The Freedom of Movement: A Guaranteed Right

One of the fundamental rights guaranteed by law is the freedom of movement, the law provides that no law can be passed curtailing the freedom of a citizen to go to wherever he wants to go. The freedom of movement is even one of the rights enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to wit: 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 (UN).

However, as with other guaranteed rights, the freedom to travel or the freedom of movement is not absolute and must subscribe to certain rules in certain situations, such as in times of war. Korematsu vs. US: Curtailing the Freedom of Movement The curtailment of the freedom of movement was made evident during the 1940’s when the United States declared war against Japan. During this time, curfews were established and some American citizens with Japanese ancestry were ordered to vacate their residences that were near military bases and were temporarily detained in camps.

These actions became the subject of several lawsuits involving the United States and some citizens of Japanese descent, one case in particular is Toyosarubo Korematsu vs. United States decided on the 18th of December, 1944. In the case of Korematsu vs US, the Court held that the action of ordering Mr. Korematsu because of his Japanese ancestry to leave his place of residence on the strength of Civilian Exclusion Order No. 34 was constitutional. The court goes on to say that:

The military authorities, charged with the primary responsibility of defending our shores, concluded that curfew provided inadequate protection and ordered exclusion. They did so, as pointed out in our Hirabayashi opinion, in accordance with Congressional authority to the military to say who should, and who should not, remain in the threatened areas (Korematsu v US) In fine, what the court was trying to say here was that the greatest factor in ruling in favor of the State was the safety of the country.

The court in this particular case made mention of several instances wherein the freedom of movement was limited in favor of national safety, to wit: We upheld the curfew order as an exercise of the power of the government to take steps necessary to prevent espionage and sabotage in an area threatened by Japanese attack (Korematsu v US) The high court stressed the fact that the continued stay of the citizens with Japanese ancestry inside or so near military bases posed a threat to national security, especially when intelligence reports showed the probable existence of Japanese spies.

The court believes that ordering citizens with Japanese ancestry from entering or living in the prohibited area shall lessen the risk of sabotage, in relation to this development the court stated its opinion in this wise: … we cannot reject as unfounded the judgment of the military authorities and of Congress that there were disloyal members of that population, whose number and strength could not be precisely and quickly ascertained. . . which demanded that prompt and adequate measures be taken to guard against it (Korematsu v US).