Alvaro José González Robelo v. Nicaragua, Case 12.144, Report No. 25/01, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.111 Doc. 20 rev. at 443 (2000).
ALVARO JOSÉ ROBELO GONZÁLEZ
March 5, 2001
On January 26, 1999, Dr. Alvaro José Robelo González (hereinafter the
petitioner) lodged a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights (hereinafter the Commission or the IACHR)
against the Republic of Nicaragua (hereinafter the Nicaraguan State
or Nicaragua), alleging that said State of Nicaragua violated
his right to nationality and his political rights by declaring him a foreigner
and thus preventing him for running in the presidential election of October
20, 1996. He claims that later he was also prevented from running for the
legislature and, subsequently, he was kept from voting in the election when
the Electoral Verification Office refused to give him his citizens identification
card. As a result, he filed an amparo
constitutional relief suit with the Supreme Court of Justice, which ruled
in his favor; however, the decision was not enforced.
The Nicaraguan Alliance, the political party for which Mr. Robelo was
the presidential candidate, challenged this situation before the Supreme Electoral
Council, arguing that Mr. Robelo was a Nicaraguan citizen who was born in
the city of León to a Nicaraguan mother and father. Mr. Robelo also stated that he had acquired Italian nationality when
he married an Italian citizen but that he had never renounced his Nicaraguan
The petitioner also claimed that a judicial error was made in the judgment
handed down by the Supreme Electoral Council and that a campaign of political
persecution had been waged against him. To summarize, the petitioner challenges
the elections held in Nicaragua in October 1996 and claims that the State is responsible for violating several of
his rights that are protected by the American Convention on Human Rights:
to personal integrity (Article 5), to due process (Article 8), to compensation
for the miscarriage of justice (Article 10), to nationality (Article 20),
to participate in government (Article 23), to equality before the law (Article
24), and to judicial guarantees (Article 25).
The Nicaraguan State challenged these claims, alleging that domestic
remedies had not been exhausted, and said that the Supreme Court of Justice
had approved the manufacture of an identification card, which could be collected
by the applicant after he had demonstrated his status as a citizen. However,
Mr. Robelo did not pursue the procedure for reclaiming his original nationality.
After analyzing the legal and factual claims submitted by the parties
during processing of this complaint, the Inter-American Commission, meeting
at its 110th session from February 20 through March 9, 2001, decided to declare
Case 12.144 inadmissible.
PROCESSING BY THE COMMISSION
On May 7, 1999, the Commission opened this case as Nº 12.144, transmitted
the relevant parts of the complaint to the Nicaraguan State, and asked it
to reply within 90 days. On that same date, it informed the petitioner that
the case had been opened.
In the months of May, June, and August 1999, the petitioner sent the
Commission additional information, repeating the content of his complaint.
The State sent its reply on August 2, 1999, stating that domestic remedies
had not been exhausted in this case and consequently asking the Commission
to declare it inadmissible.
On October 6, 1999, the petitioner told the Commission that the Immigration
and Nationality Directorate had cancelled his Nicaraguan passport. He also
told the Commission that he had received death threats over the telephone
and, as a result, was seeking precautionary measures for himself and his wife,
On October 7, 1999, the State of Nicaragua sent the IACHR a copy of
the Immigration and Nationality Directorates Resolution 095/99, dealing
with Mr. Robelos case, in which it was resolved to refuse him a certificate
of Nicaraguan nationality.
After considering the documents submitted by Mr. Robelo González, the
Commission, meeting at its 104th session, decided to instruct the State of
Nicaragua to implement precautionary measures on October 7, 1999.
On October 12, 1999, the Nicaraguan State informed the Commission that
it had forwarded the request for precautionary measures to the Interior Ministry
so that, in consultation with the interested parties, it could proceed to
comply with the requests made by this international agency.
13. The petitioner duly informed the Commission that on October 25, 1999, the Interior Minister met with him and his wife in order to reach a joint agreement on the precautionary measures. As a result of this meeting, Mr. Robelo was assigned a police escort at his home.
By means of a letter dated March 2, 2000, the State informed the Commission
about the partial amendment of the Nicaraguan Constitution, which established
that: No national may be deprived of his nationality. Nicaraguan nationality
shall not be lost upon acquisition of another nationality.
