By Joseph Guyler Delva
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) -- New violence staged by Dominicans against Haitians living in the Dominican Republic could further jeopardize the already tense relations that exist between Haiti and the neighbouring Caribbean country, which are already engaged in difficult talks over a controversial Dominican constitutional court ruling.
According to several reports from the Dominican town of Neyba, at least four Haitians were killed by Dominican citizens acting in reprisal to the killing on Saturday evening of a Dominican couple, blamed on Haitians.
One Haitian was immediately killed after the death of the couple was reported, even though the circumstances surrounding the fatalities until late Monday evening remained unclear.
"A lady told us her husband was killed under her yes and we have witnesses who confirmed they were forced to bury two Haitians who were killed," Jean-Baptiste Asolin, a refugee rights advocate working on the case, told HCNN on Monday.
Asolin, who is the deputy coordinator for the Support Group for Repatriated Refugees (GARR), said four other people are reported killed, but the organization still has to confirm these deaths.
Interior Minister David Bazile
Haitian Interior Minister David Bazile said representatives of the Haitian government are collecting information on the field and a report will be released soon in order to clarify the situation and to determine further steps to take.
Haiti and the Dominican Republic are already debating a very thorny issue regarding a recent constitutional court ruling that strips citizenship from several hundred thousand Dominicans of Haitian descent, a decision that has caused a very uncomfortable situation between the two countries sharing the island.
After the incidents, Dominican Republic authorities deported 347 Haitians, many of whom had taken refuge in the police precinct in Neyba, after been terrorized attacked or threatened to death and chased by angry Dominicans.
Several witnesses said the death toll is higher and could reach up to 34 victims, but the Haitian interior minister said such figures have not been confirmed. He called on angry Haitians to refrain from taking any sort of revenge, as some voices have emotionally suggested.
"We are asking all Haitians to remain calm and to act responsibly toward Dominicans living here," Bazile told HCNN.
"There is a problem and the government is dealing with it through the appropriate channels and the idea of considering any attack on Dominicans won't be tolerated and will be punished," he said.
The chairman of Haiti's Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Wencessclass Lambert, said a delegation of Haitian lawmakers will travel to the Dominican Republic to investigate the reported killings.
"I am going to meet with the chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee at the lower chamber, Abel Descollines to plan a fact-finding mission to Neyba in order to determine exactly what happened," said Lambert who has already condemned the reported reprisals on Haitians.
Meanwhile, the Dominican Republic's government has denied that several Haitians were killed during the violent incidents.
In a press release issued on Tuesday, the Dominican Embassy in Haiti reported that only one Haitian national, Andres Pierre, known as "Coito Pie", was killed by a group of people who were outraged because of the crime he had committed against Jose Mendez and his wife Luja Encarnacion diaz.
Another individual of Haitian origin, Papo Sani, is also accused in the murder, Dominican officials said.
According to the press release, the alleged murderers meant to rob the victim couple of part of their coffee crop.
"Under the influence of anger, some Dominicans have threatened to kill other Haitian nationals, reason why many of them feel threatened, abandoned their homes to seek refuge in the military base of the place where they received military protection," the communiqué read.
Dominican Republic ambassador to Haiti, Ruben Silie Valdes
At the request of those who felt persecuted, the military accompanied them to the border of Jimani-Malpasse to help them get to Haiti, according to Dominican officials.
"This sudden exit suggests that the Dominican Republic, is currently conducting a massive deportation of Haitian workers and this is not the case," said the Dominican government.
Several hundred people, including more than one hundred children were repatriated to Haiti on Saturday and Sunday.
The Dominican ambassador to Haiti, Ruben Silie Valdes, said the repatriations were not linked in any way with the recent constitutional court ruling.
Dominican officials said the situation in the Municipality of Neyba is, at the moment, under the control of the authorities and efforts are made to ensure that calm returns in the community.
Many fear the new developments could further jeopardize efforts by both countries and governments to overcome pending contentious matters.