OF HAITIANS IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Thousands of Haitians take part in the Dominican Republic's sugar cane harvest each year, hired by the State Sugar Council (Consejo Estatal del Azúcar-CEA) to cut the cane. The conditions under which the laborers live and their treatment have been the subject of several complaints. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) included this matter in its 1983 annual report. There, it evaluated compliance with the governing international norms and conventions.
international concern goes beyond labor circles.
Human rights organizations, too, have published reports that are
exposés of the role that police and military forces play in recruiting
laborers and of the abuses committed by CEA officials during harvest
time and other times as well.
rights organizations and church organizations have appealed to the
international community for solidarity to denounce the CEA's abuses and
the Dominican Government's failure to take action.
Government has paid more attention to the problem.
On October 15, 1990, the Executive Branch of the Dominican
Government issued Decree No. 417/90, which contains certain labor and
human rights provisions for the Haitian laborers, to address situations
that had been reported by various observers some of which contend that
the measures that the Dominican Government is taking are superficial and
that their true purpose is to silence the international public.
In early June
1991, there was a resurgence of the long-standing problem of the
Haitian workers in the Dominican Republic, against a backdrop of
national economic crisis.
On June 11,
1991, the nongovernmental organization Americas Watch told the United
States House of Representatives of the human right violations that the
Haitian cane cutters employed in the Dominican Republic are
experiencing. It drew
particular attention to what is considered a system of forced labor
whose most pathetic victims are the Haitian children working on the
plantations belonging to the State Sugar Council.
During hearings before the United States Congress, Father Edwin
Paraison of the Anglican Church (who had once lived in the "bateye"
of San Pedro Macoris) testified that the Government of President
Balaguer had issued Decree 417-90 so that the Haitian workers
might receive better treatment; however, the measures was never applied
in practice and the Haitians continue to live under deplorable
conditions. According to
his testimony, one can still see Haitian children laboring in the sugar
mills. Many of them have
been brought from Haiti using the kind of tricks or operations typical
of the slave trade, with "buscones" (hunters) being paid 10 to
15 dollars for every young cane cutter they bring in.
A few days
after complaints of mistreatment of Haitians started up again and after
ABC television network in the United States aired pictures of the
deplorable life conditions of the Haitian cane cutters,
President Balaguer issued Decree 233, of June 13, 1991, whereby any
undocumented Haitian in the Dominican Republic, under the age of 16 and
over 60, would be repatriated.
June 18, the Dominican Government started collective expulsions of
Haitian cane cutters. Thus
far, thousands have been expelled.
In these collective expulsions, the Government of the Dominican
Republic and its agents were accused of practices that are violations of
the American Convention on Human Rights.
Measures taken by the Inter-American Commission on Human
Request for precautionary measures
Because of the
complaints the Commission received as to the irregular way in which the
Haitians or persons thought to be Haitians were being deported, even
though they may have been born in the Dominican Republic, and in
response to public confirmation by the Minister of Foreign Affairs to
the effect that the repatriations ordered by President Balaguer would
continue, on June 26 the Executive Secretariat of the IACHR sent a cable
to the Dominican Government asking that it take the precautionary
measures necessary to prevent any irreparable harm.
The text of that cable follows:
Excellency Joaquin Ricardo
of State for Foreign Affairs
Domingo, Dominican Republic
I have the honor to address Your Excellency to inform you that
the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has received
information to the effect that the Dominican Government is allegedly
conducting collective deportations of Haitians, most of whom work in the
private and State-owned sugar industry.
to the reports received, the Dominican authorities are searching the
streets and "bateyes", picking up Haitian laborers who work in
the State sugar refineries of the Dominican Republic; because so many
have been taken into custody, they have had to be quartered in
facilities of the Ministry of Agriculture.
Commission learned that last week Dominican authorities deported 20
children and more than one hundred adults.
Most of the adults deported were 50 years old, even though
repatriation decree No. 233-91, issued by President Balaguer on
June 13, 1991, provides that the measure would apply to Haitian laborers
under the age of 16 and over 60. There are other reports of deportations involving individuals
who were born in the Dominican Republic.
Commission has also been told that many Haitians came in voluntarily,
fearful of reprisals, while others were arrested by soldiers who did not
even give them the chance to tell their families of their predicament.
Most of them complain that they had to abandon their small
children in the Dominican Republic.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights believes that the
collective deportation of Haitians in the Dominican Republic is a
violation of the human rights upheld in Article 22.9 of the American
Convention on Human Rights, which states that:
"The collective expulsion of aliens is prohibited."
The Dominican Republic is a State party to that Convention.
the seriousness of the situation, the Commission is asking that the
Government of the Dominican Republic kindly provide information as soon
as possible concerning the events in question; that it suspend any
measure intended to put Repatriation Decree No. 233-91 into
practice and take the necessary precautionary measures to prevent
irreparable harm from being done to those persons who are about to be
deported. This request is
being made pursuant to Article 29 of the Commission's Regulations.
would be most grateful if Your Excellency would kindly provide
information on the measures taken to deal with the situation in
question. I must also
convey to you the Commission's deep concern over this matter and remind
Your Excellency's Government of its obligation to guarantee the full and
effective exercise of the human rights of its nationals and of any
aliens in the country.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is ready to cooperate
with the Government of the Dominican Republic on those matters that the
latter deems pertinent to the resolution of the situation in question.
Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
by) Edith Marquez Rodriguez
dated July 1, 1991, from the Government of the Dominican Republic to the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, reads as follows:
Secretary of the IACHR
am pleased to acknowledge receipt of your Note SG/CIDH/022/91, which
concerns the measures adopted by the Dominican Government in connection
with the repatriation of aliens who were within its territory under
take the liberty of informing you that the measure in question was
adopted in accordance with the Constitution and laws of the Republic,
which give the Dominican State, in exercise of its sovereignty, the
authority to repatriate any alien who is in the Republic in violation of
the Immigration Laws.
the case of Haitian nationals, steps have been taken to repatriate
minors, with all the proper guarantees and considerations.
