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A debt is still owed to Dominicans of Haitian descent 9 years after the ruling that left them largely stateless

In 2013, the Constitutional Tribunal of the Dominican Republic issued judgment 168-13, which retroactively took away the right to nationality from Dominicans of Haitian descent.

In the nine years since, statelessness in the country has only grown more complex, leaving countless Dominicans of Haitian descent without access to nationality documents. Far from just a symbolic problem, the denial of their right to nationality has impacted all aspects of the lives of Dominicans of Haitian descent, from access to health care and education to the ability to seek out justice and formal employment.

RFK Human Rights joins the following statement in support of the victims of this discriminatory ruling and the policies that derive thereof. We demand the Dominican Republic to comply with its international obligations and restore and guarantee the right to nationality without discrimination.

The undersigned organizations remember the ninth anniversary of Ruling 168-13 of the Constitutional Court. We call on the Dominican Republic to wholly guarantee the human rights of Dominicans of Haitian descent, including their rights to nationality and non-discrimination.

Nine years ago, the State largely denationalized thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent after the enactment of the Ruling 168-13, which established that persons born in Dominican Republic to foreign parents without “regular migratory status” never had the right to Dominican nationality, and ordered the Central Electoral Board to revise the civil registry and eliminate the records of all persons born in irregular circumstances, retroactively denationalizing Dominicans of Haitian descent born between 1929 and 2007.

In response to this, the State established Law 169 in 2014 which, though it attempted to provide some sort of identification documents to denationalized persons, has not been effective. On the one hand, this law created second class citizens by requiring persons who once had Dominican birth certificates to obtain new birth certificates whose validity could be affected if this law ceases to exist. On the other hand, those who were deprived of their nationality but did not have a birth certificate, were required to go through a process of declaring themselves foreigners and later naturalizing. To date, none of the persons in the second group have obtained Dominican nationality.

The gravity of the situation has resulted in repeated international condemnations toward the Dominican State, and a continued call to find a solution. For example, the UN Human Rights Committee has expressed its concern about the situation of persons affected by Ruling TC/0168/13 and Law 169. The Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Committee on the Elimination of f Racial Discrimination, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the CARICOM, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, among others, have expressed similar sentiments. Also, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights condemned the Dominican Republic on two occasions for denying of the right to nationality for Dominicans of Haitian descent.

Despite this, as the years have passed, the situation is far from improving and hundreds of people remain stateless. In 2022, the United States, through its Department of State, considered the Dominican Republic the country with the most stateless people in the Americas, and acknowledged that at least 135,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent remain in this condition.

Nine years after Ruling 168-13, we again call on the Dominican State to comply with its international obligation to guarantee the right to nationality to all Dominicans of Haitian descent without discrimination. We also call on the State to guarantee full access to rights for this population, ensuring their access to health, education, documentation, and full participation in Dominican society, without any discrimination.

Amnesty International

Center for Justice and International Law Internacional (CEJIL)

Human Rights Clinic, Inter American University of Puerto Rico

International Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

Women’s Link Worldwide