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#1286: Dominican Republic's Disgrace Mass deportation of Haitians must be stopped (fwd)


Dominican Republic's Disgrace Mass deportation of Haitians must       
be stopped _______By Laurel Fletcher  Monday, December 6, 1999 

 THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC has expelled  5,000 Haitians and Dominicans of
Haitian descent since an international organization recently criticized
the Dominican government's human rights record.The international
community must send a strong message to the Dominican Republic that it
cannot  respond to censure of its human rights record by instigating
even greater levels of repression. Such  behavior causes needless misery
for the victims of  Dominican human rights abuses and undermines the  
rule of law. In October, the Organization of American States released
its report on human rights in the Dominican Republic. For years, the
intergovernmental body,  akin to a regional United Nations, has onitored
discrimination against both Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent
residing in the Dominican Republic. Its recent report criticized the
Dominican  government for: -- Failing to guarantee Haitians adequate
working  and living conditions. 

- Denying Dominican-born children of Haitian  parents the right to
Dominican nationality and  access to education. 

-- Violating international law by orchestrating periodic mass expulsions
of Haitians. 

The Dominican government reacted defiantly to the  OAS report, and
publicly announced that it would ``vindicate'' its sovereign rights. To
prove its point, government officials began to round up and expel      
anyone it suspected of being Haitian. The  government's action was
explicitly race-based  because most Haitians are of African descent,
while  the majority of Dominicans are racially mixed and draw their
cultural identity from their Spanish roots, largely ignoring their
African heritage. Within days,approximately 5,000 individuals were
forced across the border to Haiti before the government slowed       
down the expulsions to negotiate with Haitian  officials.        
Dominican expulsion operations were carried out with brutal efficiency.
Immigration and army officials  swept through neighborhoods and detained
those  they suspected of being Haitian, among them  Dominican citizens,
and transported them to the  Haitian border, without an opportunity to
prove  their legal status. Many Dominicans of Haitian  descent and
Haitians entitled to remain in the Dominican Republic were expelled to
Haiti without their belongings. Many expelled reportedly did not     
receive food and water while in custody, and were subjected to physical
mistreatment. In particular, Dominicans caught in the sweeps found
themselves forced into the poorest country in the hemisphere, unable to
speak Haitian Creole and with no family  ties there. In addition, human
rights workers reported that scores of children, some only a few       
months old, were abandoned on the Dominican side of the border after
their parents had been expelled to Haiti without them. These latest
expulsions constitute serious breaches  of national and international
law. Dominican law provides that no for eigner will be deported without
being informed of and without having a just opportunity to refute the
basis for the deportation. Similarly, arbitrary expulsions violate human
rights  treaties to which the Dominican Republic is a party. The
efficacy of the OAS with respect to human  rights protections derives
from the voluntary compliance of its member states. The Dominican      
Republic must not be permitted to violate its treaty obligations by
committing mass human rights  violations in the name of state
sovereignty. If OAS member states are free to pick and choose which   
obligations they will honor, the human rights guarantees become
meaningless. Regardless of the fact that the Dominican Republic       
and Haiti reached a negotiated settlement of this issue last Thursday,
the Dominican Republic should  answer for its actions before the
international community. The Dominican government has a history of
ignoring bilateral expulsion agreements and there is no reason to expect
it will respect this one.  In response to an emergency request filed by
Boalt  Hall's International Human Rights Law Clinic and other human
rights organizations, the OAS ordered the Dominican Republic to halt
mass expulsions and  to give individuals a fair hearing before carrying
out a deportation order. The Dominican government has until tomorrow to
respond.  The international community must insist that the Dominican
Republic permanently end its unlawful campaign against Haitians and
Dominicans of  Haitian descent both for the sake of the immediate    
victims of its human rights abuses, and to promote universal respect for
international human rights