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6624: MRG: Court Victory for Expelled Haitians (fwd)

From: "[iso-8859-1] Chris Chapman" <chrisdchapman@yahoo.com>

KEY WORDS: Haitians in the DR, Inter-American Court,

>From Outsider, published by the Minority Rights Group

Court Victory for Expelled Haitians
by Solange Pierre

Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the island of
Hispaniola, in the
Caribbean. Haiti is a very poor country and many
Haitians seek work in the
more prosperous Dominican Republic. An estimated
700,000 Haitians and
Dominicans of Haitian origin live and work permanently
in the Dominican
Republic; very few have legal status. Most live in
work camps called bateyes
on the sugar plantations. There is long-standing
anti-Haitian racism in the
Dominican Republic and periodically the government
expels thousands of

The Movimiento de Mujeres Dominico-Haitianas (Mudha)
is an NGO founded in
1995 with the aim of defending the rights of women of
Haitian descent. Its
key areas of work are education from a gender
perspective, legal advice,
community development and challenging racism in the
Dominican Republic.

Supported by a number of legal advisers, Mudha took
the case of the expulsion
of five Dominican-Haitians to the Inter-American Court
of Human Rights
challenging the Dominican Republic’s recent
deportation policy as applied to
Haitians. Below is Mudha’s account of the trial and

The deportations and mass expulsions of Haitian
workers by the Dominican
government violate the rights of those subjected to
the process. There is no
forum where these people can present evidence that the
action of deportation
gives rise to multiple violations of their human
rights and this is, in
itself, another violation of those rights. The absence
of the guarantee of
due process in the case of mass expulsions is the
responsibility of the
Dominican state. It has resulted in great abuses
during these expulsions of
Haitian workers.

The court case
In November 1999, the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights (the
Commission) asked the Inter-American Court on Human
Rights (IACHR) to rule
that the Dominican Republic should suspend mass
expulsions and deportations
as ‘they constantly put at risk the life and physical
integrity of the
deported people, in the way that families are
separated, and especially the
minors who are abandoned’. Also, deportations should
be carried out on an
individual basis, not en masse.

On 8 August 2000, the public hearing took place.
Evidence was heard from the
Commission, the witnesses and their legal advisers,
who included
representatives from the Centre for Justice and
International Law (CEJIL),
Washington, DC, the Center of Human Rights of the
Faculty of Law at the
University of Columbia and from the Center of Human
Rights and of the Faculty
of Law at the University of Berkeley, California.

Father Pierre Ruquoy and Solange Pierre (Mudha
coordinator) spoke of forced
repatriations in which people are loaded on to buses
without being able to
communicate with their families, without warning,
without being able to take
any of their belongings with them and, above all,
without being able to
present themselves before any competent authority. The
criteria for
deportation, according to these witnesses, are ‘skin
colour and mode of
speaking’. They were able to prove that many of those
deported have been in
the Dominican Republic for 20 or 30 years and have
lost their links with
Haitian language and customs. They also testified that
cases of sexual
violations occurred in the context of the expulsions.

The Dominican state argued that the IACHR had acted
precipitately and
affirmed that: ‘the deportation of foreigners is a
non-renunciable and
non-negotiable right … it constitutes one of the
attributes of sovereignty’.
It was also argued that procedures exist within
domestic law which guarantee
due process and individual treatment of cases.

The decision of the IACHR
On 18 August 2000 the IACHR made public its decision.
It established that the
Dominican Republic has been party to the American
Convention since 1978, and
stated that it is the responsibility of each signatory
state to make its own
decisions on migration policy where they are
‘compatible with the norms of
protection of the human rights established in the
aforesaid Convention’. The
testimonies presented allowed the IACHR to establish a
prima facie
presumption of cases in which named individuals are
subjected to abuse and
risk suffering irreparable damage through deportation.
It rejected ordering
provisional measures for cases of un-named groups of
people. The IACHR also
ordered the adoption of provisional measures to
prevent reprisals against
Father Ruquoy and Solange Pierre in the Dominican
Republic for giving their

The IACHR required of the Dominican state:

that it adopt without delay the measures necessary to
protect the life and
personal integrity of Benito Tide Méndez, Antonio
Sension, Andrea Alezy,
Janty Fils-Aime and William Medina Ferreras;

that it abstain from deporting or expelling Benito
Tide Méndez and Antonio

that it permit the immediate return to their territory
of Janty Fils-Aime and
William Medina Ferreras;

that it allow as soon as possible the family
reunification of Antonio Sension
and Andrea Alezy with their younger children in the
Dominican Republic;

that it collaborate with Antonio Sension in order to
obtain information on
the whereabouts of his relations in Haiti or the
Dominican Republic;

that, in the framework of cooperation agreements
between the Dominican
Republic and Haiti, it investigate the situation of
Janty Fils-Aime and
William Medina Ferreras under the supervision of the
IACHR in order to speed
up the results of the said investigations;

that it continue the investigations already initiated
by its competent
authorities with relation to Benito Tide Méndez,
Rafaelito Pérez Charles,
Antonio Sension, Andrea Alezy and Berson Gelim;

that it adopt without delay the necessary measures to
protect the lives and
personal integrity of Father Pedro Ruquoy and Solange
Pierre, witnesses at
the public hearing of 8 August 2000;

that it supply to the IACHR bi-monthly reports from
the notification of the
present resolution, on the provisional measures that
have been adopted to
comply with this ruling. The ruling of the IACHR
constitutes an important
precedent and innovation. The Dominican Republic is
obliged to comply exactly
with what has been ordered, in accordance with its
ratification of the
jurisdictional competence of this body, which it
accepted in March 1999.

Mudha’s response to the decision
Mudha views the measures agreed by this tribunal as a
positive step. When the
Dominican government complies it will contribute, in
part, to restoring
respect for the rights of those who have been deported
and expelled. It is
also important because, within the Dominican system of
justice, there is no
forum where the voice of those deported and expelled
can be heard. The fact
that the Dominican government has to give regular
reports on the bateyes is a
step towards solving the problem.

Daring to take on the commitment of turning to the
IACHR has been an
important step. This initiative has set a precedent
for national
organizations to appeal to this court. It is the first
time the Dominican
Republic has been brought before the IACHR.

It gives us hope to know that mechanisms exist to
address violations of the
rights of people within the Dominican Republic, and
the guarantee that these
rights will be recognized within an international
legal framework.

The Commission and the non-governmental organizations
that represent the
victims will monitor the situation closely, to see
that the follow-up
procedures ordered by this body are carried out.

Hopes for the future
Mudha had hoped that the IACHR would go further and
recommend that the
Dominican government should suspend deportations and
mass expulsions, and be
asked to establish mechanisms to guarantee the rights
of those persons
deported and expelled from the Dominican Republic. The
lack of such
mechanisms is a weakness which could be overcome
through the creation of
special tribunals to review the cases of people in the
process of being
deported or expelled.

Such tribunals would prevent mass expulsions of
immigrant Haitian workers,
fairly determine who qualifies to stay and who could
be deported, reduce
violations of human rights and, above all, avoid
wrongful expulsions of
Dominicans of Haitian origin.

The decision of the IACHR was a moral victory, but the
deportations continue
and there has been a strong backlash from both
nationalists and the Catholic

Solange Pierre is coordinator of Mudha. Mudha is a
partner in MRG’s Minority
Rights and Development, and World Conference Against
Racism programmes. It
will be raising the issues of the poverty of the
Haitian minority in the
Dominican Republic with international development
donors, and the
anti-Haitian racism in international fora.

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