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Dominican Republic: Crime situation, including organized crime; police and state response, including effectiveness; state protection for witnesses and victims of crime (2009-Sept. 2012)

Publisher Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Publication Date 10 October 2012
Citation / Document Symbol DOM104196.E
Related Document République dominicaine : information sur la criminalité, y compris le crime organisé; les mesures prises par la police et l'État, y compris leur efficacité; la protection offerte par l'État aux témoins et aux victimes de crimes (2009-septembre 2012)
Cite as Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Dominican Republic: Crime situation, including organized crime; police and state response, including effectiveness; state protection for witnesses and victims of crime (2009-Sept. 2012), 10 October 2012, DOM104196.E, available at: [accessed 16 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

1. Crime

According to Amnesty International (AI), crime and violence have been increasing in the country during the past 10 years (AI 19 Apr. 2012). A US Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) report for the Dominican Republic notes that the crime threat in the country is "high" (US 4 July 2012, 1). Diario Libre, a Santo Domingo City-based newspaper, reports that violence in the country reached [translation] "alarming levels" in 2011 (2 Jan. 2012).

1.1 Overall Situation

A report by the Prosecutor General's office indicates that the following number of cases for various types of crimes went to trial in 2010: intrafamily violence (10,072), drug-related offences (3,298), sexual crimes (2,410), robbery (1,428), abuse of minors (1,237), threats (906), hitting and injuries (737), abuse of trust (642), and homicides (599) (Dominican Republic n.d.c, 2). The US OSAC report lists the cities where the rate of the following types of crime was the highest:

  • Robberies: National District, Puerto Plata, Santiago, San Cristobal and Santo Domingo.
  • Assaults: National District, La Romana, San Cristobal, Santiago, and Santo Domingo.
  • Kidnappings: National District, San Cristobal, Santiago, Santo Domingo, and La Vega.
  • Rape: Barahona, Peravia, and Santo Domingo (US 4 July 2012, 1-2).

The report also points out that the number of frauds has increased, especially credit card fraud (ibid., 1).

1.2 Express Kidnappings

Sources note an increase in "express kidnappings" (El Día 16 July 2012; US 4 July 2012, 6). This practice consists in abducting a person and forcing him or her to withdraw small amounts of money from ATM machines up to his or he account limit (ibid.). Among the victims of this type of crime are business people, common citizens and taxi drivers (ibid.). El Día, a Santo Domingo City-based newspaper, reports that in different parts of the country, [translation] "at least" 11 people were victims of express kidnappings in the first six months of 2012 (16 July 2012).

1.3 Homicide

Statistics provided by the Prosecutor General's office indicate that from January to June 2012, 1,059 homicides were recorded, including 356 deaths as a result of fights, 118 as a result of robbery, 103 during actions involving the National Police, and 173 from unknown circumstances (Dominican Republic n.d.a, 46-48). In 2011, 2,513 homicides were recorded, compared to 2,472 in 2010 (ibid. n.d.b, 3). Most of the homicides committed in 2011 resulted from fights (927), robbery (285), actions involving the National Police (269), and attempted robbery (108) (ibid., 4-5). State statistics also indicate that 128 of deaths were femicides (ibid., 4). The circumstances of death for 434 of the victims could not be established (ibid., 5). A UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report indicates that in 2011, the country had a homicide rate of 25 per 100,000 inhabitants (UN n.d.). In comparison, the UNODC Global Study on Homicide indicates that in 40 percent of the countries surveyed in 2010, the homicide rate was below 3 per 100,000 inhabitants, while it was greater than 20 per 100,000 inhabitants in 17 percent of the countries surveyed (UN 2011, 9).

Diario Libre reports different figures, saying that, according to statistics provided by human rights organizations, 2,017 homicides were committed in 2011 in the Dominican Republic, representing a rate of 22 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants (2 Jan. 2012). The same newspaper indicates that the National Police reported 1,434 homicides for the same year (ibid.).

