VII. FREEDOM OF THOUGHT AND EXPRESSION
59. In its 1999 report, the Inter-American Commission observed that freedom of expression and thought were respected, in general, in the Dominican Republic. Furthermore, it mentioned that the media revealed the existence of a lively debate, and were fully free to exchange ideas on the consolidation, expansion, and strengthening of human rights institutions and provisions. At the same time the Commission said that access to information was an essential requirement for individuals to be able to learn of and respond to actions taken in the public and private sectors. Therefore, the Commission recommended that the Dominican state adopt measures that make possible a broad exchange of public information, including the state offices forwarding information to the communications media on issues that affect the population.
60. In that connection, the State informed the Inter-American Commission that, “freedom of thought and expression is a right not only recognized by our laws, but also enjoyed fully by all the inhabitants of our country. Human rights defense groups regularly make public denunciations in the many different national media, particularly with respect to the conduct of the security forces, judicial supervision and the reform…” The Commission would like to point out that neither its Secretariat nor the Office of the Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression received complaints of violations of the rights of the media in the period covered by this report.
61. In its 1999 Report on the Situation of Human Rights in the Dominican Republic, the IACHR valued and supported the process of modernization of the Dominican prisons; nonetheless, it reiterated its concern over the extremely difficult conditions Dominican prisoners continued to face, including insufficient food, scarcity of drinking water and beds, inadequate sanitary facilities, overcrowding, insufficient medical care, and lack of rehabilitation, education, and work programs. The Commission recommended to the Dominican State that it adopt the necessary measures to guarantee that prisoners be treated with the dignity inherent to them as human beings, mentioning that the physical conditions of the prisons should guarantee appropriate food and medical care.
62. The Dominican State reported that the General Bureau of Prisons was currently in charge of 32 facilities and in August 2001 the prison population numbered 16,036 inmates. According to the reply of the State, among the main measures designed to relieve chronic overpopulation in prisons had been an increase in holding capacity and remodeling of existing facilities. Thus, for instance, in the Judicial Department of Santo Domingo, additional holding capacity was built in March 2001 for a further 880 prisoners, and the construction of two new prisons with capacity for 2,800 inmates was set to begin shortly.
63. The State mentioned other measures adopted to get rid of prison overcrowding: a) more people were granted a presidential pardon; b) an increase in the release of infirm prisoners (25 inmates in 2001); c) the instructions of the Attorney General to the representatives of the Public Ministry only to appeal court decisions when strictly necessary; d) procurement of new vehicles to ensure the transportation of prisoners to the courts; and, e) more frequent paroling of prisoners, as well as greater respect in abidance with writs of habeas corpus. According to the Government these measures had brought about a substantial reduction of the prison population and 1,000 inmates were freed in 2001.
64. The Government said that the current administration had improved health conditions and food for prisoners. Food and drinking water supply conformed to international standards. Prison Wardens had been instructed how to purify water and food was supplied by the State soupkitchens in every prison in the country. Further, more than 10,000 mattresses had been distributed and pump trucks were being sent to clean septic tanks. The Government also mentioned that 21 of the 32 prisons in the country had been assigned health personnel.
65. Among its recommendations the Commission mentioned the widespread practice of preventive detention, and said that it constituted a flagrant violation of the American Convention and aggravated the overcrowding of Dominican prisons. The Commission recommended that the State adopt the measures needed to correct the chronic delays that persisted in the administration of justice, which should include that all detainees who have not been tried within a reasonable time should be released without prejudice to the continuation of their trial.
66. In that respect, the State said in its reply that the Commissioner for the Reform and Modernization of the Justice System had set up a Public Defenders Program to provide legal assistance to inmates in the country. This program came in addition to the recent institution of Public Defenders (Abogados de Oficio), as well as ongoing University Programs for Legal Assistance (Programas Universitarios de Asistencia Legal). The Public Defenders Program provides assistance to prisoners from the moment they are deprived of their liberty. The Government also mentioned that the General Bureau of Prisons was periodically carrying out Legal Assistance Operations (Operativos Jurídicos) designed to expedite judicial proceedings by helping inmates with their procedural formalities. It was also investigating and punishing complaints of mistreatment of prisoners.
67. In its recommendations, the Commission urged the Dominican State to adopt the measures needed to guarantee that persons accused but not tried be separated from convicts. It also urged the Dominican State to adopt special measures in the case of vaginal inspections of women who were visiting their family members, which should be allowed only when authorized by a judicial order and performed exclusively by health professionals. By the same token, it recommended that the practice of confining minors with adults should be halted immediately.
68. In this respect, the State reported that the General Bureau of Prisons was studying new methods to search prison visitors. As to the separation of minors, the State said that in 2001 the current authorities had opened the Center of Legal Assistance for Minors in Conflict with the Law at Najayo Prison, San Cristóbal, which was staffed with specialized personnel and had the necessary infrastructure to rehabilitate young offenders. The State also informed that the Women’s Conjugal Cellblock had recently been opened at Najayo, to enable the women inmates to have conjugal visits.
69. Also in its recommendations in the 1999 report, the Inter-American Commission highlighted the importance of creating a Prison School to train a body of civil service personnel to work in the prisons and to strengthen the civilian administration of the prisons. Similarly, the IACHR said it was important to establish a program for rehabilitation and education in the country's prisons.
