With decades of international treaties covering refugees, asylum, diplomats, espionage, and countless other interesting and relevant topics to international politics, is there any international treaty establishing a right to return to one's country of citizenship?

To be very specific, I understand that criminals can be denied freedom of movement, among others, and certain high crimes or political scenarios can result in revocation of citizenship, but is there any treaty establishing an absolute right, provided one remains a citizen of a given country, to enter that country?

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    Keep in mind that denial of entry into a country is a matter of that country's domestic law, and the existence of an international treaty establishing a right of a citizen to enter may not have much effect in any given country. For example, the country may not be a party to the treaty, or its courts may hold that domestic law takes precedence over the treaty provisions.
    – phoog
    Jul 5, 2020 at 14:45
  • Looking up "Shamima Begum" provides at least one example of a person who has been denied access to what they considered their own country. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shamima_Begum - I've no idea of the legalities involved other than what was reported in mainstream media etc.
    – Steve
    Jul 6, 2020 at 13:28
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    The Shamima Begum case hinges, of course, on a dispute over her nationality. What she CONSIDERS it to be is only one factor.
    – Laurence
    Jul 6, 2020 at 22:33

2 Answers 2


The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in effect since 1976 and currently signed by about 179 countries, has in Article 12 Paragraph 4:

No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.

It's not absolute, as it would allow for a person to be deprived of that right if it weren't "arbitrary". But it's the strongest statement I've found so far.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – feetwet
    Jul 6, 2020 at 1:27

The wikipedia article on "Right of Return" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_of_return) cites several treaties:

The right of return principle has been codified in a number of international instruments, including:

Hague Regulations (HR), article 20:

  1. After the conclusion of peace, the repatriation of prisoners of war shall be carried out as quickly as possible.

It has been argued that if the HR require the repatriation of prisoners, then it is "obvious" that civilians displaced during conflict must also be allowed to repatriate.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), article 13:

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.
  2. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) article 12(4):

  1. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.

Fourth Geneva Convention, article 49:

  1. Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive. Nevertheless, the Occupying Power may undertake total or partial evacuation of a given area if the security of the population or imperative military reasons so demand. ... Persons thus evacuated shall be transferred back to their homes as soon as hostilities in the area in question have ceased.

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, article 5d(ii):

The right to leave any country, including one's own, and to return to one's country.

Especially relevant seems to be the UDHR.


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