Dominican Republic Withdraws from OAS Human Rights Court

Dominican Haitians protest against human rights violations.
Dominican Haitians protest against human rights violations. (@ssandrellie)

On Tuesday, the Dominican Republic withdrew membership from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR). The move came after the court found the Caribbean nation discriminated against its residents of Haitian descent and denied them certain rights. The angered Dominican government called the allegations “out of season, biased, and inappropriate.”

In 2013, a Dominican court ruled that people born in the Dominican Republic to illegal Haitian migrants were not entitled to birth-right citizenship, leaving thousands of people without legal status in the country. The government promised to resolve the matter, but has since only offered residency and work permits.

The Inter-American Court gave the Dominican Republic six months to overturn the local court’s ruling.

A 59-page ruling the Dominican court issued on Tuesday authorizing the withdrawal stated the Senate never ratified the February 1999 agreement with the IACHR, as required by the Dominican Constitution. Ten judges voted in favor of the ruling, while three voted against.

The Dominican court said its ruling stemmed from a mid-2000s complaint from Dominican nationalists who claimed the government’s agreement with the IACHR was unconstitutional. Wade McMullen, a legal officer for the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, accused the court of “playing politics” at the expense of Dominicans’ rights.

“The Constitutional Court’s decision is absolutely shameful and shows a complete disregard for the rule of law,” said McMullen. “The very same Constitutional Court has repeatedly recognized the binding nature of the Inter-American Court for years, while the case it has conveniently used to invalidate the Inter-American Court’s jurisdiction has been sitting on the shelf collecting dust for almost a decade.”

Amnesty International has also condemned the Dominican government’s actions. “The dismissive reaction of the Dominican Republic to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ ruling on human rights abuses suffered by Dominicans of Haitian descent and Haitian migrants demonstrates a shocking disregard for international law and the country’s legal responsibilities,” said the organization in a statement.

Sources: Salon, Amnesty International.

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