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Angola

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent and impartial judiciary. Institutional weaknesses in the judicial system, however, such as political influence in the decision-making process, were problems. The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights and the PGR worked to improve the independence of prosecutors and judges. The National Institute for Judicial Studies conducted capacity-building programs on the importance of an independent judicial system.

There were long trial delays at the Supreme Court. Criminal courts also had a large backlog of cases, which resulted in major delays in hearings. There were only 22 municipal courts for 163 municipalities.

Informal courts remained the principal institutions through which citizens resolved civil conflicts in rural areas, such as disputes over a bartering deal. Each community in which informal courts were located established local rules, creating disparities in how similar cases were resolved from one community to the next. Traditional leaders (known as “sobas”) also heard and decided local civil cases. Sobas do not have the authority to resolve criminal cases; only courts can hear criminal cases.

Both the national police and the FAA have internal court systems that generally remained closed to outside scrutiny. Although members of these organizations can be tried under their internal regulations, cases that include violations of criminal or civil laws can also fall under the jurisdiction of provincial courts. Both the PGR and the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights have civilian oversight responsibilities over military courts.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

Although the law provides all citizens the right to a fair trial, authorities did not always respect this right. Defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Authorities must inform defendants of the charges levied against them in detail within 48 hours of their detention. Defendants have the right to free language interpretation during all legal proceedings from the moment charged through all appeals. By law trials are usually public, although each court has the right to close proceedings. Defendants have the right to be present and consult with an attorney, either chosen by them or appointed by the state, in a timely manner. According to the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, all public defenders are licensed lawyers. Defendants do not have the right to confront their accusers. They may question witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants have the right to sufficient time and facilities to prepare a defense. The law protects defendants from providing self-incriminating testimony. Individuals have the right to appeal their convictions. Authorities did not always respect these trial procedure rights.

A separate juvenile court is designated for children’s affairs. The juvenile court hears cases of minors between the ages of 12 and 16 accused of committing a criminal offense. Minors over age 16 accused of committing a criminal offense are tried in regular courts. In many rural municipalities, there is no provision for juvenile courts, so offenders as young as 12 can be tried as adults. In many cases traditional leaders have state authority to resolve disputes and determine punishments for civil offenses, including offenses committed by juveniles. Traditional authorities are defined in the constitution as ad hoc units of the state.

The president appoints Supreme Court justices for life terms without confirmation by the National Assembly. The Supreme Court generally hears cases concerning alleged political and security crimes.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights denied there were political prisoners in the country. Opposition political parties, however, often claimed authorities detained their members because of their political affiliations.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Damages for human rights violations may be sought in municipal or provincial courts and appealed to the Supreme Court.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The constitution recognizes the right to housing and quality of life, and the law states that persons relocated should receive fair compensation. The constitution provides that all untitled land belongs to the state. In August 2016 security forces demolished hundreds of allegedly illegal, privately built homes in Zango, a suburban Luanda zone that falls within the restrictive perimeter of the Luanda-Bengo Special Economic Zone. The demolitions reportedly displaced thousands of persons and resulted in several deaths. Some persons forced to move did not receive fair compensation, at times due to lack of clear title or permits for the destroyed property. Relocated persons who received new housing units often complained their units were located far from their jobs or places of business, or were of substandard quality.

Austria

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

The law presumes persons charged with criminal offenses are innocent until proven guilty; authorities inform them promptly and in detail of the charges. Trials must be public and conducted orally; defendants have the right to be present at their trial. Attorneys are not mandatory in cases of minor offenses, but legal counsel is available at no charge for needy persons in cases where attorneys are mandatory. The law grants defendants and their attorneys adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants can confront or question witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Free interpretation is available from the moment a defendant is charged, through all appeals. Suspects cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt. A system of judicial review provides multiple opportunities for appeal.

The law extends the above rights to all defendants regardless of sex, gender, race, ethnicity, age, religion, or mental or physical disability.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, including an appellate system. These institutions are accessible to plaintiffs seeking damages for human rights violations. Administrative and judicial remedies were available for redressing alleged wrongs. Individuals and organizations may appeal domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

For the resolution of Holocaust-era restitution claims, including by foreign citizens, the government has laws and mechanisms in place. Property restitution also includes an art restitution program. NGOs and advocacy groups reported that the government has taken comprehensive steps to implement these programs.

Azerbaijan

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, judges did not function independently of the executive branch. The judiciary remained largely corrupt and inefficient. Many verdicts were legally insupportable and largely unrelated to the evidence presented during the trial. Outcomes frequently appeared predetermined. Courts often failed to investigate allegations of torture and inhuman treatment of detainees in police custody.

The Ministry of Justice controlled the Judicial Legal Council. The council appoints a judicial selection committee (six judges, a prosecutor, a lawyer, a council representative, a Ministry of Justice representative, and a legal scholar) that administers the judicial selection examination and oversees the long-term judicial training and selection process.

Credible reports indicated that judges and prosecutors took instruction from the Presidential Administration and the Ministry of Justice, particularly in cases of interest to international observers. There were credible allegations judges routinely accepted bribes.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law requires public trials except in cases involving state, commercial, or professional secrets or confidential, personal, or family matters. The law mandates the presumption of innocence in criminal cases. It also mandates the right to be informed promptly of charges; to a fair, timely, and public trial (although trials can be closed in some situations, e.g., cases related to national security); to be present at the trial; to communicate with an attorney of their choice (or have one provided at public expense if unable to pay); to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense; to free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals; to confront witnesses and present witnesses’ evidence at trial; and not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Both defendants and prosecutors have the right to appeal. Authorities did not respect these provisions in many cases widely considered politically motivated.

Judges at times failed to read verdicts publicly or explain their decisions, leaving defendants without knowledge of the reasoning behind the judgment. Judges also limited the defendant’s right to speak. In the appeal of Giyas Ibrahimov, the judge ordered the microphone in the cage for the accused to be switched off to prevent Ibrahimov’s closing statement.

Authorities sometimes limited independent observation of trials by having plainclothes police and others occupy courtroom seats. Information regarding trial times and locations was generally available.

Although the constitution prescribes equal status for prosecutors and defense attorneys, judges often favored prosecutors when assessing motions, oral statements, and evidence submitted by defense counsel, without regard to the merits of their respective arguments. Judges also reserved the right to remove defense lawyers in civil cases for “good cause.” In criminal proceedings, judges may remove defense lawyers because of a conflict of interest or if a defendant requests a change of counsel.

The law limits representation in criminal cases to members of the country’s government-dominated Collegium (bar association). The number of defense lawyers willing and able to accept sensitive cases remained small due to various measures taken by authorities, including by the Collegium’s presidium, its managing body. Such measures included disciplinary proceedings resulting in censure, and sometimes disbarment. For example, on November 20, the Collegium voted to expel lawyer Yalchin Imanov after he spoke publicly about the alleged torture suffered in prison by his client Muslim Unity Movement deputy chair Abbas Huseynov (see section 1.c.). There were reports of Collegium pressure on lawyers. There were reports of police physically intimidating lawyers, pressure from prosecutors and police, and occasional harassment of family members, including threats on social media. Most of the country’s human rights defense lawyers practiced in Baku, which made it difficult for individuals living outside of Baku to receive timely and quality legal service.

On November 7, the Milli Majlis amended the law on legal representation. Previously, the law permitted nonbar lawyers to represent clients in civil and administrative proceedings. Beginning in 2018, however, only members of the bar association will be able to represent citizens in any legal process. Representatives of the legal community and NGOs criticized the amended law, warning it would reduce citizens’ access to legal representation and allow the government-dominated bar association to prevent human rights lawyers from representing individuals in politically motivated cases.

The constitution prohibits the use of illegally obtained evidence. Despite some defendants’ claims that police and other authorities obtained testimony through torture or abuse, human rights monitors reported courts did not investigate allegations of abuse, and there was no independent forensic investigator to substantiate assertions of abuse. According to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, whereas it received “a large number of testimonies” of torture and mistreatment during its May 2016 visit to the country, none of the country’s officials or detainees with whom the group met indicated that a judge had questioned a detainee on his/her treatment in custody.

Investigations often focused on obtaining confessions rather than gathering physical evidence against suspects. Serious crimes brought before the courts most often ended in conviction, since judges generally sought only a minimal level of proof and collaborated closely with prosecutors.

With the exception of the Baku Court of Grave Crimes, human rights advocates also reported courts often failed to provide interpreters despite the constitutional right of an accused person to interpretation. Courts are entitled to contract interpreters during hearings, with expenses covered by the state budget.

There were no verbatim transcripts of judicial proceedings. Although some of the newer courts in Baku made audio recordings of proceedings, courts did not record most court testimonies, oral arguments, and judicial decisions. Instead, the court recording officer generally decided the content of notes, which tended to be sparse.

The country has a military court system with civilian judges. The Military Court retains original jurisdiction over any case related to war or military service.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

Political prisoners and detainees are entitled to the same rights as other prisoners, although restrictions on them varied. Authorities provided international humanitarian organizations access to political prisoners and detainees.

In addition to the presidential pardons on March 16 and September 11(see section 1.d.), authorities on September 11 released the Turan Information Agency editor in chief, Mehman Aliyev, from pretrial detention and changed the terms of confinement for Azadliqfinancial director and opposition Popular Front Party member Faig Amirli on September 15. According to an ad hoc nongovernmental working group on political prisoners, there were 156 political prisoners and detainees at year’s end. According to human rights organizations, dozens of government critics remained incarcerated for politically motivated reasons as of November 23. The following individuals were among those widely considered political prisoners or detainees (also see sections 1.c., 1.d., 1.f., 2.a., 3, and 4).

On January 16, the Baku Grave Crimes Court sentenced N!DA youth movement member Elgiz Gahraman to imprisonment for five years and six months on drug charges. Lawyers and civil society activists stated the real reason Gahraman was punished was for criticizing the president and his family in social media posts. The Baku Court of Appeals upheld the sentence on May 18, but on November 29, the Supreme Court reduced his sentence to three years’ imprisonment.

On January 25, the Baku Grave Crimes Court sentenced Muslim Unity Movement leader Taleh Bagirzada and his deputy, Abbas Huseynov, to 20 years in prison. Sixteen others associated with the case received prison terms ranging from 14 years and six months to 19 years for charges including terrorism, murder, calling for the overthrow of the government, and inciting religious hatred. Fuad Gahramanli, one of three deputy chairs of the secular opposition Popular Front Party, was sentenced in a related case to 10 years in prison. Human rights defenders asserted the government falsified and fabricated the charges to halt the spread of political opposition in the country.

On March 3, the Surakhany District Court sentenced blogger Mehman Huseynov to two years in prison for alleged defamation (see section 1.c.).

On June 16, the Baku Grave Crimes Court sentenced Fuad Ahmadli, a member of the Youth Committee of the Popular Front Party, to four years’ imprisonment for alleged abuse of office and purportedly illegally accessing private information at the mobile operator where he worked. Human rights defenders stated he was punished for participating in protest actions and for criticizing the government on social media.

On November 16, the ECHR ruled the chairman of the opposition Republican Alternative Movement (REAL Movement), Ilgar Mammadov, had been denied a fair trial. Mammadov had been incarcerated since 2013 despite a 2014 ruling by the ECHR that his detention was illegal.

Individuals considered by activists to be political detainees included one of three Popular Front Party deputy chairs, Gozel Bayramli, and journalists Afgan Mukhtarli and Aziz Orucov.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Citizens have the right to file lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations. All citizens have the right to appeal to the ECHR within six months of exhausting all domestic legal options, including an appeal to and ruling by the Supreme Court.

Citizens exercised the right to appeal local court rulings to the ECHR and brought claims of government violations of commitments under the European Convention on Human Rights. The government’s compliance with ECHR decisions was mixed; activists stated the government paid compensation but failed to release prisoners in response to ECHR decisions.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

NGOs reported authorities did not respect the laws governing eminent domain and expropriation of property. Homeowners often reported receiving compensation well below market value for expropriated property and had little legal recourse. NGOs also reported many citizens did not trust the court system and were therefore reluctant to pursue compensation claims.

Bangladesh

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, but corruption and political interference compromised its independence. In 2014 parliament passed the 16th amendment, affording it the right to remove judges. During the year the Supreme Court ruled the amendment unconstitutional, and the chief justice’s resulting public dispute with parliament and the prime minister resulted in the chief justice’s resignation and departure from the country. The chief justice claimed the government forced him to resign, while the government denied the charge. The government continued to pursue corruption charges against the chief justice at year’s end, which human rights observers alleged were politically motivated.

Human rights observers maintained that magistrates, attorneys, and court officials demanded bribes from defendants in many cases, or they ruled based on influence by or loyalty to political patronage networks. Observers noted that judges who made decisions unfavorable to the government risked transfer to other jurisdictions. Some officials reportedly discouraged lawyers from representing defendants in certain cases.

Corruption and a substantial backlog of cases hindered the court system, and the granting of extended continuances effectively prevented many defendants from obtaining fair trials.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, but the judiciary did not always protect this right due to corruption, partisanship, and weak human resources and institutional capacities.

Defendants are presumed innocent, have the right to appeal, and have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them. The accused are entitled to be present at their public trial. Indigent defendants have the right to a public defender. Trials are conducted in the Bengali language. The government does not provide free interpretation for defendants who cannot understand or speak Bengali. Defendants also have the right to adequate time to prepare a defense. Accused persons have the right to confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence. They also have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, although defendants who do not confess their guilt are often kept in custody. The government frequently did not respect these rights.

Mobile courts headed by executive branch magistrates rendered immediate verdicts that often included prison terms to defendants who were not afforded the opportunity for legal representation. In their annual conferences in Dhaka in 2016 and 2017, deputy commissioners from all 64 districts requested that the government expedite the passage of an amendment to the Mobile Court Act of 2009 giving the executive magistrates increased judicial powers, but parliament had not introduced such legislation by year’s end. In May the High Court ruled that empowering executive magistrates with judicial powers was “a frontal attack on the independence of the judiciary and violates the theory of separation of powers.” The government appealed the verdict through the Appellate Panel of the Supreme Court, which stayed the verdict, allowing the mobile courts to function pending the Appellate Panel’s next decision.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were reports of political prisoners or detainees. Political affiliation often appeared to be a factor in claims of arrest and prosecution of members of opposition parties, including through spurious charges under the pretext of responding to national security threats. The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) maintained that its members had been arrested arbitrarily but did not offer specific examples.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals and organizations may seek judicial remedies for human rights violations; however, lack of public faith in the court system deterred many from filing complaints. While the law has a provision for an ombudsman, one had not been established.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The government did not amend the 2001 Vested Property (Return) Act to accelerate the process of return of land to primarily Hindu individuals (see section 2.d.). The act allows the government to confiscate property of anyone whom it declares to be an enemy of the state. It was often used to seize property abandoned by minority religious groups when they fled the country, particularly after the 1971 independence war.

Minority communities continued to report many land ownership disputes that disproportionately displaced minorities, especially in areas near new roads or industrial development zones where land prices had increased. They also claimed that local police, civil authorities, and political leaders were sometimes involved in evictions or shielded politically influential land grabbers from prosecution (see section 6). In August 2016 the government amended the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act, which may allow for land restitution for indigenous persons living in the CHT (see section 2.d.).

Bolivia

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, but the judiciary was overburdened, vulnerable to undue influence by the executive and legislative branches, and plagued with allegations of corruption. Authorities generally respected court orders but on several occasions levied charges against judges to pressure them to change their verdicts. Judges and prosecutors sometimes practiced self-censorship when issuing rulings to avoid becoming the target of verbal and legal harassment by the government.

Observers criticized the presidential administration’s use of the judiciary to silence political opponents and the government’s disregard of due process guarantees. On June 1, Gualberto Cusi, a Constitutional Court judge, was sentenced to permanent dismissal from office for the crimes of “resolutions contrary to the Magna Carta,” and “malfeasance.” In 2013 he publicly denounced President Morales’ intention to run for a then unconstitutional third term. Cusi also criticized the Morales administration for frequently interfering with the normal functioning of the judiciary. In 2014 Cusi and two other judges suspended the Plurinational Notary Law because the law permitted the executive branch, instead of the judiciary, to select notaries. The MAS-dominated Legislative Assembly suspended Cusi and the two other judges for this ruling, and impeachment proceedings against Cusi and his colleagues began in 2014. They were charged with “ruling contrary to the constitution and its laws, malfeasance, and failure to complete duties of a public servant.”

Cusi stated that his dismissal was politically motivated. On July 5, he appealed his sentence, but the president of the Justice Commission rejected his appeal, claiming his allegations of political interference lacked merit.

On March 10, a four-judge Sentencing Tribunal declared Ernesto Fernandez, the former prefect (governor) of Pando, guilty of ordering the deaths of 13 progovernment peasant farmers, and of the assault of 30 others, during the 2008 “Porvenir Massacre.” Upon Fernandez’s 2008 arrest, he was transferred to La Paz and held in pretrial detention until 2013–two years longer than the constitutionally allowable pretrial detention period. In February 2013 Fernandez was released to house arrest due to his poor medical condition.

On March 16, former prefect of Beni Ernesto Suarez was ordered into pretrial detention pending trial on charges of money laundering. The court’s rationale for taking Suarez into custody was that he had failed to provide the court an accurate home address. The court ruling against Suarez reignited civil society claims that the Morales administration used the judicial system against critics to weaken political adversaries and maintain power.

Fernandez and Suarez were among eight high-profile political opposition figures who had multiple legal cases pending.

The judiciary faced a myriad of administrative and budgetary challenges. The judicial budget of $120 million constituted less than 1 percent of the national budget ($33.81 billion). NGOs asserted this amount was insufficient to guarantee equal and efficient justice and that underfunding overburdened public prosecutors and led to serious judicial backlogs. The small budget and inadequate salaries made justice officials vulnerable to bribery and corruption, according to credible sources, including legal experts. According to the president of the Tribunal Department of La Paz, in 2016, due to limited resources and personnel, judges were able to adjudicate only 324,500 of 677,500 cases set for consideration, or 47 percent of their caseload. Citing different figures, the president of the Magistrate Council announced in August that the judicial branch required a larger budget to enable it to adjudicate the “more than 700,000” pending judicial cases in the country’s nine departments.

Inadequate personnel and resources hindered judicial efficiency at the local level, although there were improvements. In May the municipality of La Asunta in the La Paz Department received its first prosecutor and forensic specialist in its almost 30 years as a municipality, but it had to pay his salary using municipal funds due to limited federal resources. The municipality already had a judge, but without a prosecutor, pending criminal cases languished for years.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to be informed of charges promptly and in detail and for a fair and public trial without undue delay. Defendants are entitled to presumption of innocence and trial by jury. They have the right to avoid self-incrimination and to consult an attorney of their choice, receive adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense and confront adverse witnesses, present witnesses and evidence, and file an appeal. Defendants who cannot afford an attorney have the right to a public defender or private attorney at public expense.

Corruption, influence by other branches of government, insufficient judicial coverage, and a lack of adequate resources devoted to the judiciary undermined these constitutional rights. Free translation and interpretation services are required by law. Officials complied with this law only when there was sufficient budget and personnel.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

The government sometimes used the judicial system for political purposes, taking legal action against several opposition members and critics of the government, although analysts disputed whether there were any political prisoners.

Criminal proceedings remained pending against 16 former government officials, which the Attorney General’s Office began in 2016. Media reported 40 open cases targeting the mayor of La Paz, Luis Revilla; 30 cases against Jose Maria Leyes, the mayor of Cochabamba; 30 against Ernesto Suarez, the former prefect of Beni; and multiple cases against the governor of Santa Cruz, Ruben Costas; the governor of La Paz, Feliz Patzi; the mayor of El Alto, Soledad Chapeton; former president Jorge Tuto Quiroga; and the leader of the Democratic Unity opposition party, Samuel Doria Medina.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The law permits individuals and organizations to seek criminal remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts. At the conclusion of a criminal trial, the complainant can initiate a civil trial to seek damages. The human rights ombudsman can issue administrative resolutions on specific human rights cases. The ombudsman’s resolutions are nonbinding, and the government is not obligated to accept his or her recommendations.

Bulgaria

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but corruption, inefficiency, and a lack of accountability continued to be pervasive problems. Public trust in the judicial system remained extremely low because of the perception that magistrates were susceptible to political pressure and rendered unequal justice.

The Supreme Judicial Council appoints, promotes, disciplines, and dismisses judges, investigators, and prosecutors. It also investigates complaints of judicial misconduct and recommends disciplinary action. Managing magistrates can also impose minor punishments. Observers criticized the lack of clearly stated reasoning and justifications in the council’s disciplinary decisions.

Judicial and investigative backlogs remained a problem in larger jurisdictions, and long delays for criminal trials were common. The law allows defendants to request court dismissal of the charges against them if the prosecution has not formally indicted them for more than two years in serious crime cases and one year in petty crime cases.

Human rights organizations expressed concern that amendments to the criminal procedure code, which were adopted in June and came into force on November 4, significantly lowered fair trial standards, creating possibilities for violation of procedural rights of lawyers and defendants. In addition, the amendments transferred jurisdiction for prosecution of corruption by senior- and high-level government officials to the Specialized Criminal Court, interpreted by human rights organizations as establishment of an extraordinary court, which is explicitly prohibited in the constitution.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. The law presumes defendants are innocent until proven guilty and allows them ample time and facilities to prepare a defense. All court hearings are public except for cases involving national security, endangerment of public morals, and the privacy of juvenile defendants. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, with free interpretation as necessary from the moment they are charged through all their appeals.

