REPORT ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
1. The purpose of this special report is to analyze the human rights situation in the Dominican Republic. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter "the Commission" or "the IACHR"), as a principal organization of the Organization of American States (OAS), is entrusted with protecting and promoting human rights. Its jurisdiction derives from the Charter of the OAS, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, and the American Convention on Human Rights, to which the Dominican Republic has been a state party since April 19, 1978. This report is intended to assist the Government of the Dominican Republic examine the human rights situation and to make recommendations aimed at improving the observance of and respect for the human rights of all persons under its jurisdiction.
2. In this chapter of the Special Report, the IACHR describes the methodology used in its preparation, reports on the on-site visit carried out in the Dominican Republic, and presents an executive summary of the human rights situation in the Dominican Republic that is spelled out in the later chapters.
B. Methodology of the Report
3. This report is the result of the wide array of information and views on the general human rights situation in the Dominican Republic that the Commission collected prior to, during, and after its on-site observation visit in June 1997.
4. In particular, the Commission has considered the information and testimony it received during its on-site observation visit from the Dominican authorities and from representatives of various sectors of the national community. In addition, this report is based largely on the investigations that the Commission carried out during its on-site visit, and on the facts that enabled it to arrive at findings regarding allegations that had been lodged previously at the Commission's headquarters. Furthermore, the Commission took into consideration the observations made by the Government of the Dominican Republic on the Draft Report prepared by the IACHR.
5. In keeping with Article 62 of its Regulations, the Commission transmitted the first version of this report to the Dominican state on June 28, 1999, and gave it two months to present its observations. On August 19, 1999, the state sought a 15-day extension from the Commission. By note of September 10, 1999, the Dominican state forwarded the document entitled "Observations of the Government of the Dominican Republic to the Draft Report on the Situation of Human Rights in the Dominican Republic." In this document, the Government of the Dominican Republic values the objectivity of the Commission’s Report and sets forth a series of general considerations, as well as opinions, descriptions, and updated data. The information mentioned was analyzed by the Commission, and, where pertinent, incorporated into the final version of the report, as approved.
6. In the course of its on-site visit to the Dominican Republic, the Commission received complaints regarding alleged violations of human rights. These complaints are being processed pursuant to the American Convention on Human Rights, and the Statute and Regulations of the IACHR.
7. In Chapter II of this Report the Commission makes reference to the legislation of the Dominican Republic, particularly the individual guarantees contained in the 1966 Constitution and the 1994 amendments thereto. The Commission also describes the new laws approved by the Congress, in early 1997, on the protection of women and minors. The legal structure, standards, and procedures that are useful for ensuring human rights are analyzed later in light of their practical application.1
C. On-site visit
8. On December 13, 1996, the Commission sought the consent of the Government of the Dominican Republic to make an on-site visit to observe the human rights situation.
9. By note of February 19, 1997, the Government of the Dominican Republic accepted the visit of the Commission and offered the necessary facilities. Later it was decided, by mutual agreement, to undertake the visit from June 16 to 20, 1997.
10. Pursuant to Article 55 of the Commission's Regulations, a Special Commission was designated to make the on-site visit to the Dominican Republic. The Special Commission was made of the following members of the IACHR: Ambassador John S. Donaldson, Chairman of the IACHR; Dean Claudio Grossman, Rapporteur for the Dominican Republic; and Ambassador Alvaro Tirado Mejía. The Commission received technical support from Ambassador Jorge E. Taiana, Executive Secretary; Bertha Santoscoy, Senior Specialist responsible for attending to the affairs of the Dominican Republic; staff attorneys Ibrahim García and Denise Gilman; Ms. Rose Marie Briere, interpreter; and Ms. Cecilia Adriazola and Ms. Tania Hernández, of the IACHR secretarial staff.
Interviews with government authorities
11. During its visit, the Special Commission met with the President of the Republic, Leonel Fernández Reyna. In addition, the Commission met with the Secretary of Foreign Relations, Eduardo Latorre; the Secretary of State for Interior and Police, Jorge Botello; and the Undersecretaries for Labor, Rosario Graciana and Washington González; members of the National Council of the Judiciary; the President of the Senate, Mr. Amable Ariste Castro, Senator for the National District Milagros Ortiz Bosch; the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Rafael Peguero Méndez; the Attorney General of the Republic, Abel Rodríguez del Orbe; the Public Prosecutor for the National District, Guillermo Moreno; the Commissioner for Reform and Modernization of the Justice System, Franklin Almeyda; the Director General of the Office for Women's Promotion, Gladys Gutiérrez; the Director of Migration, Danilo Díaz; and Ambassador Wenceslao Guerrero, in charge of Haitian affairs in the foreign ministry; the Director of Prisons, Col. Bernardo Santana Páez; the Director of the State Sugar Council, Antonio Isa Conde; and the Chief of Police, José Aníbal Sanz Jeminián. The Commission had the excellent collaboration of Ambassador Radhys Polanco, who was designated by the Government of the Dominican Republic as the liaison between the Commission and the government authorities.