III. POSITIONS OF
Position of the Petitioner
The petitioner claims that the Supreme Electoral Council, in a decision
dated July 5, 1996, declared him a foreigner. As a result, he was disqualified
from standing as a candidate for the presidency of the Republic of Nicaragua.
Later he was disqualified from running for a seat in the legislature and,
ultimately, he was prevented from voting in the 1996 elections.
on the foregoing, the petitioners complaint challenges Nicaraguas
October 1996 elections.
The petitioner states that on July 10, 1996, he filed for amparo
constitutional relief with the Supreme Court of Justice. The Supreme Court
passed judgment on November 20, 1996, ruling that the Supreme Electoral Council
was not empowered to strip any of the countrys citizens of their nationality
and that the Interior Ministry had not processed Mr. Robelos nationality
or stripped him of it.
The petitioner claims that on October 14, 1996, the Electoral Verification
Office refused to give him his citizens identification card, arguing
that he had renounced his Nicaraguan nationality and become an Italian citizen.
The petitioner reports that he took his case to the Supreme Court,
which ruled in his favor on February 3, 1998, ordering the Supreme Electoral
Council to instruct the General Directorate of Certificates to enforce, with
respect to the petitioner, the terms of Articles 2 and 3 of the Citizen Identification
Law. He further states that regardless of the Supreme Courts ruling,
the Electoral Council did not obey these instructions and refused to give
him his identification card. The petitioner also claims that the ruling handed
down by the Electoral Council contains a legal error and constitutes political
Finally, the petitioner points out that Article 2 of Law 205 stipulates
that amparo relief is not admissible against resolutions issued in connection
with electoral matters. Thus, both the Amparo Law and the Nicaraguan Constitution
admit no appeals against the decisions of the Supreme Electoral Council.
Position of the State
The Nicaraguan State holds that the complaint lodged by Mr. Alvaro
Robelo González with the Inter-American Commission is defective on legal and
factual grounds. The State denies that Mr. Robelos human rights were
violated or that he has been persecuted by the Supreme Electoral Council or
any other agency of the Nicaraguan Government. The State holds that the complaint
as submitted by the petitioner is formally defective, in that Nicaraguas
domestic remedies have not been exhausted.
The State notes that on February 3, 1998, the Constitutional Chamber
of Nicaraguas Supreme Court of Justice ruled on the amparo
relief filed by Mr. Robelo against the Supreme Electoral Council, ordering
that Council to instruct the General Directorate of Certificates to enforce,
with respect to the petitioner, Articles 2 and 3 of the Citizen Identification
Law. The State also reports that on May 25, 1998, the Electoral Council sent
the Constitutional Chamber the order for the petitioner to be given his identification
document once he had complied with the requirements of the Certification Law.
The State further claims that the petitioner has not exhausted the
procedure set forth in Articles 49 and 50 of the Amparo Law for compliance
with the Supreme Courts judgment.
It adds that Mr. Robelo could have filed for amparo relief against the General Directorate of Certificates for
its refusal to hand over his identification card.
The State maintains that pursuant to Nicaraguan law, the case in hand
does not involve the arbitrary or illegal denial of nationality, but rather
the petitioners acquisition of Italian citizenship and, consequently,
pursuant to the laws in force at the time, the loss of his original nationality.
The State notes that at present, following an amendment made to Nicaraguas
Constitution in January 2000, a person can hold both nationalities, Nicaraguan
and Italian. To date, however, Mr. Robelo has taken no steps toward recovering
his Nicaraguan nationality.
ANALYSIS OF ADMISSIBILITY
Competence of the Commission
The Commission is, prima facie,
competent to examine the petition submitted by Mr. Alvaro José Robelo
González (ratione personae), in that it addresses events that took place under
the jurisdiction of the Nicaraguan State (ratione loci) and describes alleged violations of rights enshrined
in the American Convention (ratione
materiae)the right to physical integrity (Article 5), the right
to due process (Article 8), the right to compensation (Article 10), the right
to a nationality (Article 20), political rights (Article 23), the right to
equality before the law (Article 24), and the right to judicial guarantees
(Article 25)as set forth in Article 44 of the Convention, to which Nicaragua
has been a State Party since September 25, 1979.
