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

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

Several news outlets reported that national police officers committed unlawful killings in the shooting deaths of three miners during the course of August protests between the National Federation of Mining Cooperatives and police. The government’s decision to amend the Cooperatives Law to allow the unionization of subcontractors within the cooperative sparked the protests, which lasted from August 10 to August 26. Fermin Mamani, Severi Ichota, and Ruben Aparaya died of gunshot wounds during the protests, despite government claims that police used nonlethal bullets to quell the demonstrations. The Vice Minister of Interior, Rodolfo Illanes, was negotiating with the miners on behalf of the government when protesters captured, tortured, and eventually killed him. Authorities arrested 11 protest leaders in connection with the death of the vice minister. On October 6, the Ombudsman’s Office publicly stated that, under the authority of Minister of Government Carlos Romero, police used lethal ammunition against the miners. On October 27, Human Rights Ombudsman David Tezanos presented his office’s official findings to the State Prosecutor. Their investigations stated that “at least seven” police personnel used lethal firearms in the miner’s conflict. Two of the miners who were publicly implicated in the killing of Illanes called the findings of the Ombudsman’s office false.

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

The constitution prohibits all forms of torture, coercion, and physical and emotional violence. Despite these regulations there were credible reports that government officials employed them. Although no laws specifically prohibit torture, it is more generally covered under penal code provisions on respecting the right to physical integrity. The penal code carries only minimum penalties for those found guilty; no public official has ever been found guilty under those provisions.

On August 17, police officers guarding prisoners in the Pando prison reportedly tortured multiple detainees in an attempt to gather information about an investigation underway at the time. As of October there was no official number of victims. Police reportedly beat the prisoners and subjected them to electric shocks and tear-gassing, and men, women, and children were all among the alleged victims of police violence. The Ministry of Justice and the Prosecutor’s Office were investigating the case. The Institute of Therapy and Investigation (ITEI), a credible nongovernmental organization (NGO), was also conducting an independent investigation.

ITEI stated that the most frequent perpetrators of torture and mistreatment were members of the Bolivian National Police and military officials. ITEI reports indicated that police relied heavily on torture as the first form of investigation to procure information and extract confessions. The majority of these abuses reportedly occurred while officials were transferring detainees to police facilities or while the prisoners were held in detention. According to credible reports from NGO employees who worked with prison populations, the most common forms of torture for detainees included the use of Tasers, asphyxiation, verbal abuse, and verbal threats of violence.

Within the military torture and mistreatment reportedly occurred both to punish and to intimidate trainees into submission and obedience. Reports indicated that military officials regularly verbally abused soldiers for minor infractions and perceived disobedience. In January a regimental commander was recorded on video verbally abusing a sergeant under his command for questioning one of the commander’s orders. The National Council of the Defense of the Constitution brought charges of discrimination (a criminal offense) against the commander for his actions. According to sources this type of verbal abuse and hazing in the armed forces was not uncommon. In January then human rights ombudsman Rolando Villena reported that at least 30 soldiers died in military service in the last three years.

On April 23, the then human rights ombudsman, Rolando Villena, reported his office received and processed 19,097 cases of “violations of human rights” in 2015, a 647 percent increase from 2014. Of the cases his office examined during 2015, the following violations occurred with the most frequency: 17 percent involved the right to due process and access to justice, 13 percent involved workers’ rights, 12 percent involved property and personal property, 8 percent involved the right to petition, and 7 percent involved a lack of accessibility for individuals wishing to obtain personal identification documents. Villena stated that officials working under the judiciary and police forces perpetrated the most abuses. The ombudsman also stated that despite the trend of rising violations against human rights, the legislature had never accepted his suggestions or projects, nor had it ever allowed him to deliver his annual report on the state of human rights during his tenure in office.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were harsh and life threatening due to gross overcrowding, lack of internal control, and poor sanitary conditions.

Physical Conditions: Prisons and detention centers were overcrowded and underfunded. Pretrial detainees were held with convicted prisoners in all major facilities for as long as five years, according to the NGO Pastoral Penitentiary. On March 9, Director of the Penitentiary System Jorge Lopez Arenas reported the total number of inmates was 13,940. Overcrowding was a serious structural and human rights problem in all major prisons and detention facilities. Palmasola, a prison located in the city of Santa Cruz, was designed to hold 1,800 prisoners but housed more than 5,400 inmates. While the maximum number of prisoners for most cells was four, there were up to 10 individuals in each cell. In the La Paz prison San Pedro, there were more than 2,000 inmates in a facility built to hold 500. The bathrooms were often connected to the living quarters, and the sewage system frequently did not work, causing sewage backups and other unsanitary conditions in living spaces.

Prisoners were largely responsible for paying for their own goods and services in prison because available services to sustain basic needs were inadequate. This included food, lodging, medical care, and transportation to and from court proceedings. Prisoners had access to potable water, but the standard prison diet was insufficient. Since the government’s daily allocation for a prisoner’s diet was eight bolivianos ($1.17), many prisons depended on donations from other organizations for food. Prisoners who could not afford their own lodging often had to convert bathrooms, hallways, kitchens, and other areas into sleeping quarters. Although the law provides that prisoners have access to medical care, the care was inadequate, and it was difficult for prisoners to obtain permission for outside medical treatment.

Due to persistent corruption, a prisoner’s wealth often determined his or her physical security, cell size, visiting privileges, ability to attend court hearings, day-pass eligibility, and place and length of confinement. Inmates alleged there were an insufficient number of police officers to escort inmates to their judicial hearings, and credible NGOs reported that prison directors often refused to help facilitate the transfer of inmates to hearings, further delaying cases. Inmates also claimed police demanded bribes in exchange for allowing them to attend hearings.

Due to a lack of internal policing, violence was ubiquitous and often included systematic intimidation, corruption among prison authorities, psychological mistreatment, extortion, torture, and threats of death. Much of the aggression was prisoner-on-prisoner violence.

There were two women’s prisons located in La Paz, one in Trinidad, and one in Cochabamba. In Morros Blancos Prison in Tarija, Montero Prison in Santa Cruz, Riberalta Prison in Beni, and Oruro Prison in Oruro, men and women shared sleeping facilities. In other facilities men and women maintained separate sleeping quarters, but the populations comingled daily. Female inmates were reportedly sexually harassed and/or assaulted on a regular basis, and some were forced to pay antirape extortion fees.

A 2014 law lowered the juvenile detention age from 16 to 14 and requires juvenile offenders be housed in facilities separate from the general prison population in order to facilitate rehabilitation. Any adolescent under 14 years of age is exempt from criminal liability but may be subject to civil liability. The government, however, has yet to build new juvenile facilities, nor have officials allocated the funds required to implement the legal requirements. As a result, hundreds of juveniles between the ages of 14 and 18 were intermingled with adult prisoners in jails due to a lack of sufficient juvenile-specific facilities. Adult inmates and police reportedly abused juvenile prisoners. Rehabilitation programs for juveniles or other prisoners remained scarce.

Although the law permits children up to the age of six to live with an incarcerated parent under “safe and regulated conditions,” children as old as 12 resided in detention centers with incarcerated parents, and conditions were regularly unsafe. Despite a 2013 governmental plan to remove children from prisons, government reports indicated that an estimated 3,000 children were living with their incarcerated parents, 1,500 of whom were in prisons and detention centers in La Paz. According to sources, these children had no viable alternative due to economic or family constraints.

Administration: The government initiated a pilot program in the cities of Cochabamba and Cotahuma to digitalize prison records and legal information for all detainees, but it had not been implemented nationwide due to lack of funding. Despite this initiative recordkeeping remained inadequate. Poor records and lack of adequate legal counsel led to cases in which prisoners remained incarcerated beyond the maximum sentence allowed for the crime for which they had been convicted. Prisoners could submit complaints periodically to a commission of district judges for investigation, but, due to fear of retaliation by prison authorities, inmates frequently did not submit complaints of abuses.

Independent Monitoring: The government generally permitted prison visits by independent nongovernmental observers such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, local NGOs, judges, religious authorities, legislative representatives, and media representatives, and such visits took place during the year.


The national police, under the Ministry of Government’s authority, have primary responsibility for law enforcement and the maintenance of order within the country, but military forces may be called to help in critical situations. Military forces report to the Ministry of Defense. Migration officials report to the Ministry of Government, and police and military share responsibilities for border enforcement. The law to investigate and punish internal police abuse and corruption remained suspended and unenforced as a result of national police strikes in 2012, when the government agreed to revise the code. There was no progress in negotiations between the Ministry of Government and the National Police Association on this problem. Congress did not act on the Constitutional Court’s 2012 ruling to adjust the military criminal code and the military code of criminal procedure to stipulate that human rights violations be judged by the ordinary justice system, in compliance with the constitution. Inconsistent application of the laws and a dysfunctional judiciary further exacerbated the impunity of security forces in committing abuses.


The law requires that police obtain an arrest warrant from a prosecutor and that a judge substantiate the warrant within eight hours of an arrest. Credible reports stated that police did not strictly adhere to these time restrictions, except in cases when the government ordered adherence. The law also mandates that a detainee appear before a judge within 24 hours (except under a declared state of siege, during which a detainee may be held for 48 hours) at which time the judge must determine the appropriateness of continued pretrial detention or release on bail. The judge shall order the detainee’s release if the prosecutor fails to show sufficient grounds for arrest. The government allows suspects to select their own lawyers and provides a lawyer from the Public Defender’s Office if the suspect requests one. There were 100 public defenders in the country, and approximately 30 percent of pretrial detainees had secured help from the Public Defender’s Office. The public defenders were generally overburdened and limited in their ability to provide adequate, timely legal assistance. While bail is permitted, most detainees were placed in pretrial detention or could not afford to post bail. Several legal experts noted that pretrial detention was the rule rather than the exception.

Arbitrary Arrest: The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but in at least one case security forces seized and held a member of the political opposition, former governor of Pando Leopoldo Fernandez, under legally questionable circumstances.

On February 26, Gabriela Zapata, an employee of the Chinese company CAMC who reportedly had a previous romantic relationship with President Morales, was detained by officials from the Ministry of Government under opaque legal circumstances, according to a reputable NGO. Although the general prosecutor in the case, Ramiro Guerrero Penaranda, eventually confirmed that her arrest followed all proper legal procedures, credible reports indicated that officials apprehended Zapata without an official warrant or court order. Zapata was sent to a high-security prison used to hold convicted felons. She faced multiple charges.

Pretrial Detention: On March 9, Penitentiary Director Lopez warned the prison population could grow by the end of the year despite remedial efforts by the executive branch to reduce the already overcrowded system through granting a series of pardons. Lopez reported in February that 69 percent of all prisoners were in pretrial detention. The law affords judges the authority to order pretrial detention if there is a high probability that a suspect committed a crime, if evidence exists that the accused seeks to obstruct the investigation process, or if a suspect is considered a flight risk. If a suspect is not detained, a judge may order significant restrictions on the suspect’s movements.

The law states that no one shall be detained for more than 18 months without formal charges. If after 18 months the prosecutor does not present formal charges and conclude the investigatory phase, the detainee may request release by a judge. The judge must order the detainee’s release, but the charges against the detainee are not dropped. By law the investigatory phase and trial phase of a case cannot exceed 36 months combined. The law allows a trial extension if the delays in the process are due to the defense. In these circumstances pretrial detention may exceed the 36-month limit without violating the law.

