ICFUAE raise the issue of citizenship revocation in the UAE at panel discussion in Geneva
The UAE’s human rights record came under scrutiny in Geneva last Friday, as ICFUAE raised the pertinent issue of citizenship revocation in the Emirates at a panel discussion on the subject of statelessness in the Arabian Peninsula.
The panel consisted of representatives from the International Campaign for Justice and Human Rights (ICJHR), Al Karama, SALAM, the Boston University School of Law, the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE (ICFUAE) and Journalist and Author, Atossa Abrahamian.
The event, which was moderated by human rights researcher Drewery Dyke, revolved around a discussion of the domestic and international legal frameworks and policies that create, sustain, and exacerbate statelessness in the Gulf, with a focus on Kuwait and the UAE.
In their presentation, ICFUAE explained how citizenship revocation is used by the Emirati government to crackdown on political dissidents.
In recent years, there has been numerous cases of human rights defenders, bloggers and political activists having their citizenship revoked in the UAE for speaking out about human rights abuses and calling for democratic reforms. Since the Arab Spring of 2011, the Emirati authorities have revoked the citizenship of around 200 people.
As ICFUAE explained on Friday, revoking someone’s citizenship drastically affects their daily life, as they can no longer participate in society. Access to basic public services like healthcare or education is denied, and it also affects their ability to travel, work, drive, own property or open a bank account, as all these actions require documentation.
In Article 8 of the UAE’s constitution, it is stated that: “No citizen of the Union may be deprived of his nationality nor may his nationality be withdrawn except in exceptional circumstances which shall be defined by law.”
In their statement on Friday, ICFUAE argued that the vagueness of this Article effectively enables the legal system to be used in a way that permits the arbitrary deprivation of nationality.
The UK-based NGO pointed to Article 16 of the UAE Nationality Law No. 17 of 1972 which allows for the possibility of withdrawing citizenship from a naturalized citizen “if he commits or attempts to commit an action which is deemed dangerous for the security or safety of the country.”
Several of those imprisoned as a result of the 'UAE 94' trials subsequently had their nationalities revoked by Emirati authorities after signing a petition calling for democratic reforms.
At the event on Friday, ICFUAE and ICJHR raised the case of Emirati prisoner of conscience Mohammed Siddiq. After being convicted as part of the ‘UAE 94’ trials, Siddiq had his citizenship revoked by the Emirati authorities. Shortly thereafter, his three children Asma (29), Du’a (25) and Omar (23) were also deprived of their nationality.
The authorities claimed that the procedure for the withdrawal of the Siddiq sibling’s nationality was based on a presidential decree, which has, to date, not been named or made public. Without official documents, the three Emiratis are unlikely to gain permission to visit their father in Abu Dhabi’s al-Razeen prison.
At the end of their statement, ICFUAE called for an amendment to be made to the UAE’s nationality law which “removes the provisions which allow for the arbitrary deprivation of nationality, especially from human rights defenders and their families.”
Adding that: “The right to nationality is a fundamental human right, as provided by Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the arbitrary deprivation thereof is banned. Using citizenship revocation to repress political activists and human rights defenders, as practised by the UAE government, is therefore in breach of international human rights law.”
In light of this, ICFUAE called on the UAE authorities to ratify the relevant UN conventions aimed at ending statelessness; namely the 1954 Status of Stateless Persons Convention, and the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness of 1961, as well as to take legislative measures to prohibit the discrimination of stateless persons in the UAE by granting them access to healthcare, education, and property ownership.