These are minors who have no family in the Dominican Republic,
who claim that while in Haitian territory, fellow Haitians duped them
into coming to the Dominican Republic by offering them work here.
In the case of those over the age of 60, here again we are
repatriating those who have agreed to be repatriated and who have no
family in the Dominican Republic. All
of these repatriations are being done without violating the rights to
which they are entitled.
it is obvious from Article 22.1 of the American Convention on Human
Rights that an individual enjoys freedom of movement and residence in a
territory only if that person is there lawfully.
Hence, if an individual is not in the territory lawfully, then
the State can repatriate that person.
I feel I should inform you that there is an Agreement between the
Dominican Republic and Haiti, dated February 9, 1938, Article Ten of
which reads as follows:
X.- To prevent any possibility of a recurrence of new problems,
the High Contracting Parties do hereby agree:
That each Government will take the measures necessary to prevent
their nationals from crossing the borders into the territory of the
other State, without the proper permission from the competent authority
of the latter.
That in keeping with International Law, nationals of either State
who are within the territory of the other State in violation of the
latter's laws shall be immediately repatriated or declared undesirable
aliens by the competent authorities.
above paragraph is elaborated upon in Article 7 of the Modus Operandi
between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, dated November 21, 1939.
An analysis of the provisions of the 1938 Agreement and of the
1939 Modus Operandi shows that each State is authorized to take legal
action against illegal aliens from the other State or to order their
repatriation. Thus, the repatriations recently conducted by the
Dominican Government have a basis in law and will continue to be carried
out slowly and gradually, so that they do not cause any further problems
or difficulties for the Haitian authorities.
would like to point out that the problem is not merely one of
immigration and demographics. It
is more serious still, as it has numerous economic, labor, social and
estimates are that there are more than one million Haitians in our
country. They represent a
very competitive labor force that displaces Dominican workers.
the problem has enormous political and economic significance,
considering the tremendous burden that this vast number of immigrants
represents for the Dominican State, especially in the midst of this
crisis that grips our country as it does so many others, when we have to
restore the health of our economy and, at the same time, tackle the
urgent public works program that will benefit those most in need, all
for the sake of a brighter future for the Dominican Republic.
should also like to say again that the Dominican Government has the
utmost respect for the human rights defended by the inter-American
system and the United Nations system.
We believe that we are serving the cause of human rights by
repatriating these people, as we are thereby resolving the dilemma of
aliens who claim to have come to this country because of false promises
and who therefore wish to return to their home country.
Government of the Dominican Republic is ready to cooperate with the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights by making available any
information it may request and complying with its international
obligations, as it has been doing and as has been acknowledged in recent
years in the Organization of American States, the United Nations, the
International Labour Organisation and other international organizations.
Accordingly, it accepts the Commission's offer of cooperation and
hopes that this materializes into concrete measures that help to correct
the serious problem of the illegal aliens in Dominican territory.
The Dominican Government is ready to undertake negotiations with
the Haitian Government, with a view to instituting mechanisms to
regulate the traffic of persons between the two countries.
me to extend assurances of my highest consideration.
by) Joaquin Ricardo
of Foreign Relations
The IACHR's observation visit in the Dominican Republic
In view of the
various reports from nongovernmental agencies concerning alleged
violations of the human rights of Haitian nationals who were being
expelled from the Dominican Republic and because the repatriations
announced by the Government were being conducted with greater frequency.
Moreover, because the Government had expressed its willingness to
cooperate with the Commission, on July 24, 1991, the IACHR asked the
Government of the Dominican Republic to authorize a visit to that
country for the purpose of observing the situation of the Haitians and
to see how the repatriations were being effected.
On August 2, 1991, the Government of the Dominican Republic, by
way of its Permanent Mission to the OAS, replied to the Commission's
request, giving its authorization for the IACHR to make the in situ
Delegation from the IACHR was composed of the First Vice Chairman, Dr.
Marco Tulio Bruni Celli, and the lawyer of the Executive Secretariat,
Dr. Bertha Santoscoy, with the administrative assistance of Ms. Gloria
Sakamoto. The observation
visit took place between August 12 and 14, 1991.
stay, the Special Delegation from the IACHR met with the following
government authorities: Secretary
of Foreign Relations, Dr. Joaquín Ricardo García; Deputy Secretary of
Foreign Relations, Dr. Fabio Herrera; Labor Secretary, Dr. Rafael
Alburquerque and with the Director of the State Sugar Council, Dr. Juan
Arturo Biaggi. The
Delegation requested a meeting with the President of the Republic, from
which they received no reply. The
Delegation also met with the Chargé d'Affaires at the Haitian Embassy,
Mr. Jean-Marie Joestines; with the Director of the International
Organization of Migrations, Dr. Pedro Pimentel, and with the
representative of the Haitian Pastoral Church, Father Edwin Paraison.
The Special Delegation also heard individual testimony and met with representatives of human rights groups, among them the following: the Center for the Defense of Human Rights, the Dominican Human Rights Committee, the American Association of Jurists - Dominican Branch, the Socio-Cultural Movement of Haitian Laborers, the Dominican Social Work Center, and the Dominican Ecumenical Labor Commission. It visited the El Mamey "batey", located on the outskirts of Santo Domingo.
made by the IACHR Delegation to the press
Special Delegation's visit, Dr. Bruni Celli indicated the purpose of the
IACHR's visit to the press, stating that "though nothing could be
said about the Delegation's impressions, the visit was being made
because of the Commission's concern over the effects that the
repatriations were having on the unity of the families of those affected
by the process." In reference to the Dominican Government's
arguments that the repatriations are being conducted under the Dominican
State's sovereign law, he commented that "this is not something
that can be viewed solely from the angle of sovereignty."
