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Crimea

Read A Section: Crimea

Ukraine

In February 2014 Russian forces entered Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and occupied it militarily. In March 2014 Russia announced the peninsula had become part of the Russian Federation following a sham referendum that violated Ukraine’s constitution. The UN General Assembly’s Resolution 68/262 on the Territorial Integrity of Ukraine of March 27, 2014; Resolution 76/179 on the Situation of Human Rights in the Temporarily Occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol, Ukraine, of December 16, 2021; and Resolution 76/70 on the Problem of the militarization of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine, as well as parts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov of December 9, 2021, called on states and international organizations not to recognize any change in Crimea’s status and affirmed the commitment of the United Nations to recognize Crimea as part of Ukraine. In 2014 Ukraine’s parliament (Verkhovna Rada) adopted a law attributing responsibility for human rights violations in Crimea to the Russian Federation as the occupying state. The United States does not recognize the attempted annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation. Russian law has been applied in Crimea since the Russian occupation and purported “annexation” of the peninsula. For detailed information on the laws and practices of the Russian Federation, see the Country Report on Human Rights for Russia.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

A local occupation authority installed by the Russian government and led by Sergey Aksyonov as “prime minister” of the “state council of the Republic of Crimea” administers occupied Crimea. The “state council” is responsible for day-to-day administration and other functions of governing. Russia’s September 17-19 nationwide Duma elections included seats allocated for purportedly annexed Crimea, a move widely condemned by the international community and that contravened the Ukrainian constitution.

Russian government agencies, including the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Federal Security Service, Federal Investigative Committee, and Office of the Prosecutor General, applied and enforced Russian law in Crimea as if it were a part of the Russian Federation. The Federal Security Service also conducted security, counterintelligence, and counterterrorism activities and combatted organized crime and corruption. A “national police force” operated under the aegis of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Russian authorities maintained control over Russian military and security forces deployed in Crimea. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed numerous abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by Russia or Russia-led “authorities”; forced disappearances by Russia or Russia-led “authorities”; torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by Russia or Russia-led “authorities,” including punitive psychiatric incarceration; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions and transfer of prisoners to Russia; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners or detainees; serious problems with the independence of the occupation judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence or threats of violence against journalists, unjustified arrests or prosecutions against journalists, censorship, and criminal libel laws; serious restrictions on internet freedom; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding, or operation of nongovernmental and civil society organizations; severe restrictions of religious freedom; restrictions on freedom of movement; inability of citizens to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation, including unelected governments and elections that were not genuine, free, or fair; serious acts of corruption; serious restrictions on or harassment of domestic and international human rights organizations; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting members of national/racial/ethnic minority groups or indigenous people, including Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians; and crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There was one new report of occupation authorities committing arbitrary or unlawful killings. According to human rights groups, on May 11, Russian security forces fatally shot 51-year-old Uzbek citizen Nabi Rakhimov during a raid and search of his residence in the village of Dubki near Simferopol. Russia’s Federal Investigative Service (FSB) claimed Rakhimov was a suspected terrorist and was shot during a gun battle with officers. Lawyers of Rakhimov’s family characterized the FSB’s account as a cover-up and claimed FSB officers likely tortured Rakhimov before shooting him. Occupation authorities refused to turn Rakhimov’s body over to the family. On August 9, a Simferopol “court” rejected an appeal of Rakhimov’s widow for the body to be returned. As of September her lawyer planned to appeal the decision to the “supreme court.”

Impunity for past killings remained a serious problem. The Russian government tasked the Russian Investigative Committee with investigating whether security force killings in occupied Crimea were justifiable and whether to pursue prosecutions. The HRMMU reported the Investigative Committee failed to take adequate steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses, resulting in a climate of impunity. The Office of the Prosecutor of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea also investigated security force killings from its headquarters in Kyiv, but de facto restrictions on access to occupied Crimea limited its effectiveness.

There were still no reported investigations for the four Crimean Tatars found dead in 2019. Occupation authorities did not adequately investigate killings of Crimean residents from 2014 and 2015. According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 12 Crimean residents who had disappeared during the occupation were later found dead. Human rights groups reported occupation authorities did not investigate other suspicious deaths and disappearances, occasionally categorizing them as suicide. Human rights observers reported that families frequently did not challenge findings in such cases due to fear of retaliation.

b. Disappearance

There were reports of abductions and disappearances by occupation authorities. OHCHR reported that 43 individuals had gone missing since Russian forces occupied Crimea in 2014, and the fate of 11 of these individuals remained unknown. OHCHR reported occupation authorities had not prosecuted anyone in relation to the forced disappearances. NGO and press reports indicated occupation authorities were responsible for the disappearances. For example, in 2014 Revolution of Dignity activists Ivan Bondarets and Valeriy Vashchuk telephoned relatives to report police in Simferopol had detained them at a railway station for displaying a Ukrainian flag. Relatives had no communication with them since, and the whereabouts of the two men remained unknown.

According to the Crimean Tatar Resource Center, two Crimean Tatars reported missing during the year were found dead. Nineteen-year-old Crimean Tatar Osman Adzhyosmanov went missing on July 2; his body was found on August 8. Twenty-three-year-old Crimean Tatar Aider Dzhemalyadynov went missing on July 26 and was found dead on August 5. As of mid-September, occupation authorities were reportedly investigating the circumstances of the deaths. Occupation authorities denied international monitors, including OHCHR and the OSCE, access to Crimea, which made it impossible for monitors to investigate forced disappearances there properly.

Occupation authorities did not adequately investigate the deaths and disappearances, according to human rights groups. Human rights groups reported that police often refused to register reports of disappearances and intimidated and threatened with detention those who tried to report disappearances. The Ukrainian government and human rights groups believed Russian security forces kidnapped the individuals for opposing Russia’s occupation to instill fear in the population and prevent dissent.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

There were widespread reports that occupation authorities in Crimea tortured and otherwise abused residents who opposed the occupation. According to the Crimean Human Rights Group, “The use of torture by the FSB and the Russia-led police against Ukrainian citizens became a systematic and unpunished phenomenon after Russia’s occupation of Crimea.” Human rights monitors reported that Russian occupation authorities subjected Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians in particular to physical abuse. For example on March 10, the FSB detained freelance RFE/RL journalist Vladyslav Yesypenko in Crimea on charges of “illegal production, repair, or modifying of firearms.” After his initial arrest, OHCHR reported that Yesypenko was tortured by FSB officers for several hours to obtain a forced confession on cooperating with Ukrainian intelligence agencies. According to the HRMMU, occupation authorities reportedly denied Yesypenko access to a lawyer during his first 28 days in detention and tortured him with electric shocks, beatings, and sexual violence in order to obtain a confession.

Occupation authorities reportedly demonstrated a pattern of using punitive psychiatric incarceration as a means of pressuring detained individuals. For example, according to the Crimean Human Rights Group, on March 5, occupation authorities transferred Ernest Ibrahimov to the Crimean Clinical Psychiatric Hospital for forced psychiatric evaluation. Ibrahimov was one of seven Muslims arrested on February 17 and charged with having attended a mosque allegedly belonging to the Islamic organization Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is banned in Russia as a “terrorist” group but is legal in Ukraine. Human right defenders viewed the authorities’ move as an attempt to break his client’s will and intimidate him.

According to the Crimean Human Rights Group, as of September 1, approximately 16 Crimean Tatar defendants had been subjected to psychiatric evaluation and confinement against their will without apparent medical need since the beginning of the occupation (see section 1.d.).

Human rights monitors reported that occupation authorities also threatened individuals with violence or imprisonment if they did not testify in court against individuals whom authorities believed were opposed to the occupation.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions reportedly remained harsh and life threatening due to overcrowding and poor conditions.

Physical Conditions: The Crimean Human Rights Group reported inhuman conditions in official places of detention in Crimea. According to an August report by the UN secretary-general, inadequate conditions in detention centers in Crimea could amount to “inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, or even torture.” According to the report, prisons in Crimea were overcrowded, medical assistance for prisoners was inadequate, and detainees complained of systematic beatings and humiliating strip searches by prison guards.

Overcrowding forced prisoners to sleep in shifts and to share beds. According to the Crimean Human Rights Group, detainees held in the Simferopol pretrial detention center complained of poor sanitary conditions, broken toilets, and insufficient heating. Detainees diagnosed with HIV as well as with tuberculosis and other communicable diseases were kept in a single cell. On April 15, the Kharkiv Human Right Protection Group reported that Ivan Yatskin, a Ukrainian detained by occupation authorities in 2019 on charges of treason, had been held in a basement cell infested with bedbugs, mold, and rats since April 9 after being transferred from a prison in Moscow to Simferopol. Yatskin’s lawyer claimed Yatskin’s cellmates repeatedly threatened to harm him and his family members. According to the Crimea Human Rights Group, occupation authorities withheld medicine Yatskin needed to treat a leg ulcer and chest injury. On May 21, occupation authorities sentenced Yatskin to 11 years in prison. Human rights groups called the ruling politically motivated and considered Yatskin a political prisoner.

There were reports detainees were denied medical treatment, even for serious health conditions. According to the June UN secretary-general’s special report, detainees often had to rely on relatives to provide medicine, since the medical assistance provided at detention centers was inadequate. For example, Kostiantyn Shyrinh, a 61-year-old Ukrainian detained by occupation authorities in May 2020 on charges of espionage and suffering from cardiovascular disease, was consistently denied medical treatment by occupation authorities at the Simferopol pretrial detention facility despite numerous requests for medical assistance. During an August 12 court appearance, Shyrinh required emergency medical treatment, and an ambulance was called at the request of his lawyer. Prison authorities reportedly retaliated against detainees who refused Russian Federation citizenship by placing them in smaller cells or in solitary confinement.

Administration: Authorities generally did not investigate allegations of torture and mistreatment. Authorities sometimes did not allow prisoners and detainees access to visitors or religious observance. According to defense lawyers, prisoners considered Russian citizens by the Russian Federation were denied Ukrainian consular visits, and some Crimean residents were transferred to prison facilities in Russia without Ukrainian passports.

Independent Monitoring: Occupation authorities did not permit monitoring of prison or detention center conditions by independent nongovernmental observers or international organizations. Occupation authorities permitted the “human rights ombudsperson,” Lyudmila Lubina, to visit prisoners, but human rights activists regarded Lubina as representing the interests of occupation authorities and did not view her as an independent actor.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

See the Country Reports on Human Rights for Russia for a description of the relevant Russian laws and procedures that the Russian government applied and enforced in occupied Crimea.

Arbitrary Arrest: Arbitrary arrests continued to occur, which observers believed were a means of instilling fear, stifling opposition, and inflicting punishment on those who opposed the occupation. Security forces conducted regular raids on Crimean Tatar villages and the homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses, accompanied by detentions, interrogations, and often criminal charges. The Crimean Resource Center recorded 156 detentions and 41 interrogations that were politically motivated during the first six months of the year.

On September 3-4, the FSB conducted a series of night raids on homes of Crimean Tatars in Sevastopol and detained five Crimean Tatars, including First Deputy Chairman of the Crimean Mejlis (the executive representative body of Crimean Tatars) Nariman Dzhelyal, on charges of involvement in the alleged sabotage of a gas pipeline in Crimea. Human rights groups reported occupation authorities prevented the detainees and their family members from calling lawyers during the raids, failed to properly identify themselves, and refused to inform the family members where the men were being taken. Occupation authorities reportedly held Dzhelyal in handcuffs and with a bag over his head in a basement cell for the first 24 hours of detention and tortured at least three of the detainees, including Dzhelyal, to force confessions. On October 28, an occupation court extended Dzhelyal’s detention to January 23, 2022. Ukrainian government officials dismissed the charges against the men as politically motivated fabrications.

Immediately following the arrests, dozens of Crimeans peacefully protested outside the FSB building in Simferopol, demanding information regarding the five Crimean Tatars who were being held incommunicado. FSB officers subsequently detained more than 50 Crimean Tatars and reportedly forced them into buses, beat them, and held them in different police precincts where they were questioned without lawyers present, according to Ukraine’s human rights ombudsperson.

The HRMMU noted that justifications underpinning the arrests of alleged members of “terrorist” or “extremist” groups often provided little to no evidence that the suspect posed an actual threat to society by planning or undertaking concrete actions.

The HRMMU noted the prevalence of members of the Crimean Tatar community among those apprehended during police raids. According to the Crimean Tatar Resource Center, of the 156 individuals arrested between January and June, 126 were Crimean Tatars. The HRMMU noted raids were often carried out on the pretext of purported need to seize materials linking suspects to groups that were banned in the Russian Federation, but lawful in Ukraine.

For example, according to press reports, on August 17, the FSB raided houses of Crimean Tatars in various parts of the peninsula. Five individuals were arrested during the raids, including four Crimean Tatar activists and a Crimean Tatar religious leader. According to human rights groups, security forces planted incriminating “evidence” during the raids and denied detained individuals access to lawyers. Of the five men arrested during the raid, two were charged with organizing the activities of a “terrorist” organization (Hizb ut-Tahrir, a legal organization in Ukraine), which carries a sentence of up to life in prison. The rest were charged with participating in the activities of a terrorist organization, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

Members of Jehovah’s Witnesses were also targeted for raids and arbitrary arrests. For example on March 11, Russian security forces in Yalta conducted searches of nine homes belonging to members of Jehovah’s Witnesses. As part of the searches, occupation authorities arrested 42-year-old Taras Kuzio on charges of financing an “extremist” organization and seized electronic equipment and financial assets from his home. Jehovah’s Witnesses is banned in Russia, and this religious group is deemed an “extremist” organization under Russian law, but it is legal in Ukraine. As of late October, Kuzio was under house arrest. On March 29, a Sevastopol court sentenced member of Jehovah’s Witnesses Viktor Stashevskyy to six and one-half years’ imprisonment on “extremism” charges. According to local media, prosecutors relied on testimony from a secret witness to cast Stashevskyy’s private discussions of the Bible as illegal “organizational activities” on behalf of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Failure to submit to conscription into the Russian military was also used as a basis for arbitrary arrests. Since 2015 Russia conducted annual spring and fall conscriptions in Crimea, and failure to comply is punishable by criminal penalty. As of September 30, NGOs estimated nearly 31,000 persons had been conscripted since the beginning of the occupation. As of September 1, the Crimean Human Rights Group documented 244 criminal cases brought against Crimean residents for evading military service in the Russian Armed Forces.

Detainees were often denied access to a lawyer during interrogation. For example, occupation authorities reportedly denied RFE/RL journalist Vladyslav Yesypenko access to a lawyer for 28 days following his March 10 detention, during which he was reportedly tortured (see section 1.c).

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Under Russian occupation authorities, the judicial system was neither independent nor impartial. Judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys were subject to political directives, and the outcomes of trials appeared predetermined by occupation authorities. The HRMMU noted that lawyers defending individuals accused of extremism or terrorism risked facing harassment or similar charges themselves. For example, human rights lawyer Lilya Hemedzhi reported that on May 11, occupation authorities delivering a notice of arrest to her client threatened to take actions to have her disbarred from Russia-controlled courts. Human rights groups reported Hemedzhi faced long-standing pressure for her involvement in defending Crimean Tatar activists, including in August 2020, when a Russia-controlled court in Crimea privately ruled that Hemedzhi violated court procedures by speaking out of turn during a video conference hearing. Such rulings could place a lawyer’s standing with the bar in jeopardy.

Trial Procedures

Defendants in politically motivated cases were increasingly transferred to the Russian Federation for trial. (See the Country Reports on Human Rights for Russia for a description of the relevant Russian laws and procedures that the Russian government applied and enforced in occupied Crimea).

Occupation authorities limited the ability to have a public hearing. According to the HRMMU, occupation authorities banned family members and media from the courtroom for hearings related to charges of Hizb ut-Tahrir membership and other activities deemed subversive under Russian law. The courts justified the closed hearings by citing vague concerns regarding the “safety of the participants.” The courts failed to publish judgments in these cases.

Occupation authorities interfered with defendants’ ability to access an attorney. According to the Crimean Human Rights Group, defendants facing terrorism or extremism-related charges were often pressured into dismissing their privately hired lawyers in exchange for promised leniency.

Occupation authorities intimidated witnesses to influence their testimony. On September 7, Russian security forces detained former member of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis Edlar Mensytov at his home near Simferopol. Occupation authorities reportedly interrogated Mensytov as a possible suspect in the case of the alleged August 23 sabotage of a gas pipeline (see section 1.d.). Mensytov was denied access to a lawyer during the interrogation and released after one day of detention. Human rights groups expressed concerns that occupation authorities had detained Mensytov in retaliation for his participation as a defense witness at a June 18 trial of prominent exiled Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev, whom occupation authorities charged in absentia with attempting to illegally cross into occupied Crimea.

The HRMMU reported that occupation authorities retroactively applied Russia’s laws to actions that took place before the occupation of the peninsula began.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

According to the Crimean Human Rights Group, as of late October, 124 Crimeans were being deprived of freedom in occupied Crimea or in Russia on political or religious charges, 89 of whom were Crimean Tatar Muslims prosecuted on terrorism charges.

Charges of extremism, terrorism, or violation of territorial integrity were particularly applied to opponents of the occupation, such as Crimean Tatars, Jehovah’s Witnesses, independent journalists, and individuals expressing dissent on social media.

f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

See the Country Reports on Human Rights for Russia for a description of the relevant Russian laws and procedures that the Russian government applied and enforced in occupied Crimea.

Occupation authorities and others engaged in electronic surveillance, entered residences and other premises without warrants, and harassed relatives and neighbors of perceived opposition figures.

Occupation authorities routinely conducted raids on homes to intimidate the local population, particularly Crimean Tatars, ethnic Ukrainians, and members of Jehovah’s Witnesses, ostensibly on the grounds of searching for weapons, drugs, or “extremist literature.” According to the Crimean Tatar Resource Center, occupation authorities conducted 32 raids between January and June; 13 were in the households of Crimean Tatars.

Human rights groups reported that Russian authorities exercised widespread authority to tap telephones and read electronic communications and had established a network of informants to report on suspicious activities. Occupation authorities reportedly encouraged state employees to inform on their colleagues who might oppose the occupation. According to human rights activists, eavesdropping and visits by security personnel created an environment in which persons were afraid to express any opinion contrary to the occupation authorities, even in private.

Occupation authorities regularly used recorded audio of discussions regarding religion and politics, obtained through illegal wiretapping of private homes and testimonies from unidentified witnesses, as evidence in court. For example, according to the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, on September 27, prosecutors in a hearing involving five Crimean Tatar activists charged with allegedly organizing the activities of a “terrorist” organization presented as evidence illegal wiretaps of purported conversations between the defendants and a secret witness. The five men were arrested in 2019 by occupation authorities during mass raids on Crimean Tatar homes in and around Simferopol. The prosecution’s purported “expert” witnesses claimed the recordings, which human rights groups characterized as innocuous discussions of politics and religion, were evidence of terrorist activity. The defense questioned whether the recordings had been edited. On July 6, in a separate case involving five other Crimean Tatar activists detained in the same 2019 raids on terrorism-related charges, prosecutors reportedly introduced testimony to the court from an unidentified witness. According to the accused men’s lawyers, the unidentified witness was an FSB agent who had provided similar testimony in several other cases. The lawyers claimed the court rejected their petition to reveal the identity of the witness. As of September the men were being held at a detention facility in Rostov-on-Don in Russia as the trial proceeded.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

See the Country Reports on Human Rights for Russia for a description of the relevant Russian laws and procedures the Russian government applied and enforced in occupied Crimea.

Occupation authorities significantly restricted the exercise of freedom of expression and subjected dissenting voices, including the press and other media, to harassment and prosecution. Occupation authorities’ reported failure to investigate or prosecute attacks on human rights defenders and peaceful protesters led to de facto restrictions on the exercise of freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.

Freedom of Expression: The HRMMU noted occupation authorities placed “excessive limitations on the freedoms of opinion and expression.” In July 2020 occupation authorities began enforcing a law that prohibits the unauthorized dissemination of information damaging to the FSB’s reputation without the FSB’s approval. Enforcement of this law in Crimea further deprived residents of the ability to exercise freedom of expression, by preventing them from publicly criticizing and disseminating information concerning reportedly unlawful actions of FSB officers and alleged violations or abuses of human rights.

Individuals could not publicly criticize the Russian occupation without fear of reprisal. Human rights groups reported the FSB engaged in widespread surveillance of social media, telephones, and electronic communication and routinely summoned individuals for “discussions” for speaking or posting opposition to the occupation. These unlawfully obtained recordings were often used against those who were arbitrarily arrested in closed trials.

Occupation authorities often deemed expressions of dissent “extremism” and prosecuted individuals for them. For example, according to press reports, on March 22, the Russia-controlled prosecutor’s office for the Nizhnegorsk district in Crimea formally warned Crimean Tatar Akhmadzhon Kadyrov that his recent public statements could constitute “extremism.” The written warning referenced a video posted to social media on March 7 in which Kadyrov denied that Crimean Tatars were terrorists and spoke about the suffering and injustices Crimean Tatars experienced under Russia’s occupation. The “prosecutor’s” warning claimed Kadyrov’s criticisms of Russia’s judicial proceedings and calls of support for Crimean Tatar political prisoners indicated a “negative attitude towards law enforcement and judicial officials.”

Occupation authorities continued to ban the display of Ukrainian or Crimean Tatar symbols as “extremist.” Human rights groups claimed violations of this law were rare during the year because of fewer residents displaying such symbols than in previous years, reportedly to avoid prosecution.

Occupation authorities deemed expressions of support for Ukrainian sovereignty over the peninsula to be equivalent to undermining Russian territorial integrity. For example on June 1, the Russia-controlled “supreme court” in occupied Crimea found Chairman of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis Refat Chubarov guilty of publicly calling for the violation of Russia’s territorial integrity and organizing “mass riots.” The court sentenced him in absentia to six years in prison. The charges were linked to Chubarov’s role in organizing a 2014 peaceful demonstration in front of the Crimean parliament in support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

There were multiple reports that occupation authorities detained and prosecuted individuals seeking to film raids on homes or court proceedings. For example, according to press reports, on October 25, Russian occupation authorities arrested 21 men, including two Crimean Solidarity journalists, who had gathered outside of a court in Simferopol to observe a hearing for three Crimean Tatar political prisoners. Crimean Solidarity journalists Ruslan Paralamov and Dlyaver Ibragimov, who were reporting on and filming the gathering, were charged with administrative offenses related to the violation of public order.

During the year occupation authorities prosecuted individuals for the content of social media posts. For example on July 22, occupation authorities arrested 27-year-old Crimean Tatar Abdulla Ibrahimov after conducting a search of his father’s home and the family’s store in Evpatoria. Occupation authorities reportedly filed administrative charges against Abdulla for publicly displaying the symbols of “extremist” organizations, in connection to his alleged posting of a symbol for Hizb ut-Tahrir on social media in 2013 (before Russia’s occupation of Crimea). Abdulla was released on July 25.

Freedom of Expression for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media: Independent print and broadcast media could not operate freely. Most independent media outlets were forced to close in 2015 after occupation authorities refused to register them. According to the Crimean Human Rights Group, after the occupation began, many local journalists left Crimea or abandoned their profession. With no independent media outlets left in Crimea and professional journalists facing serious risks for reporting from the peninsula, civic activists were a major source of information on developments in Crimea.

On April 20, occupation authorities fined Bekir Mamutov, the editor in chief of Crimean Tatar newspaper Qirim and member of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, for his newspaper’s publishing of the 2020 UN secretary-general’s report on the human rights situation in Crimea, according to the HRMMU. Occupation authorities reportedly claimed the newspaper violated a Russian law that prohibits the press from publishing information regarding the Mejlis without noting that its activities are prohibited in Russia. Mamutov paid a fine of 4,000 rubles ($55).

Violence and Harassment: There were numerous cases of security forces or police harassing activists and detaining journalists in connection with their civic or professional activities. For example on May 19, the FSB searched the home of Crimean Solidarity journalist Zydan Adzhykelyamov. According to Adzhykelyamov, police inspected his Quran and notes from recent trials he had covered. Police reportedly also searched the adjacent home of his parents. Adzhykelyamov claimed police asked him to sign an administrative document related to the search, but he refused to do so without a lawyer present. Adzhykelyamov claimed police conducted the search in retaliation for his reporting on the May 11 killing of Nabi Rakhimov, who was fatally shot by FSB officers during a raid of his home (see section 1.a.).

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Following Russia’s occupation of Crimea, journalists resorted to self-censorship to continue reporting and broadcasting.

There were reports occupation authorities sought to restrict access to or remove internet content concerning Crimea they disliked. As of August 12, occupation authorities had blocked 27 Ukrainian websites in Crimea, including the websites of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Ministry of Integration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine, and several independent Ukrainian news outlets, among others. Censorship of independent internet sites was widespread (see Internet Freedom).

Occupation authorities banned most Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar-language broadcasts, replacing the content with Russian programming. The Crimean Human Rights Group reported that occupation authorities continued to block Ukrainian FM radio stations in northern Crimea by broadcasting their stations on the same wavelength. The signal of Ukrainian FM radio stations was heard in only eight of the area’s 19 settlements.

Human rights groups reported occupation authorities continued to forbid songs by Ukrainian singers from playing on Crimean radio stations.

National Security: Occupation authorities cited laws protecting national security to justify retaliation against opponents of Russia’s occupation.

The Russian Federal Financial Monitoring Service included prominent critics of the occupation on its list of extremists and terrorists. Inclusion on the list prevented individuals from holding bank accounts, using notary services, and conducting other financial transactions.

Authorities frequently used the threat of “extremism,” “terrorism,” or other purported national security grounds to justify harassment or prosecution of individuals in retaliation for expressing opposition to the occupation. For example, in 2019 occupation authorities arrested Ukrainian citizen Oleh Prykhodko on charges of terrorism and possession of explosives after they purportedly found explosives in his garage, which human rights defenders maintained were planted there. Human rights groups claimed the charges were retaliation for Prykhodko’s displaying of Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar flags on his car, for which he was fined in 2019. On March 3, a Russian court sentenced the 62-year-old Prykhoko to five years’ imprisonment in a maximum-security penal colony.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

See the Country Reports on Human Rights for Russia for a description of the relevant Russian laws and procedures that the Russian government applied and enforced in occupied Crimea.

According to the June 2020 UN secretary-general’s special report, “public events initiated by perceived supporters of Ukrainian territorial integrity or critics of policies of the Russian Federation in Crimea were reportedly prevented or prohibited by occupation authorities.”

Human rights monitors reported that occupation authorities routinely denied permission to hold assemblies based on political beliefs, notably to opponents of the occupation, or those seeking to protest the actions of the occupation authorities. Those who gathered without permission were regularly charged with administrative offenses. Expansive rules regarding types of gatherings that required permits and selective enforcement of the rules made it difficult for protesters to avoid such offenses. For example, according to media accounts, on January 23, police shut down a silent rally in downtown Simferopol of approximately 100 persons in support of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Security forces reportedly cordoned off the area, demanded participants produce identification documents, and took photographs of the participants. Media outlets reported that police detained approximately 15 participants for three hours and forced them to sign documents describing their participation in the event, which security forces claimed was an illegal rally. Activists noted police failed to demonstrate why the gathering required a permit, given that the participants did not shout slogans, carry banners, or organize the event in advance.

Occupation authorities brought charges for “unauthorized assemblies” against single-person protests, even though preauthorization is not required for individual protests. For example, according to Crimean Solidarity, on May 21, the Krasnohvardiyskyy “district court” ruled that Zelyha Abhayrova’s October 2020 one-person protest the prosecution of her son constituted an unauthorized assembly. The “court” announced similar decisions against Emina Abdulhanieva and Zura Emyruseynova on May 22, ruling that the women had illegally coordinated the actions in support of their sons to occur simultaneously. All three women were fined 10,000 rubles ($137).

There were reports that authorities used a ban on “unauthorized missionary activity” to restrict public gatherings of members of religious minority groups. For example on June 1, a Russia-controlled court in Crimea fined the Light to the World Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith 30,000 rubles ($411) for unlawful missionary activity, citing its failure to affix a religious organization label to booklets on display inside the church lobby.

A “regulation” limits the places where public events may be held to 366 listed locations, which, as the HRMMU noted, restricted the ability to assemble to a shrinking number of “specially designated spaces,” a move that appeared “designed to dissuade” peaceful assembly.

There were reports occupation authorities charged and fined individuals for allegedly violating public assembly rules in retaliation for gathering to witness security force raids on homes.

Freedom of Association

See the Country Reports on Human Rights for Russia for a description of the relevant Russian laws and procedures that the Russian government applied and enforced in occupied Crimea.

Occupation authorities broadly restricted the exercise of freedom of association for individuals who opposed the occupation. For example, there were numerous reports of authorities taking steps to harass, intimidate, arrest, and imprison members of Crimean Solidarity, an unregistered movement of friends and family of victims of repression by occupation authorities that opposes Russia’s occupation of Crimea. During the year the Crimean Human Rights Group documented multiple cases in which police visited the homes of Crimean Solidarity activists to threaten them or warn them not to engage in “extremist” activities. For example on May 14, Crimean Tatar activist Seytosman Karaliyev received a letter from police in Sudak warning him against participating in gatherings related to the May 18 Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Crimean Tatar Genocide, as they might constitute “extremist” activities. At least five other Crimean Tatar activists and journalists received similar “preventive warnings” in advance of the May 18 day of remembrance.

According to human rights groups, Russian security services routinely monitored prayers at mosques for any mention that Crimea remained part of Ukraine. Russian security forces also monitored mosques for anti-Russia sentiment and as a means of recruiting police informants, whose secret testimony was used in trials of alleged Hizb ut-Tahrir members.

The Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People remained banned for purported “extremism” despite a decision by the International Court of Justice holding that occupation authorities must “refrain from maintaining or imposing limitations on the ability of the Crimean Tatar community to conserve its representative institutions, including the Mejlis.” Following the 2016 ban on the Crimean Tatar Mejlis as an “extremist organization,” occupation authorities banned gatherings by Mejlis members and prosecuted individuals for discussing the Mejlis on social media.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Approximately 50,000 residents of Crimea were registered as IDPs by the Ukrainian government on the mainland, according to the Ministry of Social Policy. The Mejlis and local NGOs, such as Crimea SOS, believed the actual number could be as high as 100,000, as most IDPs remained unregistered. Many individuals fled due to fear that occupation authorities would target them for abuse because of their work as political activists or journalists. Muslims, Greek Catholics, and Evangelical Christians who left Crimea said they feared discrimination due to their religious beliefs.

Crimean Tatars, who made up the largest number of IDPs, said they left because of pressure on their community, including an increasing number of arbitrary searches of their homes, surveillance, and discrimination. In addition, many professionals left Crimea because Russian occupation authorities required them to apply for Russian professional licenses and adopt Russian procedures in their work.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

Recent Elections: Russian occupation authorities prevented residents from voting in Ukrainian national and local elections since Crimea’s occupation began in 2014. Nonetheless, Russian occupation authorities conducted voting in Crimea for the September 19 Russia State Duma elections. Occupation authorities claimed a voter turnout rate of 49.75 percent. Independent observers and elections experts alleged massive electoral fraud, including coerced voting by state employees and ballot stuffing, among other irregularities. Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned Russia’s elections in Crimea as illegal and stated it would hold responsible those who organized and conducted the illegal voting there.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

Corruption: There were multiple reports of systemic rampant corruption among Crimean “officeholders,” including through embezzlement of Russian state funds allocated to support the occupation. For example on April 6, occupation authorities detained the head of the investigation department of the “Ministry of Internal Affairs” in Simferopol on suspicion of accepting a bribe of 7.5 million rubles ($103,000). He allegedly agreed to accept the bribe in exchange for ending an investigation of a suspect in a criminal case.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Most independent human rights organizations ceased activities in Crimea following Russia’s occupation. Occupation authorities refused to cooperate with independent human rights NGOs, ignored their views, and harassed human rights monitors and threatened them with fines and imprisonment.

Russia continued to deny access to the peninsula to international human rights monitors from the OSCE and the United Nations.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Domestic violence remained a serious problem in occupied Crimea; however, occupation authorities’ restrictions on human rights organizations made it difficult to assess its prevalence.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of occupation authorities.

Women in Crimea accessed reproductive health care through services funded by the Russian occupation authorities, private insurance, and NGO programs; however, no Ukrainian or international monitors had access to Crimea, making it difficult to assess the state of reproductive health care there.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

Since the beginning of the occupation, authorities singled out Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians for discrimination, abuse, deprivation of civil liberties and religious and economic rights, and violence, including killings and abductions (also see sections 1.a.-1.d., 1.f., 2.a., 2.b., and 2.d.). The August UN secretary-general’s report noted, “The activities of the Mejlis remained prohibited in Crimea.”

There were reports that Russian occupation authorities openly advocated discrimination against Crimean Tatars. Occupation authorities harassed Crimean Tatars for speaking their language in public and forbade speaking it in the workplace. There were reports teachers prohibited schoolchildren from speaking Crimean Tatar to one another. Crimean Tatar was the sole instruction language for 119 classes. Crimean Tatars were prohibited from celebrating their national holidays and commemorating victims of previous abuses (see section 2.b.).

Occupation authorities also restricted the use of Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian flags and symbols (see section 2.a.).

Russian occupation authorities prohibited Crimean Tatars affiliated with the Mejlis from registering businesses or properties as a matter of policy.

Ethnic Ukrainians also faced discrimination by occupation authorities. Ukrainian as a language of instruction was removed from university-level education in Crimea. According to the Crimean Resource Center, schools in Crimea no longer provided instruction in Ukrainian. In 2017 the International Court of Justice ruled on provisional measures in proceedings brought by Ukraine against the Russian Federation, concluding unanimously that the Russian Federation must “ensure the availability of education in the Ukrainian language.”

Occupation authorities did not permit churches linked to ethnic Ukrainians, in particular the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, to register under Russian law. Occupation authorities harassed and intimidated members of these churches and used court proceedings to force the OCU to leave properties it had rented for years. On August 8, occupation authorities forcibly entered an OCU church in Balky while a religious service was underway and forced the priest to end the service. Occupation authorities filed administrative charges against the priest for allegedly conducting unlawful missionary activities.

The largest OCU congregation in Crimea closed in 2019 following a ruling by occupation authorities that its cathedral located in Simferopol must be “returned to the state.” The church was shut down after repeated refusals by authorities to allow it to register.

Children

Birth Registration: Under both Ukrainian law and laws imposed by Russian occupation authorities, either birthplace or parentage determines citizenship. Russia’s occupation and purported annexation of Crimea complicated the question of citizenship for children born after February 2014, since it was difficult for parents to register a child as a citizen with Ukrainian authorities. Registration in the country requires a hospital certificate, which is retained when a birth certificate is issued. Under the occupation regime, new parents could only obtain a Russian birth certificate and did not have access to a hospital certificate. The Ukrainian government instituted a process whereby births in Crimea could be recognized with documents issued by occupation authorities.

Anti-Semitism

According to Jewish groups, the Jewish population in Crimea was approximately 10,000 to 15,000, with most living in Simferopol. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts; however, Russian occupation authorities’ restrictions on human rights groups limited their ability to properly monitor anti-Semitic acts on the peninsula.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Human rights groups and LGBTQI+ activists reported that most LGBTQI+ individuals fled Crimea after Russia’s occupation began. Those who remained lived in fear of abuse due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. The UN Human Rights Council’s independent expert received reports of increased violence and discrimination against the LGBTQI+ community in Crimea as well as the use of homophobic propaganda employed by the occupation authorities. LGBTQI+ persons reportedly were frequently subjected to beatings in public spaces and entrapped by organized groups through social networks. The council’s report noted, “This environment created an atmosphere of fear and terror for members of the community, with related adverse impacts on their mental health and well-being.”

According to the HRMMU, NGOs working on access to health care among vulnerable groups found it impossible to advocate for better access to health care for LGBTQI+ persons due to fear of retaliation by occupation authorities.

Occupation authorities prohibited any LGBTQI+ group from holding public events in Crimea. LGBTQI+ individuals faced increasing restrictions on their exercise of free expression and peaceful assembly, because occupation authorities enforced a Russian law that criminalizes the so-called propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors (see section 6 of the Country Reports on Human Rights for Russia).

Section 7. Worker Rights

Occupation authorities announced the labor laws of Ukraine would not be in effect after 2016 and that only the laws of the Russian Federation would apply.

Occupation authorities imposed the labor laws and regulations of the Russian Federation on Crimean workers, limited worker rights, and created barriers to the exercise of freedom of association, collective bargaining, and the ability to strike. Trade unions are formally protected under Russian law but limited in practice. As in both Ukraine and Russia, employers were often able to engage in antiunion discrimination and violate collective bargaining rights. Pro-Russian authorities threatened to nationalize property owned by Ukrainian labor unions in Crimea. Ukrainians who did not accept Russian passports faced job discrimination in all sectors of the economy. Only holders of Russian national identification cards were allowed to work in “government” and municipal positions. Labor activists believed that unions were threatened in Crimea to accept “government” policy without question and faced considerable restrictions on advocating for their members.

Although no official data were available, experts estimated there was growing participation in the underground economy in Crimea. Child labor in amber and coal mining remained a problem in Crimea.

Taiwan

Executive Summary

Taiwan is a democracy led by a president and parliament selected in multiparty elections. In 2020 voters re-elected President Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party to a second four-year term in an election considered free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. The National Police Agency, under the Ministry of Interior, maintains internal security. Police, military services, Agency of Corrections, and Coast Guard Administration report to the premier, who is appointed by the president. There were no reports that members of the security forces committed abuses.

Significant human rights issues included the existence of criminal libel laws.

Authorities enforced laws prohibiting human rights abuses and criminalizing official corruption and prosecuted officials who committed them. There were no reports of impunity.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were no reports that authorities or their agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of Taiwan authorities.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The law stipulates no violence, threat, inducement, fraud, or other improper means should be used against accused persons, and there were no reports officials employed these practices. There were no reports of impunity in the security forces.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

There were no significant reports of prison or detention center conditions that raised human rights concerns.

Physical Conditions: There were no major concerns in prisons and detention centers regarding physical conditions or inmate abuse.

Administration: Prison authorities investigated claims of harsh conditions of imprisonment and released the results of their investigations to judicial authorities and occasionally to the press. Authorities investigated and monitored prison and detention center conditions.

In August the Control Yuan issued an investigation report ordering Chiayi Prison to take corrective measures to ensure due process and basic rights for inmates suspected of violating prison rules. Between 2019 and 2020, Chiayi Prison subjected 22 inmates to administrative segregation from the general prison population for periods of 20 to 102 days while investigating their behavior, a disproportionate percentage of all such cases across the national prison system during those two years. The law limits to a maximum of 20 days the use of administrative segregation while investigating inmate violations of prison rules.

Independent Monitoring: Authorities allowed independent nongovernmental observers to investigate prison conditions.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and relevant laws prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of defendants to challenge the lawfulness of their detention in court, and authorities generally observed these requirements.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

The law requires a warrant or summons, except when there is sufficient reason to believe the suspect may flee or in urgent circumstances, as specified in the code of criminal procedures. Courts may release indicted persons on bail. Prosecutors must apply to the courts within 24 hours after arrest for permission to continue detaining a suspect. Authorities generally observed these procedures. Prosecutors may apply to a court for approval of pretrial detention of an unindicted suspect for a maximum of two months, with one possible two-month extension. Prosecutors may request pretrial detention in cases in which the potential sentence is five years or more and when there is a reasonable concern the suspect could flee, collude with other suspects or witnesses, or tamper with or destroy material evidence.

The law allows defendants and their lawyers access to case files and evidence while in pretrial detention. The law also stipulates defendants must be assisted by a lawyer while in detention. For those who cannot afford to hire one, a public defender will be appointed. The law also specifies suspects may not be interrogated late at night.

Authorities may detain a suspect without visitation rights, except for legal counsel, or hold a suspect under house arrest based on a prosecutor’s recommendation and court decision. During the active investigation phase of their cases, authorities, per the above regulations, denied visitation rights to a small number of detainees.

The judicial branch (Judicial Yuan) and the National Police Agency operated a program to provide legal counsel during initial police questioning of indigenous suspects, qualifying indigent suspects who have a mental disability, or persons charged with a crime punishable by three or more years in prison. Detained persons who might not otherwise have legal representation may request the assistance of the Legal Aid Foundation, a private, nonprofit foundation that receives public funds to provide professional legal assistance through its 22 branch offices to persons. Police are obligated to notify suspects of the availability of the Legal Aid Foundation’s assistance. The law affords the right of compensation to those whom police have unlawfully detained.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and authorities generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. Some political commentators and academics, however, publicly questioned the impartiality of judges and prosecutors involved in high profile, politically sensitive cases.

Trial Procedures

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

By law when any authority arrests or detains a person without a court order, any person, including the arrestee or detainee, may petition a court of justice having jurisdiction for a writ of habeas corpus, and the case must be brought before a judge within 24 hours. The law also requires agencies to inform detainees of their right to see a judge for a writ of habeas corpus. Detaining authorities who violate the law may face a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a modest fine.

Trials usually took place within three months of indictment. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. They also have the right to an attorney and to be present at their trials. Trials are public, although court permission may be required to attend trials involving juveniles or potentially sensitive issues that might attract crowds. Judges decide cases; all judges receive appointments from and answer to the Judicial Yuan, which is led by the 15 members of the Constitutional Court who are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Legislative Yuan. Criminal misconduct can also be investigated and prosecuted by law enforcement authorities reporting to the Executive Yuan and noncriminal misconduct can be investigated and subject to impeachment or censure by the Control Yuan. A single judge, rather than a defense attorney or prosecutor, typically interrogates prosecutors, defendants, and witnesses.

Defendants have the right to be informed promptly of charges, hire an attorney of their choice or have one provided, prepare a defense, confront witnesses against them, and present witnesses and evidence. Defendants have the right to free interpretation service, if needed, from the moment charged through all appeals.

By law a suspect may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt and a confession may not be the sole evidence used to find a defendant guilty. All convicted persons have the right to appeal to the next two higher court levels. The law extends the above rights to all suspects and convicted persons.

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 for civil matters. Administrative remedies are available in addition to judicial remedies for alleged wrongdoing, including human rights violations. Members of the general public may petition the National Human Rights Commission to investigate incidents of alleged human rights violations and the commission may propose corrective measures for implementation by official agencies.

f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The constitution prohibits such actions, and there were no reports authorities failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press, and other media, and Taiwan authorities generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for members of the media.

Freedom of Expression: In May the Supreme Court rejected the appeal of Chia-yu Lee, who was convicted of inciting individuals to burn the Republic of China flag in 2020 after a lower court initially acquitted him on the grounds that his act was a form of constitutionally protected speech.

Authorities have cited the law to combat misinformation such as pandemic-related disinformation. For example in February a man was convicted of spreading rumors alleging a cluster of COVID-19 cases at a karaoke bar and fined 300,000 New Taiwan dollars ($10,000). In June the Hsinchu County deputy magistrate was investigated for spreading disinformation about Japan’s donation of COVID-19 vaccines to Taiwan.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Officials in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) reportedly continued to influence Taiwan media outlets through pressure on the business interests of their parent companies in the PRC. Taiwan journalists reported difficulty publishing content critical of the PRC, alleging that PRC authorities had pressured Taiwan businesses with operations in China to refrain from advertising with Taiwan media outlets which published such material.

