Dominica Country Profile


Key Statistics

Population: 72,000 (World Bank, 2014)

Capital: Roseau

Languages: English, Kwéyol

Major Ethnic Groups: Black 75%, Mixed 19.2%, Kalinago 4%,  European 0.8%, Others 1%

GDP per capita (current US dollars): 7,513 (IMF World Economic Outlook, 2015)

GDP per Capita PPP (current international dollars): 11,029 (IMF World Economic Outlook, 2015)

Security Sector Stats

Active Armed Forces: Dominica has no standing armed force since 1981.

Executive Summary

The Commonwealth of Dominica, a small Eastern Caribbean island with a population of just over 70,000, has seen its murder rate climb significantly since 2000. The country serves as a drug transhipment point and produces marijuana primarily to serve the local drug market. Though there is no established presence of international organised criminal groups, statistics indicate that drug trafficking through the country’s territory may be increasing and domestic street-gangs are a problem.

The justice and security sectors suffer from under resourcing and inefficiency, but corruption rates appear to be low in the country. Arguably the most serious problem is a severe backlog of cases in the justice system.

Efforts could be made to aid Dominica in better training its legal professionals to help improve efficiency in the legal system, as well as exploring the possibility of financing the hiring of more magistrates to tackle the case backlog. With regards to the security sector, ensuring that the police continue to implement vetting procedures, and remain accountable and transparent is advised.

Security and Justice Context

Dominica’s homicide rate more than tripled from 2006-2010, rising from 7.3 murders per 100,000 inhabitants to 22.1 per 100,000. The 2010 figure—the latest available at the time of writing—marks an even greater increase compared to that registered in 2000: 2.9 homicides per 100,000 (See Figure 1.).


Fig. 1 Dominica Homicide Rate 2000-2010

According to police figures, there are approximately 10 gangs in the country with a total membership of 113, all of whom are from Dominica. These groups are not highly organised and engage primarily in the local drug trade, petty crime and protecting territory, or “turf.”

Like other countries in the Eastern Caribbean, Dominica serves as a transhipment point in the international drugs trade. Officials made 496 drug seizures in 2011, according to the US State Department, which amounted to 62 kilograms of cocaine and 1.7 tonnes of marijuana, among other illicit narcotics. The government estimates that around 10 percent of cocaine and 25 percent of marijuana moving through Dominican territory is consumed domestically. However, there is not thought to be a significant presence of transnational organised criminal groups in the country.

The Organisation of American States noted that the number of convictions for drug trafficking charges rose substantially from 2006-2009, from 47 to 225, while firearms seizures linked to drug trafficking cases rose more than five-fold in the same period, from four to 25. This may indicate an increase in trafficking or potentially be a result of improved interdiction measures.

Marijuana cultivation is a problem for the small island nation—particularly in isolated mountain regions—and the majority of that produced is consumed domestically. Dominican officials estimated that approximately 210 acres of marijuana were being cultivated on the island in 2011. That year, authorities eradicated 15 cultivations spread over 13 acres, according to the US State Department, up significantly from the 3.7 acres of marijuana crops eradicated in 2006.

The aforementioned increase in firearms seizures linked to drug trafficking cases points to the presence of illicit firearms in the country. However, at the time of writing there were no figures on the number of civilian firearms in the country, nor the percentage which may be unregistered. The Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police (ACCP)[1] has estimated that there are some 1.6 million illegal weapons circulating in the whole Caribbean.

Kidnapping is a minor concern on the island, which appears to be on the decline; reported kidnappings fell in Dominica from four in 2010 to three in 2011.

Perceptions of Insecurity

No information was available regarding perceptions of insecurity in Dominica at the time of writing.

Security and Justice Institutions

Justice Institutions

As a result of its colonial history, Dominica’s legal system is partly based on English Common Law. The judiciary is independent and the country operates an adversarial legal system.

The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court[2] (ECSC) administers the country’s judicial system and assigns two High Court judges to reside in Dominica and hear cases from the country’s courts.

Dominica’s courts system consists of lower Magistrates’ Courts which have jurisdiction over minor criminal and civil cases, and a High Court with unlimited jurisdiction. Appeals going beyond the High Court can be sent to the ECSC Court of Appeal[3] . Although Dominica is a signatory to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), inaugurated in 2005 as the judicial institution of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)[4] , final appellate jurisdiction rests with the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) in London.