The Commission will now analyze whether this petition meets the formal
requirements for admissibility set by Articles 46 and 47 of the American Convention
on Human Rights.
Exhaustion of Domestic Remedies
Article 46(1)(a) of the American Convention provides that:
by the Commission of a petition or communication lodged in accordance with
Articles 44 or 45 shall be subject to the following requirements:
that the remedies under domestic law have been pursued and exhausted
in accordance with generally recognized principles of international law.
The Commission has repeatedly emphasized the accessory and complementary
character of the inter-American human rights protection system. This character
is reflected in Article 46(1)(a) of the Convention, which enables states to
resolve disputes under their own legal systems before facing international
In the case at hand, the petitioner claims to have reported the alleged
human rights violations to the domestic judicial authorities provided for
by Nicaraguan law; nevertheless, the pursuit of those domestic remedies bore
In turn, the State of Nicaragua explicitly challenges the petitioners
allegations vis-à-vis the exhaustion of domestic remedies. The State, upon
receiving formal notification of the petition, invoked the failure to exhaust
domestic remedies and thereby challenged the admissibility of the complaint.
The State replied to all the requests for information sent by the Commission,
including those dealing with domestic remedies.
The following list itemizes the claims related to domestic remedies
made by the parties:
related to political rights:
On July 5, 1996, the Supreme Electoral Council issued a resolution
disqualifying Mr. Robelo as candidate in Nicaraguas presidential election,
against which he appealed.
July 10, 1996, the Supreme Electoral Council gave Mr. Robelo González a certified
resolution declaring him a foreigner and disqualifying him from the presidential
On July 10, 1996, the petitioner filed for amparo
relief with the Court of Appeals in León against the Supreme Electoral Councils
resolution declaring him a foreigner. The León Court of Appeals admitted the
amparo suit and sent the proceedings to the Supreme Court of Justice.
On November 20, 1996, the Supreme Court, in Judgment Nº 159, ruled
as follows on the appellants request to extend the remedy to all the
magistrates of the Supreme Electoral Council because he knew that said court
was attempting to strip him of his nationality: This Supreme Court believes
that, although extending the remedy to other officers different from those
in the original appeal is inadmissible, the appellants claim lacks legal
grounds in that the Supreme Electoral Council is not empowered to strip any
citizen of this country of his nationality, a power that belongs exclusively
to the Interior Ministry (
) and the Interior Ministry has neither processed
Dr. Alvaro Robelo Gonzálezs Nicaraguan nationality nor stripped him
In this same judgment (Nº 159), the Supreme Court also said: The
resolution of the Supreme Electoral Council (
) does not order Dr. Alvaro
Robelo Gonzálezs nationality cancelled, nor could it, and in fact has
not stripped him of his Nicaraguan nationality; what it does determine is
his disqualification as a candidate for presidential office in that he does
not meet the requirements set, particularly those contained in the Constitution
and in the constitutional laws, all of which address the question of elections.
The Court also noted that: in Nicaragua electoral questions are the
competence of another independent branch of government: the electoral branch,
an autonomous agency with both administrative and jurisdictional functions,
against the final decisions of which there is no appeal. Finally, the
Court stated that it would not admit the amparo remedy filed as a part of
Dr. Robelos bid to annul the resolution of the Supreme Electoral Council.
related to the rights of physical integrity and liberty:
Mr. Robelo filed a habeas corpus suit with the Appeals Court in Managua
on July 15, 1996, alleging threats of illegal arrest and naming the Interior
Minister, the Director of Immigration and Nationality, and the magistrates
of the Electoral Council. The Court ruled in his favor that same day, ordering
that Mr. Robelos liberty and security be respected.
On June 2, 1999, Mr. Robelo filed an amparo
remedy with the First Criminal Judge in Managua, alleging threats of illegal
arrest made by officials from the General Directorate of Immigration and Nationality.
In a resolution dated June 25, 1999, the judge ruled that remedy admissible
and ordered that Mr. Robelos liberty and personal security be respected.
related to the right to nationality:
Along with the other remedies, on January 23, 1996, the petitioner
lodged a request for a citizens identification card with the General
Directorate of Certificates. On October 14, 1996, that Directorate sent Mr.
Robelo its Resolution Nº 1, refusing to give him a card on the grounds that
he was not Nicaraguan.
