Germán’s Comments Cast Doubt About the Independence of Her Office

The Attorney General of the Dominican Republic, Miriam Germán Brito, told a group of media executives last that she will leave her position on August 16, indicating she was sidelined by others within the Public Ministry on key actions, including public statements by her own office.

A local media outlet reported that in the meeting with the press, Germán “expressed her discontent with some processes that took place inside the institution, giving as an example that ‘there are announcements from the Public Ministry itself that were learned about through the media.’”

Germán suggested that such announcements included the lengthy press release issued in the name of her office last week that threatened critics of the Public Ministry with retaliation. The statement implicated the Dominican Justice Initiative – a U.S. organization.  DJI subsequently denounced it as an act of transnational repression and was called “an attack on the free press” by the Dominican media. Germán told the media executives: “I would never allow nor would I act against the freedom of expression.”

Germán refused to take accountability for the internationally condemned conditions inside the Dominican prison system, dismissing it as an “inherited evil.” Germán also reiterated that she believes preventive detention should be an exception rather than the standard practice of her own Public Ministry which has been widely condemned as a violation of human rights by the U.S State Department, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

Comments Raise Questions on Independence

Human rights advocates will lament Germán’s departure given her public defense of human rights. But her comments last week raise further questions on the independence of the Public Ministry. The litany of public disagreements she expressed were notable in contrast with many of the Public Ministry’s documented human rights abuses and violations of Dominican and international laws. There is no known evidence that Germán ever took action to stop the human rights abuses being committed by the Public Ministry or align its practices with Dominican and international law.

This was particularly evident in Germán’s reaction to the persecution of a judge by one of her own prosecutors, where the Attorney General proposed that the Public Ministry investigate itself rather than submit to an independent probe.

Last November, the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) referred evidence to U.N. Special Rapporteur Margaret Satterthwaite based on its opinion that the “judicial authority” of the Dominican Republic could not be considered “to be independent and impartial when it has refused to examine, discuss and answer the allegations relative to the arbitrary detention and appeals presented” in a case it examined last year.

U.S. Funding in Spotlight

Germán’s departure comes amidst the worsening of human rights abuses in the Dominican justice system and questions about its independence casts a spotlight on continued U.S. funding support for the Public Ministry.

The most recent annual State Department and IACHR reports on human rights in the Dominican Republic highlighted severe violations, including overcrowded prisons, arbitrary arrest, prolonged preventive detentions, and failure to combat child exploitation. Without strict conditions ensuring accountability and concrete actions to address these human rights issues, continued funding from USAID could be seen as endorsing a flawed and abusive system. Thus, it is essential for the U.S. to reassess its financial commitments to the DR to ensure they are contingent upon substantial human rights improvements.