Despite these rights, denial of justice due to prolonged pretrial detention remained a problem. In March the local Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported approximately 78 percent of cases initiated during 2014 continued to the next year without conclusion. These inmates remained imprisoned due to the inability to obtain legal support to complete the paperwork that would free them from prison. Foundation Construir also noted that almost 75 percent of hearings arranged for pretrial detainees were suspended for a myriad of reasons. Complex legal procedures, large numbers of detainees, judicial inefficiency, executive interference, corruption, a shortage of public defenders, and inadequate case-tracking mechanisms all contributed to trial delays that lengthened pretrial detention and kept many suspects detained beyond the legal limits for the completion of a trial or the presentation of formal charges. Many defense attorneys intentionally did not attend hearings in order to delay trial proceedings and ultimately to avoid a final sentencing. The law does not dictate penalties for such actions.

In 2013 Foundation Construir reported prosecutors and judges relied heavily on pretrial detention, thereby contributing to prison overcrowding and judicial backlog. The report found that prosecutors sought pretrial detention for suspects in 77 percent of cases and that judges ordered pretrial detention in 73 percent of cases in which it was requested (54 percent of all cases). In Santa Cruz, which had the country’s largest prison population, judges ordered pretrial detention of suspects in 86 percent of all cases.

Felipe Moza, accused of sabotaging a gas pipeline in Villamontes, Tarija, in 2008, remained under house arrest without sentence. In September 2015 his case was suspended for the 114th time in six years. As of December, Moza had been imprisoned or under house arrest for more years than the penalty that he would have incurred had he been convicted for the crime for which he was accused.

Former governor Fernandez, on trial for assault and homicide linked to the death of 11 protesters in Pando Department in 2008, remained under house arrest without sentence. In 2011 his detention period exceeded the three-year limit on detention without a conviction. The Permanent Assembly on Human Rights declared that the judicial system had exceeded all reasonable timelines to determine culpability. Several human rights organizations and activists lobbied the government for his freedom. On July 18, the president of the National Permanent Assembly of Human Rights sent a letter to Morales stating that there was never an “objective investigation to identify the true authors” of the killings in Pando. He further alleged that Fernandez never received due process because of politically motivated accusations and detention by the government. According to the president of the assembly, the government’s actions against Fernandez destroyed the presumption of innocence, a constitutionally provided right for all citizens. The citizen collective Bolivian Coordinator in Defense of Human Rights also sent a letter to the president in July requesting Fernandez’s release on the grounds of health deterioration. As of December 1, the case had proceeded to final arguments but had not yet concluded.

Denial of justice due to prolonged pretrial detention remained a problem for many citizens. The human rights ombudsman released a document outlining a project that would allow those in jail to receive amnesty or pardons to help reduce the number of persons held in pretrial detention. According to this document, as of June only 31 percent of people nationwide held under pretrial detention eventually received final sentencing. Despite the fact that these prisoners had not been charged or brought to trial, they were held together with convicted criminals. The number of pretrial detainees in prisons throughout the country heavily contributed to the problem of overcrowding. The government’s efforts reduced the percentage of individuals under pretrial detention from 84 percent in 2015 to 69 percent during the year. The government’s pardon program affected only prisoners who already received their sentences and were convicted of minor crimes and crimes that resulted in less than five years in jail. Many human rights organizations and NGOs were critical of this program, because it did not apply to individuals who were held under pretrial detention. Accordingly, individuals who did not want to risk remaining under detention for years would plead guilty to the crimes they were accused of to receive an official sentence and thus become eligible for the government pardon. As of May a total of 4,953 individuals who may or may not have been guilty of the crimes they were accused of pled guilty in order to be released under this program, potentially violating their rights to due process and a fair trial.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The constitution recognizes a citizen’s ability to challenge their arrest and detention if they believe their life is in danger, they have been illegally persecuted, or improperly deprived of personal liberty. Individuals are allowed to present their case to any judge and request a re-establishment of their rights. The government respected the ability to challenge lawfulness of detention in practice.

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

On March 29, the chairman of the La Paz Department Tribunal of Justice, Fernando Ganam, was detained after being caught negotiating a constitutional protection for the telecommunication business COTEL’s president, Fabian Guillen. Guillen was accused of corporate fraud. While the legal investigation was in progress, Ganam, three lawyers representing COTEL, a judge, and two prosecutors, among other individuals, were accused of carrying out extrajudicial negotiations to secure a favorable result for the company. As a result of the investigation into this ring of corruption, investigators accused several police officers, and other legal officials of distorting justice in favor of COTEL. As of December 1, trial proceedings for the accused had not commenced.

The head of the Transparency Unit of the La Paz Judicial Council, Ariel Maranon, stated that during the year his office investigated a total of three consortium cases where contingents of judges and lawyers negotiated sentences in an illegal manner. The vice minister of justice and the president of the National Bar Association corroborated this information and added that similar consortiums of judges and lawyers were operating in multiple cities, including La Paz, El Alto, Oruro, Cochabamba, and Santa Cruz. According to these sources, all consortiums operated for “the purpose of extorting and negotiating sentencing and verdicts for litigants.”

The judicial budget constituted 0.56 percent of the national budget, which NGOs asserted was insufficient and contributed to an overburdening of public prosecutors and led to serious judicial backlogs. The small budget and inadequate salaries made justice officials vulnerable to bribery and corruption, according to credible sources, including legal experts.


The constitution and law provide for the right to be informed of charges promptly and in detail and for a fair, public trial without undue delay. Defendants are entitled to presumption of innocence and trial by jury. They have the right to avoid self-incrimination, consult an attorney of their choice, receive adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense and confront adverse witnesses, present witnesses and evidence, access government-held evidence, and file an appeal. Defendants who cannot afford an attorney have the right to a public defender or private attorney at public expense. There were, however, only 100 public defenders to cover the country. There were 1,004 judges in the country and 850,000 registered criminal cases per year, requiring each judge to handle approximately 850 cases each year. Corruption, influence by other branches of government, insufficient judicial coverage, and a lack of adequate resources devoted to the judiciary undermined these constitutional rights. Free translation and interpretation services are required to be provided to all Bolivian citizens by law. In practice, however, officials complied with this law when there was sufficient budget and personnel.


There were reports that the government prosecuted several members of political opposition parties for political purposes. The most high-profile case of political persecution and possible detainment for politically motivated reasons was the latest legal investigation of presidential runner-up in 2014 and leader of the main opposition party, Samuel Doria Medina. Congress created a Special Commission of Investigation through which they charged Doria Medina with misappropriating funds, creating damaging contracts, and dereliction of duty during his tenure as Minister of Planning and Coordination from 1991 to 1993. Several government officials, including President Morales, declared Doria Medina guilty of these charges despite the fact that legal proceedings had not yet commenced. The attorney general requested that Doria Medina be detained in pretrial detention for the duration of the legal proceedings. The hearing to determine this detention status was set for November 17. The vice president also accused Doria Medina of tax evasion, and the minister of communications accused him and members of his political party of racism.

The independent news outlet Pagina Siete reported on October 24 there were at least 116 legal processes filed against the five most prominent opposition leaders.


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

The law prohibits such actions, but there was at least one case in which the government failed to respect these prohibitions. In 2015 government authorities installed cameras in the home of General Gary Prado Salmon, implicated in the alleged terrorism case against 39 former civic and political leaders of Santa Cruz. Prado, who was in poor health and could not leave his bed, was forced to accept the cameras based on a disputed court order that stated they were necessary to ensure he could continue to testify in his case. Prado challenged the constitutionality of this action, and the Constitutional Tribunal ruled in his favor in July, stating that the government had interfered with his privacy.

There were credible reports that the ruling MAS party required government officials to profess party membership to obtain/retain employment and/or access other government services.

Costa Rica

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

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

There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. The Inspection Tribunal of the Judicial Branch acquitted nine Judicial Investigative Organization (OIJ) officers of responsibility for the death of an OIJ officer who died during an unauthorized training exercise in May 2015.

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

The constitution prohibits such practices. The Ombudsman’s Office received 107 complaints of police abuse, arbitrary detention, torture, and other inhuman or degrading treatment during the first six months of the year. Abuse by prison police was a recurring complaint, according to the Ombudsman’s Office, but very few of the accusers followed through and registered their complaints with the authorities. The government investigated, prosecuted, and punished police responsible for confirmed cases of abuse.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were harsh due to gross overcrowding, inadequate sanitary conditions, difficulties obtaining medical care, and violence among prisoners.

Physical Conditions: The prison population exceeded the designed capacity of prisons by 41 percent as of June. Prison overcrowding made security and control difficult and contributed to health problems. Poor conditions included inadequate space for resting, deteriorated mattresses on the floor, and inadequate access to health services. Illegal narcotics were readily available in the prisons, and drug abuse was common. The Ombudsman’s Office recorded 76 complaints of deficient conditions in prisons, including the migrant detention centers, during the first six months of the year. The Ministry of Justice was responsible for the prison system, while the Immigration Office ran the facility holding illegal migrants until they were deported or regularized their immigration status.

As of June 30, the San Sebastian, Gerardo Rodriguez, La Reforma, San Rafael, San Carlos, Pococi, Puntarenas, Liberia, Perez Zeledon, Cartago, and Centro Adulto Joven (at La Reforma) prisons remained overcrowded, with the population in pretrial detention experiencing the most overcrowding. Authorities held male pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners on occasion. In San Sebastian, where most prisoners in pretrial detention were held, 1,281 prisoners lived in unsanitary conditions in a facility with a planned capacity of 668. On April 5, the Ministry of Justice freed 380 prisoners from the Gerardo Rodriguez prison and included them in a prison alternative program after a judge on March 17 ordered the ministry to relocate prisoners to reduce overcrowding. On July 20, also to reduce overcrowding, a judge issued a resolution ordering authorities to close the San Sebastian prison over a period of 18 months. On August 4, to reduce overcrowding a judge ordered authorities either to transfer 200 prisoners from La Reforma prison to other prisons or to include them in an alternative program where they are required to spend only some nights in prison.

The detention center for undocumented migrants in Hatillo, a suburb of San Jose, was poorly ventilated and overcrowded at times, and it had no recreation area. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the government ombudsman monitored detention conditions, with UNHCR visiting monthly and the ombudsman preparing annual reports.

Security and administrative staffing were insufficient to care for the needs of prisoners, including ensuring their personal safety. The Ministry of Justice’s Social Adaptation Division reported 17 deaths in closed regime centers from January to April. Four of these deaths were homicides and two were suicides; the remainder were from natural causes.

Administration: Authorities permitted prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to authorities without censorship and request investigation of credible allegations of inhuman conditions. If complaints were not processed, prisoners could submit them to the Ombudsman’s Office, which investigated all complaints at an administrative level. The Ombudsman’s Office, through the national prevention mechanism against torture, periodically inspected all detention centers.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions by international and local human rights observers, including representatives from the Ombudsman’s Office. Human rights observers could speak to prisoners and prison employees in confidence and without the presence of prison staff or other third parties.

Improvements: On April 29, the Ministry of Justice inaugurated a new prison module at the Pococi prison, a Quonset-type steel-framed building with tin roofing and siding; however, prisoners complained of high temperature conditions in the facility. In August the Ministry of Justice reported maintenance and minor repairs in all of the country’s prison centers.

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.


The country has no military forces. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the 13 agencies that have law enforcement components, including the judicial branch’s Judicial Investigative Organization. The Ministry of Public Security is responsible for the uniformed police force, drug control police, border police, air wing, and coast guard. The Immigration Office of the Ministry of Interior is responsible for the immigration police. The Ministry of Public Works and Transportation supervises the traffic police, the Ministry of Environment supervises park police, and the Ministry of Justice manages the penitentiary police. Several municipalities manage municipal police forces. The government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year. The number of licensed private security services was significantly greater than the number of police (27,625 agents compared to 13,459 uniformed police officers). There were no reports of impunity involving the private security forces during the year.


