Dominican Republic cancels meeting with Haiti to discuss court ruling

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic, Thursday November 28, 2013, CMC – The Dominican Republic has cancelled a planned meeting with Haiti in Venezuela on Saturday to discuss the Constitutional Court ruling that could render, stateless, thousands of people of Haitian descent in the Spanish-speaking country.

The move by the authorities in the Dominican Republic comes less than 48 hours after the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) announced that it was suspending discussion on the application by Santo Domingo to join the 15-member regional grouping.

Dominican Presidential Minister Gustavo Montalvo said the government cancelled Saturday’s meeting, which would have been a follow-up to one held last week in Caracas, because it was of the opinion that Haiti violated an earlier agreement to prioritise bilateral dialogue in the case.

“Haiti has chosen to take another road and that puts an end to our conversations at this time,” he said in a statement without elaborating.

Haiti’s President Michel Martelly, who attended the CARICOM Bureau meeting in Trinidad and Tobago where the decision was taken to suspend the application of the Dominican Republic, told reporters that Santo Domingo was not operating “in good faith”.

He said no sooner had the talks ended in Caracas, the authorities in the Dominican Republic deported 300 people, “:who do not know the country, who do not have family in Haiti”.

He hinted at the possibility of Haiti boycotting future talks adding “we don’t have to keep meeting without them (Dominican Republic) showing some action,” he added.

Meanwhile, Jose Ramon Fadul, president of the Dominican Republic’s National Migration Council, has accused CARICOM of interference and retaliation.

The Constitutional Court in Santo Domingo has ruled in favour of stripping citizenship from children of Haitian migrants. The decision applies to those born after 1929 — a category that overwhelmingly includes descendants of Haitians brought in to work on farms.

But in defending the ruling, Dominican Republic officials said it ends uncertainty for children of Haitian immigrants, allowing them to apply for residency and eventually for citizenship.

The Geneva-based office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on authorities in Santo Domingo to ensure that the ruling did not leave persons of Haitian descent in “constitutional limbo”.

A United Nations-supported study, released this year, estimated that there were around 210,000 Dominican-born people of Haitian descent and another 34,000 born to parents of other nationalities.

However, the Government of the Dominican Republic estimates that around 500,000 people born in Haiti live in the Dominican Republic.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Persad Bissessar, who is also the CARICOM chairperson,  warned the Dominican Republic that “it cannot be business as usual”.

CARICOM said it was also calling on the Dominican Republic “to ensure the immediate protection of those persons negatively affected by the ruling and to adhere to its international human rights obligations under the Inter American Court of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the American Convention of Human Rights among others”. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)