Africa’s Human Rights Court Strengthens Protections for the Right to Nationality

Published: 28/Mar/2018
Source: Open Society Foundations

NEW YORK—The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has taken a significant step to strengthen the right to nationality, in a case brought by a Tanzanian man who found himself forced to live in the no-man’s land between the borders of Tanzania and Kenya because of a citizenship dispute.

The court’s binding, unanimous decision [PDF] in Anudo v. United Republic of Tanzania, made public on March 22, declares that states cannot arbitrarily deny citizenship with retroactive effect. It cites the principle that “a state cannot turn a citizen into a foreigner for the sole purpose of expelling him.”

The case was brought before the court in May 2015 by Anudo Ochieng Anudo, who until 2012 had lived his entire life as a citizen of Tanzania where he was born, holding both a birth certificate and a passport. However, after he applied for a marriage license, local officials launched an investigation into his citizenship status, and subsequently deported him into neighboring Kenya. The Kenyan authorities then concluded he had no right to remain there, and pushed him back across the border. As a result, Anudo ended up stranded between the two country’s border posts.

Anudo was represented before the court by Asylum Access, an international human rights group. He argued that the Tanzanian Constitution and international law guaranteed his right to citizenship. The Justice Initiative filed an expert opinion on relevant international legal standards, noting that arbitrary denial of nationality frequently arises from weaknesses in civil registration and identification systems, coupled with a lack of procedural safeguards.

Read further on Open Society Foundations website:

Themes: African standards, Deportations, Loss and Deprivation of Nationality, Statelessness
Regions: Tanzania, Pan Africa
Year: 2018