By Kumera Genet
It is over a year since the highest court in the Dominican Republic issued Resolution TC 0168/13, a ruling that stripped the citizenship of up to 250,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent. Since this ruling, the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the Dominican government of have used numerous methods to avoid legal responsibility for their actions, which violate the very Constitution of the Dominican Republic and international human rights treaties to which the country is party. The depressing reality is that the Dominican state is 10 years into a process of constructing a system of legal apartheid for Dominicans born to Haitian parents. This group of second- and third-generation Dominicans has always faced opposition to being fully recognized as Dominican citizens, but their government appears intent on legally cementing this discrimination — and is increasingly close to this goal.
Apartheid is best known as the system of racial segregation in 20th-century South Africa. It is defined by the United Nations as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.” These acts include “legislative measures that discriminate in the political, social, economic and cultural fields.”
Race is a complex social construct and not a universally accepted concept, but the United Nations defines racial discrimination as “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.”
There is a long and documented history in the Dominican Republic of prejudice against the Dominican children of Haitian immigrants. This exercised prejudice fits the United Nations’ definition of racial discrimination, and recent legal steps by the Dominican government appear to be intent on advancing towards a legally segregated society that can be considered an apartheid state.