Dominican Republic

While much of the attention on the challenges to the inter-American system have focused on Venezuela and Ecuador, the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court has asserted that it has never fully been under the authority of the Inter-American Court, as part of an aggressive  policy to reject human rights criticism over its handling of Dominicans of Haitian descent. That policy was seen too in the Dominican Republic’s non-acceptance of 23 of the 24 concerns raised over the country’s relationship with  international human rights instruments at the UNHRC Universal Periodic Review process. In the OAS Permanent Council vote on whether to pass a resolution demanding increased pressure in Venezuela, the Dominican Republic abstained from voting on the resolution, breaking away from its usual voting pattern. And in a potentially troubling regional trend, the Dominican Republic imposed restrictions on international election monitors in the country to observe the 2016 elections. What makes all of this curious is that in other areas, such as free trade, the Dominican Republic has been a strong advocate for global norms. 

Below is a breakdown of the Dominican Republic’s actions and votes at the various venues we are monitoring. For more information click on each title and summary.


Freedom House  
Freedom Status Partly Free
Aggregate Score (100 is perfect freedom and protection of rights) 67
Political Rights (scores out of 40, with 40 being the best) 26
Civil Liberties (scores out of 60, with 60 being the best) 41
Reporters Without Borders  
       World Press Freedom Index (scores out of 100, with 1 being the best) 27.9
Transparency International  
Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 28/100
 Global Rank 137/180
World Justice Project [1]  
Rule-of-Law Index 0.48
 Regional rank  24/30
 Global rank 90/128
UN Human Development Index  
 Human Development Index (HDI) 0.756
 Global rank 88
Americas Quarterly [2] (last report 2016)  
 Social Inclusion Index N/A
Regional rank N/A

United Nations System:

United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC or Council)

The Dominican Republic has never been on the UNHRC.

UNHRC’s Universal Periodic Review

As part of its mandate to promote human rights around the globe, the UNHRC has instituted a Universal Periodic Review, where, once every four years, each country’s human rights record is examined. Other countries are invited to review the record and make comments and suggestions for improvement. The country under review then acknowledges each comment by either “accepting” the comment, meaning typically that they agree to focus on, or “noting” it, indicating that they disagree and will not be focusing on improvements in this area. To read about the Dominican Republic’s participation, click on the title above.

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As recipient: The Dominican Republic received 134 recommendations. Accepted 84, noted 50. (only select topics listed below)

Area Received Accepted Noted
Civil society  2 2  –
Elections  –  –  –
Enforced disappearances  5 1  4
Extrajudicial executions  2 2
Freedom of association and peaceful assembly  –  –  –
Freedom of opinion and expression  1  1  –
Freedom of religion and belief  –  –  –
Freedom of press  1  1  –
Human rights defenders  1  1  –
Human rights violations by state agents  8 7  1
Impunity  –  –  –
Indigenous peoples  –  –  –
Internally displaced persons  –  –  –
International instruments  24  1  23
Justice  7  4  3
Migrants  14  5  9
Minorities  7  3  4
Racial discrimination  4  4  –
Sexual orientation and gender identity  3  3  –
Torture and CID treatment 2  –  2
Women’s rights  26  22  4

Note: some comments are classified under multiple categories.

As commenter: The Dominican Republic’s participation in the UPR process is quite limited, with only 4 comments made so far in the 2nd cycle (for data available). The recommendations were addressed to Ecuador and Paraguay in the Latin American region, as well as Belgium and Italy in Europe.

Main topics of comments were rights of the child (4) and women’s rights (4).

Note: This data is for the 2nd cycle of the UPR. However, the final round of countries were reviewed in November/December 2016, and that data is not yet available to include in our analysis here.[/expandableContent]

UN NGO Committee

The Dominican Republic has never been on the Committee.

