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Dominican Republic

The island of Hispaniola, of which the Dominican Republic forms the eastern two-thirds and Haiti the remainder, was originally occupied by Tainos, an Arawak-speaking people. The Tainos welcomed Columbus in his first voyage in 1492, but subsequent colonizers were brutal, reducing the Taino population from about 1 million to about 500 in 50 years. To ensure adequate labor for plantations, the Spanish brought African slaves to the island beginning in 1503. In the next century, French settlers occupied the western end of the island, which Spain ceded to France in 1697, and which, in 1804, became the Republic of Haiti. The Haitians conquered the whole island in 1822 and held it until 1844, when forces led by Juan Pablo Duarte, the hero of Dominican independence, drove them out and established the Dominican Republic as an independent state. In 1861, the Dominicans voluntarily returned to the Spanish Empire; in 1865, independence was restored. Economic difficulties, the threat of European intervention, and ongoing internal disorders led to a U.S. occupation in 1916 and the establishment of a military government in the Dominican Republic. The occupation ended in 1924, with a democratically elected Dominican Government.

In 1930, Rafael L. Trujillo, a prominent army commander, established absolute political control. Trujillo promoted economic development--from which he and his supporters benefited--and severe repression of domestic human rights. Mismanagement and corruption resulted in major economic problems. In August 1960, the Organization of American States (OAS) imposed diplomatic sanctions against the Dominican Republic as a result of Trujillo's complicity in an attempt to assassinate President Romulo Betancourt of Venezuela. These sanctions remained in force after Trujillo's death by assassination in May 1961. In November 1961, the Trujillo family was forced into exile.

In January 1962, a council of state that included moderate opposition elements with legislative and executive powers was formed. OAS sanctions were lifted January 4, and, after the resignation of President Joaquin Balaguer on January 16, the council under President Rafael E. Bonnelly headed the Dominican government. In 1963, Juan Bosch was inaugurated President. Bosch was overthrown in a military coup in September 1963. Another military coup, on April 24, 1965, led to violence between military elements favoring the return to government by Bosch and those who proposed a military junta committed to early general elections. On April 28, U.S. military forces landed to protect U.S. citizens and to evacuate U.S. and other foreign nationals.

Additional U.S. forces subsequently established order. In June 1966, President Balaguer, leader of the Reformist Party (now called the Social Christian Reformist Party--PRSC), was elected and then re-elected to office in May 1970 and May 1974, both times after the major opposition parties withdrew late in the campaign. In the May 1978 election, Balaguer was defeated in his bid for a fourth successive term by Antonio Guzman of the PRD. Guzman's inauguration on August 16 marked the country's first peaceful transfer of power from one freely elected president to another. The PRD's presidential candidate, Salvador Jorge Blanco, won the 1982 elections, and the PRD gained a majority in both houses of Congress. In an attempt to cure the ailing economy, the Jorge administration began to implement economic adjustment and recovery policies, including an austerity program in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In April 1984, rising prices of basic foodstuffs and uncertainty about austerity measures led to riots.

Balaguer was returned to the presidency with electoral victories in 1986 and 1990. Upon taking office in 1986, Balaguer tried to reactivate the economy through a public works construction program. Nonetheless, by 1988 the country slid into a 2-year economic depression, characterized by high inflation and currency devaluation. Economic difficulties, coupled with problems in the delivery of basic services--e.g., electricity, water, transportation--generated popular discontent that resulted in frequent protests, occasionally violent, including a paralyzing nationwide strike in June 1989. In 1990, Balaguer instituted a second set of economic reforms. After concluding an IMF agreement, balancing the budget, and curtailing inflation, the Dominican Republic is experiencing a period of economic growth marked by moderate inflation, a balance in external accounts, and a steadily increasing GDP.

The voting process in 1986 and 1990 was generally seen as fair, but allegations of electoral board fraud tainted both victories. The elections of 1994 were again marred by charges of fraud. Following a compromise calling for constitutional and electoral reform, President Balaguer assumed office for an abbreviated term. In June 1996, Leonel Fernandez Reyna was elected to a 4-year term as president. In May 2000 Hipolito Mejia was elected to a 4-year term as president.


The country has a population of approximately 8.5 million. The economy, once heavily dependent on sugar and other agricultural exports, continues to diversify; tourism, telecommunications, and free trade zones (FTZ's) are major sources of income and employment. Remittances from abroad exceed $1.9 billion per year. Economic growth, which exceeded 7 percent per year from 1996 through 2000, was projected to drop to approximately 3 percent for the year 2001; however, inflation remained low and the exchange rate has been stable. The 1999 transfer of sugar mills to private control contributed to increasing poverty and joblessness in the "bateyes" (sugar cane shantytowns). Gross domestic product was approximately $2,100 per capita. Income distribution in the country is highly skewed and, according to the U.N. Development Program, the richest 10 percent of the population receives over 37 percent of the income, over 18 times that received by the most impoverished 10 percent of the population.

The Dominican Republic is a middle-income developing country primarily dependent on agriculture, trade, and services, especially tourism. Although the service sector has recently overtaken agriculture as the leading employer of Dominicans (due principally to growth in tourism, energy, telecommunications, and Free Trade Zones), agriculture remains the most important sector in terms of domestic consumption. Tourism accounts for nearly $1.5 billion in annual earnings. Free Trade Zone earnings and tourism are the fastest-growing export sectors. Remittances from Dominicans living in the United States are estimated to total more than $1.5 billion per year. Following economic turmoil in the late 1980s and 1990, during which the GDP fell by up to 5% and consumer price inflation reached an unprecedented 100%, the Dominican Republic entered a period of high growth and moderate inflation. GDP in 2001 grew by only 3.0% following 5 straight years of growth above 7.0%. The inflation rate in 2001 was about 5%. Despite a widening merchandise trade deficit, tourism earnings and remittances have helped build foreign exchange reserves. The Dominican Republic is current on foreign private debt and has agreed to pay arrears of about $130 million to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Commodity Credit Corporation. The government faces several economic policy challenges--high real interest rates, poor tax-collection rates, and reduced demand for Dominican exports due to the slowdown in the world economy. Years of tariff protection for domestic production have left the economy vulnerable in a rapidly integrating global economy.


A domestic austerity program, begun in the mid-1980s, and falling prices for agricultural commodities, principally sugar, combined to produce a serious economic downturn in which unemployment rose steadily and wages failed to keep pace with inflation. As living standards declined, unrest manifested itself in the form of demonstrations, strikes, and illegal occupations of publicly owned lands. Most marches, mass assemblies, and demonstrations were relatively peaceful, but a few such events turned violent, resulting in numerous arrests and injuries and in a number of deaths. The decade's most violent protest took place in April 1984, when at least sixty people were killed in riots that followed the announcement of austerity measures and price increases for basic foodstuffs and fuel. Another series of riots, provoked by further price increases, left four dead and more than fifty injured in February 1985.

Among the groups most frequently involved in protests that turned violent were Marxist and radical leftist parties, populist agrarian organizations, organized labor, and students. Dominican Marxist parties, illegal under Trujillo, emerged from the underground after his death, and they supported Bosch and the Constitutionalists during the civil war. After Balaguer was elected president in 1966, several of the leftist parties unsuccessfully attempted to launch guerrilla warfare against his regime. During the 1980s, most of these groups operated as legal political parties. Some contested both the 1982 and the 1986 elections, but they failed to win any seats in the legislature.

