Time for Caricom action
TODAY WE return to a very troubling human rights issue that continues to generate sharp controversies – beyond the Caribbean. It is the recent controversial judgment by the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic (DR) that has had the immediate effect of denationalizing many thousands of immigrants of Haitian descent.
Given the depressing realities of its immense social and economic challenges – worse than any other fellow member state of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) – Haiti should not seriously be expected to take the lead, in isolation, to intervene with the Dominican Republic over the court’s ruling that has effectively rendered “stateless” an estimated 400 000 immigrants of Haitian decent.
As a member of CARICOM and, by extension, a partner of the CARIFORUM group of countries (CARICOM plus the Dominican Republic) that collectively engage with the European Union on behalf of the Caribbean, Haiti needs, and deserves, unqualified political solidarity by this region’s economic integration movement.
The government in Santo Domingo has sought to diffuse the significance of growing, strident criticisms against the court’s judgment with the argument that “automatic citizenship” was not a right normally granted and, further, to confuse this development with Haitian immigrants who illegally cross the border with the DR.
This is viewed as a false argument to justify the court’s judgment, which has automatically denationalized the many thousands of immigrants of Haitian decent who were born in the DR and have lived there all their lives, only to now find themselves vulnerable to deportation, without the right of an appeal.
The judgment has already been denounced by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights with which the Organization of American States has now decided to engage in dialogue for a resolution.
As observed this past week by the former secretary general of the Association of Caribbean States, and well known Caribbean intellectual, Dr Norman Girvan, the court’s judgment is currently being used in the DR to whip up nationalist sentiment for what “is a racially motivated campaign to make Haitians scapegoats for domestic problems”, and even branding Dominicans, who disagree with the new law, as “unpatriotic and traitorous”.
What remains quite puzzling is the continuing inaction by the governments of CARICOM to adopt a consensual position against the court’s judgment, considering, as the Community’s secretary general Irwin LaRocque has stoutly declared, “The judgment is an affront to those committed to justice . . .”.
In the circumstances, as being argued by opponents of the judgment – among them Dominican citizens – it simply cannot be business as usual for CARICOM with the DR at the level of either CARIFORUM, the Caribbean Tourism Organization or the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association. Now is the time for collective action by CARICOM.