SANTO DOMINGO, (Reuters) – Amnesty International issued a scathing report on the Dominican Republic yesterday, 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.