In cases involving serious crimes, two nonprofessional judges join a professional judge. If a crime carries a sentence of more than 15 years’ imprisonment, two professional judges and three lay judges hear the case. In such circumstances a majority vote determines verdicts. The constitution and the law give defendants the right to an attorney, provided at public expense for those who cannot afford to pay for one. A defense attorney is mandatory if the alleged crime carries a possible punishment of 10 or more years in prison; if the defendant is a juvenile, foreigner, or person with mental or physical disabilities; or if the accused is absent. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials and can demand a retrial if they were convicted in absentia, unless they were evading justice at the time of the first trial. Defendants have the right to confront witnesses, examine evidence, and present their own witnesses and evidence. Defendants are not compelled to testify or confess guilt. The law provides for the right of appeal, which was widely used.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

While the law provides for an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, the same long delays in criminal cases affected civil cases. Individuals may file allegations of human rights abuses with courts and with the Commission for Protection against Discrimination, which can impose fines on violators. After all remedies in domestic courts have been exhausted, individuals can appeal decisions involving alleged violations of the European Convention on Human Rights by the state to the European Court of Human Rights.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

While the government has no legislation specific to Holocaust-era property restitution, it does have laws and mechanisms in place to address communist-era real property claims (not including moveable property), including by foreign citizens, which have been applied to cover Holocaust-era claims. NGOs and advocacy groups, including local Jewish organizations, reported significant progress on resolution of such claims. After World War II, the communist government first restituted and then nationalized the personal and community property lost during the Holocaust. After the fall of communism, Jewish organizations and individuals were able to reclaim ownership of or receive compensation for community property nationalized by the communist regime. The Ministry of Defense refused to restore to the Jewish community a property located on the Naval Academy’s campus in Varna, claiming that it was used for strategic communications; according to a local Jewish organization, the Varna property was the only outstanding Holocaust-era communal property that had not yet been returned.

Burkina Faso

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but the judiciary was corrupt, inefficient, and subject to executive influence, according to NGOs. There were no instances in which the outcomes of trials appeared predetermined, and authorities respected court orders. Legal codes remained outdated, there were not enough courts, and legal costs were excessive. Citizens’ poor knowledge of their rights further weakened their ability to obtain justice.

Military courts try cases involving military personnel charged with violating the military code of conduct. Rights provided in military courts are equivalent to those in civil criminal courts. Military courts are headed by a civilian judge, hold public trials, and publish verdicts in the local press.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law presumes defendants are innocent. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges, with free assistance of an interpreter. Trials are public but may be delayed. Judicial authorities use juries only in criminal cases. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials and to legal representation, consultation, and adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants have the right to provide evidence. Defendants have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, but a refusal to testify often resulted in harsher decisions. Defendants may challenge and present witnesses, and they have the right of appeal. In civil cases where the defendant is destitute and files an appeal, the state provides a court-appointed lawyer. In criminal cases court-appointed lawyers are mandatory for those who cannot afford one. The law extends these rights to all defendants, but the government did not always respect these rights, due in part to popular ignorance of the law and a continuing shortage of magistrates and court-appointed lawyers.

The Ministry of Justice, Human Rights, and Civic Promotion claimed courts usually tried cases within three months, although human rights organizations reported major case backlogs. The 2011 “processing of criminal penalties in real time” reform to shorten pretrial detention allows the prosecutor and investigators (police and gendarmerie) to process a case prior to the criminal hearing. This countrywide approach allows authorities to inform defendants of the charges and trial date before authorities release them pending trial.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees during the year, although some arrests and detentions may have been politically motivated.

In 2015 gendarmes arrested Leonce Kone, interim CDP president, and Hermann Yameogo, president of the National Union for Democracy and Development, for refusing to condemn the RSP attempt to seize power. Authorities granted provisional release to Kone in July 2016 and released Yameogo in October 2016. As of September 20, the government had not provided any update on this pending case.

In January 2016 authorities arrested CDP president Eddie Komboigo and charged him with involvement in the preparation of the 2015 attempted putsch. Komboigo was granted provisional release in June 2016 for “medical reasons.” On July 24, the presiding judge reportedly informed Komboigo that the investigation concluded he was not guilty of the charges against him.

Authorities of the transition government arrested former minister of foreign affairs and founder of opposition party New Alliance of the Faso, Djibril Bassole, in 2015 for allegedly providing support to the failed 2015 military coup. In July a UN working group released its investigative report calling for his immediate release and demanding that he stand trial by a civilian court instead of a military court. In response to the working group’s request, the government announced on July 8 that it would request a review of the case through the revision procedure of the UN Human Rights Council’s work. On October 10, Bassole was granted provisional release for medical reasons and placed under house arrest.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is an independent judiciary in civil matters, but it was often inefficient, corrupt, and subject to executive influence. As a result, citizens sometimes preferred to rely on the Office of the Ombudsman (see section 5, Government Human Rights Bodies) to settle disputes with the government.

The law provides for access to a court to file lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, a human rights violation, and both administrative and judicial remedies were available for alleged wrongs. Victims of human rights violations may appeal directly to the Economic Community of West African States Court of Justice, even before going through national courts. For civil and commercial disputes, authorities may refer cases to the Abidjan Common Court of Justice and Arbitration. The courts issued several such orders during the year.

There were problems enforcing court orders in sensitive cases involving national security, wealthy or influential persons, and government officials.

Burma

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law calls for an independent judiciary, although there are also legal provisions that allow the government to manipulate the courts for political ends, and these provisions were sometimes used to deprive citizens of due process and the right to a fair trial, particularly with regards to the freedom of expression. Institutional corruption in the judicial system was a problem, and it sometimes appeared the judiciary was under the de facto control of the military or government. According to studies by civil society organizations, officials at all levels received extralegal payments at all stages in the legal process for purposes ranging from routine matters, such as access to a detainee in police custody to fixing the outcome of a case. The Office of the Supreme Court of the Union published a 2016 annual report on disciplinary actions taken against judges and court staff. Although no legal action was taken against judges for corruption, warnings were issued against 25 township court judges and 23 district court judges.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, but it also grants broad exceptions, effectively allowing the government to violate these rights at will. In ordinary criminal cases, the court generally respected some basic due process rights such as the right to an independent judiciary, public access to the courts, and the right to a defense and an appeal. Defendants do not enjoy the rights to presumption of innocence; to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them; to be present at their trial; to free interpretation; or, except in capital cases, to consult an attorney of their choice or have one provided at government expense. There is no right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, but defense attorneys in criminal cases generally had 15 days to prepare for trial. Defendants have the right to appeal judgments, but in most appellate hearings, the original verdicts were upheld. No legal provision allows for the compelled testimony or confessions of guilt by defendants to be used in court; nonetheless, authorities reportedly engaged in both. There were reports of coercion to plead guilty with promises of reduced sentences to defendants who did so.

Ordinary criminal cases were open to the public, but in practice members of the public with no direct involvement in a case were denied entry to courts. There is no right to confront witnesses and present evidence, although defense attorneys could sometimes call witnesses and conduct cross-examinations. Prodemocracy activists generally appeared able to retain counsel, but defendants’ access to counsel was often inadequate. There were reports of authorities not informing family members of the arrests of persons in a timely manner, not telling them of their whereabouts, and often denying them the right to see prisoners in a timely manner. Local civil society groups noted the public was largely unaware of its legal rights, and there were insufficient lawyers to meet public needs.

The government retained the ability to extend prison sentences under the law. The minister of home affairs has the authority to extend a prison sentence unilaterally by two months on six separate occasions, for a total extension of one year.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

The government continued to detain and arrest journalists, activists, and critics of the government and the military during the year. According to civil society groups who use a definition of political prisoners that includes those that may have engaged in acts of violence and excludes some charges related to freedom of expression and religion, there were 45 convicted political prisoners, 49 political prisoners in pretrial detention or detained with trials in process, and 127 individuals released on bail while facing trial for political charges as of October. These numbers did not include detainees and prisoners in Rakhine State, estimated to be in the hundreds, many of whom likely meet the definition of political prisoner.

Many released political prisoners experienced significant surveillance and restrictions following their release, including an inability to resume studies undertaken prior to incarceration, secure travel documents, or obtain other documents related to identity or ownership of land. Under the code of criminal procedure, released political prisoners faced the prospect of serving the remainder of their sentences if rearrested for any reason.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

No specific mechanisms or laws provide for civil remedies for human rights violations; however, complainants may use provisions of the penal code and laws of civil procedure to seek civil remedies. Individuals and organizations may not appeal an adverse decision to regional human rights bodies.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

Under the constitution the state owns all land; however, the law allows for registration and sale of private land ownership rights. Authorities and private-sector organizations perpetrated land grabs during the year, and restitution for past land grabs was very limited.

The 2016 land use policy emphasizes the recognition, protection, and registration of legitimate land tenure rights of smallholders, communities, ethnic nationalities, women, and other vulnerable groups. It also includes the recognition, protection, and ultimate registration of customary tenure rights, which previously were not legally recognized. The law allows the government to declare land unused and assign it to foreign investors or designate it for other uses. There is no provision for judicial review of land ownership or confiscation decisions under either law; administrative bodies subject to political control by the national government make final decisions on land use and registration. Civil society groups raised concerns the laws do not recognize rights in traditional collective land ownership and shifting cultivation systems, which are particularly prevalent in areas inhabited by ethnic minority groups. Acquisition of privately owned land by the government remained governed by the 1894 Land Acquisition Act, which provides for compensation when the government acquires land for a public purpose. Civil society groups criticized the lack of safeguards in the law to provide payment of fair market compensation.

Researchers had concerns that land laws, including the Farmland Law and the Vacant, Fallow, and Virgin Land Law, facilitate land confiscation without providing adequate procedural protections. Parallel legal frameworks and traditional forms of land tenure in areas controlled by ethnic groups in Kachin, Mon, Kayin, and Shan States may not have formal legal recognition under the land laws.

Parliament’s Land Acquisition Investigation Commission did not have legal authority to implement and enforce recommendations in its 2013 report to return thousands of acres of confiscated but unused land or provide compensation to farmers from whom the government took the land, and media sources reported little progress in returning confiscated lands. The law requires land be returned if not used productively within four years, but civil society groups reported land taken by the military was left unused for much longer periods.

The General Administrative Department under the Ministry of Home Affairs, one of the ministries whose minister is appointed by the military, oversees land return. During the year there were at least four cases of previously confiscated land being returned to farmers. Adequate compensation was not provided to the many farmers and rural communities whose land was confiscated without due process during the former military regime, including by the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise, the Myanmar Ports Authority, and the military.

Cambodia

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but the government generally did not respect judicial independence. The courts were subject to influence and interference by the executive branch, which has the authority to promote, dismiss, and discipline judges at will. Judicial officials, up to and including the chief of the Supreme Court, often simultaneously held positions in the ruling party, and observers alleged only those with ties to the CPP or the executive received appointments to the judiciary. Corruption among judges, prosecutors, and court officials was widespread. The judicial branch was very inefficient and could not assure due process.

Observers alleged the bar association heavily favored admission of CPP-aligned members at the expense of nonaligned and opposition attorneys and at times admitted unqualified individuals to the bar solely due to their political affiliation. Impartial analysts revealed that many applicants to the bar paid high bribes for admittance. At times the outcome of trials appeared predetermined. For example, Prime Minister Hun Sen declared shortly before a Supreme Court hearing on the dissolution of the opposition CNRP that he was “99.99 percent certain” how the court would rule. There were reports local CPP leaders received orders to evict their CNRP counterparts even before the ruling was issued. In an earlier example, observers at the 2015 trial of 11 opposition activists on charges of insurrection reported that, shortly after judges retired to deliberate, judicial police surrounded the trial court and prepared to transfer the suspects to prison, indicating a guilty verdict was a foregone conclusion (see Political Prisoners and Detainees below).

A shortage of judges and courtrooms delayed many cases, according to NGO reports. NGOs also believed court officials focused on cases that might benefit them financially. Court delays or corrupt practices often allowed accused persons to escape prosecution. As in past years, NGOs asserted that rich or powerful defendants, including members of the security forces, often paid money to victims and authorities to drop criminal charges. Authorities sometimes urged victims or their families to accept financial restitution in exchange for dropping criminal charges or failing to appear as witnesses.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial; however, the judiciary rarely enforced this right.

Defendants are by law presumed innocent and have the right of appeal, but they often resorted to bribery rather than rely on the judicial process. Trials are often public and sometimes face delays due to court bureaucracy. Court staffers reportedly undertook efforts to speed case processing. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials and consult with an attorney, confront and question witnesses against them, and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. In felony cases, if a defendant cannot afford an attorney, the law requires the court to provide the defendant with free legal representation; however, the judiciary lacked the resources to provide legal counsel, and most defendants sought assistance from NGOs, pro bono representation, or “voluntarily” proceeded without legal representation. In the absence of required defense attorneys in felony cases, trial courts routinely adjourned cases until defendants could secure legal representation, a process that often took months. Trials were typically perfunctory, and extensive cross-examination usually did not take place. The courts offered free interpretation. The law extends these rights to all defendants.

There was a critical shortage of trained lawyers, particularly outside the capital Phnom Penh. The right to a fair public trial often was denied de facto for persons without means to secure counsel. According to the bar association, as of October there were 1,019 lawyers (206 female) throughout the country, compared with 869 in 2016. A report by the International Commission of Jurists indicated the high cost of bribes needed to join the bar association was partly responsible for keeping the number of trained lawyers low, which in turn provided that existing lawyers had adequate opportunities for remuneration through legal or illegal channels.

NGOs reported sworn written statements from witnesses and the accused usually constituted the only evidence presented at trials. Authorities sometimes coerced confessions through beatings or threats, or forced illiterate defendants to sign written confessions without informing them of the contents. Courts accepted such forced confessions as evidence during trials despite legal prohibitions against doing so. The difficulty in transferring prisoners from provincial prisons to the appeals court in Phnom Penh meant that defendants were present at less than one-half of all appeals.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

As of November a local human rights NGO estimated authorities held at least 24 political prisoners or detainees.

On September 3, police arrested opposition CNRP President Kem Sokha on charges of treason. Several high-ranking CNRP officials went into hiding and most fled abroad. The government’s case against Kem Sokha centered on a four-year-old video of the CNRP leader telling an audience in Australia of his party’s work in grassroots organizing with advice from foreign experts. The government claimed this amounted to Kem Sokha “confessing” that a foreign country had instructed him on how to foment a “color revolution” in the country.

Following Kem Sokha’s arrest, Prime Minister Hun Sen threatened to prosecute anyone involved in “protecting” the alleged traitor. He also threatened to reopen investigations into the killing of five trade unionists at a 2014 opposition-led rally in which thousands of garment workers protested the outcome of the disputed 2013 national elections. The prime minister’s threats targeted seven former CNRP members of parliament, including former CNRP vice president and protest leader Mu Sochua, all of whom were arrested following the protest on charges ranging from holding an illegal demonstration to violent insurrection. Also under threat were at least five prominent independent trade union leaders, all of whom were charged with insurrection and placed under court supervision. Although the security services were widely believed to have ordered and carried out the killings, the prime minister blamed the opposition for the violence, and he threatened action against the protest leaders. The prime minister and his lieutenants also publicly warned other opposition members they were subject to arrest for “collaborating” with Kem Sokha. The Supreme Court’s dissolution of the CNRP on November 16 effectively outlaws any participation in or identification with the party.

Separately on August 23, the Appeals Court agreed to split the appeal case of 11 CNRP activists jailed in 2015 for their alleged role in a 2014 protest that resulted in the injury of six protesters and 39 Daun Penh District security guards. The court ruled that one case would review the verdict and a second case would consider allegations of improper legal procedures. Some observers asserted the court reached verdicts without any evidence linking the activists to the alleged crimes and saw the convictions as punishment for the activists’ criticism of the country’s border demarcation with Vietnam, a politically charged issue.

National Assembly member Um Sam An, arrested in April 2016, remained imprisoned for accusing the government of selling land to Vietnam and of publicizing on Facebook what the government claimed were faked border maps–charges widely seen as politically motivated. Senator Hong Sok Hour, convicted on similar charges, received a pardon after apologizing to and praising the leadership of the prime minister. Both legislators had their immunity from prosecution stripped by the National Assembly on an irregular vote that fell short of the two-thirds majority required by the constitution, the same method the National Assembly used to strip Kem Sokha of his immunity.

Opposition politicians and civil society organizations reported authorities often arbitrarily denied access to prisoners whose incarceration they believed to be politically motivated. In the case of Kem Sokha, prison officials did not allow representatives of the CNRP, civil society, or foreign missions to visit him. He was only allowed visits by his legal team and wife, and prison authorities made audio and video recordings of these visits.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The country has a system in place for hearing civil cases, and citizens are entitled to bring lawsuits seeking damages for human rights violations. Both administrative and judicial remedies generally were available; however, authorities often did not enforce court orders.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

In October the Ministry of Interior suspended a prominent local NGO advocating for land rights, ostensibly for alleged violations of the Law on Associations and Nongovernmental Organizations (LANGO), promulgated in 2015. The executive director was called in for questioning by the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training.

Forced collectivization and the relocation of much of the population under the Khmer Rouge left land ownership unclear. The land law states that any person who peacefully possessed private or state land (excluding public lands, such as parks) or inhabited state buildings without contention for five years prior to the 2001 promulgation of the law has the right to apply for a definitive title to that property. Most citizens, however, continued to lack the knowledge and means to obtain adequate formal documentation of land ownership.

Provincial and district land offices continued to follow pre-2001 land registration procedures, which did not include accurate land surveys or opportunities for public comment. Land speculation, in the absence of clear title, fueled disputes in every province and increased tensions between poor rural communities and speculators. Some urban communities faced forced eviction to make way for commercial development projects.

Authorities continued to force inhabitants to relocate, although the number of cases declined in recent years. Some persons also used the threat of legal action or eviction to intimidate poor and vulnerable persons into exchanging their land for compensation at below-market values. As of July, ADHOC reported 45 new property-related conflicts between businesspersons and villagers, including accusations of land grabbing, theft of natural resources, economic land concessions, social land concessions, and evictions. The poor often had no legal documents to support their land claims. Some of those evicted successfully contested the actions in court, but the majority of cases remained pending.

Cameroon

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but the judiciary was frequently controlled by the president and majority party. Individuals reportedly accused innocent persons of crimes, often due to political motivations, or caused trial delays to solve personal disputes. Although authorities generally enforced court orders, there was at least one instance where a public entity was reluctant to respect a court decision.

The court system is subordinate to the Ministry of Justice. The constitution designates the president as “first magistrate,” thus “chief” of the judiciary, making him the legal arbiter of any sanctions against the judiciary. The constitution specifies the president is the guarantor of the legal system’s independence. He appoints all judges, with the advice of the Higher Judicial Council. During the year the president invoked the military code of justice and ordered the discontinuance of proceedings pending before military courts against Anglophone activists, including those for whom the court had previously denied bail. While judges hearing a case should be governed only by the law and their conscience as provided for by the constitution, in some matters they are subordinate to the minister of justice, or to the minister in charge of military justice. The Special Criminal Court must have approval from the minister of justice before it may drop charges against a defendant who offers to pay back the money he/she was accused of having embezzled. Despite the judiciary’s partial independence from the executive and legislative branches, the president appoints all members of the bench and legal department of the judicial branch, including the president of the Supreme Court, and may dismiss them at will.

The legal system includes statutory and customary law, and many criminal and civil cases may be tried using either. Criminal cases generally were tried in statutory courts.

Customary courts served as a primary means for settling domestic cases, including succession, inheritance, and child custody cases. Customary courts may exercise jurisdiction in a civil case only with the consent of both parties. Either party has the right to appeal an adverse decision by a customary court to the statutory courts.

Customary court convictions involving alleged witchcraft are automatically transferred to the statutory courts, which act as the courts of first instance.

Customary law is deemed valid only when it is not “repugnant to natural justice, equity, and good conscience,” but many citizens in rural areas remained unaware of their rights under civil law and were taught they must abide by customary law. Customary law partially provides for equal rights and status; men may limit women’s rights regarding inheritance and employment. Customary law as practiced in rural areas is based on the traditions of the predominant ethnic group and is adjudicated by traditional authorities of that group. Some traditional legal systems regard wives as the legal property of their husbands.

Military courts may exercise jurisdiction over civilians for offenses including: offenses committed by civilians in military establishments; offenses relating to acts of terrorism and other threats to the security of the state including piracy; unlawful acts against the safety of maritime navigation and oil platforms; offenses relating to the purchase, importation, sale, production, distribution, or possession of military effects or insignia as defined by regulations in force; cases involving civil unrest or organized armed violence; and crimes committed with firearms, including gang crimes, banditry, and highway robbery.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public hearing, without undue delay, in which the defendant is presumed innocent, but authorities did not always respect the law. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges, with free assistance of an interpreter. Many pretrial suspects were treated as if they were convicted. Defendants have the right to be present and to consult with an attorney of their choice, but in many cases the government did not respect this right, particularly in cases of alleged support for Boko Haram. When defendants cannot pay for their own legal defense, the court may appoint counsel at the public’s expense; however, the process was often burdensome and lengthy. Authorities generally allowed defendants to question witnesses and to present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense and not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants may appeal convictions. The law extends these rights to all citizens, although they were not always extended in the cases of suspected Boko Haram affiliates.

