Court throws out case challenging dual citizenship ban

Latvia’s Constitutional Court has thrown out a case challenging the constitutionality of the nation’s prohibition against dual citizenship, meaning supporters may have to look to parliament for change.

The case was brought by Marks Locovs, a Latvian and Israeli citizen, and Diāna Locovs, who wanted their daughter to also have dual citizenship. Marks Locovs had received Latvian citizenship under a pre-1995 provision that allowed exiles and their descendants to reclaim citizenship without having to give up citizenship in their host countries. The daughter received Israeli citizenship at birth, but was denied Latvian citizenship unless she gave up Israeli citizenship.

The parents challenged articles 3 and 9 of Latvia’s citizenship law. Part of Article 3 allows a child to be considered a citizen in cases where just one parent already has Latvian citizenship. But, according to Article 9, a person who becomes a Latvian citizen is not allowed to be a dual citizen.

The Locovses argued that the constitution guarantees equal rights for all citizens regardless of where they live. By denying their daughter Latvian citizenship, they argued, her rights had been violated.

The court saw it differently, according to an Aug. 23 press release.

The Locovses had specifically called into question Paragraph 2 of Article 3 of the citizenship law, but the court said this did not apply because the specific paragraph also states that at the time of a child’s birth the Latvian parent must permanently reside in Latvia. Rather, the court said, it is Paragraph 3 that applies to the Locovs family. That paragraph states if one parent is a Latvian citizen but the other is not, and both parents permanently reside outside Latvia, then a child’s citizenship is determined by agreement of the parents.

The court also noted that Article 9 applies only to gaining citizenship through naturalization, which would not apply in this case.

The Secretariat of the Special Assignments Minister for Social Integration has proposed to the government that dual citizenship be allowed for children born to Latvian citizens abroad. The proposal is part of an action plan aimed at stemming the emigration of Latvian citizens to Western Europe and encouraging repatriation.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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