In December 2020 private media outlet CTi News was forced off the air after the National Communications Commission declined to renew its broadcast license. Opposition politicians and some academics and commentators claimed the decision was politically motivated retaliation for CTi News’ criticism of the ruling party; CTi News continued its reporting in an online-only format.

Libel/Slander Laws: Defamation and public humiliation are criminal offenses. Reporters faced online bullying and the threat of legal action, particularly under the liberal libel laws.

Under the law those who commit slander or libel by “pointing out or disseminating a fact which will injure the reputation of another” are subject to a sentence of up to two years or a fine. Victims of slander can also claim reasonable financial compensation and require measures for the rehabilitation of their reputations. These provisions allow the subjects of unfavorable press coverage to press criminal and civil charges directly against journalists and media outlets for defamation. Journalists were rarely convicted for criminal defamation, as the law also specifies that a person who makes “fair comment on a fact subject to public criticism” with “bona-fide intent…shall not be punished.” Some legal scholars and nongovernmental organizations (NGO) continued to urge that libel be treated exclusively as a civil matter.

On March 11, the Taipei District Prosecutor’s Office announced that it had dropped its criminal defamation investigation against Financial Times journalist Kathrin Hille after the Want Want Group withdrew its complaints against her. Want Want subsidiary CTi News said the complaints, which were made in 2019 in apparent retaliation for a report Hille authored exposing alleged coordination between Want Want media outlets in Taiwan and the PRC Taiwan Affairs Office, had been withdrawn out of “respect for freedom of the press.”

On August 17, prosecutors closed an investigation of a criminal libel complaint against the secretary general of the Yilan Migrant Fishermen’s Union for publicly alleging the chairman had pressured the union’s president to resign and abused the union president’s brother, whom he employed. The complaint was brought in 2019 by the chairman of the Su’ao Fishermen’s Association. The case was dropped due to a lack of evidence that the suspect intended to defame the complainant.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and Taiwan authorities generally respected these rights.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not Applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

Due to its unique political status, Taiwan authorities were not able to cooperate with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees or other major international humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, or other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for granting asylum or refugee status, and authorities have not established a system for providing protection to refugees. Due to its unique political status, Taiwan is not eligible to become a party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Taiwan authorities handle asylum seekers on a case-by-case basis, taking international practice and the protection of human rights into consideration.

All PRC nationals unlawfully present are required by law to be returned to the PRC, although Taiwan allows PRC asylum seekers to remain in Taiwan on a case-by-case basis.

Temporary Protection: On September 13, press reported that the Taiwan authorities had assisted at least 100 Hong Kong nationals in Taiwan over the preceding 14 months under legal provisions for “Hong Kong or Macau Residents whose safety and liberty are immediately threatened for political reasons.” Taiwan allocated 41 million New Taiwan dollars ($1.37 million) to provide humanitarian and resettlement assistance for Hong Kong nationals in Taiwan during the year, including subsidies for counseling, education, employment, and living expenses.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their elected officials in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In 2020 presidential and legislative elections, President Tsai Ing-wen won re-election, and her party, the Democratic Progressive Party, maintained a majority in the legislature. Observers regarded the elections as free and fair, although there were allegations of vote buying by candidates and supporters of both major political parties.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate.

President Tsai Ing-wen is Taiwan’s first female president. Since the 2020 elections, a record 42 percent of national legislators were women, an increase from 38 percent in 2016. Six seats are reserved in the legislature for representatives chosen by Taiwan’s indigenous people.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and authorities generally implemented the law effectively. There were reports of official corruption during the year. In the year to May, 13 high-ranking officials, 79 mid-level, 93 low-level, and 18 elected officials were indicted for corruption.

Corruption: The Ministry of Justice and its Agency against Corruption oversee combating official corruption. The ministry received sufficient resources and collaborated with civil society within the scope of the law. Some legal scholars and politicians said the Ministry of Justice was insufficiently independent and conducted politically motivated investigations of politicians. The Control Yuan, an independent investigative and auditing agency, is responsible for impeaching officials in cases of wrongdoing.

On January 18 and April 7, the Ministry of Justice and the Judicial Yuan referred six officials to the Control Yuan for criminal investigation, including former minister of justice Tseng Yung-fu, former prosecutor general Wu Ying-chao, and two others for investigation of noncriminal misconduct, including Supreme Administrative Court judge Cheng Hsiao-kang and Prosecutor General Lo Jung-chien. On January 19, the Judicial Yuan referred six former judges to the Control Yuan for investigation of noncriminal misconduct. On September 14, the Control Yuan impeached Cheng; the other criminal and noncriminal misconduct investigations were ongoing as of October. These actions followed the Control Yuan’s August 2020 impeachment of former Supreme Court judge Shih Mu-chin, who retired as head of an administrative tribunal charged with sanctioning official misconduct, for failing to recuse himself from cases involving a businessperson with whom he maintained a social relationship and inappropriate contact during litigation; the Ministry of Justice investigated 77 other incumbent and former judicial and law enforcement officials implicated in similar behavior with the same businessperson.

In July a senior investigator of the Ministry of Justice’s Investigation Bureau was indicted for corruption for allegedly profiting from the sale of narcotics worth more than 168 million New Taiwan dollars ($5.6 million) seized in law enforcement investigations over eight years.

On September 17, the mayor and the council speaker of Pingtung City were convicted of corruption and sentenced to seven and four years in prison, respectively, for colluding with a private contractor to misappropriate 2.4 million New Taiwan dollars ($80,000) in public funds over three years.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Authorities were generally cooperative and responsive to their views.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of women and men, including spousal rape, and domestic violence, and provides protection for rape survivors. Rape trials are not open to the public unless the victim consents. The law allows experts to assist in questioning and appear in court as witnesses when rape victims are minors or have mental disabilities, and it authorizes the use of one-way mirrors, video conferencing, or other practices to protect victims during questioning and at trial. The law permits a charge of rape even if the victim chooses not to press charges and allows prosecutors to investigate complaints of domestic violence even if the victim has not filed a formal complaint.

The law establishes the punishment for rape as a minimum of five years’ imprisonment, and courts usually sentenced individuals convicted of rape to five to 10 years in prison. Courts typically sentenced individuals convicted in domestic violence cases to less than six months in prison.

Many victims did not report the crime for fear of social stigmatization, and NGOs and academic studies estimated the total number of sexual assaults was seven to 10 times higher than the number reported to police. Some abused women chose not to report incidents to police due to social pressure not to disgrace their families.

The law requires all cities and counties to establish violence prevention and control centers to address domestic and sexual violence, child abuse, and elder abuse.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment (see section 7.d.). In most cases perpetrators were required to attend classes on gender equality and counseling sessions, and when the victims agreed, to apologize to the victims. In 2020 a total of 322 fines were issued, down from 408 fines in 2019.

Reports of workplace sexual harassment increased in recent years. According to the Modern Women’s Foundation, workplace sexual harassment accounted for 54 percent of all sexual harassment cases in 2020, a substantial increase from the 17 percent accounted for by workplace sexual harassment in 2017, which the foundation attributed to an increased willingness to report by victims.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of official authorities. The law required women concerned about the effect of pregnancy or childbirth on their mental health or family life to secure spousal consent before receiving induced abortion or tubal ligation health services. Fertility treatments are limited by law to married opposite-sex couples with a medical diagnosis of infertility or a major hereditary disease, and when the wife is medically capable of carrying the pregnancy to term.

Authorities provided access to sexual and reproductive-health services including emergency contraception for survivors of sexual violence. Staff members at designated hospitals are trained to collect evidence and perform necessary medical examinations.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men. Women experienced some discrimination in employment (see section 7.d.).

Gender-biased Sex Selection: The law prohibits sex selection and sex-selective abortion, except for diagnoses of sex-linked heritable disorders. Even for embryos created via assisted reproductive technology, the fetal sex may not be revealed in any form unless medically required. According to National Health Administration statistics, the ratio of boys-to-girls for a first child born in 2020 was 1.069. Authorities worked with local health bureaus to monitor the sex ratio at birth and continued to promote gender equality.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

Article 7 of the constitution protects members of racial or ethnic minorities from violence and discrimination, and authorities enforced this effectively.

Spouses born in Southeast Asian countries and the PRC accounted for more than 2.3 percent of the overall population.

The law allows non-PRC-born foreign spouses of Taiwan passport holders to apply for Taiwan residency after three years, while PRC-born spouses must wait six years. Unlike non-PRC spouses, however, PRC-born spouses may work in Taiwan immediately on arrival.

Indigenous Peoples

Authorities officially recognize 16 indigenous tribes, accounting for approximately 2.3 percent of the population. The law provides indigenous people equal civil and political rights and stipulates authorities should provide resources to help indigenous groups develop a system of self-governance, formulate policies to protect their basic rights, and promote the preservation and development of their languages and cultures.

Although the law allows for the delineation of traditional indigenous territories owned by authorities, some indigenous rights advocates argued a large amount of indigenous land was seized and privatized decades ago, depriving indigenous communities of the right to participate in the development of these traditional territories.

Existing law stipulates that authorities and the private sector should consult with indigenous people and obtain their consent to or participation in, as well as share with them the benefits of, land development, resource utilization, ecology conservation, and academic research in indigenous areas. There are, however, no regulations in place for obtaining this consent with respect to private land.

Indigenous people participated in decisions affecting their land through the political process. The law sets aside six of the 113 seats in the legislature for indigenous tribal representatives elected by indigenous voters.

On April 23, the Forestry Bureau publicly apologized to an Atayal tribe whose traditional territory was occupied in 1963 to build a logging road and a monument to workers killed during the road’s construction. President Tsai and the Forestry Bureau participated in a traditional reconciliation ceremony with representatives of the tribe. Indigenous groups had launched a public protest since 2016 appealing for recognition of tribal sovereignty over the land and demolition of the monument.

On May 7, a Constitutional Court ruling eased permitting requirements for traditional hunting by indigenous peoples.

On September 16, the Supreme Administrative Court upheld a 2019 ruling invalidating the 2018 renewal of Asia Cement Corporation’s mining permit based on the lack of consultation with or consent by the local indigenous Truku tribe as required by the law. Indigenous, human rights, and environmental groups appealed for an immediate suspension of the mining operations and strengthened protections for the traditional rights of indigenous peoples. The Ministry of Economic Affairs, however, insisted the mine continue to operate while the company’s permit application remained “pending.”

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from that of either parent. Births must be registered within 60 days; failure to do so results in the denial of national health care and education benefits. Registration is not denied on a discriminatory basis.

Child Abuse: The law stipulates persons learning of child abuse or neglect must notify police or welfare authorities. An official 24-hour hotline accepted complaints and offered counseling. Courts are required to appoint guardians for children of parents deemed unfit. Childcare center owners and teachers who physically abuse or sexually harass children may be fined, and the names of perpetrators and their institutions will be made public. Owners who fail to verify the qualifications of teachers and other employees may be fined.

Children’s rights advocates called on medical professionals to pay attention to infants and young children sent to hospitals with unusual injuries and to take the initiative to report suspected abuse to law enforcement while treating these children. Advocates also called attention to bullying, violence, and sexual assault cases at correctional institutions, while pointing out these facilities were often understaffed and that their personnel were inadequately trained to counsel and manage teenage inmates.

Central and local authorities coordinated with private organizations to identify and assist high-risk children and families and to increase public awareness of child abuse and domestic violence.

According to official statistics, the number of reported cases of child abuse increased from 73,973 to 83,108 from 2019 to 2020.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18 years for men and 16 for girls.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. Under the law a perpetrator who films an underage person engaging in sexual intercourse or obscene acts or produces pictures, photographs, films, videotapes, compact discs, electronic signals, or other objects that show an underage person engaging in sexual intercourse or obscene acts is subject to imprisonment for between one and seven years and could face a substantial fine.

The minimum age for consensual sexual relations is 16. Persons who engage in sex with children younger than age 14 face sentences of three to 10 years in prison. Those who engage in sex with minors between 14 and 16 receive a prison sentence of three to seven years. Solicitors of sex with minors older than 16 but younger than 18 face a maximum of one year in prison or hard labor or a substantial fine.

While authorities generally enforced the law domestically, elements of the law that treat possession of child pornography as a misdemeanor rather than a felony hampered enforcement in some cases. Authorities reported concluding one investigation of child sexual exploitation committed by citizens while traveling abroad without charges in August 2020.

The Control Yuan reported in August that its analysis of official statistics from 2005-20 showed the number of male victims of child sexual exploitation was increasing and that male and female minors of indigenous heritage were targeted at higher rates than those of other ethnic groups.

The Taiwan High Prosecutor’s Office reported a rise in child sexual exploitation cases in 2018, 2019, and 2020, with 1,060, 1,211, and 1,691 indictments, respectively.

NGOs raised concerns about the online sexual exploitation of children and reported sex offenders increasingly used cell phones, web cameras, live streaming, apps, and other new technologies to deceive and coerce underage girls and boys into sexual activity; the NGOs called for increased prosecutions and heavier penalties.

There were reports of minors in prostitution.

International Child Abductions: Due to its unique political status, Taiwan is not eligible to become a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community was very small, estimated at 1,000 individuals, predominately foreign residents. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities and stipulates authorities must provide certain services and programs to persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities have the right to vote and participate in civic affairs.

Authorities made efforts to implement laws and programs to provide access to buildings, information, and communications. Official websites and digital information platforms conform to accessibility guidelines and all public facilities were required to install facilities or equipment that enable barrier-free access for persons with disabilities to public services and official information. NGOs contended the lack of barrier-free spaces and accessible transportation systems continued to limit civic engagement by persons with disabilities, particularly outside Taipei. The Accessible Living Environment Supervisory Task Force under the Ministry of the Interior is responsible for monitoring efforts by local governments to improve the accessibility of public buildings. Authorities release an annual assessment on accessibility in public buildings and areas that serves as a reference for budgeting.

Most children with disabilities attended mainstream schools, but separate primary, secondary, and vocational schools were also available for students with disabilities. NGOs asserted services for students with disabilities remained largely inadequate.

On August 27, the Ministry of Health and Welfare ordered the De Fang House of Correction, a Miaoli-based privately operated residential institution for adults with physical or mental disabilities, to suspend operations and relocate 11 residents after two staffers were accused of beating a 28-year-old autistic resident to death on July 29. The private foundation operating the institution was fined 300,000 New Taiwan dollars ($10,000); the resident’s death remained under criminal investigation by prosecutors as of October.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The law prohibits employers from requesting health examination reports from job candidates to prove they do not have HIV or other communicable diseases. There was reported discrimination, including employment discrimination, against persons with HIV or AIDS (see section 7.d.).

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law stipulates employers cannot discriminate against job seekers or workers based on gender or sexual orientation and prohibits schools from discriminating against students based on their gender, gender traits, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Reported instances of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) individuals were extremely rare, and police response was adequate.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of most workers to form and join independent unions, conduct strikes, and bargain collectively. The law prohibits discrimination, dismissal, or other unfair treatment of workers for union-related activities and requires reinstatement of workers fired for legal trade union activity. Employees hired through dispatching agencies (i.e., temporary workers) do not have the right to organize and bargain collectively in the enterprises where they work. Authorities effectively enforced the law. Penalties are commensurate with those for similar laws.

The Labor Incident Act, which entered into force in 2020, establishes special labor courts to handle all labor cases, including collective disputes involving a union. As of January, the average length of legal proceedings for labor incidents had been reduced to 84 days, eight days shorter than prior to passage of the act.

According to the law, there are three types of unions: enterprise unions, industrial unions, and professional unions. Enterprise unions must have 30 members to form and there may only be one union per enterprise. Enterprise unions are responsible for negotiating the working conditions and entitlements of enterprise-level collective agreements. More than 80 percent of workers were employed in companies with fewer than 30 workers where they may only join a professional or industrial union. Industrial and professional unions do not have the right to collectively bargain enterprise level working conditions but may advocate for sector-wide benefits.

The right to strike remained highly restricted. Teachers, civil servants, and defense industry employees do not have the right to strike. Workers in industries such as utilities, hospital services, and telecommunication-service providers are allowed to strike only if they maintain basic services during the strike. Authorities may prohibit, limit, or break up a strike during a disaster. Workers are allowed to strike only in “adjustment” disputes such as compensation and working schedules. The law forbids strikes related to rights guaranteed under the law, which in principle should be resolved through the judicial system.

The law requires mediation of labor disputes when authorities deem them sufficiently serious or involving unfair practices. Mediation usually resolved most cases within 20 days. Legally binding arbitration generally took between 45 and 79 working days. The law prohibits strikes or other acts of protest during conciliation or arbitration proceedings. Labor organizations stated this prohibition impeded workers’ ability to exercise their right to strike.

The Ministry of Labor oversees implementation and enforcement of labor laws in coordination with local labor affairs authorities. Authorities effectively enforced laws providing for freedom of association and collective bargaining. Ministry arbitration committees reviewed cases of antiunion activities, and authorities subjected violators to fines or restoration of employee’s duties. Such fines were not commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights.

Large enterprises frequently made it difficult for employees to organize an enterprise union through methods such as blacklisting union organizers from promotion or relocating them to other work divisions. These methods were particularly common in the technology sector. For example there was only one enterprise union among the 520 companies in Hsinchu Science Park, where more than 150,000 employees worked.

Between May and August, the Miramar Golf and Country Club Enterprise Union conducted the longest strike in Taiwan’s history to protest the termination and mandatory transfer of 44 workers to other employers. The Miramar conglomerate restructured its operations at the golf course in Linkou, Taoyuan, on May 8 under the Business Mergers and Acquisitions Act. The union alleged that the company split the existing employees between three smaller subsidiaries and a fourth outside company employing less than 30 workers to effectively eliminate the union. After 12 rounds of negotiation, including Ministry of Labor and municipal authorities, the conglomerate agreed to revoke the restructuring and return all workers to their previous employment status.

Authorities provided financial incentives through cash awards of up to 498,000 New Taiwan dollars ($16,600) to enterprise unions to encourage negotiation of “collective agreements” with employers.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The law prescribes penalties for forced labor, and authorities effectively enforced the law, but courts delivered light sentences or fines in most forced labor convictions. Such penalties were not commensurate with those for analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping. Authorities can terminate brokers’ business operations but there is no legal prohibition against reopening a business through a proxy that registers as a new company.

Authorities continued public-awareness campaigns, including disseminating worker-education pamphlets, operating foreign-worker hotlines, and offering Ministry of Education programs on labor trafficking as part of the broader human rights curriculum. Forced labor occurred primarily in sectors reliant on migrant workers, including domestic service, fishing, farming, manufacturing, meat processing, and construction. Some labor brokers charged foreign workers exorbitant recruitment fees and used debts incurred from these fees in the source country as tools of coercion to subject the workers to debt bondage (see section 7.e.).

Migrant fishermen reported abuses by senior crewmembers, including beatings, withholding of food and water, retention of identity documents, wage deductions, and noncontractual compulsory sharing of vessel operational costs to retain their labor. These abuses were particularly prevalent in Taiwan’s large distant-waters fishing fleet, which operated without adequate oversight (see section 7.e.). Greenpeace issued reports during the year and in 2019 alleging indicators of forced labor in the operations of two Taiwan-owned, foreign-flagged fishing vessels, Chin Chun No.12 and Da Wang, including physical violence, excessive overtime, and withholding of wages. The Control Yuan in May issued an investigation report ordering the National Immigration Agency, Ocean Affairs Council, and Fisheries Agency to take corrective measures.

The law requires labor brokers to report mistreatment such as withholding identification documents, restrictions on access to dorms or residences, and excessive work hours violating the general work conditions of foreign workers to law enforcement authorities within 24 hours. Penalties for not doing so include small fines. The law prohibits brokers from specific acts against migrant workers, including sexual assault, human trafficking, or forced labor, with penalties including modest fines and possible criminal charges.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The legal minimum age for employment is 15, but an exception allows children younger than 15 to work if they have completed junior high school and appropriate authorities have determined the work will not harm the child’s mental and physical health. The law prohibits children younger than 18 from doing heavy or hazardous work. Working hours for children are limited to eight hours per day, and children may not work overtime or on night shifts. The law prohibits all the worst forms of child labor.

County and city labor bureaus effectively enforced minimum age laws by ensuring the implementation of compulsory education. Employers who violate minimum age laws face a prison sentence, fines, or both, which were not commensurate with those of analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment and occupation based on race, religion, national origin, color, sex, ethnicity, disability, age, and sexual orientation. The law prohibits potential employers from requesting medical reports from job candidates to prove they do not have HIV or other communicable diseases. The law forbids termination of employment because of pregnancy or marriage. The law does not restrict women’s working hours, occupations, or tasks. Authorities effectively enforced the law and penalties were commensurate to laws related to civil rights, such as election interference.

Workers who encounter discrimination can file complaints with two independent committees composed of scholars, experts, and officials in city and county departments of labor affairs. Local labor affairs bureaus are empowered to intervene and investigate complaints of employment discrimination. Authorities enforced decisions made by those committees. Employers can appeal rulings to the Ministry of Labor and administrative courts.

A March survey by the Standard Chartered Bank and local media company Womany showed that 43.3 percent of employees were dissatisfied with gender equality practices in hiring and in the workplace, including in promotion policies and the division of work. According to official statistics, the median monthly income for women in 2019 was on average 87.7 percent of the amount their male counterparts earned. In September Taipei City awarded Taiwan’s first gender-equality certifications to 12 enterprises that met the stated standards on LGBTQI+ rights, work-life balance, women’s empowerment, and wage equality.

The law requires 3 percent of the workforce in the public sector and 1 percent of the workforce in the private sector to be persons with disabilities. In 2020, 3.7 percent of the public-sector workforce consisted of persons with disabilities; the private sector continued to fall short of the target. Companies with more than 67 employees failing to meet the target are potentially liable for small fines.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The Ministry of Labor’s Basic Wage Committee sets a minimum wage that is regularly adjusted. The minimum wage law does not cover workers in certain categories, such as management employees, medical doctors and other healthcare workers, gardeners, bodyguards, self-employed lawyers, civil servants, contractors for local authorities, and domestic workers. The minimum wage is above the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s poverty level, although foreign fishermen on vessels operating outside Taiwan’s territorial seas earned significantly below the national minimum wage. Foreign domestic workers are required to be paid a minimum monthly salary of 17,000 New Taiwan dollars ($5,700); NGOs reported that due to the absence of regulations on their working hours, in practice their remuneration routinely fell well below the national minimum wage. The Labor Incident Act places the burden of proof on employers, not workers, in wage and hour disputes.

In 2020, reportedly due to COVID-19-related economic pressures, the Ministry of Labor reported that the number of workers involved in labor dispute cases, particularly in wage and improper dismissal cases, increased by 41.3 percent.

Regular working hours are eight hours per day and 40 hours per week, with overtime limited to 54 hours per month. The law requires a mandatory rest interval for shift work of eight hours or longer in certain sectors and limits the number of working days to 12 days in a two-week period. Employees in “authorized special categories” approved by the Ministry of Labor are exempt from regular working hours stipulated in the law. These include security guards, flight attendants, insurance salespersons, real estate agents, journalists, public transport drivers, domestic workers, and caregivers.

To allow foreign caregivers and household workers to attend religious services on a certain day of the week, a publicly funded “respite care service” provides substitutes on a per-day basis.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law provides for occupational safety and health standards that are appropriate for the main industries in the economy. The law makes enterprise and dispatching agencies responsible for occupational injuries to temporary workers. Workers can remove themselves from a situation that endangers their health and safety and report to their supervisor without jeopardizing their employment. Employers, however, can terminate the employment contract if they can prove the worker abused the right to suspend work and the competent authority has affirmed the employer was in compliance.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing wage and hour laws as well as occupational safety and health standards in conjunction with the labor agencies of local authorities. The ministry effectively enforced the minimum wage, overtime, and occupational safety and health laws. Penalties were commensurate with similar crimes such as fraud or negligence. Employers are subject to civil but not criminal charges when their employees are involved in fatal accidents due to unsafe working conditions.

Authorities recruited an additional 177 labor inspectors in 2020, bringing the number of inspectors to a total of 1,033, just short of the ILO’s standard for industrial market economies.

Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections. Authorities can fine employers and revoke their hiring privileges for violations of the law, and the law mandates publicizing the names of offending companies. Employers found to be in violation of labor laws during an inspection are not eligible for certain tax reductions or grants.

Of the 33,092 inspections conducted in 2020, 19.2 percent identified violations, primarily related to regulations on regular working hours and overtime work, concentrated in sectors including wholesale and retail, logistics and transportation, accommodation, and food services. Six percent of inspections identified workplace safety violations. The freight and passenger transportation industries saw higher than average accident rates among drivers working overtime.

More than 700,000 foreign workers were employed, primarily from Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Thailand; most were recruited through a labor broker. The Ministry of Labor is required to inspect and oversee the brokerage companies to ensure compliance with the law. The ministry also operates a Foreign Worker Direct Hire Service Center and an online platform to allow employers to hire foreign workers without using a broker. Foreign workers may change employers in cases of exploitation or abuse.

The Ministry of Labor maintained a 24-hour toll-free “1955” hotline service in six languages (Mandarin, English, Indonesian, Thai, Tagalog, and Vietnamese) where foreign workers can obtain free legal advice, request urgent relocation and protection, report abuse by employers, file complaints about delayed salary payments, and make other inquiries. All reported cases are registered in a centralized database for law enforcement to track and intervene if necessary. Among the 209,641 calls in 2020, the hotline helped 2,985 foreign workers transfer to a new employer and 4,227 to reclaim a total of 116 million New Taiwan dollars ($3.87 million) in salary payments.

Foreign workers’ associations maintained that despite the existence of the hotline and authorities’ effective response record, foreign workers were often reluctant to report employer abuses for fear the employer would terminate their contract, subjecting them to possible deportation and leaving them unable to pay off debts to recruiters.

Foreign workers generally faced exploitation and incurred significant debt burdens during the recruitment process due to excessive brokerage fees, guarantee deposits, and higher charges for flights and accommodations. Brokerage agencies often required workers to take out loans for “training” and other fees at local branches of Taiwan banks in their home countries at high interest rates, leaving them vulnerable to debt bondage. NGOs suggested authorities should seek further international cooperation with labor-sending countries, particularly on oversight of transnational labor brokers.

In several instances during the COVID-19 pandemic, foreign workers in factories were prohibited from leaving their dormitories except to travel to and from work; such restrictions did not apply to local employees or the general population.

Foreign fishermen were commonly subjected to mistreatment and poor working conditions. Domestic labor laws only apply to fishermen working on vessels operating within Taiwan’s territorial waters. Fishermen working on Taiwan-flagged vessels operating beyond Taiwan’s territorial waters (the distant-waters fishing fleet) were not afforded the same labor rights, wages, insurance, and pensions as those recruited to work within Taiwan’s territorial waters. For example regulations only require a minimum monthly wage for foreign fishermen in the distant water fleet significantly below the domestic minimum wage. NGOs reported that foreign fishing crews in the distant-waters fishing fleet generally received wages below the required minimum because of dubious deductions for administrative fees and deposits. Several NGOs, including Greenpeace and the Taiwan International Workers Association, advocated for the abolition of this separate employment system, in which an estimated 20,000 migrant workers were employed. Most of these fishermen were recruited from Indonesia and the Philippines.

The Fisheries Agency has officers in American Samoa, Mauritius, Fiji, Palau, South Africa, and the Marshall Islands and inspectors in some domestic ports to monitor and inspect docked Taiwan-flagged long-haul fishing vessels. These officials used a multilingual questionnaire to interview foreign fishermen and examine labor conditions on board. The Fisheries Agency acknowledged the need for more inspectors; they conducted labor inspections of only approximately 400 of the more than 1,100 vessels in the distant waters fishing fleet.

Informal Sector: Authorities estimated that more than 53,000 migrant workers had lost touch with their legal employers and likely remained informally employed elsewhere in Taiwan. Studies suggested that employment of such undocumented migrant workers were concentrated in the domestic work and manufacturing sectors. NGOs reported that some migrant workers legally employed as domestic workers were in fact informally employed outside the home, predominantly in small, family-owned businesses in the food and beverage and retail sectors, where they did not enjoy applicable labor protections.

Tajikistan

Executive Summary

Tajikistan is an authoritarian state dominated politically since 1992 by President Emomali Rahmon and his supporters. The constitution provides for a multiparty political system, but the government has historically obstructed political pluralism. Constitutional amendments approved in a 2016 national referendum outlawed religious-affiliated political parties and abolished presidential term limits for the “leader of the nation,” a title that has only been held by the incumbent, allowing President Rahmon to further solidify his rule. Rustam Emomali, the 34-year-old mayor of the capital, Dushanbe, and eldest son of President Rahmon, became speaker of the Majlisi Milli, the upper house of parliament, in April 2020, placing him next in line for succession. March 2020 parliamentary elections and the October 2020 presidential election were neither free nor fair.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs, Drug Control Agency, Agency on State Financial Control and the Fight against Corruption (Anticorruption Agency), State Committee for National Security, State Tax Committee, and Customs Service share civilian law enforcement responsibilities. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is primarily responsible for public order and manages the police. The Drug Control Agency, Anticorruption Agency, and State Tax Committee have mandates to investigate specific crimes and report to the president. The State Committee for National Security is responsible for intelligence gathering, controls the Border Service, and investigates cases linked to alleged extremist political or religious activity, trafficking in persons, and politically sensitive cases. All law enforcement agencies and the Customs Service report directly to the president. Agency responsibilities overlap significantly, and law enforcement organizations defer to the State Committee for National Security. Civilian authorities only partially maintained control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed numerous abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: forced disappearances on behalf of the government; torture and abuse of detainees by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; political prisoners; politically motivated reprisals against individuals in another country, including kidnappings or violence; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; punishment of family members for offenses allegedly committed by an individual; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence or threats of violence against journalists, censorship, and the existence of criminal libel laws; serious restrictions on internet freedom; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding, or operation of nongovernmental and civil society organizations; particularly severe restrictions of religious freedom; significant restrictions on freedom of movement; inability of citizens to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; serious government corruption; serious government restrictions on and harassment of domestic and international human rights organizations; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons; and forced labor.

There were very few prosecutions of government officials for human rights abuses or for corruption. Officials in the security services and elsewhere in the government mostly acted with impunity.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were several reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings during the year.

On April 10, Muhriddin Gadozoda died in the police department in Vahdat District. In its official statement the Ministry of Internal Affairs announced that Gadozoda jumped from a third-floor window and was promptly taken to a local hospital where he died from his injuries. Gadozoda’s relatives dispute this account. They said that Gadozoda was summoned to the police department and his body was handed over to this family later that day. They alleged his body did not show any signs of broken bones but showed clear signs of torture. The Ministry of Internal Affairs has not responded to the family’s claims.

b. Disappearance

There were several reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities. The government took no action this year in response to the preliminary findings of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, which visited the country in 2019 for a general inspection. Following its visit, the Working Group noted “little interest” on the part of the government in addressing violations, including enforced disappearances that occurred during the 1992-97 civil war, and noted reports of some political opponents whose whereabouts were still unknown after being forcibly returned to the country.

In January, 16 Tajik citizens were detained after returning from Moldova. On January 11, representatives from Moldova’s Ministry of Internal Affairs said the citizens were accused of violating Moldova’s immigration laws and decided to return voluntarily to Tajikistan. The 16 individuals have not been seen since their return.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The constitution prohibits the use of torture, although the government amended the criminal code in 2012 to add a separate article to define torture in accordance with international law. According to the 2019 UN Human Rights Committee (OHCHR) concluding observations, there were reports of beatings, torture, and other forms of coercion to extract confessions during interrogations. While authorities took some limited steps to hold perpetrators accountable, reports of torture and mistreatment of prisoners continued, and a culture of impunity and corruption weakened investigations and prosecutions. In some cases judges dismissed defendants’ allegations of abuse during their pretrial detention hearings or trials. Officials did not grant sufficient access to information to allow human rights organizations to investigate claims of torture.

During the first six months of the year, the Coalition against Torture and Impunity (CAT), a group of local nongovernmental organizations (NGO), documented 14 new cases of mistreatment with some victims alleging severe physical abuse. Of these complaints, 11 were against the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

On March 16, the Military Court of Dushanbe ordered the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Committee for National Security to pay the family of Komil Khojanazarov, who committed suicide after being tortured by officers of security agencies in 2017, compensation in the amount of 5,000 somoni ($444). Khojanazarov, arrested in 2017 for his involvement with the banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), recorded a video message in August of that year, saying that he was tortured by police and national security officers during his arrest and subsequent detention. Gulmira Khotamova, Khojanazarov’s wife, filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Committee for National Security in December 2020 and demanded compensation in the amount of 280,000 somoni ($24,889). The CAT said that the amount of compensation awarded by the military court is negligible and does not correspond to the harm caused to his family.

On April 6, Imomali Idibegov, a labor migrant who allegedly pledged alliance to ISIS via social media while living in Russia from 2015-17, was arrested and subsequently confessed his affiliation with ISIS on national television. In an interview with RFE/RL’s Tajik language news outlet Radio Ozodi, Dilbar Ghanieva, Idibegov’s wife, alleged that his confession was given under duress. She said she was summoned to the police department the week after her husband’s arrest and that police used the threat of her detention to coerce her husband into a confession. Dushanbe police said Russian authorities opened a criminal case against Idibegov on charges of terrorism, and his name is on a wanted list.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were harsh and life-threatening due to food shortages, gross overcrowding, physical abuse, and inadequate sanitary conditions. In October, 40 inmates in a newly constructed prison just outside of Dushanbe were in critical condition after drinking contaminated water from a cistern that prison officials allegedly knew was not fully functional.

Physical Conditions: As of August, the total official prison population was approximately 8,000 but is almost certainly much larger. As a part of the country’s 30th anniversary of independence celebrations in September, the government announced a “Golden Amnesty” in which 16,000 prisoners reportedly were released.

Gross overcrowding was a problem, with almost all prisons exceeding their maximum population limits. Access and quality of food, potable water, sanitation, heating, ventilation, lighting, and medical care are inadequate, with almost all prisoners needing supplemental food brought by relatives and friends for survival. Men and women are held in separate facilities with no known differences in prison conditions. On July 13, the Ministry of Justice reported that in the first half of the year, 41 prisoners died from various diseases. The ministry reported that within the prison population, there were 213 HIV-positive inmates, 85 inmates with tuberculosis, and 244 drug-addicted inmates. On September 8, the penitentiary system health department reported that 7,959 prisoners had received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 2,700 had received both doses.

Penal Reform International, an organization conducting prison reform work with regional representation out of Kazakhstan, in a 2019 report described the conditions in the women’s prison as frigid in the winter, with only intermittent electricity and heat, and insufficient food for inmates and staff. Disease and hunger were serious problems. The 2019 OHCHR concluding observations found concerning levels of tuberculosis and HIV in prisons. Authorities often held juvenile boys with adult men.

Administration: The Office of the Ombudsman conducted prison visits throughout the year but resolved fewer than 2 percent of complaints filed related to torture or other abuse. NGOs reported mistrust of the ombudsman due to the office’s loyalty to the president and frequent dismissal of human rights concerns.

Independent Monitoring: The Ministry of Justice continued to restrict access to prisons or detention facilities for representatives of the international community. Since 2004 the International Committee of the Red Cross has not had access to prisons due to the absence of an agreement with the government. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime visited several prisons during the year as a part of a program to identify best practices for the detention of foreign terrorist fighters.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

Arbitrary arrests were common, and the law does not prohibit the practice. The law states that police must prepare a detention report and inform the prosecutor’s office of an arrest within 12 hours and file charges within 10 days. The law provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court but use of this provision was limited. Few citizens were aware of their right to appeal an arrest, and there were few checks on the power of police and military officers to detain individuals. Human rights activists reported incidents of forced military conscription, including of persons who should have been exempted from service.

The 14-year-old son of Mahmadzarif Saidov, a member of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), continues to be held by court order at a school for children who “engage in misconduct” and has not been allowed to see his family since his original entry to the school in November 2019. Saidov’s son is one of 10 teenagers and young adults who returned to the country from a Bangladeshi madrassa in 2019. The Ministry of Education and Science said the teenagers did not go to high school and must stay in the school so they can adapt to normal life in the country. Saidov, who currently lives in Europe, said his son is essentially being held hostage.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

The law provides that police may detain a suspect for up to 12 hours before authorities must decide whether to open a criminal case against the individual. If authorities do not file charges after 12 hours, the individual must be released, but police often did not inform detainees of the arrest charges even if ones were filed. If police file criminal charges, they may detain an individual for 72 hours before they must present their charges to a judge for an indictment hearing. Judges are empowered to order detention, house arrest, or bail pending trial.

According to law family members are allowed access to prisoners after indictment, but prisoners are often denied access to visitors. The law states that a lawyer is entitled to be present at interrogations at the request of the detainee or lawyer, but in many cases, authorities did not permit lawyers timely access to their clients, and initial interrogations occurred without them. Detainees suspected of crimes related to national security or extremism were held for extended periods without being formally charged.

Arbitrary Arrest: The government generally provided a rationale for arrests, but detainees and civil society groups frequently reported that authorities falsified charges or inflated minor incidents to make politically motivated arrests. According to Human Rights Watch, the country has arbitrarily detained and imprisoned more than 150 individuals on politically motivated charges since 2015.

The Minister of Internal Affairs reported that 143 individuals were arrested in the first six months of the year on charges of membership in banned, terrorist, or extremist organizations. According to the ministry, 23 of those arrested are members of opposition-affiliated organizations such as Group 24, IRPT, and the National Alliance of Tajikistan.

In December 2020 Zulfikor Odinaev, nephew of the imprisoned Social Democratic Party of Tajikistan (SDPT) Deputy Chairman Mahmurod Odinaev, was released from a temporary detention center in Hissor after spending 15 days there on charges of “hooliganism,” media reported. Zulfikor’s relatives told reporters no formal charges were brought against him, he was not provided with a lawyer, and he was banned from speaking to the media while in detention. Odinaev has declined to release any public statements since his release.

On April 21, the State Committee for National Security (GKNB) arrested five residents of Vahdat city and Dushanbe’s Rudaki district on suspicion of association with the Salafi movement, which is banned in the country. Relatives of the detained individuals denied the allegations. One of the detainees was Abdulhaq Obidov, imam and khatib (prayer leader) of the Imomi Azam mosque in Shohmansur district of Dushanbe. The Committee on Religious Affairs denied reports in opposition media based abroad that Obidov’s arrest was connected to his April 21 eulogy in honor of the late Domullo Hikmatullo Tojikobodi. In his eulogy, Obidov reportedly referred to Tojikobodi as one of the “great leaders” of the country, which was interpreted as calling into question President Rahmon’s title of “leader of the nation.”

Abdulmajid Rizoev, a well known lawyer, was sentenced on June 14 to five and a half years in prison on extremism charges stemming from his Facebook posts that had “indirect calls to extremism.” Many experts believe his arrest was related to his work defending Dushanbe residents from forced evictions during the city’s redevelopment.

Pretrial Detention: Defense lawyers alleged that prosecutors often held suspects for lengthy periods and registered the initial arrest only when the suspect was ready to confess. In most cases pretrial detention lasted from one to three months but could extend as long as 15 months. Law enforcement officials must request an extension from a judge to detain an individual in pretrial detention after two, six, and 12 months. According to the OHCHR concluding observations, authorities tortured defendants in pretrial detention in attempts to extract confessions.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested or detained, regardless of charge, are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis of their detention. Despite such rights to challenge detention, a decrease in the number of lawyers licensed to take on criminal cases and the general apprehension with which lawyers take on sensitive cases limited the exercise of this right for those arrested on charges suspected to be politically motivated.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the law provides for an independent judiciary, the executive branch exerted pressure on prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges. Corruption and inefficiency were significant problems. According to numerous observers, police and judicial officials regularly accepted bribes in exchange for lenient sentencing or release. During a research mission on the independence of the judiciary in May 2020, the International Commission of Jurists noted that judicial decisions are rarely provided to the public and are typically given only to the proceedings’ participants.

Trial Procedures

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and for the presumption of innocence by defendants, but these guarantees often were not honored in practice. Approximately 99 percent of defendants were eventually found guilty. The International Commission of Jurists noted acquittals were extremely rare. The government labeled most human rights-related cases as sensitive, allowing them to hold trials in a classified setting. Access to courts was a serious issue throughout the year.

Although the law requires that defendants be informed of the criminal charges against them within 10 days, in practice they were not always promptly informed or granted a trial without undue delay. Courts generally allowed defendants to be present at their trial and to consult with an attorney during the trial, but defendants often were denied access to an attorney during the pretrial and investigatory periods, particularly in politically sensitive cases. Authorities continued to file politically motivated criminal charges against some defense lawyers to obstruct detained political opposition figures’ access to legal counsel and to dissuade other lawyers from taking on similar cases.

The government provides attorneys at public expense when requested, but defendants and civil society members complained that the government sometimes appointed attorneys to deny defendants’ access to the legal counsel of their choice. Defendants and private attorneys said government-appointed attorneys often provided a poor and counterproductive defense. The number of lawyers accepting criminal defense cases in the country was little more than 500. International observers found many criminal cases in which defendants did not have legal representation. Criminal defendants enjoy the legal right to prepare their defense, but this right was often infringed.

Defendants may present witnesses and evidence at trial with the consent of the judge. Defendants and attorneys have the right to confront and question witnesses and to present evidence and testimony. Courts provide interpreters for defendants who do not speak Tajik, the official language used for court hearings. No groups are barred from testifying and, in principle, all testimony receives equal consideration. Local legislation allows criminal defendants not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants also have the right to appeal.

Low wages for judges and prosecutors left them vulnerable to bribery, a common practice. Government officials subjected judges to political influence.

Although most trials were public, the law also provides for secret trials when there is a national security concern. Cases including a charge of “extremism” are considered to fall under this category, making most trials of human rights activists closed to the public. Civil society members faced difficulties in gaining access to high-profile public cases, which the government often declared secret.

On April 9, the Supreme Court issued its verdict in the high-profile case of more than 100 alleged Muslim Brotherhood members, a trial that had been continuing behind closed doors since July 2020. Radio Ozodi reported that according to a source close to the trial, the court found the suspects guilty of financing crimes of a terrorist nature and making public calls to carry out extremist activities, and membership in an extremist organization. According to the source, the court identified Egyptian national Muhammad Bayumi, a professor at Tajik National University, as the leader of the group and sentenced him to 23 years in prison. A second Egyptian citizen, a professor of Arabic at the same university, received a seven-year sentence, while Ismoil Qahhorov, from a prominent Tajik religious and political family, received a 15 years’ sentence.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

Opposition parties and local and international observers reported the government selectively arrested and prosecuted political opponents. Although there was no reliable estimate of the number of political prisoners, in 2018, the most recent year from which data is available, the government reported 239 prisoners who were members of banned political parties or movements. The government did not permit access to political prisoners by human rights or humanitarian organizations.

