SVG tables Dominican Republic issue at OAS Permanent Council
November 5, 2013
SVG tables Dominican Republic issue at OAS Permanent Council

The Permanent Mission of St Vincent and the Grenadines to the Organization of American States (OAS), on behalf of CARICOM Member States, last Tuesday put on the table at the meeting of the OAS Permanent Council, the need to debate the ruling of the Dominican Republic’s (DR) Constitutional Tribunal which will retroactively strip hundreds of thousands of Dominican-born persons of their citizenship.{{more}}

The ruling of the court, made on September 23, 2013 will effectively “denationalize” persons born in the Dominican Republic to parents of foreign ancestry, dating as far back 1929. Such persons are now deemed to have lived in the DR in an “in transit” state and face the threat of being rendered stateless.

St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Ambassador to the OAS La Celia A. Prince set the stage for the discussion, speaking first on behalf of CARICOM and then on behalf of St Vincent and the Grenadines. Ambassador Prince noted that while the ruling of the Constitutional court was a domestic one, CARICOM felt obligated to opine on the matter given the implications that the enforcement of the ruling would have on the human, civic, economic and social rights of the persons affected, most of whom are from the Caribbean diaspora and in particular of Haitian descent.

The intervention pointed out the fallacies in the justifications proffered by the Dominican Republic for the ruling. Ambassador Prince cited references to the very Constitution of the DR, as well as various instruments of international law that can impugn the court’s ruling. She expressed solidarity with the persons affected by the ruling and called for the situation to be rectified in a manner that does not negatively impact upon the quality of life and the dignity of those affected by the court’s decision. Ambassador Prince also stated that the matter was overdue for discussion at the OAS and expressed deep regret that the Secretary General of that important organisation failed to pronounce on such an egregious court decision and its wide-reaching impact. She then acknowledged the criticism made in many international quarters that the ruling appears to be fuelled by xenophobia and racism, and lamented that in this the Decade of the People of African Descent, the actions of the DR’s court will leave hundreds of thousands of Afro-descendants dispossessed and without an identity.

In commenting on the issue on behalf of the government of Haiti, Permanent Representative Ambassador Pierre Duly Brutus stated that the implementation of the ruling will bring the region an outrageous number of cases of stateless persons, which will ultimately lead to greater personal insecurity and regional instability. He cited one of the dissenting judgments in the case, advanced by Judge Isabell Bonilla, that the court was wrongly interpreting the Constitution and inflicting a penalty on Dominican-born persons, on account of their parents’ migratory status. Ambassador Brutus referred to the significant contribution made by Haitians and persons of Haitian descent to the economic growth of the Dominican Republic and pointed our further that was Haiti was the second most important trading partner of that country.

With a high-level seven-man delegation sent from Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic reiterated its government’s adherence to the Constitution of that country, and that the court’s ruling is irrevocable and binding upon all organs of the state. They explained that from the beginning of the 20th century, their Constitution has maintained that birth in the Dominican Republic establishes nationality, except for the children of diplomats and those in transit. They further informed that in the coming weeks, they will present a plan to deal with every category of person captured by the court’s ruling and expressed a desire to continue to enjoy amicable relations with its neighbouring countries, especially Haiti.

The Dominicans noted that despite having challenges of their own, as it regards economic and social development, that they make every effort to treat fairly with their Haitian residents, who are afforded access to educational institutions at the same rate as Dominican nationals. They reiterated their comprehensive efforts to uphold the human rights of all within their territory and find that the response by the international community to the ruling of the Constitutional Tribunal to be unjustifiably hostile. They further articulated their desire to offer a definitive and humanitarian response to all the members of the hemispheric body, indicating their intent to invite the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), in order to facilitate/advise on the processes that will result from the inevitable implementation of the decision of the Court.

Strong expressions of support for the concerns raised by St Vincent and the Grenadines were made by other CARICOM Member States, who declared the DR’s actions as incongruous with the principles of the Caribbean Community, for which the DR is currently an applicant for membership. The delegations of Canada, the United States and Mexico also expressed their grave concern for the implications of the court’s ruling and stated that they will be watching the development very closely.

Both St Vincent and the Grenadines and Haiti hailed the indication by the Dominican Republic to invite the IACHR to conduct an investigation as a step in the right direction, and an indispensable element in rectifying the matter in accordance with the Dominican Republic’s international obligations. The Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves was one of the first leaders of the hemisphere to condemn the court’s ruling, calling on the Dominican president, Danilo Medina, by way of a letter dated October 11, to take prompt corrective action.

The Ambassador of Haiti thanked the delegation of St Vincent and the Grenadines for their support and for putting such a crucially important issue before the Permanent Council of the OAS. The Vincentian delegation also included Alternate Representatives Omari Williams and Asram Soleyn.