‘Real Will’ in Dominican Republic to Strengthen Democratic Institutions, Fully Guarantee Fundamental Human Rights, Human Rights Committee Told
‘Real Will’ in Dominican Republic to Strengthen Democratic Institutions, Fully Guarantee Fundamental Human Rights, Human Rights Committee Told
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Human Rights Committee
2863rd & 2864th Meetings (AM & PM)
‘Real Will’ in Dominican Republic to Strengthen Democratic Institutions, Fully
Guarantee Fundamental Human Rights, Human Rights Committee Told
Introducing 5th Report, Delegation Highlights New Constitution, Related Reforms;
Experts Pose Questions on Immigration, Violence against Women, Among Other Issues
There was a real will to strengthen democratic institutions in the Dominican Republic so that they fully guaranteed the rule of law and genuinely defended fundamental human rights and freedoms, Héctor Virgilio Alcántara Mejía, Permanent Representative of the Dominican Republic to the United Nations, told the Human Rights Committee today, as it opened its 104th session.
“Institutionally we are not perfect,” Mr. Alcántara said, but full respect for human rights was a pillar for democracy, and his Government was making significant strides to comply with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which commits State parties to respect such rights as those to life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, electoral rights and rights to due process and fair trial.
Presenting his country’s fifth periodic report to the 18-Member Committee, Mr. Alcántara drew attention to several advances, including the promulgation of a new Constitution on 26 January 2010, and creation of a constitutional tribunal to address unconstitutional laws, ordinances or decrees. The tribunal’s decisions were binding on all public authorities and State organs, and could not be challenged.
Moreover, he said the Government, last year, had approved a regulation for applying the migration law, which now allowed migrant workers to benefit from social security. On the international front, the Government had ratified the Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty, and the United Nations Convention against Torture. Earlier this month, the constitutional tribunal had pronounced on issues related to children in armed conflicts. The country also had established the Inter-Agency Human Rights Council to deal with various human rights issues, such as employment of women and women’s representation in decision-making bodies.
When the floor was opened for discussion, several Committee experts questioned the 23-member delegation about the criteria for applying international or domestic law, reparations for victims of human rights violations, racial discrimination, and “disturbing” statistics for violence against women and extrajudicial killings.
Rafael Rivas Posada, expert from Colombia, said that while the new Constitution placed domestic norms on equal footing with international laws, it was possible for different interpretations to arise. He wondered what criteria would be used by the constitutional tribunal to evaluate those differences. He also said it was unclear whether a mechanism had been put in place to determine reparations for human rights abuse victims. It was important to go further than what had been outlined in the written replies.
Fabián Omar Salvioli, expert from Argentina and Committee Vice-Chairperson, voiced concerns about extrajudicial executions in the Dominican Republic, saying the Government’s replies did not fully take up that issue and wondering if it considered that issue a particular problem. An Amnesty International report described a situation that warranted a response, or perhaps a change of public policy. It was not enough to say that such situations could be challenged in the courts. The commitment to human rights required a fuller response.
Iulia Antoanella Motoc, expert from Romania, asked about the 2011 statistics, which showed that 233 women had been murdered by their husbands, underlining that parliament had passed legislation to end such behaviour.
Responding to comments about the conflict between domestic and international law, one delegation member stated that, per article 26 of the Constitution, international treaties were reviewed by the constitutional court before they were ratified. That process ensured a treaty could not be challenged as unconstitutional once it had been ratified.
Regarding compensation for victims, he said the Government had set up an office to provide assistance. All Dominicans had access to the office, specifically with a view to receiving compensation.
The Government also was aware of police brutality and extra judicial killings, he said, noting that the head of the police force had addressed the issue. Anyone who carried out an attack would be removed from the police force and could be subjected to prosecution.
Earlier today, Ivan Šimonovic, Representative of the Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General, opened the session and updated the Committee on developments over the last year, saying that last November, the chairpersons and representatives of the treaty bodies had met in Dublin and adopted the “Dublin II” outcome document. Many individual treaty body members had endorsed that outcome. “Your input and views on this document and indeed on the process in general is important to enrich the High Commissioner’s report, due to be finalized in June,” he said.