The law requires issuance of judicial warrants before making arrests, except where probable cause is evident to the arresting officer. The law entitles a detainee to a judicial determination of the legality of detention during arraignment before a judge within 24 hours of arrest. The law provides for the right to post bail and prompt access to an attorney and family members. Authorities generally observed these rights. Indigent persons have access to a public attorney at government expense. Those without sufficient personal funds are also able to use the services of a public defender. With judicial authorization, authorities may hold a suspect incommunicado for 48 hours after arrest or, under special circumstances, for up to 10 days. Special circumstances include cases in which pretrial detention previously was ordered and there is reason to believe a suspect may reach an agreement with accomplices or may obstruct the investigation. Suspects were allowed access to attorneys immediately before submitting statements before a judge. Authorities promptly informed suspects of any offenses under investigation. Habeas corpus provides legal protection for citizens against threats from police; it also requires judges to give a clear explanation of the legal basis for detention of and evidence against a suspect.

Pretrial Detention: A criminal court may hold suspects in pretrial detention for up to one year, and the court of appeals may extend this period to two years in especially complex cases. The law requires a court review every three months of cases of suspects in pretrial detention to determine the appropriateness of continued detention. If a judge declares a case is related to organized crime, special procedural rules require that the period of pretrial detention not exceed 24 months (although the court of appeals may grant one extension not to exceed an additional 12 months). Authorities frequently used pretrial detention. According to the Ministry of Justice, as of March 31, persons in pretrial detention constituted approximately 18 percent of the prison population. In some cases delays were due to pending criminal investigations and lengthy legal procedures. In other cases the delays were a result of court backlogs.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested or detained, regardless of whether on criminal or other grounds, are entitled 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 constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence. The legal system faced many challenges, including significant delays in the adjudication of criminal cases and civil disputes and a growing workload.


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

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


There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.


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

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


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

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

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

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

The law prohibits such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions generally met international standards.

Physical Conditions: The country has one prison, Schrassig Prison, and a State Socioeducational Center (CSEE) for juveniles with facilities at Schrassig and Dreiborn. The government also operated a detention center for rejected asylum seekers and undocumented migrants awaiting deportation.

In a September 2015 report on its visit to the country earlier that year, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) noted a worrying problem of interprisoner violence at Schrassig Prison. The CPT also found that care for inmates suffering from serious psychiatric disorders was unsatisfactory and criticized the practice of holding detained minors at Schrassig Prison. The CPT observed problems of violence between minors at both the Schrassig and Dreiborn CSEE facilities.

In its report, the CPT noted that, while most detained persons did not report police mistreatment, it received a number of allegations of verbal abuse and excessively tight handcuffing. The CPT also criticized the police practice of handcuffing detainees to fixed points, such as a metal bar on a wall or chair fixed to the floor, prior to or during questioning. For purportedly hygienic reasons, authorities at local police stations did not provide mattresses in cells reserved for intoxicated persons.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring by independent human rights observers, including the CPT and the ECPDL.

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.


The Grand Ducal Police maintain internal security. It reports to the Ministry of Internal Security. The Luxembourg Army is responsible for external security. It reports to the Directorate of Defense of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Warrants issued by a duly authorized official are required for arrests in most cases. Police must inform detainees of charges against them within 24 hours of arrest and bring them before a judge for a determination of the detention’s legality. There is a functioning bail system, which judges regularly employed.

According to law, detainees are guaranteed access to an attorney immediately prior to their initial interrogation. The attorney is paid for by the government in cases of indigent detainees. A 2015 CPT report found that access to a lawyer had improved and that in most cases lawyers were able to consult with their clients before the initial interrogation by the police. Authorities permitted detainees access to family members, although the CPT noted that many had to wait several hours before they were allowed to contact relatives. No suspects were detained incommunicado or held under house arrest

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested or detained, regardless of whether on criminal or other grounds, are entitled 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 constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence.


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

Defendants have the right to a presumption of innocence. The defendant has the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges (with free interpretation as necessary). Defendants have the right to a fair and public trial without undue delay. Trials are public, except for those involving sexual or child abuse cases, and fair. Defendants have the right to be present and to consult with an attorney of their choice in a timely manner. Defendants and their attorneys have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense and have access to government-held evidence relevant to their cases. They may confront witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants are not compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants have the right of appeal.

The law extends the above rights to all citizens.


There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.


Magistrate courts serve as an independent and impartial judiciary in civil and commercial matters and were available to individuals who wished to bring lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, a human rights violation. Citizens may appeal cases involving alleged violations of the European Convention on Human Rights by the state to the European Court of Human Rights after exhausting all routes for appeal in the country’s court system.

The constitution and law prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.


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

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

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

There were no reports of politically motivated or forced disappearances in the country.

The country’s law prohibits such practices; however, prisoners reported sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme temperatures, beatings, and solitary confinement.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions generally met international standards.

Physical Conditions: There were no reports of overcrowding in prison and detention centers.

Administration: There was no established prison authority to which prisoners could bring grievances concerning prison conditions. There is no ombudsman to serve on behalf of prisoners and detainees; this responsibility falls under the Public Prosecutor’s jurisdiction. Prisoners and detainees did not always have regular access to visitors.

The Oman Human Rights Commission (OHRC), a quasi-independent government-sanctioned body, investigated and monitored prison and detention center conditions through site visits. OHRC authorities investigated claims of abuse but did not publish the results of their investigations, purportedly to protect the privacy of the individuals involved. The OHRC published the findings of its September 27 welfare visit to the deputy supreme court justice detained by the Royal Oman Police (ROP).

Independent Monitoring: The law permitted visits by independent human rights observer groups, yet none existed in the country. There were no reports of independent, nongovernmental observers requesting to visit the country. Consular officers from certain embassies reported difficulties in meeting with prisoners.

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but the law permits the government to detain suspects for up to 30 days without charge.


The Ministry of the Royal Office controls internal and external security and coordinates all intelligence and security policies. Under the Royal Office, the Internal Security Service (ISS) investigates all matters related to domestic security. The ROP, including the ROP Coast Guard, is also subordinate to the Royal Office and performs regular police duties, provides security at points of entry, and serves as the country’s immigration and customs agency. The Ministry of Defense, particularly the Royal Army of Oman (RAO), is responsible for securing the borders and has limited domestic security responsibilities. The Sultan’s Special Force (SSF) facilitates land and maritime border security in conjunction with the ROP, including rapid reaction anti-smuggling and anti-piracy capabilities. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the ISS, the SSF, the RAO, and the ROP. There were no reports of judicial impunity involving the security forces during the year.


The law does not require the ROP to obtain a warrant before making an arrest, but it stipulates that police must either release the person or refer the matter to the public prosecution within specified timeframes. For most crimes, the public prosecutor must formally arrest or release the person within 48 hours of detention; however, in cases related to security, which is broadly defined, authorities can hold individuals for up to 30 days without charge. The law requires that those arrested must be informed immediately of the charges against them. There was a functioning bail system. Detainees generally had prompt access to a lawyer of their choice. The state provided public attorneys to indigent detainees, as required by law. Authorities generally allowed detainees prompt access to family members. In cases involving foreign citizens, police sometimes failed to notify the detainee’s local sponsor or the citizen’s embassy.

Arbitrary Arrest: The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, individuals can be held for up to 15 days without charge.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested or detained are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis of their detention.

Although the law provides for an independent judiciary, the sultan may act as a Court of Final Appeal and exercise his power of pardon as chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council, the country’s highest legal body, which is empowered to review all judicial decisions. Principles of sharia (Islamic law) inform the civil, commercial, and criminal codes. The law allows women to serve as judges. Civilian or military courts try all cases.


The law provides for the right to a fair trial and stipulates the presumption of innocence. Citizens and legally resident noncitizens have the right to a public trial, except when the court decides to hold a session in private in the interest of public order or morals; the judiciary generally enforced this right. While the vast majority of legal proceedings were open to the public, authorities sometimes closed cases concerning corruption, especially cases involving senior government officials and members of the royal family. The government did not uniformly provide language interpretation for non-Arabic speakers.

Defendants have the right to consult with an attorney. Courts provide public attorneys to indigent detainees and offer legal defense for defendants facing prison terms of three years or more. The prosecution and defense counsel direct questions to witnesses through the judge. Defendants have the right to be present, submit evidence, and confront witnesses at their trials. Defendants and their lawyers generally have access to government-held evidence relevant to their cases. There is no known systemic use of forced confession or compulsion to self-incriminate during trial proceedings in the country. Those convicted in any court have one opportunity to appeal a jail sentence longer than three months and fines of more than 480 rials ($1,250) to the appellate courts. The judiciary enforced these rights for all citizens; some foreign embassies claimed these rights were not always uniformly enforced for noncitizens, particularly migrant workers.


In an interview with Saudi newspaper Okaz in October and in response to a question on the number of political detainees in Oman, Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin Alawi stated that the government held a “small number,” who were “activists” and “individuals.”


Civil laws govern civil cases. Citizens and foreign residents could file cases, including lawsuits seeking damages for human rights violations, but no known filings occurred during the reporting year. The Administrative Court reviews complaints about the misuse of governmental authority. It has the power to reverse decisions by government bodies and to award compensation.

Appointments to this court are subject to the approval of the Administrative Affairs Council. The court’s president and deputy president are appointed by royal decree based on the council’s nomination. Citizens and foreign workers may file complaints regarding working conditions with the Ministry of Manpower for alternative dispute resolution. The ministry may refer cases to the courts if it is unable to negotiate a solution.

The law does not require police to obtain search warrants before entering homes, but they usually obtain warrants from the Public Prosecutor’s Office. The government monitored private communications, including cell phone, e-mail, and internet chat room exchanges. The government blocked some voice-over internet protocol sites, such as Skype and FaceTime. Authorities blocked the import of certain publications, e.g., pornography. Shipping companies claimed that customs officials sometimes confiscated these materials.

The Ministry of Interior requires citizens to obtain permission to marry foreigners, except nationals of Gulf Cooperation Council countries, whom citizens may marry without restriction; authorities do not automatically grant permission, which is particularly difficult for Omani women to obtain. Citizen marriage to a foreigner abroad without ministry approval may result in denial of entry for the foreign spouse at the border and preclude children from claiming citizenship and residency rights. It also may result in a bar from government employment and a fine of 2,000 rials ($5,200).

Despite legal protections for women from forced marriage, deeply embedded tribal practices ultimately compel most citizen women towards or away from a choice of spouse.

Republic of the Congo

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

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

There were reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

Journalists and local human rights activists presented evidence of four deaths resulting from torture. According to a joint report from three local human rights organizations, on February 26, police arrested Olgane Nioko Ngambou for an alleged robbery in Owando, in the central Cuvette region. Sergeant Cedric Akoul severely beat Ngambou while in custody at the Owando Police Station, and he died from internal hemorrhaging of the liver and kidneys on February 27 after officials transferred him to the Central Hospital in Brazzaville for urgent medical treatment. Other deaths reported included Steve Malonga, arrested March 25 and detained at the Chacona Police Station; Yeutcheu Faustin Aime, a Cameroonian citizen arrested in June in Pointe-Noire and detained at the Tie Tie Police Station; and Fabrice Oyakou, arrested June 15 and detained at the Poto Poto Police Station in Brazzaville.

