Human Rights Watch condemned police shootings in the Dominican Republic and called on President Leonel Fernández to order immediate investigations of the violence in the capital.

We are shocked by this seemingly indiscriminate use of force," said Jos?Miguel Vivanco, executive director of the Americas division of Human Rights Watch. "These police actions violate basic freedoms of assembly, association and movement."

On Monday January 25, Dominican police cordoned off the Municipal League building, posting hundreds of police outside and cutting off power, water, and telephone service. Several opposition politicians reportedly remain trapped inside the building. Yesterday, the police sealed off access to the Congress, which had convened an extraordinary session to address the government's measures, barring the entry of several opposition senators.

Human Rights Watch urges President Fern?dez to investigate these measures and to take immediate steps to ensure that Dominican police do not impede the full enjoyment of citizens' fundamental rights, particularly the right to peaceful assembly.

The Municipal League is a national association of mayors charged with dispersing approximately 4 percent of the national budget at the local level. Currently, the opposition party, the Dominican Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Dominicano, PRD) controls a clear majority of municipalities. In recent weeks, President Fern?dez's ruling Dominican Liberation Party (Partido de Liberaci? Dominicano, PLD) and its ally, the Reformist Social Christian Party (Partido Reformista Social Cristiano, PRSC), have claimed to control a majority of votes needed to select a new leader of the Dominican Municipal League. Dominican law required the selection of a new Municipal League leader yesterday. When police impeded the convocation of the PRD-backed Municipal League meeting at its Santo Domingo headquarters, the organization's executive secretary moved the meeting to a hotel, where the group named a new president. Meanwhile, the ruling party, under the direction of the Secretary of Interior and Police Ram? Andr? Blanco Fern?dez (whose role in the Municipal League remains the subject of legal dispute), convened a parallel meeting in San Pedro de Macor? and also chose a new league president.

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