Caricom ups pressure on DR over ruling that strips citizenship from thousands

Caricom is suspending consideration of the Dominican Republic’s (DR)  request for membership of the community and reviewing ties with it in other fora over the Santo Domingo court ruling that strips citizenship from tens of thousands of persons mostly of Haitian descent.

The court ruling of September 23, 2013 has angered the region and Caricom – of which Haiti is a member – had been under severe pressure to take strong action against the Dominican Republic following an October statement which only condemned the ruling but took no action.

A meeting of the Caricom Bureau of Heads yesterday in Trinidad and Tobago delivered a stinging rebuke to Santo Domingo and called on the global and regional community to pressure its government to ensure the “jaundiced” decision of the constitutional court isn’t allowed to stand.

Caricom chairman Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, right, greets Haitian President Michel Martelly during a special meeting of Caricom at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, Port of Spain, yesterday
Caricom chairman Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, right, greets Haitian President Michel Martelly during a special meeting of Caricom at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, Port of Spain, yesterday

Apart from suspending consideration of the membership request,  Caricom will review its relationship with the DR in other fora including that of CARIFORUM, CELAC and the OAS.

“It cannot be business as usual”, Caricom declared following the meeting which comprised current chairman, Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, incoming chairman Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves and immediate past chair President of Haiti Michel Martelly.   Gonsalves has been in the forefront of the campaign for tough action against the DR.

The Caricom statement came despite a last-ditch effort by DR President Danilo Medina to stave off any drastic action. According to Persad-Bissessar’s speaking notes at a press conference following the bureau meeting, Medina sent a communication yesterday morning saying that the DR would not deport any of the persons affected by the ruling of the court and that measures would be taken to ensure that no one was deported.  The Trinidad PM said that Caricom expects that these assurances will be honoured.

Describing the court ruling as abhorrent and discriminatory, yesterday’s Caricom statement said that it retroactively deprives tens of thousands of Dominicans, mostly of Haitian descent, of citizenship rendering them stateless and with no recourse to appeal

“It is especially repugnant that the ruling ignores the 2005 judgment made by the Inter-American Court on Human Rights (IACHR) that the Dominican Republic adapt its immigration laws and practices in accordance with the provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights. The ruling also violates the Dominican Republic’s international human rights obligations. Furthermore, the ruling has created an environment where, with the abrogation of rights that flow from citizenship, arbitrariness can flourish as illustrated by recent media reports of the forced deportation to Haiti of persons claiming to be Dominican and with no linguistic or familial ties to that country”, the statement added.

Caricom repeated its call for the DR to take the necessary steps urgently to “redress the grave humanitarian situation created by the ruling.” The Community also called on regional and hemispheric countries and organisations to urge the DR to “right this terrible wrong”.

The community welcomed the intervention by Venezuela to assist in resolving the issue but said that given the serious humanitarian implications of the court ruling it could not cannot allow its relationship with the DR to continue as normal.

“In that regard, the Community, at this time, will suspend consideration of the request by the Dominican Republic for membership of the Caribbean Community. Furthermore, the Community will review its relationship with the Dominican Republic in other fora including that of CARIFORUM, CELAC and the OAS. It cannot be business as usual”, the statement declared.

Caricom said it supports the visit of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights and will request an advisory opinion from the Inter American Court of Human Rights. The Community will also weigh the introduction of a Resolution at the United Nations General Assembly condemning the ruling.

“Moreover we call on the global and regional community to pressure the government of the Dominican Republic to adopt urgent measures to ensure that the jaundiced decision of the Constitutional Court does not stand and that the full citizenship rights of persons of Haitian descent, born in the Dominican Republic are guaranteed”, the statement appealed.

Caricom said it is prepared to engage the DR but its government must show good faith by taking immediate credible steps as part of an overall plan to resolve the nationality and attendant issues rapidly.

Persaud-Bissessar in the notes for the press conference pointed out that the Dominican Constitution up to 2010 recognised in principle, that in keeping with the legal principle of jus solis “all persons born in the territory of the  Dominican Republic” are Dominican citizens. However, she noted that a loophole allowed the authorities to deny the children of undocumented persons with such citizenship since they were judged to be ‘in transit’.

This exclusion, she pointed out, was  normally applicable only to diplomats or tourists but was extended to undocumented  persons of Haitian descent despite the fact that many parents have been in the country for years rather than the ten days specified elsewhere in the Constitution as a reasonable period to be ‘in transit’.

The T&T PM said that in relation to the 2005 case of Yean and Bosico v Dominican Republic, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found that the DR had acted contrary to the best interests of the child in denying Yean and Bosico birth certificates, “which amounted to a violation of their rights to a nationality and the equal protection under Articles 20 and 24 of the American Convention on Human Rights. The Court also noted that Article 18 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) had been violated as they were not recognized by the country they lived in and could not receive social assistance.”

The PM said that CARICOM is gravely concerned that people without documents face the jeopardy of summary deportation, without right of appeal, to a country that the deportee has never seen before and where economic opportunities are virtually non-existent.  She said that Caricom had reviewed the ruling of the DR Constitutional Court which has directed the Government to develop, within 90 days, a national plan for the regularization of illegal aliens and  then to implement it.  Caricom she said is also concern over the requirement of the Central Electoral Board to turn the list of aliens illegally registered in the Civil Registry over to the Ministry of the Interior and the Police.

In its October 17 statement, Caricom had called on the Dominican Republic to adopt measures to protect the human rights of those made vulnerable following the September 23 ruling.

“The implications of tens of thousands of persons being plunged into a constitutional, legal and administrative vacuum by the ruling are a source of deep distress to those affected and one of significant disquiet for our Community,” the October 17 statement had said.

Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the island of Hispaniola and have historically had tense relations.

Caricom chairman Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, right, greets Haitian President Michel Martelly during a special meeting of Caricom at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, Port of Spain, yesterday

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