On November 15, 1996, Dr. Robelo filed an appeal against Resolution
Nº 1 with the Supreme Electoral Council. On June 19, 1997, when no answer
was forthcoming, the petitioner once again filed suit with the Court of Appeals,
which processed it and forwarded the proceedings to the Supreme Court. The
Supreme Court gave its ruling on February 3, 1998, ordering the Supreme Electoral
Council to instruct the General Directorate of Certificates to enforce, with
respect to the petitioner, the terms of Articles 2 and 3 of the Citizen Identification
March 31, 1998, the National Certification Commission, by means of its Resolution
Nº 2, decided to approve continued processing of Mr. Robelos identification
card, ordering that prior to requesting delivery of the card, the certificate
from the Interior Ministrys General Directorate of Immigration and Nationality
showing the status of his nationality should be presented.
On July 30, 1999, the petitioner asked the Director General of Immigration
and Nationality for a certificate of Nicaraguan citizenship. On August 27,
1999, the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, in its Resolution 095-99,
refused Mr. Robelo that certificate on the grounds that, despite having been
born Nicaragua, he was an Italian citizen by his own volition since
1976, which nationality has been confirmed both by his request for a foreign
citizens residence permit in Nicaragua,
and by the fact that he has retained his Italian nationality and made no request
to reclaim his original nationality.
On September 3, 1999, the petitioner filed for a review of Resolution
Nº 095-99 with the General Directorate of Immigration and Nationality. In
a letter dated September 27, 1999, the petitioner was told that the Resolution
was upheld because he had lost his Nicaraguan nationality upon acquiring Italian
The General Directorate of Immigration and Nationality informed Mr.
Robelo on October 1, 1999, that with the upholding of Resolution Nº 095-99,
his Nicaraguan passport (Nº C-384586), was cancelled.
On November 11, 1999, the petitioner was informed of Resolution Nº
042-99, with which the Interior Ministry decided to uphold Resolution Nº 095-99,
denying Mr. Robelo's request for a certificate of Nicaraguan nationality.
Resolution 042-99 also ordered Mr. Robelo to put his migratory status into
good legal order.
After analyzing the different domestic remedies pursued by Mr. Robelo,
the Commission concludes that: with regard to the exhaustion of domestic remedies
related to the petitioners alleged violations of his political rights,
he pursued the different legal remedies offered by Nicaraguan law; the courts,
in turn, ruled on them and handed down their final decision on November 20,
1996. Consequently, the Commission concludes that the exhaustion of domestic
remedies requirement set by Article 46(1)(a) of the Convention has been met.
With regard to the exhaustion of domestic remedies related to the alleged
violation of his right to integrity, the Commission has noted that the petitioner
filed an amparo suit and a habeas
corpus action in connection with threats of illegal arrest. In both cases,
the courts ruled in Mr. Robelos favor, ordering that his liberty and
personal security be respected. Consequently, the Commission holds that the
domestic remedies were exhausted in compliance with Article 46(1)(a) of the
Convention and, in addition, that they proved to be effective.
As regards the exhaustion of domestic remedies related to alleged violations
of the petitioners right to nationality, the Commission notes that the
Supreme Court ruled in his favor on February 3, 1998. Consequently, on March
31, 1998, the National Certification Commission decided to approve the issue
of a citizens identification card to Mr. Robelo, ordering that prior
to delivery of the card, the certificate from the Interior Ministry and the
General Directorate of Immigration and Nationality showing the status of his
nationality should be presented. However, the petitioner allowed a year and
four months to go by before pursuing the formalities needed to obtain that
certificate of status. When the petitioner finally requested the nationality
certificate, on July 30, 1999, it was refused, on the grounds that he had
failed to follow the correct procedurenamely, he took no steps toward
recovering his original nationality (an indispensable prerequisite for demonstrating
his status as a Nicaraguan citizen).
In this regard, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has stated
that: the mere fact that a domestic remedy does not produce a result
favorable to the petitioner does not in and of itself demonstrate the inexistence
or exhaustion of all effective domestic remedies. For example, the petitioner
may not have invoked the appropriate remedy in a timely fashion.
