There is a provision in most of the United Nations documentation for the right to a nationality to be preserved. This should be given without discrimination to gender, race, religion, age and so forth. The significance of nationality being a basic human right is reflected in Article 15 of the UDHR. Although Myanmar is not a signatory to the 1954 Convention, it is a signatory of the UDHR. Similarly, CERD necessitates parties to the Convention to prohibit and eliminate discrimination and particularly in Article 5(d)(iii) where this is in reference to guaranteeing everyone a nationality. However, Myanmar is not a signatory to this document. Likewise, every child is entitled to a nationality and this is enshrined in Article 7 ofthe CRC (which Myanmar is a signatory to) and Article 24 of the ICCPR (which Myanmar is not a signatory too). CEDAW, a document that Myanmar is signatory to, protects the rights of women to be entitled to a nationality as it states that
" ... affirms women's right to acquire, change or retain their nationality ... ". From these main international declaration and conventions, it can be surmised that whether Myanmar is a signatory or not to these international human rights documents, it does not abide by them in relation to the Rohingya. The refusal of the Burmese government in recognising the Rohingya as citizens of their country despite their long, proven history of origin from Myanmar, shows that up until this point, Myanmar is paying mere lip service to the documents it has signed.
The right to a nationality is also seen in other international documents, namely the American Convention on Human Rights. It presses on the signatories to ensure that citizenship is available to all who are born in their territory. This is to prevent the occurrence of statelessness. 84 But on the European end, it is not the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) that asserts the important of nationality. There is a separate document that focuses solely on nationality, the European
84 Article 20 of the American Convention on Human Rights
Convention on Nationality 1997. It lays out that statelessness must be avoided to prevent statelessness and there should be no arbitrary withdrawal of citizenship.
The right to nationality is discussed in international courts and other platforms because it bestows upon a citizen many privileges such as the right to vote, right to employment, right to own property, right to assemble, freedom of expression, right to embrace a religion of their choice and many others. Therefore, the right to a citizenship entitles a person not only the right to live in a state but to many other privileges as well.
However, the Rohingya have been unable to secure this important right for themselves.
Immigration Minister Khin Ye in an interview with Radio Free Asia85 stated that Rohingya born in Myanmar "have the right" to apply for citizenship provided at least two generations of their families have lived in Myanmar. This means that the applicant's grandparents and parents must have lived and died in Myanmar. Additionally, the applicant must be able to speak in Burmese. If there is no blood relation to a Burmese, they could not be considered as citizens. However, he also identified the Rohingya as foreigners "like the Bengalis". He explained that the Burmese were not allowed to protect and manage their own country during the colonial period. Therefore, they were not at liberty to invite, control or deport Rohingya that had entered into Myanmar. The minister also said the government of Myanmar has recognised some Rohingya as citizens according to the law but many Rohingya have obtained false documentation from corrupt immiaration officials and thus are unable to receive citizenship0 .
85 Aung r,: K.Translated by Khin May Zaw. Writt<!n in English by Joshua Lipes. Radio Free Asia. 12 S~ptemb<!r 2012:4 Dec~mber
Under international law, statelessness is prohibited. There are many international provisions that ensure that every person has a right to citizenship. International law grants non-citizens almost the same rights to which citizens are entitled to except the right to vote, the right to hold public office and to enter and exit the country at their own choice. 86
It is a reality that stateless people are continuously denied their rights and freedom. Their human rights are abused. This denial and abuse is more often than not committed by the government of their country of origin. It is recognised in international law that the government has the choice and right to determine how nationality and therefore, citizenship is to be given. Simultaneously, it also recognises that the government plays the principal role in guaranteeing the protection of human rights. The government knows well that to render a person stateless is to leave that person, vulnerable to abuse, poverty, marginalisation in all its forms and destabilises human security. Ifthe government is able to render a person stateless, this shows that the political system of the country is weak and has loopholes. This also allows the government to reserve their protection from the stateless on the basis that these people are not citizens oftheir country87.
86(-[ow~ver. w~issbrodt id~ntified that th~r~ is a significant difference b~tweenthe rights they are entitled to in int.:rnational documents and the practical enjoyment of the rights.
s· l:llitz. op. Cll.