1.4 Devil's Acid

Sources also report the use of chemical drain cleaners, also known in the Dominican Republic as [translation] "devil's acid" [ácido del Diablo], to attack people, particularly women (Agencia EFE 19 June 2012; Dominican Republic 2010). In a resolution issued on 22 September 2010 to restrict the selling of chemical drain cleaners to the public, the National Institute for the Protection of Consumers' Rights (Instituto Nacional de Protección de los Derechos del Consumidor, Pro Consumidor) indicates that the [translation] "unusual and excessive" use of this substance has been increasing in the country (ibid.). The resolution also indicates that health care centres and the media have reported on the use of this substance during personal disputes (ibid.). According to the Burn Unit of Luis Eduardo Aybar Hospital, there have been 3,800 reported victims of devil's acid attacks in the past 18 years (Dominican Republic 22 Sept. 2010). Agencia EFE reports that the majority of devil's acid attacks are committed against women by their ex-partners (19 June 2012).

Noticias Telemicro, a Santo Domingo-based news agency, reports that despite the ban on the sale of this product, it is still being used in attacks (30 Aug. 2011). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

1.5 State Response

The US OSAC report indicates that the National Police consists of 29,627 police officers and is responsible for internal security and citizen protection (US 4 July 2012, 7). The Associated Press (AP) similarly reports that the number of police officers is 32,000 (24 May 2012). However, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports that, according to the Dominican president, the National Police has 14,000 agents (14 July 2011). Media sources report on the re-introduction of a bill to reform the Penal Code which would include specific penalties for feminicides, contract killings, and attacks with devil's acid (El Día 21 June 2012; Listín Diario 22 June 2012). Additional information on these amendments could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2. Organized Crime 2.1 Drug Trafficking

Amnesty International indicates that the country has experienced a rise in drug trafficking and arm smuggling (AI 19 Apr. 2012). According to the US 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, international drug trafficking cartels are operating in the Dominican Republic (US Mar. 2012, 90). Sources identify the Dominican Republic as a transit country for drugs smuggled from South America to the United States and Europe (ibid. 4 July 2012, 6; The Christian Science Monitor 5 Nov. 2010; The Miami Herald 19 Apr. 2011). Freedom House indicates in its Freedom in the World 2012 report for the Dominican Republic that drug traffickers from Colombia, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic use that country "as both a command-and-control center and a transshipment point" (2012). The UNODC World Drug Report 2012 also indicates that criminal groups from the Dominican Republic are involved in drug trafficking (UN 2012, 84). Agencia EFE further reports that cartels from Mexico and mobsters from Russia are operating in the Dominican Republic (17 July 2012). AP also reports that cartels from Colombia and Mexico operate in the country (19 Sept. 2011). According to the Christian Science Monitor, the city of La Romana has become the "favorite drop-off point" for drug trafficking (5 Nov. 2010). AP reports that an assistant to the Chief of the National Drug Control Directorate (Dirección Nacional de Control de Drogas, DNCD) was killed in September 2011 (AP 19 Sept. 2011). According to the DNCD spokesperson, [translation] "'there is no doubt that this act is a warning message from [organized] crime' against the [DNCD]" (ibid.).

2.2 Human Trafficking

Freedom House indicates that trafficking of women and girls is a "major concern" (2012). The US Trafficking in Persons Report 2012 indicates that the Dominican Republic is a "source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor" (US 19 June 2012, 143). The report also indicates that the Dominican government does not comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons albeit it is making efforts in this regard (ibid.). Further information on the efforts by the Dominican government to fight against trafficking in persons could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2.3 State Response

The US 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report indicates that in July 2011, Dominican authorities dismantled a ring of drug trafficking and money laundering that had branches in countries including Canada, Colombia, Venezuela, and Jamaica (US Mar. 2012, 91-92).

