Opinion: End Assault on Human Rights in DR

Among advocates for a boycott of Dominican Republic products and services is author Edwidge Danticat (Photo by Knight Foundation)

Advocates for a boycott of Dominican Republic products and services include author Edwidge Danticat. (Photo by Knight Foundation)

[The following editorial, written by Haitian Times editor Manolia Charlotin, was first published on December 10.]

Today, as the world memorializes one of its great leading figures, Nelson Mandela, it is also a day dedicated to international human rights. This struggle wages on in multiple forms, across many lands. On one island in particular, the struggle has reached new heights — and therefore demands comprehensive, definitive action now.

The time has come to end the assault on human rights in the Dominican Republic.

Though many are implicated in this struggle, it remains first and foremost, a Dominican crisis. The Dominican state is responsible for the protection of its citizens. And currently, it’s failing.

As a result of the actions of Dominican political and judicial leaders, over 200,000 Dominicans may be rendered stateless, and therefore lose all protections from the land they have known since birth. These citizens are born legally into a country that is now forcing them out. Hundreds of Dominicans have fled in the wave of violence that has escalated since the September 23 ruling.

This is unacceptable on all grounds. Dominican leaders must be held accountable for their actions.

An international campaign, supported by members of the Haitian diaspora, to put pressure on these leaders, is calling for a widespread boycott of Dominican industry — including tourism. We stand in solidarity with this boycott.

Given that what’s happening on Dominican soil is rooted in racism and xenophobia against people of black Haitian ancestry, witholding patronage in a far-reaching strategic way, is an effective tool in pressuring leaders to change course in a timely fashion.

The government says it plans to introduce a naturalization law, which would offer a quick path to citizenship for people without legal status. This boycott should persist until all Dominicans have full citizenship and can live peacefully in their homeland without the threat of state-supported violence.

As the largest foreign presence (from American companies to USAID) on Hispaniola, the United States also has a responsibility to act.

A cornerstone of American foreign policy is guided by the need to secure all borders, in order to protect U.S. borders. And the Haitian/Dominican border makes the cut. Forced repatriation of Dominicans of Haitian descent is profitable — and a major part of the strategy to cleanse Dominican soil of Haitian blood. American companies have been providing resources to Dominican border agents to do just that, for several years.

Though 20 members of the U.S. Congress wrote a letter to Dominican President Danilo Medina urging him to “take the necessary steps to stay the tide of the denationalization campaign exemplified by the Tribunal Constitucional”, the U.S. government should reconsider its support for Dominican law enforcement.

If President Barack Obama can exalt the virtues of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, his administration should maintain moral consistency and emphatically condemn the roots of apartheid that continue to grow in the Dominican Republic. The U.S., along with all the international institutions which have condemned these human rights violations (the United Nations, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the Organization of American States) should not shy away from putting sanctions against the Dominican Republic on the table.

The Haitian government is also implicated in this matter. Its citizens who now legally reside on neighboring soil are living under threat of insecurity and violence. Though the Dominican government claims it’s focused on rooting out illegal residents, many Haitian nationals are being persecuted, along with Dominicans of Haitian descent.

In his recent address to CARICOM, President Michel Martelly condemned the actions of the Dominican court, along with the violence perpetrated against Dominicans. As the outgoing chair of the Caribbean Community, his words carry weight. It is heartening that members and partners of CARICOM are working on punitive measures against the Dominican state.

However, Martelly stopped short of doing what is necessary: providing specific ways his administration plans to protect Haitian citizens living in the Dominican Republic. Considering the strong economic ties between the neighboring island nations, and more specifically, their business elite, the Haitian state is in a weak position.

As for the rest of us, in addition to supporting the boycott, we can continue to inform our families and neighbors about the violations of human rights that are occurring in the Dominican Republic. We can also support change agents who have been on the frontlines of this struggle for many years, including MUDHA (Movement for Dominican Women of Haitian Descent) and Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees.

This day is a reminder that we cannot stay silent when human beings are denied their right to live in peace.

Silence on this day, and really on any other day, can be a matter of life and death. We choose to speak out, and stand in solidarity. We urge you to do the same.

Lè a rive. The time has come.

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