Inter-American System:

OAS Permanent Council

Under the new leadership of Secretary General Luis Almagro, the OAS has re-found its focus on defending democracy but is still bound by the wishes and will of its members. But the newfound leader’s commitment—and the challengeswere shown at a meeting in June 2016 where Almagro presented his report on the state of democracy in Venezuela and proposed invoking the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

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In the 2016 Permanent Council discussion of the state of democracy in Venezuela, the Dominican Republic voted against the presentation of Secretary General Almagro’s report. In that vote it was joined by Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Haiti, Nicaragua, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent, and Venezuela. And while it is a beneficiary of Venezuela’s Petro-Caribe, explaining in part its vote, other countries that are members of Petro-Caribe voted to hear the report, including Bahamas, Belize, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, and Suriname. Given its withdrawal from the Inter-American human rights system, it’s possible that the vote also reflects a growing anti-liberal position of the state—despite its enjoyment of a free-trade agreement with the United States, CAFTA-DR.

During the 2017 OAS General Assembly in Cancun, the Dominican Republic abstained from voting on a U.S.-Mexico backed resolution that urged the Venezuelan government not to convene a constituent assembly that would rewrite the Venezuelan constitution.[/expandableContent]

Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR or Commission)

After not attending the 159th hearings, the Dominican Republic was present at the 164th hearing in September. However, it had a negative response to the topics of impunity and corruption put forward in the hearings. When it comes to voluntary funding, the Dominican Republic gives nothing beyond its member quota to the OAS.

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Hearing Issue Score
164th  Human Rights and Reports on Impunity and Corruption in the Dominican Republic 1.5/3
  159th  Human Rights and Statelessness in the Dominican Republic 0/3
 159th Situation of Human Rights defenders in the Dominican Republic 0/3
157th /158th Political Rights of Dominican Persons of Haitian Descent in the Dominican Republic  1/3
 156th Right to nationality  2/3
 156th  Situation of LGBT persons 1/3

Voluntary financial contributions to IACHR:

Year Contributions by Dominican Republic Percentage of Total
Contributions to IACHR


Electoral Missions

The OAS has conducted a total of 11 electoral observation missions to the Dominican Republic since 1993. The latests electoral observation mission took place on 2016 for the General Elections. The OAS also monitored elections in 2012, 2010, 2008, 2006, 2004, 2002, 2000, 1998, 1996 and 1994.

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The most recent election in the Dominican Republic had numerous problems, with the opposition candidate accusing the government of using government jobs to influence voters and of paying people not to vote. The OAS follow-up report detailed disparities in access to media and the distribution of government funding to parties as well as loopholes in financing, such as the lack of limits on private contributions to campaigns. However, despite these problems and some limited violence, the OAS preliminary report did not report any serious reservations about the outcome of the election. Informally, however, a number of outside observers and participants expressed frustration over the lack of access to the voter registration audit and the limited freedom of mobility imposed on diplomats on election day.

Widespread fraud in the election of 1994, documented by the OAS, led to new elections 18 months later.


Freedom of Information Laws

Since 2000 the right to information and freedom of information laws have expanded across the region.  However, the existence of the laws on the books does not necessarily mean full enforcement. To see the Dominican Republic’s stats on this topic, please click on the title above.

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Signatory/Participant in MESICIC*  Yes
Constitutional protection*  Partial Protections
Specific law enacted*  Yes, enacted in 2004
Is there a presumption of right*  Yes
Scope/Exceptions/Overrides*  Limited application to legislature/judiciary; exception for national security and international relations; has overrides.
Received information under FOIA law?**  79%
Received information within a week?**  75%
Received the appropriate information?**  N/A

*Data taken from the Global Right to Information ratings, provided by the Center for Law and Democracy. 
**Information from the 2015 World Justice Project Open Government Index


Women’s rights:

Protecting women against gender-based violence is a human rights issue often overlooked globally even though it crosses social, economic and national boundaries. And according to the United Nations Population Fund, gender-based violence undermines the health, security, dignity, and autonomy of its victims. Although 16 countries in Latin America had modified their laws to include a specific type of crime referring to the murder of women by 2015, they are not uniformly implemented, and practices to convict perpetrators of gender-based violence are still extremely weak. A 2016 report published by the Small Arms Survey found that Latin America and the Caribbean is home to 14 of the 25 countries with the highest rates of femicide in the world.