It should be noted that the complaint was lodged with the Commission
even before the domestic remedies related to the petitioners right to
Nicaraguan nationality were fully exhausted and that, while it was being processed,
the domestic proceedings came to an end. Consequently, the Commission will
now analyze the parties claims regarding this right. Irrespective of
this, the IACHR holds that the petitioner did have access to the domestic
remedies offered by the countrys laws; however, he did not exhaust the
appropriate or applicable remedies in accordance with the terms of Article
46(1)(a) of the American Convention.
Timeliness of the Complaint
Article 46(1)(b) of the American Convention provides that for a petition
to be admitted, it must be lodged within a period of six months from
the date on which the party alleging violation of his rights was notified
of the final judgment.
In his complaint, the petitioner claims that the Supreme Electoral
Councils resolution of July 10, 1996, declared him a foreigner and,
as a result, he was kept from exercising his political rights (Article 23);
for that reason, he challenges the elections held in Nicaragua in October
In this regard, the Commission notes that the resolution was relayed
to the petitioner on July 10, 1996, and the final judgment of the Supreme
Court of Justice rejecting the amparo
relief sought by Mr. Robelo is dated November 20, 1996. In addition, the complaint
as lodged with the IACHR is dated January 26, 1999: in other words, two years
and two months after the six-month period allowed by the Convention.
Thus, the Commission holds that Mr. Robelos alleged violations
of his political rights, together with the alleged related violations of his
other rightsdue process (Article 8), compensation for miscarriages of
justice (Article 10), equality before the law (Article 24), and judicial guarantees
(Article 25)are extemporaneous and therefore inadmissible under the
terms of Article 46(1)(b) of the American Convention.
With regard to the alleged violations of the right to physical integrity
(Article 5), the Commission notes that the petitioner filed a habeas corpus
action, which was resolved in his favor on July 15, 1996. Since the initial
complaint was lodged with the IACHR on January 26, 1999, the six-month period
had been exceeded. The amparo relief
filed with the Supreme Court of Justice was submitted and ruled on, in the
petitioners favor, while this case was being processed. The Commission
notes, as stated above, that in both instances the petitioner obtained a favorable
judgment, ordering that his liberty and personal security be respected.
With regard to the alleged violations of the right to nationality (Article
20), the Commission notes that the Interior Ministrys final resolution
is dated November 11, 1999, when the petitioner was informed that his request
for a certificate of Nicaraguan nationality had been refused. It should be
noted that the initial complaint was lodged with the IACHR on January 26,
1999, and the final resolution was issued while it was being processed. For
that reason, the Commission will examine the parties claims in connection
with this right in a later part of this report.
Duplication of Proceedings and Res
Article 46.1.c of the Convention stipulates that for the Commission
to admit a petition or communication, the incidents it describes must not
be pending in any other international proceeding.
Similarly, Article 47(d) of the Convention provides that the Commission
will declare inadmissible any petition or communication that is substantially
the same as one previously studied by the Commission or another international
The parties claims and the documents contained in the case file
do not indicate that the petition is pending in any other international proceeding
for settlement, or that it is substantially the same as any petition previously
studied by the Commission or other international organization. The Commission
therefore concludes that the case at hand meets the admissibility requirements
established by Articles 46(1)(c) and 47(d) of the American Convention on Human
of the Alleged Facts
Article 47(b) of the Convention stipulates that the Commission will
declare inadmissible any petition or communication when it does not
state facts that tend to establish a violation of the rights guaranteed by
In the initial stage of the proceedings, the State claimed that the
complaint was groundless and denied that Mr. Robelos human rights had
been violated by the Government of Nicaragua.
In turn, the petitioner claimed that on August 27, 1999, the State
of Nicaragua, in its Immigration and Nationality Directorates Resolution
095/99, refused Mr. Robelo González a certificate of Nicaraguan nationality,
thus violating his right to a nationality under Article 20 of the American
Consequently, the Commission must determine, by means of a preliminary
examination of the petitions merits, whether the allegations it contains
are duly grounded and do constitute violations of Mr. Robelos right
to nationality by the Nicaraguan State.
Legal doctrine distinguishes between sociological nationality and political
nationality. The concept varies according to whether the system adopted follows
jus soli, wherein natural nationality is defined by place of birth,
or jus sanguinis, where nationality
is determined by the nationality of the parents. Finally, nationality
by naturalization is that conferred on a foreigner who requests, in
accordance with given conditions set by a State, its nationality or citizenship
and, as such, is eminently voluntary in nature.
