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Latvian Constitutional Court acknowledges the right of the legislature to set deadline for registration as dual citizen

by EUDO CITIZENSHIP expert Kristine Kruma

The Latvian Constitutional Court reaffirmed the validity of the norm in the country’s Transitional Provisions of the Law on Citizenship which provided for holders of dual citizenship acquired during the Nazi and Soviet occupation. According to this norm, individuals who were deported or left Latvia during occupation can keep the second nationality acquired during their time abroad if registered as Latvian citizens before July 1, 1995.

The Senate of the Supreme Court had contested this norm claiming that the registration deadline did not comply with Article 1 (Latvia is an independent democratic republic), and Article 2 (the sovereign power of the State of Latvia is vested in the people of Latvia) of the Constitution, and the doctrine of continuity of the State of Latvia stated in the country’s Declaration of Independence.

Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940. At the end of the 2nd World War, the country was incorporated into the Soviet Union, but most Western governments refused to recognize this annexation, and Latvian diplomats continued to occasionally operate as representatives of the independent Latvia. Full sovereignty of the country was only restored in 1991.

Following independence in 1991, a registration procedure for Latvian citizens was introduced. It was decided that any individual holding Latvian citizenship prior to the occupation period was to be considered a citizen of Latvia irrespective of his or her place of residence. Latvian citizens abroad could register in the Population Register, and maintain dual citizenship. A transition period of 3 1/2 years was established until a deadline set in the Citizenship Law.

On May 17, 2010, the Constitutional Court declared that this norm does comply with the above-mentioned articles of the Constitution, and with the doctrine of State continuity derived from the Latvian Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Dual citizenship for individuals who went abroad during the occupation is not illegal. However, it was legitimate to request registration and to set a deadline for keeping dual citizenship.

The Constitutional Court acknowledged that Latvian nationality continued to exist also during occupation. Although citizenship law at that time did not allow for dual citizenship, the renewal of Latvian passports at Latvian Embassies abroad for citizens who had acquired an additional citizenship was common practice. Therefore, dual citizenship acquired during the occupation period cannot be deemed illegal.

However, the Court stated that dual citizenship is a political rather than a judicial issue. Therefore, the question of general admissibility of dual citizenship should fall under the remit of the Parliament.

The judgment of the Court is not subject to appeal.

To know more:
17 / 05 / 2010 A case on dual citizenship has been adjudicated