The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
The Dominican Republic is a State Party to the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 21 of the ICCPR governs the right of peaceful assembly, providing that:
The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
The Dominican Republic is also a State Party to the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, which allows individuals to petition the Human Rights Committee if they believe the State has violated their human rights as protected under the Covenant.
At regional level, the Dominican Republic is a state party to the 1969 Inter-American Convention on Human Rights. Article 15 governs the right of assembly:
The right of peaceful assembly, without arms, is recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and necessary in a democratic society in the interest of national security, public safety or public order, or to protect public health or morals or the rights or freedom of others.
The Dominican Republic has accepted the competence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to hear complaints by individuals under the jurisdiction of the State that their rights under the 1969 Inter-American Convention on Human Rights have been violated.
The Domestic Legal Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Freedom of assembly is guaranteed in Article 48 of the 2015 Constitution of the Dominican Republic:
All persons have the right to meet, without prior permission, with lawful and peaceful purposes, in accordance with the law.
There is no detailed primary legislation in the Dominican Republic on the right of assembly. However, under Article 1 of Law 5578 of July 1962, the organisers of any public meeting or demonstration at national level are obliged to notify the Minister of Interior and the Police (or provincial Governors in other cases) at least 48 hours in advance of an assembly.
Under the 2007 Penal Code, violent assemblies in which violence or threats are employed with a view to preventing one or more citizens from exercising their political rights will be punished with a term of imprisonment of up to two years on each of the participants.Art. 109, 2007 Penal Code.
The Legal Framework on Use of Force During Assemblies
The Use of Force
International Legal Rules
Under international law, the duty on the State and its law enforcement agencies is to facilitate the enjoyment of the right of peaceful assembly. According to the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials:
In the dispersal of assemblies that are unlawful but non-violent, law enforcement officials shall avoid the use of force or, where that is not practicable, shall restrict such force to the minimum extent necessary.
All force used by police and other law enforcement agencies must be necessary for a legitimate law enforcement purpose and proportionate to that purpose.
Police use of force in the Dominican Republic is governed by the 2016 Organic Act on the National Police (No. 590-16). According to Article 14:
The use of force will only be lawful as a last resort and in compliance with the criteria of opportunity, coherence and proportionality, in accordance the Constitution of the Republic, laws and regulations.
The Use of Firearms
International Legal Rules
According to the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles, in the dispersal of violent assemblies, a law enforcement official may only use a firearm against a specific individual where this is necessary to confront an imminent threat of death or serious injury or a grave and proximate threat to life.
Article 55 governs the use of force and specifically the use of firearms, only allowing use in accordance with Basic Principle 9 of the 1990 Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. This is the international legal standard for use of firearms.The Spanish text reproduces the error contained in the Spanish version of the 1990 Basic Principles referring to "intentional use of lethal weapons when strictly unavoidable to protect life" instead of "intentional lethal use of firearms" only when strictly unavoidable to protect life.
State Compliance with its Legal Obligations
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its 2017 Concluding Observations on the Dominican Republic, the Human Rights Committee regretted "the lack of information on the steps taken to safeguard the right of migrant workers to freedom of assembly" and called on the Dominican Republic to "ensure that migrant workers effectively enjoy their right to freedom of peaceful assembly and that the exercise of this right does not become justification for dismissal or deportation".
The 2019 Universal Periodic Review of the Dominican Republic under the Human Rights Council did not address the right of peaceful assembly.
Views of Civil Society
In March 2021, reproductive rights activists protested to demand a change to the Dominican Republic’s punitive laws regarding pregnancy termination. The country is one of a handful in Latin America and the Caribbean where abortion is criminalised and prohibited in all circumstances. Unsafe abortions are among the leading causes of maternal mortality in the Dominican Republic, and about 22% of abortions are carried out on adolescents.
According to Freedom House's 2019 report on the Dominican Republic:
Freedom of assembly is guaranteed by the constitution, and demonstrations are common, but sometimes subject to violent dispersal by police. There was a large protest against government corruption in August 2018, and throughout the year smaller demonstrations were held at which participants called for the decriminalization of abortion, protested rising fuel prices and frequent power outages, and expressed support for the recognition of social, cultural, economic, and environmental rights.
Several people were injured in September when demonstrators protesting high fuel prices and electricity shortages clashed with police. In October, one person was reportedly killed by police gunfire in Santiago de los Caballeros as police moved against protesters, some of whom were working to block roads into their neighborhood ahead of a planned nationwide strike.