Interviews with representatives of international organizations
12. In addition, the Commission met with representatives of international organizations, as follows: Mr. Paulo Oberti, in charge of the United Nations (UN); Mrs. Sonia Muñoz, of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); Osvaldo Legón, of the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Pedro Pimentel, of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Interviews with representatives of non-governmental organizations
13. On June 16, the Special Commission split into two groups to be able to carry out more activities. The first group met with non-governmental agencies and organizations that work on issues having to do with the administration of justice and the prisons, as follows: for the Colegio de Abogados, Domingo Porfirio Rojas Nina; for the Fundación Institucionalidad y Justicia Inc. (FINJUS), Eduardo Jorge Prats, Mr. Félix Olivares Grullón; for the Instituto de Asistencia Jurídica Integral, Inc., Elcido Francisco Esquea González; for the Unión Dominicana para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, Víctor Senio; for the Proyecto Piloto de Defensores Públicos, Rosalía Sosa; for the Fundación de Asistencia Legal a Presos Preventivos, Inc., Jaime Caonabo Terrero, Guillermo Caraballo; for Fundación Solidaridad, Juan Castillo; for the Comité Dominicano de Derechos Humanos, Virgilio Almánzar; the Centro Dominicano de Asesoría e Investigaciones Legales (CEDAIL); for the Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, Manuel Mercedes Medina; for Participación Ciudadana, José Ceballos; and for the Centro Cultural Domínico-Haitiano, Antonio Pol Emil.
Interviews with the representatives of women's groups
14. The second group met with non-governmental agencies and organizations that work on issues relating to the status of women in the Dominican Republic: for the Movimiento de Mujeres Domínico-Haitiana, Inc. (MUDHA), Sonia Pierre; for the Comisión Ecuménica de Trabajadoras Dominicanas, Aranis Reyes; for the Centro de Planificación y Acción Ecuménica, Benito Antonio Cruz; for Participación Ciudadana, Clara Báez and Carmen Imbert Brugal; for the Coordinadora de ONGs del Area de la Mujer, Gladys Piñeiro, Elisa Sánchez, Noemí Roa, and María Díaz; for Identidad, Bienvenida Mendoza; for the Centro de Servicios Legales para las Mujeres, Inc. (CENSEL), Gladys Piñeyro; for the Centro de Investigación Femenina (CIPAF), Sagrada Bujosa and Noemí Scharbay; for APRODEMA, Inoelia Remy; for ASOMIH, Sisa Altidor; for the Centro de Apoyo Aquelarre, Margot Tapia; for COIN, Santos Rosario and Francisco Ferreyra; for the Coordinadora de Mujeres del Cibao, Yolanda Santana; for the Núcleo de Apoyo a la Mujer, Sobeida Cepeda, Susy Pola, and Glenny Amadís.
Interviews with trade union representatives
15. On June 17, the Commission met with representatives of the following trade union organizations: the Confederación Trabajadores Unitaria (Eulogia Familia); the Escuela de Trabajadores y Campesinos (Julio Cabrera); and the Federación de Trabajadores Azucareros y Afines.
Interviews with representatives of Haitian workers
16. Also on June 17, the Commission met with the following representatives of Haitian workers: from the Comisión Ecuménica de Trabajadores Dominicana, Aranis Reyes; from the Pastoral Haitiana, Father Julín; from SIMATRAPLASI, Mr. Nicolás José Lema; from the "Jacques Vieu" Network of Haitian Migrants, José Núñez; from the Centro Buen Samaritano, Joseph Foblas; from the Centro Puente, Pedro Ruqoy; from the Pastoral Haitiana, Eduardo Jean Baptiste; from Alas de Igualdad, Nesly Julien; from the Asociación Amistad Domínico-Haitiano, Ramona Perdomo; from the Pastoral Juvenil, Father Luis Rosario; from the Movimiento Socio-Cultural de los Trabajadores Haitianos (MOSCTHA), Joseph Cherubin; from the Organización de la Defensa de los Moradores de los Bateyes, Inc. (ODEMOBA), Pedro Ignacio Rodríguez Chiappini; for the Servicio Social de Iglesias Dominicanas, Rev. Alfredo Ossers; from the Centro Cultural Domínico Haitiano, Antonio Paul Emitu; for the Movimiento de Mujeres Domínico-Haitiana Inc. (MUDHA), Sonia Pierre.
