In the latest variation on what has become a depressingly-familiar theme, US citizen Jamal Tarhuni was denied boarding on a flight home to the USA last month, apparently because while he was abroad the US government put him on the list of those people it has secretly ordered airlines not to transport.
My Tarhuni’s de facto banishment from the USA is especially disturbing in light of reports that before being naturalized as a US citizen he was granted asylum in the USA in the ’70s. While conditions may have changed, a grant of asylum means that Mr. Tarhuni has already established, to the satisfaction of US authorities, that he had a well-founded fear of persecution if he were forced to return to the country of his original citizenship. That makes it, we think, especially critical that the US allow him to return home before his permission to remain in Tunisia expires and he risks being deported to some other country of non-refuge.
It’s one more case for the UN Human Rights Committee to ask questions about when it conducts its next review of US (non)compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”
[Update: Jamal Tarhuni is not alone. MSNBC reports that another US citizen, Mustafa Elogbi, is also trapped in Libya after being denied passage on a connecting flight from London to the US, and returned to Libya, where his flights has originated (not the country of his citizenship, the USA) after being detained and interrogated in London. “Elogbi and Tarhuni have booked new tickets and are scheduled to board a flight back to the United States on Feb. 13, arriving in Portland on Feb. 14. Their Portland attorney Tom Nelson is traveling to the region so he can accompany them on the flight. The two men do not know whether they are included on the U.S. government’s secret no-fly list. As per government security policy, the FBI will not confirm or deny it. … Thus they do not know if they will be prevented from boarding in Tunis, or in Paris or Amsterdam, where they change planes.”]