On January 28, a Rudaki District court sentenced deputy chairman of the opposition Social Democratic Party of Tajikistan (SDPT) Mahmurod Odinaev to 14 years in prison on charges of hooliganism and public calls for extremist activity. The judge, Saikabir Jalilzoda, cited Odinaev’s social media postings as evidence that he “incited” the public to extremism. According to Radio Ozodi, Odinaev denied the accusations throughout the trial and said the verdict had convinced him there was no justice in the country. Shortly before the sentencing, Odinaev told a reporter that authorities tried to coerce him into testifying against SDPT Leader Rahmatillo Zoirov. Relatives had previously alleged to Radio Ozodi that authorities tortured Odinaev during pretrial detention and that he suffered damage to his spine. In October authorities reduced Odinaev’s 14-year sentence by three years despite his refusal to submit a formal request, as part of the prisoner amnesty marking 30 years of independence.

Politically Motivated Reprisal against Individuals Located Outside the Country

The government pursued the forced return of citizens including through harassment, threats of violence, and the misuse of international law enforcement tools.

Extraterritorial Killing, Kidnapping, Forced Returns, or Other Violence or Threats of Violence: On March 27, police detained Izzat Amon (Izzatullo Kholov), head of the Center for Tajiks in Moscow, at the Dushanbe airport after he was deported from Russia for allegedly violating Russian immigration law. Officially, he was charged with fraud in the amount of more than $9,000. According to the General Prosecutor’s Office, 12 individuals wrote complaints against Amon and claimed that in the period from 2014 to 2020 they paid him for services that were never rendered. After his March arrest, he was held in pretrial detention at the request of the courts. On October 19, Dushanbe City Court sentenced Amon to nine years in prison. Activists and supporters of Amon assert that he is being punished for his criticism of the country’s government, particularly on the issue of labor rights. On March 25, the day of his deportation from Russia, Amon published a prerecorded video on his YouTube channel claiming that he could be imprisoned for criticizing the authorities. He further explained that he had been a Russian citizen since 1996, but his passport had been cancelled, paving the way for his deportation.

Threats, Harassment, Surveillance, and Coercion: Bakhtovar Jumaev, a Moscow-based Tajik lawyer, reportedly was pursued by Tajik authorities in Russia. On June 24, Jumaev told Radio Ozodi that his father had been informed by the Panjakent Organized Crime Department that they had opened criminal proceedings against Jumaev for inciting “extremist activity,” but did not include specifics. Jumaev, who said his family had previously received calls demanding his return, left Russia for a third country after he received credible information that Russian authorities planned to deport him.

Misuse of International Law-enforcement Tools: During the year, there were credible reports of misuse of international law enforcement tools, such as law enforcement systems (for example, INTERPOL red notices), for politically motivated reprisals against specific individuals located outside the country. The government used INTERPOL notices in attempts to locate and forcibly repatriate dissidents targeted by the government. The Central Bank keeps a public list of more than 2,400 names of suspected terrorists as defined by authorities. The list also includes names of opposition journalists and activists. According to an RFE/RL report from October 2019, six journalists and opposition activists living in self-exile in Europe publicly demanded the bank remove their names from the list. Other dissidents were frequently harassed or detained on politically motivated charges of extremism. As of July, the government had placed 72 Muslim Brotherhood members on the international wanted list.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

Civil cases are heard in general civil courts, economic courts, and military courts. Judges may order monetary compensation for victims in criminal cases. No separate juvenile justice system exists, although there were some courts that provided a separate room for children linked to the courtroom by video camera. Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts or through administrative mechanisms.

Property Seizure and Restitution

In December 2020 Guldasta Salimova, widow of Junaidullo Umarov, a commander in the Union of Opposition Forces of Tajikistan during the civil war who died in an alleged coup attempt in 2015, told Radio Ozodi that the authorities seized her home, an action believed to be politically motivated. In a letter from the State Committee for Investments and State Property Management of Tajikistan sent to the Rudaki district court in March 2020, the committee said that the house is the property of Umarov, meaning Salimova and her children are illegally occupying the house. The authorities say that they confiscated Umarov’s house in the village of Nilkon, in the Rudaki District, by court order. Salimova, however, said that her house was registered in 1961 in her mother’s name, that she inherited the house from her, and the house never belonged to her husband.

f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

While the constitution and laws generally prohibit many of these actions, there were numerous reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

The constitution states the home is inviolable. With certain exceptions, it is illegal to enter a home by force or deprive a person of a home. The law states police may not enter and search a private home without the approval of a judge. Authorities may carry out searches without a prosecutor’s authorization in exceptional cases. The law states courts must be notified of such searches within 24 hours. Police frequently ignored these laws and infringed on citizens’ right to privacy, including conducting personal searches without a warrant.

According to the law, “when sufficient grounds exist to believe that information, documents, or objects that are relevant to the criminal case may be contained in letters, telegrams, radiograms, packages, parcels, or other mail and telegraph correspondence, they may be intercepted” with a warrant issued by a judge. The law states only a judge may authorize monitoring of telephone or other communication. Security offices often monitored communications, such as social media and telephone calls, without judicial authorization.

According to the law, government authorities can punish family members for offenses committed by their relatives, such as if an underage child commits an offense. There were continuing reports that relatives of perceived government critics in exile were harassed or targeted by local authorities inside the country.

On April 2, Fayzabad District Court sentenced in absentia Saymuddin Dustov, the former editorial head of the newspaper Nigoh and founder of the news agency TojNews who currently resides in Poland, to seven years of imprisonment for “public calls to carry out extremist activities and justification of extremism.” Dustov’s 72-year-old father and four neighbours were taken from their homes to the Fayzabad District Court to witness the trial and were forced to hand over their mobile phones. After the hearing Dustov’s father reportedly talked to the judge in private and the judge reportedly said that all the charges against Dustov would be dropped if Dustov returned to the country. Law enforcement officials also reportedly threatened that Dustov’s younger brothers would face criminal charges unless Dustov returned to the country.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech, including for the press and other media, but the government restricted these rights.

Freedom of Expression: Authorities continued to curb freedom of speech through detentions, prosecutions, the threat of heavy fines, the passage of strict and overreaching slander legislation, and the forced closure of media outlets.

Freedom of Expression for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media: Independent media faced significant and repeated government threats. Although some media published political commentary and investigatory material critical of the government, journalists observed that authorities considered certain topics off limits, including, among other matters, questions regarding financial improprieties of those close to the president or content regarding banned groups such as IRPT and Group 24.

The government controlled most broadcasting transmission facilities. The government’s guidelines state that the government has the right to “regulate and control the content of all television and radio networks regardless of their type of ownership.”

Private broadcasters are prohibited from entering into cooperation agreements with foreign media and publishing their materials without the State Committee’s approval. Additionally, private broadcasters are required to involve state media in all commercial projects that generate income. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in the outlet losing its broadcasting license.

Violence and Harassment: Journalists continued to face harassment and intimidation by government officials. On May 24, Sadullo Khudoyorov, younger brother of the prominent blogger Junaidullo Khudoyorov, was beaten at a central park in the Rasht District, allegedly by four park employees. He was hospitalized and underwent jaw surgery because of his injuries. The Ministry of Internal Affairs for the Rasht district said in a June 4 interview with Radio Ozodi that a criminal case was initiated against the perpetrators under charges of hooliganism. Later that month the ministry brought identical charges against Sadullo Khudoyorov himself, saying that he verbally abused his attackers with obscenities. Junaidillo Khudoyorov said the harassment of his brother is another example of continued pressure against his family to impact his reporting. On August 25, the Rasht District Court ruled that Ashraf Orzuev, the owner of a restaurant in the park, was fined 7,500 somoni ($667) in compensation to Sadullo Khudoyorov for his injuries and then was required to pay an additional 30,000 somoni fine ($2,667).

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Journalists regularly practiced self-censorship to avoid retribution from officials, according to media reports and journalists. Opposition politicians had no access to state-run television. The government gave opposition parties minimal broadcast time to express their political views, while the president’s party had numerous opportunities to broadcast its messages.

In May media reported that new government regulations require television and radio editorial offices to clear the texts of their reports in foreign languages, including Russian, with the leadership of the State Television and Radio Broadcasting Committee to ensure they comport with state policy.

Newspaper publishers reported the government exercised restrictions on the distribution of materials, requiring all newspapers and magazines with circulations exceeding 99 recipients to register with the Ministry of Culture. The government continued to control all major printing presses and the supply of newsprint. Independent community radio stations continued to experience registration and licensing delays that prevented them from broadcasting. The government restricted issuance of licenses to new stations, in part through an application process described as excessively complex. The National Committee on Television and Radio, a government organization that directly manages television and radio stations in the country, must approve and then provide licenses to new stations. The government continued to deny the BBC a renewal of its license to broadcast on FM radio.

Libel/Slander Laws: The law criminalizes public insult or slander, including on the internet, against the president. An offense can be punished by up to five years in prison.

National Security: Authorities frequently cited laws against terrorism or protecting national security to arrest and punish critics of the government and to deter criticism of government policies and officials.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The government limited freedoms of peaceful assembly and association through requirements to obtain permission from local governments and through frequent inspections by various government agencies.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

The constitution provides the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, but the government required that individuals obtain permission from the government to stage public demonstrations. Individuals considering the staging of peaceful protests reportedly chose not to do so for fear of government reprisal.

Many female activists were subjected to anonymous harassment and attempts to denigrate them in social networks, including by falsely portraying them as sex workers, in retaliation for their participation in protests.

In March state security officers interrogated four workers who organized a public demonstration over the loss of their land shares at Abdusalom Dekhkan Farm in Vose District. The land shares, where they grew wheat and other crops, were their only source of income and had been handed over to the brother of a senior government official, who planned to use the land exclusively for seed production. After questioning they were released and told their dispute would be resolved in April. Subsequently, the chairman of the Vose region said the villagers’ claims were groundless because private land ownership is banned in the country, and it is up to the state to assign the land to organizations and individuals for temporary use.

In November 2020 the Supreme Court sentenced five protesters from the southwestern region of Khatlon to 18 months in a penal colony for hooliganism. In May 2020 the individuals had blocked traffic on the Bokhtar-Dushanbe highway to protest the government’s slow response to mudslides that destroyed dozens of homes and buildings in the Khuroson District. Another five persons, including three women, were fined 5,800 somoni ($516) each.

Freedom of Association

The constitution protects freedom of association, but the government restricted this right. The law requires all “public associations” to post detailed financial reports on their websites and impose burdensome reporting requirements. Civil society organizations again reported a noticeable increase in the number and intensity of registration and tax inspections by authorities.

The Pamir Lawyer’s Association received notice of a fine for failing to pay taxes on grants received during the previous year. According to the association, they had appropriately registered all grants with the Tax Service but, in the documentation of the fine, were told they failed to register the grants with the Investment Committee and pay the required 6 percent fee. The association is currently challenging the fine in court, arguing that there is a difference between a foreign grant and foreign investment and, therefore, they should not be subject to the 6 percent fee. Should the association lose the case, it would severely limit the ability of most NGOs to continue to operate as they would essentially lose 6 percent of their funding.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement and the Right to Leave the Country

The law provides for freedom of foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, but the government imposed some restrictions. According to the constitution, restrictions on the rights and freedoms of a person and a citizen are allowed only for ensuring the rights and freedoms of others, public order, protecting the foundations of the constitutional order, state security, national defense, public morality, public health, and the territorial integrity of the republic.

In-country Movement: The government prohibits foreigners, except diplomats and international aid workers, from traveling within a 15-mile zone along the borders with Afghanistan and China in the Khatlon Region and the GBAO unless they obtain permission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Officials did not always enforce the restrictions along the western border with Afghanistan, although the government continued to require travelers (including international workers and diplomats) to obtain special permits to visit the GBAO. The government also continued to enforce a policy barring Afghan refugees from residing in urban areas.

Foreign Travel: Individuals in some cases do not have the right to leave the country due to arbitrary and inconsistent restrictions. Civil society organizations asserted that the regulation requiring the Ministry of Education’s approval for all students wishing to study abroad is a restriction of citizens’ rights to freedom of movement inside and outside the country and is a violation of the country’s international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

At times border security guards placed arbitrary restrictions on citizens wishing to travel abroad. On August 3, a group traveling to Russia via Uzbekistan complained that they could not cross the Sarazm checkpoint on the border between the country and Uzbekistan because the checkpoint was closed from the Tajik side. Two days later, local authorities said that the issue had been resolved and the individuals had been allowed to cross. According to relatives of those who crossed, they were successful only after paying a bribe to the country’s border guards. On July 28, a similar situation occurred at the Fotehobod border checkpoint on the border with Uzbekistan. Local authorities said the border was closed and those wishing to cross required an official permit or invitation from Uzbekistan.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum and refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The refugee status determination process, as well as judicial procedures, does not comply with international standards. The criminal code criminalizes asylum seekers who entered the country illegally, in contrast to the country’s Refugee Law, which states that illegal entry is not a crime. These conflicting legal provisions mean asylum seekers run the risk of arrest and deportation without access to asylum procedures. According to law, to seek asylum legally, asylum seekers must enter the country legally with valid travel documents and a visa obtained in advance.

The government provides asylum seekers with temporary certification while processing asylum applications through the National Refugee Status Determination Commission and, upon granting refugee status, refugee identification cards as a proof of legal stay. Numerous sources report that officials registering refugees request bribes, in some cases exceeding $2,000, to issue temporary and permanent refugee cards. Government-recognized refugees enjoy socioeconomic rights on par with local nationals and can legally reside in the country. Formal notifications of administrative and legal decisions provided little insight into the rationale for adjudications.

The government continued to place significant restrictions on asylum seekers and registered refugees, and officials continued to prohibit them from residing in the capital and all major cities in the country. Security officials regularly monitored refugee populations. Police subjected them to raids if they were believed to be residing in prohibited areas. In September the government closed the land border to asylum seekers and refused entry to many (but not all) new arrivals, and observers report that no new refugee applications have been processed since mid-August. In November, 11 Afghan asylum seekers were deported after their visas expired and they were unable to register as refugees.

National law grants refugee status for as long as three years. The Department of Citizenship and Works with Refugees, under the Passport Registration Services within the Ministry of Internal Affairs, is responsible for refugee issues. Refugees must check in annually with authorities to verify their address, but this is not a reregistration of their status. According to government statistics, there was a significant increase in the number of newly arrived asylum seekers in the first half of the year. The country had approximately 6,000 registered refugees, 99 percent of whom were Afghans, although observers estimated the actual number of asylum seekers in the country was closer to 12,000.

Refoulement: National security concerns continued to dominate decisions related to protection and human rights, which often heightened the risk of deportation of asylum seekers and refugees. During the year the government revoked the status of six refugee families (28 persons); they continued to be at risk of penalty and subsequent deportation. In June the government amended the law to exclude deportation. Despite the update to the law, the risk of refoulement remains. In August it was reported that several asylum seekers were denied entry to Tajikistan despite fears of persecution in Afghanistan.

In the face of the potential arrival of thousands of Afghan refugees, the government made attempts to cooperate with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons.

Freedom of Movement: Refugees are not permitted to live in the GBAO and major urban areas, including Dushanbe, which restricts their ability to find work and go to school.

Access to Basic Services: Refugees and asylum seekers shared unhindered access to social, education, and health services with local citizens. Although UNHCR’s activities were mostly focused on advocacy and protection, it maintained a limited humanitarian component to render assistance to the most vulnerable families. UNHCR through its NGO partner Refugees, Children, and Vulnerable Citizens provided books, school uniforms, and language classes to children from vulnerable families and assistance with medical expenses. When refugees and asylum seekers faced legal issues, UNHCR’s legal assistance partner assisted clients in obtaining judicial redress, while providing training and awareness-raising sessions to local authorities to strengthen their understanding of refugee rights.

Durable Solutions: The law does not provide for expedited naturalization, leaving refugees on equal standing with nonrefugee foreigners when applying for citizenship. As a prerequisite, refugees should denounce their refugee status and apply for a temporary residence permit to be able to apply further for naturalization. To date no such precedent has been recorded.

g. Stateless Persons

The total population of stateless persons and persons with undetermined nationality identified and registered by UNHCR and its partners was 52,017 persons (15,462 men and 36,555 women). The government, UNHCR, and NGO partners continued to implement a project to identify and find solutions for stateless persons and persons with undetermined nationality – such as former USSR citizens – in five provinces (Khatlon, Sughd, Districts of Republican Subordination, GBAO and Rasht). UNHCR, NGOs, and local authorities worked together to find solutions – including confirmation of nationality and issuance of identification documents – for 46,704 persons, including adults and children, with the remaining 4,656 still in process to resolve their situation.

In December 2019 the government adopted a law allowing stateless persons and foreign nationals illegally residing in the country in violation of the rule of stay (for former USSR citizens) to legalize and regularize their legal status. The Amnesty Law is valid until December 2022, at which time all persons falling under the scope of the law must submit their applications for legalization. UNHCR evaluated the law as a major step in combating statelessness in the country.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair elections based on universal suffrage, but the government restricted this right. The president and his supporters continued to dominate the government while taking steps to eliminate genuine pluralism in the interest of consolidating power. The president’s political party, the People’s Democratic Party of Tajikistan (PDPT), dominated both houses of parliament. PDPT members held most government positions. The president had broad authority, which he exercised throughout the year, to appoint and dismiss officials.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The country held two major elections in 2020, parliamentary elections in March and presidential elections in October. Neither vote was free nor fair because of the country’s restrictive political environment.

On January 29, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) released its final report on the October 2020 presidential elections, which stated that the elections were held peacefully, but in a tightly controlled environment with long-standing restrictions on fundamental rights and freedoms. The report noted that there was no room for pluralistic political debate during the elections and no genuine political alternatives were presented to voters.

In April the Central Election Commission announced early elections to the lower house of parliament in three constituencies with vacancies. Residents of those constituencies were not made aware of the elections, no campaigning occurred, candidates did not make public appearances, and no information was distributed about the candidates. In previous elections, posters depicting the various candidates with their platforms were posted in public locations. There was no media coverage of the elections and members of the ruling PDPT won all three seats.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The government continued to enforce the ban on activities held under the banner of the IRPT, Group 24, and the National Alliance. Religious-affiliated political parties are banned.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and to some extent they participated. Women were underrepresented in decision-making processes at all levels of political institutions. Female representation in all branches of government was less than 30 percent. There were three female ministers but no ministers from minority groups. Cultural practices discouraged participation by women in politics, although the government and political parties made some efforts to promote their involvement.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively. Officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year. Media reported that over the previous two years, most cases of bribe-taking by officials had been reclassified as fraud, and officials were released by paying a symbolic fine, which in most cases was significantly lower than the bribes allegedly received by the officials.

Corruption: The Anticorruption Agency is authorized by law to inspect the financial activities of political parties, international organizations, and local public associations. Political parties must submit corruption risk assessment reports to the agency annually.

In July the agency reported that most of the corruption crimes in the first half of the year were committed by civil servants – 113 cases – followed by the banking sector with 93 cases. Among cases committed by civil servants, 79 were by employees of the Ministry of Education and Science. At the same time, media reported that the former head of Agroinvestbank, who was arrested in 2020, was released after fully paying the loans he had illegally issued.

Corruption in the Ministry of Education and Science was systemic, including the practice of paying bribes for university entrance. Prospective students reportedly were required to pay thousands of somoni (hundreds of dollars) in bribes to enter the country’s most prestigious universities, and provincial colleges reportedly required several hundred somoni for entrance. Students reportedly often paid additional bribes to receive good examination grades. According to the Anticorruption Agency, there were 85 registered corruption cases in the education sector during the first six months of the year.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Anticorruption Agency, and the Prosecutor General’s Office are responsible for investigating, arresting, and prosecuting suspected corrupt officials. The government acknowledged a problem with corruption and took some steps to combat it, including trying lower-level officials for taking bribes.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Anticorruption Agency submit cases to the Prosecutor General’s Office at the conclusion of their investigations. In some instances, the agencies collaborated with the Prosecutor General’s Office throughout the entire process.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic human rights groups encountered increased difficulty monitoring and reporting on the general human rights situation. Domestic NGOs and journalists were careful to avoid public criticism of the president or other high-ranking officials and refrained from discussing issues connected to the banned IRPT. Human rights and civil society NGOs faced increasing pressure from the government. Authorities investigated several NGOs for alleged registration problems and administrative irregularities.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government facilitated visits to prison facilities by high-ranking officials from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime but continued to deny access to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman made little effort to respond to complaints from the public. The ombudsman’s office met with NGOs to discuss specific human rights cases and general human rights problems in the country, but no government action resulted.

The government’s Office for Constitutional Guarantees of Citizens’ Rights continued to investigate and answer citizens’ complaints, but staffing inadequacies and inconsistent cooperation from other governmental institutions hampered the office’s effectiveness.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, which is punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment. There is no separate statute for spousal rape, nor for the rape of men. Law enforcement officials usually advised women not to file charges but registered cases at the victim’s insistence. Observers believed most cases were unreported because victims wished to avoid humiliation and social stigmatization.

On July 4, Rufeyda Inoyatova, an eight-year-old girl, was raped and murdered in the village of Navabad in the Rudaki district. At a press conference in Dushanbe on July 13, the Prosecutor General announced that a criminal case was opened against suspect Rahmatullo Gadoev on charges of rape and murder, which carries the potential of a life sentence. In October the Supreme Court sentenced him to life imprisonment. The case galvanized civil society activists, who sent an appeal to Rustam Emomali, the chairman of the country’s upper house of parliament, demanding more attention to the dozens of cases of sexual violence against minors that go unreported due to social stigma and judicial corruption. Emomali acceded to activists’ demand that he personally take control of the investigation in order to ensure the trial moved swiftly and justice could be served.

There is no law specifically criminalizing domestic violence. Violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained a widespread problem. Women underreported violence against them due to fear of reprisal or inadequate response by police and the judiciary, resulting in virtual impunity for the perpetrators. Authorities wishing to promote traditional gender roles frequently dismissed domestic violence as a “family matter.”

The government Committee for Women’s Affairs had limited resources to assist domestic violence survivors, but local committee representatives referred women to crisis shelters for assistance.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs registers domestic violence incidents registered under general violence and hooliganism, with a special notation in paperwork indicating a distinction for domestic violence.

Authorities seldom investigated reported cases of domestic violence, and they prosecuted few alleged perpetrators. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is authorized to issue administrative restraining orders, but police often gave only warnings, short-term detentions, or fines for committing “administrative offenses” in cases of domestic violence.

Human Rights Watch reported during the year that violence against women was “pervasive” and emphasized a failure to investigate reports of domestic violence in rural areas.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Religious ceremonies make de facto polygyny possible, despite the illegality of the practice. NGOs estimated that up to 10 percent of men practiced polygyny. Many of these polygynous marriages involved underage brides. Unofficial second and third marriages were increasingly common, with neither the wives nor the children of the subsequent marriages having legal standing or rights.

Sexual Harassment: No specific statute bans sexual harassment in the workplace.

Sexual harassment can be qualified under other articles of the criminal code, such as petty hooliganism. According to Supreme Court, in the first half of the year, the courts of Dushanbe considered 42 cases of sexual harassment. Of this number, only three cases were related to rape.

The Committee for Women and Family Affairs operated a call center for victims of sexual harassment in the workplace through which a specialist could provide legal and psychological assistance to the victims of harassment.

Victims often did not report incidents because of fear of social stigma. Women reporting sexual harassment faced retaliation from their employers as well as scrutiny from their families and communities. Human rights activists noted that victims of sexual harassment in most cases preferred to remain silent due to fear and public shame. One human rights activist told the media that six women visited her with harassment complaints, but none of them agreed to go to court.

In January the Vahdat police department refused to open a criminal case regarding the distribution of a video, which first appeared in September 2019, containing sexual scenes of activist D.M. with a man whose face on the video was obscured. D.M. was among those who in 2019 collected signatures requesting the president cancel the order to increase fees for mobile internet. The letter from the Investigative Department of Vahdat stated that no criminal case was opened due to the absence of evidence of a crime on the part of the man in the video.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities during the year.

Intimate partner violence remained a significant problem impacting woman’s agency, including on sexual and reproductive health. Stereotypes related to gender roles and the taboo nature of conversations about sex prevented women and girls from obtaining information on reproductive health and access to services.

Survivors of sexual violence have a legal right to protection and social services including access to emergency contraception, although they had difficulty in gaining access to these services.

Discrimination: Although the law provides for men and women to receive equal pay for equal work, cultural barriers restricted women’s professional opportunities. The law protects women’s rights in marriage and family matters, but families often pressured female minors to marry against their will. Religious marriages were common substitutes for civil marriages due to the high marriage registration fees associated with civil marriages and the power afforded men under religious law.

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship by birth within the country’s territory or from their parents. There were no reports of birth registration being denied or not provided on a discriminatory basis. The government is required to register all births.

Education: Free and universal public education is compulsory until age 16 or completion of the ninth grade. UNICEF reported school attendance generally was good through the primary grades, but girls faced disadvantages, as parents often gave priority in education to their sons, whom they regarded as future breadwinners.

Child Abuse: The Committee on Women and Family Affairs and regional child rights protection departments are responsible for addressing problems of violence against children. While the law provides children with the right to live free from violence, child abuse is not criminalized per se. Reliable statistics on the prevalence of child abuse are very difficult to find as most abusers are family members and victims are afraid to come forward.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage of men and women is 18. Under exceptional circumstances, which a judge must determine, such as in the case of pregnancy, a couple may apply to a court to lower the marriageable age to 17. Underage religious marriage was more widespread in rural areas.

The law expressly prohibits forced marriages of girls younger than 18 or entering a marriage contract with a girl younger than 18. Families, however, often pressured female minors to marry against their will. Early marriage carries a fine or prison sentence of up to six months, while forced marriage is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment. Because couples may not register a marriage where one of the would-be spouses is younger than 18, many simply have a local religious leader perform the wedding ceremony. Without a civil registration certificate, the bride has few legal rights. According to the Office of Ombudsman for Human Rights, in 2018, the last year for which there is data, there were 30 recorded cases of illegal marriage of underage persons in the country, with poverty reported as the main cause for early marriage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. In January the government amended the criminal code; the law now prohibits the buying and selling of children and outlines a provision that requires an exploitation act to qualify as human trafficking. The minimum age of consensual sex is 16. According to an NGO working with victims of domestic violence, sexual exploitation, and sex trafficking, there were several cases in which families or third parties forced children into commercial sexual exploitation in nightclubs and in private homes.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts. The country’s small Jewish community had a place of worship and faced no overt pressure from the government or other societal pressures. Emigration to other countries continued.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law on social protection of persons with disabilities applies to individuals having physical or mental disabilities, including sensory and developmental disabilities. The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, and provision of other state services, but public and private institutions generally did not implement the law. The law requires government buildings, schools, hospitals, and transportation, including air travel, to be accessible to persons with disabilities, but the government has not provided any information about the enforcement of those provisions, although it appeared authorities were attempting to apply those standards with newly built government buildings.

Many children with disabilities were not able to attend school because doctors did not deem them “medically fit.” Children deemed “medically unfit” were segregated into special state-run schools specifically for persons with physical and mental disabilities. Doctors decided which subjects students were capable of studying, and directors of state-run schools could change the requirements for students to pass to the next grade at their discretion.

The government charged the Commission on Fulfillment of International Human Rights, the Society of Disabled, and local and regional governmental structures with protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. Although the government maintained group living and medical facilities for persons with disabilities, facilities were in poor condition.

Disability rights groups can regularly meet with government officials, although there are no individuals with disabilities within the country’s leadership.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

HIV and HIV-related stigma and discrimination were commonplace. Affected groups included sex workers, men who have sex with men, individuals who inject drugs, and transgender individuals. Those living with HIV and AIDS were often denied necessary services, were often unable to find support from their communities due to social discrimination, and they were often harassed by members of their community and the police. During the year the transmission of HIV was criminalized.

The government offered HIV testing free of charge at 140 facilities, and partner notification was mandatory and anonymous. The World Health Organization noted officials systematically offered HIV testing to prisoners, military recruits, street children, refugees, and persons seeking visas, residence, or citizenship.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Same-sex sexual conduct is legal in the country with the same age of consent as for opposite-sex relationships. The law, however, does not provide legal protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Throughout the country there were reports that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) individuals faced physical and psychological abuse, harassment, extortion, and exploitation for revealing their LGBTQI+ status to their families or for being suspected of being LGBTQI+. One individual reported that he was physically assaulted while walking in Dushanbe because of his perceived sexuality. He said he had no plans to report the assault.

Senior government officials in the past have said implementing LBTGQI+ rights conflicted with local moral values, that bisexuality, lesbianism, and homosexuality are all “pathologies of character” and that the LGBTQI+ community is “mentally ill.”

LGBTQI+ persons were victims of police harassment with many police threatening to arrest LGBTQI+ community members for going against the “social order,” a crime that does not actually exist, and faced threats of public beatings by community members. LGBTQI+ representatives claimed law enforcement officials extorted money from LGBTQI+ persons by threatening to tell their employers or families of their activities.

LGBTQI+ individuals face significant social discrimination and are at risk of job loss and public social censure should their identities be publicly revealed.

In some cases LGBTQI+ persons were subjected to sex trafficking. Hate crimes against members of the LGBTQI+ community reportedly went unaddressed. LGBTQI+ representatives claimed health-care providers discriminated against and harassed LGBTQI+ persons. LGBTQI+ advocacy and health groups reported harassment from government officials and clergy, including violent threats as well as obstruction of their activities by the Ministry of Health.

Government authorities reportedly maintained a registry of hundreds of persons in the LGBTQI+ community as part of a purported drive to promote moral behavior and protect vulnerable groups in society.

It was difficult for transgender persons to obtain new official documents from the government. The law allows for changing gender in identity papers only if a medical organization provides an authorized document. Many doctors refuse to issue such a document because they are afraid of reprisals from the government or due to their own beliefs.

There were no updates to the criminal investigation opened in November 2020 by the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) following the beating of an openly gay Dushanbe university student. According to the student, whose name was withheld for personal safety, colleagues at the hair salon where he works beat him unconscious after learning of his sexual orientation. After a medical examination, doctors concluded that he had a broken jaw in several places, and a severe concussion.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right to form and join independent unions but requires registration for all NGOs, including trade unions. The law also provides that union activities, such as collective bargaining, be free from interference except “in cases specified by law,” but the law does not define such cases. Collective bargaining contracts covered 90 percent of workers in the formal sector.

Workers have the right to strike, but the law requires that meetings and other mass actions have prior official authorization, limiting trade unions’ ability to organize meetings or demonstrations. The law provides for the right to organize and bargain collectively, but it does not specifically prohibit antiunion discrimination. The government did not effectively enforce the law, though penalties for violations were commensurate with those under other laws involving denials of civil rights.

Workers joined unions, but the government used informal means to exercise considerable influence over organized labor, including influencing the selection of labor union leaders. The government-controlled umbrella Federation of Trade Unions of Tajikistan did not effectively represent worker interests. There were reports the government compelled some citizens to join state-endorsed trade unions and impeded formation of independent unions. There were no reports of threats or violence by government entities toward trade unions; however, government influence inhibited workers from fully exercising or demanding their rights. Most workers’ grievances were resolved with mediation between employees, with support from their union, and employer. Anecdotal reports from multiple in-country sources stated that citizens were reluctant to strike due to fear of government retaliation.

Labor NGOs not designated as labor unions played a minimal role in worker rights, as they were restricted from operating fully and freely.

On March 15, state security officers interrogated four workers engaged in a dispute over the farm in a Vose District. In early March, dozens of villagers organized a protest against the new owner of the farm who refused to let villagers grow wheat and other crops in favor of exclusively seed production. The villagers said this action strips them of their livelihoods. The authorities released workers after questioning and promised to resolve the dispute after the Navruz holiday in April, but the dispute has not been resolved.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits and criminalizes most forms of forced labor except for cleaning the streets (hashar or subotnik labor), work in the military, and “socially important” work. Children and adults may be subjected to forced labor in agriculture, mainly during the country’s fall cotton harvest, but also in dried fruit production. The government reportedly subjected some citizens to perform manual labor, such as cleaning roads and park maintenance as part of a subotnik. Subotniks are a tradition from the Soviet era in which individuals are made to “volunteer” to help with a community or special project separate from their usual, salaried labor. Subotniks usually focus on a public or community project, but there were reports of private companies using the subotnik construct to get employees to work overtime without pay on large, group projects, such as refurbishing a soon-to-open restaurant. The government does not consider those types of labor to be forced labor. Some Afghan and Bangladeshi citizens were victims of forced labor in the country, including in the construction industry. Employees of state institutions were sometimes required to perform agricultural work outside of and in addition to their regular employment.

The government did not effectively enforce these laws and resources, inspections, and remediation were inadequate to address concerns over forced labor. While penalties to discourage the practice of forced labor were stringent and commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, the government investigated, prosecuted, and convicted fewer individuals suspected of trafficking persons for forced labor than in prior years. The government continued to implement its national referral mechanism that has formal written procedures for identification, referral, and assistance to victims of trafficking. NGOs reported that in many cases when victims were identified by authorities, they were detained but not put in jail.

See also the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits all the worst forms of child labor. The minimum age for children to work is 16, although children may work at age 15 with permission from the local trade union. By law children younger than 18 may work no more than six hours a day and 36 hours per week. The law applied only to contractual employment and children as young as seven may participate in household labor and agricultural work, which is separately classified as family assistance. The government did not effectively enforce the law and though penalties for violations were commensurate with other serious crimes. Many children under the age of 15 worked in the country. Children younger than 10 worked in bazaars or sold goods on the street. The highest incidences of child labor were in the domestic and agricultural sectors and some children performed hazardous work.

Enforcement of child labor laws is the responsibility of the Prosecutor General’s Office, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Social Welfare, Ministry of Internal Affairs, and appropriate local and regional governmental offices. Unions also are responsible for reporting any violations in the employment of minors. Citizens can bring unresolved cases involving child labor before the prosecutor general for investigation. There were few reports of violations because most children worked under the family assistance exception. There were reports that military recruitment authorities kidnapped children younger than 18 from public places and subjected them to compulsory military service to fulfill local recruitment quotas.

The government worked with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to prevent the use of forced child labor. Without comprehensive data it was not possible to assess the prevalence of child labor in the country’s cotton sector.

Also see the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment and occupation because of race, sex, gender, disability, language, HIV-positive status, other communicable diseases, or social status. The law does not expressly prohibit worker discrimination because of color, religion, political opinion, national origin, citizenship, sexual orientation, or age.

Persons holding foreign nationalities (including dual citizens) and stateless persons are prohibited from certain public sector positions, including serving in the police force.

Employers discriminated against individuals based on sexual orientation and HIV-positive status, and police generally did not enforce the laws. LGBTQI+ persons and HIV-positive individuals reportedly opted not to file complaints due to fear of harassment from law enforcement personnel and the belief that police would not act.

The law provides that women receive equal pay for equal work, but legal and cultural barriers continued to restrict the professional opportunities available to women. The law lists 37 employment categories in which women are prohibited from engaging, ostensibly to protect them from performing heavy labor. As a result, women are unable to work in the following sectors: energy, mining, water, construction, factories, agriculture, and transportation.

The government did not effectively enforce discrimination laws, though penalties were commensurate with those under other laws related to civil rights.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The government set a minimum monthly wage which is below the poverty line.

The legal workweek is 40 hours and the law mandates overtime payment, with the first two hours paid at time-and-a-half and the remainder at double the normal rate, but there is no legal limit to compulsory overtime.

The State Inspectorate for Supervision of Labor, Migration, and Employment under the Ministry of Labor, Migration, and Employment is responsible for the overall supervision of enforcing labor law in the country. The Ministry of Finance enforces financial aspects of the labor law, and the Agency of Financial Control of the Presidential Administration oversees other aspects of the law. Resources, including the number of inspectors, inspections, and remediation to enforce the law were inadequate. The State Inspectorate conducts inspections once every two years and has the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. In 2018, President Rahmon suspended all labor-related inspections in the manufacturing sector to support “entrepreneurship,” so inspections in that sector only occur based on complaints. The inspectorate reported 246 such inspections during the first six months of the year. The State Inspectorate conducted both announced and unannounced inspections in other sectors.

The government did not effectively enforce wage and hour laws. Penalties for violations are commensurate with those for similar crimes, but the regulation was not enforced, and the government did not pay its employees for overtime work. Overtime payment was inconsistent in all sectors of the labor force.

Occupational Safety and Health: Occupational safety and health standards are appropriate in the main industries in the country but sporadically enforced. The State Inspectorate for Supervision of Labor, Migration, and Employment is also responsible for enforcing occupational health and safety standards. The government did not enforce these standards, partly because of corruption and the low salaries paid to inspectors. Penalties for occupational safety and health violations were commensurate with those of similar crimes. The law provides workers the right to remove themselves from hazardous working conditions without fear of loss of employment, but workers seldom exercised this right. Medical personnel working with COVID-19 patients were fired for complaining about a lack of access to personal protective equipment, according to media reports. There were no industrial accidents reported during the year that caused the death or serious injury to workers, although most experts agree that accidents do regularly occur. Farmers and agricultural workers, accounting for more than 60 percent of employment in the country, continued to work under difficult circumstances. Wages in the agricultural sector were the lowest among all sectors, and many workers received payment in kind. The government’s failure to ensure and protect land tenure rights continued to limit its ability to protect agricultural workers’ rights.

Informal Sector: The informal sector makes up 60 percent of the economy. There was no system to monitor or regulate working conditions in the agricultural and informal sectors. Informal workers were not covered by wage, hour, and occupational safety and health laws.

Tanzania

Executive Summary

The United Republic of Tanzania is a multiparty republic consisting of the mainland region and the semiautonomous Zanzibar archipelago, whose main islands are Unguja (Zanzibar Island) and Pemba. The union is headed by a president, who is also the head of government. Its unicameral legislative body is the National Assembly (parliament). Zanzibar, although part of the union, exercises considerable autonomy and has its own government with a president, court system, and legislature. In October 2020 the country held its sixth multiparty general election, resulting in the reelection of the union president, John Magufuli, with 85 percent of the vote, and the election of Hussein Mwinyi, with 76 percent of the vote for his first term as president of Zanzibar. International observers noted widespread irregularities and largely categorized the election as neither free nor fair. On March 19, two days after the announcement of Magufuli’s death, Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan was sworn in as the country’s first female president.

Under the union’s Ministry of Home Affairs, the Tanzania Police Force has primary responsibility for maintaining law and order. The Field Force Unit, a special police division, has primary responsibility for controlling unlawful demonstrations and riots. The Tanzania People’s Defense Forces include the army, navy, air force, and National Services. The Defense Forces are responsible for external security but also have some domestic security responsibilities and report to the Ministry of Defense. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of domestic security forces committed numerous abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: forced disappearance by the government or on behalf of the government; torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government or on behalf of the government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners or detainees; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence and threats of violence against journalists, unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists, censorship, and the existence of criminal libel laws; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding, or operations of nongovernmental organizations and civil society organizations; refoulement of refugees to a country where they would face a threat to their life or freedom or other mistreatment of refugees that would constitute a separate human rights abuse; inability of citizens to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence; trafficking in persons; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting persons with disabilities, members of national/racial/ethnic minorities, or indigenous people; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons; existence or use of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults; and existence of any of the worst forms of child labor.

In some cases the government took steps to investigate and prosecute officials who committed human rights abuses or were involved in corruption, but impunity in police and other security forces and civilian branches of government was widespread.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

b. Disappearance

There were reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities. There were numerous cases of police using “snatch and grab” tactics where authorities arrested individuals who temporarily disappeared and then reappeared in police stations only after social media pressure. The government made no efforts to investigate or punish such acts.

The opposition political party ACT-Wazalendo reported its 2020 parliament candidate for Ruangwa constituency, Joackim Gerion Ngo’ombo, was kidnapped a day prior to his nomination, beaten, injured, and later found abandoned, alive in Mkuranga District. According to party members, the case was never investigated by police. Party members also reported that other civilians disappeared following the 2020 elections in Zanzibar.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The constitution prohibits such practices; however, the law does not reflect this constitutional restriction nor define torture. There were reports that police officers, prison guards, and soldiers abused, threatened, or otherwise mistreated civilians, suspected criminals, and prisoners. These abuses often involved beatings. On November 17, the minister of home affairs issued a public warning to police and prison guards following a November 10 report of police brutality against Goba resident Issa Kassim after arrest. A police investigation of police officers accused of involvement in the beating was underway. As of year’s end, no charges were filed.

The law allows caning. Local government officials and courts occasionally used caning as a punishment for both juvenile and adult offenders. Caning and other corporal punishments were also used routinely in schools. In January Selefina Augustine, a secondary school student, was hospitalized in Mwanza Region after being caned to the point of fainting by her teacher, Sarah Obby.

On January 12, Mbulu District Executive Director Harrison Kamoga suspended the Hydom Village Executive Officer, Adella Kente, for allegedly whipping village resident Rose Danielsen. Danielsen was reportedly whipped for failure to make village financial contributions.

According to the Conduct in UN Field Missions online portal, there was one allegation submitted during the year of sexual exploitation and abuse by the country’s peacekeepers deployed to UN peacekeeping missions. In total there were 15 allegations submitted between 2015 and 2021 of sexual exploitation and abuse by the country’s peacekeepers deployed to UN peacekeeping missions. The alleged abuses involved rape of a child, transactional sex with an adult, exploitative relationship with an adult, and sexual assault. As of September the government had pending investigations into three of the allegations.

Impunity was a problem in the security forces. In response to public accusations of abuse by police and prison guards using excessive force against detainees, in November Minister of Home Affairs George Simbachawene warned police and prison forces against beating or using cruel or inhuman treatment. He categorized impunity as contrary to the public service code of ethics and conduct. On December 13, President Hassan issued a statement at a police academy graduation ceremony in Dar es Salaam encouraging the police force to combat impunity through rejecting bribes and the use of excessive force.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prisons and prison conditions remained harsh and life threatening due to gross overcrowding, physical abuse, and inadequate sanitary conditions.

Physical Conditions: Prisons continued to hold more inmates than their capacity. In June the Ministry of Home Affairs stated that there were 33,570 imprisoned persons, with 881 persons on parole. The nongovernmental organization (NGO) World Prison Brief estimated in 2020 the country’s prisons had a capacity of 29,760 persons. Pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners were held together. Convicts were not separated according to the level of their offenses or age.

Authorities held minors together with adults in several prisons due to lack of detention facilities.

Information on the prevalence of deaths in prisons was not available.

Physical abuse of prisoners was common, and there were reports of mistreatment during the year. Female prisoners reported they were subject to sexual harassment and beatings by prison authorities.

Prison staff reported a lack of electricity, inadequate lighting, and insufficient medical supplies. Prisons were unheated, but prisoners in cold regions reportedly received blankets and sweaters. Sanitation was insufficient. While some prisons provided prisoners with food, the Ministry of Home Affairs reported that some prisoners were growing food for themselves. The Board of Prison Force Production Agency is responsible for ensuring prisons have sufficient food supply from their own cultivation projects. Other prisoners, however, reported receiving no food from the prison authorities and relied solely on what family members provided.

