Denationalization and
Statelessness in the
Dominican Republic

Over the years, authorities in the Dominican Republic have adopted a set of practices, standards and judicial decisions directed to denationalize people born in this country who descend from Haitian migrants.

This process of denationalization began with the practice of registry officials in refusing to register the birth of children of Haitian migrants born in the Dominican Republic. Since then, it has gradually expanded through the adoption of various measures, laws, and judicial decisions of other branches of the Dominican State.

With no other nationality, this process has meant that tens of thousands of people have become stateless in Dominican Republic.

IACHR Publishes Report:
"Situation of Human Rights in Dominican Republic"

This report in presented to examine the situation created by judgment 168/13 of the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court on September 23, 2013 with regard to the rights to nationality, legal personality, equality and non-discrimination, as well as other related human rights.

Furthermore, the report will also make recommendations to ensure that the policies, laws and practices of the Dominican Republic are in compliance with the international obligations that the State voluntarily undertook in the area of human rights.

Photo credit: Amy S. Martin

Deprivation of Nationality and Statelessness by the Constitutional Court’s judgment 168/13

In 2013, the Constitutional Court’s judgment 168/13 established that only persons born in the Dominican Republic to Dominican parents or legal residents are consider citizens.

This interpretation was applied retroactively to all persons born between 1929 and 2010: arbitrarily depriving hundreds of thousands of people of Haitian descent, of their Dominican nationality, and created a situation of statelessness of a magnitude never before seen in the Americas.

The criterion established in judgment 168/13, as well as the measures adopted to implement that judgment, come to constitute a crucial stage in this type of historical revisionism promoted by the Dominican authorities, aimed at consolidating an interpretation that establishes that persons born in the Dominican Republic of Haitian parents with an irregular migratory status do not have the right to Dominican nationality.

Photo credit: Daniel Cima para la CIDH

Mamá con su bebé

Photo credit: Álvaro Botero/CIDH

The judgment 168/13 as an Arbitrary Deprivation of Nationality


They are arbitrarily deprived of citizenship because they are migrants, they are people who were born in the Dominican Republic when applied the concept of jus soli –i.e. when someone born in that country was granted citizenship. So much so, that the relevant authorities were given documents. But after the sentence, they took them away.

Structural Discrimination

The reasons underlying the decision taken by the Constitutional Court pertain to a context of structural discrimination based mainly on racial and ethnic criteria, which have disproportionately affected persons of Haitian descent.


This situation has disproportionately affected people of Haitian descent, who frequently are identified as such, correct or incorrectly, based on the national origin or migratory status of their parents, skin color, language ability or surnames, constituting a violation of the right to equality and non-discrimination.

Authority of the States to determine who has a right to be a national is limited by their obligation to prevent, avoid and reduce statelessness.

I/A Court H.R. Case of the Yean and Bosico Girls v. Dominican Republic. Judgment of September 8, 2005.


Racial Discrimination and the Process of Denationalization Against People of Haitian Descent

The Right to Nationality, Collective Expulsions and Racial Profiling

The new interpretation of the Constitutional Court retroactively deprived of their right to Dominican nationality to tens of thousands of people who had been considered Dominican during all of their lifetime, many of which were registered at birth as Dominican nationals by the competent authorities, and who throughout their lives had been granted other identity documents such as identity cards, electoral ID cards and passports.

No Other Option

In many cases, they cannot opt for Haitian nationality either because they are not direct descendants of Haitian nationals.

Collective Expulsions

Dominican Republic has conducted collective expulsions to Haiti where people with Dominican identity cards have been expelled.

Racial Profiling

The identity checks that trigger deportations are not based on a person’s documents, but rely instead on racial profiling, using a phenotypical criterion “of looking Haitian.”
The establishment of racial profiles tends to single out individuals or groups in a discriminatory way based on the erroneous assumption that people with such characteristics are prone to engage in specific types of crimes.

The fact that a person has been born on the territory of a State is the only fact that needs to be proved for the acquisition of nationality, in the case of those persons who would not have the right to another nationality if they did not acquire that of the State where they were born.

I/A Court H.R., Case of the Girls Yean and Bosico v. Dominican Republic. Judgment of September 8, 2005.

Photo credit: Amy S. Martin

"I’m from here the Dominican Republic. I don’t have a birth certificate. I’m in school, in the fourth grade. I don’t feel right, I need the birth certificate, I need to have it. My father is in Haiti and my mother is here. She has a birth certificate. In school, I feel like they my classmates are better than I am, because they have certificates and I don’t. At times my schoolmates make me feel bad, they criticize me by saying, why don’t I have the certificate? I tell them that I don’t have it. I feel bad. They make fun of me. They make me feel like I’m not as good as they are."

Testimony received from an eleven-year-old boy born in the Dominican Republic.