The attorney general is the government’s principal legal advisor and serves as a cabinet minister while the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is Dominica’s main prosecutorial authority.

In Dominica, the ombudsman is known as the Parliamentary Commissioner and is responsible for investigating complaints against the government for alleged injustices.

According to the US State Department, the constitutional right to a fair trial is generally enforced; however, inefficiency in the legal system is a concern. Among the issues are insufficient resources, a lack of magistrates and general understaffing, all of which contribute to lengthy trial delays.

The country has one prison, Stock Farm Prison located in the capital, Roseau, which is administered by the Dominica Prison Service under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister’s Office. According to the government, the facility was running at 80.7 percent capacity in 2012, with 242 out of 300 spaces occupied. However, this figure differs from that of the US State Department which stated that in 2011 the prison was 19 percent over its capacity to hold 200, not 300, inmates. It is unclear whether the government indeed increased the capacity of the prison by 100 spaces.

Of the prison population, approximately 20 percent were prisoners on remand or pre-trial detainees in 2012. The US State Department noted that conditions in the facility generally met international standards.

Security Institutions

The Commonwealth of Dominica Police Force (CDPF) is comprised of approximately 460 personnel and is overseen by the Ministry of National Security, Labour and Immigration.

Dominica has a Drug Squad which as of 2012 had 20 officers, and a Coast Guard, both of which are responsible for drug interdiction operations. The military was disbanded in 1981 and has not since been reinstated.

Dominica is a part of the Regional Security System (RSS) which seeks to promote cooperation between its members[5] in the Eastern Caribbean in drug interdiction efforts and maritime policing, among other areas.

According to US-based non-government organisation (NGO) Freedom House, the police force operates professionally and there were few human rights complaints against it in 2012. Government mechanisms for preventing and investigating corruption were generally effective and the government mostly observed the constitutional prohibition on arbitrary arrest and detention, the US State Department reported.

The police force has vetting procedures in place and in recent years has introduced polygraph tests for officers “placed in sensitive areas of national security.” According to media reports in March 2013, several members of the police had failed these tests pointing to possible corruption in the force. However, the CDPF denied these claims.

The National Council on the Misuse of Drugs is Dominica’s national anti-drug body and focuses on reducing demand and improving control measures. Its central operational office is the National Drug Prevention Unit (NDPU), established in 1997.

At the time of writing, no information was publicly available regarding a national development strategy, and as of 2009, there was no national anti-drug strategy in place.

State of Security and Justice Sector Reform

Justice Sector Reform and Initiatives

Dominica launched a National Prosecution Service (NPS) in 2011 to streamline prosecutorial procedures in the country and improve efficiency. The move means that police prosecutors are now managed more efficiently and that a system is in place to ensure police prosecutors are separate from those who conducted the investigation, helping to improve accountability.

One significant justice sector initiative the government is attempting to push through in 2013 is cutting ties with the London-based Privy Council in order to make the Caribbean Court of Justice Dominica’s final appellate court. The initiative is will make the appeals process easier and more efficient for Dominican residents, according to officials.

Under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), a US government-funded program, Dominica has received aid to improve the efficiency of its justice institutions, primarily by making them more accessible and more timely in their delivery. The United States aided the creation of the NPS and is also helping Dominica implement a new national prosecution code and criminal code.

Security Sector Reform and Initiatives

Dominica undertook a number of measures to professionalize and better resource the police force in 2012. Among these, the national police chief highlighted the acquisition of five new vehicles for the CDPF, and the sending of various officers from the force to train in Barbados, China and the United States. Dominica also increased its Drug Squad from 15 to 20 officers.

In addition to training police offers, China announced in December 2012 that it would donate 90 motorcycles to the Dominica police force.

Through the CBSI, Dominica has received various anti-narcotics equipment including interceptor boats, technical assistance for the CDPF, computers and investigative software, and educational assistance for at-risk youth.

Dominica’s Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, announced that in response to crimes committed in the first few months of 2012 the government had begun a Community Outreach Programme on Crime and Violence. The programme involved the attorney general and national security minister holding meetings in various communities with the aim of obtaining feedback from residents to help foster a collaborative effort to curb crime.

Parliamentary/Congressional Capacity for Oversight

Dominica’s Parliament, the House of Assembly, is a unicameral and has 32 members: 21 elected representatives, nine senators, five of whom are appointed by the prime minister and four by the opposition leader, the attorney general and the speaker.

