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Imprisoned Human Rights Lawyer in Swaziland Asks President Obama for Assistance

International Community Must Ensure Full Restoration of Dominican Citizenship, Closely Monitor Implementation of Naturalization Law


(July 29, 2014| Washington, DC) Kerry Kennedy, President of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center), and Santiago A. Canton, Executive Director of RFK Partners for Human Rights, have called on the international community to closely monitor the implementation of the Dominican Republic’s Naturalization Law and stressed the ongoing need for a solution to the hundreds of thousands of Dominican citizens who are now forced to report as foreigners or be left stateless. 

A Dominican Constitutional Court decision last year (168-13) arbitrarily deprived over 200,000 Dominican citizens – mostly of Haitian descent – of their citizenship, leaving them stateless. In the fallout since the Constitutional Court’s decision, the Dominican government has promulgated a series of laws and policies collectively billed as a “solution” to the statelessness crisis. Last week the Dominican government published its regulations to implement the Naturalization Law (169-14). While the Naturalization Law re-grants citizenship to those like RFK Center client Juliana Deguis Pierre, the vast majority of Dominicans stripped of their nationality by last year’s Court ruling are now forced to self-report as foreigners within 90 days. These individuals must then submit to the National Regularization Plan in place for undocumented migrants, and must then wait two additional years for the opportunity to apply for lesser form of naturalized citizenship, which is not even guaranteed.

“The progress achieved by the naturalization law is largely illusory, as the Dominican government continues to deprive thousands of its citizens of their rightful nationality,” said Kerry Kennedy. “Even those who allegedly benefit from the Naturalization Law are experiencing countless obstacles and delays. In addressing this violation of the most fundamental of all human rights, there is no substitute for real, measurable action, and so far, the Dominican government has failed to provide it.” 

Many of those who purportedly benefit from the Naturalization Law are facing difficulties in accessing their citizenship documents. Juliana Deguis Pierre was initially denied access to her national ID card by civil registry officials who called her a “foreigner”, even after the Naturalization Law had come into effect. After repeated attempts by Ms. Deguis Pierre to obtain her documents while officials spent weeks reviewing her file, Dominican authorities finally announced last week that she should receive her national ID card within 30 days. Civil registry officials have blamed the delay on the fact that they must now audit the file of every individual seeking relief under the Naturalization Law, but the difficulties of Ms. Deguis Pierre highlight a growing and serious concern that even the lucky few who have had their nationality restored are still perilously at the mercy of the same local officials who have denied them their documents for decades.

Testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week, Santiago A. Canton urged the US government to continue to use all tools at its disposal – including trade relations – to encourage the Dominican government to reverse course and ensure the right to nationality.

“Those who have been stripped of their nationality have been suddenly prevented from engaging in economic activities such as working in the formal sector or paying into retirement or social security funds. Many of these Dominicans have also been prevented from attending university, which of course drastically limits their economic opportunities,” said Mr. Canton during his testimony. “When people are denied their rights—or are systematically left out of economic opportunities—it often results in social instability that can have widespread economic consequences. Thus, protecting and promoting human rights is a vital step toward economic development and must surely be taken into account in any US policy toward the Dominican Republic, especially policy that involves investment in the country.”

This week Mr. Canton and RFK Center Staff Attorney Wade McMullen published an article in America’s Quarterly detailing the myths and inaccuracies of the Dominican government’s justifications of its discriminatory Court decision and subsequent policies.


The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights (RFK Center) was founded as a living memorial to Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. Ever since the RFK Center has honored journalists, authors, and human rights activists who, often at great personal risk and sacrifice, are on the frontlines of the international movement for human rights and social justice. Partnering with these courageous and innovative human rights defenders, RFK Partners for Human Rights is the litigation, advocacy, and capacity-building arm of the RFK Center. Combining a rights-based approach and extended multi-year partnerships with the RFK Award Laureates and other human rights activists, RFK Partners for Human Rights leverages its legal expertise, resources, and prestige to advance social justice goals around the world.

For more information please contact:

Wade McMullen (English, Spanish)

Staff Attorney, Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights

office: (202) 463-7575 x 221

cell: (202) 670-1845

email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it



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