Turning to the work at hand, he said the Committee would consider the reports of four States parties: the Dominican Republic, Yemen, Turkmenistan and Guatemala, as well as situation in Cape Verde in the absence of a report. The Committee also would consider 28 individual communications, as well as adopt its annual report and the progress reports of the Special Rapporteur for Follow-up to Concluding Observations and the progress report on Follow-up to Views. “I wish you a very successful and productive session,” he said.
At the outset of the meeting, the Committee Chair for the current biennium, Zonke Zanele Majodina, expert from South Africa, led members in a moment of silence to remember Abdelfatah Amor, expert from Tunisia, who had recently passed away.
In other business, the Committee adopted the agenda and programme of work for its current session, as well as the report of the pre-sessional working group on individual communications. Also, in accordance with article 38 of the Covenant, the following newly elected members made the solemn declaration to discharge their duties as members of the Committee impartially and conscientiously: Walter Kalin, expert from Switzerland, and Marat Sarsembayev, expert from Kazakhstan.
The 18-Member Human Rights Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 13 March, to continue its consideration of the Dominican Republic’s fifth periodic report.
The Human Rights Committee, the 18-member expert body that monitors global implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, began today its 104th session, which will run until 30 March. The Committee meets in Geneva or New York and normally holds three sessions a year.
As it took up the fifth periodic report of the Dominican Republic (document CCPR/C/DOM/5), which was issued 22 January 2010, the Committee was expected to receive information from that country’s delegation on the measures adopted to implement the rights set forth in the Covenant and the progress achieved in the implementation of those rights. The information for the report was provided by various policymaking institutions that made up the Inter-Agency Human Rights Commission, established in accordance with Decree No. 408-04 of 5 May 2004 in compliance with the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.
The report states that the Dominican Republic had ratified the principal international human rights conventions and embarked upon an intensive legislative and normative reform effort in that area. “This democratic initiative reflects the major changes that are being made in order to place human rights issues on the national agenda,” the report notes. The Dominican Republic was currently carrying out constitutional reform and the text of the proposed legislation had been designed to protect fundamental rights, including civil and political rights, such as the rights to human dignity, equality and non-discrimination, personal rights, and the right to physical, intellectual, and social communication.
The report then opens an article-by-article description (articles 6 to 27) of domestic legislative and institutional measures.
Opening the 104th session, IVAN ŠIMONOVIC, Representative of the Secretary-General, Assistant Secretary-General of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), paid tribute to Abdelfatah Amor, whose sudden death earlier this year had led to deep sadness among his colleagues. Elected to the Committee for the first time in 1998, he had held the positions of Chair, Vice-Chair and Special Rapporteur on Follow-up to Concluding Observations throughout his 13 years.
Turning to the treaty body strengthening process, he said the tenth human rights treaty monitoring body — the Committee on Enforced Disappearances — had held its first session in November 2011. It was mandated to review State party reports, receive individual and inter-State communications, and undertake inquiries. It also could take urgent action to find disappeared persons. The General Assembly had adopted the third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, introducing a communication procedure for the Committee. A signing ceremony had taken place on 20 February.
Welcoming those developments, he said they were also reminders of the concomitant workload increase of both the treaty bodies and the Secretariat. The status quo was no longer viable. “Something has to be changed,” he said. That realization had motivated the High Commissioner’s call to strengthen the treaty bodies. In June, the High Commissioner would publish her report, which would include recommendations drawn from three years of consultations.
He went on to update the Committee on developments over the last year, saying that last November, the chairpersons and representatives of the treaty bodies had met in Dublin and adopted the “Dublin II” outcome document. It had been a painstaking process to present clear recommendations to all stakeholders. Many individual treaty body members had endorsed that outcome, as had the Committee on the Rights of the Child. “Your input and views on this document and indeed on the process in general is important to enrich the High Commissioner’s report, due to be finalized in June,” he said.