With respect to the foregoing, the Dominican Government said in its
reply that each of the country’s prisons was under the control of a
prison warden, who is a civil servant appointed by the Executive
Branch. In practice, however, due to administrative shortcomings, as
well as to poor training of prison staff, the heads of security of
71. With respect to prisoner rehabilitation and education programs, the State mentioned that various measures had been taken, such as the Agreement on Technical Advisory Services between the General Bureau of Prisons and the Ministry of Agriculture, with the aim to carry out programs for growing fruit and vegetables, both for consumption by prisoners and for sale. By the same token, the Government reported that a variety of job training courses were being offered to prisoners, together with literacy programs, primary and secondary education, and specialization courses, in order to enable them become reintegrated into society on their release from prison. In that context, attention was also being given to recreational activities for inmates, by enhancing sports facilities at some prisons, such as La Vega, for instance, where two playing fields were recently built.
72. Human rights organizations have said to the Commission that prison guards do not received specialized training for dealing with prisoners; their rule is the law of the truncheon, the cable, or the club, which they carry with them at all times. The personnel of the Prison Police (Policía Penitenciaria) who were trained and first took up their duties at Najayo Prison during the previous administration, under the auspices of the Commissioner for the Reform and Modernization of the Justice System, were either dismissed owing to lack of funds or attached to the security service of some courts. According to these organizations, inmates have no rights in prisons, they are confined in cells full of prisoners without sentences, like an eternal waiting-room where preventive detention is the norm and bail the exception. Parole is regarded as a favor, not a right. There are frequent reports of torture and cruel treatment used as disciplinary measures.
73. The Commission values the measures adopted by the government authorities to improve prison conditions in the country and the creation of the new prison for minors. However, the Commission notes that overcrowding in prisons continues to persist and is exacerbated by the dreadful hygiene conditions and food in various prisons. Prison facilities are dilapidated and they lack adequate infrastructure to provide a sufficient supply of drinking water or electricity. There is not enough space or beds to sleep in, nor are basic medical services available for all the prisoners. According to the prisoners, those who are ill get worse until their condition becomes critical due to lack of medical care and medicines.
IX. SITUATION OF HAITIAN MIGRANT WORKERS AND THEIR FAMILIES
Situation of Haitian migrant workers
74. In its 1999 report, the IACHR observed that some 500,000 undocumented Haitian workers resided in the Dominican Republic. In several cases these persons had lived in the Dominican Republic for 20 to 40 years, and many had been born there. The Commission said that most of them confronted permanent illegality, which was passed on to their children, who were unable to obtain Dominican nationality, because according to the restrictive interpretation by the Dominican authorities of Article 11 of the Constitution, they were the children of "foreigners in transit." The Commission said that it was not possible to consider persons who had resided for several years in a country in which they had developed innumerable contacts of all types to be in transit. Consequently, numerous children of Haitian origin were denied fundamental rights, such as the right to nationality of the country of birth, access to health care, and access to education. The Commission urged the Dominican State to adopt measures aimed at improving and regularizing the situation of undocumented Haitian workers by distributing work permits and residency cards; and to legalize the situation of their children, in cases that proceeded pursuant to the principle of jus soli, in keeping with Article 11 of the Constitution.
75. In its reply to the recommendations of the IACHR, the Dominican State said that “the officers of the civil registry insist that all parents registering the birth of children, regardless of whether or not they are Dominican, must meet the same legal requirements prescribed by Law 659 and by other Central Electoral Board resolutions. Accordingly, no distinction is drawn between Dominicans and foreigners, nor is a discriminatory statute created that violates the rights of children born to foreigners in the Dominican Republic. Quite apart from all of the foregoing, there are legal and constitutional provisions in place that contain the basic rules of legal residence in the country and to hold Dominican nationality.”
76. Human rights groups that work on the issue of migrant workers have said to the IACHR that, owing to their poverty it is very difficult for migrant workers to meet the requirements to regularize their status. It is possible for them to obtain recognition of their migrant workers status by applying for a temporary work permit (tarjeta de temporero). However, in practice, this permit is only valid for three months and costs between 300 and 600 Dominican pesos, which the workers, rather that the employer, must pay. With respect to legalization of the status of the children of immigrants, human rights groups say that the authorities have adopted resolutions that impose more requirements than those provided by the laws, in order for the parents of the children to obtain documents for them (see Circular Nº 29/2001 of the Central Electoral Board of July 13, 2001). They also say that in the past late registration of births was possible by presenting a passport, or a letter or identity card from the State Sugar Council (CEA). Currently the authorities require the parents to present their national identity card, which only nationals or residents may hold.
77. The IACHR was also informed that, even though there are birth registries in hospitals, the newborn children of mothers without identity documents are not registered, despite that fact that Law 659 on acts of the Civil Registry provides at Article 56 that any person present at the birth, such as doctors, midwives, etc. may declare the birth. For late certification of birth twelve requirements are stipulated. However, the cost entailed and the documentation problems of parents make those requirements impossible to meet. Applications submitted to registry officials in the provinces are normally referred to Santo Domingo, where applicants must go for an interview in order to obtain approval. In this connection, the Dominican Center for Legal Advisory Services and Research (CEDAIL), says that they have handled cases in which all the procedures set down in the resolutions have been exhausted and, even after obtaining approval to register the child, the civil registry official has still refused to register them, claiming they are Haitian, even though there are documents that prove that the child was born in the Dominican Republic.
78. The number of undocumented children in poor areas of the Dominican Republic is very high, particularly in the bateyes. Nevertheless, it was mentioned that progress has been made thanks to the agreements on documentation of children between the Central Electoral Board and the Dominican Episcopal Conference. By implementing these agreements, between April and December 2001 it was possible to provide identity documents to 10,000 minors under the age of 13. The IACHR considers that these operations carried out by the State reduce the costs of late birth certification and entail a great stride forward in the protection of children’s rights. However, children of immigrants are only accepted if they have a certificate showing that they were born in a Dominican hospital; furthermore one of their parents must be Dominican and the other must have residence or a valid visa. According to information received by the IACHR, only eight percent of children of Haitian immigrants has benefited from these operations.