Communist party organizations were badly fragmented by dissension over leadership and policy issues. The oldest and largest of the Marxist parties was the pro-Soviet Dominican Communist Party (Partido Comunista Dominicano--PCD). As of 1988, there were fifteen to twenty additional Marxist organizations in the nation, their orientations ranging from Maoist to pro-Cuban, to pro-Albanian, to pro-Soviet; some of these parties had fewer than twenty members. Despite being weak, divided, and poorly supported, Marxist and leftist parties continued to be closely scrutinized by the police and the military. The government regularly detained members of such groups, as well as members of labor organizations and populist groups, who were believed to be preparing to instigate public disturbances. Such detentions were particularly prevalent during political campaigns. For instance, in May 1986 police detained four PCD candidates; their arrests brought to some 6,000 the number of communist militants detained during the campaigns. Those detained were usually released within fortyeight hours, which by law was the maximum period a person could be held without charge.

Organized labor and populist agrarian organizations staged several strikes, demonstrations, and other work-related actions during the late 1980s. These were generally peaceful events, designed to protest social conditions, low wages, and deteriorating public services. There were a few exceptions, however. Labor officials, for example, called a one-day nationwide general strike in July 1987; violence was isolated, but one man was killed during clashes between police and protesters in the capital.

Students frequently staged demonstrations in support of labor protests, or they joined directly in those protests. Student groups also mounted demonstrations concerning purely educational issues; some of these protests ended violently. In March 1985, for instance, students called for demonstrations to support increased funding for a university in the capital; these resulted in clashes with police that left one student dead. Students protesting the United States attack on Libya in April 1986 also clashed violently with police, forcing suspension of university classes for several days.

Political violence associated with campaigning and voting also broke out at times during the 1980s. Campaigning was for the most part free, open, and peaceful, but on a few occasions when rival political groups held competing campaign events, violence resulted. In November 1985, factionalism in the then-ruling PRD degenerated into violence as supporters of rival candidates for the party's presidential nomination engaged in confrontations that left two dead and caused the PRD convention tally to be delayed several weeks. In the months that followed, there were thirteen additional deaths related to the May 1986 elections; these occurred at polling places and during demonstrations over vote counting. Many of these deaths were caused by members of the security forces, who fired on demonstrators. Nine officers were either retired or dismissed as a result of one incident.

The treatment of Haitians living illegally in the Dominican Republic was a subject of controversy. Several Haitians were killed in 1985 during disturbances at a sugar plantation. The exact circumstances of the deaths were unclear, but it appeared that the incident was triggered by Haitian frustration over delays in the repatriation of cane cutters who had come to the Dominican Republic on temporary contract. After 1985 the government halted the practice of contracting for Haitian cane cutters, but this did not end the problem. The Roman Catholic Church, several political parties, labor groups, and several human rights groups charged that the government had forced illegal Haitian residents to engage in cane cutting by picking them up and giving them the choice of cutting cane or being forcibly repatriated. The government denied such charges, as well as allegations that some Haitians were forcibly removed from their homes and involuntarily repatriated.


After independence the country adopted the French penal and criminal proceedings codes that had been in use during the Haitian occupation. Spanish translations were mandated by law in 1867. As of 1989, the most recent codes, adaptations of the original French documents to local traditions, had been adopted in 1884. The 1884 Penal Code was composed of four books containing 487 articles. The first book dealt with penalties for crimes and provided for exile, imprisonment, temporary confinement, loss of civil rights, and assessment of fines. The death penalty--carried out by firing squad--was abolished in 1924 in favor of a maximum penalty of thirty years' imprisonment at forced labor. The second book dealt with criminal responsibility and liability, addressing such issues as mental competence, self-defense, and the ages at which perpetrators incur adult liability. The third book dealt with various felonies and misdemeanors, and it established punishments for each. The fourth book covered infractions of police regulations and their penalties.

The Code of Criminal Procedure consisted of two books. The first set forth rules governing the role of the police in judicial proceedings. The second established various practices for dealing with accused criminals; it provided for the involvement of different judicial bodies, according to the severity of the crime.


Daily newspapers of Santo Domingo regularly have reported criminal acts. The crimes enumerated ran the gamut from murder, rape, and robbery to fraud, counterfeiting, and extortion. According to the newspapers, rural crime accounted for only a small portion of the total. Crime in urban areas was believed to have risen during the 1980s as a result of growing unemployment, pervasive underemployment, and migration from rural to urban areas. One manifestation of urban crime was criminal activity by juvenile street gangs. This problem was deemed sufficiently serious in 1988 to merit a campaign that targeted juvenile delinquents for detention.

Crimes associated with narcotics presented a growing problem in the 1980s, as drug traffickers attempted to use the Dominican Republic as a transshipment point between various Latin American countries and the United States. The police were on the front line of the war against drugs, but elements of the military took part as well. The navy, for instance, intercepted several boats carrying cocaine and marijuana during the late 1970s, and air force patrols were given the task of spotting seaborne drug traffickers. In 1988 the government created the National Economic Council for the Control of Drugs to coordinate domestic and international narcotics programs and to integrate the efforts of all police and military elements involved in antinarcotics activities.

The overall crime rate in the Dominican Republic is very low compared to industrialized countries. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for the Dominican Republic. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. The Dominican Republic will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 1998 was 15.82 per 100,000 population for the Dominican Republic, 1.10 for Japan, and 5.51 for USA. For rape, the rate in 1998 was 26.73 for the Dominican Republic, compared with 1.78 for Japan and 32.05 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 1998 was 19.73 for the Dominican Republic, 4.08 for Japan, and 144.92 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 1998 was 28.42 for the Dominican Republic, 23.78 for Japan, and 323.62 for USA. For burglary, the rate in 1998 was 22.61 for the Dominican Republic, 233.60 for Japan, and 728.42 for USA. The rate of larceny for 1998 was 48.07 for the Dominican Republic, 1401.26 for Japan, and 2475.27 for USA. The rate for motor vehicle theft in 1998 was 14.03 for the Dominican Republic, compared with 44.28 for Japan and 414.17 for USA. The rate for all index offenses combined was 175.41 for the Dominican Republic, compared with 1709.88 for Japan and 4123.97 for USA. (Note: Since data were not reported to INTERPOL for burglary and larceny in 1998, 1997 data were substituted for these two crimes.)


Between 1996 and 1998, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder increased from 14.15 to 15.82, an increase of 11.8%. The rate for rape increased from 13.79 to 26.73, an increase of 93.8%. The rate of robbery decreased from 54.72 to 19.73, a decrease of 63.9%. The rate for aggravated assault decreased from 54.24 to 28.42 per 100,000, an decrease of 47.6%. The rate for burglary was not reported in 1996, but the rate for 1997 (22.61) was substituted for trend calculation purposes. The rate of larceny increased from 21.62 to 48.08, an increase of 122.3%. The rate of motor vehicle theft increased from 7.36 to 14.03, an increase of 90.6%. The rate of total index offenses decreased from 188.49 to 175.41, a decrease of 6.9%.


