Press Release

IACHR Takes Case Involving Dominican Republic to the IA Court HR

July 18, 2012

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case No. 12.271, Benito Tide Méndez et al., Dominican Republic.

The facts of this case refer to the arbitrary detention and summary expulsion from the territory of Dominican Republic into Haiti of Benito Tide Méndez, William Medina Ferreras, Lilia Jean Pierre, Jeanty Fils-Aime, Janise Midi, Ana Virginia Nolasco, Andrea Alezy, Rafaelito Pérez Charles, Víctor Jean, Marlene Mesidor, and the children Wilda Medina, Luis Ney Medina, Carolina Isabel Medina, Nene Fils-Aime, Antonio Fils-Aime, Diane Fils-Aime, Marilobi Fils-Aime, Endry Fils-Aime, Andren Fils-Aime, Juan Fils-Aime, Ana Lidia Sensión, Reyita Antonia Sensión, Berson Gelin, McKenson Jean, Victoria Jean, Miguel Jean, and Nathalie Jean.

The summary expulsions occurred in a context of collective and mass expulsions of individuals, affecting both Dominicans and foreigners and both documented and undocumented persons who had their permanent residence in the country and strong employment and familial ties with the Dominican Republic. Phenotypical characteristics and a darker skin color were decisive factors when individuals were selected for detention and subsequent expulsion, indicating a pattern of discrimination. All the victims of the case were expelled to Haiti.

The repatriation procedure in effect at the time of these events was not applied to the victims in this case, but rather that these were de facto expulsions without any legal support or subsequent administrative or judicial review, based on racial prejudices. The victims were not provided with legal assistance, did not have the opportunity to appeal the decision, nor was there any order from a competent, independent, and impartial authority ruling on their deportation.

Some of the expelled victims were Dominican nationals and had the relevant documentation to demonstrate that status. However, during their arbitrary detention and expulsion, the victims did not have a formal opportunity to present that documentation. In those cases where it was presented, it was destroyed by the Dominican officials. The existance of a series of impediments preventing the Haitian migrants from regularizing their legal situation in the country and registering their children born in Dominican territory constituted an arbitrary deprivation of citizenship that fostered the detention and possible deportation of nationals and placed the victims in a situation of extreme risk and vulnerability.

The case was sent to the IA Court HR on June 10, 2012, because the Commission considered that the State had not complied with the recommendations contained in its Report on the Merits. In that report, the Inter-American Commission recommended the State to allow the return to Dominican Republic of all the victims that are still in Haiti; to recognize the Dominican citizenship and provide or replace all the necessary documentation certifying them as Dominican citizens, or provide with the necessary documentation certifying that they were born in Dominican territory and move forward with the procedures necessary to recognize their Dominican citizenship, or ensure that they are able to continue to live as legal residents in Dominican territory with their families, according to each case; to pay an integral compensation to the victims or their successors in title; to publicly acknowledge the violations established in the case; to eradicate the practice of sweeps or immigration control techniques that rely on racial profiling; to ensure that the Dominican authorities who perform immigration-related functions receive intensive training in human rights; to investigate the facts of this case, determine who is responsible for the violations proven and establish the necessary sanctions; and to establish effective judicial remedies for cases of human rights violations committed in expulsion or deportation proceedings and procedures. In addition, the IACHR recommended Dominican Republic to adopt measures of non repetition in order to cease the practice of collective expulsions and deportations, adjust the repatriation procedures to conform to domestic law and international human rights standards; to review domestic legislation on inscription and granting of nationality to persons of Haitian descent born in Dominican territory; to repeal those provisions that directly or indirectly have a discriminatory impact based on the race or national origin.

The State ratified the American Convention on Human Rights on April 19, 1978 and accepted the contentious jurisdiction of the Court on March 25, 1999. The Inter-American Commission submitted to the jurisdiction of the Court the facts and violations of human rights incurred by the State that have continued since the acceptance of the contencious competence of the Tribunal, that is, the situation of impunity in which the violations of this case continue, the arbitrary detention and summary expulsion of Berson Gelin, Andrea Alezy, Rafaelito Pérez Charles, and the families Medina Ferreras, Fils-Aime and Jean, as well as the effects of the summary expulsion of Ana Virginia Nolasco, Ana Lidia Sensión and Reyita Antonia Sensión.

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. 91/12