Police Killings Increasing in Dominican Republic Despite Promises: AI

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Killings perpetrated by police in the Dominican Republic rose by 13 percent in the first half of 2014, according to Amnesty International, highlighting the government’s failures to address widespread human rights violations in spite of promises of police reform.

According to National Observatory on Citizen Security figures reported by Amnesty International (AI), 87 people were killed by Dominican police between January and June this year, compared to 77 over the same period in 2013. In an open letter to Dominican President Danilo Medina, Amnesty International stated that the organization has also documented cases of torture, forced disappearances and arbitrary arrests perpetrated by the country’s national police force.

Among the most egregious recent cases highlighted by AI is that of seventeen-year-old Walder Sanchez, who was killed by police on May 30. Although police claimed Sanchez died in a shootout, witnesses stated that he was unarmed at the time of his death. Police also allegedly beat his pregnant girlfriend and landlady.

In another recent case of alleged law enforcement abuses highlighted by AI, two men were reportedly detained and beaten after refusing to pay a bribe, and one of the men was shot in the leg by police officers. 

InSight Crime Analysis

Excessive use of force by police officers is a serious problem in the Dominican Republic. According to a 2012 Amnesty International report (pdf), police are responsible for an average of 15 percent of all homicides. Although the number of people killed by cops dipped in 2013, a total over 700 people were killed by police between 2011 and 2013, according to the Dominican Republic’s Prosecutor General’s Office.

Law enforcement personnel have also been implicated in other illegal activities, with over 500 police and military dismissed for ties to drug trafficking groups between 2007 and 2012. In one recent case, investigations into a micro-trafficking organization revealed that local cops accepted around $140,000 a month in bribes to facilitate the group’s illegal activities.

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Given the endemic corruption and human rights abuses in the national police force, President Medina vowed to reform the police and design a citizen security policy when he took office in 2012. In keeping with that promise, his government introduced a reform law in Congress in May 2013, which included the establishment of use of force and firearms regulations that met international standards, and the strengthening of oversight mechanisms. Over a year later the law has yet to be passed, however, a delay Amnesty International attributes to both a lack of political will and powerful interests against reform. 

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