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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

HRW slams Jordan - but avoids slamming the Arab world

Human Rights Watch just wrote a report slamming Jordan for arbitrarily revoking the citizenship of a few thousand Palestinian Arabs. I had covered the phenomenon here as well as Jordan's absurd defense of the practice.

What is interesting is HRW's legal arguments against Jordan's actions. After the organization goes into detail on the right to nationality, it adds this paragraph:

Prevention of statelessness

In addition to the prohibition on arbitrary deprivation of nationality, the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness provides additional guidance on situations in which nationality must not be withdrawn: states must not "deprive a person of his nationality if such deprivation would render him stateless."[28] To the contrary, article 1 of the convention stipulates that a state "shall grant its nationality to a person born in its territory who would otherwise be stateless."[29] The convention also declares that states must not "deprive any person or group of persons of their nationality on racial, ethnic, religious or political grounds" and that a "transfer of territory shall include provisions designed to ensure that no person shall become stateless as a result of the transfer."[30] Jordan has not yet acceded to this convention. It is, however, a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which requires it to "respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity, including nationality."[31]

Jordanians of Palestinian origin whose nationality is withdrawn become stateless because, under international law, Palestine in 2009 is not a state and has not been one at any time since Jordan's independence.[32]

While it is true that HRW's legal arguments are a bit of a stretch - as they mention, Jordan never accepted the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and indeed most nations did not, including the US (Israel did) - nevertheless it is interesting that HRW is using it as a basis for an argument that what Jordan is doing is wrong.

Because by that very same argument, every Arab country is equally wrong by refusing to grant citizenship to people of Palestinian origin born in their countries - who now number in the millions. Not only is the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness being violated, but also the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states:
Article 7

1. The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and. as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents.

2. States Parties shall ensure the implementation of these rights in accordance with their national law and their obligations under the relevant international instruments in this field, in particular where the child would otherwise be stateless.

Article 8

1. States Parties undertake to respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity, including nationality, name and family relations as recognized by law without unlawful interference.

As HRW notes earlier, "Palestine" is not a nation that is recognized under international law, which means that between the two conventions, every Arab nation is violating international law by refusing to allow children of Palestinian Arab origin to become citizens. (Even if you expand the definition of "nationality" and "identity" to include Palestinian Arabs, keeping children stateless is proscribed in this Convention.) Practically every nation on the planet has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. (Somalia and the US are the only exceptions, UNICEF explains why here.)

Human Rights Watch is not afraid to take on Jordan in defense of Palestinian Arab rights to a nationality. Do they have the guts to take on the entire Arab world - including the Palestinian Arab leadership who oppose the naturalization of their own people in other countries, against their will?

The legal and moral arguments are identical. But it is a lot less politically correct.