Persons suspected of complicity with Boko Haram or considered likely to compromise the security of the state were consistently tried by military courts, and typically the quality of legal assistance was poor. The government assigned cases to trainee lawyers, who received 5,000 CFA francs ($9.32) per hearing for legal fees, and the payment procedure was cumbersome. Consequently, attorneys lacked motivation to handle such cases. In an interview published in L’Oeil du Sahel on March 1, barrister Richard Dzavigandi noted that for some lawyers, defending a terrorist suspect was an immoral cause. In addition, designated lawyers were often not allowed to access case files or visit their clients, which contributed to the poor quality of legal assistance. According to estimates by the Cameroon Bar Association, the military court in Maroua, Far North region, announced approximately 200 capital punishment sentences in 2016, 114 of which were between August and December. Sentences by military courts could be and were appealed to civilian courts. For example, on January 12, the Court of Appeals acquitted Abamat Madam Alifa and Gueme Ali, whom a military tribunal initially sentenced to death on terrorism-related charges. The same day the Court of Appeals also cancelled a military court decision and requalified the offenses concerning Damsa Dapsia Nadege Nadia, whom the military court initially had sentenced to death. The state has not executed anyone sentenced since 1997.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

No statistics were available on the precise number of political prisoners. Political prisoners were detained under heightened security, often in SED facilities. Some were allegedly held in DGRE facilities and at the central and principal prisons in Yaounde. The government did not permit access to such persons on a regular basis, or at all, depending on the case.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Citizens and organizations have the right to seek civil remedies for human rights violations through administrative procedures or the legal system; both options involved lengthy delays. Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports the government failed to comply with court decisions on labor issues.

Individuals and organizations may appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies. Marafa Hamidou Yaya and Yves Michel Fotso, both accused of corruption, filed a complaint against the government with the United Nations’ working group on arbitrary detention.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

Over the past few years, to implement infrastructure projects, the government seized land occupied or used by civilians. The government failed to resettle or compensate those displaced in a prompt manner, leading them to protest in the streets on several occasions. In a few cases, corrupt officials misappropriated the money the government had earmarked for compensation. In 2016 the government identified some offenders and opened cases against them. The cases were pending as of November. There was no reporting of intentional targeting of particular groups for discriminatory treatment.

Costa Rica

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. The legal system faced many challenges, including significant delays in the adjudication of criminal cases and civil disputes and a growing workload.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

All defendants have the right to the presumption of innocence, to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges, and to trial without undue delay. All trials, except those that include juvenile defendants, are public. Trials that involve victims or witnesses who are minors are closed during the portion of the trial in which the minor is called to testify. Defendants have the right to be present during trial and communicate with an attorney of choice in a timely manner, or to have one provided at public expense. Defendants enjoy the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense and free assistance of an interpreter as necessary. Defendants may confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants, if convicted, have the right to appeal. Fast-track courts, which prosecute cases when suspects are arrested on the spot for alleged transgressions, provide the same protections and rights as other courts.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

An independent and impartial judiciary presides over lawsuits in civil matters, including human rights violations. Administrative and judicial remedies for alleged wrongs are available to the public. Individuals and organizations may appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies.

Côte d’Ivoire

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the judiciary generally was independent in ordinary criminal cases. The judiciary was inadequately resourced and inefficient. The continued lack of civilian indictments against pro-Ouattara elements for crimes during the 2010-11 postelectoral crisis indicated the judiciary was subject to political and executive influence. There were also numerous reports of judicial corruption, and bribes often influenced rulings. By September 20, no magistrate or clerk had been disciplined or dismissed for corruption. On the other hand, magistrates who advocated independence or acted in a manner consistent with judicial independence were sometimes disciplined.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, but the judiciary did not enforce this right. Although the law provides for the presumption of innocence and the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges (with free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals), the government did not always respect this requirement. In the past assize courts (special courts convened as needed to try criminal cases involving major crimes) rarely convened. Starting in 2015, however, they convened for one session per year in several cities to hear a backlog of cases. Defendants accused of felonies have the right to legal counsel at their own expense. Other defendants may also seek legal counsel. The judicial system provides for court-appointed attorneys, although only limited free legal assistance was available; the government had a small legal defense fund to pay members of the bar who agreed to represent the indigent. Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants may present their own witnesses or evidence and confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses. Lack of a witness protection mechanism was a problem. Defendants cannot be legally compelled to testify or confess guilt, although there were reports this abuse sometimes occurred. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials, but courts may try defendants in their absence. Those convicted had access to appeals courts in Abidjan, Bouake, and Daloa, but higher courts rarely overturned verdicts.

Military tribunals did not try civilians or provide the same rights as civilian criminal courts. Although there are no appellate courts within the military court system, persons convicted by a military tribunal may petition the Supreme Court to order a retrial.

The relative scarcity of trained magistrates and lawyers resulted in limited access to effective judicial proceedings, particularly outside of major cities. In rural areas traditional institutions often administered justice at the village level, handling domestic disputes and minor land questions in accordance with customary law. Dispute resolution was by extended debate. There were no reported instances of physical punishment. The law specifically provides for a “grand mediator,” appointed by the president, to bridge traditional and modern methods of dispute resolution.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

The government denied that there were political prisoners. Amnesty International listed 211 persons arrested between the beginning of 2011 and September 2017 as political prisoners, and several suffered from various ailments.

Some political parties and local human rights groups claimed members of former president Gbagbo’s opposition party FPI, detained on charges including economic crimes, armed robbery, looting, and embezzlement, were political prisoners, especially when charged for actions committed during the 2010-11 postelectoral crisis. A government-created platform for dialogue with the opposition met several times during the year to discuss these detainees and other issues concerning the opposition.

Authorities granted political prisoners the same protections as other prisoners, including access by the International Committee of the Red Cross. On May 7, Antoinette Meho, the leader of the women’s wing of the FPI, was released following nine months of detention. She was arrested without a warrant in August 2016, charged with undermining state security, and held for several days without access to family or lawyers before being transferred to the central prison in Abidjan.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary in civil matters, but the judiciary was subject to corruption, outside influence, and favoritism based on family and ethnic ties. Citizens may bring lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, a human rights violation, but they did so infrequently. Individuals and organizations may appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies. The judiciary was slow and inefficient, and there were problems in enforcing domestic court orders.

Cuba

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

While the constitution recognizes the independence of the judiciary, the judiciary is directly subordinate to the National Assembly and the CP, which may remove or appoint judges at any time. Political considerations thoroughly dominated the judiciary, and there was virtually no separation of powers between the judicial system, the CP, and the Council of State.

Civilian courts exist at the municipal, provincial, and national levels. Special tribunals convene behind closed doors for political (“counterrevolutionary”) cases and other cases deemed “sensitive to state security.” Officials denied entry to some observers to trials during the year. Military tribunals may also have jurisdiction over civilians if any of the defendants are active or former members of the military, police, or other law enforcement agency.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a public trial, but politically motivated trials were at times held in secret, with authorities citing exceptions for crimes involving “state security” or “extraordinary circumstances.” Many cases concluded quickly and were closed to the press.

Due process rights apply equally to all citizens as well as foreigners, but courts regularly failed to protect or observe these rights. The law presumes defendants to be innocent until proven guilty, but authorities often ignored this, placing the burden on defendants to prove innocence. The law provides criminal defendants the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt.

The law requires that defendants be represented by an attorney, at public expense if necessary. Privately hired attorneys were often reluctant to defend individuals charged with political crimes or associated with human rights cases. Defendants’ attorneys may cross-examine government witnesses and present witnesses and evidence. Only state attorneys are licensed to practice in criminal courts.

Criteria for admitting evidence were arbitrary and discriminatory. According to reports, prosecutors routinely introduced irrelevant or unreliable evidence to prove intent or testimony about the revolutionary credentials of a defendant.

Defense attorneys have the right to review the investigation files of a defendant, but not if the charges involve “crimes against the security of the state.” In these cases defense attorneys were not allowed access until charges were filed. Many detainees, especially political detainees, reported their attorneys had difficulties accessing case files due to administrative obstacles. Interpretation was sometimes provided during trials for non-Spanish speakers, but the government claimed that limited resources prevented interpreters from always being available.

In trials where defendants are charged with “precriminal dangerousness” (see section 1.d.), the state must show only that the defendant has “proclivity” for crime, so an actual criminal act need not have occurred. Penalties may be up to four years in prison. Authorities normally applied this provision to prostitutes, alcoholics, young persons who refused to report to work centers, repeat offenders of laws restricting change of domicile, and political activists who participated in public protests.

The law recognizes the right of appeal in municipal courts but limits it in provincial courts to cases involving lengthy prison terms or the death penalty.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

The government continued to hold political prisoners, but denied it did so and refused access to its prisons and detention centers by international humanitarian organizations and the United Nations.

The exact number of political prisoners was difficult to determine, though independent human rights organizations estimated there were 65 to 100 political prisoners. The government continued to deny holding any political prisoners and refused access to its prisons and detention centers by international humanitarian organizations and the United Nations. This lack of governmental transparency, along with systemic violations of due process rights, obfuscated the true nature of criminal charges, investigations, and prosecutions, allowing government authorities to prosecute and sentence peaceful human rights activists for criminal violations or “precriminal dangerousness.” The government used the designation of “counterrevolutionary” for inmates deemed to be political opposition, but it did not publicize those numbers. The government closely monitored organizations tracking political prisoner populations, which often faced harassment from state police.

On March 20, authorities sentenced Eduardo Cardet, director of the human rights organization Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), to three years in prison for assaulting a police officer. Amnesty International called Cardet a prisoner of conscience and stated that he was arrested because he spoke critically of Fidel Castro and the government. According to MCL and witness reports, authorities quickly and violently restrained Cardet after stopping him on his bicycle. Authorities claimed that Cardet shoved one of the officers when they stopped him. Cardet’s arrest took place five days after the death of Fidel Castro and two days after Cardet criticized the forced period of mourning, the prohibitions on music and alcohol, and other government actions during a radio interview with a Spanish news organization.

Political prisoners reported the government held them in isolation for extended periods. They did not receive the same protections as other prisoners or detainees. The government also frequently denied political prisoners access to home visits, prison classes, telephone calls, and, on occasion, family visits.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

It is possible to seek judicial remedies through civil courts for violations of administrative determinations, but independent legal experts noted that general procedural and bureaucratic inefficiencies often delayed or undermined the enforcement of administrative determinations and civil court orders. Civil courts, like all courts in the country, lacked independence and impartiality as well as effective procedural guarantees. No courts allowed claimants to bring lawsuits seeking remedies for human rights violations.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

In November 2016 the government passed a regulation governing the process by which nonprofit organizations, including religious organizations, may petition to reclaim property confiscated by the government at the beginning of the revolution. It was unclear if any organizations applied this procedure to reclaim property during the year.

Czech Republic

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. In most instances, authorities respected court orders and carried out judicial decisions.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence and the right to receive prompt and detailed information about the charges against them (with free interpretation as necessary). They have the right to a fair and public trial without undue delay, the right to be present at their trial, and the right to communicate with an attorney of their choice or have one provided at public expense if they are unable to pay. They generally have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense and have the right to free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. Defendants have the right to confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence. They cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Convicted persons have a right of appeal.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The constitution provides for a separate, independent judiciary in civil matters and for lawsuits seeking remedies for human rights violations. Available remedies include monetary damages, equitable relief, and cessation of harmful conduct. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported increased coherence between criminal and civil procedures that simplified the process for victims, although remedies and relief still required a lengthy legal process and were difficult to obtain, particularly for members of disadvantaged groups, such as the Romani minority. Plaintiffs may appeal unfavorable rulings that involve alleged violations of the European Convention on Human Rights to the European Court of Human Rights. Administrative remedies are also available.

The law recognizes children, persons with disabilities, victims of human trafficking, and victims of sexual and brutal crimes as the most vulnerable populations. It lists the rights of crime victims, such as to claim compensation and access to an attorney.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The law provides for restitution of private property confiscated under the communist regime as well as restitution of, or compensation for, Jewish property seized during the Nazi era. Although it was still possible during the year to file claims for artwork confiscated by the Nazi regime, the claims period for other types of property had expired. The law allows for restitution and compensation for property of religious organizations, including Jewish religious communities, confiscated under the communist regime. Churches filed 7,671 claims for agricultural property and 2,172 claims for nonagricultural property. Churches are also to receive compensation of 59 billion korunas ($2.8 billion) for property that is not returnable. The law requires that the state pay compensation over a period of 30 years while simultaneously phasing out state subsidies for registered religious groups over a 17-year period.

The government has laws and mechanisms in place, and local NGOs and advocacy groups reported that the government made significant progress on resolution of Holocaust-era claims, including for foreign citizens, though outstanding claims remain. Some NGOs outside the country continued to push for more progress, particularly on the disposition of heirless property and complex cases involving non-Czech citizens.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the law provides for an independent judiciary, the judiciary was corrupt and subject to influence. Officials and other influential individuals often subjected judges to coercion. For instance, during the year CENCO investigated, in accordance with the December 2016 agreement between the government and opposition parties, the 2015 conviction of opposition politician Moise Katumbi for real estate fraud. CENCO concluded that the government and the country’s intelligence agencies pressured judicial officials to convict Katumbi, called the case against Katumbi a politically motivated “farce,” and recommended that charges be dropped and Katumbi be allowed to return to the country. The government, however, took no action to clear Katumbi’s name in accordance with CENCO’s recommendations. In July, one of the judges who presided over the Katumbi case, Jacques Mbuyi Lukasu, was shot and injured by unidentified armed men.

CENCO also concluded that a similar property fraud case against opposition member Jean-Claude Muyambo was equally unfounded and amounted to “judicial harassment.” CENCO called for Muyambo’s immediate release. Muyambo, who claimed to have permanent damage to his foot following beatings during his arrest, was sentenced in February 2016 to 26 months in prison. Instead of releasing him in March for time served, the government appealed the decision and, on April 12, a court in Kinshasa extended Muyambo’s sentence to five years in prison plus 1,580,000 Congolese francs ($9,900) in damages for breach of trust and illegal retention of documents.

In July a court in Kinshasa convicted Sindika Dokolo, a Congolese businessman and son-in-law of former Angolan president Eduardo Dos Santos, of property fraud in absentia and sentenced him to one year in prison and a $15,000 fine. During the year Dokolo emerged as a vocal critic of President Kabila on social media while living abroad, and in June accused the ANR of fabricating charges allegedly to prevent him from returning to the country. Local media first reported the existence of the case in February.

A shortage of judges hindered the government’s ability to provide expeditious trials, and judges occasionally refused transfers to remote areas where shortages were most acute because the government could not support them there. Authorities routinely did not respect court orders. Disciplinary boards created under the High Council of Magistrates continued to rule on numerous cases of corruption and malpractice each month. Many of these rulings included the firing, suspension, or fining of judges and magistrates.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for a presumption of innocence, but this was not observed in practice. Authorities are required to inform defendants promptly and in detail of the charges against them, with free interpretation as necessary. The public may attend trials at the discretion of the presiding judge. Defendants have the right to a trial within 15 days of being charged, but judges may extend this period to a maximum of 45 days. Authorities only occasionally abided by this requirement. The government is not required to provide counsel in most cases, with the exception of murder trials. While the government regularly provided free legal counsel to indigent defendants in capital cases, lawyers often did not have adequate access to their clients. Defendants have the right to be present and to have a defense attorney represent them. Authorities occasionally disregarded these rights. Authorities generally allowed adequate time to prepare a defense, although there were few resources available. Defendants have the right to confront witnesses against them and to present evidence and witnesses in their own defense, but witnesses often were reluctant to testify due to fear of retaliation. Defendants are not compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants have the right to appeal, except in cases involving national security, armed robbery, and smuggling, which the Court of State Security usually adjudicates. These rights extend to all citizens.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were numerous reports of political prisoners and detainees. Authorities charged political prisoners with a variety of offenses, including offending the person or threatening the life of the head of state, inciting tribal hatred or civil disobedience, spreading false rumors, treason, and attacking state security. While the government permitted international human rights organizations and MONUSCO access to some of these prisoners, authorities consistently denied access to detention facilities run by the RG, military intelligence, and the ANR (see section 1.c.).

During the year CENCO concluded that Jean-Claude Muyambo’s conviction and imprisonment were unfounded and amounted to “judicial harassment.”

In Goma the SSF arrested 13 opposition activists for planning and participating in peaceful protests in December 2016. The 13 face charges of inciting civil disobedience. According to a report, one of the activists, Sephora Bidwaya, was kept in detention despite serious chronic health problems linked to a miscarriage during her detention as well as chronic asthma, which was aggravated by a fire in the prison in July. All 13 activists remained in prison as of August 16.

In August, four civil society activists who were arrested on July 31 for attempting to march and deliver a letter to the Lubumbashi CENI office were convicted of disturbing the peace and sentenced to eight months in prison. In November a fifth member of this group, NGO activist and human rights lawyer Timothee Mbuya, was convicted of provocation and incitement of disobedience and sentenced to 12 months in prison.

As of June 30, the United Nations estimated that at least 170 persons were held in detention for their political opinions or legitimate citizens’ activities.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals may seek civil remedies for human rights violations within the civil court system. Most individuals, however, preferred to seek redress in the criminal courts.

Denmark

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence; a prompt and detailed notification of the charges against them; a fair, timely, and public trial without undue delay; be present at their trial; communicate with an attorney of their choice (or have one provided at public expense if unable to pay); have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense; free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals; confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present one’s own witnesses and evidence; not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt; and appeal one’s case.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals or organizations may bring civil lawsuits seeking damages for a human rights violation. The complainant may also pursue an administrative resolution. The law provides that persons with “reasonable grounds” may appeal court decisions involving alleged violations of the European Convention on Human Rights to the European Court of Human Rights after they exhaust all avenues of appeal in national courts. Human rights groups asserted the law’s requirement of “reasonable grounds” unjustly targeted asylum seekers, who as a group have fewer legal appeal channels than citizens or legal residents.

PROPERTY RESITUTION

The government reports that Holocaust-era restitution has not been an issue and that no litigation or restitution claims regarding real or immovable property covered by the Terezin Declaration, to which the government is signatory, were pending before authorities. The Law of Compensation to the Victims of the Occupation passed in 1945 provided a mechanism by which Danish citizens could be eligible to receive compensation and assistance regarding restitution. The related Compensation Council was decommissioned in 1996, and the mechanism for compensation was also repealed at that time. The Jewish Community in Denmark (Mosaiske) confirmed that no litigation or restitution claims regarding real or immovable property covered by the Terezin Declaration were pending before authorities.

Dominican Republic

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary; however, the government did not respect judicial independence and impartiality. Improper influence on judicial decisions was widespread. Interference ranged from selective prosecution to dismissal of cases amid allegations of bribery or undue political pressure. The judiciary routinely dismissed high-level corruption cases. Corruption of the judiciary was also a serious problem. The NOPD reported that the most frequent form of interference with judicial orders occurred when authorities refused to abide by writs of habeas corpus to free detainees.

The Office of the Inspector of Tribunals, which disciplines judges and handles complaints of negligence, misconduct, and corruption, received an increase in its budget and technical training, and as a result it opened more investigations. Eighteen judges and 295 administrative personnel were suspended and the cases referred to the Attorney General’s Office for prosecution.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a defense in a fair and public trial; however, the judiciary did not always enforce this right.

The District Attorney’s Office is required to notify the defendant and attorney of criminal charges. The law provides for a presumption of innocence, the right to confront or question witnesses, and the right against self-incrimination. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial and consult with an attorney in a timely manner, and the indigent have a right to a public defender. Defendants have the right to present their own witnesses and evidence. The law provides for free interpretation as necessary. The constitution also provides for the right to appeal and prohibits higher courts from increasing the sentences of lower courts. The courts frequently exceeded the period of time provided by the criminal procedures code when assigning hearings dates.

Military and police tribunals share jurisdiction over cases involving members of the security forces. Military tribunals have jurisdiction over cases involving violations of internal rules and regulations. Civilian criminal courts handle cases of killings and other serious crimes allegedly committed by members of the security forces.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There are separate court systems for claims under criminal law, commercial and civil law, and labor law. Commercial and civil courts reportedly suffered lengthy delays in adjudicating cases, although their decisions were generally enforced. As in criminal courts, undue political or economic influence in civil court decisions remained a problem.

Citizens have recourse to file an “amparo,” an action to seek redress of any violation of a constitutional right, including violations of human rights protected by the constitution. This remedy was used infrequently and only by those with sophisticated legal counsel.

El Salvador

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, the government did not respect judicial independence and impartiality, and the judiciary was burdened by inefficiency and corruption. The Solicitor’s Office, responsible for public defenders, the Attorney General’s Office, and the PDDH suffered from insufficient resources.

While the government generally respected court orders, some agencies, such as the Ministry of Defense, repeatedly failed to cooperate with investigations by the Attorney General’s Office and judges. The Legislative Assembly also did not always comply with Supreme Court rulings. As of October 30, the Legislative Assembly had not complied with a 2015 ruling that it issue regulations to clarify certain sections of the Political Parties Law regarding campaign contributions.

