The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) today considered, at the request of the Permanent Mission of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the decision of the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic on September 23, on the legal status of immigrants and their descendants in the country, during a regular meeting at the OAS headquarters in Washington, DC, in which it also elevated to the General Assembly the draft resolution of the budget of the Organization for 2014 and bid farewell to the Permanent Representative of Paraguay, Martin Sannemann.
The Permanent Representative of Haiti to the OAS, Duly Brutus, said his country has expressed its deepest concerns about the negative consequences of the decision of the Dominican Constitutional Court, which particularly affects his country, with a large colony of immigrants in the Dominican Republic. The Haitian diplomat described as "truly alarming" the possibility that, as a result of the ruling, many citizens who were Dominicans before the Court’s sentence, could find themselves, from one day to the next, stateless. Ambassador Brutus called on member sates to seek a solution to the problem and said "the Organization of American States has been at the forefront when it comes to defending the interests of the voiceless.”
During the discussion of the case, Haiti had the express support of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), whose spokesperson was the Permanent Representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, La Celia Prince. Ambassador Prince, who had requested the inclusion of the item on the agenda, said that "this issue, a domestic issue, is of interest to us in that it directly impacts the lives of fellow human beings, citizens of our Hemisphere and more specifically members of our diaspora." The decision of the Tribunal, said the Ambassador, "strips tens of thousands of people of rights which they have enjoyed from birth and gives them no recourse to appeal." Moreover, the Caribbean representative argued that the Court's decision violated the Constitution of the Dominican Republic, and invoked the relevance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of Children.
For his part, the legal adviser to the Executive of the Dominican Republic, César Ramón Pina Toribio, said “our government always advocated and has developed relationships of profound respect and brotherhood with other nations, and especially with the Republic of Haiti." "We want to emphasize that the Dominican government will not allow the violation of the fundamental rights of people that are protected by our laws as a result of this judgment or any other," he said. He added that "to ensure this is so, an effective protection of these rights will be carried out, so that due process is respected at all times. Also, to achieve the best results, we are completely open to receive the support of countries and international organizations that decide to help us in this task."
Pina Toribio recalled that the Constitutional Court's judgments are, in the Dominican Republic "irrevocable and final. They constitute binding precedents for the government and all organs of the State." Pina explained that in 2005, the Supreme Court had already determined that "the children of those who can not justify their legal entry or stay in the country can not benefit from this right." The Constitutional Court now agrees, continued the Dominican representative, with the interpretation of the article of the Constitution which states that "Dominican nationality is acquired, among other ways, by birth in the territory of the Dominican Republic, with the exception of the children of foreigners residing in the country, diplomatic representation, or those in transit."
The Secretary General of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, explained that the Organization, through its Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a statement on the Court's decision and recalled that the IACHR will soon visit the Dominican Republic to learn about the case on site. The OAS leader highlighted the "full disposition of the Dominican authority" to receive the Commission, and informed the Permanent Council about the conversations he held on the matter with the Foreign Minister of Haiti, the President of the Dominican Republic and the Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, among others.
The leader of the hemispheric Organization explained that two issues converge in the case. "No one can be deprived of their nationality, and therefore there is a human rights problem. But we also have an institutional problem. The Organization of American States is governed by the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which among other things, institutionalizes the rule of law and respect for the independence of the branches of government. And in this case there is no doubt that this is a statement that has been issued by a constitutional court of a state under its own domestic law. I think this is best dealt with through the human rights system, and that this issue is properly the responsibility of the Commission and the Court."
"We will continue to work on this issue with the Inter-American Commission in consultation with the Council doing everything possible, without any actions that would mean a break in dialogue," said the Secretary General, "because we have to find a solution with the maximum degree of agreement, the maximum degree of openness and the maximum degree of goodwill. That has been and remains the conduct of this Organization," said the OAS leader.
In the same regular meeting, the Permanent Council received the report of the Chair of its Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Affairs (CAAP) and Permanent Representative of Canada, Allan Culham, on the negotiations over the 2014 budget. Ambassador Culham explained that the process was based on three principles: zero nominal growth for the total 2014 budget, forcing cuts in all areas of 3.45 percent; avoiding “micromanaging” the powers of the General Secretariat, and respecting the limit of 64.38 percent of the budget that can be devoted to staff costs.
The Council decided to refer the proposed budget and accompanying resolution to the Special General Assembly, the highest organ of the OAS, which is convened tomorrow to consider and possibly approve the measures. The text includes footnotes made by the delegations of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Ecuador on the financing of the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB), and reservations by Bolivia and Brazil.
Farewell to the Ambassador of Paraguay
Also today the Permanent Council bid farewell to the Permanent Representative of Paraguay, Martin Sannemann. The Secretary General stressed that Ambassador Sannemann was barely a year in office, after arriving “in circumstances that were different and difficult, now happily overcome, but he came armed with resources that helped him a lot during the period he was in the OAS: impeccable democratic credentials, a life in the service of human rights and great suffering in his struggle for democracy." "Armed with these powerful resources he made his way, but always defending his position very solidly. I hope that these virtues have a great future in our Americas, and if they do, there is no doubt that he will continue to be present in the politics of his country and the region for a long time," he added.
The Chair of the Permanent Council, Walter Albán, acknowledged the "excellent work" of the outgoing Permanent Representative of Paraguay in his tenure as Chair of the Council between July and September 2013, "a period dedicated to the consideration of sensitive issues for the member states of the OAS." "I admire your candor, your loyalty, your transparency, your desire to contribute to solutions and always seek consensus, and that permanent attitude of good humor and good manners," said Ambassador Albán. As part of the ceremony, the current Chair handed to the Paraguayan diplomat a gavel as a reminder of his time as Chair. He also recognized the work as interim Vice Chair of the Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda, Deborah-Mae Lovell, who now officially holds the Vice Chair.
Ambassador Sannemann expressed his deep gratitude for the praise and said "a year ago I swore to represent my country with dignity. I think I've kept that promise thanks to you, who allowed it to be so." The Paraguayan representative acknowledged that the situation in his country during the year he was in office was "very difficult" and made him "even lose friends," but said he was satisfied with the solution and called on the Council to "move forward in its work, with the review of our objectives in the OAS, for which we have worked so hard, with the effort to make it worthwhile to live with dignity in this Hemisphere.”
At the end of the meeting, the Council approved the composition of the Style Committee for the General Assembly with the following members: Brazil (Portuguese), Haiti (French), the United States (English), and Argentina (Spanish).
A gallery of photos of the event is available here.
The video of the event is available here.
The audio of the event is available here.
For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org.