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Globalizing Anudo v. Tanzania: Applying the African Court’s Arbitrariness Test to the UK’s Denationalization of Shamima Begum

  • Author(s): Brown, Amanda D.
  • et al.
Abstract

Under international law, every individual has the right to a nationality.  States reserve a sovereign right to deny or revoke citizenship, but only insofar as these practices respect their international legal obligations, including the prohibition of arbitrary deprivation of nationality.  In the 2018 case of Anudo v. United Republic of Tanzania, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights applied an arbitrariness test based on, inter alia, an interpretation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to determine whether or not Tanzania had arbitrarily deprived the petitioner of his nationality.  This Comment considers the potential of applying Anudo’s interpretation of the UDHR in other regional and national contexts.  Specifically, the Comment applies the four elements of the Anudo arbitrariness test to the case of Shamima Begum, who joined Daesh (also known as ISIL, ISIS and IS) in Syria as a teenager, and whose British citizenship was subsequently stripped in 2019.  Under the Anudo test, deprivation of nationality will be arbitrary under international law unless it: (i) is founded on a clear legal basis; (ii) serves a legitimate purpose that conforms with international law; (iii) is proportionate to the interest protected; and (iv) installs procedural guarantees which must be respected, allowing the concerned to defend themselves before an independent body.  The Comment determines that the United Kingdom’s decision to deprive Begum of her nationality for national security purposes fails to satisfy the test outlined in Anudo for nonarbitrary denationalization, thus rendering the Home Office’s decision unlawful under international law.  This analysis leads to wider implications for the arbitrariness of deprivation of nationality as a counterterrorism strategy within and beyond the UK, warning that if states continue to conduct arbitrary deprivations of nationality for purported national security purposes, they could continue to exile individuals based on unconfirmed allegations, perpetuate a system of racial exclusion, violate universal standards for human rights protection, and potentially exacerbate the exact threats the State purports to be fighting.

 

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