Ethnic cleansing shames Dominican Republic

There is no way to soft-pedal the blatant racism inherent in ethnic cleansing.

Just when we thought that human beings and nature were being too constant in their cruel tormenting of the Haitian people, the government of the Dominican Republic (DR) has decided to stoop to a lower level, in its quest to deny its Haitian diaspora two of the most basic and internationally recognized human rights: the right to citizenship by birth and the right to be protected from becoming stateless.

To accomplish that vile objective, the DR is mobilizing the full weight of its legal, political and security apparatus to deprive, retroactively to 1929, as many as 200,000 persons of Haitian descent of their right to DR citizenship and, therefore, in order to deport them from that country.

There is no legal technicality to justify that objective because the few countries which do not automatically grant citizenship by birth apply this policy to all persons born of foreign parents, whereas the DR is crudely and openly applying its restrictive policy only to the Haitian community within the DR’s borders.

There can therefore be no doubt that, since the DR has not responded to the chorus of outrage and official international appeals to reverse its perverse and pernicious course of action, the full range of punitive measures and official sanctions must be applied by the international community.

That international campaign has to be led by the regional grouping with which both Haiti and the DR have a close relationship, the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM). Haiti is a full member and the DR has applied for membership, the latter application being founded on the strong political, economic, commercial and cooperation ties already existing between the DR and CARICOM.

While that campaign has already begun within CARICOM, the punitive measures being considered at that level are perforce to be expanded to the hemispheric fora of the Inter-American system. The political fora of the Organization of American States and the legal weight of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights are appropriate.

At the level of OAS member states, the governments of the U.S. and Canada also have a special responsibility to take strong unilateral action against the DR and to encourage their business sector, including their banks, to follow suit. Political and economic boycotts, combined with visa cancellations for the DR’s political leadership and the freezing of bank accounts can be extremely effective.

Last but not least, the campaign has to be deepened at the level of the UN where action is already in train. The office of the high commissioner for human rights, the office of the UN high commissioner for refugees and even the International Criminal Court are well placed to lead the charge within the UN system.

All three levels of international governance – regional, hemispheric and international – have been sweeping the issue of maltreatment of the Haitian community in the DR under the carpet for far too long!