International pressure is mounting on the government of the Dominican Republic for the worsening human rights abuses in its justice system. The latest in a growing series of international repercussions will happen this week before the most prestigious regional human rights monitor for the Americas.

Citing “inertia and negligence” by the government in response to worsening human rights violations in the justice system, the Dominican National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) has secured a public hearing this week before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

CNDH president Jesús María Mercedes announced his group, a leading independent human rights organization in the DR, will raise the alarming facts from its latest report that over 80% of the inmates in Dominican prisons are held under preventive detention and there has been a “deterioration in prison conditions” with a 12,000-inmate capacity are holding almost 26,000 currently, with “about 13,000” living in “overcrowding and inhuman conditions.”

All of their human rights as established under the minimum rules of the United Nations for treatment of detainees are being violated,” said Mercedes in a statement. Due to the lack of response from the government to “constant human rights complaints”, the CNDH “see ourselves obliged to interrogate the Dominican state” before international bodies, starting at the IACHR, which is the human rights monitoring arm of the Organization of American States (OAS).

United Nations Has Condemned Top Public Ministry Officials

This week’s public hearing follows a bombshell legal opinion issued in November by the United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), which condemned the Abinader government for practicing arbitrary arrest.

The WGAD concluded that prosecutors Yeni Berenice and Wilson Camacho of the Special Prosecutor’s Office for the Prosecution of Administrative Corruption (PEPCA), “orchestrated” a “public discredit campaign” and “systematically interrupted” the right to a defense to former Attorney General Jean Alain Rodriguez Sanchez.

The Dominican Justice Initiative sent a letter to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (U.N.) Linda Thomas-Greenfield urging the Biden Administration follow through on the U.N.’s condemnation the actions of the Dominican government. The letter states, “according to public records and reports in the Dominican Republic’s media, Ms. Berenice Reynoso has carried out identical or similar actions detailed in the WGAD decision against in dozens of other individuals in other cases.”

International Legal Peril Increasing

The IACHR response to the human rights abuses in the Dominican justice system could widen as it gains greater knowledge of the scale of violations taking place, and the complaints continue to escalate. Denial of due process, a fair trial and humane treatment while depriving people of their liberty are not only prohibited by UN human rights provisions but also multiple sections of Articles 5,7 and 8 of the American Convention on Human Rights.

The IACHR has a mandate to examine reports of such violations by member states like the Dominican Republic, and bring cases before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Dominican officials responsible for these human rights violations will face serious legal consequences should cases be brought before the regional international court.

Wrongful Detention of U.S. Nationals by Abinader Government

Despite calls from Congressional leaders to determine how many Americans are being wrongfully detained by the Dominican government and to investigate DOJ funding of programs that are unlawfully detaining Americans, the Biden Administration’s “double standard” persists, and a blind eye is turned to the Dominican Republic.

In a recent letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul raised deep concerns around the fact that the Americans – both citizens and legal permanent residents – have been caught up in the preventive detention crisis. Chairman McCaul expressed alarm that the State Department “does not have a complete accounting of the number of Americans that are currently imprisoned in the country.”

Chairman McCaul’s concerns were echoed by U.S. Representative Troy Nehls in a letter to the Inspector General of the Department of Justice, questioning whether U.S. tax dollars were being used to wrongfully detain U.S. nationals in the Dominican Republic. Representative Nehls was rightly concerned that taxpayer funds are “being used to unreasonably deny the due process rights of American citizens and legal residents living outside the U.S.”

In a recent opinion editorial in the influential Daily Signal, Steven Bucci – a former Army Special Forces officer and Pentagon official – criticized the Biden Administration’s selective application of its commitments to bring home “every wrongfully detained American” as the preventive detention crisis in the Dominican Republic writing that “In 2022, President Joe Biden issued an executive order declaring a national emergency that ‘the wrongful detention of United States nationals abroad constitute[s] an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.’”

The executive order charges Secretary Blinken and the State Department to designate or identify officials of foreign governments “who are involved, directly or indirectly, in wrongful detention,” however, the Biden Administration does not seem to be taking its own “national emergency” seriously as no such list exists even a year after the order was issued.

The Dominican Republic, according to Bucci, “should be at the top of any list” for its decades-long preventive detention crisis. “According to the executive order, the Secretary of State should be working to ‘secure the release of those held as hostages or wrongfully detained,’ whether they are citizens or lawful permanent residents” he adds, but there is currently no accounting from the Biden Administration to determine how many U.S. nationals are being held in the Dominican Republic.