Interview with the representatives in case 11,324, Narciso González
17. On June 17, the Commission met with Mrs. Luz Altagracia Ramírez de González, the wife of Narciso González, whose disappearance is attributed by the petitioners to the state, and with the members of the Truth Commission who are investigating the case, to wit, Alberto García, Virgilio Almánzar, Darío de Jesús, and Mario Suriel.
Visit to the Bateyes2
18. During its visit, the Commission visited four bateyes: San Joaquín, Culata, and Mata los Indios, near Santo Domingo, and Batey No. 5, in the province of Barahona.
Visits to prisons
19. On June 18, the Commission once again split into two groups. The first group, made up of Ambassador John S. Donaldson, Ambassador Alvaro Tirado Mejía, and attorney Denise Gilman, visited La Victoria, on the outskirts of Santo Domingo. There, the delegation met with the Director of Prisons, Col. Bernardo Santana Páez. Later the Commission went to the city of San Pedro de Macorís to visit the local prison. The purpose of these prison visits was to observe the conditions and the situation of the prisoners.
Visit to the city of Barahona
20. The second group, made up of Dean Claudio Grossman, Ambassador Jorge E. Taiana, Bertha Santoscoy, and Ibrahim García, travelled to the city of Barahona, where they met first with government authorities, including the provincial governor of Barahona, Bolívar De Oleo; the Public Prosecutor, José Enrique Gómez Ramírez; representatives of the health authorities, Dr. Mendoza and David Joseph; Father Edwin Paraisson; the administrator of the Barahona sugar mill, Félix Alcántara; and the representative of CEAJURI, Mr. Esteban Sánchez Díaz.
21. Later, the delegation met with representatives of the following human rights groups, trade unions, church organizations, and mass media: for the Centro de Educación y Asesoría Jurídica (CEAJURI), Esteban Sánchez, Manuel de Jesús Báez, and Miguel Angel; CEDAIL, Comité Regional de Derechos Humanos, Colegio de Abogados; Pastoral Haitiana of the Diocese of Barahona, Centro Puente, Comité de Derechos Humanos de Dominicanos de Ascendencia Haitiana (San Rafael), Alfonso Guevara; Grupo de Lucha por la Democracia y los Derechos Humanos (Batey 9), Sindicato Picadores de Caña Ingenio Barahona (SIPACAIBA), Sindicato Trabajadores Agrícolas (SITRAPLASIB), Central General de Trabajadores/Barahona (CGT), Uribes Castillo; Mujeres de los Bateyes (PROMUS); Organización Feminina del Sur, Antonia Ferrara; Núcleo Solidaridad con Haití, municipality of Paraíso, Mr. Remilio Pérez; Servicio Social Iglesias (SSID), Reformed Christian Church, Baptist Church, Episcopal Church, Father Antonio, Father Avelino Fernández, Father Julín Acosta, Soledad Trinidad (Jimaní), Robert Tourteau (Pedernales/Anse-à-Pitres), CERNES, El Convite newspaper, and Radio Enriquillo.
22. The delegation also visited Batey No. 5 in the province of Barahona to observe the situation of the workers in the sugarcane harvest.
23. By means of a press release, the Commission invited all those persons who considered they had been victims of a human rights violation, as defined in the American Convention on Human Rights, to come to the offices that the Commission set up for that purpose at the Hotel Sheraton in Santo Domingo. The public was received from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. during the days of the on-site visit. All persons who wanted to lodge a complaint or provide information were duly received.
24. The Commission would like to express its gratitude for the facilities offered by the Government of the Dominican Republic during its on-site visit, and acknowledges the cooperation provided by its authorities through the constant information it has provided; this assistance has significantly contributed to the ability of the IACHR to carry out its mission.
25. Similarly, the Commission acknowledges the work done by the non-governmental organizations, whose reports have made it possible for the IACHR to monitor the human rights situation on a daily basis.
E. Executive Summary
26. The Commission values the importance that the Government and civil society in the Dominican Republic attribute to the full observance of human rights. Several issues of great relevance to human rights--judicial reform, for example--are on the country's agenda and are the subject of worthy initiatives on the part of the Government and civil society. In addition, the media reflect the existence of a rich social debate in which ideas are debated regarding the consolidation, expansion, and strengthening of institutions and legal provisions relating to human rights.
27. The Commission is appreciative of the political will and the spirit of modernization with which the Government of President Fernández Reyna has contributed to creating new opportunities and initiatives for the promotion and protection of human rights. Nonetheless, the situation of the Judiciary continues to be critical, including the excessive delays in judicial proceedings and the existence of cumbersome procedures, leading the population to lose faith in the system.