"We understand, of course, that every State has the
authority to take decisions regarding aliens within its territory, but
when doing so consideration must be given to such questions as the
length of time those aliens have been in the country; the activity they
have engaged in; whether or not they were born there; their social
security benefits; what chances there are that their problems might be
corrected there, when they had had to leave the country so abruptly,
something that after living there so many years had never even occurred
to them..." "These
people" -he emphasized- "don't even speak the
language of Haiti; on the other hand, they are not citizens of the
Dominican Republic either." He
went on to say the following: "This
is not a question of statelessness in the legal sense; it is a de
facto situation that has to be looked at carefully."
Bruni Celli said that he was interested in finding a solution to the
problem. It was not an
issue to be viewed from the strictly legal or economic perspective;
basically, one had to look at it as a humanitarian issue:
"Today, these things can't be settled by invoking the old
sovereignty issue." He
added that "When a State ratifies international conventions,
especially in the area of human rights, it cedes part of its
sovereignty; it makes a commitment to the international community to try
to resolve its problems according to rules requiring observance of human
rights in their broadest sense."
Background concerning the sugarcane workers in the Dominican
Republic: Living and
working conditions in the bateyes
meeting that the Special Delegation had with representatives of human
rights groups, it was told of the deplorable conditions in which
Haitians lived in the CEA "bateyes".
According to the information it received, Haitians were deceived
by the duplicity of the "buscones", agents in the pay of the
CEA who got 50.00 dollars for every Haitian.
Haitian children were promised that they would be playing soccer
or picking tomatoes and that they would be paid in dollars.
Once over the border, they were turned over to the CEA
representatives, who then assigned them to work on the State sugar
There was also testimony from Haitians who were
"kidnapped" near the Dominican border by Dominican soldiers.
These Haitians were then taken to Dominican military facilities
nearby, where they spent several days in custody; from there they were
sent to the cane fields, often against their will.
The 1989 Report of Americas Watch shows the complicity of the
Haitian military, who allowed their Dominican counterparts to recruit.
what the IACHR Delegation was told, the State Sugar Council acted in bad
faith when hiring the Haitians. Though
the contracts were written in Spanish and Creole, they were sometimes
signed beforehand. Furthermore, almost all of the laborers were illiterate.
It was also
said that once the Haitians were at the sugar mills, they were not
allowed to leave and were kept under armed guard.
The guards took the Haitians' clothes at night in order to keep
them from escaping. The
1989 Americas Watch Report talks of the physical mistreatment of the
Haitian laborers. Frequently,
CEA authorities or military men beat Haitians who refuse to follow
orders. Other times they
are hit with machetes or shots are fired in the air.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is examining
a case involving two Haitian laborers who were allegedly wounded when
the superintendent of the Batey Proy Velasquez de Monte Plata hit them
with a machete.
from the IACHR was told that in many CEA bateyes, the Haitians live in
unhealthy, overcrowded conditions, where potable water and latrines are
lacking. These conditions
cause diseases such as tuberculosis, diarrhea and malaria, which were
reported frequently. The
medical clinics were poor and normally quite far away from the bateyes.
The Delegation was also told that the cane cutters were paid with
vouchers, not with money; those vouchers could only be used at the
company store, which discounted 20 percent of their value.
The wages of the laborers were barely enough to survive.
As noted, the job of cutting cane was likened to the work of farm
workers. Since there had been no binational agreement since 1986,
their wages had to be at least that of the farm workers, i.e. RD$24.00.
The Haitian laborers were paid RD$18.00 per ton of cut cane and
the total depended on the laborer's skill.
Inexperienced "kongos" earned much less than the older
laborers; some didn't
manage to earn the minimum wage of RD$24.00 given to the farm workers.
Here it was pointed out that the weight of the cut cane
determined how much one earned. There
were complaints that some scales were rigged against the laborers. It
was also said that they were times when they were accused of theft so as
not to pay them their wage. Some
representatives of human rights groups said that while the term
"slavery" might not be the most appropriate, there were
conditions within the bateyes that were very akin to slavery, though not
slavery in the strict sense.
conversations that the Special Delegation had with various government
authorities, they said that although conditions in the bateyes were
indeed harsh, they were the kind of conditions one found in bateyes in
any underdeveloped country. The
working conditions were the same for Haitian and Dominican workers
alike, and one could not call it slavery.
The Secretary of Labor said that there was a great difference
between a slave's work and normal work, since the laborers in the
Dominican Republic received a wage.
He also acknowledged, however, that the salaries continued to be
paid in vouchers but that those vouchers could be redeemed at any
business establishment. He
also added that the Government had made a commitment to pay on a weekly
basis and starting with the next harvest the wages would be paid in
cash. He said that in
general, the Government's policy was to improve the working conditions
as follows: 1) hiring
directly to eliminate the "buscones;" 2) eliminating payment
by means of vouchers, and 3) controlling the weighing of the cane.
The collective expulsions
mentioned, the Decree 233-91, issued by President Joaquín
Balaguer on June 13, 1991, orders the repatriation of aliens under the
age of 16 and over the age of 60 who entered Dominican territory to work
in the sugar industry, in both private and State establishments.
In the case of State-owned sugar mills, it was provided
that the Secretariat of Labor would check to see that these workers
received the job benefits to which they were entitled.
In the case of private and State-owned establishments,
Article 2 of the Decree guarantees "every possible
consideration" in dealing with the persons to be repatriated.
would seem to be at odds with an earlier measure that was distinctly positive. This was Decree
417-90, issued by President Balaguer on October 15, 1990, which
ordered the General Immigration Bureau to regularize, "as swiftly
as possible," the immigration status of the Haitian cane workers.
To date, few Haitians have been able to get their situation
As for the
question of nationality, Article 11, paragraph one of the Dominican
Constitution states the following:
Dominicans are "any person born in the territory of the
Republic, save for the legitimate children of aliens residing in the
country as members of diplomatic mission or those who are in transit in
the country." Article
9, paragraph one of the Civil Code states:
Dominicans are those persons who were born in the territory of
the Republic, regardless of the nationality of their parents.
Dominican citizenship can be established with a birth
certificate. The place of
birth can also be established by the appropriate indication on the
most people whose parents are Haitian but who were born in the Dominican
Republic do not have a birth certificate or do not have their documents
with them at the time of the round-ups.
