Currently in the Dominican Republic has four special courts, Labor Court to settle disputes between employers and employees in the private sector Children and Adolescents Court regulated by Law 136-03 of July 22, 2003, that handles all matters related to the behavior of children with their environment and their families, Tax Dispute Court which settles disputes arising between officials and employees of public administration and between state officials and private individuals regarding thei roles, the Special Traffic Court, before which violations to Law 241 and its modifications covering traffic accidents of motor vehicle, and finally we have the Family Court.
We note that these courts hear very particular issues that involve a specific population within the Dominican conglomerate, in that sense it is feasible to identify issues that would meet the Environmental Court if created, depending on what is represented by reference to the definition of Law 64-00 on Environment and Natural Resources, dated 18 August 2000, in its article 16 paragraph 35 that says; “Environment is the system of biotic, abiotic, socioeconomic, cultural and aesthetic interacting with individuals and the community in which they live, and determine their relationship and survival “, a definition that clearly specifies the powers of the Environmental Tribunal.
If we take every word of this definition of the Environment, we note that it is a system of biotic elements, which means all living things that inhabit the earth (humans, plants and animals); The second word should be taken as a reference is the “abiotic” which are those things that do not have life, such as metallic and non-metallic mining (sand, stones, gravel, air, soil, etc .); a third element to consider is the “socioeconomic” indicating that at the time of intervening over the Environment, we should take into account the social and economic aspect of the country, communities or any environment where they impact one way or another over the environment; the fourth element is “cultural“, it refers to those elements that represent the identity of a particular time, such as aboriginal pictographs (the faces of Lake Enriquillo National Park, the aboriginal cemetery of the Eastern National Park, Pomiel and San Cristobal Caves, etc.), and finally the “aesthetic” that has to do with the natural beauties. In fact we are signatories to the Convention for the Protection of Flora, Fauna and Natural Scenic Beauty of the Americas.
We should ask ourselves if we have a traffic courts for minors, tax litigation, labor, which are particular issues, why not have an environmental court if the environment and natural resources constitutes everything, as defined in environmental law ? but also protect the environment and natural resources, it is a matter of survival of the human race, so that the creation of the Environmental Court should be a necessity.
There could be theories that support the thesis that we are not prepared to create environmental courts and I ask myself; are common law judges that who know of environmental crimes today prepared? What are the main problems we have with environmental crimes? That judges simply do not know the ecological, economic, cultural and aesthetic values, etc. Of the environment and natural resources so that sentences do not correspond to the damage to the natural heritage, so in this regard with the creation of environmental courts, the Judicial College will have an obligation to train judges who know of environmental issues.
WHAT SANCTIONS WILL BE JUDGED IN AN ENVIRONMENTAL COURT?
Law 64-00 penalizes violators of it, with three types of administrative penalties stipulated in Article 167, which punishes with a fine of half (1/2) minimum wage up to three thousand (3,000) current minimum wages, on the date on which the offense was committed, depending on the economic dimension of the natural or legal person who caused the damage and the extent of damage caused. With the limitation or restriction of the activities that cause harm or risk to the environment, or if the case may be, subject to the same modalities and procedures that such injury or risk disappear; confiscation and / or seizure of objects, tools, appliances, vehicles, raw materials, products or articles, finished or not, used to cause the damage; and banning or temporary or provisional suspension of activities that generate damage or environmental risk sought to be avoided and, in extreme cases, partial or complete closure of the premises or establishment where the activity that generated the violation of this law and other related was carried out.
