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The justice system in the Dominican Republic needs to show independence from political interference

Transparency International, the leading civil society organisation fighting corruption worldwide, and its national chapter in the Dominican Republic, Participación Ciudadana, are concerned about alleged grand corruption by key members of the country’s political elite and the apparent lack of autonomy of the Supreme Court.

An independent judiciary is a cornerstone of democracy and a vital pillar of national integrity. Yet, the apparent impunity for political actors that are part of the party in power, such as the recent scandal surrounding Senator Felix Bautista, calls into question the effective functioning of fundamental democratic institutions in this Caribbean country.

Senator Bautista was accused of alleged administrative corruption as well as other criminal charges during his time as Head of the Office of Supervision Engineers of Public Works from 2004 to 2010.

The Public Ministry presented a well-documented corruption case, showing a complete mismatch between what Senator Bautista reports in his asset declaration and what his bank accounts reveal. However, the case was dismissed last week on technical grounds by a Supreme Court judge who is a member of the same political party of which Senator Bautista is a high ranking official. This decision has been contested by broad sections of society and has led to thousands of people taking to the streets.

“To prevent this case from being an illustration for how corruption and impunity prevail over democratic values in the Dominican Republic, it needs to be reviewed properly following due process. The autonomy of those reviewing it must be guaranteed. The people of the Dominican Republic are rightly tired with the widespread impunity for the corrupt and powerful in their country and this is why they are rallying the streets”, said Alejandro Salas, Transparency International’s Regional Director for the Americas.

As Heads of State from all over the Americas are gathering this week in Panama for the Summit of the Americas, democratic governance and citizen participation will be part of their agenda. While this event is taking place, the Dominican Republic has the opportunity to show that they take those issues seriously and that the country can be an example of how to do things well in the region.

For this to happen, Transparency International, together with Participación Ciudadana, calls for:

  • The Senator Bautista case to be reopened following the appeal of the Public Ministry
  • A broad and comprehensive reform of the judiciary to take place to guarantee its autonomy and quality, with a focus on eliminating political interference in the decisions taken by judges
  • The country’s leaders to listen to and act on the call for justice from the Dominican Republic citizens

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Natalie Baharav
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