Intimidation of judges, including Supreme Court members, continued to occur. Two legislators participated in demonstrations critical of judges, especially the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court. Supreme Court justices increased their personal security as a result. On October 23, a member of the ruling Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) political party threated to sue members of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court for perceived abuse of power. On August 17, the Council of Ministries, a part of the executive branch, issued a public statement against the Constitutional Chamber that declared the 2017 budget unconstitutional. On May 11, an estimated 300 persons marched to the Supreme Court to protest against the Constitutional Court following an injunction that ended the use of segregated lanes of the Metropolitan Area Integrated Transportation System of San Salvador (SITRAMSS). Unlike with most protests, police officers did not set up barricades to stop them from moving to the main gate of the court; demonstrators reached the main gate and damaged it. El Mundo newspaper noted that despite verbal threats against the justices during the protest and damage to public property, the PNC did not intervene.

Corruption in the judicial system contributed to a high level of impunity, undermining the rule of law and the public’s respect for the judiciary. As of July 31, the Supreme Court heard 148 cases against judges due to irregularities, 117 of which remained under review; removed six judges; suspended 19 others; and brought formal charges against 28 judges. Accusations against judges included collusion with criminal elements and sexual harassment.

In July 2016 the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court struck down the 1993 Amnesty Law on the grounds that it violated citizens’ constitutional right to justice and the right to compensation for crimes against humanity and war crimes. The law provided blanket protection against criminal prosecution and civil penalties for crimes committed during the country’s civil war (1980-92), and the court’s ruling held that the Legislative Assembly did not have authority to grant an absolute amnesty. On July 19, the Constitutional Chamber held a follow-up hearing on the progress made by different sectors of the government to comply with the recommendations made by the court, such as issuing a law to guarantee a democratic transition that respects human rights and interagency coordination between the executive and the attorney general to improve judicial accountability for gross violations of human rights committed during the civil war. As of October 30, the Legislative Assembly had not debated or passed legislation pertaining to reparations or reconciliation, and the executive had not granted sufficient funds to the attorney general to prosecute civil war cases.

On August 21, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court published its August 18 ruling against enforcing an arrest warrant for 13 former members of the military accused of the 1989 murder of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter. The court noted that it had denied multiple extradition requests from Spain on the Jesuit case, and therefore it would not issue additional arrest warrants based on Spain’s Interpol Red Notice, as the arrests would not lead to extraditions. On April 6, the First Appellate Criminal Court of San Salvador upheld the 30-year sentence against former colonel Guillermo Alfredo Benavides Moreno for his role in the 1989 murders, and he was the sole individual in prison for the crimes. Lieutenant Yusshy Rene Mendoza Vallecillos was sentenced to 30 years for the murder of the priests’ housekeeper’s daughter in the original 1991 trial. Mendoza was not arrested along with Benavides and his whereabouts were unknown, although he was believed to be out of the country.

On June 2, the attorney general issued arrest warrants for three ex-guerrilla members of the People’s Revolutionary Army (ERP) allegedly responsible for the 1981 deaths of two foreign citizens–Lieutenant Colonel David H. Pickett and an aviation technician, Private First Class Earnest G. Dawson Jr.–killed in Lolotique, San Miguel, after their helicopter was shot down. The warrants followed the February 14 reopening by the Attorney General’s Office of the investigation into their killing after a petition from the right-leaning NGO Victims of Terrorism in El Salvador Alliance. Two of the guerrilla members, Ferman Hernandez Arevalo (alias Porfirio) and Ceveriano Fuentes (alias Aparicio), served time in prison but were released after the passage of the 1993 Amnesty Law. A third former guerilla member suspected of involvement in the killing, Santos Guevara Portillo (alias Dominguez), was never arrested. As of August 30, the three defendants had not been arrested.

In September 2016, in response to a petition by the victims, a judge issued an order to reopen the investigation into the 1981 El Mozote massacre, in which an estimated 800 persons were killed during the military’s Operation Rescue. On March 29-30, Judge Guzman held hearings to inform 20 accused former military officials of the charges against them. Two of the accused were deceased, and 12 of the remaining 18 attended the hearing. Eleven other defendants had died since the case was initiated in 1991 by Tutela Legal, a human rights defense organization formerly housed in the Institute for Human Rights at the University of Central America. The hearings marked the first time the defendants were summoned before a judicial body to face accusations for crimes committed during the massacre. On June 9, the prosecution called on 11 witnesses to provide testimony in the trial regarding events that occurred between December 11 and 13, 1981. Witness testimony continued into September and October. On October 19, former general Juan Rafael Bustillo, the accused intellectual author of the massacre, appeared before the court to hear the charges against him. The Ministry of Defense did not provide information requested by the presiding judge or prosecution and claimed that all records of Operation Rescue had been destroyed or never existed, including the names of the soldiers who participated in the operation and their commanding officers. David Morales, representative of the victims, asked the attorney general to investigate the steps taken by the Ministry of Defense that led to their conclusion that it had no information on Operation Rescue. On October 25, the Technical Secretariat stated that between 2013 and 2017, the state paid $1.8 million in restitution to survivors and the families of victims of the El Mozote massacre, of which 1,651 were identified.

Civil society advocates expressed concern that pregnant women were falsely accused and experienced wrongful incarceration in cases where the woman may have suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth but was wrongfully charged with homicide under the law banning abortion in all cases. On December 15, San Salvador’s Second Court of Judgment denied the appeal of Teodora del Carmen Vasquez and upheld her 30-year sentence for aggravated homicide over what she claimed was a stillbirth.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right, although some trial court judges were subject to political and economic influence. Although procedures call for juries to try certain crimes, including environmental pollution and certain misdemeanors, judges decided most cases. By law juries hear only a narrow group of cases, such as environmental complaints, to which the law does not assign judges. In these cases, after the jury determines innocence or guilt, a panel of judges decides the sentence.

Defendants have the right to be present in court, question witnesses, and present witnesses and evidence. The constitution further provides for the presumption of innocence, the right to be informed promptly and in detail of charges, the right to a trial without undue delay, protection from self-incrimination, the right to communicate with an attorney of choice, the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, freedom from coercion, the right to confront adverse witnesses and present one’s own witnesses and evidence, the right to appeal, and government-provided legal counsel for the indigent. The judiciary introduced trials by video conference and other technology-based solutions to courtrooms in an effort to combat trial backlogs and improve trial procedures.

In criminal cases a judge may allow a private plaintiff to participate in trial proceedings (calling and cross-examining witnesses, providing evidence, etc.), assisting the prosecuting attorney in the trial procedure. Defendants have the right to free assistance of an interpreter if the defendant does not understand Spanish. Authorities did not always respect these legal rights and protections. Although a jury’s verdict is final, a judge’s verdict is subject to appeal. Trials are public unless a judge seals a case.

As of August 31, the PDDH had received 16 complaints of coercion and 68 complaints of intimidation by the PNC, the armed forces, and other public officials during criminal investigations or trial procedures.

The Ministry of Justice and Public Security’s Executive Technical Unit provided witness protection services to victims and witnesses. Some judges denied anonymity to witnesses at trial, and gang intimidation and violence against witnesses contributed to a climate of impunity from criminal prosecution. According to PNC director Howard Cotto, as of August 30, there were 55 individuals under witness protection.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The law provides for access to the courts, enabling litigants to bring civil lawsuits seeking damages for, as well as cessation of, human rights violations. Domestic court orders generally were enforced. Most attorneys pursued criminal prosecution and later requested civil compensation.

Estonia

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a fair public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence, prompt and detailed notification of the charges (with free interpretation if necessary), a fair and public trial without undue delay, presence at their trial, communication with an attorney of choice, adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals, as well as the right to confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and to present one’s own witnesses and evidence. Defendants cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt and have the right to appeal. A single judge, a judge together with public assessors, or a committee of judges may hear cases. In criminal proceedings, an attorney is available to all defendants at public expense, although individuals often preferred to hire their own attorneys. In civil proceedings the government provides an attorney for indigents. Authorities generally respected these rights and extended them to all residents regardless of citizenship.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations in domestic courts. They may appeal unfavorable decisions to the European Court for Human Rights after exhausting all domestic remedies.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The government has laws and mechanisms in place for property restitution, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and advocacy groups reported no issues with the government’s resolution of Holocaust-era claims, including for foreign citizens.

Ethiopia

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

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.

Finland

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Authorities generally informed detainees promptly and in detail of the charges against them. Trials are fair and public, and take place without undue delay. Defendants have a right to be present at their trial and to consult an attorney of their choice in a timely manner before trial. The government provides attorneys at public expense if defendants face serious criminal charges that can result in imprisonment or significant fines. Authorities give defendants adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense. Defendants are provided free interpretation as necessary from the moment an individual is charged through all appeals. They can confront and question witnesses for the prosecution and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt and have the right of appeal.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies through domestic courts for human rights violations. Persons may appeal court decisions involving alleged violations of the European Convention on Human Rights to the European Court of Human Rights after they exhaust all avenues of appeal in national courts.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The government reports Finland did not confiscate property belonging to Jews during the Holocaust-era, that Holocaust-era restitution has not been an issue, and that no litigation or restitution claims were pending before authorities regarding real or immovable property covered by the Terezin Declaration, to which the government is signatory.

Georgia

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, there remained indications of interference in judicial independence and impartiality. Judges were vulnerable to political pressure from within and outside of the judiciary.

In February a legislative package informally known as the “third wave of judicial reform” went into effect, after parliament overrode a January presidential veto driven by concerns that some of the provisions undermined judicial impartiality and independence. The laws created rules and standards designed to improve the objectivity and transparency of the administration of justice and the judicial profession. The president, the public defender, and the Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary raised concerns about the laws’ implementation and highlighted challenges to judicial independence. Such challenges included flawed processes for selecting judges at all court levels–many to lifetime appointments–that left the judiciary vulnerable to political influence in politically sensitive cases.

In the Judicial System: Past Reforms and Future Perspectives released in May, the Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary asserted that the High Council of Justice, a judiciary oversight body, “failed to protect the judicial system from external or internal influences, while its decisions often posed a threat to independence of the judiciary.” Similarly, a May report by two leading members of the Coalition–GYLA and Transparency International Georgia–on their monitoring of the High Council of Justice during 2016 criticized council operations and accused the council of using its authority against the interests of justice, especially what the coalition members described as willful and arbitrary decisions on judicial appointment and discipline. Both reports identified a lack of pluralism of opinions in the High Council of Justice, a lack of transparency and efficiency in its logistical activities, and shortcomings in the appointment of judges and chairpersons and in the admission of trainees to the High School of Justice as major concerns. NGOs, the public defender, and the president called on parliament to take the lead on further judicial reforms by elaborating a comprehensive package to create a court system capable of gaining public trust.

In another development potentially affecting the right to a fair trial, in September parliament amended the constitution to remove the Prosecution Service of Georgia from the Ministry of Justice and establish it as an independent agency. The amendments also contained a provision that authorized parliament to appoint the chief prosecutor.

In December 2016 the Constitutional Court ruled some of the changes made to the Constitutional Court in 2016 unconstitutional. In particular it found that a new requirement that Constitutional Court judges be immediately removed from the bench upon expiration of their tenure may have adverse impact on a speedy trial.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial. The Public Defender reported numerous violations of the right to a fair trial, and NGOs noted this right was not enforced in some high profile, politically sensitive cases. Although the constitution and law provide for the right to a public trial, NGOs reported courts were inconsistent in their approaches to closing hearings to the public and at times did not provide an explanation for holding a closed hearing.

Defendants are presumed innocent and must be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, with free interpretation as necessary. Defendants have a right to be present at their trial and have a public trial except where national security, privacy, or protection of a juvenile is involved.

The Public Defender’s Office and NGOs repeatedly raised concerns regarding the investigation of and court proceedings involving Giorgi Mamaladze, an Orthodox Church priest detained in February on charges of “attempting to murder a high ranking church official.” The Public Defender’s Office and NGOs reported a violation of the presumption of innocence due to government officials’ (including the prime minister’s) statements on the case; inappropriate grounds to make the trial closed to the public; questionable evidence; and other violations that deprived the defendant and his lawyers of a chance for proper defense and a fair trial. Prior to trial the court reviewed the violations and found them to be unsubstantiated and found no violation by the Prosecution Service. In September the court sentenced the defendant to nine years’ imprisonment on charges of “preparing premeditated murder.” In November government officials widely criticized the Public Defender’s statements accusing the government of mishandling the case (see section 5).

The law allows for trial in absentia in certain cases where the defendant has left the country. The code on administrative offenses does not provide the necessary due process provisions including the presumption of innocence, especially when dealing with violations that can result in a defendant’s deprivation of liberty.

The law does not prescribe a maximum period for investigation of cases but stipulates a maximum period for trial if a suspect is arrested. The criminal procedure code requires trial courts to issue a verdict within 24 months of completing a pretrial hearing.

GYLA noted that unreasonable delays in cases and court hearings were a serious factor in limiting the right to timely justice. GYLA also reported that judges were unable to maintain order in many cases. The Public Defender’s Office highlighted weak reasoning in court judgments.

Examples of delayed proceedings included the related cases of Temur Barabadze and founding Millennium Challenge Fund Georgia Chief Executive Officer Lasha Shanidze and his father Shalva. According to court documents, Barabadze was forced to testify against the Shanidzes under duress in 2009, but subsequently recanted his testimony. Pending for more than seven years, court hearings in Barabadze’s case began in the spring. Completion of judicial review of the Shanidzes’ convictions based on Barabadze’s coerced testimony was awaiting resolution of Barabadze’s case at year’s end.

In another case involving delays, the Tbilisi Appellate Court first rejected the Prosecution Service’s request to review the 2008 conviction of Temur Basilia, a former advisor to former president Eduard Shevardnadze. The Prosecution Service’s request was based on its findings of substantial violations in the criminal process against Basilia by former administration officials. When the Supreme Court ordered the Appellate Court to review the case, the Court began its review in July but subsequently postponed hearings.

Defendants have the right to meet with an attorney of their choice without hindrance, supervision, or undue restriction. Defendants enjoy the right to have an attorney provided at public expense if they are indigent, but many did not always have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. The Public Defender’s Office noted that while a state appointed lawyer generally was available for those in need, state-appointed attorneys often were not present until submitting charges or plea bargaining.

Defendants and their attorneys have the right of access to prosecution evidence relevant to their cases no later than five days before the pretrial hearing, during criminal proceedings, and could make copies. Defendants have the right to question and confront witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf at trial. Defendants have the right to refuse to testify or incriminate themselves. While a defendant generally has the right to appeal a conviction, making an effective appeal under the administrative code was difficult. By law defendants have 30 days to file an appeal once they receive the court’s written and reasoned judgment. Administrative sentences that entail incarceration must be appealed within 48 hours and other sentences within 10 days.

By law a court must certify that a plea bargain was reached without violence, intimidation, deception, or illegal promise and that the accused had the opportunity to obtain legal assistance. Plea bargaining provisions in the criminal procedure code provide safeguards for due process, including the removal of a no contest plea and allowing charge bargaining. The evidentiary standard for plea agreements stipulates that evidence must be sufficient to find a defendant guilty, without a full trial of a case, and must satisfy an objective person that the crime was committed by the defendant. GYLA reported that unlike the previous reporting periods, courts were more thorough in determining the voluntariness of a defendant’s plea agreement and the fairness of criminal sentence agreed to by the parties.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

The United National Movement opposition party and family members of prisoners stated the government held political prisoners. The government permitted international and domestic organizations to visit persons claiming to be political prisoners or detainees, and several international organizations did so.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The constitution provides for an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, but there were concerns about the professionalism of civil judges and transparency in their adjudication. The constitution and law stipulate that a person who suffers damages resulting from arbitrary detention or other unlawful or arbitrary acts, including human rights violations, is entitled to submit a civil action. Individuals have the right to appeal court decisions involving alleged violation of the European Convention on Human Rights by the state to the ECHR after they have exhausted domestic avenues of appeal.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

There were reports of lack of due process and respect for rule of law in a number of property rights cases. The Public Defender and Chief Prosecutor’s Offices stated that after the 2012 parliamentary elections, numerous former business owners and individuals claimed former government officials illegally deprived them of property. NGOs also reported several cases in which groups claimed the former government improperly used eminent domain or coercion to seize property at unfairly low prices.

Under the Chief Prosecutor’s Office, the Investigation Department of Crimes Committed in the Course of Legal Proceedings investigated allegations of illegal deprivation of property by the previous government. Three public officials were found guilty of illegally depriving citizens of property, and courts identified a total of 20 deprivations. Claimants received property worth approximately 15 million lari ($6 million). The Public Defender’s Office noted hundreds of persons were still waiting for redress.

In Abkhazia the de facto legal system prohibits property claims by ethnic Georgians who left Abkhazia before, during, or after the 1992-93 war, thereby depriving IDPs of their property rights in Abkhazia.

In a 2010 decree, South Ossetian de facto authorities invalidated all real estate documents issued by the country’s government between 1991 and 2008 relating to property in the Akhalgori Region. The decree also declared all property in Akhalgori belongs to the de facto authorities until a “citizen’s” right to that property is established in accordance with the de facto “law,” effectively stripping ethnic Georgians displaced in 2008 of their property rights in the region.

Between September and October, de facto South Ossetian officials demolished 268 damaged homes belonging to Georgian IDPs in the village of Eredvi without due process.

Ghana

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

While the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, it was subject to unlawful influence and corruption. Judicial officials reportedly accepted bribes to expedite or postpone cases, “lose” records, or issue favorable rulings for the payee.

Following the 2015 report by an investigative journalist into corruption in the judiciary, the chief justice constituted a five-member committee headed by a Supreme Court judge to investigate the allegations, resulting in the dismissal of 12 High Court judges, 22 lower court judges, and 19 judicial service staff. No charges or criminal proceedings were initiated against the judges involved.

Despite alternative dispute resolution (ADR) procedures to decongest the courts and improve judicial inefficiency, court delays persisted. Professional mediators were trained to conduct ADR, and they worked in various district courts throughout the country to resolve disputes and avoid lengthy trials. Nevertheless, even in fast-track courts established to hear cases to conclusion within six months, trials commonly went on for years.

Military personnel are tried separately under the criminal code in a military court. Military courts, which provide the same rights as civilian courts, are not permitted to try civilians.

The Chieftaincy Act gives village and other traditional chiefs the power to mediate local matters and enforce customary tribal laws dealing with such matters as divorce, child custody, and property disputes. The authority of traditional rulers continued to erode, however, because of the growing power of civil institutions, including courts and district assemblies.

A judicial complaints unit within the Ministry of Justice headed by a retired Supreme Court justice addressed public complaints, such as unfair treatment by a court or judge, unlawful arrest or detention, missing trial dockets, delayed trials and rendering of judgments, and bribery of judges.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair hearing, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Criminal hearings must be public unless the court orders them closed in the interest of public morality, public safety, public order, defense, welfare of persons under the age of 18, protection of the private lives of persons concerned in the proceedings, and as necessary or expedient where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice.

Defendants are presumed innocent and have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of charges against them, with free assistance of an interpreter as necessary. Defendants have the right to a fair and public trial without undue delay, but trials were often delayed. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials, be represented by an attorney, have adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense, present witnesses and evidence, and confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses. Defendants have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, although generally defendants are expected to testify if the government makes a sufficient case. Defendants have the right to appeal. Authorities generally respected these safeguards, and the law extends these rights to all citizens.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, and citizens had access to a court to bring lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations.

Fast-track ADR courts and “automated” commercial courts, whose proceedings were expedited through electronic data management, continued efforts to streamline resolution of disputes, although delays were common. Authorities established additional automated courts across the country, and selecting their judges randomly helped curb judicial corruption.

The constitution states the Supreme Court is the final court of appeal. Defendants, however, may seek remedies for allegations of human rights violations at the Economic Community of West African States Court of Justice.

Greece

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. Observers reported the judiciary was at times inefficient and sometimes subject to influence and corruption. Authorities respected court orders.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. The law grants defendants a presumption of innocence, and defendants have the right to be informed promptly and thoroughly of all charges. Delays were mostly due to backlogs of pending trials and understaffing. Trials are public in most instances. Defendants have the right to communicate and consult with an attorney of their choice in a timely manner. The government provides attorneys to indigent defendants facing felony charges. Defendants may be present at trial, present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf, and question prosecution witnesses. Defendants have the right of appeal. Defendants who do not speak Greek have the right to free interpretation through a court-appointed interpreter, although some NGOs criticized the quality and availability of interpretation.

The government recognizes sharia (Islamic law) as the law regulating family and civil concerns for the Muslim minority of Thrace. Muslims married by a government-appointed mufti are subject to sharia family law. Members of the Muslim minority also have the right to civil marriage and to take cases to civil court.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The judiciary was generally independent and impartial in civil matters. The law provides citizens with the ability to sue the government for compensation for alleged violations of rights. Individuals and organizations may appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies including the ECHR.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The government has laws and/or mechanisms in place for the resolution of Holocaust-era claims, including for foreign citizens, and NGOs and advocacy groups reported that the government made significant progress on this matter. Many Holocaust-era property claims have been resolved, but several issues remained open. The Jewish community of Thessaloniki had a pending legal case against the Federal Republic of Germany for forced payments from the Jewish community to the occupation authorities in 1942, and it also had a pending case against the Russian government for its retention of the community’s prewar archives. Additionally, the Jewish Historical Institute of Warsaw held a number of religious artifacts allegedly stolen from the Jewish community of Thessaloniki in 1941; the community requested the return of these items. The Organization for the Relief and Rehabilitation of Jews in Greece (OPAIE) also claimed 100 properties owned by Jews before the war on the island of Rhodes, which are occupied by Greek government facilities. The Supreme Court issued a ruling in favor of OPAIE for one of the properties.

