UK home secretary wants to overturn human rights treaties and make terror suspects stateless

Under international human rights conventions, nations are not allowed to withdraw their passports from citizens if doing so would leave them stateless. Theresa May, the UK home secretary, has asked her staff to find a way around this, so that British citizens who are accused of terrorism can have their passports withdrawn while they are travelling abroad, rendering them stateless, with no way to return home to Britain.

She has repeatedly said that a UK passport is a "privilege, not a right". Whitehall sources have reportedly said May believes it cannot be right that a person who has enjoyed the benefits of becoming a UK citizen should keep their passport if they act in a way that is "totally at odds" with British values.

The Financial Times reported that May had asked officials to find a way of overturning international human rights conventions that prevent individuals with only one citizenship from being made stateless. The necessary change to the law could be enshrined in an amendment to the immigration bill now going through parliament.

Human rights campaigners criticised the move, saying it legitimised the tactic of states such as Zimbabwe of using statelessness to clamp down on political dissent.

Theresa May plans new powers to make British terror suspects stateless [Alan Travis/The Guardian]