“The IACHR Strikes Again”, an article by Dr. Leonel Fernández

May 8, 2017

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) launched a new attack against the Dominican Republic using erroneous arguments, deploying fallacious concepts, and displaying a worrying bias that could continue to erode its already diminished credibility amongst OAS member states.

In its recent Annual Report on human rights in Latin America and the Caribbean, the IACHR for the first time includes the Dominican Republic in Chapter IV of the report on a
sort of “blacklist” of countries whose human rights violations require special attention and analysis.

This list follows the four criteria used by the Commission from 1996 onward, which include: 1) grave violations of fundamental elements and institutions provided by the Democratic Charter; 2) the illegitimate suspension of free exercise of guaranteed rights through the declaration of a state of emergency or siege; 3) the commision of mass, grave, and
systemic human rights violations; and 4) the presence of structural situations that seriously and gravely affect the enjoyment and use of said fundamental rights.

In the view of the IACHR, a dependent organ of the OAS, in the Dominican Republic, the structural racial discrimination against people of or perceived to be of Haitian descent violates the right to a nationality and the prohibitions on mass deportations and expulsions and illegal migration operations.

Racial discrimination
One of the most notable fallacies in the report is its affirmation that racial discrimination by the state against persons of African descent exists in the Dominican Republic, and that, furthermore, the negation of that discrimination by the national authorities leads to the issue being excluded from national public opinion.

On other occasions we’ve had the chance to discuss this myth. The Commission
appears to ignore the historical and social reality of the Dominican Republic, given that the first black slaves brought to the New World arrived to the island of Hispaniola at the start of the 16th century, on the side that today is the Dominican Republic. This allows us to affirm that our country is in fact the cradle of African roots in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The IACHR also highlights that the absence of a specific law and juridical framework prohibiting
racial discrimination is evidence of the discriminatory attitude of the Dominican state.

But the organ attempts to ignore that the rejection of discrimination in all forms is found in our Constitution as a central, guiding principle; and that precisely at this time our National Congress is debating a law that aims to establish sanctions against possible discriminatory practices in Dominican society.

This is not to deny the existence of discrimination
within our territory. Lamentably, this is an ill that affects the majority of countries in the world, including nations like the United States, where it remains a topical and highly sensitive subject.

However, it is not the same thing to affirm that the Dominican state promulgates a deliberate policy aimed at discriminating against nationals and descendants of our neighboring nation of Haiti.

argument incorrectly sustained by the Commission is the crude exaggeration of the figures provided on stateless persons in the Dominican Republic.

According to the report, our country ranks seventh among states with the highest number of stateless persons, after countries like Myanmar, Ivory Coast, and Syria.

The comparison with Syria is disconcerting. How is it possible to compare the Dominican Republic with a state like Syria, which due to its
immersion in a civil war for more than six years has prevented its citizens from registering their children’s births? The comparison, as can be seen, appears absurd, excessive, and ridiculous.

In legal terms, a person is deemed stateless when no state considers the person a national, under the protection of its internal regulations. It is necessary to recognize that this condition affects nearly 15 million people worldwide and results in the limitation of their
exercise of basic of fundamental rights. The fight against statelessness is an international effort that the Dominican Republic has been part of for years.

However, in line with the constitutional and legal texts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, for reasons of jus sanguinis there are no – nor is it possible for there to be – descendants of Dominicans or Haitians in the condition of statelessness.

All persons descended from Haitian
nationals or parents of any other nationality, born within the territory of the Dominican Republic, have the power, in line with our Law 285 on Migration, to have their births registered in the consular offices of their respective countries.

The Inter-American Commission criticizes our national migration law that provides for an alien registry for the children of non-resident foreigners.

This is due, in reality, to the IACHR’s hidden intention
for Dominican nationality to be granted to all persons born on national soil, that is, for jus soli to be established with no exceptions of any kind.

Seen this way, it constitutes a genuine interference in the internal affairs of the Dominican Republic – but simultaneously a disregard of the most basic principles of International and Comparative Law.

It is a fact that of the 193 member states of the United Nations, more than
two-thirds do not unconditionally grant the right to birthright citizenship, but impose certain exceptions, as is the case of the Dominican Republic.

With this report, the IACHR seeks, through baseless accusations, to pressure the Dominican state to recognize persons as Dominican nationals to whom that right does not correspond, and who cannot be considered stateless given that they are invested with the legitimate right to hold their parents’ nationality and to
register their births in the consular offices of their countries of origin.

Dominican nationality
Naturally, the key issue in the report revolves around the Dominican nationality of persons of Haitian ancestry; and it is there that we find the greatest error of interpretation by the organs of the Inter-American Human Rights System, including both the Commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

This misguided
report highlights that the Dominican state has not adopted measures to invalidate regulations establishing or having the effect of not considering those born on national soil to parents of irregular migration status as Dominican nationals.

As we have explained on previous occasions, it has been shown that our Constitution and our laws simply represent a valid exercise of national sovereignty that does not violate human rights and does not cause statelessness.

The Constitution of the Dominican Republic clearly establishes the system of acquiring Dominican nationality. It can be obtained in two ways: first, by jus sanguinis, that is, through the fact that the children of Dominican nationals have the right to Dominican nationality; and second, by jus soli, that is, through the circumstance that persons born on Dominican soil have the right to Dominican nationality. But our Constitution also stipulates
exceptions to jus solis, that is, persons for whom, despite having been born on Dominican soil, no right to Dominican nationality exists.

These cases include children of members of diplomatic corps stationed in the country; of individuals in transit through the country; and of persons found in the country in an irregular migration status.

The latter exception is the one that has garnered the resistance of the Inter-American Human
Rights System and has prompted it to recommend its modification to our country’s authorities.

But no obligation to make such a change exists, as this is a choice the Dominican Republic has made regarding its system for acquiring nationality; this is a sovereign right of the state that is also assumed by other countries in the world without accusations of discrimination or generation of statelessness being raised against them.

With its recent
report, the IACHR has again unjustly and irresponsibly attacked the Dominican Republic. It does so, further more, by making improper recommendations that we modify our Constitution and national laws, which conform to the requirements of International Law.

Once again, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has committed a great legal blunder revealing a colossal disregard of history and a malevolent political intent.