Guatemala

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and the law provide for an independent judiciary. The judicial system failed to provide fair or timely trials due to inefficiency, corruption, insufficient personnel, and intimidation of judges, prosecutors, and witnesses.

Judges, prosecutors, plaintiffs, and witnesses continued to report threats, intimidation, and surveillance, most often from drug trafficking organizations. By the end of August, the special prosecutor for crimes against judicial workers received 129 complaints of threats or aggression against workers in the judicial branch, compared with 192 through September 2016.

The CICIG assisted the Ministry of Government and Public Ministry with the investigation of cases including allegations of extrajudicial executions, extortion, trafficking in persons, improper adoptions, corruption, and drug trafficking.

The Supreme Court continued to pursue the suspension of judges and conduct criminal investigations of improprieties or irregularities in cases under its jurisdiction. From January through October 6, the Judicial Disciplinary Board investigated 573 complaints against judges of wrongdoing, held hearings on 105 complaints, and applied sanctions in 20 cases. During the same period, the Judicial Disciplinary Unit investigated 1,167 complaints of wrongdoing against technicians and judiciary administrative staff, held hearings on 519 complaints, and applied sanctions in 360 cases, including disciplinary suspension without pay (277 cases) and recommending dismissal (34 cases).

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, the presumption of innocence, the defendant’s right to be present at trial, and the right to legal counsel in a timely manner. The law requires the government to provide attorneys for defendants facing criminal charges if the defendant cannot find or afford an attorney. Defendants and their attorneys may confront adverse witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence. The law provides for plea bargaining and the right of appeal. Three-judge panels render verdicts. The law provides for oral trials and mandates free language interpretation for those needing it; however, interpreters were not always available. Officials conduct trials in Spanish, the official language, although many citizens only speak one of the 23 officially recognized indigenous languages.

The Public Ministry, acting semi-independently of the executive branch, may initiate criminal proceedings on its own or in response to a complaint. Private parties may participate in the prosecution of criminal cases as plaintiffs.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals and organizations have access to administrative and judicial remedies to submit lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, a human rights violation or other alleged wrongs. While the judiciary was generally impartial and independent in civil matters, it suffered from inefficiencies, excessive workload, and a legal system that often permits time-consuming but spurious complaints.

Guyana

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

Delays and inefficiencies undermined judicial due process. Shortages of trained court personnel, postponements at the request of the defense or prosecution, occasional allegations of bribery, poor tracking of cases, and police sluggishness in preparing cases for trial caused delays.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence. Cases in magistrates’ courts are tried without jury, while cases involving more-serious crimes are tried by jury in the High Court. The constitution provides that a person shall be informed in detail of the nature of the offense charged as soon as reasonably practicable. Defendants have the right to a timely trial and free assistance of an interpreter. The constitution also provides for persons charged with a criminal offense to be given adequate time and facilities for the preparation of a defense. Authorities routinely granted trial postponements to both the defense and prosecution. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial and may confront adverse witnesses, and they may present their own witnesses and evidence. Defendants cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and they have the right to appeal.

While the law recognizes the right to legal counsel, it was limited to those who could afford to pay, except in cases involving capital crimes. Although there is no formal public defender system, a defendant in a murder case that reaches the High Court receives a court-appointed attorney. The Georgetown Legal Aid Clinic, with government and private support, provided advice to persons who could not afford a lawyer, particularly victims of domestic violence and violence against women.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The law provides for an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, and the government generally respected this provision. Individuals can access the court system to initiate lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations. The magistrates’ courts deal with both criminal and civil matters. Delays, inefficiencies, and alleged corruption in the magistrates’ court system affected citizens’ ability to seek timely remedies in civil matters, and there was a large backlog of civil cases. Citizens have the right to appeal adverse domestic decisions to the Caribbean Court of Justice.

Honduras

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but the justice system was poorly funded and staffed, inadequately equipped, often ineffective, and subject to intimidation, corruption, politicization, and patronage. Low salaries and a lack of internal controls rendered judicial officials susceptible to bribery. Powerful special interests, including organized criminal groups, exercised influence on the outcomes of some court proceedings. The Supreme Court approved a National Plan to Eradicate Judicial Delay, aimed at reducing wait times for court cases. As part of that plan, the court established three new mobile justices of the peace in July and inaugurated new courts: one in July, two in August, and two in October.

On June 30, Teodoro Bonilla, former vice president of the Judicial Council, was found guilty of influence peddling for using his position in the judiciary to obtain dismissal of charges against two relatives facing criminal prosecution for engaging in organized criminal activities. On September 11, Bonilla was sentenced to serve six years in prison and to pay a fine of 200,000 lempiras ($8,470), the first ever conviction for influence peddling by a government official. The Public Ministry had requested the maximum sentence of nine years’ imprisonment and a fine of 300,000 lempiras ($12,700).

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial; however, the judiciary did not always enforce this right.

The law presumes an accused person is innocent. The accused has the right to an initial hearing before a judge, to ask for bail, consult with legal counsel in a timely manner, have a lawyer provided by the state if necessary, and request an appeal. Defendants can receive free assistance of an interpreter, and the Supreme Court created a new public registry of interpreters in November to ensure that defendants had access to free interpretation. The law permits defendants to confront witnesses against them and offer witnesses and evidence in their defense. Authorities generally respected these rights.

Credible observers noted problems in trial procedures such as a lack of admissible evidence, judicial corruption, widespread public distrust of the legal system, witness intimidation, and an ineffective witness protection program.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The law establishes an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, including access to a court to seek damages for human rights violations. Litigants may sue a criminal defendant for damages if authorized by a criminal court. Individuals and organizations may appeal adverse domestic decisions to the Inter-American Human Rights system.

Ireland

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Defendants enjoy the right to the presumption of innocence, to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, to be present at their trial, and to be granted a fair, timely, and public trial except in certain cases. Defendants have the right to an attorney of their choice or one provided at public expense. They can confront witnesses and present their own testimony and evidence. Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense and free assistance of an interpreter. They have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt. There is a right to appeal.

The law provides for a nonjury Special Criminal Court (SCC) when the director of public prosecutions certifies a case to be beyond the capabilities of an ordinary court, such as terrorist or criminal gang offenses. A panel of three judges, usually including one High Court judge, one circuit judge, and one district judge, hears such cases. They reach their verdicts by majority vote. The Irish Council on Civil Liberties, Amnesty International, and the UN Human Rights Committee noted that authorities expanded the jurisdiction of the SCC in recent years to cover most offenses related to organized crime. They expressed concern that the SCC used a lower standard for evidence admissibility, and there was no appeal against a prosecuting authority’s decision to send a case to the SCC. In 2015 the justice minister announced the establishment of a second SCC with seven judges appointed during the year to try terrorist and gang-related offenses. The minister cited long delays in processing cases as a reason for the second court. The first trial at Second Special Criminal Court opened in October 2016. Sixty new cases were received in the SCCs in 2016 and 67 were resolved. Most of the cases involved membership in an illegal organization or possession of firearms or explosives. The Irish Council for Civil Liberties and other national and international organizations criticized the move to expand the use of SCCs.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

An independent and impartial judicial system hears civil cases and appeals on civil matters, including damage claims resulting from human rights violations. Complainants may bring such claims before all appropriate courts, including the Supreme Court. Individuals may lodge a complaint or application with the European Court of Human Rights for alleged violations of the European Convention on Human Rights by the state if they have exhausted all available legal remedies in the Irish legal system, including an appeal to the Supreme Court.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

No immovable property was confiscated from Jews or other targeted groups in Ireland during World War II by the Irish government or Nazi Germany. According to the delegation of Ireland to the Holocaust Era Assets Conference, the country had experienced only one case where allegations concerning provenance were made and therefore had not enacted formal implementation mechanisms in this regard. The country’s policy is to monitor these issues as they may evolve in the future and to proceed on a case-by-case basis.

Jamaica

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

Trials often were delayed for many years, and at times cases were dismissed due to delay tactics, including no-shows by witnesses for a variety of reasons, not infrequently including death, challenges in impaneling juries, antiquated rules of evidence, and lack of equipment for collecting and storing evidence, among other reasons. Through the end of June, the parish court level had a 58-percent case disposal rate.

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions attributed the worsening case backlog at the Supreme Court level to an increasing crime rate with a static number of courtrooms and judiciary personnel as well as to the Committal Proceedings Act’s burden on the judicial bureaucracy.

In an effort to lessen the backlog, the government passed the Criminal Justice (Plea and Negotiations) Act in June to increase the rate of plea bargaining, which accounted for less than 1 percent of case resolutions from 2011 to 2016. In September guilty pleas accounted for approximately 90 percent of cases disposed of at the parish court level. In addition, in October courts disposed of 57 cases during two Sentence Reduction Days.

In an increasing number of civil cases, the courts used mandatory alternative dispute resolution in place of traditional trials. Under its Reform Implementation Plan, the Ministry of Justice opened three justice centers, one in the parish of St. Ann on July 8 and two in West Kingston on July 13. The ministry also planned to open 11 more to facilitate restorative justice practices, child diversion, mediation, and an expanded justices of the peace program.

There is a witness protection program, but many eligible witnesses either refused protection or violated the conditions of the program. While the JCF reported that no participant in the witness protection program was ever killed, the program suffered from a number of problems. The government allocated approximately $1 million in additional funds for the program in February.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. The constitution provides defendants a presumption of innocence and the right to counsel and to confront witnesses against them. Defendants have the right to be informed of the charges against them and the right to a fair public trial, within a reasonable time. The Supreme Court tries serious criminal offenses, including all murder cases. Citizens’ reluctance to serve as jurors resulted in a persistent problem of seating jurors, which contributed to the judicial backlog.

Defendants are provided ample time to prepare defense and are not compelled to confess guilt. They have the right to appeal. Public attorneys were available to defend the indigent, except those charged with certain offenses under the Proceeds of Crime Act or the Dangerous Drugs Act. The government provides free assistance of an interpreter for defendants who cannot speak or understand English.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is an independent and impartial civil judiciary process. Complainants may bring human rights abuse cases to the courts for civil remediation, but awards are difficult to collect. The government is required to undertake pretrial negotiations or mediation in an attempt to settle out of court, but it often did not do so. When there are settlements, the government often lacks the funds to pay, resulting in a backlog of awards.

Kazakhstan

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law does not provide for an independent judiciary. The executive branch sharply limited judicial independence. Prosecutors enjoyed a quasi-judicial role and have the authority to suspend court decisions.

Corruption was evident at every stage of the judicial process. Although judges were among the most highly paid government employees, lawyers and human rights monitors alleged that judges, prosecutors, and other officials solicited bribes in exchange for favorable rulings in many criminal and civil cases.

Corruption in the judicial system was widespread. Bribes and irregular payments were regularly exchanged in order to obtain favorable court decisions. In many cases the courts were controlled by the interests of the ruling elite, according to Freedom House’s Nations in Transit report for 2017. Accordingly, public trust in the impartiality of the judicial system was low, and citizens held little expectation that justice would be dispensed professionally in court proceedings, as noted in the Nations in Transit report for 2016. Recruitment of judges was plagued by corruption, and becoming a judge often required bribing various officials, according to the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index report for the year.

Business entities were reluctant to approach courts because foreign businesses have a historically poor record when challenging government regulations and contractual disputes within the local judicial system. Judicial outcomes were perceived as subject to political influence and interference due to a lack of independence. A dedicated investment dispute panel was established in 2016, yet investor concerns over the panel’s independence and strong bias in favor of government officials remained. Companies expressed reluctance to seek foreign arbitration because anecdotal evidence suggested the government looks unfavorably on cases involving foreign judicial entities.

Moriak Shegenov, the chair of the Supreme Court judicial ethics panel, said at a July 24 extended conference meeting of the Supreme Court that two judges had been held liable for serious crimes: one for taking a bribe and another for knowingly issuing an illegal ruling. During the first six months of the year, 32 judges were punished for violations of judicial ethics: 12 judges were warned, 14 reprimanded, and six were dismissed.

Military courts have jurisdiction over civilian criminal defendants in cases allegedly connected to military personnel. Military courts use the same criminal code as civilian courts.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

All defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and are protected from self-incrimination under the law. Trials are public except in instances that could compromise state secrets or when necessary to protect the private life or personal family concerns of a citizen.

Jury trials are held by a panel of 10 jurors and one judge and have jurisdiction over crimes punishable by death or life imprisonment, as well as grave crimes such as trafficking and engagement of minors in criminal activity. Activists criticized juries for a bias towards the prosecution as a result of the pressure that judges applied on jurors, experts, and witnesses.

Observers noted the juror selection process was inconsistent. Judges exerted pressure on jurors and could easily dissolve a panel of jurors for perceived disobedience of their orders. The law has no mechanism for holding judges liable for such actions.

Indigent defendants in criminal cases have the right to counsel and a government-provided attorney. By law a defendant must be represented by an attorney when the defendant is a minor, has mental or physical disabilities, does not speak the language of the court, or faces 10 or more years of imprisonment. Defense attorneys, however, reportedly participated in only one half of criminal cases, in part because the government failed to pay them properly or on time. The law also provides defendants the rights to be present at their trials, to be heard in court, to confront witnesses against them, and to call witnesses for the defense. They have the right to appeal a decision to a higher court. According to observers, prosecutors dominated trials, and defense attorneys played a minor role.

Domestic and international human rights organizations reported numerous problems in the judicial system, including lack of access to court proceedings, lack of access to government-held evidence, frequent procedural violations, denial of defense counsel motions, and failure of judges to investigate allegations that authorities extracted confessions through torture or duress.

Lack of due process remained a problem, particularly in a handful of politically motivated trials involving opposition activists and in cases in which there were allegations of improper political or financial influence. In its Nations in Transit 2016 report, Freedom House noted that the courts were subservient to the executive branch and “convicted public figures brought to trial on politically motivated charges, often without credible evidence or proper procedures.”

Human rights and international observers noted investigative and prosecutorial practices that emphasized a confession of guilt over collection of other evidence in building a criminal case against a defendant. Courts generally ignored allegations by defendants that officials obtained confessions by torture or duress.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

A group of civil society activists maintained a list of individuals they considered detained or imprisoned based on politically motivated charges, including land code activists Maks Bokayev and Talgat Ayan, labor union leader Larissa Kharkova, and Independent Tribunanewspaper’s chief editor, Zhanbolat Mamay.

Land code activists Maks Bokayev and Talgat Ayan were sentenced in November 2016 to five years in prison for organizing peaceful land reform protests. Despite the requirement of the law that prisoners should be referred to a penitentiary facility close to their homes, the two activists were sent to a northern prison 1,240 miles from their hometown, spending several weeks in transit in difficult conditions.

On April 7, Aktau labor movement activist Nurbek Kushakbayev was sentenced to two-and-one-half years in prison for calls to continue a labor strike after the court ruled the strike to be illegal. On May 5, labor movement activist Amin Yeleusinov was sentenced to two years in prison for alleged embezzlement of the labor union’s funds. Human rights activists and international organizations condemned the trials as politically motivated.

On July 25, a Shymkent district court found the leader of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan, Larissa Kharkova, guilty of abuse of power, placing her on probation for four years with limitations on her freedom of movement, confiscating her property, and preventing her from leading any public and non-commercial organizations for five years. Initially, Kharkova was accused of embezzlement, but during the trial the charge was replaced with abuse of power.

On September 7, Independent Tribuna newspaper chief editor Zhanbolat Mamay was convicted of money laundering, sentenced to three years of probation, and banned from journalistic activity for three years. He was arrested on February 10 and charged with money laundering related to the fugitive ex-banker Mukhtar Ablyazov’s case.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts. Economic and administrative court judges handle civil cases under a court structure that largely mirrors the criminal court structure. Although the law and constitution provide for judicial resolution of civil disputes, observers viewed civil courts as corrupt and unreliable.

Latvia

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. Most final judgments were available online, although many other court documents were not published. Many of the documents published often included significant redactions (usually due to privacy concerns) that made it difficult to locate and review online court records. In individual cases the fairness of judges’ verdicts remained a concern, and allegations of judicial corruption were widespread, particularly in insolvency cases. Through August the ombudsman received eight complaints about lengthy proceedings, excessive pretrial detention, and detention without timely charges.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants are presumed innocent, and have the rights to be informed promptly of the charges against them, and to an expeditious and in most cases open trial, although officials may close trials to protect government secrets or the interests of minors. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial as well as to consult with an attorney in a timely manner and, if indigent, at government expense.

The law provides for the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants have the rights to the free assistance of an interpreter for any defendant who cannot understand or speak Latvian, to confront witnesses against them, to present witnesses and evidence in their defense, to refuse to testify or confess guilt, and to appeal.

Both the ombudsman and NGOs expressed concern that long judicial delays often prevented access to the justice system. According to the Ministry of Justice, the problem was especially acute in administrative courts, where up to five months could pass before an initial hearing on even minor matters. Through June the average civil case took eight months in Riga courts and four months in district courts. The average criminal case required six months in Riga courts and four months in district courts. NGOs expressed concern that defendants often exploited these legal protections in order to delay trials, including by repeatedly failing to appear for court hearings, forcing repeated postponement. Several high-profile public corruption trials have lasted nearly a decade, and NGOs were concerned that this contributed to a widespread public belief that high-level officials enjoyed impunity for corruption.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The law provides for an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters. It is possible to bring a lawsuit seeking damages or remedies for a human rights violation. After exhausting the national court system, individuals may appeal cases involving alleged government violations of the European Convention on Human Rights to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

Jewish communal property restitution dating from the Holocaust era remained incomplete. While the Jewish community estimated that approximately 270 properties still required restitution, government ministries maintained the number was significantly lower. Some government officials asserted that the issue of restitution had been resolved by the return of five properties seized during World War II under legislation approved in 2016. The unrestituted properties identified by the Jewish community included cemeteries, synagogues, schools, hospitals, and community centers.

Libya

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitutional Declaration provides for an independent judiciary and stipulates every person has a right of recourse to the judicial system. Nonetheless, thousands of detainees lacked access to lawyers and information concerning the charges against them. Judges and prosecutors contended with threats, intimidation, violence, as well as under-resourced courts, and struggled to deal with complex cases. Judges and prosecutors in various parts of the country cited concerns regarding the overall lack of security in and around the courts, further hindering the establishment of the rule of law. Some courts, including in Tripoli and in the east, continued to operate during the year. Throughout the rest of the country, however, courts operated sporadically depending on local security conditions.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The Constitutional Declaration provides for the presumption of innocence and the right to legal counsel, provided at public expense for the indigent. During the year, state-affiliated and nonstate actors did not respect these standards. There were multiple reports of individuals denied fair and public trials, choice of attorney, language interpretation, the ability to confront plaintiff witnesses, protection against forced testimony or confessions, and the right to appeal.

According to reports from international NGOs, arbitrary detention and torture by militias, including those operating nominally under government oversight, contributed to a climate of lawlessness that made fair trials elusive. Armed groups, families of the victims or the accused, and the public regularly threatened lawyers, judges, and prosecutors.

Amid threats, intimidation, and violence against the judiciary, the government did not take steps to screen detainees systematically for prosecution or release. The courts were more prone to process civil cases, which were less likely to invite retaliation, although capacity was limited due to a lack of judges and administrators.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

Armed groups, some of which were nominally under government authority, held persons, particularly former Qadhafi regime officials, internal security organization members, and others accused of subverting the 2011 revolution, in a variety of temporary facilities on political grounds.

The lack of international monitoring meant that there were no reliable statistics on the number of political prisoners.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The Constitutional Declaration provides for the right of citizens to have recourse to the judiciary. The judicial system did not have the capacity to provide citizens with access to civil remedies for human rights violations. The 2013 Law of Transitional Justice provided for fact-finding, accountability, and reparations for victims, but the judicial system had not implemented it in practice. In civil, administrative, family, commercial, and land and property law matters, cases were heard and proceeded through the courts, but authorities were challenged in enforcing judgements due to lack of security, intimidation of armed groups, and intimidation from outside sources.

Impunity for the state and for militias also exists in law. Even if a court acquits a person detained by a militia, that person has no right to initiate a criminal or civil complaint against the state or the militia unless “fabricated or mendacious” allegations caused the detention.

