Dominican Republic court ruling will render thousands of people stateless

by Mary Small | @JesuitRefugee | Jesuit Refugee Service International
Thursday, 3 October 2013 14:48 GMT

Young Dominicans protest court rulings in the Dominican Republic. (Centro Bonó)

Image Caption and Rights Information

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

(Washington, D.C.) October 3, 2013 — On September 26, the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic invalidated the nationality of children born to unauthorized migrants over the last 85 years. The alarmingly detailed ruling orders the Central Electoral Board to provide, within a year, a list of people to be stripped of their nationality.

Discriminatory administrative actions beginning in 2007, followed by a Constitutional reform in 2010, have already suspended or invalidated the identity documents of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent, making them effectively stateless. This new ruling, however, goes much further, and would — if implemented — leave exponentially more people stateless.

Jesuit Refugee Service/USA joins Centro Bonó in calling on the Constitutional Court to reconsider its findings in subsequent cases, and on Dominican political leaders to work together to treat all residents of the Dominican Republic with dignity and respect. Centro Bonó’s translated statement is below. The original is here.

Centro Bonó rejects ruling of the Constitutional Court

(Santo Domingo) September 26, 2013

Today, Centro Bonó expresses its deepest indignation concerning the absurd, senseless and unjust ruling of the Constitutional Court, which expands the definition of "foreigners in transit" to span a period of 85 years, in order to justify the denationalization of thousands of Dominicans and Dominicans of Haitian descent.

The problematic ruling (168-13) of the Constitutional Court legitimizes illegal administrative actions taken by the Central Electoral Board (JCE), thus affecting the fundamental rights of more than four generations of men and women who have, throughout their lives, formed part of Dominican society, and who have contributed to the material, cultural and spiritual development of this country. This would constitute a judicial practice that openly violates the principle of non-retroactivity of laws.

Centro Bonó publically expresses its indignation to see how the Constitutional Court exceeded the limits of the case of Juliana Deguis Piere, who went to court with her nationality intact and, instead of receiving protection of her fundamental rights, left denationalized by the judges who passed the sentence.

In this case, the Constitutional Court moved beyond its powers because, as mandated by Article 74 of the Constitution, the high court has the obligation of interpreting rights in "the manner most favorable to the holder of such."

The Constitutional Court, Bonó said, "ignores the rulings of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, as well as the international covenants and treaties, which are equal to the Constitution in their authority."

Against this backdrop, Centro Bonó calls on all citizens to denounce this ruling by the highest court, and expresses its deep concern that the ruling has weakened rule of law, juridical security and the democratic institutions of the Dominican Republic.

Centro Bonó announces that it will accompany all those affected by this sentence until the rights which have been violated by this ruling are restored.

The Court is empowered to address hundreds of cases of people in very similar situations. We hope that in the future, the Court will return to the law, review and revise its own jurisprudence, and conform to the Constitution, and international law and treaties.
"We call on all parts of the government to assume their responsibility to exercise a balance of powers, and to harmonize their points of view in order to search for a just and dignified solution to this problem."

Centro Bonó recognizes and commends the dignity of the judges who opposed the sadly infamous Constitutional Court.