As for the identification cards that some persons of Haitian
origin have, the competent authorities do not recognize them as legally
valid documents because, they say, many of them have been forged,
especially at election time. Often,
parents who are in the country illegally are afraid that because of
their own situation, their children, even if they were born in Dominican
territory, cannot claim Dominican citizenship.
Here the authorities told the IACHR Delegation that they were not
entitled to Dominican citizenship simply because they were born in
Dominican territory; by virtue of the exceptions cited in the
Constitution as regards jus-soli, aliens in transit were
excluded. They said also
that: "If the parents
are illegal, so also is the child, even if said child is born
was also told that with the application of decree 233, constitutional
principles were violated like the one contained in article 8, paragraph
15, letters a and c of the Dominican Constitution which states that:
In order to strengthen its stability and well-being, its
moral, religious and cultural life, the family shall receive from the
State every possible protection. a)
Motherhood, regardless of the woman's condition or status, shall
be protected by the public powers... and c) Matrimony is recognized as
the legal foundation of the family.
said that the repatriations of Haitians were acts emanating from the
sovereign right of the State to issue decrees to determine whether or
not aliens could remain in the country.
The Delegation was also told that there was a difference between
repatriation and deportation. Repatriations were directed at illegal aliens below the age
of 16 and over the age of 60, as set forth in Decree 233-91.
Deportations were for undocumented aliens of all ages (some of
whom are indigent), based on Immigration Law No. 95 of 1939 with respect
to persons not covered under that Decree.
However, Article 13, paragraph e, of that law (amended by Law No.
1559 of 1947) provides that "No alien shall be deported without
being informed of the specific charges prompting his deportation and
without being given a fair chance to refute those charges."
Characteristics of the deportations
conversations that the Delegation had, many opinions were expressed.
All agreed on one point: concern
over the irregular way in which the repatriations of Haitians were being
information received, in putting Decree 233 into practice, numerous
arbitrary acts were committed against Haitian citizens and even against
Dominican citizens of Haitian ancestry.
On June 17, 1991, the Government appointed General José Ramón
Mota Paulino, previously chief of the National Police, as the new
Director General of Immigration. The
first repatriation, involving 29 minors, occurred the next day.
According to information received, these were minors who had been
recruited under false pretenses and all wanted to return to Haiti.
This repatriation was conducted in orderly fashion.
Later, however, police and army soldiers were involved in
indiscriminate and arbitrary arrests of individuals of Haitian origin.
The round-ups targeted the "bateyes" as well as
poor neighborhoods in the cities, especially the neighborhood known as
"Petit Haiti" in Santo Domingo, which is where many people of
Haitian origin live.
Delegation from the IACHR was repeatedly told that the round-ups
were not confined to minors and the elderly, as Decree 233 provides;
instead, persons of all ages were targeted. Moreover, those rounded up
were just not sugar cane workers, but also individuals who harvest rice,
cacao and work in the construction business.
On this point, Government authorities told the IACHR Special
Delegation that the repatriations were targeted at anyone who was in the
country illegally, so that it was not just Decree 233 that was being
Special Delegation also received reports of families being forcibly
separated when the individuals rounded up were not given the chance to
take their wives and children. It was also reported that in some cases, they were not
allowed to gather together their few belongings to take to Haiti, since
they had to obey the order to remain on the bus or "suffer the
consequences"; in a show of "generosity," however, the
soldiers bought some of the Haitians' possessions from them, paying
ridiculously low prices. The Haitians had only two alternatives, either
to accept the price offered or leave their effects behind.
In other cases, the repatriations were done so hastily that those
concerned were unable to get the wages and other job benefits that they
had coming to them. These
repatriations were repeatedly denounced as being actual "collective
talks with representatives of human rights groups, the latter said that
issuance of Decree 233-91 had been a negative development, since
it was fundamentally unjust and tended to exacerbate the situation
rather than correct it. They
mentioned that there was really no need for the Decree, since
Immigration Law No. 95, of April 14, 1939, and Immigration Regulations
No. 279, of May 12, 1939, regulated all matters related to immigration
in the country. Specifically,
Article 3 of Law 95 set forth the formalities and conditions required
for an alien to be declared an immigrant; if declared an alien he could
remain in the country indefinitely.
On the other hand, they noted that Decree 233 was an executive
order fraught with emotional issues and positions that had not been
carefully analyzed; the result was an extremely complex situation that
discriminated against and was harmful to the Haitian population in the
country, since by ordering repatriation of those under 16, various
constitutional principles were breached, among the one contained in
Article 8, paragraph 15, concerning the protection of the family.
It is obvious
that repatriation causes disruption in established families, since they
are obliged to follow their repatriated child.
They cannot leave the child to his own fate in a country that,
even though it is the country of origin, is alien to them.
Also, the IACHR
Delegation was told that Decree 417-90 seemed to lay the
groundwork for Decree 233-91:
when Haitians attempted to have their status regularized, they
had to turn their documents over to the competent authorities; the
authorities never returned those documents and as a result, when the
round-ups were conducted, the Haitians were left without the
documents to prove that they were trying to legalize their status.
the IACHR special delegation was told that it was unjust to repatriate
individuals over the age of sixty because they were no longer able to
engage in the hard work of cutting sugar cane;
after having worked 20, 30 or 40 consecutive years in the cane
fields, they had spent the better part of their lives there.
It was also unfair to take these elderly people to Haiti only to
join the ranks of an army of beggars, which is what would happen since
they would not be receiving the job benefits for the number of years
they had worked for the CEA. We
believe, they added, that "above all else, this is a human problem
of conscience that has to be resolved with the minimum guarantees and
respect for human rights."
the Haitian citizens said during the IACHR special delegation's visit to
Batey El Mamey, the CEA kept a record of the Haitians it hired.
At times, it gave them an identification document that was valid
within the Batey for the duration of the harvest.
