Caribbean leaders defend Haiti, denounce Dominican decision

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Kamla Persad-Bissessar

[Caribbean Update]

Declaring that it can no longer be business as usual, the Caribbean Community on Tuesday suspended the Dominican Republic’s application to join its regional economic bloc and called on the country’s leaders to urgently “take immediate, credible steps” to stave off a potential humanitarian crisis triggered by a citizenship ruling.

The decision came with a formal condemnation of the Dominican Republic’s constitutional court ruling of September 23, 2013 stripping citizenship from anyone born in the country to parents who were illegal.  And it happened despite a last minute assurance by Dominican President Danilo Medina that persons — the majority of them of Haitian descent — affected by the ruling would not be deported.

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, chairwoman of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), said she received word from Medina on Tuesday morning that “the government of the DR will not deport any of the persons affected by the ruling of the constitution court and measures are to be taken to ensure that no one is deported.”

“Caricom expects these assurances by the Dominican Republic will be honored,” Persad-Bissessar said at a news conference after a special meeting by Caricom’s leaders on the court decision.  “Caricom is prepared to engage the DR, but the government of the DR must be prepared to show good faith by immediate, credible steps as part of an overall plan to resolve this nationality and attendant issues in the shortest possible time.”

Persad-Bissessar, incoming Caricom chairman St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves and former chairman Haitian President Michel Martelly spent several hours discussing the issue Tuesday.  They also heard from members of civil society who denounced the measures and presented a Caribbean-wide petition condemning the decision.  Among the points made during the discussions: the court ruling violates the Dominican Republic’s international human rights obligations.

“It is especially repugnant that the ruling ignores the 2005 judgment made by the Inter-American Court on Human Rights (IACHR) that the Dominican Republic adapt its immigration laws and practices in accordance with the provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights,” Persad-Bissessar said.For the rest of the report see Miami Herald   

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