According to multiple NGO reports, on July 21, police shot and killed Mankou Albert, Aikon Apollinaire, and Nsihou Paul, civilians belonging to a community night watch patrol in the Raffinerie neighborhood of Pointe-Noire. Police intercepted the men, who were armed with machetes and whistles, and according to eyewitnesses, questioned the men at gunpoint about their activities and moments later shot and killed them. On July 21, Itoua Poto, police chief of Pointe-Noire, stated the victims belonged to a militia and that police who shot them had committed no error.

Vigilante justice and abuse of power by police were problems. For example, on April 26, Police Brigadier General Mba Ferdinand, in the southern town of Madingou, shot Ngembo Olombi Mignon, age 15, at his house, after learning that Mignon had harmed a young neighbor girl. Mignon died later that night in a hospital. In response to his death, youth set fire to the police station in Madingou.

Human rights NGOs reported at least seven deaths resulting from abuse in prisons and pretrial detention centers (see sections 1.c. and 1.g.).

There were numerous credible reports of politically motivated disappearances. For example, independent media and local human rights NGOs reported the disappearance of political opposition members Marien Michel Ehouango Madzimba, arrested on April 30, and Rodiguez Bazembe, arrested on June 17. Additionally, there were several reports of night raids and daytime state-sponsored kidnappings of opposition supporters, after which family members were unable to find any information about the victims’ welfare and whereabouts.

Police detained minor children, who subsequently disappeared (see section 1.c.).

The constitution prohibits torture, and the law contains a general prohibition against assault and battery, but there is no legal framework specifically banning torture under the criminal code. There were widespread reports of cases of government-led torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.

A human rights NGO reported that in December 2015 sergeants Sabin Assima Atsouama and Morgan Atsouama allegedly tortured Rigobert Okuya. According to Okuya, he was strapped down on a table for hours, severely beaten, temporarily paralyzed by a stun gun, and sodomized with a metal rod.

In September, NGOs and media reported the arrest and torture of Augustin Kala Kala, a campaign official belonging to the Convention for Action, Democracy, and Development, an opposition political group. According to Kala Kala’s wife, more than a dozen armed and hooded men belonging to government security forces arrested Kala Kala at his residence in Brazzaville during the middle of the night on September 28. Police took him to a local intelligence police station where intelligence police subjected him to electric shock and beatings over a period of two weeks. On October 15, Kala Kala was found barely conscious in front of a morgue in Brazzaville and given medical attention.

According to human rights NGOs and social media reports, on November 12, armed and hooded men belonging to government security forces abducted Jugal Mayangui, a sergeant in the military, from his home in Brazzaville. According to Mayangui, he was muzzled, burned, molested, and subjected to severe beatings and accused of being an accomplice to Pastor Ntumi. The abductors released him on November 20, and he was taken to a hospital for treatment.

On December 21, prison authorities brought Roland Gambou, the younger brother of opposition candidate Okombi Salissa, to the hospital where he died of unspecified causes after more than four months of detention.

Other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment regularly took place. Human rights NGOs reported authorities regularly beat numerous detainees while in custody. On July 28, Jean Ngouabi, detained in the Brazzaville Prison, reported to a human rights NGO that police arrested him on March 25 and subsequently subjected him to severe beatings over the next 27 days. Because of the blows to his head, he developed blood clots, and according to medical records provided by his lawyer, lost all vision in his right eye and some vision in his left eye. The government denied responsibility, claiming a pre-existing health condition caused his vision loss. According to human rights NGOs, many detainees developed chronic medical problems such as organ damage and paralysis due to lack of proper medical care.

Police frequently required detainees to pay for protection or risk beatings. NGOs reported authorities generally ignored allegations of prisoner mistreatment.

Rape and sexual abuse by government agents occurred. In June a joint UN-Congolese government report cited indications that sexual violence toward women and teenage girls corresponded to the timing of security operations in the southern Pool region. Human rights NGOs reported multiple instances of rape and sexual abuse by police, particularly of prostitutes and gay men.

Although prostitution is legal, there were reports of police arresting prostitutes, including gay men, for alleged illegal activity; police then threatened or committed rape if the detainees did not pay a bribe for release.

The United Nations reported that during the year (through December 20), it received nine allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against Republic of the Congo peacekeepers deployed to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the CAR. These include three alleged incidents occurring in 2016, five in 2015, and one for which the date of the alleged incident was unknown. Investigations into these nine allegations by the United Nations and the Government of the Republic of the Congo were pending at year’s end.

Conflict abuses during international peacekeeping missions allegedly took place. On June 7, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that Congolese peacekeepers in Boali, CAR, killed 18 civilians between December 2013 and June 2015. HRW made these allegations based on a grave exhumed near a peacekeeping base on February 16, in which the remains of 12 bodies matched the identities of missing persons from March 2014. On June 8, Minister of Justice Pierre Mabiala, responded that the soldiers in question would face justice by the end of the year. At year’s end the investigation was still pending.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions were harsh and life threatening due to inadequate sanitary conditions, gross overcrowding, and a severe deficit of medical and psychological care.

Authorities generally maintained separate areas within facilities for minors, women, and men in Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire, however, there were times when 16-17-year-old males were held in the same area as women in Pointe Noire. In Brazzaville, while these areas were separate, they were sometimes easily accessible with no locked entryways. In the other 10 prisons, authorities sometimes held juvenile detainees with adult prisoners.

Physical Conditions: As of September 8, there were approximately 1,200 inmates in the country’s two largest prisons–Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire prisons. A government source estimated 60 percent of inmates awaited trial, but according to an NGO, that total was closer to 75 percent. As of November 30, the Brazzaville Prison, built in 1943 to accommodate 150 prisoners, held more than 800 inmates, including women and minors. It had only 110 beds and 24 showers and toilets. The Pointe-Noire Prison, built in 1934 to hold up to 75 inmates, held an estimated 400, including 60 foreign nationals, more than half of whom were from the DRC. Police stations regularly housed individuals in their limited incarceration facilities beyond the maximum statutory holding period of 72 hours. In addition to these official prisons, the government’s intelligence and security services operated several secret detention centers and security prisons, which were inaccessible for inspection.

Prison conditions for women were better than those for men in all 12 prisons. There was less crowding in the women’s cells than in those for men. Authorities held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners. In Brazzaville authorities housed and treated prisoners with illnesses in one area but allowed them to interact with other inmates.

In Brazzaville prison conditions for wealthy or well connected prisoners generally were better than conditions for others.

There were several reported deaths resulting from abuse, neglect, and overcrowding in prisons and pretrial detention centers (see section 1.a.). For example, an NGO reported that in February Michel Nganda Manenga, incarcerated since 2013, died from malnutrition in the Ouesso Jail in Sangha Department. According to the same NGO, six inmates died in the Brazzaville Prison in July for reasons prison administrators did not disclose.

On June 11, NGOs reported the forced disappearance of Mayama Saint Etude, age 11. Police arrested Etude for alleged theft and detained him in a special unit called the Banditry Repression Group at the Ouenze Mandzandza Police Station in Brazzaville. They denied his parents’ repeated requests for access to visit him in detention. On June 29, the parents received an anonymous tip that their son had died in detention shortly after his arrest. On July 4, Etude’s parents met with the police commissioner of the police station, who denied Etude had ever been arrested or detained.

On December 29, an attempted prison break in Brazzaville led to the death of three individuals–a gendarme, a prisoner, and a passerby, according to the government.

In Brazzaville most inmates slept on the floor on cardboard or thin mattresses in small, overcrowded cells that exposed them to disease. The prisons lacked ventilation and had poorly maintained lighting with wiring protruding from the walls. In Brazzaville stagnant water with trash lined the interior space of one holding area. In Pointe-Noire water regularly backed into prisoners’ cells. Basic and emergency medical care was limited. Medical personnel at a Brazzaville prison cited tuberculosis, dysentery, malaria, and HIV as the most common maladies affecting prisoners. Authorities did not provide prisoners with HIV/AIDS with specialized medical care, nor were HIV tests available in prisons. Authorities took pregnant women to hospitals to give birth, and authorities sometimes allowed them to breastfeed their infants in prison. Access to social services personnel was severely limited due to insufficient staffing, overcrowding, and stigmatization of mental health issues.

Prison inmates reportedly received, on average, two daily meals consisting of rice, bread, and fish or meat. Authorities permitted women to cook over small fires built on the ground in a shared recreational space. The Pointe-Noire Prison occasionally had running water. All of the prisons supplied potable water to inmates in buckets.

Administration: Recordkeeping in the penitentiary system was inadequate. Despite having the necessary computer equipment in Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire, prison officials continued to rely mostly on a noncomputerized system, citing a lack of internet access, resources, and training.

Access to prisoners generally required a communication permit from a judge. The permit allowed visitors to spend five to 15 minutes with a prisoner, although authorities usually did not strictly enforce this limit. In most cases visits took place either in a crowded open area or in a small room with one extended table where approximately 10 detainees sat at a time. A new permit is technically required for each visit, but families were often able to return for multiple visits on one permit. Since many prisoners’ families lived far away, visits often were infrequent because of the financial hardship of travel.

Prison rules provide for prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship, but officials did not respect this right. Authorities did not investigate credible allegations of inhuman conditions brought to them by NGOs and detainees’ families.

Independent Monitoring: The government provided domestic and international human rights groups with limited access to prisons and detention centers. Observers generally considered the primary local NGO focused on prison conditions independent; authorities, however, denied it access to the interior of several different prisons on multiple occasions throughout the year.

Throughout the year human rights NGOs that monitored detention conditions requested letters of permission from the Ministry of Justice to visit prisons. Their repeated requests went unanswered, so prisons in Djambala and Brazzaville, and police detention stations in Sembe and Sangha, continued to refuse these NGOs access.

Representatives of religiously affiliated charitable organizations visited prisons and detention centers for charitable work and religious counseling. Authorities granted diplomatic missions access to both prisons and police jails to provide consular assistance to their citizens and for general inspection.

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention. Nevertheless, arbitrary arrest continued to be a widespread problem. Local NGOs reported hundreds of arbitrary detentions in the period leading up to and after the March 20 presidential election, although more-definitive evidence was available for only 88 cases during the year.


Security forces consist of the police, gendarmerie, and military. Police and the gendarmerie are responsible for maintaining internal order, with police primarily operating in cities and the gendarmerie mainly in other areas. Military forces are responsible for territorial security, but some units also have domestic security responsibilities. For example, the specialized Republican Guard battalion is charged with the protection of the president, government buildings, and diplomatic missions. The Ministry of Defense oversees the military and gendarmerie, and the Ministry of the Interior and Decentralization oversees the police.

A civilian police unit under the Ministry of Interior and Decentralization is responsible for patrolling the borders. Separately, a military police unit reports to the Ministry of Defense and is composed of military and police officers responsible for investigating professional misconduct by members of any of the security forces.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces; however, there were members of the security forces who acted independently of civilian authority, committed abuses, and engaged in malfeasance. The law charges both the military police and the Office of the Inspector General of Police with investigating reports of misconduct by security forces.

In March a Brazzaville court sentenced police officer Dany Mayala to five years in prison for committing “intentional injury” to a detainee at the Diata Police Station in 2013.

The government-established Human Rights Commission (HRC) receives reports from the public of security force abuses, but it was ineffective and did not meet during the year.