The US embassy in the Dominican Republic reports that the US government granted US$7.4 millions to the Dominican Republic through a cooperation agreement signed on 7 September 2012 by US ambassador to the Dominican Republic and the Dominican Minister of Foreign Affairs to fight drug trafficking, organized crime and money laundering (US 7 Sept. 2012). The money will also be used to professionalize the armed forces and increase security at airports and ports (ibid.). The Dominican Ministry of Foreign Affairs website reports that the Canadian government granted $6.5 million Dominican pesos [C$162,977 (XE 20 Sept. 2012)] to the Dominican government to finance the training of its forces in fighting organized crime (Dominican Republic 15 Aug. 2012). The training covers illicit drugs and organized crime investigation, evidence gathering and forensic interviewing techniques (Canada 15 Aug. 2012). Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports that representatives of police forces from Central America, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Colombia adopted 14 plans to fight against drug trafficking, human trafficking, and vehicle theft, as well as to improve border security, among others (23 Aug. 2012). These plans are meant to be permanent and executed simultaneously in all participating countries (ibid.). El Día reports that in July 2012, the General Prosecutors of the Dominican Republic and Russia signed an international juridical cooperation agreement, which includes fighting organized crime and providing reciprocal judicial assistance (23 July 2012). Additional information on this agreement could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Media sources report the dismissal of members of security forces in organized crime-related corruption (AP 24 May 2012; The Miami Herald 19 Apr. 2011). The Miami Herald reports the dismissal in 2010 of 418 of the 2,000 police officers from the DNCD (ibid.). It also reports the arrest on April 2011 of 12 soldiers posted at the Puerto Plata airport anti-drug agency who were allegedly involved in a drug smuggling scheme to Canada (ibid.). Media sources report the conviction of several soldiers in connection to the 2008 robbery of 1,300 kilos of cocaine from seven Colombian men who were also assassinated in these circumstances (ibid.; AP 24 May 2012). AP reports that since 2009, over 700 officers from the DNCD have been dismissed for crimes, including 200 suspected of drug trafficking (ibid.). In addition, between 2010 and 2012, about 1,400 officers from the National Police were also dismissed for different crimes, including drug trafficking (ibid.). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

The Miami Herald cites the director of Citizen Participation (Participación Ciudadana), a non-partisan civic movement that advocates for the elimination of corruption and promotion of transparency (Participación Ciudadana 1 Aug. 2010), as saying that "many fired officers wind up back on the job months later" (19 Apr. 2011). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

The US Trafficking in Persons Report 2012 indicates that the country has made "clear progress" in prosecuting this type of crime in 2011, pointing out that authorities were investigating 39 new cases of human trafficking, prosecuting 14 new cases of sex trafficking, and 8 cases of forced labour (US 19 June 2012, 143). The US report also highlights that in 2011, the government assisted 60 children victims of trafficking in cooperation with NGOs (ibid., 144). At the beginning of 2012, the District Attorney for Santo Domingo announced that a new unit to investigate human trafficking would be created (ibid.). Additional information on this new unit could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

3. Effectiveness of State Response
3.1 Corruption

The 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index published by Transparency International (TI) ranks the Dominican Republic in 129th place out of 182 countries (TI 1 Dec. 2011). Freedom House indicates that the judiciary, including the Supreme Court, "is politicized and riddled with corruption, and the legal system offers little recourse to those without money or influence" (2012). The US Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011 for the Dominican Republic also points out the political influence in judicial decision-making as well as the influence that judges in superior courts exert on lower courts (US 24 May 2012, 10). The report also indicates that official corruption cases were not prosecuted, even though some officials were removed from office (ibid., 20).

The US OSAC report points out that corruption and misconduct remained a "serious concern" within the National Police (US 4 July 2012, 7). Freedom House also indicates that extrajudicial killings by the police remained a problem (2012). According to Amnesty International, the National Police resorts to practices such as forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary arrests to fight crime (AI 19 Apr. 2012). The US Country Reports 2011 also mentions the use of arbitrary detention by the National Police, adding that during sweeps or roundups, police officers seized personal property allegedly used in criminal activity (US 24 May 2012, 9). It also reports that, on many occasions, police officers solicit bribes from people being arrested or fined (ibid., 21).

3.2 Judicial System

AFP cites the Dominican president as saying that [translation] "90 percent of crimes involving drug trafficking and organized crime are not punished in the country" (14 July 2011). Agencia EFE cites an adviser to the Dominican government on anti-drug policy as saying that "[t]he illegal drug trade has made progress in the country due to its infiltration of the armed forces, police, political parties, business, banking and the real estate industry" (17 July 2012). Freedom House reports a case where US prosecutors identified a Colombian drug ring using Dominican military facilities for drug trafficking (2012). AP cites the President of the National Commission of Human Rights (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos) as saying that "complaints [to the Commission] that police and military officials demand payment from drug traffickers to operate in certain neighborhoods are common" (24 May 2012).

