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Controversial DR Citizenship Issue Reaches OAS

Ambassador La Celia A. Prince of the Permanent Mission of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to the OAS.

News Americas, WASHINGTON, DC, Weds. Oct. 30, 2013: The controversial and retroactive stripping of the citizenship of hundreds of thousands of children born to undocumented migrants in the Dominican Republic has reached the Organization of American States (OAS).

The issue was raised by Ambassador La Celia A. Prince of the Permanent Mission of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to the OAS on behalf of CARICOM Member States at the meeting of the OAS Permanent Council even as international criticism over the ruling continues to reverberate.

Ambassador Prince noted that while the ruling of the September 23, 2013 ruling by the Dominican Republic’s (D.R.) Constitutional Tribunal was a domestic one, CARICOM felt obligated to opine on the matter given the implications that the enforcement of the ruling would have on the human, civic, economic and social rights of the persons affected, most of whom are from the Caribbean Diaspora and in particular of Haitian descent.

She acknowledged the criticism made in many international quarters that the ruling appears to be fuelled by xenophobia and racism, and lamented that in this the Decade of the People of African Descent, the actions of the DR’s court will leave hundreds of thousands of Afro-descendants dispossessed and without an identity.

The ambassador also cited references to the very Constitution of the D.R., as well as various instruments of international law that can impugn the court’s ruling and called for the situation to be rectified in a manner that does not negatively impact upon the quality of life and the dignity of those affected by the court’s decision.

The Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, was one of the first leaders of the hemisphere to condemn the court’s ruling, calling on the Dominican president, Danilo Medina, by way of a letter dated October 11th, to take prompt corrective action.

But a high-level 7-man delegation sent from Santo Domingo to the OAS reiterated its government’s adherence to the Constitution of that country, and said that the court’s ruling is irrevocable and binding upon all organs of the state. They reiterated their comprehensive efforts to uphold the human rights of all within their territory and said that the response by the international community to the ruling of the Constitutional Tribunal to be unjustifiably hostile.

They explained that from the beginning of the 20th century, their Constitution has maintained that birth in the Dominican Republic establishes nationality, except for the children of diplomats and those in transit and further informed that in the coming weeks, they will present a plan to deal with every category of person captured by the court’s ruling.

The Dominicans also noted that despite having challenges of their own as it regards economic and social development that they make every effort to treat fairly with their Haitian residents who are afforded access to educational institutions at the same rate as Dominican nationals.

They further articulated their desire to offer a definitive and humanitarian response to all the members of the hemispheric body, indicating their intent to invite the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in order to facilitate/advise on the processes that will result from the inevitable implementation of the decision of the Court.

Meanwhile, in commenting on the issue on behalf of the government of Haiti, Permanent Representative Ambassador Pierre Duly Brutus stated that the implementation of the ruling will bring the region an outrageous number of cases of stateless persons, which will ultimately leader to greater personal insecurity and regional instability. He cited one of the dissenting judgments in the case, advanced by Judge Isabell Bonilla that the court was wrongly interpreting the Constitution and inflicting a penalty on Dominican-born persons on account of their parents’ migratory status.

And he referred to the significant contribution made by Haitians and persons of Haitian descent to the economic growth of the Dominican Republic and pointed our further that was Haiti was the second-most important trading partner of that country.