(Santo Domingo) – Tens of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent remain in legal limbo, unable to exercise their basic rights, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The situation remains unresolved despite government efforts to remedy it.
The 43-page report, “We are Dominican: Arbitrary Deprivation of Nationality in the Dominican Republic,” documents hundreds of cases from 13 provinces around the country. Human Rights Watch found that Dominicans of Haitian descent are still unable to access basic civic functions such as registering children at birth, enrolling in school and college, participating in the formal economy, or travelling around the country without risk of expulsion.
“The Dominican Republic is denying tens of thousands of citizens their right to a nationality, and despite mixed messages, people are being detained and shoved over the border,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “The government needs to immediately stop expelling Dominicans of Haitian descent, and guarantee them their rights.”
Human Rights Watch conducted research in the Dominican Republic between February and May of 2015, interviewing over 100 victims, community leaders, legal experts, government officials, and representatives of local human rights organizations. Human Rights Watch documented over 60 cases in which Dominicans of Haitian descent were arbitrarily detained, and in some instances forcibly removed to Haiti, despite having proper Dominican documentation. Human Rights Watch also verified hundreds of cases in which Dominicans of Haitian descent are still unable to exercise full rights as Dominican citizens.
In 2013, the Dominican Constitutional Tribunal, the country’s highest court of appeals on constitutional matters, summarily removed citizenship from tens of thousands of Dominicans, based on a retroactive reinterpretation of the country’s nationality law. It ruled that although the Constitution provides that Dominican citizenship is a birthright to anyone born in the Dominican Republic between 1929 and 2010, those born to parents who were in the Dominican Republic as undocumented migrants at the time of their birth were not covered by this constitutional protection, and were, retrospectively, not citizens. This decision violated international human rights law and made thousands of people vulnerable to expulsion.