Amnesty deplores police abuse in Dominican Republic

SANTO DOMINGO, (Reuters) – Amnesty International  issued a scathing report on the Dominican Republic today,  saying its national police force was responsible for killing  and torturing with impunity.
The police force was responsible for an average of 15  percent of recorded violent deaths each year in the Dominican  Republic from 2005 to 2010, according to the report.
“That proportion is alarming and raises significant  concerns that police frequently employ disproportionate force  with deadly consequences,” the report said.
The London-based human rights group said police abuse in  the Caribbean nation came against the backdrop of a surge in  violent crime linked to drug trafficking, a proliferation of  firearms and growing social inequality.
It said “hardline policing methods” were contributing to  escalating violence and crime rather than helping to curb it  and that police abuse had flourished due to inadequate  government oversight and reforms.
The Dominican Republic is a nation of 10 million people  that shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with Haiti.
“At the heart of the failure to implement effective reforms  and ensure that Dominicans have the effective policing that  they need is a lack of political will,” Amnesty said.
“Those in power have failed to confront those with a vested  interest in maintaining the current system in which corruption  is deeply rooted and human rights abuses by the police are  pervasive,” the report stated.
Amnesty also said there are no independent institutions  mandated to oversee the police and independently investigate  complaints of police abuses.
National police spokesman Colonel Maximo Baez denied that  police act with impunity in the Dominican Republic, saying 156  officers had been discharged and sanctioned for acting outside  the law or alleged misconduct this year alone.
“The findings are prejudicial because we weren’t consulted  to hear our version of each of the facts cited,” Baez said of  the Amnesty report.
In addition to what it described as widespread police  torture of criminal suspects, Amnesty said there was evidence  to suggest that some killings by the police were so-called  “extrajudicial executions.”
“A significant number of allegations of extrajudicial  executions are reported in the context of the policing of  demonstrations,” it said.
“In some cases, police shootings injure or kill bystanders  or people living nearby. In a few cases, there is evidence to  suggest that police killings were intended to eliminate  witnesses to unlawful killings,” the report added.
In other cases, it said the killings may have been aimed at  “eliminating repeat offenders” or linked to “reprisals by  corrupt officers against their former criminal associates.”
The National Police said 2,367 people had been killed by  its officers from 2005 through 2010, according to the report.

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