Case of Mass Expulsions of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent from the Dominican Republic
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; Inter-American Court of Human Rights
In 2014, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) issued a decision in a case challenging the Dominican Republic's mass expulsions, and discriminatory treatment of, Haitians and people of Haitian descent. Originally filed with the Inter-American Commission in 1999, this case was brought by a coalition of non-governmental organizations, including Columbia Law School's Human Rights Clinic, on behalf of 28 individuals, both Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent, who were among the tens of thousands of people collectively deported to Haiti by the Dominican Republic during a 1999 mass expulsion campaign directed against ethnic Haitians.
The Human Rights Clinic, along with co-counsel at the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), the Santo-Domingo-based Movement for Dominico-Haitian Women (MUDHA), and the Port-au-Prince-based Group for Repatriates and Refugees (GARR), worked for more than a decade on a holistic solution to the problem of mass expulsions, combining litigation in the Inter-American system with other advocacy efforts. The litigation occured on two tracks: provisional measures (before the IACtHR) and merits (before the Inter-American Commission and then the Court).
Clinic students appeared before the Inter-American Commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and traveled to the Dominican Republic and Haiti to meet with clients, NGO representatives from NGOs, the Dominican government, and the Inter-American Commission. In 2000, 2001, and 2006, the Inter-American Court granted provisional measures to petitioners. In 2002, the Dominican government took its first step toward complying with these provisional measures by issuing petitioners safe-passage documents (salvoconductos) that allow them to move freely between the Dominican Republic and Haiti and to work in the Dominican Republic until their case is resolved.
In its 2014 merits decision, the Inter-American Court found that the Dominican Republic’s "systematic pattern of expulsions, including through collective acts or procedures that did not involve an individualized analysis of Haitians and people of Haitian descent,” violated the rights of Haitians and people of Haitian descent residing in the Dominican Republic. The petitioners -- including 15 children -- were subject to discrimination as a result of forcible expulsions, denationalization policies and the breach of duty to prevent statelessness by the Dominican Republic. The Court held further that Dominican law and practice violated the right to a nationality, the right to legal personality, the right to identity, the right to equality before the law, rights of the family and of the child, as well as fair trial guarantees and judicial protection as guaranteed by the American Convention on Human Rights.
The decision calls on the DR to necessary measures to eradicate laws, rules and policies and decisions that arbitrarily deprive the right to citizenship to individuals born in the Dominican Republic with no immediate access to any other nationality. The Court called on the government to put an end to mass expulsions and ensure due process during immigration proceedings, among other reparations. CEJIL, GARR and MUDHA are leading efforts to implement the decision and vindicate the rights of petitioners.
The full decision can be found here (in Spanish only).
More on the decision can be found on the International Justice Resource Center's website.