HomeReportsHuman Rights Reports...Custom Report - 0c680903df hide Human Rights Reports Custom Report Excerpts: Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Sort by Country Sort by Section In this section / Ethiopia Executive Summary Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from: a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings b. Disappearance c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention e. Denial of Fair Public Trial f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: c. Freedom of Religion Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons Section 7. Worker Rights a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation e. Acceptable Conditions of Work South Sudan Executive Summary Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from: a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings b. Disappearance c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention e. Denial of Fair Public Trial f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence g. Abuses in Internal Conflict Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: c. Freedom of Religion Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons Section 7. Worker Rights a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation e. Acceptable Conditions of Work Sudan Executive Summary Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from: a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings b. Disappearance c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention e. Denial of Fair Public Trial f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence g. Abuses in Internal Conflict Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: c. Freedom of Religion Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons Section 7. Worker Rights a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation e. Acceptable Conditions of Work Ethiopia Executive Summary Ethiopia is a federal republic. The ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a coalition of four ethnically based parties, controls the government. In the 2015 general elections the EPRDF and affiliated parties won all 547 House of People’s Representatives (parliament) seats to remain in power for a fifth consecutive five-year term. In 2015 parliament elected Hailemariam Desalegn to his first full mandate as prime minister. Hailemariam assumed that office in 2012 after the death of his predecessor. Government restrictions severely limited independent observation of the general election vote. A mission from the African Union, the sole international institution or organization permitted to observe the voting, called the elections “calm, peaceful, and credible.” Some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported an environment conducive to a free and fair election was not in place prior to the election. There were reports of unfair government tactics, including intimidation of opposition candidates and supporters, and violence before and after the election that resulted in at least six deaths. It was widely reported that civilian authorities at times did not maintain control over security forces. Local police in rural areas and local militias sometimes acted independently. In October 2016 parliament imposed a State of Emergency (SOE) and extended it in March. According to the SOE, an executive body called the Command Post managed security policy under the leadership of the minister of defense. During the SOE the Command Post held broad powers, including the ability to detain individuals, restrict speech, and restrict movement. On August 4, parliament voted to end the SOE, which took effect immediately. The most significant human rights issues included: arbitrary deprivation of life, disappearances, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention by security forces; denial of a fair public trial; infringement of privacy rights; restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, internet, assembly, association, and movement; lack of accountability in cases involving rape and violence against women; and criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct. The government generally did not take steps to prosecute or otherwise punish officials who committed human rights abuses other than corruption. Impunity was a problem; there was an extremely limited number of prosecutions of security force members or officials for human rights abuses during the year. Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from: a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings There were numerous reports that the government and its agents committed arbitrary and unlawful killings. Security forces used excessive force against civilians. A May 28 report from the independent NGO Human Rights Council (HRCO) that conducted field investigations covering 32 districts in 16 zones from Oromia, Amhara, and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR), as well as Addis Ababa city, stated government security forces killed 19 citizens between the start of the SOE in October 2016 and May. The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in April reported to parliament that 669 persons died and more than a thousand persons were injured in the 2016 protests in Oromia, Amhara, and SNNPR. Other NGO reports stated a higher number of casualties. In late February and March, weeks-long raids by armed militiamen from the Somali region reportedly resulted in the deaths of more than 100 civilians in bordering East Hararge, West Hararge, Bale, and Guji zones of Oromia region. Oromia region’s Communications Office confirmed the raids and subsequent deaths but did not give figures. b. Disappearance Individuals, including children, arrested by security forces during the SOE temporarily were held incommunicado. The government announced plans to disclose names of SOE detainees in November 2016, but this effort was not comprehensive. According to a May HRCO report, authorities used local government offices, colleges, training centers, and military training camps throughout the country as temporary detention centers. Due to poor prison administration, family members reported individuals missing who were in custody of prison officials, but whom the families could not locate. c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Although the constitution prohibits such practices, there were reports that security officials tortured and otherwise abused detainees. In its May report HRCO reported that victims testified authorities hung SOE detainees by their feet and tortured them during interrogations. Detainees in Finote Selam Prison in Amhara region told HRCO investigators that prison officials beat and tortured detainees and immersed some in latrine pits full of human feces. The report stated maltreatment of members of the Oromo and Amhara ethnicities, and some religious minorities, occurred. The HRCO reported authorities kept several SOE detainees in overcrowded detention centers without sufficient food, water, medical care, toilets, and other facilities. Authorities did not permit these detainees to have visitors. It also found that detainees in several detention centers experienced inhuman treatment including beatings/whippings, forced physical exercises, and denial of food. Authorities forced detainees in Awash Arba to walk barefoot and sit exposed to the sun for three consecutive days. Multiple sources reported general mistreatment of detainees at official detention centers, unofficial detention centers, police stations, and in Kilinto federal prison. Interrogators administered beatings and electric shocks to extract information and confessions from detainees. Police investigators used physical and psychological abuse to extract confessions in Maekelawi, the federal crime investigation center in Addis Ababa that often held high-profile political prisoners. Authorities restricted access by diplomats and NGOs to Maekelawi; some NGOs reported limited access. As of October 23, the United Nations reported that it had received one allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse against Ethiopian peacekeepers during the year. The allegation of transactional sex, made against one member of the military contingent serving with the UN Mission in South Sudan, was alleged to have taken place at an unspecified time in 2016. As of October 23, the investigation was pending identification of the personnel involved. Prison and Detention Center Conditions Prison and pretrial detention center conditions remained harsh and in some cases life threatening. There were reports that authorities physically abused prisoners in detention centers, military facilities, and police stations. Problems included gross overcrowding and inadequate food, water, sanitation, and medical care. There also were many unofficial detention centers throughout the country, including in Dedessa, Bir Sheleko, Tolay, Hormat, Blate, Tatek, Jijiga, Holeta, and Senkele. Observers were denied access to these facilities. Activists detained in some of these centers during the SOE reported overcrowding, inadequate food and water, and poor medical care. Pretrial detention often occurred in police station detention facilities, where conditions varied widely and where reports stated there was poor hygiene and police abuse of detainees. Detention center officials in Tolay and Awash Arba made more than one hundred detainees use a single open-pit toilet. During the SOE, the government operated detention centers in Awash, Ziway, and Dilla, and detained suspects at various police stations in Addis Ababa. The government also held detainees in military facilities, local administration offices, and other temporary sites. Although conditions varied, problems of gross overcrowding and inadequate food, water, sanitation, and medical care were common at sites holding SOE detainees. Physical Conditions: Severe overcrowding was common, especially in prison sleeping quarters. For example, one prison in Asella with capacity for 400 held 3,000 inmates. Authorities sometimes incarcerated juveniles with adults. Prison officials generally separated male and female prisoners, although mixing occurred at some facilities. There were reports that authorities physically abused prisoners in detention centers, military facilities, and police stations. Medical attention following physical abuse was insufficient in some cases. For example, Ayele Beyene, an inmate of Killinto Prison, died in July while in prison custody. Prison officials reported Ayele’s death to the court on July 24. In a court hearing on July 25, Ayele’s codefendants told the court that they were subject to severe beating in Maekelawi detention center prior to being moved to Killinto Prison. Codefendants also stated they reported Ayele’s condition to the prison authorities repeatedly, but authorities ignored them. Authorities detained Ayele in September 2016 and kept him at the Maekelawi detention center until May 10 when they charged him and seven codefendants with terrorism. The government budgeted approximately nine birr ($0.40) per prisoner per day for food, water, and health care, although this amount varied across the country. According to the World Bank, the per capita GDP was $1.62 per day. Many prisoners supplemented this amount with daily food deliveries from family members or by purchasing food from local vendors. Reports noted officials prevented some prisoners from receiving food from their families, and some families did not know of their relatives’ locations. Medical care was unreliable in federal prisons and almost nonexistent in regional ones. Prisoners had only limited access to potable water. Water shortages caused unhygienic conditions, and most prisons lacked appropriate sanitary facilities. Many prisoners had serious health problems but received little or no treatment. There were reports prison officials denied some prisoners access to needed medical care. HRCO investigators who visited two prisons in Amhara region reported in May that detainees in Debre Tabor Prison faced serious water shortages and overcrowding leading to illness. Detainees in Finote Selam Prison did not get medical services during weekends and emergency cases were not transported to a hospital. The governmental Institution of the Ombudsman presented its annual report to parliament in June. The report described underpayment of a limited number of prisoners for their labor in Dangla and Debre Markos prisons in the Amhara Region. This prison labor system operates separately from the federal per capita budget for prisoners. Prisoners faced problems accessing food, water, medical treatment, and education. Prison officials made policy changes following recommendations from the Institution of the Ombudsman, which later verified improvements for some criticisms in its report. Visitors to political prisoners and other sources reported political prisoners often faced significantly different treatment compared with other prisoners. Allegations included lack of access to proper medication or medical treatment, lack of access to books or television, and denial of exercise time. Administration: There were reports that prisoners mistreated by prison guards did not have access to prison administrators or ombudspersons to register their complaints. Some legal aid clinics existed in some prisons. At the regional level, these clinics had good working relations with judicial, prison, and other government officials. Some prison officials allowed detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship. Courts sometimes declined to hear such complaints. The law generally provides visitor access for prisoners. Authorities, however, denied some indicted defendants visits with their lawyers or with representatives of the political parties to which they belonged. In some cases police did not allow pretrial detainees access to visitors, including family members and legal counsel. Prison regulations stipulate that lawyers representing persons charged with terrorism offenses may visit only one client per day, and only on Wednesdays and Fridays. Authorities denied family members access to persons charged with terrorist activity. Officials permitted religious observance by prisoners, but this varied by prison and even by section within a prison. There were allegations authorities denied detainees adequate locations in which to pray. Independent Monitoring: The International Committee of the Red Cross visited prisons throughout the country during the year as part of its normal activities. The government did not permit access to prisons by other international human rights organizations. Regional authorities allowed government and NGO representatives to meet with prisoners without third parties present. The EHRC monitored federal and regional detention centers and interviewed prison officials and prisoners in response to allegations of widespread human rights abuses. In 2000 the parliament created the EHRC and defined its mandate and powers. Parliament funds and oversees the EHRC. The NGO Justice for All-Prison Fellowship Ethiopia (JPA-PFE) had access to various prison and detention facilities around the country. Improvements: The Federal Prisons Administration Commission (FPAC) completed construction of a prison complex in Addis Ababa during the year. The prison has a 6,000-inmate capacity. FPAC also completed construction of additional prisons in Shoa Robit, Ziway, and Dire Dawa. JPA-PFE worked with the above prisons to improve conditions so they met international minimum standards. d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention; however, SOE regulations allowed law enforcement officers to arrest and detain individuals without a court warrant. There were reports of thousands of arbitrary arrests and detentions related to the SOE targeting protesters, professors, university students, musicians, businesspersons, health workers, journalists, children, and others. The HRCO in its May report stated authorities detained more than 22,000 citizens in two rounds of arrests under the SOE. It stated the Command Post established to implement the SOE detained 15,370 persons between October 9 and December 20, 2016 in Oromia, Amhara, SNNPR, and Addis Ababa city. The Command Post, however, reported it detained 12,249, of whom 9,800 were released on December 20 after receiving “training.” Authorities filed charges against the remaining 2,449 detainees. They reported 12,500 persons detained from December 22, 2016 to February 3, when they released 11,352; remaining detainees faced charges. The opposition disputed these figures, stating that the government detained more individuals than it acknowledged. ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS The Federal Police report to the Office of the Prime Minister and are subject to parliamentary oversight. That oversight was limited. Each of the nine regions has a state or special police force that reports to regional civilian authorities. Local militias operated across the country in loose and varying coordination with regional and Federal Police and the military. In some cases these militias functioned as extensions of the ruling party. Local militias are members of a community who handle standard security matters within their communities in rural areas. Local government authorities select militia members, who take basic training. Militia members serve as a bridge between the community and local police by providing information and enforcing rules. The military played an expanded role with respect to internal security during the SOE. Impunity remained a serious problem, including impunity for killings and other violence against protesters. An internal investigation process existed, although officials acknowledged that it was inadequate. There were no public reports whether internal investigations of the federal police for possible abuses during the SOE occurred. In a report presented in April to the parliament, the EHRC reported 669 persons, including 66 security personnel, killed in the 2016 protests, and 939 individuals, including 100 security personnel, injured in Oromia, Amhara, and SNNPR. The report stated security forces used excessive force in some localities in Oromia and Amhara regions. The commission blamed local government officials, a local opposition political party, and police for the deaths of 34 individuals in Gedeo Zone of SNNPR. The commission did not publicly release its report. The government rarely publicly disclosed the results of investigations into abuses by local security forces, such as arbitrary detention and beatings of civilians. In August a local media report stated that government forces commandeered an NGO or Ministry of Health vehicle to transport security forces in Oromia. The government supported human rights training for police and army personnel. It accepted assistance from NGOs and the EHRC to improve and professionalize its human rights training and curriculum by including more material on the constitution and international human rights treaties and conventions. Additionally, the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) routinely conducts training on human rights, protection of civilians, gender-based violence, and other courses at the Peace Support Training Center in Addis Ababa. ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES The constitution and law require that detainees be brought to court and charged within 48 hours of arrest or as soon thereafter as local circumstances and communications permit. Travel time to the court is not included in this 48-hour period. With a warrant, authorities may detain persons suspected of serious offenses for 14 days without charge and for additional and renewable 14-day periods if an investigation continues. The courts allowed security officials to continue investigations for more than 14 days without bringing formal charges against suspects. Under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP), police may request to detain persons without charge for 28-day periods, up to a maximum of four months, during an investigation. In some cases during the SOE defendants spent more than the maximum four months detained during an investigation. The law permits warrantless arrests for various offenses including “flagrant offenses.” These include suspects apprehended while committing an offense, attempting to commit an offense, or having just completed an offense. The law prohibits detention in any facility other than an official detention center; however, local militias and other formal and informal law enforcement entities operated an unknown number of unofficial local detention centers. Under the SOE, authorities detained persons in military training camps, colleges, schools, and other facilities built for other purposes. A functioning bail system was in place. Bail was not available for persons charged with terrorism, murder, treason, and corruption. In other cases the courts set bail between 500 and 10,000 birr ($22 and $444), which most citizens could not afford. The government provided public defenders for detainees unable to afford private legal counsel, but defendants only received these services when their cases went to court and not during the critical pretrial phases. In some cases a single defense counsel represented multiple defendants. There were reports that while some detainees were in pretrial detention, authorities allowed them little or no contact with legal counsel, did not provide full information on their health status, and did not allow family visits. There were reports officials sequestered prisoners for weeks at a time and placed civilians under house arrest for undisclosed periods. The constitution requires authorities under an SOE to announce the names of detainees within one month of their arrest. Authorities generally published the names of those detained under the SOE but not always within the 30-day period. Civilians were not always able to locate the rosters of names of those imprisoned. Arbitrary Arrest: Authorities regularly detained persons arbitrarily, including protesters, journalists, and opposition party members. There were thousands of reports of arbitrary arrest by security forces. The May HRCO report stated authorities illegally detained 22,525 persons during the SOE. For example, authorities temporarily detained Blue Party chairman Yeshiwas Assefa on July 26 in the city of Bahir Dar, Amhara Region. Three officers who detained Yeshiwas for three hours also threatened to kill him if he returned to the city. The government arbitrarily arrested journalists and those who expressed views that opposed the government (see section 2.a.). For example, in November 2016 security officers detained journalists Elias Gebru and Ananya Sorri as well as opposition politician Daniel Shibeshi in Addis Ababa. On March 13, they released journalist Ananya. On May 28, authorities filed criminal charges against Elias and Daniel on allegations they violated the law under the SOE. On July 17, an appeals court ruled them each eligible for bail. Authorities released Elias on August 2 and Daniel on August 4, each on bail of 50,000 birr ($2,200). In 2015 police arrested and detained former Blue Party spokesperson Yonatan Tesfaye. On May 4, the federal attorney general charged Yonatan with incitement of terrorism through posts under a pseudonym on Facebook, citing article 4 of the ATP, covering preparation, conspiracy, incitement, and attempt of terrorist acts. At the subsequent court hearing, the attorney general’s office changed the charge to encouragement of terrorism (article six in the ATP) that carries a lesser sentence. On May 25, the Federal High Court convicted Yonatan and sentenced him to six years and six months in prison after finding him guilty of encouraging terrorism through his Facebook posts. Pretrial Detention: Some detainees reported indefinite detention for several years without charge or trial. The percentage of the inmate population in pretrial detention and average length of time held was not available. Lengthy legal procedures, large numbers of detainees, judicial inefficiency, and staffing shortages contributed to frequent trial delays, in some cases years. SOE regulations allowed authorities to detain a person without a court order until the end of the SOE. At the conclusion of the SOE, several thousand individuals remained remanded and awaiting trial. Detainees’ Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law provides for detainees to be informed of the nature of their arrest. It also provides persons accused of or charged with a crime the ability to appeal. During the year no cases were brought to the courts by individuals claiming unlawful detention. There were reports of thousands of arbitrary arrests and detentions related to the SOE. Security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained protesters, professors, university students, musicians, businesspersons, health workers, journalists, children, and others. The criminal law does not provide compensation for persons found to have been unlawfully detained. Amnesty: In September, in keeping with a long-standing tradition of issuing pardons at the Ethiopian New Year, the federal and regional governments released 13,389 persons. In January Oromia regional government released 10,000 prisoners on pardon. Prisoners who had served a third of their sentences, women prisoners with babies, the elderly, and those with serious health problems benefitted from the pardon. Prisoners sentenced to death and those convicted of corruption, kidnapping, or rape did not qualify for pardons. e. Denial of Fair Public Trial The law provides for an independent judiciary. Although the civil courts operated with a large degree of independence, criminal courts remained weak and overburdened and subject to political influence. TRIAL PROCEDURES Under the constitution, accused persons have the right to “a fair public trial without undue delay, a presumption of innocence, legal counsel of their choice, appeal, the right not to self-incriminate, the right to present witnesses and evidence in their defense, and cross-examine prosecution witnesses.” The law requires translation services be provided in a language defendants understand. The federal courts have staff working as interpreters for the major local languages, and are required to hire interpreters for defendants that speak other languages. Detainees did not, however, always enjoy all these rights, and as a result defense attorneys were sometimes unprepared to provide an adequate defense. The courts did not always presume a defendant’s innocence, allow defendants to communicate with an attorney of their choice, provide timely public defense, or provide access to government-held evidence. Defendants were often unaware of the specific charges against them until the commencement of their trials. There were reports of authorities subjecting detainees to torture and other abuse while in detention to obtain information or confessions. The federal Public Defender’s Office provided legal counsel to indigent defendants, but the scope and quality of service were inadequate due to a shortage of attorneys. A public defender may handle more than 100 cases and may represent multiple defendants in a single case. Numerous free legal aid clinics, based primarily at universities, provided legal services. In certain areas of the country, the law allows volunteers, such as law students and professors, to represent clients in court on a pro bono basis. There was no bar association or other standardized criminal defense representation. The constitution recognizes both religious and traditional courts. Many citizens residing in rural areas had little access to formal judicial systems and relied on traditional mechanisms for resolving conflict. By law all parties to a dispute must agree to use a traditional or religious court before such a court may hear a case, and either party may appeal to a regular court at any time. Sharia (Islamic law) courts may hear religious and family cases involving Muslims if both parties agree to use the sharia court before the formal legal process begins. Sharia courts received some funding from the government. These sharia courts adjudicated a majority of cases in the Somali and Afar regions, which are predominantly Muslim. Other traditional systems of justice, such as councils of elders, functioned predominantly in rural areas. Some women felt they lacked access to free and fair hearings in the traditional court system because local custom excluded them from participation in councils of elders and due to persistent gender discrimination. POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES There were an unknown number of political prisoners and detainees at year’s end. Throughout the year the government detained journalists, activists, and political opposition members, although not explicitly on political grounds. The most common charges against journalists, activists, or opposition politicians were terrorism via ATP, participation in a proscribed terrorist group, incitement, and outrage against the constitution or the constitutional order. Police arrested Bekele Gerba, deputy chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), and 21 others in late 2015. On July 13, the High Court downgraded charges against Bekele from committing terrorist acts to carrying out criminal acts. The court acquitted five defendants and amended the charges against the remaining 16 from planning and preparation of terrorist acts to participation in a terrorist organization, which carries a lesser sentence. Police arrested other leaders and members of political parties, including OFC leader Merera Gudina, in November 2016 (see section 3, Political Parties and Political Participation). On March 3, the attorney general brought multiple criminal charges against Merera and four others, including Ginbot 7 leader Berhanu Nega and diaspora-based Oromo activist Jawar Mohammed. The authorities charged all the defendants, save Merera, in absentia. The charges against Merera included outrage against the constitutional order and violation of the SOE measures prohibiting communication with proscribed terrorist groups. The trial continued at year’s end. The High Court acquitted opposition politicians Abraha Desta and Daniel Shibeshi of terrorism crimes on July 28. The court started hearing the terrorism trial involving the two opposition politicians in 2015, following the Supreme Court’s reversal of an earlier lower court acquittal. Authorities detained Shibeshi for a separate case in November 2016 and charged him with violating SOE rules; he was released on bail November 8 for the second case. On April 6, the 1st Criminal Appellate Bench of the Federal Supreme Court upheld the High Court’s acquittal of Zone 9 bloggers Soliyana Shimeles (in absentia) and Abel Wabella and downgraded the charges against bloggers Natnael Feleke and Atnaf Berhane from terrorism to criminal provocation of the public. The High Court did not set a court date to hear the trial of Natnael and Atnaf. The court downgraded charges against Befekadu Hailu, another member of the blogging collective, from terrorism to criminal. Hailu was released on bail pending the continuation of his trial. CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES The law provides citizens the right to appeal in civil court, including in cases with human rights violations. For rights violations where a government agency is the accused perpetrator, the victim initiates the process by filing a complaint at the EHRC. The EHRC investigates and makes recommendations to the government agency. Citizens did not file any human rights violations under this system primarily due to a lack of evidence and a lack of faith in their ability to secure an impartial verdict in these types of cases. f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence The law generally requires authorities to obtain court-issued search warrants prior to searching private property. Under the SOE court approval for searches was suspended. In an amendment to the initial SOE provisions, security officials had to provide a reason to the individual or household subject to the search, an official identification card, and have a community member accompany them before conducting a search. Separate from the SOE, the law also recognizes exceptions for “hot pursuit” cases in which a suspect enters a premises or disposes of items that are the subject of an offense committed on the premises. This legal carve-out also applies when police have reasonable suspicion that evidence of a crime punishable if convicted by more than three years’ imprisonment is concealed on or in the property and that a delay in obtaining a search warrant would allow the evidence to be removed. Moreover, the antiterrorism law permits warrantless searches of a person or vehicle when authorized by the director general of the Federal Police, his designee, or a police officer who has reasonable suspicion that a terrorist act may be committed and deems a sudden search necessary. Opposition political party leaders and journalists reported suspicions of telephone tapping, other electronic eavesdropping, and surveillance, and they stated government agents attempted to lure them into illegal acts by calling and pretending to be representatives of officially designated terrorist groups. The government used a widespread system of paid informants to report on the activities of individuals. Opposition members, journalists, and athletes reported ruling party operatives and militia members made intimidating and unwelcome visits to their homes and offices. These unwelcome contacts included entry and searches of homes without a warrant. Security forces continued to detain and intimidate family members of persons sought for questioning by the government. There were reports that authorities dismissed opposition members from their jobs and that those not affiliated with the EPRDF sometimes had trouble receiving the “support letters” from their kebeles (neighborhoods or wards) necessary to get employment (see section 3, Political Parties and Political Participation). Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and press; however, SOE regulations included restrictions on these rights, giving legal cover for continued efforts to harass and intimidate journalists that predated the SOE. Government officials harassed, arrested, detained, charged, and prosecuted journalists and bloggers perceived as critical of the government, creating an environment of fear and self-censorship. The Committee to Protect Journalists’ 2016 prison census found the country to be among the top five worst jailers of journalists worldwide. An intensifying crackdown on media included the arrest of journalists, including bloggers, in 2016, according to the committee. Freedom of Expression: The SOE regulations contained several prohibitions that restricted freedom of speech and expression and subsequently resulted in the detention or disappearance of numerous independent voices. The regulations, interpreted broadly, prohibited any covert or overt agitation and communication that could incite violence and unrest. For example, authorities included the popular Oromo protest sign of crossed arms above one’s head. Restricted activities also included any communication with designated terrorist groups or antipeace forces, storing and disseminating texts, storing and promoting emblems of terrorist groups, incitement in sermons and teaching in religious institutions to induce fear or incite conflict, and speech that could incite attacks based on identity or ethnicity. Under the SOE, it was illegal to carry out covert or public incitement of violence in any way, including printing, preparing or distributing writings; performing a show; demonstrating through signs or making messages public through any medium; or importing or exporting any publication without permission. The SOE also prohibited exchanging any message through internet, mobile telephones, writing, television, radio, social media, or other means of communication that may cause riot, disturbance, suspicion, or grievance among persons. Suspicion of individuals possessing or distributing such media was used as a premise to enter homes without a warrant. Finally, the SOE prohibited any individual from exchanging information with a foreign government in a manner that undermined national sovereignty and security and prohibited political parties from briefing journalists in a manner deemed anticonstitutional or that undermined sovereignty and security. Individuals self-censored because of these prohibitions. Authorities regularly arrested, detained, and harassed persons for criticizing the government. NGOs reported the torture of individuals critical of the government. The government attempted to impede criticism through intimidation, including continued detention of journalists, those who express critical opinions online, and opposition figures. Additionally, the government monitored and interfered in activities of political opposition groups. Some citizens feared authorities would retaliate against them for discussing security force abuses. Authorities arrested and detained persons who made public or private statements deemed critical of the government under a provision of the law pertaining to inciting the public through false rumors. Press and Media Freedom: On March 15, the SOE Command Post lifted the provision that allowed for monitoring of media and communications. Independent journalists reported access to private, independent printing presses was generally limited to a single government-owned facility, citing government intimidation. At least one outlet attempted to import a printing press for private use, but it was unable to secure permission to make it operational. Independent media cited this limited access as a major factor in the small number, low circulation, and infrequent publication of news. In Addis Ababa seven independent newspapers had a combined weekly circulation of approximately 45,000 copies; there were in addition two sports-focused newspapers. There were no independent newspapers outside of the capital. Seven independent weekly, monthly, and bimonthly magazines published in Amharic and English had a combined circulation estimated at 18,000 copies. State-run newspapers had a combined daily circulation of approximately 50,000 copies. Most newspapers were printed on a weekly or biweekly basis, except state-owned Amharic and English dailies and the privately run Daily Monitor. Government-controlled media closely reflected the views of the government and ruling EPRDF party. The government controlled the only television station that broadcast nationally, which, along with radio, was the primary source of news for much of the population. There were two government-owned radio stations that covered the entire country, seven private FM radio stations broadcast in the capital, one FM radio station in the Tigray Region, and 28 community radio stations broadcast in other regions. State-run Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation had the largest broadcast range in the country, followed by Fana Broadcasting Corporate, which was affiliated with the ruling party. There were a few private satellite-based television stations, including the Ethiopian Broadcast Service. The government periodically jammed foreign broadcasts, including the entire bandwidth for Voice of America. The law prohibits political and religious organizations as well as foreigners from owning broadcast stations. Violence and Harassment: The government continued to arrest, harass, and prosecute journalists. As of October, four journalists remained in detention. There were numerous reports of arrest, harassment, and prosecution of the press similar to the following: On January 3, the Federal High Court sentenced journalists Khalid Mohammed and Darsema Sorri along with 17 Muslim activists after finding them guilty of terrorism crimes. The court sentenced Khalid to a prison term of five years and six months and Darsema to four years and five months. Authorities arrested the two journalists in 2015. Censorship or Content Restrictions: Government harassment caused journalists to avoid reporting on sensitive topics. Many private newspapers reported informal editorial control by the government. Examples of government interference included requests regarding specific stories and calls from government officials concerning articles perceived as critical of the government. Private sector and government journalists routinely practiced self-censorship. Several journalists, both local and foreign, reported an increase in self-censorship, especially after the October 2016 implementation of the SOE. The government reportedly pressured advertisers not to advertise in publications that were critical of the government. National Security: The government used the antiterrorism law and the SOE laws to suppress criticism. Journalists feared covering five groups designated by the parliament in 2011 as terrorist organizations (Ginbot 7, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), al-Qaida, and al-Shabaab), citing ambiguity whether reporting on these groups might be punishable under the law. INTERNET FREEDOM The government restricted and disrupted access to the internet. It periodically blocked social media sites. At times the government blocked access throughout the country. There were credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. State-owned Ethio Telecom was the only internet service provider in the country. The law on computer crimes includes some provisions that are overly broad and could restrict freedom of speech and expression. This included, for example, a provision that provides for imprisonment for disseminating through a computer system any written, video, audio, or any other picture that incites violence, chaos, or conflict among persons. The SOE regulations included prohibitions on agitation and communication to incite violence and unrest through the internet, text messaging, and social media. The government imposed a nationwide internet blackout from May 30 through June 8, the period during which students sat for national exams. The shutdown came 11 months after the government blocked social media sites throughout the country following an online leak of national exam papers, which eventually forced the government to postpone exam dates. The government stated blocking these sites was necessary to provide for an “orderly exam process.” Between early October 2016 and June the government shut down mobile access to the internet in Addis Ababa, most parts of Oromia Region, and other regions. The government also denied wired access for many popular websites. These included social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Skype, WhatsApp, and Viber, news websites such as the Washington Postand the New York Times, and many other sites, including foreign university homepages and online shopping sites such as Amazon. The government periodically and increasingly restricted access to certain content on the internet and blocked numerous websites, including blogs, opposition websites, websites of Ginbot 7, the OLF, and the ONLF, and news sites such as al-Jazeera, the BBC, andRealClearPolitics. Several opposition diaspora group blogs and websites were not accessible. These included Ethiopian Review,Nazret, CyberEthiopia, Quatero Amharic Magazine, and theEthiopian Media Forum. Authorities monitored communication systems and took steps to block access to Virtual Private Network providers that let users circumvent government screening of internet browsing and email. There were reports such internet surveillance resulted in arrests. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 15.4 percent of the population used the internet in 2016. ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS The government restricted academic freedom, including student enrollment, teachers’ appointments, and curricula. Authorities frequently restricted speech, expression, and assembly on university and high school campuses. SOE regulations prohibited strikes in educational institutions, giving authorities the power to order educational institutions to take measures against any striking student or staff member and provided law enforcement officers the authority to enter educational institutions and take measures to control strikes or protests. The ruling EPRDF party, via the Ministry of Education, continued to favor students loyal to the party in assignment to postgraduate programs. Some university staff members commented that students who joined the party received priority for employment in all fields after graduation. Numerous anecdotal reports suggested that inadequate promotions and lack of professional advancement were more likely for non-EPRDF member teachers. There were reports of non-EPRDF members being summarily dismissed for failure to attend party meetings. There continued to be a lack of transparency in academic staffing decisions, with numerous complaints from academics alleging bias based on party membership, ethnicity, or religion. A separate Ministry of Education directive prohibits private universities from offering degree programs in law and teacher education. The directive also requires public universities to align their curriculum with the ministry’s policy of a 70/30 ratio between science and social science academic programs. As a result the number of students studying social sciences and the humanities at public institutions continued to decrease; private universities, however, focused heavily on the social sciences. Reports stated there was a pattern of surveillance and arbitrary arrests of Oromo university students based on perceived dissent participation in peaceful demonstrations, or both. According to reports, there was an intense buildup of security forces, both uniformed and plainclothes, embedded on university campuses preceding student protests, especially in Oromia, and in response to student demonstrations. The government limited freedoms of peaceful assembly and association. FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly; SOE regulations, however, prohibited demonstrations and town hall meetings that did not have approval from the Federal Command Post. The government did not respect freedom of assembly, including prior to the SOE, and killed, injured, detained, and arrested numerous protesters throughout the year (see also sections 1.a-e.). In April the EHRC reported to parliament on its investigations into the death of several persons in a stampede at the Irrechaa festival in Bishoftu in October 2016. The commission recommended bringing to account local and regional officials in Oromia who failed to stop the festival in advance. The commission also blamed diaspora-based media house Oromo Media Network (OMN) for fueling the unrest that led to the incident. In March authorities brought terrorism charges against OMN in absentia. The EHRC report held opposition political group Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) as well as the OLF, a parliament-designated terrorist group, responsible for protests in July and August 2016. For the 2017 Irrechaa festival, the main ceremony ended in mid-morning, much earlier than recent previous ceremonies. Breaking from tradition, neither the Abba Geddas (the traditional leaders and elders who have historically organized the event) nor government officials offered remarks or blessings. The Abba Geddas arrived at the sacred space with security force protection, which was an additional security measure employed for the event. Prior to the SOE, organizers of public meetings of more than two persons or demonstrations had to notify the government 48 hours in advance and obtain a permit. Authorities could not refuse to grant a permit but could require changing the location or time for reasons of public safety or freedom of movement. If authorities determined an event should be held at another place or time, under the law authorities must notify organizers in writing within 12 hours of their request. Opposition party organizers stated that authorities interfered in most of their gatherings, and changed the dates or locations of several of the protests and rallies. Protest organizers disputed the credibility of the government’s public safety concerns. Local government officials, who were generally EPRDF members, controlled access to municipal halls, and there were many complaints from opposition parties that local officials denied or otherwise obstructed the scheduling of opposition parties’ use of those spaces for lawful political rallies. There were numerous credible reports from opposition organizations of hotels and other large facilities citing internal rules forbidding non-EPRDF affiliated political parties from utilizing their spaces for gatherings. Regional governments, including the Addis Ababa regional administration, were reluctant to grant permits or provide security for large meetings. EPRDF uses its own conference centers in Addis Ababa and the regional capitals and also utilizes government facilities for these meetings and events. Following the imposition of the SOE, the prohibition on unauthorized demonstrations or town hall meetings severely limited the organization of meetings, training sessions, and other gatherings. For example, authorities interrupted a fundraiser organized by the independent rights group HRCO in October 2016 at a hotel in Addis Ababa. Security officers who stopped the event claimed the SOE Command Post had not authorized the event. The organizers had secured written permission from the government’s Charities and Societies Agency. FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION Although the law provides for freedom of association and the right to engage in unrestricted peaceful political activity, the government severely limited this right (see sections 3 and 5). The SOE and the accompanying regulations restricted the ability of organizations to operate (see section 5). Regulations prohibited exchanging information or having contact with a foreign government or NGOs in a manner that undermines national sovereignty and security, and this reduced communication between local organizations and international organizations. The Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSP), also called the Civil Society Organizations (CSO) law, bans anonymous donations to NGOs and political parties. All potential donors were therefore aware their names would be public knowledge. A 2013 report by the UN special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association stated, “The enforcement of these provisions has a devastating impact on individuals’ ability to form and operate associations effectively.” For example, international NGOs seeking to operate in the country had to submit an application via the country’s embassies abroad, which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs then submitted to the government’s Charities and Societies Agency for approval. c. Freedom of Religion See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/. Although the law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, SOE regulations temporarily restricted internal movements for refugees and diplomats. The SOE prohibited refugees from leaving camps without authorization and prohibited entry into the country without visas. Diplomats were prohibited from traveling farther than 24 miles from Addis Ababa. The government also restricted foreign travel. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern. At times authorities or armed groups limited the ability of humanitarian organizations to operate in areas of insecurity, such as on the country’s borders. In-country Movement: Under the SOE some regions of the country and the borders were restricted. Those restrictions ceased once the SOE ended. Foreign Travel: A 2013 government prohibition on unskilled workers travelling to the Middle East for employment remained in force. The ban did not affect citizens travelling for investment or other business reasons. The government stated it issued the ban to prevent harassment, intimidation, and trauma suffered by those working abroad, particularly in the Middle East, as domestic employees. Exile: As in past years, citizens including journalists and others fled and remained abroad in self-imposed exile due to fear of government retribution should they return. INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPS) According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), as of July there were 1,056,738 IDPs, including protracted and new cases. Of these IDPs, 577,711 resided in Somali Region; 367,557 in Oromia; 52,523 in Afar; 28,954 in Tigray, 17,472 in Gambella; 8,921 in Amhara; and 3,600 in Harar. The two largest contributing factors were conflict and drought. IDP numbers increased compared with previous years, with 450,160 IDPs newly displaced during the year. Of the IDPs, conflict affected 588,531 of them while drought affected 375,074 others. The majority of internal displacements at the national level were attributed to conflict, particularly interregional and interclan conflicts due to lack of governance and property disputes. IDPs’ rights to alternative livelihoods, skill development, compensation, and access to documentation that determine their opportunity to participate in civic and political action often were limited while they were displaced. In September and October there were armed border conflicts along the Oromia-Somali border, with incidents in the far south of that border in Moyale, through the Bale Mountains, up to East Haraege in the north, and to the west of Dire Dawa in Mossie. The government mobilized the ENDF to respond. The extent of the violence was difficult to verify, but reports indicated that at a minimum dozens of persons lost their lives, including local government officials. There were credible reports that more than 300,000 IDPs resulted from this conflict. The government, through the Disaster Risk Management Food Security Sector (DRMFSS), continued to play an active role in delivering humanitarian assistance to IDPs. Federal and local DRMFSS officials coordinated with IOM and its partners in monitoring IDP populations. PROTECTION OF REFUGEES As of August 31, the country hosted 852,721 refugees. Major origin countries include South Sudan (388,086), Somalia (252,036), Eritrea (161,941), and Sudan (42,967). Among the South Sudanese population, an estimated 17 percent of the refugees were unaccompanied or separated minors. Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government used a refugee-status-determination system for providing services and protection to refugees. Employment: Under the existing Ethiopian Refugee Regulation, the government does not grant work permits to refugees. The government supports an Out of Camp policy for those deemed self-sufficient, which allowed some refugees to live outside camps and engage in informal livelihoods. Durable Solutions: The government welcomed refugees to settle in the country but did not offer a path to citizenship or provide integration. Refugee students who passed the required tests could attend university with fees paid by the government and UNHCR. Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. The ruling party’s electoral advantages, however, limited this ability. Elections and Political Participation Recent Elections: In 2015 the country held national elections for the House of People’s Representatives, the country’s parliamentary body. Later that year parliament elected Hailemariam Desalegn to his first full mandate as prime minister. In the 2015 national parliamentary elections, the EPRDF and affiliated parties won all 547 seats, giving the party a fifth consecutive five-year term. Government restrictions severely limited independent observation of the vote. The African Union was the sole international organization permitted to observe the elections. Opposition party observers accused local police of interference, harassment, and extrajudicial detention. Six rounds of broadcast debates preceded the elections, with internal media broadcasting the debates in full and only slightly edited. The debates included all major political parties. Independent journalists reported little trouble covering the election, including reports from polling stations. Some independent journalists reported receiving their observation credentials the day before the election, after having submitted proper and timely applications. Several laws, regulations, and procedures implemented since the 2005 national elections created a clear advantage for the EPRDF throughout the electoral process. There were reports of unfair government tactics, including intimidation of opposition candidates and supporters. Various reports stated at least six election-related deaths during the period before and immediately following the elections. The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) has sole responsibility for voter education and broadcast radio segments and distributed manuals on voter education in many local languages. In a preliminary election assessment, the African Union called the elections “calm, peaceful, and credible” and applauded the government for its registration efforts. It raised concerns, however, regarding the legal framework underpinning the election. The NEBE registered more than 35 million voters, and did not report any incidents of unfair voter registration practices. NEBE was politically dependent on, and appointed by, the prime minister. There was an interparty dialogue underway with 16 political parties, which addressed a limited number of the opposition parties’ concerns. Political Parties and Political Participation: The government, controlled by the EPRDF, unduly restricted political parties and members of certain ethnic groups, particularly the Amhara and Oromo, who stated they lacked genuine political representation at the federal level. SOE regulations restricted political parties’ ability to operate. For example, the regulations prohibited any political party “from briefing local or foreign journalists in a manner that is anticonstitutional and undermining sovereignty and security.” Authorities arrested and prosecuted political opposition members including under allegations of terrorism (see section 1.e., Political Prisoners and Detainees). Government officials stated that many members of legitimate Oromo opposition parties were secretly OLF members and, more broadly, that members of many opposition parties had ties to Ginbot 7. The OFC reported that authorities have kept OFC general secretary Bekele Nega under house arrest since 2015. Security personnel told him not to leave his house in Addis Ababa, use his telephone, or give any interviews to media. Authorities also arrested other OFC leaders and members including Merera Gudina and Bekele Gerba (see section 1.e.). On March 29, police arrested Mamushet Amare, former leader of the All Ethiopian Unity Party, on allegations that he committed terrorist crimes. The federal attorney general filed terrorism charges against Mamushet on August 1. Constituent parties of the EPRDF conferred advantages upon their members; the party directly owns many businesses and allegedly awards jobs and business contracts to loyal supporters. Several opposition parties reported difficulty in renting homes or buildings for offices, citing visits by EPRDF members to property owners to prevent such transactions. There were reports authorities terminated the employment of teachers and other government workers who belonged to opposition political parties. According to Oromo opposition groups, the Oromia regional government continued to threaten to dismiss opposition party members, particularly teachers, from their jobs. There were reports unemployed youths not affiliated with the ruling coalition sometimes had trouble receiving the “support letters” from their wards necessary to get jobs. Registered political parties must receive permission from regional governments to open and occupy local offices. Opposition parties reported difficulty acquiring the required permissions for regional offices, adversely affecting their ability to organize and campaign. Laws requiring parties to report “public meetings” and obtain permission for public rallies inhibited opposition activities. Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws prevented women or minorities from voting or participating in political life, although highly patriarchal customs in some regions limited female participation in political life. Women remained significantly underrepresented across both elected and appointed positions. As of August women held three of the 31 ministerial positions. The notable exception was the national parliament since the 2015 election, where the ruling EPRDF party decided that 38 percent of seats, 211 of 547, would be held by women. The government’s policy of ethnic federalism led to the creation of individual constituencies to provide for representation of all major ethnic groups in the House of Federation (one of the two chambers of parliament. The government recognizes more than eighty ethnicities and the constitution states that each “Nation, Nationality and People” is to be represented in the House of the Federation by at least one member. Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government The law provides criminal penalties for conviction of official corruption. Corruption: Corruption, especially the solicitation of bribes, including police and judicial corruption, remained a problem. Some stakeholders believed government officials manipulated the land allocation process and state or party owned businesses received preferential access to land leases and credit. The law mandates that the federal attorney general investigate and prosecute corruption cases. In January Prime Minister Hailemariam announced the establishment of the Corruption Directorate within the Federal Police Commission with powers to investigate systemic corruption cases. The government’s rationale in establishing the investigation bureau was to increase transparency throughout the government bureaucracy. Starting July 26, the government detained more than 50 government officials, businesspersons, and brokers on allegations of corruption and misuse of public funds valued at more than four billion birr ($181 million). Among the arrested were a brigadier general, a state minister, and the head of the Legal Department at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Cooperation. In addition the government seized assets and property of more than 200 individuals as the investigation continued. Financial Disclosure: The law requires all government officials and employees to register their wealth and personal property. For example, the president and prime minister registered their assets. The law includes financial and criminal sanctions for noncompliance. The Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (FEACC) reported it registered the assets of 6,638 appointees, officials, and employees between July 2016 and January. The FEACC holds financial disclosure records. By law any person who seeks access to these records may make a request in writing; access to information on family assets may be restricted unless the FEACC deems the disclosure necessary. Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons Women Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and conviction provides for a penalty of five to 20 years’ imprisonment, depending on the severity of the case. The law does not expressly address spousal rape. The government did not fully enforce the law. Domestic violence is illegal, but government enforcement of laws in this sphere was inconsistent. Domestic violence, including spousal abuse, was a pervasive social problem. A 2013 government report stated 50-60 percent of all women had experienced domestic violence. Depending on the severity of injury inflicted, penalties for conviction range from small fines to 15 years’ imprisonment. Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is illegal, but the government did not actively enforce this prohibition. It was less common in urban areas. The penal code criminalizes the practice of clitoridectomy and provides for three months or a fine of at least 500 birr ($22) for convicted perpetrators. Conviction of infibulation of the genitals (the most extreme and dangerous form of FGM/C) is punishable by five to 10 years’ imprisonment. According to government sources, there has never been a criminal charge regarding FGM/C, but media reported limited application of the law. For more information, see data.unicef.org/resources/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-country-profiles/ . Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Marriage by abduction is illegal, although it continued in some regions despite the government’s attempts to combat the practice. Forced sexual relationships accompanied most marriages by abduction, and women often experienced physical abuse during the abduction. Abductions led to conflicts among families, communities, and ethnic groups. In cases of abduction, the perpetrator did not face punishment if the victim agreed to marry the perpetrator. Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was widespread. The penal code prescribes penalties for conviction of 18 to 24 months’ imprisonment, but authorities generally did not enforce harassment laws. Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ . Discrimination: Discrimination against women was a problem. It was most acute in rural areas, where an estimated 80 percent of the population lived. The law contains discriminatory regulations, such as the recognition of the husband as the legal head of the family and the sole guardian of children more than five years old. Courts generally did not consider domestic violence by itself a justification for granting a divorce. Irrespective of the number of years married, the number of children raised, and joint property, the law entitled women to only three months’ financial support if a relationship ended. There was limited legal recognition of common-law marriage. A common-law husband had no obligation to provide financial assistance to his family, and consequently women and children sometimes faced abandonment. Traditional courts continued to apply customary law in economic and social relationships. All federal and regional land laws empower women to access government land. Inheritance laws also enable widows to inherit joint property acquired during marriage. Women’s access to gainful employment, credit, and the opportunity to own or manage a business was limited by their lower levels of educational attainment and by traditional attitudes. There were a number of initiatives in progress aimed at increasing women’s access to these critical economic empowerment tools. Children Birth Registration: A child’s citizenship derives from its parents. The law requires all children to be registered at birth. Children born in hospitals were registered; most of those born outside of hospitals were not. The overwhelming majority of children, particularly in rural areas, were born at home. During the year the government initiated a campaign to increase birth registrations by advising that failure to register would result in denial of public services. For additional information, see Appendix C. Education: The law does not make education compulsory. As a policy primary education was universal and tuition free; however, there were not enough schools to accommodate the country’s youth, particularly in rural areas. The cost of school supplies was prohibitive for many families. The most recent data showed the net primary school enrollment rate was 90 percent of boys and 84 percent of girls. Child Abuse: Child abuse was widespread. Uvula cutting, tonsil scraping, and milk tooth extraction were amongst the most prevalent harmful traditional practices. The African Report on Child Wellbeing 2013, published by the African Child Policy Forum, found the government had increased punishment for sexual violence against children. “Child friendly” benches heard cases involving violence against children and women. There was a commissioner for women and children’s affairs in the EHRC. Early and Forced Marriage: The law sets the legal age of marriage for girls and boys at 18; however, authorities did not enforce this law uniformly, and rural families sometimes were unaware of this provision. The government strategy to address underage marriage focused on education and mediation rather than punishment of offenders. For additional information, see Appendix C. Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum legal age for consensual sex is 18, but authorities did not enforce this law. The law provides for three to 15 years’ imprisonment for conviction of sexual intercourse with a minor. The law provides for one year in prison and a fine of 10,000 birr ($444) for conviction of trafficking in indecent material displaying sexual intercourse by minors. Traffickers recruited girls as young as age 11 to work in brothels. Young girls were trafficked from rural to urban areas and exploited as prostitutes in hotels, bars, resort towns, and rural truck stops. Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: Ritual and superstition-based infanticide, including of infants with disabilities, continued in remote tribal areas, particularly in South Omo. Local governments worked to educate communities against the practice. Displaced Children: According to a 2010 report of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, approximately 150,000 children lived on the streets; 60,000 of them were in the capital. The ministry’s report stated the inability of families to support children due to parental illness or insufficient household income exacerbated the problem. Research in 2014 by the ministry noted rapid urbanization, illegal employment brokers, high expectations of better life in cities, and rural-urban migration were adding to the problem. These children begged, sometimes as part of a gang, or worked in the informal sector. A large number of unaccompanied minors from Eritrea continued to arrive in the country (see section 2.d.). Institutionalized Children: There were an estimated 4.5 million orphans in the country in 2012, 4.9 percent of the population, according to statistics published by UNICEF. The vast majority lived with extended family members. Government and privately run orphanages were overcrowded, and conditions often unsanitary. Institutionalized children did not receive adequate health care. International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html. Anti-Semitism The Jewish community numbered approximately 2,000 persons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts. Trafficking in Persons See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/. Persons with Disabilities The constitution does not mandate equal rights for persons with disabilities. The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities in employment and mandates access to buildings but does not explicitly mention intellectual or sensory disabilities. It is illegal for deaf persons to drive. The law prohibits employment discrimination based on disability. It also makes employers responsible for providing appropriate working or training conditions and materials to persons with disabilities. The law specifically recognizes the additional burden on women with disabilities. The government took limited measures to enforce these laws; for example, by assigning interpreters for deaf and hard-of-hearing civil service employees (see section 7.d.). The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and the Public Servants Administration Commission are responsible for the implementation of employment laws for individuals with disabilities. The law mandates building accessibility and accessible toilet facilities for persons with physical disabilities, although without specific regulations that define accessibility standards. Buildings and toilet facilities were usually not disability accessible. Property owners are required to give persons with disabilities preference for ground-floor apartments, and generally did so. Women with disabilities faced more disadvantages in education and employment. According to the 2010 Population Council Young Adult Survey, 23 percent of girls with disabilities were in school, compared with 48 percent of girls and 55 percent of boys without disabilities. Girls with disabilities also were much more likely to experience physical and sexual abuse than were girls without disabilities. Nationally there were several schools for persons with hearing and vision disabilities and several training centers for children and young persons with intellectual disabilities. There was a network of prosthetic and orthopedic centers in five of the nine regional states. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs worked on disability-related problems. The CSO law hindered several domestic NGOs active in supporting persons with disabilities, particularly those focused on accessibility and vocational training. The law does not restrict the right of persons with disabilities to vote and otherwise participate in civic affairs, although continued accessibility challenges could make participation difficult. Most polling stations were accessible to persons with disabilities and these individuals as well as the elderly, pregnant women, and nursing mothers received priority. National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities The country has more than 80 ethnic groups, of which the Oromo, at approximately 35 percent of the population, is the largest. The federal system drew boundaries approximately along major ethnic group lines. Most political parties remained primarily ethnically based, although the ruling party and one of the largest opposition parties are coalitions of several ethnically based parties. Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Consensual same-sex sexual activity is illegal and conviction is punishable by three to 15 years’ imprisonment. No law prohibits discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals. There were some reports of violence against LGBTI individuals; reporting was limited due to fear of retribution, discrimination, or stigmatization. There are no hate crime laws or other criminal justice mechanisms to aid in the investigation of abuses against LGBTI individuals. Individuals did not identify themselves as LGBTI persons due to severe societal stigma and the illegality of consensual same-sex sexual activity. Activists in the LGBTI community reported surveillance and at times feared for their safety. There were no reports of persons incarcerated for engaging in same-sex sexual activities. The AIDS Resource Center in Addis Ababa reported the majority of self-identified gay and lesbian callers, most of whom were men, requested assistance in changing their behavior to avoid discrimination. Many gay men reported anxiety, confusion, identity crises, depression, self-ostracism, religious conflict, and suicide attempts. HIV and AIDS Social Stigma Societal stigma and discrimination against persons with or affected by HIV/AIDS continued in education, employment, and community integration. Persons with or affected by HIV/AIDS reported difficulty accessing various services. There were no statistics on the scale of the problem. Section 7. Worker Rights a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining The constitution and law provide workers, except for civil servants and certain categories of workers primarily in the public sector, with the right to form and join unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. Meanwhile, other provisions and laws severely restrict or excessively regulate these rights. The law specifically prohibits managerial employees, teachers, health-care workers, judges, prosecutors, security-service workers, domestic workers, and seasonal agricultural workers from organizing unions. Despite the law prohibiting antiunion discrimination, unions reported employers terminated union activists. Employers found guilty of antiunion discrimination were required by law to reinstate workers dismissed for union activities and generally did so. The law prohibits retribution against strikers, and there were no reported cases of violations. A minimum of 10 workers are required to form a union. While the law provides all unions with the right to register, the government may refuse to register trade unions that do not meet its registration requirements. One possible rationale for refusal is the nonpolitical criminal conviction of the union’s leader within the previous 10 years, but there were no reports of a refused registration on this basis. The government may unilaterally cancel the registration of a union. Workers may not join more than one trade union per employment. The law stipulates a trade union organization may not act in an overtly political manner. The law allows administrative authorities to seek recourse via court actions to cancel union registration for engaging in prohibited activities, such as political action. Other laws and regulations that explicitly or potentially infringe upon workers’ rights to associate freely and to organize include the CSO law and implementing regulations and arbitrary application of antiterrorism laws. The International Labor Organization (ILO) Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations noted the CSO law gives the government power to interfere in the right of workers to organize, including through the suppression of registration, internal administration, and the dissolution of organizations. For example, the law requires that labor unions’ internal administration follow certain procedures that diminish their autonomy. While the law recognizes the right to collective bargaining, this right was severely restricted under the law. Negotiations aimed at amending or replacing a collectively bargained agreement must take place within three months of its expiration; otherwise, the prior provisions on wages and other benefits cease to apply. The law restricts enterprise unions to negotiating wages only at the plant level. Civil servants, including public school teachers, have the right to establish and join professional associations created by the employees, but not to negotiate better wages or working conditions. Arbitration procedures in the public sector are more restrictive than in the private sector. The law does not provide for effective and adequate sanctions against acts of interference by other agents in the establishment, functioning, or administration of either workers’ or employers’ organizations. Unions in the formal industrial sector made some efforts to enforce labor regulations. Although the constitution and law provide workers with the right to strike to protect their interests, the law contains detailed provisions prescribing extremely complex and time-consuming formalities that make legal strike actions difficult. The law requires aggrieved workers to attempt to reconcile with employers before striking and includes a lengthy dispute settlement process. These provisions apply equally to an employer’s right to lock workers out. For a strike to be authorized, two-thirds of the workers concerned must support such action. If cases are not referred to a court or labor relations board, the union retains the right to strike without resorting to either of these options, provided they give at least 10 days’ notice to the other party and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and make efforts at reconciliation. The law also prohibits strikes by workers who provide essential services, including air transport and urban bus services, electric power suppliers, gas station personnel, hospital and pharmacy personnel, firefighters, telecommunications personnel, and urban sanitary workers. The list of essential services goes beyond the ILO definition of essential services. The law prohibits retribution against strikers, but it also provides for civil or criminal penalties against unions and workers convicted of committing unauthorized strike actions. Violation of this procedure is an offense punishable with a fine not exceeding 1,200 birr ($53) if committed by a union or of 300 birr ($13) if committed by an individual worker. If the provisions of the penal code prescribe more severe penalties, the punishment proscribed in the penal code becomes applicable. The informal labor sector, including domestic workers, was not unionized, nor protected by labor laws. The law defines workers as persons in an employment relationship. Lack of adequate staffing prevented the government from effectively enforcing applicable laws for those sectors protected by law. Court procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals. Labor officials reported that high unemployment, fear of retribution, and long delays in hearing labor cases deterred workers from participating in strikes or other labor actions. The ILO was critical of the government’s use of the antiterrorism law to punish ringleaders, organizers, or leaders of forbidden societies, meetings, and assemblies. The government refused for the fourth year to register the National Teachers Union (NTA) on grounds that a national teachers’ association already existed and that the NTA’s registration application did not comply with the CSO law. In 2013 an ILO mission made a working visit and signed a joint statement with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, stating the government was committed to registering the NTA. The ILO’s country office reiterated this message and characterized the dispute as an administrative matter concerning naming rights and diaspora membership. Though rarely reported, antiunion activities occurred. There were media reports that some major foreign investors generally did not allow workers to form unions, often transferred or dismissed union leaders, and intimidated and pressured members to leave unions. Lawsuits alleging unlawful dismissal often took years to resolve because of case backlogs in the courts. b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor The law prohibits and criminalizes all forms of forced or compulsory labor but permits courts to order forced labor as a punitive measure. Conviction of slavery is punishable with five to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine. The government did not effectively enforce the law, and forced labor occurred. In 2015 the federal government enacted a comprehensive overhaul of its antitrafficking penal code. The code prescribes harsh penalties up to life imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 birr ($22,197) for conviction of human trafficking and exploitation, including slavery, debt bondage, forced prostitution, and servitude. The penalties served as a deterrent, especially when paired with increased law enforcement attention to the abuse. The number of traffickers convicted surged more than nine-fold to 640 in 2016, up from 69 in 2015. Police at the federal and regional levels received training focused on human trafficking and exploitation. Although a ban on labor migration to the Gulf States remained in effect, in February 2016 the government enacted the Revised Overseas Employment Proclamation (Proclamation No. 923/20 16), a major precondition for lifting the existing labor migration ban. Women who migrated for work were vulnerable to forced labor overseas. Men and boys migrated to the Gulf States and other African nations, sometimes resulting in forced labor. Adults and children, often under coercion, engaged in street vending, begging, traditional weaving of hand-woven textiles, or agricultural work. Children also worked in forced domestic labor. Situations of debt bondage also occurred in traditional weaving, pottery making, cattle herding, and other agricultural activities, mostly in rural areas. The government sometimes deployed prisoners to work outside the prisons for private businesses, a practice the ILO stated could constitute compulsory labor. Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/. c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment By law the minimum age for wage or salaried employment is 14. The minimum age provisions, however, apply only to contractual labor and do not apply to self-employed children or children who perform unpaid work. The law prohibits hazardous or night work for children between ages 14 and 18. The law defines hazardous work as any work that could jeopardize a child’s health. Prohibited work sectors include passenger transport, work in electric generation plants, factory work, underground work, street cleaning, and many other sectors. The law expressly excludes children under age 16 attending vocational schools from the prohibition on hazardous work. The law does not permit children between ages 14 and 18 to work more than seven hours per day, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., or on public holidays or rest days. Child labor remained a serious problem and significant numbers of children worked in prohibited, dangerous work sectors, particularly construction. School enrollment was low, particularly in rural areas. To reinforce the importance of attending school, joint NGO, government, and community-based awareness efforts targeted communities where children were heavily engaged in agricultural work. The government invested in modernizing agricultural practices and constructing schools to combat the problem of child labor in agricultural sectors. In both rural and urban areas, children often began working at young ages. Child labor was particularly pervasive in subsistence agricultural production, traditional weaving, fishing, and domestic work. A growing number of children worked in construction. Children in rural areas, especially boys, engaged in activities such as cattle herding, petty trading, plowing, harvesting, and weeding, while girls collected firewood and fetched water. Children worked in the production of gold. In small-scale gold mining, they dug mining pits and carried heavy loads of water. Children in urban areas, including orphans, worked in domestic service, often working long hours, which prevented many from attending school regularly. Children also worked in manufacturing, shining shoes, making clothes, parking, public transport, petty trading, as porters, and directing customers to taxis. Some children worked long hours in dangerous environments for little or no wages and without occupational safety protection. Child laborers often faced abuse at the hands of their employers, such as physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Girls from impoverished rural areas were exploited in domestic servitude and commercial sex within the country. Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/ . d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation The law prohibits discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin nationality, gender, marital status, religion, political affiliation, political outlook, pregnancy, socioeconomic status, disability, or “any other conditions.” The law specifically recognizes the additional burden on pregnant women and persons with disabilities (see section 6). The penalty for conviction of discrimination on any of the above grounds is a fine of 1,200 birr ($53). The government took limited measures to enforce the law. Sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV-positive status have no basis for protection under the law. Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to women, who had fewer employment opportunities than did men, and the jobs available did not provide equal pay for equal work. Discrimination against migrant workers also occurred (see section 7.e.). e. Acceptable Conditions of Work There is no national minimum wage. Some government institutions and public enterprises set their own minimum wages. Public sector employees, the largest group of wage earners, earned a monthly minimum wage of approximately 615 birr ($26). The official estimate for poverty income level was 315 birr ($13) per month. The law provides for a 48-hour maximum legal workweek with a 24-hour rest period, premium pay for overtime, and prohibition of excessive compulsory overtime. There are four conditions that allow employers to make use of overtime work. These are urgency of the task, danger, absence of an employee, and lack of alternatives. Additionally, employers may not engage their employees in overtime work exceeding 2 hours a day, 20 hours a month, and 100 hours a year. The country has 13 paid public holidays per year. The law entitles employees in public enterprises and government financial institutions to overtime pay; civil servants receive compensatory time off for overtime work. The government, industries, and unions negotiated occupational safety and health standards. Workers specifically excluded by law from unionizing, including domestic workers and seasonal agricultural workers, generally did not benefit from health and safety regulations in the workplace. Workers have the right to remove themselves from dangerous situations without jeopardizing their employment; there were no reports that workers exercised this right. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs’ inspection department was responsible for enforcement of workplace standards. Occupational safety and health measures were not effectively enforced. The ministry carried out regular labor inspections to monitor compliance; however, there were an insufficient number of trained labor inspectors and a lack of enforcement resources. The ministry’s severely limited administrative capacity; lack of an effective mechanism for receiving, investigating, and tracking allegations of violations; and lack of detailed, sector-specific health and safety guidelines hampered effective enforcement of these standards. The ministry completed 37,000 inspections in the most recent fiscal year. It also carried out 250 investigations into workplace accidents during that same period. Only a small percentage of the population, concentrated in urban areas, was involved in wage-labor employment. Wages in the informal sector generally were below subsistence levels. Compensation, benefits, and working conditions of seasonal agricultural workers were far below those of unionized permanent agricultural employees. The government did little to enforce the law. Most employees in the formal sector worked a 39-hour workweek. Many foreign, migrant, and informal laborers worked more than 48 hours per week. Hazardous working conditions existed in the agricultural sector, which was the primary base of the country’s economy. There were also reports of hazardous and exploitative working conditions in the construction and industrial sectors, although data on deaths and injuries were not available. South Sudan Executive Summary South Sudan is a republic operating under the terms of a peace agreement signed in August 2015. President Salva Kiir Mayardit, whose authority derives from his 2010 election as president of what was then the semiautonomous region of Southern Sudan within the Republic of Sudan, is chief of state and head of government. International observers considered the 2011 referendum on South Sudanese self-determination, in which 98 percent of voters chose to separate from Sudan, to be free and fair. President Kiir was a founding member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) political party, the political wing of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). Of the 30 ministers in the government, 16 were appointed by Kiir, 10 by the SPLM in Opposition (SPLM-IO), two by a political faction known as the Former Detainees, and two by the group known as “other political parties” as provided for in the peace agreement. The bicameral legislature consists of a Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA) with 400 seats (68 were added in accordance with the peace agreement), and a Council of States with 50 seats. SPLM representatives controlled the vast majority of seats in the legislature. Through presidential decrees, Kiir appointed most new governors. The constitution states that a gubernatorial election must be held within 60 days if an elected governor is relieved by presidential decree. As of year’s end, this had not happened. Civilian authorities routinely failed to maintain effective control over the security forces. In 2013 a power struggle within the ruling SPLM party erupted into armed conflict. President Salva Kiir accused then first vice president Riek Machar of plotting a coup. The two leaders appealed to their respective ethnic communities, and the conflict spread primarily to the northwest of the country. The parties signed several ceasefire agreements, culminating in the 2015 peace agreement. A ceasefire generally held from 2015 to July 2016, when fighting broke out between government and opposition forces in Juba leading to four days of intense conflict, during which government forces drove out Machar, who fled the country. A rump section of the SPLM-IO, led by current First Vice President Taban Deng Gai, remained in Juba as part of a transitional government that claimed to be committed to implementing the 2015 agreement. Following the 2016 violence, however, the government and the opposition resumed and expanded the geographic scope and scale of the conflict, which by year’s end had spread to all parts of the country. The most significant human rights issues included conflict-related, ethnically based targeted killings of civilians; extrajudicial killings, abuse, and mass forced displacement of approximately four million civilians, displaced internally and as refugees; and intimidation and inhuman treatment of civilians such as arbitrary arrest and detention, abductions and kidnapping, recruitment and use of an estimated 17,000 child soldiers; and widespread sexual violence. Attacks on military and civilian targets often resulted in rape, destruction of villages, theft, looting, and revenge attacks on civilians. Human rights abuses also included torture, intimidation, and unlawful detention of civilians; harassment, intimidation, and violence against journalists, civil society organizations, and human rights defenders; government restriction of freedoms of privacy, speech, press, and association; and abductions related to intercommunal and interethnic conflict. Officials reportedly arrested, detained, and mistreated several persons affiliated with the LGBTI community. Security force abuses occurred throughout the country. Impunity was widespread and remained a major problem. While government offensives during the year were responsible for the majority of the atrocities, resulting displacement, and consequent food insecurity, opposition forces also perpetrated serious human rights abuses. Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from: a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings The United Nations, human rights organizations, and media reported the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Security forces, opposition forces, armed militias affiliated with the government and the opposition, and ethnically based groups were also responsible for extrajudicial killings in conflict zones (see section 1.g.). There were numerous reported unlawful killings similar to the following example: On March 25, unidentified armed actors attacked a humanitarian aid convoy traveling from Juba to Pibor town, Jonglei State, resulting in the deaths of seven aid workers. b. Disappearance Security and opposition forces, armed militias affiliated with the government or the opposition, and ethnically based groups abducted an unknown number of persons, including women and children (see section 1.g.). There were numerous reported disappearances similar to the following: In late January human rights activist Samuel Dong Luak and opposition official Aggrey Idris Ezbon were abducted and disappeared in Nairobi. Human rights groups alleged Luak and Idris were illegally extradited to South Sudan and held in detention at National Security Service (NSS) headquarters in Juba without charge. In February, Information Minister Michael Makuei denied the government had custody of the two men. Civilian reports of missing family members were also common. For example, Amnesty International documented the arrest of nine civilians by government forces in May; at year’s end they remained missing. c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment The transitional constitution prohibits such practices, but security forces tortured, beat, and harassed political opponents, journalists, and human rights workers (see sections 2.a. and 5). Government and opposition forces, armed militia groups affiliated with both, and warring ethnic groups committed torture and abuses in conflict zones (see section 1.g.). There were numerous reported abuses including sexual and gender-based violence, beating and torture of detainees, and harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders and humanitarian workers. According to Amnesty International, thousands of women and girls were victims of sexual violence, including “rape, gang rape, sexual slavery, sexual mutilation, torture, castration, or forced nudity” throughout the year. The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) received three allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against military and civilian personnel during the year, including two allegations of rape. One investigation of rape was pending, and the other was found to be unsubstantiated (the complaint was redacted). One allegation of transactional sex made against an Ethiopian military officer, during an unspecified time in 2016, was pending investigation as of October. Prison and Detention Center Conditions Prison conditions were harsh and potentially life threatening. Overcrowding and inadequate medical care at times resulted in illness and death. While some prisons employed doctors, medical care was rudimentary, and prison physicians often had inadequate training and supplies. There were reports of abuse by prison guards. Physical Conditions: Men and women were generally, but not always, held in separate areas, but male and female inmates often mixed freely during the day due to space constraints. Due to overcrowding, authorities did not always hold juveniles separately from adults and rarely separated pretrial detainees from convicted prisoners. Children, especially infants, often lived with their mothers in prison. Nonviolent offenders were kept with violent offenders because of resource and spatial constraints. There were a reported 201 juveniles in detention. In 2016 the National Prison Service (NPS) reported holding 162 inmates with mental disabilities determined by a judge to be sufficiently dangerous (and “mentally ill”) after referral by family or the community, incarcerating, medicating, and keeping them in detention until a medical evaluation revealed they were no longer ill and could depart. Health care and sanitation were inadequate, and basic medical supplies and equipment were lacking. According to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), prisoners received one meal per day and relied on family or friends for additional food. Potable water was limited. In some locations prisoners slept in overcrowded open hallways and buildings lined with bunk beds. Ventilation and lighting were inadequate. Malnutrition and lack of medical care contributed to inmate deaths, although no statistics were available. Detention centers were under the control of local tribal or state authorities, and conditions were uniformly harsh and life threatening. Many facilities in rural areas consisted of uncovered spaces where authorities chained detainees to a wall, fence, or tree, often unsheltered from the sun. As with state-run prisons, sanitary and medical facilities were poor or nonexistent, and potable water was limited. Detainees sometimes spent days outdoors but slept inside in areas that lacked adequate ventilation and lighting. Conditions in SPLA-run detention facilities were similar, and in some cases worse, with many detainees held outdoors with poor access to sanitary or medical facilities. UNMISS maintained facilities at Protection of Civilian (PoC) sites in Juba, Malakal, Bentiu, and Bor to hold internally displaced persons (IDPs) who were criminal suspects. Authorities did not intend the holding facilities to house IDPs for more than 72 hours, but they sometimes held IDP suspects longer due to delays in determining how to treat individual cases and the inability to reintroduce offenders into PoC sites because the threat victims posed against them or the threat offenders posed to the larger community. UNMISS observed prisoners daily and offered medical treatment for serious complications. Prisoners received food twice a day. The NSS operated a detention facility in Juba that held civilian prisoners (see section 1.d.). Administration: The NPS continued weekly reporting of prisoner totals from all state prisons to its Juba headquarters, including statistics on juveniles and persons with mental disabilities (see section 1.d.). There were no prison ombudsmen. The NPS allowed prisoner’s access to visitors and permitted them to take part in religious observances, but NSS and SPLA authorities were less likely to do so. The NPS allowed prisoners to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and to request investigation of allegations of inhuman conditions. Prison authorities sometimes investigated such allegations, although they seldom took action. Independent Monitoring: The NPS permitted visits by independent human rights observers, including UNMISS human rights officers, nongovernmental observers, international organizations, and journalists. Although authorities sometimes permitted monitors to visit detention facilities operated by the SPLA, they rarely, if ever, permitted monitors to visit facilities operated by the NSS, which held both military prisoners and civilians without legal authority. d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention The transitional constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention without charge. The government, however, arrested and detained individuals arbitrarily. The law provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention, but there were no known cases where an appellant successfully sought compensation for wrongful detention. Since the start of the crisis in 2013, there were regular reports that security forces conducted arbitrary arrests, including of journalists, civil society actors, and supposed political opponents (see sections 1.a., 1.c., and 1.g.). While not legally vested with the power to arrest or detain civilians, the SPLA often did so. The NSS also routinely detained civilians. Security services rarely reported such arrests to police, other civilian authorities, or, in the case of foreigners arrested, diplomatic missions. Police also routinely arrested civilians based on little or no evidence prior to conducting investigations and often held them for weeks or months without charge or trial. There were numerous reported arbitrary arrests or detentions similar to the following examples: On February 23, human rights activist Alison Mogga died after months in detention at NSS headquarters in Juba. The government arrested Mogga in July 2016 allegedly for supporting rebel forces in Kajo-Keji County. On March 14, the government released former Wau state governor Elias Waya Nyipuoch without charge after detaining him since June 2016. ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS The South Sudan National Police Service, under the Ministry of Interior, is responsible for law enforcement and maintenance of order. Consisting largely of former SPLA soldiers, it was poorly trained, corrupt, and widely distrusted. Authorities often based detentions on accusations rather than investigations. They rarely investigated complaints of police abuse. Police often went months without pay; they solicited bribes or sought compensation, often in the form of food or fuel, for services rendered to civilians. The SPLA is responsible for providing security throughout the country and ostensibly operates under the Ministry of Defense and Veterans’ Affairs; current and former military personnel staffed the ministry. The SPLA does not have law enforcement authority, unless acting at the request of civil authorities. Nevertheless, the SPLA regularly exercised police functions, in part due to the limited presence and general ineffectiveness of law enforcement in many areas. It routinely detained persons, including in SPLA-run detention facilities to which monitors generally had little or no access. The SPLA’s approach to internal security and civilian disarmament was often unsystematic and disproportionate, contributing to conflict within and between communities while undermining the government’s legitimacy in conflict areas. The law requires cases of SPLA abuse of civilians to be heard in civilian courts, but there were no reports of cases being referred. For example, following the July 2016 attack on civilians at the Terrain Hotel compound in Juba, the government pursued a high-profile case against 12 SPLA soldiers in a court-martial. The law, however, requires crimes committed against civilians be tried in the civilian courts. The NSS, which has arrest and detention authority only in matters relating to national security, often detained civil society activists, businesspersons, NGO personnel, journalists, and others to intimidate them, particularly if the NSS believed they supported opposition figures. Authorities rarely investigated complaints of arbitrary detention, harassment, excessive force, and torture. Impunity of the security services was a serious problem. Although some internal investigations within the army and police were reportedly launched, no cases of security-sector abuse were referred to civilian courts. According to media reports, the SPLA court-martialed at least 60 soldiers accused of looting and other human right abuses in July in Juba. Undue command influence over the military justice system was a persistent problem. ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES While the law requires police to bring arrested persons before a public prosecutor, magistrate, or court within 24 hours, there were no public prosecutors or magistrates available below the county level in most areas. Court dockets often were overwhelmed, and cases faced long delays before coming before a judge. Police may detain individuals for 24 hours without charge. A public prosecutor may authorize an extension of up to one week, and a magistrate may authorize extensions of up to two weeks. Authorities did not always inform detainees of charges against them and regularly held them past the statutory limit without explanation. Police sometimes ignored court orders to bring arrested persons before the court. Police, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges were often unaware of the statutory requirement that detainees appear before a judge as quickly as possible. Police commonly conducted arrests without warrants, and warrants were often irregular, handwritten documents. Warrants were commonly drafted in the absence of investigation or evidence. The code of criminal procedure allows bail, but this provision was widely unknown or ignored by justice-sector authorities, and they rarely informed detainees of this possibility. Because pretrial appearances before judges often were delayed far past statutory limits, authorities rarely had the opportunity to adjudicate bail requests before trial. Those arrested had a right to an attorney, but the country had few lawyers, and detainees were rarely informed of this right. The transitional constitution mandates access to legal representation without charge for the indigent, but defendants rarely received legal assistance if they did not pay for it. Authorities sometimes held detainees incommunicado. Arbitrary Arrest: Security forces arbitrarily arrested opposition leaders, civil society activists, businesspersons, journalists, and other civilians due to ethnicity or possible affiliation with opposition forces. The SPLA and NSS often abused political opponents and others whom they detained without charge. Ignorance of the law and proper procedures also led to many arbitrary detentions. Many justice-sector actors, including police and judges, operated under a victim-centric approach that prioritized restitution and satisfaction for victims of crime, rather than following legal procedure. This approach led to many arbitrary arrests of citizens who were simply in the vicinity when crimes occurred, were of a certain ethnicity, or were relatives of suspects. For example, there were numerous reports women were detained when their husbands, accused of having unpaid debts, could not be located. In April, NSS officers arrested and detained National Public Broadcasters journalist Eyder Peralta, a foreign citizen, for four days in a detention facility in Juba. No charges were brought against him. Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was a problem, due largely to the lack of lawyers and judges; the difficulty of locating witnesses; misunderstanding of constitutional and legal requirements by police, prosecutors, and judges; and the absence of a strong mechanism to compel witness attendance in court. A five-month strike by judges also created a significant backlog of cases and increased pretrial detentions. The length of pretrial detention commonly equaled or exceeded the sentence for the alleged crime. Estimates of the number of pretrial detainees ranged from one-third to two-thirds of the prison population. The chronic lack of access to law enforcement officers and judicial systems became even more severe as armed conflict displaced officials (see section 1.g.). e. Denial of Fair Public Trial The transitional constitution provides for an independent judiciary and recognizes customary law. While the law requires the government to maintain courts at federal, state, and county levels, lack of infrastructure and trained personnel made this impossible, and few statutory courts existed below the state level. In the majority of communities, customary courts remained the principal providers of justice services. Customary courts maintained primary authority to adjudicate most crimes other than murder. Customary courts can deal with certain aspects of murder cases if judges remit the cases to them to process under traditional procedures and determine compensation according to the customs of the persons concerned. If this happens, the judge can sentence the individual who commits a killing to no more than 10 years. Government courts also heard cases of violent crime and acted as appeals courts for verdicts issued by customary bodies. Legal systems employed by customary courts varied, with most emphasizing restorative dispute resolution and some borrowing elements of sharia (Islamic law). Government sources estimated customary courts handled 80 percent of all cases due to the capacity limitations of statutory courts. Political pressure, corruption, discrimination toward women, and the lack of a competent investigative police service undermined both statutory and customary courts. Patronage priorities or political allegiances of traditional elders or chiefs commonly influenced verdicts in customary courts. Despite numerous pressures, some judges appeared to operate independently. TRIAL PROCEDURES Under the transitional constitution defendants are presumed innocent and have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of charges (with free interpretation as necessary), be tried fairly and publicly without undue delay, be present at any criminal trial against them, confront witnesses against them, present witnesses and evidence, not be compelled to incriminate themselves, and to legal counsel. Despite these protections, law enforcement officers and statutory and customary court authorities commonly presumed suspects to be guilty, and suspects faced serious infringements of their rights. Free interpretation was rarely, if ever, offered. Most detainees were not informed promptly of the charges against them. Prolonged detentions often occurred, and defendants generally did not have adequate access to facilities to prepare a defense. While court dates were set without regard for providing adequate time to prepare a defense, long remands often meant detainees with access to a lawyer had sufficient time to prepare. Magistrates often compelled defendants to testify, and the absence of lawyers at many judicial proceedings often left defendants without recourse. Public trials were the norm both in customary courts, which usually took place outdoors, and in statutory courts. Some high-level court officials opposed media access to courts and asserted media should not comment on pending cases. The right to be present at trial and to confront witnesses was sometimes respected, but in statutory courts, the difficulty of summoning witnesses often precluded exercise of these rights. No government legal aid structure existed. Defendants did not necessarily have access to counsel or the right of appeal, and discrimination against women was common. Some customary courts, particularly those in urban areas, had fairly sophisticated procedures, and verdicts were consistent. Some customary court judges in Juba kept records that were equal to or better than those kept in government courts. POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES There were reports of political prisoners and detainees, which civil society groups estimated to number in the dozens at any given time. Authorities typically held them from a few hours to a few days or weeks prior to release, usually without charge, reportedly in an effort to intimidate or stifle opposition. For example, James Gatdet Dak, the official spokesperson for SPLA-IO leader Riek Machar, was kidnapped in Nairobi and illegally deported to South Sudan in November 2016. According to human rights groups, Gatdet allegedly remained in an NSS detention facility throughout the year. Local media claimed a local court charged Gatdet in early September with insulting the president. The trial was not open to the public, and there was little information about charges and due process. CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES Statutory and customary courts provided the only options for those seeking to bring claims to address human rights violations, and these claims were subject to the same limitations that affected the justice sector in general. PROPERTY RESTITUTION The government rarely provided proportionate and timely restitution for the government’s confiscation of property. f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence The transitional constitution prohibits interference with private life, family, home, and correspondence. Authorities, however, reportedly violated these prohibitions. To induce suspects to surrender, officials at times held family members in detention centers. g. Abuses in Internal Conflict Since the conflict between the government and opposition forces began in 2013, security forces, opposition forces, armed militias affiliated with the government and the opposition, and civilians committed conflict-related abuses and violations around the country. Despite an August 2015 peace agreement, patterns of abuse intensified after renewed fighting broke out in July 2016 and continued throughout the year. While both sides of the conflict committed abuses, the United Nations and international NGOs reported government forces were responsible for an increasing number of conflict-related abuses against civilians. As conflict spread to the central and east Equatorias region (which prior to 2016 had been mostly spared from violence), government soldiers reportedly engaged in acts of collective punishment and revenge killings against civilians assumed to be opposition supporters, often based on their ethnicity. The UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, established by the Human Rights Council, reported on a pattern of ethnic cleansing and population engineering. Atrocities included unlawful killings, rape and gang rape employed as a weapon of war, arbitrary detention and torture, enforced disappearances, explosive remnants of war, forced displacement, the mass destruction of homes and personal property, widespread looting, and use of child soldiers. Casualty totals were difficult to estimate because the belligerents typically did not maintain accurate records. The number of IDPs and refugees increased to approximately four million at year’s end. Humanitarian aid workers were increasingly targeted, harassed, and killed. Killings: Government forces and armed militias affiliated with the government, often prompted by opposition ambushes of government soldiers, engaged in a pattern of collective punishment of civilians perceived to be opposition supporters, often based on ethnicity. There were many instances of such killings similar to the following: NGOs reported government forces and armed militias affiliated with the government on April 10 went house to house in ethnic Fertit and Luo neighborhoods of Wau town, killing 16 civilians and injuring at least 10 others. Some Wau residents stated armed militias affiliated with the government blocked fleeing civilians from accessing the PoC sites during the April 10 fighting, according to international media. International observers noted the attack on civilians likely occurred in response to opposition forces killing two high-ranking SPLA soldiers. In Mondikolok, a small town near the Ugandan border, government soldiers killed six persons on January 22 when they indiscriminately shot at civilians in a marketplace. According to a Human Rights Watch investigation, in January government soldiers allegedly shot and killed a man and his two children, ages five and 10, in their home in Romogi. Amnesty International reported government soldiers also allegedly killed six men in the village of Kudupi by locking them in a house and setting it on fire, shooting anyone attempting to escape. The United Nations reported government forces shot and killed an 18-year-old woman and wounded five other civilians when two soldiers began indiscriminately shooting at a funeral in Yei in early January. In Yei alone, the UNMISS Human Rights Division documented 114 cases from July 2016 to January 2017 where government forces and allied militias killed civilians perceived to be opposition supporters. The number of victims was presumed to be much larger, given limitations of access for human rights documenters. Opposition forces also reportedly engaged in unlawful killings of civilians. On April 19, three civilians were injured after opposition forces attacked Raja, the capital of Lol state. On June 4, Human Rights Watch reported opposition soldiers near Nimule attacked a convoy of civilian cars and buses that were being escorted by SPLA vehicles. Scorched earth tactics typical of the way all the armed forces conducted operations included: killing and raping civilians; looting cattle and goods; destroying property to prevent the return of those who managed to flee, followed by repeated incursions into an area to ensure those who fled did not return; and frequently obstructing humanitarian assistance. These actions multiplied the number of displaced civilians, who often were forced to travel great distances in dangerous circumstances to reach the shelter, food, and safety of UN-run PoC camps or to hide in marshes where they risked drowning or starvation. In January the United Nations documented evidence, including evidence gathered by satellite imagery, of more than 18,000 structures burned by government forces in Central Equatoria, causing thousands of civilians to flee across the border into Uganda. UN agencies and international NGOs that interviewed victims reported widespread killings and sexual violence, largely committed by government forces. Remnants of war also led to the killing and maiming of civilians. According to the United Nations, children were killed or maimed in 12 incidents involving unexploded remnants of war from January to March. Remnants of war were often left behind in schools used by government and opposition forces, and armed actors affiliated with both. The United Nations reported in November an estimated six million citizens lived in areas of land mines and other explosive remnants of war. Abductions: Abductions, particularly of women and children, took place in both conflict and nonconflict zones, as government and opposition forces and affiliated armed militia groups recruited children and women against their will. The United Nations and international NGOs reported multiple accounts of government soldiers or other security service members arbitrarily detaining or arresting civilians, sometimes leading to unlawful killings. For example, on May 21, government soldiers allegedly abducted nine civilians outside of Yei town. Police located all nine bodies in June and reported the victims were likely hacked to death by machetes. Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Government, opposition forces, and armed militias affiliated with the government and the opposition tortured, raped, and otherwise abused civilians in conflict areas. UNMISS reported finding six corpses, allegedly ethnic Zande, blindfolded and with hands tied alongside the road near Tambio town in Western Equatoria. Sexual and gender-based violence and conflict-related sexual violence were widespread. Rape was used widely as a weapon of war. According to Amnesty International, some rapists also mutilated victims or raped them with foreign objects. Following the April 3 attack by SPLA soldiers in Pajok, during which 14 civilians were killed, the UNMISS Human Rights Division reported three incidents of sexual violence. For example, in April opposition soldiers abducted a young woman in Eastern Equatoria twice and allegedly repeatedly raped and beat her. Human rights groups noted most cases of sexual- and gender-based violence went unreported. UN officials who interviewed survivors reported gang rape was common. Men were also victims of sexual violence, but on a far reduced scale. Amnesty International reported male survivors of sexual violence described rape, castration, and forms of torture. NGOs noted sexual violence against men was used to humiliate and terrorize victims. Child Soldiers: Following the outbreak of conflict in 2013, forced conscription by government forces, as well as recruitment and use of child soldiers by both government and antigovernment forces, increased. During the year there were widespread reports government forces were recruiting child soldiers. Opposition forces and affiliated armed militias also recruited child soldiers. Girls were recruited to wash, cook, and clean for government and opposition forces. International organization experts estimated 17,000 child soldiers had been recruited in the country since the conflict began in 2013 and blamed government, opposition, and militia forces. The August 2015 peace agreement mandated specialized international agencies work with all warring parties to demobilize and reintegrate child soldiers from the SPLA, the SPLA-IO, the Nuer White Army, and other groups, usually those involved in community defense. UNICEF warned renewed fighting undermined the progress it had made in demobilizing and reintegrating child soldiers, and it acknowledged some of the children had been rerecruited. Also, see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/. Other Conflict-related Abuse: Throughout the year the environment for humanitarian operations grew increasingly difficult and dangerous as the geographic scope of humanitarian need expanded. Armed actors, including government and opposition forces, continued to restrict the ability of the United Nations and other international and nongovernmental organizations to safely and effectively deliver humanitarian assistance to populations in need. Access was impeded by direct denials, bureaucratic barriers, and renewed fighting in areas of the country where humanitarian needs were highest. Despite repeated safety assurances, armed elements harassed and killed relief workers, looted and destroyed humanitarian assets and facilities, and imposed bureaucratic impediments on relief organizations. On multiple occasions fighting between armed forces put the safety and security of humanitarian workers at risk, prevented travel, forced the evacuation of relief workers, and jeopardized humanitarian operations, including forcing organizations to suspend operations entirely in areas of active conflict. During the year relief organizations reported more than 683 humanitarian access incidents, including 101 in August. Delayed flight safety assurances, insecurity, and movement restrictions often prevented relief workers from traveling to conflict and nonconflict areas. Humanitarian personnel, independently or through a UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) access working group, negotiated with government and opposition forces and other armed groups to address access problems; however, these negotiations were often protracted and caused significant delays in the delivery of assistance. The humanitarian operating environment became more volatile, increasingly jeopardizing the safety of humanitarian workers throughout the country. The most common forms of violence against humanitarian workers included robbery and looting, harassment, armed attacks, commandeering of vehicles, and physical detention. Since the start of the conflict in December 2013, the United Nations reported at least 85 humanitarian staff members had been killed in the country, 18 of them during the year. For example, unidentified armed actors on March 25 attacked a humanitarian convoy traveling from Juba to Pibor town, Jonglei, resulting in the deaths of seven aid workers–four South Sudanese and three Kenyans. The attack represented the single deadliest incident for aid workers since the conflict began. The aid workers were employees of a local NGO, the Grassroots Empowerment and Development Organization. On April 10, unidentified armed actors killed three local World Food Program (WFP) workers in Wau, Western Bahr el Gazal State. The WFP reported two of the workers were hacked to death with machetes and one was shot and killed. As a result, the WFP temporarily suspended humanitarian operations in Wau, with the exception of relief activities in and near the PoC site. Looting of humanitarian compounds and other assets was also common. During the week of July 17, unidentified armed actors looted a WFP warehouse in Tonj East that contained 245 metric tons of food commodities. The UN agency notified local authorities, who declined to take action to stop the attackers. Restrictions on humanitarian operations took other forms as well. In early September staff from at least six NGOs and donor representatives with diplomatic passports reported NSS authorities operating at Juba International Airport denied them travel permission because they did not yet have work permits. Work permits often take up to six months to be issued, and previously NGOs had been permitted to travel with the receipt as evidence of a work permit in process. Diplomats were denied travel permission supposedly for lack of permission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, although there was no requirement for diplomats to obtain permission to travel in the country. The South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (RRC) released a circular on September 5 requiring NGO staff whose work permits had not yet been issued as well as short-term visitors, such as consultants, to obtain a signed travel approval from the RRC 72 hours in advance of the planned travel. Relief actors reported the RRC released the circular without notice or consultation with NGOs, prompting confusion regarding the required travel procedures. In addition to physical security challenges, bureaucratic access constraints seriously affected humanitarian workers’ ability to deliver timely aid to populations in need. The government raised annual international NGO registration fees in May from approximately 61,000 South Sudanese pounds (SSP) ($500) to 427,000 SSP ($3,500) due to the increasing demand of humanitarian needs in the country. Humanitarian organizations expressed concern that the registration fee increase extorted money from NGO workers and could hinder the response efforts of smaller relief organizations. Humanitarian organizations also experienced delays in and denials of tax exemptions and were forced to purchase relief supplies on the local market, raising quality concerns. Government authorities began requesting international NGO staff pay income tax and threatened national staff into paying income tax at the state level. Continuing conflict and access denial to humanitarian actors was the leading contributor to households facing famine conditions. It was difficult to accurately gather information and assess areas due to insecurity. For example, in August SPLA-IO forces detained two WFP-contracted volunteers conducting a food security and nutrition monitoring survey in Yei County’s Minyori town. The SPLA-IO detained the volunteers for more than a week on alleged charges of espionage and tortured them while in custody. NGOs reported that government obstruction of impartial humanitarian assistance was greater in opposition-held areas, which, consequently, experienced a greater level of food insecurity. During the year, Amnesty International alleged the government was using food as a weapon of war. Abyei is a disputed region between Sudan and South Sudan that, according to agreements between the two governments, is to be jointly administered until a referendum on the final status of the area is held. After South Sudanese independence, the United Nations established the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). The security situation in Abyei was calm but unpredictable throughout the year. UNISFA reported some progress in communities returning property/livestock or receiving compensation for stolen property/livestock. The mission also noted a peaceful reverse migration of Misseriya communities. Crime remained a problem, but there was a decrease in thefts and break-ins at UN and UNISFA compounds. UNISFA and NGOs continued to provide humanitarian assistance to more than 130,000 vulnerable persons in Abyei. The conflict in South Sudan undercut the provision of aid, including by forcing the temporary relocation of international staff to Juba; looting of supplies procured in South Sudan and subsequent cost increases for those supplies; and delays in NGO activities. An estimated 1,000 displaced South Sudanese transited Abyei toward Sudan. Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: The transitional constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press. The government and its agents frequently violated this right, however, and the downward trend in respect for these freedoms since 2011 continued. Freedom of Expression: Civil society organizations must register with the government under the 2013 NGO Act (and the subsequent 2016 Act). The government regularly attempted to impede criticism by monitoring, intimidating, harassing, arresting, or detaining members of civil society who publicly criticized the government. Press and Media Freedom: The government maintained strict control of media, both print and electronic. The government suppressed dissenting voices, forcing some civil society organizations and media houses to shut down or flee the country. Most organizations practiced self-censorship to ensure their safety. During the year the government adopted a new censorship tactic of directly reprimanding publishers and removing articles deemed critical of the government. Many print media outlets reported NSS officers forced the removal of articles, including Juba Monitor, This Day (May 17 edition) and The Dawn (September 14 edition). NSS allegedly removed more than 20 articles from newspapers since late 2016, according to a report by the Association for Media Development in South Sudan. Many newspapers remained closed throughout the year: al-Rai (closed since 2014), al-Masir (closed since 2014), The Citizen (closed since 2015), The National Mirror (closed since 2016), and al-Tabeer (closed since 2016). On May 1, the Media Authority banned al-Jazeera (English) bureau staff from covering “anything to do with South Sudan.” This ban followed a series of al-Jazeera reports on fighting and the displacement of civilians in Kajo-Keji County near the border with Uganda. In June the Media Authority banned 20 foreign journalists from operating in the country because they reported “unsubstantiated and unrealistic stories that have the potential to incite hate and violence.” Since the outbreak of conflict in 2013, the government tried to dictate media coverage of the conflict and threatened those who tried to publish or broadcast the opposition’s views. NSS regularly harassed, intimidated, and summoned journalists for questioning. The environment for media workers remained precarious throughout the year. Government officials or individuals close to the government regularly interfered in the publication of articles and broadcasting of programs, and high-level government officials stated press freedom should not extend to criticism of the government or soliciting views of opposition leaders. Violence and Harassment: Security forces commonly intimidated or detained journalists whose reporting they perceived as unfavorable to the military or government. Security forces confiscated or damaged journalists’ equipment and restricted their movements. During the year journalists were interrogated, harassed, detained, and imprisoned, and there were instances of severe violence and suspicious death. NSS representatives frequently harassed journalists by detaining them at NSS headquarters or local police stations without formal charges. Government harassment was so pronounced that several journalists fled the country. Journalists and media agencies that reported on news of the opposition could expect questioning and possibly closure. Journalists in Juba experienced threats and intimidation and routinely practiced self-censorship. On several occasions high-level officials publicly used intimidating language directed toward media outlets and representatives. There were numerous reports of such abuses similar to the following example: On July 10, NSS officers arrested and detained Adil Faris Mayat, director of the South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation, allegedly for failing to broadcast live President Kiir’s July 9 Independence Day speech. Between January and May, the Union of Journalists documented 14 incidents of infringement on the rights of journalists, including three journalists arrested, four journalists threatened, and seven journalists denied access to information. Freelance journalist Christopher Allen was killed in heavy fighting between government and rebel forces around Kaya near the Ugandan border on August 26. He was embedded with opposition forces at that time. The government released two journalists after years-long detention. On May 25, UN Radio journalist George Livio Bahara was released after nearly three years in detention without charges. In April, John Pantheer, a local journalist, was also released after years in detention. INTERNET FREEDOM The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. The government, however, targeted and intimidated individuals who were critical of the government in open online forums. The government also blocked access and restricted content of sites deemed unfavorable. On July 17, the government closed two popular websites: Tamazuj and Sudan Tribune. Information Minister Michael Makuei accused the sites of disseminating hostile messages. The internet was unavailable in most parts of the country due to lack of electricity and communications infrastructure. ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS There were no known government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events. The government on occasion limited/restricted freedoms of peaceful assembly and/or association. FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY The transitional constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly, and the government generally respected this right, but many citizens did not gather due to fear of targeted violence. Security officials lacked nonviolent crowd control capabilities and at times fired live ammunition into the air to disperse crowds. FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION The transitional constitution provides for freedom of association, but the government did not respect this right for those suspected of associating with or having sympathies for opposition figures (see section 1.g.). Some civil society leaders interpreted the 2012 Political Parties Act as an attempt to suppress opposition to the SPLM (see section 3). A law passed in February 2016 strictly regulating the activity and operations of civil society was widely enforced throughout the year. The law focused particularly on NGOs working in the governance, anticorruption, and human rights fields, and it imposed a range of legal barriers including limitations on the types of activities that organizations can engage, onerous registration requirements, and heavy fines for noncompliance. Human rights groups and civil society representatives reported NSS officials continued surveillance and threats against civil society organizations. c. Freedom of Religion See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/. The transitional constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, and repatriation. The government, however, often restricted these rights, and routinely blocked travel of political figures within the country and outside the country. The transitional constitution does not address emigration. The 2012 Cooperation Agreements signed by the governments of Sudan and South Sudan cover security, economic, and other matters, including an agreement to protect freedoms of residence, movement, economic activity, and property ownership for citizens of both countries residing in Sudan or South Sudan. Although negotiating parties made progress in 2015 in Addis Ababa on border issues, the governments failed to make substantial progress on aspects of the agreement relating to each other’s citizens. Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Refugees sometimes suffered abuse, such as armed attacks, killings, gender-based violence, forced recruitment, including of children, and forced labor, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In-country Movement: IDPs remained on UNMISS PoC sites due to fear of retaliatory or ethnically targeted violence by armed groups, both government- and opposition-affiliated. The government often obstructed humanitarian organizations seeking to provide protection and assistance to IDPs and refugees. Continuing conflict between government and opposition forces restricted the movement of UN personnel and the delivery of humanitarian aid (see section 1.g.). INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPS) Throughout the year conflict in the country intensified and spread to areas previously less affected by fighting. The result was mass population displacement, both within the country and into neighboring countries, and high levels of humanitarian and protection needs, which strained the ability of UN and international humanitarian personnel to provide protection and assistance. According to OCHA, conflict and food insecurity had displaced more than two million persons. Approximately 234,000 persons were sheltering in UNMISS PoC sites. The increased violence and food insecurity forced relief actors to delay plans for the safe return and relocation of some IDP populations. Violence severely affected areas such as the Greater Equatoria and Upper Nile regions and Western Bahr el Ghazal, with dire humanitarian consequences, including significant displacement and serious and systematic reported human rights violations and abuses, including the killing of civilians, arbitrary arrests, detentions, looting and destruction of civilian property, torture and sexually based violence, according to UNHCR. As the conflict moved eastward, violence decreased in Western Equatoria, but up to 75 percent of Eastern Equatoria’s population was estimated by UNHCR to have been displaced as of March. Madi, Acholi, and indigenous groups based in Nimule town were increasingly targeted by government troops suspecting them of supporting opposition forces. SPLA and unknown groups reportedly committed violations of looting, destruction of civilian property, rape, and killing, causing mass displacement. Unknown groups conducted cattle raids in Western Equatoria that ended in seven civilian deaths in Rumbek East and almost 30,000 IDPs. Clashes between armed youth and the SPLA displaced an estimated 18,000 persons from Kediba. The town of Kajo-Keji experienced large-scale displacement, to the point the town was nearly emptied. In April an estimated 50,000 were displaced from Pajok. Intercommunal violence flared in Lakes State, leading to an unknown level of displacement. Up to 30,000 Shilluk, mostly women and children, fled their homes in the Upper Nile region and were living in the open near the town of Aburoc. According to the UN Panel of Experts, the vast majority of Shilluk had been forced to flee, and this depopulation occurred with the full knowledge of the president, cabinet ministers, and senior military officers and was a fully foreseeable consequence of the government’s military operations. Both sides of the conflict continued to recruit child soldiers from the IDP population. In the town of Malakal, state boundaries were redrawn to depopulate the town of its Shilluk and Nuer inhabitants. In Kodok town the Shilluk population was under threat of being displaced. In Wau town the Fertit and Luo populations fled to escape government-caused ethnic violence targeting them. As of September 30, more than two million citizens had sought refuge in neighboring countries, including nearly 880,000 who had fled to Uganda since July 2016. PROTECTION OF REFUGEES Access to Asylum: The South Sudan Refugee Act provides for protection of refugees as well as the granting of asylum and refugee status. The government allowed refugees from a variety of countries to settle and generally did not treat refugees differently from other foreigners. Access to Basic Services: While refugees sometimes lacked basic services, this generally reflected a lack of capacity in the country to manage refugee problems rather than government practices that discriminated against refugees. Refugee children had access to elementary education in refugee camps through programs managed by international NGOs and the United Nations. Some schools were shared with children from the host community. Refugees had access to judiciary services in principle, although a lack of infrastructure and staff meant these resources were often unavailable. Due to continuing conflict and scarcity of resources, tension existed between refugees and host communities in some areas over access to resources. Durable Solutions: The government accepted refugees and returnees for reintegration, although it did not publish a national strategy for facilitating integration or reintegration into local communities. No national procedures were in place to facilitate the provision of identity documents for returnees or the naturalization of refugees beyond procedures that were in place for all citizens and other applicants. STATELESS PERSONS Citizenship is derived through birth if a person has a South Sudanese parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent on either the mother’s or the father’s side, or if a person is a member of one of the country’s indigenous ethnic communities. Individuals also may derive citizenship through naturalization. Birth in the country is not sufficient to claim citizenship. Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process The transitional constitution provides that every citizen has the right to participate in elections in accordance with the constitution and the law. While the 2010 Sudan-wide elections did not wholly meet international standards, international observers believed Kiir’s election reflected the will of a large majority of Southern Sudanese. International observers considered the 2011 referendum on South Sudanese self-determination, in which 98 percent of voters chose to separate from Sudan, to be free and fair. Elections and Political Participation Recent Elections: The transitional constitution required an election be held by July 2015, the date on which the first postindependence presidential term ended. The peace agreement, which calls for elections at the end of a transitional period, superseded the transitional constitution. Intense violence and insecurity due to the conflict were additional factors in the government’s decision to postpone elections. In March 2015 the TNLA passed amendments to the transitional constitution extending the terms of the president, the national legislature, and the state assemblies for three years until July 2018. Under the terms of the peace agreement signed in August 2015, elections are to be held 30 months following the formation of a Transitional Government of National Unity. Interim objectives include the drafting and approval of a new constitution, completing a national census, improving the capacity of the National Elections Commission, and implementing an extensive outreach campaign to educate voters and bring them into the political process. Multiple institutions, ranging from the United Nations to NGOs, were against holding the July 2018 elections until a ceasefire and safer, credible, inclusive conditions could be implemented for a fair election process. An unfavorable environment for media and citizen expression hampered participation in political processes. Political Parties and Political Participation: The SPLM enjoyed a near monopoly of power in the government and continued to be the most broadly recognized political entity since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005. SPLM membership conferred political and financial advantages, and there was great reluctance by opposition parties to shed the SPLM name. For example, the main opposition party was referred to as the SPLM-IO, and most other political parties were either offshoots of the SPLM or affiliated with it. Under the terms of the 2015 peace agreement, President Kiir’s SPLM faction was allocated a 53 percent share of the executive branch. A 33-percent share was assigned to the SPLM-IO, led by Riek Machar Teny, who returned to Juba in April to serve as first vice president. After fighting between the SPLA and SPLA-IO broke out in Juba in July 2016, however, Machar fled the country. His SPLM-IO fractured into two factions, and, after the July 2016 violence, the government recognized only the faction led by current First Vice President Taban Deng Gai. Under the terms of the peace agreement, opposition parties head 14 of 30 ministries. They also held a small minority of seats in the TNLA and the Council of States. Many opposition members who were supporters of Machar argued the current SPLM-IO led by Taban Deng Gai was no longer “the true opposition,” characterizing its membership to consist of opposition figures who had defected to the government. Opposition parties complained that at times the government harassed party members. The Political Parties Act, passed in 2012, mandated specific requirements for those political parties that existed in a unified Sudan prior to South Sudan’s independence in 2011. Representatives of the Political Parties Council (an independent body created by the law and created in early February to manage political party matters) estimated the requirements affected approximately 25 parties. In October 2016 the Political Parties Council issued a call for preindependence parties to register within 90 days, stating no party had officially registered since independence; 11 political parties were registered in April. Parties formed after independence are not subject to the 90-day deadline. Registration (for both pre-and postindependence parties) included strict requirements that a party show a minimum number of supporters in eight of the country’s 10 states (to avoid ethnically based parties) and adopt a party constitution and manifesto before the deadline. Participation of Women and Minorities: The transitional constitution requires at least 25 percent female participation in the legislative and executive branches of government at the national and state levels. The Local Government Act requires at least 25 percent of county commissioners and 25 percent of county councilors be women. The Council of Traditional Authority Leaders Act requires at least two of nine members of the council be women. These laws were inconsistently implemented at both the state and national levels. While women made gains in both the TNLA and in the executive branch (see below), they remained marginalized in the judiciary, local governments, and among traditional leaders. Representation was particularly poor at the local level, where implementation of the 2009 act’s provisions was particularly wanting. The current system also devolved substantial candidate selection power to political party leaders, very few of whom were women. Women held 87 of the 296 filled seats in the TNLA but occupied only six of the 50 seats in the Council of States. That number increased with appointment of more women to the TNLA (no exact figure was available). The government did not meet the 25 percent representation requirement for women at the state level. No women were selected for posts during the president’s December round of caretaker governor appointments. The governor of Warrap State, the only female governor, was relieved of her duties. Six women served in the 30-member cabinet, and one of eight deputy ministers was a woman. Some observers believed traditional and cultural factors limited women’s participation in government. Women tended to be discouraged from assuming leadership positions because of the belief such activities conflicted with their domestic duties. Several ethnic groups remained underrepresented or unrepresented in government, and the conflict exacerbated ethnic tensions and the imbalance in national and state level political institutions. The absence of translations of the constitution in Arabic or local languages limited the ability of minority populations to engage meaningfully in political dialogue and contributed to low turnout for several consultations on a permanent constitution that took place around the country. Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government The transitional constitution provides for criminal penalties for acts of corruption by officials. The government did not implement the law, and officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Corruption: Corruption was endemic in all branches of government. Poor recordkeeping, lax accounting procedures, absence of strict procurement laws, a lack of accountability, and the pending status of corrective legislation compounded the problem. The transitional constitution assigns responsibility for investigating and prosecuting corruption to the South Sudan Anticorruption Commission (SSACC). The commission has no authority to prosecute because the constitution did not repeal or amend previous laws vesting prosecutorial powers in the Ministry of Justice. The criminal code does not define corruption. A draft law to correct these issues had been pending since 2013. The National Audit Chambers Act of 2011 established a National Audit Chamber (NAC) to be led by an auditor general to conduct independent audits of government ministries, state governments, and other entities. The NAC did not have authority to prosecute cases. The institution had not published any findings since early 2013. Chapter IV of the 2015 peace agreement calls for the government to be transparent and accountable and for political leaders to fight against corruption. Chapter IV also calls for the establishment of an oversight mechanism to control revenue collection, budgeting, revenue allocation, and expenditures. The agreement mandates that both the SSACC and NAC be better protected from political interference. In September 2016 the Ministry of Finance established a Cash Management Committee to review and regulate cash flow for the government on a daily basis. The Ministry of Finance took steps to follow an International Monetary Fund recommendation to create a National Revenue Authority. Oil revenue, however, which accounted for the majority of the national income, would not be collected by this entity. Oil revenue is officially reported as net income only to the government, often concealing corruption, waste, and abuse within the government entities that handled those funds. Several investigations by international NGOs such as The Sentry detailed the lavish lifestyles enjoyed by high-ranking government officials even as the country suffered from armed conflict and economic turmoil. Financial Disclosure: Government officials of director general rank and higher are required to submit financial declaration forms annually, although there is no penalty for failure to comply. The assets of spouses and minor children must also be declared. Although the SSACC received these forms and was responsible for monitoring compliance, no monitoring occurred by year’s end. Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons Women Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is punishable by up to 14 years’ imprisonment and a fine. The government did not effectively enforce the law, and rape was believed to be widespread. The law defines sexual intercourse within marriage as “not rape.” No information was available on the number of persons prosecuted, convicted, or punished for rape, and convictions of rape seldom were publicized. According to observers, sentences for persons convicted of rape were often less than the maximum. Since the conflict began in 2013, conflict-related sexual violence was widespread. The targeting of girls and women reached epidemic proportions following skirmishes and attacks on towns in conflict zones (see section 1.g.). Women and girls also faced the threat of rape while living in PoC sites and when leaving PoC sites to conduct daily activities. The law does not prohibit domestic violence. Violence against women, including spousal abuse, was common, although there were no reliable statistics on its prevalence. According to NGOs, some women reported police tried to charge them SSP 20 ($0.16) or more when they attempted to file the criminal complaints of rape or abuse. While not mandatory, police often told women they needed to complete an official report prior to receiving medical treatment. Families of rape victims encouraged marriage to the rapist to avoid public shaming. Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is a criminal offense under the penal code, but little data existed to determine its prevalence. The law prohibits subjecting children to negative and harmful practices that affect their health, welfare, and dignity. Although not a common practice, FGM/C occurred in some regions, particularly along the northern border regions in Muslim communities. Several NGOs worked to end FGM/C, and the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Welfare raised awareness of the dangers of FGM/C through local radio broadcasts. For more information, see data.unicef.org/resources/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-country-profiles/ . Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The practice of girl compensation–compensating the family of a crime victim with a girl from the perpetrator’s family–occurred. Victims were generally between ages 11 and 15, did not attend school, and often were physically and sexually abused and used as servants by their captors. Local officials complained the absence of security and rule of law in many areas impeded efforts to curb the practice. Dowry practices were also common. NGOs reported fathers often forced daughters, generally minors, to marry older men in exchange for cattle or money. Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment and a fine. The government rarely enforced the law, and NGOs reported most women were unaware it was a punishable offense. Observers noted sexual harassment, particularly by military and police, was a serious problem throughout the country. Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ . Discrimination: While the transitional constitution provides for gender equality and equal rights for women, deep cultural prejudices resulted in widespread discrimination against women. High illiteracy rates also impeded women’s ability to understand and defend their rights. Communities often followed customary laws and traditional practices that discriminated against women. For example, authorities arrested and detained women for adultery. Despite statutory law to the contrary, under customary law a divorce is not final until the wife and her family return the full dowry to the husband’s family. As a result, families often dissuaded women from divorce. Traditional courts usually ruled in favor of the husband’s family in most cases of child custody, unless children were between three and seven years of age. Women also experienced discrimination in employment, pay, credit, education, inheritance, housing, and ownership and management of businesses or land. Although women have the right to own property and land under the transitional constitution, community elders often sought to prevent women from exercising these rights because they contradicted customary practice. Children Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived through birth if a person has any South Sudanese parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent on either the mother’s or the father’s side, or if a person is a member of one of the country’s indigenous ethnic communities. Individuals may also derive citizenship through naturalization. Birth in the country is not sufficient to claim citizenship. The government did not register all births immediately. For additional information, see Appendix C. Education: The transitional constitution and the 2012 Education Act provide for tuition-free, compulsory basic education through grade eight. Armed conflict and violence, however, were key factors preventing children from attending school throughout the year. UNICEF estimated nearly three-quarters of the country’s children were not attending school. The expansion of conflict also resulted in the displacement of many households and widespread forced recruitment of children, particularly boys, by armed groups, as reported by international NGOs, making it difficult for children to attend school and for schools to remain in operation. NGOs reported government and opposition forces, and militias associated with both, looted numerous schools in conflict zones. In addition, the government did not give priority to investments in education, particularly basic education, and schools continued to lack trained teachers, educational materials, and other resources. Girls often did not have equal access to education. Many girls did not attend school or dropped out of school due to early marriage, domestic duties, and fear of gender-based violence at school. According to the 2015 Education for All national review, girls constituted only 39 percent of primary school students and 32 percent of secondary school students, although this figure may be even lower due to continuing violence and displacement as a result of the conflict. Child Abuse: Abuse of children included physical violence, abduction, and harmful traditional practices such as “girl compensation” (see Other Harmful Traditional Practices). Child abuse, including sexual abuse, was reportedly widespread. Child rape occurred frequently in the context of child marriage and within the commercial sex industry in urban centers, and armed groups perpetrated it. Authorities seldom prosecuted child rape due to fear among victims and their families of stigmatization and retaliation. Child abduction also was a problem. Rural communities often abducted women and children during cattle raids (see section 1.g.). Early and Forced Marriage: The law provides that every child has the right to protection from early marriage but does not explicitly prohibit marriage before age 18. Child marriage was common. According to the Ministry of Gender, Child, and Social Welfare, nearly half of all girls and young women between the ages of 15 and 19 were married, and some brides were as young as 12. Early marriage sometimes reflected efforts by men to avoid rape charges, which a married woman cannot bring against her husband. In other cases families of rape victims encouraged marriage to the rapist to avoid public shaming. Many abducted girls, often repeatedly subjected to rape (see section 1.g.), were forced into marriage. For additional information, see Appendix C. Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law designates a minimum age of 18 years for consensual sex, although commercial sexual exploitation of children occurred. Perpetrators of child prostitution and child trafficking may be punished by up to 14 years’ imprisonment, although authorities rarely enforced these laws. Child prostitution and child trafficking both occurred, particularly in urban areas. Child Soldiers: The law prohibits recruitment and use of children for military or paramilitary activities and prescribes punishments of up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Opposition and government forces and affiliated armed militia groups recruited and used child soldiers throughout the year (see section 1.g.). Displaced Children: During the year conflict displaced numerous children. Few had access to government services, such as education (see section 1.g.). International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html. Anti-Semitism There were no statistics concerning the number of Jews in the country. There were no known reports of anti-Semitic acts. Trafficking in Persons See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/. Persons with Disabilities The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, or the provision of other government services. NGOs reported community and family routinely subjected persons with disabilities to discrimination. The government did not enact or implement programs to provide access to buildings, information, or communications public services. The Transitional Constitution and the 2012 Education Act stipulate primary education be provided to children with disabilities without discrimination. Very few teachers, however, were trained to address the needs of children with disabilities, and very few schools were able to provide a safe, accessible learning environment for children with disabilities. There were no legal restrictions on the right of persons with disabilities to vote and otherwise participate in civic affairs, although lack of physical accessibility constituted a barrier to effective participation. There were no mental health hospitals or institutions, and persons with mental disabilities were often held in prisons. Limited mental health services were available at Juba Teaching Hospital. Persons with disabilities also faced disproportional hardship during famine conditions and continuing violence throughout the year. Human Rights Watch reported persons with disabilities were often victimized by both government and opposition forces. Persons with disabilities faced difficulty fleeing areas under attack and accessing humanitarian assistance in displacement camps. Since 2013 the conflict itself disabled an unknown number of civilians, who experienced maiming, amputation, sight and hearing impairment, and trauma. The World Health Organization estimated 250,000 persons with disabilities were living in displacement camps, while the total disabilities population at risk in the country could be more than one million. National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities Interethnic fighting and violence by government, opposition forces, and armed militias affiliated with the government and the opposition targeting specific ethnic groups resulted in human rights abuses throughout the year (see section 1.g.). The country has at least 60 ethnic groups and a long history of interethnic conflict. Ethnic groups were broadly categorized into the Nilotic (Dinka, Nuer, and Shilluk ethnic groups), Nilo-Hamitic, and Southwestern Sudanic groups. For some ethnic groups, cattle represented wealth and status. Competition for resources to maintain large cattle herds often resulted in conflict. Longstanding grievances over perceived or actual inequitable treatment and distribution of resources and political exclusion contributed to conflict. Interethnic clashes occurred throughout the year. Insecurity, inflammatory rhetoric–including hate speech–and discriminatory government policies led to a heightened sense of tribal identity, exacerbating interethnic differences. Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity The law does not prohibit same-sex sexual acts, but it prohibits “unnatural offenses,” defined as “carnal intercourse against the order of nature,” which are punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment if committed with consent and up to 14 years if without consent. There were no reports authorities enforced the law. There were some reports of incidents of discrimination and abuse. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons reported security forces routinely harassed and sometimes arrested, detained, tortured, and beat them. In September Labor, Public Service, and Human Resource Development Minister Gathoth Gatkuoth Hothnyang stated the government would order security forces to arrest LGBTI persons and detain them until they procreate. There were no reports of such arrests by year’s end. In December, NSS agents reportedly arrested, detained, and mistreated several persons affiliated with the LGBTI community. HIV and AIDS Social Stigma While there were no known reports filed regarding discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS, discrimination was widely believed to be both pervasive and socially acceptable. Key groups especially vulnerable to stigma and discrimination included commercial sex workers and LGBTI persons. This stigma often presented a barrier to seeking and receiving services for the prevention, diagnosis, care, and treatment of HIV. Other Societal Violence or Discrimination Throughout the year disputes between Dinka herders and agrarian youths over cattle grazing in the Equatorias at times deteriorated into violent and retaliatory events, leaving numerous dead and injured and forcing thousands to flee their homes. Civilian casualties and forced displacements occurred in many parts of the country when raiders stole cattle, which define power and wealth in many traditional communities. Land disputes, often erupting when stolen cattle were moved into other areas, also caused civilian casualties and displacement. SPLA and police sometimes engaged in the revenge killings both between and within ethnic groups. Section 7. Worker Rights a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining The country has not passed a national labor law. The country operated under select legislation inherited from Sudan. The 1997 Labor Act of Sudan remained in effect. That act permits independent unions. The law is silent on the rights to strike and bargain collectively and does not explicitly prohibit antiunion discrimination nor provide for reinstatement of workers fired for union activities. The government defines the scope of union activity, including terms of office, elections, organizational structures, and alliances. The auditor general controls trade union funds. The law also provides that the general registrar may abrogate the results of an election in a union if he is convinced of shortcomings and, in such event, is empowered to order new elections. To hold a lawful strike, previous authorization or approval by authorities is required, and workers may be dismissed for taking illegal strike action. Government enforcement of pre-existing labor laws was slight to nonexistent. While labor courts adjudicate labor disputes, the minister of labor may refer them to compulsory arbitration. Administrative and judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals, and penalties were insufficient to deter violations. The 2013 Workers’ Trade Union Act provided a regulatory framework to govern processes of worker trade unions. The largest union, the South Sudan Workers’ Trade Union, had approximately 65,000 members, working mainly in the public sector. Other unions included the Union of Journalists of South Sudan and the Union Haggar Tobacco. These unions were nominally independent of the governing political party. Despite lacking legal standing to suspend a union, the Media Authority declared it suspended the Union of Journalists of South Sudan in October for failing to register with the country’s regulatory body. International organizations reported government interference in union functions was common. b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor The law does not prohibit all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The law prohibits abduction or transfer of control over a person for the purpose of unlawful compulsory labor. Selling a minor for the purpose of prostitution is a crime. The law prescribes punishments of up to seven years’ imprisonment for abduction and transfer of control over a person for the purpose of unlawful compulsory labor. The law prescribes punishment of up to two years’ imprisonment for compulsory labor without aggravating circumstances. These laws were not sufficient to deter violations since they were not adequately enforced. The government did not effectively enforce the law. The government did not investigate or prosecute any trafficking offenses. Forced labor occurred in domestic servitude, in agricultural labor on family farms and at cattle camps, and in prisons. Most of those in situations of forced labor in cattle camps and agricultural activities were family members. Employers subjected women, migrants, and children (see section 7.c.) to forced labor in mines, restaurants, street begging, criminal activities, and sexual exploitation. Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/. c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment The minimum age for paid employment in general is 14 years, but it is 15 for “strenuous work” and 12 for “light work.” Under the law strenuous work includes activities such as mining and quarrying, work in factories, night shift work, or employment in prisons or the military. The law defines light work as work that does not harm the health or development of a child and does not affect the child’s school attendance or capacity to benefit from such. The law provides penalties for the infringement of a child’s rights of up to six months’ imprisonment, which was not sufficient to deter violations. The law prohibits recruitment and use of children for military or paramilitary activities and prescribes punishments of up to 10 years’ imprisonment. The National Steering Committee on Child Labor, led by the Ministry of Labor, was charged with coordinating efforts across government ministries to combat child labor; it did not convene during the year. In addition to the Ministry of Labor, the committee included representatives from the Ministries of Agriculture and Forestry; Health; Gender; General Education; Culture, Youth, and Sports; Animal Resources and Fisheries; and Wildlife Conservation and Tourism, as well as the International Labor Organization (ILO) and union representatives. The government did not enforce child labor laws. Only one of the Ministry of Labor’s five labor investigators was specifically trained to address child labor. Although charged with removing children engaged in work, the investigators did not have the necessary resources and did not conduct proper investigations. Of children between the ages of 10 and 14, 46 percent were engaged in some form of child labor, largely in cattle herding or subsistence farming with family members. Girls rescued from brothels in Juba reported police provided security for the brothels, and SPLA soldiers and government officials were frequent clients of child victims of sexual exploitation. Also, see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/ www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/. d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation The law does not prohibit discrimination with respect to employment or occupation based on race, color, sex, religion, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, social origin, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity, age, language, HIV-positive status, or on any other basis. Discrimination occurred on all the bases listed above. Discrimination in employment and occupation led to less hiring of particular ethnic groups such as the Murle, who were underrepresented in both the public and private sector. Dinka and Nuer occupied most leadership positions within the national government. Equatorians were historically overrepresented in the civil service at lower ranks. Across the country local authorities often manipulated the hiring practices of NGOs to favor fellow tribesmen and fire rivals. Disabled persons faced discrimination in hiring and access to work sites. Women had fewer economic opportunities due to employer discrimination and traditional practices. e. Acceptable Conditions of Work The country operated under select legislation inherited from Sudan. No new laws stipulate a national minimum wage. The Civil Service Provisional Order applies to the public sector and outlines the rights and obligations of public-sector workers, including benefits, salaries, and overtime. The law provides the Ministry of Labor, Public Service, and Human Resources with authority to issue the schedule of salary rates, according to which all civil servants, officials, and employees are to be paid. Under the law only unskilled workers are eligible for overtime pay for work in excess of 40 hours per week. The law does not provide for a standard workweek except for public-sector employees. Civil servants, officials, and employees working at higher pay grades were expected to work necessary hours beyond the standard workweek without overtime pay. When exceptional additional hours were demanded, the department head could grant time off in lieu of reimbursement. The government set appropriate occupational safety and health standards for public-sector workers through the acceptable conditions of work laws. The government had not enacted legislation on wages, working conditions, or occupational safety and health for workers outside of the public sector. Workers could not remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. The labor ministry is responsible for enforcement of laws on wages and working conditions. Its six labor investigators were insufficient to enforce compliance. The Ministry of Justice reported receiving no cases of labor violations. The government neither investigated nor prosecuted cases. Penalties for violations of laws on wages and working conditions were not sufficient to deter violations. No information was available on working conditions with respect to minimum wage, hours of work, and occupational safety and health. According to the 2008 census, the latest such data available, 84 percent of those employed were in nonwage work. Most small businesses operated in the informal economy and widely ignored labor laws and regulations. According to the ILO, less than 12 percent of workers were in the formal sector. The formal sector included security companies, banks, telecommunications companies, a brewery, and other private companies. The majority of workers in the country were agricultural workers, of whom 70 percent were agropastoralists and 30 percent farmers. Fifty-three percent of agricultural workers engaged in unpaid subsistence family farming. Sudan Executive Summary Sudan is a republic with power concentrated in the hands of authoritarian President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and his inner circle. The National Congress Party (NCP) continued 28 years of nearly absolute political authority. The country last held national elections (presidential and National Assembly) in April 2015. Key opposition parties boycotted the elections when the government failed to meet their preconditions, including a cessation of hostilities, holding of an inclusive “national dialogue,” and fostering of a favorable environment for discussions between the government and opposition on needed reforms and the peace process. In the period prior to the elections, security forces arrested many supporters, members, and leaders of boycotting parties and confiscated numerous newspapers, conditions that observers said created a repressive environment not conducive to free and fair elections. Only 46 percent of eligible voters participated in the elections, according to the government-controlled National Electoral Commission (NEC), but others believed the turnout to have been much lower. The NEC declared al-Bashir winner of the presidential election with 94 percent of votes. Civilian authorities at times did not maintain effective control over the security forces. Some armed elements did not openly identify with a particular security entity, making it difficult to determine under whose control they operated. In June 2016 President Bashir declared a four-month unilateral cessation of hostilities (COH) in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states (the “Two Areas”) and an end to offensive military actions in Darfur. The government repeatedly extended the COH, and as of year’s end, no offensive military actions had resumed, except for infrequent skirmishes between armed groups and government forces. Authorities used excessive force against protesters in Kalma Camp near Nyala, South Darfur, in September, killing nine internally displaced persons (IDPs). Nevertheless, the continued COH allowed for increased stability and an overall improvement in the human rights situation in Darfur and the Two Areas, as the government ceased its aerial bombardments and scorched-earth tactics in conflict zones. In Darfur weak rule of law persisted, however. Banditry, criminality, and intercommunal violence were main causes of insecurity in Darfur. The most significant human rights issues included extrajudicial killings; torture, beatings, rape, and other cruel or inhuman treatment or punishment of detainees and prisoners; arbitrary detention by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; restrictions on the freedoms of expression, press, assembly, association, religion, and movement; intimidation and closure of human rights and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); lack of accountability in cases involving violence against women, including rape and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C); the use of child soldiers; trafficking in persons; criminalization of same-sex conduct with severe penalty; denial of workers’ rights to associate with independent trade unions; and child labor. Government authorities did not investigate human rights violations by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), the military, or any other branch of the security services, with limited exceptions relating to the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF). The government failed to adequately compensate families of victims of shootings during the September 2013 protests, make its investigation results public, or hold security officials accountable. Impunity remained a problem in all branches of the security forces and government institutions. In the internal conflict areas of Darfur and the Two Areas, security forces, paramilitary forces, and rebel groups continued to commit killings, rape, and torture of civilians. Local militias maintained substantial influence due to widespread impunity. There were reports of both progovernment and antigovernment militias looting, raping, and killing civilians. Intercommunal violence spawned from land tenure and resource scarcity resulted in high death tolls, particularly in East, South, and North Darfur. Between January and October, there were 34 reports of intercommunal clashes, up from 24 in 2016. Abduction was also seen as a lucrative business by both militias and various tribes in Darfur. In Abyei tribal conflict between Ngok Dinka and Misseriya was at the root of most human rights abuses. Reports were difficult to verify due to restricted access. In October the government launched a disarmament campaign beginning with a voluntary disarmament phase and then a forced disarmament phase. There were no known investigations of or prosecutions related to human rights abuses. Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from: a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings There were numerous reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Security forces used fatal excessive force against civilians, demonstrators, and detainees, including in the conflict zones (see section 1.g.). A large number of IDPs gathered at Kalma Camp in South Darfur on September 22 to protest the visit of President Bashir to the camp scheduled for the same day. A clash ensued between the IDPs and security forces. Six IDPs were initially shot and killed and 25 other IDPs and two security force personnel were injured. More IDPs died of injuries days later, raising the number of deaths to nine. In September, NCP-aligned students killed three Darfuri students on the campus of Omdurman Islamic University in Khartoum. The authorities did not make public any investigation into the killings. Credible reports stated that throughout the country, some groups of NCP-aligned students were heavily armed and kept weapons, including Kalashnikovs and machetes, in mosques on campuses. There were credible reports of routine verbal and physical harassment by NCP-aligned students of Darfuri students. As of September the government had not released results from an investigation into the death of Darfuri student Salah Gamar Ibrahim, detained by NISS agents in January 2016 following a political forum held by a student political organization affiliated with the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdel Wahid (SLA/AW). As of September the government had not released any public report on the April 2016 killing by NISS of Kordofan University student Abu Baker Hashim during student elections in El Obeid, North Kordofan, nor on the April 2016 killing of al-Ahlia Omdurman University student Mohammed al-Sadig in clashes between progovernment and opposition students on campus. As of September the government had not released a report on the killings of 200 persons during protests in 2013 against the lifting of subsidies, nor had any perpetrators been prosecuted, according to lawyers representing the victims’ families. The government claimed it had paid compensations to victims’ families, while individual family members and representatives refuted such claims. While independent sources estimated 200 deaths resulted from the protests, the government reported there had been 85 deaths. During the year President Bashir continued to have two outstanding warrants for arrest against him based on International Criminal Court (ICC) indictments in 2009 and 2010 for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity in Darfur. Nonetheless, President Bashir still traveled by invitation to several countries, including Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Rwanda, Russia, and Uganda. ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda presented her 25th report on the situation in Darfur to the Security Council on June 9, stating, “The pervading toxic culture of impunity must be tackled in order for justice to prevail in Darfur.” b. Disappearance There were reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities. As in prior years, this included disappearances in both nonconflict and conflict areas. Security forces detained political opponents incommunicado and without charge. NISS held some political detainees in isolation cells in regular prisons, and many were held without access to family or medical treatment and reportedly suffered physical abuse. Human rights activists asserted NISS ran “ghost houses” where it detained opposition and human rights figures without acknowledging they were being held. Such detentions were prolonged at times. According to the government, NISS maintained public information offices to receive inquiries about missing or detained family members. Families of missing or detained persons often reported such inquiries went unanswered. In December 2016 security force members kidnapped freelance journalists Phil Cox and Daoud Hari in Darfur and detained them for 40 days (see sections 1.c. and 1.g.). Peaceful protesters were regularly detained and held incommunicado. Civil disobedience demonstrations in November and December 2016 led to the arrest and detention of more than 150 opposition and nonpartisan protesters, with some reportedly remaining in detention without access to legal counsel. Government forces, armed opposition groups, and armed criminal elements were responsible for the disappearance of civilians, humanitarian workers, and UN and other international personnel in conflict areas (see section 1.g.). c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment The 2005 Interim National Constitution prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, but security forces reportedly continued to torture, beat, and harass suspected political opponents, rebel supporters, and others. In accordance with the government’s interpretation of sharia (Islamic law), the penal code provides for physical punishments, including flogging, amputation, stoning, and the public display of a body after execution, despite the constitution’s prohibitions. Courts routinely imposed flogging, especially as punishment for indecent dress and the production or consumption of alcohol. The law requires police and the attorney general to investigate deaths on police premises, regardless of suspected cause. Reports of suspicious deaths in police custody were sometimes investigated but not prosecuted. On August 23, Usama Mohammed Abdulsalam died at the Diem Mayo Public Order police station in Port Sudan. He was arrested on August 21 on the charge of possession of alcohol, Article 78 of the 1991 criminal code. The next day he collapsed in his cell and was taken to a hospital for treatment. Police then took him back to the jail to await trial. A medical report revealed that Abdulsalam died after being subject to overcrowding, poor ventilation, and heat. This was not the first time detainees died in police custody at Diem Mayo jail. It was unclear whether changes were made to the detention facilities after Abdulsalam’s death. Government security forces (including police, NISS, and SAF Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) personnel) beat and tortured physically and psychologically persons in detention, including members of the political opposition, civil society, and journalists, according to civil society activists in Khartoum, former detainees, and NGOs. Reports of torture and other forms of mistreatment included prolonged isolation, exposure to extreme temperature variations, electric shock, and use of stress positions. There were numerous examples similar to the following: Freelance journalists Phil Cox and Daoud Hari were kidnapped by security force members in Darfur in December 2016 after entering illegally through Chad to film hostilities in Darfur. Both were specifically investigating allegations by Amnesty International of government use of chemical weapons in Jebel Marra. They were transported to Khartoum and detained for 40 days in Kober Prison. Following pressure from several embassies and media, the two were released and allowed to depart the country. Cox published essays and made documentaries after his release, in which he reported that during interrogations, government officers accused him of being a spy for the United Kingdom and the United States. He also reported that authorities beat, tortured, and choked him, as well as administered electric shocks to him with a cow prod and forced him to sit in stress positions. He also claimed that a prison guard injected him with an unknown substance without his consent. Human rights groups alleged that NISS regularly harassed and sexually assaulted many of its female detainees. NISS arrested award-winning journalist and women’s rights activist Amal Habani in July on charges of indecent dress in violation of the Public Order Act. She stated publicly that she was physically assaulted while in police custody. Government authorities detained members of the Darfur Students Association during the year. Upon release numerous students showed visible signs of severe physical abuse and reported they had been tortured. Government forces reportedly used live bullets to disperse crowds of protesting Darfuri students on multiple occasions, including at the University of Kordofan in Obeid in April and at Khartoum University and al-Zaeem al-Azhari University in May. Darfuri students also reported being attacked by NCP student-wing members during protests. There were no known repercussions for the NCP youth that participated in violence against Darfuri students. There were numerous reports of violence against student activists’ family members. Journalists were beaten, threatened, and intimidated (see section 2.a.). The law prohibits indecent dress and punishes it with a maximum of 40 lashes, a fine, or both. The law does not specify what it deems to be indecent dress. Officials acknowledged authorities applied these laws more frequently against women than men and applied them to both Muslims and non-Muslims. Most women were released following payment of fines. In October women’s rights activists reported that 45,000 complaints were issued against women under the Public Order Act in 2016. Of these, 15,000 women received the punishment of lashings. These numbers could not be independently verified. Security forces, rebel groups, and armed individuals perpetrated sexual violence against women and girls; the abuse was especially prevalent in the conflict areas (see section 1.g.). Prison and Detention Center Conditions The Ministry of Interior generally does not release information on the physical conditions of prisons. Information about the number of juvenile and female prisoners was unavailable. Physical Conditions: Prison conditions throughout the country remained harsh, overcrowded, and life threatening. The Prisons and Reform Directorate, a branch of the national police that reports to the Ministry of Interior, oversees prisons. According to human rights activists and released detainees, DMI officials also detained civilians on military installations, especially in conflict areas. Overall conditions, including food, sanitary and living conditions, were reportedly better in women’s detention facilities and prisons, such as the Federal Prison for Women in Omdurman, than at equivalent facilities for men, such as Kober or Omdurman Prisons. In Khartoum juveniles were not held in adult prisons or jails, but they were reportedly held with adults elsewhere. Prison health care, heating, ventilation, and lighting were often inadequate. Some prisoners did not have access to medications or physical examinations. Authorities generally provided food, water, and sanitation to prisoners, although the quality of all three was basic. Whereas prisoners previously relied on family or friends for food, families were not allowed to provide food or other items to family members. Most prisoners did not have beds. Former detainees reported needing to purchase foam mattresses. Ventilation and lighting conditions differed among prisons. Overcrowding was a major problem. There were reports of deaths due to negligence in prisons and pretrial detention centers, but comprehensive figures were not available. Local press reported deaths resulting from suspected torture by police (see section 1.a.). Human rights advocates reported that additional deaths resulted from harsh conditions at military detention facilities, such as extreme heat and lack of water. Authorities regularly denied prisoners held in NISS facilities visits from family and lawyers and, in the case of foreign prisoners, from foreign government representatives. Some former detainees reported security forces held them incommunicado; beat them; deprived them of food, water, and toilets; and forced them to sleep on cold floors. Political prisoners were held in special sections of prisons. The main prison in Khartoum, Kober Prison, contained separate sections for political prisoners, those convicted of financial crimes, and others. NISS holding cells in Omdurman prisons were known to local activists as “the fridges” due to the extremely cold-controlled temperatures and the lack of windows and sunlight. The number of deaths in prison was unknown. Detainees reported physical violence by guards. Political detainees reported facing harsher treatment. One former detainee recounted being forced to beat a fellow detainee while both were blindfolded. He stated he did not know who he was beating until the other detainee screamed in pain. Other former detainees recounted hours-long beating sessions during which NISS agents reportedly rounded up multiple prisoners, moved them to a large room, beat them with closed fists, and struck them with weapons. Rebel groups in Darfur and the Two Areas reportedly detained persons in isolated locations in prison-like detention centers. Administration: It was difficult to confirm prison administrative records were complete and accurate, as the government considered such information confidential and did not release it. Prison administrators reportedly did not always know how many inmates NISS held within prisons. Police reportedly allowed some visitors, including lawyers and family members, while prisoners were in custody and during judicial hearings. Political detainees and other prisoners held in NISS custody seldom were allowed visits from lawyers or family members, despite repeated requests for access. Visitors generally were not allowed access to prisoners held in NISS custody, however. Christian clergy held services in prisons, but access was irregular and varied across prisons. Sunni imams were granted access to facilitate Friday prayers. Shia are prohibited from leading prayers. As a result, no Shia imams were allowed to enter prisons to conduct prayers. Detained Shia Muslims were permitted to join prayers led by Sunni imams. There was no ombudsman or inspector general specifically designated for prisons. The police inspector general, the minister of justice, and the judiciary are authorized to inspect prisons. Independent Monitoring: The government did not permit unrestricted monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The ICRC was not allowed to visit prisons during the year. The government denied unrestricted access to diplomatic missions for consular visits. Diplomatic missions rarely were notified when citizens from their countries were arrested. When embassies were notified of arrests, representatives were allowed to speak to detainees’ families and lawyers but never allowed to visit inmates. There was no access to NISS or DMI detention facilities. In October the National Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration Commission, in cooperation with the UN Development Program and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led a trip to Zalingei Central Prison in Central Darfur for members of the international diplomatic community. The Ministry of Justice occasionally granted the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) access to government prisons in Darfur, but with restrictions. The government in most cases denied access to specific files, records, and prisoners. As such, UNAMID was unable to verify inmates who reportedly were held illegally as political prisoners brought in by NISS, after having undergone no judicial process. The human rights section had unfettered physical access to general prisons (with the exception of NISS and DMI detention centers) in South, North, East, and West Darfur, but in Central Darfur (where most of the conflict occurred during the year) UNAMID had no access to any prison or detention center. d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention The Interim National Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and requires that individuals be notified of the charges against them when they are arrested. Arbitrary arrests and detentions, however, remained common under the law, which allows for arrest without warrants and detention up to four and one-half months. Authorities often released detainees when their initial detention periods expired but took them into custody the next day for an additional period. Authorities, especially NISS, arbitrarily detained political opponents and those believed to sympathize with the opposition (see section 1.e.). The law does not provide for the right of persons to challenge the lawfulness of their arrest or detention in court. ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS Several government entities have responsibility for internal security, including the Ministries of Interior and Defense and NISS. The government attempted to respond to some interethnic fighting and, in a few instances, was effective in mediating peaceful solutions. The government had a poor record, however, in preventing societal violence. Numerous residents in Darfur, for example, routinely complained of a lack of governing presence or authority that could prevent or deter violent crime. While the law provides NISS officials with legal protection for acts committed in their official capacity, the government reported NISS maintained an internal court system to address internal discipline and investigate and prosecute violations of the National Security Act, including abuse of power under the act. Penalties included up to 10 years in prison, a fine, or both for NISS officers found in violation. During the year, however, the government refused access to information regarding how many cases it had closed. A key national dialogue recommendation was to rescind unilateral additions to the constitution that exempt NISS from the national jurisprudence system. Despite promises to implement all national dialogue recommendations, the government did not include NISS reforms as part of the national dialogue package of laws it presented to the National Assembly. NISS is responsible for internal security and all intelligence matters. It functions independent of any ministry. Constitutional amendments passed in 2015 expanded NISS’s mandate to include authorities traditionally reserved for the military and judiciary. Under the amendments, NISS may establish courts and is allowed greater latitude for making arrests; its officers are shielded from normal prosecution. The Ministry of Interior oversees the national police, including security police, Special Forces police, traffic police, and the combat-trained Central Reserve police. There was a police presence throughout the country. The Ministry of Defense oversees all elements of the SAF, including the Border Guards (BGs) and DMI units. In 2013 the government created the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) as an element of the security apparatus, which as of June 2016 fell under SAF–no longer under NISS–but reported directly to the president. The RSF continued to play a significant role in the government’s campaigns against rebel movements and was implicated in the majority of reports of human rights violations against civilians. The government tightly controlled information about the RSF, and public comment critical of the RSF often resulted in arrest or detention (see section 2.a.). NGOs reported that clashes between protesters and government forces in 2013 caused more than 185 deaths (see section 1.a.). In May the government submitted to the UN independent expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan a report on the status of implementation of the recommendations made by him to the government in his previous reports. In his report to the UN Human Rights Council, the independent expert noted with concern that the report of the government did not include information on the issue of the victims and families of the fuel subsidy demonstrations of 2013. The independent expert called for updates on the compensation process for the victims and families of victims, for an independent judicial inquiry to be conducted into the killings and other violations committed during these incidents, for bringing those responsible to justice. Corruption among police and other security forces continued to be a problem. Security forces including police harassed suspected government opponents. Impunity remained a serious problem throughout the security forces, although crimes involving child victims were prosecuted more regularly. Aside from the inconsistent use of NISS’ special courts (see above), the government infrequently lifted police immunity or pressed charges against SAF officers. The government also generally failed to investigate violations committed by any branch of the security forces. ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES Under the National Security Act, warrants are not required for an arrest. The law permits authorities to detain individuals for three days for the purpose of inquiry. The magistrate can renew detention without charge for up to two weeks. The superior magistrate may renew detentions weekly during investigation for up to six months for a person who is charged. The law allows detentions for up to 45 days before individuals are charged. The NISS director may refer certain cases to the Security Council and request an extension of up to three months, allowing detentions of up to four and one-half months without charge. Authorities often released detainees when their detentions expired and rearrested them soon after for a new detention period, so that detainees were held for several months without charge. The constitution and law provide for an individual to be informed in detail of charges at the time of arrest, with interpretation as needed, and for judicial determination without undue delay, but these provisions were rarely followed. Individuals accused of threatening national security routinely were charged under the national security law, rather than the criminal code, and frequently detained without charge. The law allows for bail, except for those accused of crimes punishable by death or life imprisonment. There was a functioning bail system; however, the cases of persons released on bail often awaited action indefinitely. The law provides for access to legal representation, but security forces often held persons incommunicado for long periods in unknown locations. By law any person may request legal assistance and must be informed of the right to counsel in cases potentially involving the death penalty, imprisonment lasting longer than 10 years, or amputation. The government was not always able to provide legal assistance, and legal aid organizations and lawyers partially filled the gap. Arbitrary Arrest: NISS, police, and the DMI arbitrarily arrested and detained persons. Authorities often detained persons for a few days before releasing them without charge, but many persons were held much longer. The government often targeted political opponents and suspected rebel supporters (see section 1.e.). NISS officials frequently denied holding individuals in their custody or refused to confirm their place of detention. In lieu of formal detention, NISS increasingly called individuals to report to NISS offices for long hours on a daily basis without a stated purpose. Many human rights observers considered this a tactic to harass, intimidate, and disrupt the lives of opposition members and activists, prevent the carrying out of “opposition” activities, and prevent the recording of formal detentions. Authorities also arbitrarily arrested and detained foreign citizens without charge. In some cases authorities used intimidation and financial pressure to force foreigners to leave the country. The government sometimes sought to get Sudanese citizens living abroad who actively criticized the government online deported from their countries of residence. During the year three citizen activists residing legally in Saudi Arabia were deported to Sudan on a December 2016 request of the Sudanese government. The three individuals, Aladdin al-Difeina, al-Gasim Saydahmed, and al-Waleed Imam, were associated with online news outlets deemed critical of the Sudanese government. They were deported in July. Two were released in August, and the third was released in October. The four individuals, including one Czech citizen, arrested in 2015 in connection with an international Christian charity organization, were all released during the year. In January, after more than one year in custody, the court dropped all charges against the Sudan Church of Christ head of evangelical activities, pastor Kwa Shamal. The same month former Sudan Church of Christ secretary general pastor Hassan Abdelrahim and Darfuri activist Abdelmoneim Abdelmaula were convicted on charges of eight crimes, including espionage and warring against the state, and sentenced to 12 years in prison. The president pardoned both individuals following sustained pressure from the international community. Despite being initially denied permission to leave the country, Abdelrahim and Abdelmaula left in September. In February, Czech religious worker Peter Jasek was released and deported back to the Czech Republic after a court convicted him of espionage and sentenced him to life in prison. There were reports of individuals detained due to their actual or assumed support of antigovernment forces, such as the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) and Darfur rebel movements. Unlike in prior years, no local NGOs reported that women were detained because of their association with men suspected of being SPLM-N supporters (see section 1.g.). Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was common. The large number of detainees and judicial inefficiency resulted in trial delays. In cases involving political defendants accused of subverting national security, the accused may be held for as long as four and one-half months, with the possibility of further extended detention periods, before being formally charged. In his 2016 report to the Human Rights Council, the UN independent expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan expressed concern about several reports received of prolonged detentions and persons held without access to legal aid. Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested or detained, regardless of whether on criminal or other grounds, were not entitled to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention and, therefore, were not able to obtain prompt release or compensation if unlawfully detained. Amnesty: In August, President Bashir issued a decree pardoning human rights champion Mudawi Ibrahim Adam and five other activists associated with his case. Mudawi had been arrested in December 2016 and faced espionage charges, which carry the death penalty. e. Denial of Fair Public Trial Although the constitution and relevant laws provide for an independent judiciary, courts were largely subordinate to government officials and the security forces, particularly in cases of alleged crimes against the state. On occasion courts displayed a degree of independence. Political interference with the courts, however, was commonplace, and some high-ranking members of the judiciary held positions in the Ministry of Interior or other ministries in the executive branch. The judiciary was inefficient and subject to corruption. In Darfur and other remote areas, judges were often absent from their posts, delaying trials. The government separated the posts of attorney general and minister of justice. It was unclear how the new attorney general was selected. The first public action of the latter was to order that Mudawi Ibrahim Adam remain in custody and be tried for engaging in espionage (see section 1.e., Political Prisoners). A state of emergency in Darfur, Blue Nile, and Southern Kordofan allowed for arrest and detention without trial. A state of emergency was extended to North Kordofan, West Kordofan, and Kassala to facilitate national arms-collection campaigns. TRIAL PROCEDURES The constitution and law provide for a fair and public trial as well as a presumption of innocence; however, this provision was rarely respected. Trials are open to the public at the discretion of the judge. In cases of national security and offenses against the state, trials are usually closed. The law stipulates that the government is obligated to provide a lawyer for indigents in cases in which punishment might exceed 10 years’ imprisonment or include execution. Accused persons may also request assistance through the legal aid department at the Ministry of Justice or the Sudanese Bar Association. By law criminal defendants must be informed promptly of the charges against them at the time of their arrest and charged in detail and with interpretation as needed. Individuals arrested by NISS often were not informed of the reasons for their arrest. Defendants generally have the right to present evidence and witnesses, be present in court, confront accusers, and have access to government-held evidence relevant to their cases. Some defendants reportedly did not receive legal counsel, and counsel in some cases could only advise the defendant and not address the court. Persons in remote areas and in areas of conflict generally did not have access to legal counsel. The government sometimes did not allow defense witnesses to testify. Defendants have the right to appeal, except in military trials, where there is no appeal. Defendants were sometimes permitted time and facilities to prepare their defense, although in more political cases, charges could be disclosed with little warning and could change as the trial proceeded. Defendants in common criminal cases, such as theft, as well as in political trials were often compelled to confess guilt while in police custody through physical abuse and police intimidation of family members. Lawyers wishing to practice are required to maintain membership in the government-controlled Sudanese Bar Association. The government continued to arrest and harass lawyers whom it considered political opponents. Military trials, which sometimes were secret and brief, lacked procedural safeguards. A 2013 amendment to the 2007 Sudanese Armed Forces Act subjects any civilians in SAF-controlled areas believed to be rebels or members of a paramilitary group to military trials. NISS and military intelligence officers applied this amendment to detainees in the conflict areas. Three-person security courts deal with violations of constitutional decrees, emergency regulations, and some sections of the penal code, including drug and currency offenses. Special courts composed primarily of civilian judges handled most security-related cases. Defendants had limited opportunities to meet with counsel and were not always allowed to present witnesses during trial. Due to long distances between court facilities and police stations in conflict areas, local mediation was often the first resort to try to resolve disputes. In some instances tribal courts operating outside the official legal system decided cases. Such courts did not provide the same protections as regular courts. Sharia strongly influenced the law, and sharia in some cases was applied to Christians against their wishes in civil domestic cases such as those concerning marriage, divorce, inheritance, and other family matters. On May 8, 23-year-old social media activist Mohamed Salih Aldisogi was arrested on charges of apostasy and public nuisance after he attempted to change his religion from Muslim to “nonreligious” on his government-issued identification card. A state-appointed psychiatrist then examined him without his consent. Aldisogi was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial and released the same day. POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES The government continued to hold political prisoners and detainees, including protesters. Due to lack of access, the numbers of political prisoners and detainees could not be confirmed. Human rights monitors reported political prisoners as being in the hundreds; the government claimed it did not have political prisoners. The government severely restricted international humanitarian organizations’ and human rights monitors’ access to political detainees. The government allowed UNAMID extremely limited access to Darfuri political detainees in Khartoum and Darfur. On December 6, NISS officials arrested Rudwan Dawod, a human rights activist, reportedly after he visited a neighborhood in Khartoum to show solidarity with local community protests against government land expropriations. Security officials had arrested and detained Dawod on multiple occasions in prior years following his participation in peaceful protests. At year’s end NISS officials continued to hold him in detention in an unknown location, without charging him and without allowing him access to a lawyer or his family. On December 10, police arrested Wini Nawal Omer, a human rights defender, while she was walking home from work and charged her with “indecent dress” under Article 152 of the 1991 criminal code. On December 12, police arrested fellow human rights activist Montiser Ibrahim, on four charges related to obstruction of justice after he visited Omer while she was being held in detention. On December 21, a Public Order Court judge acquitted Omer, noting that the clothing she had worn was no different than clothing worn by other Sudanese women on a daily basis. The judge highlighted the need for Article 152 to be amended to prevent what he deemed discriminatory enforcement of a vague law. A judge acquitted Ibrahim on December 19. Omer and Ibrahim filed a joint legal case against the police officer responsible for their arrests. By year’s end there were no additional details available on their case against the police officer. Tasmeen Taha, a lawyer and human rights defender, was arrested in Darfur in late 2016 and forcibly transferred to Khartoum, where she was detained by NISS. She was released in March and subsequently fled the country. The independent expert highlighted this case in the report covering the period of October 2016 to June 2017. On August 29, the government released human rights champion Mudawi Ibrahim Adam and five of his associates. On September 24, despite weak evidence, Asim Omer was sentenced to death for killing a police officer during 2016 protests at Khartoum University. His trial had continued for more than a year following his arrest in April 2016. He was held incommunicado until his trial began. The final verdict sparked protests throughout Khartoum and in other states. As of year’s end, his case remained under appeal. Government authorities detained Darfuri students and political opponents throughout the year, often reportedly subjecting them to torture (see section 1.c.). The government continued to arrest or temporarily detain opposition members. All of the political opposition leaders arrested in late 2016 in connection with fuel subsidy protests were released during the year. CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES Persons seeking damages for human rights violations had access to domestic and international courts. The domestic judiciary, however, was not independent. There were problems enforcing domestic and international court orders (see section 5). According to the law, individuals and organizations may appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies. Individuals, however, reported they feared reprisal (see section 2.d.). f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence The Interim National Constitution and law prohibit such actions, but the government routinely violated these rights. Emergency laws in Darfur, Southern Kordofan, and Blue Nile States legalize interference in privacy, family, home, and correspondence for purposes of maintaining national security. Security forces frequently conducted searches without warrants and targeted persons suspected of political crimes. NISS often confiscated private property, especially electronic equipment. Security forces conducted multiple raids on Darfuri students’ housing throughout the year, including at Bakht al-Rida and al-Azhari Universities in May and Omdurman Islamic University in August. During the raids NISS confiscated the students’ belongings, such as their laptops, school supplies, and backpacks. As of year’s end, the students’ belongings had not been returned. The government monitored private communication and movement of individuals and organizations without due legal process. A wide network of government informants conducted surveillance in schools, universities, markets, workplaces, and neighborhoods. Under Islamic law a Muslim man may marry a Jewish or Christian woman. A Muslim woman may not marry a non-Muslim man. This prohibition was not universally enforced. Non-Muslims may adopt only non-Muslim children; a comparable restriction does not apply to Muslim parents. g. Abuses in Internal Conflict The government maintained a COH in conflict areas by refraining from military offensives during the year. This restraint stood in contrast to its behavior in prior years, in which the SAF regularly initiated offensives, especially during the dry season. During the year there was no confirmed evidence the government, including the security forces under its command or control, initiated offensive operations. There were also no confirmed reports of aerial bombardments–a trademark of government offenses in previous years. Killings: During the year military personnel and paramilitary forces committed killings in Darfur and the Two Areas. Most reports were difficult to verify due to continued prohibited access to conflict areas, particularly Jebel Marra in Darfur and SPLM-N-controlled areas in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States. Only one major clash between rebels and the government was reported, although there were other smaller skirmishes. In May a joint force of the two Darfur armed movements of Sudan Liberation Movement/Minni Minnawi and Transitional Council (SLM/TC) clashed with government forces, including the RSF, while entering from South Sudan and Libya. The clashes resulted in numerous unconfirmed deaths on both sides. A joint statement released by the groups on May 22 confirmed the killing of SLM/TC general Mohamed Abdul al-Salam, in addition to the arrest of its chairman, Nimir Abdel Rahman, and several others. While there were no reports of RSF violations following clashes in East Darfur, there were reports of attacks and looting by progovernment militias on villages in the Ain Siro area in North Darfur. In September security forces used fatal excessive force against demonstrators in Kalma IDP camp in South Darfur (see section 1.a.). On November 25-26, fighting in North Darfur State between the RSF and tribal members loyal to Musa Hilal, a Rizigat tribal leader and former Janjaweed militia commander, resulted in several deaths, including some RSF soldiers. A report from a credible source that government forces killed 193 persons, including 34 women and 39 children, during the clashes could not be verified by year’s end, as the government impeded UNAMID’s access to the location following the clashes. The deadly clashes reportedly resulted from a government-run weapons collection campaign in the area, which Hilal opposed. On May 31, an attack on UNAMID peacekeepers in South Darfur’s capital by an unknown group killed one military peacekeeper. By year’s end the government had not apprehended the perpetrators, but authorities announced they were investigating the incident. In August, Vice President Hassabo Mohammed Abdelrahman, accompanied by the High Committee for Arms Collection on a visit to Darfur, announced a six-month nationwide campaign for the collection of arms with a focus on the conflict areas of Darfur and Kordofan. The announcement followed official government directives to collect arms. According to the government, arms would be collected from forces including the RSF, BGs, and Central Reserve Police, in addition to tribes and individuals. The campaign began in mid-September with a month-long “voluntary disarmament” phase, followed by forced disarmament. The government trained and deployed additional RSF militias to support the campaign. Vice President Hassabo stated the campaign was a follow-up to the recommendations of the National Dialogue and was key to the stability of the region with regard to both the security and economy. Both West and East Darfur announced they had already begun receiving weapons from BGs and Native Administration. Meanwhile South Darfur had established committees mandated to tour the state to raise awareness and sensitize communities of the campaign. Vice President Hassabo stated no compensation would be offered for weapons, saying, “We do not want the campaign to turn into a business,” giving the security forces full power and force to disarm individuals. Since the August campaign announcement, the government reported a visible decline in civilians carrying weapons. In the disputed territory of Abyei, the security situation remained unpredictable but generally calm. Most human rights abuses were due to criminal activity and tribal conflict between the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya, with several major security incidents occurring in and around common marketplaces. On July 7, five armed persons hijacked a vehicle outside the Amiet market. On July 8, an unverified number of armed persons shot two civilians, killing one and injuring the other. On July 9, four Misseriya opened fire on another vehicle along the road to Amiet market. The attack killed two Dinka individuals and injured three others. Security forces temporarily closed Amiet market on July 10 as a result of the string of deadly attacks and immediately launched investigations into the incidents. Abductions: International organizations were unable independently to verify reports of disappearances due to lack of access to conflict areas. There were numerous abuses similar to the following: In May an elder of Gallab village was kidnapped along with others riding in the car with him. They were stopped by militiamen in a Land Cruiser west of El Fasher and were beaten; their money and mobile phones were looted, and they were taken at gunpoint to a nearby village. The kidnappers contacted the village elder’s relatives and demanded ransom to release them. Reportedly, they sent money 1,000 Sudanese pounds (SDG) ($125) per person and the kidnappers released them two days later. Reportedly, the kidnappers were Arab armed groups in Land Cruisers with machine guns, “roaming in the area, doing whatever they want,” which could accurately describe BGs, the RSF, or merely armed bandits. UNAMID reported that abduction remained a lucrative coercive method adopted by various tribes in Darfur to obtain the payment of diya (“blood money” ransom) claimed from other communities. Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Human rights organizations accused government forces of perpetrating torture and other human rights violations and abuses. Government forces abused persons detained in connection with armed conflict as well as IDPs suspected of having links to rebel groups. There were continuing reports that government security forces, progovernment and antigovernment militias, and other armed persons raped women and children. The extent to which rebel groups committed new human rights abuses could not be accurately estimated, largely due to limited access to conflict areas. The state of detention facilities administered by the SLM/AW and SPLM-N in their respective rebel-controlled areas could not be verified due to lack of access. Human rights groups continued to report that government forces and militias raped, detained, tortured, and arbitrarily killed civilians in the five states of Darfur and government-controlled areas of Blue Nile. From December 2016 to November, UNAMID documented 115 cases involving 152 adult female victims of conflict-related sexual violence and 68 minors. In 2016 UNAMID documented 100 cases with 222 victims. UNAMID received the cases from all five Darfur states. Gross underreporting remained prevalent. The government rejected UNAMID figures on the basis the cases had not been reported to state authorities, but observers concurred that the government needed capacity building in how to track cases. Unexploded ordnances killed and injured innocent civilians in the conflict zones. There were numerous examples similar to the following: On November 5, three schoolboys in Nyala, South Darfur, found an unexploded ordnance and played with it. The ordnance exploded and injured the three boys and two nearby men. The incident was reported to the police, and the injured individuals were taken to the Sudan-Turkish Hospital for treatment. Child Soldiers: The law prohibits the recruitment of children and provides criminal penalties for perpetrators. Allegations persisted, however, that armed movements, government forces, and government-aligned militias had child soldiers within their ranks. Allegations also persisted that antigovernment rebel groups used children. Unlike in prior years, the government reportedly stopped its support to the South Sudan opposition group, Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition, which was widely reported to recruit and use child soldiers. The United Nations verified the government worked closely with UNICEF to implement its action plan to prevent the recruitment and use of children by government security forces. Many children lacked documents verifying their age. Children’s rights organizations believed armed groups exploited this lack of documentation to recruit or retain children. Due to problems of access, particularly in conflict zones, reports of child soldiers were limited and often difficult to verify. Sources confirmed the capture of multiple children by the government during an armed offensive of the SLM-Minni Minawi faction in Darfur in May. UNAMID reported that concerted efforts to curb the recruitment of child soldiers in Darfur had led to significant progress, but the potential use of children in ethnic clashes remained a major concern. Representatives of armed groups reported they did not actively recruit child soldiers. They did not, however, prevent children who volunteered from joining their movements. The armed groups stated the children were stationed primarily in training camps and were not used in combat. There were reports of the use of child soldiers by the SPLM-N, but numbers could not be verified, in part due to lack of access to SPLM-N-controlled territories. Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/. Other Conflict-related Abuse: Humanitarian access improved for UN and NGO staff considerably during the year, particularly access to East Darfur. There were still incidents of restrictions on UN and NGO travel to North Darfur and East Jebel Marra, primarily due to insecurity. In late December 2016, the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) issued new guidelines to ease restrictions on movement of humanitarian workers; however, the guidelines were not consistently implemented during the year. The government continued periodically to use bureaucratic impediments to restrict the actions of humanitarian organizations. Despite the substantial improvements in access during the year, authorities delayed the release of food and necessary equipment to UNAMID for prolonged periods. For example, the government continued to delay the release of food-ration containers in Port Sudan, although to a lesser extent than in the prior year. The resulting shortages hampered the ability of UNAMID troops to communicate, conduct robust patrols, and protect civilians; they incurred demurrage charges and additional costs for troop- and police-contributing countries and the United Nations. Darfur reportedly hosted an estimated three million persons in need of humanitarian assistance, of whom 1.6 million were in 60 IDP camps, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). Nonetheless, the government continued to push for a reduced role for the international humanitarian community. Certain parts of Darfur, including rebel-held areas in Jebel Marra, largely remained cut off from humanitarian access. During the year UNAMID also substantially reduced its presence in Darfur due to budgetary constraints and government requests. UNAMID’s mandate, however, remained largely unchanged, with a continued emphasis on the protection of civilians, facilitation of humanitarian assistance, and conflict mediation. Between August and October, UNAMID closed 11 of 34 sites in Darfur, including sites in every Darfuri state except for Central Darfur. UNAMID staff reported the reduction would severely restrict UNAMID’s ability to carry out missions, such as verifying reports of human rights violations. Despite the downsizing, UNAMID intended to open a new temporary operating site in Golo to service Jebel Marra, in accordance with the UN Security Council’s renewal of UNAMID’s mandate in late June. At year’s end this site’s planning was under way, but the government had not allowed the establishment of the base. Government forces at times harassed NGOs that received international assistance. Although humanitarian access improved generally, the government sometimes restricted or denied permission for humanitarian assessments, refused to approve technical agreements, changed operational procedures, copied NGO files, confiscated NGO property, questioned humanitarian workers at length and monitored their personal correspondence, restricted travel, and publicly accused humanitarian workers of aiding rebel groups. Unidentified armed groups also targeted humanitarian workers for kidnapping and ransom. Armed persons attacked, killed, injured, and kidnapped peacekeepers and aid workers. On October 7, rebels kidnapped 70-year-old Swiss humanitarian worker Margaret Schenkel from her residence in El Fasher, North Darfur. Schenkel is a long-time resident of Darfur and well respected by the community for her work serving women and malnourished children. In mid-November, Schenkel was freed by security forces. On May 31, an attack on UNAMID peacekeepers in South Darfur’s capital by an unknown group killed one military peacekeeper. In a statement released the next day, UNAMID noted the incident had been reported to the relevant Sudanese authorities and called on the government to swiftly apprehend the perpetrators and bring them to justice. All states in Darfur were under varying states of emergency. Between January 1 and November 10, UNAMID police received 1,737 reports of criminality and banditry, which included 1,029 persons killed. This represented an 8.1-percent decrease in crime from 2016. Police confirmed 1,146 of these cases and made 179 related arrests. North Darfur had the highest crime rate, while South Darfur had the only crime rate that increased from 2016. The attacks included rape, armed robbery, abduction, ambush, livestock theft, assault/harassment, arson, and burglary and were allegedly carried out primarily by Arab militias, but government forces, unknown assailants, and rebel elements also carried out attacks. The UN secretary-general stated that the number of attacks against UN agencies and humanitarian organizations continued to decline. Conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence, especially in Central Darfur, continued to be taboo. Humanitarian actors in Darfur continued to report that victims of sexual and gender-based violence faced obstructions in attempts to report crimes and access health care. Largely unregulated artisanal gold-mining activities continued in all of the Darfur states, although it was a lesser source of tension between communities than in previous years. Claims to land rights continued to be mostly ethnic and tribal in nature. Clashes sometimes resulted from conflicts over land rights, mineral ownership, and use of gold-mining areas, particularly in the Jebel Amer area in North Darfur. Observers believed those clashes resulted in deaths and displacement. On July 21, clashes renewed between Maaliya and Rezeigat tribesmen, reportedly over livestock theft in East Darfur in the three localities of Yassin, Shaeria, and Abukarinka. The clashes resulted in approximately 290 deaths and numerous others injured, according to local sources. More clashes continued in the following days in the three localities, and armed tribesmen suspected to be Rezeigat were sighted in different locations in East Darfur’s capital El Daein mobilizing to join the clashes. Armed tribesmen in El Daein and environs reportedly “commandeered small cars, Land Cruisers, and trucks by force” to transport them to the area. Fighting subsided by July 26, with government authorities deploying troops. The number of armed tribesmen reportedly subsequently decreased in El Daein. Although the government made public statements encouraging the return of IDPs to their homes and the closure of camps in Darfur since “peace” had come to Darfur, IDPs expressed reluctance to return due to lack of security and justice in their areas of origin or elsewhere. Restrictions imposed by the government in Abyei on NGOs limited the implementation capacity of humanitarian and development actors, especially in the northern parts of Abyei. Additional problems included inadequate funds, high implementation costs owing to security and logistical constraints, delays in the issuance of travel permits, and government restrictions on the movement of personnel and supplies. Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: The Interim National Constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press “as regulated by law,” but the government heavily restricted this right. Freedom of Expression: Individuals who criticized the government publicly or privately were subject to reprisal, including arrest. The government attempted to impede such criticism and monitored political meetings and the press. NISS and police forces regularly arrested Darfuri students at various universities for publicly addressing civilians (see section 6). Members of the political opposition and civil society were arrested and held by NISS for several days following efforts to raise public awareness about the spread of cholera in the country during summer months. The government termed the disease that caused hundreds of deaths “acute watery diarrhea” and informed all newspaper editors in chief that they were not to make any reference to “cholera” in their publications. Medical observers said both hospitals and government officials in the Ministry of Health confirmed there were in fact incidents of cholera. It was not possible, however, for the international community to confirm the number of cholera cases because only the ministry conducted testing and did not share its results. Reportedly the government’s reticence was due to fear that admitting an epidemic of cholera would negatively affect the volume of agricultural exports, as well as inhibit countries from taking refugees leaving or transiting through the country. The government also curtailed public discussion of a religious nature if proselytization was suspected and monitored religious sermons and teachings (see the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/). Press and Media Freedom: The Interim National Constitution provides for freedom of the press, but authorities prevented newspapers from reporting on problems deemed sensitive. Measures taken by the government included regular and direct prepublication censorship, confiscation of publications, legal proceedings, and denial of state advertising. Confiscation in particular inflicted financial damage on newspapers already under financial strain due to low circulation. Throughout the year the government verbally warned newspapers of “red line” topics on which the press could not report. Such topics included corruption, university protests, the national dialogue, political negotiations in Addis Ababa, the conflict in South Sudan, the weak economy and declining value of the Sudanese pound, cholera outbreaks, government security services, and government action in conflict areas. The government influenced radio and television reporting through the granting or denial of permits, as well as by offering or withholding government payments for advertisements, based on how closely affiliated they were with the government. The government controlled media through the National Council for Press and Publications, which administered mandatory professional examinations for journalists and oversaw the selection of editors. The council had authority to ban journalists temporarily or indefinitely. The registration of journalists was handled primarily by the Sudanese Journalists Union, which estimated there were 7,000 registered journalists in the country, although fewer than 200 of them were believed to be actively employed as journalists. The remainder were members of the government and security forces working on media issues, who received automatic licenses. At year’s end four journalists remained banned from writing. Two of them fled the country due to continuing NISS harassment. Violence and Harassment: The government continued to arrest, harass, intimidate, and abuse journalists and vocal critics of the government. NISS required journalists to provide personal information, such as details on their tribe, political affiliation, and family. As of July, two printing press workers were being held incommunicado; there were no updates on their whereabouts by year’s end. Abu Taleb Salaheldin was detained from a private printing office at the El Soug El Arabi in downtown Khartoum in December 2016; Mutaz El Ejeili was detained in a printing office in Khartoum the same month. Censorship or Content Restrictions: The government continued to practice direct prepublication and prebroadcast censorship of all forms of media. Confiscations of print runs was the censorship method most frequently used by NISS, having utility in terms of censoring material, incentivizing future self-censorship, and causing high financial losses to the publisher that could lead to the newspaper’s eventual closure. On September 14, the Press and Publications Council ordered suspension of four newspapers: Ilaf, al-Mostagil, al-Watan, and Awal al-Nahar. Authorities used the Press and Publications Court, specializing in media issues and “newspaper irregularities” and established under the existing Press and Publications Act, to prosecute “information crimes.” On October 24, a court sentenced a prominent newspaper editor, Osman Mirgani, to a fine of 10,000 SDG ($1,250) or six months in prison should he fail to pay for publishing an article in al-Tayar accusing President Bashir’s family of corruption. The court also handed down a three-year suspended jail term against the writer of the piece, which was published in 2012. Mirghani refused to pay the fine and spent two nights in prison before the journalists’ union collected donations and paid on his behalf. Over the years NISS agents repeatedly targeted Mirgani and his newspaper, allegedly for their corruption coverage. NISS agents repeatedly confiscated the entire print runs of editions of al-Tayar for articles they deemed inappropriate, and Mirgani was beaten up by armed men who stormed his office in central Khartoum in 2014. National Security: The Press and Publications Act allows for restrictions on the press in the interest of national security and public order. It contains loosely defined provisions for bans for encouraging ethnic and religious disturbances and incitement of violence. The act holds editors in chief criminally liable for all content published in their newspapers. The criminal code, National Security Act, and emergency laws were regularly used to bring charges against the press. At year’s end amendments to the Press and Publications Act were undergoing a parliamentary review. NISS initiated and continued legal action against journalists for stories critical of the government and security services. INTERNET FREEDOM The government regulated licensing of telecommunications companies through the National Telecommunications Corporation. The agency blocked some websites and most proxy servers judged offensive to public morality, such as those purveying pornography. There were few restrictions on access to information websites, but authorities sporadically blocked access to YouTube and “negative” media sites. According to the International Telecommunication Union, approximately 28 percent of individuals used the internet in 2016. Freedom House continued to rank the country as “not free” in its annual internet freedom report. According to the report, arrests and prosecutions under the Cybercrime Act grew during the year, reflecting a tactical shift in the government’s strategy to limit internet freedom. The report noted that many journalists writing for online platforms published anonymously to avoid prosecution, while ordinary internet users in the country had become more inclined to self-censor to avoid government surveillance and arbitrary legal consequences. ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS The government restricted academic freedom at cultural and academic institutions. It determined the curriculums and appointed the vice chancellors responsible for administration. It continued to arrest student activists and cancel or deny permits for some student events. Youth activists reported some universities discouraged students from participating in antigovernment rallies and showed favorable treatment towards NCP students. Some professors exercised self-censorship. Security forces used tear gas and other heavy-handed tactics against largely peaceful protests at universities or involving university students. The Public Order Police continued to monitor public gatherings and cultural events, often intimidating women and girls, who feared police would arrest them for “indecent” dress or actions. The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, but the government restricted these rights. FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY Although the Interim National Constitution and law provide for freedom of peaceful assembly, the government severely restricted this right. The criminal code considers gatherings of more than five persons without a permit to be illegal. Organizers must notify the government 36 hours prior to assemblies and rallies. Following the death of Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim on August 12, a women’s rights activist and the first female parliamentarian, civil society organizations planned a public event to commemorate the political leader’s life. The organizers were denied permits to hold the event at numerous government-owned public locations. The event was then held at the Umma Party headquarters, which was controversial given that Ibrahim was not a member of the Umma Party. Security forces allowed the event to occur peacefully on November 4. The government continued to deny permission to Islamic orders associated with opposition political parties, particularly the Ansar (Umma Party), Khatmiya (Democratic Unionist Party) and the Sudanese Congress Party, to hold large gatherings in public spaces, but parties regularly held opposition rallies on private property. Government security agents occasionally attended opposition meetings, disrupted opposition rallies, or summoned participants to security headquarters for questioning after meetings. FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION The Interim National Constitution and law provide for freedom of association, but the government severely restricted this right. The law prohibits political parties linked to armed opposition groups. The government closed civil society organizations or refused to register them on several occasions. In June the HAC suspended the activities of Sharie al-Hawadith, an NGO in Kassala that provided medical treatment. According to independent reports, the organization received a letter from local authorities in eastern Sudan notifying them they were suspended. No reason was provided. Government and security forces continued arbitrarily to enforce provisions, specifically Articles 7 to 14, of the Sudan Voluntary and Humanitarian Works Act of 2006, frequently referred to as the NGO law, including measures that strictly regulate an organization’s ability to receive foreign financing and register public activities. The government maintained its policy of “Sudanization” of international NGOs. Many organizations reported they faced administrative difficulties if they refused to have progovernment groups implement their programs at the state level. c. Freedom of Religion See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/. The Interim National Constitution and law provide for freedom of movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, but the government restricted these rights for foreigners, including humanitarian workers. The government impeded the work of UN agencies and delayed full approval of their activities throughout the country, particularly in the Two Areas; however, such restrictions were fewer than in prior years. NGOs also alleged the government impeded humanitarian assistance in the Two Areas. Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Asylum seekers and refugees were vulnerable to arbitrary arrest and harassment outside of camps because they did not receive identification cards while awaiting government determination of refugee or asylum status. Refugees and asylum seekers in urban areas were also subject to arrest because the government’s encampment policy makes it illegal to move from assigned camps without authorization. On average 150-200 refugees and asylum seekers were detained in Khartoum each month and assisted with legal aid by the joint UNHCR and commissioner for refugees legal team. Although the Asylum Act makes naturalization possible for refugees, it was not fully implemented. There were some reported abuses, including gender-based violence in refugee camps. The government worked closely with UNHCR to provide greater protection to refugees, and UNHCR access in conflict zones improved considerably during the year (see section 1.g.). Refugees often relied on human trafficking and smuggling networks to leave camps. Smugglers turned traffickers routinely abused refugees if ransoms were not paid. See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/. In-country Movement: The government and rebels restricted the movement of citizens as well as UN and humanitarian organization personnel in conflict areas (see section 1.g.). While the government claimed refugees had freedom of movement within the country, it required they formally register and be granted travel permits before leaving refugee camps. According to authorities, registration of refugees helped provide their personal security. Refugees faced administrative fines once they returned to their camp, if they left camps without permission and were intercepted by authorities. Internal movement was generally unhindered for citizens outside conflict areas. Foreigners needed travel permits for domestic travel outside Khartoum, which were often difficult to obtain. Foreigners were required to register with the Ministry of Interior’s Alien Control Division within three days of arrival and were limited to a 15.5-mile radius from Khartoum. Once registered, foreigners were allowed to move beyond this radius, but travel outside of Khartoum State required official approval. The country maintained a reservation on Article 26 of the UN Convention on Refugees of 1951 regarding refugees’ right to move freely and choose their place of residence within a country. The government’s encampment policy requires asylum seekers and refugees to stay in designated camps; however, 64 percent of South Sudanese refugees lived with the local community in urban and rural areas. Early in the year, the government threatened to relocate forcibly South Sudanese refugees living outside of camps in Khartoum and White Nile States to refugee camps. UNHCR refused to allocate resources to support the relocations. By year’s end the government had yet to relocate South Sudanese refugees to camps. The government allowed the establishment of two refugee camps in East Darfur and eight refugee camps in White Nile for South Sudanese refugees. Foreign Travel: The government requires citizens to obtain an exit visa if they wish to depart the country. Issuance was usually without complication, but the government continued to use the visa requirement to restrict some citizens’ travel, especially persons of political or security interest. To obtain an exit visa, children must receive the permission of both parents. Exile: The government observed the law prohibiting forced exile. It warned political opponents of their potential arrest, however, if they returned from self-imposed exile. Opposition leaders and NGO activists remained in self-imposed exile in northern Africa and Europe; other activists fled the country during the year. On January 27, opposition leader Sadiq al-Mahdi returned to Khartoum, more than two years after he had fled to Cairo following government allegations he collaborated with rebels. The authorities did not arrest him upon arrival in Khartoum, and he did not report harassment. As of year’s end, other prominent opposition members had not returned to the country under the 2015 general amnesty for leaders and members of the armed movements taking part in the national dialogue; some expressed concern about their civic and political rights even with the amnesty. INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPS) Large-scale displacement continued to be a severe problem in Darfur and the Two Areas, but there was a significant decline in conflict-related displacement owing to ceasefires observed by the government and most armed groups. Government restrictions and security constraints, however, continued to limit access to affected populations and impeded the delivery of humanitarian services, although to a lesser extent than in prior years (see section 1.g.). According to the United Nations and partners, an estimated 8,200 persons were reported as newly displaced across Darfur as of October 1. This was a substantial decrease from 2016’s estimated 152,600 newly displaced persons. The UNOCHA reported the vast majority of the displacement during the year was triggered by intercommunal conflict. Many IDPs faced chronic food shortages and inadequate medical care. Significant numbers of farmers were prevented from planting their fields due to insecurity, leading to near-famine conditions in parts of Southern Kordofan. The government and the SPLM-N continued to deny access to humanitarian actors and UN agencies in areas controlled by the SPLM-N. Information about the number of displaced in these areas was difficult to verify. Armed groups estimated the areas contained 545,000 of the IDPs and severely affected persons during the year, while the government estimated the number as closer to 200,000. UN agencies could not provide estimates, citing lack of access as a hindrance. Children accounted for approximately 60 percent of persons displaced in camps. Government restrictions, harassment, and the threat of expulsion resulted in continued interruption of gender-based violence programming. Reporting and outreach were limited (see section 5). Some UN agencies were able to work with the Darfur governor’s advisers on women and children to raise awareness of gender-based violence and response efforts. There were numerous reports of abuse committed by government security forces, rebels, and armed groups against IDPs in Darfur, including rapes and beatings (see section 1.g.). Outside IDP camps and towns, insecurity restricted freedom of movement, and women and girls who left the towns and camps risked sexual violence. Insecurity within IDP camps also was a problem. The government provided little assistance or protection to IDPs in Darfur. Most IDP camps had no functioning police force. International observers noted criminal gangs aligned with rebel groups operated openly in several IDP camps. As in previous years, the government did not establish formal IDP or refugee camps in Khartoum or the Two Areas. The United Nations did not have a presence in SPLM-N-controlled areas and was unable to assess the scope of civilian displacement in the area. PROTECTION OF REFUGEES UNHCR reported more than 793,700 refugees and asylum seekers in the country. The Commission for Refugees estimated the total refugee population could be as high as 1.3 million persons, because a large number of potential refugees and asylum seekers remained unregistered. UNHCR reported there were countless South Sudanese in the country who were unregistered and at risk of statelessness. Approximately 8,500 refugees from Chad and 1,450 refugees from the Central African Republic lived in Darfur. New Eritrean refugees entering eastern Sudan often stayed in camps for two to three months before moving to Khartoum, other parts of the country, or on to Libya in an effort to reach Europe. In eastern Sudan, UNHCR estimated there were 135,000 new arrivals from Eritrea and Ethiopia. The government continued to restrict access in eastern Sudan for international humanitarian NGOs, as it did throughout the country. As of November, UNHCR estimated that a total of 853,258 South Sudanese refugees were in Sudan, including the 350,000 persons of South Sudanese origin who remained in the country following South Sudan’s independence in 2011. UNOCHA reported that an estimated 84,000 South Sudanese arrived in East, North, and South Darfur prior to September 15, resulting in a total of 150,000 South Sudanese in Darfur. Approximately 250,000 of the South Sudanese refugees lived in Khartoum, many integrated into the urban population. An estimated 40,000 lived in shantytowns, informal settlements known as “open areas” until August. UNHCR and implementing partners received access to the open areas. Many open areas lacked basic services such as water, electricity, and sewage systems. UNHCR noted a trend of forced demolitions and relocations in Khartoum’s open areas, home to an estimated 35,000 South Sudanese refugees. The government did not grant UNHCR or its NGO partners access to these areas, with the exception of one visit to Bantiu granted following the UN high commissioner for refugees’ visit in August. UNHCR noted urgent humanitarian concerns on the visit. The governments of Sudan and South Sudan signed a framework agreement (known as the “four freedoms” agreement) as part of a broader bilateral agreement in 2012 that provides for citizens of both states to enjoy freedom of residence, movement, economic activity, and property ownership, but it was not fully implemented during the year. The agreement was also implemented unevenly depending on the state. South Sudanese in East Darfur had more flexibility to move around (so long as they were far away from the nearest village) than refugees in White Nile State. Recently arrived South Sudanese were officially recognized as refugees by the government and were therefore allowed to receive more services from UNHCR. At the state level, however, the government still referred to them as “brothers and sisters.” Following recognition as refugees, the government stated South Sudanese rights were governed by the Asylum Act of 2014, justifying a lack of implementation of the four freedoms. Refoulement: The country is a signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and generally respected the international principle of nonrefoulement with a few notable exceptions. With UNHCR’s assistance authorities were trained on referral procedures to prevent refoulement, including of refugees who previously registered in other countries. In August, 66 Eritrean citizens were rescued from human smugglers by security forces in Gergef near the Eritrean border. The group included 37 women and girls and 29 men and boys, of whom 30 were unaccompanied and separated children. The Commission for Refugees screened the group on two separate occasions but determined they were not refugees, after which state courts convicted the victims of smuggling and ordered their deportation. UNHCR was not permitted to access the victims. The 30 children were summarily deported to Eritrea on August 30; the adults were sentenced to two-month jail terms and were deported after serving their sentences. This was a reversal in recent government practice, since Eritreans historically received refugee status. Access to Asylum: The government generally provided first asylum/temporary protection to individuals who might not qualify as refugees. The law requires asylum applications to be nominally submitted within 30 days of arrival in the country. This time stipulation was not strictly enforced. The government granted asylum to many asylum seekers, particularly from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Syria, but it sometimes considered individuals registered as asylum seekers or refugees in another country, mostly in Ethiopia, to be irregular movers or migrants. Government officials routinely took up to three months to approve individual refugee and asylum status, but they worked with UNHCR to implement status determination procedures in eastern Sudan and Darfur and attempted to reduce the case backlog. The law requires asylum seekers to register both as refugees with the Commission for Refugees and as foreigners with the Civil Registry (to obtain a “foreign” number). Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011, more than 40,000 Syrians had arrived in Sudan, according to government sources, of whom 10,224 registered with UNHCR. The government waives regular entry visa requirements for Yemenis. As of September more than 1,600 Yemeni refugees had registered in Sudan. Employment: The government in principle allows refugees to work informally but rarely granted work permits (even to refugees who obtained degrees in the country). In 2015 and 2016, UNHCR signed a project partnership agreement with the Commission for Refugees to issue more than 1,000 work permits to selected refugees for a livelihood graduation program implemented in Kassala and Gadaref. Due to the involvement of NISS in suspending the granting of permits, only 27 work permits were issued during the year, compared with 25 issued in 2016. Some refugees in eastern states were able to find informal work as agricultural workers or laborers in towns. Many women in camps reportedly resorted to illegal production of alcohol and were subjected to arrest and harassment by police. In urban centers the majority of refugees worked in the informal sector (for example, as tea sellers, house cleaners, and drivers), leaving them at heightened risk of arrest, exploitation, and abuse. Temporary Protection: The government generally maintained an open border with South Sudan. The government position on the status of South Sudanese in the country, however, changed on multiple occasions based on improvements or contentious points in the Sudan-South Sudan relationship. As of August, UNHCR estimated 454,660 individuals had crossed into the country from South Sudan since December 2013. Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process The country continued to operate under the Interim National Constitution of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections based on universal and equal suffrage. Citizens were unable to exercise this right in practice. Post-CPA provisions provide for a referendum on the status of Abyei and popular consultations in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan. In Abyei the Ngok Dinka held a unilateral referendum in 2013, which the international community did not recognize. No popular consultations took place during the year in either Southern Kordofan or Blue Nile. Several parts of the CPA, designed to clarify the status of southern-aligned groups remaining in the north following South Sudan’s secession continued to be the subject of negotiations between the governments of Sudan, South Sudan, and rebel groups. Peace negotiations for the Two Areas and Darfur continued to stall. Neither Sudan nor South Sudan progressed toward a resolution on the final status of Abyei. The Darfur Referendum, which took place in April 2016, was conducted to determine whether Darfur would be administered via the current system of five states or as one regional administration. Observers from the African Union (AU) and the League of Arab States monitored the referendum. The Darfur Referendum Commission announced that more than 97 percent of voters had opted to keep Darfur’s current administrative configuration. Human rights observers said the government believed a unified Darfur would give rebels a platform to push for independence just as South Sudan did successfully in 2011. Elections and Political Participation Recent Elections: The national-level executive and legislative elections, held in April 2015, did not meet international standards. The government failed to create a free, fair, and conducive elections environment. Restrictions on political rights and freedoms, lack of a credible national dialogue, and the continuation of armed conflict on the country’s peripheries contributed to a very low voter turnout. Observers noted numerous problems with the pre-election environment. The legal framework did not protect basic freedoms of assembly, speech, and press. Security forces restricted the actions of opposition parties and arrested opposition members and supporters. Additionally, there were reported acts of violence during the election period (see section 1.c.). The main opposition parties–Umma National Party, National Consensus Forces, Sudanese Congress Party, Sudanese Communist Party, and the Popular Congress Party–boycotted the election; only the ruling NCP party and National Unity parties participated. According to the chair of the National Election Commission, 5,584,863 votes were counted in the election, representing approximately a 46-percent participation rate. According to the AU and other observers, however, turnout was considerably lower. Following the elections the National Assembly consisted of 426 seats (Upper House). The NCP held 323 seats, Democratic Unionist Party 25, and independents 19 seats; other minor political parties won the remaining seats. The independents, many of whom were previously ejected from the ruling NCP, were prevented by the government from forming a parliamentary group. The States Council (Lower House) consisted of 54 members, with each state represented by three members. The NCP had 36 members in the Lower House. General elections for president and the National Assembly are scheduled to be held every five years. The next general election is scheduled for April 2020. The previous (nationwide excluding conflict areas) gubernatorial election was held in April 2010. The National Assembly changed the constitution in January 2015 to authorize the president to appoint the governors instead of voters selecting them. Under this amendment President Bashir appointed 18 state governors. Political Parties and Political Participation: The NCP dominated the political landscape, controlling all of the regional governorships and holding a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly. The Original Democratic Unionist Party, the Registered Faction Democratic Unionist Party, and independents held the remaining seats. The Political Parties Affairs Council oversees the registration of political parties. The ruling party controls the council; it is not an independent body. The council continued to refuse to register the Republican (Jamhori) Party, which opposes violent extremism and promotes secularism. The party leader condemned the decision and filed a complaint in the Constitutional Court, which remained pending at year’s end. The Political Parties Affairs Council listed 92 registered political parties. The Umma Party and the Democratic Unionist Party have never registered with the government. The government continued to harass some opposition leaders who spoke with representatives of foreign organizations or embassies or travelled abroad (see section 2.d.). Authorities monitored and impeded political party meetings and activities, restricted political party demonstrations, used excessive force to break them up, and arrested opposition party members. In December 2016 the National Legislature ratified constitutional amendments recommended by the National Dialogue, which concluded in October 2015. The amendments included allowing the creation of a position of prime minister, the appointment of additional representatives to the parliament, and the separation of the Office of the Attorney General from the Ministry of Justice. On March 1, President Bashir appointed First Vice President Bakri Hassan Saleh as the first prime minister since 1989, following the parliamentary decision to reinstate that position. In May the new prime minister announced the creation of the National Consensus Government. The High Committee established to monitor National Dialogue outcomes implementation agreed to establish five commissions: the Anti-Corruption Commission; Election Commission; Constitution Commission; the Higher Council for Peace, and the Political Parties Commission. By year’s end it remained unclear what direct impact these amendments had on respect for rule of law and protection of human rights in the country. Participation of Women and Minorities: Women have the right to vote and hold public office. Since the 2015 elections, women have held 30 percent of the National Assembly seats and 35 percent of the Senate seats. Some observers believed traditional and cultural factors limited the participation of women in political life. A few religious minorities participated in government. There were prominent Coptic Christian politicians within the National Assembly, Khartoum city government, and Khartoum state assembly. A member of the national election commission was Coptic. A female Anglican served as the state minister of water resources and electricity. Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials; nevertheless, government corruption at all levels was widespread. The government made few efforts to enforce legislation aimed at preventing and prosecuting corruption. Corruption: According to the World Bank’s most recent Worldwide Governance Indicators, corruption was a severe problem. The law provides the legislative framework for addressing official corruption, but implementation was weak, and many punishments were lenient. Officials found guilty of corrupt acts could often avoid jail time if they returned ill-gotten funds. Journalists who reported on government corruption were sometimes intimidated, detained, and interrogated by security services. A special anticorruption attorney investigates and tries corruption cases involving officials, their spouses, and their children. Punishments for embezzlement include imprisonment or execution for public service workers, although these sanctions were almost never carried out. All bank employees were considered public-service workers. Reporting on corruption was considered a “red line” set by NISS and a topic authorities for the most part prohibited newspapers from covering (see section 2.a.). Financial Disclosure: The law requires high officials to disclose publicly income and assets. There are no clear sanctions for noncompliance, although the anticorruption commission possesses discretionary powers to punish violators. The Financial Disclosure and Inspection Committee and the Unlawful and Suspicious Enrichment Administration at the Justice Ministry both monitored compliance. Despite two different bodies ostensibly charged with combating official corruption, there was no effective enforcement or prosecution of offenders. Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons Women Rape and Domestic Violence: In February 2015, an amendment to Artice 149 of the Criminal Code changed the definition of rape and added Article 151 (3) to criminalize the offense of sexual harassment. Under the new definition of rape, rape victim could no longer be prosecuted for adultery. There were no reliable statistics on the prevalence of rape and domestic violence. The international expert on the human rights situation in Sudan and UNAMID’s human rights section reported that they received regular reports of incidents of rape and sexual and gender-based violence (see section 1.g.). Human rights organizations cited substantial barriers, including cultural norms, police reluctance to investigate, and the widespread impunity of perpetrators, to reporting sexual and gender-based violence, including a substantial gap between the law and its implementation. The Ministry of Social Welfare, Women, and Child Affairs is responsible for matters pertaining to women. The Violence against Women Unit is responsible for implementation of the National Action Plan for Combating Violence against Women. It had offices in 14 of the 18 states. Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C remained a problem throughout the country. No national law prohibits FGM/C, and the procedure continued to be used on women and girls throughout the country. The government launched a national campaign in 2008 to eradicate FGM/C by 2018, and since 2008, five states had passed laws prohibiting FGM/C: South Kordofan, Gedaref, Red Sea, South Darfur, and West Darfur. The government, with the support of the first lady, continued to prioritize the “saleema” (uncut) campaign, which raised public awareness about FGM/C. The government continued to work with UNICEF, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and the World Health Organization (WHO) to end FGM/C. According to UNICEF and UNFPA, the national prevalence rate of FGM/C among girls and women between 15 and 49 years old was 87 percent. Prevalence varied geographically and depended on the local ethnic group. For more information, see data.unicef.org/resources/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-country-profiles/ . Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The Interim National Constitution obligates states to combat harmful customs and traditions that undermine the dignity and status of women. Sexual Harassment: There were frequent reports of sexual harassment by police. The government did not provide any information on the number of sexual harassment reports made. NGOs, not the government, made most efforts to curb sexual harassment. Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ . Discrimination: The law, including many traditional legal practices and certain provisions of Islamic jurisprudence as interpreted and applied by the government, discriminates against women. In accordance with Islamic judicial interpretation, a Muslim widow inherits one-eighth of her husband’s estate; of the remaining seven-eighths, two-thirds goes to the sons and one-third to the daughters. In certain probate trials, the testimony of women is not considered equivalent to that of men; the testimony of two women is required. In other civil trials, the testimony of a woman equals that of a man. A Muslim woman cannot legally marry a non-Muslim man. Various government institutions required women to dress according to Islamic or cultural standards, including wearing a head covering. In Khartoum, Public Order Police occasionally brought women before judges for allegedly violating Islamic standards. One women’s advocacy group estimated that in Khartoum, Public Order Police arrested an average of 40 women per day. Islamic standards for dress generally were not enforced for non-Muslims. Children Birth Registration: The Interim National Constitution states persons born to a Sudanese mother or father have the right to citizenship. The law grants citizenship only to children born to a father who is a Sudanese citizen by descent. Most newborns received birth certificates, but some in remote areas did not. Registered midwives, dispensaries, clinics, and hospitals could issue certificates. A birth certificate does not automatically qualify a child for citizenship. Failure to present a valid birth certificate precludes enrollment in school. Access to health care was similarly dependent on possession of a valid birth certificate, but many doctors accepted a patient’s verbal assurance that he or she had one. For additional information, see Appendix C. Education: The law provides for tuition-free basic education up to grade eight, but students often had to pay school, uniform, and examination fees to attend. Primary education is neither compulsory nor universal. Child Abuse: The government tried to enforce laws criminalizing child abuse and was more likely to prosecute cases involving child abuse and sexual exploitation of children than cases involving adults. Some police stations included “child friendly” family and child protection units and provided legal, medical, and psychosocial support for children. Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage was 10 years for girls and 15 years or puberty for boys. The government and the president’s wife continued to work to end child marriage. For additional information, see Appendix C. Sexual Exploitation of Children: Penalties for offenses related to the sexual exploitation of children vary and can include imprisonment, fines, or both. The government tried to enforce laws criminalizing sexual exploitation of children. Some police stations included “child friendly” protection units and provided legal, medical, and psychosocial support for children. There is no minimum age for consensual sex or statutory rape law. Pornography, including child pornography, is illegal. Statutes prescribe a fine and period of imprisonment not to exceed 15 years for offenses involving child pornography. Displaced Children: Internally displaced children often lacked access to government services such as health and education due to both security concerns and an inability to pay related fees. In October 2016 UNICEF reported approximately 70 percent of IDPs were children. Institutionalized Children: Police typically sent homeless children who had committed crimes to government camps for indefinite periods. Health care, schooling, and living conditions were generally very basic. All children in the camps, including non-Muslims, had to study the Quran. International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html. Anti-Semitism A very small Jewish community remained in the country, predominantly in the Khartoum area. Societal attitudes were generally not tolerant of Jewish persons, although anti-Semitic acts were rare. During a February 17 recorded sermon in Khartoum, Imam Mohamed Abdul-Kareem condemned Sheikh Yousuf al-Koda’s call to normalize relations with Israel. Abdul-Kareem described Jews as “slayers of prophets,” “brothers of pigs and apes,” and “people of deception and corruption.” He also claimed, “Jewish tourists spread AIDS, corruption, and drugs” and “tamper with state security.” Trafficking in Persons See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/. Persons with Disabilities Although the law, including the Interim National Constitution, provides protection for persons with disabilities, social stigma and a lack of resources hindered the government’s enforcement of disability laws. The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities. Social stigma and lack of resources often prevented government and private entities from accommodating persons with disabilities in education and employment. Appropriate supports were especially rare in rural areas. The government had not enacted laws or implemented effective programs to provide for access to buildings, information, and communication for persons with disabilities. National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities The population includes more than 500 ethnic groups, speaking numerous languages and dialects. Some of these ethnic groups self-identify as Arab, referring to their language and other cultural attributes. Northern Muslims traditionally dominated the government. Discrimination against Darfuri students on college campuses was a pervasive problem. There were multiple cases such as the following example: Nasr Aldin Mukhtar, former chairman of the Darfuri Student Union at Quran al-Kareem University, was arrested in 2015 and rearrested on August 22, while leaving the university as police used live ammunition during a raid on the campus. As of November he remained in detention suffering from various health problems as a result of reported mistreatment during detention. Family members were allowed one visit, after substantial pressure from civil society groups. In May security services violently dispersed student protests against corruption at Bakht Alrida University in El Duaweim, White Nile, and conducted a raid on housing inhabited by Darfuri students. Security forces arrested nine students and, as of December, continued to hold them in prison without charges. Security forces stopped buses of Darfuri student protesters against the action in a village outside Khartoum. Military and police units surrounded the village and caused a day-long standoff between security and students. After the involvement of local leaders and substantial pressure from the international community, the government took no violent action against the students but did stop the delivery of food supplies. The Darfuri Members Caucus within parliament attempted unsuccessfully to report the marginalization of Darfuri students to the minister of education. Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons are not considered a protected class under antidiscrimination laws. The law does not specifically prohibit homosexuality but criminalizes sodomy, which is punishable by death. Antigay sentiment was pervasive in society. LGBTI organizations increasingly felt pressured to suspend or alter their activities due to threat of harm. Several LGBTI persons felt compelled to leave the country due to fear of persecution, intimidation, or harassment. In September, Public Order Police arrested journalist-blogger Marwa Altijani and released her the same day after filing apostasy charges against her for publishing an article online in which she asserted, “Nothing is wrong with being a lesbian.” On October 24, a man was arrested at a social event for wearing “indecent” female clothes and makeup. A Public Order Court sentenced him to 40 lashes and a fine of 5,000 SDG ($625). The punishment was reportedly carried out the same day. There were no reports of official action to investigate or punish those complicit in LGBTI-related discrimination or abuses. HIV and AIDS Social Stigma There was societal discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. Promotion of Acts of Discrimination The government, government-supported militias, and rebel groups reportedly promoted hatred and discrimination, using standard propaganda techniques. The government often used religiously charged language to refer to suspected antigovernment supporters. The government did not take measures to counter hate speech. Section 7. Worker Rights a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining The law provides that employees of companies with more than 100 workers can form and join independent unions. Other employees can join nearby, preexisting unions. The law establishes a single national trade union federation and excludes police, military personnel, prison employees, legal advisers in the Justice Ministry, and judges from membership. In some cases membership in international unions was not officially recognized. The Sudan Workers’ Trade Union Federation, a government-controlled federation of unions that consisted of 18 state unions and 22 industry unions, is the only official umbrella organization for unions. While there were no NGOs that specialized in broad advocacy for labor rights, there were “shadow unions” for most professions, although not recognized by the government. For example, the government recognized only the Sudan Journalists Union, whose membership included all journalists, including the spokesperson of the Sudan Air Force, as well as NISS media-censorship officials. Most independent journalists, however, were members of the nonregistered Sudan Journalist Network, which organized advocacy activities on behalf of journalists. The law denies trade unions autonomy to exercise the right to organize or to bargain collectively. It defines the objectives, terms of office, scope of activities, and organizational structures and alliances for labor unions. The government’s auditor general supervised union funds because they are considered public money. The law provides unions the right to conduct legal strikes. Some unions have by-laws that self-restrict their right to strike. Labor observers believed some of these self-restrictions were imposed to maintain favor with the government. The law does not specifically prohibit strikes in nonessential sectors, but it requires all strikes to receive prior approval from the government after satisfying a set of legal requirements. Specialized labor courts adjudicate standard labor disputes, but the Ministry of Labor has the authority to refer a dispute to compulsory arbitration. Disputes also may be referred to arbitration if indicated in the work contract. The law does not prohibit antiunion discrimination by employers. The government restricted the right to strike. Police could break up any strike conducted without prior government approval. There were no cases of strikes reported during the year. There were, however, reports of citizen protests against companies. For example, there were recurring protests against national mining subsidiaries in South Kordofan due to the companies’ use of cyanide in their extraction and cleaning practices, which resulted in the deaths of local livestock. During protests in November, protesters burned the house of the local commissioner in Gadir. Security forces used live ammunition to disperse the protesters. One person was killed and six were injured. Bureaucratic steps mandated by law to resolve disputes within companies may be lengthy. Additionally court sessions may involve significant delays and costs when labor grievances are appealed. The government did not effectively enforce applicable laws. Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were not respected. There were credible reports the government routinely intervened to manipulate professional, trade, and student union elections. According to the International Trade Union Confederation, in oil-producing regions police and secret service agents, in collusion with oil companies, closely monitored workers’ activities. b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor The law prohibits and criminalizes all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government, however, did not effectively enforce the law. Resources, inspections, and remediation were inadequate, and penalties for violations in the form of fines were rarely imposed and insufficient to deter violations. Most of the violations existed in agricultural and pastoral sectors. Enforcement proved difficult in rural areas and areas undergoing conflict. The government stated it investigated and prosecuted cases of forced labor, but it did not compile comprehensive statistics on the subject. Some government officials claimed that forced labor had been eradicated and denied reports that citizens engaged in this practice. There were reports some children were engaged in forced labor, especially in the informal mining sector. Some domestic workers were believed to work under forced conditions or without pay. Women refugees were especially prone to labor violations. Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/. c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment The Interim National Constitution mandates that the state protect the rights of children as provided in international and regional conventions ratified by the country. The Child Act of 2010 defines children as persons younger than 18 years old and prohibits children under the age of 14 from working, except in agricultural work that is not dangerous or harmful to their health. The Ministry of Social Welfare, Women, and Child Affairs is responsible for enforcing child labor laws. The Child Act goes on to define working children as persons between 14 and 18 years old. The law also prohibits the employment of young persons between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. The law allows minors to work for seven hours a day broken by a period of one paid hour of rest. It is illegal to compel minors to work more than four consecutive hours, work overtime, or work during weekly periods of rest or on official holidays. The law prohibits employers from waiving, postponing, or reducing annual leave entitlements for minors. The government did not always enforce such laws due to inadequate resources to monitor work areas or overcome societal complicity. Child labor was a serious problem, particularly in the agricultural and pastoral sectors where the practice was common. Most child labor occurred in the informal sector, including in menial jobs for which the government lacked the resources to monitor comprehensively. Children were engaged in shining shoes, washing and repairing cars, collecting medical and other resalable waste, street vending, begging, agricultural work, construction, and other menial labor. The International Labor Organization monitored the use of forced child labor in gold mining. UNICEF received unverified reports revealing the dangerous conditions children were working in gold mining, including the requirement to carry heavy loads, work at night and within confined spaces, and exposure to mercury and high temperatures. There were reports children as young as 10 years old were used in artisanal gold mining throughout the country. According to multiple reputable sources, thousands of children worked in artisanal gold mining, particularly in River Nile, Blue Nile, West Darfur, and North Darfur States, resulting in large numbers of students dropping out of school. There were reports of the use of child soldiers by the SPLM-N, but numbers were difficult to verify (see section 1.g.). Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings . d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation Law and regulations prohibit discrimination based on race, sex, gender, disability, tribe, and language, but they are unevenly applied. There is no legal protection for classes according to sexual orientation or gender identity, HIV-positive status or other communicable diseases, political opinion, social or national origin, age, or social status. Labor laws apply to migrant workers with legal contracts, but foreign workers who are not considered to have legal status also are not provided legal protections from abuse and exploitation. The government did not effectively enforce labor laws and regulations, and penalties in the form of fines were rarely imposed and were insufficient to deter violations. Discrimination occurred in employment and occupation based on gender, religion, and ethnic, tribal, or party affiliation. Ethnic minorities often complained that government hiring practices discriminated against them in favor of “riverine” Arabs from northern Sudan. Ethiopians, Eritreans, and other refugees or migrants were often exposed to exploitative work conditions. There were reports that some female refugees and migrants working as domestic workers or tea sellers were not compensated for their work, required to pay “kettle taxes” to police, sexually exploited, or trafficked. Due to their uncertain legal status, many refugees and migrants did not report cases of discrimination or abuse due to fear of imprisonment or repatriation. Migrant workers and some ethnic minorities were unaware of their legal rights, suffered from discrimination, and lacked ready access to judicial remedies. The International Organization of Migration established a migrants’ reception center in Khartoum that included workshops on workers’ rights and the hazards of migration. e. Acceptable Conditions of Work The minimum monthly wage for public-sector workers was 425 SDG ($53). Normally the High Council of Salary in the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs sets the minimum wage for the public sector. The minimum monthly salary in the private sector is set by agreements made between individual industries and the High Council of Salary, and it varied among industries. Citizens whose monthly wages are below 700 SDG ($88) pay no personal income tax. An estimated 46 percent of citizens lived below the poverty line of 12 SDG ($1.50) per day. Most public-sector employees received wages below the poverty line. The law limits the workweek to 40 hours (five eight-hour days, which does not include a 30-minute to one-hour daily break), with days of rest on Friday and Saturday. Overtime should not exceed 12 hours per week or four hours per day. The law provides for paid annual leave after one year of continuous employment and paid holidays after three months. The laws prescribe occupational safety and health standards. Any industrial company with 30-150 employees must have an industrial safety officer. A larger company is required to have an industrial safety committee that includes management and employees. Committees and officers are required to report safety incidents to the Ministry of Labor. The law requires the owner of an industrial company to inform workers of occupational hazards and provide means for protection against such hazards. Management is also required to take necessary precautions to protect workers against industrial accidents and occupational diseases, but the law does not recognize the right of workers to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without loss of employment. Some heavy industry and artisanal mining operations, notably gold extraction, reportedly lacked sufficient safety regulations. Safety laws do not apply to domestic servants; casual workers; agricultural workers other than those employed in the operation, repair, and maintenance of agricultural machinery; enterprises that process or market agricultural products such as cotton gins or dairy-product factories; jobs related to the administration of agricultural projects, including office work, accountancy, storage, gardening, and livestock husbandry; or family members of an employee who live with the employee and who are completely or partially dependent on him for their living. Representatives of the Eritrean and Ethiopian communities in Khartoum stated undocumented migrants in the capital were subjected to abusive work conditions. They also reported many undocumented workers did not report abuse due to fear authorities might deport them to Eritrea because of their illegal status. The Ministry of Labor, which maintained field offices in most major cities, is responsible for enforcing these standards. Various types of labor inspectors included specialists on labor relations, labor conflicts, and vocational, health, and recruitment practices. They operated on both federal and state levels. Standards were not uniformly enforced. Although employers generally respected the minimum wage law in the formal sector, in the informal sector wages could be significantly below the official rate. Since enforcement by the Ministry of Labor was minimal, working conditions generally were poor. Inspection efforts and enforcement were generally minimal in both the formal and informal sectors. More than 10,000 women in the informal sector depended on selling tea on the streets of Khartoum State for their livelihoods after having fled conflict in Darfur and the Two Areas. Despite the collective activism of many tea sellers in Khartoum, harassment of tea sellers and confiscation of their belongings continued as in previous years.