- The Washington Times - Monday, April 2, 2007

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — Dominican officials are seeking to revoke the citizenship of an internationally recognized advocate for their country’s Haitian minority.

The move is seen by human rights groups as an attempt to silence a vocal critic of the government.

A report by the Dominican Central Electoral Commission concluded that activist Sonia Pierre isn’t entitled to a Dominican birth certificate and citizenship because her mother and stepfather purportedly lied about their legal status when they registered her birth in 1963.

Miss Pierre, who was born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian parents, heads the Santo Domingo-based Movement for Dominican Women of Haitian Descent, an advocacy group for the 500,000 to 1 million ethnic Haitians who live in the Dominican Republic.

The Dominican Republic’s Haitian population includes people who have been in the country for generations as well as shorter-term migrants who came to work on construction sites and sugar plantations for little pay and often face discrimination.

Haiti and the Dominican Republic are located on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. The Haitian side is much poorer and more politically unstable.

A four-page report prepared by Chief Inspector Juan Tavarez and Security Director Victor Lantigua found that information on Miss Pierre’s birth certificate was false.

They recommended that the government “petition to nullify [the birth certificate and citizenship] by judicial means.”

The report was requested by an electoral commission delegate from the far-right-wing National Progressive Force.

Miss Pierre told the Associated Press last week that her citizenship is legitimate.

“I consider this a response to the work I do for human rights,” she said. “I am open to an investigation by the authorities of my country … but it must be someone competent and impartial.”

The Washington-based Robert F. Kennedy Memorial, which gave Miss Pierre its 2006 Human Rights Award, expressed concern that the report could lead to Miss Pierre’s deportation and action against other Dominicans of Haitian descent.

Monika Kalra Varma — acting director for the memorial’s Center for Human Rights, which said Miss Pierre recently received death threats — urged President Leonel Fernandez to reject the commission’s finding.

The Dominican Constitution guarantees citizenship to those born within the country’s borders except for “foreigners in transit” — a status applied almost solely to Haitian migrants — and the children of diplomats.

Miss Pierre was on the legal team that won citizenship and damages for two Dominican-born girls of Haitian descent in a case brought before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2005.

This month, the Dominican government complied with the first part of the court ruling, paying $22,000 in damages to the plaintiffs.

But Mr. Fernandez said he did not intend to comply with the court’s broader ruling to grant citizenship to all migrants’ Dominican-born children.

That payment, along with a March report by Amnesty International condemning the Dominican government for its treatment of migrants, has raised tensions over the divisive issue in this nation of 9.2 million.

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