However, this was not done every year and the list was not sent
to Immigration. These facts were brought to the special delegation's
attention as an example of the bad faith on the part of the State Sugar
Council, since on the one hand the CEA sent out people to find Haitian
workers, but then did nothing to obtain the means to legalize their
As pointed out,
the "repatriation" method was done in two stages:
the first was the round-up, which targeted individuals who
physically resembled Haitians, though no documents to establish whether
in fact they were Haitians or Dominicans were requested.
In some cases, the method used to determine whether an individual
who had been detained was Haitian was to tell them to say the word
"perejil" or "colorado" since Haitians were unable
to pronounce those words correctly.
stage in the repatriation process was to take the detainees to the
Agricultural Studies Center (CESDA), which is located in San Cristóbal
and is outfitted as a detention facility. The individuals were kept
there until they were taken to the Haitian border.
Immigration authorities alleged that a screening was done at that
point and humanitarian or personal considerations were taken into
account in those cases in which immediate repatriation could cause a
family serious problems. However,
non- governmental institutions have stated that in conversations
with Immigration authorities, the latter have admitted that at no point
in this process are the affected parties given a formal hearing with
minimum guarantees to claim their right to remain in the country, either
because they are entitled to citizenship or because they qualify for a
temporary or permanent residence permit, or because they have a right,
somehow, to have their presence in the country regularized.
A number of
denunciations confirmed these allegations: Haitian diplomatic sources in
Santo Domingo said that on one occasion a Haitian woman had been beaten
by a camp guard and had not been allowed to go back to her house for her
infant child. On another
occasion, a Haitian woman was detained and not allowed to take her
little boy with her; later, the child was taken to the Southern
Agricultural Development Center (CESDA), in the city of San Cristóbal,
where Haitian nationals kept him up until the time they were taken to
the border. It was also
reported that at that time the Haitian Embassy was trying to locate in
Haiti the parents of two little girls who had been left behind alone in
the Dominican Republic as a result of the repatriations.
It was also reported that on August 2, in Villa Altagracia in
Cibao, a group of Haitians were beaten by Dominican Government
authorities. Another case
was reported involving a Haitian woman who had been exposed to the sun
for one day, staked out with her arms and legs spread apart.
There was also the case of Mr. Jacques Bien Aimé, a tourist of
Haitian origin and Canadian citizenship, who was beaten and arbitrarily
detained for two days by members of the police, who argued that his
passport was false. The
special delegation spoke personally with Mr. Bien Aimé, who was at the
Canadian Embassy and confirmed the abuses he had suffered.
diplomat told the special delegation from the Commission that he had
witnessed a round-up conducted in "Petite Haiti" (the
area of Santo Domingo where a large number of Haitians live) and had
watched as an Army Colonel and other agents burst into the homes of the
Haitians and took away their belongings, which were then distributed
among those who had taken part in the operation.
He told the special delegation that he spoke with the Colonel who
led the operation and the Colonel told him that "he was the
law" and that "he did what he damned well pleased". He kept the Haitians' documents.
Later, when the Embassy protested these arbitrary acts, the
documents were returned.
was repeatedly told that the round-ups conducted by Government
agents were done according to the color of the person's skin; several
times they detained and expelled Dominicans, since the documents did not
matter to them. Often, when
people showed their documents, the agents tore them up immediately.
delegation traveled to the slum "Petit Haïti" and had the
opportunity to hear the testimony given by many persons in this locality
who corroborated how the violent acts were carried out during the riots.
Representative of the Haitian Embassy in the Dominican Republic told the
IACHR's delegation that by his estimate the Haitian population in the
Dominican Republic was 350,000 (although the figure given by the
Government was one million, even though there was no census) and that
the number of "forced repatriations" since the start of the
process totaled 4,500 and the number of voluntary repatriations were
15,000. The Haitian Embassy
had granted these people a "transit card" to enter the
country. (As of September, 1991, the figure was calculated at 60,000).
He also added that 90 percent of the people who came to the
Embassy voluntarily did so out of fear of being mistreated and losing
Delegation told the competent authorities that the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights had received complaints concerning the haste
with which the repatriations were being conducted.
Everything happened so swiftly that the Haitians did not have a
chance to claim their wages or any other benefits to which they were
entitled. The Secretary of
Labor told the special delegation that indeed in some cases they had not
been paid their wages, but that CEA agents were now going to the CESDA
detention facility to deliver any wages that were due.
On August 13,
the Commission's special delegation went to Batey El Mamey, located in
Boca Chica. It had an
opportunity to observe the departure of several dozen Haitians, who had
to pay their own trip back to Haiti.
Each one of them had to pay RD$150.00 for the bus fare and
RD$200.00 for every mattress he took back.
The people of Batey Mamey told the special delegation that they
had to leave because of the Presidential decree, "that if the
President did not want them here, they had to go" and "they
could not live in constant fear." Others said that they preferred to leave voluntarily out of
fear of mistreatment from the authorities, as had happened some days
earlier, when a round-up was conducted and the soldiers fired into
the air to keep the people from running away.
They also told the delegation that some people had to leave, even
though they had their documents that proved that they were Dominicans,
but they preferred to go with the rest of their families.
According to statements made, many of those who had left, even
though they had worked 20 or 30 years for the CEA, had not been paid.
What follows is
a list of cases that the Special Delegation from the IACHR received from
This is a list of representative cases.
Though not an exhaustive list, it does illustrate the effects
that the repatriations being conducted by the Dominican Government have
had: Many of these cases were confirmed before the special delegation by
those people living in the bateyes.
been the most affected. A
partial list of 124 Dominican children was kept at the "Bon Repos"
center in Haiti, where the repatriates were being received.
They range in age from 19 days to 16 years.
Many women with babies were detained and repatriated, and often
their families were separated. In
some cases the children or adolescents were sent to Haiti; in other
cases the parents were repatriated leaving the little ones behind in the
Manuel Diaz de
la Cruz, 35, was born in La Romana.
He was detained by the National Guard in Batey Monte Coca.
His wife, Maria Jean, who was born in Tamayo of Haitian parents,
was also arrested. They
forced them to leave the Dominican Republic and they had to abandon
their three children and all their belongings.
