Dominicans of Haitian descent, and Haitians living in the Dominican Republic, are still living under the extraordinary threat of deportation, with, as has been reported, tens of thousands “self-deporting” so as to avoid the constant street hassle executed by the DR’s security forces. Those security forces are funded and trained by the US, a point that for all their good work on the issue, groups like Amnesty International and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights (the awkward rebranding of what used to be the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights) have thus far avoided—even though those funds could be used as leverage to pressure rightwing anti-Haitians in the DR to back off.
That is, no prominent human rights group in the US has yet to make the obvious point that Washington could enact the so-called “Leahy Amendments,” which cut US aid to foreign security forces if there is credible information they are involved in significant human rights violations. Washington did this before with St. Lucia in 2013, after its police force went on a rampage and killed over a dozen citizens (obviously the US needs a domestic Leahy amendment).
Human Rights Watch’s Kenneth Roth practically begged Obama to bomb Syria. José Miguel Vivanco, the head of HRW’s Americas Division wrote an impassioned, detailed, public letter to the Pope, imploring him to act on behalf of Leopoldo López, the jailed Venezuelan opposition leader. Readers would be forgiven if, after a quick perusal of HRW’s Venezuela page, they came away with the idea that the organization’s main mission was to serve as López’s personal barrister.
Poor Dominicans and Haitians? Not so much. Thousands are now jammed into “squalid” camps on the Haitian side of the border, yet the most HRW can do is insipidly ask Washington to “support civil society groups to help monitor the deportation process, and protect the rights of denationalized Dominicans” and “work with the Dominican government to develop a process that will enable denationalized Dominicans to effectively regain their nationality.” Okay, then.
By avoiding pushing for the application of Leahy, Amnesty and RFK are circumscribing the debate on potentially effective policies to respond to anti-Haitian racism from the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic is, after all, an important “free trade” partner.
But according to CNN, over 500 former Peace Corps volunteers, including three former DR Country Directors, have sent a letter—striking in its contrast to the timidity of AI, HRW, and RFK Human Rights—to Secretary of State Kerry urging for the enforcement of Leahy, citing State Department reports documenting extrajudicial killings, torture, and the case of 31-year-old Haitian immigrant Jean Robert Lors, whose home was invaded by Dominican security agents (in 2013) and who was beaten so severely—allegedly “with the butts of their weapons”—that he died. “We must no longer abet such actions in the Dominican Republic, much less be complicit in an impending intensification of human rights abuses,” argued Carly Perez, who volunteered from 2010 to 2012. “It’s time for the State Department to act on its own information, bring the United States into compliance with U.S. law, and send a strong signal to the Dominican Republic by suspending military aid.”