Impunity for members of the security forces remained widespread. On April 4, security forces were mostly professional and restrained during the aftermath of gunfire in Brazzaville that displaced thousands of persons. There were, however, several reports of security force members robbing displaced persons of their valuable possessions, such as cell phones, and demanding bribes at checkpoints within the city. Additionally, their commanders and other government officials often ordered them to commit human rights abuses, such as preventing freedom of movement throughout the country during the presidential campaign period in March.


The constitution and law require that a duly authorized official issue warrants before making arrests, a person be apprehended openly, a lawyer be present during initial questioning, and detainees be brought before a judge within three days and either charged or released within four months. The government habitually violated these provisions. There is a bail system, but with 70 percent of the population living in poverty, most detainees could not afford to post bail. There is an option for provisional release, but officials usually denied these requests, even for detainees with serious medical conditions. Authorities sometimes informed detainees of charges against them at the time of arrest, but filing of formal charges often took at least one week. Authorities often arrested detainees secretly and without judicial authorization and sometimes detained suspects incommunicado or put them under de facto house arrest. Police at times held persons for six months or longer before filing charges due to the political nature of the cases or administrative errors. Observers attributed most administrative delays to lack of staff in the Ministry of Justice and the court system. Family members sometimes received prompt access to detainees but often only after payment of bribes. The law requires authorities to provide lawyers to indigent detainees facing criminal charges at government expense, but this usually did not occur.

The penal code states authorities may hold a detainee for a maximum of 48 to 72 hours in a police jail before an attorney general reviews the case. Thereafter, a decision must be made either to release or to transfer the individual to a prison for pretrial detention. Authorities generally did not observe the 72-hour maximum and frequently held detainees for several weeks before an attorney general freed or transferred them to a prison to await trial. The criminal code states that a defendant or accused person may apply for provisional release at any point during his or her detention, from either an investigating judge or a trial court, depending on the type of case. The law states that provisional release should generally be granted, provided that the judicial investigation is sufficiently advanced, that the accused does not pose a risk of subornation of witnesses, and does not pose a threat of disturbance to public order caused by the offense initially alleged; however, this law was not respected in practice.

Arbitrary Arrest: Arbitrary and false arrests continued to occur. Authorities arrested more than eight persons belonging to opposition political parties or suspected of supporting the opposition. According to eyewitnesses and local human rights NGOs, police conducted secret arrests, often at night, at the homes of opposition supporters. Independent media and local NGOS published lists of hundreds of names of individuals arrested between January and July.

Pretrial Detention: The penal code sets a maximum of four months in pretrial detention, which may be extended an additional two months with judicial approval; thereafter detainees must be released pending their court hearings. Authorities did not respect this limit, arguing that the two-month extension is renewable. Between 60 and 75 percent of detainees in the prisons were pretrial detainees. Prison authorities stated the average provisional detention for noncriminal cases lasted one to three months and for criminal cases at least 12 months. Human rights activists, however, stated the average was much longer, commonly exceeding a year, and sometimes exceeding the maximum sentence for the alleged crime.

For example, in November 2015 authorities arrested Paulin Makaya, president of the opposition United for Congo Party for “incitement to public disorder” for organizing and participating in an unauthorized demonstration in October 2015 against the constitutional referendum. Makaya remained in pretrial detention for six months before his trial began on June 13.

Lengthy pretrial detentions were primarily due to the judicial system’s lack of capacity and political will. The penal code defines three levels of crime: the misdemeanor (punishable by less than one year in jail), the delict (punishable by one to five years in jail), and the felony (punishable by more than five years in jail). Criminal courts try misdemeanor and delict cases regularly. The judicial system, however, suffered from a serious backlog of felony cases. By law criminal courts must hear felony cases four times per year. This was not possible because the ministry received funding irregularly for processing the more expensive and legally complex felony cases.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest, arbitrary detention, and false arrest, and provide detainees the right to challenge the legal basis of their detention before a competent judge or authority. If an investigating judge determines a detainee to be innocent, his or her release is promptly ordered, and he or she is entitled to file suit against the government for miscarriage of justice with the Administrative Court. The government generally did not observe the law. Local human rights NGOs reported numerous occasions when officials denied detainees in Brazzaville the right to challenge their detention.

Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, the judiciary continued to be overburdened, underfunded, and subject to political influence and corruption. Authorities generally abided by court orders; however, judges did not always issue direct court orders against accused authorities.

In rural areas traditional courts continued to handle many local disputes, particularly property, inheritance, and witchcraft cases, and domestic conflicts that could not be resolved within the family.


The constitution provides for the right to a fair trial presided over by an independent judiciary, but authorities did not always respect this right. In 2011 the Ministry of Justice began to decentralize the trial process. Appeals courts existed in five departments–Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire, Dolisie, Owando, and Ouesso–and each had authority to try felony cases brought within its jurisdiction.

Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges, with free interpretation as necessary. Defendants have a right to a fair and public trial in all criminal cases and felony cases. Defendants in all criminal trials have the right to be present at their trials and to consult with an attorney in a timely manner, although this did not always occur. The law obligates the government to provide legal assistance to any indigent defendant facing serious criminal charges, but such legal assistance was not always available because the government did not generally pay for public defenders.

Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. The defense has the right to access government-held evidence. Defendants also have the right to confront or question accusers and witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt and have the right to appeal. The law extends these rights to all citizens, and the government generally abided by these provisions, except in highly politicized cases.


During the year NGOs reported authorities held 131 political prisoners, who had publicly opposed another term for the incumbent president; some cases dated back to August 2015. A total of 88 others were detained since January. For example, authorities arrested senior campaign officials of opposition presidential candidates the week following the March 20 presidential election, including Jean Ngouabi, Jacques Banagandzala, Anatole Limbongo Ngoka, Christine Moyen, Dieudonne Dhird, Raymond Ebonga, and Serge Blanchard Oba. In addition, the government put several opposition figures under house arrest or had their houses surrounded by security forces. On April 6, Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas, the declared runner-up in the presidential election, reported his house was under police surveillance for several weeks. Security forces reportedly surrounded the house of opposition candidate Okombi Salissa; the candidate’s actual whereabouts were unknown. From April 13 until April 20, security forces surrounded the private residence of candidate Claudine Munari. Security forces also surrounded the residence of retired general Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko, the candidate who came in third officially with 14 percent of vote. On June 14, authorities arrested Mokoko on charges of posing a threat to national security and possession of weapons of war. He faced an additional charge on August 17 of disturbing public order. On August 18, authorities denied him provisional release and as of year’s end, he remained in detention in Brazzaville.

The government permitted limited access to political prisoners by international human rights and humanitarian organizations, and diplomatic missions.


In contrast to felony courts, civil courts reviewed cases on a regular basis throughout the year. Civil courts experienced long delays–although shorter than felony courts–but were considered functional. Individuals may file a lawsuit in court on civil matters related to human rights, including seeking damages for or cessation of a human rights violation. The public, however, generally lacked confidence in the judicial system’s ability to address human rights problems.

The constitution and law prohibit such actions; the government, however, did not always respect these prohibitions.

There were reports government authorities entered homes without judicial or other appropriate authorization; monitored private communications without appropriate legal authority, including e-mail, text messaging, or other digital communications intended to remain private; monitored private movements; accessed personal data and employed informer systems.

For example, on March 31, police issued fines of 500,000 CFA francs, ($856) under threat of permanent closure to shop owners who had closed during a March 29 general stay-at-home strike called by the opposition to protest the provisional results of the presidential election, announced on March 22.

Between January and June, there were dozens of reports police entered homes without judicial authorization, often in the middle of the night, to conduct searches and arrests.

Killings: Multiple sources reported at least one death resulting from violence on April 4 in Brazzaville; in October the government asserted that militiamen called Ninja/Nsiloulou killed 17 persons. A UN report cited one civilian death resulting from a security force operation launched on April 5 in the southern Pool region as well as multiple injuries to civilians fleeing their homes. The government reported that 14 persons, including 11 civilians, died during a September 30 attack on a freight train by Ninja militia in the southern Pool region.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: A joint UN-Congolese government report cited an increase in indicators of sexual violence toward women and teenage girls corresponding to security operations in the southern Pool region.

Other Conflict-related Abuse: From April 5 to May 6, the government deliberately restricted the passage of relief supplies, food, drinking water, and medical aid by impartial international humanitarian organizations like the United Nations. On April 6, a government helicopter strafed an empty elementary school in the village of Vindza and medical centers in Mayama in the southern Pool region. The government-led security operation forcibly displaced thousands of civilians for reasons other than military necessity. A UN humanitarian report said the government systematically burned and destroyed approximately half of homes in some villages in the region. According to NGOs, authorities ordered villagers in the region to flee the area, obligating them to walk many miles to larger urban areas. NGOs also reported a series of lootings by security forces in the region.

Saudi Arabia

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

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

There was one allegation that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings within the country. On March 3, Makki al-Orayedh died while in police custody after police detained him on March 1 at a checkpoint in Awamiya. On March 5, the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR) claimed police tortured al-Orayedh to death. According to ESOHR, authorities claimed al-Orayedh died due to “a psychological state of fear.” Local media did not report on whether authorities investigated his death.

Under the country’s interpretation and practice of sharia, capital punishment can be imposed for a range of nonviolent offenses, including apostasy, sorcery, and adultery, although in practice death sentences for such offenses were rare and often reduced on appeal. The law requires a five-judge appellate court to affirm a death sentence, which then must be unanimously affirmed by the Supreme Judicial Council; defendants are generally able to appeal their sentences. Closed court proceedings in some capital cases, however, made it impossible to determine whether authorities allowed the accused to present a defense or afforded minimum due process rights. Since the country lacks a written penal code listing criminal offenses and the associated penalties for them (see section 1.e.), punishment–including the imposition of capital punishment–is subject to considerable judicial discretion in the courts. In addition, there is no right under the law to seek a pardon or commutation of a death sentence for all crimes. The law of criminal procedure provides that the king may issue a pardon “on pardonable matters” for public crimes only. Such pardons are generally issued annually during the holy month of Ramadan, in advance of which the Ministry of Interior publishes a list of terms and conditions defining eligibility to receive a royal pardon (see also section 1.d.). The stated conditions generally exclude specific criminal categories, for example, those convicted of crimes involving state security. The law of criminal procedure states that a victim’s heirs may grant a pardon for private crimes.

On January 2, authorities executed 47 individuals. Among them was prominent Shia cleric and political activist Nimr al-Nimr, who was charged with inciting terrorism and sedition, interfering in the affairs of another country, disobeying the country’s guardians, attacking security personnel during his arrest, and meeting with wanted criminals. International human rights organizations claimed al-Nimr was executed because of his sermons criticizing authorities and calling attention to discrimination against Saudi Shia. Local and international human rights organizations noted that his trial before the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) lacked transparency and did not adhere to minimum fair trial standards.

On December 6, the SCC handed down initial death sentences to 15 individuals and sentenced 15 others to prison terms for spying for Iran; two additional individuals were acquitted. As of year’s end, the sentences were under appeal. HRW issued a report in May that claimed there were multiple due process violations in the trials of the men, many of whom were reportedly Shia. HRW further claimed that they had been held incommunicado in pretrial detention for a prolonged period without access to legal counsel and that, before and throughout court proceedings, their legal counsel was not able to review the evidence against them.

The government also imposes death sentences for crimes committed by minors. According to accounts from local and international human rights organizations, family members, and local media, at least three individuals executed on January 2–Mustafa Abkar, Ali al-Ribh, and Amin al-Ghamidi–may have been minors when they allegedly committed the crimes for which they were convicted.

