The United Nations has released an explosive condemnation of the Dominican Republic’s use of preventive detention and complete disregard for the rule of law. The UN’s Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) found that the Dominican government’s behavior in the case of former Attorney General Jean Rodríguez Sánchez violated Articles 3, 8, 9, 10 and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 2, 9, 10 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Human Rights.

The practice of preventive detention by Dominican prosecutors violated the “right to a fair trial” and stated that “preventive detention must be the exception and not the norm.” In the strongest possible terms, the WGAD also condemned the “persecution” carried out by the Public Ministry’s Yeni Berenice Reynoso, the Head of the Prosecution Directorate of the Public Ministry, and raised questions about the independence of the Dominican justice system.

Part of the WGAD’s role is to “investigate cases of deprivation of liberty imposed arbitrarily or inconsistently” with the standards established by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The WGAD asserts that its opinions are “legally-binding to the extent that they are based on binding international law” and are“considered as authoritative by prominent international and regional judicial institutions.” In any case, the UN body has shined light the Dominican Republic’s excessive use of preventive detention and exposed the Public Ministry’s willful disregard for basic tenets of due process.

The adopted opinion shines light the Dominican Republic’s excessive use of preventive detention and exposed the Public Ministry’s willful disregard for basic tenets of due process.

The UN’s findings also confirm the concerns that House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul raised in his letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, which called into question the “serious criminal justice issues” including the “long standing problem” of preventive detention. Chairman McCaul’s letter raised the question of how many Americans have been caught in the Dominican web of injustice prompting Representative Troy Nehls to ask the Department of Justice Inspector General to investigate if any programs “are supporting entities in the Dominican Republic that implement preventive detention polices resulting in U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents imprisoned in the Dominican Republic without charge.”

UN Condemns Human Rights Violations by Yeni Berenice Reynoso

The WGAD’s report singles out Yeni Berenice Reynoso, as being the “protagonist” of a “public discredit campaign” that she “orchestrated” from the Public Ministry, and “systemically interrupted” the right to a defense. These acts were in “violation of articles 2 and 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 2, paragraph 1, and article 26 of the Covenant.”

Indeed, the Public Ministry has denied that there is any problem with preventive detention, but its actions along with the judges that permitted them led the WGAD to refer the case to “to the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers” given its inability “to consider that the judicial authority in charge of the detention of Mr. Rodríguez Sánchez is independent and impartial.”

The report stated that the Dominican government wouldn’t participate or respond cooperatively with the investigation. Instead, it responded after the report went public with a politically charged press release co-signed by Berenice Reynoso that attacked the legitimacy of the UN Working Group. Berenice said the WGAD decision “constitutes a serious interference that threatens the independence of the judiciary of the Dominican Republic” attacks the entire UN system, and dismisses any claims of human rights violations as “blackmail.”

President Biden and Secretary Blinken Can No Longer Turn a Blind Eye

The WGAD urged the Dominican government to “carry out a thorough and independent investigation” into the circumstances surrounding Rodríguez Sánchez’s arbitrary detention and “take appropriate measures against those responsible for the violation of his rights.” The Dominican government has six months to take steps to address the violations raised in the WGAD’s decision, although the posture of the Public Ministry and the statements from Berenice Reynoso make it clear that they have no intention to do so.

Dominican judges and jurists, Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and now the United Nations Human Rights Council have pointed out what is abundantly clear: the Dominican Republic’s criminal justice system is rife with politicization and regularly violates due process rights.

The excessive use of preventive detention is a desperate situation that has gone unaddressed for over 25 years. The Biden administration can no longer ignore the continued abuse of human rights and disregard for international law in the Dominican Republic.