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The European Convention and the Relative Rights of Resident Aliens

Posted: 22 Feb 2006  

Ruth Rubio-Marin

European University Institute; European University Institute - Department of Law (LAW)

Rory O'Connell

Ulster University - Transitional Justice Institute


In this article we explore the nature of relative and absolute human rights, the fundamental principles of liberal democracy on which those rights are based, and the threats posed to those principles by the traditional understanding of how membership should be decided in a community.

Where relative rights like the right to residential stability and the right to political action are linked exclusively to nationality, and where nationality is defined in an exclusionary or restrictive manner (e.g. it is difficult for long term residents to acquire that nationality), then serious problems emerge for liberal democratic theory. If human rights are to be given genuine protection then the importance of the social and cultural background in which one lives and develops ones personality must be acknowledged. Where one's personal development is linked closely to the social and cultural background, then it would be an affront to liberal democracy to remove someone from that society, or deny them the ability to shape that society's political destiny in cooperation with others.

To avoid the taint of illegitimacy states should either recognise that these rights should not be limited just to nationals, or recognise a right to naturalisation to the benefit of integrated aliens. We demonstrate how the European Convention on Human Rights shares this concern.

Keywords: human rights, aliens, nationality, residence, political rights

JEL Classification: K10

Suggested Citation

Rubio-Marin, Ruth and O'Connell, Rory, The European Convention and the Relative Rights of Resident Aliens. European Law Journal, Vol. 5, No. 4, 1999 . Available at SSRN:

Ruth Rubio-Marin

European University Institute ( email )

Villa Schifanoia
133 via Bocaccio
Firenze (Florence), Tuscany 50014

European University Institute - Department of Law (LAW) ( email )

Via Boccaccio 121 (Villa Schifanoia)
I-50122 Firenze

Rory O'Connell (Contact Author)

Ulster University - Transitional Justice Institute ( email )

Shore Road
Newtownabbey, County Antrim BT37 OQB
Northern Ireland


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