He also invited members to consider creative solutions to the challenges ahead, noting that OHCHR would continue to provide information “when necessary” on concerns over resourcing of the treaty bodies and the Committee itself. While the General Assembly had not reduced resources for the next biennium, it had not increased them, and he encouraged the Committee to use its voice to underline its concerns to Member States.
On other matters, he said the High Commissioner had been consulting with States – the other key actors in the process - having facilitated a second informal consultation for States in February. Another would be held in New York in April, immediately following the 104th session. Further, the General Assembly had adopted a resolution to launch an intergovernmental process to strengthen the functioning of the treaty body system, which could serve as an extension of the High Commissioner’s process. States should reflect on how to resolve financial circumstances faced by the treaty bodies.
“The OHCHR will do its utmost to ensure that the treaty bodies have a strong voice in this process”, he said, and would insist that key principles be borne in mind during all deliberations, including about treaty body independence, the need to uphold the existing legal framework and the multi-stakeholder approach.
Turning to the work at hand, he said the Committee would consider the reports of four States parties: the Dominican Republic; Yemen; Turkmenistan; and Guatemala; as well as situation in Cape Verde in the absence of a report. Country Task Forces would adopt lists of issues on the periodic reports of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Paraguay, Philippines, Portugal and Turkey. The Committee also would consider 28 individual communications, as well as adopt its annual report and the progress reports of the Special Rapporteur for Follow-up to Concluding Observations and the progress report on Follow-up Views. “I wish you a very successful and productive session,” he said.
KRISTER THELIN, expert from Sweden, expressed dissatisfaction that the High Commissioner’s process had not been allowed to run its course. The Assembly had launched its own open-ended process, which appeared “out of touch” time-wise. It would have benefited all if the Assembly had waited for the High Commissioner’s report.
Regarding resources, he voiced concern that, while the workload had increased, resources had not followed. Reference was always made to the treaty body system. But, everyone would be better served with more information on how the Committee’s resources had not kept pace with the workload over the years, and he encouraged the Secretary-General to ensure that the reallocation within OHCHR was being carried out. He also suggested the Secretary-General study the possibility of supporting webcasting the Committee’s session to publicize the Committee’s work.
IULIA ANTOANELLA MOTOC, expert from Romania, stated that reforms were already under way, but the international community had not seen a lot of progress from those reforms and from turning the commission into a council. Looking at proposals made to date, and particularly what she had read from the Maastricht seminar, it did not seem that the measures proposed would help promote the protection of human rights. This Human Rights Committee was the main committee dealing with communications. What happened in other committees was different. Taking up the idea of one sole treaty body, Ms. Motoc said that she did not see how that could work. She “had to confess that she was not terribly optimistic about this initiative” as it might lessen the protection of human rights and the impact of the Committee.
On the matter of resources, Ms. Motoc stated that, if resources remained at the same level, there was “a financial situation” to be addressed. Given the finances of the United Nations, how would it be possible to increase the resources of the Committee? Therefore, she concluded, she was sceptical that anything could be done to address the resource situation.
Responding to questions, Mr. ŠIMONOVIC stated that there was now a resolution on strengthening treaty bodies and the Committee should do the best it could. Regarding the comments of Mr. Thelin, the open-ended working group would start its practical work after the High Commissioner’s report was submitted in April.
Concerning the application of article 36 and the provision of the necessary staff and facilities, Mr. Šimonovic said that it was challenging to face a conflict between the legal obligations of Member States and their willingness to provide for financing. All stakeholders — treaty bodies, Members States and the Secretariat — had to find a way to overcome that bottleneck situation. Also, there were many incentives for going public and opening meetings to webcasting. It would “make State representatives visible to their own civil society,” he said.
Stating that he shared with Ms. Motoc concerns about historical attempts at reform, Mr. Šimonovic concluded that it was necessary to look for common grounds that applied to all treaty bodies and mechanisms, while keeping in mind important specifics.
