Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2018, 16:17 GMT

Amnesty International Report 2014/15 - Puerto Rico

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 25 February 2015
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2014/15 - Puerto Rico, 25 February 2015, available at: [accessed 19 January 2018]
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.

Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
Head of state: Barack Obama
Head of government: Alejandro García Padilla

The US Department of Justice continued to pursue death sentences on federal charges. Despite some advances in law, LGBTI people continued to be denied their right to non-discrimination. Laws restricting the rights to freedom of assembly and expression were repealed.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

In October 2014, a US federal district judge in San Juan upheld Puerto Rico's ban on same-sex marriage. The judge stated: "Because no right to same-gender marriage emanates from the Constitution, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico should not be compelled to recognize such unions." An appeal was pending before the US Federal Appeals Court at the end of the year.

In February 2013, the Supreme Court affirmed the ban on same-sex adoption. In a 5-4 vote, judges upheld the constitutionality of a law that states that a person cannot adopt a single-parent child if the would-be adopter is of the same sex as the child's mother or father without that parent losing their legal rights.

In 2013 there were advances in the creation of laws to protect the rights of LGBTI people, including a bill that prohibits employment discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation and a bill to extend domestic violence protections to same-sex couples. However, a proposed amendment to the Penal Code, which would have criminalized discrimination against LGBTI people, was removed. The revised Penal Code was before Governor Padilla awaiting endorsement at the end of the year.

Sexual and reproductive rights

A civil society campaign to remove a 2011 amendment to the Penal Code limiting a woman's right to abortion to circumstances to protect life or health and making breaches of the law punishable with a fixed prison term of two years was unsuccessful. The 2011 statute violates the US Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade and the Puerto Rico Supreme Court ruling in Pueblo v. Duarte.

Police and security forces

In April 2013, Governor Padilla revoked provisions in the Penal Code that restricted the right to freedom of assembly and expression. These laws had criminalized protests in schools, universities and health institutions as well as those that interfered with local government.

In July 2013, the US Department of Justice and the government of Puerto Rico reached an agreement to reform the country's police force after a 2011 federal report found unconstitutional conduct by the police, including unlawful killings. Under the federally mandated reform programme, Puerto Rico has 10 years to carry out the reforms.

Death penalty

As a commonwealth of the USA, Puerto Rico is subject to some US federal laws. Although the death penalty on the island was abolished in 1929, the US Department of Justice has attempted over the years to obtain a death sentence on federal charges in a number of cases. During 2013, Puerto Rico juries voted for life imprisonment in three cases in which the US administration had been pursuing the death penalty. By the end of 2014, there were no authorized federal capital prosecutions pending trial in Puerto Rico.

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