Rodriguez, 48 years of age, was born in El Seibo. He was detained on
July 3, 1991, near Lome Melles. He
showed his papers to the Dominican police.
They took the papers, destroyed them and then put him in
handcuffs. He left his wife
and six children behind in the Dominican Republic.
38 years of age, was born in Santo Domingo. Dominican military detained
him and confiscated his birth certificate and his identification card.
Mr. Hipolito told the soldiers that he had been born in the
Dominican Republic. They
sent him to a military detention center in San Cristobal.
Military guards stole his watch and a gold chain and they
expelled him to Haiti. He
left a wife and two small children behind in the Dominican Republic.
On July 21,
1991, Mrs. Arlette Marceline was arrested on the street and sent to
Haiti. Her sons Franky and
Zunilda (Dominicans by birth, having been born in the Batey San Luis)
remained abandoned in the Dominican Republic. The "Service Chrétien d'Haiti" (World Church
Service) asked, through the Haitian Mission in Santo Domingo, that the
children be located. The
children are about to be reunited with their mother.
On August 7,
the father of 10 year old Jean Racine was taken away from Batey El Mamey.
Personnel from CEDAIL and the Haitian Mission tried to locate the
father at the San Cristóbal Center for Repatriates, but he had already
been sent to Haiti. Neighbors
located the mother in Bayaguana. She
now has the child, but is afraid to even go to the market for fear of
being arrested and having to leave her child.
repatriation in Batey 43 of Villa Altagracia, according to the testimony
given before the IACHR special delegation, children were taken into
military custody and made to walk through the community so that parents
who were in hiding would be forced to show themselves so that the
children would not be hurt.
Pierre-Louis, 34, born in Haiti, was detained and deported with
four of her children. A
ten-month-old infant remained in Santo Domingo with his
father. The last two
mentioned were not repatriated because they happened to be at the
hospital that day.
Andre, 37, born in Santo Domingo, was deported and his birth certificate
destroyed by the police at the time of his arrest.
His daughter stayed in Santo Domingo with her mother.
Ceristil was detained by Immigration and was sent immediately
to Haiti where he was prevented from picking up his 8 year old
son Rasin Ceristil.
Jean had to pay $50.00 to get them to leave her son Luis Fernando in
Batey El Mamey, Boca Chica.
was detained by Immigration and taken to San Cristóbal (CESDA), leaving
behind her 12 year old daughter. She
had to pay money to return home (Batey Palamara).
who worked for 19 years in the country, and for a time was a "buscón"
for the CEA, was threatened for having provided information on the
activities of "buscones".
The Haitian Pastoral Mission assured his return to Haiti together
with his wife and children who are Dominican by birth.
Francois, 22, born in Sabana Grande in Boya.
Dominican national police detained him on June 29, 1991, in Villa
Juana. Police destroyed his Dominican birth certificate and his
identification card, and he was expelled to Haiti.
47, born in Batey Consuelo. The
national police arrested him in Santo Domingo in late June, and then
expelled him to Haiti. Mr. Cesar Louis was an official pensioner of the State Sugar
Council. The police
confiscated all his papers.
26, born in the Batey Central in the region of Barahona, was detained by
a military unit called the "Black Helmets" on July 4, 1991, in
the Cristo Rey neighborhood of Santo Domingo.
The soldiers beat him and confiscated his identification card.
None of his relatives who remained in the Dominican Republic
knows where he is.
Rodriguez, who said he was born in the Dominican Republic and that in
his 24 years he never even visited Haiti, was nonetheless among the
group repatriated on June 22.
Fercini, 20, was arrested and deported and his identification papers
was detained by Immigration, and was not allowed to pick up his
belongings in the Batey Mamey, Boca Chica.
Because she had
a Haitian surname, María Luz Joseph was denied the right to obtain a
personal identification card. Maria
Luz was born on January 3, 1968, in Batey los Jovillos in Yamasá.
Her birth appears under number 557, in the year 1989, of record
of births number 55 T, page No. 3.
This declaration was confirmed late by a ruling from the Court of
First Instance of Monte Plata, dated January 9, 1990.
Ostan of Batey Escadruna, at the Santa Fe Sugar Refinery, was the victim
of the chief camp guard, who tore up his identification card
76579-26. The guard
had taken photographs of the residents of the Batey, including Ostan and
his family, for purposes of Decree 417-90.
Ostán has been in the country for 30 years.
In the bateyes
Cachera and Alejandro Bass, Mr. Edmond Desimond and Mr. Samuel Charles,
catechists with Santa Ana Parish (Roman Catholic) were threatened for
having taken (white) foreigners through the bateyes to see the sad
Special Delegation from the IACHR asked authorities why the
repatriations and deportations were on such an enormous scale, precisely
at that time, since the problem of Haitian immigration was a
long-standing issue, they replied that the political situation in
Haiti has now changed and the popularly elected Government there did not
threaten their lives when the repatriates returned.
They also said that the Dominican Republic could not continue to
withstand an immigration of almost one million Haitians and that the
international community had to understand this, since the Dominican
Republic could not carry that entire burden at the expense of its own
people. They added that the repatriations would continue to be
conducted as they had thus far; in other words, sending 250 or 300
hundred people per week, gradually.
Relations between the Dominican Republic and Haiti
information received by the Commission, on June 17, 1991, the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs of Haiti received an official note concerning the
repatriation of 30 children and adolescents, scheduled for June 18.
This measure drew a note of protest from the Haitian Government,
which referred to the events as "selective deportations."
Even though the Haitian Government had said that the problem had
to be analyzed jointly, the Government of the Dominican Republic said
that repatriation was an act that followed from its sovereign right to
decide whether or not aliens could remain in the country; however, it
would be willing to discuss, in this context, other matters of mutual
interest, such as visa regulations and activities in the border zone.
In late June,
President Balaguer announced to the press that he would ask the
Organization of American States to mediate to help revitalize the
"stagnant relations" between the two countries; thus far,
however, no formal request had been made.