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The Dominican Republic has a female homicide rate is 3.7 per 100,000 women. It also does not currently have active legislation to regulate gender-based violence. Though in 2016 the Senate approved the Organic Law for the Prevention, Attention, Sanction and Eradication of Violence against Women—which sentenced perpetrators of femicide to a maximum of 40 years—the regulations have not been promulgated or published by the executive branch. As a result, there is no law in effect.  


Indigenous rights:

7.8 percent of the population in Latin America, roughly 41,813,039 people, identify as indigenous, 49 percent of them live in urban areas and 51 percent live in rural areas.

The Labour Organization’s Convention 169 (ILO 169)

The Labour Organization’s Convention 169 (ILO169)—which has the status of an international treaty—establishes the right of indigenous and tribal peoples to be consulted when a policy or project affects their culture or heritage through what is commonly called “previous and informed consent.” The vaguely worded treaty has been a point of contention in some countries, among governments, investors and communities; and progress in implementing it has been uneven. The Convention has been interpreted, in particular, as applying to issues of national resource extraction and infrastructure development that affect communal lands. In Latin America 16 countries have signed ILO 169.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People’s (UNDRIP)

Adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2007, all Latin American countries, except Colombia, which abstained, voted in favor of this declaration. The only four countries to initially reject this declaration were the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. While it is not a legally binding instrument, it is an “important standard” for the treatment of indigenous people. The declaration sets out the collective and individual rights of indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education, and other issues. It prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them and their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic and social development. The end goal is to encourage countries to work alongside indigenous communities to solve global issues, like development, multicultural democracy and decentralization.

American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People

In 2016, the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) approved the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples after a long negotiation of 17 years. The declaration recognizes the collective organization and multicultural character of indigenous peoples, the self-identification of people who consider themselves indigenous and special protection for peoples in voluntary isolation or initial contact. However, the declaration was met with resistance by members of the indigenous community, who complained that they did not have full participation in the negotiations and that the declaration rolled back several rights recognized in UNDRIP. The declaration does not mention the right to previous and informed consultation.

Previous to the declaration, in 1990, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) had created the Office of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to devote attention to Indigenous Peoples in the Americas and to “strengthen, promote, and systemize the IACHR’s own work in this area. The current Rapporteur on the Right of Indigenous Peoples is Francisco José Eguiguren Praeli, Ambassador of Peru to Spain from 2012 to 2014 and Minister of the Office of Justice. He received a law degree from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru with a master’s degree in Constitutional Law and a PhD in Humanities. Former Rapporteurs include, Rose-Marie Belle Antoine a former IACHR Commissioner, Dinah Shelton an international law consultant for the World Health Organization, the United Nations Environment Programme among other organizations.

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While a signatory, the Dominican Republic has done nothing legislatively judicially or policy-wise to put in place the necessary framework and jurisprudence for its ILO 169 responsibilities. The Dominican Republic has also voted in favor of UNDRIP and the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  


[1] WJP Rule-of-Law Index measures 4 principles: 1) The government and its officials and agents as well as individuals and private entities are accountable under the law; 2) The laws are clear, publicized, stable, and just; are applied evenly; and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property and certain core human rights; 3) The process by which the laws are enacted, administered, and enforced is accessible, fair, and efficient; 4) Justice is delivered timely by competent, ethical, and independent representatives and neutrals who are of sufficient number, have adequate resources, and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve.
[2] AQ Social Inclusion Index uses 23 different factors to measure how effectively governments are serving their citizens, regardless of race or income, and is published annually by Americas Quarterly at the Americas Society/Council of the Americas.
[3] Hearings were scored by Global Americans on a scale of 0 to 3 to evaluate government participation. 0 indicates that the government did not send any representatives to participate. If representatives were present, they were scored from 1 to 3 based on how engaged the representatives were, 1 indicating that they objected to the hearing, to the jurisdiction of the Commission to review the topic or dismissed there being any issue to discuss. A score of 3 indicates full participation of the government, including acknowledgment of the issue and its importance, the jurisdiction of the Commission to review and engagement on how this issue will be addressed going forward.
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