Amnesty Reports ‘Alarming’ Police Atrocities in Dominican Republic

Amnesty International has urged authorities in the Dominican Republic to urgently reform their police force to tackle alarming levels of killings and torture, RTTNews reports.

A report it published on Tuesday documents scores of cases of killings, torture and ill-treatment at the hands of police, gathered during three research missions in the country and the lack of effective investigations.

“Authorities must ensure those responsible for the killings and torture face justice and that steps are taken to change the policies and practices that allow these abuses to take place,” said Javier Zúñiga, Head of Amnesty International’s delegation in the Dominican Republic.

“The official view continues to be that human rights violations are committed by a few corrupt or unprofessional officers who are swiftly dealt with and held accountable but the reality paints a very different picture,” says the report titled ‘Shut up if you don’t want to be killed’: Human Rights violations by the police in the Dominican Republic.

According to the Office of the Prosecutor-General, 154 people were killed in the Caribbean country by the police between January and July 2011, in comparison to 125 over the same period in 2010. Ten percent of all the murders recorded in 2010 were committed by the police. Several police officers were also killed.

The vast majority of the fatal shootings were described by the police as “exchanges of gunfire” with criminal suspects. However, in many cases, forensic tests support the allegations that police officers deliberately shot to kill.

The London-based human rights watchdog warns that police killings of young people could be taking place as a deterrent.

“The system for investigations of police abuse in the Dominican Republic is disorganized and lacks proper procedures to handle complaints of human rights violations by the police. Whether a police officer faces justice for a killing or torture depends largely on whether the victim or their family lodges an official complaint, the level of publicity a case attracts and the political pressure exerted on prosecutors,” Zúñiga said.

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