79. In the context of undocumented children, in 1999 the Commission received a complaint against the Dominican Republic alleging violations of the right to nationality in the cases of Dilcia Yean and Violeta Bosica, both children in this case the petitioners allege violations of the right to nationality contained in Article 20 of the American Convention on Human Rights. On February 22, 2001, at its 110th session, the Commission adopted report 28/01 on admissibility, in connection with Case 12.189 of Dilcia Yean and Violeta Bosica versus the Dominican Republic. On August 23, 2001, Dr. Juan Méndez, First Vice President of the IACHR and Dr. Bertha Santoscoy, lawyer in charge of matters relating to the Dominican Republic met in Santo Domingo with representatives of the Foreign Ministry, members of the Central Electoral Board, and the legal representatives of the girls Yean and Bosica, in order to try to reach a settlement of the matter. On September 25, 2001, the Dominican State sent to the IACHR a copy of the birth certificates issued to the girls Dilcia Yean and Violeta Bosica. The Commission expresses its satisfaction and values the measures adopted by the Government of the Dominican Republic in the instant case.
Living conditions of Haitian workers and their families
80. In its 1999 report the Commission also reiterated its concern for the precarious and unhealthy conditions in which Haitian workers and their families live, and recommended to the State that it adopt measures aimed at guaranteeing the economic, social, and cultural rights of those workers, with no discrimination whatsoever. In particular, the Commission pointed to the need to improve living conditions in the bateyes and that they be provided basic supplies such as drinking water, electricity, medical services, and educational programs.
81. To that end, the Dominican State said that it had issued new directives that would enable Haitian people without documents living in the Dominican Republic to access certain educational services, as demonstrated by the decision adopted by the Minister of Education to permit the enrolment of children at schools without the need to present a birth certificate, which was a mandatory requirement up until September 2001.
82. With respect to the precarious situation in which many Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic live, the State mentioned to the Inter-American Commission that the latter was a poor country with insufficient resources to ensure many fundamental rights for her own citizens and it was impossible for the Dominican Republic to bear alone the social burden imposed by the migration of hundreds of thousands of Haitian citizens. The State said that it had sought on numerous occasions the support of the international community to find a solution respectful of human rights to the growing problem of Haitian immigration.
83. According to information provided to the IACHR by human rights organizations, living conditions in the bateyes were more precarious than in 1999 because of privatization. Indeed, as a result of the sale of State-owned sugar mills to private companies, the bateyes of the Santa Fe, El Porvenir, and Quisqueya sugar mills were in a situation of extreme poverty. Even President Hipólito Mejía voiced an opinion on this matter, saying that the living conditions in the bateyes were among the most critically poor.
84. A review carried out in August 2000 of the impact of privatization on those three bateyes revealed that one-third of their residents had no access to school education at any level; half the population of those bateyes did not have electricity; and seven out of ten homes lacked sanitation services or any form of human waste disposal. The World Bank report of December 17, 2001, that the privatization of the CEA had had dramatic consequences for the families of sugarcane workers, who were overwhelmingly poor. This report concluded that in the bateyes 35% of people aged 15 or over were illiterate. Nongovernmental organizations have reported that currently the bateyes are calling themselves communities and have attached themselves to municipalities, ascribing to them jurisdiction and the obligation to provide basic services, thus releasing the CEA from these duties. However, the municipalities have been unable to assume these obligations, since they lack the means to allocate a budget to the bateyes.
86. The State reported that the current administration had reduced repatriations and enhanced channels of communication with the State of Haiti by creating various commissions and organs that sought to establish a climate of cooperation between the two peoples. In this way, the Governments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic undertook to initiate by March 4, 2002, at the latest, a process to provide identity documents to their nationals. The joint declaration signed on January 16, 2002, by Presidents Hipólito Mejía and Jean-Bertrand Aristide provides that the process to furnish foreigners with identity documents is an obligation mutually contracted through the commitment to, and the adoption by exchange of notes of, the Declaration on Terms of Hire of their Nationals. The State informed the IACHR that the current administration has prepared a draft migration bill that proposed a new conception of the migration process, according to which, State intervention in the dynamics of migration should not be assumed merely as a repressive mechanism to control flows, but as an efficient mechanism to regulate them. In that context, the Government mentioned that “anti-Hatianism” as an official policy did not exist.
88. The Commission notes with concern that the Dominican State continues its practice of mass deportations. On January 24, 2001, the Director General of Migration, Trajano Moreta Cuevas, said that 14,000 Haitians were repatriated in the year 2000 alone, and an estimated one million Haitians without documents were currently residing on Dominican soil. Various sources alleged to the Commission that around 9,000 Haitians were deported in 2001. The IACHR also notes with concern that expulsions are carried out in a violent manner, before Haitians workers can collect their wages and contact their families. The expulsions are carried out in direct contravention of the guidelines set down in the Binational Agreement on Conditions of Deportation, adopted in December 1999.
89. In January 2001, the Commission was informed about various incidents concerning Haitian immigrants who enter the Dominican Republic. One of them involved the machine-gunning by a Dominican Army patrol of a bus that was carrying Haitians, leaving two dead and several injured. The Commission notes that this is not the first such incident, since in June 2000 another bus was also machine-gunned, resulting in the deaths of seven people, six of whom were Haitians and one Dominican. This incident occurred in Guayabin, Monte Cristi Province.