4. Protection for Witnesses and Victims of Crime

Resolution 42 regulates the program for the protection of victims and witnesses in the Dominican Republic (Dominican Republic 2009, Art. 7). The law, however, only applies to witnesses or victims of drug trafficking, [translation] "complex crime," or crimes that have had a "high impact on society" (ibid.). The program is run by the Victims and Witnesses Protection Unit (Unidad de Protección de Víctimas y Testigos) of the National Directorate for the Prosecution of Drug Trafficking and Complex Crime (Dirección Nacional de Persecución del Narcotráfico y Criminalidad Compleja) (ibid., Art. 1). The application for protection is studied within 10 days of submission by the Victims and Witnesses Protection Unit (ibid., Art. 8). The resolution indicates the following protection measures:


4. The following are considered protection measures, without prejudice to others that may apply:

  1. Relocation or immediate removal of the person protected from the place of risk.
  2. Police surveillance and protection in the place where the person protected lives.
  3. Installation of emergency police communication equipment, when appropriate.
  4. Witness security measures in prison, such as isolation from other inmates.
  5. Distortion of voice or image during trial, with judicial authorization.
  6. Concealment of identity of victim or witness, when appropriate.
  7. Testimony by videoconference.

10. In urgent cases, the Attorney General of the Republic or, if applicable, the National Director for Prosecution of Drug Trafficking and Complex Crimes may make protection immediately available, in view of the imminent risks. This protection will be provisional and granted without any formal proceedings, and must be reviewed after it is granted.

11. …

In any case, the record will mention at least the following obligations:


2. For the Protection Program:

  1. Provide attention for medical and psychological needs, and the security, maintenance and housing of the protected person;
  2. Arrange, where applicable, employment and/or access to education for the protected person, with a view to his/her social reintegration;
  3. Treat the protected person with dignity and faithfully respect his/her fundamental rights;
  4. Ensure that the assigned resources are used correctly; and
  5. Deal in timely fashion with all the concerns and complaints of the protected person and pass them on to the competent public authority if they are beyond the scope of the Public Prosecutor. (ibid., Art. 2, 4, 10, 11)

Diario Dominicano, a Dominican Republic newspaper, cites the former deputy Prosecutor General as saying that the Dominican Republic [translation] "does not have a law to protect parties that are part of the criminal process" (Diario Dominicano3 Feb. 2011). According to him, there are [translation] "numerous threats and assassination attempts against victims, witnesses and prosecuted persons that are part of judicial procedures" (ibid.). He also indicated that [translation] "the protection is critical for those that collaborate with the justice system and whose support is essential to avoid impunity and to guarantee a proper application of the law" (ibid.). Additional information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France-Presse (AFP). 23 August 2012. "Centroamérica, México y Colombia discuten planes contra crimen organizado." (Factiva)

_____. 14 July 2011. "Dominicana: 90% de delitos del crimen organizado queda impune (presidente)." (Factiva)

Agencia EFE. 17 July 2012. "Mexican Cartels, Russian Mob Operating in D.R., Gov't Says." (Factiva)

_____. 19 June 2012. Despertar Dominicano. "Quemadura con ácido del Diablo: 'El estigma de los celos y la venganza'." [Accessed 20 Sept. 2012]

Amnesty International (AI). 19 April 2012. "Dominican Republic: Open Letter from Amnesty International to Dominican Presidential Candidates for the May 2012 Elections." [Accessed 18 Sept. 2012]

Associated Press (AP). 24 May 2012. Ezequiel Abiu López. "Dominican Republic Accuses 3 High-ranking Police Officials with Helping Drug Traffickers." (Factiva)

_____. 19 September 2011. "Matan a asistente de jefe antidrogas en Dominicana." (Factiva)

Canada. 15 August 2012. Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. "Partnering with Dominican Republic to Take on Organized Crime." [Accessed 20 Sept. 2012]

The Christian Science Monitor. 5 November 2010. Ezra Fieser. "Drug Wars in Mexico, Colombia Push Drug Trade to Dominican Republic." (Factiva)

El Día [Santo Domingo]. 23 July 2012. "República Dominicana y Rusia acuerdan combatir crimen organizado." [Accessed 6 Sept. 2012]

_____. 16 July 2012. Leisy Torres. "Secuestro 'expres' es nueva modalidad." [Accessed 19 Sept. 2012]

_____. 21 June 2012. Degnis de León. "Modificaciones al Código Penal buscan frenar delincuencia en el país." [Accessed 19 Sept. 2012]

