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Amnesty International Report 2008 - Dominican Republic

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 28 May 2008
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2008 - Dominican Republic, 28 May 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/483e2787c.html [accessed 19 September 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.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Head of state and government: Leonel Fernández Reyna
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 9.1 million
Life expectancy: 71.5 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 48/39 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 87 per cent


Haitians and Dominico-Haitians continued to face discrimination. Killings by police in disputed circumstances were reported. Violence against women was widespread. People-trafficking into and out of the country remained a serious concern. Forced evictions left hundreds of families without shelter.

Background

Protests by different sections of the population in favour of stronger government measures to address poverty and the fulfilment of social and economic rights recurred throughout the year. Despite strong economic growth, more than a quarter of the population lived in poverty and the number of undernourished children rose again.

Reforms of the Penal Code, including the decriminalization of abortion, were discussed in Congress but no legislation was passed by the end of the year.

The Dominican authorities reinforced military control of its border with Haiti by deploying a Special Border Security Force. Mass expulsions of irregular migrants were often arbitrary with no right to appeal.

Violence against women

Violence against women was widespread and affected women from all backgrounds. According to official statistics, at least 165 women were killed in domestic disputes by their current or former partner. Prosecutors' offices received more than 6,000 complaints of gender-based violence from across the country in the first six months of the year. There were concerns about under-reporting of cases and inadequate responses from the authorities when women did report abuses.

Discrimination against Haitians and Dominico-Haitians

There were concerns about new measures whereby the children born to undocumented migrants were registered in a Registry for foreigners. This measure was considered discriminatory as it could hamper children of Haitian descent from exercising their right to Dominican nationality. In October, the UN Independent Expert on minority issues and the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance visited the country. They noted that discrimination against Haitian migrant workers and Dominico-Haitians was widespread. Racially motivated attacks against Haitian migrant workers were reported throughout the year.

Trafficking in people

There were numerous deaths at sea of people trying to reach Puerto Rico from the Dominican Republic in trafficking operations. Haitian migrant workers continued to be trafficked into the country despite increased surveillance by the border authorities.

  • In November, a military unit of the Special Border Security Force based in Dajabón was replaced after local NGOs exposed their involvement in the ill-treatment of Haitian nationals and reported that they were accepting bribes to allow irregular migrants into the country.
  • In January, two civilians and two military officers were sentenced to 20 and 10 years' imprisonment respectively for their part in a trafficking ring whose operations led to the deaths by asphyxiation of 25 Haitian migrant workers in January 2006.

Freedom of the press

Intimidation and harassment of media workers and journalists by the authorities and private individuals increased in 2007. Journalists reporting on corruption were attacked.

  • In January, Manuel Vega was threatened with being "burnt alive" after he reported on drug trafficking in Hato Mayor province.
  • In May, the Public Prosecutor's Office of the National District re-opened the case of Narciso Gonazález, a journalist and university teacher who disappeared in May 1994 after reportedly being detained in a military base on the outskirts of Santo Domingo.

Housing rights – forced evictions

Hundreds of families were forcibly evicted from their homes without due process or consultation. In most cases, excessive force was used by police and military officers or private individuals enforcing the eviction resulting in deaths, injuries and destruction of property.

  • In June, police and military officers used pellets and tear gas to evict 75 families from public land in Villa Venecia de Pantojas, Santo Domingo Este. César Ureña, a community leader, was reportedly extrajudicially executed by military officers during the eviction. In December, 45 other families were forcibly evicted from the same community with the use of a forged eviction order. Their homes were destroyed and their belongings were stolen with the alleged complicity of military and police officers overseeing the eviction.

Police and security forces – unlawful killings

Reports of police brutality continued. Between January and May alone, at least 126 people were killed by the police, according to the General Prosecutor's Office. Impunity for police abuses and a complete lack of accountability in the security and justice systems remained the norm.

  • In July, Rafael de Jesús Torres Tavárez was reportedly shot dead by police officers in Navarrete on the night preceding a general strike organized by the Alternative Social Forum.

Amnesty International visit/reports

  • Amnesty International delegates visited the Dominican Republic in March.
  • A life in transit – The plight of Haitian migrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent (AMR 27/001/2007)
  • Dominican Republic: Haitian migrants denied their rights (AMR 27/003/2007)
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