Lithuania

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Defendants have the rights to a presumption of innocence, prompt and detailed information about the charges against them, a fair and public trial without undue delay and to be present at their trial. Defendants have the rights to communicate with an attorney of their choice (or have one provided at public expense), adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, and free assistance of an interpreter as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. They are entitled to confront witnesses against them, to present witnesses and evidence in their defense, and to be free of compulsion to testify or confess guilt. They enjoy the right of appeal.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Plaintiffs may sue for legal relief or temporary protection measures from human rights violations. Persons alleging human rights abuses may also appeal to the parliamentary ombudsman for a determination of the merits of their claims. Although the ombudsman may only make recommendations to an offending institution, such institutions generally implemented the ombudsman’s recommendations. Individuals alleging that the government violated the European Convention on Human Rights can, after exhausting domestic legal remedies, appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The government has laws and mechanisms in place, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and advocacy groups reported that the government made some progress on resolution of Holocaust-era claims, including for foreign citizens. A philanthropic foundation created in 2011 to receive government compensation for Communist and Nazi seizures of Jewish community-owned property distributed funds to individuals and to Jewish educational, cultural, scientific, and religious projects. According to an agreement between the government and the Jewish community, the foundation was to disburse the equivalent of 128 million litas (then the national currency–$44 million) by 2023. The foundation distributed a one-time payment of three million litas ($1 million) to individual survivors in 2013 and 2014. The remaining funds were allocated to support Jewish educational, cultural, scientific, and religious projects, as decided by the foundation board. As in the previous year, the foundation received 3.62 million euros ($4.34 million) for this purpose, which brought the total received since 2011 to 19 million euros ($23 million). Jewish and ethnic Polish communities continued to advocate for private property restitution because there has been no opportunity to submit individual claims since 2001.

Mongolia

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but NGOs and private businesses reported that judicial corruption and third-party influence continued. Courts rarely entered not guilty verdicts or dismissed criminal charges over the objection of prosecutors, even when full trials had produced no substantial evidence of guilt. Courts often returned criminal cases to prosecutors when acquittal appeared more appropriate. As a result some serious criminal cases cycled for years between prosecutors and the courts without resolution.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial without undue delay, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants are presumed innocent and have the right to be informed of the charges against them. Courts provide free interpretation services as needed, including sign language interpretation, unless a court decides to recover procedural expenses from a defendant found guilty. The law also extends to all defendants the right to be present at their trial in the court of first instance (but not during appeals); to communicate with an attorney of their choice (or one provided at public expense); to receive adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense; to confront witnesses; to present one’s own witnesses and evidence; to not be compelled to testify or confess guilt; and to appeal. NGOs and observers reported that authorities sometimes did not observe these rights and bribery of judges, prosecutors, and expert witnesses sometimes contributed to unwarranted convictions, dismissals, or reductions of sentences.

Procedural due process errors and inconsistencies often plagued trials. Although the number of government-provided defense lawyers was adequate, their quality and experience were uneven, so that many defendants lacked adequate legal representation. Judges often relied on confessions with little corroborating evidence. Furthermore, NGOs reported witness intimidation by government authorities and law enforcement officers, limited public access to trials (often due to lack of space), a lack of transparency in courts’ decision-making processes, and a low level of awareness regarding the effect of new criminal and procedural laws.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Administrative and judicial remedies are available for alleged human rights violations. The government sometimes failed to enforce court orders pertaining to human rights.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

According to Amnesty International, seminomadic herders reported some private and government-owned mining interests interfered with their access to traditional pasturelands. Some herders reported being forced to relocate after their pastureland was sold and mining companies denied them access to water wells.

Morocco

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and, as in previous years, NGOs asserted that corruption and extrajudicial influence weakened judicial independence. On April 6, the king formally appointed the elected and pro-forma members of the Supreme Judicial Council, a new government body whose creation and composition was mandated by the 2011 constitution to manage the courts and judicial affairs directly in place of the Ministry of Justice. The president of the Court of Cassation (the highest court of appeals) chairs the 20-member body. Additional members include the president of the First Chamber of the Court of Cassation; the Prosecutor General (equivalent of the Attorney General); the Royal Mediator (national ombudsman); the president of the CNDH; 10 members elected by the country’s judges; and five members appointed by the king. In October the Supreme Judicial Council established its internal mechanisms and began the process of taking over day-to-day management and oversight from the Ministry of Justice, although the activities of the Supreme Judicial Council have experienced delays due to administrative and legal impediments. While the government stated the aim of creating the council was to improve judicial independence, its effect on judicial independence was not clear by the end of the year. The outcomes of trials in which the government had a strong political stake, such as those touching on Islam as it related to political life and national security, the legitimacy of the monarchy, and the Western Sahara, sometimes appeared predetermined.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial with the right of appeal, but this did not always occur. The law presumes that defendants are innocent. After an initial arrest and investigation period in which the order of a prosecutor can detain individuals, defendants are informed promptly of potential charges, and of final charges at the conclusion of the investigatory period, which may last several months. Trials are conducted in Arabic, and foreigners have the right to request interpretation if they do not speak Arabic.

Defendants have the right to be present at their trial and to consult in a timely manner with an attorney. Defendants have the right to refuse to participate in their trial, and a judge may decide to continue the proceedings in the defendant’s absence while providing a detailed summary to the defendant. In practice, authorities often denied lawyers timely access to their clients and, in the majority of cases, lawyers met their clients only at the first hearing before the judge. Authorities are required to provide attorneys in cases where the potential sentence is greater than five years, if the defendant is unable to afford one. Publicly provided defense attorneys were often poorly paid and often were neither properly trained in matters pertaining to juveniles nor provided to defendants in a timely fashion. The appointment process for public defenders is lengthy, often resulting in a defendant arriving to trial before a court-appointed attorney is designated. In these cases, the judge may ask any attorney present to represent the defendant. This practice often resulted in inadequate representation. Many NGOs provided attorneys for vulnerable individuals (minors, refugees, victims of domestic violence), who frequently did not have the means to pay. Such resources were limited and specific to larger cities. The law permits defense attorneys to question witnesses. Despite the provisions of the law, some judges reportedly denied defense requests to question witnesses or to present mitigating witnesses or evidence.

The law forbids judges from admitting confessions made under duress. NGOs reported that the judicial system often relied on confessions for the prosecution of criminal cases, and authorities pressured investigators to obtain a confession from suspects in order for prosecution to proceed. Human Rights Watch (HRW) and local NGOs charged that judges, at their discretion, sometimes decided cases based on forced confessions, particularly in cases against ethnic Sahrawis or individuals accused of terrorism. According to authorities, police sometimes used claims regarding detainees’ statements in place of defendants’ confessions when there was a possible question of duress.

The courts were moving away from a confession-based system to an evidenced-based system. By December 2016 the national police had opened 23 evidence preservation centers throughout the country to secure and preserve evidence collected at crime scenes and to ensure compliance with chain of custody procedures. Police are working with the courts to demonstrate the utility of the new evidence preservation rooms to increase judges’ confidence in evidence presented at trials

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

The law does not define or recognize the concept of a political prisoner. The government did not consider any of its prisoners to be political prisoners and stated that it had charged or convicted all individuals in prison under criminal law. Criminal law covers nonviolent advocacy and dissent, such as insulting police in songs or “defaming Morocco’s sacred values” by denouncing the king and regime during a public demonstration. NGOs, including the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH), and Sahrawi organizations asserted that the government imprisoned persons for political activities or beliefs under the cover of criminal charges.

On July 19, the civilian Rabat Court of Appeals issued new verdicts for 23 Sahrawis arrested during the 2010 dismantling of the Gdeim Izik Camp and subsequent violence in Laayoune, which resulted in the death of 11 members of the security forces. The court upheld all of the sentences initially imposed by a military tribunal in 2013, except for four individuals who received reduced sentences. Some NGOs alleged that these individuals were political prisoners. For more information, see the Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights for Western Sahara.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Although individuals have access to civil courts for lawsuits relating to human rights violations and have filed lawsuits, such lawsuits were frequently unsuccessful due to the courts’ lack of independence on politically sensitive cases, or lack of impartiality stemming from extrajudicial influence and corruption. The newly created Supreme Judicial Council is tasked with ensuring ethical behavior by judicial personnel (see section 4). There are administrative as well as judicial remedies for alleged wrongs. Authorities sometimes failed to respect court orders in a timely manner.

A National Ombudsman’s Office (Mediator Institution) helped to resolve civil matters that did not clear the threshold to merit involvement of the judiciary. Although it faced backlogs, it gradually expanded the scope of its activities and subjected complaints to in-depth investigation. The Ombudsman retransmitted to the CNDH for resolution cases specifically related to allegations of human rights abuses by authorities. The CNDH continued to be a conduit through which citizens expressed complaints regarding human rights abuses and violations.

Mozambique

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality in nonpolitical matters. Some civil society groups continued to assert, however, that the executive branch and ruling Frelimo party exerted influence on an understaffed and inadequately trained judiciary.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial without undue delay, and the judiciary generally enforced this right. Courts presume accused persons innocent, and the law provides the right to legal counsel and appeal. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial. Defendants enjoy the right to communicate with an attorney of their choice, and the law specifically provides for public defenders for all defendants, although this did not always happen in practice. While defendants have adequate time to prepare a defense, they often did not have adequate facilities to do so.

By law only judges or lawyers may confront or question witnesses. A defendant may present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. The government upheld such rights during the year. Defendants cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants also have the right to free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. The law extends the above rights to all defendants; the government did not deny any persons these rights.

Persons accused of crimes against the government, including treason or threatening national security, go to trial publicly in regular civilian courts under standard criminal judicial procedures. Members of media and the general public attended trials throughout the year. A judge may order a trial closed to media in the interest of national security, to protect the privacy of the plaintiff in a sexual assault case, or to prevent interested parties outside the court from destroying evidence.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

While the law provides for an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, some citizens believed the judiciary was subject to political interference. Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts. By law citizens have access to courts, the Office of the Ombudsperson, the CNDH, and the Mozambican Bar Association to file lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations. The country is a signatory to the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. In theory individuals and organizations may appeal adverse domestic decisions to the court; however, the government has not recognized the court’s competency to accept cases from NGOs and individuals.

Netherlands

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the governments generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence, and the right to be informed promptly of the charges. Trials take place without undue delay in the presence of the accused. The law provides for prompt access of defendants to attorneys of their choice, including at public expense if the defendant is unable to pay. Defendants generally have adequate time and facilities to prepare for a defense. If required, the court provides interpreters throughout the judicial process free of charge. The accused is not present when the examining magistrate examines witnesses, but an attorney for the accused has the right to question them. In most instances defendants and their attorneys may present witnesses and evidence for the defense. In certain cases involving national security, the defense has the right to submit written questions to witnesses whose identity is kept confidential. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt and have the right to appeal.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals may bring lawsuits for damages for human rights violations in the regular court system or specific appeal boards. If all domestic means of redress are exhausted, individuals may appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. Citizens of Sint Maarten and Curacao may also seek redress through the ombudsperson if the government is accused of human rights violations.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The Netherlands has laws and/or mechanisms in place, and NGOs and advocacy groups reported that the government made significant progress on resolution of Holocaust-era claims, including for foreign citizens. The Dutch comply with the goals of the Terezin Declaration. A legal process exists for claimants to request the return of property looted during the Holocaust, although some advocates say that bureaucratic procedures and poor record keeping have been key barriers to restitution efforts. In 2016 Amsterdam allocated $11 million to Jewish causes–an estimate of the total taxes paid by survivors following the war. In February, The Hague’s executive board advised the city government to offer $2.75 million for property tax restitution to Holocaust survivors and heirs. As of July the national railway company Nederlandse Spoorwegen has not paid restitution for the equivalent of $2.7 million it received from the Nazis to transport Jews to a concentration camp.

New Zealand

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and the right to counsel. By law authorities must inform defendants promptly and in detail of the charges, and provide adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt, but they have the right to be present at their trial. Defendants also have the right to present witnesses and evidence, confront witnesses against them, appeal convictions, and receive free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. The government provides a lawyer at public expense if the defendant cannot afford counsel. The law extends these rights to all defendants.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals and organizations may seek civil judicial remedies for human rights violations, including access to the Human Rights Review Tribunal. There are also administrative remedies for alleged wrongs through the Human Rights Commission (HRC) and the Office of Human Rights Proceedings.

Norway

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and the law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and the right to be informed promptly of the charges against them. Trials are held without undue delay. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials. Defendants also have the right to counsel at public expense, to have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, to free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals, to confront and question adverse witnesses, to present their own evidence and witnesses, and to appeal. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or to confess guilt.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts. They may appeal cases alleging violations of the European Convention on Human Rights by the government to the European Court of Human Rights after exhausting all avenues of appeal in domestic courts.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The government, the Holocaust Center, and the Jewish Community report that Holocaust-era restitution has not been an issue and that no litigation or restitution claims regarding real or immovable property covered by the Terezin Declaration, to which the government is signatory, were pending before authorities.

Panama

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

While the law provides for an independent judiciary, the judicial system was inefficient and susceptible to corruption as well as internal and outside influence, and it faced allegations of manipulation by the executive branch.

Courts proceedings for cases in process under the inquisitorial system were not publicly available, while accusatory system cases were. As a result nonparties to the inquisitorial case proceedings did not have access to these proceedings until a verdict was reached. Under the inquisitorial system, judges could decide to hold private hearings and did so in high-profile cases. Consequently the judiciary sometimes faced accusations, particularly in high-profile cases, of procedural irregularities. Since most of these cases had not reached conclusion, however, the records remained under seal. Interested parties generally did not face gag orders, but because of this mechanism, it was difficult to verify facts.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and the judiciary generally enforced this right. The law provides that all citizens charged with crimes enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence. They have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges (with free interpretation as necessary for non-Spanish speaking inmates), to a trial without undue delay, to have counsel of their choice, to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, to refrain from incriminating themselves or close relatives, and to be tried only once for a given offense. The accused may be present with counsel during the investigative phase of proceedings.

During the year all new criminal cases were tried under the accusatory system. Under the accusatory system, trials were open to the public. Judges may order the presence of pretrial detainees for providing or expanding upon statements or for confronting witnesses. Trials are conducted based on evidence presented by the public prosecutor. Defendants have the right to be present at trial and to consult with an attorney in a timely manner. Defendants may confront or question adverse witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence. Defendants have a right of appeal. The judiciary generally enforced these rights.

The judiciary complained that many hearings were canceled due to inmates’ failure to appear, especially those involving inmates processed under the old inquisitorial system. This was usually for administrative shortcomings, such as a dearth of PNP agents to transfer the inmates to the courts. Authorities were also aware that available correctional officers and PNP agents focused more on inmates tried under the new accusatory system because the law fines police and correctional officers 100 balboas for failing to deliver an inmate to a hearing.

The judiciary continued to promote videoconference hearings. Judges were increasingly receptive to using this tool, and during the year the government continued to add video conference and hearing rooms to prison facilities.

Judicial response times generally decreased under the new accusatory system. As of June, 104,626 cases were tried under the accusatorial system. During the same period, judicial response time nationwide decreased from an average of 296 days under the inquisitorial system to 42 days under the accusatory system.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no credible reports of political prisoners or detainees. Some individuals detained under corruption charges claimed their charges were politically motivated because they had served in former president Ricardo Martinelli’s administration.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Citizens have access to the courts to bring lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations, although most do not pursue such lawsuits due to the length of the process. There are administrative and judicial remedies for alleged wrongs, and authorities often granted them to citizens who followed through with the process. The court can order civil remedies, including fair compensation to the individual injured. Individuals or organizations may initiate cases involving violations of an individual’s human rights by submitting petitions to the IACHR.

Paraguay

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary. Undue external influence, however, often compromised the judiciary’s independence. Interested parties, including politicians, routinely attempted to influence investigations and pressure judges and prosecutors. Judicial selection and disciplinary review board processes were often politicized. The law requires that specific seats on the board be allocated to congressional representatives, presidential nominees, lawyer’s union representatives, law professors, and Supreme Court justices.

Courts were inefficient and subject to corruption, and NGOs and government officials alleged that some judges and prosecutors solicited or received bribes to drop or modify charges against defendants. Authorities generally respected court orders.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, which the judiciary nominally provided, albeit through a lengthy trial process exacerbated by legal defense tactics that remove or suspend judges and prosecutors working on cases. Impunity was common due to politicization of and corruption within the judiciary and regular manipulation of the judicial process by defense attorneys that pushed statutes of limitations to expire before trials reach conclusion.

Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and a right of appeal. Both defendants and prosecutors may present written testimony from witnesses and other evidence. Defendants may confront adverse witnesses, except in cases involving domestic or international trafficking in persons, in which case victims may testify remotely or in the presence of the defendant’s lawyers, in lieu of the defendant. Defendants have the right to prompt information and detail of the indictments and charges they face, but some defendants received notification only when they faced arrest charges or seizure of their property.

Defendants have the right to access free interpretation services as necessary, including translation to Guarani–the country’s second official language. Defendants have the right to a fair trial without undue delay, although trials were often protracted, as well as the right to be present at the trial. Defendants have the right to communicate with an attorney of their choice or one provided at public expense. Defendants have the right to a reasonable amount of time to prepare their defense and to access their legal files. Defendants may confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence. Defendants are not compelled to testify or confess guilt and may choose to remain silent.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Citizens have access to the courts to file lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations. There are administrative and judicial remedies for alleged wrongs, and authorities generally granted them to citizens. The court may order civil remedies, including fair compensation to the injured party; however, the government experienced problems enforcing court orders in such cases. Individuals and organizations may appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The government generally enforced court orders with respect to seizure, restitution, or compensation for taking private property. Systemic inadequacies within the land registry system, however, prevented the government from compiling a reliable inventory of its landholdings. Registered land far exceeded the size of the country, and there were allegations of corruption within local government and National Institute for Rural Development and Land, the government agency charged with implementing land reform, and reports of forced evictions.

On June 10 and 12, private security contractors allegedly fired rifles and pistols to intimidate small-scale farming families occupying disputed land in Colonia Guahory, Caaguazu Department. The incident followed a May 22 presidential veto of a law that would have allowed the state to expropriate the land for distribution under larger land reform efforts, as well as a violent encounter on January 3 between farming families and police that resulted in rubber bullet injuries to 20 individuals. Seventy Brazilian-Paraguayan families claimed title to the 555,436 acres of land, and alleged the farming families began occupying 222,965 acres of it in 2014 and were renting it to local and national political figures. From September to December 2016, police conducted three separate eviction operations. Legal counsel for the small-scale farming families alleged the Brazilian-Paraguayan families illegally purchased land titles. The case brought by the 70 families regarding ownership of the land was pending as of October 5.

Despite the government’s acceptance of the donation of the disputed land on which the 2012 Curuguaty/Marina Cue confrontation occurred, the Public Registry refused to register the property. Officials explained they could not act until lawsuits establishing previous ownership were resolved.

Portugal

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. The law presumes all defendants innocent and provides the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges (with free interpretation when necessary from the moment charged through all appeals). Trials are fair and public. Authorities must bring a suspect in investigative detention to trial within 14 months of a formal charge. If a suspect is not in detention, the law specifies no deadline for going to trial. When the crime is punishable by a prison sentence of eight years or longer, either the public prosecutor or the defendant may request a jury trial.

Defendants have the right to be present at their trials and to consult with an attorney, at government expense if necessary, from the time of arrest. Defendants have adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense. They may confront and question witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Those convicted have the right of appeal. The law extends these rights to all defendants.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters. Citizens, foreign residents, and organizations have access to a court to bring lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, a human rights violation, and they may appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies, such as the European Court of Human Rights. Besides judicial remedies, administrative recourse exists for alleged wrongs.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

Holocaust-era restitution is no longer a significant issue. The government has laws and mechanisms in place and is a signatory of the Terezin Declaration of 2009 and the Guidelines and Best Practices of 2010. The 1999 report commissioned by the government and chaired by former president and prime minister Mario Soares, at the time a member of the European Parliament, found there was “no basis for additional restitution” following the payment made by Portugal in 1960 for gold transactions carried out between Portuguese and German authorities between 1936 and 1945. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and advocacy groups, including the local Jewish community, reported no significant outstanding Holocaust-era claims, including for foreign citizens. The government has not yet responded to the 2016 European Shoah Legacy Institute’s Immovable Property Restitution Study Questionnaire covering past and present restitution regimes.

Rwanda

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence. As in previous years, there were no reports of direct government interference in the judiciary, and authorities generally respected court orders. Domestic and international observers noted, however, that outcomes in high-profile genocide, security, and politically sensitive cases appeared predetermined.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. The law provides for a presumption of innocence and requires defendants be informed promptly and in detail of the charges in a language they comprehend.

Defendants have the right to a trial without undue delay. In its 2016-17 activity report, the NPPA stated it had processed to conclusion 89 percent of the 26,026 cases it had received. Despite the NPPA’s conclusion that its 181 prosecutors handled all cases without significant undue delay, defense lawyers noted a substantial increase in criminal cases and reported there were an insufficient number of prosecutors, judges, and courtrooms to hold trials within a reasonable time.

By law detainees are allowed access to lawyers. The expense and scarcity of lawyers and most lawyers’ reluctance to take on cases they considered sensitive for political or state security reasons, however, limited access to legal representation. Some lawyers working on politically sensitive cases reported harassment and threats by government officials and denial of access to evidence against their clients.

Defendants have the right to communicate with an attorney of their choice, although many defendants could not afford private counsel. The law provides for legal representation of minors. The Rwandan Bar Association and 36 other member organizations of the Legal Aid Forum provided legal assistance to some indigent defendants but lacked the resources to provide defense counsel to all in need. Legal aid organizations noted that the requirement that defendants present a certificate of indigence signed by their district authorities made it difficult to qualify for pro bono representation. Defendants reported that authorities frequently delayed or refused to issue the certificate, especially in genocide-related cases.