Medical care was inadequate. The most common health problems were malaria, tuberculosis, HIV and AIDS, respiratory illnesses, and diseases related to poor sanitation. Prison dispensaries offered only limited treatment, and friends and family members of prisoners generally had to provide medications or the funds to purchase them. Transportation to referral health centers and hospitals was limited. In addition, requests for medical care were often met with bureaucracy that delayed prisoners’ access to health care. While doctors conducted routine checkups in the prison clinics, they did not have adequate testing equipment or medicine.

Administration: Judges and magistrates regularly inspected prisons and heard concerns from convicts and detainees. In addition, relatives of inmates made complaints to the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG), which investigated reports of abuse. The results of those investigations were not made public.

On the mainland prisoners could submit complaints to judicial authorities. The CHRAGG also served as the official ombudsman. The union Ministry of Home Affairs’ Public Complaints Department and a prison services public relations unit responded to public complaints and inquiries regarding prison conditions sent to them directly or through media.

Prisoners and detainees usually had reasonable access to visitors; however, authorities banned large-scale visitation due to COVID-19 restrictions. Visitation was limited to one or two visitors at a time. In October, 50 Chadema party members attempted to visit opposition party leader Freeman Mbowe in prison, but prison officials denied access, citing COVID-19 restrictions.

Independent Monitoring: The law prohibits members of the press from visiting prisons. Generally, access to prisoners was difficult for outside organizations, and the process for obtaining access was cumbersome.

Improvements: To reduce overcrowding, in March President Hassan ordered the Prevention and Combatting of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) to drop baseless cases to reduce overcrowding in prisons and detention centers throughout the country. In May the PCCB dropped 147 cases.

On April 26, President Hassan pardoned 5,001 prisoners during the 57th Commemoration of the Union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar. Of these prisoners, 1,516 were released, while 3,485 other inmates had their sentences reduced under the Prisons Act.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, although regional and district commissioners have authority to detain a person for up to 48 hours without charge. This authority was frequently used to detain political opposition members or persons criticizing the government.

The law allows persons arrested or detained, regardless of whether on criminal or other grounds, the right to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention and obtain prompt release and compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained. The law requires, however, that a civil case must be brought to make such a challenge, and this was rarely done.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

On the mainland the law requires that an arrest for most crimes, other than crimes committed in the presence of an officer, be made with an arrest warrant based on sufficient evidence; however, authorities did not always comply with the law. Police often detained persons without judicial authorization. The law also requires that a person arrested for a crime, other than a national security detainee, be charged before a magistrate within 24 hours of arrest, excluding weekends and holidays, but authorities failed to comply consistently with this requirement. There were reports of police detaining individuals without charge for short periods on the orders of local authorities.

The law does not allow bail for suspects in cases involving murder, treason, terrorism, drugs, armed robbery, human trafficking, money laundering, other economic crimes, and other offenses where the accused might pose a public safety risk. In some cases courts imposed strict conditions on freedom of movement and association when they granted bail. In the primary and district courts, persons reportedly sometimes bribed officials to grant bail.

The law gives accused persons the right to contact a lawyer or talk with family members, but police often failed to inform detainees of this right. Indigent defendants and suspects charged with murder or treason could apply to the registrar of the court to request legal representation. Prompt access to counsel was often limited by the lack of lawyers in rural areas, lack of communication systems and infrastructure, and accused persons’ ignorance of their rights.

Arbitrary Arrest: By law the president may order the arrest and indefinite detention without bail of any person considered dangerous to the public order or national security. The government must release such detainees within 15 days or inform them of the reason for their continued detention. The law also allows a detainee to challenge the grounds for detention at 90-day intervals. The mainland government has additional broad detention powers under the law, allowing regional and district commissioners to arrest and detain anyone for 48 hours who is deemed to “disturb public tranquility.”

In January former president Magufuli pardoned 1,789 Ethiopian irregular migrants who were held in remand or serving jail terms. Magufuli announced amnesty for the migrants following talks with Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde during her visit to the country.

On July 21, police arrested Freeman Mbowe, chairman of the opposition Chadema party (Party for Democracy and Progress) in Mwanza alongside 14 other party members ahead of a scheduled forum on constitutional reform. Police confirmed Mbowe’s arrest for terrorism-related charges, while releasing the other members without charges (see section 1.e.). Also in June 2020, police briefly detained opposition ACT-Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe. In January police announced they had no interest in pursuing the case involving Zitto Kabwe and four other ACT-Wazalendo leaders.

Pretrial Detention: Arrests often preceded investigations, and accused persons frequently remained in pretrial detention, known as “remand,” for days, months, or years before going to trial, usually with no credit for pretrial confinement at the time of sentencing. There is no trial clock or statute of limitations. Prosecutors obtained continuances based on a general statement that the investigation was not complete. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, approximately 50 percent of the prison population consisted of pretrial detainees. Detainees generally waited three to four years for trial due to a lack of judges, an inadequate judicial budget, and the lengthy time for police investigations. Pretrial detention did not frequently exceed or equal the maximum sentence for the crime.

In June attorney Peter Madeleka and wife Jamila Ilomo sued the government for malicious prosecution after spending more than 18 months in pretrial detention on economic sabotage and money laundering charges, which the prosecution failed to prove. The case was pending in court at year’s end.

On June 16, Director of Public Prosecutions Sylvester Mwakitalu dropped charges against 34 of the 40 Muslim clerics from Zanzibar who were imprisoned for seven years on terrorism charges. The clerics were members of the Association for Islamic Mobilization and Propagation (UAMSHO), an Islamist group advocating for Zanzibar’s full autonomy, and were known as the “Uamsho Sheikhs.” Two leaders of the 34 clerics, Farid Hadi Ahmed and Mselem Ali Mselem were released first, followed by the subsequent release of the others. At year’s end six clerics remained in prison due to prison procedures and additional nonterrorism-related charges.

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 allegations of 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. In July President Hassan appointed 28 judges, including seven to the Court of Appeals and 21 others to the High Court, a step to add staff to a traditionally understaffed branch of government.

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 reportedly occasionally accepted bribes to determine the outcome of cases. There were instances in which the outcomes of trials appeared predetermined by the government. Authorities respected and enforced court orders.

Chadema party members alleged on social media that President Hassan’s comments regarding Freeman Mbowe’s case during an interview with BBC undermined judicial independence. No evidence was presented to support Chadema’s claims.

Trial Procedures

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, but a weak judiciary often failed to protect this right. All trials are bench trials; there are no jury trials. Trials are not held continuously from start to finish. Instead, a trial may start, break for an indeterminate amount of time, and resume, perhaps multiple times. As a result, trials were often inefficient and could last for months or even years.

The law provides for the presumption of innocence, and the standard for conviction in criminal cases is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Despite such provisions executive branch entities regularly accused political parties, civil society organizations, and international organizations of breaking the law and then demanded the accused clarify or defend their innocence. In most cases authorities informed detainees in detail of the charges against them once they had been taken 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 cases of drug trafficking or sexual offenses involving juveniles) generally are required to provide reasons for closing the proceedings. In cases involving terrorism, the law states that everyone, except the interested parties, may be excluded from court proceedings, and witnesses may be heard under special arrangements for their protection.

On August 20, while briefing the diplomatic corps, Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation Liberata Mulamula suggested diplomats interested in Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe’s case should follow developments in media rather than attending open court sessions. Foreign Minister Mulamula claimed the ministry could not effectively ensure the safety and security of foreign diplomats if they chose to attend court sessions. The ministry sought to clarify the minister’s remarks, claiming the government “had no intention of barring anyone from attending the case.…” Diplomats were not barred from attending court proceedings, but the government announced a limit on the number of diplomats, family members, journalist, lawyers, and members of the public who could be in the court room at one time. The law requires legal aid in serious criminal cases, although 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 cases are entitled to legal representation of their choice. 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 the government sometimes provided public defenders in manslaughter cases. In September the National Assembly passed the Written Laws (Miscellaneous Amendment Act) No. 2 of 2021, permitting lawyers to appear or defend clients in primary-level courts. Previously, the law prohibited lawyers from appearing or defending clients in courts whose presiding officers did not have a university-level degree. 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 they are 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. Prosecutors, however, have no disclosure obligations in criminal cases, and often the defense does not know what evidence the prosecutor will rely upon when the trial begins. 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 matters 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.

The mainland Ministry of Constitutional and Legal Affairs continued hiring and training state prosecutors to handle the entire mainland caseload, shifting away from the former practice of police acting as prosecutors, although staffing shortages continued.

The law allows for plea agreements designed to reduce case backlogs and ensure timely delivery of justice as well as reduce inmate congestion. Terrorism and serious drug offenses are excluded, so prosecutors do not have discretion to entertain plea agreements in these types of cases.

In February the government instituted criminal procedure rules governing plea bargaining. Plea bargains must include notification of a plea bargain offer, a formal negotiation, a hearing, and a recording of the agreement by the court.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were reports of political detainees. Several opposition politicians and individuals critical of the government were arrested or detained during the year. These individuals, when charged, were usually charged with sedition, incitement, or unlawful assembly. In May under orders from President Hassan, the director of public prosecutions dropped charges against 23 political detainees, and as of year’s end, all were released from prison. There was an unknown number of political prisoners, but according to opposition leaders and NGOs, there were at least 100 opposition activists and supporters who were detained or abducted on the mainland and approximately 150 in Zanzibar prior to and after the 2020 elections. The persons were given the same protections as other detainees, although the government continued to threaten to charge opposition leaders with nonbailable offenses. There were no reports of the government denying access to political detainees by human rights organizations.

In November 2020 police detained Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe and two other senior Chadema members in advance of planned protests in the wake of 2020 elections. Police announced they would charge the three with terror-related offenses for reportedly planning to blow up petrol stations as part of the protests, although police subsequently released them without charge. On July 21, police arrested Mbowe, and he remained in police custody for five days without being officially charged. Police initially denied Mbowe access to his lawyers. On July 26, Kisutu Court charged him with financing terrorist acts and conspiracy to commit terrorist acts. Mbowe was joined by three others who were charged in 2020 for related offenses, such as receiving funds from Mbowe to commit terrorist acts. Mbowe challenged his arrest by filing a constitutional case at the High Court on August 5. Mbowe claimed he was arrested without being made aware of his charges, was denied his right to a lawyer, and was subject to threats and intimation by police. The High Court dismissed the constitutional case on September 23, on the grounds that Mbowe’s case was underway in the court’s Corruption and Economic Crimes Division, where the court argued his complaints would be heard.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

Persons may bring civil lawsuits seeking damages for or the cessation of human rights abuses 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. In 2019 the government withdrew the right of individuals and NGOs to file cases directly against it at the Arusha-based African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. During a May meeting with the outgoing president of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, President Hassan defended the decision to withdraw from the court but welcomed the chance to review this position in the future.

The law also curtails the ability of citizens to challenge legally government legislative or executive action unless an individual can prove the action has affected him or her personally, effectively outlawing public interest litigation. In September Onesmo Olengurumwa, a human rights activist, filed a civil case at the High Court challenging the law regarding citizens’ ability to sue the government. As of year’s end, the case was pending.

f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The law generally prohibits such actions without a search warrant, but the government did not consistently respect these prohibitions. While only courts may issue search warrants, the law also authorizes searches of persons and premises without a warrant if necessary to prevent the loss or destruction of evidence or if circumstances are serious and urgent. The law relating to terrorism permits police officers at or above the rank of assistant superintendent or in charge of a police station to conduct searches without a warrant in certain urgent cases. After his July arrest in Mwanza, police searched Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe’s house in Dar es Salaam without a warrant because he was arrested on terrorism-related charges.

It was widely believed government agents monitored the telephones and correspondence of some citizens and foreign residents. The nature and extent of this practice were unknown, but due to fear of surveillance, many civil society organizations and leaders were unwilling to speak freely over the telephone. According to Freedom House, the government reportedly acquired social media monitoring and spyware technology and admitted that it monitored social media in previous years.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution provides for freedom of speech but does not explicitly provide for freedom of expression for members of the press and other media. There were criminal penalties for libel, and authorities used these laws to stifle freedom of expression. The rights of free expression were further severely limited through several formal (legislative, regulatory) and informal (executive, government, and police statements) actions. These include laws that give the government the authority to shut down media outlets.

Freedom of Expression: Public criticism of the government resulted in punitive action in some cases. Authorities used the Cybercrimes Act to bring criminal charges against individuals who criticized the government on a variety of electronic media.

On March 14, the Iringa Regional Police Force arrested Tito Augustino Kiliwa, a resident of Mufindi District, for posting on Facebook that former president John Magufuli was ill. Acting Regional Police Commander Rienada Millanzi alleged the message evoked emotions and caused a stir in the community. The arrest followed the March arrests of Peter Pius Silayo, Melchiory Prosper Shayo, and Charles Majura for allegedly spreading online fabricated information related to President Magufuli’s health, thereby violating the law. The government announced that the president had died on March 17.

Members of parliament (MPs) were sanctioned for criticizing the government, including in speeches on the floor of parliament. On August 21, Speaker of the Parliament Job Ndugai ordered Bishop Josephat Gwajima, a Chama Cha Mapinduzi party (CCM) MP representing Kawe constituency in Dar es Salaam, to appear before the Privileges, Ethics, and Powers Committee on August 23 for allegedly degrading the dignity of the parliament. Gwajima was accused of making anti-COVID-19 vaccination remarks in his church in Dar es Salaam. Gwajima also allegedly claimed government officials had been bribed to allow vaccines into the country. Parliament suspended Gwajima from attending the September and November parliamentary sessions and cut his salary in half.

On September 16, Minister of Home Affairs George Simbachawene directed security forces to investigate persons engaged in online harassment, especially those who mocked the president and the government. He urged strict action against those involved. The government also declared it intended to institute a system to control debates on social media, particularly Twitter and Clubhouse platforms.

Freedom of Expression for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media: Independent media on the mainland were active and generally expressed varying views, although media outlets often practiced self-censorship to avoid conflict with the government. Although President Hassan pledged to uphold media freedoms, restrictions on certain content, especially relating to health and disease outbreaks, remained in effect.

Initially, President Hassan’s administration appeared to ease restrictions on press freedom. A ban on certain online media outlets was lifted; newspapers focused on investigative journalism ran stories detailing corruption within the government and were not reproached or penalized; and the government began dialogue with media stakeholders to identify needed reforms to the regulatory landscape of the media sector. On April 5, President Hassan announced that banned media outlets should be permitted to reopen and that the country “should not ban the media by force.” While her remarks were later interpreted by the departing government spokesperson to pertain only to online media outlets, activists welcomed this move. In President Hassan’s first speech to parliament in June, she pledged to protect democracy, freedom, and independence of the press. She also however stated, “There is no freedom without limits.”

In August the government suspended Uhuru, a newspaper owned by the ruling CCM party, for 14 days for publishing a story that President Hassan would not vie for office in 2025. This was the first newspaper suspension under Hassan’s administration. On August 27, the Media Council of Tanzania, the Legal and Human Rights Center (LHRC), and Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) jointly filed a case at the East African Court of Justice, arguing that the government had showed “contempt of court” in applying nullified provisions of the law to suspend the Uhuru newspaper. In response, chief government spokesman Gerson Msigwa said, “Press freedom is not absolute and not above the law. Her excellency President Samia Suluhu’s promise to deliver press freedom is real, trusted, and well exercised. We do not have oppressive media laws.”

On September 5, the government suspended Raia Mwema, a leading Swahili-language newspaper, for 30 days for “repeatedly publishing false information and deliberate incitement” after its reporting linked a man who was involved in a shooting that left three police officers and a private security guard to the ruling CCM party dead.

Registering or licensing new print and broadcast media outlets became less difficult. Newspaper registration remained at the discretion of the registrar of newspapers at the information ministries on both the mainland and Zanzibar. Previously, acquiring a broadcasting license from the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) took an estimated six months to one year, but observers noted the process was reduced to between 30 and 90 days. The TCRA imposes registration and annual fees for commercial and community radio stations, which disadvantage the creation and operation of small community radio stations.

In June the government amended the Online Content Regulations Amendment (2021) by reducing licensing fees. Amendments to the regulations in 2020 brought new and sweeping content restriction to social media, forums, websites, as well as print content. While the June amendments did not ameliorate content restrictions, they reduced registration fees and abolished requirements for internet cafes to install surveillance cameras, acquire internet protocol (IP) addresses for computers, and register patron identities for record.

During a June 29 meeting with editors and senior journalists, President Hassan committed to strengthening freedom of speech and supporting media development. According to the government, Hassan initiated dialogue with the media to work toward a conducive working environment, support the survival of media houses, and enhance press freedoms. Editors requested President Hassan waive advertising restrictions that were originally imposed to restrict and limit government business through private media. Editors also urged the government to lift Magufuli-era bans on specific media houses and amend hostile media laws and regulations. NGOs and media stakeholders reported that they continued to meet and discuss reform recommendations with government counterparts. The government of Zanzibar controlled content on the radio and television stations it owned but allowed discussions on media policy reform to take place. There were government restrictions on broadcasting in tribal languages, and broadcasts in Kiswahili or English were officially preferred.

The Zanzibar Broadcasting Commission (ZBC) continued to promote the free flow of information, in addition to regulating and supervising broadcasting activities in Zanzibar. ZBC also issued broadcasting licenses for radio, television, and online media in Zanzibar. As of September ZBC registered 27 radio stations, 22 television stations, and 28 online media platforms. On September 1, the Media Council of Tanzania noted that among those outlets, ZBC owned three (ZBC, Spice FM, and ZBC TV) and confirmed that nine private radio stations and five community radio stations operated independently, often reading the content of national dailies, including articles critical of the Zanzibar government.

Violence and Harassment: Authorities attacked, harassed, and intimidated journalists during the year. Journalists and media outlets frequently self-censored to avoid government retribution.

On April 13, Lusubilo Mwakabibi, a local government official in Temeke (Dar es Salaam), reportedly ordered police to arrest journalists Dickson Billikwija and Christopher James after they attempted to attend a meeting between Mwakabibi and traders at a local market. The journalists were released the same day. The minister of information, culture, arts, and sports promised to investigate and hold officials accountable. Authorities did not make the results of this investigation public.

On April 21, officers of Zanzibari government’s KVZ security force reportedly beat and harassed Jessie Mikofu, a Mwananchi Newspaper journalist, while he was photographing street vendors being evicted by authorities. He claimed police destroyed his photography equipment.

On September 24, authorities arrested political cartoonist John Fwema at his home in Dar es Salaam after he posted online a cartoon critical of President Hassan. Police reported that he was being investigated for cybercrimes. Authorities released Fwema on bail and as of year’s end had not filed charges.

On October 2, police arrested Mgawe TV journalist Harold Shemsanga and the station’s owner Ernest Mgawe for illegal assembly, after Shemsanga reported on a jogging event held in Kawe by the women’s league of the opposition Chadema party. Authorities released Shemsanga and Mgawe two days later and as of year’s end had not filed charges against them.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The law authorizes police to raid and seize materials from newspaper offices and authorizes the minister responsible for overseeing media to “prohibit or otherwise sanction the publication of any content that jeopardizes national security or public safety.” Censorship of media reporting related to security matters remained in place under President Hassan.

On September 16, President Hassan’s newly appointed minister of information and communications technology, Ashatu Kijaji, used her first public comments to warn media outlets not to spread unverified and unedited information or publish information damaging to the country’s image.

In a departure from the past, certain types of COVID-19 information were widely shared and was no longer restricted under President Hassan, including the promotion of vaccinations and preventive measures among the public. Publication of official government statistics and data on COVID-19 remained limited. On January 5, the TCRA suspended local entertainment Wasafi TV for six months for an alleged violation of the broadcasting regulation during the Tumewasha music festival. The festival was broadcast live on New Year’s Eve, where singer Gift Joshua, known as “Gigy Money,” was accused of dancing almost nude.

Authorities require a permit for reporting on police or prison activities, both on the mainland and in Zanzibar, and journalists need special permission to cover meetings of the National Assembly or attend meetings in the Zanzibar House of Representatives. Anyone publishing information accusing a Zanzibari representative of involvement in illegal activities is liable to a monetary fine, three years’ imprisonment, or both. The government may fine and suspend newspapers without warning.

Libel/Slander Laws: The law provides for arrest, prosecution, and punishment for the use of seditious, abusive, or derogatory language to describe the country’s leadership. The law makes defamation a criminal act. Defamation is defined as any matter likely to injure the reputation of any person by exposing him to hatred, contempt, or ridicule, or likely to damage any person in his profession or trade by an injury to his reputation. The law prohibits a person from taking any action or making any statement with the intent of insulting the religious beliefs of another person. Anyone committing such an offense may be punished with a year’s imprisonment.

Internet Freedom

The government restricted access to the internet and monitored websites and internet traffic. Online material deemed “offensive, morally improper” or that “causes annoyance” is prohibited, and those charged with violating the regulations face a substantial monetary fine or a minimum sentence of 12 months in prison. The law criminalizes the publication of false information, defined as “information, data, or facts presented in a picture, texts, symbol, or any other form in a computer system where such information, data, or fact is false, deceptive, misleading, or inaccurate.” While the number of arrests of individuals who made critical comments on electronic media about the government diminished under President Hassan, individuals were still publicly threatened for publishing critical remarks or opinions, even if they were factually true.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

The law allows persons to collect and disseminate statistical information and puts a system in place for persons who want to access or publish national data. The law no longer provides prison sentences for groups or individuals for publishing independent statistical information. Researchers, however, were still required to obtain permission to conduct and publish research. There continued to be a degree of self-censorship due to the government’s lack of tolerance for criticism.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The government restricted freedom of peaceful assembly and placed increasing restrictions on freedom of association. Additionally, government attacks on human rights defenders and the arrest of opposition leaders calling for peaceful, democratic protests were restrictions on freedom of assembly and association.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

The government restricted freedom of peaceful assembly, including through bans decreed by authorities but not supported by law. For example, in 2016 the government banned political parties from organizing political activities and rallies until the campaign schedule for the October 2020 elections was announced in August 2020. The government requires organizers of political rallies to obtain police permission. Police may deny permission on public safety or security grounds or if the permit seeker belongs to an unregistered organization or political party. The government and police limited the issuance of permits for public demonstrations and assemblies to opposition political parties, NGOs, and religious organizations. Any organizing of demonstrations or rallies online is prohibited. The only allowable political meetings were by members of parliament in their constituencies; outside participants, including party leaders, were not permitted to participate. The government restricted nonpolitical gatherings deemed critical of the government.

On July 18, Mwanza police confirmed the arrest of 38 Chadema members and supporters in Mwanza Region who attended Chadema’s constitutional reform forum. Police banned the internal meeting, stating that the gathering involved nonparty members, therefore constituting a public forum. Detainees also included Bishop Emmaus Mwamakula of the Moravian Church and Azavery Lwaitama, a retired lecturer from the University of Dar es Salaam.

On July 26, police arrested 54 Chadema opposition members in different parts of the country for demonstrating against Mbowe’s arrest. Police made most arrests outside Kisutu court on July 26 during Mbowe’s court hearing. In early August all 54 members were freed after attorneys threatened to sue the inspector general of police, attorney general, and regional police commander for holding persons against the law if the detainees were not charged or released by August 10 (see section 1.e., Political Prisoners and Detainees). On July 28, at least 50 members of the Chadema women’s wing (BAWACHA) peacefully demonstrated in Dar es Salaam in support of Mbowe. After the demonstration, police arrested seven participants, including BAWACHA Temeke chairwoman Neema Mwakipesile, as well as former member of parliament Catherine Ruge. Authorities subsequently released all seven without charges.

Freedom of Association

The constitution provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right. Thousands of NGOs and societies operated in the country. Political parties were required to register and meet membership and other requirements. Freedom of association for workers was limited (see section 7.a.).

According to the LHRC and the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, the freedom of association for NGOs has been jeopardized by the law, which reduces the autonomy of NGOs and provides for excessive regulation of the NGO sector. The government’s registrar of NGOs, a presidential appointee, stated that the process of deregistration underscored the need for NGOs to comply with the law and provide transparency and accountability in their activities. Under existing law, however, the registrar of NGOs is granted sweeping powers to suspend and deregister NGOs, leaving loopholes that could be used to obstruct political opposition and human rights NGOs (see section 3, Political Parties and Political Participation, and section 5, Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights).

The law makes a distinction between NGOs and societies and applies different registration procedures to the two. It defines a society as any club, company, partnership, or association of 10 or more persons, regardless of its purpose, and notes specific categories of organizations not considered societies, such as political parties. The law defines NGOs to include organizations whose purpose is to promote economic, environmental, social, or cultural development; protect the environment; or lobby or advocate on topics of public interest. Societies and NGOs may not operate until authorities approve their applications.

In August the Ministry of Home Affairs announced it would change the status of registered societies, including religious organizations, from permanent to temporary. The change mandates that societies and organizations reregister every five years. On August 18, religious leaders met with the ministry and agreed that the requirement for reregistration would exclude religious organizations until proper procedures were put into place. As of March, 9,383 societies were registered – 8,844 were nonreligious entities and 992 were religious organizations (see section 5, Government Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights).

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement and the Right to Leave the Country

The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

In-country Movement: Refugees are confined to camps. The government limited refugee movement and enforced its encampment policy more strictly during the year, including the arrest of refugees caught moving outside the camps without official permission. With permits more difficult to obtain and livelihood opportunities inside the camps heavily constrained, police apprehended and arrested refugees who left the camps in search of work. Authorities usually prosecuted and sentenced these persons in local courts to six months’ detention or payment of a fine (see section 2.f.).

Foreign Travel: There were reports of denial of exit permits for two refugees to depart the country for the United States. Both families consisted of a Congolese national primary applicant with a Burundian national spouse and their children. In both cases the government granted the Congolese applicants “refugee” status, a precondition for resettlement to a third country under the law, while their Burundian spouses were designated as “others of concern.” Departure for all 12 applicants was stalled due to the government’s refusal to issue exit permits for Burundian spouses, for which the government provided no explanation.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has an established system for providing protection to refugees. The National Eligibility Committee, which makes determinations on asylum applications, however, had reportedly not convened since 2018, stalling the status determination process. The asylum rejection rate was 77 percent. The protection environment for refugees, particularly from Burundi, deteriorated during the year. Additionally, the government did not grant UNHCR or diplomatic missions access to the southern border to assess the status of refugees entering from Mozambique. The government continued to deny that asylum seekers crossing into the country from Mozambique merited refugee status (see section 2.f., Refoulement).

In June during the 2021/22 budget speech, the Ministry of Home Affairs stated that as of March, 273,252 refugees and asylum seekers had applied for refugee status.

UNHCR intervened in cases of irregular migrants in need of international protection following their arrest by authorities in Dar es Salaam or other urban centers to ensure that the migrants had access to national asylum procedures and were protected from forced return to their country of origin. During the year two groups of 30 refugees were apprehended in Mwanza Region by immigration authorities. UNHCR intercepted their scheduled deportation, and the groups were allowed to return to the Nyarugusu refugee camp. The groups were allegedly attempting to reach a third country to seek asylum.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: No policy for blanket or presumptive denials of asylum exists for applicants arriving from a “safe country of origin” or through a “safe country of transit.” All asylum applications are evaluated individually. The law provides that, unless the transit country is experiencing a serious breach of peace, an asylum claim can be refused upon failure to show reasonable cause as to why asylum was not claimed in the transit country prior to entry into the country.

Refoulement: There were reports of asylum seekers from Mozambique who were returned without access to UNHCR assessments of the voluntariness of the returns. In addition there were reports that some long-standing Mozambican migrants living in the southern part of the country, including those with Tanzanian family members, were also expelled from the country. The government did not accept Mozambican asylum seekers who were fleeing violence in the northern province of Cabo Delgado into southern the southern part of the country. Per an agreement with the government of Mozambique, the government reportedly returned more than 10,000 Mozambicans who crossed into Tanzania back to unknown locations in Mozambique.

While nearly 88,000 Burundian refugees had been repatriated since September 2017, with more than 20,000 repatriated in 2021 alone, there were numerous accounts of refugees facing intimidation or pressure by Tanzanian authorities to return home. UNHCR expressed grave concerns regarding validating the voluntariness of the returns. Some refugees who were pressured into returning to Burundi became refugees in other countries or returned to Tanzania. The government does not allow UNHCR to reregister those who return, preventing them from accessing humanitarian assistance or basic services.

In July UNHCR reported that 25 Ugandan nationals had attempted to seek asylum in January based on claims of persecution for their sexual orientation. They were temporarily allowed to remain in Dar es Salaam and receive UNHCR-provided services pending adjudication of asylum claims by the National Eligibility Committee. In July their asylum claims were rejected due to lack of credible evidence of persecution, according to the Refugee Services Department. They were subsequently deported to Uganda by police and immigration officers without the opportunity to appeal. UNHCR was unable to seek a court order to halt the deportation. UNHCR stated the government’s deportation process was an affront to the universal nonrefoulment principle. The country does not provide asylum on the basis of sexual orientation or gender expression.

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: The government suspended livelihood options for refugees by closing businesses operating inside the camps and common markets outside the camps where refugees and the surrounding communities could exchange goods. According to NGOs working in the camps, there was an increase in gender-based violence and other problems due to the loss of livelihoods. In July and August an international NGO reported five cases of gender-based violence in the Nyarugusu refugee camp on the western border. Most of the cases were women who were forced to repatriate to Burundi by their spouses and who had returned to Nyarugusu due to lack of shelter and services in Burundi, or spousal abuse or neglect.

There were reports of refugees found outside the camps being detained, beaten, abused, raped, or killed by officials or citizens.

Gender-based violence against refugees continued, including allegations against officials who worked in or around refugee camps. UNHCR worked with local authorities and residents in the three refugee camps to strengthen coordination and address violence, including sexual violence, against vulnerable persons. The public prosecutor investigated, prosecuted, and punished perpetrators of abuses in the camp, while international NGOs assisted the legal team when requested by a survivor. Local authorities and the public prosecutor handled most cases of refugee victims of crime and abuse outside the camp. Residents of the refugee camps suffered delays and limited access to courts, common problems also faced by citizens.

Freedom of Movement: Refugees apprehended more than 2.5 miles outside their camps without permits are subject by law to sentences ranging from a fine up to a three-year prison sentence (see section 2.d.). Policy restrictions limiting refugee freedom of movement and access to livelihoods left the refugee population almost totally dependent on humanitarian assistance and vulnerable to a range of protection risks, including sexual and gender-based violence.

More than 50 Burundian refugees were arrested and held in prisons for allegedly leaving the camps and seeking outside employment.

Employment: Even when refugees have official status, they generally are not able to work, especially in view of the country’s strict encampment policies. The government generally prohibits livelihood and income-generating activities in its three refugee camps, especially for Burundian refugees.

Durable Solutions: During the year the government focused on repatriation and did not support local integration as a durable solution. The government enhanced pressure on Burundian refugees to return to Burundi, promoting repatriation as the only durable solution for Burundian refugees. UNHCR continued to assist voluntary returns under the framework of a tripartite agreement between the governments of Burundi and Tanzania and UNHCR, stressing that conditions inside Burundi were not yet conducive for large-scale returns because many Burundian refugees remained in need of international protection. Nonetheless, the government increased pressure on Burundian refugees to sign up for returns. The government implemented measures to make life more difficult for refugees, including closing the shared refugee and host community markets in February and restricting camp exit permits.

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, from January to August, more than 20,000 Burundian refugees repatriated voluntarily. According to UNHCR, more than 88,000 Burundian refugees had returned to Burundi with assistance since 2017. During 2019, 1,350 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and 82 from other countries were resettled in other countries.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage, but it allows parliament to restrict this right if a citizen is mentally infirm, convicted of certain criminal offenses, or omits or fails to prove or produce evidence of age, citizenship, or registration as a voter. Citizens residing outside the country are not allowed to vote. The National Election Commission (NEC) is responsible for mainland and union electoral affairs, while the Zanzibar Electoral Commission manages elections in Zanzibar.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In October 2020 the country held its most recent multiparty general election. Separate elections are held for the union and for Zanzibar, ordinarily on the same day, in which citizens of the two parts of the union elect local officials, members of the national parliament, and a union (national) president. Additionally, Zanzibar separately elects a president of Zanzibar, members of the Zanzibar House of Representatives, and Ward Councilors. In 2020 Zanzibar held two election days, with one election day taking place the day before the general election to allow security officials and others working on election day the opportunity to vote. International and local observers noted that the 2020 elections were marred with numerous credible reports of irregularities, along with internet and social media outages.

On March 17, the government announced the death of President John Magufuli. Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan was sworn in as Tanzania’s first female president and sixth president since independence. Due to a constitutional provision permitting the president’s deputy to carry out the remaining presidential term in the event of death, there was no need to conduct a new election following Magufuli’s death.

The first election under the Hassan administration occurred on May 16 when the NEC conducted a by-election to fill two parliamentary seats for Muhambwe and Buhigwe constituencies in Kigoma Region. The two seats were vacated following the death of Atashasta Nditiye, member of parliament (MP) representing Muhambwe, and after Philip Mpango, MP for Buhigwe, became President Hassan’s vice president. Observers concluded the Muhambwe election was competitive, while they noted a number of election irregularities in Buhigwe, including unannounced relocation of polling stations and instances of multiple voting.

On July 18, the NEC held a by-election in Konde constituency on Pemba to fill a vacant seat after the death of Katib Said Haji from the opposition ACT-Wazalendo party. CCM, ACT-Wazalendo, and 10 other political parties participated in the by-election, with the NEC declaring the CCM candidate the winner. Following a public outcry over election malfeasance by ACT-Wazalendo and other stakeholders, the CCM candidate who had been declared the winner resigned, citing family reasons. On August 27, the NEC announced a rerun of the by-election in Konde and a new by-election in Ushetu constituency in Shinyanga Region, which were held on October 9. ACT-Wazalendo candidate Mohamed Said Issa was declared the winner by the NEC. The by-election in Ushetu followed the death of parliamentarian and former minister of defense Elias Kwandikwa on August 2. In Ushetu CCM candidate Emmanuel Peter Cherehani won in a landslide victory following mass voter turnout after NEC provided civic education programming.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The constitution establishes the country as a multiparty democracy and requires that persons running for office represent a registered political party. The law prohibits unregistered parties. There were 19 political parties with full registration and three with provisional registration. In the 2020 election, 17 parties participated. To secure full registration, parties must submit lists of at least 200 members in 10 of the country’s 31 regions, including two of the five regions of Zanzibar. On August 30, the registrar of political parties, a presidential appointee, began the reverification process of all political parties. The verification exercise aimed to confirm that registered parties were adhering to legal requirements, including having offices on the mainland and in Zanzibar.

The registrar of political parties has sole authority to approve registration of any political party and is responsible for enforcing regulations. A 2019 amendment expanded the registrar’s powers, a move opposition MPs asserted would cement one-party rule. Under the amended law, the registrar may prohibit any individual from engaging in political activities and request any information from a political party, including minutes and attendee lists from party meetings. During the 2020 elections, the political opposition faced difficulty forming a coalition due in part to the legal requirement that all minutes, areas of agreement, and strategic plans be shared with the registrar. As the government is primarily comprised of one party, membership in the dominant party may confer advantages, including appointments to government jobs. President Hassan, however, made efforts to appoint opposition party members to high-level government positions, including regional commissioners. The government in Zanzibar made efforts to do the same, primarily through its establishment of a Government of National Unity, which included members of the opposition.

The law requires political parties to support the union between Tanganyika (mainland Tanzania) and Zanzibar; parties based on ethnic, regional, or religious affiliation are prohibited.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Some observers believed cultural and financial constraints limited women’s participation in politics. There were special seats allocated to women in both parliament and the Zanzibar House of Representatives. During the year there were nine elected members of parliament with disabilities representing the mainland and Zanzibar. The only two elected opposition seats in parliament from the mainland were both held by women, one from ACT-Wazalendo and one from the Civic United Front. Chadema also technically maintained 19 special seats for women in parliament, although Chadema officials were challenging the women’s legitimacy, claiming they took the seats without party concurrence. President Hassan appointed five women to regional commissioner positions, including Queen Sendinga, 2020 Alliance for Democratic Change opposition presidential candidate. President Hassan also appointed seven women to ministerial positions, an increase of two from the Magufuli administration.

The government participated in several meetings and events with NGOs related to policy or regulatory improvements to enhance the participation of women, youth, and persons with disabilities in political and electoral processes.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively. There were isolated reports of government corruption during the year. President Hassan took several steps to signal a commitment to fighting corruption. These included surprise inspections of ministries, hospitals, and the port of Dar es Salaam, often followed by the immediate dismissal or suspension of officials.

Corruption: While efforts were being made to rein in corruption, it remained a problem. The Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) reported that most corruption investigations concerned government involvement in mining, land, energy, and investments.

NGOs reported allegations of corruption involving the Tanzania Revenue Authority, local government officials, police, licensing authorities, hospital workers, and media. In March President Hassan ordered the PCCB to dismiss baseless cases, and on May 18, the PCCB dropped a substantial number of pending cases.

The PCCB’s mandate excludes Zanzibar. In September an official from the Zanzibar Anti-Corruption Authority stated the entity lacked the financial and human resources necessary to fulfil its obligations.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. The overall climate for NGOs, however, shifted in the last few years. Some international organizations had delays in receiving work and residency permits, although progress was observed during the year. Some human rights NGOs continued to complain of a negative government reaction when they challenged government practice or policy.

To improve coordination between NGOs and the government at the district and regional level, the government appointed 26 regional assistant registrars (Community Development Officers) and 185 council assistant registrars. There remained concerns, however, regarding how the government could use this process to monitor or deregister organizations that are perceived to be antigovernment.

In August 2020 the government froze the bank accounts of the THRDC and arrested its director, Onesmo Olengurumwa, and actively sought to suspend or prevent the functioning of several others – including the NGO Inclusive Development for Change, and on Zanzibar, the Centre for Strategic Litigation (see section 6, Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity). On April 20, the government unfroze THRDC bank accounts, allowing the organization to restart its programing.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government generally cooperated with visits from UN representatives, such as special rapporteurs, as well as those from UN specialized agencies such as the International Labor Organization or other international organizations (but not including NGOs) that monitor human rights. UNHCR during the year reported increased bureaucratic hurdles to conducting work inside refugee camps (see section 2.f.).

Government Human Rights Bodies: The union parliamentary Committee for Constitutional, Legal, and Public Administration is responsible for reporting and making recommendations regarding human rights.

The CHRAGG operated on both the mainland and Zanzibar, but low funding levels and lack of leadership limited its effectiveness. The commission has no legal authority to prosecute cases but can make recommendations to other offices concerning remedies or call media attention to human rights abuses, violations, and other public complaints. It also has authority to issue interim orders preventing actions in order to preserve the status quo, pending an investigation. Human rights stakeholders expressed concerns that the government was censoring the human rights body, citing the failure of the CHRAGG to condemn human rights abuses.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law provides for life imprisonment for persons convicted of rape, including spousal rape during periods of legal separation. The law stipulates persons wishing to report a rape must do so at a police station, where they must receive a release form before seeking medical help. This process contributed to medical complications, incomplete forensic evidence, and failure to report rapes. Survivors often feared that cases reported to police would be made public.

The law prohibits assault but does not specifically prohibit domestic violence. Domestic violence against women remained widespread, and police rarely investigated such cases.

Authorities rarely prosecuted persons who abused women. Persons close to the victims, such as relatives and friends, were most likely to be the perpetrators. Many defendants who appeared in court were set free because of corruption in the judicial system, lack of evidence, poor investigations, and poor evidence preservation.

There were some government efforts to combat gender-based violence. Police maintained gender and child desks in regions throughout the country to support survivors, address relevant crimes, and address mistrust between members of key populations and police. Their effectiveness, however, varied widely. Police validated a referral guide to improve the quality and consistency of responses to cases of gender-based violence. Despite government efforts, cases against women increased, particularly due to the tradition of resolving matters of this nature within the family unit or at the community level. The LHRC released a statement that condemned an increase in gender-based violence within the community during COVID-19 restrictions. In an effort to combat its incidence, the government introduced a campaign called “Tokomeza Ukatili Twende Pamoja” or “Let us Unite and Fight Against Violence,” which aimed to raise public awareness about the issue through special awareness raising events throughout the country.

In prisons the government also continued to coordinate policies, strategies, and guidelines in reference to gender matters. The government introduced gender desks within the prison department as a reporting mechanism for gender-based violence in prisons. The PCCB also had a gender desk to report sexual exploitation, although since 2015, just 31 cases were reported.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C from being performed on girls younger than age 18, but it does not provide for protection to women ages 18 or older.

Prosecutions were rare. Many police officers and communities were unaware of the law, victims were often reluctant to testify, and some witnesses feared reprisals from FGM/C supporters. Some villagers reportedly bribed local leaders not to enforce the law in order to carry out FGM/C on their daughters. In 2019 the Ministry of Health reported that approximately 10 percent of women had undergone FGM/C. The areas with the highest rates of FGM/C were Manyara (58 percent), Dodoma (47 percent), Arusha (41 percent), Mara (32 percent), and Singida (31 percent). In March the government launched a four-year national strategy to end FGM by 2030.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment of women in the workplace. There were reports women were asked for sexual favors in return for promotions or to secure employment. According to the Women’s Legal Aid Center, police rarely investigated reported cases. Those cases that were investigated were often dropped before they got to court – in some instances by the plaintiffs due to societal pressure and in others by prosecutors due to lack of evidence. There were reports women were sexually harassed when campaigning for office, and one MP said that female MPs were subjected to sexual harassment frequently.

The LHRC’s 2020/2021 Human Rights and Business Report found that the issue of sexual harassment was among the most pressing matters facing women in the business sector. Women reported having to use their bodies to obtain relief and privileges at work, an issue primarily observed in Mara, Mbeya, Shinyanga, Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, and Dodoma Regions. The LHRC’s survey in Shinyanga also illustrated cases of sexual harassment against women in Chinese-owned mines, where women reported sexual harassment by Chinese workers and supervisors.

On June 1, Speaker of the National Assembly Job Ndugai ousted female Member of Parliament Condester Sichwale from a parliamentary session for allegedly dressing immodestly. Human rights stakeholders stated that these acts of humiliation discouraged women from appearing in large numbers within political leadership.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Less than one-third of married women used modern contraceptives. Nearly one in four women would like to prevent pregnancy but lacked access to family planning. Family planning, including contraceptives, are covered in the national health system. Reproductive conditions and levels of contraceptive use varied based on factors including education, income level, geographical area, and age. For instance, the fertility rate in rural areas was six children per woman and 3.8 children per woman in urban areas. Modern contraceptive use also varied geographically, from 51 percent of those currently married in the Southern Zone to 14 percent in Zanzibar. While 12 percent of adolescents started having sexual relations by age 15, and 60 percent by 18, only 8.6 percent of adolescent girls between ages 15 and 19 used modern contraceptive methods. One in four adolescent girls between ages 15 and 19 were already mothers or were pregnant with their first child. Of adolescents living in rural areas, 32 percent had a live birth or were pregnant, compared with 19 percent of those living in urban areas. Adolescence was associated with a high frequency of child marriage, insufficient knowledge about sexually transmitted infections, and restricted access to sexual and reproductive health services. Persons with disabilities (especially adolescents) had greater sexual and reproductive health needs than the general population due to lack of information and greater exposure to sexual abuse and rape, HIV and sexually transmitted infections, and stigma. Access to sexual and reproductive health services was hindered by communication and environmental barriers, physical inaccessibility, and negative interaction with service providers including lack of confidentiality, mistreatment and disrespect, and inadequacy of service delivery.

