House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman (HFAC) Michael McCaul criticized the Biden administration in a letter sent to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken for failing to know the current number of U.S. Citizen and Legal Permanent Residents held under the guise of ‘preventive detention’ in the Dominican Republic.

In his letter, Chairman McCaul expressed concern over the “long standing problem” of preventive detention in the country and an apparent “disconnect” between Washington and the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo on responding to it.

McCaul’s letter reflects concerns expressed by Mario H. Lopez, president of the Hispanic Leadership Fund and founder of the Dominican Justice Initiative, in his letter to Secretary Blinken. Lopez wrote that there is a “strong likelihood” that U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents are “denied basic due process rights while they languish in an overcrowded Dominican prison.”

Chairman McCaul is right to be concerned. It is time to end the excessive use of preventive detention in the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Justice Initiative will continue to highlight the DR’s violations basic due process and human rights.

Read Chairman McCaul’s letter here.

President Luis Abinader Responds

In a television interview last night, President Luis Abinader expressed his government’s willingness to respond to any concerns that Chairman McCaul and other U.S. authorities may have.

At the same time, President Abinader minimized the very serious humanitarian crisis that is occurring on his watch. As the Dominican Justice Initiative has highlighted, the problem of preventive detention has been endemic in the DR for years.

When he was elected, President Abinader promised change was coming to the Dominican Republic. This is an opportunity to finally stem the rampant human rights abuses and violations of due process rights in the DR.

In December, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution introduced by Senators Robert Menendez, Marco Rubio, Ben Cardin, and Bill Cassidy which reaffirmed and strengthened the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and the DR. The resolution recognized that the two countries share a “mutual commitment to the promotion of internationally recognized human rights, democratic values, and the rule of law.” It’s time to make sure that the DR is living up to that commitment.   

Meanwhile, DR Prosecutor Champions Preventive Detention

In an X thread, yesterday, Wilson Camacho, the Deputy Public Prosecutor in Pepca (Prosecutor’s Office Against Administrative Corruption) mocks those imprisoned, their families and Chairman McCaul when he states there is no need to fear the discussion about preventive detention.”

Camacho doesn’t want you to know that most of those languishing in preventive detention never see the inside of a courtroom. Nor does he want you to know that many of those in the DR’s jails are sleeping on floors, dying of hypertension, wondering if they’ll ever see a judge.

Judges and prosecutors like Camacho are directly responsible for abusing preventive detention procedures. OAS has reported that this has been a problem since 1999. Preventive prison leads to overcrowding in prisons. Defensa Publica reports that the DR’s prisons are at 164% capacity.

As Luis Henry Molina, President of the Judiciary and the Supreme Court of Justice, states, prompt justice must be the goal, not preventive detention. The “fundamental rights and dignity” of the Dominican people must be respected. 

The obligatory question is: Will the Dominican justice system – led by the likes of Camacho – respect the due process rights of the accused or will it continue to violate international rules and norms, and event Dominican laws?