Jun 03 2011

U.S. Embassy confiscates citizen’s passport so he can’t come home

In a new twist on the control of movement through control of issuance of ID credentials, the Associated Press reports that a U.S. citizen has been trapped in Kuwait after the local U.S. Embassy summarily confiscated his passport:

Aziz Nouhaili, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Morocco, has been trying for nearly four months to get home from Kuwait, where he worked for several years as a military contractor…. Kuwaiti officials have made clear they will allow Nouhaili to leave only if he has a valid U.S. passport.

Kuwait is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which provides in its Article 12 that, “Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own,” and “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.”

Regardless of his citizenship or whether he has any passport, Mr. Nouhali is entitled by black-letter international treaty law, expressly acceded to by the Kuwaiti monarchy, to leave Kuwait.

As long as Mr. Nouhali is a U.S. citizen (which appears to be undisputed, at least as of now), the proper course of action for the U.S. State Department, if Kuwait refuses to allow Mr. Nouhali to leave, is a formal diplomatic protest by the U.S. to the Kuwaiti government, followed by a formal complaint to the U.N. Human Right Committee if Kuwait persists in denying Mr. Nouhali’s right to leave.

Mr. Nouhali’s treatment also highlights the significance of State Department or DHS passport issuance procedures and decisions to deny, withhold, or confiscate a passport as tantamount to decisions on whether to permit individual citizens to exercise their right to travel.

Instead of helping Mr. Nouhali to exercise his rights as a U.S. citizen, however, the U.S. government is helping to deny him his rights. A  press release from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) says that: Read More