The law requires that defendants have adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense, and judges routinely granted requests to extend preparation time. The law provides for a right to free interpretation, but domestic human rights organizations noted that officials did not always enforce this right, particularly in cases of deaf and hard-of-hearing defendants requiring sign language interpreters. Defendants have the right to be present at trial, confront witnesses against them, and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. By law defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Judges generally respected the law during trial. The law provides for the right to appeal, and authorities respected this provision.

There were some reports the SSF coerced suspects into confessing guilt in security-related cases. Judges tended to accept confessions obtained through torture despite defendants’ protests and failed to order investigations when defendants alleged torture during their trial (see section on political prisoners below). The judiciary sometimes held security-related, terrorism, and high-profile political trials in closed chambers. Some defense attorneys in these cases reported irregularities and complained judges tended to disregard the rights of the accused when hearings were not held publicly.

The RDF routinely tried military offenders, as well as civilians who previously served in the RDF, before military tribunals that handed down penalties of fines, imprisonment, or both for those convicted. Military courts provided defendants with similar rights as civilian courts, including the right of appeal. Defendants often appeared before military tribunals without legal counsel due to the cost of hiring private attorneys and the unwillingness of most attorneys to defend individuals accused of crimes against state security. The law stipulates military courts may try civilian accomplices of soldiers accused of crimes. The government did not release figures on the number of civilians tried as accomplices of military personnel.

In 2012 the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda transferred its remaining genocide cases to a Tanzania-based branch of the MICT. It continued to pursue eight genocide fugitives subject to Rwanda tribunal indictments. During the year several countries, including Germany and the Netherlands, transferred other high-profile genocide suspects to Rwandan authorities, and prosecutions in these cases were underway.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were numerous reports that local officials and the SSF briefly detained some individuals who disagreed publicly with government decisions or policies. Some opposition leaders and government critics faced indictment under broadly applied charges of genocide incitement, genocide denial, inciting insurrection or rebellion, or attempting to overthrow the government. Political detainees were afforded the same protections, including visitation rights, access to lawyers and doctors, and access to family members, as other detainees. Frequently, authorities held politically sensitive detainees in individual cells–even in facilities with severe overcrowding–to ensure they would not be mistreated while in detention. Numerous individuals identified by international and domestic human rights groups as political prisoners remained in prison, including Victoire Ingabire, Deo Mushayidi, and Theoneste Niyitegeka.

FDU president and former 2010 presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire was convicted and sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment in 2012 in what was considered a flawed trial based on politically motivated charges. In 2013 the Supreme Court upheld the conviction and increased her sentence from eight to 15 years’ imprisonment. Following the September 6 arrest of the FDU’s top leaders on charges that human rights organizations believed to be politically motivated, the party released a statement accusing authorities of impeding access to Ingabire and preventing party members from bringing her food. On November 24, the African Court on Human and People’s Rights ruled that Rwanda violated Ingabire’s right to freedom of expression and that her 2012 conviction in a flawed judicial process violated her right to defense.

Convicted and sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment in 2008 for complicity in genocide, former 2003 presidential candidate Theoneste Niyitegeka remained in prison at year’s end. International and domestic human rights organizations claimed the charges against Niyitegeka were politically motivated and that there were serious irregularities in Niyitegeka’s appeal proceedings in sector-level courts.

Colonel Tom Byabagamba and retired brigadier general Frank Rusagara remained in prison after their sentencing in 2016 to 21 and 20 years’ imprisonment, respectively, for inciting insurrection and tarnishing the government’s image. HRW documented numerous irregularities in these two cases, including the fact judges allowed the defense to cross-examine only four of the 11 prosecution witnesses. One of these, retired captain David Kabuye, was arrested at approximately the same time; Kabuye stated during his own trial he was forced to testify against Rusagara and Byabagamba. Kabuye was released and charges against him dropped following Byabagamba’s and Rusagara’s sentencing.

On August 29, police raided the residence of presidential aspirant and vocal Kagame critic Diane Rwigara (see section 3). Rwigara and several family members reported being held incommunicado and placed under de facto house arrest for several days. The Rwigaras told local press that they were summoned by police for near daily questioning until their formal arrest on September 23. On October 16, Rwigara was charged with forgery, divisionism, and inciting insurrection; her mother faced the latter two charges and her sister the charge of inciting insurrection. On October 23, the court remanded Diane Rwigara and her mother to 30-day pretrial detention, which may be extended for up to one year. She remained in detention, and the trial had not commenced at year’s end.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The judiciary was generally independent and impartial in civil matters. Mechanisms exist for citizens to file lawsuits in civil matters, including for violations of human rights. The Office of the Ombudsman processed claims of judicial wrongdoing on an administrative basis. Individuals may submit cases to the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) after exhausting domestic appeals.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

Reports of expropriation of land for the construction of roads, government buildings, and other infrastructure projects were common, and complainants frequently cited government failure to provide adequate and timely compensation. The NCHR investigated some of these cases and advocated on citizens’ behalf with relevant local and national authorities but was unable to effect restitution in a majority of the cases.

A March HRW report chronicled the cases of dozens of families forced off their land by local authorities in western areas either to enable government construction of “model villages” or because politically connected families laid claim to the land. HRW stated military and civilian authorities “arrested, beat, and threatened persons who challenged… government decisions to force residents off their land.”

On May 8, relatives of FDU member Jean Damascene Habarugira reported they were instructed by authorities to retrieve his body from Nyamata Hospital in Bugesera, 24 miles from his residence in Ngoma from which he had disappeared several days earlier. Habarugira had been a vocal opponent of the government’s land consolidation policy. Habarugira’s eyes had been gouged out and his head partially decapitated. The FDU alleged local authorities bragged of “eliminating” Habarugira in community meetings. Several days later police arrested the chief of security in Habarugira’s village for killing him.

The EACJ continued hearings in the case of Tribert Rujugiro Ayabatwa, a Rwandan businessperson living in self-imposed exile in South Africa whose United Trade Center shopping mall in Kigali, valued at 16.2 billion Rwandan francs ($19 million), was seized by the government in 2013. In September authorities auctioned off the building for 6.9 billion Rwandan francs ($8.1 million) to a group of Kigali investors whose identities were not disclosed.

The government continued harassment of the family of Assinapol Rwigara whose death, the family claimed, was a politically motivated killing by SSF members after an automobile accident in 2015. During the year the government closed the family’s tobacco factory after previously demolishing a hotel belonging to the Rwigaras in 2015 and seizing real estate owned by the family in 2016. In September, two months after Assinapol’s daughter, Diane, was disqualified from running in the August 4 presidential election, the government initiated criminal proceedings against the family for alleged nonpayment of taxes. The Rwigaras reported the government closed and garnished their bank accounts. Police also confirmed the seizure of large sums of money during two raids on the Rwigara residence on August 29 and September 4. In November the government threatened to seize and auction off the family’s properties to settle alleged tax arrears amounting to 5 billion Rwandan francs ($6 million).

Senegal

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, the judiciary was subject to corruption and government influence. Magistrates noted overwhelming caseloads, lack of adequate space and office equipment, and inadequate transportation, and they openly questioned the government’s commitment to judicial independence. According to Freedom in the World 2016, “inadequate pay and lack of tenure expose judges to external influences and prevent the courts from providing a proper check on the other branches of government. The president controls appointments to the Constitutional Council.” Authorities did not always respect court orders.

On February 1, a member of the High Council of Magistrates resigned; in his resignation letter to President Sall, he pointed to practices on the council that he said undermined transparency and judicial independence, including a lack of council-wide meetings to deliberate on judicial appointments; instead, individual consultations between then justice minister Sidiki Kaba and individual council members were held.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and cannot be compelled to testify against themselves or confess guilt. All defendants have the right to a fair and public trial, to be present in court during their trial, to confront and present witnesses, to present evidence, and to have an attorney (at public expense if needed) in felony cases. Defendants have the right to be informed of the charges against them promptly and in detail with free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. They also have the right to sufficient time and facilities to prepare their defense. Nevertheless, case backlogs, lack of legal counsel, judicial inefficiency and corruption, and lengthy pretrial detention undermined these rights.

There were positive developments during the year. In May the Ministry of Justice directed all tribunals to release acquitted defendants forthwith, whereas previously acquitted defendants had remained in detention up to three days after acquittal. The penitentiary system also developed software to track pretrial detainees. The system is programmed to automatically notify the relevant tribunal when the pretrial detention time limits for a particular detainee are about to expire, prompting the court to schedule the case for hearing. The system also automatically deducts the time a detainee has spent in pretrial custody from the ultimate sentence imposed upon conviction.

Evidentiary hearings may be closed to the public and press. Although a defendant and counsel may introduce evidence before an investigating judge who decides whether to refer a case for trial, police or prosecutors may limit their access to evidence against the defendant prior to trial. A panel of judges presides over ordinary courts in civil and criminal cases.

The right of appeal exists in all courts, except for the High Court of Justice. These rights extend to all citizens.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Citizens may seek cessation of and reparation for human rights violations in regular administrative or judicial courts. Citizens may also seek administrative remedies by filing a complaint with the ombudsman, an independent authority. Corruption and lack of independence hampered judicial and administrative handling of these cases. At times prosecutors refused to prosecute security officials, and violators often went unpunished. In matters related to human rights, individuals and organizations may appeal adverse decisions to the Economic Community of West African States Court of Justice in Abuja, Nigeria.

Singapore

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence. Some observers expressed concern about undue government influence in the judicial system. Laws limiting judicial review, moreover, permitted restrictions on individuals’ constitutional rights.

Some commentators and representatives of international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) noted that the Legal Service Commission’s authority to rotate subordinate court judges and magistrates and the ability of both the commission and the chief justice to extend, at their discretion, the tenure of Supreme Court judges beyond the age of 65 could undermine the independence of the judiciary.

Some commentators recommended that the attorney-general’s dual roles as public prosecutor and legal adviser to the government should be separated, and that the prime minister should no longer be responsible for recommending the appointment of the public prosecutor. These changes would preclude the prime minister or cabinet from being accused of political interference in the legal system.

The ISA explicitly and CLA implicitly preclude normal judicial rule and empower the government to limit, on vaguely defined national security grounds, other fundamental liberties provided for in the constitution.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for a fair and public trial, except for persons detained under the ISA, CLA, and similar legislation. The judiciary generally enforced this right when applicable. Some commentators observed a small number of exceptions in cases involving direct challenges to the government or the ruling party. The judicial system generally provided those subject to it with an efficient judicial process.

In most circumstances, the criminal procedure code requires that charges be read and explained to a defendant as soon as the prosecutor or magistrate completes them. After the charges are filed in court, the accused may seek advice of counsel before deciding whether to plead guilty or ask for a trial. At a pretrial hearing no earlier than eight weeks after criminal charges have been made, a judge determines whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial and sets a court date.

Criminal defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence in most cases. The Misuse of Drugs Act is an exception; it stipulates that a person who possessed narcotics shall be assumed to be aware of the substance and places the burden on the defendant to prove otherwise, although not beyond a reasonable doubt. The same law also stipulates that if the amount of the narcotic is above set limits, the defendant must prove he or she did not have the drug for trafficking purposes.

Trials are public and heard by a judge; there are no jury trials. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials and to have representation by an attorney. The Law Society administered a legal aid plan for persons facing criminal charges who could not afford an attorney. The state did so for anyone facing a capital charge. Defense lawyers generally had sufficient time and facilities to prepare an adequate defense. Criminal defendants who do not speak or understand English, or who have limited proficiency, are provided with translation services at no cost. Defendants have the right to question prosecution witnesses and to provide witnesses and evidence on their own behalf.

Defendants enjoy the right of appeal, which must be filed within 14 days in most cases. The criminal procedure code provides for an automatic appeal process for all death sentence cases. The courts may offer nonviolent offenders the option of probation or paying a fine in lieu of incarceration. Those sentenced to death may ask for resentencing under certain circumstances, and judges may impose life imprisonment instead.

Persons detained under the ISA or CLA are not entitled to a public trial. Proceedings of the advisory board under the ISA and CLA are not public.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is no differentiation between civil and criminal judicial procedures. Subordinate courts handled the majority of civil cases. Access to the courts is open, and citizens and residents have the right to sue for infringement of human rights. Individuals and organizations may not appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies.

Slovakia

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality, but alleged corruption, inefficiency, and a lack of integrity and accountability undermined public trust in the judicial system.

In 2014 parliament adopted a constitutional amendment that requires all sitting judges and candidates for judicial positions to receive security clearances from the government that attest to their suitability for public office. Proceedings to review the constitutionality of the law were pending. The measure was criticized by judicial associations, NGOs, and legal experts, who asserted the security clearance process was nontransparent, could be abused for political purposes, and would thereby limit judicial independence and jeopardize the foundations of a fair trial.

With the exception of the Constitutional Court, courts employed a computerized system for random case assignment to increase fairness and transparency. There were reports, however, that this system was subject to manipulation. The Constitutional Court confirmed that in several cases a former Supreme Court chairperson arbitrarily changed the composition of judicial panels contrary to fair trial guarantees.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial without undue delay, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. The ombudsperson reported denial of the right to a speedy trial remained one of the most frequent concerns, recording 57 cases in 2015.

Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence. They are also presumed innocent during the appeals process, and a person found guilty by a court does not serve a sentence or pay a fine until the final decision on appeal has been reached. Persons charged with criminal offenses have the right to be informed promptly of the charges against them with free interpretation as necessary. Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, to be present at their trial, consult in a timely manner with an attorney (at government expense if indigent), and to obtain free interpretation as necessary from the moment of being charged through all appeals. They can confront prosecution and plaintiff witnesses, and can present witnesses and evidence on their behalf. Defendants have the right to refuse self-incrimination and may appeal adverse judgments. The law allows plea bargaining, which is often applied in practice.

Unpredictability of court decisions and inefficiency remained major problems in the country’s judiciary, leading to long trials, which in civil cases discouraged individuals from filing suit. European Commission statistics showed the average length of civil and commercial court cases in 2015 was more than 400 days, while economic competition cases took approximately 300 days. In a March report, the Constitutional Court stated that delays in court proceedings were one of the biggest problems facing the judiciary. The report highlighted extreme delays, which exceeded 16 years in 29 cases. Between 2010 and 2016, the Constitutional Court awarded 5.7 million euros ($6.8 million) in compensation for delays.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Citizens had unrestricted access to courts to file lawsuits in civil matters, including human rights violations. Courts that hear civil cases, as with criminal courts, were subject to delays. Public trust in the judiciary continued to be low, although a 2016 survey by the NGO Via Iuris found that public trust in the judiciary increased from 22 percent to 33 percent over the previous year. The judiciary suffered from an apparent lack of accountability, and the public often perceived it as corrupt.

Administrative remedies were available in certain cases. The National Center for Human Rights has the authority to provide mediation for cases of discrimination and to represent claimants in court. Human rights organizations criticized the center for lack of activity and ineffectiveness. Individuals and organizations may appeal domestic court decisions to the ECHR.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

Rent-control regulations for apartment owners whose property was restituted after the fall of the communist regime remained a problem. The state has regulated rents in these properties at below-market rates since 1992. In 2014 the ECHR concluded the regulations violated the property owners’ rights in 21 cases and in 2015 ordered the state to pay them 2.17 million euros ($2.6 million) in damages. In 2016 the ECHR awarded compensation of 476,800 euros ($572,000) in damages to other property owners. Although authorities took legislative steps to eliminate the discriminatory treatment of the owners, according to the ECHR, property owners should receive specific and clearly regulated compensatory remedies. The ombudsperson reported excessive delays in numerous property restitution proceedings that have remained unresolved since the fall of the communist regime.

Slovakia is a signatory to the Terezin Declaration on Holocaust restitution. The government has laws and/or mechanisms in place, and the Jewish community in Slovakia reported that the government made some progress on resolution of Holocaust-era claims, including for foreign citizens. For individuals the law provides only for the restitution of immovable property, requires claims to be filed within a certain period, and requires claimants to be Slovak citizens and residents. In 2001 the Jewish community agreed to a blanket settlement with the government to accept 10 percent of the total estimated value as payment for unrestituted Jewish heirless property, which it uses to resolve claims and support the community.

Sri Lanka

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. The law presumes defendants are innocent until proven guilty. All criminal trials are public. Authorities inform defendants of the charges against them, and they have the right to counsel and the right to appeal. The government provided counsel for indigent persons tried on criminal charges in the High Court and the courts of appeal but not in cases before lower courts. Defendants have the right to confront witnesses against them and to present witnesses and evidence.

The law requires court proceedings and other legislation to be available in English, Sinhala, and Tamil. Most courts outside of Jaffna and the northern and eastern parts of the country conducted business in English or Sinhala. Trials and hearings in the north and east were in Tamil and English. A shortage of court-appointed interpreters limited the right of Tamil-speaking defendants to free interpretation as necessary. In several instances courts tried criminal cases originating in the Tamil-speaking north and east in Sinhala-speaking areas, which exacerbated the language difference and increased the difficulty in presenting witnesses who needed to travel. Few legal textbooks were available in Tamil. Defendants have the right to be present in court during trial and have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants also have the right not to testify or admit guilt.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

The CHRD reports that authorities detained more than 130 political prisoners in the country, with an additional 24 released on bail. The government did not acknowledge any political prisoners and insisted these prisoners were detained for criminal acts. The government permitted access to prisoners on a regular basis by the HRCSL, magistrates, and the Prison Welfare Society, and allowed the ICRC access to monitor prison conditions. Authorities granted only irregular access to those providing local legal counsel.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Citizens may seek civil remedies for alleged human rights violations through domestic courts.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

Land ownership disputes continued between private individuals in former war zones and between citizens and the government. In April 2016 the parliament unanimously passed the Prescription (Special Provisions) Act, which outlines special legal provisions for persons who were unable to pursue their rights in court for the recovery of land due to the activities of a militant terrorist group during the period from May 1, 1983, to May 18, 2009. The act will remain in force for two years to resolve outstanding claims. Under previous legislation, landowners who had abandoned their land for more than 10 years forfeited their property rights, which happened to a large number of property owners displaced by the 27-year war.

The military seized significant amounts of land during the war to create security buffer zones around military bases and other high-value targets, known as high security zones (HSZs). According to the 1950 Land Acquisition Act, the government may acquire private property for a “public purpose,” but the law requires posting acquisition notices publicly and providing proper compensation to owners. The former government frequently posted acquisition notices for HSZ land that were inaccessible to property owners, many of whom initiated court cases, including fundamental rights cases before the Supreme Court, to challenge these acquisitions. According to the acquisition notices, most of the land acquired was for use as army camps and bases, but among the purposes listed on certain notices were the establishment of a hotel, a factory, and a farm. Throughout the year, lawsuits, including a 2016 Supreme Court fundamental rights case and numerous writ applications filed with High Courts, remained stalled. Although HSZs had no legal framework following the lapse of emergency regulations in 2011, they still existed and remained off limits to civilians. During the year the government returned approximately 686 acres of land.

With the amount of remaining land in dispute, many of those affected by the HSZs complained that the pace at which the government demilitarized land was too slow and that the military held lands it viewed as economically valuable. Some religious minority groups reported they had difficulty officially claiming land they had long inhabited after Buddhist monks placed a statue of Buddha or a boddhi tree on their property.

Sweden

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence, have a right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, and have a right to a fair, timely, public trial without undue delay. Defendants may be present at their trial. Cases of a sensitive nature, including those involving children, rape, and national security, may be closed to the public. In other cases judges or court-appointed civilian representatives decide guilt or innocence. Defendants have the right to consult an attorney in a timely manner. In criminal cases the government is obligated to provide a defense attorney. Defendants generally have adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense with free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. Defendants may confront or question prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present witnesses and evidence on their behalf. They may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. If convicted, defendants have the right of appeal.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations in the general court system. Citizens may appeal cases involving alleged violations of the European Convention on Human Rights by the government to the European Court of Human Rights.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The government did not confiscate property belonging to Jews, Roma, or other groups targeted by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust era, and Jewish and human rights nongovernmental organizations report no disputes related to restitution.

Switzerland

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges, with free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. Trials are public and held without undue delay. Defendants are entitled to be present at their trial. They have the right to consult with an attorney in a timely manner, and the courts may provide an attorney at public expense if a defendant faces serious criminal charges. Defendants have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. They have the right to confront and question witnesses, and to present witnesses and evidence. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. They have the right to appeal, ultimately to the Federal Tribunal, the country’s highest court. Sentences for youths up to age 15 may be for no longer than one year. For offenders between the ages of 16 and 18, sentences may be up to four years. Authorities generally respected these rights and extended them to all citizens.

Military courts may try civilians charged with revealing military secrets, such as classified military documents or classified military locations and installations. There were no reports that military courts tried any civilians during the year.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters. Citizens have access to a court to bring lawsuits seeking damages for or cessation of a human rights violation. Individuals and organizations may appeal adverse domestic decisions to the European Court of Human Rights.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The government reported that Holocaust-era restitution is no longer a significant issue and that no litigation or restitution claims regarding real or immovable property covered by the Terezin Declaration, to which the government is signatory, were pending before authorities. The Jewish communities in Switzerland confirmed that no litigation or restitution claims regarding real or immovable property covered by the Terezin Declaration were pending before authorities.

