By Guita Hourani, Director of the Lebanese Emigration Research Center, Notre Dame University, Lebanon
President Michel Suleiman has recently signed two decrees (Decrees 6690 and 6691 dated 28 October 2011) withdrawing Lebanese citizenship from 53 persons in the first decree and 123 persons in the second decree, as well as all their family members who were naturalised correspondingly either by marriage, or by birth, or by judicial or administrative decisions. These decrees are a first step towards implementing a decision taken by the State Consultative Council (Majlis Shura al-dawlah) in 2003 to revoke Lebanese nationality from those who had fraudulently acquired it in 1994 based on the naturalisation decree 5247 of June 20, 1994, which led to the mass naturalisation of about 150.000 people. The main reason behind all the revocations is that the granting of citizenship was based on falsified documents. These decrees are the first two among many to come that rectify the 1994 naturalisation decree.
Based on the Official Gazette (No. 53 dated November 10, 2011), Decree 6690 revoked the Lebanese citizenship of Palestinians who were registered as refugees with UNRWA (The United Nations Relief and Works Agency) when they were naturalised. Granting Lebanese citizenship to such Palestinians would breach the Lebanese Constitution and a directive by the Arab League against the settlement of Palestinians outside their home country (the so-called Casablanca Protocol).
Again according to the same Official Gazette, Decree 6691 revoked the Lebanese citizenship mainly of Syrians, Turks, Iranians, Egyptians, and Armenians for their being of known origins/nationality and not of “veiled (unknown) nationality” (Maktumi al-Qaid).
The State Consultative Council Majlis Shura al-Dawla, rendered its decision in 2003 by referring the file of the naturalised to the Ministry of the Interior for re-examination and investigation for the purpose of denaturalising select suspect individuals. As a consequence of the Council’s verdict, the Ministry of Interior established a committee with the task of re-examining all the applications to ensure that the applicants had fulfilled the legal requirements for obtaining Lebanese nationality. The committee issued a report and referred it to the Ministry, which already had prepared a draft decree for the withdrawal of nationality from those who did not fulfill the required conditions. The State Consultative Council did not make any reference or provisions as to the fate of those whose citizenship will be revoked.
It has been eight years since the State Council, a consultative body and the top administrative jurisdiction in Lebanon charged with constitutional review of administrative acts, ruled that the 1994 decree granted citizenship to many foreigners who did not meet the legal requirements to become Lebanese. The timing of the decrees is peculiar and the number of revocations seems too small to score any political gains with any of the political camps in Lebanon.
This decision generated criticism particularly from the Syriac Orthodox community in Zahle, which has been affected most by the revocations.
Read a background report on the 1994 Naturalisation Decree by Guita Hourani.