Press Release

IACHR Expresses Deep Concern Over Ruling by the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic

October 8, 2013

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its deep concern over Judgment TC/0168, handed down on September 23, 2013, by the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic. The ruling retroactively modifies legislation that was in effect from 1929 to 2010, and thus would strip Dominican citizenship from tens of thousands of people born in the Dominican Republic. In many cases, these individuals could be left stateless, which violates the American Convention on Human Rights. Moreover, this judgment has a disproportionate effect on individuals of Haitian descent.

The case has to do with Juliana Deguis Pierre, who was born in the Dominican Republic of Haitian parents and was registered as a Dominican at birth. The Constitutional Court’s decision found that Juliana Deguis Pierre does not meet the requirements to be registered as a Dominican and that this interpretation must be applied retroactively, stripping her of her citizenship. In addition, the court instructed the authorities to conduct an audit of birth records from June 21, 1929, to the present, in order to identify similar cases and also strip those individuals of their Dominican nationality.

Through its various instruments, the IACHR has repeatedly called on the State to adopt measures to guarantee the right to nationality in the country. In the Inter-American Commission’s report in the Case of the Girls Dilcia Yean and Violeta Bosico v. Dominican Republic, the IACHR recommended that the State adapt its immigration laws and practices in accordance with the provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights.

This decision by the Constitutional Court goes against all the Commission’s pronouncements and violates the State’s international human rights obligations. In addition, the Constitutional Court’s decision casts doubt on the State’s willingness to respond to its international commitments and to the calls made by regional and international human rights bodies.

The Constitutional Court’s decision also goes against the judgment issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the Case of Yean and Bosico, which established that “the migratory status of a person is not transmitted to the children, and the fact that a person has been born on the territory of a State is the only fact that needs to be proved for the acquisition of nationality, in the case of those persons who would not have the right to another nationality if they did not acquire that of the State where they were born.”

Furthermore, the IACHR notes that a survey conducted in 2012 found that 244,151 individuals living in the Dominican Republic were born in the Dominican Republic of a father and/or mother of foreign origin, 209,912 of which are sons or daughters of individuals of Haitian origin. The Inter-American Commission calls to mind that when a State action disproportionately harms a specific group, this constitutes a form of discrimination that violates the State’s international obligations; therefore, the Constitutional Court’s ruling could contravene the right to equal protection and to nondiscrimination.

The Commission must reiterate, once again, its appeals to the Dominican State to respect the right of every person to a nationality, taking into account that the American Convention on Human Rights establishes that “every person has the right to the nationality of the state in whose territory he was born if he does not have the right to any other nationality.” In this regard, the Commission calls on the State to adopt measures to ensure that nobody is arbitrarily deprived of the right to nationality, and that no measures are implemented that would lead to cases of statelessness.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 73/13