WASHINGTON, DC, — St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has called on the Organisation of American States (OAS) to debate the ruling of Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Tribunal, which will retroactively strip hundreds of thousands of Dominican-born persons of their citizenship.
On Tuesday, the Permanent Mission of SVG, on behalf of CARICOM, tabled the item at the meeting of the OAS.
The Sept. 23 ruling of the court will effectively “denationalise” 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 D.R. in an “in transit” state and face the threat of being rendered stateless.
SVG’s 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 SVG.
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 what the SVG Mission in a press release described as the fallacies in the justifications proffered by the Dominican Republic for the ruling.
Prince cited references to the very Constitution of the D.R., 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.
The diplomat also stated that the matter was overdue for discussion at the OAS and expressed deep regret that the OAS Secretary General failed to pronounce on such an egregious court decision and its wide-reaching impact.
She acknowledged the criticism made in many international quarters that the ruling appears to be fuelled by xenophobia and racism, and lamented that in the this the Decade of the People of African Descent, the actions of the Dominican 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.
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 Haiti was the second-most important trading partner of that country.
With 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 enjoying 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 SVG were made by other CARICOM Member States who declared the actions of the Dominican Republic as incongruous with the principles of Caribbean Community, for which the Santo Domingo 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 SVG 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 SVG, Dr. 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 an Oct. 11 letter, to take prompt corrective action.
The Ambassador of Haiti thanked the delegation of SVG 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.
I am very proud that SVG is fighting on behalf our Haitian family. We must never forget that Haiti is the first free black- self ruled nation in the western hemisphere. All Caribbean Governments should lend their voice and resources to address this issue in Dominican Republic. Given the unfair partition of Haiti leaving the black community to reside in the less than fertile section of the island, we must appeal for equal rights and justice on behalf of the Haitians who are born in Dom. Rep.
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