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Open letter to CARICOM secretary general
Published on December 18, 2013 Email To Friend    Print Version

3 December 2013

His Excellency Ambassador Irwin La Rocque
Secretary-General
Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat
Turkeyen
P.O. Box 10827
Greater Georgetown
Guyana

Your Excellency,

The Institute of International Relations (IIR) is deeply concerned that the recent Ruling by the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic is yet another attempt, going back at least two decades, to deny systematically the citizenship rights of descendants of Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic.

This ruling violates basic provisions of international law that prohibit the arbitrary denial of nationality. It will have a devastating effect on individuals who are, not Haitians nor illegal migrants but rather, citizens of the Dominican Republic. In effect, this ruling, if fully implemented, has the potential of denationalizing literally hundreds of thousands of people whose human rights will surely be denied, unless the Government of the Dominican Republic steps in to reverse this ruling.

While the IIR notes with interest the interventions of many countries and institutions, especially CARICOM, the OAS, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, Amnesty International and Venezuela, and expresses its appreciation of these efforts, it remains our conviction that firm action, not just rhetoric, is required now at the regional, hemispheric and international levels to address the root cause of this recurring problem which denies protection to the vulnerable population of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic. Interventions on this matter ought to be more concrete and decisive in order to obtain the desired results.

This need for greater affirmative action basically stems from the fact that descendants of Haitian migrants are not only denied legitimate documents but even when these are given they are either arbitrarily taken away from them or rejected on the grounds that these documents were illegally obtained. This leaves this community open to daily harassment and arbitrary deportation in potentially the most abusive ways imaginable.

The handing-down of legal judgments by the IACHR has proven to be ineffective as seen in the recent decision of the IACHR in 2005 in the case of Yean y Bosico. The 2010 Constitution of the Dominican Republic clearly states in Article 74.3 that Human Rights Treaties and Conventions have the same status as the Dominican Constitution.

We, at the IIR, are concerned that the government of the Dominican Republic may not be respecting its own internal law. This is visible in its rejection of Article 110 of the 2010 Constitution of the Dominican Republic which clearly prohibits the retroactive application of laws. In addition, Article 8 Para.2 of the Dominican Constitution provides for the presumption of innocence and the right to a defense for each individual -- something that is not being granted to Dominican citizens of Haitian descent who are treated collectively and not given a hearing before being summarily expulsed from the country. It is universally accepted that people ought to be protected from the arbitrary and abusive action of the State. This "right" is enshrined in Art. 22 of the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights and in Arts. 8, 9 and 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights -- both of which have been adopted by the Dominican Republic.

The above is further compounded by the absence of a proper civil registry in the Dominican Republic where birth and baptismal records are properly maintained and not systematically destroyed at times to deny citizenship. Thus we are concerned about the so-called regularization (naturalization) plan for undocumented "foreigners" which the government of the Dominican Republic formalized by Executive Order 327-13 on November 29, 2013. This "plan" treats Dominicans of Haitian descent as "foreigners", thus putting, their right to nationality, obtained before the 2010 Constitution, under serious threat. Such a plan will fail to guarantee full recognition of the right to nationality of Dominicans of Haitian descent and could create a permanent class of non-citizens. Furthermore, what makes the situation even worse are the xenophobic threats and intimidation that face the community of immigrant descent which in some cases may lead to violence and even death. The current situation has now escalated to the point where descendants of migrants, as well as actual Haitian migrants, are living in fear and are subjected to daily attacks and violations of their human rights.

The IIR is of the firm view that we are confronted not only with a State that does not respect its own national and international legal obligations but also with a potentially explosive situation which can endanger the lives of the population of Haitian descent as well as Haitian migrants. In such a situation the regional and international community should seek to offer meaningful protection to this section of the Dominican Republic's population.

The IIR therefore urges the Dominican Republic to accept an international observer mission from the UN or the OAS that will stay for at least two years, and ensure that the population of Haitian descent as well as that of the Haitian migrant community will not be subject to attacks and other violations; that records verifying birth and residency are properly checked; that mass expulsion be stopped; and that individuals are not denied their right to defend their claim to citizenship. Each Haitian descendant or Haitian migrant must be afforded this opportunity to prove his/her nationality; and the retroactive application of Ruling 168-13 should be rescinded.

The IIR supports the current action of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in the Dominican Republic, as well as CARICOM's decision, under the present circumstances, not to consider the Dominican Republic's application for membership in the Caribbean Community; and the decision to press for the suspension of the Dominican Republic from CARIFORUM and from the PetroCaribe oil concessions. We take note, with satisfaction, the petitions drafted by Jouvay Ayiti and Groundation Grenada that have been signed by over 2,000 people from the Caribbean and elsewhere and which challenge the Dominican Republic's Constitutional Tribunal ruling. We urge the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), CARIFORUM, OAS, the ACP and EU, and the UN not only to issue a strong statement of condemnation of the Dominican Republic's Constitutional Court decision but to act strongly in the interest of protecting those vulnerable individuals who are the targets of this xenophobic decision.

Respectfully,

Professor W. Andy Knight, PhD, FRSC
Director, IIR

Professor Norman Girvan, PhD
Professor Emeritus

Anthony Gonzales, PhD
Honorary Senior Fellow

Mark Kirton, PhD
Senior Lecturer

cc
The Heads of Government of CARICOM
The President of the Dominican Republic
The Head of CELAC
The President of Venezuela
The Secretary General of OAS (and Dr. Riyad Insanally)
The President of the European Council
Principal, St. Augustine Campus
Principal, Mona Campus
Principal, Cave Hill Campus
Principal Open Campus
Vice Chancellor, UWI
Chancellor, UWl
 
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Comments:

Paco Smith:

It is actions such as these which make me proud of my alma mater, the University of the West Indies.

Although I was not a student at the St. Augustine Campus, we believe in "One University...One UWI Family". By virtue of the attached correspondence, the University is acting in accordance with the responsibility attributed to being the premier tertiary level institution in the region.

If the University doesn't speak out against the atrocity being perpetrated in the Dominican Republic, due to its recent UNCONSTITUTIONAL ruling status of those born there, of Haitian descent, it would be as much a tragedy as the farce itself.

Keep up the pressure as you truly embody, "The Light Shining from the West".



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