Annual Report: Dominican Republic 2013

Report
May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Dominican Republic 2013

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Dominican Republic

Head of state and government Danilo Medina Sánchez

The number of unlawful killings by police remained high. People of Haitian descent continued to be denied identity documents. Violence against women and girls remained a major concern. There were concerns that proposed reforms to the Penal Code could have a negative impact on women’s rights and freedom of expression.

Background

Danilo Medina of the Party for the Dominican Liberation was elected President in May and took office in August.

A law on fiscal reform approved in November sparked a wave of demonstrations across the country, some of which were violently repressed by the police.

For the 11th consecutive year, the authorities failed to appoint a Human Rights Ombudsman.

On 23 February, the UN Convention against Torture came into force in the Dominican Republic.

In March, the UN Human Rights Committee considered the Dominican Republic’s fifth periodic report and made several recommendations on issues including reducing human rights violations by the police; protecting Haitian migrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent from discrimination; and combating gender-based violence.

Police and security forces

The number of killings committed by the police fell by 18% compared with 2011, but remained high. Evidence suggested that many of these killings may have been unlawful.

  • Yefri Felizor was killed by police on 31 October during a police operation in the neighbourhood of La Mina in the city of Santiago. According to eyewitnesses, the officers searched him and then ordered him to run. When he started running, police officers fatally shot him. Nobody had been charged with the killing by the end of the year.

Several people were killed by the police in the context of demonstrations. In many of these incidents unnecessary or excessive force appeared to have been used.

  • In June, three men and a pregnant woman were killed in Salcedo during a demonstration sparked by the lack of progress in the investigation into the killing of a sportsman on 12 May 2012, allegedly by police. In October, the Prosecutor General said the investigation into the June killings was continuing.

In November, the President appointed a commission to propose legislative and policy measures for a comprehensive reform of the police.

Impunity

Many alleged abuses by the police remained unpunished, despite compelling evidence.

  • The authorities failed to clarify the enforced disappearance of Gabriel Sandi Alistar and Juan Almonte Herrera. The men were last seen in police custody in July and September 2009 respectively. Their whereabouts remained unknown at the end of 2012.

In February, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights established state responsibility for the enforced disappearance of journalist Narciso González Medina in 1994. In October, the Court found the state responsible for the killing of seven Haitian migrants by members of the armed forces in 2000.

Discrimination – Haitian migrants and Dominico-Haitians

Several courts ordered the Dominican Electoral Board to issue identity documents to hundreds of Dominicans of Haitian descent who had been denied their right to documents. However, by the end of the year, the Central Electoral Board had failed to implement the decision of the courts.

In July, local human rights organizations reported that people who had brought cases against the Dominican Electoral Board had been threatened and intimidated when Board personnel visited their communities to question them about the migration status of their parents.

Migrants’ rights

Mass deportations of Haitian migrants continued. In many cases, expulsions appeared to be arbitrary.

On 25 May the Director of Migrations issued a directive instructing the Minister of Education not to accept undocumented foreign children in schools. The directive was withdrawn in June following criticism.

Violence against women and girls

According to the Office of the Prosecutor General, the number of women and girls killed by partners or former partners fell by 19% compared with 2011.

Women’s rights organizations expressed concern that proposed changes to the Penal Code represented a backward step in combating violence against women and girls. For example, it did not include the crime of gender-based violence and reduced the penalties for certain forms of violence against women and girls.

Sexual and reproductive rights

The total ban on abortion remained in place. Proposed changes to the Penal Code would allow for an exception to the ban when the life of the woman is at risk. However, women’s rights organizations considered the formulation to be too vague.

  • In August, Rosaura, a 16-year-old girl with leukaemia, died of complications caused by a miscarriage. She had been prevented from having a therapeutic abortion – as recommended by various health professionals – because it was against the law. Chemotherapy was also delayed as doctors were concerned it would harm the foetus.

Freedom of expression – journalists

The Dominican National Union of Press Workers reported that scores of journalists and other media workers were harassed or physically attacked. In most cases the perpetrators were not brought to justice.

There were concerns that proposed reforms to the Penal Code included penalties of up to three years’ imprisonment for criticizing elected representatives or government-appointed officials.

Housing rights – forced evictions

According to local NGOs, several forced evictions were carried out and police used force unlawfully on several occasions.

Amnesty International visits/reports

  • Amnesty International delegates visited the Dominican Republic in November/December.
  • Dominican Republic: Submission to the UN Human Rights Committee (AMR 27/001/2012)
  • Dominican Republic: Open letter from Amnesty International to Dominican presidential candidates for the May 2012 elections (AMR 27/005/2012)
  • Towards a successful reform? Proposals for an organic law to help bring about comprehensive reform of the National Police in the Dominican Republic (AMR 27/016/2012)