Executive Summary

Cameroon is a republic dominated by a strong presidency. The country has a multiparty system of government, but the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) has remained in power since its creation in 1985. In practice, the president retains the power to control legislation. In 2011 citizens re-elected CPDM leader Paul Biya president, a position he has held since 1982, in a flawed election marked by irregularities, but observers did not believe these had a significant impact on the outcome. In April 2013 the country conducted the first Senate elections in its history that were peaceful and considered generally free and fair. In September 2013 simultaneous legislative and municipal elections were held, and most observers considered them free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained a degree of control over security forces, including police and gendarmerie.

The most significant human rights issues included: arbitrary and unlawful killings through excessive use of force by security forces; disappearances by security forces and Boko Haram; torture and abuse by security forces including in military and unofficial detention facilities; prolonged arbitrary detentions including of suspected Boko Haram supporters and individuals in the Anglophone regions; harsh and life threatening prison conditions; violations of freedoms of expression and assembly; periodic government restrictions on access to the internet; trafficking in persons; criminalization and arrest of individuals engaged in consensual same-sex sexual conduct; and violations of workers’ rights.

Although the government took some steps to punish and prosecute officials who committed abuses in the security forces and in the public service, it did not often make public actual sanctions, and offenders often continued acting with impunity.

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 several reports security force officials committed arbitrary and unlawful killings through excessive use of force in the execution of official duties. Amnesty International and the International Crisis Group reported that defense and security forces used excessive and disproportionate force to disperse demonstrations in the country’s Anglophone regions, killing at least 40 individuals between September 28 and October 2 alone. On November 17, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called on the government to conduct an impartial and independent investigation into the allegations of human rights violations committed during and after the October incidents but as of December no investigations into these allegations were underway.

In the Far North region, security forces also were reported responsible for holding incommunicado, torturing, and in at least 10 cases killing suspected Boko Haram and Islamic State (ISIS)-West Africa supporters in detention facilities run by the military and intelligence services, including the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) and the General Directorate of External Research (DGRE). Civil society organizations and media sources generally blamed members of the three primary security forces–the BIR, the Motorized Infantry Battalion, and the gendarmerie–for the deaths. Per Amnesty International, no security force officials responsible for human rights violations documented in their reporting on the Far North region had been held to account as of November.

The terrorist organization Boko Haram as well as ISIS-West Africa continued killing civilians, including members of vigilance committees, and members of defense and security forces in the Far North region. According to Amnesty International, Boko Haram conducted at least 120 attacks between July 2016 and June 2017, including 23 suicide bombings, resulting in the deaths of more than 150 civilians.

b. Disappearance

There continued to be reports of arrests and disappearances of individuals by security forces, particularly in the northern and Anglophone regions. According to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), some activists arrested in the context of the crisis fueled by perceptions of marginalization in the northwest and southwest Anglophone regions could not be accounted for as of November. Family members and friends of detained persons were frequently unaware of the missing individual’s location in detention until after a month or more of attempting to locate the missing individual.

Boko Haram insurgents kidnapped civilians, including women and children, during numerous attacks in the Far North region. Some of their victims remained unaccounted for as of November.

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

Although the constitution and law prohibit such practices, there were reports that security force members tortured, beat, harassed, or otherwise abused citizens. According to credible NGOs, members of the BIR, DGRE, and other security officials, including police and gendarmes, tortured persons inside and outside detention facilities.

