Police in the Dominican Republic account for 10% of all killings in the country, where crime rates have soared in the past few years. There have been reports of unlawful killings, abuses of people in police custody, and even reports of enforced disappearance.
Image Courtesy of BBC News
Between January and July of 2011, the police killed 154 people, according to Amnesty International. This number is up from 125 people during the same period last year.
The police contend these killings were always during “exchanges of gunfire” with criminal suspects, but the report finds that many situations involved deliberate shots to kill.
Colonel Maximo Aybar is the National Police spokesperson in the Dominican Republic. He insists that the police are committed to protecting the public, telling CNN, “We are more than aware that we are here to defend members of society, not to assault them. . . . In those cases where excesses may have been committed, investigations have occurred and measures have been taken.”
The police point out that they have been the victims of these violent exchanges. Ninety-seven officers have been killed this year, and 176 have been injured.
Beyond the killings on the street, Amnesty International reports that while in police custody, suspects have been threatened with death, denied food and water, beaten, had plastic bags put over their heads, or were hung on nails by their handcuffs. At least two people last seen in police custody have gone missing. The Washington Post reports that these instances are investigated, but not very thoroughly.
The police may be using the killings to deter young locals from engaging in future violence. Javier Zuniga, head of Amnesty International’s delegation to the Dominican Republic said, “We believe their conduct is actually exacerbating the violence and creating a climate in which human rights are completely ignored,” reported BBC News.
Via Impunity Watch.
- Amnesty: Killings by Dominican police ‘alarming’ (cnn.com)
- Killings by Dominican police ‘alarming,’ says Amnesty (news.blogs.cnn.com)
- Amnesty: Dominican police torture, kill people (sfgate.com)
- Dominican police ‘using violence’ (bbc.co.uk)
- Amnesty: Dominican police torture, kill people (seattletimes.nwsource.com)