90. In the context of the massive expulsions that occurred during the period covered by this report, on May 30, 2000, the Commission asked the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to adopt provisional measures in case 12.271 to stop the Dominican Republic from engaging in the massive expulsion of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian origin, since, based on the information contained in the petition, this action was endangering the lives and physical integrity of the deportees. Furthermore, on many occasions, families were separated and minor children abandoned. As part of the provisional measures requested from the Court, the Commission asked the Dominican State to stop the massive expulsions of: (a) undocumented Haitians who are in Dominican territory; (b) documented Haitians who are legally in Dominican territory; (c) Dominicans of Haitian origin born in Dominican territory who have no documentation; and (d) Dominicans of Haitian origin born in Dominican territory and who are duly documented.
91. The Commission asked that the suspension last until the Dominican State establishes a procedure to permit verification of cases where grounds existed for deportation. In such instances, individuals were supposed to be accorded all rights to due process. The Commission also asked that deportations take place on an individual rather than collective basis.
93. On August 18, 2000, a public hearing was held and the Court granted the provisional measures with respect to the persons identified by the Commission. In that decision, the Court ruled, inter alia, to:
1. ask the Dominican State to take the measures necessary to protect the life and physical integrity of Benito Tide Méndez, Antonio Sension, Andrea Alezy, Janty Fils-Aime, William Medina Ferreras, as well as the life and physical integrity of witnesses Father Pedro Ruquoy and Mrs. Solange Pierre, who appeared at the public hearing of August 8, 2000;
2. call upon the Dominican State to refrain from deporting or expelling Benito Tide Méndez and Antonio Sension from its territory;
3. permit the immediate return of Janty Fils-Aime and William Medina Ferreras to its territory;
4. call upon the Dominican State to permit the family reunification of Antonio Sension and Andrea Alezy with their minor children in the Dominican Republic;
5. call upon the Dominican State, within the framework of the pertinent cooperation agreements between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, to investigate the situation of Janty Fils-Aime and William Medina Ferreras, under the supervision of the IACHR;
6. call upon the Dominican State to continue investigations related to Benito Tide Méndez, Rafaelito Pérez Charles, Antonio Sension, Andrea Alezy, and Berson Gelim.
94. The Commission reiterated to the Court its request for protection of the life and physical integrity of Father Ruquoy and Mrs. Pierre and, in general terms, for compliance with the provisional measures ordered by the Court.
95. On March 1, 2001, at the request of the petitioners, a working meeting was held during the 110th session of the IACHR. At that meeting, the petitioners requested that the Dominican State adopt concrete measures, such as: a) a public declaration asserting the legitimacy of the witnesses who appeared in the hearing before the Court of August 18, 2000; b) to respect and ensure the rights of the Dominican victims who reside in the Dominican Republic; c) to issue a public directive that the aforesaid persons should not be expelled; d) that the Dominican State issue said persons a special document to prevent them from being expelled; and, e) that guarantees be provided for the repatriation of the relatives of the persons who had been unjustly expelled. For its part, the Dominican State said that it was completely disposed to cooperate with the Commission and that, therefore, it invited the IACHR to carry out an on-site visit, which could be held in November 2001. Initially, the invitation was accepted by the IACHR; however, as was already noted, due to the change of date for the regular meeting of the IACHR (see supra, para. 2), the visit could not be carried out.
96. By communication of December 4, 2001, the Inter-American Court urged the State of the Dominican Republic and the Inter-American Commission to adopt the necessary measures and providences to create a suitable mechanism to coordinate and supervise the measures in the instant case, as well as to ensure compliance with all the provisions set down by the Inter-American Court in its previous orders.
97. With a view to complying with the communication of the Inter-American Court of December 4, the Commission arranged a work meeting of the parties on December 6, 2001. At that meeting it was decided, inter alia, to hold a follow-up meeting in early February 2002 to fix terms regarding the mechanism for compliance with the rulings of the Court.
X. SITUATION OF WOMEN
98. In its 1999 Report on the Situation of Human Rights in the Dominican Republic, the Commission took note of the measures adopted by the Dominican Republic to improve the situation of women, especially Law 24/97, against domestic violence, and those that allowed women to own property and to benefit from the land distribution under the agrarian reform. The Commission observed that the Office for Women's Promotion had been working to strengthen its ties with the other institutions dedicated to working on the women's question, receiving advisory services and support from international organizations. In this context, the Commission highlighted the need for that Office to receive strong support from the Government so that its programs might be widely known and implemented, so as to truly contribute to the strengthening and protection of women's rights in the Dominican Republic.
99. In its reply to the recommendations of the IACHR, the Dominican State said that, as a result of the 1999 Report of the IACHR and in the framework of its domestic adjective law, the Ministry of Women had been created through Law 86/99. Two important laws were also passed in order to broaden and protect women's rights: a) Law 12-2001 which requires a women’s participation quota in elective posts of 33%; and, b) Law 974-01 of September 26, 2001, which provides for the creation in each Ministry of an Office for Gender and Development, supervised by the Ministry of Women.
100. The State says that in the last two years women have made significant strides, particularly insofar as their presence in the three branches of government is concerned. For instance, in the executive branch the office of Vice President is held by a woman; in the legislature, women occupy 26 seats and the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies is a woman; and in the Judiciary, women have a participation of 33.3% in the Supreme Court of Justice; 33.6% in the Courts of Appeal; and 33.6% in Courts of First Instance and as Justices of the Peace.
101. In its recommendations in the 1999 report, the Commission urged the State of the Dominican Republic to adopt measures aimed at protecting women to ensure they were not victims of the violence associated with the prostitution and illegal trafficking of women. The Commission also mentioned that women workers who were victims of discrimination in employment, arbitrary dismissals, and unequal pay as between men and women, continued to lack protection.
