Stripping Nationality on the Basis of Suspicion: Ripping Up of International Human Rights Norms

The significance of the Human Rights movement is that it was rebooted after the League of Nations failed miserably to prevent the horrific event which decimated any notion of minority human rights belonging to the Jews. Human rights therefore provides the benchmark, the criterion by which we in the Western world assess modernity and civility of any given state. It is the bastion of protection for human beings against unjustified interference, discrimination and marginalisation by the state and other actors.

Theresa May is the antithesis to the above paradigm. Her position as Home Secretary who can interfere with the judicial process is itself a violation of the principle of Separation of Powers and would probably make Baron de Montesquieu turn in his grave.  More pertinently however, is the potential implication of her proposals resulting from the certain International Instruments.

Theresa May’s proposal essentially states that naturalised terror suspects can have their nationality stripped. She has already been engaged in such activities. It seems like she is attempting to gain retrospective legitimacy for her appalling acts.

There are some serious issues with the proposal:

a) It violates the democratic principle, the peremptory or jus cogens norm of International Law regarding “innocent until proven guilty” (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 14(2)). This means that derogation from it in any circumstance is not permitted.

b) It violates the Right to a fair trial, a right which has been established as early as the Magna Carta, which has been enumerated in the ICCPR (article 14(1), various Regional Treaties and is, once again, a jus cogens norm of International Law.

c) It violates the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness (1959). Article 8(1 )states:

A Contracting State shall not deprive a person of his nationality if such deprivation would render him stateless.

The exemption to this is Article 8(1)(3)a)ii, which states that the nationality may be revoked where the individual “has conducted himself in a manner seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the State”. This is restricted by Article 8.4 which essentially reiterates that this must be done in accordance with a right to a fair trial.

Article 9 states:

A Contracting State may not deprive any person or group of persons of their nationality on racial, ethnic, religious or political grounds.

Note that the UK government is a party to this Treaty and has ratified it.

d) Such actions may make the UK government complicit to torture, especially if it means the “suspect” is to be deported back to a country which has been known to engage in the practice. This is the position which the European Court of Human Rights (ECHtR) has taken. The latest position of the ECHtR has taken into account compromised confessions being used as evidence in-line with Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights).

Despite what people like Theresa May, Douglas Murray and the rest of the Neocons would have you believe, this is a violation of (another) jus cogens norm of International Law.  The severity and legal status of the crime of torture has been discussed in an earlier article of mine. Suffice to say, by definition it is something which no sane, civilised government would engage in (a bit naïve perhaps, but we are talking ideals here which are whisked into various parts of the largely middle-eastern world via interest-laden wars).  Just an additional point. Douglas Murray has cited the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the UK and Jordan governments asserting that people like Qatada would be treated fairly.  The truth is that the types which Douglas Murray represents wish to get rid of such people, even at the expense of International Legal norms. Once they are off-shore, follow-ups will most likely be non-existent.  Furthermore, if it is established that the MOU has not been complied with there is no way of enforcing it, through the UN or otherwise.

It seems to be the case that instead of remaining true to democratic principles and International Human Rights norms, the UK to government has through political expediency, torn upon these ideals. Ideals which the West has for so long been exporting, often through violence, around the world.

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