For its part, the Government of Haiti asked the OAS to send a
delegation to Haiti to see firsthand the situation of the repatriated
labors and to obtain humanitarian aid.
This delegation was sent by the Secretary General of the OAS at
the end of June 1991.
Those events following the IACHR visit in the Dominican
August 19, an official delegation from the Haitian Government, headed by
the Minister of Social Affairs and Labor, Mirtho Celestin, and a
Dominican delegation headed by the Minister of Labor Dr. Alburquerque
and the Deputy Foreign Minister Dr. Fabio Herrera, examined, with the
ILO mediating, the problem of the repatriations and various aspects of
the working conditions of Haitians in various areas of the island.
delegations concurred that to guarantee respect for human rights, the
repatriations should be temporarily suspended until the governments set
up, within no more than 30 days, a technical commission to examine how
the repatriation was being effected. At the request of the ILO, it was also agreed that talks
would resume in Port-au-Prince in the
The next day,
the General Bureau of Immigration of the Dominican Republic denied the
information circulated in the Haitian press, to the effect that
repatriation was going to be suspended for one month.
The Secretary of Labor, Dr. Alburquerque, said that the meeting
had discussed the question of the repatriations, but there was never any
talk of suspending them as long as the presidential decree remained in
President Balaguer admitted to the press that he had received complaints
concerning alleged excesses on the part of officers charged with
conducting the repatriation of undocumented Haitians and he gave
assurances that the expulsions would continue "although they would
be more moderate, in order to avoid any problems that might be caused
for the neighboring country."
communication dated November 20, 1991, the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights informed the Government of the Dominican
Republic that at the Commission's 80th session (September 23 through
October 4, 1991), it had analyzed the information provided by the
IACHR's Special Delegation that had visited the Dominican Republic from
August 12 through 14, 1991, to observe the situation of Haitian citizens
who were being repatriated. The
Commission further informed the Government that as a result of its
analysis, it had decided to continue to monitor the situation of the
Haitians in the Dominican Republic.
In the same
communication, the Commission asked the Government of the Dominican
Republic to inform it regarding the current process of repatriations
being carried out in the country. The Commission also noted that this information would be
considered during its next session.
On December 18
of this year, the Government of the Dominican Republic answered the
request made by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and
stated the following: "Given the events that took place in Haiti
starting on September 30, 1991, the President suspended all
Human rights standards
Based on the
complaints received by the Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights and the information compiled during the visit made by the Special
Delegation of the IACHR in Santo Domingo, there is clear and reliable
evidence that the measures being taken by the Dominican Government to
implement Decree 233 and Immigration Law No. 95, are violating human
rights protected by the American Convention on Human Rights. Article 22, paragraph 9 of the Convention prohibits the
collective expulsion of aliens. Estimates
are that since June, 35,000 people have been repatriated; of these,
30,000 have done so voluntarily, for fear of losing their families and
belongings, while the remaining 5,000 have been taken to the border by
the Dominican authorities (by now the figure has increased to 60,000).
Decree 233 of
June 13, 1991, of the Office of the President of the Dominican Republic
imposed a mass expulsion when it ordered "repatriation" of all
foreign workers under 16 and over 60 years of age who were working as
farm hands in the sowing, cultivation, cutting and transport of cane at
sugar mill camps belonging to the state and private enterprises.
By using this decree the Dominican authorities unleashed an
indiscriminate persecution against the Haitians and their descendants,
whether or not born in the Dominican Republic, to remove them from the
It appears from
the information obtained by the Commission that many of those who have
left the Dominican Republic have done so for fear of being identified as
Haitians and suffering the previously described consequences.
Some were Haitians hired for the sugar harvest, others were
Haitians who had been residents for years, and others were Dominican
children of Haitians.
communication answering the request for precautionary measures by the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Dominican
Government states the following: "I
wish to inform you that the measure mentioned above has been adopted in
accordance with the Constitution and laws of the Republic, which
authorize the Dominican State, in exercise of its sovereignty, to
repatriate any foreigner who remains in the Republic in violation of the
sovereignty is the state's supreme and legal power. States have the
right to organize and govern themselves free from any foreign political
interference. However, in
modern international law, sovereignty has its limitations, one of them
consisting of the instruments for protection of human rights.
Thus the individual, regardless of nationality, has become
subject to international law and receives direct protection of his
rights and freedoms through legally enforceable international
provisions. International law
recognizes the foreigner's legal personality and gives him its
protection. Foreigners are
considered the same as nationals in all things related to individual
guarantees. Generally political rights are denied them.
recognize in the preamble to the American Convention on Human Rights
"that the essential rights of man are not derived from one's being
a national of a certain state, but are based upon attributes of the
human personality, and that they therefore justify international
protection in the form of a convention..."
The principles upheld by the signatory states are established in
the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and in the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Dominican Government has also based justification of the expulsions on
the Haitians' noncompliance with the Migration Laws.
Prior to Decree 417 of October 15, 1990, the agricultural
enterprises were to provide migrant workers and their families with the
corresponding temporary permits in accordance with Law 95 of 1939 and
its Immigration Regulations. The Dominican Government did not enforce this, thus
tolerating an illegal position that was taken advantage of by the State
Sugar Council (CEA), which is one of the enterprises having employed the
most Haitian workers. Decree
No. 417, issued on October 15, 1990, which sought to adjust the status
of the Haitian migrant workers, was not adequately fulfilled, since few
Haitians were able to normalize their status.
In many cases
for which complaints have been made to the Commission, individuals
expelled were born in the Dominican Republic and had the constitutional
right to nationality. The
government pointed out in this regard that they were not nationals, even
though they might have been born on Dominican soil, because they were
the offspring of illegal foreigners.
Nevertheless, the prevailing law in the Dominican Republic is
that of jus soli, and the exceptions established by the Dominican
Constitution in its Article 11 refer to "the legitimate children of
foreign residents in the country as diplomatic representatives or
individuals in transit in the country."
