Jordan: protest revocation of Palestinian citizenship

From Human Rights Watch, Feb. 1:

Jordan: Stop Withdrawing Nationality from Palestinian-Origin Citizens
Authorities Arbitrarily Withdraw Nationality From More Than 2,700; Hundreds of Thousands at Risk

Jordan should stop withdrawing nationality arbitrarily from Jordanians of Palestinian origin, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Authorities stripped more than 2,700 of these Jordanians of their nationality between 2004 and 2008, and the practice continued in 2009, Human Rights Watch said.

The 60-page report, “Stateless Again: Palestinian-Origin Jordanians Deprived of their Nationality,” details the arbitrary manner, with no clear basis in law, in which Jordan deprives its citizens who were originally from the West Bank of their nationality, thereby denying them basic citizenship rights such as access to education and health care.

“Jordan is playing politics with the basic rights of thousands of its citizens,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Officials are denying entire families the ability to lead normal lives with the sense of security that most citizens of a country take for granted.”

Jordanian officials have defended the practice, as a means to counter any future Israeli plans to transfer the Palestinian population of the Israeli-occupied West Bank to Jordan.

Jordan captured the West Bank in 1949 following the first Arab-Israeli war, and in 1950 extended sovereignty there, granting all residents Jordanian nationality. In 1988, however, King Hussein severed Jordan’s legal and administrative ties to the West Bank, relinquishing claims to sovereignty there and withdrawing Jordanian nationality from all Palestinians who resided in the West Bank at the time.

Other Jordanians of West Bank origin, but who were not living in the West Bank at the time, were not affected and kept their Jordanian nationality. Over the last decade and more, though, Jordan has arbitrarily withdrawn its nationality from thousands of these citizens of West Bank origin. Those at particular risk include the quarter of a million Jordanians of Palestinian origin who Kuwait expelled in 1991 and returned to Jordan.

Jordanian officials have withdrawn their nationality ostensibly for failing to possess a valid Israeli-issued residency permit for the West Bank. But this condition for citizenship has no clear basis in Jordanian law. Such permits are notoriously difficult – if not impossible – to obtain given Israel’s restrictive policies on granting West Bank residency rights to Palestinians.

Jordanians affected by this policy have learned they had been stripped of their nationality not from any official notice, but during routine procedures such as renewing a passport or driver’s license, or registering a marriage or the birth of a child at the Civil Status Department. Withdrawal of nationality appears to be as random as it is arbitrary. In four of the cases Human Rights Watch reviewed, one person’s nationality was withdrawn involuntarily, while that of a sibling in identical circumstances was not.

Human Rights Watch found that the Interior Ministry provided no clear procedure to appeal these decisions, and that most of those interviewed feared that recourse to the courts would finalize their loss of nationality.

“High-handed officials are withdrawing nationality in a wholly arbitrary manner,” Whitson said. “One day you’re Jordanian, and the next you’ve been stripped of your rights as a citizen in your own country.”

Without nationality, individuals and families find it difficult to exercise their citizenship rights, including obtaining health care; finding work; owning property; traveling; and sending their children to public schools and universities. With no other country to turn to, these Jordanians have become stateless Palestinians, in many cases for a second time after 1948.

See our last posts on Jordan and Palestine.