Dominican Republic: government quits OAS court

The Dominican Republic's Constitutional Tribunal (TC) ruled on Nov. 4 that the country must withdraw from the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CorteIDH), an agency of the Organization of American States (OAS). The TC ruling, Decision 256-14, was based on a technicality involving a 1999 agreement with the OAS court, but observers assumed that the TC was actually reacting to an Oct. 22 announcement that the human rights court had condemned the Dominican Republic's treatment of immigrants and their descendants, notably the TC's controversial Decision 168-13 of September 2013, which declared that no one born to undocumented immigrant parents since 1929 was a citizen. The 2013 decision excludes thousands of Haitian-descended Dominicans from citizenship; it has been met with protests from international rights groups, the Haitian government and many Dominicans, including members of the country's National Human Rights Commission (CNDH).

The OAS court's 173-page decision, dated Aug. 28, concerns the treatment of a number of Haitian immigrants some 15 years ago. However, the OAS judges' ruling included a condemnation of Decision 168-13, which they said violated the human rights of the Dominican-born people it deprived of citizenship; the human rights court also ruled that a law the Dominican Congress passed in May to resolve the problem was inadequate. The court expressed "deep concern" after the Dominican Republic announced its decision to withdraw from the court's jurisdiction.

Dominican legal experts say it is unclear whether the Dominican Republic can withdraw from the OAS court without also withdrawing from the OAS. Constitutional law professor Nassef Perdomo cited the 1998 case of a naturalized Peruvian citizen, Baruch Ivcher Bronstein, who was stripped of his citizenship by the government of President Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000). "The OAS isn't going to recognize [the decision to withdraw from the court]," Perdomo said, "as it didn't recognize it with Peru when Alberto Fujimori's government tried to leave the court, which was recorded in the documentation for the Ivcher Bronstein case." However, two countries appear to have withdrawn successfully in the past: Trinidad and Tobago in 1999 and Venezuela in 2013. (Hoy, Santo Domingo, Oct. 22; TeleSUR, Oct. 22; Washington Post, Nov. 4, from AP; 7 Días, Santo Domingo, Nov. 5; Radio Métropole, Haiti, Nov. 7)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, November 9.