Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
DOMINICAN REPUBLICThe Constitution provides for a popularly elected president and a bicameral congress. President Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Liberation Party took office in August 1996 after a free and fair election. The Social Christian Reformist and Dominican Revolutionary parties dominate the two legislative chambers. The Government continued an overhaul of the nominally independent judiciary, which had been highly politicized, by overseeing the selection of a new 16-member Supreme Court through a transparent and highly participatory process. The National Police (PN), the National Department of Investigations (DNI), the National Drug Control Directorate (DNCD), and the military (army, air force, and navy) form the security forces. The PN is under the Secretary of the Interior and Police; the military is under the Secretary of the Armed Forces; and the DNI and the DNCD, which have personnel from both the police and the military, report directly to the President. The security forces are generally responsive to civilian executive branch authority. However, some members of the security forces continued to commit human rights abuses, sometimes with the tacit acquiescence of the civil authorities. The economy, once heavily dependent on sugar and other agricultural exports, has diversified; tourism and free trade zones (FTZ's) are now major sources of income and employment. Remittances from abroad provide an estimated 10 percent of the $1,600 per capita gross domestic product. State-owned firms such as the State Sugar Council, the Corporation for State Enterprises, and the Dominican Electricity Corporation have impeded economic growth because of inept financial and administrative practices. The Government's human rights record improved slightly, although serious abuses remain. Principal human rights problems include continuing instances of extrajudicial killings by police, beatings and arbitrary detention of suspects, detention of suspects' relatives, the security services' refusal to obey judicial orders, and poor prison conditions. Most reports of human rights abuses involved the police and the DNCD, rather than the military. Human rights training for new police officers became more extensive, and 2,000 military personnel transferred to the National Police in September underwent several weeks of human rights courses. Other serious problems include interference with the judiciary, lengthy pretrial detention, judicial corruption, maladministration of the courts, discrimination and violence against women, prostitution, abuse of children, discrimination against the disabled, abuse of Haitian migrants and their descendants, compulsory and child labor, and impediments to free association. Workers in the state-owned sugar plantations and mills continued to work under unfair and unsafe conditions.