Dominican Republic


The following information is based on the Amnesty International Report 2020/21. This report documents the human rights situation in 149 countries in 2020, as well as providing global and regional analysis. It presents Amnesty lnternational’s concerns and calls for action to governments and others. During 2020, the world was rocked by COVID-19. The pandemic and measures taken to tackle it impacted everyone, but also threw into stark relief, and sometimes aggravated, existing inequalities and patterns of abuse.

Dominican Republic Human Rights 2020

The authorities carried out an estimated 85,000 detentions between 20 March 2020  and 30 June 2020, for alleged non-compliance with the evening curfew. Abortion remained criminalized in all circumstances. The authorities failed to pass the comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation demanded by civil society for years.

Arbitrary detention

In March 2020, the authorities declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew to try to contain the spread of COVID-19. According to data published daily on Twitter by the National Police, law enforcement carried out an estimated 85,000 detentions between 20 March  2020 and 30 June 2020 for alleged non-compliance with the evening curfew. The authorities did not respond to requests for information about the conditions in which people were held, including whether people were physically distanced in detention or had access to a lawyer and other due process guarantees.

Video evidence suggested that the police used detention as a first rather than last resort to enforce lockdowns and routinely rounded up groups of people in the back of police vans, without taking any COVID-19 preventive measures like physical distancing or mask wearing.

Videos also showed the authorities stopping or detaining people on their way to get food or other basic items, despite evidence from previous public health emergencies that coercive enforcement, including criminalization, can be counterproductive and have a disproportionate impact on marginalized groups.

The authorities often used tactics designed to humiliate people for allegedly breaking curfews, such as forced group exercise, and employed unnecessary force during detentions, a trend documented in previous years in reports on the arbitrary detention of women sex workers and young people.1

Violence against women and girls

In the first weeks of the curfew there was a significant drop in the number of reports of gender-based violence, according to news reports. This raised concerns that women were suffering violence in silence in a country with one of the highest rates of gender-based killings of women in the world, according to the UN Gender Equality Observatory for Latin America and the Caribbean. Between January and December 2020, 130 women were killed, 66 of which were femicides, according to preliminary statistics published by the Prosecutor General’s Office.

Women’s rights

Women facing discrimination on multiple and intersecting grounds, such as transgender women and low-income cisgender women, continued to experience discrimination in accessing formal employment and many continued to sell sex as their primary method of income in 2020.

Following the implementation of the evening curfew in March 2020, many transgender sex worker women were unable to work, which left many of them struggling to pay rent and without access to key social protections such as a range of health services, according to the NGO Transsa. Although the authorities put in place financial assistance programmes for workers, sex workers faced barriers when trying to access them, according to Transsa, which, working with other NGOs, was able eventually to get assistance for some transgender women.

The authorities also failed to implement a national protocol for the investigation of torture, despite evidence presented to the authorities by Amnesty International in 2019 that the police routinely raped, beat and humiliated women engaged in sex work in acts that may amount to torture or other ill-treatment.

Sexual and reproductive rights

The country failed to decriminalize abortion, including in instances where the pregnancy poses a risk to the life of a pregnant woman or girl, in cases of foetal impairments or where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

In February 2020, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights admitted for review the case of “Esperancita”, a 16-year-old girl who died in 2012 after being denied life-saving treatment for leukaemia because she was pregnant.

Arbitrary deprivation of nationality

Thousands of people born to foreign parents who were registered as Dominicans at birth but later unrecognized as nationals, most recently through a 2013 ruling that left tens of thousands without nationality, remained unable to obtain Dominican identity documents, leaving them stateless and at risk of expulsion.

In his last week in office, former President Danilo Medina ordered the naturalization of 750 Dominicans of Haitian descent who had been stripped of their nationality, a symbolic gesture, but insufficient to resolve the country’s long-standing statelessness crisis.

In August 2020, civil society organizations called on President Abinader to embrace dialogue with Dominicans of Haitian descent and the organizations that accompany them to put an end to the conditions that drive statelessness and the barriers that it poses for access to health care, education and other rights. At the end of the year the President had not responded publicly.


Despite accepting the recommendations made by the UN Human Rights Council, the authorities failed to pass the comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation demanded by civil society organizations for years.

  1. Americas: Authorities must protect people from COVID-19 instead of resorting to repressive measures (Press release, 15 May)


Dominican Republic Newsroom

March 28, 2019 • Report

If they can have her, why can’t we?

Police in the Dominican Republic routinely rape, beat, humiliate and verbally abuse women sex workers to exert social control over them and to punish them for transgressing social norms of …

June 13, 2016 • Report

Where are We Going to Live?: Migration and Statelessness in Haiti and the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic has unlawfully expelled hundreds of Dominicans to Haiti who have been caught in the middle of a wave of returns and deportations of more than 100,000 people in recent months, Amnesty International said in a new report a year after the Dominican Republic ended a moratorium on deportations on June 18, 2015.

February 18, 2016 • Report

Amnesty International State of the World 2015-2016

International protection of human rights is in danger of unravelling as short-term national self-interest and draconian security crackdowns have led to a wholesale assault on basic freedoms and rights, warned Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world. “Your rights are in jeopardy: they are being treated with utter contempt by many governments around the world,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

February 25, 2015 • Report

State of the World 2014/2015

This has been a devastating year for those seeking to stand up for human rights and for those caught up in the suffering of war zones. Governments pay lip service to the importance of protecting civilians. And yet the world's politicians have miserably failed to protect those in greatest need. Amnesty International believes that this can and must finally change.

May 17, 2013 • Report

Annual Report: Dominican Republic 2013

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 …

October 25, 2011 • Report

Dominican Republic urged to tackle alarming levels of police abuse

Hundreds of people are shot and killed every year by police in the Dominican Republic.

June 20, 2011 • Report

Annual Report: Dominican Republic 2011

Head of state and government: Leonel Fernández Reyna Death penalty: abolitionist for ordinary crimes Population: 10.2 million Life expectancy: 72.8 years Under-5 mortality (m/f): 37/29 per 1,000 Adult literacy: 88.2 …

December 16, 2020 • Press Release

Governments and Police Must Stop Using COVID-19 Pandemic as Pretext for Abuse

Abusive policing and excessive reliance on law enforcement to implement COVID-19 response measures have violated human rights and in some instances made the health crisis worse, Amnesty International said today.

June 13, 2016 • Press Release

Reckless deportations from Dominican Republican leaving thousands in limbo in Haiti

The Dominican Republic has unlawfully expelled hundreds of Dominicans to Haiti who have been caught in the middle of a wave of returns and deportations of more than 100,000 people in recent months, Amnesty International said in a new report a year after the Dominican Republic ended a moratorium on deportations on June 18, 2015.

February 22, 2016 • Press Release

Amnesty International’s Annual State of the World Report Slams Governments, Including the U.S., for Global Assault on Freedoms

On the launch of its 2015 State of the World report, Amnesty International USA urged President Obama to use his last year in office to bring U.S. laws and policies in line with international human rights standards.