CARICOM suspends DR membership application

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar.
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has deferred the Dominican Republic’s application for membership of the regional body over the Spanish-speaking Caribbean country’s Constitutional Court ruling that renders stateless thousands of people of Haitian descent.

CARICOM made the decision on Tuesday at a Bureau meeting in Trinidad and Tobago, comprising current chairperson Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar; her St. Vincent and the Grenadines counterpart, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves; and the President of Haiti, Michel Martelly.

CARICOM Secretary General Irwin La Rocque also attended the meeting.

“In the circumstances and in the light of the values and the principles, which have been underpinned in the revised treaty of Chaguaramas, CARICOM has determined that it will defer consideration of the application by the Dominican Republic for membership of CARICOM,” said Persad-Bissessar afterwards.

“As chair of CARICOM, I intend to raise this matter for action by several bodies of which we are members, such as the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (CELAC) and we will maintain our interest and active participation at the Organization of American States (OAS),” she said.

In response to the question of sovereignty for the Dominican Republic’s court and laws, Gonsalves said: “If the issue at hand touches existential humanity, and the ruling of your internal court offends your international obligations, offends international norms, so that there’s a philosophical issue as to the circumstances under which you can intervene in another affair, so to speak.

“The Dominican Republic has certain international obligations, the Dominican Republic is a state party to several treaties, including those in the hemisphere, and you cannot have an international law, which is taking precedence to that which you have solemnly signed as a treaty,” added Gonsalves, who has been very critical of the Dominican Republic court ruling.

He had written two letters to the President of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina, warning that St. Vincent and the Grenadines would oppose his country’s application for membership to CARICOM, as well as seek its suspension from the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM).

Persad-Bissessar said CARICOM has reviewed the ruling of the Dominican Republic constitutional court, “which directed that the government to develop within 90 days a national plan for the regularization of illegal aliens and then to implement the plan.

“CARICOM has noted with concern the requirement of the central electoral board in the Dominican Republic to turn the list of aliens illegally registered in the civil registry over to the ministry of the interior and the police,” she said.

“CARICOM is calling on the Dominican Republic to ensure the immediate protection of those persons negatively affected by the ruling and to adhere to its international human rights obligations under the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights, amongst others,” she added.

“CARICOM is ready to support any process which results in the reinstatement of the basic human rights of those affected; and welcomes the views of civil society representative with whom we met this morning and those who met with the secretary general of CARICOM in Guyana, submitting a region-wide petition on behalf of concerned citizens of the Caribbean Community,” she continued.

Persad Bissessar also took “note of the communication” received from Medina “that the government of the Dominican Republic will not deport any of the persons affected by the ruling of the constitutional court, and measures will be taken to ensure that no one is deported.”

CARICOM also called on the global and regional community to “pressure the government of the Dominican Republic to adopt urgent measures to ensure that the jaundiced decision of the constitutional court does not stand and that the full citizenship rights of persons of Haitian descent, born in the Dominican Republic are guaranteed.

“The Caribbean Community accords this matter the highest priority,” the statement said.

CARICOM adopted its position after leaders of the sub-regional Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) last week denounced the Constitutional Court in the Dominican Republic.

“We deeply regret the failure of the government of the Dominican Republic to take corrective measures. Accordingly, we call on the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) of which our individual countries are also members, to suspend immediately any consideration of the application by the Dominican Republic for membership of CARICOM,” said the leaders in a communiqué after meeting in Montserrat.

In describing the constitutional court’s ruling as “repulsive and discriminatory,” the OECS leaders also called on other regional and hemispheric organizations such as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) to “speak out unequivocally in condemnation of this ruling.

“The individual and collective voices of all who believe in and are committed to human rights and justice for all must now be raised to urge the Dominican Republic to right this terrible wrong,” the communiqué said.

The OECS comprises Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts-Nevis, Montserrat, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands.

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