Despite government efforts to improve the availability and quality of postabortion services, women and girls who suffered complications avoided seeking treatment due to being prosecuted, and many health-care providers were not aware they are legally allowed to provide treatment and that women have the right to such service.

Within the Reproductive and Child Health Unit in the Ministry of Health and implemented by the President’s Office for Regional Administration and Local Government, the government has national guidelines managing the health-sector response to and the prevention of gender-based violence. Health facilities trained on sex and gender-based violence and provided sexual and reproductive health information, as well as emergency contraceptive and prophylaxis to survivors of sexual violence, per standard operating procedures.

From 2007 to 2015, maternal mortality increased from 454 to 556 per 100,000 live births. Only 57 to 68 percent of pregnant women delivered with a skilled birth attendant. A recent study conducted in Lindi and Mtwara Regions in the southern part of the country found that traumatic and nontraumatic postpartum hemorrhage was the most common cause of maternal deaths: 51 percent of women died within 24 hours of delivery; 60 percent of those who died were ages 25 to 36; and 63 percent were lower-income rural inhabitants.

Many women had untreated obstructed fistula, a situation resulting in large part from deficiencies in the health system. Women attributed fistula development to negative experiences such as disrespectful maternity care. Multiple studies reported that women also perceived that their fistula resulted from prolonged wait times in the primary health-care facility due to nurses’ negligence and failure to make decisions to transfer them to a better prepared facility in a timely manner. Moreover, mothers reported persistent systematic barriers and dismissive institutional norms and practice, including poor communication, denial of husbands’ presence at birth, denial of mobility, denial of safe traditional practices, no respect for their preferred birth positions, and poor physical condition of facilities. Community stigma was another major factor that delayed women seeking obstetric fistula treatment.

Menstrual hygiene also remained a prohibitive factor for girls’ access to education, as most girls did not have access to feminine hygiene products and decided to remain home during their menstrual period. Schools did not provide comprehensive sexuality education, and students reported they did not have adequate information to prevent pregnancy. In addition many girls became pregnant as a result of rape. Under the Education and Training Policy launched by the government in 2015, pregnant girls may be reinstated in schools. In 2017, however, President Magufuli declared that girls would not be allowed to return to school after giving birth. Human rights NGOs criticized the policy as contrary to the country’s constitution and laws. This policy led to girls being excluded from educational opportunities, while the fathers of the babies were often their teachers or other older men who frequently did not suffer any consequences (see section 6, Children). On November 24, the government announced it would allow persons who had dropped out of school, including pregnant school-age girls and adolescent mothers, to return to the formal education system.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men, including in employment, housing, education, and health care, and the government generally enforced the law; however, the law also recognizes customary practices that often favor men.

While women faced discriminatory treatment in marriage, divorce, inheritance, and nationality, overt discrimination in education, credit, business ownership, and housing was uncommon. There are no legal restrictions on women’s employment in the same occupations, tasks, and working hours as men. Nevertheless, women, especially in rural areas, faced significant disadvantages due to cultural, historical, and educational factors.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

During the year there were no reports of systemic racial or ethnic violence or discrimination. There are no laws for the specific protection of racial or ethnic minorities.

Indigenous Peoples

The country does not recognize the rights of indigenous peoples or those who self-identify as indigenous. Indigenous persons may face forcible evictions from traditionally indigenous lands for conservation or development efforts.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country or abroad if at least one parent is a citizen. Registration within three months of birth is free; parents who wait until later must pay a fee. Public services were not withheld from unregistered children. The Registration, Insolvency and Trusteeship Agency, in collaboration with the Tigo telecommunication company, facilitated birth registrations. The registration program continued, issuing 1.6 million birth certificates by year’s end in Shinyanga, Mbeya, Njombe, Mwanza, Iringa, Geita, and Temeke Regions.

Education: According to law, primary education is compulsory and universal on both the mainland and Zanzibar until age 13. Secondary school is tuition-free in Zanzibar but is not compulsory. The ruling CCM party manifesto includes a policy to provide fee-free education for primary and secondary students. Parents must still provide food, uniforms, and transportation.

Girls represented approximately one-half of all children enrolled in primary school but were absent more often than boys due to household duties and lack of sanitary facilities. At the secondary level, child, early, and forced marriage and pregnancy often caused girls to be expelled or otherwise prevented girls from finishing school (see section 6, Women, Reproductive Rights).

On June 22, the government announced its plans to direct its 54 Folk Development Colleges to act as an alternative education opportunity for secondary-school dropouts, including pregnant girls who had been expelled under Magufuli. President Hassan did not reverse the expulsion policy of her predecessor, but instead, amidst controversy, asserted that the government was providing an alternative education pathway. This announcement followed World Bank’s $500 million “Secondary Education Quality Improvement Project” loan to the country to improve access to quality education and retain children, especially young mothers, in secondary school. On November 24, the government announced that pregnant schoolgirls and adolescent mothers would be allowed to return to the formal education system. The change was part of a larger policy to promote the return of students who dropped out of school. In Zanzibar the Ministry of Education amended the Spinsters and Single Parents Protection Act of 2005 to allow pregnant school-age girls to return to school and continue their studies after delivery.

Child Abuse: Violence against and abuse of children were major problems. Corporal punishment was employed in schools, and the law allows head teachers to cane students. The National Violence against Children Survey, conducted in 2009 (the most recent data available), found almost 75 percent of children experienced physical violence prior to age 18. There were no notable reports of government efforts to combat child abuse.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The law sets the legal age for marriage at 18 for boys and 14 with parental consent for girls. The law makes it illegal to marry a primary or secondary school student. To circumvent these laws, individuals reportedly bribed police or paid a bride price to the family of the girl to avoid prosecution. According to Human Rights Watch, girls as young as age seven were married. Zanzibar has its own law on marriage, but it does not specifically address child, early, and forced marriage. The government provided secondary school-level education campaigns on gender-based violence, which included information on child, early, and forced marriage.

In 2019 the Court of Appeal rejected a government appeal to retain provisions in the law, which would have permitted girls as young as 14 to marry with parental consent, instead ruling that the act was unconstitutional and discriminatory towards girls. The government was supposed to set the minimum age of marriage for boys and girls to 18 and remove the parental consent exceptions provision for marriage before the age of 18 but as of year’s end had not amended the law.

The Women’s Legal Aid Center reported increasing patterns of early marriage within refugee camps, further complicated by laws of the child, which refer to children as under 18. The marriage law, however, allows girls to marry at age 14.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes commercial sexual exploitation of children, including prostitution, sexual exhibitions, and child pornography. During the year there were no reported prosecutions based on this law. The law provides that sexual intercourse with a child younger than 18 is rape unless within a legal marriage. The law was not always enforced because cases were not always reported or because girls, facing pressure, dropped charges. For example, there were accounts of statutory rapes of girls that went unreported in Zanzibar. There were unofficial reports that the number of cases of statutory rapes in Zanzibar increased, but there were no official statistics to substantiate those claims.

Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: Infanticide continued, especially among poor rural mothers who believed themselves unable to afford to raise a child. Nationwide statistics were not available.

Displaced Children: According to the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly, and Children, large numbers of children were living and working on the street, especially in cities and near the borders. After data collection throughout 26 regions and 138 districts, the ministry reported 29,983 children were living in hazardous conditions during the year. These children had limited access to health and education services because they lacked a fixed address or money to purchase medicines, school uniforms, and books. They were also vulnerable to sexual abuse. According to the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly, and Children, during the year, 15,365 displaced children received necessities, including food, clothing, education, and health services, from a combination of government and private organizations.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish population is very small, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

Persons with disabilities sometimes could not access education, health care, and transportation on an equal basis with others. The law provides equality in status and prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The government, however, did not effectively enforce these provisions. Few public buildings were accessible to persons with disabilities. New public buildings, however, were built in compliance with the law to provide access. The law provides for access to information and communication, but not all persons with disabilities had such access.

According to the Annual Education Survey of 2020/21, the government expanded school infrastructure for children with disabilities as part of its National Strategy for Inclusive Education. The government procured equipment such as braille machines, magnifiers, large print books, audiometers, and specialized furniture. More than 340,000 learners with special needs remained out of school.

There were nine members of the union parliament with disabilities. Persons with disabilities held three appointed seats in the Zanzibar House of Representatives. The Prime Minister’s Office includes a ministerial position responsible for disabilities. Limits to the political participation of persons with disabilities included inaccessible polling stations, lack of accessible information, limited inclusion in political parties, the failure of the NEC to implement directives concerning disability, and prejudice toward persons with disabilities. During the year both the NEC and the Zanzibar Election Commission participated in meetings with NGOs focused on improving political and electoral participation for persons with disabilities.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The 2013 People Living with HIV Stigma Index Report indicated persons with HIV and AIDS experienced significant levels of stigma countrywide (39 percent), with stigma particularly high in Dar es Salaam (50 percent). The report highlighted that most common forms of stigma and discrimination were verbal insults and exclusion from social, family, and religious activities. Results also showed that more than one in five persons with HIV and AIDS experienced a forced change of residence or inability to rent accommodations. In Dar es Salaam nearly one in three of these persons experienced the loss of a job or other source of income.

During the year the country completed its second People Living with HIV Stigma Index Report to further assess levels of HIV and AIDS social stigma. At year’s end the government had not published the findings.

The law prohibits discrimination against any person “known or perceived” to be HIV-positive and establishes medical confidentiality standards to protect persons with HIV and AIDS. Police abuses of HIV-positive persons, particularly in three key populations (sex workers, drug users, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons), were not uncommon and included arbitrary arrest, extortion, and refusal to accept complaints from victims of crime. In the health sector, key populations experienced denial of services, verbal harassment and abuse, and violations of confidentiality.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Consensual same-sex sexual conduct is criminalized. The law on both the mainland and Zanzibar punishes “gross indecency” by up to five years in prison or a fine. The law punishes any person convicted of having “carnal knowledge of another against the order of nature or permits a man to have carnal knowledge of him against the order of nature” with a prison sentence on the mainland of 30 years to life and in Zanzibar of imprisonment up to 14 years. In Zanzibar the law provides for imprisonment up to five years or a fine for “acts of lesbianism.” In the past courts charged individuals suspected of same-sex sexual conduct with loitering or prostitution. The law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Police often harassed persons believed to be LGBTQI+ based on their dress or manners.

In March 2020 seven men were arrested for same-sex sexual conduct and were purportedly subjected to forced anal exams. In July the case was dismissed after the prosecution failed to summon the doctor to the court to provide medical evidence of same-sex sexual conduct.

In June the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Coalition Tanzania reported the death of a transgender woman, age 26, whose identity was uncovered. She was found dead in Kinondoni District, Dar es Salaam. Activists believed this person was killed due to their gender expression and identity.

LGBTQI+ persons were afraid to report violence and other crimes, including those committed by state agents, due to fear of arrest. LGBTQI+ persons faced societal discrimination that restricted their access to health care, including access to information regarding HIV, housing, and employment. There were no known government efforts to combat such discrimination (see section 2.f., Refoulement).

NGOs and civil society organizations serving LGBTQI+ persons and key populations continued to face occasional harassment. While there was continuing fear among these NGOs to operate freely and openly, they reported remaining relatively free from targeting and deregistration by authorities under President Hassan. There were no safe houses or shelters in Zanzibar for LGBTQI+ persons facing discrimination, violence, or abuses based on sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. In 2017 authorities filed a case against two women in Mwanza who exchanged rings in an engagement ceremony that was recorded and posted on social media. The case was withdrawn without being heard in 2018 and then reopened as a new case in 2019. The case continued as of year’s end.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The mainland and Zanzibari governments have separate labor laws. The mainland’s law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent trade unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes, except for workers in the categories of “national service” and prison guards. The law prohibits some forms of antiunion discrimination but does not require employers to reinstate workers fired for trade union activity nor prevent retribution against workers taking part in legal strikes. Trade unions in the private sector must consist of more than 20 members and register with the government, while public-sector unions need a minimum of 30 members. Five organizations are required to form a federation. Trade union affiliation with nonunion organizations can be annulled by the Labor Court if it was obtained without government approval, or if the union is considered an organization whose remit is broader than employer-worker relations. A trade union or employers association must file for registration with the registrar of trade unions in the Ministry of Labor within six months of establishment. The law, however, does not provide for specific time limits within which the government must register an organization, and the registrar has the power to refuse registration on arbitrary or ambiguous grounds. The government prescribes the terms of office of trade union leaders. Failure to comply with government requirements is subject to fines, imprisonment, or both.

The law requires unions to submit financial records and a membership list to the registrar annually and to obtain government approval for association with international trade unions. The registrar can apply to the Labor Court to deregister or suspend unions if there is overlap within an enterprise or if it is determined the union violated the law or endangered public security.

Collective bargaining agreements must be registered with the Labor Commission. Public-service employees, except for limited exceptions, such as workers involved in “national service” and prison guards, may also engage in collective bargaining.

Employers have the right to initiate a lockout, provided they comply with certain legal requirements and procedures. For a strike to be declared legal, the law requires three separate notifications of intent, a waiting period of at least 92 days, and a union vote in the presence of a Ministry of Labor official that garners approval by at least 75 percent of the members voting. All parties to a dispute may be bound by an agreement to arbitrate, and neither party may then engage in a strike or a lockout until that process has been completed. Disputes regarding adjustments to or the terms of signed contracts must be addressed through arbitration and are not subject to strikes.

The law restricts the right to strike when a strike involves an “essential service” that could endanger the life and health of the population. Picketing in support of a strike or in opposition to a lawful lockout is prohibited. Workers in almost 50 percent of all service sectors were defined as “essential” (water, sanitation, electricity, health services, health laboratory services, firefighting, air traffic control, civil aviation, telecommunications, and any transport services required for these services); these employees may not strike without a preexisting agreement to maintain “minimum services.” Workers in other sectors may also be subject to this limitation as determined by the Essential Services Committee, a tripartite committee composed of employers, workers, and government representatives with the authority to deem which services are essential.

An employer may not legally terminate an employee for participating in a lawful strike or terminate an employee who accedes to the demands of an employer during a lockout.

Penalties for violations were not sufficient to deter violations. Penalties were commensurate with penalties for similar violations. Disputes concerning antiunion discrimination must be referred to the Commission for Mediation and Arbitration, a governmental department affiliated with the Ministry of Labor. There was no public information available regarding cases of antiunion discrimination.

There were no reports of sector-wide strikes or any other major strikes.

In Zanzibar the law requires any union with 50 or more members to be registered, a threshold few companies could meet. The law sets literacy standards for trade union officers. The law provides the registrar considerable powers to restrict union registration by setting criteria for determining whether an organization’s constitution protects its members’ interests. The law applies to both public- and private-sector workers and bans Zanzibari workers from joining labor unions on the mainland. The law prohibits a union’s use of its funds, directly or indirectly, to pay any fines or penalties incurred by trade union officials in the discharge of their official duties. In Zanzibar both government and private-sector workers have the right to strike, but the right to strike is strictly regulated, requiring a long prior notice and compulsory mediation. In addition workers in essential sectors may not strike, and picketing is prohibited. The law does not protect those taking part in legal strikes from retribution.

The law provides for collective bargaining in the private sector. Public-sector employees have the right to bargain collectively through the Trade Union of Government and Health Employees; however, members of the police force and prison service, and high-level public officials (for example, the head of an executive agency) are barred from joining a trade union. Zanzibar’s Dispute Handling Unit addresses labor disputes. In Zanzibar judges and all judicial officers, members of special departments, and employees of the House of Representatives are excluded from labor law protection. In Zanzibar the courts are the only venue in which labor disputes can be heard. Enforcement of labor law in Zanzibar was insufficient, especially on the island of Pemba. In Zanzibar managerial employees do not have the right to bargain collectively on salaries and other conditions of employment.

The government did not effectively enforce the law protecting the right to collective bargaining on the mainland or in Zanzibar. On both the mainland and in Zanzibar, private-sector employers adopted antiunion policies or tactics, although discriminatory activities by an employer against union members are illegal.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The law allows exceptions consistent with International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No. 29 of compulsory labor for prisoners, compulsory national service, civic obligations, and work in emergency situations. For example the law allows prisoners to work without pay on construction and agriculture projects within prisons. The law deems such work acceptable if a public authority ensures the work is not for the benefit of any private party. The law also allows work carried out as part of compulsory national service in certain limited circumstances. The constitution provides that no work shall be considered forced labor if such work forms part of compulsory national service in accordance with the law, or “the national endeavor at the mobilization of human resources for the enhancement of society and the national economy and to ensure development and national productivity.”

The law establishes criminal penalties for employers using forced labor. Penalties were not commensurate with penalties for similar violations. The government did not adequately enforce the law. Neither the government nor the ILO provided statistics on government enforcement. The ILO reported unspecified instances of forced labor, including those involving children from the southern highlands forced into domestic service or labor on farms, in mines, and in the informal business sector. Forced child labor occurred (see section 7.c.). In late 2018 the government drafted a national child labor strategy, addressing elimination of forced child labor, which at year’s end had yet to be launched formally.

Fifteen percent of employees reported being forced to work outside normal working hours and on weekends and holidays, according to a large-scale survey of employees of small and medium-sized businesses conducted by the LHRC (see section 7.e.). Prisoners perform unpaid and nonvoluntary labor on projects outside of the prison, such as road repair, agriculture, and government construction projects. The minister of home affairs’ budget speech of 2020/21 included a statement regarding having prisoners produce their own food, stating that prisons would implement the 2020-2025 Agricultural Revolution Program, harvesting 4,720 tons of maize, 1,120 tons of rice, 298 tons of beans, and 43 tons of sunflower over 11,185 acres. In March, however, the government banned the use of cheap prison labor in government entities and to government officials. This was a result of the Prison Department’s uncoordinated arrangements for the use of prison labor for constructing residential houses and cultivating farms.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law on the mainland and in Zanzibar prohibits all the worst forms of child labor and provides for a minimum age of employment, including limitations on working hours and occupational safety and health restrictions for children. The minimum age of employment applies to children working in some sectors. By law the minimum age on the mainland for employment is 14; in Zanzibar the minimum age is 15. Neither the mainland nor Zanzibar’s minimum age laws, however, extend to children in domestic work, leaving such children vulnerable to exploitation. Children older than 14 but younger than 18 may be employed only to do nonhazardous work that is not likely to be harmful to the child’s health and development or attendance at school. The government published regulations to define hazardous work for children in several sectors, including in agriculture, fishery, mining, quarrying, construction, service, informal operations, and transport. The law limits working hours for children to six hours a day. Although legal penalties for violations of minimum age laws are likely sufficient to deter violations, there were few reported instances of authorities imposing penalties. Penalties were not commensurate with penalties for similar violations.

The LHRC’s 2020/2021 Human Rights and Business Report illustrated that only 36 percent of businesses in the country confirmed having policies and regulations prohibiting the use of child labor or stipulating the minimum age of employment. The worst forms of child labor occurred, as children worked in hazardous and unsafe conditions in the mining and agricultural sectors in Manyara, Tabora, Singida, Mbeya, Geita, Shinyanga, and Dodoma Regions.

Both the mainland and Zanzibar labor inspectorates lacked sufficient human and financial resources to adequately enforce minimum age laws, and labor inspectors lacked authority to assess penalties for violations. Inadequate enforcement left children vulnerable to exploitation. Mainland officials arrested but were not able to obtain convictions for traffickers of children working in mining and domestic service. On September 5, police in Mbeya Region arrested two persons for allegedly abducting 11 children between 10 and 14 years of age and trafficking them as livestock keepers for profit. The two suspects were accused of selling them to local herders for approximately 20,000 shillings ($8.65) per child per month. Zanzibar’s police, Ministry of Labor, and Zanzibar Labor Commission did not take legal action related to the worst forms of child labor, such as child trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Government measures to ameliorate child labor included verifying that children of school age attended school, imposing penalties on parents who did not enroll their children in school, and pressing employers in the formal sector not to employ children younger than 18. In 2018 the government developed a national strategy for elimination of child labor; however, the government had not yet launched the strategy.

On the mainland children worked as domestic workers, street vendors, and shopkeepers as well as in agriculture, family-based businesses, fishing, construction, and artisanal mining of gold and tanzanite. On Zanzibar children worked in fishing and agricultural sectors.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits workplace discrimination, directly or indirectly, against an employee based on skin color, nationality, tribe, place of origin, race, national extraction, social origin, political opinion, religion, sex, gender, pregnancy, marital status, family responsibility, disability, HIV and AIDS, age, or station in life. The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, language, citizenship, or other communicable disease status. The law distinguishes between discrimination and an employer hiring or promoting based on affirmative action. The government in general did not effectively enforce the law, and penalties were insufficient to deter violations. Penalties were commensurate with penalties for similar violations.

Women have the same status as men under labor law on the mainland. According to the LHRC 2020/2021 Human Rights and Business Report, however, gender-based discrimination was common at workplaces, although the law prohibits workplace discrimination and calls for promotion of equality and treatment in employment. The rule also categorizes harassment of an employee, whether sexual or otherwise, as a form of discrimination. Every employer is required to develop and publish a workplace plan to prevent discrimination and to promote equal opportunity in employment.

According to the Trade Union Congress of Tanzania (TUCTA), gender-based discrimination in terms of wages, promotions, and legal protections in employment continued to occur in the private sector. It was difficult to prove and often went unpunished. While employers in the formal sector were more attentive to laws against discrimination, problems were particularly acute in the informal sector, in which women were disproportionately employed. Women often were employed for low pay and in hazardous jobs, and they reported high levels of bullying, threats, and sexual harassment. A 2020 study by the LHRC found that women faced particular discrimination in the mining, steel, and transport industries (see section 6, Women). The LHRC 2020/2021 Human Rights and Business Report showed women still experienced discrimination based on pregnancy and maternity, as well as sexual harassment in the workplace. Female workers across all surveyed regions expressed concern regarding discrimination against female workers because of pregnancy, breastfeeding, or menstrual cycles, despite maternity leave being guaranteed under the law. Female workers noted that pregnancy was a means of discrimination in the workplace, reporting that most employers preferred to replace them rather than granting maternity leave and allowing them to return to work. Women in male-dominated professions were also targeted for insults and sexist jokes; for example, in August a government official questioned the “femininity” and gender of the country’s female soccer players at a sports ceremony.

Discrimination against migrant workers also occurred. They often faced difficulties when seeking documented employment outside of the informal sector. The law gives the labor commissioner authority to deny work permits if a citizen with the same skills is available. During the year foreign professionals, including senior management of international corporations, frequently faced difficulties obtaining or renewing work permits. Because refugees lived in camps and could not travel freely (see section 2.d.), few refugees worked in the formal sector.

Discrimination and inaccessible workplaces excluded persons with disabilities from the workplace and reduced the country’s GDP by $480 million each year, according to the Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation health services group. This group also noted that only 3.1 percent of persons with disabilities in the country received income from paid employment. While nongovernment and government actors made efforts to curb discrimination and violence against persons with albinism, the LHRC reported that this population continued to live in fear of their personal security and therefore could not fully participate in social, economic, and political activities.

Inspections conducted since the enactment of the law in 2015 revealed 779 foreign employees working without proper permits. Of these, 29 were repatriated and 77 were arraigned in court. Because legal refugees lived in camps and could not travel freely (see section 2.d.), few worked in the formal sector.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The government established minimum wage standards in 2015 for employees in both the public and private sectors on the mainland, and it divided those standards into nine employment sectors. The minimum wage was above the government poverty line, but in many industries, it was below World Bank standards for what constitutes extreme poverty. The government’s poverty line had not been updated since 2012. The law allows employers to apply to the Ministry of Labor for an exemption from paying the minimum wage. The labor laws cover all workers, including foreign and migrant workers and those in the informal sector. The minimum wage on Zanzibar was above the poverty line.

The standard workweek is 45 hours, with a maximum of nine hours per day or six days per week. Any work in excess of these limits should be compensated with overtime pay at one-and-a-half times the employee’s regular wage. Under most circumstances it is illegal to schedule pregnant or breastfeeding women for work between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The law states employees with 12 months of employment are entitled to 28 days of paid annual leave, and it requires employee compensation for national holidays. The law prohibits excessive or compulsory overtime, and it restricts required overtime to 50 hours in a four-week period or in accordance with previously negotiated work contracts. The law requires equal pay for equal work.

Human rights groups pointed out that some employees believed they were pressured to work longer than normal hours due to the risk of losing their jobs. Some employment contracts required employees to work 10 hours per day in violation of labor laws and standards. Employees on the mainland reported they were required to work until their employer told them to leave, even past normal working hours; in Mbeya and Geita workers reported being forced to work on weekends and holidays, according to a 2020/21 large scale survey conducted by the LHRC.

Minimum wage compliance is regulated through the Labour Administration and Inspection Services Department, which works under the Ministry of Labor and Employment. On the mainland, labor officers working in the Ministry of Labor monitor employment contracts, wages, and working time. The ILO noted that there were six labor officers in the Labor Administration and Inspection Section for the mainland to oversee the labor inspection system of 32 labor “area offices,” but the number of inspectors was insufficient to enforce compliance among a population of 28 million workers. In Zanzibar the Labor Commission has direct responsibility over labor inspection matters. On both the mainland and Zanzibar, labor officers may issue a compliance order to require employers to comply with labor laws under penalty of fines, imprisonment of up to three days, or both. Employees can bring labor disputes including wage and hour claims to the Commission for Mediation and Arbitration. The government did not effectively enforce minimum wage and overtime laws. Most inspections were routine and planned ahead of time, although inspectors have authority to conduct unannounced inspections. Penalties for wage and overtime law violations were not commensurate with those for similar crimes. Violations occurred most frequently in the hospitality, transportation (bus and truck drivers), construction, and private-security sectors, according to the LHRC survey. All employees in the survey indicated they had worked overtime at some point, but only 38 percent received overtime pay.

Occupational Safety and Health: Several laws regulate occupational safety and health (OSH) standards in the workplace. According to TUCTA, OSH standards are appropriate for the main industries and enforcement of these standards has improved, but challenges remained in the private sector. OSH standards, however, were not effectively enforced in the informal economy. The Occupational Safety and Health Authority did not employ sufficient inspectors. Most inspections were routine and planned, although inspectors have authority under the law to conduct unannounced inspections. In the case of a violation, inspectors could issue improvement notices with a deadline, issue a stop work order, or prohibit the use of dangerous equipment. There is no sanction or fine, however, that labor inspectors can directly apply in the mainland or in Zanzibar. Going to court is the only option to deal with an uncooperative employer. By law workers can remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, but authorities did not effectively enforce this protection.

Workers may sue an employer if their working conditions do not comply with the Ministry of Labor’s health and environmental standards. Disputes were generally resolved through the Commission for Mediation and Arbitration. There were no exceptions for foreign or migrant workers.

Many workers did not have employment contracts and lacked legal protections. The LHRC reported 41 percent of workers indicated they did not have written contracts, while 59 percent of workers said they did have written contracts, although even those who did were often not provided with written copies of their contract. Compared to the LHRC’s 2019 report, the number of workers with written employment contracts decreased by nearly 25 percent. Additionally, employers often kept copies of the contracts that differed from the versions given to the employees. Companies frequently used short-term contracts of six months or less to avoid hiring organized workers with labor protections.

In dangerous industries such as construction, employees often worked without protective equipment such as helmets, gloves, and harnesses. According to a 2008 Accident Notification Survey (the latest available), the sectors with the highest rates of fatal accidents were construction and building, transport, and mining and quarrying. Domestic workers suffered injuries after being abused by their employers; physical abuse of domestic workers occurred frequently.

Informal Sector: The government did not adequately enforce labor standards, particularly in the informal sector, where most workers were employed. No social protections were available to workers in the informal economy. The ILO reported that 76 percent of nonagricultural workers in the country were in the informal sector. According to the World Bank, the informal sector including small household enterprises was the fastest growing sector of the economy and drawing many workers away from low-productivity farming. Women and young persons were more likely to work in the informal economy, with women more likely to be self-employed in wholesale or retail trade; manufacturing, which included crafts; and services, including running small hotels or restaurants. A study during the year of informal work in Dar es Salaam found that domestic workers constituted up to 7 percent of all employees. Domestic workers suffered negative impacts during the COVID-19 epidemic, including more layoffs, salary reductions and unpaid wages, deteriorating working conditions, and food insecurity. Domestic workers are covered by some laws setting minimum wages and some terms of employment, but enforcement remained limited, according to the study.

Men were more likely to be involved in trade (with men having larger businesses with one or more employees), mining, construction, or transport activities. Most informal workers lived in urban and more populated areas close to potential customers. Informal work in rural areas consisted mostly of small-scale farming.

Thailand

Executive Summary

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, with King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun (Rama X) as head of state. In 2019 the country held the first national election after five years of rule by a junta-led National Council for Peace and Order. The National Council-backed Phalang Pracharath Party and 18 supporting parties won a majority in the lower house, and they retained as prime minister National Council leader Prayut Chan-o-Cha, the leader of the 2014 coup and a retired army general. The election was generally peaceful with few reported irregularities, although observers noted that a restrictive legal framework and selective enforcement of campaign regulations by the Election Commission favored Phalang Pracharath-aligned parties.

The Royal Thai Police and the Royal Thai Armed Forces share responsibility for law enforcement and the maintenance of order within the country. Police report to the Office of the Prime Minister; the armed forces report to the Ministry of Defense. The Border Patrol Police have special authority and responsibility in border areas to combat insurgent movements. Civilian authorities generally maintained control over security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed a variety of abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by government officials; arbitrary arrest and detention by government authorities; political prisoners; political interference in the judiciary; arbitrary and unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including arrests and prosecutions of those criticizing the government, censorship, and criminal libel laws; serious restrictions on internet freedom; interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; restrictions on freedom of movement; refoulement of refugees facing threats to their life or freedom; restrictions on political participation; serious acts of government corruption; harassment of domestic human rights organizations; trafficking in persons; and significant restrictions on workers’ freedom of association.

Authorities took some steps to investigate and punish officials who committed human rights abuses or acts of corruption. Official impunity, however, continued to be a problem, especially in the southernmost provinces, where martial law remained in effect in Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat provinces while the deep-south emergency decree was in effect in all but seven districts in those provinces. In each of the seven districts where the emergency decree has been lifted since 2011, internal security provisions of the law have been subsequently invoked.

Insurgents in the southernmost provinces committed human rights abuses and made attacks on government security forces and civilian targets.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

Unlike previous years, there were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

Police reportedly abused numerous individuals in custody.  On August 5, a video showed seven police officers from Mueang Nakhon Sawan apparently torturing and suffocating to death a hooded suspect later identified as 24-year-old Chiraphong Thanapat.  The officers were reportedly interrogating the victim to extort a two-million-baht ($61,000) bribe.  The chairperson of the Nakhon Sawan office of the Lawyers Council of Thailand reported that police detained the victim for a preliminary interrogation immediately after his arrest, when he was not yet legally entitled to counsel.  The provincial police chief ordered an investigation; all seven officers allegedly involved in the incident were in custody as of August (see section 4).

Earlier cases of arbitrary or unlawful killings remained unsolved. As of November, for example, the investigation continued into the 2020 incident where a police officer shot and killed Charoensak Rachpumad, a suspect in drug and weapons dealing, in Ron Phibun District, Nakhon Si Thammarat Province. Witnesses said Charoensak was raising his arms to surrender while surrounded by approximately 10 policemen. The policeman who killed him contended Charoensak was charging at him with a knife.

There were reports of killings by both government and insurgent forces in connection with the conflict in the southernmost provinces (see section 1.g.).

b. Disappearance

There were no official reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities from January to November (see section 1.e., Politically Motivated Reprisal against Individuals Located Outside the Country).

Most cases from prior years remained unresolved. In August the Department of Special Investigation requested the Office of the Attorney General to reverse the January 2020 decision to drop murder charges against four Kaeng Krachan National Park employees for the 2014 killing of Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen, a Karen-rights activist. The Office of the Attorney General subsequently ordered the Department of Special Investigation to conduct further investigations to prove the murder and kidnaping allegations; as of December the investigation continued.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The constitution states, “Torture, acts of brutality, or punishment by cruel or inhumane means shall not be permitted.” Nonetheless, an emergency decree in effect in the southernmost provinces since 2005 effectively provides immunity from prosecution to security officers for actions committed during the performance of their duties. As of August the cabinet had renewed this emergency decree every three months since 2005, and it applied at that point to all but seven districts in the three southernmost provinces: Si Sakhon, Su-ngai Kolok, and Sukhirin in Narathiwat Province; Betong and Kabang in Yala Province; and Mai Kaen and Mae Lan in Pattani Province.

There were reports police abused and extorted prisoners and detainees, generally with impunity. Few complaints alleging police abuse resulted in punishment of alleged offenders, and there were numerous examples of investigations lasting years without resolution of alleged security force abuses.

Representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and legal entities reported police and military officers sometimes tortured and beat suspects to obtain confessions, and newspapers reported numerous cases of citizens accusing police and other security officers of brutality. On January 13, a police officer in Koh Samui allegedly pulled a Burmese migrant worker out of a holding cell and sexually assaulted her in his office. After the victim’s family filed a complaint, the police officer, Watcharin Sinsamoson, was arrested and charged with rape.

As of November the seven soldiers who confessed to beating two brothers in Nakhon Phanom during a 2020 interrogation related to drug-trafficking charges were not indicted. One brother was later transferred to a hospital where he died, while the other was found seriously injured in a separate location.

There were reports of hazing and physical abuse by members of military units. In January, five recruits reported they were beaten and tortured by their commander after he discovered marijuana in their possession. Two escaped the base and filed a complaint. The case was closed after the victims and their families settled the case out of court with compensation to the victims.

Impunity in the security forces was a problem, especially in the southern provinces where martial law remained in effect. The Ministry of Defense requires service members to receive human rights training. Routine training occurred at various levels, including for officers, noncommissioned officers, enlisted personnel, and recruits. The Royal Thai Police requires all cadets at its national academy to complete a course in human rights law.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in prisons and various detention centers – including drug rehabilitation facilities and immigration detention centers (IDCs) where authorities detained undocumented migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and foreign nationals who violated immigration laws – were poor, and most were overcrowded, leading to a surge in COVID-19 cases among detainees. Child refugees and asylum seekers were detained in the IDCs or temporarily in local police stations, despite the government’s pledge to end or provide alternatives to detention. The Ministry of Justice’s Department of Corrections is responsible for monitoring prison conditions, while the Royal Thai Police Immigration Bureau monitors conditions in the IDCs.

The government continued to hold some civilian suspects at military detention facilities, despite instructions in 2019 mandating the transfer of all civilian cases from military to civilian courts. According to the Department of Corrections, as of November there were at least two civilians at the Thung Song Hong Subdistrict temporary detention facility north of Bangkok.

Physical Conditions: Prison and detention-facility populations were approximately 50 percent larger than designed capacity. As of November authorities held 285,182 persons in prisons and detention facilities with a maximum designed capacity of 210,000 to 220,000 persons.

In some prisons and detention centers, sleeping accommodations were insufficient, and there were persistent reports of overcrowding and poor facility ventilation. Serious problems included a lack of medical care. Authorities at times transferred seriously ill prisoners and detainees to provincial or state hospitals.

By May more than 2,000 prisoners in Bangkok tested positive for COVID-19, including several high-profile protest leaders who were denied bail pending trial. In April, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Panusaya “Rung” Sittijirawattanakul were detained for 93 and 60 days respectively, during which they engaged in a hunger strike to protest the court’s persistent denial of bail. Parit was hospitalized with suspected gastrointestinal bleeding before his eventual release. In August, Parit was rearrested and subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. The Department of Corrections denied a request from Parit’s mother to transfer her son to a private hospital, stating he had recovered.

Conditions at the IDCs are not subject to many of the regulations that govern the regular prison system. NGOs, international organizations, and detainees at some IDCs reported overcrowding and unhealthy conditions such as poorly ventilated rooms, lack of outdoor time, lack of access to telephones or other means of communication, and inadequate medical care. In response to multiple COVID-19 outbreaks in IDCs, during the year the Immigration Bureau informally relaxed restrictions on bail, allowing dozens of migrant and refugee detainees from the IDCs in Bangkok to pay bail and temporarily leave detention.

NGOs reported that authorities occasionally held men, women, and children together in police station cells, particularly in small or remote police stations, pending indictment or immigration processing. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as of August there were 21 persons holding valid UNHCR refugee or asylum-seeker status in detention. During the year there were multiple reports that IDC authorities placed juveniles older than 14 with adults.

By law authorities may hold aliens without legal authorization to stay in the country, including refugees and asylum seekers or those who otherwise have violated immigration law, in the IDCs for years unless they are bailed out or pay a fine and the cost of their transportation home. The Immigration Bureau mostly held migrant mothers and children in separate, more spacious detention facilities, but continued to restrict their freedom of movement. Immigration authorities regularly placed older male children together with adult males rather than in facilities designated for families. NGOs reported complaints, especially by Muslim detainees in the IDCs, of inadequate halal food.

Administration: Authorities permitted prisoners or their representatives to submit complaints to ombudspersons but not directly to judicial authorities. The law allows prison authorities to examine the contents of complaints and petitions before sending them to outside organizations. Ombudspersons in turn may consider and investigate complaints and petitions received from prisoners and provide recommendations to the Department of Corrections, but they are not empowered to act on a prisoner’s behalf, nor may they involve themselves in a case unless a person files an official complaint. Complaint and oversight mechanisms were not available to detainees in IDCs.

Independent Monitoring: The government facilitated monitoring of prisons by the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, including meetings with prisoners without third parties present and repeat visits. According to human rights groups, no external or international inspection of the prison system occurred, including of military facilities such as Bangkok’s 11th Military Circle.

Representatives of international organizations had limited access to detainees in the IDCs across the country for service delivery and resettlement processing, in part due to COVID-19-related restrictions. Access to individual IDCs varied from province to province.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The deep-south emergency decree that gives the government authority to detain persons without charge for a maximum of 30 days in unofficial places of detention remained in effect (see section 1.g.).

Provisions from the deep-south emergency decree make it very difficult to challenge a detention before a court. Under the decree, detainees have access to legal counsel, but there was no assurance of prompt access to counsel or family members, nor were there transparent safeguards against the mistreatment of detainees. Moreover, the decree effectively provides broadly based immunity from criminal, civil, and disciplinary liability for officials acting under its provisions.

In March 2020 the prime minister announced a nationwide COVID-19-related emergency decree that was renewed every month as of November. Critics claimed the decree was used as a pretext to arrest antigovernment protesters.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

The law requires police and military officers to obtain a warrant from a judge prior to making an arrest, and the courts tended to approve automatically all requests for warrants. Martial law remained in effect in the deep south, however, allowing for a maximum seven days’ detention without a warrant. By law authorities must inform persons of likely charges against them immediately after arrest and allow them to inform someone of their arrest.

The law provides for access to counsel for criminal detainees in both civilian and military courts, but lawyers and human rights groups claimed police sometimes conducted interrogations without providing access to an attorney.

The law provides defendants the right to request bail, and the government generally respected this right.

Arbitrary Arrest: Under the deep-south emergency decree, authorities may detain a person for a maximum of 30 days without charge (see section 1.g.).

In March and April, several dozen activists were arrested and held in pretrial detention for up to two months for their participation in antigovernment protests, some under lese majeste (royal insult) charges. They were released on bail in May and June though some, including Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, were arrested again in August (see also section 2.b., Freedom of Peaceful Assembly, August arrests of protest leaders).

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, in December 2020 police searched the house of a prodemocracy activist known as Nat and confiscated his phone and yellow duck calendars, which authorities claimed contained images that were insulting to the monarchy. He was then taken to a police station in Bangkok and charged with lese majeste. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said police arrested the activist without an arrest warrant or informing him of his rights. Nat was initially detained at Nong Khaem Police Station where the commissioner denied a bail bond offered by the suspect’s lawyer. On January 2, he was sent to Taling Chan Criminal Court for detention. The court released him after two Move Forward Party member of parliaments offered a bail bond.

Pretrial Detention: Under normal conditions the law allows police to detain criminal suspects for 48 hours after arrest for investigation. Lawyers reported police mostly brought cases to court within the 48-hour period. They raised concerns, however, regarding the simultaneous use of laws applicable in national-security cases that may result in lengthy detentions for insurgency-related suspects in the far southern part of the country. Other laws allow civilian personnel from the Ministry of Justice’s Office of the Narcotics Control Board to detain without charge individuals suspected of committing drug-related crimes for up to three days before handing them over to police.

Laws and regulations place offenses for which the maximum penalty is less than three years’ imprisonment under the jurisdiction of district courts, which have different procedures and require police to submit cases to public prosecutors within 72 hours of arrest.

Before charging and trial, authorities may detain individuals for a maximum of 84 days (for the most serious offenses), with a judicial review required for each 12-day period. After formal charges and throughout the trial, depending on prosecution and defense readiness, court caseload, and the nature of the evidence, detention may last from three months to two years before a verdict, and up to six years before a Supreme Court appellate review.

Pretrial detainees constituted approximately 17 percent of the prison population. Prison officers did not segregate these detainees from the general prison population. The government often held pretrial detainees under the emergency decree in the southernmost provinces in military camps or police stations rather than in prisons.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary. Portions of the 2014 interim constitution left in place by the 2017 constitution’s transitory provisions, however, provide the government with power to intervene “regardless of its effects on the legislative, executive, or judiciary” to defend the country against national-security threats. While the government generally respected judicial independence, human rights groups expressed concern regarding the government’s influence on judicial processes, particularly the use of the judicial process to punish government critics.

Trial Procedures

The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right, except in certain cases involving national security, including lese majeste cases.

The law provides for the presumption of innocence. A single judge decides trials for misdemeanors; two or more judges try more serious cases. Most trials are public; however, the court may order a closed trial, particularly in cases involving national security, the royal family, children, or sexual abuse.

In ordinary criminal courts, defendants enjoy a broad range of legal rights, including access to a lawyer of their choosing, prompt and detailed information on the charges against them, free assistance of an interpreter as necessary, the right to be present at trial, and the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. They also have the rights not to be compelled to testify or to confess guilt, to confront witnesses, to present witnesses, and to appeal. Authorities did not always provide indigent defendants with counsel at public expense, and there were allegations authorities did not afford defendants all the above rights, especially in small or remote provinces.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

On November 10, the Constitutional Court ruled that three activists (Arnon Nampa, Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, and Panupong “Mike Rayong” Jadnok), who made speeches calling for political reforms, intended to overthrow the state and the monarchy in violation of the constitution. From January to October, the Department of Corrections reported at least 74 persons were awaiting trial or imprisoned under laws that outlaw criticism of the monarchy (see section 2.a.). Human rights groups claimed the prosecutions and convictions of several lese majeste offenders were politically motivated. In November NGOs reported that 161 persons – including eight minors – were charged under lese majeste laws, mostly for online political expression and participation in antigovernment protests between August 2020 and September.

