The Sovrien: An Exploration of the Right to Be Stateless

Clark Hanjian
Book, 283 pages (Polyspire 2003)

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The pacifist, the anarchist, and the cosmopolitan all struggle with the demands of citizenship. Their hopes – for tolerance, nonviolent social change, and a society ordered by personal responsibility – are routinely dashed by civic obligations to support militarism, parochialism, and a society ordered by threat of force. Fortunately for these idealists, the institution of citizenship is under review. Alternatives such as global citizenship and post-national citizenship are enjoying renewed attention. Of particular interest is the option of statelessness.

To be stateless is to be a citizen of no country, a subject of no government, a member of no state. Statelessness exists in two forms. The unintentionally stateless person lacks citizenship status against her will. She is an alien in search of a state. The intentionally stateless person lacks citizenship status on purpose. She elects to be both sovereign and alien – she is a "sovrien." While scholars and jurists have extensively examined unintentional statelessness, they have all but ignored its counterpart. The Sovrien explores this void and considers the possibility that one might choose to live as a citizen of no country.

The Sovrien proposes that the choice to be stateless is a legitimate and reasonable option. This work examines: the arguments for and against the existence of a right to be stateless, the advantages and disadvantages of being a sovrien, the process of exercising one's right to be stateless, government attempts to restrict the right to be stateless, and the rights and responsibilities of sovriens.

Clark Hanjian

Clark Hanjian renounced his US citizenship in 1985 and has remained stateless since that time. He received his BA from Lycoming College, performed graduate studies at Wesley Theological Seminary, received a graduate certificate in Conflict Resolution from Teachers College at Columbia University, and is a graduate of the Upaya Zen Center Buddhist Chaplaincy Training Program.

Table of Contents


1. Introduction
    • Overview
    • What is Statelessness?
    • How Statelessness Occurs
    • The Right to Expatriate
    • Intentional versus Unintentional Statelessness
    • The Sovrien

2. Arguments in Defense of the Right to Be Stateless
    • The Fundamental Human Right Argument
    • The Consent Argument

3. Advantages of Being a Sovrien
    • Integrity
    • Adventure
    • Political Freedom
    • Formal Neutrality
    • Social Transformation

4. Arguments Against the Right to Be Stateless
    • The Competing Right to Social Order
    • The Competing Right to Territorial Sovereignty
    • The Competing Right to Establish and Operate States
    • The Moral Obligation to Submit to the Authority of the State
    • The Moral Obligation to Support One’s Community
    • The Moral Obligation to Avoid Self-Threatening Situations

5. Disadvantages of Being a Sovrien
    • No Government Protection of Human Rights
    • No Government Assistance
    • Government Interference
    • Discrimination
    • Difficulty Maintaining a Permanent Residence
    • Difficulty in International Travel
    • Permanence of Status

6. Exercising the Right to Be Stateless
    • The Choice to Be Stateless
    • Voluntary Action
    • Knowing Action
    • Intentional Action
    • Public Expression

7. Restrictions on the Right to Be Stateless
    • Age and Mental Competence
    • Official Permission
    • Bureaucratic Form
    • Wartime Restrictions
    • Denationalization
    • Subsequent Citizenship
    • Banishment
    • Imprisonment, Torture, and Execution
    • Nonrecognition

8. Rights of the Sovrien
    • Fundamental Human Rights
    • The Legal Rights Which Attach to Citizenship
    • The Legal Rights Which a State Extends to Aliens
    • Exclusive Rights

9. Responsibilities of the Sovrien
    • The Legal Responsibilities Which Attach to Citizenship
    • Fundamental Human Responsibilities
    • Exclusive Responsibilities

10. Conclusion
    • Summary
    • Suggestions

    • Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons (1954)