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Eritrea Ethiopia Claims Commission, Partial Awards, Civilian Claims, Eritrea’s Claim 15, 16, 23 & 27-32

    Brief Fact Summary. Nationals who voted for the creation of an independent state of Eritrea (P) were denationalized by Ethiopia (D). This action was challenged by Eritrea.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Persons whose second nationality is that of an enemy state may in time of war be denationalized by another state, provided denationalization is not arbitrary.

    Facts. In May 1993, a new state of Eritrea (P) was admitted to the United Nations after persons of Eritrean origin voted overwhelmingly in favor of creating the new state from a portion of Ethiopia (D). Those eligible to vote were those with Eritrean “national identity cardâ€. After the 1998-2000 border war between the two countries, Ethiopia (D) expelled approximately 66,000 people who had voted for the creation of the new state on the premise that since they had voted, they were Eritreans nationals and under international law, they were the enemies’ nationals. But to this, Eretria (P) claimed that they had never relinquished their Ethiopian nationality and were being unlawfully denationalized and expelled however, the claims commission which was established by both countries concluded that those who had voted and were still living in Ethiopia were dual nationals-meaning they acquired Eretria nationality by voting and retained Ethiopian nationality by continuing to live in Ethiopia (D) and receive the benefit of Ethiopian nationality.

    Issue. Could persons whose second nationality is that of an enemy state in time of war, be denationalized by another state, provided denationalization is not arbitrary?

    Held. (Judge not stated in casebook excerpt). Yes. Persons whose second nationality is that of an enemy state may in time of war be denationalized by another state, provided denationalization is not arbitrary. States are not prohibited by international law from permitting nationals to possess another nationality, but also do not prohibit states from prohibiting the possession of another nationality.
    When the war came, and Ethiopia (D) denationalized dual nationals falling in six groups: (1) those who Ethiopia (D) believed posed a security risk; (2) those who close to leave Ethiopia (D) during the war and go to Eritrea (P); (3) those who remained in Ethiopia (D); (4) those who were in third countries or who left Ethiopia (D) to go to third countries; (5) those who were in Eritrea (P); and (6) those who were expelled for other reasons.
    In summary, the termination of the Ethiopian nationality of all persons was arbitrary and unlawful, since in many cases, most or all dual nationals were sometimes rounded up by local authorities and forced into Eritrea (P) for reasons that cannot be established.

    Discussion. According to the commission, the consequences of denationalization are high to the persons affected and yet the standard applied to determine its legality under international law seems low. The focus of the commission was therefore on the procedures which Ethiopia (D) followed in the denationalization process, the circumstances in which it occurred and the actions of and consequences to the persons affected. Had the process not occurred during and in the aftermath of the war, the court’s decision would have been different.


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