Regulating and determining nationality is the competence of each sovereign
state; it falls to the state to legislate the regulation of its nationality
and the acquisition of that nationality through naturalization. Thus, each
state stipulates, on a sovereign basis, the rules for acquiring, losing, and
recuperating its nationality.
The petitioner claims that he is a Nicaraguan citizen, born in the
city of León on January 6, 1947, to a Nicaraguan mother and father. He further
states that he acquired Italian citizenship on April 24, 1976, by marrying
an Italian citizen; nevertheless, he never renounced his Nicaraguan nationality.
The evidence before the IACHR indicates that under Italian law, Dr.
Alvaro Robelo holds Italian nationality, which he obtained pursuant to Article
4(3) of Italys Law Nº 555 of June 13, 1912, which was the law in force
at the time he acquired that nationality. The aforesaid article reads as follows:
Italian citizenship, including enjoyment of political rights, may be granted by a decree from the Head of State, after hearing the opinion of the Council of State to a foreigner who has resided for two years in the State and who has performed notable services to Italy or has contracted marriage with an Italian woman.
In the present case, the petitioner claimed that preserving his Nicaraguan
citizenship was at no time an impediment to Italian law, since in Italy he
was not required to renounce his original nationality.
The Nicaraguan legal provisions governing the petitioners nationality
at the time he acquired Italian citizenship are set forth in the Constitution
of 1974, Article 21 of which stipulated that:
nationality is lost: (1) By voluntary naturalization in a foreign country
that is not a nation of Central America. Natural citizens of Nicaragua who
thus lose their Nicaraguan nationality shall recuperate the same if at any
time they return to Nicaragua.
When Mr. Robelo acquired Italian citizenship on April 24, 1976, the
Nicaraguan Constitution stipulated the ipso
loss of his Nicaraguan nationality, irrespective of the terms of Italian law.
Mr. Robelo subsequently entered Nicaragua on January 7, 1993, using
his Italian passport (Nº 545752), as can be seen on the list of admissions
to the country provided by the State. Later, on June 6, 1993, in his capacity
as an Italian citizen, he requested a Nicaraguan foreign residents card;
this was granted on June 15, 1993, in the shape of Temporary Residence Card
Nº 29151, expiring on July 14, 1994.
Article 15 of Nicaraguas Nationality Law (Nº 149), published
in the Official Gazette on June 30, 1992, provides that:
shall lose their Nicaraguan nationality when they are voluntarily naturalized
in a foreign state, except when they acquire the nationality of another Central
American country or a dual nationality agreement applies.
The petitioner claims that under the Italian-Nicaraguan Convention
of September 20, 1917, in force since 1923, he holds dual nationality. Thus,
the question of Dr. Alvaro Robelos dual nationality must also be examined
in accordance with that Convention.
Article 1 of the Italian-Nicaraguan Citizenship Convention rules that:
citizens resident in Nicaragua and Nicaraguan citizens resident in Italy shall
maintain and transmit, in accordance with the corresponding national laws,
their citizenship, except as provided for in this Convention.
Article 4 of the same Citizenship Convention stipulates that:
citizens who have acquired Nicaraguan citizenship and Nicaraguan citizens
who have acquired Italian citizenship
shall recuperate their original citizenship after two years residence
in the territory of the State whose citizenship they had abandoned.
60. Thus, Article 1 of the Italian-Nicaraguan Convention states that Nicaraguan citizens resident in Italy shall maintain and transmit their citizenship, but it should be noted that this prerogative applies only to those Nicaraguan citizens who have resident
status. In Mr. Robelos case this provision does not apply, in that he is not a resident and because, by marrying an Italian citizen, he acquired Italian nationality. This reading is supported by Article 4, quoted above, which clearly states that a Nicaraguan citizen who has acquired Italian citizenship shall recuperate his original citizenship after two years residence in the state whose citizenship he had "abandoned". It is clear that upon acquiring one nationality, the other is lost. And, in order to reclaim his original nationality, the individual in question has to meet a two-year residence requirement in the country of origin. This shows that the 1917 Convention is not a treaty governing dual nationality applicable to Mr. Robelo. In its preamble, the 1917 Convention states that its purpose is to establish rules to govern the citizenship of the descendants of people emigrating from Italy to Nicaragua and vice-versa. The spirit of the treaty is such that it cannot apply to Dr. Alvaro Robelos situation, since he is not descended from Italians.
