Tuesday, March 25, 2014

IACHR Takes Dominican Govt to Task for ‘De-Nationalization’

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights began its 150th session yesterday with hearings on a range of human rights cases in Colombia, Argentina, Peru and elsewhere in the Americas. But perhaps the most dramatic hearings were related to the Dominican Republic’s recent court decision which denied citizenship to thousands of individuals, mostly of Haitian descent.  

The commission heard two cases related to the issue yesterday, one on the situation of Haitian migrant workers and their families in the D.R., and another directly linked to the ruling, on the right to nationality for Dominicans of Haitian descent. Representatives of the Dominican government were present at both hearings, in which they protested against addressing an issue that “had already been sufficiently debated,” according to the Listin Diario.

The D.R. found itself under fire before the hearings even began. On Sunday, airport officials in Santo Domingo prevented Juliana Deguis, a young woman of Haitian descent who was set to testify before the IACHR yesterday from flying to Washington, saying that a special State Department letter granting her entry to the U.S. was not enough to allow her to leave. She did not have a Dominican passport, authorities said, and thus could not exit the country. But as the AP reports, this is something of a Catch-22:  Deguis was unable to apply for a passport because her Dominican birth certificate had been revoked by authorities due to her heritage, leaving her in legal limbo. The refusal to allow Deguis’ departure was condemned by her lawyers, as well by the president of the Dominican National Human Rights Commission, which accused the state of virtual “kidnapping.”

The government was the target of some strong censure from the commission during the hearings yesterday as well, which was reflected in local and regional press coverage. The AFP has a good overview of the petitioners’ remarks on the situation, who characterized their plight as a process of “de-nationalization.”

EFE notes that several IACHR commissioners were especially critical of the Dominican authorities’ “foreigner regularizing plan,” on the grounds that forcing individuals to register as foreigners was a clear violation of their right to nationality.

Ultimately the IACHR’s members lamented that the government did not appear to be following the recommendations made by the commission after a country visit in December, a sign that the case may be passed on to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which has binding authority in the Dominican Republic. But as human rights expert Julia Harrington Reddy recently pointed out, the Inter-American Court has already ruled against the D.R. regarding its discriminatory citizenship policies in 2005, which did nothing to prevent the Dominican Constitutional Court’s September ruling.

More IACHR hearings are scheduled throughout the week, including the first-ever thematic hearing on “Drug Policies and Human Rights in the Americas,” to be held this afternoon.

News Briefs
  • Opposition Venezuelan Congresswoman Maria Corina Machado, who appeared before the Organization of American States to speak about the human rights situation in her country on Friday, has been stripped of her seat. According to El Nacional, National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello announced the move yesterday, saying that Machado had “accepted a position from the hostile government of Panama as an alternate representative” to the OAS. As the BBC notes, this paves the way for her prosecution for allegedly inciting violent protests. It’s worth pointing out, however, that Machado did in fact participate in the Friday General Assembly after being made a temporary member of the Panamanian delegation, an unusual step, as the Wall Street Journal reports.
  • Oscar Martinez of El Faro’s Sala Negra has published an investigation into the massacre of some 260 Central American migrants in northern Mexico in 2010 and 2011. According to Martinez, interviews with survivors and a local coyote suggest that the killings were part of the Zetas drug gangs’ strategy of muscling into the lucrative migrant-smuggling trade.
  • In the wake of the removal of Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos this morning announced a new government initiative meant to address alleged “crises” in security, health, housing and mobility in the capital city, El Espectador reports. 

  • The increasing professionalization of Haiti’s national police, along with reductions in crime, have led U.N. officials Haiti to consider a scaled-back presence in the country, as outlined in a new report submitted by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. As the Miami Herald reports, however, this finding was tempered yesterday by U.N. delegates’ concern over the country’s shaky judiciary and the lack of concrete progress on elections.
  • The AP looks at the impact that the recent announcement by the U.S. embassy in Caracas that issuance of new tourist visas would be suspended has had on economic elites in the country. The move has caused angst among well-to-do Venezuelans, and the news agency notes that it comes at a time of heightening diplomatic tensions between Washington and Caracas.
  • Today’s  New York Times profiles Venezuela’s recently-unveiled system meant to roll back currency controls, cautioning that it is “not clear if the move would add significantly to inflation by making it more costly to import goods.”
  • While the news wires (AP and Reuters) report that British mining company Anglo American has stopped operations in the Los Bronces copper mine in central Chile due to a conflict between the multinational and local contract workers, La Tercera reports that operations have resumed as normal.
  • Last week, civil society leaders and academics involved in the hemispheric debate on drug policy and citizen security met in Rio de Janeiro as part of the “Citizen Security Dialogues,” hosted by the Rio-based Igarapé Institute. The event served as a platform for these groups and individuals to exchange ideas on best practices for security in the region, and remarks by Brazilian participants on the country’s police pacification efforts especially gained a  significant amount of local and regional press coverage (see: Jornal Dia Dia, El Economista and GlobalTV). The conference came after the Igarapé  Institute’s publication of  took advantage of the event to release a new report: “Changes in the Neighborhood – Reviewing Citizen Security Cooperation in Latin America,” which was expertly outlined by InSight Crime and highlighted by the Economist’s Americas blog yesterday.
  • Security analysts in the region may also be interested in another recently-launched project, a collaboration of Igarapé with the Inter-American Development Bank and InSight Crime. These organizations have announced the first edition of a comprehensive online database of past and current citizen security programs throughout the region, complete with a graphic interface that allows for the comparison of multiple variables. The site’s launch was covered by Spanish news agency EFE, which focused on the database’s apparent finding that two-thirds of the region’s security programs have been focused on just seven countries: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua.

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