Parliament is constitutionally independent and has the power to make and pass laws, as well as provide oversight.

Security and Justice Opportunities

Dominica was ranked 41st  out of 176 countries in Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), with a score of 58 out of 100[6] , one of the better rankings for the Latin America and Caribbean region. What’s more, this represented a slight improvement on the score Dominica achieved in the 2011 CPI.

This rating, coupled with Dominica’s participation in regional justice and security initiatives and observer reports that Dominica effectively employs anti-corruption laws, suggests that the environment exists to engage successfully with the government on security and justice sector reform initiatives.

Justice Sector Opportunities

In the justice sector, under-resourcing is noted as being a significant problem and a driver of the court system’s case backlog. The aid Dominica has received through the CBSI is going some way toward addressing this issue and efforts could be made to supplement it to ensure any gains in making the judiciary more efficient are solidified. Among the options for engagement are helping to better train legal professionals, assist in the development of a financial plan that will see more staff hired, particularly magistrates, and providing financing to help modernise the courts.

Security Sector Opportunities

Dominica’s police force has one of the better reputations in the region and its work to implement strict vetting procedures is welcome.  However, reports that police failed polygraph tests is a concern and is a topic that should be broached with the government to ensure that measures are taken to remove corrupt elements—if indeed they exist—from the CDPF.

Regarding improving the capacity of Dominica’s drug interdiction agencies, this falls very much within the purview of the CBSI and is therefore not a priority.

Civil Society Actors to Engage With

Dominican civil society and NGOs are reported to actively participate in a number of societal development initiatives, but little information was available at the time of writing regarding NGO participation in improving performance in the justice and security sectors.

One of the country’s most prominent NGOs is the Dominica National Council of Women, dedicated to preventing and mediating violence against women, which is a significant problem in Dominica, and is recognized as such by the government.

Commonwealth countries are also served by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), which, among other things, is dedicated to police and prison reform mainly through awareness and advocacy initiatives. However, the NGO is London-based, and it was not clear that it conducted any significant activities in respect to Dominica at the time of writing.


Freedom House, “Freedom in the World 2013–Dominica,” March 2013

Katz, C.M, “Understanding Gangs, Gang Members, and Gang Control in the Caribbean,” February 2012 (Presentation)

Organisation of American States Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission, “Dominica (Commonwealth of): Evaluation of Progress in Drug Control, 2007-2009,” 2010

Red de Seguridad y Defensa de América Latina, “Atlas Comparativo de la Defensa en América Latina y Caribe Edición 2012,” October 2012

Transparency International, “Corruption Perceptions Index 2012,” December 2012

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, “Homicide Statistics 2012,” Data set retrieved from

U.S. Department of State, “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011,” May 2012

U.S. Department of State, “2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report Volume 1: Drug and Chemical Control,” March 2012

U.S. Department of State, “2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report Volume 1: Drug and Chemical Control,” March 2013

U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security, “Barbados 2012 Crime and Safety Report,” April 2012


[1] The ACCP has a membership of 24 Caribbean nations and is designed to facilitate cooperation between the region’s police forces and help with the development of officers’ technical skills and professionalism. 

[2] The ECSC is the superior court for the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) members. This includes six independent states and three British Overseas Territories. The ECSC is headquartered in Saint Lucia.

[3] The Court of Appeal moves about the OECS when it is required.

[4] CARICOM is an organisation comprised of 15 nations and aims to promote economic integration and cooperation between its member states.

[5] The 1996 treaty creating the RSS was signed by Saint Lucia, St. Kitts & Nevis, Grenada, Barbados, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda.

[6] Transparency International gives countries a score from 0-100 with 100 representing least corrupt.

Igarapé Institute

The Igarapé Institute is a southern think tank devoted to evidence-based policy and action on complex social challenges including global drug policy, citizen security and international cooperation. Its goal is to stimulate humane engagement on emerging security and development issues. Across all its programs, the Institute adopts a three-prong approach:

  1. Diagnose challenges through cutting-edge research;
  2. Trigger informed debate and action across public and private spheres; and
  3. Design tailor-made solutions that are people-centered.

The International Security Sector Advisory Team

The International Security Sector Advisory Team (ISSAT) provides practical support to the international community in its efforts to improve security and justice, primarily in conflict-affected and fragile states. It does this by working with a group of member states and institutions to develop and promote good security and justice reform practices and principles, and by helping its members to build their capacity to support national and regional security and justice reform processes.