The judicial system is based primarily on the Napoleonic Code. Judges, rather than juries, render all verdicts. Following the commission of a crime, the criminal process begins with the arrest of possible suspects. During the investigative phase, suspects are questioned repeatedly and urged to confess. Sometimes they are beaten to coerce confessions. The Constitution provides for the right not to be arrested without judicial warrant except in cases where the suspect is caught in the act; the right not to be deprived of liberty without trial or legal formalities, or for reasons other than those provided by law; the right to be presented to a competent judicial authority within 48 hours of one's detention; the right not to be a witness against oneself; and the right to a defense in an impartial and public trial. The authorities commonly violate these rights.



The National Police (PN), the National Department of Investigations (DNI), the National Drug Control Directorate (DNCD), and the armed forces (army, air force, and navy) form the security forces. The military's domestic responsibilities include maintaining public order and protecting traffic, industry, commerce, persons, and property. 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. Although the security forces generally are responsive to civilian authority, there were instances in which members of the security forces, principally the National Police, acted independently of government authority or control. Members of the National Police, and to a lesser extent the military, have continued to commit serious human rights abuses.

The country's first police organization was a municipal force set up in 1844 in Santo Domingo. Beginning in 1847, other towns formed similar organizations. Eventually, there were independent police forces in every province. These forces were largely controlled by local caudillos, and the national executive branch had only nominal influence over them. These local forces were disbanded in 1916 during the United States occupation; the United States Marines, and later members of the Dominican Constabulary Guard, assumed police duties. The National Police was created in 1936. After that time, police activities in the nation were completely centralized, and no independent provincial or municipal forces existed.

In 1989 police personnel numbered some 10,000; the strength of the police had remained relatively constant since the 1950s. The director general of the National Police was a police major general, who was directly subordinate to the secretary of state of interior and police. The police maintained a close relationship with the armed forces, and until the 1980s, the chief of the National Police was quite often a senior officer from one of the armed services. The director general was assisted by a deputy director and two sections: internal affairs and planning, and special operations. Three sections, each headed by an assistant director general, carried out the administration and operation of the National Police. These were the Administration and Support Section, the Police Operations Section, and the Special Operations Section.

The Administration and Support Section supervised personnel, police education and training, and finances. It was responsible for the logistical system, communications, transportation, records, the police radio station, the police laboratory, and the data processing center. This section administered the police academy at Hatillo in San Cristóbal Province. The Police Operations Section oversaw normal police operations. It was segmented into several functional departments, including robbery investigation, homicide investigation, felonies and misdemeanors against private property, highway patrol, and narcotics and dangerous drugs. Police patrolled on foot, on horseback, and by motorcycle and automobile. The customs and harbor police employed a small number of boats.

The deputy director of police functioned as the immediate superior of five regional directors. These officers, usually police brigadier generals, were responsible for five territorial zones: the Northeastern Zone (headquartered at San Francisco de Macorís), the Northern Zone (Santiago), the Southern Zone (Barahona), the Central Zone (San Cristóbal), and the Eastern Zone (San Pedro de Marcorís). The police regions each covered several provinces; forces within the regions were broken down into provincial, company, detachment, and local police post divisions.

The Special Operations Section was responsible for the administration of the secret service, which in 1989 was headed by a police brigadier general. The secret service performed undercover surveillance of domestic political groups and foreigners suspected of espionage or of inciting political or economic disorder. In this capacity, the secret service coordinated its efforts with the National Department of Investigations (Departamento Nacional de Investigaciones--DNI), which was under the direct control of the president. Created in 1962, the DNI was authorized to "investigate any act committed by persons, groups, or associations that conflict with the Constitution, laws, or state institutions, or that attempt to establish any totalitarian form of government." The DNI was an investigative body and, unlike the police, it did not generally have arrest authority. The functions of the DNI were closely coordinated with those of the armed forces' intelligence units, as well as with the functions of the police. In 1989 the DNI was commanded by a retired army general.

Approximately half of all police personnel were stationed in the capital area, both because Santo Domingo was by far the nation's largest city and because police headquarters, as well as several special police units, were located there. Among the special units garrisoned in the capital was a paramilitary special operations battalion with some 1,000 personnel. The unit was used for riot-control in Santo Domingo, although elements could also be deployed rapidly to any section of the country. Other specialized police units included a specialized bank guard corps and a sappers corps that performed firefighting and civil defense duties.

Like the armed forces, the police participated actively in civic-action projects. Police medical and dental teams provided services for poor residents throughout the country. The police also made donations to organizations set up to assist the poor.

The public image of the police had improved since the 1970s, but excesses on the part of police personnel, including beatings of suspects, continued to receive media publicity. Both government and police officials had announced their intent to monitor such activities and to take corrective measures, but complaints about such abuses continued to surface during the late 1980s. The role of the police in quelling disturbances and in supporting the government's political agenda also continued to spark controversy.

There have been numerous human rights violations by the police in the Dominican Republic. There were no reports of political killings by government officials in 2001; however, police committed over 250 extrajudicial killings. It is difficult for any outside observer to quantify the exact number of victims of extrajudicial killings each year; included in this number are civilians who were killed in alleged "exchanges of gunfire" with police. The police failed to cooperate with civilian authorities in many ways, which made quantifying the problem very difficult. For example, the police did not provide Public Ministry officials with reports on investigations of citizens killed in confrontations with police; police rarely documented citizen killings in accordance with minimum investigation or crime scene standards; police denied civilian authorities, including prosecutors requesting information, transcripts of police court hearings that process these cases in secret; and the police have been known publicly to fire officials involved in these incidents, only to reinstate them quietly later.

The Dominican Human Rights Committee and other observers state that the police employ unwarranted deadly force against criminal suspects in a kind of uniformed vigilantism, or in some cases because criminals refused to pay police "commissions" or bribes to ignore criminal activity. In addition, some victims are involved in private disputes with police agents, while other victims later were found to be honest citizens erroneously caught up in the wave of antigang violence carried out by the police. The circumstances of the vast majority of these killings are questionable, but witnesses other than the police usually are lacking. Police courts may try police officers or may remand them to civilian court jurisdiction; however, the police send very few cases to civilian courts. Military courts try military personnel charged with extrajudicial killings or other crimes.

Extrajudicial killings stem from the lack of basic education, poor training, and weak discipline of the members of the police force. These problems are aggravated by low pay and the fact that the Government's budgetary allocation for the police is too low to support the higher recruiting standards needed and to provide adequate training for police. For example, new recruits fire only one round of ammunition during training, and there is no coherent policy on the use of deadly force or rules of engagement by the police. Additionally, the lack of professional, transparent, and credible investigation of the circumstances in which police kill citizens in "exchanges of gunfire" lead to widespread impunity for such killings. Finally, there is a lack of meaningful training in human rights as applied to police work.

In the majority of over 250 deaths at the hands of police, the police characterized the victims of police killings as delinquents. The rest were wives, girlfriends, other civilians, or fellow officers. In most cases, the police claimed that the deaths resulted from the exchange of gunfire in the course of an arrest. In 1999 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a report that criticized the police for committing extrajudicial killings and neglecting to investigate and punish officers responsible for such abuses. Police assert that the deaths of so-called delinquents resulted from shoot-outs requiring the police to act in self-defense. However, a number of cases demonstrate that this often is not the situation.

