The ISI Global Seminar Series on Citizenship Stripping: Presenting different perspectives on nationality deprivation

Caia Vlieks (Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion)

Deprivation of nationality has a long history, which has shown us the horrible consequences when this power is used by militarised and authoritarian states, targeting unwanted minorities to be disenfranchised and persecuted. Today, while most states resist increasing these powers, the policy is regaining traction and citizenship stripping is used (again) across a range of contexts. The securitisation and instrumentalisation of citizenship policy has led to a wider resurgence of denationalisation, with national security or counter-terrorism arguments offered as justification for its use against so-called ‘foreign fighters’ by several Western countries, such as the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The political use of individual denationalisation has also made a worrying comeback, with human rights defenders, journalists and political opponents being silenced or side-lined through (the threat of) deprivation of nationality across numerous countries including Bahrain and Turkey. The effectiveness of denationalisation as a national security tool remains contested, and may actually be counter-productive. The use of deprivation of nationality also raises serious human rights concerns.

At the same time, the issue of citizenship stripping has become a topic of renewed and growing attention within academia – although it remains relatively unknown in mainstream research and teaching. This emerging scholarship presents an important opportunity to foster wider (academic) debate on a variety of fundamental questions about the relationship between the individual and his or her state. To unpack and understand the background of and problems around citizenship stripping, the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion (ISI) therefore hosted an online Global Seminar Series on Citizenship Stripping in the first half of 2021, presenting a different perspective by key experts on the issue in each seminar.

The Global Seminar Series on Citizenship Stripping

The Global Seminar Series builds on the 2020 edition of ISI’s flagship World’s Stateless Report, which explores citizenship deprivation and includes a series of ‘Perspectives’ – reflections by experts from different backgrounds (historians, philosophers, legal practitioners, psychologists, security experts and victims of citizenship deprivation, to name but a few). Different contributors of ‘Perspectives’ to the World’s Stateless Report also gave a lecture in the Seminar Series to provoke thought by challenging us to view the issue of nationality deprivation through different lenses.

In the inaugural lecture of the Seminar Series, Professor Matthew Gibney (University of Oxford) discusses banishment and the prehistory of denationalisation. The second lecture by Amanda Weston QC looks at questions around fair and effective remedy in relation to citizenship stripping. She also considers the Shamima Begum case and the role of the UK courts in this regard. The third lecture brings in a personal perspective on the issue. Jawad Fairooz – a former Bahraini Member of Parliament stripped of his citizenship for his political activity – considers arbitrary revocation of nationality in Bahrain, through his own experience. The fourth lecture focuses on deprivation of nationality as a matter of international criminal law. In this lecture, Cóman Kenny – who served as a prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the International Criminal Court, and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia – connects citizenship stripping practices to statelessness and international law. And in the fifth and (for now) final lecture, Professor Martin Scheinin (University of Oxford/European University Institute) and Dr Christophe Paulussen (T.M.C. Asser Institute) analyse the issue in the counter-terrorism context from a human rights and security angle.

Lecture & Debate Kits

To facilitate learning and debate, the recording of each lecture in the series is accompanied by a Lecture & Debate Kit. The Lecture & Debate Kit is a free resource for teachers, students and everyone who is interested, to help explore and understand the issue of citizenship stripping. Each Lecture & Debate Kit contains:

  • The video recording of the lecture and further reading;
  • Questions (and answers) to guide viewing of the lecture in a worksheet;
  • Questions for critical reflection, discussion or debate;
  • Suggestions for an exercise or research to learn more about the topic.

The Global Seminar Series on Citizenship Stripping is part of the broader Year of Action Against Citizenship Stripping, which was launched in March 2020 by ISI and other partners. Deeply concerned about the growing instrumentalisation of nationality and deterioration of the institution of citizenship, these partners have been working to better understand the phenomenon, and have developed several resources, including the Principles on Deprivation of Nationality as a National Security Measure. You can read more about these resources and activities in a previous blog.

We hope that the Global Seminar Series on Citizenship Stripping and the Lecture & Debate Kits that accompany it will be a useful learning tool in the hands of the academic community and other actors that want to study the issue, and that it will contribute to further (academic) debate on nationality deprivation.

The Global Seminar Series on Citizenship Stripping is an initiative of the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion and is part of a wider Year of Action Against Citizenship Stripping. Please visit to learn more.

If you are interested to learn more about nationality deprivation in a specific country context, please consider joining the UK Seminar Series on Citizenship Stripping, which ISI will host from September 2021 onwards. The inaugural lecture of this Seminar Series by Professor Devyani Prabhat (University of Bristol) will take place online on 20 September, 4pm UK / 5pm CET / 11am NY. More information and registration HERE.