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OAS human rights body warns over Haitians treatment
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Dominican authorities deny accusations against Dominican-Haitian citizens.

The government of the Dominican Republic on Oct. 24 rejected an accusation presented before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, or IACHR, a branch of the Organization of American States, that said authorities in the Caribbean nation had denied identity cards to children of Haitian foreigners who were born in the country.

A group of nongovernmental organizations, including the Washington-based Center for Justice and International Law, the Dominican-Haitian Meeting Network and the Dominican-Haitian Women’s Movement, presented the complaint to the IACHR over the passage of a 2007 resolution that states that children of non-resident foreigners or those with irregular immigration status do not have a right to citizenship.

Roberto Saladín, the Dominican representative to the Organization of American States, said in a hearing that “there is no discriminatory state policy against people who find themselves on [Dominican] land” and that the country is undergoing a process to “modernize and clean up irregularities in its civil registry system.”

According to the complaint, the Dominican electoral board, the authority that oversees identity cards, denied birth certificates to children who were born in the Dominican Republic who had Haitian ancestry. The IACHR was presented with 457 cases, although the Jesuit Refugees and Migrants Service estimates that there are as many as 1,600 cases.

The situation is not new. In 2005, the San José, Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered the Dominican government to pay damages to the families of Dilcia Jean and Violeta Bourciquot, children born to Haitian parents, for denying them Dominican birth certificates in 1997.

One of the most outspoken activists in favor of the Haitian-descendant children is Sonia Pierre, director of the Dominican-Haitian Women’s Movement, who was born to Haitian parents in the Dominican Republic in 1963. In 2007, the electoral board asked that her birth certificate be annulled for “irregularities.”

Dominican authorities have repeatedly tried to discredit her and her case in favor of Dominican-Haitians. Even Cardinal Nicolás López Rodríguez told the local press that Pierre has “never been a friend of the Dominican Republic” and that her reports of mistreatment of Haitians in the country “lack seriousness.”

In an effort to bring the issue to light, the Movement for a Civil Registry Free of Discrimination, an 18-member umbrella group of civil society organizations, launched the campaign “Reconocido”, or “Recognized”.

“There are thousands of people who, by being denied a fundamental document, are impeded from having an identity or voting card, or a passport, from getting married or divorced, from matriculating in schools and universities, and from applying for scholarships and employment,” said the group. “They can also not register their children, which means they become dead civilians in this condition.”
—Latinamerica Press.

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