“Don’t like the way your government functions? Well maybe you don’t belong in this country then.” The Kuwaiti government took this extremist approach, when it decided to strip its critics and opponents of citizenship. Regardless of the disapproval of the international community, Kuwait announced third batch of citizenship revocations this year. It seems that the government struggles to avoid criticism and tries to do anything to avoid public display of resistance. The goal is simply to deter dissent by using nationality law as a shield. This technique shall also serve to intimidate and prevent dissenters from voicing their views.
Under Article 13 of the nationality law, authorities can strip individuals and dependents of their Kuwaiti citizenship on several grounds. For example, if it “involves the higher interests of the state or its foreign security,” or the authorities consider that the individual has “promoted principles that will undermine the social or economic system of the country.” Part of the issue is that there is no way to appeal this decision, which leave the individuals practically “stateless.” In many circumstances, international law requires the government to provide these individuals with rights to residence, but Kuwait is not very fond of this notion.
According to the Human Rights Watch, there are no legitimate reasons for stripping Kuwaiti nationals of their citizenship. There is no legitimate evidence that would suggest that the government is acting in accordance with the laws. It is also important to note, that many of these citizens are high profile individuals. One of them is Al-Shammari, who had owned the independent Al-Yom television station and Al-Yom newspaper. Another is Nabil al-Awadhi, a conservative cleric widely known for his TV talk shows. Interestingly enough, it is not only the public figure, but also the family that often ends up losing citizenship. Some of the most frequent reasons the government provides in justification of its actions are “a threat to foreign security,” or “undermining the country’s interest.”
The 2013 UN report made clear, that stripping an individual of his citizenship could only be done for “rendering of services to a foreign government or military force” or committing acts “seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the State.” It is never justified as means for silencing free speech in violation of human rights. Furthermore, all revocation decisions must be subject to administrative or judicial review. What solutions would you propose for solving this issue? Should a government have the power to strip someone of his citizenship? If so, under what conditions?