102. In that connection, the State said that despite the progress made, Dominican women were still frequently plagued by poverty and lack of social protection, which turned them into victims of the violence associated with the prostitution and illegal trafficking of women. The State mentioned that it was in this context that it had designed the Anti-Poverty Program, which sought to promote and stimulate measures that might significantly improve living standards in Dominican households, particularly in those where a woman was the head of the family. The Government mentioned the following measures within the activities it had undertaken: a) monthly allocations of money to ensure school attendance for children; b) granting of soft loans to women traders; and, c) increase in coverage and quality of jobs for women.
103. Also in connection with programs aimed to protect women, the Dominican Government informed that, through the Ministry of Women, it had created and implemented a variety of mechanisms to contribute to the defense of women’s rights, inter alia: a) Women’s Protection Offices of the National Police (Villa Juana, San Francisco, Santiago); b) Legal and Psychological Clinic of the Ministry of Women; c) Attention Centers for Victims of Sexual Abuse; d) Attention Centers for Battered Women; and, e) Support Networks for Women Victims of Violence. Furthermore, the State mentioned that the National Magistracy School, in coordination with the Ministry of Women and UNICEF, was carrying out the program “Toward a Life of Equality” ("Hacia una Supervivencia de Igualdad”) to provide training on the issue of domestic violence to judges throughout the country.
104. The State said that the array of measures designed to foster the advancement of women had yielded positive results, inter alia: a) Dominican women are the proprietors of 46.8% of micro-businesses in the country; b) the proportion of women smallholders went from 7% to 10% in just three years due to the implementation of Law 55-97 (Law on Agrarian Reform); and, c) the rising trend in the inclusion of women at all levels of education, most notably higher education where the estimated proportion of women is already higher than 60% of the total student roll.
105. The Commission values highly the adoption of news laws designed to provide protection for women in the Dominican Republic and observes that the measures undertaken by the Government of the Dominican Republic are aimed at promoting women’s development through programs and financial subsidies that enable them to increase their standard of living as heads of household, as well as their participation in public life.
106. Without prejudice to the praiseworthy effort by the Government and advances in legislative measures, the Commission notes with concern that in practice women continue to be victims of domestic violence. The IACHR also observes that women workers who are victims of discrimination in employment, arbitrary dismissals, and unequal pay in comparison to men, continue to lack protection. Various sources have told the Commission that the lowest sectoral budget was that of the Ministry of Women. The IACHR was informed that the Ministry of Women had recently created, together with other sectors of civil society, the National Plan on Gender Equality; however, it is important to mention that owing to lack of funds it has not been possible to implement that program.
107. Human rights organizations have mentioned that Law 24/97 represents a major accomplishment for the women’s social movement in the country. Nevertheless, the organs responsible for the administration of justice still require sensitization and training on a number of aspects. For instance, in many cases “marriage conciliation” is opted for, in contradiction of Law 24/97, thus imposing the return of the woman to the aggressor. Furthermore, human rights organizations say that although there are Women’s Protection Offices, known as Amigos de la Mujer (Women’s Friends) in place, these are insufficient: they are only found in the country’s capital and some of the main towns and cities.
108. The Commission has been informed that in 2001 there were 94 femicides in the Dominican Republic. A study carried out by the Villa Juana Women’s Protection Office in Santo Domingo revealed that it had received a total of 7,019 complaints between the day the office opened on October 9, 1997 and September 2000; in other words, an average of 2,339 complaints a year. According to what the IACHR has been told, a large number of women go to Women’s Protection Offices to file complaints. Unfortunately, however, these offices do not have sufficient resources to perform a task that might ensure for women the true enjoyment of their fundamental rights. One of the constraints mentioned is few personnel. For example, 500 cases a month are received in the city of Santiago, and it only has two assistant public prosecutors. Other obstacles mentioned are the lack of resources of the National Police; the few police agents who are sent to the Protection Offices do not have vehicles; and on many occasions women have to cover the travel costs of agents or pay for a taxi to search for the aggressor.
XI. SITUATION OF MINORS
109. In its 1999 Report on the Situation of Human Rights in the Dominican Republic, the Commission highlighted the grave situation of minors in the Dominican Republic, in particular the exploitation to which they are victim, including child labor and the prostitution of minors, illegal trafficking in minors, domestic violence, and abuses committed in detention centers. The Commission recommended the Dominican State to adopt the necessary measures to protect minors from the above-mentioned situations.
110. In its reply to the recommendations of the Commission, the Dominican State said that it was currently implementing a major coordination effort among the relevant government institutions and numerous players from civil society, in order to analyze problems relating to children and adolescents in the Dominican Republic. In that regard, the State said that the first phase of the National Plan for Children and Adolescents had just concluded and in it a series of immediate objectives had been defined as regards the right to a name and to nationality, child abuse, and adolescents in conflict with the law. In this context, the State referred to the Project on Eradication of Child Labor in the Dominican Republic, saying that the project had made significant progress by the end of 2000.
111. The State mentioned ongoing projects designed to create a nationwide awareness-raising campaign that would include regional training workshops, identification of the worst forms of child labor, publications and seminars on the issue, special sensitization for employers, and special training for ministry inspectors. Those projects sought to increase awareness on the part of the employers and to train the Ministry of Labor inspectors. Further, the State mentioned that the Ministry of Labor was helping families to do without the labor of their minor children by granting them micro-credits that might enable them to start any kind of small business to substitute the income provided by the minor, on the condition that the child regularly attended school.
