Press Release

Making the 66th anniversary of the adoption of the convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, the IACHR urges States to enhance their efforts to reduce this phenomenon and adopt all necessary measures to protect stateless persons in the region

September 30, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - On the occasion of the 66th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, the IACHR urges States to redouble their efforts to reduce the phenomenon of statelessness, eliminate from their legal systems and practices the deprivation of nationality, and to protect all stateless persons in the region. The Commission recognizes the importance of the commitment reaffirmed by the States of the region in the 2014 Declaration and Plan of Action of Brazil, to eradicate statelessness by 2024. In this regard, it urges the States of the region to maintain a permanent state of vigilance for risk factors of statelessness, especially those generated by serious humanitarian crises, obstacles to the documentation of people in contexts of human mobility, as well as by discriminatory legislation on the granting of nationality to descendants by gender or migratory status.

The IACHR warns of the negative impacts of measures that restrict access to territories, suspension of services to migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers taken in the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the existing humanitarian crises, and massive migration movements in the region. Such factors create obstacles for accessing basic citizenship documentation, generate additional risks for stateless persons as well as the possibility of new situations for statelessness. In this regard, the Commission recalls the importance of States being guided by the principles and recommendations adopted in: i) its Resolution No. 01/20 on Human Rights and Pandemic for the protection of stateless persons at all stages of the response to the pandemic, ii) Resolution No. 04/19 on the Inter-American Principles on the Human Rights of All Migrants, Refugees, Stateless Persons and Victims of Trafficking in people, and iii) other international and inter-American standards on non-discrimination and comprehensive protection of human rights.

The IACHR cautions States, in particular, about the application of discriminatory legal criteria for granting nationality to descendants as one of the risk factors for generating statelessness. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), legal equality between men and women regarding the granting of nationality to girls and boys has not yet been achieved in 25 countries around the world. Furthermore, the Commission observes with concern the impact of administrative or judicial decisions that may affect access to or effective enjoyment of nationality by individuals or social groups. In this regard, it recalls the follow-up actions on the impact of Judgment 168-13, of September 23, 2013, of the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic, which has just turned 7 years old. Based on the aforementioned ruling, the Court retroactively interpreted the scope that the principle of jus soli of the 1929 Constitution, which retroactively resulted in the loss of nationality of people who were previously Dominican, and who are now left in a situation of Statelessness, with serious effects on their rights, including obstacles to accessing fundamental rights and basic public services such as higher education and medical care.

In this regard, the IACHR closely followed up on the situation, including through a Working Group on the Implementation of Human Rights Policies in the Dominican Republic, and wishes to recognize the efforts and responses proposed and implemented by the Dominican Republic over recent years, especially regarding Law 169/14 and the National Plan for the Regularization of Migrants. The IACHR recognizes that, after seven years of Judgment 168-13, nearly 26 thousand people have benefited from the measures implemented by the Dominican State to mitigate the effects of deprivation of nationality, through access to documentation and naturalization procedures. Moreover, the IACHR acknowledges the publication on August 9, 2020, of Decree 262-20, dated July 16, which authorized the naturalization of about 750 people within the framework of the process of responses to those people born and raised in the country, who had been deprived of Dominican nationality with the 2013 Judgment. At the same time, it urges the Dominican State to seek sustainable, affordable, and lasting measures for the situation of the remaining 6,400 people who have also requested naturalization under this framework.

In this sense, observing the 66th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention relating the Status of Stateless Persons, the Commission notes that to ensure a comprehensive response to statelessness, States should follow three interdependent axes: the resolution of statelessness, the prevention of new cases and the protection of stateless persons. In this regard, the IACHR reiterates the need to adopt inter-American standards and principles as guides and elements of reference, especially concerning: i) the elimination of discriminatory laws and criteria for granting nationality; ii) the elimination of procedures and rules that result in arbitrary deprivation of nationality; iii) the adoption of clear rules and criteria including express and informed consent in any process that may lead to the resignation or loss of nationality; iv) the establishment of procedures with due process guarantees for the recognition and granting of protection statutes to stateless persons; v) the incorporation into national laws of guarantees that are as broad as possible, to guarantee access to rights in contexts of serious humanitarian crises and massive population movements that may produce risks of statelessness; and vi) policies of comprehensive reparation for individuals and social groups that may have suffered arbitrary deprivation of their nationality.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 238/20