Violent Haitian Protests Send Dominican Diplomats Packing

The attack on the Dominican diplomatic headquarters in Haiti came amid protests for improved living conditions and public services in the city of Juana Méndez. (HispanTV)

EspañolTensions between Haiti and the Dominican Republic have intensified since a violent mob attacked the Dominican consulate in the Haitian city of Juana Méndez on December 1. According to Dominican Vice Consul Marciano Mateo Espinosa, all Dominican diplomats have been sent home for security reasons.

The violence came after a Dominican truck driver, Carlos Leon, lost control of his vehicle and fatally struck a six-year-old Haitian girl, within Haitian territory, on Sunday, November 30.

Protestors demanded that Leon, who was transferred to the Dominican Republic for medical care following the incident, be tried for the killing in Haiti. Police employed tear gas in a bid to disperse protestors when demonstrations grew violent.

Haitian activists have seized the opportunity to demand improved living conditions — such as potable water, electricity, and public works — and a tax cut on imported goods from the Dominican zone of Dajabón. Ongoing street demonstrations have paralyzed the city of Juana Méndez for over a week.

Although no Dominican diplomats were injured in the violence at the consulate, Dominican Consul Francisco Gustavo Lembert has stated that the situation, at the time, was out of control and not conducive to a productive work environment.

“We will not go back to work until the situation improves. There are no guarantees for anybody,” added the diplomat.

On Tuesday, December 9, the ambassadors of the European Union (EU) and United Nations (UN) to the Dominican Republic will meet with Dominican President Danilo Medina to facilitate dialogue between the two island nations.

“We want to further dialogue between the two governments, because we believe that political stability is a precondition to economic development, and that the current situation will do nothing to aid either country,” said Alberto Navarro, EU ambassador to the Dominican Republic, following his meeting with Medina.

An Issue of Documentation

The migration of Haitian refugees to the Dominican Republic has long been a point of tension between the two countries.

Last May, the Dominican Senate passed legislation to naturalize the children of illegal immigrants born within the Dominican Republic — a move that guarantees documentation for Haitian refugees previously passed over by the legal system. Prior to May, a 2013 Constitutional Court resolution decided these children, the majority of Haitian descent, were not entitled to Dominican nationality.

The National Bureau for Migrants and Dominican Republic Refuges (MENAMIRD), a coalition of 37 human-rights NGOs, calculates that the reform will impact at least 200,000 people.

However, the legislation has yet to be applied in full. William Charpentier, MENAMIRD coordinator and president of the Integral Ethnic Foundation, says those would benefit of this law continue to face problems concerning their immigration status and nationality.

“The Supreme Electoral Council is the state agency charged with implementing this part of the law. However, to date, the vast majority of people who should benefit from this law haven’t been able to do so. There are roadblocks to keep people from accessing their documents. The lives of many young people are paralyzed, despite the passage of the law, because they haven’t been able to get their documents, which makes it impossible for them to study or work,” he explained to the PanAm Post.

Dominican Republic Withdraws from the CIDH

Hatians protest in the Dominican Republic upon hearing that the country will withdraw from the OEA and thus the IACHR.
Hatians protest in the Dominican Republic upon hearing that the country will withdraw from the OEA and thus the IACHR. (@bbcmundo_ultimo)

On August 28, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) ruled that, between 1999 and 2000, the Dominican Republic was responsible for the “illegal and arbitrary violation of rights and expulsion of Haitian Dominicans from the Dominican Republic to Haiti.”

Furthermore, the Court concluded that Haitians were expelled from the Dominican Republic on discriminatory grounds.

“The official documents of some of the victims were destroyed or unknown to state authorities at the time of expulsion. In other cases, the victims were born in the Dominican Republic, but the state failed to document them as citizens,” explained the ruling.

The Dominican Republic then withdrew from the Organization of American States (OAS) when the Dominican Constitutional Court declared the nation’s accession to the IACHR “unconstitutional” on November 4, arguing the Congress had never approved it.

While the IACHR condemned the decision, local authorities maintained that “the Dominican Republic finds anything that questions the legitimate powers of the state to be unacceptable.”

According to a document released by 39 human-rights organizations following the Dominican court’s decision, the Dominican Republic’s inclusion into the IACHR in 1999, during the Leonel Fernandez administration, was absolutely legal. The document argues this was framed in the proceedings of the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR), previously signed by the country in 1978.

The NGO coalition denounced the Constitutional Court for turning the Dominican Republic into a state that fails to meet its international commitments, “particularly when IACHR decisions have been unfavorable and criticized the Dominican court system itself.”

“Given the Constitutional Court’s decision, human rights are now threatened instead of protected, and any move by the Dominican Republic to separate itself from the OAS has a similarly negative effect on human rights. We don’t have an independent justice system; we have a National Congress and a Constitutional Court that remains removed from its mission to defend and protect fundamental rights,” warned the coalition.

Elisa Vásquez contributed to this article.

Translated by Peter Sacco.

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