Amnesty International Report 1997 - Dominican Republic

One prisoner of conscience, held despite judicial orders for his release, escaped from prison and remained at liberty at the end of the year. There were reports of ill-treatment, both of prisoners and of Haitians detained pending deportation. The authorities reopened the investigation of a 1994 "disappearance". At least nine people were shot dead by police in disputed circumstances. In June, Leonel Fernández Reyna of the Partido de la Liberación Dominicana, Dominican Liberation Party, was elected President. Former President Joaquín Balaguer had agreed to step down following allegations of fraud in the 1994 presidential elections. In September, prisoners in La Victoria Prison, where 90 per cent of the 4,000 inmates were held on remand, rioted in protest at delays in bringing their cases to court, at poor prison conditions and at the practice of holding minors with adult prisoners. The three-day riot, which left one prisoner dead in disputed circumstances, ended when 30 of the more than 300 minors in La Victoria were released and a commission drawn from the police force, the courts and the prison authorities agreed to study prisoners' demands. The police continued to refuse to comply with three judicial decisions ordering the release of prisoner of conscience Luis Lizardo Cabrera, a political activist who was arrested in 1989 for alleged involvement in a bombing (see previous Amnesty International Reports). On 24 December, Luis Lizardo Cabrera escaped from prison, and he remained at liberty at the end of the year. There were reports of torture and ill-treatment. In August, four prisoners held at Plan Piloto police station in the capital, Santo Domingo, were reportedly tortured by being hanged by the arms for several hours, and being beaten with a baseball bat while having a plank of wood placed between their bound hands and feet. The District Attorney reportedly initiated an investigation but no findings had been published by the end of the year. In May, several Haitians were reportedly ill-treated by the army during a deportation campaign in which thousands of Haitians, including citizens of the Dominican Republic, were rounded up and deported. Six employees of the Monte Llano sugar-cane plantation were arrested and charged with the kidnapping and ill-treatment of 40 Haitians who had been driven away and beaten by security guards in September 1995. By the end of the year, no one had been brought to justice for the beating of a group of Haitians by army personnel in December 1995. Five of the victims were later killed when the bus transporting them back to Haiti overturned (see Amnesty International Report 1996). Their bodies were reportedly buried without having been identified. The Director-General of Migration is reported to have stated that his department was not involved and that the deportations were army initiatives. In October, the authorities reopened the investigation into the 1994 "disappearance" of Narciso González (see Amnesty International Reports 1995 and 1996) after the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States gave the government 30 days to clarify his fate. The Secretary of State for the Armed Forces and about two dozen other high-ranking army officers were dismissed after being implicated in the case. At least nine military and police officers were summoned for questioning in connection with the investigation which had not concluded by the end of the year. There were fears for the safety of Narciso González' wife and two other human rights activists campaigning on the case after they reportedly received threats. At least nine people were shot dead by police in disputed circumstances, three of them in two separate incidents over two days. In October, two police officers shot dead two men in Ciudad Agraria after one had allegedly left a bar without paying for his drinks. The following day, in another suburb of the capital, two police officers reportedly shot dead, without warning or apparent motive, a young man who had been released from prison a week earlier. Investigations were reportedly initiated in some of these cases and in at least three of them the police officers involved were arrested. Amnesty International continued to call for the immediate and unconditional release of Luis Lizardo Cabrera and for those responsible for the "disappearance" of Narciso González to be brought to justice.

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