“Shut Up If You Don’t Want To Be Killed”

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News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Weds. Oct. 26, 2011: Scores of human rights violations by police in the Dominican Republic have been released in a new report called: “Shut Up If You Don’t Want To Be Killed.”

The report by Amnesty International claims the police in the DR engage in killings, torture and ill-treatment of nationals at an alarming level. It claims that research shows that between January and July 2011, 154 people were killed by the police in the Dominican Republic, according to the Office of the Prosecutor General – in comparison to 125 over the same period in 2010.

One young man told Amnesty International in October: “If you rob somebody and this person files a complaint, if the police identify you as the robber, they look for you and without letting you speak they shoot at you… I was there when the police caught a friend of mine. He was a robber. The police were looking for him. One day the police went to his house. He was hiding somewhere else. The police told him: ‘Come out, we are not going to kill you, we just wanted to question you’. When he came out, they shot him twice in the head.”

Statistics also from the Office of the Prosecutor General showed that 10 percent of all the murders recorded in 2010 were committed by the police. Several police officers were also killed.

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

Amnesty International also found that while in police custody, criminal suspects have been threatened with death, beaten and denied food, water and essential medicines. Some have had plastic bags put over their heads and were hung from bars or nails by their handcuffs. At least two people last seen in police custody are feared to have been the victims of enforced disappearance. Only a fraction of cases reach the courts or are even investigated.
AI is urging authorities in the Dominican Republic to urgently reform their police force.

“Authorities must ensure those responsible for the killings and torture face justice and that steps are taken to change the policies and practices that allow these abuses to take place,” said Javier Zúñiga, Head of Amnesty International’s delegation in the Dominican Republic. “The official view continues to be that human rights violations are committed by a few corrupt or unprofessional officers who are swiftly dealt with and held accountable but the reality paints a very different picture.”