Press Release

IACHR Condemns Judgment of the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic

November 6, 2014

Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the November 4, 2014, decision of the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic, Judgment TC/0256/14, which declared unconstitutional the instrument accepting the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which was deposited with the Organization of American States (OAS) on March 25, 1999. The Constitutional Court’s judgment has no basis whatsoever in international law, and therefore it can have no effect.

During the more than 15 years that its acceptance of the Inter-American Court’s jurisdiction has been in effect, the Dominican Republic has acted on provisional measures and contentious cases presented to the Inter-American Court concerning  violations of the American Convention that occurred or continued to occur after March 25, 1999. The Constitutional Court’s invocation of the exception contained in Article 46 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties—by which a manifest violation of a rule of its internal law that is of “fundamental importance” may be argued as invalidating its consent—is clearly incompatible with treaty law, particularly with the principles of good faith and estoppel. Under the principle of estoppel, a State that has adopted a certain position that has legal consequences may not subsequently adopt a different position that contradicts the first one and changes the grounds on which the other party based its actions.

There is also no basis in international law by which the judgment of the Constitutional Court may be understood to have effect in the future. The American Convention does not establish the possibility that a State that continues to be a party to the treaty can release itself from the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court. That is the interpretation of the Inter-American Court itself, which is responsible for determining the scope of its own jurisdiction. As the Inter-American Court has stated, absent an express provision, interpreting the American Convention as limiting the scope of the Court’s jurisdiction would run contrary to the object and purpose of international human rights protections.

The Inter-American Commission also expresses its profound concern over the Dominican government’s statement of October 23, 2014, in which it indicated that it was rejecting the judgment delivered by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on August 28, 2014, in the Case of Expelled Dominicans and Haitians v. Dominican Republic. The problems addressed in this judgment have been monitored by the Inter-American Commission for more than two decades through visits, country reports, hearings, precautionary measures, petitions, and cases. The most recent visit took place in December 2013. The Inter-American Court has issued four judgments against the Dominican Republic, of which three concerned this subject.

The Dominican government’s rejection of the August 28 judgment took place in a context in which the Dominican Republic has failed to comply with several of the inter-American system’s decisions, especially those related to human rights violations that result from structural discrimination against persons of Haitian descent who live in the country. In the same statement, the Dominican State expressed its commitment to the inter-American system. However, by failing to recognize its human rights obligations, which it incurred voluntarily through sovereign decisions and actions, the Dominican State contradicts its stated commitment. This type of action undermines the international human rights protections of those under the Dominican State’s jurisdiction.

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 area. 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. 130/14