As for the criminal penalties provided for in Article 183 of the Act, the Environmental Court may issue against individuals who have violated this law, the following sanctions or obligations: correctional prison term of six (6) days to three (3 ) years and, if they people had died because of the violation, it shall apply the provisions of the Dominican Penal Code; and / or a fine of one-fourth (1/4) of the minimum wage up to ten thousand (10,000) current minimum wages in the public sector on the date on which the judgment is delivered; and / or confiscation of raw materials, tools, equipment, instruments, machinery, transport vehicles, and products or articles, if any, arising out of the violation, or were used in the perpetration of the crime, or may themselves constitute a danger to natural resources and the environment, or the health of human beings; and / or the obligation to provide financial compensation to people who have suffered damages; and / or temporary or permanent withdrawal of the authorization, license or permit to exercise or engage in activities that have caused or threaten to cause harm or damage; and / or destroy, neutralize or dispose in accordance with the procedures outlined by this law and the competent authority, processed substances produced, manufactured, processed or offered for sale, likely to cause damage to human health and the environment ; and / or obligation to modify or demolish the buildings that violate provisions on protection, conservation and protection of the environment and humans; and / or the obligation to return to their country of origin and substances dangerous or harmful elements or combinations that have been imported in violation of the law; and / or install the necessary devices to stop or prevent pollution, impairment, decreased or degradation of the environment ; and / or the obligation to return the items to the natural environment from which they were stolen; and / or the obligation to repair, replace, compensate, restore, rehabilitate or restore its original state, as far as possible, the natural resource removed, destroyed, eroded, reduced, damaged or adversely modified.
For the application of this type of sanction it is required that there has been caused damage to property or to the person to be compensated, so provided in Article 169 of Law 64-00.
FOR WHICH FACTS MAY WHICH MAY THE ENVIRONMENTAL COURT IMPOSE THESE SANCTIONS?
Article 175 of Law 64-00 states that crimes against the environment and natural resources are committed when: Whoever violates this law, supplementary laws, regulations and standards and activities effected, considerably damaging natural resources or permanent ; who hunt, capture or causes the death of species declared endangered or legally protected; who use explosives, poisons, traps or other instruments or art that damage or cause suffering to species of terrestrial or aquatic fauna, whether endemic, native, resident or migratory; who violates the rules, parameters and permissible limits for discharges or disposal of toxic and hazardous substances legally defined, and discharge them into bodies of water, released into the air or deposited in unauthorized places for this, or at authorized sites without permission or clandestinely; who violates the rules, parameters and permissible limits, and pour untreated sewage into bodies of water or sewage systems, disposal of non-hazardous industrial solid waste in unauthorized to do so or emit air pollutants, exhaust gases, agents sites biological and biochemical; who violates the relevant technical standards and generate or handle toxic or hazardous substances, transform toxic or hazardous waste pollution moving to another receiving environment, or whom operate, store or download unauthorized places; who violates the regulations contained in the environmental licenses or permits, or obtained using false or altered environmental logbooks on emissions and discharges, or public official to grant such licenses or permits without complying with the requirements of the assessment process environmental impact, when the law so requires.
All offenses are not contemplated this article are punished with administrative sanctions.
PROPOSAL FOR THE CREATION OF ENVIRONMENTAL COURT
Law No. 821 of Judicial Organization dated November 21, 1927, as amended regulates the system of the Dominican courts, these courts are constituted in hierarchical order by the Supreme Court that divides them into three (3) chambers that They identify as First Chamber, Second Chamber and the Third Chamber, as established by Law No. 156-97, of 10/07/97, GO No. 9959; The Courts of Appeal, comprising eleven (11) judicial departments, are also divided into chambers; the Court of First Instance, which are classified into two groups, the fullness of Jurisdiction and those who do not have full jurisdiction and the Magistrates’ Courts, which hear cases from simple police and other minor matters.
The full jurisdiction is that the court hears of conflicts in various subjects, criminal, labor, civil, commercial, infants, children and adolescents, with the simple fact become the subject to be known at the time. Most courts know their affairs with full jurisdiction.
With regard to the facts that can be treated in environmental matters, we propose that the Environmental Court be created with full jurisdiction, to meet environmental criminal, civil and environmental administration, to rule over the subject matter presented at the time.
A Court of First Instance and Court of Appeal before which environmental issues should be created, the Court should be composed of three judges and the Court, with five judges as contemplated at present within Law 821 and Criminal Procedure code.
With the creation of environmental courts we would guarantee that the judges of environmental law offenders are punished in their proper perspective, depending on the damage and not questionable judgments from all points of view.
LIC. EUREN CUEVAS MEDINA