Politically Motivated Reprisal against Individuals Located Outside the Country

Extraterritorial Killing, Kidnapping, Forced Returns, or Other Violence or Threats of Violence: During the year there were no reports that Thai authorities took politically motivated reprisals against activists and critics outside the country. Allegations of disappearances from previous years remained unresolved, however, and NGOs alleged that at least eight exiled Thai dissidents had been victims of such disappearances since the 2014 coup.

There were no new developments in the disappearance of activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit, who was reportedly abducted by masked gunmen in Cambodia in 2020.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

The law provides for access to courts and administrative bodies to sue for damages for, or cessation of, a human rights violation. The government generally respected this right, but the emergency decree in force in the southernmost provinces expressly excludes administrative-court scrutiny or civil or criminal proceedings against government officials. Victims may seek compensation from a government agency instead.

f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

Security forces continued to use the deep-south emergency decree to conduct regular, warrantless searches in the southernmost provinces.  Other legislation allowing the search and seizure of computers and computer data, in cases where the defendant allegedly entered information into computer systems that is “likely to cause damage to the public,” is “false,” or is “distorted,” continued to be used extensively (see section 2.a.).  The law gives the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society authority to request and enforce the removal of information disseminated via the internet.

The government monitored social media and private communications with limited oversight.  Government agencies used surveillance technologies, including imported computer-monitoring software and licenses to import telecommunications interception equipment.  The country lacked accountability and transparency mechanisms for government surveillance.  Some legislation exempts data from privacy safeguards that are otherwise stipulated in law, does not protect individual privacy, and provides broad powers to the government to access personal information without judicial review or other forms of oversight.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the digital economy ministry introduced a mobile app to track and monitor individuals returning to the country from high-risk countries. The app required submission of information such as name, address, telephone number, and passport number, and it was made mandatory for all foreign arrivals.

There were numerous reports of security forces harassing citizens who publicly criticized the government, including by visiting or surveilling their residences or places of employment. In March, Tiwagorn Withiton was arrested on lese majeste and sedition charges as well as under computer crimes legislation for Facebook posts he made in February. In 2020 he was apprehended after posting a picture of himself online wearing a T-shirt critical of the monarchy.

The Cross-Cultural Foundation issued a report in 2020 on forced DNA collection from Muslim males by military personnel in the southernmost regions, a practice that critics said was discriminatory.

g. Conflict-related Abuses

Internal violence continued in the ethnic Malay-Muslim-majority southernmost provinces. Frequent attacks by suspected insurgents and government security operations stoked tension between the local ethnic Malay-Muslim and ethnic Thai-Buddhist communities.

The emergency decree in effect in the southern border provinces of Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat (except for seven exempted districts) provides military, police, and some civilian authorities significant powers to restrict some basic rights and delegates certain internal security powers to the armed forces. The decree also provides security forces broad immunity from prosecution. Moreover, martial law, imposed in 2006, remained in effect and significantly empowered security forces in the southernmost provinces.

Killings: Unlike in previous years, there were no reports of government forces committing extrajudicial killings of persons suspected of involvement with the insurgency. According to the NGO Deep South Watch, as of July there were 72 raids by security forces, resulting in the deaths of eight suspected insurgents. Government officials insisted the suspects in each case resisted arrest, necessitating the use of deadly force, a claim disputed by the families of the suspects and human rights groups.

According to Deep South Watch, violence resulted in 93 deaths and 151 injuries in 388 incidents as of October, similar to the numbers from 2020. As in previous years, suspected insurgents frequently targeted government representatives, including district and municipal officials, military personnel, and police, with bombings and shootings.

On May 4, a combined police and military unit raided a house in Krong Pinang District of Yala following a report that a group of insurgent suspects were hiding there. During the raid two suspects and one paramilitary ranger were killed. Another suspect turned himself in to the authorities. Authorities believed the group was involved in an April 24 incident in Sai Buri District of Pattani that killed three members of a Buddhist family as well as the May 3 train shooting in Narathiwat.

On May 21, a combined police and military unit raided a resort in Yaring District of Pattani following a report that a group of insurgent suspects were in hiding. A clash during the raid killed two suspects and wounded one police officer. Both suspects had arrest warrants for their alleged involvement in several violent incidents, and authorities seized two pistols and an M67 bomb.

On July 5, a combined unit of police and military officers raided a house in Pattani following a report that a group of insurgent suspects had been hiding there. Three security officers were wounded during the raid, while the suspects managed to escape. After a six-day manhunt, a second clash resulted in the death of two suspects. According to the military, the two killed in the clash were insurgent suspects with arrest warrants for involvement in several past incidents.

Some government-backed civilian defense volunteers received basic training and weapons from security forces. Human rights organizations continued to express concerns regarding vigilantism by these defense volunteers and other civilians.

On May 4, Somsak Onchuenjit, a lawyer and land rights activist, was shot and killed by gunmen on a rubber-tree plantation in Amphoe Wang Wiset District of Trang Province. On May 18, police arrested three suspects, including the mayor of the Tambon Wanwiset municipality, Charinrat Krutthirat, who was subsequently released on bail. The case remained pending with the public prosecutor as of September.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media. This right, however, was restricted by laws and government actions. For example the government imposed legal restrictions on criticism of the government and monarchy, favored progovernment media organizations in regulatory actions, harassed antigovernment critics, monitored media and the internet, and blocked websites.

Freedom of Expression: The lese majeste prohibition makes it a crime, punishable by minimum of three years’ and a maximum of 15 years’ imprisonment for each offense, to criticize, insult, or threaten the king, queen, royal heir apparent, or regent. The law also allows citizens to file lese majeste complaints against one other.

As of August lese majeste charges were filed against 102 individuals. Those so charged often also faced other charges, including for sedition and violating the COVID-19 emergency decree.

On January 19, the Bangkok criminal court sentenced a former civil servant to 43 years in prison on 29 separate counts of lese majeste for posting audio clips made by an activist which contained comments critical of the monarchy.

On March 30, police charged opposition politician Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit with lese majeste after he livestreamed a Facebook event accusing the government of favoring a company owned by the palace-controlled Crown Property Bureau to produce the country’s supply of COVID-19 vaccines. The criminal court rejected a request from the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society to remove the online footage of the event. In its ruling the court determined that the content was critical of the government’s COVID-19 vaccine plan but not of the royal institution itself.

Freedom of Expression for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  Independent media were active but faced significant impediments to operating freely.

The government owned all spectrum used in media broadcast and leased it to private media operators, allowing the government to exert indirect influence on the media landscape. Media firms sometimes practiced self-censorship. On August 13, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society announced it would require service providers and social media platforms such as Clubhouse and Telegram to collect and keep user data for government to access if requested, including user identities, user activity, records of attempts to access systems, accessed files, and transaction records.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Laws allow the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission to suspend or revoke the licenses of radio or television operators broadcasting content deemed false, defamatory to the monarchy, harmful to national security, or unnecessarily critical of the government.  As of November there were no known cases of authorities revoking licenses.  Authorities monitored media content from all media sources, including international press.  Local practice leaned toward self-censorship, particularly regarding anything that might be critical of the monarchy or members of the royal family.

The emergency decree in the violence-affected southernmost provinces empowers the government “to prohibit publication and distribution of news and information that may cause the people to panic or with an intention to distort information.” It also authorizes the government to censor news it considers a threat to national security.

Libel/Slander Laws: In addition to the lese majeste laws, defamation is a criminal offense punishable by a fine and two years’ imprisonment. Military and business figures filed criminal defamation and libel cases against political and environmental activists, human rights defenders, journalists, and politicians.

In July the Government Pharmaceutical Organization filed a defamation suit against Boon Vanasinpro, the chairman of a private hospital, and Loy Chunpongthong for criticizing the government’s procurement of the Moderna vaccine. The company alleged Boon and Loy provided false information by claiming that the company, as coordinator for Moderna vaccines for private hospitals, was reaping profits.

In August the Southern Bangkok Criminal Court accepted a defamation case brought in late 2019 by poultry firm Thammakaset against human rights defender Angkhana Neelaphaijitin. The complaint alleged that Angkhana defamed the company in two social media posts in 2018 and 2019 expressing support for other human rights defenders facing lawsuits brought by Thammakaset. In March NGOs reported that since 2016 Thammakaset filed civil and criminal defamation cases against 23 human rights defenders, journalists, and former employees (see section 7).

National Security: Various orders issued by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) junta continued to provide authorities the right to restrict distribution of material deemed to threaten national security.

Internet Freedom

The government continued to restrict internet access and penalize those who criticized the monarchy or shared information deemed false regarding the spread of COVID-19. The government also monitored social media and private communications for what it considered false content and “fake news.” There were reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

By law the government may impose a maximum five-year prison sentence and a substantial fine for posting false content on the internet found to undermine public security, cause public panic, or harm others, based on vague definitions.  The law also obliges internet service providers to preserve all user records for 90 days in case authorities wish to access them.  Any service provider that gives consent to or intentionally supports the publishing of illegal content is also liable to punishment.  By law authorities must obtain a court order to ban a website, although officials did not always respect this requirement.

Although individuals and groups generally were able to engage in peaceful expression of views via the internet, there were numerous restrictions on content. Civil society reported the government used prosecution or the threat of prosecution as a tool to suppress speech online. Authorities targeted for prosecution individuals posting a range of social media commentary, from COVID-19 updates to lese majeste, criticism of the government’s operations, reporting on government scandals, and warning of government surveillance.

The government closely monitored and blocked websites and social media posts and accounts critical of the monarchy. Newspapers restricted access to their public-comment sections to minimize exposure to possible lese majeste or defamation charges. The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission also lobbied foreign internet content creators and service providers to remove or censor locally lese majeste content.

In April, petition site Change.org became available again after a six-month ban for hosting a petition that called for Germany to declare the king “persona non grata.” The petition attracted 130,000 signatures before the site was blocked in 2020.

In July a graduate student was arrested for editing the Wikipedia entry for virologist Yong Poovorawan to include that Yong is a “Sinovac salesman for the Prayut Chan-o-cha administration.” The student faced charges of criminal defamation and computer crimes.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

University authorities, civil society groups, and media reported the regular presence of security personnel on campus, attending student political events or rallies. There were reports of authorities arresting students for exercising freedom of speech and expression, although these arrests generally occurred off campus and few resulted in formal charges. Universities reported self-censorship; with an increasing number of virtual classes, more academics reported fear of security personnel monitoring their instruction, leading to greater self-censorship. On March 8, amid antigovernment protests and local demonstrations against the coup in Myanmar, the Asian Institute of Technology warned that foreign students involved in any protests would face revocation of their visas and immigration blacklisting. The government denied any involvement.

In August the NGO iLaw reported 79 cases of harassment of high school and university students, both by police and school administrators, in schools across the country.

On August 4, the vice president of student affairs sent a letter threatening disciplinary action against Chulalongkorn University student union president Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal after he invited activists Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul and Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, who were accused of lese majeste, to speak about freedom of expression on July 20. The student union’s new students’ handbook, which included material on freedom of speech and other social issues, was subsequently denounced by the university’s department of student affairs.

Large universities, including Kasetsart, Silpakorn, Srinakharinwirot, and Chulalongkorn Universities, generally allowed use of campuses for protests as long as the students received permission beforehand. Many high schools and universities, however, explicitly forbade protests calling for reform of the monarchy.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The country experienced numerous large-scale antigovernment protests throughout the year.  The government arrested and brought charges against hundreds of protesters under the COVID-19 emergency decree, sedition and lese majeste legislation, and other laws.  Critics alleged that the arrests constituted restrictions on freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

The constitution grants the freedom to assemble peacefully, subject to restrictions enacted to “protect public interest, peace and order, or good morals, or to protect the rights and liberties of others.” The NGO Mob Data Thailand reported that 1,852 student-led demonstrations occurred across the country between July 2020 and September. In September, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights documented 1,161 individuals arrested and prosecuted for participation in antigovernment protests between July 2020 and August, including 143 persons under age 18. The most common charges were violating the COVID emergency decree (893 individuals), illegal assembly of more than 10 persons (320 persons), and lese majeste (124 individuals).

The government continued to prosecute prodemocracy and other human rights activists for leading peaceful protests.

Authorities held several high-profile protest leaders charged with lese majeste, sedition, and other crimes in pretrial detention. In May following a two-month hunger strike, student protest leader Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak was granted bail on his 10th appeal after agreeing to submit to electronic monitoring, to not participate in demonstrations that criticize the king or that could provoke violence, and to not leave the country. Amid calls to reduce the prison population due to the COVID outbreak, approximately 17 of the 26 protesters in pretrial detention were released during April and May, including six detained for lese majeste, after agreeing to similar conditions.

Penguin, Arnon Nampa, and several others were reimprisoned in early August. They were charged with “leading an illegal assembly of more than 10 people” and violating the Emergency Decree and the Communicable Diseases Act. On September 15, four of the arrested protest leaders were granted bail subject to a court order requiring them to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet. Penguin was immediately detained again when the criminal court revoked his bail in a separate case. As of September Arnon remained in prison following the denial of several bail requests.

There were numerous violent encounters between antigovernment protesters and authorities. In February protesters removed barricades near the Royal Thai Army barracks in Bangkok – a compound which includes the residence of the prime minister – and threw firecrackers, bottles, and rocks at police, who responded with water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets; 80 persons were injured, including 33 police. An NGO reported that police arrested 18 protesters on a number of charges, including for violating the COVID-19 emergency decree and the law on communicable diseases.

A March demonstration near the Grand Palace in Bangkok resulted in 33 hospitalizations and 32 arrests, as police used water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets after protesters pulled down shipping containers erected as barricades. Journalist groups released a joint statement of concern after three reporters were hit by rubber bullets during the demonstration. In August youth in the Din Daeng area of Bangkok clashed with riot police on an almost nightly basis. After an August 10 protest, two police kiosks were burned down and nine officers were wounded, including one seriously after being shot with what police described as a “homemade gun.” Police reported 48 arrests, including 15 minors, and seized 122 motorcycles. A 15-year-old protester who was shot during an August 16 melee in the same area by an unknown assailant, died on October 28.

After an August 22 clash in Din Daeng, police arrested 42 individuals, including 19 minors, and confiscated pistols, bombs, other weapons, and 20 motorcycles. Human rights advocates criticized what they called police heavy-handedness and posted videos of police batting a protester on the head; dragging a protester while kicking him in the head; and shooting rubber bullets at a motorcyclist at close range.

Freedom of Association

The constitution grants individuals the right to free association subject to restrictions by law enacted to “protect public interest, peace and order, or good morals.”

The law prohibits the registration of a political party with the same name or logo as a legally dissolved party.

In 2020 the Constitutional Court dissolved the opposition Future Forward Party, ruling that the party took an illegal loan from its leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, and banned the party’s executives, including Thanathorn, from participating in politics until 2030 (see section 3).

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https:/www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement and the Right to Leave the Country

The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation; the government enforced some exceptions, which it claimed were for “maintaining the security of the state, public order, public welfare, town and country planning, or youth welfare.”

In-country Movement: The government restricted the internal movement of members of hill tribes and members of other minority groups who were not citizens but held government-issued identity cards, including those registered as stateless persons. Authorities prohibited holders of such cards from traveling outside their home provinces without a travel pass approved by the district chief. Offenders are subject to fines or a jail term of 45 to 60 days. Persons without cards may not travel at all. Human rights organizations reported that police at inland checkpoints often asked for bribes in exchange for allowing stateless persons to move from one province to another.

Foreign Travel: Local authorities required resident noncitizens, including thousands of ethnic Shan and other non-hill-tribe minority group members, to seek permission from the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Interior for foreign travel.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

The government usually cooperated with UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration, and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern, although with many restrictions.

The government’s treatment of refugees and asylum seekers remained inconsistent, and on multiple occasions the government did not allow persons fleeing fighting or other violence in Burma to remain in Thailand. Nevertheless, authorities hosted significant numbers of refugees and asylum seekers, and in many other cases provided protection against their expulsion or forced return. Authorities permitted urban refugees and asylum seekers recognized by UNHCR and registered Burmese refugees in the nine camps on the border with Burma to resettle to third countries.

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has no system for providing legal protection to refugees. The government continued to work towards implementation of a regulation (referred to as the National Screening Mechanism by UNHCR and NGOs) that provides individuals whom the government determines to be protected persons with temporary protection from deportation, in consultation with refugee advocates.

UNHCR’s ability to provide protection to some groups of refugees outside the official camps was limited. Its access to asylum seekers in the IDCs to conduct status interviews and monitor new arrivals varied throughout the year, in part due to COVID-19-related restrictions on visiting the IDCs. Authorities, citing COVID-19, also restricted resettlement countries from conducting processing activities in the IDCs and restricted humanitarian organizations’ ability to provide health care, nutritional support, and other humanitarian assistance. Access to specific asylum-seeker populations varied, reportedly depending on the preferences of each IDC chief, as well as central government policies restricting UNHCR and NGO access to certain politically sensitive groups.

The government periodically allowed UNHCR to monitor the protection status of approximately 92,000 Burmese refugees and asylum seekers living in nine camps along the border with Burma, but it restricted UNHCR’s access multiple times during the year due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

The government facilitated third-country refugee resettlement or private sponsorship to multiple countries for nearly 900 Burmese refugees from the camps as of September. Refugees residing in the nine camps along the border with Burma who were not registered with the government were ineligible for third-country resettlement. The government’s effort to return to Burma registered camp residents who elected to participate in a voluntary repatriation program remained on pause during the year due to COVID-19 and the coup in Burma.

Refoulement: Persons from Burma, if arrested without refugee status or legal permission to be in the country, were often escorted back to the Burmese border. Authorities sometimes provided preferential treatment to members of certain Burmese ethnic minority groups such as Shan, allowing them greater leeway to remain in Thailand without formal authorization. Outside the nine camps along the border, government officials did not distinguish between asylum-seeking Burmese and other undocumented Burmese, regarding all as illegal migrants. In previous years authorities generally allowed registered and verified Burmese refugees caught outside the camps to return to their homes. Due to COVID-19, however, authorities did not always allow refugees to return to the camps during the year, with refugee advocates reporting multiple instances of authorities deporting such individuals to Burma, from where the refugees would cross back into Thailand.

There were cases during the year where authorities deported persons of concern holding valid UNHCR asylum-seeker or refugee status. In November the government refouled three Cambodian opposition activists who were UNHCR-registered refugees. In March and in May, the army returned to Burma approximately 6,000 individuals fleeing clashes between the Burmese military and ethnic armed organizations, after permitting the individuals to shelter along the Salween River in Mae Hong Son Province for five to 10 days. The government refused to allow UNHCR or NGOs formal access to deliver humanitarian assistance to these individuals, or to determine whether their returns were voluntary.

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: The government continued to permit registered Burmese refugees in nine camps along the border with Burma to remain in the country temporarily and continued to refer to these refugee camps as “temporary shelters” even though they have been operated for decades. Authorities continued to treat all refugees and asylum seekers outside these camps without valid visas or other immigration permits as illegal migrants. Persons categorized as illegal migrants were legally subject to arrest, detention, and deportation. UNHCR reported, however, that authorities decreased the number of immigration-related arrests compared with the year prior, in part to prevent overcrowding in IDCs to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks. In cities authorities permitted bail only for certain categories of detained refugees and asylum seekers, such as mothers, children, and persons with medical conditions. Immigration authorities relaxed restrictions on bail during the year after multiple outbreaks of COVID-19 in the IDCs. Authorities applied the criteria for allowing bail inconsistently, however, and NGOs, refugees, and asylum seekers reported numerous instances of immigration authorities demanding bribes in connection with requests for bail.

Humanitarian organizations reported concerns that migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers faced overcrowded conditions, lack of exercise opportunities, limited freedom of movement, lack of access to telephones and other means of communication, lack of sufficient health care, and abusive treatment by authorities in the IDCs.

As part of an overall policy to reduce the number of illegal immigrants and visa overstayers in the country, immigration police in Bangkok sometimes arrested and detained asylum seekers and refugees, including women and children. As of August there were 198 refugees and asylum seekers in the IDCs (compared with 320 a year earlier), including 140 Rohingya. In addition there were 38 Rohingya in government-run shelters. The government has detained more than 50 Uyghurs in the country since 2015.

Freedom of Movement: Refugees residing in the nine refugee camps on the border with Burma had no freedom of movement outside their camps. Humanitarian organizations reported that authorities, citing the need to prevent COVID-19, more strictly controlled movement of refugees in and out of the camps throughout the year. A refugee apprehended outside the official camps is subject to possible harassment, fines, detention, deregistration, and deportation. Authorities sometimes allowed camp residents limited travel outside of the camps for purposes such as medical care or travel to other camps for educational training.

For certain foreign victims of trafficking, including Rohingya refugees, the law permits the issuance of temporary stay permits while trafficking investigations are underway. Most such victims, however, were restricted to remaining in closed, government-run shelters with little freedom of movement.

Refugees and asylum seekers were not eligible to participate in the official nationality-verification process, which allows migrant workers from Burma, Cambodia, and Laos with verified nationality and passports to travel throughout the country.

Employment: The law prohibits refugees from working in the country. The government allowed undocumented migrant workers from Burma, Cambodia, and Laos to work legally in certain economic sectors if they registered with authorities and followed a prescribed process to document their status (see section 7.d.). The law allows victims of trafficking and witnesses who cooperate with pending court cases to work legally during their trial and up to two years (with possible extensions) after the end of their trial involvement. Work permits must be linked to a specific employer. For certain foreign victims of trafficking, including Rohingya, the government did not identify suitable employment opportunities for the issuance of work permits, citing a lack of local opportunities and immigration policy considerations. Registration, medical checkup, and health-insurance fees remained a deterrent for prospective employers of victims of trafficking.

Access to Basic Services: The international community provided basic services for refugees living inside the nine camps on the border with Burma. For needs beyond primary care, a medical referral system allows refugees to seek other necessary medical services. For the urban refugee and asylum-seeker population living in and around Bangkok, access to government-funded basic health services was minimal. NGOs funded in part by the international community provided or facilitated primary and mental health-care services and legal assistance. A UNHCR-led health panel coordinated referrals of the most urgent medical cases to local hospitals. Despite the government’s announcement in 2020 that it would provide free COVID-19 testing and treatment to all individuals, including migrants and refugees who met specific case criteria, vaccination and treatment at the provincial and district levels remained uneven, according to NGOs.

By law government schools must admit children of any legal status who can speak, read, and write Thai with some degree of proficiency, including refugee children. NGOs reported access to education for refugee children varied from school to school and often depended on the preferences of individual school administrators. Some refugee communities formed their own unofficial schools to provide education for their children. Others sought to learn Thai with support from UNHCR and other NGOs to prepare for admission to government schools. Since Burmese refugee children living in the camps generally did not have access to the government education system, NGOs continued to support camp-based community organizations in providing educational opportunities, and some were able to coordinate partially their curriculum with the Ministry of Education. NGOs paused or scaled back many educational activities for refugee children during the year due to COVID-19.

Temporary Protection: Authorities generally did not deport persons of concern holding valid UNHCR asylum-seeker or refugee status. The government continued to protect from deportation the majority of Rohingya refugees detained by authorities, including those who arrived in the country irregularly during the mass movement in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea in 2015. The government continued to conduct preliminary screenings of Rohingya migrants apprehended transiting Thailand for victim-of-trafficking status, although this policy was applied unevenly. As of September authorities had not granted such status to any Rohingya. Authorities determined 74 individuals were illegal migrants but placed 30 mothers and children into shelters run by the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security as an alternative to detention in the IDCs. Other Rohingya determined to be illegal migrants were placed in the IDCs. UNHCR had access to the provincial shelters while authorities conducted formal screenings of the migrants’ eligibility for benefits as victims of trafficking. These Rohingya migrants, however, were in most cases confined to shelters without freedom of movement or access to work permits.

g. Stateless Persons

The government continued to identify stateless persons, provide documentation to preclude statelessness, and open paths to citizenship for certain longtime residents and students. As of June an estimated 553,969 persons, mainly residing in the northern region, were registered as stateless persons by the government, including members of ethnic minority groups registered with civil authorities and previously undocumented persons. From January to June, the government granted citizenship to 2,740 stateless persons and permanent residency to 260 others. Government officials acknowledged that these statistics fell short of their goal to reduce statelessness for 14,000 individuals from October 2020 to September and cited COVID-19 restrictions and ongoing, resource-intensive fraud investigations as the primary reason for slower processing. Authorities excluded Rohingya and Muslims from Burma, including individuals whose families had lived in Mae Sot near the Burmese border for multiple generations, from the statelessness recognition process. Without legal status, unregistered and undocumented stateless persons were particularly vulnerable to various forms of abuse including threat of deportation (see section 6, Children and Indigenous Peoples).

A government resolution to end statelessness and provide a pathway to Thai nationality for approximately 80,000 stateless children and young adults covers persons born in the country whose parents are ethnic minorities, who are registered with the government, and who have resided in the country for a minimum of 15 years. It also applies to stateless youths certified by a state agency to have lived in the country for 10 years whose parentage is unknown. The law provides a pathway for youth without known parents to apply for a birth certificate and obtain a Thai national identification card. If the person proves continuous residence in the country for 10 or more years and meets other qualifications, the person is eligible to apply for Thai nationality.

Birth within the country does not automatically confer citizenship. The law grants citizenship at birth to children with at least one citizen parent. Individuals may also acquire citizenship by means of special government-designated criteria implemented by the Ministry of Interior with approval from the cabinet or in accordance with nationality law (see section 6, Children). Ethnic Thai stateless persons and their children who meet the added definition of “displaced Thai” may apply for the status of “Thai nationality by birth.”

By law stateless members of hill tribes may not vote, and their travel is restricted to their home province. As noncitizens, they are unable to own land. Stateless persons are legally permitted to work in any occupation, but licenses for certain professions (including doctors, engineers, and lawyers) are provided only to citizens. Stateless persons had difficulty accessing credit and government services, such as health care. The law permits undocumented migrant and stateless children to enroll in schools alongside Thai national children, although access to education was uneven. There were reports that school administrators placed the term “non-Thai citizen” on these students’ high school certificates, severely limiting their economic opportunities. Stateless persons were permitted to enroll in tertiary education but did not have access to government educational loans.

Humanitarian organizations reported that village heads and district officials routinely demanded bribes from stateless persons to process their applications for official registration as stateless persons or to obtain permanent residency or citizenship. Police also demanded bribes from stateless persons at inland checkpoints in exchange for allowing them to move from one province to another.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. In 2019 the country held national elections after five years of rule by the military-led NCPO following a 2014 coup. The campaign was mostly peaceful, with many political parties competing for seats and conducting political rallies for the first time in five years. A restrictive legal framework and selective enforcement of campaign regulations by the Election Commission, however, impacted the outcome in favor of the parties aligned with the Phalang Pracharath Party.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The country held national elections in March 2019, following five years of military rule. In July 2019 Prayut Chan-o-Cha’s cabinet was sworn in, officially disbanding the junta NCPO. In December 2020 the government held local elections for the first time since the 2014 coup.

There were few reports of election irregularities during the 2019 national elections, although there were frequent reports of vote buying by both government and opposition parties. The NGO Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) – the only global organization allowed by the government to observe the election – found the election “partly free, not fair.” ANFREL noted many positive aspects of the election primarily related to election-day activities, including high voter turnout, free access to the polls, and peaceful conditions during the campaign and on election day. ANFREL also found, however, that a restrictive and biased legal framework and lack of transparency by the Election Commission meant authorities “failed to establish the healthy political climate that lies at the heart of free and fair electoral process.”

Political Parties and Political Participation: Critics complained that police and courts unfairly targeted opposition parties for legal action. In 2020 the Constitutional Court dissolved the opposition Future Forward Party (FFP), citing an illegal loan to the party from its leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, and banned all members of the party’s 16-person executive committee from politics for 10 years. Prodemocracy activists alleged the decision was part of a politically motivated effort to weaken a key opposition party. In April, two members of the Thai Pakdee Party filed a lawsuit against Thanathorn and another former FFP leader, Pannikar Wanich, accusing them of mismanaging a COVID-19 assistance fund. Thanathorn and other former FFP leaders remained under indictment in more than 20 other cases, many of which carry potential prison sentences.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits participation of women and members of historically marginalized or minority groups in the political process; however, their participation was limited. There were 76 female members of parliament in the elected lower house out of 487 members and 26 female senators out of 250 members. There were four women in the 35-member cabinet, all in deputy minister positions. There were four lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) individuals in parliament and one member of the Hmong ethnic group.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials. Officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A wide variety of domestic and international human rights organizations operated in the country. NGOs that dealt with sensitive political matters, such as political reform or opposition to government-sponsored development projects, faced periodic harassment.

In November the prime minister announced an investigation into Amnesty International for its support of antigovernment activists and its critical statement on the November 10 Constitutional Court ruling.

Human rights workers focusing on violence in the southernmost provinces were particularly vulnerable to harassment and intimidation by government agents and insurgent groups. The government accorded very few NGOs tax-exempt status, which sometimes hampered their ability to secure funding.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: According to the United Nations, there were no developments regarding official visits previously requested by the UN working group on disappearances; by the UN special rapporteurs on freedom of opinion and expression, and on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; or by the UN special rapporteurs on the situations of human rights defenders, migrants, internally displaced persons, torture, indigenous peoples, and sexual identity and gender orientation.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The independent National Human Rights Commission of Thailand has a mission to protect human rights and to produce an annual country report. On May 25, six (out of seven) National Human Rights Commissioners were formally approved following a four-year recruitment process; one appointment was still in process. The commission was chaired by former ambassador Pornprapai Kanjanarindr. The previous commission technically ended with the promulgation of the 2017 constitution, and critics asserted it was largely inactive following the resignations of three commissioners in 2019.

The commission received 593 complaints during the year ending September 30. Of these, 220 were accepted for further investigation and 157 related to alleged abuses by police. Human rights groups continued to criticize the commission for not filing lawsuits against human rights abusers on its own behalf or on behalf of complainants. The Office of the Ombudsman is an independent agency empowered to consider and investigate complaints filed by any citizen. Following an investigation, the office may refer a case to a court for further review or provide recommendations for further action to the appropriate agency. The office examines all petitions, but it may not compel agencies to comply with its recommendations. During the year ending September 30, the office received 2,992 new petitions, of which 694 related to allegations of police abuses.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of men and women is illegal, although the government did not always enforce the law effectively. The law narrowly defines rape as acts in which male sex organs were used to physically violate victims, thereby leaving victims assaulted by perpetrators in other ways without legal remedies. The law permits authorities to prosecute spousal rape, and prosecutions occurred. The law specifies penalties for conviction of rape or forcible sexual assault ranging from four years’ imprisonment to the death penalty as well as fines.

NGOs said rape was a serious problem and that victims underreported rapes and domestic assaults, in part due to a lack of understanding by authorities that impeded effective implementation of the law regarding violence against women.

According to NGOs, agencies tasked with addressing the problem were underfunded, and victims often perceived police as incapable of bringing perpetrators to justice.

Domestic violence against women was a significant problem. The Ministry of Public Health operated one-stop crisis centers to provide information and services to victims of physical and sexual abuse throughout the country. The law establishes measures designed to facilitate both the reporting of domestic violence complaints and reconciliation between the victim and the perpetrator. Moreover, the law restricts media reporting on domestic-violence cases in the judicial system. NGOs expressed concern that the law’s family unity approach put undue pressure on a victim to compromise without addressing safety problems and led to a low conviction rate.

Authorities prosecuted some domestic-violence crimes under provisions for assault or violence against a person, where they could seek harsher penalties. The government operated shelters for domestic-violence victims, one in each province. The government’s crisis centers, located in all state-run hospitals, cared for abused women and children.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): No specific law prohibits this practice. NGOs and international media reported Type IV FGM/C occurred in the Muslim-majority south, although statistics were unavailable. There were no reports of governmental efforts to prevent or address the practice.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is illegal in both the public and private sectors. The law specifies a fine and a jail term of one month for sexual harassment, while abuse categorized as an indecent act may result in a fine and a maximum 15 years’ imprisonment. Sexual harassment in the workplace may be punished by modest fines. The law governing the civil service also prohibits sexual harassment and stipulates five levels of punishment: probation, docked wages, salary reduction, suspension, and termination. NGOs claimed the legal definition of harassment was vague and prosecution of harassment claims difficult, leading to ineffective enforcement of the law.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. (See the Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting subsection for additional information.)

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, including emergency contraception.

Discrimination: The constitution provides that “men and women shall enjoy equal rights and liberties. Unjust discrimination against a person on the grounds of differences in origin, race, language, sex, age, disability, physical or health condition, personal status, economic or social standing, religious belief, education or political view, shall not be permitted.”

Human rights advocates expressed concern regarding lengthy delays in reviewing individual discrimination complaints and a lack of awareness among the public and within the ministry’s provincial offices.

Women generally enjoyed the same legal status and rights as men but sometimes experienced discrimination, particularly in employment. The law imposes a maximum jail term of six months, a fine, or both, for anyone convicted of gender discrimination. The law mandates nondiscrimination based on gender and sexual identity in policy, rule, regulation, notification, project, or procedure by government, private organizations, and any individual, but it also stipulates two exceptions criticized by civil society groups: religious principles and national security.

Women were unable to confer citizenship to their noncitizen spouses in the same way as male citizens.

Women comprised approximately 12 percent of the country’s military personnel. Ministry of Defense policy limits the percentage of female officers to not more than 25 percent in most units, with specialized hospital or medical, budgetary, and finance units permitted 35 percent. Military academies (except for the nursing academy) refused admission to female students, although a significant number of instructors were women.

Women are barred from applying to the police academy. The Royal Thai Police continued to list “being a male” as a requirement in an employment announcement for police investigators and other positions, although in 2020 police did permit 300 women (and 700 men) to take police investigator examinations.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The constitution includes provisions aimed at protecting the traditional culture and way of life for ethnic minorities, and stipulates all persons are equal before the law, including equal protection. During the year, however, there were reports of violence and discrimination against members of ethnic minority groups.

Indigenous Peoples

Stateless members of hill tribes (approximately 50 percent) faced restrictions on their movement, were not permitted to own land, had difficulty accessing bank credit, and faced discrimination in employment. Although labor law gives them the right to equal treatment as employees, employers often violated those rights by paying them less than their citizen coworkers and less than minimum wage. The law further bars them from government welfare services but affords them limited access to government-subsidized medical treatment.

The law provides citizenship eligibility to certain categories of hill tribes who were not previously eligible (see section 2.g.). The government supported efforts to register citizens and educate eligible hill-tribe members regarding their rights.

In February authorities arrested 22 ethnic-Karen villagers in Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi Province after the villagers defied orders to vacate the land. Park officials decided to evict the villagers from the Jai Paendin area of the Kaeng Krachan National Park after discovering the number of illegal settlers in the park had increased and more forest land had been cleared for crop rotation. The land evictions were met with protests by civil society groups, who claimed the Jai Paendin area was the villagers’ ancestral land before it became a national park in 1981. On March 7, a court in Phetchaburi released the 22 villagers without bail on the condition that they do not return to the Jai Paendin area of the national park.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is conferred at birth if at least one parent is a citizen. Birth within the country does not automatically confer citizenship, but regulations entitle all children born in the country to birth registration, which qualifies them for certain government benefits regardless of citizenship (see section 2.g.). The law stipulates every child born in the country receive an official birth certificate regardless of the parents’ legal status. In remote areas some parents did not obtain birth certificates for their children due to administrative complexities and a lack of recognition of the importance of the document. In the case of hill-tribe members and other stateless persons, NGOs reported misinformed or unscrupulous local officials, language barriers, and restricted mobility made it difficult to register births.

Education: The constitution provides for 12 years of free education. NGOs reported children of registered migrants, unregistered migrants, refugees, or asylum seekers had limited access to government schools.

Child Abuse: The law provides for the protection of children from abuse, and laws on rape and abandonment carry harsher penalties if the victim is a child. The penalties for raping a child younger than age 15 range from four to 20 years’ imprisonment and fines. Those convicted of abandoning a child younger than age nine are subject to a jail term of three years, a fine, or both. The law provides for protection of witnesses, victims, and offenders younger than age 18 in abuse and pedophilia cases. Advocacy groups stated police often ignored or avoided child-abuse cases.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage for both sexes is 17, while anyone younger than 21 requires parental consent. A court may grant permission for children younger than 17 to marry.

In the Muslim-majority southernmost provinces, Islamic law used for family matters and inheritance allows the marriage of young girls after their first menstrual cycle with parental approval. The minimum age for Muslims to marry is 17. A Muslim younger than 17 may marry with a written court order or written parental consent, which is considered by a special subcommittee of three members, of which at least one member must be a woman with knowledge of Islamic law.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sex is 15. The law provides heavy penalties for persons who procure, lure, compel, or threaten children younger than 18 for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation, with higher penalties for persons who purchase sexual intercourse with a child younger than 15. Authorities may punish parents who allow a child to enter into prostitution. The law prohibits the production, distribution, import, or export of child pornography. The law also imposes heavy penalties for sexually exploiting persons younger than 18, including for pimping, trafficking, and other sexual crimes against children.

Child sex trafficking remained a problem, and the country continued to be a destination for child sex tourism, although the government continued to make efforts to combat the problem. Children from migrant populations, ethnic minority groups, and poor families remained particularly vulnerable, and police arrested parents who forced their children into prostitution. Citizens and foreign sex tourists committed pedophilia crimes, including the commercial sexual exploitation of children and production and distribution of child pornography.

The Thai Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, a police unit with 17 officers, received more than 260,000 tips from NGOs based abroad on potential cases of child sexual exploitation, a significant increase compared with approximately 117,000 tips received in 2019. The task force investigated 94 cases of internet crimes against children in 2020 (77 in 2019), including 22 cases of internet-facilitated child sex trafficking (26 in 2019).

There were numerous reported cases of rape and sexual harassment of girls in school environments. In February a male teacher in Amphoe Phanom Dongrak, Surin, was arrested for the sexual assault of at least 13 female students. The abuse took place over the year, and some were as young as seven. In March a male teacher in a public school in Amphoe Krasang, Buriram, was arrested for the sexual assault of multiple 14-year-old female students. The Ministry of Education operated a Protection and Assistance Center for the Sexually Abused Students to receive complaints and report sexual assault in schools. During the year the ministry produced the 14-page Manual for Prevention of Sexual Abuses in School to distribute to all schools.

Displaced Children: Authorities generally referred street children to government shelters located in each province, but foreign undocumented migrants avoided the shelters due to fear of deportation. As of August the government estimated there were 20,000 street children who sought shelter nationwide, 5,000 of whom received assistance from the government or private organizations. In October the NGO Foundation for the Better Life of Children reported approximately 50,000 children were living on the streets, 30,000 of them foreign born. The government generally sent citizen street children to school, occupational training centers, or back to their families with social-worker supervision. The government repatriated some street children who came from other countries.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

The resident Jewish community is very small, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution prohibits discrimination based on disability and physical or health conditions. The law provides tax benefits to employers employing a certain number of persons with disabilities, such as special income-tax deductions to promote employment of such persons.

The government modified many public accommodations and buildings to accommodate persons with disabilities, but government enforcement was not consistent. The law mandates persons with disabilities have access to information, communications, and newly constructed buildings, but authorities did not uniformly enforce these provisions. The law entitles persons with disabilities who register with the government to free medical examinations, wheelchairs, and crutches.

The government’s Community-based Rehabilitation Program and the Community Learning Center for Persons with Disabilities project operated in all provinces. The government provided five-year, interest-free, small-business loans for persons with disabilities.

The government maintained dozens of separate schools and education centers for children with disabilities and operated occupational and career development centers for adults with disabilities. The law requires all government schools nationwide to accept students with disabilities, and most schools taught students with disabilities during the year. The government also operated shelters and rehabilitation centers specifically for persons with disabilities, including day care centers for autistic children.

Organizations for persons with disabilities reported difficulty in accessing information concerning a range of public services.

In previous years disability rights activists alleged that government officials, including from the National Office for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities at the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, and private companies often contracted with organizations for persons with disabilities to recruit employees with disabilities, an arrangement that could allow dishonest officials and the staff of such organizations to keep a portion of the wages intended for those workers.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Some social stigma remained for persons with HIV or AIDS, despite educational efforts by the government and NGOs. There were reports some employers fired or refused to hire persons who tested positive for HIV.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

No law criminalizes expression of sexual orientation or consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults.

The LGBTQI+ community reported that police treated LGBTQI+ victims of crime the same as other persons except in the case of sexual crimes, where there was a tendency to downplay sexual abuse or not to take harassment seriously.

The law does not permit transgender persons to change their gender on identification documents, which, coupled with societal discrimination, limited their employment opportunities.

The UN Development Program and NGOs reported that LGBTQI+ persons experienced discrimination, particularly in rural areas. The UN Development Program also reported media represented LGBTQI+ persons in stereotypical and harmful ways resulting in discrimination.

Legislation mandating gender equality prohibits discrimination “due to the fact that the person is male or female or of a different appearance from his or her own sex by birth” and protects transgender students from discrimination. The country’s Fourth National Human Rights Plan, covering the period 2019-22, includes LGBTQI+ persons as one of 12 groups in its action plan.

NGOs and the United Nations reported transgender persons faced discrimination in various sectors, including in the military conscription process, while in detention, and in education because of strict policies in place at most schools and universities that require students to wear uniforms that align with their biological gender.

The Ministry of Education has a curriculum incorporating discussion of sexual orientation and gender diversity for grades one to 12; this followed two years of advocacy by the LGBTQI+ community. NGOs continued to encourage the Ministry of Education to make the curriculum compulsory and continued to work with the ministry on curriculum development and to organize training courses to prepare teachers to teach it effectively.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The constitution provides that a person shall enjoy the liberty to unite and form an association, cooperative, union, organization, community, or any other group. The law provides for the right of workers in certain private-sector and state-owned enterprises (SOEs) to form and join independent trade unions. The law does not allow migrant workers to organize trade unions. Civil servants may assemble as a group, provided that such assembly does not affect the efficiency of national administration and continuity of public services and does not have a political objective. The law provides for the right of certain workers to bargain collectively with restrictions. The right to conduct legal strikes was suspended due to COVID-19.

By law only workers with the same employer or in the same industry may form a union. Subcontract workers, even if doing the same job as permanent workers in the same factory, may not join the same union because they are classified as belonging to the service industry while fulltime workers come under the manufacturing industry. The inability of subcontract workers and fulltime workers to join the same union limited the unions’ ability to bargain collectively as a larger group. In addition short-term contract workers were less likely to join unions, fearing antiunion retaliation in the form of nonrenewal of their contracts. Labor advocates claimed that many companies hired subcontract workers to undermine unionization efforts. A survey of the auto parts and electronics industries found that more than 45 percent of the workforce consisted of subcontract workers, approximately half on short-term contracts.

The law does not protect union members against antiunion discrimination by employers until their union is registered. To register a union, at least 10 workers must submit their names to the Department of Labor Protection and Welfare. The verification process of vetting the names and employment status with the employer exposed the workers to potential retaliation before registration was complete. Moreover, the law requires that union officials be full-time employees of the company or SOE and prohibits permanent union staff. The law allows one union per SOE. SOEs operated in various sectors of the economy: banking, rail and air transportation, airports, marine ports, and postal services. If an SOE union’s membership falls below 25 percent of the eligible workforce, regulations require dissolution of the union. The law restricts formal links between unions of SOEs and their private-sector counterparts because they are governed by two separate laws.