On July 27, the SCC in Riyadh sentenced Abdulkareem al-Hawaj to death for crimes he allegedly committed in 2012 at age 16, including “throwing two Molotov cocktails,” “participating in riots that resulted in the shooting of an armored vehicle,” “participating in illegal gatherings,” “chanting against the state,” and using social media “to insult the leaders,” according to a September 9 Amnesty International report. As of year’s end, the sentence was under appeal.

In September 2015 the Supreme Court affirmed the 2014 death sentence for Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr, the nephew of Nimr al-Nimr, who was convicted of crimes he allegedly committed when he was 17. Al-Nimr was charged with protesting, making, and throwing Molotov cocktails at police, aiding and abetting fugitives, attempting to attack security vehicles, encouraging others to participate in protests, and involvement with individuals who possessed and distributed ammunition, according to some media sources whose accuracy could not be verified. Human rights organizations reported due process concerns relating to minimum fair trial standards, including allegations that authorities arrested al-Nimr without a warrant, obtained a confession using torture, and repeatedly denied him access to his lawyer during the sentencing and appeals process. In September and October 2015, the Supreme Court upheld death sentences for Dawood al-Marhoon and Abdullah al-Zaher, convicted of crimes allegedly committed when they were 17 and 15, respectively. As of year’s end, these executions had not been carried out.

Executions were sometimes conducted for nonviolent offenses. HRW reported that as of July 27, authorities had executed 13 persons for nonviolent crimes related to drug smuggling.

Suicide bombers conducted a number of attacks throughout the year, killing both civilians and government security forces; Da’esh claimed responsibility for some of those attacks. A January 29 attack on a Shia mosque in al-Ahsa left five dead and 18 wounded. An April 28 attack on a police station, also in al-Ahsa, injured one police officer. On July 4, suicide bombers conducted apparently coordinated attacks in Medina, Qatif, and Jeddah. In Medina a suicide bomber detonated an explosives belt outside of the Prophet’s mosque, killing four persons and wounding five. In Qatif three suicide bombers detonated explosives belts outside a mosque but did not harm anyone else in the incident. In Jeddah a suicide bomber detonated an explosives belt near a foreign consulate in Jeddah, injuring two police officers.

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances (for information on detentions without prompt notification of charges or release, see section 1.d.).

The law prohibits torture and holds criminal investigation officers accountable for any abuse of authority. Sharia, as interpreted in the country, prohibits judges from accepting confessions obtained under duress. Statutory law provides that public investigators shall not subject accused persons to coercive measures to influence their testimony.

There were no confirmed reports of torture by government officials during the year, but numerous prisoners were serving sentences based on confessions they claimed were obtained through torture or mistreatment. Amnesty International, HRW, and other human rights organizations reported cases in which the SCC based its decisions on confessions allegedly obtained through torture and admitted as evidence. The UN Committee against Torture also noted that courts admitted coerced confessions as evidence. According to the committee, SCC judges “repeatedly refused to act on claims made by defendants facing terrorism charges that they were subjected to torture or ill-treatment during interrogations for the purpose of compelling a confession, including in the cases of Fadhel al-Manasif, Ali al-Nimr, Dawoud al-Marhoun, and Abdullah al-Zaher” (see section 1.a.). In 2015 the Supreme Court upheld death sentences for al-Nimr, al-Marhoon, and al-Zaher (see section 1.a.), as well as other Shia activists who claimed that authorities tortured them to obtain confessions. Amnesty International reported that Ali al-Nimr said authorities obtained his confession under torture during interrogation sessions held during six months of pretrial detention in 2012.

The UN committee also reported that complaints of torture and mistreatment by members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV) were rarely investigated, creating a climate of impunity. On April 10, the cabinet (or Council of Ministers) issued a decree stripping the CPVPV of authority to pursue suspects, ask for their identification, and arrest or detain them.

Former detainees in facilities run by the General Investigations Directorate (the country’s internal security forces, also known as “Mabahith”) alleged that abuse included sleep deprivation or long periods of solitary confinement for nonviolent detainees. Former detainees in Mabahith-run al-Ha’ir Prison claimed that, while physical abuse was uncommon in detention, Mabahith officials sometimes resorted to mental or psychological abuse of detainees, particularly during the interrogation phase. Ministry of Interior officials claimed that rules prohibiting torture prevented such practices from occurring in the penal system. The ministry installed surveillance cameras to record interrogations of suspects in criminal investigation offices, some police stations, and in prisons where such interrogations regularly occurred, such as the ministry’s General Investigations Directorate/Mabahith prison facilities.

Representatives from the governmental Human Rights Commission (HRC) and the quasi-governmental National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), supported by a trust funded by the estate of the late King Fahd, conducted prison visits to ascertain whether torture occurred in prisons or detention centers and maintained permanent branches in eight facilities. Independent institutions did not conduct regular, unannounced visits to places of detention, according to the UN Committee against Torture.

The courts continued to use corporal punishment as a judicial penalty, usually in the form of floggings, whippings, or lashings, a common punishment that government officials defended as dictated by sharia. According to local human rights activists, police conducted the floggings according to a set of guidelines determined by local interpretation of sharia. The police official administering the punishment must place a copy of the Quran under his arm that prevents raising the hand above the head, limiting the ability to inflict pain on the person subjected to the punishment, and instructions forbid police from breaking the skin or causing scarring when administering the lashes.

In February a Saudi appeals court returned a death sentence from the Abha General Court for Ashraf Fayadh, a Saudi resident of Palestinian origin, whom the court had found guilty of apostasy, spreading atheism, threatening the morals of Saudi society, and having illicit relations with women. He was sentenced to death for apostasy because of poetry he wrote was deemed offensive to Islam. The lower court then commuted his death sentence to an eight-year prison term and 800 lashes while maintaining the guilty verdict.

In February the Medina Criminal Court reportedly sentenced a 28-year-old man to 10 years in prison and 2,000 lashes for expressing his atheism on Twitter, according to the local newspaper al-Watan.

There were no reported cases of judicially administered amputation during the year.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions varied, and some did not meet international standards.

Physical Conditions: Juveniles constituted fewer than 1 percent of detainees and were held in separate facilities from adults, according to available information. Although information on the maximum capacity of the facilities was not available, overcrowding in some detention centers was reported to be a problem. Violations listed in NSHR reports following prison visits documented shortages of and improperly trained wardens and lack of prompt access to medical treatment when requested. Some detained individuals complained about lack of access to adequate health-care services, including medication. Some prisoners alleged that prison authorities maintained cold temperatures in prison facilities and deliberately kept lights on 24 hours a day to make prisoners uncomfortable.

Human rights activists reported that deaths in prisons, jails, or pretrial detention centers were infrequent. In May local media reported that two female inmates died at a rehabilitation center at the Malaz Prison, but the circumstances of their death were unclear.

Authorities held pretrial detainees together with convicted prisoners. They separated persons suspected or convicted of terrorism offenses from the general population but held them in similar facilities. Activists alleged that authorities sometimes detained individuals in the same cells as individuals with mental disabilities as a form of punishment and indicated that authorities mistreated persons with disabilities.

Administration: There were multiple legal authorities for prisons and detention centers. Local provincial authorities administered approximately 90 local jails, and the Ministry of Interior administered approximately 20 regional prisons and detention centers. Recordkeeping on prisoners was inadequate; there were reports authorities held prisoners after they had completed their sentences. A Ministry of Interior-run website provided detainees and their relatives access to a database containing information about the legal status of the detainee, including any scheduled trial dates.

Authorities differentiated between violent and nonviolent prisoners, sometimes pardoning nonviolent prisoners to reduce the prison population. Certain prisoners convicted on terrorism-related charges were required to participate in government-sponsored rehabilitation programs before being considered for release.

No ombudsmen were available to register or investigate complaints made by prisoners, although prisoners could and did submit complaints to the HRC and the NSHR for investigation. There was no information available on whether prisoners were able to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship or whether authorities investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions and treatment and made them public.

Authorities generally permitted relatives and friends to visit prisoners twice a week, although certain prisons limited visitation to once every 15 days, and there were reports that prison officials denied this privilege in some instances. The families of detainees could access a website for the Ministry of Interior’s General Directorate of Prisons that contained forms to apply for prison visits, temporary leave from prison (generally approved around the post-Ramadan Eid holidays), and release on bail (for pretrial detainees). Family members of detained persons complained that authorities canceled scheduled visits with their relatives without reason.

Authorities permitted Muslim detainees and prisoners to perform religious observances such as prayers, but prison authorities in Mabahith prison facilities reportedly did not arrange for detainees to conduct Friday Islamic congregational prayer services.

HRW reported that activist Khalid al-Umair remained in prison following the completion of his eight-year sentence on October 5. Al-Umair was arrested in 2009 for attempting to protest against Israel’s military operations in Gaza. A Gulf-based NGO reported that, as of November 3, al-Umair was transferred from al-Ha’ir Prison to Mohammed bin Nayef Counseling and Care Center in preparation for his release; he remained there at year’s end.

Independent Monitoring: No independent human rights observers visited prisons or detention centers during the year. The government permitted foreign diplomats to visit prison facilities to view general conditions in nonconsular cases. In a limited number of cases, foreign diplomats visited individuals in detention, but the visits took place in a separate visitors’ center where conditions may have differed from those in the detention facilities holding the prisoners. The most recent prison visit conducted by an independent human rights organization was a 2006 visit by HRW. In August security officials stated they permitted foreign journalists to visit a security prison in Jeddah during the year. The government permitted the governmental HRC and domestic quasi-governmental organizations, such as the NSHR, to monitor prison conditions. The organizations stated they visited prisons throughout the country and reported on prison conditions. The NSHR monitored health care in prisons and brought deficiencies to the attention of the Ministry of Interior. In 2015 the NSHR documented 422 prison-related complaints, including lack of access to medical care, poor hygiene and sanitation, overcrowding, poor ventilation, and understaffing.

The law provides that no entity may restrict a person’s actions or imprison a person, except under provisions of the law. The law of criminal procedure provides that authorities may not detain a person for more than 24 hours, except pursuant to a written order from a public investigator. Authorities must inform the detained person of the reasons for detention. Regardless, the Ministry of Interior, to which the majority of forces with arrest powers reported, maintained broad authority in law and in practice to arrest and detain persons indefinitely without judicial oversight, notification of charges against them, or effective access to legal counsel or family. Authorities held persons for months and sometimes years without charge or trial and reportedly failed to advise them promptly of their rights, including their legal right to be represented by an attorney. Under the law detentions can be extended administratively for up to six months at the discretion of the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution.

The 2014 counterterrorism law provides that an investigatory body may detain an individual accused of any crime under that law for a period of six months and may extend the detention an additional six months. By law, defendants accused of any crime cited in the law are entitled to hire a practicing lawyer to defend themselves before the court “within an adequate period of time to be decided by the investigatory body.”


The king and the Ministries of Defense and Interior, in addition to the Ministry of National Guard, are responsible for law enforcement and maintenance of order. The Ministry of Interior exercises primary control over internal security and police forces. The civil police and the internal security police have authority to arrest and detain individuals. Military and security courts investigated abuses of authority and security force killings. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces, and the government had mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no confirmed reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year, although the UN Committee against Torture noted that the lack of frequent investigations into abuses created a climate of impunity (see section 1.c.).

