Survivors of police abuse in the Dominican Republic speak out

By Chiara Liguori, with Amnesty International’s team in the Dominican Republic

Eduardo has severe burnings on his belly and his right leg. He has also lost some of the hearing in his left hear and suffers from unbearable headaches after his skull was fractured.

Bruveiker (“Bruvi”) has immense trouble walking after he was shot in the lower back, the bullet piercing his intestine and penis.

Pedro has lost hearing in his left ear and his sense of balance has been altered.

Humberto has four pins in his left leg, after he fractured his femur.

All four men have one thing in common: they were all abused by the police in the Dominican Republic.

And they are not the only ones.

According to official figures, between January and July this year, 154 people were killed by the police in the Dominican Republic – up from 125 over the same period in 2010.

I met these men as part of an Amnesty International delegation visiting the Dominican Republic to publish a report documenting the alarming levels of police violence in the country.

On 2 October 2011 in the town of Bahiahibe, in the east of the country, a police officer hit Eduardo Concepción Portorreal behind his left ear with a gun when he questioned his friend’s arrest.

Eduardo fainted and woke up a few hours later, only to find he was covered in burns. Witnesses said that while Eduardo was unconscious, the police officer burnt him with a hot engine part from his vehicle. The police officer was later arrested for the abuse.

Bruveiker Baldes Reinoso was shot by a police officer in the courtyard of his aunt’s house on 7 October 2011 in the town of Higuey, also in the east of the country. He was hiding there to escape police gunfire after he resisted arrest. The police officer shot him from behind, although he had his hands in the air and begged for mercy.

On 13 October 2011 in San Cristóbal, in southern Dominican Republic, a police officer beat Pedro Arias Roja in his head while arresting him on suspicion of stealing a firearm. In the police station, several officers placed a plastic bag over Pedro’s head and beat him even further.

Humberto Cabrera was in his house in La Romana, eastern Dominican Republic, when four plainclothes police officers from the anti-narcotics department came to arrest him on 17 September 2011. When he questioned his arrest, a police officer shot him in the leg. The police dragged him outside and one of them jumped on his wounded leg.

These men’s lives have been forever marked by the abuse and their suffering is hard to imagine.

None of them know if they will ever be able to fully recover from their injuries. They are all currently unable to work and cannot afford the huge medical bills for the treatment they need. They have not received any compensation for what was done to them.

None of those responsible for the abuse inflicted on these men has faced justice.

The pain the National Police inflicted on these men is visible and tangible.

Our research has found that Dominican National Police is responsible for unlawful killings, arbitrary detentions, torture and other ill-treatment of detainees.

But the Dominican authorities are in denial. The day before we met the victims, high-ranking members of the National Police told us there is no torture in the Dominican Republic and all cases of abuses are immediately investigated. Many say the rising levels of crime and violence justifies a hard-line policing approach.

It is in the name of Eduardo, Bruvi, Pedro and Humberto – as well as the numerous other victims of police abuse – that we continue to do this work. Maybe the police and other state institutions do not want to hear their stories, but we will be telling them.

Read more:Dominican Republic urged to tackle alarming levels of police abuse (Press release, 25 October 2011)
‘Shut up if you don’t want to be killed!’: Human rights violations by police in the Dominican Republic (Report, 25 October 2011)