Amnesty says police reform
urgent to end illegalities
Special to A.M. Dominican Republic
(Oct. 25, 2011) Authorities in the Dominican Republic must urgently
reform their police force to tackle alarming levels of killings and
torture, Amnesty International said in a new report.
"Shut up if you don’t want to be killed: Human Rights violations by the
police in the Dominican Republic" documents scores of cases of
killings, torture and ill-treatment at the hands of police, gathered
during three research missions in the country. The report also alleged
the lack of effective investigations
“Authorities must ensure those responsible for the killings and torture
face justice and that steps are taken to change the policies and
practices that allow these abuses to take place,” said Javier
Zúñiga, head of Amnesty International’s delegation in the
“The official view continues to be that human rights violations are
committed by a few corrupt or unprofessional officers who are swiftly
dealt with and held accountable, but the reality paints a very
Between January and July, 154 people were killed by the police in the
Dominican Republic, according to the office of the prosecutor general.
That compares with 125 over the same period in 2010.
Statistics from the office of the prosecutor general, show that 10 per
cent of all the murders recorded in 2010 were committed by the police.
Several police officers were also killed.
The vast majority of the fatal shootings were described by the police
as exchanges of gunfire with criminal suspects. However, in many cases,
forensic tests support the allegations that police officers
deliberately shot to kill.
Amnesty International’s report warns that police killings of young people could be taking place as a deterrent.
“Police killings should not become the way to solve the problem of
repeat offenders and warn young people against crime,” said
Amnesty International also found that while in police custody, criminal
suspects have been threatened with death, beaten and denied food, water
and essential medicines. Some have had plastic bags put over their
heads and were hung from bars or nails by their handcuffs.
At least two people last seen in police custody are feared to have been the victims of enforced disappearance, the report said.
Only a fraction of cases reach the courts or are even investigated, the report said.
An array of obstacles, such as lack of independence and resources and
the failure to properly collect and preserve forensic evidence prevents
most responsible from facing justice, Amnesty said.
“The system for investigations of police abuse in the Dominican
Republic is disorganized and lack proper procedures to handle
complaints of human rights violations by the police," said
Zúñiga. "Whether a police officer faces justice for a
killing or torture depends largely on whether the victim or their
family lodges an official complaint, the level of publicity a case
attracts and the political pressure exerted on prosecutors.”
“We acknowledge that police officers usually face serious dangers while
doing their jobs," he added. "However, we believe that their conduct is
actually exacerbating the violence and creating a climate in which
human rights are completely ignored.”
Amnesty International said one young man told their investigators in October:
“If you rob somebody and this person files a complaint, if the police
identify you as the robber, they look for you and without letting you
speak they shoot at you. I was there when the police caught a friend of
mine. He was a robber. The police were looking for him. One day the
police went to his house. He was hiding somewhere else. The police told
him: ‘Come out, we are not going to kill you, we just wanted to
question you.’ When he came out, they shot him twice in the head.”