Presentation of Dominican Republic’s Report
“There is a real will to strengthen our democratic institutions in order to fully guarantee the rule of law and genuine defence of fundamental human rights,” said HÉCTOR VIRGILIO ALCÁNTARA MEJÍA, Permanent Representative of the Dominican Republic to the United Nations, who led the 23-person delegation. Indeed, the Dominican Republic was resolved to respect human rights, as required under the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. His Government was currently reviewing legislation to ensure all laws complied.
“Institutionally, we are not perfect”, he said, but full respect for human rights was a pillar for its democracy. “We are moving towards dealing with violations that are totally unacceptable.” National laws contained mechanisms and guarantees for human rights, which was now part of the democratic system. The Government was working towards the full enjoyment of and strengthening of human rights. It greatly appreciated involvement of international bodies in that process.
Among the major challenges, he said, was combating impunity — called “the right to justice”. Under the Covenant, the country was obliged to combat impunity through proper administration of justice, application of international norms and standards, and prosecution of perpetrators. The Government appreciated the work done by non-governmental organizations in encouraging human rights, which helped it comply with international standards.
Drawing attention to several important issues, he noted that on 26 January 2010, the new Constitution was adopted, which stated that the civil and political rights enshrined in articles 37-39 were as important as the Constitution itself. A constitutional tribunal had been created to ensure that the Constitution itself was supreme. Its decisions were binding on all public authorities and State organs, and could not be challenged. The tribunal dealt with any matter related to unconstitutional laws, ordinances or decrees, and one third of its members were parliamentarians.
He went on to say that, in 2011, the Dominican Republic had approved a regulation for applying the migration law, which was helping transform social justice, especially for migrant workers, who now could benefit from social security. On 19 December 2011, the Dominican Republic ratified the Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights, relating to the abolition of the death penalty. It had also ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture. Earlier this month, the constitutional court had pronounced on issues related to children in armed conflicts.
Finally, he said the national police disciplinary courts had been reformed to ensure that any agent who had committed an offence would be expelled and brought to the regular courts for trial.
Continuing, he stated that the Dominican Republic recognized the standards of international law and those standards would apply domestically once they had been published. The constitutional court reviewed international treaties before they were ratified and the decision of the court had an effect on those treaties. Once a treaty was ratified, it could not be challenged.
The electoral court and members of the upper courts, he stated, were all elected by the national council, followed by public evaluation. The Dominican Republic, in accordance with the Vienna Convention, had established the Inter-Agency Human Rights Council, which involved civil society, as well as Government authorities. That organization dealt with various human rights issues, such as employment of women and having women in decision-making bodies. In November 2007, the Supreme Court had adopted the Policy of Gender Equality, and after June 2008, the Agency for Gender Equality had been established to monitor and report on actions taken as part of the gender equality policy of the State.
He pointed out that the Dominican Republic had ratified the Belém convention on sexual harassment in the workplace and provided for various ways of punishing such harassment. The office of the prosecutor at the national level had units and investigative staff to deal with sexual violence. Nevertheless, the most recent research done by the ministry for women did show that 31.7 per cent of the Dominican Republic’s women had been victims of sexual harassment in workplaces. The Government and civil society acknowledged that there was a great deal to be done and it was necessary to learn the best possible practices from the international arena.
Regarding the rights of men and women with disability, several decisions had been taken to ensure their full participation in all walks of life, he added. Article 39 of the Constitution guaranteed the right to equality and law no. 42-2000 had established the National Council on Disability. There were a number of legal provisions, as well, to ensure implementation.
He stated that the national plan for gender equality had resulted in the creation of centres for women who had been attacked, hotlines, consciousness-raising, training for police, and so forth. But, the problem of gender-based violence had not been fully resolved. The Dominican Republic was working to ensure that there would be absolutely no impunity for violations. The Government had established offices on gender equality in all regions and was improving the protection of human rights through the Institute of Human Dignity. Also, the police were being modernized, with better training and more professional law enforcement.