The CPVPV, which monitors public behavior to enforce strict adherence to the official interpretation of Islamic norms, reports to the king via the Royal Diwan (royal court) and to the Ministry of Interior. In 2015 the CPVPV had 533 offices throughout the kingdom. In April the cabinet issued regulations severely curtailing the CPVPV’s enforcement powers. The new regulations prohibit CPVPV officers from investigating, detaining or arresting, or requesting the identification of any individual and limit their activities to providing counseling and reporting individuals suspected of violating the law to police or other authorities. Evidence available at year’s end indicated that CPVPV officers were less visibly present and active after implementation of the new strictures.

Ministry of Interior police and security forces were generally effective at maintaining law and order. The Board of Grievances (“Diwan al-Mazalim”), a high-level administrative judicial body that specializes in cases against government entities and reports directly to the king, is the only formal mechanism available to seek redress for claims of abuse. Citizens may report abuses by security forces at any police station, to the HRC, or to the NSHR. The HRC and NSHR maintained records of complaints and outcomes, but privacy laws protected information about individual cases, and information was not publicly available. During the year the Board of Grievances held hearings and adjudicated claims of wrongdoing, but there were no reported prosecutions of security force members for human rights violations. The HRC, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, provided materials and training to police, security forces, and the CPVPV on protecting human rights.

Officers of the Mabahith also have broad authorities to investigate, detain, and forward to judicial authorities “national security” cases–which ranged from terrorism cases to dissident and human rights activist cases–separate from the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution (BIPP). A 2014 Ministry of Justice decree formalized and reaffirmed the role of the SCC, founded in 2008 to try terrorism offenses, following the promulgation of a counterterrorism law that year.

The BIPP and the Control and Investigation Board are the two units of the government with authority to investigate reports of criminal activity, corruption, and “disciplinary cases” involving government employees. These bodies are responsible for investigating potential cases and referring them to the administrative courts. Legal authorities for investigation and public prosecution of criminal offenses are consolidated within the BIPP; the Control and Investigation Board is responsible for investigation and prosecution of noncriminal cases. All financial audit and control functions are limited to the General Auditing Board.


According to the law of criminal procedure, “no person shall be arrested, searched, detained, or imprisoned except in cases provided by law, and any accused person shall have the right to seek the assistance of a lawyer or a representative to defend him during the investigation and trial stages.” By law, authorities may summon any person for investigation and may issue an arrest warrant based on evidence. In practice, however, authorities frequently did not use warrants, and warrants were not required in cases where probable cause existed.

The law requires that authorities file charges within 72 hours of arrest and hold a trial within six months, subject to exceptions specified by amendments to the law of criminal procedure and the counterterrorism law (see section 2.a.). Authorities may not legally detain a person under arrest for more than 24 hours, except pursuant to a written order from a public investigator. Authorities reportedly often failed to observe these legal protections, and there was no requirement to advise suspects of their rights. Judicial proceedings began after authorities completed a full investigation, which in some cases took years.

The law of criminal procedure specifies procedures required for extending the detention period of an accused person beyond the initial five days. As amended by royal decree in 2013, the law expands the number of individuals empowered to renew pretrial detentions for periods of up to six months to include the president of the BIPP and designated subordinates. The amended text allows authorities to approve official detentions in excess of six months in “exceptional circumstances,” effectively allowing individuals to be held in pretrial detention indefinitely. Another amendment extends from three months to six months the deadline for the BIPP to gather evidence against the accused and issue a warrant for the defendant’s arrest, summons, or detention. This provision is also contained in the counterterrorism law, subject to the approval of the extension by the SCC. Another amendment explicitly allows an individual to represent himself in court.

There is a functioning bail system for less serious criminal charges. Detainees generally did not have the right to obtain a lawyer of their choice. In normal cases the government typically provided lawyers to defendants, although defendants must make a formal application to the Ministry of Justice to receive a court-appointed lawyer and prove their inability to pay for their legal representation. Human rights activists often did not trust the courts to appoint lawyers for them due to concern the lawyer would be biased. The law contains no provision for the right to be informed of the protections guaranteed under the law.

Incommunicado detention was sometimes a problem. Authorities reportedly did not always respect a detainees’ right to contact family members following arrest, and the counterterrorism law allows the Ministry of Interior to hold a defendant for up to 90 days in detention without access to family members or legal counsel. Security and some other types of prisoners sometimes remained in detention for long periods before family members or associates received information of their whereabouts, particularly for detainees in Mabahith-run facilities.

Arbitrary Arrest: There were reports of arbitrary arrest and detention. During the year authorities detained without charge security suspects, persons who publicly criticized the government, Shia religious leaders, and persons who violated religious standards. Saleh al-Ashwan, a member of the Saudi Association for Political and Civil Rights (ACPRA), was detained in 2012 and held without charge until 2016, when the SCC sentenced him to five years in prison and a five-year travel ban, according to human rights organizations. In November the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention renewed its call “for the immediate release of [nine] detainees and the provision of reparations for the harm caused” on the anniversary of the expert panel’s formal opinion that the detentions of human rights activists Sulaiman al-Rashudi, Abdullah al-Hamid, Mohammed al-Qahtani, Abdulkareem Yousef al-Khoder, Mohammed Saleh al-Bajadi, Omar al-Hamid al-Sa’id, Raif Badawi, Fadhel al-Manasif, and Waleed Abu al-Khair were arbitrary. The statement also called for “other [unnamed] prisoners being held in similar circumstances” to be freed.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was a problem. In the past local unlicensed NGOs, such as ACPRA and the Adala Center for Human Rights, challenged the Ministry of Interior publicly and in court on cases considered to involve arbitrary arrest or detention. The two NGOs ceased operating in 2013 and 2014, respectively, after authorities ordered them disbanded. ACPRA claimed the ministry sometimes ignored judges’ rulings (see section 2.b.).

There was no information available on the percentage of the prison population in pretrial detention or the average length of time held. Local human rights activists knew of dozens of cases and reportedly received regular reports from families claiming authorities held their relatives arbitrarily or without notification of charges.

During the year the Ministry of Interior stated it had detained numerous individuals for terrorist acts. On September 29, local media reported there were 5,277 terror suspects detained by the Ministry of Interior in public security prisons.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees are not entitled under the law to challenge the lawfulness of their detention before a court. In the case of wrongful detention, the law of criminal procedure, as well as provisions of the counterterrorism law, provide for the right to compensation if detainees are found to have been held unlawfully.

Amnesty: The king continued the tradition of commuting some judicial punishments. Royal pardons sometimes set aside a conviction and sometimes reduced or eliminated corporal punishment. The remaining sentence could be added to a new sentence if the pardoned prisoner committed a crime subsequent to release.

Authorities did not detain some individuals who had received prison sentences. The counterterrorism law allows the interior minister to stop proceedings against an individual who cooperates with investigations or helps thwart a planned terrorist attack. The minister may also release individuals already convicted on such charges.

The law provides that judges are independent and not subject to any authority other than the provisions of sharia and the laws in force. Nevertheless, the judiciary was not independent, as it was required to coordinate its decisions with executive authorities, with the king as final arbiter. Although public allegations of interference with judicial independence were rare, the judiciary reportedly was subject to influence, particularly in the case of legal decisions rendered by specialized judicial bodies, such as the SCC, which rarely acquitted suspects. Human rights activists reported that SCC judges received implicit instructions to issue harsh sentences against human rights activists, reformers, journalists, and dissidents not engaged in violent activities.

There were some reports during the year of courts exercising jurisdiction over senior members of the royal family. In October multiple media reported that Prince Turki bin Saud al-Kabir, a member of the royal family, was executed after having been found guilty of murder. In November, the Okaz newspaper reported that an unidentified prince was lashed in a Jeddah prison as part of a court-ordered sentence that also included time in prison.


In the judicial system, there is no case law (in the form of published judicial opinions), no uniform criminal code, and no doctrine of stare decisis that binds judges to follow a legal precedent. The law states that defendants should be treated equally in accordance with sharia. The Council of Senior Scholars (CSS), or the “ulema”, an autonomous advisory body, issues religious opinions (fatwas) that guide how judges interpret sharia.

In the absence of a penal code detailing all criminal offenses and punishments, judges in the courts determine many of these penalties through their interpretations of sharia, which varied according to the judge and the circumstances of the case. Because judges have considerable discretion in decision making, rulings and sentences diverged widely from case to case. Several laws passed in the last decade, however, provide sentencing requirements for crimes including terrorism, cybercrimes, trafficking in persons, and domestic abuse. In December the Ministry of Justice completed a compilation of previous decisions that judges could refer to as a point of reference in making rulings and assigning sentences.

According to judicial procedures, appeals courts cannot independently reverse lower court judgments; they are limited to affirming judgments or returning them to a lower court for modification. Even when judges did not affirm judgments, appeals judges in some cases remanded the judgment to the judge who originally authored the opinion. This procedure sometimes made it difficult for parties to receive a ruling that differed from the original judgment in cases where judges hesitated to admit error. While judges may base their decisions on any of the four Sunni schools of jurisprudence, all of which are represented in the CSS, the Hanbali school predominates and forms the basis for the country’s law and legal interpretations of sharia. Shia citizens use their legal traditions to adjudicate family law cases between Shia parties, although either party can decide to adjudicate a case in state courts, which use Sunni legal tradition.

According to the law, there is no presumption of innocence. While the law states that court hearings shall be public, courts may be closed at the judge’s discretion. As a result, many trials during the year were closed. Foreign diplomatic missions were able to obtain permission to attend nonconsular court proceedings (that is, cases to which neither the host country nor any of its nationals were a party; diplomatic missions are generally allowed to attend consular proceedings of their own nationals), and they did so throughout the year. To attend, authorities required diplomats to obtain advance written approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the court administration, and the presiding judge. Authorities sometimes did not permit entry to such trials to individuals other than diplomats who were not the legal agents or family members of the accused. SCC officials sometimes prevented individuals from attending trial sessions for seemingly trivial reasons, such as banning female relatives or diplomats from attending due to the absence of women officers to inspect the women upon entry to the courtroom. According to the Ministry of Justice, authorities may close a trial depending on the sensitivity of the case to national security, the reputation of the defendant, or the safety of witnesses.

Representatives of the HRC, the Ministry of Justice, and sometimes representatives of the media regularly attended trials at the SCC.

Amendments to the law of criminal procedure in 2013 strengthened provisions stating that authorities will offer defendants a lawyer at government expense. Human rights activists, however, reported that the process for applying for a court-appointed lawyer was difficult and cumbersome, and many said they did not trust the process due to concern that the lawyer would be biased.

The law provides defendants the right to be present at trial and to consult with an attorney during the investigation and trial. The counterterrorism law, however, limits the right of defendants accused of terrorism to access legal representation while under investigation and provides for that access only after an unspecified period of time, “before the matter goes to court within a timeframe determined by the investigative entity.” There is no right to discovery or inspection of government-held evidence, nor can defendants view their own file, the minutes from their interrogation, or all of the evidence against them. Defendants may request to review evidence, but the court decides whether to grant the request. Defendants also have the right to call and cross-examine witnesses. The law provides that a BIPP-appointed investigator questions the witnesses called by the defendant during the investigation phase before the initiation of a trial and may hear testimony of additional witnesses he deems necessary to determine the facts. Authorities may not subject a defendant to any coercive measures or compel the taking of an oath. The court must inform convicted persons of their right to appeal rulings.

The law does not provide for free interpretation services. The law of criminal procedure provides only that “the court should seek the assistance of interpreters,” but it does not obligate the court to do so from the moment the defendant is charged, nor does the law specify that the state will bear the costs of such services.