Tanzania

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but many components of the judiciary remained underfunded, corrupt, inefficient (especially in the lower courts), and subject to executive influence. Judges and senior court officers are all political appointees of the president. The need to travel long distances to courts imposes logistical and financial constraints that limit access to justice for persons in rural areas. There were fewer than two judges per million persons. Court clerks reportedly continued to take bribes to open cases or hide or misdirect the files of those accused of crimes. Magistrates of lower courts occasionally accepted bribes to determine the outcome of cases.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair public trial, but a weak judiciary often failed to protect this right.

The law provides for the presumption of innocence. In most cases authorities informed detainees in detail of the charges against them once they had been brought to the police station. Charges were generally presented in Kiswahili or English with needed interpretation provided when possible. With some exceptions, criminal trials were open to the public and the press. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial. Courts that hold closed proceedings (for example, in drug trafficking cases and sexual offenses involving juveniles) generally are required to provide reasons for closing the proceedings. In cases involving terrorism, the law provides that everyone, except the interested parties, may be excluded from court proceedings and witnesses may be heard under special arrangements for their protection.

The law requires legal aid in serious criminal cases, although in practice only those accused of murder and treason were provided with free representation. Most other defendants could not afford legal representation and represented themselves in court. Defendants in criminal matters are entitled to legal representation of their choice. In practice legal representation was unavailable to defendants without the means to pay. NGOs represented some indigent defendants in large cities, such as Dar es Salaam and Arusha. In Zanzibar there were no public defenders. The law prohibits lawyers from appearing or defending clients in primary-level courts whose presiding officers are not degree-holding magistrates. Human rights groups criticized reported cases where lawyers attempting to represent clients in sensitive cases were themselves threatened with arrest.

Authorities did not always allow detainees sufficient time to prepare their defense, and access to adequate facilities was limited. Defendants have the right to free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. Defendants or their lawyers have the right to confront prosecution witnesses, and the right to present evidence and witnesses on the defendant’s behalf. Defendants were not compelled to testify or confess guilt.

All defendants charged with civil or criminal matters, except parties appearing before Zanzibari qadi courts (traditional Muslim courts that settle issues of divorce and inheritance), could appeal decisions to the respective mainland and Zanzibari high courts. All defendants can appeal decisions to the union Court of Appeal.

Judicial experts criticized the practice of police acting as prosecutors because of the risk police might manipulate evidence in criminal cases. The mainland Ministry of Constitutional Affairs and Justice continued hiring and training state prosecutors to handle the entire mainland caseload, although staffing shortages continued.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

Several opposition politicians and individuals critical of the government were arrested or detained during the year. Such individuals were usually charged with sedition, incitement, or unlawful assembly. For example, Tundu Lissu, a member of parliament (MP), the opposition chief whip, and the president of the Tanganyika Law Society, was arrested at least six times during the year, and variously charged with incitement, insulting the president, and violating the terms of his bail. In each incident he was released on bail.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Persons may bring civil lawsuits seeking damages for or the cessation of human rights violations and can appeal those rulings to the Court of Appeal on the mainland and other regional courts. Civil judicial procedures, however, were often slow, inefficient, and corrupt. Individuals and organizations with observer status had the right to bring complaints to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Tunisia

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right, although defendants complained authorities did not consistently follow the law on trial procedures. In civilian courts defendants have the right to a presumption of innocence. They also have the right to consult with an attorney or to have one provided at public expense, to confront witnesses against them, to present witnesses and evidence, and to appeal verdicts against them. The law stipulates defendants must be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, with free interpretation if necessary. They must also be given adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense and not be compelled to testify or confess guilt.

The 2015 counterterrorism law stipulates that in cases involving terrorism, judges may close hearings to the public. Judges may also keep information on witnesses, victims, and any other relevant persons confidential, including from the accused and his or her legal counsel. The counterterrorism law also extends the amount of time that a suspect may be held without access to legal counsel from five to 15 days, with a judicial review required after each five-day period. Human rights organizations objected to the law for its vague definition of terrorism and the broad leeway it gives to judges to admit testimony by anonymous witnesses.

Military courts fall under the Ministry of Defense. Military tribunals have authority to try cases involving military personnel and civilians accused of national security crimes. A defendant may appeal a military tribunal’s verdict and may resort to the civilian Supreme Court. Human rights advocates argued that national security crimes are too broadly defined but acknowledged that, following the 2011 reform of military courts, defendants in military courts have the same rights as those in civilian courts. These include the right to choose legal representation, access case files and evidence, conduct cross-examinations, call witnesses, and appeal court judgments. There is no specialized code for military courts.

AI and the Tunisian Forum for Social and Economic Rights (FTDES) documented flaws in due process and the failure to secure fair trial guarantees in the context of absentia court sentences issued to protesters in Gafsa (see section 2.b). According to AI the defendants in these cases were neither notified of the charges brought against them nor summoned to court and only found out about the cases against them when they received the sentence notification from the police. Of the 80 individuals whose case files AI reviewed, as of October most were waiting for their next court date or had appealed the charges and were waiting for a retrial.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Citizens and organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts, with the exception that military courts handle claims for civil remedies for alleged security force abuses in civil disturbances during the revolution. Civilian courts heard cases involving alleged abuse by security forces during the year. Some cases did not move forward because security force officials, and occasionally civilian judges, failed to cooperate in the investigations. According to HRW, the lack of provisions criminalizing command dereliction, which would hold senior officers liable for crimes committed by subordinates with explicit or tacit approval, contributed to military courts’ light sentences for security force members.

Uganda

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but the government did not always respect this provision. Corruption, understaffing, inefficiency, and executive branch interference with judicial rulings often undermined the courts’ independence.

The president appoints Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, and High Court judges and members of the Judicial Service Commission (which makes recommendations on appointments to the judiciary) with the approval of parliament.

Due to vacancies on the Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, High Court, and the lower courts, the judiciary did not deliver justice in a timely manner. At times the lack of judicial quorum precluded cases from proceeding.

Judicial corruption was a problem, and local media reported numerous cases where judicial officers in lower courts solicited and accepted bribes from the parties involved. On March 31, the chief justice accused the inspector general of government (IGG) of enabling corruption in the judiciary by refusing to prosecute a number of judicial officers caught accepting bribes. The IGG asserted that her office did not have the resources to prosecute low-level officers for accepting relatively small bribes and advised the judiciary to punish such officials with administrative measures.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

Although the law provides for a presumption of innocence, authorities did not always respect this right. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them and are entitled to free assistance of an interpreter. An inadequate system of judicial administration resulted in a serious backlog of cases, undermining suspects’ right to a timely trial. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial and to consult with an attorney of their choice. The law requires the government to provide an attorney for indigent defendants charged with capital offenses. Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense and appeal. The law allows defendants to confront or question witnesses testifying against them and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf, but authorities did not always respect this right. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and they have the right to appeal.

All nonmilitary trials are public. A single judge decides cases in the High Court, while a panel of at least five judges decides cases in the Constitutional and Supreme Courts. The law allows military courts to try civilians that assist members of the military in committing offenses or are found possessing arms, ammunition, or other equipment reserved for the armed forces.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

During the year authorities detained numerous opposition politicians and activists on politically motivated grounds. Authorities released many without charge but charged others with crimes including cyber harassment, inciting violence, holding illegal meetings, and abuse of office. No statistics on the number of political detainees or prisoners were available.

On April 7, the UPF arrested Makerere University lecturer Stella Nyanzi on a charge of cyber harassment for calling the president “a pair of buttocks” in a Facebook post (see section 2.a.). On April 10, the court remanded her to Luzira Prison, where she remained until the court released her on bail on May 10. Nyanzi’s lawyers said the UPS attempted to conduct a medical examination on Nyanzi by force, but she resisted. The UPS stated it was a routine medical examination conducted on all inmates. The state claimed that Nyanzi was mentally ill and requested the court order her to submit to a mental examination. Nyanzi petitioned the Constitutional Court to block the examination, and the case remained pending at year’s end.

On multiple occasions the UPS delayed or blocked visitors from seeing Nyanzi. On April 19, UPS personnel blocked Nyanzi’s children and lawyers from accessing her for four hours, saying the visitors did not have clearance, but later allowed them to see her. On April 22, UPS personnel blocked opposition leader Besigye from visiting Nyanzi, asserting that it was not a visitation day, but allowed him to visit other inmates that day in the same prison. Nyanzi’s family said that to stop Nyanzi from teaching and reading to other inmates, the UPS confiscated her books and writings and instructed other inmates not to speak with her and to avoid her.

There was no available information on whether the government permitted international human rights or humanitarian organizations access to political detainees.

On July 13, the Constitutional Court issued an order to halt opposition politician Michael Kabaziguruka’s military court trial until the court ruled on his application contesting the constitutionality of trying a civilian in a military court. In 2016 the state charged Kabaziguruka with treason in a military court alongside 26 others, allegedly for plotting a violent government takeover.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters. Victims may report cases of human rights violations through the regular court system or the UHRC, which has judicial powers under the constitution. These powers include the authority to order the release of detainees, pay compensation to victims, and pursue other legal and administrative remedies, such as mediation. Victims may appeal their cases to the Court of Appeal and thereafter to the Supreme Court but not to an international or regional court. Civil courts and the UHRC have no ability to hold perpetrators of human rights abuses criminally liable, and bureaucratic delays hampered enforcement of judgments that granted financial compensation.

Uruguay

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. Judicial officials received threats from organized crime groups, and the government assigned police protection to them.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants have the right to a presumption of innocence, to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges brought against them, to have a trial without undue delay, to be present at their trial, to communicate with an attorney of their choice (or have one provided at public expense if they are unable to afford one), to have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, to receive free assistance of an interpreter, to not be compelled to testify or confess guilt, to confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present one’s own witnesses and evidence, and to appeal.

Juries are not used; under the previous criminal procedural code, trial proceedings usually consisted of written arguments to the judge and were not normally made public. Only the judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney had access to the written record. Individual judges could elect to hear oral arguments, but most judges chose to rule on a case solely based on an examination of written documents, a major factor slowing down the judicial process.

During the year the government prepared a transition from an inquisitorial system to an accusatory system of criminal justice to address inefficiency, opacity, and the overuse of pretrial detentions, as well as to establish a more fair and transparent judicial system that provides greater advocacy to victims. Parliament approved the reform of the criminal procedure code in 2014 and passed two laws to begin to put the new code into practice. The government trained police, prosecutors, and judicial personnel throughout the year. The government also carried out numerous interagency training sessions, with support from civil society and international organizations, to train legal and judicial officials on the new code.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There are transparent administrative procedures to handle complaints of abuse by government agents. An independent and impartial judiciary handles civil disputes, but its decisions were sometimes ineffectively enforced. Local police lacked the training and staff to enforce restraining orders, which often were generated during civil disputes related to domestic violence. Cases involving violations of an individual’s human rights may be submitted through petitions filed by individuals or organizations to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, which in turn may submit the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The court may order civil remedies including fair compensation to the individual injured.

Uzbekistan

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, there were some instances in which the judiciary did not operate with complete independence and impartiality. Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, members of the judiciary reportedly rendered verdicts desired by the Prosecutor General’s Office or other law enforcement bodies.

The president appoints all judges for renewable five-year terms. Removal of Supreme Court judges must be confirmed by parliament, which generally complied with the president’s wishes.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The criminal code specifies a presumption of innocence. Most trials were officially open to the public, although access was sometimes restricted. Judges may close trials in exceptional cases, such as those involving state secrets or to protect victims and witnesses. Judges generally permitted international observers at proceedings without requiring written permission from the Supreme Court or court chairmen, but judges or other officials arbitrarily closed some proceedings to observers, even in civil cases. Authorities generally announced trials only one or two days before they began, and hearings were frequently postponed.

A panel of one professional judge and two lay assessors, selected by committees of worker collectives or neighborhood committees, generally presided over trials. Lay judges rarely speak, and the professional judge usually accepts the prosecutors’ recommendations on procedural rulings and sentencing.

Defendants have the right to attend court proceedings, confront witnesses, and present evidence, but judges declined defense motions to summon additional witnesses or to enter evidence supporting the defendant into the record. In the overwhelming majority of criminal cases brought to trial, the verdict was guilty. Defendants have the right to hire an attorney although some human rights activists encountered difficulties finding legal representation. The government provided legal counsel and interpreters without charge when necessary. According to credible reports, state-appointed defense attorneys routinely acted in the interest of the government rather than of their clients because of their reliance on the state for a livelihood and fear of possible recriminations.

By law a prosecutor must request an arrest order from a court, and courts rarely denied such requests. Prosecutors have considerable power after obtaining an arrest order: They direct investigations, prepare criminal cases, recommend sentences to judges, and may appeal court decisions, including the sentence. After formal charges are filed, the prosecutor decides whether a suspect is released on bail, stays in pretrial detention, or is kept under house arrest. Although the criminal code specifies a presumption of innocence, a prosecutor’s recommendations generally prevailed. If a judge’s sentence does not correspond with the prosecutor’s recommendation, the prosecutor may appeal the sentence to a higher court. Judges often based their verdicts solely on confessions and witness testimony, which authorities allegedly were thought to extract through abuse, threats to family members, or other means of coercion. This was especially common in religious extremism cases. Lawyers may, and occasionally did, call on judges to reject confessions and investigate claims of torture. Judges often did not respond to such claims or dismissed them as groundless. Courts failed to investigate properly allegations of torture. Judicial verdicts frequently alleged that defendants claimed torture to avoid criminal responsibility.

Legal protections against double jeopardy were not applied.

The law provides a right of appeal to defendants, but appeals rarely resulted in reversals of convictions. In some cases, however, appeals resulted in reduced or suspended sentences.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

International and domestic human rights organizations estimated that authorities held hundreds of prisoners on political grounds, and some groups asserted the number was in the thousands. These claims were not statistically and independently verifiable. The government denied it held political prisoners and maintained that these individuals are criminals who broke the law. The government does not permit access to such persons by human rights or humanitarian organizations such as the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

On October 15, Malohat Eshonqulova and Elena Urlaeva were detained for up to five hours in Samarkand for their monitoring of labor in the cotton harvest. On November 12, police raided Eshonqulova’s home and confiscated some of her belongings, fined her, and threatened her with internal deportation.

On September 27, Fergana News and others reported journalist Bobomurod Abdullayev had been secretly arrested. Several NGOs reported he was held incommunicado from family members and that his lawyer was not permitted to speak to him. Fergana reported that, on September 29, the NSS searched Abdullayev’s house and that several media and data items were taken by officials. Abdullayev reappeared in court on October 2; Reporters without Borders, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch called for his release. Abdullayev, under the pseudonym Usman Khaknazarov, was charged with disseminating propaganda “aimed at overthrowing the constitutional order.” The case continued at year’s end.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Citizens may file suit in civil courts for alleged human rights violations by officials, excluding investigators, prosecutors, and judges. There were reports that bribes to judges influenced civil court decisions.

Zambia

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary; the government largely respected judicial independence. The ruling party intervened in criminal and civil cases in which it had an interest.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, but the judicial system was open to influence by the ruling party in cases in which it has an interest. Defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence, to be informed promptly of charges against them, and to be present at a fair and timely trial. Nevertheless, defendants were not always informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, and trials were usually delayed. Defendants enjoy the right to consult with an attorney of their choice, to have adequate time to prepare a defense, to present their own witnesses, and to confront or question witnesses against them. Indigent defendants were rarely provided an attorney at state expense. Interpretation services in local languages were available in most cases. There were no reports defendants were compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants had the right to appeal.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were some reports of political prisoners or detainees, particularly following the 2016 election period. For example, in October 2016 UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema stated police arrested more than 2,000 UPND members on “trumped up” charges. The ZPS claimed these individuals were arrested while committing assaults and robberies. Some were tried and convicted of assault and malicious damage of property, while others were released without charge or, if tried, acquitted.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Complainants may seek redress for human rights abuses from the High Court. Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations and appeal court decisions to the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights. In 2015 a group of Barotse activists appealed to the court, seeking to compel the government to respond to a legal argument for the region’s independence. The appeal remained pending at year’s end.

Zimbabwe

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but executive influence and interference remained a problem. There continued to be instances where the judiciary demonstrated its independence despite being under intense pressure to conform to government policies.

For example, on June 19, a magistrate set free 51 Harare residents who had been on trial since 2016 after police arrested them for allegedly participating in an antigovernment protest. In his ruling, the magistrate stated that the government failed during the trial to prove the essential elements of the charge.

The government often refused to abide by judicial decisions and routinely delayed payment of court costs or judgments awarded against it in civil cases. Judicial corruption was widespread, extending beyond magistrates and judges. For example, NGOs reported senior government officials undermined judicial independence, including by giving farms and homes to judges.

Magistrates heard the vast majority of cases. Legal experts claimed defendants in politically sensitive cases were more likely to receive a fair hearing in magistrates’ courts than in higher courts, in which justices were more likely to make politicized decisions. ZANU-PF sympathizers used threats and intimidation to force magistrates, particularly rural magistrates, to rule in the government’s favor. In politically charged cases, other judicial officers such as prosecutors and private attorneys also faced pressure, including harassment and intimidation. Some urban-based junior magistrates demonstrated a greater degree of independence and granted opposition party members and civil society activists bail against the government’s wishes.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, but political pressure and corruption frequently compromised this right. By law, defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence, although courts did not always respect this right. Magistrates or judges held trials without juries. Trials were open to the public except in cases involving minors or state security matters. Assessors, in lieu of juries, could be appointed in cases in which conviction of an offense could result in a death penalty or lengthy prison sentence. Defendants have the right to a lawyer of their choosing, but most defendants in magistrates’ courts did not have legal representation. In criminal cases an indigent defendant may apply to have the government provide an attorney, but requests were rarely granted except in capital cases, in which the government provided an attorney for all defendants unable to afford one. Individuals in civil cases may request free legal assistance from the Legal Resources Foundation or the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR). The Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association also provided some free legal assistance to women and youth. Free interpretation is provided for by law, and Shona-English interpretation was generally available. The right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense is also provided for by law but was often lacking.

Authorities sometimes denied attorneys’ access to their clients. Defendants have the right to present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf and to confront adverse witnesses. Any person arrested or detained for an alleged offense has the right to remain silent and may not be compelled to confess. Defendants and their attorneys have the right to access all government-held evidence relevant to their cases. Authorities did not always respect these rights.

Conviction requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and the prosecution bears the burden of proof. The right to appeal against both conviction and sentence exists in all cases, and it is automatic in cases in which the death penalty is imposed.

Unlike in normal criminal proceedings, which proceed from investigation to trial within months, in cases of members of political parties or civil society critical of ZANU-PF, prosecuting agents regularly took abnormally long to submit their cases for trial. In many cases wherein authorities granted bail to government opponents, they did not conclude investigations and set a trial date but instead chose to “proceed by way of summons.” This left the threat of impending prosecution remaining, with the accused person eventually being called to court, only to be informed of further delays. The prosecutors and police routinely retained material confiscated from the accused as evidence.

Government officials frequently ignored court orders in such cases, delayed bail and access to medical care, and selectively enforced court orders related to land disputes favorable to those associated with ZANU-PF.

The public had fair access to the courts of law, particularly the magistrates’ courts, although observers reported occasional physical and procedural impediments.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were reports of individuals arrested for political reasons, including opposition party officials, their supporters, NGO workers, journalists, and civil society activists. Authorities held many such individuals for one or two days and released them. Political prisoners and detainees did not receive the same standard of treatment as other prisoners or detainees, and prison authorities arbitrarily denied access to political prisoners. There were reports police beat and physically abused political and civil society activists while they were in detention.

On January 16, police arrested Remnant Pentecostal Church pastor Phillip Mugadza on charges of criminal nuisance for allegedly predicting that President Mugabe would die during the year. On March 10, a High Court judge released Mugadza.

On August 16, Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association secretary general Victor Matemadanda turned himself in to police after he was charged with undermining the authority of the president and causing disaffection within the army and police based on comments he made during a press conference. Contrary to the law, police held Matemadanda more than 48 hours before he appeared before a judge. Police released Matemadanda after they unsuccessfully applied to have him detained for a longer period, claiming they wanted to search for subversive material at his Gokwe home. His trial remained pending.

During the military intervention in November, there were reports that hundreds of police and intelligence operatives were detained at military facilities.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Civil judicial procedures allow for an independent and impartial judiciary, but the judiciary was subject to political influence and intimidation, particularly in cases involving high-ranking government officials, politically connected individuals, or individuals and organizations seeking remedies for violations of human rights.

Lack of judicial and police resources contributed to problems enforcing domestic court orders.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The constitution stipulates the government must compensate persons for improvements made on land subsequently taken by the government, but it does not set a timeline for the delivery of compensation. The government rarely provided restitution or compensation for the taking of private property, and police did not take action against individuals who seized private property without having secured sanction from the state to do so.

Support was uneven and inconsistent for households resettled from the diamond mining grounds of Marange in Chiadzwa to a government-owned agricultural estate outside Mutare. Since 2010, authorities relocated more than 1,800 families. Each household was entitled to receive $1,000 for relocation, although reportedly only a handful received the money. Most of the relocated families had not received compensation of any kind, including agricultural land, while the government classified them as “people with no recognizable legal rights or claim to the land that they are occupying,” citing their former land was now state land, despite customary and traditional rights to the contrary.