IACHR Press Office
Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is marking the 10-year anniversary of the Dominican Republic's Constitutional Court decision TC/0168/13, which led to an arbitrary deprivation of Dominican nationality for a significant number of individuals and left those who were not considered nationals of other States stateless, and calls on the Dominican State to take effective action to restore the right to a nationality for those individuals who remain stateless, as well as to refrain from adopting further legislation, public policies, and/or administrative or judicial standards that increase the risk of statelessness in the Dominican Republic.
The Commission has been monitoring the situation of Dominican persons of Haitian descent living in the Dominican Republic. In 2019, the IACHR welcomed State reports of action taken related, among others, to the acquisition of nationality and migration, in the context of the Working Group on the Implementation of Public Policies Regarding Human Rights. At the same time, noted that several State tasks remained pending and that certain challenges continued to prevent full compliance.
According to information provided by the State, in application of Act 169-14, the legal status prior to ruling TC/0168/13 was restored and it was ordered to issue Dominican identity documents to 60,773 people identified by the Central Electoral Board (JCE). Of them, only 26,123 people picked up their documents, while the remaining 34,610 people had not turned up to collect them. The State said that 7,159 other individuals had been authorized to register with the National Regularization Plan for Foreigners (PNRE), a precondition to apply for naturalization after two years. As reported, after purging files, presidential decrees 262-20 and 297-21 were issued, granting naturalization to 799 people. In the context of these proceedings, the State is currently allegedly in the process of reopening the office in charge of delivering the identity documents that enable these individuals to remain in the country regularly.
The State also noted the commitment of the Dominican government to solve the issues concerning nationality, primarily through the implementation of the Act 169-14 given the importance of addressing the matter in a fair and equitable manner. In addition, it expressed its firm commitment to promoting policies and programs that encourage inclusion, equality and non-discrimination, and respect for the ethnic and racial diversity of the Dominican society.
For its part, civil society warned that more than 34,000 individuals had not had their Dominican identity documents restored, although Act 169-14 went into force in 2014 to restore the Dominican nationality to individuals mentioned in Article 1(a) of the Act and although the Act required that this procedure be swift and not involve any additional requirements. Civil society also noted that 799 individuals who had registered with the PNRE were yet to receive the documents that would prove their nationality despite having benefited from the required presidential decree on naturalization, while 1,000 further people were awaiting the relevant decrees.
The IACHR notes with concern that the revocation of the Dominican nationality for individuals—most of them of Haitian descent—who had been born in the Dominican Republic since 1929 led to cases of intergenerational statelessness affecting the children of individuals whose migration status was irregular because they did not have access to the Dominican nationality. The lack of identity documents has led children to drop out of school. These children have entered the labor market at a very early age, and young girls have faced heightened risks of entering abusive relationships or being subjected to human trafficking due to the precarious socioeconomic conditions in which they live. The lack of access to residency permit renewals also restricts access to formal employment, birth registrations, and freedom of movement.
Available reports further note that hostility persists against individuals who have criticized TC/0168/13 and who have spoken up in favor of the right to a nationality of Dominican persons of Haitian descent. There are also reports saying that racism and xenophobia have increased. It is worth highlighting that racial and ethnic prejudice can seriously affect the right to a nationality, even when they not formally mentioned in legislation. The exclusion and marginalization cycle that is triggered by statelessness precludes access to human rights for several generations.
The IACHR stresses that all individuals have the right to the nationality of the State where they are born if they do not have the right to another nationality, and the State must further protect the right to a nationality in cases where individuals would otherwise be left stateless, in keeping with Resolution 04/19, Inter-American Principles on the Human Rights of All Migrants, Refugees, Stateless Persons, and Victims of Human Trafficking. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has said that the principle of non-discrimination requires that, while regulating mechanisms to grant nationality, States must refrain from adopting regulations that are discriminatory or have discriminatory effects.
The vulnerability and invisibility of the affected individuals leads them to face barriers for the effective enjoyment of their rights, particularly the rights to access employment, social security, healthcare, and education. The IACHR calls on the Dominican Republic to take effective action to restore the right to a nationality of all individuals affected by TC/0168/13 decision. All measures adopted in this context must take differentiated, intersectional, and intercultural approaches to provide protection and to eradicate discriminatory barriers that prevent the exercise of the right to a nationality and the right to naturalization.
The State of the Dominican Republic must support stateless persons and provide them with legal, administrative, psychosocial, healthcare, and any other services they require to regularize their situation and to address the impact that long-term and intergenerational statelessness have had on them.
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 and to defend 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.