Diario Dominicano. 3 February 2011. "República Dominicana carece de una ley de protección a testigos e imputados." [Accessed 10 Sept. 2012]

Diario Libre [Santo Domingo]. 2 January 2012. "El 2011 tuvo alarmantes niveles de violencia en RD y Puerto Rico." [Accessed 19 Sept. 2012]

Dominican Republic. 15 August 2012. Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores. "Canadá dona a República Dominicana RD$6.5 millones." [Accessed 6 Sept. 2012]

_____. 22 September 2010. Instituto Nacional de Protección de los Derechos del Consumidor (Pro Consumidor). "Prohíben venta definitiva de 'ácido del diablo' al público ante hechos violentos." [Accessed 20 Sept. 2012]

_____. 2010. Instituto Nacional de Protección de los Derechos del Consumidor (Pro Consumidor). Resolución No. 104-2010. [Accessed 20 Sept. 2012]

_____. 2009. Procuraduría General de la República. Resolución No. 42. [Accessed 11 Sept. 2010]

_____. N.d.a. Procuraduría General de la República. Informe de homicidios, enero-junio del 2012. [Accessed 19 Sept. 2012]

_____. N.d.b. Procuraduría General de la República. Informe de homicidios, enero-diciembre del 2011. [Accessed 19 Sept. 2012]

_____. N.d.c. Procuraduría General de la República. Informe de los casos judicializados en las diferentes fiscalías durante el año 2010. [Accessed 19 Sept. 2012]

Freedom House. 2012. Freedom in the World 2012. "Dominican Republic." [Accessed 10 Sept. 2012]

Listín Diario [Santo Domingo]. 22 June 2012. Ramón Pérez Reyes. "Código castigaría el sicariato, feminicidio y 'ácido del diablo'." [Accessed 20 Sept. 2012]

The Miami Herald. 19 April 2011. Frances Robles. "Dominican Police and Soldiers are Increasingly Getting in the Drug Trade: More than 5,000 Dominican Police Officers and Soldiers Have Been Fired in the Past Three Years over Widespread Corruption, Including Widespread Drug Trafficking." (Factiva)

Noticias Telemicro. 30 August 2011. Crileydi Durán. "Pese a prohibición sigue venta de ácido del diablo." [Accessed 21 Sept. 2011]

Participación Ciudadana. 1 August 2010. "¿Qué es PC? [Accessed 10 Oct. 2010]

Transparency International (TI). 1 December 2011. Corruption Perceptions Index 2011. [Accessed 20 Sept. 2012]

United Nations (UN). 2012. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). World Drug Report 2012. [Accessed 20 Sept. 2012]

_____. 2011. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Global Study on Homicide 2011. [Accessed 9 Oct. 2012]

_____. N.d. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Intentional Homicide, Count and Rate per 100,000 Population (1995-2011). [Accessed 10 Sept. 2012]

United States (US). 7 September 2012. Embassy of the United States in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. "Notas de prensa: Estados Unidos dona US$7.4 millones a República Dominicana para fortalecer los sistemas de seguridad nacional." [Accessed 20 Sept. 2012]

_____. 4 July 2012. Department of State. Dominican Republic 2012 Crime and Safety Report. [Accessed 19 Sept. 2012]

_____. 19 June 2012. Department of State. "Dominican Republic (Tier 2)." Trafficking in Persons Report 2012. [Accessed 10 Sept. 2012]

_____. 24 May 2012. Department of State. "Dominican Republic." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011. [Accessed 10 Sept. 2012]

_____. March 2012. Department of State. "Dominican Republic." 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Survey, Volume I: Drug and Chemical Control. [Accessed 6 Sept. 2012]

XE. 20 September 2012. "Currency Converter Widget." [Accessed 20 Sept. 2012]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Procuraduría General de la República did not provide information within the time constraints of this Response.

Internet sites, including: Acento; Al Tanto; Despertar Dominicano; Dominican Republic — Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, Dirección Nacional de Control Antidrogas, Ejército Nacional, Oficina Nacional de Estadística, Policía Nacional; Hechos de Hoy; Hoy Digital; Human Rights Watch; InSight; Mundo Visión; Noticias SIN; United Nations — Refworld; Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo; Univisión.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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