Positive Actions by the Dominican Republic

A very positive development was the direct incorporation into domestic law at constitutional level of international human rights law and all international commitments undertaken by the State in this area, through Constitutional reform of 2010.

The importance of public policies of general application, which have been implemented by the Dominican government to fight poverty and famine. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) highlighted the actions taken by the State to halve the proportion of hungry people in recent years.

The legislative and administrative measures that have been being taken by the Dominican State to prevent and eliminate all forms of racial discrimination, particularly stands out. Similarly, the measures to ensure the rights of children and the rights of people with disabilities were adopted.

The IACHR recognizes that the policies and legislative, administrative, and budgetary measures adopted by the Dominican State in the above areas also benefit Dominicans of Haitian descent.

However, it is of concern that those persons deprived of their nationality, cannot access, in equal conditions, to the programs and policies implemented by the government in the areas indicated above.

Photo credit: Amy S. Martin

Photo credit: Amy S. Martin

IACHR On-site Visit to the Dominican Republic

The IACHR visited the Dominican Republic between December 2 and 6, 2013. The Commission regrets the Constitutional Court’s decision to refuse to meet with the Commission.

3,342 persons turned to the Commission during the visit and made claims concerning their own situation, as well as claims that concerned other persons, usually family members. In all, claims about the situation of 5,092 people were received.

Issuance of Birth Certificates

The situation most frequently reported had to do with the authorities’ refusal to issue birth certificates, which was a complaint made in 1,360 cases.

Registration of Children

Another frequent complaint, cited in 722 cases, concerned persons who could not register before the Civil Registry; in 504 cases, the complaint concerned the parents’ inability to register their children.


A common complaint, made in 280 cases, concerned the inability of seniors to get social security. They found that after years of work and contributions to social security in the Dominican Republic, they could not access their pension.

Migration and Persons of Haitian Descent

Of the persons who explained what they believed were the underlying causes of their complaint, 620 attributed their problem to the fact that they were of Haitian descent; 240 blamed their parents’ irregular migratory status; 50 attributed the problem to their own migratory situation, 27 blamed it on the fact that they had a foreign surname, among others.
In total, 1,843 said that they had been adversely affected by the Constitutional Court’s judgment 168/13.

Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights

Hundreds of persons alleged that as a result of the judgment of the Constitutional Court 168/13 they were unable to enjoy their economic, social and cultural Rights. The Commission received information about 620 cases concerning the right to education, 332 cases concerning the right to work, 280 cases concerning the right to social security and 30 cases concerning the right to health.
Casas en República Dominicana

Photo credit: Sanaa Boutayeb/IACHR

Mujer e hija en ventana en República Dominicana

Photo credit: Daniel Cima for IACHR

Right to Equality and Non-Discrimination

These problems are only faced by Dominicans whose parents or grandparents are from Haiti. It is a result of structural racism in the Dominican Republic. All Dominicans of Haitian descent, or those perceived as such, are suffering from a situation of structural discrimination, in all regards and at all levels, which deprives it of the enjoyment and exercise of its human rights.

The Commission has not received complaints or information on Dominicans of foreign descent, who were not of Haitian descent, who had faced barriers in recognition of their nationality, in access to the civil registry, as well as their identity documents.

This discrimination has been fostered by the activities of certain authorities, political parties, and business and social actors within the Dominican Republic.

"There were young people who were pursuing their studies, walking 18 kilometers every day; when they were about to receive their high school diploma, it turned out that they had no identification document and therefore could not get their degree. I said I was sorry –I didn’t apologize- for everything they experienced in all this time and that I was going to launch a process of consultations to ascertain what we could do in coordination with the organs that have some authority vis-à-vis the measures that have been taken."

President Danilo Medina, at the meeting at the National Palace
with Dominicans of Haitian descent and society organizations in October 2013.

Photo credit: Amy S. Martin

Right to Education Without Any Discrimination

Although Dominican law recognizes that the right to education must be guaranteed without any discrimination, including those based on distinctions by nationality, race, economic and social position or of any other nature, the Commission received many testimonies of serious acts of discrimination in education.

The judgment 168/13 and the existing discriminatory situation have prevented children and adolescents of Haitian descent born in the Dominican Republic, from continuing their studies at school or in college. Teachers and school authorities require them birth certificate or an identification card, which the authorities refuse to hand.

Out of the 3,342 people who provided information and testimonies during the visit, 620 situations where these people or their relatives had faced obstacles in regard to the right to education were recorded.

"I have a three-year-old little girl. She has been unable to go to school; I have been unable to register her; I can’t get health insurance because she isn’t registered and I don’t have the identity card."

Testimony of a woman to the Commission, on her daughter born in the Dominican Republic.

