Dominican Republic: stateless ‘Haitians’ arrested for demonstrating

Police agents stopped a group of Dominican youths of Haitian descent from marching on Aug. 13 in Monte Plata, in the central province of the same name, to demand that the government respect their rights as citizens. The protesters, members of the youth movement Reconoci.do, were trying to march from the city’s central part to the local Civil Status office, the registry for identification documents. According to the group’s spokesperson, Ana MarĂ­a Belique, the protesters applied for a permit from the Monte Plata government but were turned down on the grounds that they weren’t Dominicans and had no right to demonstrate. When they attempted to march without a permit, a police contingent commanded by a Col. AntĂ­gua dispersed them with tear gas, arresting eight protesters. Three of those arrested were beaten by an agent from the robbery unit identified only as “Papo,” who told them to hold their demonstrations in “their country.”

Until 2010 the Dominican Constitution recognized everyone born in the Dominican Republic as a citizen, but in practice Dominicans with Haitian parents were frequently denied citizenship rights. The government responded to an unfavorable 2005 ruling by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish), by amending the Constitution in 2010 to limit citizenship to people with Dominican parents. Since then government officials have tried to apply the measure retroactively, with the Central Electoral Council (JCE) and its president, Roberto Rosario, preventing Dominicans of Haitian descent from obtaining birth certificates and other legal documents and leaving them in effect stateless.

Reconoci.do members were able demonstrate without problems in other parts of the country on Aug. 12 and 13. In San Pedro de MacorĂ­s they marched from Duarte Park to the San Pedro ApĂłstol Cathedral, where Catholic bishop Francisco Ozoria called for the youths to be given their papers. In Pedernales Reconoci.do members met with officials and with civil society organizations; in El Seibo the group sponsored an artistic presentation. (El Masacre, DajabĂłn, Aug. 16; OtramĂ©rica website, Aug. 5)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 19.