Speaking on the question of persons in detention, he said that, in 2010, the Dominican Republic had revised regulations concerned. An independent research body had looked into the subject of violence against persons in detentions and had reported that there were better protections now, because of constitutional reforms that were under way. Also, from 2007 to 2010, the Institute of Human Dignity had strengthened training in human rights for police and other public departments.
Regarding slavery and forced labour, he stated, according to the current information from January 2012, there was no discrimination against migrants. They came freely of their own will, they were paid and had access to labour courts and health services.
The working conditions were exactly same for aliens and nationals and all had access to such services as education, health, and recreation. Depending on qualifications, foreigners were paid at the same rate as nationals.
Where there were differences or restrictions, he added, that was because of economic factors, not because of racial prejudice or social discrimination. Due to its economic inability, the Dominican Republic was unable to provide satisfactory services to all nationals and migrants. Despite those limitations, the country did not in any way systematically violate the human rights of any foreigner, legal or illegal.
Further, Mr. Alcántara said, the Dominican Republic had a policy of zero tolerance to child labour. Due to the activities of various Government agencies, in the last 10 years, there had been a significant decrease in child labour. In another decade, the Dominican Republic would eliminate child labour throughout the national territory and in all sectors. In order to fight child labour, 41 municipal and 3 local-level committees had been established and monitoring networks had been set up. Already, several thousand children had been rescued from at-risk situations.
Regarding the right to freedom and personal security, he said the Dominican Republic was pleased to report that the number of cases dealt with by the criminal juvenile public defenders was decreasing. The new system of penitentiary provided for the dignity of inmates. A remodelling plan was under way and three model prisons and three new penitentiary centres were being set up.
Also, the electoral system had put into place a number of programmes to guarantee the right to a legal identity. That included a survey of the poorest of the population, which found that there were 324,000 Dominicans without identification or entry in the civil registry. A programme had been established to address the under-recording of births in the country and to provide birth certificates to the neediest.
Today, there was not a single petitioner with regard to the violation of the right to freedom of speech, Mr. Alcántara stated. Above and beyond threats due to personal conflicts, there were no ideological violations of freedom of speech and expression. The Constitution of the Dominican Republic stated that all persons had the right to assembly for peaceful purposes. He concluded by reiterating the Dominican Republic’s commitment to international standards of human rights.
Comments and Questions
RAFAEL RIVAS POSADA, expert from Colombia, said that the new Constitution in the Dominican Republic provided a good opportunity to redirect the dialogue. Many laws were new and it was difficult to know, at this point, how they would be developed. Covering the first five issues sent to the delegation, he first asked about the hierarchy of national laws and international norms. States must respect treaties or instruments they had signed or ratified, and he was concerned about the hierarchical importance of the Covenant. The Constitution stated that domestic norms were on equal footing with international laws, but it was possible for different interpretations to arise. What criteria would be used by the constitutional tribunal in evaluating those differences?
Turning to reparations for victims of human rights violations, he said there was no clarity on whether a mechanism was in place to determine reparations. It was important to go further than what had been outlined in the written replies. The lack of a national human rights body was also a concern. There was a need for independent institutions to provide effective oversight and guarantee human rights. A process had been initiated in that regard, but what was currently in place did not meet the criteria for such a body. Finally, he said it was important to clarify what practical consequences had ensued from constitutional reforms.
GERALD L. NEUMAN, expert from the United States, focused on the equality of women in public service, saying that the report had highlighted a requirement that the mayor and deputy mayor could not both be men — the result of which was that women overwhelmingly were deputy mayors. What was being done to ensure they became mayors? Further, was the deputy mayor in a position of actual power?
Citing article 39.5 of the Constitution, which required a balance of women and men in supervisory service, he wondered what was being done to implement that provision.
On question 7, he asked how the Civil Service Act — which prohibited sexual harassment — was being enforced. Were new laws needed to clarify that prohibition? Compared to statistics on the amount of sexual harassment that women had experienced, the numbers in the reply seemed particularly small.
