2. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) was adopted in 1966 as one of the two treaties that give legal force to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the other is the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ICESCR). The ICCPR is relevant to statelessness in two fundamental ways: first, it provides certain protections with respect to the right to a nationality and the non-discriminatory enjoyment of this right; second, it provides for the protection of fundamental civil and political rights by all persons – regardless of nationality or statelessness – including the right to life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and rights to due process and a fair trial. The ICCPR currently has 169 states parties. Implementation is monitored by the Human Rights Committee, a body of independent experts that meets three times annually in Geneva.
Among the fundamental rights and freedoms which it affirms is that “Every child has the right to acquire a nationality”. This is contained in the third paragraph of article 24, which protects the rights of the child. In its General Comment No. 17 (1989), the Human Rights Committee explained that “Special attention should also be paid, in the context of the protection to be granted to children, to the right of every child to acquire a nationality, as provided for in article 24, paragraph 3. While the purpose of this provision is to prevent a child from being afforded less protection by society and the State because he is stateless, it does not necessarily make it an obligation for States to give their nationality to every child born in their territory. However, States are required to adopt every appropriate measure, both internally and in cooperation with other States, to ensure that every child has a nationality when he is born. In this connection, no discrimination with regard to the acquisition of nationality should be admissible under internal law as between legitimate children and children born out of wedlock or of stateless parents or based on the nationality status of one or both of the parents. The measures adopted to ensure that children have a nationality should always be referred to in reports by States parties”.
Article 26 of the ICCPR, which guarantees equal protection of the law and prohibits discrimination is also relevant to nationality questions. In the individual complaint of Q. v Denmark (2015), the Human Rights Committee found a violation of this article in a case in which a state did not make reasonable accommodation in its naturalisation policy for an applicant who, due to a mental disability (post-traumatic stress disorder), was unable to pass the required language test.
In terms of the rights of stateless persons, protected under the ICCPR, Article 12, paragraph 4, deserves attention. It protects the right of every person to enter "his own country" – a norm which the Human Rights Committee has interpreted as also being applicable to stateless persons. In its General Comment No. 27 (1999), the Committee explained that “The scope of "his own country" is broader than the concept "country of his nationality". It is not limited to nationality in a formal sense, that is, nationality acquired at birth or by conferral; it embraces, at the very least, an individual who, because of his or her special ties to or claims in relation to a given country, cannot be considered to be a mere alien. This would be the case, for example, of nationals of a country who have there been stripped of their nationality in violation of international law, and of individuals whose country of nationality has been incorporated in or transferred to another national entity, whose nationality is being denied them. The language of article 12, paragraph 4, moreover, permits a broader interpretation that might embrace other categories of long-term residents, including but not limited to stateless persons arbitrarily deprived of the right to acquire the nationality of the country of such residence”.