Our Voices

Unresolved Violations of the Right to Nationality for Dominicans of Haitian Descent

(Washington, D.C. | September 23, 2015) Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights expresses ongoing concern over the unresolved violations of the right to nationality for Dominicans of Haitian descent and treatment of migrants in the Dominican Republic two-years after the Constitutional Court retroactively stripped over 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent of their citizenship, in violation of international human rights law. The Dominican government has yet to fully restore birthright citizenship to all of those affected.

“It is appalling that after two years Dominicans of Haitian descent are still struggling in the courts to force the government to recognize the citizenship with which they were born,” said Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “It is unacceptable that the Dominican government has forced thousands of people to put their lives at risk and on hold by denying them their full rights as citizens.”

Many Dominicans of Haitian descent are still having difficulty accessing the identity and citizenship documents necessary for them to be recognized as persons under the law. Without these documents, they remain unable to graduate from high school, work in the formal economy, access social security benefits, and conduct many other basic functions of civic life. In June 2015, the Dominican Civil Registry published a list of 55,000 people born to undocumented migrants who were deemed eligible to access their identity documents that had been previously suspended because of their status as children of undocumented migrants, yet this list leaves out many individuals entitled to Dominican nationality – a number of them who are now in court over the right to obtain their proper documentation. Further, several persons who are on the list have still been refused their documents. Among those unable to access their documents, are three prominent human rights activists who defend the rights of Dominicans of Haitian descent, raising concerns that they may be facing retaliation for their work.

“While we wait for the government to fully restore the birthright citizenship to all those unlawfully stripped of their nationality in 2013, we also remain especially concerned over the opaque and increasingly discriminatory migration policies of the Dominican Republic,” said Santiago A. Canton, Executive Director of RFK Partners for Human Rights. “Dominican military officers and migration officials are openly relying on racial characteristics when conducting migration raids, detaining black Dominicans alongside migrants even when they are in possession of their Dominican identity documents.”

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights welcomes the statements of Dominican Foreign Minister Andrés Navarro asserting that no one born in the Dominican Republic will be deported, but expresses concern that the Dominican government has yet to present any protocol or mechanism explaining how these individuals will be protected from deportation nor how their citizenship rights will be restored. Without such a protocol, these individuals are at risk of being expelled from their country of birth. Furthermore, reports have indicated that individuals have already been swept up in migration raids and taken to deportation centers.

The Dominican Republic is bound by the American Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which both prohibit the arbitrary deprivation of nationality. These two instruments along with the Convention on the Elimination on All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) also prohibit the Dominican Republic from engaging in racial profiling and discriminating against any individual on the basis of race, ethnicity or national origin.