With regard to the second exception, we cannot say that the
persons who have been expelled were "in transit," since many
of them have lived 20, 30, and even 40 years in the Dominican Republic.
In some cases
it was pointed out that the Dominican authorities destroyed their
documents and forced them to return to Haiti.
This arbitrary denial of Dominican nationality is a violation of
Article 20, paragraph 3, of the Convention.
Moreover, Article 22, paragraph 5, of the Convention provides
that "no one can be expelled from the territory of the state of
which he is a national..." Therefore
the facts denounced violate its paragraph 5 to the extent that the
indiscriminate roundups and deportations in many instances cause the
expulsion of persons born in the Dominican Republic and that, for the
same reason, they have the rights and attributes of citizenship, even
though they are not given the opportunity to prove it.
They also violate paragraph 6 of Article 22 to the extent that
Haitians who could prove their status as residents are also deported
without due legal process that would enable them to prove that they are
not in violation of Immigration Law No. 95 of 1939.
laws provide that a person to be deported must have an opportunity to be
heard and to present answers in his favor.
In fact, the Immigration Law and its Regulations set forth a
procedure for deportations which establishes that no foreigner may be
deported without having been given an opportunity to refute the charges
(Article 13.11.e of Law 95 of April 14, 1939, amended by Law 1559 of
October 31, 1947). The
deportees are taken to the border without being heard or given the
opportunity to become familiar with and therefore to dispute the charges
on whose basis they are repatriated or deported.
The way in
which the expulsions were being carried out violates Article 8,
paragraph 1 of the Convention, which establishes the basic principle of
the right to due process of law in determining the individual's rights.
Article 8, paragraph 1 clearly establishes that the juridical
guarantees apply not only to accusations of a criminal nature, but also
to the determination of rights and obligations of "any other
provision obliges the Government of the Dominican Republic to consider
the individual situation of persons accused of violating the Immigration
Law and to grant them the right to present their defense in the
framework of a formal hearing.
Article 25 of
the Convention is also violated due to the hasty way in which the
repatriations were carried out, which completely deprived those involved
from any access to a judicial recourse to determine whether they had the
right to remain in the country.
expulsions have brought about the forced separation of families.
Some children have been expelled without their parents, and
parents have been expelled without their children. Some of the women
deported were not allowed to go for their children even though they had
been recently born. The state's obligation to protect the family, contained in
Article 17.1, has not been respected by the Dominican State.
Article 17 provides as follows:
"The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of
society and is entitled to protection by society and the state."
The sector most
affected by the expulsion is that of the children, since many of them
were expelled while separating them from their parents, or they were
used by the migration authorities to capture their parents.
Thus is added here the Dominican Government's failure to protect
the rights of childhood set forth in Article 19 of the Convention, which
establishes that "every minor child has the right to the measures
of protection required by his condition as a minor on the part of his
family, society, and the state."
to guarantee free and full exercise of human rights is not exhausted by
adopting provisions under domestic law in accordance with Article 2 of
the Convention, but rather it demands governmental conduct that will
ensure the actual existence of an effective guarantee of free and full
exercise of human rights. In
the Dominican Republic there is general legislation aimed at protecting
persons subject to its jurisdiction, but in the specific case of the
"repatriation" of Haitians there has been no governmental
conduct truly ensuring the protection of human rights. Thousands of
persons have been expelled from the Dominican Republic and on such
occasions several provisions of the Convention on Human Rights have been
violated by failing to fulfill the obligation established in Article 1.1
of the Convention, which provides as follows: "The
States Parties to this Convention undertake to respect the rights and
freedoms recognized herein and to ensure to all persons subject to their
jurisdiction the free and full exercise of those rights and freedoms,
without any discrimination for reasons of race, color, sex, language,
religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin,
economic status, birth, or any other social condition."
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has considered with
special concern the serious nature of the massive expulsions to which
Haitian nationals and Dominicans of Haitian origin were subjected in the
Dominican Republic and the serious repercussions caused by such
expulsions due to the irregular manner in which they were carried out.
It has also
considered the Dominican Government's decision to suspend such
expulsions beginning September 30, 1991.
In the light of
the observations made during the on-site visit and the information
provided by the Government, the Commission has considered that the
Government of the Dominican Republic should take measures aimed at
regularizing the status of Haitians who have not yet been able to take
advantage of the provisions of Decree 417-90 of October 15, 1990.
It would also be necessary to revoke any legislative or
administrative measure aimed at impairing the rights of the foreigners
or Dominicans of Haitian origin and to suspend definitively the mass
expulsions of Haitian nationals.
also recommends that the Government provide the necessary facilities to
Haitian nationals who voluntarily request their return to Haiti, with
all the guarantees and considerations, without harming their basic
rights, and granting the corresponding work benefits.
Likewise, the Haitian nationals who were expelled from the
Dominican Republic without granting them their corresponding work
benefits, as indicated by Decree 233-91, should be compensated.
Commission recommends to the Government that it grant facilities aimed
at allowing persons who allege that they are Dominicans to return to the
country so that they may exercise their right to prove Dominican
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights hopes the Government of the Dominican Republic will take concrete measures to help settle the serious problem of Haitian foreigners and Dominicans of Haitian origin so that there will be no further expulsions.
Prime Time Live, ABC, May 2, 1991.
conversations with children in the "bateyes,"
representatives from the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights several
times heard the story of the false promises made to the children and
the tricks that had been played to deceive them.
The children, who were not afraid to give their names, are
identified in A Childhood Abducted, Children Cutting Sugar
Cane in the Dominican Republic, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights,
New York, May 1991, pp. 5-12.
Half Measures, Reform, Forced Labor and the Dominican
Sugar Industry, Americas Watch, National Coalition for Haitian
Refugees and Caribbean Rights, Washington, D.C., March 1991, pp.
Hersh, International Law and Human Rights, London, Steven,
1968, p. 27.
Max, Manual de Derechos Internacional Público, (editado por
Sorensen, M.), Fondo de Cultura Económica, México, 1973, pp.