Press release

Thousands Stripped of Citizenship in the Dominican Republic

June 01, 2010
+1 212-548-0378

NEW YORK—A case challenging the Dominican Republic's treatment of its citizens of Haitian ancestry was filed before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights today by the Open Society Justice Initiative and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL).

The case focuses on Emildo Bueno Oguis, a Dominican of Haitian descent who was refused a certified copy of his birth certificate—essential to travel, work, or access other basic services in the Dominican Republic—by the civil registry in 2007.

"Bueno Oguis's case is emblematic of the discrimination faced today by thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent," said James A. Goldston, the executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative. "The Dominican government is using a panoply of legislative and administrative tactics to deprive this population of its lawful rights. Without access to their identity documents, many Dominicans of Haitian descent find themselves essentially stateless."

Bueno Oguis was born in the Dominican Republic in 1975 and recognized by multiple state agencies as a citizen, in accordance with the law. However, since 2007, government authorities have argued that he actually does not have the right to Dominican nationality because of his parents' immigration status at the time of his birth, retroactively applying a 2004 migration law to strip him of citizenship.

A hearing on Bueno Oguis's case has been pending before the Dominican Republic's Supreme Court for more than fifteen months. After three years without essential documents, Bueno Oguis has faced unacceptable limitations on his fundamental rights, including restrictions on his ability to move freely and own property.

The Bueno Oguis case is the first nationality-related complaint to be filed against the Dominican Republic before a human rights tribunal since the Inter-American Court's landmark ruling in Yean and Bosico. In that case, the court ruled in 2005 that parents' migration status could not be a factor in determining nationality, and found the Dominican Republic's nationality policies racially discriminatory against Dominicans of Haitian descent.

"The Dominican Republic has to comply with the spirit of the Inter-American Court's decision," said Ariela Peralta, Deputy Director of CEJIL. "The new constitution raises additional concerns, and we hope that this case will spur a more productive dialogue on how the country can work to end these racist policies."

The Justice Initiative works together with partner organizations in the Dominican Republic to document denial and deprivation of nationality, raise awareness of the problem of statelessness, demand justice for victims, and advocate for modification of discriminatory nationality laws and policies.


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