Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Discrimination in the Dominican Republic

Did you know that discrimination against people of Haitian descent (Dominico-Haitians) is hindering the lives and rights of thousands in the Dominican Republic? What if I told you the Dominican government isn’t doing anything to stop it, but rather, is promoting policies that would strip these individuals of their citizenship…

Hi there, it’s Carlos Quesada, Global Rights’ Racial and Ethnic Equality Program director, with some important news to share.  

Over the past decade, legal Haitian immigrants have been the backbone of the sugarcane, construction and service industries in the Dominican Republic. However, deep rooted racism has denied Dominicans of Haitian descent basic economic and social rights such as legal employment, education, access to social services and even marriage.  Most recently, this racism has been fueled by the Dominican government’s efforts to deny Dominican nationality to individuals of Haitian descent.  This process violates the American Convention on Human Rights, to which the government of the Dominican Republic is a party.

Last week, I accompanied our partner, the Jacques Viau Network—a group of organizations that advocates for the rights of Haitians and Dominico-Haitians in the Dominican Republic– to the  82nd Session of the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UN CERD) in Geneva, Switzerland. There, I worked with members Maria Martinez and Manuel Dandre from the Movimiento Socio-Cultural de Trabajadores Haitianos and William Charpantier from Fundacion Etnica Integral preparing their brief to committee members on the situation of Dominico-Haitians.

Maria Martinez at UN CERD
Our partners presented the following recommendations to the committee for their official report to the Dominican government to address this serious human rights violation:
  • Recognize the existence of racial discrimination in the country
  • Stop the denationalization  process of Dominico-Haitians
  • Include specific data in the census on race and gender
  • Stop mass expulsions of Haitians and Dominico-Haitians
  • Appoint a human rights official in the country to investigate human rights concerns
We urge the UN CERD to consider these recommendations in their final report to the Dominican government, which must be held accountable to their duty to protect the human rights of all their citizens, regardless of race or ethnicity. Input and pressure from the UN CERD are critical steps in ensuring this accountability.
I look forward to keeping you updated on the process.


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