OAS Permanent Council Receives Preliminary Report on IACHR Visit to Dominican Republic
During this regular meeting, the Permanent Council received a report with the preliminary observations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), a product of its visit to the Dominican Republic at the beginning of December, “in response to an invitation from the state.” “The purpose of the visit was to observe the situation as it pertains to the rights of nationality, identity, equality, non-discrimination, as well as other rights and related issues,” and “to supervise the compliance with the commitments freely assumed by the State of the Dominican Republic in exercise of its sovereignty,” states the document.
The preliminary observations presented in today’s meeting, whose final version will be presented shortly to the Council, were read by Rosa María Ortiz, second Vice Chair of the IACHR and Country Rapporteur for the Dominican Republic. As Commissioner Ortiz explained, her report was based on the press release and the annex to the press release published by the IACHR on December 6, upon finishing its visit to the Caribbean country.
During the visit of the IACHR, a principal and autonomous organ of the OAS, a central role was played by Judgment 0168/2013 of the Dominican Constitutional Court, “whereby it gave a new interpretation as regards the acquisition of nationality by individuals born in the country to foreign parents in transit. Based on this interpretation, individuals who previously had been recognized as having Dominican nationality were denationalized,” states the document read by Ortiz. This situation particularly affects Haitian immigrants, adds the text.
The delegation of the Dominican Republic, through Mayerlyn Cordero Diaz, Alternate Representative, took note of the preliminary observations of the IACHR and assured that "the government of the Dominican Republic reaffirms that no person holding Dominican nationality will be stripped of it," and that Dominican President Danilo Medina will submit to Congress a law to address the situation of 24,392 people who were not declared with proper documentation.
Minister Cordero said, "regardless of the immigration status in the country, the Dominican government has always provided basic human rights guaranteed to all people who are in the territory of the Dominican Republic, including access to public services such as health and education as well as labor rights and access to justice."
The Dominican delegation said that "nearly two months ago we were in a process of open, honest and ongoing dialogue with the Republic of Haiti," which has already produced "important agreements in customs matters, public security, agriculture, environment and migration." Minister Cordero called on the international community to "allow us to prioritize dialogue, because the issues involved are of a bilateral nature."
The Permanent Representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, La Celia A. Prince, said “the bilateral discussions underway underpin the interest that we all have in securing the welfare and well-being of the estimated hundreds of thousands of persons that could be rendered stateless. The entire world is moving towards the commitment to end statelessness and to avoid the creation to new stateless individuals, but if we fail to use the political weight of this body, then this Hemisphere will soon become home to one of the largest concentrations of stateless persons.”
CARICOM, continued, Ambassador Prince, “continues to view this as a serious and fundamental human rights matter.” While holding as “sacred” the principles of sovereignty and non-intervention in the internal affairs of another country, the Caribbean representative said “these principles do not shield states from their international obligations as prescribed in international law. We must not create in this Hemisphere the precedent that the rendering of persons stateless is acceptable or that it can be accommodated. We, the OAS, owe it to those directly affected and indeed the world as a whole, as the oldest and most experienced international organization in the world, to lead by example.”
The Permanent Representative of Haiti, Duly Brutus, stressed the importance of bilateral talks that are keeping both countries and assured that the results obtained so far, "give hope that this issue will be resolved in a favorable manner through dialogue." "This situation is creating some uncertainties and legitimate concerns, but we hope to face them with determination, without emotion and without impatience." In conclusion, the Haitian representative called the OAS and its member states to "continue to accompany the dialogue process."
Ambassador Brutus reminded the Council that two bilateral meetings have taken place so far, and a third is schedule to be held in Haiti on March 12th, before which the Dominican Government has committed to present the new bill on people without valid documents. In conclusion, the Haitian Representative called on the OAS and its member states to “continue to accompany the process of dialogue.”
The issue was placed on the agenda of the meeting by the delegation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, who in representation of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), reaffirmed “concern about the grave human right violations that transcend the bilateral discussions between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.”