While sharia as interpreted by the government applies to all citizens and noncitizens, the law and practice discriminate against women, noncitizens, nonpracticing Sunni, Shia, and persons of other religions. For example, in most cases a woman’s testimony before a court counts as only half that of a man’s. Judges may discount the testimony of nonpracticing Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, or persons of other religions; sources reported that judges sometimes completely disregarded or refused to hear testimony by Shia.

Among many reports of abuses or violations of due process rights was that of Mohammed Saleh al-Bajady, a political dissident and founding member of ACPRA. Authorities originally arrested al-Bajady in 2011 for his leadership role in ACPRA and for publicly demanding political and legal reforms, including calls for a constitutional monarchy in the kingdom and protection for freedom of expression and association. During al-Bajady’s trial, the court denied observers access to hearings and refused to allow his lawyer access to the courtroom. In 2012 authorities sentenced him to four years’ imprisonment and a subsequent five-year international travel ban. He was released in 2013, but a week later, authorities reincarcerated him. In 2014 authorities announced they would retry al-Bajady before the SCC in relation to his human rights activities. In March 2015 the SCC sentenced al-Bajady to 10 years in prison; a court of appeals reportedly reduced the sentence to eight years, with four years suspended and including time served. In November 2015 al-Bajady was released from prison to a rehabilitation program, then to a Ministry of Interior “rest house,” and fully released on April 7, but with a travel ban until 2020.

On September 5, the SCC sentenced one of ACPRA’s members, Omar al-Sa’id, to seven years in prison, followed by a 10-year travel ban, on charges for which he had reportedly already been tried, convicted, and served time. In 2013 authorities detained al-Sa’id and the Buraydah Criminal Court initially sentenced him to 300 lashes and four years in prison for calling for a constitutional monarchy and criticizing the country’s human rights record. The case was returned on appeal to the issuing court and then transferred to the SCC, which ruled in November 2015 to reduce his sentence to two and one-half years, including time already served. He was released in December 2015 upon completion of the sentence. Following his release, the case was reopened, and the SCC subsequently issued the September 5 ruling that increased his sentence from two and one-half to seven years in prison; al-Said remained in detention at year’s end.

In 2014 authorities retried human rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair before the SCC, and the court handed down a 15-year sentence, with a subsequent 15-year international travel ban after his release and a fine of 200,000 riyals ($53,300), upheld on appeal in January 2015. Previously, the Jeddah Criminal Court sentenced him to a three-month prison term on a virtually identical set of charges, all of which related to his human rights work, public calls for reform, criticisms of government policies and officials, and his role in founding an unlicensed NGO, the Monitor for Human Rights in Saudi Arabia.


The number of political prisoners, including detainees who reportedly remained in prolonged detention without charge, could not be reliably ascertained.

In many cases it was impossible to determine the legal basis for incarceration and whether the detention complied with international norms and standards. Those who remained imprisoned after trial, including persons who were political activists openly critical of the government, were often convicted of terrorism-related crimes, and there was not sufficient public information about the alleged crimes to judge whether they had a credible claim to being political prisoners. The SCC tried political and human rights activists each year for actions unrelated to terrorism or violence against the state.

International NGOs criticized the government for abusing its antiterrorism prerogatives to arrest some members of the political opposition who had not espoused or committed violence and detain them on security-related grounds. High-profile prisoners were generally treated well. Authorities sometimes restricted legal access to detainees; no international humanitarian organizations had access to them.

On December 1, an SCC appellate court increased the initial sentence issued on April 24 for Eissa al-Hamid, a cofounder of ACPRA, from nine to 11 years in prison, followed by a travel ban of 11 years, and levied a fine of 100,000 riyals ($27,000) against him on charges that included “communicating false information to undermine the image of the state,” according to the Agence France-Presse. On May 29, the SCC sentenced ACPRA founding-member Abdulaziz al-Shobaily to eight years in prison, followed by an eight-year travel ban, on charges related to his membership in a human rights organization. On November 3, local media reported that the SCC in Qatif sentenced a citizen to 10 years’ imprisonment and a 50,000 riyals ($13,300) fine for joining ACPRA and sentenced another to 15 years’ imprisonment for sympathizing with Nimr al-Nimr and calling for demonstrations against the government.

In January 2015 authorities administered 50 lashes to Raif Badawi, a nonviolent activist and blogger sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes in 2014 on charges related to insulting Islam (see section 2.a.). As of year’s end, Badawi remained in Burayman Prison in Jeddah; authorities had not yet carried out the remainder of the lashing sentence.

In 2014 the SCC sentenced Shia activist Fadhel al-Manasif to 15 years in prison and a 15-year travel ban for breaking allegiance with the king and harming the country’s reputation, among other charges, according to media and NGO reporting.


Complainants claiming human rights violations generally sought assistance from the HRC or the NSHR, which either advocated on their behalf or provided courts with opinions on their cases. The HRC generally responded to complaints and could refer cases to the BIPP; domestic violence cases were the most common. Individuals or organizations may petition directly for damages or government action to end human rights violations before the Board of Grievances, except in compensation cases related to state security where the SCC handles remediation. The counterterrorism law contains a provision allowing detainees in Mabahith-run prisons to request financial compensation from the Ministry of Interior for wrongful detention beyond their prison terms.

In some cases the government did not carry out judicially ordered compensation for unlawful detentions in a timely manner.

The law prohibits unlawful intrusions into the privacy of persons, their homes, places of work, and vehicles. Criminal investigation officers are required to maintain records of all searches conducted; these records should contain the name of the officer conducting the search, the text of the search warrant (or an explanation of the urgency that necessitated the search without a warrant), and the names and signatures of the persons who were present at the time of search. While the law also provides for the privacy of all mail, telegrams, telephone conversations, and other means of communication, the government did not respect the privacy of correspondence or communications and used the considerable latitude provided by law to monitor activities legally and intervene where it deemed necessary.

There were reports from human rights activists of governmental monitoring or blocking mobile telephone or internet usage before planned demonstrations. The government strictly monitored politically related activities and took punitive actions, including arrest and detention, against persons engaged in certain political activities, such as direct public criticism of senior members of the royal family by name, forming a political party, or organizing a demonstration. Customs officials reportedly routinely opened mail and shipments to search for contraband. In some areas Ministry of Interior informants allegedly reported “seditious ideas,” “antigovernment activity,” or “behavior contrary to Islam” in their neighborhoods.

The counterterrorism law allows the Ministry of Interior to access a terrorism suspect’s private communications as well as banking information in a manner inconsistent with the legal protections provided by criminal procedure law.

The CPVPV monitored and regulated public interaction between members of the opposite sex. In May local media reported that police, acting on information from the CPVPV, arrested one unrelated couple for traveling together in the same car and another unrelated couple for traveling together on a motorcycle.

In March 2015, in response to a request from Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi for Arab League/Gulf Cooperation Council military intervention, Saudi officials announced the formation of a coalition to counter the 2014 overthrow of the legitimate government in Yemen by militias of the Ansar Allah movement (also known colloquially as “Houthis”) and forces loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Membership in the coalition included the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Somalia, Sudan, and Senegal. The Saudi-led coalition conducted air and ground operations throughout 2015 and, to a more limited extent, between the months of April and August, as a result of a cease-fire agreement that limited air and ground operations during peace talks held in Kuwait. Following the suspension of the talks in August, the coalition resumed military operations.

Killings: NGOs, media, and humanitarian and international organizations reported on what they characterized as disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by all parties to the conflict in Yemen, including the Saudi-led coalition.

Coalition airstrikes resulted in civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure on multiple occasions. For example, an airstrike on a funeral hall in Sanaa, Yemen, on October 8 killed at least 140 persons and wounded more than 500, including children, according to international media reports.

The UN high commissioner for human rights stated that between March 2015 and August 23, an estimated 3,799 civilians had been killed and 6,711 injured as result of the war in Yemen. His office released a report containing examples of possible violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law by the coalition that had occurred through June, including those involving airstrikes on residential areas, marketplaces, and medical and educational facilities. On March 15, for example, coalition airstrikes allegedly killed 107 civilians, injured 37 civilians, and destroyed 16 shops in a market in Mustaba district of Hajjah Governorate.

The coalition’s Joint Incident Assessment Team (JIAT), established by the government, based in Riyadh, and consisting of military and civilian members from coalition member states, investigated some incidents of airstrikes that reportedly resulted in civilian casualties as well as claims by international organizations that humanitarian aid convoys and infrastructure were targeted by the coalition. On December 7, the JIAT released summaries of reports of five incidents, including the August 15 attack against a Doctors without Borders (MSF) facility in the Abs district of Hajjah Governorate. In August the JIAT released a press statement with summary findings of eight such investigations. The JIAT also issued a press statement on its initial investigation of the October 8 funeral hall airstrike, claiming that a Yemeni party passed the coalition information that inaccurately reported the funeral hall was a military target and recommending that action be taken against those who caused the incident. It recommended that the coalition review its rules of engagement and that families of the victims receive compensation. In addition, the JIAT recommended in two separate incidents an investigation into potential violations of the rules of engagement and accountability for those involved in two other incidents. The JIAT was established by the government to identify lessons and corrective actions and to cue national accountability mechanisms, as appropriate. The JIAT’s investigations had not led to any prosecutions as of year’s end.

Houthi militias and forces allied with former president Saleh fired long-range missiles into or towards Saudi Arabia nearly 30 times between January 1 and December 31, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies and media reports. Saudi media reported more than 40,000 projectiles had been launched into Saudi territory from Yemen since March 2015, destroying hospitals, schools, homes, and other infrastructure. In August media reported that authorities in Najran said Houthi-Saleh militias had partially or totally destroyed 1,074 homes and 108 commercial establishments since March 2015. More than 370 Saudi civilians were killed along the Saudi southern border in the same period, according to Saudi media reports.

Other Conflict-related Abuse: There were reports of restrictions on the free passage of relief supplies and of humanitarian organizations’ access to those individuals most in need, perpetrated by all sides in the conflict, including the Saudi-led coalition. Some media reported the Yemen government and/or the coalition delayed or denied clearance permits for humanitarian and commercial aid shipments bound for rebel-held Red Sea ports. Other sources reported the Houthi-Saleh militias’ forceful takeover and misadministration of Yemen government institutions led to dire economic consequences–the nonpayment of workers’ wages, unmaintained and unrepaired gantry cranes at ports where aid materiel was offloaded, and allegations of widespread corruption, including at checkpoints controlled by Houthi-Saleh militias–which severely impacted the distribution of food aid and exacerbated food insecurity.

According to an HRW report published in July, coalition airstrikes damaged many factories and structures used for humanitarian and economic purposes during the year. HRW reported that: an airstrike on January 6 damaged a hangar containing food products including rice and sugar at Hudaydah Port; on February 2 and 5, two airstrikes on a cement factory in Amran killed 15 civilians and damaged buildings around the factory; and on August 11 and 12, airstrikes destroyed Aldarejh Bridge, used by the World Food Program to transport approximately 90 percent of its food deliveries for the northern governorates, forcing it to use alternate supply routes. As a result of the conflict, the humanitarian situation in the country deteriorated significantly, with 14.1 million food insecure people and a reported 69 percent of the country’s population requiring humanitarian assistance by the end of the year, according to the UN.

On August 15, a coalition airstrike destroyed an MSF hospital in Hajjah Governorate, which MSF stated killed 19 persons, including one MSF staff member, and injured 24. Later that month MSF announced that it would evacuate its staff from six hospitals in northern Yemen because it could not receive assurances that its hospitals would not be bombed again.

For additional details, including additional information on the Saudi-led coalition’s operations in Yemen, see the Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights for Yemen.

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