Press Release

IACHR Regrets Death of a Young Man in the Dominican Republic

November 14, 2012

Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) regrets the death of a young man during the repression by law enforcement of a demonstration in Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic. The IACHR urges the State of the Dominican Republic to ensure that its use of force is strictly in conformance with its international obligations and applicable international principles.

According to information known to the public, Willy Florián Ramírez, a 21-year-old student, died of a gunshot wound on November 8, 2012, in Santo Domingo, during clashes between students and the National Police, in the context of a demonstration. The information available indicates that police agents used force to control the demonstration, shooting firearms at the demonstrators who were leaving the campus of the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo. Two police agents and four other individuals were also reported to have been injured in the vicinity of the university campus.

According to information provided by National Police Headquarters, an investigation has been opened into the young man's death and the acts of violence, and the initial results indicate that the person allegedly responsible for the homicide was a policeman. He has been relieved of his duties and is being prosecuted for these acts. Another 19 police agents who participated in the operation have reportedly been arrested.

The IACHR welcomes the actions taken by State authorities to conduct a judicial inquiry into the death of Willy Florián Ramírez and the acts of violence. In this regard, the Commission calls on the State to reinforce any actions that would lead to the development of a diligent and impartial investigation; to prosecute and punish those individuals who end up being responsible; and to repair the consequences of these acts.

Moreover, the IACHR reiterates that it is necessary to adopt mechanisms to prevent excessive use of force by public agents in protest marches and demonstrations. In this regard, the Inter-American Commission calls on the State to urgently adopt all necessary measures the due protection of protesters and members of its own law enforcement forces, within a framework of respect for inter-American human rights standards.

In this regard, the Commission notes that the rights to association and freedom of expression are fundamental rights guaranteed by the American Convention on Human Rights. Given the importance of these rights for the consolidation of democratic societies, the Commission has maintained that any restriction of these rights should be justified by an imperative social interest. In this regard, the Commission observes that a State may impose reasonable limitations on protests in order to ensure that they are carried out peacefully, as well as to disperse protests that turn violent, so long as such limits are governed by the principles of legality, necessity, and proportionality. As the actions of state agents must not discourage the rights to assembly, association, and free expression, dispersion of a protest may be justified only under the duty to protect people. Security operations implemented in these contexts should contemplate those measures which are the safest and least restrictive of the fundamental rights involved. The use of force in public demonstrations should be exceptional and strictly necessary in accordance with internationally recognized principles.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 133/12