28. The Commission has been able to observe various initiatives aimed at modernizing the Police and their procedures, including: the suspension of roundups the establishment of the right of detainees to place phone calls, the suspension of the procedure of public showing of detainees, and a directive to respect the 48-hour time limit for bringing detainees before the judicial authorities. In addition, the Commission was informed of the measures aimed at educating judicial staff in respect for human rights, such as the use of investigative techniques compatible with human rights.
29. Without prejudice to these initiatives, police conduct continues that includes irregular detentions, mistreatment, requests for illegal payments, abuse of detainees, arbitrary detention of suspects' relatives to force suspects to turn themselves in, excessive use of force, and complaints of extrajudicial executions.
30. The Commission has found that major construction works are under way in the Dominican prison system, including the construction of a new prison and the remodeling of La Victoria prison, the largest in the country. Plans are also in place to refurbish other prisons. At the same time, prisoners in the Dominican Republic live in extremely difficult conditions, including insufficient nutrition, shortages of drinking water, inadequate sanitary facilities, overcrowding, insufficient medical care, problems related to release from prison and bond, lack of rehabilitation, education, and work programs for prisoners, and the failure to separate adults from minors, and convicts from persons being held on criminal charges pending the outcome of the trial.
31. Because of the judicial delays, the vast majority of Dominican prisoners--70% according to the most recent statistics of the General Bureau of Prisons, are being held in preventive detention, and have not been convicted. The Commission notes that the Dominican authorities are aware of this problem and that they are making efforts to improve this serious violation of human rights. One example of a first step in this direction is the fact that the prison population is being reduced pursuant to a decision to release detainees who have been held in preventive detention for longer than would have been the case had they been convicted and given the longest sentence possible for the crime of which they were accused. Although the Commission appreciates this measure, it considers it absolutely insufficient. Preventive detention is a grave violation of the fundamental right to personal liberty.
32. The Commission appreciates the major statutory reforms being introduced with respect to the status of women, and values the advances of the Office for the Promotion of Women, in particular the recently-adopted Law 24-97, on women's rights, which reflects a positive political intent to advance on this issue. That Office is taking important initiatives on the issues of domestic violence, rape and sexual abuse, legal reforms aimed at achieving full equality, and promotional and educational activities.
33. Without prejudice to these advances, there is still a long way to go to guarantee fully the protection of women's rights. The Commission, during its visit, received numerous complaints regarding the trafficking of women for sexual exploitation, lack of adequate action in cases of domestic violence, wage discrimination, and failure to enforce labor laws that protect women.
34. With respect to migrant workers, the Commission learned of the Government's desire to advance in conversations with the Haitian authorities to resolve various issues relating to the migrant workers and population flows. Without prejudice to the value of such initiatives, which should reflect the political will to refrain from adopting unilateral measures in respect of this complex problem, the IACHR must note that the treatment accorded Dominicans of Haitian origin has to do with the responsibility of the Dominican Republic for persons in its territory.
35. During its visit to the bateyes, the Commission was able to observe the precarious and insalubrious conditions in which the Haitian workers and their families live. Much of the housing is inadequate: the lack of hygiene, shortage of drinking water, and overcrowded conditions are very grave problems. Several children have clear signs of malnutrition, and many of them do not go to school, as they stay home to help their parents to attain a sufficient level of sustenance. This creates the tragic cycle in which the future of misery is practically inescapable.
36. The Commission is aware that the conditions of poverty also severely affect other sectors of national life, in addition to Haitian workers. Nonetheless, it should be borne in mind that numerous cane cutters work for the state and reside on state lands and in state facilities. The Commission considers, moreover, that there are problems in the documentation and registration of persons of Haitian origin who are born in the Dominican Republic; and that such individuals must contend with the arbitrary obstacles and attitudes on the part of state officials.
37. The Commission is fully aware that numerous problems that affect the full observance of human rights in the Dominican Republic are not the result of a state policy aimed at violating human rights. As is the case in several countries, in varying degrees the authorities are facing problems that are often structural, cultural patterns inherited from authoritarian experiences, outdated institutions, and a shortage of resources. By virtue of the functions attributed to it by the OAS Charter, the American Convention on Human Rights, and all other applicable international instruments, the Commission expresses its will to collaborate with the Dominican authorities, within the bounds of its jurisdiction, to strengthen the mechanisms for the promotion and defense of human rights, and to advance towards their full observance.
1 See Chapters X and XI of this Report.
2 Huts inhabited by the sugar cane harvesters. They are commonly situated as enclaves near the sugar mills.