The American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man


Article VIII:

Every person has the right to fix his residence within the territory of the State of which he is a national, to move about freely within such territory, and not to leave it except by his own will.


Article XIX:

Every person has the right to the nationality to which he is entitled by law and to change it if he so wishes, for the nationality of any other country that is willing to grant it to him.1




          1.          During its visit, the Special Commission received a series of cables and other communications from Haitian citizens reporting that despite President Duvalier’s statements to the effect that all Haitians living abroad could return to Haiti and live in the country without any problems, they had been refused permission to return to Haiti to testify before the Commission.


          2.          One of these cables, dated August 18, 1978, raises the question in the following terms:


         Wish to inform you that the Haitian Consul in Puerto Rico, Pierre Chavenet, on instructions from Minister of Foreign Affairs, is using delaying tactics in order not to deliver visas and passports to Haitians wishing to testify before the Inter-American Commission. On government orders, airlines flying to Haiti refuse Haitian passengers wishing to return to their country who do not have a passport and entry visa issued within the previous 30 days by a Haitian consul. Refusal by Haitian government to deliver passports and visas for entry to their own country to Haitian citizens living abroad is a flagrant violation of human rights.


          The government of Haiti states that “the action of the Consul was taken in contravention of government policies, and the individual concerned was suspended and relieved of his responsibilities because of this incident. The only Haitians refused re-entry as a result of government policy have been those who are known subversives and whose stated intentions are to overthrow by force the duly constituted government of Haiti. As to these individuals, the government can see no justification for their return, and does not feel that its actions constitute a breach of any of the obligations to which it is bound.”


          3.          Another cable from ten Haitians who wanted to re-enter their country to talk to the Commission quoted similar cases in which the Consuls-General of Haiti in New York and Montreal had refused them visas. They too protested that “any American, Frenchman or Canadian can enter Haiti without a visa, while a Haitian citizen who was born in the country, cannot do so.”


          4.          The question was raised with high-level government authorities, who admitted to the Commission that certain individuals who were Haitian citizens by birth had not received permission to re-enter their country for security reasons.




          5.          Contrary to the clauses on nationality in the American Declaration, the Legislature of Haiti, in a Decree dated August 23, 1963, stripped 54 individuals accused of treasonable activities of their citizenship. This measure was taken the day after the pertinent Constitutional guarantees were suspended. Moreover, the individuals in question were stripped of their retirement, and their property was confiscated and passed to the State.


          6.          Subsequently, the Presidential Decree of February 27, 1974 defined the conditions under which Haitian citizenship could be acquired and lost. The Commission is particularly interested in the two paragraphs of Article 17 that prescribe loss of citizenship “(5) for all services rendered to the enemies of the Republic or for transactions conducted with them” and “(6) for final sentencing, after a full hearing, to life imprisonment for infamous crimes.”


          7.          We believe it would be very useful to repeat what the Commission said on another occasion on the subject of loss of citizenship:2


         Loss of citizenship is sometimes a tactic in a political struggle, but it always has the effect of leaving a citizen without a land and without a roof of his own, and of forcing him to take refuge abroad. On another plane, it has an inevitable impact on foreign jurisdictions and no State may arrogate to itself the power of taking measures of this type. If the practice of stripping citizens of their nationality were to become generalized, for whatever reason and for whatever purposes, the world would have a new machinery for producing stateless persons. And this at the time when there has been a world-wide crusade to relieve the suffering of thousands of stateless persons and refugees forced into exile by political violence or war and by the other tragedies that have afflicted a large part of humanity in recent years, obliged to seek shelter in a foreign home. For these reasons, and for many other considerations that are not pertinent here, the Commission feels that this anachronistic, uncivilized punishment, which is legally unjustifiable in any part of the world, is a thousand times more odious and reprehensible in our countries of the Americas, and should therefore be permanently forbidden in the practice of all governments.


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                1    American Convention on Human Rights

                        Article 22. Freedom of Movement and Residence

            1.            Every person lawfully in the territory of a State Party has the right to move about in it, and to reside in it subject to the provisions of the law.

            2.            Every person has the right lo leave any country freely, including his own.

            3.            The exercise of the foregoing rights may be restricted only pursuant to a law to the extent necessary in a democratic society to prevent crime or to protect national security, public safety, public order, public morals, public health, or the rights or freedoms of others.

            4.            The exercise of the rights recognized in paragraph 1 may also be restricted by law in designated zones for reasons of public interest.

            5.            No one can be expelled from the territory of the state of which he is a national or be deprived of the right to enter it.

            6.            An alien lawfully in the territory of a State Party to this Convention may be expelled from it only pursuant to a decision reached in accordance with law.

            7.            Every person has the right to seek and be granted asylum in a foreign territory, in accordance with the legislation of the state and international conventions, in the event he is being pursued for political offenses or related common crimes.

            8.            In no case may an alien be deported or returned to a country, regardless of whether or not it is his country of origin, if in that country his right to life or personal freedom is in danger of being violated because of his race, nationality, religion, social status, or political opinions.

            9.            The collective expulsion of aliens is prohibited.

            Article 20. Right to Nationality

            1.            Every person has the right to a nationality.

            2.            Every person has the right to the nationality of the state in whose territory he was born if he does not have the right to any other nationality.

            3.            No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality or of the right to change it.

            2            “Third report on the situation of human rights in Chile” (OEA/Ser.L/V/II.40, doc. 10, February 11, 1977).