Litigation

Expelled Dominicans and Haitians v. Dominican Republic

Court
Inter-American Court of Human Rights
Country
Dominican Republic
Status
Closed

Statelessness in the Dominican Republic

In 2000, the authorities in the Dominican Republic arbitrarily detained and then expelled hundreds of people to Haiti. They included documented and undocumented Dominicans and foreigners, many of whom had their permanent residence in the Dominican Republic, where they also had their main family and economic ties. The expulsions were carried out arbitrarily and with no legal appeals. Those with proper documents were not even given time to produce them. The expulsions were part of a long history of discrimination against Dominicans of Haitian descent. The Inter-American Court found that the expulsions violated human rights standards.

Facts

For the past ten years the Dominican Republic has implemented a series of constitutional amendments, high court rulings, and legislative reform restricting access to Dominican nationality for persons of Haitian descent. Many of the new rules apply retroactively, whether by design or in practice. Discrimination against racial and ethnic minorities in the Dominican Republic has been widely reported by the United Nations and other bodies.

The Inter-American Court had previously addressed the Dominican Republic’s mistreatment of the population of Haitian descent in its 2005 decision in the Yean and Bosico v. Dominican Republic case, ruling that the migratory status of a child’s parents can never justify deprivation of nationality and that children cannot inherit the migratory status of their parents.

In September 2013, the Dominican Constitutional Tribunal in the case of Deguis (TC-168-13) stripped thousands of Dominican citizens of foreign descent of their Dominican nationality, by retroactively implementing an interpretation under which any child born to undocumented parents would fall within the “in transit” exception to jus soli citizenship. The Constitutional Court ordered the government to review birth registries and establish a process to implement the decision. In response to international pressure the Government enacted Law 169-14 intended to establish a special regime of naturalization for those affected by the ruling. 

Open Society Justice Initiative Involvement

The Justice Initiative provided an expert opinion from Julia Harrington Reddy, senior legal officer, explaining the relevant international standards applicable to the situation. These included the limitations on state discretion to regulate nationality, the duty of states to avoid statelessness, and the prohibition on arbitrary deprivation of nationality. The opinion stressed the discriminatory nature of deprivation of nationality in the case as well as failures of due process.

October 22, 2014

On October 22, 2014, the Inter-American Court issued its ruling. The Court concluded that both the decision of the Dominican Constitutional Tribunal in the Deguis case, and Law 169-14 which was designed to address the humanitarian and political implications of the Deguis decision, contravened the Dominican Republic’s obligations under the American Convention, including the rights to nationality, juridical personality, personal liberty, privacy, due process, equal protection before the law, freedom of movement and residence, rights of the family and the child, and the guarantee of non-discrimination.

August 28, 2014

Judgment of the Inter-American Court, published on October 22, 2014.

October 8–9, 2013

Public hearings held in the case.

October 01, 2013

Expert opinion submitted.

July 12, 2012

Inter-American Commission submits the Expelled case to the Inter-American Court.

November 12, 1999

Petition filed before the Inter-American Commission by the International Human Rights Clinic of Berkeley University, the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) and the National Coalition for the rights of Haitians (NCHR)

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