The Constitution and the law prohibit torture and other forms of physical abuse; however, security force personnel continue to torture, beat, and otherwise physically abuse detainees and prisoners. Lack of supervision, training, and accountability throughout the law enforcement and corrections systems exacerbate the problem of physical abuse. Human rights groups and the local press reported regular and repeated occurrences of physical abuse of detainees while in custody, including various forms of torture, beatings, and sexual abuse.

According to human rights organizations, the National Police, the DNCD, and prison officials all use forms of torture. The method most often used is beating. Other forms include asphyxiation with plastic bags to elicit confessions, and a torture method called "roasting the chicken" in which the victim is placed over hot coals and turned until confessing. After several former detainees went to the press in 1999 with credible reports that police interrogators had beaten them repeatedly, the Chief of Police and the Attorney General designated a commission to investigate this case. The beatings allegedly took place during periods of detention of up to 15 days without arraignment before a judge, although the Constitution permits only 48 hours of detention. The informants reported that the police repeatedly awoke them during the night for questioning. Human rights advocates have described another form of abuse that guards reportedly use against prisoners in the Mexico section of San Pedro de Macoris prison. Prison officials use a punishment called "the toaster," where prisoners are laid, shackled hand and foot, on a bed of hot asphalt for the entire day and are beaten with a club if they scream. The army administers San Pedro de Macoris prison. In Barahona police were described as using a practice called "golpe de pollo" in which they beat a person's ears until they bleed.

Homosexual and transvestite detainees report to gay rights advocates that during detention the police have held them in a darkened room and have given them the alternative of performing fellatio on guards or being placed in a locked cell with the most dangerous prisoners, where the detainees presumed that they would be raped, beaten, or both. Other informants confirmed that the police use the prospect of being locked in with the most dangerous prisoners as a threat.

The police at times have forcibly dispersed demonstrators, using tear gas and weapons; one protest led to two deaths.

Police officers also have fired for violent attacks, extortion, and drug use, including cocaine and marijuana. However, some discharged officers later were rehired. Significant problems also remain because serious efforts have not been made to vet police recruits. Many persons with prior criminal records reportedly have been incorporated into police ranks, either using false names or identification or with recommendations from other state institutions, such as the army.

Human rights courses are offered in the training curriculums for military and DNCD enlisted personnel and officers, although the courses are optional. In August the Military Institute of Human Rights offered its first diploma course in Human Rights. However, monitoring and sanctioning systems for abuses of human rights remain ineffective.

The Constitution contains provisions against arbitrary entrance into one's home; however, police sometimes break into private quarters without cause to search for suspects, and the authorities infringe on citizens' privacy rights in other ways as well. Although the Government denies arbitrary use of wiretapping or other surreptitious methods to interfere with the private lives of persons or families, it has not taken necessary steps to dismantle an active private wiretapping industry.

The law permits the arrest of a suspect caught in the act of committing a crime, and police may enter a residence or business while in hot pursuit of such suspects. Otherwise, judges must authorize arrests and issue search warrants. However, the police have continued to violate these requirements. Some prosecutors confessed that out of "tactical necessity to combat criminality" and "with great reluctance," they tolerated the illegal search practices. They justified their actions by arguing that the Government has not provided sufficient resources or attention to criminal investigation and that, given the cumbersome and antiquated criminal procedures, adhering to the letter of the law would make law enforcement nearly impossible.

The Dominican Human Rights Committee reported that police carried out raids on private homes in the Santo Domingo neighborhoods of Capotillo, Gualey, Guandules, Guachupita, Los Alcarrizos, and La Zurza; police allegedly went into homes without search warrants to look for delinquents.

The police have continued to detain relatives and friends of suspects to try to compel suspects to surrender or to confess.


Arbitrary arrest and detention are problems. The Constitution provides for the security of the individual against imprisonment without legal process, bars detention beyond 48 hours without the detainee being presented before judicial authorities, and prohibits custodial authorities from not presenting detainees when requested. It also provides for recourse to habeas corpus proceedings to request the release of those unlawfully held. However, the security forces have continued to violate constitutional provisions by detaining suspects for investigation or interrogation beyond the prescribed 48-hour limit. The police traditionally detain all suspects and witnesses in a crime and use the investigative process to determine who are innocent and merit release, and who they should continue to hold. After the prosecutor's office placed its lawyers in several police stations in 1997, the police began to curtail the practice of arbitrary detention in those precincts. However, during the year 2001, few new prosecutors were placed in police stations, and the effectiveness against human rights abuses of those working in police stations diminished.

The prosecutor for the Court of Appeals in Santiago has continued to report that the Department of Investigation of Homicide and Robbery of the National Police, Northern Command, routinely detained persons beyond the 48-hour limit. Detainees at police headquarters in Santo Domingo, known as "the palace," reported that they were held for 15 to 21 days. Juveniles held at the Department for Minors at the Villa Juana police station commonly are held for 8 to 14 days, well beyond the 24-hour limit for minors. The official in charge of the Department for Minors attributes this to lack of swift action by the Juvenile Defender, the Public Ministry official in charge of interrogating minors and sending them before a Juvenile Court judge. By law, juveniles may not be interrogated by the police or in the presence of police.

The police have continued the practice of making frequent sweeps or roundups in low-income, high-crime communities in which they arrest and detain individuals arbitrarily. The alleged objective of the roundups is to fight delinquency. In June 2001, the police initiated "Operation Guaraguao," a series of sweeps of low-income neighborhoods in Santo Domingo, Santiago, and La Vega, in order to "combat violence." During these sweeps, police arrested large numbers of residents of the low-income communities and seized property including motorcycles, other vehicles, and weapons. For example, on August 29, during the seventh such operation, the police arrested over 230 persons. The armed forces also carried out similar sweeps. On July 14, the armed forces carried out "Operation Centella" in which they closed down all major routes into Santo Domingo, searched cars for weapons and drugs, and detained individuals thought to be criminals.

Following the indiscriminate arrests, the police regularly detain individuals for up to 20 days or more while they look for a reason to charge them with a crime, even though the law permits prosecutors only to order detentions for up to 48 hours without a judge's order. Human rights organizations report that individuals detained in these roundups frequently are beaten. For example, the police detained and beat a member of the Barahona Commission for Human Rights during one such sweep in February. The police say that they rely upon unlawful detention without presentation to a court because some cases involve more complicated investigations. However, there is a clear pattern of the police arresting individuals before investigating a crime thoroughly, and relying on confessions to make their case. Without the education, training, or equipment to conduct modern forensic investigations, police rely instead on holding suspects incommunicado, repeatedly questioning them, and sometimes beating them, until they confess.

A related problem is the police practice of arresting and detaining individuals solely because of their familial or marital relationship to a suspect. A suspect's parents, siblings, or spouse are all vulnerable to this practice, the goal of which is to compel an at-large suspect to surrender or to coerce a confession from one already arrested. In 1999 the National Police Chief ordered that this practice be ended immediately; however, according to the Dominican Human Rights Committee, detentions of suspects' relatives have continued.

Local human rights organizations have reported on and criticized police roundups of Haitian and Dominican-Haitian construction workers. Officials allegedly take groups of dark-skinned or "Haitian-looking" individuals to empty buildings soon after they are paid, in order to extort money from them. In April the authorities detained hundreds of Haitians after a rumor spread that some Haitian youths had burned a Dominican flag in La Romana. Many were beaten and later deported, and there was a wave of general violence directed toward Haitians.