Situation of Vulnerability

Arbitrary deprivation of Dominican nationality and legal status generates multiple violations to human rights.

One of the problems they face is the lack of job options. The testimonies indicate that it is virtually impossible to get work, and when they do, they pay less than the minimum wage.

Consequences of Denationalization

In addition to the violation of their right to nationality, arbitrary deprivation of nationality has meant for other Dominicans of Haitian descent multiple other violations of their civil, political, social and economic rights such as that:
1- That children can not continue their basic education;
2- Can not enroll in higher education;
3- Unable to pay contributions to the Social Security System;
4- Unable to access certain health services;
5- No access to decent work;
6- Unable to get married or divorced;
7- Unable to register the birth of a child;
8- Unable to open a bank account;
9- Unable to obtain travel documents such as passports and therefore not able to travel internationally;
10- Unable to perform contracts;
11- Unable to buy or transfer property;
12- Unable to perform an affidavit;
13- Unable to vote and run for public office;


During these visits, the Commission found that the living conditions in the bateyes are extremely precarious and some of the situations they face are inhuman and degrading.
Workers in sugar cane plantations are still facing restrictions on their freedom of movement and residence, being forced to live in bateyes closed and guarded by armed guards.
In some cases cane cutters continue to be paid with vouchers and not with money.

In addition to the situations described above, this situation has led to a constant uncertainty that has had an impact on the physical and psychological integrity of the individuals concerned. To which must be added the constant fear of these people to be arrested and expelled from their country by not having identity papers.

In this regard, the Commission is of the view that the magnitude and protracted nature of this problem and of the repeated, ongoing violations of multiple human rights of the Dominicans of Haitian descent point to the existence of an inconventional state of affairs.

Photo credit: Amy S. Martin

"I was born in a hospital in Mao in Dominican Republic in 1999. My mom and dad are Haitians. At school they are already asking me for birth certificate, but they don’t give it to me... I feel bad because in the street they call me damn, dirty and treat me badly. We are all equal and that's not right. I have as much right to be Dominican as the others. I just want to study. This is not fair".

Testimony of a 15 year old woman born in the Dominican Republic, before the IACHR.
Batey Libertad, Dominican Republic, December 4, 2013.

Intolerance and Incitement to Violence

The publication of Constitutional Court judgment 168/13 created a climate of hostility towards those who were critical of the judgment and who have defended the right of Dominicans of Haitian descent to Dominican nationality.

The expressions used against journalists, intellectuals, human rights defenders, and public figures critical of the judgment have taken an alarmingly aggressive tone, thereby fueling racism and xenophobia.

Critics of the Judgment Have Been Called “Traitors to the Homeland,” and Public Demonstrations Have Been Staged Under the Slogan “Death to the Traitors.”

These alleged threats and acts of intimidation elicited no response from the Dominican authorities.

Intolerance and racist discourse makes persons of Haitian descent all the more vulnerable to discrimination and violence.

Sign saying: we do not want Haitians have 45 days for them to leave.

Photo credit: Amy S. Martin

The "Committee for the Defense of the Nationality" developed an album to identify those who have criticized the judgment: first page / second page.

Source: Diario 7 Días

The report also covers violations of human rights of Haitian migrants in relation to immigration operations and due process; access to justice and guarantees of due process for Dominicans of Haitian descent.

Read chapter 5 of the Report

Recommendations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to the Dominican Republic

Denial of Nationality

Dominican Republic must nullify any norm of any kind that establishes the denial of Dominican nationality to persons born in its territory, and guarantee the right to nationality of those persons who already had that right under the domestic legal system in force between 1929 and 2010.

Judgment 168/13 - Law 169/14

Dominican Republic must adopt, as soon as possible, the necessary measures to prevent Judgment 168/13 and the provisions of Articles 6, 8, and 11 of Law No. 169-14 from continuing to have legal effect.

Birth Registration

Dominican Republic must adopt the measures required to regulate an accessible, non-discriminatory and simple birth registration process, in order to ensure that all persons born on its soil may be registered immediately after their births, irrespective of their descent or origin or of the migratory situation of their parents.

Affirmative Actions

Dominican Republic must adopt positive measures to eradicate racial and ethnic discrimination and provide effective guarantees of the human rights of Dominican persons of African descent, especially the Dominican population of Haitian descent. To that end, it is necessary to neutralize racial prejudice and stereotypes but also to improve the living conditions of persons of African descent with respect to health, housing, education, and employment.

Immigration Control

Dominican Republic has to ensure that the immigration review, verification, and control operations are not based exclusively on a person’s physical aspect.

Proof of Dominican Nationality

Dominican Republic must adopt the necessary measures to ensure that Dominicans of Haitian descent who were registered have the necessary documentation to prove their identity and Dominican nationality.

Download the Social Media Campaign on Pinterest