African Court Delivers a Landmark Decision on Statelessness

Published: 6/May/2018
Source: African Legal Information Institute (AfricanLII)

By Carmel Rickard

IN what is being hailed as a “monumental” decision for the continent, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights has ruled that Tanzania arbitrarily deprived a man of his Tanzanian nationality. The judgment, likely to affect many “stateless” people in Africa, stipulates that a decision to strip someone of nationality may only be taken after a fair judicial process, and that arbitrary deprivation is in breach of the University Declaration of Human Rights. Tanzania has been given 45 days to restore Anudo Anudo’s nationality, fix the gaps in its legislation and report back to the court on what has been done to comply with its order.

WHEN Anudo Anudo went to his local police station to sort out all the papers he needed to get married, he could not have guessed that he was about to have his nationality taken away, be made stateless – and then become the unlikely hero of a landmark decision by the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

He took that first fatal step in 2012, when he approached the authorities in his native Tanzania, in preparation for his wedding. But the police refused to return his passport, saying there were “suspicions” about his citizenship. The confiscation of his passport ultimately led to an official declaration that he was not a Tanzanian, and then to his deportation to Kenya. But the authorities in Kenya did not want him either, and he was soon expelled back to Tanzania. As he had no valid documents that would allow him entry into his own country, he lived in no-man’s land near the border for four years.

During the period until he landed up in no-man’s land he was abused and beaten by the authorities, and told to pay a bribe. Effectively stateless for four years, squeezed into a piece of territory between Kenya and Tanzania, he experienced very difficult conditions with neither social nor health services.

In May 2015 he applied for help to the African court which notified officials in Tanzania that the case had been registered. The court decided that it would provide Anudo with legal help and an NGO in Tanzania, Asylum Access Tanzania, agreed to represent him.

Anudo asked for the court to order that the decision to expel him from his own country be declared null and void. He wanted his prohibited immigrant status cancelled and his Tanzanian nationality reinstated. He also asked for protection from any victimization arising from his litigation and, crucially for any others in a similar position, he asked that Tanzania be ordered to reform its immigration laws so that decisions that might deprive someone of fundamental rights could only be made following a fair trial.

Tanzania urged the court to find it had no jurisdiction to hear the matter. Failing this it should declare that Tanzania had not violated any of Anudo’s rights and that his allegations of corruption were false.

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Themes: Loss and Deprivation of Nationality, Statelessness
Regions: Tanzania
Year: 2018