Dominican Republic 2017/2018
Limited progress was made in solving the statelessness crisis. Abortion remained criminalized in all circumstances. Excessive use of force by the police and gender-based violence continued.
The Dominican Republic suffered from a series of natural disasters that hit the Caribbean during the year, including two major hurricanes in September. This, along with previous flooding earlier in the year, left tens of thousands of people temporarily displaced and badly damaged infrastructure. Like many small, developing island states, the Dominican Republic remained very vulnerable to climate change, which scientists linked to the increasingly extreme weather. On 21 September, the Dominican Republic ratified the UN Paris Agreement on climate change.
Allegations that several Dominican officials were bribed by the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht triggered massive country-wide demonstrations against corruption under the Green March movement. In September, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held a public hearing on the issue of “human rights and reports of impunity and corruption in the Dominican Republic”.
In May, the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children visited the country. She urged the government to put child protection at the core of any tourism strategy.
Discrimination – stateless persons
The Dominican Republic continued to fail to uphold its international human rights obligations with respect to the large number of stateless people born in the country who were retroactively and arbitrarily deprived of their Dominican nationality in September 2013.1
Law 169-14, adopted in May 2014 to address the statelessness crisis, continued to be poorly implemented. According to official statistics, only 13,500 people of the so-called “Group A” created by the law (out of an official estimate of 61,000 individuals) were able to access some sort of Dominican identity document proving their Dominican nationality. In the meantime, many had their original birth certificates nullified and their new ones transferred to a separate civil registry without the necessary measures in place to avoid further discrimination.
The naturalization plan established by Law 169-14 for people in “Group B” (those whose birth was never registered in the Dominican Civil Registry) had made little or no progress during the year. Of the 8,755 individuals who were able to register under the new plan (16% of the estimated 53,000 people in Group B, according to the government), it was believed that as few as 6,545 had had their files approved by the authorities by the end of the year. The law required a two-year waiting period after the approval of the registration for them to be able to formally request their naturalization as Dominicans. By the end of the year no one was known to have been naturalized under the new plan. Most of the individuals affected remained stateless in the absence of another nationality.
During the year, the authorities failed to discuss, design or implement new solutions to guarantee the right to nationality for the tens of thousands of Dominican-born people who could not benefit from Law 169-14, in particular the remaining 84% of those in Group B, and all those who were left out of the scope of the 2014 legislation.
Responding to this situation, in April the IACHR incorporated the Dominican Republic in Chapter IV.B of its annual report that included countries in need of special human rights attention.
By the end of the year, no public official had been held accountable for discriminatory practices in granting registration and identity documents, including for the 2013 mass arbitrary deprivation of nationality. Affected people continued to be denied a range of human rights and were prevented from accessing higher education, formal employment or adequate health care, among other things.
Police and security forces
The Office of the Prosecutor General reported 110 killings by security forces between January and October. The circumstances around many of the killings suggested that they may have been unlawful. The homicide rate remained high, at nearly 16 per 100,000 inhabitants during the first half of the year.
The media reported allegations of the repeated use of unnecessary and excessive force by the police during social protests.
Refugees’ and migrants’ rights
The authorities remained unable to process most of the cases of irregular migrants that they received during the National Regularization Plan for Foreigners with Irregular Migration Status that operated between 2014 and 2015. As a result, in July the authorities renewed for a further year the temporary “regularization carnets” issued to registered individuals, allowing them to stay in the country.
Sexual and reproductive rights
The Dominican Republic remained one of the few countries worldwide that criminalized abortion without exception.
In May the Senate voted against a proposal, supported by President Medina, to decriminalize abortion.2 On 11 July the Senate’s vote was rejected by the Chamber of Deputies, providing the possibility of future reforms that would protect the rights of women and girls.3
In August, a petition was presented to the IACHR seeking justice and reparation for the death in 2012 of 16-year-old Rosaura Almonte Hernández, publicly known as “Esperancita”. Because of the country’s restrictive legislation on abortion, Rosaura Almonte Hernández, who was seven weeks pregnant, was denied life-saving treatment for leukaemia for several days and died shortly after.
An investigation published in August by the NGO Women’s Link Worldwide found that one woman died every two days in the Dominican Republic during the first half of 2017 from pregnancy-related causes due to the lack of access to quality maternal health services.
Violence against women and girls
According to official statistics, the first half of the year saw a 21% increase in the number of killings of women and girls, compared with the same period in 2016.
Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people
The Dominican Republic continued to lack legislation to combat hate crimes. In June, the body of a transgender woman, Rubi Mori, was found dismembered in wasteland.4 By the end of the year, no one had been brought to justice for her killing.
- Dominican Republic: What does it take to solve a statelessness crisis? (News story, 23 May)
- Dominican Republic: Vote against decriminalization of abortion, a betrayal to women (Press release, 1 June)
- República Dominicana: Amnistía Internacional y Oxfam llaman a Cámara de Diputados a garantizar derechos de las mujeres (AMR 27/6605/2017); Dominican Republic: Further information - Congress rejects regressive abortion reform (AMR 27/6724/2017); Dominican Republic: Further information: Abortion vote pending after President’s veto (AMR 27/5478/2017)
- Dominican Republic: Horrifying killing of transgender woman highlights need for protection against discrimination (News story, 6 June)