On question 9, he said another form of discrimination that did not appear in the report was on the basis of sexual orientation or identity. The reply indicated a penal code on discrimination included those grounds. Was that crime ever prosecuted? If so, how often? He had been told that the State party could discriminate on such grounds in the armed services and the national police, was that correct? What other steps were protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons against discrimination?
On question 10 — racial discrimination — he wondered if any laws, aside from the Constitution, prevented racial discrimination in housing and access to places of public accommodation. What resources had been devoted to enforcing those laws? He also voiced concern at laws relating to Haitians and those of Haitian descent, asking what the State was doing to address discrimination against them.
MICHAEL O’FLAHERTY, expert from Ireland and Committee Vice-Chairperson, on question 8 — rights of persons with disabilities — asked about their protection and full participation in society. One of the best starting points for work of that kind would be ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Had there been progress on that front? Also, the Committee on the Rights of the Child had suggested that the State party implement the General Assembly’s Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities. He asked about the State’s view on that recommendation.
Further, he asked about the extent to which the State was gathering disaggregated data on persons with disabilities. Was the State taking steps to create a national strategy to promote the rights of persons with disabilities?
FABIÁN OMAR SALVIOLI, expert from Argentina and Committee Vice-Chairperson, said he still had concerns about extrajudicial executions in the Dominican Republic. The Government’s replies did not fully take up that issue and he wondered if the Government did not consider that a particular problem. An Amnesty International report described a situation that warranted a response, or perhaps a change of public policy. It was not enough to say that such situations could be challenged in the courts. The commitment to human rights required a fuller response.
He also wondered whether the courts had imposed sentences in such cases, as non-governmental organizations said only a few cases had seen sentences passed. Related to that was the issue of victim compensation. The State did not always accept responsibility for the behaviour of its agents and he asked for more information on that issue.
Turning to gender-based violence, he asked if there were any cases in which domestic violence had been punished. What was the State’s strategy for ensuring justice for female victims of such violence? What was the situation in remote areas? Domestic violence victims often lived in those areas, where it was more difficult to access justice.
On other issues, he asked if the Government was considering revising its laws on abortion, which was prohibited even in cases of rape or incest. While that had raised concern in other treaty bodies, there had been no change. Finally, he asked if an independent body existed to investigate violence by police authorities against people in detention.
Mr. THELIN, expert from Sweden, noted that the report was four and a half years late. “But better late than never,” he said. What was of more concern was that the written replies, which were due in October and had arrived last Friday, had not been translated into other languages.
On the need for an independent body to investigate claims of police violence, especially in detention, he did not think that issue had been addressed in the responses. A body of that kind should be instituted.
Also, there were “disturbing” numbers of extrajudicial killings. Between 2005 and 2011, the report noted there had been 2,542 killings by the police. The statistics for 2008-2010 showed a conviction rate of 10 per cent, which painted a “bleak” picture of the situation. He also requested statistics on violence by police that had not resulted in the loss of life.
Related to that, he said he had learned about discrimination against people of lower social classes who registered a complaint. Complaints from a person in a high social class were investigated before those by people of a lesser status. Also, there could be a political element to the decision to launch an investigation, he said, noting that prosecutors were appointed by the President.
On the issue of reparations, he asked if it were true that, in cases where there had been loss of life, it was the individual police officer who was responsible for reparation, not the State. He also asked about police training for firearm use, given that many extrajudicial killings involved firearms used by the police.
LAZHARI BOUZID, expert from Algeria, on the issue of extrajudicial killings, wondered if the Government would revise article 61 of the law on the police, relating to payment of compensation.
Ms. MOTOC, expert from Romania, asked about violence against women, as the country had among the highest numbers of domestic violence. Citing 2011 statistics, which showed that 233 women had been murdered by their husbands, she said parliament had passed legislation to end such behaviour. She asked how that law was being enacted and how the problem would be eradicated. Non-governmental organizations had indicated that there were no specialized units in law enforcement to deal with victims or case investigations. Had the Government considered police training on the issue of violence against women? It was also “alarming” that there were not enough shelters for victims.
