Washington Conference and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to Focus on Dominican Republic Denationalization Policy

As rising numbers of Dominican citizens of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic are having their nationality revoked by the Dominican government, an international coalition of leading human rights groups announced plans today to examine the legality of those actions and the impacts on people who have lost their nationality rights, in a one-day conference in Washington, D.C., and a surrounding week of dialogue with Dominican advocates, U.S. administration, Congress and other policymakers.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As rising numbers of Dominican citizens of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic are having their nationality revoked by the Dominican government, an international coalition of leading human rights groups announced plans today to examine the legality of those actions and the impacts on people who have lost their nationality rights, in a one-day conference in Washington, D.C., and a surrounding week of dialogue with Dominican advocates, U.S. administration, Congress and other policymakers.

David Robinson, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, U.S. Department of State, will keynote the October 26 Conference on Statelessness and the Right to Nationality in the Dominican Republic, which will be held at the Georgetown University Law Center’s Human Rights Institute, Washington.

The coalition will also join visiting members of Dominican civil society groups in a public thematic hearing for discussions with the Dominican government and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Washington based human rights branch of the Organization of American States.  The dialogue will focus on the Dominican Republic?s retroactive denationalization policy that is stripping* thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent of their previously established citizenship, denying them access to their existing identity documents, and effectively rendering their children and future generations stateless.

Organizers of the October 26 conference and October 24-28 advocacy events are the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), Church World Service, Christian Aid, the Episcopal Church, Jesuit Refugee Service USA, Refugees International, and The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center).

“The retroactive application of this new Dominican law is forbidden by the American Convention on Human Rights, to which the government of the Dominican Republic is a party,”** said Melanie Teff, Senior Advocate, Refugees International.

In a joint statement, the U.S.-based coalition said:

The coalition is urging the Government of the Dominican Republic to recognize all people born in their territory prior to the change of their constitution in January 2010 as Dominican citizens.  It further calls on the Dominican Government to ensure that no children born after the change in the constitution are left effectively stateless.

As a rising modern, democratic country, the Dominican Republic gained international admiration for its humanitarian compassion and assistance to Haiti following the devastating 2010 earthquake.  We are confident that the Dominican government wishes to continue building on that reputation by complying with human rights conventions affecting a very vulnerable group of citizens.

The October 26 Washington conference and advocacy efforts on behalf of denationalized Dominicans of Haitian descent follow the 50th anniversary (August 30) of the United Nations 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and the launch of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ new campaign on statelessness.  To date, the Dominican Republic has signed the 1961 Convention but has yet to ratify it.

For conference agenda, registration and further information: http://bit.ly/DRcon

Editors, producers, reporters:

  • Downloadable press kit for the Conference on Statelessness and the Right to Nationality in the Dominican Republic available here: www.churchworldservice.org/denationalization and http://bit.ly/DRcon
  • Interviews available on request with key spokespeople in English or Spanish.
  • Conference sessions are open to media.

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* U.S. Department of State, 2010 Human Rights Report, www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/wha/154503.htm

Walter Cronkite School of Journalism Report, “Stateless in the Dominican Republic”, cronkite.asu.edu/buffett/dr/the_stateless.html

** In English: Organization of American States, American Convention on Human Rights, O.A.S. Treaty Series No. 36, 1144 U.N.T.S. 123, entered into force July 18, 1978, reprinted in Basic Documents Pertaining to Human Rights in the Inter-American System, OEA/Ser.L.V/II.82 doc.6 rev.1 at 25 (1992) www1.umn.edu/humanrts/oasinstr/zoas3con.htm

Media Contact:
Lesley Crosson, 212-870-2676, lcrosson@churchworldservice.org
Jan Dragin, 781-925-1526, jdragin@gis.net


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