afghanistan. They were released in 2009 and 2010 and said to have embarked on a reformed life. All hold Morrocan nationality apart from Turk, who is also Turkish.

The ECHR said it accepted the French government’s argument that recent terror attacks meant it had to be much firmer in regard to people convicted of terrorism offences.

“The Court reiterated the point, already made in a number of judgements, that terrorist violence constituted in itself a serious threat to human rights,” the judgement said.

“As the applicants already had another nationality, the decision to deprive them of French nationality had not had the effect of making them stateless.

“In addition, loss of French nationality did not automatically entail deportation from France, but, if such a measure were to be decided against them, they would have the appropriate remedies by which to assert their rights.

“Lastly, the Court observed that deprivation of nationality under Article 25 of the Civil Code was not a criminal sanction, within the meaning of Article 4 of Protocol No. 7 (right not to be tried or punished twice), and that this provision was therefore inapplicable.”

CASABLANCA, MOROCCO - MAY 17:  A man looks down at the charred remains of the Casa de Espana Spanish restaurant May 17, 2003 in Casablanca, Morocco. According to eyewitnesses, at least two bombs detonated in the packed restaurant, hurling body parts up to hundreds of feet away. Suicide bombers and car bombs detonated at the Jewish community center, a hotel, in front of the Belgian consulate and a Jewish restaurant, and at the Casa de Espana restaurant in the evening of May 16, killing at least 40 people. Officials suspect Muslim militants and possibly al Qaeda to be behind the terrorist bombings.  (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
According to eyewitnesses, at least two bombs detonated in the packed Casa de Espana restaurant in Casablance on the evening of May 16, killing 33 people and injuring more than 100 others. Getty Images

Last June a French court stripped a dual Moroccan citizen who was sentenced to our years in jail in 2018 for attempting to reach Syria only days after the Charlie Hebdo in attacks Paris in January 2015.