Many suspects suffer long pretrial detention. Between 70 and 85 percent of the national prison population was awaiting trial; of these, about three-quarters were "prisoners without sentences," and the remainder had convictions under appeal. Judicial statistics showed reduced delays for 1998 and 1999 in the Santo Domingo National District (an area that accounts for approximately 45 percent of all criminal cases in the country); however, delays have increased over the last 2 years. The average pretrial detention throughout the country is more than 6 months. Time already served counts toward a sentence.

The failure of prison authorities to produce the accused for court hearings was more pronounced during the year 2001 and caused a significant percentage of trial postponements. Prisoners often have their court dates postponed because they are not taken from the prison to court, or because their lawyer or witness does not appear. The authorities held some prisoners even though there were no formal charges against them and kept some prisoners jailed even after a court ordered their release; for example, a prisoner in Najayo said that he had been in prison for 5 years without being sentenced. In 1999 and 2000, this situation improved somewhat as a result of the steps taken by the former Santo Domingo District Attorney and the judiciary, in cooperation with the Director of Prisons, to introduce a prisoner registry system that focuses on providing timely trials for prisoners. However, in view of the deterioration during the year 2001, in October the Attorney General announced the formation of a commission to investigate this problem.

In October 2000, the Attorney General proposed a program to reduce prison crowding by releasing inmates who only were held pending payment of a fine. Due to the historical inefficiency of the courts, the granting of bail serves as the de facto criminal justice system and defendants awarded bail rarely face an actual trial. As a rule, few defendants are granted bail. Large numbers of prisoners generally are pardoned on August 16 and at the end of the year. In August the authorities pardoned 212 prisoners, and they pardoned 162 prisoners in December.

Most detainees and prisoners cannot afford adequate defense services. A draft bill to create a national public defender program remained in Congress; however, President Mejia established a national public defender system by decree. The Mejia administration made modest advances to increase the availability of free legal services to the poor by increasing the number of state-funded public defenders from 31 to 45 and increasing the number of regional public defender officers from 2 to 5.

The judicial system sometimes fails to protect the status of minors in criminal cases.

The law prohibits forced exile, and there were no reports of its use. However, persons who credibly asserted that they were citizens sometimes were expelled to Haiti.


Judicial power is exercised by the Supreme Court of Justice and by other courts created by the Constitution and by law. The Constitution establishes courts of first instance in each province as well as a land tribunal and courts of appeal. Justices of the peace exist in each municipality and in the National District. The Constitution also mandates a court of accounts, which examines the country's finances and reports to the Congress.

Centralized and hierarchical, the Dominican legal system was patterned after the French system. It employed a code-law legal system rather than a common law system, such as the one used in the United States. Detailed and comprehensive, the codes left little room for United States-style judicial activism or citation of precedent. Legal reasoning was deductive (from the codes), rather than inductive, or based on past cases.

The Constitution calls for a Supreme Court consisting of nine judges. Judges are chosen by the Senate, not by the president, ostensibly to limit executive power. The Senate also selects the judges for the lower courts. Supreme Court justices must be Dominican citizens by birth or parentage, at least thirty-five years old, with full political and civil rights. They are required to have law degrees and to have practiced law, or held judicial office, for at least twelve years. These requirements become progressively less strict for lower-court justices.

The Supreme Court has the exclusive power to assume jurisdiction in matters affecting the president and other high officials, to act as a court of cassation, to serve as a court of last instance in matters forwarded from appellate courts, to exercise final disciplinary action over other members of the judiciary, and to transfer justices from one jurisdiction to another. The Supreme Court does not have the formal power to review the constitutionality of laws, decrees, or resolutions put into effect by the president or the Congress, although a movement began in the late 1970s toward limited judicial oversight of government acts.

The courts in the Dominican Republic historically have been subservient to the government in power. Moreover, politics have frequently dominated court proceedings, and the entire judicial system may be subject to outside pressures and, at times, even intimidation. Nevertheless, since the early 1960s the court system has become stronger, and the judiciary has become a more independent, if not a coequal, branch of government.

The Dominican criminal justice system was basically an inquisitorial arrangement in which a court and its staff took general charge of a criminal case, and the judge gathered evidence to supplement that produced by the prosecution and the defense. Evidence was largely committed to writing, and the final stage of the proceedings consisted of the judge's examining all the combined written material and then deciding whether or not he was convinced, beyond doubt, of the guilt of the accused. The nation's criminal courts did not, therefore, operate under a system of trial by jury.

The 1966 Constitution guarantees several basic legal rights to all citizens. These include the rights to due process, to public trial, and to habeas corpus protection. An accused person is also guaranteed protection against double jeopardy and selfincrimination . A written order from a competent judicial authority is required, if any person is to be detained more than forty-eight hours or if an individual's home or property is to be searched. In practice, the police and other officials generally honored these guarantees during the 1980s.

In addition to the Supreme Court of Justice, the Constitution establishes four basic types of courts: courts of appeal, the Lands Tribunal, courts of first instance, and justice of the peace courts. Criminal cases were tried in all courts except the Lands Tribunal. There were also a few special courts that heard criminal cases, including one for minors. Most misdemeanor offenses were tried by the justice of the peace courts, of which there were about 100, in 1989, one in each municipality or township. The courts of first instance had original jurisdiction for criminal felony cases. There were twenty-nine of these, one for each province. Decisions could be, and regularly were, appealed to one of the nation's seven courts of appeal. These courts also had original jurisdiction over cases against judges of courts of first instance, government attorneys, provincial governors, and other specified officials.

The Supreme Court served as the nation's ultimate court of appeal. It exercised original jurisdiction in cases involving the president, the vice president, members of the cabinet and Congress, and judges and prosecutors of the higher courts. The court consisted of nine members, one of whom was designated president of the Supreme Court. The court also administered all of the nation's lower courts. The attorney general, who had the same rank as the president of the Supreme Court, represented the government's case and oversaw the system of government prosecutors. An accused person was entitled to be represented by an attorney. Indigent persons under accusation generally were provided free counsel in felony cases.

Although the judiciary was organizationally a separate branch of government, several observers have noted that the constitutional provisions governing the appointment and the tenure of judges in practice undermined judicial independence. All judges, from the Supreme Court to the justice of the peace courts, were appointed by the Senate, and they served four-year terms concurrent with the terms of elected officials. This system effectively made a judge's continued service subject to the approval of the dominant party in the Senate. Critics both inside and outside the government asserted that this arrangement subjected judges to undue political influence. This method of appointment and replacement also frequently resulted in a wholesale turnover of judicial personnel, especially when control of the Senate changed hands. Such turnovers affected the consistency of the judiciary's application and interpretation of the law.

The Constitution requires all judges to have law degrees, and judges at each level of the judiciary are required to have practiced law for a specified number of years. Supreme Court justices, for instance, must have a minimum of twelve years of experience, and judges of the courts of first instance are required to have two years of experience. Justices of the peace are also required to have a law degree; exceptions were permitted, however, in rural areas where it might be impossible to appoint a trained lawyer. Despite these requirements, during the mid-1980s the government admitted that the poor quality of some personnel, as well as corruption within the judiciary, affected public attitudes toward the justice system as a whole. In 1985 the president of the national bar association and the attorney general's office led a campaign against the low wages and the poor working conditions that, they claimed, greatly contributed to the poor quality of judges and to the practice, by some, of accepting money or preferential treatment in return for a favorable decision. The government responded to the campaign, which included cancelled hearings and demonstrations, by raising wages and by declaring its determination to rid the judiciary of corrupt judges.

