October 20, 2020

CARICOM defers Dominican Republic application amid row over court ruling


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Saint Vincent and the Grenadines' Prime Minister Gonsalves addresses a media conference in St Ann'sFrom Caribbean 360

The fallout continues from the constitutional court ruling that could render stateless thousands of people of Haitian descent living in the Spanish-speaking country.

Peter Richards

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping Tuesday said it would defer consideration of the application by the Dominican Republic to join the regional integration grouping as the fallout continues from the Constitutional Court ruling in the Spanish-speaking country that could render stateless thousands of people of Haitian descent living there.

Leaders of the three-member CARICOM Bureau, comprising host country Trinidad and Tobago, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Haiti, met here on Tuesday and said the 15-member regional grouping would also seek to raise the court ruling with several bodies including the Association of Caribbean States, the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (CELAC) as well as maintaining “our interest and active participation at the Organization of American States (OAS).

“We look forward to the outcome of the visit to the Dominican Republic of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) which will travel to that country in early December,” CARICOM Chairman and host prime minister Kamla Persad Bissessar told a news conference.

Persad Bissessar said in light of the values and principles which have underpinned the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs CARICOM, the regional leaders had agreed that it would “defer consideration of the application by the Dominican Republic for membership in the Caribbean Community.”

haiti-borderThe Constitutional Court in Santo Domingo has ruled in favour of stripping citizenship from children of Haitian migrants. The decision applies to those born after 1929 — a category that overwhelmingly includes descendants of Haitians brought in to work on farms.

But in defending the ruling, Dominican Republic officials said it ends uncertainty for children of Haitian immigrants, allowing them to apply for residency and eventually for citizenship.

The Geneva-based office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on authorities in Santo Domingo to ensure that the ruling did not leave persons of Haitian descent in “constitutional limbo”.

A United Nations-supported study, released this year, estimated that there were around 210,000 Dominican-born people of Haitian descent and another 34,000 born to parents of other nationalities.

However, the Government of the Dominican Republic estimates that around 500,000 people born in Haiti live in the Dominican Republic.

Prime Minister Persad Bissessar warned the Dominican Republic that “it cannot be business as usual” even as she acknowledged that the regional leaders had received a letter from President Danilo Medina that his administration would “not deport any of the persons affected by the ruling of the Constitutional Court and measures will be taken to ensure that no one is deported.”

“CARICOM expects that these assurances by the Dominican Republic will be honoured. CARICOM is prepared to engage the Dominican Republic, but the government of the Dominican Republic must be prepared to show good faith by immediate, credible steps as part of an overall plan to resolve this nationality and attendant issues in the shortest possible time,” Persad Bissessar said.

But Haiti’s President Michel Martelly told reporters that his country was not putting much faith in the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, noting that discussions held in Venezuela last weekend on the matter showed that Santo Domingo was not operating “in good faith”.

He said no sooner had the talks ended in Caracas than authorities in the Dominican Republic deported 300 people, “who do not know the country, who do not have family in Haiti”.

He hinted at the possibility of Haiti boycotting future talks adding “we don’t have to keep meeting without them (Dominican Republic) showing some action,” he added. The next round of talks is scheduled for next week.

St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who had written two letters to Medina on the issue and had informed his CARICOM colleagues that quiet diplomacy would not get the Dominican Republic to change its position, said he was pleased with the strategy adopted by CARICOM.

He said the Dominican Republic was signatory to many international treaties and reminded that national laws cannot take precedent over these treaties that carried certain obligation.

“It can’t be business as usual,” he said quoting Persad Bissessar, saying he too was looking forward to Santo Domingo taking positive steps “before we engage you”.

CARICOM said it was also calling on the Dominican Republic “to ensure the immediate protection of those persons negatively affected by the ruling and to adhere to its international human rights obligations under the Inter American Court of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the American Convention of Human Rights among others”.

Persad Bissessar said the regional grouping was opposed to the conditions “whereby it is Dominicans of Haitian descent, who have significantly contributed to the real progress of the Dominican Republic through their labour and their sacrifices, who are today treated like transitory visitors.

“Those who are affected are denied their basic human rights including freedom of movement, access to education and to health care among other basic rights,” Persad Bissessar noted.

During their meeting, the regional leaders were addressed by a civil society group that included academic and ACS former secretary general Professor Norman Girvan.

The group told the leaders that CARICOM had the ability to “help prevent a humanitarian catastrophe” and that it should “influence the course of events by throwing their collective weight behind the efforts to stay the application of this (constitutional court) ruling, obtain its reversal and reinstate the basic human rights of the denationalized persons”.

The group also called on CARICOM to request an advisory opinion from the IACHR on the issue and “consider the introduction of a resolution of condemnation within the UN General Assembly.

“We cannot countenance, without the most vigorous opposition, the further institution of a state of social genocide and apartheid in the heart of our own region. We cannot let down our brothers and sisters in the Dominican Republic, integral members of the regional family,” the group added.

For more on this story go to: http://www.caribbean360.com/index.php/news/trinidad_tobago_news/1086823.html?utm_source=Caribbean360+Newsletters&utm_campaign=8fd6f3fb35-Vol_8_Issue_205_News11_27_2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_350247989a-8fd6f3fb35-39393477#ixzz2lwcX5mgP

Related story:

Dominican Republic breaks off Haiti talks over immigration ruling

By Manuel Jimenez From Reuters

(Reuters) – The Dominican Republic broke off talks with Haiti on Wednesday over a recent Dominican court ruling that potentially strips citizenship from more than 200,000 Haitian migrants, many of whom were born on Dominican soil.

The two countries, which share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, have been holding talks mediated by the Venezuelan government to resolve their differences over a September 23 ruling by the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court.

The Dominican government has come under intense international pressure over the ruling, with foreign leaders, United Nations agencies and human rights groups questioning its legal basis.

Gustavo Montalvo, chief of staff to Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina, said in a statement the government will not participate in a meeting with Haitian officials scheduled to be held in Caracas on Saturday.

The decision comes a day after Caribbean heads of state agreed to defer an application from the Dominican Republic for membership in CARICOM, the region’s largest cooperation group, until Santo Domingo addresses the high court’s ruling.

“Haiti has decided to take a different route and that has brought an end to our talks for now,” Montalvo said.

Haiti President Michel Martelly attended the CARICOM meeting in Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday where the group’s leaders urged countries in the region to call on the Dominican Republic to “right this terrible wrong.

The court ruling retroactively denied Dominican nationality to anyone born after 1929 who does not have at least one parent of Dominican blood, citing a constitutional clause declaring all others to be in the country illegally or “in transit.”

Human rights groups say the ruling could leave Haitians in the Dominican Republic without basic rights, such as the right to vote, and restrict their access to basic services including public education.

The wealthier of the two countries, the Dominican Republic has long complained of illegal migration of undocumented workers from its impoverished neighbor, even as it benefits from a steady source of cheap labor.

Most of those affected are the descendants of Haitians who moved to the Dominican Republic to work in the sugar cane fields. Many used a temporary worker’s card issued by the former state sugar company as proof of their residence in order to register their offspring.

The Dominican Republic’s population of 10 million includes about 458,000 people of Haitian descent, many of whom lack proper documents, according to official figures. About 240,000 of those people of Haitian descent were born in the Dominican Republic.

PHOTO: Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’ Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves (R) addresses a media conference, with CARICOM Secretary-General Irwin LaRocque, Haitian President Michel Martelly, and Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister and chairperson of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Kamla Persad-Bissessar (L-2nd R) at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, on the outskirts of the capital Port-of-Spain, November 26, 2013.


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