On December 17, 2014, the Action and Agrarian Center, an ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) partner in the Dominican Republic, conducted a workshop on human rights advances and challenges, focusing on the conditions of stateless persons in the country. Held in Santiago, the training was attended by 85 human rights defenders, including civil society leaders, lawyers, journalists and representatives of non-governmental organizations that defend vulnerable groups, including women, children and migrants.
Raydiris Cruz, Director of Casa Abierta in Santiago, speaking on children’s rights at the Forum for Human Rights Defenders: Advances and Challenges of Human Rights in the Dominican Republic.
The workshop is part of ABA ROLI’s collaboration with the Action and Agrarian Center through a program that supports legal assistance for the stateless. Percy Alvarez, ABA ROLI representative in the Dominican Republic, said that the event highlighted existing human rights challenges and the progress the country has made in addressing them. “The forum generated a good discussion about the major constraints that currently confront the state and civil society, and [about] how the lack of information is a real obstacle to forming [appropriate] policies and programs,” he added.
Funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, ABA ROLI’s program in the Dominican Republic launched in September 2014. The program educates stateless persons about their rights and encourages them to seek assistance from civil society organizations, while assisting those organizations in providing legal service to the stateless, including by training their members.
There are about 250,000 stateless persons—an overwhelming majority of whom are of Haitian descent—living in the Dominican Republic. These individuals have no identity documents and are generally denied access to health care, education, property and other human rights or basic amenities. They have limited information and access to justice, preventing them from obtaining either citizenship or legal immigration status. There have also been recent legislative efforts to strip those who have previously been granted Dominican citizenship, making them vulnerable to not only deprivation of basic rights, but also widespread discrimination, mass deportations and hate crimes.
The December workshop highlighted local and international human rights laws and identified the different actors and human rights defenders operating in the country’s northern region, where many stateless reside. It included panels and discussions on various topics, including the situation of human rights in the Dominican Republic, immigration issues, implementation of the legislation revoking Dominican citizenship, working with women and child migrants, and social investment in the stateless community.
ABA ROLI and the Action and Agrarian Center will provide additional trainings and establish a mobile legal aid clinic to conduct outreach to the stateless.
To learn more about our work in the Dominican Republic, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at [email protected].