One other factor that undermined public confidence in the criminal justice system was the prolonged delay before trial that characterized virtually every case. Preventive detention was legal, and it was commonly employed. A 1987 study revealed that over 85 percent of the nation's prison population was still awaiting trial. Many of these prisoners had been in jail for years.

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, attempts by public and private entities, including the executive branch, to undermine judicial independence have persisted. The judiciary has received training funded by foreign technical assistance in order to improve its ability to resist such outside interference, but influence is still a problem. Court officials also began to implement new selection criteria for judges.

The National Council of Magistrates (CNM), which consists of the President, the President of the Senate, the President of the Chamber of Deputies, two at-large members designated by them (one Senator and one Deputy, from parties different than those of the presidents of the Senate and Chamber), the President of the Supreme Court, and one other justice designated by the Supreme Court, chooses members of the Supreme Court. During the year 2001, the CNM met for only the second time since it was established in 1994 to fill three vacant seats on the Supreme Court. However, the selection process followed by the CNM was less rigorous, transparent, and participatory than the process conducted in 1997, leading civil society groups to assert that they had not been afforded an adequate opportunity to participate in the process; they did not know in advance who the candidates were, and they were not given the opportunity to comment on their qualifications.

The judiciary includes a 16-member Supreme Court, appeals courts, courts of first instance, and justices of the peace. There are also specialized courts that handle administrative, labor, land, and juvenile matters. Under the 1994 constitutional amendments, the Supreme Court is responsible for naming all lower court judges in accordance with a judicial career law. The Government established 8 of the 25 additional courts provided for by law, including 5 courts for children and adolescents.

Military or police courts have jurisdiction over cases involving members of the security forces. These courts, while functioning similarly to criminal courts, have judges and prosecutors who are military or police officers, and the results generally are not made public. Decisions may be appealed, including to the Supreme Court. Police courts may try police officers or may remand them to civilian court jurisdiction. Military courts try military personnel charged with extrajudicial killings or other crimes. Police Chief Pedro de Jesus Candelier stated that every time an officer is involved in a questionable incident, the case goes to a police commission of superior officers for investigation. He said that if it is determined that the police officer exceeded his authority, the case is sent to the police courts or to the civilian courts, depending on the severity of the offense. However, in the over 250 extrajudicial killings committed during 2000, fewer than 10 officers have been sent to the civilian courts. Although the police send very few cases to civilian courts, as a result of requests from the former Attorney General, District Attorney, and Justice Reform Commissioner, several officers were sent to the civilian courts in high-profile cases.

In September 2000, six civil society groups submitted an "Act of Unconstitutionality" to the Supreme Court on the issue of the legality of Law 285, which encompasses the Code of Police Justice. Civil society groups argue that police courts violate the Constitution, and that they weaken the separation and independence of governmental functions, as well as the exclusivity of the judicial function in the administration of justice. The lawsuit asks the court to rule on the constitutionality of these police courts; a decision still was pending at year's end. However, in one case, in December the Supreme Court stated that in peacetime, criminal police cases should be tried in civilian courts.

Public pressure exists for military or police boards to remand cases involving serious crimes to civilian courts jurisdiction; however, few cases were remanded during the year 2001. In other cases, civil authorities have requested that the police turn over their files so that cases of suspected extrajudicial killings might be evaluated independently for possible prosecution. There was little cooperation from the National Police or military in requested investigations during the year 2001.

The judicial system is based primarily on the Napoleonic Code. Judges, rather than juries, render all verdicts. Following the commission of a crime, the criminal process begins with the arrest of possible suspects. During the investigative phase, suspects are questioned repeatedly and urged to confess. Sometimes they are beaten to coerce confessions. The Constitution provides for the right not to be arrested without judicial warrant except in cases where the suspect is caught in the act; the right not to be deprived of liberty without trial or legal formalities, or for reasons other than those provided by law; the right to be presented to a competent judicial authority within 48 hours of one's detention; the right not to be a witness against oneself; and the right to a defense in an impartial and public trial. The authorities commonly violate these rights.

The most serious and common violation of these rights occurs when police detain suspects, sometimes for many days, without allowing them access to a telephone to call family while subjecting them to frequent questioning. Although accused persons are entitled to have an attorney present, they often are not permitted to call one or, if one arrives, the attorney is not permitted to be present during the questioning. (The police complain that the presence of attorneys interferes with their investigations.) Torture frequently is used to coerce a confession during questioning. Under these circumstances, suspects may confess to acts that they did not commit merely to get relief from the intense questioning and the detention. The results of these interrogations frequently form the only evidence presented at the trial.

The law provides for the remedy of "amparo," an action any citizen may bring for violation of a constitutional right, including violations by judicial officials, in accordance with the terms of the American Convention on Human Rights. The process of dispute resolution, including reconciliation, mediation, and arbitration, continues to be used as an alternative to trial and incarceration.

A large backlog of criminal cases remains in the National District and throughout the country. The Supreme Court's plans to unclog the court dockets have been frustrated by the Government's failure to allocate sufficient funds. Dockets are crowded with traffic infractions that should be heard in the traffic courts provided for by statute. Due to a lack of funds, the traffic courts have not been established. Other complications in clearing the backlog arise from the exhaustion of funds for transporting prisoners to court. Prisoners and human rights groups also allege that prisoners are not taken to their trials if they fail to pay bribes to the guards. Many cases must be rescheduled when the accused does not appear. The Government has established 8 of the 15 additional courts provided for by law, including 5 courts for women and children.

Joint reform efforts between the judiciary and the Santo Domingo district attorney's office stalled during the year 2001. While in 2000 the congestion in the criminal system was reduced by more than 50 percent through use of community conciliation centers, those gains largely were lost during the year 2001. It is clear that the change of 90 percent of Public Ministry officials by the Mejia administration in August 2000 resulted in a marked deterioration of the technical competence and ethical standards of prosecutors around the country. The practical effect has been a decrease in the ability to combat impunity and a deterioration in the quality of justice available to the poor.

The law permits the arrest of a suspect caught in the act of committing a crime, and police may enter a residence or business while in hot pursuit of such suspects. Otherwise, judges must authorize arrests and issue search warrants. However, the police have continued to violate these requirements. Some prosecutors confessed that out of "tactical necessity to combat criminality" and "with great reluctance," they tolerated the illegal search practices. They justified their actions by arguing that the Government has not provided sufficient resources or attention to criminal investigation and that, given the cumbersome and antiquated criminal procedures, adhering to the letter of the law would make law enforcement nearly impossible.

The Dominican Human Rights Committee reported that police carried out raids on private homes in the Santo Domingo neighborhoods of Capotillo, Gualey, Guandules, Guachupita, Los Alcarrizos, and La Zurza; police allegedly went into homes without search warrants to look for delinquents.

The police have continued to detain relatives and friends of suspects to try to compel suspects to surrender or to confess.


