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Dominica’s status is far-better than many nations in Asia, Europe and America


Dominica’s status is far-better than many nations in Asia, Europe and America

Alfred Rozario

According to the Country Reports on the Human Rights and Practices, which was issued by the United States Department of State on March 13, 2019, overall situation in Dominica is proved to be much-better than any of the Asian, European and American nations.

Dominica is a multiparty, parliamentary democracy. In the 2014 general election, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit’s Dominica Labor Party prevailed over the opposition United Workers Party (UWP) by a margin of 15 seats to six. The Organization of American States (OAS) election observers noted some irregularities but found the elections generally free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

Human rights issues included criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual activity between adults, although no cases were reported during the year, and criminalization of libel.

The government took steps to prosecute officials who committed abuses.

There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. There were no updates on the February 2017 police killing that occurred in Boetica.

According to the report, there is no disappearance, torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment in Dominica. There is no political intimidation or censor on the media or internet. Most importantly, Roosevelt Skeritt’s administration does not allow any form of religious hatred, extremism or anti-Semitism.

Conditions in prison:

There were no major concerns in the country’s sole prison, Stockfarm Prison, regarding physical conditions or inmate abuse.  Authorities conducted proper investigations of credible allegation of mistreatment.

An independent committee composed of the chief welfare officer, justices of the peace, chaplain, youth welfare officers, social workers, and senior retired civil servants visited the prison once per month to investigate complaints and monitor prison and detention center conditions. Prisoners could request meetings with the superintendent to lodge complaints. The government permitted visits by independent human rights observers. As of October no independent human rights observers visited the prison.

During the year the prison finished installing beds and toilets in the maximum-security unit, built new administrative offices, and repaired its electrical room, which was damaged during Hurricane Maria.

Arbitrary Arrest: In August 2017 police charged opposition political figures with “obstruction of justice and incitement.” Three of them appeared at the high court in September, and the magistrate set the next hearing for March 28, 2019. The charges stemmed from public disturbances that occurred in February 2017, when police arrested four opposition UWP leaders on the grounds that a UWP public political meeting incited a subsequent riot. Police alleged that opposition members had attempted a coup and charged one of them with obstructing a police officer, but the court dismissed the charge against that individual.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy detention before trial was a problem due to judicial staff shortages. On average, prisoners remained on remand status for six to 24 months. According to prison management, the average length of time prisoners remained on remand status was two months, while civil society claimed the waiting time was between six and 24 months.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

Inadequate prosecutorial and police staffing, outdated legislation, and a lack of magistrates resulted in severe backlogs and other problems in the judicial system.

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but implementation was inconsistent. According to civil society sources and members of the political opposition, officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

Corruption: Local media and opposition leadership continued to raise allegations of corruption within the government. The government continued to deny selling diplomatic passports. In 2017 the integrity commission dismissed all pending cases against government officials, including the president and prime minister.

Financial Disclosure: The Integrity in Public Office Act requires government officials to account annually for their income, assets, and gifts. All offenses under the act, including the late filing of declarations, are criminal offenses. The Integrity Commission generally reported on late submissions and inappropriately completed forms but did not share financial disclosures of officials with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape. Although the maximum sentence for sexual molestation (rape or incest) is 25 years’ imprisonment, the usual sentence was five to seven years. Police generally were not reluctant to arrest or prosecute offenders. Whenever possible, female police officers handled rape cases. Women were reluctant to report domestic violence to police. The only shelter for victims of gender-based violence remained closed since Hurricane Maria in September 2017.

Civil society reported that sexual and domestic violence was common. The government recognized it as a problem, but according to civil society groups, understanding of gender-based violence, particularly domestic violence, was low among the general population. Although no specific laws criminalize spousal abuse, spouses were able to bring charges against their partners for battery.

The law allows abused persons to appear before a magistrate without an attorney and request a protective order.

Sexual Harassment: The law does not prohibit sexual harassment. Civil society reported it was a pervasive problem.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: The constitution provides women with the same legal rights as men, but property deeds continued to be given to heads of households, who were usually men. The law establishes pay rates for civil service jobs without regard to gender.

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