112. The Dominican State mentioned that five projects on eradication and prevention of child labor had been successfully implemented under the supervision of, and with technical assistance from, the Ministry of Labor. These projects are carried out by different non-governmental organizations:
- Azua: Aimed to rescue children who work in tomato growing.
113. With respect to child prostitution, the State informed that the Project on Eradication of Sexual Exploitation of Children for Commercial Gain was currently underway in the community of Boca Chica, and in the city of Puerto Plata, given the level of tourism in those areas of the country. Unfortunately, the State does not provide more information that would allow the Commission to measure the advances and results of this project.
114. As regards street children, the State reported that under Decrees 476-00 and 477-00, the Children’s Authority (Organismo Rector del Menor) had continued to provide economic support for programs with street children implemented by Pastoral Juvenil, Canillitas con Don Bosco, Proyecto Caminante, and Proyecto Renacer, in the amount of 1,700,000.00 Dominican pesos. The Government said that it was shortly to present the Program on Shelters and Homes for the Citizen Reeducation of Children and Adolescents, to be implemented by the Ministry of the Armed Forces, with technical support and advisory services provided by the Directing Agency of the System for the Protection of Children and other governmental and nongovernmental institutions. The Commission expresses its concern over the fact that it is the Ministry of the Armed Forces that is in charge of the Government’s plan for citizen re-education of minors; accordingly, it would like to have further information in this respect.
115. With regard to children who are victims of child abuse owing to neglect by relatives, the Dominican State mentioned that, in order to safeguard the higher interests of those children, the Children’s Authority had proceeded to put them in Comprehensive Protection Centers, with a view to placing them with adoptive families after the respective legal process has concluded. With respect to youth offenders, the State mentioned that, in order to help adolescents in conflict with the law, various institutions had collaborated to set up a Comprehensive Assistance Center for Adolescents in Conflict with the Law, which was located in a separate cellblock of Najayo prison in San Cristobal. The State further mentioned that the above center had staff who specialized in working with and the rehabilitation of youth offenders.
116. The Commission notes, based on the information it has received, the progress made by the State of the Dominican Republic in its attempts to execute projects that could lead to the eradication and prevention of child labor as well as its coordination with nongovernmental agencies in the execution of those projects. Nevertheless, the IACHR notes that child labor still exists in various parts of the country. In principle, child labor is a function of low family income and is frequently followed by abandonment of the home and dropping out of school. Various sources have informed the Commission that the State’s efforts in the form of awareness campaigns, programs, and centers to support and provide care for minors and their families have turned out to be insufficient, sporadic, and largely ineffective.
117. The Commission is particularly concerned that child labor not only prevents children of low-income families from attending school, but, in areas frequented by tourists, also leads to the prostitution of ever younger minors (the average age of initiation is now 12). As for projects geared to helping street children, the Commission observes that, despite the economic assistance provided by the Policy-making Authority for Minors (Organismo Rector del Menor) for programs run by NGOs, the situation faced by minors is still dire, fraught with exposure to drug abuse and the risk of contracting AIDS and other venereal diseases.
118. The Commission underscores the effort made by the Dominican State to create a new location for minors, separate from that for adults. Nevertheless, the Commission has been told that members of the police continue to mistreat minors, frequently refuse to send them to the detention centers designed for them, and administer severe corrective measures ranging from physical mistreatment to outright torture.
XII. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
119. The Commission recognizes the decisions adopted by the Dominican State in its effort to strengthen the administration of justice and due process. However, the Commission finds that the plan of the Government to reduce the backlog of cases before the courts has not been implemented. Although the IACHR has noted the creation of more courts, the percentage of prisoners in preventive detention has increased. Excessive delay in the judicial process is one of the causes of the high percentage of detainees in preventive custody. The Commission observes that preventive detention without trial constitutes a flagrant violation of the American Convention on Human Rights with respect to the presumption of innocence and the provisions on due process.
120. The Commission reiterates its recommendation for the authorities to adopt urgent measures to correct the delays that exist in the administration of justice, which should include that all detainees who have not been tried within a reasonable time shall be released without prejudice to the continuation of their trial. In addition the State should adopt measures aimed at guaranteeing that preventive detention be applied as an exceptional measure within the bounds of the law, preventing it from becoming the usual form of operation of the administration of justice, without any due process, judge, or verdict.
121. The Commission notes with profound concern that extrajudicial executions at the hands of agents of the security forces increased in the period covered by this report. The majority of violent deaths that occur in the country seem to be related to excesses committed by members of the Police, the National Directorate for Drug Control, and the Armed Forces, who abuse their power and use excessive force in actions that conclude with the death of the victims. The Commission also notes with concern complaints of summary executions of prisoners in prisons, while under the custody of State agents, as well as the failure on the part of the State to investigate and punish such acts. The Commission deplores the existence of a police tribunal that passes judgment on misdemeanors and offenses committed by its members, which violates the right to equal protection enshrined in the American Convention on Human Rights.
122. The Commission reiterates its recommendation to the Dominican State that it adopt urgent measures to carry out an exhaustive investigation into violations of the right to life, so that those responsible might be judged and punished by the ordinary justice system and the relatives of the victim compensated. The Commission underscores that no violation of human rights perpetrated by State agents must go unpunished and that the failure to carry out an investigation, make reparations, and punish those responsible gives rise to the international responsibility of the State. The Commission urges the Dominican State to take urgent steps designed to ensure that the jurisdiction of police tribunals shall be confined to disciplinary measures for its members and that common crimes shall be taken up by the ordinary courts.
