Dominican Republic
Urgent Interventions

Dominican Republic: Open Letter to the President Hipolito Mejia


Geneva, March 14th 2003

Mr. President,

The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) would like to bring your attention to the situation of more than 500 Haitians who are currently seeking asylum in the Dominican Republic.

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed that these persons, while waiting for a decision on their status for two years, are denied access to basic social services and find themselves in a critical socio-economic condition where their basic needs and economic, social and cultural rights are not fulfilled. In this respect, we would like to note that while OMCT has received detailed information on individual cases of Haitian asylum seekers in the Dominican Republic, their socio-economic situation and the actual violations they have been facing when returning to Haiti, concerns expressed by these persons regarding their safety make it difficult for us to disclose the afore-mentioned information.

However, OMCT would like to draw your attention to the fact that the majority of these persons are either living in very precarious housing or in the streets, that they find themselves without work or social assistance, that they do not have access to adequate healthcare and that their children do not go to school. In such a context, the absence of work and social assistance, besides its afore-mentioned implications in term of health status and housing, bears a direct impact on access to adequate food and on the enjoyment of the right to food. As a result, the majority of children of Haitian asylum seekers are reportedly undernourished.

This desperate socio-economic situation reportedly left some of these persons with no other alternative but to return to Haiti where some have been subjected to torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in the hand of police forces.

Eventually, it is also reported that those asylum seekers who have been subjected to torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in Haiti -including electric shocks and severe flogging- do not receive adequate medical assistance in the Dominican Republic and remain unattended.
In view of these considerations, OMCT hopes that your Government will take immediate measures to ensure that the rights of these persons are protected and upheld, and in particular their economic, social and cultural rights, as well as their right to be protected from torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, in conformity with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

In this respect, OMCT would urge your government to expedite the consideration of the applications of Haitian asylum-seekers and to provide them with basic social services, including adequate housing, health care and education.

We thank you in advance for your careful consideration of this matter, and remain,

Sincerely yours,

Eric Sottas
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