A case on dual citizenship has been adjudicated


The Constitutional Court has adopted a decision in the case No. 2009-94-01 On Compliance of the Words “if Registered by 1 July 1995” of the First Sentence of Para 1 and the Second Sentence of Para 1 of the Transitional Provisions of the Law on Citizenship with Article 1 and Article 2 of the Satversme of the Republic of Latvia, as well as with the Preamble of the Declaration of 4 May 1990 of the Supreme Council of Latvian Soviet Social Republic “On Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia””.

The contested norm provides: “Citizens of Latvia and their descendants who, during the period from June 17, 1940 until May 4, 1990, in order to escape the terror of the USSR and German occupational regime, have left Latvia as refugees, have been deported or due to the aforementioned reasons have not been able to return to Latvia, and who have become naturalized during this time in a foreign state shall retain their right to register in the Population Register as Latvia citizens, and after the registration shall enjoy the full scope of citizens’ rights and fulfil citizens’ obligations, if registered by July 1, 1995. If these persons register after July 1, 1995, they must renounce the citizenship of the foreign state.”

The applicant – the Department of Administrative Cases of the Senate of Supreme Court argued that the contested norm does not comply with Article 1 of the Satversme (Constitution) (Latvia is an independent democratic republic), Article 2 of the Satversme (the sovereign power of the State of Latvia is vested in the people of Latvia) and the doctrine of continuity of the State of Latvia enshrined in 4 May 1990 Declaration “On Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia” (Declaration of Independence).

The Court took into consideration the fact that the Citizenship Law de jure in force during the occupation of Latvia was binding on persons emigrating from Latvia. It established prohibition of dual citizenship and provided that a person shall lose Latvian citizenship if he or she is conferred citizenship of another state.

However, the Constitutional Court noted that the Law could not be applied formally. Acts of Latvian diplomats during the occupation period were the only expression of Latvian statehood. Thus, according to State continuity doctrine the legislator was bound to observe the practice established by the diplomats abroad during the occupation period.

During the occupation, Latvian representations allowed preservation of Latvian foreign passports in cases when person had acquired another citizenship. At that time Latvian representations had to ensure, to the extent possible, preservation of the statehood; therefore formal application of the Citizenship Law was impossible. Consequently, dual citizenship that persons acquired during the occupation cannot be recognized as illegal.

 Upon restoration of independence the rights of the citizens of Latvia had to be re-instated. This was done by introducing a registration procedure, namely, at the early 90-s, citizens of Latvia living either in Latvia or abroad had to register in the Population Register. The Court recognized that any person who was a citizen of Latvia during the pre-occupation period irrespective of his or her residence place was regarded as a citizen of Latvia. However, the legislator could not deliberately and unilaterally impose Latvian citizenship by ignoring the person’s relations with other states. Free will of a person is of a particular importance when citizenship rights are restored. Therefore, the requirement to register was grounded.

Latvian citizens living abroad had the possibility to register before a certain date and to preserve another citizenship. Although the 1994 Citizenship Law provided for less than one year for the registration, the period should be counted from 1991 when Supreme Council adopted resolution on restoration of rights of Latvian citizens. The resolution allowed preserving dual citizenship. Consequently, the total term constituted about three and a half years. Therefore, it is ungrounded to maintain that persons who were willing to restore their Latvian citizenship did not have the possibility to register.

The Court recognized that the Saeima (Parliament), when adopting the Law on Citizenship, decided to observe the historical principle of prohibition of dual citizenship. The contested norm provides for a special legal regime for persons who were forced to leave Latvia and during the occupation acquired citizenship of another state. The Saeima provided for a mechanism that would ensure a transition as fair as possible striving to eliminate the negative consequences caused by the occupation.

Consequently, the Constitutional Court recognized that the contested norm complies with Article 1 and Article 2 of the Satversme, as well as with the Declaration of 4 May 1991.

The Constitutional Court recognized that the issues related to dual citizenship would rather fall within the competence of legislator than the court. According to the established state practise, dual citizenship has always been regarded as an undesirable phenomenon. It can be derived from the international law and legal doctrine that dual citizenship is a political issue rather than the one subject to judicial proceedings. Consequently, the issue on admissibility of dual citizenship should be decided upon by the legislator or the body of citizens.

The judgment of the Constitutional Court is final and not subject to appeal. It shall come into force on the date of publishing it in the newspaper “Latvijas Vēstnesis”.

Linked case: 2009-94-01