The Dominican Republic’s Lengthy History of Human Rights Violations
As far back as 1999, the Organization of American States (OAS) strongly criticized the Dominican Republic’s use of preventive detention for infringing on due process rights, as well as “prolonged detention cases” which violate “the right of presumption of innocence guaranteed by Article 8(2)” of the American Convention on Human Rights.
The OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) noted in its 1999 report that 70 percent of prisoners were detained in preventive detention in September 1999. In 2005 the Washington Post reported that “most of those held in preventive detention never see a courtroom.”
In 25 Years, Nothing Has Changed
An April 2023 report from the Dominican legal aid agency National Office of Public Defense (ONDP) shows that in 24 years, nothing has changed – up to 70 percent of all detainees in DR prisons are currently behind bars under an order of “preventive prison” – detained for months or years without knowing the charges and much less the evidence against them.
Worse yet, the DR’s prisons at 164 percent capacity, and detainees without access to due process face “cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment and lack of access to medical care,” according to ONDP director Rodolfo Valentín Santos.
Luis Henry Molina, President of the Supreme Court of Justice in the Dominican Republic, described the humanitarian situation that exists in the DR’s prisons as “alarming” and a “constant concern for the Judiciary, as it should be for the entire state and society in general.”
In its 2022 Human Rights Report, the U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic put a spotlight on the dire penal situation in the DR, stating that the length of pretrial detentions often “equaled or exceeded the maximum sentence for the alleged crime, with some detentions reportedly lasting years.”