Motion of No Confidence Against Justice Minister Voted Down

Jón Gunnarsson Alþingi

A motion of no confidence submitted against Justice Minister Jón Gunnarsson was voted down in Alþingi, Iceland’s Parliament, today. MPs voted mostly along party lines, with members of the four opposition parties, who had submitted the motion, voting in favour and members of the governing coalition voting against. RÚV reported first.

The motion of no confidence had been submitted in response to the formal opinion of the Alþingi Administration that the Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson had broken the law when he prevented the Parliament from acquiring citizenship application data from the Directorate of Immigration.

Second ruling that actions were illegal

Along with the standard process of applying for citizenship through the Directorate of Immigration, Icelandic law permits for Alþingi to grant citizenship by decree, which it normally does twice a year. In the past, those who have received citizenship through Parliament have often been individuals in extenuating circumstances. Applications for citizenship through Parliamentary decree nevertheless go through the Directorate of Immigration, which gathers necessary data and sends all the relevant material to Parliament, where it is reviewed by the Judicial Affairs and Education Committee. Parliament was set to grant citizenship to a group of applicants before Christmas 2021, but could not do so as the necessary documents had not been received from the Directorate of Immigration.

The Directorate of Immigration is under the Ministry of Justice. Jón Gunnarsson took full responsibility for the withholding of documents, stating that those who apply for citizenship via Alþingi should not get to “jump the line” ahead of others.

This is the second official ruling stating that the Ministry and Directorate’s actions were illegal: a legal opinion received by Parliament’s Judicial Affairs and Education Committee last year also stated that the Directorate of Immigration broke the law when it failed to hand over the citizenship applications to Iceland’s Parliament.

Minister under fire

Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir stated that the government coalition remained on strong footing, but criticised the Justice Minister’s comments in the chamber of Parliament on Tuesday.

Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson has also been under fire lately for a unilateral decision to arm Icelandic police with electroshock weapons. In a letter to the Prime Minister, the Parliamentary Ombudsman stated that Jón should have consulted the cabinet on the issue, calling the Minister’s decision a violation of formal rules that was not in accordance with good governance.

Justice Minister Defends Withholding of Citizenship Applications

Dómsmálaráðherra Ríkisstjórn Alþingi Jón Gunarsson

Receiving Icelandic citizenship through an act of Parliament should be the exception, but it appears to be the rule, Justice Minister Jón Gunnarsson argued in committee today. MPs have criticised the Minister and the Directorate of Immigration for refusing to hand over applications for citizenship that Alþingi, Iceland’s Parliament, was scheduled to process last December. Jón stated that those who apply for citizenship via Alþingi should not get to “jump the line” ahead of others, RÚV reports.

Along with the standard process of applying for citizenship through the Directorate of Immigration, Icelandic law permits Alþingi to grant citizenship by decree, which it normally does twice a year. Unlike the standard process, the Alþingi route is open to applicants who do not meet the conditions for the granting of Icelandic citizenship. Applicants who take this route must submit detailed arguments as to why Alþingi should grant them an exemption from these requirements.

Read More: Citizenship Applications Withheld from Parliament

In an address before the Judicial Affairs and Education Committee this morning, the Minister of Justice stressed that citizenship applications should be treated equally regardless of how they are submitted. He criticised that applications submitted through Alþingi “jump the line” ahead of others, asserting that there is nothing in Icelandic law that requires those applications to be processed first.

Jón stated that the processing time for citizenship applications (submitted through the standard process) had been shortened from 18 months to six, and authorities would work to process dozens of applications in the coming days.