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map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Constitution, Government & Legislation

The Dominican Republic is a representative democracy whose national powers are divided among independent executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The president appoints the cabinet, executes laws passed by the legislative branch, and is commander in chief of the armed forces. The president and vice president run for office on the same ticket and are elected by direct vote for 4-year terms.

Legislative power is exercised by a bicameral congress--the senate (30 members), and the chamber of deputies (120 members). Presidential elections are held in years evenly divisible by four. Congressional and municipal elections are held in even numbered years not divisible by four.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Courts & Judgments

Under the constitutional reforms negotiated after the 1994 elections, the 16-member Supreme Court of Justice is appointed by a National Judicial Council, which is nominated by the three major political parties. The Court has sole jurisdiction over actions against the president, designated members of his cabinet, and members of Congress.

The Supreme Court hears appeals from lower courts and chooses members of lower courts. Each of the 29 provinces is headed by a presidentially appointed governor. Elected mayors and municipal councils administer the National District (Santo Domingo) and the 103 municipal districts.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Human Rights

The Dominican Republic Government's human rights record was poor in 2001, and serious problems remain. Police committed extrajudicial killings. The police, and to a lesser degree the military, tortured, beat, and otherwise abused detainees and prisoners. The authorities rarely prosecuted abusers, and at times members of the security forces committed abuses with the tacit acquiescence of the civil authorities, leading to a climate of impunity. Police on several occasions used excessive force to disperse demonstrators. Prison conditions ranged from poor to harsh. Police arbitrarily arrested and detained suspects and suspects' relatives. While improvements in the efficiency of the judiciary continue, lengthy pretrial detention and long delays in trials remained problems. The Government referred several cases of police abuse to the civilian courts, instead of nontransparent proceedings in police courts. In December the Supreme Court ruled in one case that police officers charged in extrajudicial killings should stand trial in the civilian courts. The authorities infringed on citizens' privacy rights, and police entered private homes without judicial orders. Members of the President's security force mistreated journalists, and journalists at times practiced self-censorship. The Government restricted the movement of and forcibly expelled Haitian and Dominican-Haitian migrants. Violence and discrimination against women; prostitution, including child prostitution; abuse of children; discrimination against persons with disabilities; discrimination against and abuse of Haitian migrants and their descendants; and child labor were serious problems. There continued to be reports of forced labor. Workers on the sugar plantations and mills continued to work in unsafe conditions. Trafficking in persons was a serious problem.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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