By Ken Richards
NEW YORK, USA (WINN) -- A legal officer attached to the New York-based Open Society Foundations says her organization is very concerned about the September ruling of the constitutional court in the Dominican Republic that in essence makes hundreds of thousands of Dominicans stateless. The majority of those affected are Dominicans of Haitian descent.
Laura Bingham of the Open Society Justice Initiative said suggestions by some of those affected that the move is racist is not without merit.
“Absolutely it’s part of the problem. This is why there is so much distaste for this decision. And I don’t think it’s just intimated in the ruling, you know I think it’s direct there, it’s naked, it’s very obvious. There’s even a clause in the ruling that directly links nationality as a legal concept with notions of race and language, which is really quite frightening,” Bingham told WINN FM.
She added “There’s every reason to view this as a racially discriminatory denationalization, which is why it is so clearly in violation of international legal norms.”
Santo Domingo-based journalist Jean Michel Caroit, in an earlier interview with WINN FM, suggested that the denial of rights to Dominicans of Haitian descent was being pushed primarily by a small but influential right wing group attempting to define Dominicans based on a racist criteria.
St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Denzil Douglas told WINN FM recently that the government in Santo Domingo could enhance its chances of becoming a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) by addressing the problem of statelessness being created for some of that country’s nationals.
Douglas said Dominicans who have a right to citizenship in Basseterre would not be discriminated against. Until 2004, all children born in the Dominican Republic enjoyed a constitutional right to Dominican nationality.
That meant that many children of Haitian migrants born in the Dominican Republic were recognized as Dominican and, as such, provided with Dominican identity documents. That has been changed by the constitutional court ruling. There are estimated to be over half a million Dominicans of Haitian descent, and a UN-backed study released this year estimated that there are nearly 210,000 first generation Dominican-born people of Haitian descent. These over 200,000 people are likely to be affected by a ruling that critics, including the Open Society Foundations, say will make them stateless.
Republished with permission of West Indies News Network