The 2015 Constitution of the Dominican Republic protects fundamental human rights. Article 37 guarantees the right to life, providing that: "The right to life is inviolable from conception until death." Human dignity is protected in Article 38:
The State bases itself on respect for the dignity of the person and organizes itself for the real and effective protection of the fundamental rights that are inherent to it.
The dignity of the human being is sacred, innate, and inviolable; its respect and protection constitute an essential responsibility of the public powers.
Article 42 prohibits torture and stipulates that: "All people have the right to have their physical, psychic, moral integrity and the right to live without violence respected.
Freedom of assembly is guaranteed in Article 48:
All persons have the right to meet, without prior permission, with lawful and peaceful purposes, in accordance with the law.
Chapter II of Title XII of the Constitution governs the National Police. According to Article 255:
The National Police is an armed, technical, profession body of a police nature, under the authority of the President of the Republic, obedient to civil power, without party ties and without the ability, in any case, to deliberate. The National Police has as its mission:
1. To safeguard the citizen security.
2. To prevent and control crimes.
3. To pursue and investigate criminal infractions, under the legal direction of the appropriate authority.
4. To maintain the public order in order to protect the free exercise of the rights of people and the peaceful coexistence in accordance with the Constitution and the laws.
Article 257 states that: "The National Police shall have a police disciplinary regime applicable to those faults that do not constitute infractions of the criminal police regime."
|1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||State Party|
|ICCPR Optional Protocol 1||State Party|
|1984 Convention against Torture (CAT)||State Party|
|Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints||No|
|CAT Optional Protocol 1||Not party|
|1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court||State Party|
|1948 Charter of the Organization of American States||State Party|
|1969 Inter-American Convention on Human Rights||State Party|
|Competence of Inter-American Court on Human Rights||Yes|
Police Use of Force
Police use of force is governed by the 2016 Organic Act on the National Police (No. 590-16). According to Article 14:
The use of force will only be lawful as a last resort and in compliance with the criteria of opportunity, coherence and proportionality, in accordance the Constitution of the Republic, laws and regulations.
Article 55 governs the use of force and specifically the use of firearms, only allowing use in accordance with Basic Principle 9 of the 1990 Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. This is the international legal standard for use of firearms.The Spanish text reproduces the error contained in the Spanish version of the 1990 Basic Principles referring to "intentional use of lethal weapons when strictly unavoidable to protect life" instead of "intentional lethal use of firearms" only when strictly unavoidable to protect life.
There is no independent civilian police oversight body in the Dominican Republic. The Inspector General’s Office and the Internal Affairs Directorate are responsible for overseeing compliance with the law and domestic regulations by the National Police.
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its 2017 Concluding Observations on the Dominican Republic, the Human Rights Committee expressed its concern
at reports of police brutality and the excessive use of force by law enforcement personnel, in particular the national police. It is further concerned at reports of the large number of extrajudicial executions
The Committee called on the Dominican Republic to
take the necessary steps to combat the excessive use of force by law enforcement personnel. It should ensure that the regulations on the use of force and the application thereof are fully in line with international standards, including the Covenant and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, and that law enforcement personnel are trained in these standards and apply them in practice.
Juan Almonte Herrera v. Dominican Republic (2020)
In its 2020 report on the case, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights declared admissible the case, which concerned the alleged enforced disappearance, torture, and summary execution of Mr Herrera by the police. The petitioners state that based on information from eye witnesses the alleged victim died on 3 October 2009 from the torture inflicted on him by the head of police during an interrogation. They allege that, according to that testimony, the police chief "shot him in the head causing brain matter to be blown out of his nostrils" and then other police officer tried to take the alleged victim and another unknown person to the Plaza de Salud hospital, but both victims died on the way there. The witnesses also told the petitioners that the police officers cremated the bodies in the Batey Yagua community.
Nadege Dorzema and others v. Dominican Republic (2012)
This case relates to the excessive use of force by Dominican soldiers against a group of Haitians, in which seven persons lost their life and several more were injured. The case was adjudicated under the military justice system in the Dominican Republic, which acquitted the soldiers involved. The facts of the case as verified by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that on June 18, 2000, a yellow truck transporting approximately 30 Haitian nationals in Dominican territory, failed to stop at a checkpoint in Botoncillo. Dominican agents pursued the truck for several kilometers and fired shots at the vehicle, killing four people and injuring several more. Another person lost his life when the truck subsequently turned over, and several others ran for their lives; at that point the agents opened fire killing two more people. Six Haitian nationals and a Dominican national died and at least 10 others were injured. Some of the survivors were taken to a hospital, without being registered or treated adequately, and the remaining survivors were detained and taken to the Border Intelligence Operations Base in Montecristi. The corpses of the Haitians who died were buried in a mass grave, and have not been repatriated or returned to their next of kin.
The Court considered that in cases where the use of force becomes essential, it must be used in keeping with the principles of legality, absolute necessity and proportionality. In this case, neither the legality nor the absolute necessity of the lethal use of force during the pursuit was proved. The Court held that this was not the case because the State was not preventing an attack or imminent danger. Consequently, the disproportionate use of force by its law enforcement officials engaged the responsibility of the State with the Court concluding that the State had violated the right to life of the five victims that died during the pursuit and the extrajudicial execution of two victims who ran after the vehicle turned over.
In 2016 and 2017, according to the Government of the Dominican Republic, national bodies investigated a total of 585 cases of possible excessive use of force by police officers and "systematically pursued them to prosecution".