Caribbean Pan-African Network calls for Decisive Action against the Dominican Republic
A human tragedy that threatens to engulf hundreds of thousands of people of Haitian descent is currently unfolding in the Dominican Republic, and we are hereby calling on the political leadership of our Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nations to intervene decisively and to make a concerted attempt to put a halt to it!
On the 25th of September 2013, the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic decreed that between 200,000 and 300,000 persons born in the Dominican Republic of Haitian parentage must be stripped of their Dominican citizenship and the rights that go with it.
According to the Constitutional Court, such people are to be considered “persons in transit” even if they were born in the Dominican Republic and have lived there all their lives.
The Court also ordered the Dominican government to review the birth and citizenship records of all persons going back to 1929, and to cancel the citizenship of all those whose parents had been undocumented immigrants from Haiti. Needless-to-say, President Danilo Medina of the Dominican Republic has undertaken to abide by and implement the Court’s ruling.
What this means is that some 200,000 to 300,000 black people of Haitian descent will now become non-citizens of the Dominican Republic, and will in effect become “stateless” persons. Many, if not most of these people know little or nothing about Haiti – they were not born in Haiti; are not citizens of Haiti; do not speak French or Haitian Kreyol; and may not possess family networks in Haiti that they can connect to!
Now that the Court has made this ruling it is likely that the Dominican birth certificates of these people and their other identification documents will be cancelled or taken away from them, and they will be denied the usual government services of education, health care, housing and the like that are typically reserved for citizens. And ultimately, they will be targeted for deportation!
And it should be noted that the last time there was a governmental crack-down against people of Haitian ethnicity in the Dominican Republic – the 1937 crack-down of President Rafael Trujillo – close to 30,000 persons were massacred! It is this type of scenario that our CARICOM leaders must take urgent steps to forestall!
It goes without saying that the ruling of the Constitutional Court offends several of the important principles of International Law! Ever since the enunciation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, with its ringing pronouncement that “everyone has the right to a nationality” and that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality“, and the establishment of the International Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons in 1954, International Law has taken a stance against any measures that throw people into a state of “statelessness”.
An important International Law measure to avoid “statelessness” is to provide nationality to children born on a country’s national territory, in circumstances in which such children would otherwise be stateless. This norm is stipulated in the 1961 United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. It also appears in several regional human rights treaties, including the American Convention on Human Rights, the European Convention on Nationality, and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the child. The ruling of the Constitutional Court therefore goes against the grain of this entire trend of International Human Rights Law!
The ruling also offends the well known legal principle that prohibits the retroactive application of legislation! The Court’s ruling is actually based on a 2010 law which it has interpreted in such a manner that it is given a retroactive application going back as far as 1929! This is clearly morally, ethically and legally wrong!
Such statements should make it clear to the Dominican Republic that there will be absolutely no chance of`them being permitted to join CARICOM if this policy remains in place.
They should also signal to the Dominican government that the existence of this discriminatory policy will also have negative implications for the continuance of the Dominican Republic’s membership of CARIFORUM – the Caribbean-wide trade negotiating body that comprises CARICOM, the Dominican Republic and Cuba.
Furthermore, if such official pronouncements do not have the desired effect of causing repeal of this noxious policy, then we, the people of the Caribbean, should take matters into our own hands and institute a Caribbean-wide boycott of all products made in the Dominican Republic.
The time has come for us to say enough is enough! The people of Haiti have suffered oppression and discrimination for far too long. We have also had too many centuries and too many manifestations of anti-black racism. It must all stop now! Let us do what is necessary in this case to demonstrate an attitude of zero-tolerance of all manifestations of anti-black racism!
We hereby call upon all Caribbean citizens and civil society organizations to petition and appeal to their governments to take decisive action on this critical issue.