Amnesty International Report 2016/17 - Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic
Head of state and government: Danilo Medina Sánchez

A law to reform the police finally entered into force. A reform to the Criminal Code that maintained the criminalization of abortion in almost all circumstances was approved by Congress. Many people remained stateless. Consultations were held on a draft anti-discrimination bill.


Legislative, presidential and local elections were held in May. Danilo Medina Sánchez of the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) was re-elected as President. The PLD maintained its control over the two chambers of Congress. A number of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) candidates ran for seats in legislative and local elections to increase their political visibility and participation.

In January the Dominican Republic took over the presidency of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. The General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) was held in Santo Domingo, the capital, in June.

New members were appointed to the Central Electoral Board, the institution in charge of the civil registry that has continuously limited access to identity documents for Dominicans of Haitian descent.

The government failed to finalize and implement a draft National Human Rights Plan after consulting in 2015 with human rights organizations.

A comprehensive anti-discrimination bill was drafted and shared for consultation with various sectors of society. If adopted, it would be the first legislation of its kind in the Caribbean.

Tens of thousands of people were displaced due to massive flooding in October and November affecting large areas of the north of the country.


The Office of the Prosecutor General reported 74 killings by security forces between January and June, representing nearly 10% of all killings in the country. Many killings took place in circumstances suggesting that they may have been unlawful.

After years of discussion, a new law on police reform (Law 590-16) was passed in July.


The authorities continued to deport significant numbers of people of Haitian origin, including Haitian migrants and their families. According to the International Organization for Migration, the authorities deported more than 40,000 persons to Haiti between January and September, while nearly 50,000 more individuals "spontaneously" left the Dominican Republic, in some cases following threats or for fear of violent deportations. More than 1,200 presumed unaccompanied children were identified at the Dominican-Haitian border.

Despite some improvements in the way deportations were carried out by officials, the authorities failed to fully respect international safeguards against arbitrary deportations. For example, the authorities failed to serve deportation orders or to provide mechanisms allowing people who had been brought to detention centres and deported to challenge the legality, necessity and proportionality of detention as well as the deportation itself.[1]


In February the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights published a report on the situation of human rights in the Dominican Republic and concluded that "the situation of statelessness ... that has not yet been completely corrected after the measures adopted by the Dominican State, is of a magnitude never before seen in the Americas."

From August 2015 to July 2016, UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, verified 1,881 cases of Dominican-born individuals who had arrived in Haiti, voluntarily or following expulsions, and who were stateless or at risk of statelessness. Contrary to international law, a number of Dominican-born individuals were expelled from the Dominican Republic to Haiti – something the Dominican authorities continuously failed to acknowledge.

Despite measures adopted by the government in 2014, tens of thousands of people, mainly of Haitian descent, remained stateless by the end of 2016.[2] No steps were taken to find any solution for Dominican-born people of foreign descent whose birth had never been registered in the Dominican Civil Registry (so-called "Group B") and who could not apply for the naturalization plan provided by Law 169-14.[3]


In September, lawyer and human rights defender Genaro Rincón Mieses was verbally and physically assaulted in the capital, Santo Domingo, for his work in protecting the rights of Dominicans of Haitian descent.[4] The attack took place in a context of increased reports of threats, insults and intimidation against human rights defenders combating statelessness. No one had been held accountable for the attack by the end of the year.


In December, Congress approved a new version of the Criminal Code, after many years of discussion.[5] The reform maintained the criminalization of abortion while providing for one restrictive exception, whereby abortion would be decriminalized where the pregnancy posed a risk to the life of a pregnant woman or girl but only after "all attempts had been made to save both the lives of the woman and the foetus". Women's rights groups raised concerns that the exception would make it impossible in practice for women and girls whose lives were at risk to access abortion services.


According to official statistics, the first six months of the year saw a 2% increase in the number of killings of women and girls, compared with the same period in 2015.

By May the number of complaints received by the authorities for acts of sexual violence had increased by nearly 10% compared with the same period in 2015.

Parliament had yet to adopt a comprehensive law to prevent and address violence against women that had been approved by the Senate in 2012.


Civil society organizations continued to report hate crimes against LGBTI people, particularly murders of transgender women.

1. "Where are we going to live?": Migration and statelessness in the Dominican Republic and Haiti (AMR 36/4105/2016)

2. "Without paper, I am no one": Stateless people in the Dominican

Republic (AMR 27/2755/2015)

3. Dominican Republic's absurd laws shatter star boxer's promising career (News story, 4 February); Dominican Republic: 50,000 people demand solution to crisis of "ghost citizens" (Press release, 20 September)

4. Dominican Republic: Defender combatting statelessness attacked: Genaro Rincon (AMR 27/4901/2016)

5. Dominican Republic: President Medina must stop a regressive reform for women's rights (News story, 15 December)

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