On the law banning abortion, she asked about measures to ensure that women not die from illegal abortion practices.
NIGEL RODLEY, expert from the United Kingdom, said he understood that the unlawful use of force and torture were now being dealt with by ordinary courts, rather than police courts. If so, that was to be welcomed. But, he still was concerned about those issues. Paragraph 8 of previous concluding observations had outlined the Committee’s concern at violent deaths by police forces in 2007. Current deaths appeared to be at the same level.
Similarly, on the issue of ill-treatment of people in custody, he was worried that such behaviour was seen as a means for career advancement for law enforcement officials, prosecutors and judges. What measures would be put in place to ensure that such behaviour was a disincentive for promotion?
Addressing the question of the conflict between domestic and international law, one of the members of the Dominican Republic delegation stated that, as per Article 26 of the Dominican Constitution, international treaties were reviewed by the constitutional court before they were ratified, so that once a treaty was ratified, it could not be challenged as unconstitutional. Regarding compensation for victims, the Government had set up an office to deal with the rights of the victims and to provide assistance. All Dominicans had access to the office, specifically with a view to getting compensation.
The Government was aware of the situation of police brutality and extrajudicial killings. The head of the police force had addressed that and anybody that carried out an attack would be removed from the police force and subjected to prosecution, if found guilty of attack. On the question of whether the executive appointed prosecutors, she pointed out that she herself was a prosecutor and since 2005, a process of interview and public competition had been established to appoint independent prosecutors. Of a total number of 2,513 homicides last year, the police were responsible for 10 per cent, about 250 murders. That was not such a large number in comparison to the total number, she said.
Responding to the questions on migration and racial discrimination against persons of darker colour, another member of the delegation said that there were no discriminatory laws in the Dominican Constitution and the Dominican culture welcomed people, despite its poverty. However, he said, the Dominican Republic was situated next to the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. That resulted in a terrible imbalance between the countries and had led to the phenomenon of migration. The Dominican Republic could not do everything for its neighbour. That was “not as migration problem, but a human tragedy”.
About 15 per cent of Dominican Republic’s health care budget was reserved for Haitians who had crossed the border. The Dominican Republic also had to invest in the education of Haitian children in the Dominican Republic. It was necessary to maintain some order in the migration procedures. What country in the world could cope with 20 per cent migration? Ninety-five per cent of agricultural workers in the country were Haitians, whether documented or not. While the Dominican Republic did not flout any of the general principles, the Government could not deny that there had been isolated cases of discrimination and the office in charge of migration had an intelligence unit staffed by Haitians who helped it find cases of abuse. Seventeen such cases had come up last year. Further, the Government was helping to legalize the status of a large number of Haitian citizens who had arrived in the Dominican Republic illegally.
The Dominican Republic could not accept talk that the authorities in any way practised racial discrimination. It was an affront to the world that the people of Haiti had to live in that level of poverty. That, in itself, was discrimination and those who were responsible for that were around the world. He concluded by saying that “we live in poverty, but it is wealth compared to our neighbour”.
Another member of the delegation responded to the questions on equality for women, stating that the Dominican Republic had made much progress in promoting full enjoyment of the rights of women, while recognizing that there were still many challenges ahead. Regarding women’s participation in municipal elections, the Dominican Republic had met the quota of 33 per cent women as municipal councillors. However, in terms of women’s representation as mayors, the spirit of the law of 3-2000 had not been fully implemented, in practical terms. There was still a majority of men in the position of mayors, whereas most of the women were in the position of deputy mayor. That was a distortion of the law and the ministry for women was continuing its efforts to ensure that the position of deputy mayor would carry as much weight as that of the mayor in the city hall.
Turning to the subject of sexual harassment, she stated that, beyond the legislation that existed, the ministry was working on the matter, investigating cases, deepening public understanding, and especially raising awareness among victims themselves, since victims felt limited in their capacity to lodge complaints.