123. The Commission recognizes the effort made by the Dominican State in creating the Military Institute of Human Rights to impart training course on human rights to agents of the Armed Forces. Nevertheless, the Commission notes with concern that excessive use of force by agents of the security forces continues, both at the time of arrest and in prisons. The Commission reiterates to the Dominican State that it adopt urgent measures to put a stop to the widespread practice of torture, mistreatment and corporal punishment of prisoners. The Commission also reiterates to the Dominican State its obligation to investigate complaints of such acts, so that those responsible may be brought before the ordinary courts and the victims compensated.
124. The Commission notes with alarm the continued practice of the security forces to carry out indiscriminate and violent round-ups. This illegal practice of arbitrarily arresting all those suspected of some offense and holding them in prison until the police determines who deserves to be released, violates the rights to physical integrity and to personal liberty of Dominican citizens. The Commission urges the Dominican State to adopt urgent measures to ensure that, in accordance with the law, arrests shall only be authorized with a prior judicial order, except in cases of flagrante delicto. The roundups should be stopped. In addition, intervening to maintain public order in the case of demonstrations or protests should be done without indiscriminate use of force.
125. The Commission recognizes the effort made by the Dominican State in carrying out new building projects and remodeling existing cells, in order to improve prison conditions in the country. The construction of a new prison for minors and the creation of rehabilitation programs for inmates constitute substantial progress. Without detracting from the importance of this effort, the Commission notes with great concern that overcrowding in prisons continues to persist and is exacerbated by poor food and hygiene conditions for Dominican prisoners. The Commission urges the Dominican State to take the necessary steps to ensure adequate physical conditions, food, and medical attention in prisons. Violence against inmates should be prevented and persons accused but not tried should be separated from convicts.
126. The Commission finds with concern that the country’s prisons remain under the control of the police and the military. The Commission finds with concern that in practice the country’s prisons remain under the control of the police and the military. Accordingly, the Commission recommends to the Dominican State that it support the concept of Civilian Wardens, who, in principle, would be in charge of the prisons, and that it offer them the resources required for adequately performing their function. Although the Commission has noted the existence of preliminary draft Regulations to create the Prison Administration School, the IACHR recommends the Dominican State to take the necessary measures to ensure that this civilian body trained in prison administration and supervision is created in the near future.
127. The Commission considers it important to highlight the measures adopted by the Dominican State to provide access to certain education services for the Haitian population living in the Dominican Republic without identity documents. The IACHR values the recent decision of the Ministry of Education that permits enrollment for all children without the need to present a birth certificate. By the same token, the Commission recognizes the progress accomplished by the State through operations carried out to provide documents for children under 13. These operations reduce the costs of late birth certification and entail a great stride forward in the protection of children’s rights. However, only a small percentage of children of Haitian immigrants has benefited from those operations. The Commission notes with satisfaction and values the steps taken by Dominican State in Case 12.189 concerning the girls Dilcia Yean and Violeta Bosica, as a result of which they obtained their birth certificates.
128. The Commission views as progress the undertaking of the States of Haiti and the Dominican Republic to furnish their nationals with identity documents under the "Declaration on Terms of Hire of their Nationals". The Commission hopes that the steps taken in this direction will enable an improvement of the situation of Haitian immigrants. The Commission reiterates to the Dominican State its recommendation to adopt measures aimed at improving and regularizing the situation of undocumented Haitian workers by distributing work permits and residency cards; and to legalize the situation of their children, in cases that proceed pursuant to the principle of jus soli, in keeping with Article 11 of the Constitution.
129. The Commission deplores the precarious and unhealthy conditions in which Haitian workers and their families live, and recommends to the State that it adopt measures aimed at guaranteeing the economic, social, and cultural rights of those workers, with no discrimination whatsoever. In particular, the Commission reiterates the need to improve living conditions in the bateyes and that they be provided basic supplies such as drinking water, electricity, medical services, and educational programs.
130. The Commission expresses its concern at the mass expulsions of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian origin, which continue to be carried out in a violent and arbitrary manner. The Commission recommends the Dominican State to adopt urgent measures to ensure that deportation procedures are carried out in accordance with basic rules of justice and due process, in order to prevent errors and abuses. The State should guarantee for all Dominican citizens the right not to be expelled from their country. It should also provide to Haitian immigrants their rightful guarantees under the deportation procedure, in order to demonstrate their legal status in the country.
131. The Commission has noted the current policy of the Government aimed to promote the advancement of women. With the promulgation of Law 24-97 the Dominican State took a first step in the recognition of the obligations they contracted on ratifying the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (Convention of Belem do Pará). The Commission values and recognizes the importance of Laws 12-01 and 974-01 recently adopted by the State, as well as the measures taken to create mechanisms designed to protect women against violence through training courses, and strengthening ties with institutions dedicated to working on women's issues. However, the Commission notes with concern that in practice women continue to be victims of domestic violence, discrimination in the workplace, and unequal pay in comparison to men.
132. The Commission urges the Dominican State to adopt measures to protect women, so as to prevent them from being victims of domestic violence, or of the violence associated with the prostitution and illegal trafficking of women. The IACHR further recommends to the State the need to adopt measures to encourage training for judges on women's issues. By the same token, the Commission asks the State to adopt the necessary measures so that Women's Protection Offices may have a greater number of trained personnel, in order to provide effective protection of women's rights. The IACHR also recommends that the State adopt appropriate measures to strictly monitor women’s work conditions and relations. Finally, the Commission encourages the Dominican Government to continue to strengthen and implement its policy intended to achieve full equality between men and women in every sector of society.