The law requires unions to have 20 percent membership to bargain collectively. The law allows employees at workplaces without a union to submit collective demands if at least 15 percent of employees are listed as supporting that demand. Employees in private enterprises with more than 50 workers may establish “employee committees” or “welfare committees.” Employee and welfare committees may offer employers suggestions regarding employee benefits and nonfinancial issues and are barred from submitting labor demands or going on strike.

The law prohibits employers from taking adverse actions against workers on these committees and from obstructing committee work. Union leaders often join employee committees to avail themselves of this legal protection.

In May 2020 the minister of labor issued an order prohibiting employer lockouts and employee strikes while the emergency decree to contain the COVID-19 outbreak was in effect. The decree required any labor dispute to be arbitrated by a Labor Relations Committee to maintain public safety and ease industrial relations conflicts during the COVID-19-induced recession. NGOs criticized the order for violating the rights of workers to bargain collectively, while the government and certain union leaders viewed the decree as a means to promote negotiations to find ways to prevent business closures and mass layoffs.

Before its suspension the law provided workers with the right to strike if they notify authorities and employers 24 hours in advance and if the strike does not include a demonstration on public roads. The government may block private-sector strikes with national security implications or with negative repercussions on the population at large. Strikes and lockouts are prohibited at SOEs, and penalties for violations include imprisonment, fines, or both.

The law prohibits termination of employment of legal strikers but permits employers to hire temporary workers or use subcontract workers to replace strikers. The legal requirement to call a general meeting of trade-union members and obtain strike approval from at least 50 percent of union members constrained strike action because many factories use shift workers, making it difficult to attain a quorum.

Labor courts or the Labor Relations Committee can make determinations on complaints of unfair dismissals or labor practices and can require compensation or reinstatement of workers or union leaders with wages and benefits equal to those received prior to dismissal. The Labor Relations Committee consists of representatives of employers, government, and workers groups, and there are associate labor court judges who represent workers and employers.

Noncitizen migrant workers, whether registered or undocumented, do not have the right to form unions or serve as union officials. Migrants can join unions organized and led by Thai citizens. Migrant-worker participation in unions was low due to language barriers, weak understanding of legal rights, frequent changes in employment status, membership fees, restrictive union regulations, and segregation of citizen workers from migrant workers by industry and by zones (particularly in border and coastal areas) as well as due to migrants’ fears of losing their jobs due to their support for a union. Unregistered associations, community-based organizations, and religious groups often represented the interests of migrant workers. In workplaces where most workers were migrants, migrant workers were sometimes elected to the welfare committees and employee committees. NGOs reported few cases, however, where migrant workers’ collective demands were successful in effecting change, particularly along the border areas. For example migrant workers at a chicken-processing factory conducted a work stoppage in March after the factory terminated 32 Cambodian workers in response to their demands for better working conditions.

The law protects employees and union members from criminal or civil liability for participating in negotiations with employers, initiating a strike, organizing a rally, or explaining labor disputes to the public, except where such activities cause reputational harm.

The law does not protect employees and union members from criminal charges for reputational damage, and reputational damage charges have been used to intimidate union members and employees. The law does not prohibit lawsuits intended to censor, intimidate, or silence critics through costly legal defense and these tactics have been used by employers in multiple instances. The law provides some protection to defendants in frivolous libel cases from prosecution and by law a court can dismiss a defamation lawsuit if it is considered dishonest.

Labor law enforcement was inconsistent and sometimes ineffective in protecting workers who participated in union activities. Penalties include imprisonment, a fine, or both and were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights; however, authorities rarely applied penalties against employers found guilty of labor violations.

There were reports of workers dismissed for engaging in union activities, both before and after registration. Rights advocates reported that judges and provincial labor inspectors often attempted to mediate cases, even when labor rights violations requiring penalties had been found. In some cases labor courts ordered workers reinstated, although employers did not always comply with court orders. There were reports from unions and NGOs that employers attempted to negotiate terms of reinstatement after court orders were issued, offering severance packages for voluntary resignation, denying reinstated union leaders access to work, or demoting workers to jobs with lower wages and benefits. In some cases judges awarded compensation in place of reinstatement when employers or employees claimed they could not work together peacefully. Only 34 of 77 provinces had any labor unions.

Unions and NGOs reported that employers used various techniques to weaken labor-union association and collective-bargaining efforts. These included replacing striking workers with subcontractors, which the law permits as long as strikers continue to receive wages; delaying negotiations by failing to show up at Labor Relations Committee meetings or sending nondecision makers to negotiate; threatening union leaders and striking workers; pressuring union leaders and striking workers to resign; dismissing union leaders, ostensibly for business reasons, violation of company rules, or negative attitudes toward the company; prohibiting workers from demonstrating in work zones; inciting violence, then using a court order to clamp down on protests; transferring union leaders to other branches, thus making them ineligible to participate in employee or welfare committees; transferring union leaders and striking workers to different, less desirable positions or stripping them of management authority; and supporting the registration of competing unions to circumvent established unions.

Employers sometimes filed lawsuits against union leaders and strikers for trespass, defamation, and vandalism. Private companies also continued to pursue civil and criminal lawsuits against NGOs and journalists as well as workers (see section 2.a., Libel/Slander Laws). As of August, since 2016 Thammakaset, a poultry farm owner in Lopburi Province, filed at least 39 criminal and civil cases against 14 former employees, labor rights activists, and journalists on various charges such as criminal defamation, theft of timecards, and computer crime.

NGOs and labor advocates reported incidents in which their staff members were followed or threatened by employers after they had been seen advocating for labor rights.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, except in the case of national emergency, war, martial law, or imminent public calamity. Penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping. The government did not effectively enforce the law.

In 2019 the government amended the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act for the third time in five years. The new amendment added a separate provision specifically addressing “forced labor or services” and prescribed penalties of up to four years’ imprisonment. More severe penalties can be pursued under the previously existing human trafficking statute or if victims were seriously injured. The government did not complete implementing guidelines for the new forced labor provision, which contributed to a lack of understanding of how to interpret and implement the law.

There were reports forced labor continued in commercial fishing and related industries, garment production, agriculture, manufacturing, domestic work, and street begging. Many workers paid high fees to brokers, recruitment agencies, other others before and after they arrive. Traffickers often used debt-based coercion, deceptive recruitment practices, retention of identity documents and bank cards, illegal wage deductions, physical violence, and other means to subject victims to forced labor. Workers in the seafood processing and fishing sectors increasingly faced forced overtime because of increasing demand for shelf-stable seafood during the pandemic; they also faced unsafe working conditions.

COVID-19 movement restrictions in 2020 and during the year limited the ability of law enforcement to conduct surveillance and compliance activities. Penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

While NGOs acknowledged a decline in the most severe forms of labor exploitation in the fishing sector, reports of exploitation and indicators of forced labor persisted, and the number of crewmembers who went missing at sea continued to increase. Some NGOs noted inconsistencies in enforcing labor law continued, particularly for irregular or delayed payment of wages, illegal wage deductions, illegal recruitment fees, withholding of documents, and not providing written contracts in a language that workers understand (see section 7.e.).

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law does not prohibit all of the worst forms of child labor. The law protects children from sex and labor trafficking, and use in illicit activities, but it does not meet the international standard for prohibiting military recruitment of children by nonstate armed groups. The law regulates the employment of children younger than age 18 and prohibits employment of children younger than 15. Children younger than 18 are prohibited from work in any activity involving metalwork, hazardous chemicals, poisonous materials, radiation, extreme temperatures, high noise levels, toxic microorganisms, operation of heavy equipment, and work underground or underwater.

The law also prohibits children younger than 18 from workplaces deemed hazardous, such as slaughterhouses, gambling establishments, places where alcohol is sold, massage parlors, entertainment venues, sea-fishing vessels, and seafood processing establishments. As such, children ages 15 to 17 may legally engage in hazardous “homework” (work assigned by the employer representing an industrial enterprise to a homeworker to be produced or assembled outside of the workplace). The law provides limited coverage to child workers in some informal sectors, such as agriculture, domestic work, and home-based businesses. Self-employed children and children working outside of employment relationships, defined by the existence of an agreement or contract and the exchange of work for pay, are not protected under labor law, but they are protected under laws on child protection and trafficking in persons.

Penalties for violations of the law may include imprisonment or fines. These penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping. Parents of victims whom the court finds were “driven by unbearable poverty” may be exempt from penalties. The government effectively enforced the law related to the worst forms of child labor but was less effective enforcing laws on the minimum age of work and hazardous work.

In 2020 the government reported a slight increase in the number of labor inspectors and interpreters directly employed by the Ministry of Labor. During the year labor inspections targeted fishing ports and high-risk workplaces, including garment factories, shrimp and seafood processing, poultry and pig farms, auto repair shops, construction sites, and service-sector businesses like restaurants, karaoke bars, hotels, and gas stations; inspections often were based on information received from civil society partners. Labor inspections, however, remained infrequent.

The participation of children in traditional Thai kickboxing “Muay Thai” continued to be an area of concern. Children participating in paid and nonpaid Muay Thai (Thai boxing) competitions are not protected under labor law, and it was unclear whether child-protection legislation sufficiently protects child Muay Thai participants.

Government and private-sector entities used bone-density checks and dental examinations to identify potentially underage job applicants. Such tests, however, were not always conclusive. Labor inspectors used information from civil society to target inspections for child labor and forced labor.

The Department of Labor Protection and Welfare implementing regulations came into force in 2020 related to safety and health in diving work, which set the minimum age for workers employed in diving work at 18 years old.

The Department of Labor Protection and Welfare is the primary agency charged with enforcing child labor law and policies. NGOs reported child labor violations found by the department’s labor inspectors were usually referred to law enforcement officers for further investigation and prosecution. NGOs reported families whose children suffered from trafficking or forced labor received some support, but little support was provided to children found working in violation of other child labor laws (minimum working age, hazardous work limits).

NGOs reported that some children from within the country, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and ethnic minority communities were working in informal sectors and small businesses, including farming, home-based businesses, restaurants, street vending, auto services, food processing, construction, domestic work, and begging. Some children were forced to work in prostitution, pornography, begging, and the production and trafficking of drugs.

In March the Ministry of Labor signed a memorandum of understanding regarding the prevention and correction of child labor and forced labor with 13 organizations representing the seafood, garment, and sugarcane industries. The main objective of the memorandum was to promote public awareness and create a self-policing system for the industry associations to monitor and eliminate this problem.

The Department of Labor Protection and Welfare reported in 2020 there were 24 criminal litigations for child labor offenses with 50 offenders. Seven of these cases resulted in fines, and the remaining 17 cases were still under investigation or in trial. The most common child labor violations were failing to report the hiring of a laborer between ages 15 and 18, allowing child labor during prohibited hours, hiring children younger than age 15, and letting children work in prohibited workplaces such as gambling halls.

Observers noted several limiting factors in effective enforcement of child-labor law, including insufficient labor inspectors, insufficient interpreters during labor inspections, ineffective inspection procedures (especially in hard-to-reach workplaces like private residences, small family-based business units, farms, and fishing boats), and a lack of official identity documents among young migrant workers from neighboring countries.

Over the past two years, COVID-19 related movement restrictions also limited the ability of labor inspectors to conduct inspections. NGOs also reported insufficient protection for child-labor victims, including lack of legal assistance for claiming compensation and restitution, inadequate protection and counseling mechanisms, and a lack of safe repatriation (especially for migrant children). The NGOs alleged that while there were clear mechanisms for the protection and repatriation of child trafficking victims, there was no such mechanism for child-labor victims. A lack of public understanding of child-labor law and standards was also an important factor.

In 2019 the government published its first national working-children survey, using research methodology in line with international guidelines. This survey was the product of cooperation among the Ministry of Labor, the National Statistical Office, and the ILO. The survey revealed that 3.9 percent of 10.5 million children ages five to 17 were working children, including 1.7 percent who were child laborers (exploited working children) – 1.3 percent in hazardous work and an additional 0.4 percent in nonhazardous work. Most child laborers were doing hazardous work in household or family businesses (55 percent), in the areas of agriculture (56 percent), service trades (23 percent), and manufacturing (20 percent). Boys worked in child labor more than girls, and more than half of child laborers were not in school. Of the top three types of hazardous work that children performed, 22 percent involved lifting heavy loads, 8 percent working in extreme conditions or at night, and 7 percent being exposed to dangerous chemicals and toxins.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings  and the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

Labor law does not specifically prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on race, religion, national origin, color, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, or HIV status. The law imposes penalties of imprisonment or fines for anyone committing gender or gender-identity discrimination, including in employment decisions. Penalties for gender discrimination were commensurate with those for laws related to civil rights, but the government did not effectively enforce its limited discrimination law. The law requires workplaces with more than 100 employees to hire at least one worker with disabilities for every 100 workers. Women are prohibited from working underground, in mining, or in underwater construction; on scaffolding higher than 33 feet; and in production or transportation of explosive or inflammatory material.

Discrimination with respect to employment occurred against LGBTQI+ persons, women, and migrant workers (see section 7.e.). Government regulations require employers to pay equal wages and benefits for equal work, regardless of gender. Union leaders stated the wage differences for men and women were generally minimal and were mostly due to different skills, duration of employment, and types of jobs, as well as legal requirements which prohibit the employment of women in hazardous work. There were reports many companies intentionally laid off pregnant women during the year.

The police cadet academy does not admit female cadets. This policy was widely criticized both as discriminatory and as damaging the ability of police to identify some labor violations against women.

Discrimination against persons with disabilities occurred in employment, access, and training. In 2020 advocacy groups for the rights of persons with disabilities filed a complaint of embezzlement and illegal deduction of wages from workers with disabilities. In December 2020 the Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases found all defendants guilty and sentenced them to 50 years in prison.

Members of the LGBTQI+ community faced frequent discrimination in the workplace, partly due to common prejudices and a lack of protective law and policies on discrimination. Transgender workers reportedly faced even greater constraints, and their participation in the workforce was often limited to a few professions, such as cosmetology and entertainment.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Tibet

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The majority of ethnic Tibetans in the People’s Republic of China live in the Tibetan Autonomous Region and Tibetan autonomous prefectures and counties in Sichuan, Qinghai, Yunnan, and Gansu Provinces. The Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee exercises paramount authority over Tibetan areas. As in other predominantly minority areas of the People’s Republic of China, ethnic Han Chinese members of the party held the overwhelming majority of top party, government, police, and military positions. Ultimate authority rests with the 25-member Political Bureau (Politburo) of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee and its seven-member Standing Committee in Beijing, neither of which had any Tibetan members.

The main domestic security agencies include the Ministry of State Security, the Ministry of Public Security, and the People’s Armed Police. The People’s Armed Police continue to be under the dual authority of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the Central Military Commission. The People’s Liberation Army is primarily responsible for external security but also has some domestic security responsibilities. Local jurisdictions also frequently use civilian municipal security forces, known as “urban management” officials, to enforce administrative measures. Civilian authorities maintained effective control of the security forces. Members of the security forces committed numerous abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by the government; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment by the government; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners; politically motivated reprisals against individuals located outside the country; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including censorship; serious restrictions on internet freedom including site blocking; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; severe restrictions on religious freedom, despite nominal constitutional protections voided by regulations restricting religious freedom and effectively placing Tibetan Buddhism under central government control; severe restrictions on freedom of movement; the inability of citizens to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections; restrictions on political participation; serious acts of government corruption; coerced abortion or forced sterilization; and violence or threats of violence targeting indigenous persons.

Disciplinary procedures for officials were opaque, and aside from vague allegations of corruption or violations of “party discipline,” there was no publicly available information to indicate senior officials punished security personnel or other authorities for behavior defined under laws and regulations of the People’s Republic of China as abuses of power and authority.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were public reports or credible allegations the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported in January that Buddhist monk Tenzin Nyima died in late December 2020 or early January after suffering severe beatings over the course of many months. Sources told HRW that the beatings and other mistreatment left Tenzin in a coma, severely malnourished, and likely paralyzed when he died. Phayul.com reported in May that Norsang (no last name), held incommunicado after his 2019 detention for refusing to participate in People’s Republic of China (PRC)-led political re-education training, was allegedly tortured to death. According to the report, Norsang died in 2019 while in the custody of local security officials, who did not reveal his death until May.

b. Disappearance

There were no credible reports of disappearances, although the whereabouts of many persons detained by security officials was unknown (see information on incommunicado detention in section 1.c., below).

Gen Sonam, a senior manager of the Potala Palace, was reportedly detained in 2019, and his whereabouts remained unknown.

The whereabouts of the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the second most prominent figure after the Dalai Lama in Tibetan Buddhism’s Gelug school, remained unknown. Neither he nor his parents have been seen since they were disappeared, allegedly by or on behalf of PRC authorities in 1995, when he was six years old.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

According to sources, police and prison authorities employed torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment in dealing with some detainees and prisoners. There were reports that PRC officials severely beat some Tibetans who were incarcerated or otherwise in custody. In February the Tibet Sun reported Kunchok Jinpa, a political prisoner serving a 21-year sentence, died in a hospital shortly after his release from prison. According to the report, Kunchok died from a severe brain hemorrhage resulting from beatings he endured in prison.

Reports from released prisoners indicated some were permanently disabled or in extremely poor health because of the harsh treatment they endured in prison. Former prisoners also reported being isolated in small cells for months at a time and deprived of sleep, sunlight, and adequate food. Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported in March that Gangbu Rikgye Nyima, serving a 10-year sentence for participation in protests, was released in February, a year early. According to RFA, the release came about because Gangbu’s health had deteriorated badly due to beatings and torture in prison.

RFA reported in September that Tibetan monk Thabgey Gyatso was released after serving 12 years of his 15-year sentence. Sources told RFA that “due to harsh treatment in the prison, his vision and overall health have become very weak.”

Impunity for violations of human rights was pervasive. There were no reports that officials investigated or punished those responsible for unlawful killings and other abuses in previous years.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Physical Conditions: Prison conditions were harsh and potentially life threatening due to inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care. According to individuals who completed their prison terms in recent years, prisoners rarely received medical care except in cases of serious illness.

Administration: Independent observers with access to members of the Tibetan community believed that in many cases officials denied visitors, including attorneys, access to detained and imprisoned persons.

Independent Monitoring: There was no evidence of independent monitoring or observation of prisons or detention centers.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

Arbitrary arrest and detention remained serious problems. Legal safeguards for detained or imprisoned Tibetans were inadequate in both design and implementation.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

Public security agencies are required by law to notify the relatives or employer of a detained person within 24 hours of their detention but often failed to do so when Tibetans and others were detained for political reasons. Pretrial bail procedures are codified under the PRC law, but Tibetans and others who have been detained for politically sensitive reasons are denied access to pretrial release. According to criminal law, public security officers may detain persons for up to 37 days without formally arresting or charging them. Further detention requires approval of a formal arrest by the prosecutor’s office; however, in cases pertaining to “national security, terrorism, and major bribery,” the law permits up to six months of incommunicado detention without formal arrest.

When a suspect is formally arrested, public security authorities may detain the person for up to an additional seven months while the case is investigated. After the completion of an investigation, the prosecutor may detain a suspect an additional 45 days while determining whether to file criminal charges. If charges are filed, authorities may then detain a suspect for an additional 45 days before beginning judicial proceedings.

Despite the laws and regulatory procedures, incommunicado detention was a common practice. In one case, multiple nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and news agencies reported Tibetan writer Go Sherab Gyatso was arrested in October 2020 in Chengdu, Sichuan; no further information about his whereabouts or the charges was released. Media and NGOs also reported that Rinchen Tsultrim’s whereabouts remained unknown. Rinchen had been detained in late summer 2019 at the Ngabao Public Security Bureau in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) and was allegedly charged with “incitement to split the country.”

Arbitrary Arrest: Derung Tsering Dhundrup, a senior Tibetan scholar who was also the deputy secretary of the Sichuan Tibet Studies Society, was reportedly detained in 2019. Local reports suggested he was released in April under strict parole conditions; his whereabouts were unknown at year’s end.

On July 6, HRW published an extensive report on a crackdown, beginning in 2019, on monks in the Tengdro Monastery in Tingri County, TAR. The crackdown began after police searched the mobile phone of monk Choegyal Wangpo and found images of the Dalai Lama and records of messages with Tibetans overseas. Police reportedly detained, interrogated, and beat Wangpo and then raided a nearby village, detaining approximately 20 monks and subjecting villagers to political re-education sessions. One monk, Lobsang Zoepa, reportedly took his own life in protest. Most of the monks were released but four, including Wangpo, were held for more than a year before being tried in secret and sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison.

Tibet.net reported a case in which Konmay (no last name), a Tibetan monk in Ngaba, Sichuan, was arrested in July for unknown reasons.

On July 6, Chinese authorities reportedly arrested 19 monks and approximately 40 Tibetans in Dza Wonpo in Ganz Autonomous Tibetan Prefecture, Sichuan Province. Those held allegedly possessed pictures of the Dalai Lama. Media reported the arrests followed several months of heightened restrictions and surveillance in the area. On August 25, authorities summoned residents ages 18 and older to a town meeting, with penalties for failure to attend. At the meeting, authorities demanded that residents “follow the Communist party” and prohibited residents from keeping pictures of the Dalai Lama or sharing “sensitive information” with Tibetans in exile, according to media reports.

Pretrial Detention: Security officials frequently violated the legal limits for pretrial detention, and pretrial detention periods of more than a year were common. Individuals detained for political or religious reasons were often held on national security charges, which have looser restrictions on the length of pretrial detention. Many political detainees were therefore held without trial far longer than other types of detainees. Authorities held many prisoners in extrajudicial detention centers without charge and never allowed them to appear in public court.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: This right does not exist in the TAR or other Tibetan areas.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

There is no judicial independence from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) or the PRC government in law or practice. In August for example, the TAR Higher People’s Court announced the hiring of six court clerks. Among the job requirements was successful passage of a “political background check” by candidates and all their family members. In cases that authorities claimed involved “endangering state security” or “separatism,” trials often were cursory and closed.

In July HRW issued a report detailing the September 2020 denial of a fair trial to four Tibetan monks from the Tengro Monastery in Tingri County, TAR. The report indicated that the four were arrested for having foreign contacts. Their access to lawyers and to the evidence used against them was restricted and no details of their trial were made public.

Trial Procedures

Criminal suspects in the PRC have the right to hire a lawyer or other defense representation, but many Tibetan defendants, particularly those facing politically motivated charges, did not have access to legal representation while in pretrial detention. In many cases lawyers were unwilling to take clients due to political risks or because Tibetan families often did not have the resources to cover legal fees. In rare cases, defendants were denied access to legal representation entirely. For example, Tashi Wangdui, a Tibetan HIV and AIDS awareness campaigner sentenced to life imprisonment in 2008 for “endangering state security,” has been denied access to any of his lawyers since his conviction.

While some Tibetan lawyers are licensed in Tibetan areas, observers reported they were often unwilling to defend individuals in front of ethnic Han judges and prosecutors due to fear of reprisals or disbarment.

Local sources noted trials were predominantly conducted in Mandarin, with government interpreters provided for defendants who did not speak Mandarin. Court decisions, proclamations, and other judicial documents, however, generally were not published in Tibetan.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

An unknown number of Tibetans were detained, arrested, or sentenced because of their political or religious activities.

FreeTibet.net reported in November that well-known Tibetan writer Lobsang Lhundup (pen name: Dhi Lhaden) had been sentenced to four years in prison. Lobsang had been arbitrarily detained in Chengdu in 2019 before the FreeTibet.net report indicated he was charged with “disrupting social order.” According to the report, Lobsang was sentenced after a “secret trial”; no further details were provided.

Outside observers examined publicly available information and, as of late May, identified between 500 and 2,000 Tibetans known or believed to be detained or imprisoned by PRC authorities in violation of international human rights standards. Of the 115 cases for which there was information available on sentencing, punishment ranged from 15 months’ to life imprisonment. These data, for both overall detentions and sentencing, were believed to cover only a small fraction of the actual number of political prisoners.

In January official media reported that in 2020 the TAR prosecutor’s office approved the arrest and prosecution of 74 individuals allegedly for “threatening” China’s “political security.” Details, including the whereabouts of those arrested, were unknown.

Politically Motivated Reprisal against Individuals Located Outside the Country

Approximately 150,000 Tibetans live outside Tibet, many as refugees in India and Nepal.

Threats, Harassment, Surveillance, and Coercion: The Tibetan overseas community is frequently subjected to harassment, monitoring, and cyberattacks believed to be carried out by the PRC government. In September the Jamestown Foundation reported on tactics PRC officials used to target Tibetan activists overseas and the Tibetan diaspora community. The report described the secret infiltration of communities, reporting on Tibetans, and the use of disinformation. The report also indicated that Chinese consulates abroad often collect data from family members applying for visas to use the information to identify and target Tibetans in the PRC. Media outlets reported PRC government efforts to hack into the mobile phones of officials in the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and of several leaders of the Central Tibetan Administration, the overseas Tibetan community’s governance organization. The PRC government at times compelled Tibetans in China to pressure family members seeking asylum overseas to return.

Bilateral Pressure: There were credible reports that the PRC continued to put heavy pressure on Nepal to implement a border systems management agreement and a mutual legal assistance treaty, as well as to conclude an extradition treaty that could result in the refoulement of Tibetan refugees to the PRC. Nepal does not appear to have implemented either proposed agreement and postponed action on the extradition treaty.

f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

Authorities electronically and manually monitored private correspondence and searched, without warrant, private homes and businesses for photographs of the Dalai Lama and other forbidden items. Police routinely examined the cell phones of TAR residents in random stops or as part of other investigations to search for “reactionary music” from India or photographs of the Dalai Lama. Authorities also questioned and detained some individuals who disseminated writings and photographs over the internet or listened to teachings of the Dalai Lama on their cell phones. Authorities continued to employ pervasive surveillance systems, including the use of facial recognition and smart identity cards.

The “grid system,” an informant system also known as the “double-linked household system,” facilitated authorities’ efforts to identify and control persons considered “extremist” or “splittist.” The grid system groups households and other establishments and encourages them to report problems to the government, including financial problems and political transgressions, in other group households. Tibet.net reported in March that TAR authorities issued new regulations designed to encourage Tibetans to spy on each other. The article noted that the PRC often tests the loyalty of Tibetans by having them report on each other. Authorities rewarded individuals with money and other forms of compensation for their reporting. The maximum reward for information leading to the arrests of social media users deemed disloyal to the government increased to 300,000 renminbi ($42,800), six times the average per capita GDP in the TAR, according to local media.

According to sources in the TAR, Tibetans frequently received telephone calls from security officials ordering them to remove from their cell phones photographs, articles, and information on international contacts the government deemed sensitive. Security officials visited the residences of those who did not comply with such orders. Media reports indicated that in some areas, households were required to have photographs of PRC President Xi Jinping in prominent positions and were subject to inspections and fines for noncompliance. In a May case, media reported local officials sentenced a Tibetan herder from Qinghai Province for having “Tibet-related” material on his mobile phone.

The TAR regional government punished CCP members who followed the Dalai Lama, secretly harbored religious beliefs, made pilgrimages to India, or sent their children to study with Tibetans in exile.

Individuals in Tibetan areas reported they were subjected to government harassment and investigation because of family members living overseas. Observers also reported that many Tibetans traveling to visit family overseas were required to spend several weeks in political education classes after returning to China. Pharul.com reported in August that in April PRC authorities ordered Tibetans in Shigatse Prefecture, Dingri County, TAR to provide a list of their relatives living overseas. The demand followed similar efforts elsewhere in the TAR. Failure to do so would result in these individuals losing PRC-provided benefits.

The government also interfered with the ability of persons to find employment. Media reports in May noted that advertisements for 286 positions of different types in the TAR required applicants to “align ideologically, politically, and in action with the CCP Central Committee,” “oppose any splittist tendencies,” and “expose and criticize the Dalai Lama.” The advertisements explained that all applicants were subject to a political review prior to employment.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

Neither in law nor practice were constitutional provisions for freedom of expression respected.

Freedom of Expression: Authorities in the TAR and other Tibetan regions punished persons for the vaguely defined crime of “creating and spreading rumors.” Voice of America reported in March that three Tibetans were arrested for “violating regulations” by establishing a WeChat group. Tibetans who spoke to foreigners or foreign reporters, attempted to provide information to persons outside the country, or communicated information regarding protests or other expressions of discontent, including via mobile phones and internet-based communications, were subject to harassment or detention for “undermining social stability and inciting separatism.”

The Tibet Post reported in March that Rinchen Tsultrim, a Tibetan monk from the TAR, was sentenced to four and a half years for contacting Tibetans overseas. Tibet.net reported in August that PRC authorities arrested three men for posting photographs on their social media accounts and charged them with sharing information with overseas Tibetans.

RFA reported in August that authorities in Sichuan Province arrested 60 Tibetans for allegedly having photos of the Dalai Lama on their mobile phones. Security officials held a community meeting three days later to inform the local populace that they were prohibited from having photographs of the Dalai Lama.

In September RFA reported that two Tibetans in Qinghai were detained for discussing China’s Sinicization policy. The two men had apparently discussed on WeChat PRC policies and how they related to Tibet, resulting in their arrest.

According to multiple observers, security officials often cancelled WeChat accounts carrying “sensitive information,” such as discussions about Tibetan language education, and interrogated the account owners.

During the year, the TAR carried out numerous propaganda campaigns to encourage pro-CCP speech, thought, and conduct. These included a “TAR Clear and Bright 2021” program, designed to crack down on persons “misusing” the internet, including by making “wrong” comments on the party’s history and “denigrating” the country’s “heroes and martyrs.” The TAR Communist Party also launched specialized propaganda campaigns to counter support for “Tibetan independence” and undermine popular support for the Dalai Lama. The PRC’s continuing campaign against organized crime also targeted supporters of the Dalai Lama, who were considered by police to be members of a criminal organization. In August Politburo Standing Committee member Wang Yang and TAR Communist Party secretary Wu Yingjie publicly urged everyone to follow Xi Jinping and avoid the Dalai Lama “clique” and separatist forces.

A re-education program called “Unity and Love for the Motherland” continued to expand. Participants in the program received state subsidies and incentives for demonstrating support for and knowledge of CCP leaders and ideology, often requiring them to memorize party slogans and quotations from past CCP leaders and to sing the national anthem. These tests were carried out in Mandarin. In June Reuters reported observing a broadening of China’s political education campaign among lay individuals and religious figures in the TAR. The report included monks indicating that President Xi was their “spiritual leader.” Reuters also reported that Tibet’s College of Buddhism began focusing on political and cultural education aligned with CCP teaching.

Freedom of Expression for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media: Authorities tightly controlled journalists who worked for the domestic press and could hire and fire them based on assessments of their political reliability. CCP propaganda authorities were in charge of journalist accreditation in the TAR and required journalists working there to display “loyalty to the party and motherland.” The deputy head of the TAR Propaganda Department simultaneously held a prominent position in the TAR Journalist Association, a state-controlled professional association to which local journalists must belong.

Throughout the year, the TAR implemented its “Regulations on Establishing a Model Area for Ethnic Unity and Progress,” which mandated media organizations to cooperate with ethnic unity propaganda work and criminalized speech or spreading information “damaging to ethnic unity.”

In June TAR party secretary Wu Yingjie held a special region-wide mobilization conference on propaganda and political ideological topics; some journalists and media workers in the region reported they had officially promised to implement the CCP’s line and resolutely fight separatism and “reactionary press and media” overseas.

Foreign journalists may visit the TAR only after obtaining a special travel permit from the government, and authorities rarely granted such permission. When authorities permitted journalists to travel to the TAR, the government severely limited the scope of reporting by monitoring and controlling their movements and intimidating and preventing Tibetans from interacting with them.

Violence and Harassment: PRC authorities arrested and sentenced many Tibetan writers, intellectuals, and singers for “inciting separatism.” Numerous prominent Tibetan political writers, including Jangtse Donkho, Kelsang Jinpa, Buddha (no last name), Tashi Rabten, Arik Dolma Kyab, Gangkye Drupa Kyab, and Shojkhang (also known as Druklo), reported security officers closely monitored them following their releases from prison between 2013 and 2021 and often ordered them to return to police stations for further interrogation, particularly after they received messages or calls from friends overseas or from foreigners in other parts of the PRC. Some of these persons deleted their social media contacts or shut down their accounts completely.

RFA reported in April that six influential Tibetan writers, monks, and cultural figures were arrested in Sichuan. Four of the individuals, Gangkye Drubpa Kyab, Sey Nam, Gangbu Yudrum, and Gang Tsering Dolma, were named in the RFA report, but two of the individuals remained unknown.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Authorities prohibited domestic journalists from reporting on repression in Tibetan areas. Authorities promptly censored the postings of bloggers and users of WeChat who did so, and the authors sometimes faced punishment. Authorities banned some writers from publishing; prohibited them from receiving services and benefits, such as government jobs, bank loans, and passports; and denied them membership in formal organizations.

The TAR Internet and Information Office maintained tight control of a full range of social media platforms.

The PRC continued to disrupt radio broadcasts of RFA’s Tibetan- and Mandarin-language services in Tibetan areas, as well as those of the Voice of Tibet, an independent radio station based in Norway.

In addition to maintaining strict censorship of print and online content in Tibetan areas, PRC authorities sought to censor the expression of views or distribution of information related to Tibet in countries and regions outside mainland China.

In March, police in the TAR city of Shigatse seized and destroyed “illegal publications” as well as illegal equipment for satellite signal reception.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Tibetans do not enjoy the rights to assemble peacefully or to associate freely.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

Even in areas officially designated as “autonomous,” Tibetans generally lacked the right to organize. Persons who organized public events for any purpose not endorsed by authorities faced harassment, arrest, prosecution, and violence. Unauthorized assemblies were frequently broken up by force. Any assembly deemed by authorities as a challenge to the PRC or its policies, for example, to advocate for Tibetan language rights, to mark religious holidays, or to protect the area’s unique natural environment, provoked a particularly strong response both directly against the assembled persons and in authorities’ public condemnation of the assembly. Authorities acted preemptively to forestall unauthorized assemblies.

Freedom of Association

In accordance with PRC law, only civil society organizations approved by the CCP and essentially directed by it are legal. Policies noted above designed to bring monasteries under CCP control are one example of this policy. Persons attempting to organize any sort of independent association were subject to harassment, arrest on a wide range of charges, or violent suppression.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement and the Right to Leave the Country

PRC law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation; however, the government severely restricted travel and freedom of movement for Tibetans, particularly Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns as well as lay persons whom the government considered to have “poor political records.”

In-country Movement: The outbreak of COVID-19 led to countrywide restrictions on travel, which affected movement in the TAR and other Tibetan areas. During the year, the TAR and other Tibetan areas were often in “closed-management,” which restricted Tibetans’ in-country movement. This also meant all major sites, including monasteries and cultural sites, were closed.

People’s Armed Police and local public security bureaus have for years set up roadblocks and checkpoints in Tibetan areas on major roads, in cities, and on the outskirts of cities and monasteries, particularly around sensitive dates. These roadblocks restricted and controlled access for Tibetans and foreigners to sensitive areas. Tibetans traveling in monastic attire were subjected to extra scrutiny by police at roadside checkpoints and at airports. Tibetans without local residency were turned away from many Tibetan areas deemed sensitive by the government.

Authorities sometimes banned Tibetans, particularly monks and nuns, from leaving the TAR or traveling to it without first obtaining special permission from multiple government offices. Some Tibetans reported encountering difficulties obtaining the required permissions. Such restrictions made it difficult for Tibetans to practice their religion, visit family, conduct business, or travel for leisure. Tibetans from outside the TAR who traveled to Lhasa also reported that authorities there required them to surrender their national identification cards and notify authorities of their plans in detail on a daily basis. These requirements were not applied to Han Chinese visitors to the TAR.

Outside the TAR, many Tibetan monks and nuns reported travel for religious or educational purposes beyond their home monasteries remained difficult; officials frequently denied them permission to stay at a monastery for religious education.

Foreign Travel: Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic which prompted authorities to limit the issuance of passports, Tibetans faced significant hurdles in acquiring passports. For Buddhist monks and nuns it was virtually impossible. Sources reported that Tibetans and members of certain other ethnic minority groups had to provide far more extensive documentation than other citizens when applying for a PRC passport. For Tibetans the passport application process sometimes required years and frequently ended in rejection. Authorities’ unwillingness to issue new or renew old passports in effect created a ban on foreign travel for the Tibetan population.

Some Tibetans reported they were able to obtain passports only after paying substantial bribes and offering written promises to undertake only apolitical or nonsensitive international travel. Many Tibetans with passports were concerned authorities would place them on the government’s blacklist and therefore did not travel abroad.

Tibetans encountered particular obstacles in traveling to India for religious, educational, and other purposes. Tibetans who had traveled to Nepal and planned to continue to India reported that PRC officials visited their family homes and threatened their relatives in Tibet if they did not return immediately. Sources reported that extrajudicial punishments included blacklisting family members, which could lead to loss of a government job or difficulty in finding employment; expulsion of children from the public education system; and revocation of national identification cards, thereby preventing access to social services such as health care. The government restricted the movement of Tibetans through increased border controls before and during sensitive anniversaries and events.

Government regulations on the travel of international visitors to the TAR were uniquely strict in the PRC. The government required all international visitors to apply for a Tibet travel permit to visit the TAR and regularly denied requests by international journalists, diplomats, and other officials for official travel. Approval for tourist travel to the TAR was easier to secure but was often restricted around sensitive dates. PRC security forces used conspicuous monitoring to intimidate foreign officials and followed them at all times, preventing them from meeting or speaking with local contacts, harassing them, and restricting their movement in these areas.

Exile: Among Tibetans living outside of China are the 14th Dalai Lama and several other senior religious leaders. The PRC denied these leaders the right to return to Tibet or imposed unacceptable conditions on their return.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

According to law, Tibetans, like other Chinese citizens, have the right to vote in some local elections. The PRC government, however, severely restricted its citizens’ ability to participate in any meaningful elections. Citizens could not freely choose the officials who governed them, and the CCP continued to control appointments to positions of political power.

The TAR and many Tibetan areas strictly implemented the Regulation for Village Committee Management, which stipulates that the primary condition for participating in any local election is the “willingness to resolutely fight against separatism”; in many cases this condition was interpreted to require candidates to be CCP members and denounce the Dalai Lama.

Recent Elections: Not applicable.

Political Parties and Political Participation: TAR authorities have banned traditional tribal leaders from running their villages and often warned those leaders not to interfere in village affairs. The top CCP position of TAR party secretary continued to be held by a Han Chinese, as were the corresponding positions in the vast majority of all TAR counties. Within the TAR, Han Chinese persons also continued to hold a disproportionate number of the top security, military, financial, economic, legal, judicial, and educational positions. The law requires CCP secretaries and governors of ethnic minority autonomous prefectures and regions to be from that ethnic minority; nonetheless, party secretaries were Han Chinese in eight of the nine autonomous prefectures in Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Yunnan Provinces. One autonomous prefecture in Qinghai had an ethnic Tibetan party secretary.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: There were no formal restrictions on women’s participation in the political system, and women held many lower-level government positions. Nevertheless, women were underrepresented at the provincial and prefectural levels of party and government.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

PRC law provides criminal penalties for corrupt acts by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively in Tibetan areas, and high-ranking officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were numerous reports of government corruption in Tibetan areas; some low-ranked officials were punished.

Corruption: Local sources said investigations into corruption in the TAR and autonomous prefectures were rare.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Some domestic human rights groups and NGOs were able to operate in Tibetan areas, although under substantial government restrictions. Their ability to investigate impartially and publish their findings on human rights cases was limited. PRC law on the activities of overseas NGOs limits the number of local NGOs able to receive foreign funding and the ability of international NGOs to assist Tibetan communities. Foreign NGOs reported being unable to find local partners willing to work with them. There were no known international NGOs operating in the TAR. PRC government officials were not cooperative or responsive to the views of Tibetan or foreign human rights groups.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: See section 6, Women, in the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2021 for China.

Sexual Harassment: See section 6, Women, in the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2021 for China.

Reproductive Rights: See section 6, Women, in the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2021 for China.

Discrimination: See section 6, Women, in the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2021 for China.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

Although observers believe that ethnic Tibetans made up the great majority of the TAR’s permanent, registered population – especially in rural areas – there were no accurate data reflecting the large number of long-, medium-, and short-term Han Chinese migrants, such as officials, skilled and unskilled laborers, military and paramilitary troops, and their dependents, in the region.

Observers continued to express concern that major development projects and other central government policies disproportionately benefited non-Tibetans and contributed to the considerable influx of Han Chinese into the TAR and other Tibetan areas. Large state-owned enterprises based outside the TAR engineered or built many major infrastructure projects across the Tibetan plateau; Han Chinese professionals and low-wage temporary migrant workers from other provinces, rather than local residents, generally managed and staffed the projects.

Economic and social exclusion was a major source of discontent among a varied cross section of Tibetans.

Government propaganda against alleged Tibetan “proindependence forces” contributed to Chinese social discrimination against ordinary Tibetans. Many Tibetan monks and nuns chose to wear nonreligious clothing to avoid harassment when traveling outside their monasteries. Some Tibetans reported that taxi drivers outside Tibetan areas refused to stop for them, hotels refused to provide lodging, and Han Chinese landlords refused to rent to them.

There were reports in prior years that some employers specifically barred Tibetans and other minority-group members from applying for job openings. There were, however, no media reports of this type of discrimination.

Children

Birth Registration: See section 6, Children, in the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2021 for China.

Education: The PRC’s nationwide “centralized education” policy was in place in most rural areas. To ensure its success, the policy forced the closure of many village schools, even at the elementary level; and of monastic schools or other Tibetan-run schools. Students from closed schools were transferred to boarding schools in towns and cities. There were multiple reports of parents reluctant to send their children away from home being intimidated and threatened.

The Tibet Action Institute issued a report in December that detailed the significant changes in PRC Sinicization policies in the TAR and other Tibetan-inhabited areas made to the education of Tibetan children. The report cited PRC statistics that showed approximately 800,000 Tibetan children (nearly 78 percent of Tibetan students ages 6 to 18) attending state-run boarding schools. An unknown but increasing number of 4- and 5-year-old children were also enrolled in boarding schools. Ethnic Chinese children, even in rural areas, attend boarding schools at far lower rates.

The report contends that these boarding schools and other PRC Sinicization efforts are “part of a deliberate effort by the state to eliminate the core of Tibetan identity and replace it with a hollowed-out version compatible with the Party’s aims.” Among the features that promote this outcome: instruction is almost entirely in Mandarin Chinese; there is no provision for religious or cultural activities; and the highly politicized curriculum emphasizes Chinese identity. These and other aspects of education policy led many Tibetan parents to express deep concern about growing “ideological and political education” that was critical of the “old Tibet,” and taught Tibetan children to improve their “Chinese identity” beginning at the preschool level.

Media reports also highlighted discrimination within government boarding-school programs. Tibetans attending government-run boarding schools in eastern China reported studying and living in ethnically segregated classrooms and dormitories justified as necessary security measures, although the government claimed cultural integration was one purpose of these programs.