The Constitution assumed the principle of non-discrimination regardless of sexual orientation, but, she added, there were still cultural barriers which resulted in some discrimination on the ground. The Dominican Republic had provided a legislative framework to protect all people from discrimination.
A number of efforts had been undertaken by the ministry of women to ensure a national mechanism to prevent violence against women. The ministry had established important partnerships with the public ministry and 33 prosecutors’ offices, and had also set up 52 offices in the municipalities to help victims navigate the system and work towards reinsertion into society. Further, there were efforts to open gender offices in most ministries and Government agencies, specifically the national police, in order to raise awareness in other parts of the Government to ensure full enjoyment of rights by women. The debate on the issue of abortion was ongoing and a number of proposals were on the table as the new criminal code of the Dominican Republic was being legislated.
Another member of the delegation stated that several decisions had been taken in the Dominican Republic to protect the rights of persons with disability, including the establishment of a national council on disability, Consejo Nacional de Discapacidad (CONADI), which worked in the area of public policy for the defence and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities. Also, in 2011, by executive decree, a State organization was put into place to provide follow-up on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Various legal provisions aimed at the social inclusion of persons with disability, such as law 66/297, which covered the rights of all peoples to education, including those with disability. There were similar policies regarding health care, including psychological and psychiatric, pensions, and labour laws. A number of efforts had been taken to promote inclusive education. Various organizations, such as the Rehabilitation Center, the Center to Help People with Autism and so forth, were receiving economic support from the Government. The Dominican Republic was committed to ensuring a dignified life for person with disabilities.
Another delegation member, focusing on violence against women, said that from January to June 2011, figures from the Prosecutor’s Office showed that 2,580 cases of such abuse had been prosecuted, which, combined with other cases dealing with psychological abuse, showed that a total of over 5,000 cases had been prosecuted. Under two other codes, some 2,833 cases of physical violence had been prosecuted, as had “several thousand more” cases of psychological abuse.
Detailing other efforts, she said the Government had put in place a deputy prosecutor for women’s issues, 14 special units to attend to victims of violence, welcome centres, centres to help survivors, and other centres to address the needs of violent men. Further, a model for holistic care for victims was being designed to ensure that people would not be “re-victimized” by the system. The Government was working with UNICEF, among others, in that regard.
In addition, a remote phone system to lodge complaints throughout the country had been developed, as had a multidisciplinary, intersectoral law that was under final review to provide support for that work. In 2006, a Supreme Court resolution created a centre for abused women and mothers. Public awareness campaigns — such as “Zero Tolerance” and “Against the Wall” — were raising awareness about violence against women.
Regarding women killed by their partners, she said only 20 per cent of those women had lodged a complaint prior to their deaths and she did not understand why more women did not come forward. The Government was using all available tools to grapple with the problem.
Taking up questions about the electoral board and discrimination against persons of Haitian descent, another delegation member said that, in 2006, the Government had started reviewing its civil registry. There had been much fraud related to trafficking in persons. Tackling such problems, it adopted a resolution in 2007 that allowed irregular “certificates” to go to the courts. There had been no discrimination on the basis of race or language.
The electoral board had always listened to complaints lodged by civil society, he said, adding that it was working with the National Commission on Human Rights and the Cultural Centre to learn about people who had been deprived of nationality. Some 120 cases had been reported.
To another point, made by Mr. Neuman, that the Constitution was applying the migration law retroactively, he said the constitutional system had not changed the grounds for nationality. A child of a foreigner residing in the Dominican Republic had nationality. Children of tourists or transient people were not entitled to nationality. Those laws had been acknowledged by Haiti dating back some 30 years. Back then, cane cutters had come from the Virgin Islands, for example, for six months at a time. The Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, in 1997, reported that the normal requirement was that only those who could demonstrate residency at time of their child’s birth would receive nationality.
He added that there was a problem with the health system in Haiti. Many people receiving health services in the Dominican Republic were Haitians, who returned to their country after their treatment.
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