133. The Commission notes, based on the information it has received, the progress made by the State of the Dominican Republic in its attempts to execute projects that could lead to the eradication and prevention of child labor as well as its coordination with nongovernmental agencies in the execution of those projects. Various sources have informed the Commission that the State’s efforts in the form of awareness campaigns, programs, and centers to support and provide care for minors and their families have turned out to be insufficient, sporadic, and largely ineffective.
134. The Commission is particularly concerned that child labor not only prevents children of low-income families from attending school, but, in areas frequented by tourists, also leads to the prostitution of ever younger minors (the average age of initiation is now 12). The IACHR notes that despite the economic support provided by the Policy-making Authority for Minors (Organismo Rector del Menor) to street children programs, those children are still exposed to grave risks such as drug abuse, AIDS, and other venereal diseases.
135. The Commission appreciates the effort made by the Dominican State to create a new building for minors [in detention centers], to separate them from adults. Nevertheless, the Commission deplores abuses by policemen, who frequently refuse to send minors to the detention centers designed for them, and administer severe corrective measures ranging from physical mistreatment to outright torture.
136. The Commission urges the Dominican State to engage in strict surveillance of the situation of children with a view to eradicating child labor and to take whatever steps are needed to guarantee the rights of minors, especially for those who are victims of domestic violence, or the violence associated with prostitution and the illicit trafficking in minors. Likewise, the Commission urges the State to exercise greater control and supervision of detention centers for minors, to prevent them from being subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment that could cause them bodily harm.
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 1999 Report of the IACHR, p. 55.
 Ibid., pp. 69 and 70.
 Reply of the Dominican State of November 14, 2001, pp. 10 and 11.
 Reply of the Dominican State of November 14, 2001, p. 10.
 Ibid., pp. 11 and 12.
 Reply of the Dominican State of November 14, 2001, p. 11.
 Ibid, p. 11.
 Ibid., p. 10.
 Reply of the Dominican State of November 14, 2001, p. 12.
 Report presented by Civil Society Entities in the Dominican Republic, p. 41.
 Communication sent by the inmates of Najayo Prison, October 23, 2000.
 1999 Report of the IACHR, p. 82.
 The State goes on to give some examples “to understand what is meant by a foreigner in transit: the different categories of non-immigrant provided in the Immigration Law, in other words, visitors traveling on business, to study, for recreation, or from curiosity; temporary workers and their families, persons who are traveling abroad, persons employed on ships, etc.; the provisions contained in the Civil Code, whereby a foreigner without real property in the Dominican Republic is regarded as in-transit; and, of course, the difference between being an immigrant, and therefore residing legally in the country, and a non-immigrant”. (Contribution of Dr. Luis Arias, Member of the Central Electoral Board). Reply of the Dominican State to the Recommendations of the IACHR, November 14, 2001, p. 13.
 Presented by Civil Society entities in the Dominican Republic, pp. 6 and 7.
 Ibid., p. 8.
 The FLACSO study “La identidad de los niños del batey”, of July 2000, mentioned that in a survey of 1,770 children in bateyes, 30% of them did not have a birth certificate. The study, “Vecinos y Extraños” conducted in a low-income area of Santo Domingo with a proportion of immigrants showed that 43.3% of the children of immigrants had no identity documents at all. See supra, note 65.
 Ibid., p. 9.
 “Bateyes” is the name given to the sugar mill camps for workers on sugar cane plantations.
 1999 Report of the IACHR, p. 83.
 Reply of the Dominican State to the recommendations of the IACHR, of November 14, 2001, p. 14.
 Ibid, p. 13.
 News Summary of the Jesuit Service for Refugees, January 1, 2001.
 Reply of the Dominican State to the recommendations of the IACHR, of November 14, 2001, p. 15. President Hipólito Mejía said the following: “Just as we look to a better future, we cannot stand idly by when faced with situations of the most critical poverty possible that offend our humanitarian conscience. If we were to ask ourselves which case most aptly symbolizes situations of this type, I think we would all say the living conditions in the bateyes”.
 Report Presented by Civil Society Entities in the Dominican Republic, pp. 12 and 13.
 1999 Report of the IACHR, p. 83.
 Newspaper articles in Hoy, January 17, 2002, transmitted by the Permanent Mission of the Dominican Republic.
 “Nuevas autoridades repatrían unos 800 haitianos”. El Siglo. Sección Nacionales, September 28, 2000.
 Agencia EFE, January 25, 2001. The Dominican Republic has an estimated population of around 8.5 million. United Nations Population Fund. At http://www.unfpa.org/swp/2000/english/indicators/indicators2.html, February 7, 2001.
 Report Presented by Civil Society Entities in the Dominican Republic, p. 16.
 Agencia EFE, January 17, 2001.
 Op.cit., SJR and CEDAIL, pp. 17 and 18.
 1999 Report on the Situation of Human Rights in the Dominican Republic, p. 92.
 Reply of the Dominican State, of November 14, 2001, p. 15.
 Ibid., p. 16.
 Ibid., p. 17.
 Report Presented by Civil Society Entities in the Dominican Republic, p. 23.
 Ibid., p. 24 and 25.
 Listín Diario, November 23, 2001.
 Núcleo de Apoyo a la Mujer, Report presented to the IACHR in December 2001, pp. 12-14.
 1999 Report of the IACHR, op. cit., p.101.
 Reply of the Dominican State, of November 14, 2001, p. 18.
 Ibid., p. 18-19.
 Ibid., p. 20.
 Reply of the Dominican State of November 14, 2001, p. 20.
 Ibid., p. 21.
.Report submitted by civil society organizations in the Dominican Republic, pp. 30 and 31.
.Ibid., pp. 31-33.
.Ibid., pp. 34.
.World Organization against Torture, Dom. Case 140102.CC.