WASHINGTON, USA -- The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) on Wednesday considered, at the request of the permanent mission of St Vincent and the Grenadines, the decision of the constitutional court of the Dominican Republic on September 23 on the legal status of immigrants and their descendants in the country.
During a regular meeting at the OAS headquarters in Washington, DC, the Council also elevated to the General Assembly the draft resolution of the budget of the Organization for 2014 and bid farewell to the permanent representative of Paraguay, Martin Sannemann.
The permanent representative of Haiti to the OAS, Duly Brutus, said his country has expressed its deepest concerns about the negative consequences of the decision of the Dominican constitutional court, which particularly affects his country, with a large community of immigrants in the Dominican Republic.
The Haitian diplomat described as "truly alarming" the possibility that, as a result of the ruling, many citizens who were Dominicans before the court’s ruling could find themselves, from one day to the next, stateless. Brutus called on member states to seek a solution to the problem and said, "The Organization of American States has been at the forefront when it comes to defending the interests of the voiceless.”
During the discussion of the case, Haiti had the express support of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), whose spokesperson was the permanent representative of St Vincent and the Grenadines, La Celia Prince.
Prince, who had requested the inclusion of the item on the agenda, said, "This issue, a domestic issue, is of interest to us in that it directly impacts the lives of fellow human beings, citizens of our Hemisphere and more specifically members of our Diaspora."
The decision of the tribunal, said the ambassador, "strips tens of thousands of people of rights which they have enjoyed from birth and gives them no recourse to appeal."
Moreover, the Caribbean representative argued that the court's decision violated the constitution of the Dominican Republic, and invoked the relevance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of Children.
For his part, the legal adviser to the executive of the Dominican Republic, Ramón Pina Toribio, said, “Our government always advocated and has developed relationships of profound respect and brotherhood with other nations, and especially with the Republic of Haiti."
"We want to emphasize that the Dominican government will not allow the violation of the fundamental rights of people that are protected by our laws as a result of this judgment or any other," he said.
He added, "To ensure this is so, an effective protection of these rights will be carried out, so that due process is respected at all times. Also, to achieve the best results, we are completely open to receive the support of countries and international organizations that decide to help us in this task."
Pina Toribio noted that the constitutional court's judgments are, in the Dominican Republic "irrevocable and final. They constitute binding precedents for the government and all organs of the state."
Pina explained that, in 2005, the supreme court had already determined that "the children of those who cannot justify their legal entry or stay in the country cannot benefit from this right."
The constitutional court now agrees, continued the Dominican representative, with the interpretation of the article of the constitution which states that "Dominican nationality is acquired, among other ways, by birth in the territory of the Dominican Republic, with the exception of the children of foreigners residing in the country, diplomatic representation, or those in transit."
The secretary general of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, explained that the Organization, through its Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a statement on the court's decision and noted that the IACHR will soon visit the Dominican Republic to learn about the case on site.
The OAS leader highlighted the "full disposition of the Dominican authority" to receive the Commission, and informed the Permanent Council about the conversations he held on the matter with the foreign minister of Haiti, the president of the Dominican Republic and the prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, among others.
Insulza explained that two issues converge in the case: "No one can be deprived of their nationality, and therefore there is a human rights problem. But we also have an institutional problem. The Organization of American States is governed by the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which among other things, institutionalizes the rule of law and respect for the independence of the branches of government. And in this case there is no doubt that this is a statement that has been issued by a constitutional court of a state under its own domestic law. I think this is best dealt with through the human rights system, and that this issue is properly the responsibility of the Commission and the court."
"We will continue to work on this issue with the Inter-American Commission in consultation with the Council doing everything possible, without any actions that would mean a break in dialogue," said the secretary general, "because we have to find a solution with the maximum degree of agreement, the maximum degree of openness and the maximum degree of goodwill. That has been and remains the conduct of this Organization.”