Opinion

Legal review of the case of Bidzina Ivanishvili and Ekaterine Khvedelidze

by | Nov 5, 2011

The reason of writing this article is an unstoppable speculation of the government representatives regarding the revocation of citizenship of Bidzina Ivanishvili and his wife Ekaterine Khvedelidze and the allegations that the revocation was a result of obtaining French citizenship and thereby violating the Georgian constitution by both of them.

I have already noted a number of times that the government’s such action amounted to a violation of the Georgian Constitution. Now, basing on the facts, constitution and the Organic Law on Georgian Citizenship, I will try to demonstrate illegality and unconstitutionality of president’s this decision.

So, what the facts reveal to us is as follows:

 

1. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Bidzina Ivanishvili, who had been living in Russia in those days, became a citizen of the Russian Federationon a base of being a citizen of the Soviet Union. Due to this fact, as of April 1993, he could no longer have been considered a Georgian citizen, as stipulated by Article 3 of the Organic Law on Georgian Citizenship of 1993.

2. In 2004, the citizens of the Russian Federation, Bidzina Ivanishvili and Ekaterine Khvedelidze (who at that time had already been a French citizen too) were granted Georgian Citizenship due to a Georgian Presidential decree (#284, 22.07.2004) which was issued pursuant to Article 12, paragraph 2, the Constitution of Georgia (for special merits to the country or due to the governmental interests). So they became so-called ‘dual-citizens.’

3. After having been granted a Georgian citizenship, Bidzina Ivanishvili obtained a French citizenship. Thus, he became a citizen of the Russian Federation, Georgia and France at the same time, which legally still means the ‘dual-citizenship.’

4. Bidzina Ivanishvili’s and Ekaterine Khvedelidze’s citizenships were revoked by the Presidential decree (#602, 11.10.2011), allegedly pursuant to the Organic Law on Georgian Citizenship, Article 32, paragraph D, in view of the fact that they had obtained citizenship of another country (France).

 

Now let us analyze appropriate regulations of the Georgian Constitution and the Organic Law on Georgian Citizenship and the conclusion will be clear.

The Georgian Constitution is a primary law that defines an essence of citizenship; a statutory law may provide all such regulations which may be necessary to implement the Constitutional principles. Those regulations should come into line with and should not contradict those principles.

So let us see what the Constitution says. According to its Article 12, a Georgian citizenship may be obtained by means of birth, naturalization[1], or by president’s granting citizenship to a citizen of another state. It is obvious that naturalization and granting citizenship are absolutely different legal phenomena.

The restriction which prohibits a Georgian citizen from being a citizen of another country at the same time applies only to a person who has obtained Georgian citizenship by birth or naturalization; and it does not apply to a citizen of another country who obtained Georgian citizenship by a rule of exception, i.e. by being granted a Georgian citizenship.

Thus, the Constitution and the Organic Law on Georgian Citizenship define two possible legal statuses:

 

A)     Ordinary status – applicable to a person who is a Georgian citizen by birth or naturalization and does not have a right to have another country’s citizenship. It means that if a person being a Georgian citizen by means of birth or naturalization receives another country’s citizenship, he/she violates thereby the Constitutional prohibition and, accordingly, it may be established by a law that in this case he/she will forfeit his/her Georgian citizenship (that is exactly what is provided by Article 32, paragraph D, of the Organic Law on Georgian Citizenship) and such a sanction will be in line with the Constitutional prohibition.

B)      Exceptional (so-called dual-citizen) status – applicable to a person who may be a Georgian citizenship along with being a citizen of another country (if the Georgian president granted him/her a citizenship for particular merits to the country or granting citizenship to him/her was due to the government’s interests). This right does not depend on which or how many countries’ citizen this person may be. The Constitution does not say anything like that after having being granted the Georgian citizenship this person may be prohibited from obtaining another country’s (or countries’) citizenship. Thus, the right of such a person – to have a Georgian citizenship along with another country’s citizenship does not depend on the fact whether or not after having being granted Georgian citizenship that person obtains one or more country’s citizenship. It is quite logical for the Constitution not to provide such a prohibition because obtaining another country’s citizenship after becoming a Georgian citizen does not change the essence of the status of this person (which implies having an exceptional right to be a citizen of Georgia and that of another country at the same time). It is clear that such a prohibition might not be established by law too, because it would be then in contradiction with the essence of the appropriate provisions of the Constitution. In addition, according to the Constitution, “The rule of obtaining and loss of the Georgian citizenship shall be defined by an organic law”, which means that such a law may define only ‘the rule’ and it may not define any other conditions, except those provided by the Constitution, based on which the Georgian citizenship might be obtained or lost. In fact, the organic law does not provide such a prohibition and termination of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s citizenship due to Article 32, paragraph D (Obtaining another country’s citizenship) was a result of unconstitutional and arbitrary interpretation of this regulation.

                                                                                     

It should also be noted that granting Georgian citizenship is some kind of an award for ‘special merits to Georgia’; or granting citizenship is ‘based on the government’s interest’ and not on the given person’s interests. That is why unlike any applicant willing to obtain a Georgian citizenship, who is required to meet some compulsory conditions (living in Georgia for at least last 5 years, knowing state language, Georgian history and legal principles, owning real estate or having a job or business; or owning shares in a Georgian company; and taking the oath) neither the Constitution nor the organic law have set forth any special conditions for a person to whom the Georgian citizenship is granted. So, it is for this reason that obtaining another country’s citizenship is only prohibited for a Georgian citizen who obtained Georgian citizenship in ordinary way – by birth or naturalization – and it does not apply to a person who was granted a Georgian citizenship, because obtaining another country’s citizenship by this person cannot cause vanishing ‘special merits to Georgia.’

All above mentioned unequivocally proves that depriving Bidzina Ivanisvhili of his citizenship was a violation of the Georgian Constitution and the Organic Law on Georgian Citizenship. As to revoking citizenship of Ekaterine Khvedelidze, there do not exist even those grounds which were used towards Bidzina Ivanishvili through unconstitutional and arbitrary interpretation of the regulations defined by the Constitution and the organic law.



[1] Obtaining citizenship by means of birth means, for example, that a child will automatically become a Georgian citizen if his or her parents are Georgian citizens.

Obtaining citizenship by naturalization or by being granted citizenship means that a person can obtain Georgian Citizenship if he/she is no other country’s citizen at the same time, or may be is, but his/her obtaining Georgian citizenship and waiving citizenship of another country take place simultaneously, provided that he/she also meet some conditions defined by law.

 

Vakhtang Khmaladze is a renowned legal expert with specialty in constitutional law who co-authored the Georgian constitution of 1995. He is an experienced consultant and analyst who has worked for Open Society, UNDP, Transparency International and a number of other bodies, and is frequently used as a commentator by a number of Georgian media.


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