The Citizenship Convention does not provide for the existence of dual
nationality of the general kind. It refers only to the possibility of choosing
between one nationality and the other, and that right is restricted to the
descendants of Italians or Nicaraguans born in the territory of the other
state and, even in those cases, it applies only to those not yet of adult
age. This interpretation is supported by the second paragraph of Article 2
of the 1917 Convention, which stipulates that descendants of Italians or Nicaraguans,
within one year of coming of age, as determined by their laws, may choose
either Nicaraguan or Italian citizenship by means of a statement rendered
personally to the authorities of the state whose citizenship is being declined.
If the Convention really did address dual nationality, this provision would
be meaningless, since the individuals in question would not have to choose
between one nationality and the other upon reaching adult age.
The Commission holds that the 1917 Convention is not applicable to
Mr. Robelos situation and that, essentially, Nicaraguan law did not
allow simultaneous possession of Italian and Nicaraguan nationalities after
adult age had been reached. Mr. Alvaro Robelos acquisition of Italian
nationality in this case meant the ipso
loss of his Nicaraguan nationality.
The Commission believes that if Mr. Robelo wanted his original nationality
back, he should have followed the procedure established in the 1992 Nationality
Law, to wit, a Nicaraguan who has lost his nationality and wishes to reclaim
it must meet the requirements contained in Article 20, which provides that:
who have changed their nationality shall reclaim their Nicaraguan nationality
by informing the Interior Ministrys Immigration and Nationality Directorate
that they wish to do so and renouncing the nationality they currently hold,
record of which shall be taken in a deed and certification of which shall
be given to the individual involved.
In addition, the Commission notes that the procedure described in Article
20 was the process Mr. Robelo had to pursue in order to certify his nationality
status and obtain his citizens identification card. However, although
on March 31, 1998, the National Certification Commission ordered him to present
the certification from the Interior Ministry before the card could be handed
over, the petitioner did not take the necessary steps for the following 16
months. Finally, on July 30, 1999, when the petitioner requested his certificate
of Nicaraguan nationality from the General Directorate of Immigration and
Nationality, the application was refused and he was instructed that to obtain
the certificate, he had to reclaim his original nationality and renounce his
current citizenship, in accordance with Article 20 of the Nationality Law.
The State noted that the certificate of nationality was refused because:
despite having been born in Nicaragua, Mr. Robelo was an Italian citizen
by his own volition since 1976, which nationality has been confirmed both
by his request for a foreign citizens residence permit in Nicaragua,
and by the fact that he has retained his Italian nationality and made no request
to reclaim his original nationality.
Indeed, from the evidence of the case documents, the Commission notes
that Mr. Robelo entered Nicaragua on January 7, 1990, using an Italian passport
(Nº 545752). Later, on June 6, 1993, he applied for a Nicaraguan foreign residents
card, so he could work for a year; this card, Nº Q-29151, was issued to him
on June 15 of that year. The Commission also notes that between 1990 and 1995,
Mr. Robelo entered and left Nicaragua 60 times with his Italian passport and
18 times with a Nicaraguan passport.
From the above it follows that not only did Mr. Robelo not seek to
reclaim his original nationality, but also that he showed a particular interest
in preserving his Italian citizenship and status as a foreign resident in
The current Constitution of Nicaragua, as partially amended on
January 19, 2000, by Law 330,
allows dual nationality. Thus, Article 20 of the aforesaid law provides as
national may be deprived of his nationality. Nicaraguan nationality shall
not be lost upon acquisition of another nationality.
The Commission believes that in this case, the petitioners submissions
do not indicate sufficient grounds or evidence to indicate that Mr. Robelos
right to nationality has been violated. This case does not involve the arbitrary
or illegal denial of nationality, but rather the petitioners acquisition
of a new nationality and, consequently, pursuant to the laws at the time in
force, the loss of his original nationality. In other words, Mr. Robelo lost
his Nicaraguan nationality by acquiring Italian nationality.
The Commission concludes with regard to the alleged violations of Mr.
