THE VIOLATION OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF PERSONS CONSIDERED AS “NON-CITIZENS”
By René Wadlow
The Association of World Citizens (AWC) is particularly concerned with the violation by some States of the human rights of ethnic, linguistic or religious minorities by depriving them of citizenship and considering them as “non-citizens”. This measure deprives such persons of the ability to use avenues of redress open to citizens such as voting, holding public office and often public employment. Other avenues may also be closed off and forms of discrimination and marginalization can take place.
The AWC has raised with government officials and other non-governmental organizations the issue of non-citizenship of many Kurds in Syria. Recently some 250,000 Kurds have been granted Syrian citizenship, largely as a measure to gain support by the government in the civil war there. However, the status and degree of autonomy of the Kurdish population remains an issue in the war.
The AWC has also raised the issue of the non-citizenship status of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority, largely of Bengali origin, in Myanmar (Burma). There has been violence against the Rohingya causing many to flee to Bangladesh and elsewhere. The violence against the Rohingya is an obstacle on the path to greater democracy and the rule of law within Myanmar.
The AWC now wishes to highlight the non-citizen status of persons usually referred to as “Russians” within Latvia. This issue has been addressed previously by European institutions such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe.
However, the AWC believes that the human rights and rule-of-law principles are of a universal character and so deserve a response from world citizens including those outside Europe. A petition has been created by the Non-Citizen Association of Latvia. Signing the petition can be a measure of support, and the AWC will study other avenues of action, especially through the United Nations.
During the period when Latvia was incorporated into the USSR, a large number of ethnic Russians as well as Belarusians, Ukrainians, Roma and others migrated to work and live in the Baltic States, including Latvia.
With the Latvia Declaration of independence in May 1990, the Latvian Parliament passed a resolution “On the Renewal of the Rights of Citizens of the Republic of Latvia and Fundamental Principles of Naturalization” which in practice divided the residents of Latvia into two major categories: Latvian citizens, approximately two thirds and Latvian non-citizens, approximately one third.
While a certain amount of resentment against non-Latvians in 1990 could be expected, the resentment has, over 20 years later, hardened into structural discrimination.
Therefore, Citizens of the World structured in the AWC call upon the Parliament of Latvia to reform its citizenship laws to allow presently “stateless citizens” to participate fully in civic and social society. The petition open for signatures is found on www.noncitizens.eu. I am among the early signers.
René Wadlow is President and Chief Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.