Authorities enforced regulations limiting traditional monastic education to monks older than 18. Instruction in Tibetan, while provided for by PRC law, was often inadequate or unavailable at schools in Tibetan areas. FreeTibet.net reported in November that Qinghai authorities expelled 80 monks from their monasteries. The report indicated that PRC authorities claimed the monks were younger than 18.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: See section 6, Children, in the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2021 for China.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: See section 6, Children, in the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2021 for China.

International Child Abductions: See section 6, Children, in the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2021 for China.

Anti-Semitism

See section 6, Anti-Semitism, in the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2021 for China.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report.

Persons with Disabilities

See section 6, Persons with Disabilities, in the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2021 for China.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

See section 6, Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, in the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2021 for China.

Section 7. Worker Rights

See section 7, Worker Rights, in the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2021 for China.

Timor-Leste

Executive Summary

Timor-Leste is a multiparty, parliamentary republic. After May 2018 parliamentary elections, which were free, fair, and peaceful, Taur Matan Ruak became prime minister, leading a three-party coalition government. The 2017 presidential and parliamentary elections were also free and fair. In contrast with previous years, these elections were conducted without extensive assistance from the international community.

The national police maintain internal security. The military is responsible for external security but also has some domestic security responsibilities. The national police report to the Ministry of Interior, and the military reports to the Ministry of Defense. The prime minister served concurrently as the minister of interior. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: government corruption; lack of investigation and accountability for violence against women; trafficking in persons; and the worst forms of child labor.

The government took some steps to prosecute members and officials of the security services who used excessive force but avoided conducting corruption (and labor law) investigations of politicians, government members, and leaders of the country’s independence struggle. Public perceptions of impunity persisted.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. In June a police officer was arrested for the May shooting deaths of two civilians and injury to one person. The case involved a personal dispute between the officer’s family members and one of the victims. The officer remained in detention awaiting trial as of November.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The law prohibits such practices and limits the situations in which police officers may resort to physical force and the use of firearms. During the year there were multiple reports of the use of excessive force by security forces. Most complaints involved mistreatment or use of excessive force during incident response or arrest. Conduct of off-duty police officers was also a problem.

In May two police officers in Dili municipality allegedly assaulted a local street vendor while they were providing security at a municipality checkpoint. The case was under investigation.

There was widespread condemnation of a national police (PNTL) officer captured on a video widely viewed on social media in which the officer instructed two sanitation workers to slap each other for violating the COVID-19-related travel limitations into and out of Dili municipality. The case was under investigation.

In December the PNTL dismissed an officer who, in a May 2020 incident, allegedly shot a pedestrian when the pedestrian yelled at the automobile he was riding in for driving aggressively.

An investigation into members of the police task force unit and public order battalion following a 2019 incident in the city of Baucau was closed and the members permitted to return to service. Community members alleged the unit responded with excessive force to an incident during the National Sport Festival. Baucau police claimed the victim of the incident was drunk and created a disturbance outside the stadium.

Citizens reported obstacles to reporting complaints about police behavior, including repeated requests to return later or to submit their complaints in writing. There was a widespread belief that members of the security forces enjoyed substantial impunity for illegal or abusive actions and that reporting abuse would lead to retaliation rather than positive change. Social media users shared photographs of injuries from alleged encounters with police. Prolonged investigations, delays in bringing cases to trial, and critical editorials from watchdog nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) also contributed to this perception.

Various bilateral and multilateral partners continued efforts to strengthen the development of the police, including work to improve disciplinary and accountability mechanisms within the PNTL. The Ombudsman’s Office for Human Rights and Justice (PDHJ) and the UN Human Rights Adviser’s Unit provided human rights training to both the PNTL and the military.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions generally did not meet international standards.

Physical Conditions: The prison in Dili (Becora), the country’s largest, was grossly overcrowded. It had an estimated capacity of 290 inmates, but in October it held 517 adult and juvenile male and female convicts and pretrial detainees. Separate blocks housed juvenile and adult prisoners, and pretrial detainees were held separately from convicts.

Gleno Prison held adult male and female convicts and pretrial detainees, all in separate blocks. Conditions were the same for male and female prisoners, who shared recreation areas. Housing blocks separated nonviolent offenders from violent offenders. Prisoners with mental disabilities had access to a psychiatrist, who visited once a week.

Authorities provided food three times daily in prisons and detention centers. While authorities provided water in prisons, it was not always available in detention centers, and Gleno Prison experienced seasonal water shortages.

Medical care was inadequate. A doctor and a nurse staffed a clinic at Becora Prison five days per week and a psychiatrist visited once per week. A doctor visited Gleno Prison twice per week. For urgent cases and more advanced care, authorities took inmates to local hospitals in Gleno or Dili. Prisoners who tested positive for tuberculosis shared cells with tuberculosis-negative prisoners. Access to clean toilets was generally sufficient, although without significant privacy. The PDHJ assessed ventilation and lighting as adequate in prisons but not in detention centers. Prisoners were able to exercise for two hours daily.

According to human rights monitoring organizations, police station detention cells generally did not comply with international standards and lacked sanitation facilities and bedding, although police were making efforts to improve them.

Administration: Prisoners and detainees could submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and request investigation of credible allegations of problematic conditions. The PDHJ oversees prison conditions and prisoner welfare. It monitored inmates and reported the government was generally responsive to recommendations. Nonetheless, some human rights monitoring organizations questioned how widely known the complaint mechanism was and whether prisoners felt empowered to utilize it.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted prison visits by the PDHJ, foreign governments, international organizations, local NGOs, and independent human rights observers.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these prohibitions.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

The law requires judicial warrants prior to arrests or searches, except in exceptional circumstances or in cases of flagrante delicto.

The law requires a hearing within 72 hours of arrest. During these hearings, the judge may determine whether the suspect should be released because conditions for pretrial detention had not been met, released conditionally (usually after posting some form of collateralized bail or on condition that the suspect report regularly to police), or whether the case should be dismissed due to lack of evidence. Backlogs continued to decrease during the year, particularly in courts outside of Dili, due to changes in the incentive structure for prosecutors and a policy requiring prosecutors to handle more cases. Justice-sector monitoring organizations reported the system adhered much more closely to the 72-hour timeline than in past years.

Time in pretrial detention may be deducted from a final sentence, but there is no remedy to compensate for pretrial detention in cases that do not result in conviction.

The law provides for access to legal representation at all stages of the proceedings, and provisions exist for providing public defenders for all defendants at no cost (see section 1.e.). Due to a lack of human resources and transportation, however, public defenders were not always able to attend to their clients and sometimes met clients for the first time during their first court hearing.

Pretrial Detention: The law specifies that a person may be held in pretrial detention for up to one year without presentation of an indictment, two years without a first-instance conviction, or three years without a final conviction on appeal. If any of these deadlines are not met, the detained person may file a claim for release. Exceptionally complex cases can also provide justification for the extension of each of those limits by up to six months with permission of a judge. In many cases the length of pretrial detention equaled or exceeded the length of the sentence upon conviction. Pretrial detainees composed approximately 20 percent of the total prison population.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: While persons arrested or detained may challenge the legal basis of their detention and obtain prompt release, justice-sector monitoring organizations reported such challenges rarely occurred, likely due to limited knowledge of the provision allowing such challenges.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides that judges shall perform their duties “independently and impartially without improper influence” and requires public prosecutors to discharge their duties impartially. Many legal-sector observers expressed concern about the independence of some judicial organs in politically sensitive cases, a severe shortage of qualified personnel, and the complex legal regime influenced by legacies of Portuguese, Indonesian, and UN administration and various other international norms. An additional problem is that all laws and many trial proceedings and court documents are in Portuguese, a language spoken by approximately 10 percent of the population. Nonetheless, observers noted that citizens generally enjoyed a fair, although not always expeditious, trial and that the judiciary was largely independent.

Administrative failings involving the judge, prosecution, or defense led to prolonged delays in trials. Moreover, the law requires at least one international judge on a panel in cases involving human rights abuses committed during the Indonesian occupation of the country. There had been no new such cases since 2014; in addition, cases opened before 2014 were left pending indefinitely with no timeline for coming to trial.

There were 35 judges and 36 prosecutors in the country as of October. The government and judicial monitoring organizations cited human resource problems as a major problem in the justice system.

Trial Procedures

The law provides for the right to a fair, timely, and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right, although trials were subject to long delays. Under the criminal procedure code, defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence, access to a lawyer, and rights against self-incrimination; to be informed promptly of charges; and to be present at their trial. Trials are held before judges or judicial panels; juries are not used. Defendants may confront hostile witnesses and present other witnesses and evidence and may not be compelled to testify. Defendants have a right of appeal to higher courts. The government provides interpretation as necessary into local languages. Observers noted the courts made progress in providing interpretation services during court proceedings, and all courts had at least one interpreter.

Justice-sector NGOs expressed concern that judges did not provide clear information or take the time to explain and read their decisions. Observers also claimed that in many cases judges did not follow the law that provides protections for witnesses. Additionally, the country has no juvenile-justice legislation, leaving many juveniles in the justice system without protections.

The constitution contemplates a Supreme Court, but one has never been established due to staffing and resource limits. The court of appeals carried out Supreme Court functions in the interim.

Mobile courts based in the municipalities of Dili, Baucau, Covalima, and Oecusse operated in areas that did not have a permanent court. These courts processed only pretrial proceedings and primarily handled cases of domestic and gender-based violence.

For “semipublic” crimes, where the process does not begin unless a victim files a complaint, some citizens utilized traditional (customary) systems of justice that did not necessarily follow due-process standards or provide witness protection but provided convenient and speedy reconciliation proceedings with which the population was comfortable.

The Public Defender’s Office, concentrated in Dili, was too small to meet the need, and many defendants relied on lawyers provided by legal aid organizations. Several defendants who were assigned public defenders reported they never saw their lawyers, and some justice-sector NGOs noted that public defenders were confused about their duties to the client versus the state and that few viewed their role as client advocates. Public defenders did not have access to transportation to visit clients in detention, so at times they met their clients for the first time in court.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

As there is no separate civil judicial system in the country, civil litigation experienced the same problems encountered in the criminal justice system. No regional human rights body has jurisdiction in the country.

Property Seizure and Restitution

Community concerns regarding evictions and inadequate compensation for government expropriation of land continued during the year.

f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The law prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence, and the government generally enforced this law.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press and a functioning democratic political system promoted freedom of expression, including for the press.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

There were few government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events, although the National Language Institute must approve academic research on Tetum and other indigenous languages and regularly did so.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement and the Right to Leave the Country

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations on issues related to the provision of protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, and other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for granting asylum or refugee status; however, the system does not align with international standards. There were concerns that regulations governing asylum and refugee status may preclude genuine refugees from proving their eligibility for such status. For example, persons who wish to apply for asylum have only 72 hours to do so after entering the country. Foreign nationals already present in the country have only 72 hours to initiate the process after the situation in their home country becomes too dangerous for a safe return.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Electoral management bodies administered an early parliamentary election in May 2018. International observers assessed it as free and fair. President Lu-Olo swore in Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak in June 2018. International observers similarly assessed national presidential and parliamentary elections in 2017 as free and fair, with only minor, nonsystemic irregularities.

Political Parties and Political Participation: To register, new political parties must obtain 20,000 signatures, which must also include at least 1,000 signatures from each of the 13 municipalities.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of historically marginalized or minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Electoral laws require that at least one-third of candidates on party lists be women. Following the 2018 parliamentary elections, women held 26 of the 65 seats in parliament but only eight of 46 ministerial, vice-ministerial, and secretary of state positions in the new government. Of 20 ministers, only the minister of social solidarity and inclusion (concurrently a deputy prime minister), the minister of foreign affairs and cooperation, and the minister of health were women. At the local level, at least three women must serve on all village councils, which generally include 10 to 20 representatives depending on village size. In 2016 local elections, the number of female village chiefs increased from 11 to 21 of the 452 nationwide chief positions. Traditional attitudes, limited political networks among women, high rates of domestic violence, extensive child-care responsibilities, and other barriers constrained greater participation of women at the local and national levels.

The country’s few ethnic and religious minority groups were well integrated into the political system; however, Muslim leaders reported discrimination against Muslims in hiring for civil service positions. The number of ethnic minority members of parliament and in other government positions was uncertain, since self-identification of ethnicity was not a common practice.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The penal code provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials. The government faced many problems in implementing the law, and the perception that officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity was widespread. The anticorruption commission (CAC) is charged with leading national anticorruption activities and has the authority to refer cases for prosecution; however, the CAC and the Prosecutor’s Office did not routinely cooperate with each other on investigations. Although the CAC is independent, the government controls its budget, making it vulnerable to political pressure. Institutions with the power and the competence to address corruption avoided investigations of politicians, government members, and leaders and veterans of the country’s independence struggle. The government undertook surprise inspections of government-run programs and increased pressure to implement asset-management and transparency systems.

Corruption: During the year the CAC continued investigations into corruption cases; however, there were no corruption-related convictions or sentences. Trials for corruption-related crimes took place during the year. In July the CAC submitted its initial report to the Office of the Prosecutor General regarding alleged irregularities in the minister of transport and communications’ role in the contracting process for a local ferry.

There were accusations of police, including border police, involvement in corruption, most commonly bribery and abuse of power. Allegations of nepotism in government hiring were common. The government launched a new customs trade portal aimed at reducing corruption, increasing transparency, and improving customs services. The government also launched a customs hotline for the public to report irregular activities.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A wide variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials usually cooperated with these organizations, although the government did not always respond to their recommendations.

Government Human Rights Bodies: By law the independent PDHJ is responsible for the promotion of human rights and good governance and has its own budget and dedicated staff. It has the power to investigate and monitor human rights abuses and governance standards as well as make recommendations, including for prosecution, to relevant authorities. The PDHJ has satellite offices in Manufahi, Bobonaro, Oecusse, and Baucau municipalities. During the year the office received complaints related to COVID-19 emergency measures and investigated 53 human rights violations allegedly committed by the military, police, teachers, or public servants. There were no reports of significant government interference. The PDHJ, in cooperation with the UN Human Rights Adviser’s Unit, provided human rights training to the PNTL and the military.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of women and men, including marital rape, is a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The law broadly covers all forms of domestic violence. Penalties for “mistreatment of a spouse” include two to six years’ imprisonment; however, prosecutors frequently used a different article in domestic violence cases (“simple offenses against physical integrity”), which carries a sentence of up to three years in prison.

Failures to investigate or prosecute cases of alleged rape and sexual abuse were common. The PNTL’s vulnerable persons units were generally responsible for handling of domestic violence and sexual crimes but did not have enough staff to provide a significant presence in all areas.

Nevertheless, the formal justice system addressed an increasing number of reported domestic and sexual abuse cases. According to the Office of the Prosecutor General, domestic violence offenses were the second-most charged crimes in the criminal justice system, after simple assault. Prosecutors, however, routinely charged cases involving aggravated injury and use of deadly weapons as low-level simple assaults. Judicial observers also noted judges were lenient in sentencing in domestic violence cases. Several NGOs criticized the failure to issue protection orders and overreliance on suspended sentences, even in cases involving significant bodily harm.

Police, prosecutors, and judges routinely ignored many parts of the law that protect victims. NGOs noted that fines paid to the court in domestic violence cases often came from shared family resources, hurting the victim economically.

Gender-based violence remained a serious concern. In 2016 an Asia Foundation study (latest data available) found that 59 percent of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 had experienced sexual or physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner and that 14 percent of girls and women had been raped by someone other than a partner. In this context, local NGOs viewed the law requiring that domestic violence cases be reported to the police and handled in the formal judicial system as having a positive effect by encouraging victims of domestic violence to report their cases.

The Ministry of Social Solidarity and Inclusion is charged with assisting victims of domestic violence. Due to staff shortages, the ministry had difficulty responding to all cases. To deal with this problem, the ministry worked closely with local NGOs and service providers to help. Local NGOs operated shelters; however, demand for these services exceeded capacity. Local and international civil society collaborated with government to educate the public and train police and the military about combatting gender-based violence.

Sexual Harassment: The labor code prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace. No complaints were filed during the year, but workplace and public harassment reportedly was widespread (see section 7.d.).

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. Cultural and religious considerations sometimes limited access to sexual and reproductive health services. Some unmarried girls and women younger than age 20, for example, were denied reproductive health services due to service provider beliefs. In some health facilities, service providers occasionally contravened policy and required a husband’s permission before providing reproductive health services.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence; such services did not include emergency contraception.

In the World Health Organization 2021 World Health Statistics Report, the maternal mortality ratio was estimated at 142 deaths per 100,000 live births. Access to maternal health services was a problem in rural areas. The 2016 Timor-Leste Demographic and Health Survey (the most recent available) reported 77 percent of mothers received prenatal care from a medical professional, but only 35 percent of mothers received postpartum care; 57 percent of births were attended by a skilled health professional.

Discrimination: The constitution states, “Women and men shall have the same rights and duties in all areas of family life and political, economic, social, cultural life,” and prohibits discrimination based on gender. Some customary practices discriminate against women, including traditional inheritance systems that tend to exclude women from land ownership.

Some communities continued to practice the payment of a bride price as part of marriage agreements (barlake); this practice was linked to domestic violence and to the inability to leave an abusive relationship. Some communities also continued the practice of forcing a widow either to marry one of her husband’s family members or, if she and her husband did not have children together, to leave her husband’s home.

The secretary of state for equality and inclusion is responsible for the promotion of gender equality. This includes implementation of National Plan of Action against Gender-Based Violence (2017-2021) campaigns to combat domestic violence and to implement a gender-sensitive budget policy, among other responsibilities.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The constitution states that “no one shall be discriminated against on grounds of color, race, marital status, gender, ethnic origin, language, social or economic status, political or ideological convictions, religion, education and physical or mental condition.” The penal code establishes aggravating factors in determining penalties, including crimes motivated for racist reasons or other discriminatory sentiments, including due to ethnicity or nationality. The code also makes racial or religious discrimination criminal acts. Groups organized to incite or encourage discrimination based on race or religion face imprisonment of between four and 12 years. Those who through written or other social communication means seek to spread ideas with the intent to incite racial or religious discrimination or encourage or provoke violence against a person or group of persons based on race, color, ethnic origin, or religion may be punished with imprisonment from two to eight years. The government generally enforced these laws.

Children

Birth Registration: Children acquire citizenship by birth in the country or from a citizen parent or grandparent. A central civil registry lists a child’s name at birth and issues birth certificates. Birth registration rates were high, with no discernible difference in the rates of registration for girls and boys. While access to services such as schooling does not depend on birth registration, it is necessary to acquire a passport. Registration later in life requires only a reference from the village chief.

Children born to stateless parents born in the country acquire citizenship. Children born in the country to foreign parents may declare themselves Timorese once they are 17 or older.

Education: The constitution stipulates that primary education shall be compulsory and free according to the state’s ability. The law requires nine years of compulsory education beginning at age six; however, there is no system to ensure that the provision of education is free. Public schools were tuition free, but students paid for supplies and uniforms. According to 2018 government statistics, the net enrollment rate for primary education was 88 percent, while the net enrollment rate for secondary education was 35 percent. Nonenrollment was substantially higher in rural than in urban areas. While initial attendance rates for boys and girls were similar, girls often were forced to leave school if they became pregnant and faced difficulty in obtaining school documents or transferring schools. Lack of sanitation facilities at some schools also led some girls to drop out upon reaching puberty. Overall, women and girls had lower rates of education than men and boys.

Child Abuse: The law protects against child abuse; however, abuse in many forms was common. Sexual abuse of children remained a serious concern. Despite widespread reports of child abuse, few cases entered the judicial system. Observers criticized the courts for handing down shorter sentences than prescribed by law in numerous cases of sexual abuse of children. Incest between men and children in their immediate and extended family was a serious problem, and civil society organizations called for laws to criminalize it as a separate crime. Victims of incest faced a range of difficulties, such as limited information on the formal justice system, limited protection for the victims, threats and coercion from defendants, and social stigmatization from the family and community.

While the Ministry of Education has a zero-tolerance policy for corporal punishment, there is no law on the issue, and reports indicated the practice was common.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: Although a marriage cannot be registered until the younger spouse is at least age 16, cultural, religious, and civil marriages were recognized in the civil code. Cultural pressure to marry, especially if a girl or woman becomes pregnant, was strong. Underage couples cannot officially marry, but they are often married de facto once they have children together. Forced marriage rarely occurred, although reports indicated that social pressure sometimes encouraged victims of rape to marry their attacker or forced persons to enter an arranged marriage when a bride price was paid. According to the most recent information from UNICEF (2017), an estimated 19 percent of girls married prior to the age of 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Sexual assault against children was a significant but largely unaddressed problem. The age of consent is 14. The penal code, however, makes sexual conduct by an adult with anyone younger than 17 a crime if the adult takes “advantage of the inexperience” of the younger person, and it increases penalties when such conduct involves victims younger than 14. Some commercial sexual exploitation of children occurred. The penal code makes both child commercial sex and child pornography crimes. It defines a “child” for purposes of those provisions as a “minor less than 18 years of age.” The penal code also criminalizes abduction of a minor.

There were reports that child victims of sexual abuse were sometimes forced to testify in public despite a witness protection law that provides for video-link or other secure testimony.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

There was no indigenous Jewish population, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution grants equal rights to and prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in addition to requiring the state to protect them. No specific legislation addresses the rights of persons with disabilities. The law provides for financial subsidies to the elderly and persons with disabilities.

The Ministry of Social Solidarity and Inclusion is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. The Ministry of Health is responsible for treating mental disabilities. In many municipalities, children with disabilities were unable to attend school due to accessibility problems. Schools lacked wheelchair access and other infrastructure for inclusive education, according to a national disabilities NGO.

In October the government approved the National Action Plan (2021-2030) for persons with disabilities. Increasing vocational training opportunities and access as well as making health facilities accessible for persons with disabilities were among the priorities.

Electoral regulations provide for accommodations, including personal assistance, to enable persons with disabilities to vote. Civil society election monitors and the National Election Commission identified inconsistencies in the accessibility of polling places and accommodations for voters with disabilities in the 2018 parliamentary elections.

Service providers noted domestic violence and sexual assault against persons with disabilities was a growing concern. They indicated the police and judiciary were slow to respond to such incidents.

Persons with mental disabilities accused of crimes are entitled by law to special protections.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

According to civil society organizations, HIV and AIDS patients experienced social stigma and were, as a rule, ostracized by their families and communities. The national HIV/AIDS commission provided training to medical staff on fair and humane treatment for HIV/AIDS patients, with the goal of reducing discrimination patients encountered at hospitals and medical centers.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The constitution is silent on consensual same-sex sexual conduct and other matters of sexual orientation and gender identity. The penal code establishes discrimination due to sex or sexual orientation as aggravating factors in determining criminal penalties. While physical abuse in public or by public authorities was uncommon, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons were often verbally abused in public and discriminated against in some public services, including at medical centers. The NGO CODIVA (Coalition on Diversity and Action) noted transgender members of the community were particularly vulnerable to harassment and discrimination. A 2017 study conducted for Rede Feto, the national women’s advocacy network, of lesbian and bisexual women and transgender men in Dili and Bobonaro documented the use by family members of rape, physical and psychological abuse, ostracism, discrimination, and marginalization against LGBTQI+ individuals.

Access to education was limited for some LGBTQI+ persons who were removed from the family home or who feared abuse at school. Transgender students were more likely to experience bullying and drop out of school at the secondary level. Civil society organizations asked the government to include LGBTQI+ community issues in its national inclusive-education policy. CODIVA conducted LGBTQI+ awareness training sessions for national police officers throughout the country.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the rights of certain workers to form and join unions of their choosing, to strike, and to bargain collectively. The law prohibits dismissal or discrimination for union activity, and it allows for financial compensation in lieu of reinstatement. The law prohibits foreign migrant workers from participating in the leadership of trade unions but does not restrict their membership. The law does not apply to workers in family-owned agricultural or small-scale manufacturing businesses used primarily for subsistence. The law also does not apply to public-sector workers or domestic workers.

There are official registration and strike procedures for trade unions and employer organizations. Workers employed by companies or institutions that provide “indispensable social needs” such as pharmacies, hospitals, or telecommunications firms are not barred from striking, but they are “obliged to ensure the provision of minimal services deemed indispensable” to satisfy public needs during a strike. The law allows the Council of Ministers to suspend a strike if it affects public order. A majority of employees is needed to conduct a strike ballot, and an absolute majority of voters must support strike action. Strikes are limited to work issues. The law prohibits employer lockouts. The trade union confederation reported one strike during the year through December.

The State Secretariat for Vocational Training and Employment (employment secretariat) is charged with implementing the labor code and labor-dispute settlement. The government did not effectively enforce the law; resources were inadequate, and staff lacked training. According to the employment secretariat, the most common labor issues were terminations in which employers did not follow the procedures outlined in local labor law. The trade union confederation registered 139 complaints of alleged violations of labor rights between January and September. Many disputes involved employees who alleged dismissal without cause. Individual labor disputes, except over contract termination on grounds of just cause, are submitted to conciliation and mediation before any recourse to courts. Courts were backlogged, and judicial procedures involved significant delays.

Violations of the labor code are punishable by fines and other penalties, and they were not commensurate with those for analogous laws involving denial of civil rights.

The trade union confederation noted some companies led by veterans of the country’s independence struggle did not respect labor laws, believing their status would excuse any violations.

Workers’ organizations were generally independent and operated without interference from government or employers. Unions may draft their own constitutions and rules and elect their representatives. In part because most workers were employed in the informal sector, the workforce was largely nonunionized. Attempts to organize workers were slow, and workers generally lacked experience negotiating contracts and engaging in collective bargaining.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The penal code prohibits and criminalizes coercion, grave coercion, and slavery. The penal code also considers forced labor and deceptive hiring practices to be a form of human trafficking. The government did not effectively enforce the law in all sectors and did not convict any traffickers during the year. The law prescribes imprisonment, fines, judicial dissolution, and asset forfeiture as penalties, which were commensurate with those for analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping. The law also authorizes compensation of victims.

In June the government established the Commission to Combat Trafficking in Persons, composed of relevant ministries on human trafficking-related issues and a civil society representative. The commission held its first meeting in November.

Forced labor of adults and children occurred (see section 7.c.) but was not widespread. At times persons from rural areas who came to Dili in pursuit of better educational and employment prospects were subjected to domestic servitude. Family members placed children in bonded household and agricultural labor, primarily in rural areas, to pay off family debts.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law does not prohibit all the worst forms of child labor. The law prohibits child labor and specifically prohibits children younger than 15 from working, except in “light work” and in vocational training programs for children ages 13 to 15. The labor law prohibits children younger than 17 from all forms of hazardous work, an undefined term and an age limit that leaves 17-year-olds vulnerable to child labor and exploitation. The government generally did not enforce child labor laws outside the capital. The labor code does not apply to family-owned businesses operated for subsistence, the sector in which most children worked.

The Ministry of Social Solidarity and Inclusion, Secretariat of State for Professional Education and Employment, and PNTL are responsible for enforcing child-labor laws. A lack of child labor professionals at the employment secretariat hindered proper enforcement. The number of labor inspectors was inadequate to investigate child labor cases and enforce the law, particularly in rural areas where child labor in the agriculture sector was prevalent. Penalties for child labor and forced labor violations may include fines and imprisonment; these penalties were commensurate with those for analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

Child labor in the informal sector occurred, particularly in agriculture, street vending, and domestic service. Children in rural areas continued to engage in dangerous agricultural activities, such as cultivating and processing coffee in family-run businesses, using dangerous machinery and tools, carrying heavy loads, and applying harmful pesticides. In rural areas heavily indebted parents sometimes put their children to work as indentured servants to settle debts. If a girl was sent to work as an indentured servant to pay off her family’s debt, the receiving family could also demand a bride price payment. Children were also employed in fishing, with some working long hours, performing physically demanding tasks, and facing dangerous conditions.

There were some reports of commercial sexual exploitation of children (also see section 6, Children).

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination in employment or occupation since race, religion, national origin, color, sex, ethnicity, disability, age, HIV/AIDS status or refugee or stateless status; it does not specifically prohibit such discrimination based on sexual orientation. The law also mandates equal pay. The government did not effectively enforce the law’s provisions. Violations were referred for criminal proceedings, and penalties were commensurate to laws related to civil rights.

Employers may require workers to undergo medical testing, including HIV testing, only with the worker’s written consent. Work-visa applications require medical clearance.

Discrimination against women, including in hiring, reportedly was common throughout the government but sometimes went unaddressed. NGO workers noted this was largely due to lack of other employment opportunities and fear of retaliation among victims. Women also were disadvantaged in pursuing job opportunities due to cultural norms, stereotypes, and an overall lower level of qualifications or education. Some reported that pregnant women did not receive maternity leave and other protections guaranteed by the labor code. Persons with disabilities experienced discrimination in hiring and access to the workplace.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The legally set minimum monthly wage was above the official national poverty level.

The labor code provides for a standard workweek of 44 hours. Overtime cannot exceed 16 hours per week, except in emergencies, which the labor code defined as “force majeure or where such work is indispensable in order to prevent or repair serious damages for the company or for its feasibility.” Alleged violations included failure to provide maternity benefits and nonpayment of wages.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law sets appropriate minimum standards for worker health and safety. The law provides explicitly for the right of pregnant women and new mothers to adjust work responsibilities that might harm their health without a decrease in pay. It does not provide other workers the right to leave a hazardous workplace without threat of dismissal. The law requires equal treatment and remuneration for all workers, including legally employed foreign workers.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. The number of inspectors was insufficient to enforce compliance. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions and undertook more than 1,200 inspections. The labor code does not assign specific penalties or fines for violations of wage, hour, or occupational health and safety laws. These penalties were not commensurate for similar crimes, such as fraud and negligence. Labor unions criticized inspectors for visiting worksites infrequently and for discussing labor concerns only with managers during inspections.

According to a local union, the government lacked the political will and institutional capacity to implement and enforce the labor code fully, and violations of minimum safety and health standards were common, particularly in the construction industry. There were no major industrial accidents.

Informal Sector: The law, including legislation pertaining to minimum wage, hours, and hazardous work, does not apply to the informal sector. According to data from the Ministry of Finance, the informal sector employed 72 percent of the workforce. Domestic workers, a large percentage of the working population, especially of working women, were inadequately protected and particularly vulnerable to exploitative working conditions, with many receiving less than minimum wage for long hours of work.

Togo

Executive Summary

Togo is a republic governed by President Faure Gnassingbe, whom voters peacefully re-elected in February 2020 in a process that international observers characterized as generally free and fair. Opposition supporters alleged fraud but did not provide any credible evidence. The international community accepted the election results. The 2018 parliamentary elections also took place under peaceful conditions. The Economic Community of West African States considered those elections reasonably free and transparent, despite an opposition boycott.

The national police and gendarmerie are responsible for law enforcement and maintenance of order within the country. The gendarmerie is also responsible for migration and border enforcement. The National Intelligence Agency provides intelligence to police and gendarmes but does not have internal security or detention facility responsibilities. Police are under the direction of the Ministry of Security and Civil Protection, which reports to the prime minister. The gendarmerie falls under the Ministry of the Armed Forces but also reports to the Ministry of Security and Civil Protection on many matters involving law enforcement and internal security. The armed forces have some internal security duties and report also to the Ministry of the Armed Forces. Civilian authorities did not always maintain effective control over the armed forces, gendarmerie, and police, and government mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse were often not effective. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment by government or on behalf of government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners or detainees; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression and media including the existence of criminal libel laws; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence, including but not limited to domestic or intimate partner violence and child, early, and forced marriage; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons; existence or use of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults; and existence of the worst forms of child labor.

Corruption and impunity for abuses were problems. The government took limited steps to investigate, prosecute, or punish officials who committed abuses or corrupt acts.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. The Ministry of Security and Civil Protection announced investigations into several reports of killings by security forces in 2020, but the results of these investigations remained pending. For example, the April 2020 death of a Lome man after leaving his home during the COVID-19 curfew remained unresolved as of September.

On February 24, parents demanding justice for children killed during opposition protests in 2017 and 2018 launched the Collective of Victims’ Families in Togo, calling on the government to bring the perpetrators to justice. As of September, authorities had not announced any investigations into those deaths.

Government offices formally empowered to investigate security force killings include the Central Directorate of the Judicial Police (CDJP) and the Inspectorate of the Judicial Police. The Ministry of Security also investigates high-profile cases but rarely publishes the results. The Ministry of Justice recommends appropriate cases for prosecution to the Public Prosecutor’s Office. The National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) also investigates security force killings.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of the government.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The constitution and law prohibit such practices. There were multiple reports, however, that government officials employed cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.

Human rights organizations reported systemic physical mistreatment of uncharged detainees. The CNDH serves as the National Mechanism to Prevent Torture (NMPT), and human rights organizations invited the NMPT to engage more actively to prevent torture and abuse.

On December 29, 2020, gendarmes arrested Carlos Ketohou, publishing director of LIndependant Express, a private newspaper. He was held at the Central Intelligence and Criminal Investigation Service (SCRIC) until January 2. Human rights groups reported Ketohou suffered ill treatment and was denied clothing other than underwear. Security forces repeatedly interrogated him over the course of several hours with guns pointed at his face.

Authorities arrested Pan-African National Party Prefectural secretary Abdou-Moutawakilou Yakoubou in January 2020 on allegations of having participated in violent acts against gendarmes during the 2019 government raid on the “Tiger Revolution” group. Authorities granted him provisional freedom on health grounds in July, and he died on August 26 of a long-term illness. Human rights organizations reported he was subjected to torture and inhuman acts while in detention. The Committee for the Liberation of All Political Prisoners in Togo reported that five others arrested in early 2020 for participation in the Tiger Revolution group, Mourane Tairou, Alassani Issaka, Saibou Moussa, Seybou Alilou, and Djalilou Soulemane, died in prison in late 2020, and were also allegedly subjected to torture while in prison.

On October 20, the Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States condemned the government for torture and ill-treatment of a woman arrested during political demonstrations in 2017. The court ordered the government to pay $53,000 restitution to the woman. The woman filed a complaint with the court in 2018 after domestic courts refused to consider her petitions.

According to the Conduct in UN Field Missions online portal, there was one allegation submitted in October 2020 of sexual exploitation and abuse by a Togolese peacekeeper deployed to a UN peacekeeping mission. As of September, the United Nations had substantiated the allegation and repatriated the perpetrator, but the government had not disclosed the disciplinary or remedial measures taken.

Impunity was a problem in the security forces, including police, gendarmes, and the armed forces. The factors that contributed to impunity included politicization, lack of political will, corruption, and insufficient training. Human rights organizations reported they filed several complaints, but the government rarely investigated or punished those involved.

Offices tasked with investigating abuses include the CDJP, the Inspectorate of the Judicial Police, the Ministry of Security, the Ministry of Justice, the Public Prosecutors’ Office, and the CNDH.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions and detention center conditions remained harsh and potentially life threatening due to serious overcrowding, poor sanitation, disease, and insufficient and unhealthy food.

Physical Conditions: Overcrowding was a serious problem. As of August 30, there were 4,990 convicted prisoners and pretrial detainees (including 132 women) in 13 prisons and jails designed to hold 2,720 inmates. For example, the Lome civil prison was more than one-third above capacity with approximately 900 inmates held in a prison designed to hold 666. These crowded conditions facilitated the spread of COVID-19.

Nursing mothers with infants were generally held together with other detainees. In some cases, nursing mothers chose to have their babies placed in the care of a government-supported private nursery. In September the national penitentiary director claimed there were no nursing mothers in prison. Officials held pretrial detainees together with convicted prisoners.

As of September, the national penitentiary director confirmed there were 26 prison deaths from illnesses linked to overcrowding and malaria. The government reported no prisoners had died from COVID-19. Medical facilities, food, sanitation, ventilation, and lighting were inadequate. Prisoners did not have access to potable water, and disease was widespread.

Administration: Prisons lacked ombudsmen to assist in resolving the complaints of prisoners and detainees. Although authorities allowed prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and to request investigation of credible allegations of inhuman conditions, they rarely investigated complaints and, when they did, did not release their findings. The government rarely monitored and investigated allegations of inhuman prison and detention center conditions received from other sources.

Independent Monitoring: Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Justice accredited nongovernmental organization (NGO) representatives for prison visits. The government required international NGOs to negotiate an agreement to obtain access, and the International Committee of the Red Cross and other international human rights organizations had such agreements. Such NGOs were generally independent and acted without government interference. Nevertheless, some NGOs noted instances in which they had received authorization to conduct a visit but were denied access upon arrival, most often when visiting political prisoners alleging mistreatment by prison guards. Security forces monitored visits to the SCRIC predetention facility and did not allow NGO representatives and prisoners to speak in confidence. Authorities generally denied requests by journalists to visit prisons.

In April 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government suspended prison-monitoring visits by NGOs to limit the spread of the virus. This measure complicated independent monitoring of prison conditions significantly. Authorities, however, permitted some selective visits.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government did not always observe these requirements.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

The law authorizes judges, senior police officials, prefects, and mayors to issue arrest warrants. Detainees have the right to be informed of the charges against them, and police generally respected this right. The law provides for a suspect to be brought before a judicial officer within 72 hours of arrest. Although the law stipulates that a judge conduct a pretrial investigation to examine the adequacy of evidence and to decide on bail, authorities often held detainees without bail for lengthy periods regardless of a judge’s decision. Attorneys and family members have the right to see a detainee after 48 to 96 hours of detention, but authorities often delayed or denied access. All defendants have the right to an attorney, and the bar association sometimes provided attorneys for indigents charged with criminal offenses. The law gives indigent defendants the right to free legal representation, but the government provided only partial funding for counsel. Abuses of legal protections are supposedly subject to internal disciplinary investigations and criminal prosecution by the Ministry of Justice, but investigations and prosecutions seldom occurred.

Arbitrary Arrest: On November 4, authorities arrested Geneva-based government critic Jean-Paul Oumolou during a family visit. Authorities held Oumolou without charge for eight days, then charged him with incitement to revolt, contempt of authority, dissemination of false news, and “crime apology.” Oumolou fled the country during the 2018 antigovernment protests, when he called on citizens and the military to prevent President Faure Gnassingbe from seeking another term.

In November 2020 authorities arrested leading officials Gerard Djossou and Brigitte Kafui Adjamagbo-Johnson from Dynamique Monseigneur Kpodzro (DMK), the political group that supported opposition figure and February 2020 presidential election runner-up Agbeyome Kodjo. The public prosecutor claimed the government had evidence the DMK planned to destabilize the state but did not present it nor detain others. In December 2020 the investigative judge charged the two with conspiracy and undermining the internal security of the state and later that month released them from prison under judicial supervision. The government continued to monitor their movements, and the two needed permission to travel outside the country. Opposition members and human rights groups asserted the charges were politically motivated.

Pretrial Detention: Pretrial detainees and persons in preventive detention constituted 60 percent of the total prison population. A shortage of judges and other qualified personnel, as well as official inaction, often resulted in pretrial detention for periods exceeding the time detainees would have served if tried and convicted, in many cases by more than six months.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but the government did not always respect judicial independence and impartiality. The executive branch exerted control over the judiciary, and judicial corruption was sometimes a problem. A widespread public perception existed that lawyers bribed judges to influence the outcome of cases. The court system remained overburdened and understaffed.

Trial Procedures

The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, but executive influence on the judiciary limited this right. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, with free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. They have a right to a trial without undue delay, to be present at their trial, to communicate with an attorney of their choice or be provided with one at public expense if unable to pay, and to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Trials were open to the public and juries were used. Defendants have the right to confront prosecution witnesses and to present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants have the right not to testify or confess guilt. Those convicted have the right to appeal. Although authorities in many cases respected these rights, there were numerous exceptions, including long delays in trials and denial of access to attorneys.

In rural areas the village chief or a council of elders has authority to try minor criminal and civil cases. Those who reject traditional authority may take their cases to the regular court system.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

The Committee for the Liberation of All Political Prisoners in Togo stated there were more than 100 political prisoners or detainees. These persons did not receive the same protections given to other prisoners and detainees. Human rights and humanitarian organizations did not have access to them.

During a radio debate on April 27, Patriotic Democratic Front opposition leader and former communication minister Djimon Ore criticized France’s policies in Africa and said the acts the ruling Gnassingbe family committed exceeded the atrocities of the Rwandan genocide. On April 29, the Criminal Investigation Service arrested Ore at his home. The public prosecutor charged Ore with “attacking the honor, attempting aggravated disturbances of public order, and insulting representatives of the public authority.” He was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment on May 14. Various opposition leaders and civil society activists called for his release and declared his arrest was a violation of his freedom of expression. Ore remained in custody at year’s end.

On May 17, security forces detained Patriotic Movement for Democracy and Development party member Paul Missiagbeto for allegedly spreading fake news. Authorities reportedly held Missiagbeto for four days without charges at the SCRIC before transferring him to Lome Civil Prison 18 days after his arrest. On September 1, a court sentenced him to four years in prison for “threats, insults and disturbance of public order.” His legal counsel said the charges came from surveillance of his illegally acquired cell phone and violated constitutional protections.

The Association for Victims of Torture and the Mandela Awareness Movement highlighted 14 emblematic cases sent to the president in November 2020, calling for him to free political prisoners, particularly those arrested in the Tiger Revolution raid of 2019. In February the Committee for the Liberation of All Political Prisoners in Togo noted that Abdoul-Aziz Goma and 15 others were still in detention after their arrest in 2018, with two persons also still detained from a 2018 opposition protest, and 76 persons still in detention from the raid on the Tiger Revolution group.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

The constitution and law provide for civil and administrative remedies for human rights abuses, but the judiciary did not respect such provisions, and most citizens were unaware of them.

f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but there were reports such interference occurred.

On May 17, a dozen heavily armed gendarmes in civilian clothes reportedly broke into Djimon Ore’s home in western Lome and searched without a warrant. After conducting a search, they arrested Ore and returned to take photos (see section 1.e., Political Prisoners).

On July 21, international media cited the use by authorities of Israeli software program Pegasus to spy on activists, opponents, and journalists. The government reportedly spied on several persons, including journalists Carlos Ketohou and Ferdinand Ayite, as well as opposition figures and human rights activists (see section 1.e., Political Prisoners).

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

Although the constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, the government restricted these rights.

Freedom of Expression for Members of the Press and Other Media, including Online Media: The law imposes penalties on journalists deemed to have committed “serious errors,” such as privacy infringement; incitement of racial, ethnic, or religious hatred; apology for war crimes, sedition, or terrorism; and dissemination of defamatory statements.

Violence and Harassment: Authorities used harassment and intimidation to threaten journalist Carlos Ketohou (see section 1.c., Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment of Punishment).

Censorship or Content Restrictions: On October 11, the media regulatory body, the High Authority for Audiovisual and Communication (HAAC), suspended weekly newspaper The Guardian for four months and revoked the press card of its editor without notice. The HAAC suspension order accused the newspaper of inciting civil disobedience and violating the press code for its report on parental opposition to a school mandate ordering the vaccination of minors age 13.

Libel/Slander Laws: Libel and slander are criminal offenses. Human rights organizations reported the government used these laws to re