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Dominican Republic: Withdrawal from top regional human rights court would put rights at risk

The appalling ruling by the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court that could to lead to the country’s withdrawal from the Inter American Court of Human Rights would, if supported by the government, deprive hundreds of thousands of survivors of human rights abuses from any hope of justice, said Amnesty International.

“With this latest judgement, the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic has confirmed its lack of independence and impartiality, proving it to be politically biased by defending narrow interests,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

“Depriving people of the opportunity of finding justice abroad when it is denied at home would not only be outrageous but also a worrying step back in the country’s strengthening of the rule of law.”

The judgment comes only two weeks after the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled against a Dominican Republic’s judicial decision that stripped thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent living in the country of their nationality in a discriminatory way.

“Instead of throwing their toys out of the pram in the face of a ruling by an international court they do not agree with, the authorities in the Dominican Republic should focus their energy on ensuring the rights of every person living in the country are protected. This must start with complying with the judgement of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights,” said Erika Guevara Rosas.

Should the President sanction this ruling, hundreds of thousands of victims of discrimination, police killings and other human rights violations will have no legal avenue to claim justice when they find no remedy at home.

“This decision shows the Dominican Republic’s complete lack of care for its international human rights obligations and sets an incredibly dangerous precedent for the protection of the human rights of everybody in the Dominican Republic, particularly the most vulnerable. President Medina now has the opportunity and obligation to show leadership and ensure the country complies with its international obligations,” said Erika Guevara Rosas.

The regional court ordered the Dominican Republic to revoke a judgement issued in September 2013 by the country’s Constitutional Court which retroactively and arbitrarily deprived thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent of their Dominican nationality, leaving them unable to access basic rights such as work, health care and education.

Amnesty International urges authorities in the Dominican Republic to respect their international obligations by fully implementing the recent judgement of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Background Information

On 4 November, the Dominican Constitutional Court argued that when the country joined the jurisdiction of the regional court in 1999 it had done so without respecting its own constitution. The government has now to indicate its position in relation with this decision and the consequences that this might bear.

Promoting and protecting the human rights of all without discrimination is the cornerstone of the rule of law and allows states to ensure that all people can live with dignity, regardless of their gender, race, ethnic origin or any other condition.

The regional human rights system – made up of the Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights – is a necessary complement to national protection measures throughout the Americas. Over the years, thousands of victims and their relatives across the continent have seen it as their only chance to obtain justice after national justice systems have failed them.

Since 1999, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights handed down four judgements regarding the Dominican Republic related to impunity for enforced disappearances, discrimination and right to nationality.