Press Release

IACHR Publishes Report on the Human Rights Situation in Dominican Republic

February 9, 2016

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Washington, D.C. –  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) publishes today the “Report on the Human Rights Situation in Dominican Republic,” which analyzes the situation of the right to nationality, juridical personality, equality and non-discrimination, as well as other human rights violations that resulted from judgement 168/13 of the Constitutional Tribunal, as well as the measures implemented in the aftermath by the Dominican Republic, such as Law 169/14 and the National Plan of Regularization of Migrants.

The report particularly focuses on the serious situation of persons of Haitian descent born in Dominican territory or persons perceived as being of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic, especially after the delivery of judgement 168/13 of the Constitutional Tribunal. The said ruling retroactively redefined the criteria for acquiring citizenship by the application of the principle of jus soli since the Constitution of 1929. The criteria adopted by the Constitutional Tribunal disproportionally affected persons of Haitian descent and retroactively deprived them of nationality, relegating them to the status of stateless persons.

In the last few decades, the Central Electoral Board refused to register the birth of a large number of persons born in the Dominican Republic. It was a widespread practice to refuse to deliver identity cards. These persons were then arbitrarily deported and collective expulsions were also recorded. Even persons to whom the Dominican State had recognized their Dominican nationality, to whom authorities had issued birth certificates, identity cards and passports, were expelled from the country. It was in this context that the Constitutional Tribunal issued judgement 168/13, advancing the process of de-nationalization which had been taking place for decades through practices and administrative decisions of the Central Electoral Board of the Dominican Republic.

“This situation takes place in a context of historical discrimination that, in different spheres, face Dominicans of Haitian descent,” said the Rapporteur on the Rights of Afro-Descendants, Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay. “This historical discrimination has been evident in policies, laws, judgements and practices that tend to deprive them of their right to Dominican nationality on the basis of criteria such as the colour of their skin, the national origin of their parents or grandparents, their last names or their linguistic ability to speak Spanish. This constitutes a violation of the right to equality and non-discrimination, which generates the violation of other rights,” she said. During the visit, the IACHR confirmed the conditions of poverty, exclusion and discrimination of the habitants of the bateyes, who are Haitian immigrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent.

On her part, the IACHR Rapporteur for Dominican Republic, Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, said: “The lack of recognition of the juridical personality of the affected persons has placed them in a situation of disadvantage in the exercise of some of their human rights, as well as the situation of extreme vulnerability to be victims of violations of other multiple human rights. This sentence has caused the retroactive de-nationalization of hundreds of thousands of persons, denying them the capacity to have rights.”

On his part, the Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants, under whose mandate is the protection of the rights of stateless persons, Commissioner Enrique Gil Botero, said: “The situation of statelessness generated by judgement 168/13 that has not yet been completely corrected after the measures adopted by the Dominican State, is of a magnitude never before seen in the Americas.”

The report also analyzes the actions taken by the Dominican Republic to address the consequences of judgement 168/13, in particular Law 169-14. The Commission rejects the fundamentals that gave rise to this law, but it recognizes the practical importance of restoring Dominican nationality to the persons who had been registered, and who afterwards retroactively lost their nationality due to the judgement. However, the report rejects the stance that persons born in Dominican territory who, according with Dominican legislation were entitled to Dominican nationality, are treated as foreigners,” and that there is still no mechanism available to completely restore such nationality to them and to their descendants.

Finally, the IACHR is concerned over the levels of violence that resulted from an increase of intolerance and racist discourse in the Dominican Republic, as well as the public threats and the acts of aggression against persons that publicly criticized judgement 168/13.

Among the recommendations of the report, the Commission urges the Dominican State to adopt the necessary measures to prevent judgment 168/13 from continuing to have legal effects and to fully restore the right to nationality to all those affected by the said judgment. In addition, the State must void all legal effects the provisions of Law 169-14 which are based on considering as foreigners people who were born in the Dominican Republic as children of irregular migrants, born when the principle of jus soli was still applicable in the Dominican Republic. This is mandatory because the current law implies a retroactive deprivation of nationality. The IACHR also urges that an end be put to the practices of denying Dominican nationality to persons born in the territory based on the origin of their parents or ancestors, or the migratory status of their parents.

The Commission reiterates its commitment to collaborate with the Dominican State in the search for solutions to the problems identified, and to assist with the implementation of the recommendations made by the present report, drafted in a constructive and co-operative spirit. The IACHR is at the disposal of the State to, within its mandate and functions, co-operate with the Dominican Republic to ensure that the current legal framework and its implementation by Dominican authorities will guarantee the effective exercise of human rights for all persons, pursuant to the international human rights obligations of the State.

The Commission thanks the government of President Danilo Medina and the people of Dominican Republic for facilitating this visit. In particular, the Inter-American Commission values and appreciates the support and information provided by government authorities, affected persons, and civil society organizations, as well as the information provided before, during and after the visit. The Commission regrets the Constitutional Court’s decision to refuse to meet with the Commission during the visit. Finally, the Commission especially appreciates and thanks the 3,342 persons who met with the delegation to present their testimony, petitions and information.

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. 010/16