The code of criminal procedure also covered the operations of the nation's prison system. The law required each judicial district, or province, to maintain one prison for convicted offenders and another for accused individuals awaiting trial. Provincial governors bore responsibility for the maintenance of these prisons and for their security. The national penitentiary was La Victoria Penitentiary in Santo Domingo; all individuals sentenced to more than two years of imprisonment served their sentences in La Victoria. This penitentiary had shoe, carpenter, tailor, and barber shops, as well as other facilities where convicts could be taught a useful trade. Prisoners able to take advantage of such opportunities received wages for their labor. Police officers ran the nation's prisons. In the late 1980s, the head of La Victoria Penitentiary was a police brigadier general.

In practice, the corrections system received inadequate financing, and it suffered from unsanitary conditions and overcrowding. The government publicly acknowledged this problem in 1988 and announced its intention to develop a solution. As a first step, badly needed repairs were begun on La Victoria. These long overdue measures were prompted in part by a riot at the prison in June 1988 in which two inmates were killed. Reports in the local press cited two conflicting causes of the riot. One version held that the prisoners rioted to protest a move to limit visiting hours. The second explanation, offered by the government, suggested that the violence was instigated by drug traffickers angered by government's pressure on the narcotics trade.

Although the Dominican Republic's domestic situation was much more stable in the late 1980s than that of neighboring Haiti, the potential existed for localized, or even generalized, disturbances. Economic conditions--inflation, devaluation, food shortages--usually underlay most riots or demonstrations. Marxist and other radical leftist groups, however, often sought to exacerbate such upheavals in order to discredit the government. This situation placed considerable pressure on the police and the armed forces to respond to civil unrest in a professional manner and to minimize attendant injuries to civilians. Furthermore, this role as the institutional bulwark of elected civilian government was one that the leadership of the police and the armed forces took very seriously, particularly because it constituted their primary mission in the late twentieth century.

Today, Prison conditions range from poor to harsh. Reports of torture and mistreatment in prisons are common. The prisons are seriously overcrowded, health and sanitary conditions are poor, and some prisons are out of the control of the authorities. The General Directorate of Prisons falls under the authority of the Public Ministry and is seriously underfunded. Budget allocations for necessities such as food, medicines, and transportation were insufficient. Prisoners and human rights groups also allege that prisoners are not taken to their trials if they fail to pay bribes to the guards. Medical care in all prisons suffers from a lack of supplies and available physicians. Prisoners immobilized by and dying of AIDS are not transferred to a hospital, but some terminal-stage inmates were released to spend their last days at home. Pretrial detainees are held together with convicted prisoners. Inmates are not separated by crime within the prison population; however, they may be put into solitary confinement for disturbances while incarcerated.

In 32 prisons around the country with a total capacity of 9,000 persons, the police and the military hold more than 15,500 prisoners and detainees. As of September 2001, the military controlled 22 prisons with a total of 5,069 prisoners, and the National Police controlled 10 prisons, with a total of 10,486 inmates. A warden is responsible for running each prison and reports to the Attorney General through the Directorate of Prisons. A police or military colonel (or lieutenant colonel), who is appointed for 3 to 6 months only, reports to the warden and is responsible for providing security. However, in practice the colonel is in charge of the prison, and neither the Directorate of Prisons nor the individual wardens have much power. Some prisons are totally out of the control of the authorities. They are, in effect, operated by armed inmates, who decide whether an individual gets food, space to sleep, or medical care. Individual inmates only can secure a tolerable level of existence by paying for it. Only those with considerable personal or family resources can do so.

Newspapers and human rights groups reported that the overcrowding and deteriorating conditions at the Najayo prison, administered by the police, pose a serious threat to the health and safety of the inmates. The prison, which initially was built to hold 850 inmates and has a capacity for 1,320 inmates, holds over 2,849 persons. Inmates suffer from various illnesses including tuberculosis, bronchitis, and skin infections. Inmates who cannot afford to pay for beds are forced to sleep on the floor; these inmates are known as "frogs" because they sleep in the dirt. Inmates charge that they are only given one meal per day and that the food is inedible. In order to receive edible food, they must pay for it to be brought into the prison. Newspapers and human rights groups report that there is extensive drug and arms trafficking within the prisons, as well as prostitution and sexual abuse, including abuse of minors.

Conditions at La Victoria prison, which is also run by the police, also pose a serious threat to life and health. In September this prison held 3,886 prisoners in a facility originally built for 1,000, but which prison authorities claim has the capacity for 2,000. In August work was completed on improvements to La Victoria, including the addition of 180 beds and renovation of the sewer system.

A government food program for the general public is used to provide lunches at some prisons. The former Director of Prisons reported that his office had a budget of $0.50 (8 pesos) per inmate to provide three meals per day. Inmates surveyed said that the food provided was unacceptable, and most chose to eat whatever they could beg for or purchase from persons in the vicinity of the prison or from family members. Due to inefficiency and corruption within the prison system, visitors often have to bribe prison guards in order to visit prisoners.

Female prisoners are separated from male inmates. In general, conditions in the female prison wings are better than those found in male prison wings. There have been some reports of guards physically and sexually abusing female inmates. There were also reports that in the Najayo prison, guards forced women to act as prostitutes in exchange for food and protection. Female inmates, unlike their male counterparts, are prohibited from receiving conjugal visits. Those who deliver while incarcerated are permitted to keep their babies with them in prison until they reach 1 year of age.

The law requires that juveniles be detained separately from adults; however, in practice juveniles often are mixed with the general population. The authorities sometimes treated minors as adults--most often when physical forensic examinations indicated that the persons claiming to be minors were probably adults--and incarcerated them in prison rather than juvenile detention centers. Press reports found a high incidence of juveniles who were detained with adult prisoners being forced into sexual servitude in return for protection at prisons around the country. Human rights groups charged that nearly all of the 280 juveniles in Najayo prison who were housed with adults were abused sexually. In July after much delay, a new prison for minors was opened in Najayo, with a capacity of 200 persons. In December human rights groups charged that guards and prison staff have continued to abuse minors in the new wing.

The Government permits prison visits by independent human rights monitors and by the press.


Domestic violence is widespread. NGO's estimate that 40 percent of women and children are the subject of domestic violence. Under the 1997 Law Against Domestic Violence, the State can prosecute for rape, incest, sexual aggression, and other forms of domestic violence. Penalties for these crimes range from 1 year to 30 years in prison and carry fines ranging from $30 to $6,000 (500 to 100,000 pesos). The Secretariat of Women, as well as various NGO's, have outreach programs on domestic violence and legal rights. The Government's center in Villa Juana (Santo Domingo) for the legal support and forensic examination of abused women handles over 100 cases per day. Due to the success of this first center, the Government has opened five additional centers. There are still no shelters for battered women.

Rape is a serious problem and is believed to be widely underreported. From January through August 2001, the Santo Domingo district attorney's office received 1,004 reports of rape or sexual violation in the National District. The penalties for committing rape are 10 to 15 years in prison and a fine of $6,000 to $12,000 (100,000 to 200,000 pesos). The State can prosecute a suspect for rape even if the victim does not file charges. This law also allows a rape victim to press charges against her husband without having her marriage annulled. Victims often do not report cases of rape because of fear of social stigma, as well as the perception that the police and the judiciary would fail to provide redress. The police are reluctant to handle rape cases and often encourage victims to seek assistance from NGO's.

