Dominico-Haitians face threat to citizenship

According to reports in major Dominican dailies on March 30, the Central Electoral Council (JCE) is planning to annul the Dominican birth certificate of human rights activist Sonia Pierre, the head of the Dominican-Haitian Women’s Movement (MUDHA). JCE chief inspector Juan Tavarez Gomez and JCE security chief Victor Lantigua reportedly have determined that Pierre’s birth certificate was based on false information and is therefore invalid.

Pierre was born in 1963 in Villa Altagracia, San Cristobal province. Her parents were Haitians working as sugarcane cutters at the time under a program set up by the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina in 1957, and they presented identity papers from the State Sugar Council (CEA) for their daughter’s birth certificate. The government apparently now claims that Pierre’s parents were in the country illegally; the Dominican Supreme Court of Justice ruled recently that children born to undocumented immigrants are not Dominican nationals. Pierre noted if the court’s decision can be applied retroactively, she would be stateless, since she has no legal status in Haiti.

News of the efforts to revoke Pierre’s citizenship came as human rights groups were in Santo Domingo to attend an international conference on the deportation of Haitians from the Dominican Republic. On March 30 major human rights groups held a press conference to express their solidarity with Pierre. Monika Kalra Varma, director of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights, which gave Pierre its 2006 RFK Human Rights Award, charged that she had “been targeted for investigation because of her work on behalf of human rights in the Dominico-Haitian community.” Pierre presented the case of two girls of Haitian descent who had been denied Dominican citizenship; in 2005 the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CIDH) ruled that the Dominican government should apologize to the girls and pay them

Varma noted that the Dominican press had printed personal information about Pierre’s residence and her family members. “We are concerned that the irresponsible release of such information is a continuing threat to Sonia and her family’s personal security,” Varma said. (El Diario-La Prensa, NY, March 31, April 1; AlterPresse, March 30; RFK Center press release, March 31)

On March 21, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Amnesty International published a report accusing the Dominican government of arbitrary mass deportations and the denial of birth certificates to thousands of children. The report noted that Dominican citizens have been deported for “looking like Haitians.” In one case, on Jan. 4, 2006, officials seized an eight-year-old girl named Mathilde in the streets of Santo Domingo, slapped her across the face twice—hard enough to make her mouth bleed—and took her to a detention center, where they held her overnight without letting her contact her parents. Mathilde was saved from deportation to Haiti when a local human rights organization proved she was a Dominican national. (Haiti Support Group News Briefs, March 21 from AI)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 1

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