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Dominican Republic Threatens to Revoke RFK Laureate Sonia Pierre’s Citizenship

Press release of Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights

Submitted to AlterPresse on 31 March 2007

Washington, DC—The Dominican Republic is threatening to revoke the birth certificate of Dominican human rights defender Sonia Pierre, 2006 RFK Human Rights Award winner. Despite being a Dominican citizen born in Batey Lecharia, Dominican Republic, the Administrative Chamber of the Dominican Republic’s Electoral Board (JCE) now threatens to strip her of her human right to nationality without due process.

Members of the JCE have requested the annulment of Sonia’s birth certificate based on questions about the legal status of her parents and the validity of their identification documents. A JCE decision to annul her birth certificate would place Sonia in imminent danger of expulsion.

“We believe Sonia Pierre has been targeted for investigation because of her work on behalf of human rights in the Dominico-Haitian community,” said Monika Kalra Varma, director Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights. “The implication of such action on the rights of the tens of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent who reside in the Dominican Republic could be devastating.”

“The final authority for these decisions rests not with the JCE board but the courts,” said Varma. “She is a Dominican citizen and is entitled to an impartial and transparent judicial process.”

Recent articles in the Dominican press about these actions have printed private personal information about her residence and her family members.

“We are concerned that the irresponsible release of such information is a continuing threat to Sonia and her family’s personal security,” Varma noted.

As the leader of the Movement for Dominico-Haitian Women (MUDHA), a Dominican-based human rights organization, Sonia has led a combined national and international effort to eliminate discriminatory policies and practices in the Dominican Republic. In 2005 she presented the case of Dominican children of Haitian descent who were denied legal documentation of their nationality, which resulted in a binding ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The Court ordered the Dominican Republic to end discrimination against ethnic Haitians in its birth registration system but Dominican officials have not fully complied with the order. Recently, the government has made several unsubstantiated claims that Sonia and her children fraudulently obtained their identity documents but the actions by the JCE mark the first formal action in the process to revoke her citizenship.