Prostitution is illegal; however, the Government does not enforce vigorously prostitution laws, except in cases involving child prostitution and international trafficking in women and girls, which is a serious problem. Sex tourism is a growing industry throughout the country as the number of international visitors increases. NGO's have ongoing HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted disease prevention programs for male and female prostitutes, hotel and industrial zone workers, and other high-risk groups. The Domestic Violence Law prohibits acting as an intermediary in a transaction of prostitution, and the Government has used the law to prosecute third parties that derive profit from prostitution.



Abuse, including physical, sexual, and psychological, is the most serious human rights violation affecting children. The Department of Family and Children estimates that 50 percent of the children in the country are victims of some sort of abuse, although few such cases reach the courts. In the majority of the cases, the accused is a person close to the child: A father, grandfather, uncle, brother, cousin, or close family friend. The criminal law provision on sexual abuse and intrafamily violence provides for a penalty of 10 to 20 years incarceration and a fine of $6,600 to $13,200 (108,000 to 216,000 pesos) for persons found guilty of sexual abuse of a minor, and up to 30 years if the victim is a family member of the abuser.

The Minor's Code contains provisions against child abuse, including physical and emotional mistreatment, sexual exploitation, and child labor. It also provides for removal of a mistreated child to a protective environment. According to local monitors, instances of child abuse were underreported because of traditional beliefs that family problems should be dealt with inside the family. However, child abuse is receiving increasing public attention.

The Ministry of Health gave conservative estimates that, from January through June, there were 412 deliveries by female adolescents under age 15 and 8,313 deliveries by adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19. This information is preliminary and conservative in light of 2000 statistics, which estimated deliveries by adolescents below age 15 at 1,395 and by adolescents from 15 to 19 at 26,409 for that full year. Some of these pregnancies were reported to be the result of rape or incest, and the mothers often have sexually transmitted diseases.

Sexual exploitation of children is a problem. Some in the tourist industry have facilitated the sexual exploitation of children; particular areas of concern are Boca Chica and Puerto Plata. Tours are marketed by foreigners overseas with the understanding that boys and girls can be found as sex partners. In July the National Prosecutor's Office and the Association of Hotels signed an agreement to combat the exploitation of children in the tourist industry. Journalists reported that the majority of prostitutes in brothels around the National District appeared to be between 16 and 18 years of age. There are several church-run shelters that provide refuge to children who escape prostitution. Prostitution is the principal area of exploitation of underage girls in the informal economy.

Poor adolescent girls and boys sometimes are enticed into performing sexual acts by the promise of food or clothing; sometimes they are forced into unsafe relationships with strangers by the need for money. Once involved, they may be held against their will by individuals who sell their sexual favors to others. Some of these minors are lured from their parental homes; others are already on the street.


The law prohibits trafficking in persons; however, trafficking in women and children from, to, and within the country remains a serious problem. Women 18 to 25 years of age are at the highest risk for being trafficked. According to a report released in July by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), principal destination countries are in Europe and Latin America, including Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Greece, Belgium, Curacao, San Martin, Aruba, Panama, Venezuela, and Argentina. Women are trafficked to the United States, although in smaller numbers. Within the country, there is a serious problem of prostitution of minors, primarily in the tourist areas. Women and children also are trafficked from Haiti and often are forced to beg in the streets.

Poor Haitian and Dominican parents sometimes arrange for more prosperous Dominican families to "adopt" their children, in exchange for money or goods; such children often are expected to work long hours and are vulnerable to sexual abuse.

The Directorate of Migration estimates that there are approximately 400 rings of alien-smugglers, traffickers, and purveyors of false documents operating within the country. These individuals profit by facilitating the trafficking of women to Europe and the Eastern Caribbean under false pretenses and for purposes of prostitution.

The Director of Migration stated that individual members of Migration, the armed forces, or National Police who facilitate, condone, or are complicit in trafficking activities or migrant smuggling are investigated and fired or prosecuted when appropriate. NGO's have reported corruption among the military and migration border officials, and noted that these officials sometimes cooperate with the transit of Haitian workers into the country to work on sugar plantations and construction sites.

In 1996 the Government created the Interinstitutional Committee for the Protection of Migrant Women (CIPROM), which is composed of representatives from government entities and NGO's. CIPROM was inactive until February, when it began meeting regularly. In April the Secretary of Women signed an agreement with the IOM to help them design a comprehensive plan to combat trafficking. During the year 2001, CIPROM and the IOM began an information campaign aimed at potential victims of traffickers.

One NGO, the Center for Integral Orientation and Investigation (COIN), counsels women planning to accept job offers in Europe and the eastern Caribbean about immigration, health, and other issues including the dangers of trafficking, forced prostitution, and domestic servitude. The program also provides services to returning women. COIN administers the Center for Health and Migration Information for Migrant Women that carries out community education campaigns in high risk areas on various issues, including citizenship, legal work requirements, dangers of trafficking, forced prostitution, and domestic servitude.

Several laws prohibit trafficking in persons. According to the law against alien smugglers, persons involved in planning, financing, facilitating, or organizing the illegal transportation of persons into or out of the Dominican Republic shall be imprisoned for a period of 3 to 10 years and fined $600 to $3,000 (10,000 to 50,000 pesos). The law further states that if death results from the illegal transportation of persons, the smuggler shall be imprisoned for a period of at least 20 years, but not to exceed 30 years. In addition, a law specifically targets trafficking of persons for prostitution. The law imposes jail terms of 2 to 10 years and fines of up to $6,000 (100,000 pesos) for traffickers involved in the promotion of prostitution. Laws dealing with domestic violence, as well as the Minor's Code, create protection under both civil and criminal law against particular situations that may be conducive to, or acts that may be a part of, the traffic in persons, whether female or male, minors or adults. The law also prohibits acting as an intermediary in a transaction of prostitution, and the Government has used this law to prosecute third parties that derive profit from prostitution.

The Government prosecuted several trafficking rings during the year 2001. In April the National Department of Investigations dismantled a trafficking ring that was trafficking women to Curacao and San Martin. The women, who reportedly paid from $420 to $600 (7,000 to 10,000 pesos) for visas and transport, were held for prosecution. In May the police shut down a prostitution ring in Boca Chica, arresting seven foreigners.

The Oversight Organization for the Protection of Children coordinates the approaches of various agencies involved in combating trafficking in children. This organization works with the Attorney General's office, the Public Health Ministry, Migration, and other agencies. In the National District, the Department of Family and Children in the Office of Public Prosecutor focuses on identifying children who are victims of abuse and prosecutes offenders under heightened penalties contained in the domestic violence law.

A primary concern of the Oversight Organization is preventing abuse of the child adoption process by those intending to sell or exploit children through prostitution or child pornography. The Department of Family and Children is very concerned about kidnapings, especially of infants, for sale to foreigners who deliberately have sidestepped legal formalities--including those of their own country. The Government seeks to protect children from being victimized by those who would adopt them. Many children leave the country as adoptees, but government officials have made such adoptions much more difficult and, they hope, have prevented would-be traffickers from abusing the system.

The Government does not have services for assisting trafficking victims such as temporary or permanent residency status, relief from deportation, shelter, or access to legal, medical and psychological services. Trafficking victims detained generally are deported. COIN provides an information hot line and offers psychological, legal, and health counseling to returning women.


Internet research assisted by Cruz Elena Garcia, Marie Xochitl Huerta, and Angela LaChica

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