DR withdraws from IACHR
As Bahamians continue to bristle at the international reaction to local immigration policies, some make reference to the 2013 decision by the Dominican Republic to retroactively revoke citizenship for Dominican-born children of undocumented Haitian migrants as far back as 1929. That decision touched off a firestorm of international condemnation, led in the precincts of the Organization of American States (OAS) by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), of which The Bahamas is a leading voice.
While it remains to be seen whether the Dominican Republic or the OAS will take a position on the new enforcement policy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has taken an ultranationalist position, going so far as to label criticism from various quarters “loose with the truth”; defamatory to The Bahamas; “terribly disappointing”; “foolish and… so baseless as to almost bear no response”; and, in the final analysis, “lies”.
Meanwhile, the former president of the Dominican Republic has defended that country’s position in a dispute with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR), even as the Dominican Republic has withdrawn from the IACHR, and the Dominican Constitutional Court has ruled that the country’s recognition of the competence of the IACHR is unconstitutional.
Former President Leonel Fernández gave a lecture at the headquarters of the OAS, in which he defended his country’s position in the dispute with the IACHR on the right to nationality of the children of undocumented migrants. The speech was part of the OAS’ 57th lecture series, whose central theme was “The OAS, Democracy and Human Rights”.
Fernandez explained that in the Dominican Republic there is no “jus soli” law. Jus soli is a legal concept that grants citizenship to those born in a country. Without such a concept, Fernandez said, “Dominican nationality is not acquired simply by having been born in our territory.”
In this regard, he disagreed with the IACHR for ordering the Dominican State to take steps to rescind all legislation that conditions the recognition of nationality via the “jus soli.” In fact, Fernández said the IACHR had misinterpreted the position and that not automatically granting citizenship by way of jus soli is not a violation of human rights.
The Dominican Republic withdrew as a member of the IACHR just weeks after the human rights court found that the Dominican Republic had indeed been discriminating against Dominicans of Haitian descent. The government of that country called the findings “unacceptable” and “biased”.
In a 59-page ruling, the Dominican Constitutional Court said the country had to withdraw from the human rights court because the senate never issued a resolution to ratify the February 1999 agreement with the rights court as required by the Dominican constitution. Ten judges voted in favor of the ruling, while three judges voted against it.
Two other OAS members have previously withdrawn from the court’s jurisdiction. Venezuela pulled out in 2013, while Trinidad and Tobago withdrew in 1999 after the court questioned the island’s use of the death penalty.
Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the island of Hispaniola and tensions heightened following last year’s Dominican court ruling. A U.N. study has estimated about 500,000 migrants live in the Dominican Republic without proper documents, nearly 90 percent of Haitian descent.
The Bahamas is not a member of the IACHR.
A review of the Inter-American human rights system shows the 1969 adoption of the American Convention on Human Rights. The convention entered into force in 1978 and, as of August of 1997, had been ratified by 25 countries: Argentina, Barbados, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela. The convention defines the human rights which the ratifying states have agreed to respect and ensure. The convention also creates the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and defines the functions and procedures of both the commission and the court. The IACHR also possesses additional faculties which pre-date and are not derived directly from the convention, such as the processing of cases involving countries which are still not parties to the convention.