Alvaro Robelos political rights (Article 23), together with his allegations
of related violations of other rightsto personal integrity (Article
5), due process (Article 8), compensation for miscarriages of justice (Article
10), equality before the law (Article 24), and judicial guarantees (Article
25)that they are extemporaneous and thus inadmissible, in accordance
with the terms set in Article 46(1)(b) of the American Convention.
The Commission concludes, in connection with the alleged violations
of the right to nationality (Article 20), that the petitioner did not pursue
the procedure established by domestic law in order to comply with the requirement
of first exhausting domestic remedies set forth in Article 46(1)(a) of the
On the contrary, from its analysis of the documents submitted by the
parties, the Commission concludes that they do not describe duly grounded
facts that tend to establish violations by the Nicaraguan State of the right
to nationality (Article 20), pursuant to the terms set forth in Article 47(b)
of the American Convention on Human Rights.
In light of the foregoing legal and factual considerations,
INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
To declare this case inadmissible.
To give notice of this decision to the parties.
To publish this decision and to include it in its Annual Report to
the General Assembly of the OAS.
Adopted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the 5th day of March, 2001. (Signed): Claudio Grossman, Chairman; Juan Méndez, First Vice-Chairman; Marta Altolaguirre, Second Vice-Chairman; Commissioners Hélio Bicudo, Robert K. Goldman, Peter Laurie, and Julio Prado Vallejo.
Article 49 of the Amparo Law provides that: If,
within twenty-four hours of notification, the responsible authority or
official fails to comply with the judgment, and if the nature of the case
so permits, the Supreme Court of Justice shall call upon the immediate
superior of the responsible authority or official to require that they
enforce the judgment without delay and, if the authority or official has
no superior, said requirement shall be made directly to them.
50 of the Amparo Law stipulates that: When
the judgment is not obeyed in spite of these instructions, the Supreme
Court of Justice shall inform the office of the President of the Republic
so that said office may order compliance therewith, and it shall inform
also the National Assembly; irrespective of this, the office of the Attorney
General may also be informed for the appropriate actions to be taken.
This shall also apply in cases in which suspensions ordered by the Court
of Appeals or the Supreme Court of Justice are not obeyed.
The case documents at the IACHR contain a copy of the request for a foreign
citizens residence permit dated June 6, 1993.
Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Series C: Decisions and Judgments
Nº 4, Velásquez Rodríguez Case; Judgment of July 29, 1988, paragraph
Nationality is related to the concept of the nation. A national of a state
is that individual who belongs to a particular group and shares common
factorsorigin, history, customs, language, or awareness of a common
destinyalthough he does not necessary belong to the State. Nationality
is a cultural and historical binding that unites the individual with the
Nation. There is an element of racial, political, and institutional solidarity
that constitutes the nation. It is the status of a person born into or
naturalized by a nation.
The 1917 Convention on Citizenship was ratified on October 16, 1923, enacted
by Law Nº 2531 of October 18, 1923, and published in Italys Official
Gazette Nº 293 on December 14, 1923.
The citizen is the subject of the political rights he enjoys, exercising
them within the government of a country. When sovereignty is wielded by
the people and the people give their consent and choose their rulers,
states have to decide who can enjoy that sovereignty. This leads to the
emergence of citizenship or of the concept of a citizen of a self-governing
state. Citizenship is the bond between the individual and the legally
established state, within which the individual perpetuates his sovereignty
as an entity of the state.
Resident: A person who remains in a place with the idea of staying there
indefinitely, with his family, and in order to pursue his professional
activities or for retirement. The terms citizen and resident can be distinguished
as follows: the words citizen and resident are not interchangeable when
other political entities (e.g., cities) are the frame of reference, for
citizen implies political allegiance and a corresponding protection by
the state, whereas resident denotes merely that one lives in a certain
See communication from the Nicaraguan State, dated October 7, 1999; Resolution
The case file with the IACHR contains a list of admissions to and departures
from Nicaragua. See communication from the Nicaraguan Government, October
18, 1999, folder 3.
Article 20 of Nicaraguas 1987 Constitution provided that: No
national may be deprived of his nationality, except when he voluntarily
acquires another; neither shall he lose his Nicaraguan nationality when
he acquires the nationality of another Central American country or a dual
nationality agreement applies.
 Law 330, published in the official journal on January 19, 2000.