Amnesty International reported in July on the cases of 101 individuals whom security forces allegedly tortured between March 2013 and March 2017 in detention facilities run by the BIR and the DGRE. While most of the cases documented involved persons arrested in 2014 and 2015 and tortured between 2014 and 2016, Amnesty International asserted that the practice continued into 2017. It stated that torture took place at 20 sites, including four military bases, two intelligence centers, a private residence, and a school. Specific sites named in the report included the BIR bases in Salak, Kousseri, and Kolofata, in the Far North region, and the DGRE facilities in Yaounde. Amnesty International said victims of torture described at least 24 different methods used to beat, break, and humiliate them, usually with the aim of forcing confessions or gaining information but also to punish, terrify, and intimidate. Most commonly, detainees were beaten with various objects, including electric cables, machetes, and wooden sticks; forced into stress positions and suspended from poles in ways that caused extreme pain to joints and muscles; and subjected to simulated drowning. A significant number of those arrested, according to the report, believed they had been targeted in part due to their Kanuri ethnicity. As of November no known investigations into these allegations had begun.

Press reporting from November 2016 indicated police and gendarmes in Buea, Southwest region, removed students, some of whom had recently been involved in protests at the local university, from their hostels, forced them to roll over in mud, and beat them with batons. According to reports, students were crammed onto military trucks and taken to undisclosed locations, where some were held for months. Some female students were allegedly raped.

Rape and sexual abuse were reported in several instances. The International Crisis Group reported that security forces were responsible for sexual abuse during their response to unrest in the Anglophone regions in September and October. International humanitarian organizations reported that members of the security forces stopped female refugees who travelled without national identity cards and sexually exploited them in exchange for letting the women pass through security checkpoints.

The United Nations reported that as of October it had received four allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against Cameroonian peacekeepers. One allegation of an exploitative relationship, one allegation of transactional sex, and two allegations of the rape of a child were made against military personnel serving with the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic. As of October 26, all investigations were pending. In two cases the United Nations suspended payments to the accused personnel; in the other two, interim actions were pending the identification of the personnel involved.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions remained harsh and potentially life threatening due to gross overcrowding, inadequate food and medical care, physical abuse, and poor sanitary conditions.

Physical Conditions: Overcrowding remained pervasive in most prisons, especially in major urban centers. Officials held prisoners in dilapidated, colonial-era prisons, where the number of inmates was as much as four to five times the intended capacity. Prisons generally had separate wards for men, women, and children, but authorities often held detainees in pretrial detention and convicted prisoners together. In many prisons, toilet areas were common pits with multiple holes. In some cases, women benefitted from better living conditions, including improved toilet facilities and less crowded living quarters. Authorities claimed to hold sick persons separately from the general prison population, but this was often not the case.

The central prison in Maroua, Far North region, built in the 1930s and with an intended capacity of 350, held an estimated 1,600 inmates as of June. The central prison in Garoua, North region, with an intended capacity of 500, held nearly 2,000 inmates as of June 30. The central prison in Ngaoundere, Adamawa region, was designed for 500 inmates yet hosted 1,286 detainees as of July, over half of whom had not been convicted of any crime. As of July the principal prison in Edea, Littoral region, which had an intended capacity of 100, held 402 inmates, most of whom slept on the floor. The Kondengui central prison in Yaounde held approximately 4,000 inmates as of June, but its intended capacity was 1,500. The central prison in Buea, Southwest region, built to host 300 inmates, held 1,175 inmates as of July.

Amnesty International recorded testimonies by suspected Boko Haram affiliates who were held at different times and in various detention facilities from 2014 to March 2017. Poor detention conditions included extreme overcrowding, inadequate and insufficient food and water, little or no access to sanitation, denial of medical assistance, and lack of access to fresh air or sunlight.

As in 2016, physical abuse by prison guards and prisoner-on-prisoner violence were also problems. According to media outlets and NGOs, on March 12-13, inmates of Garoua Central Prison launched a protest that developed into a mutiny. The prisoners were reportedly protesting life-threatening overcrowding. Prisoners denounced lack of potable water and other inhuman conditions. Some detainees besieged the main prison courtyard and refused to return to their cells because of excessive heat and poor ventilation. The protest allegedly became violent when security force members attempted to return the prisoners to their cells forcibly. Three inmates died, according to official sources, and more than 40 were injured.

Disease and illness were widespread. Malnutrition, tuberculosis, bronchitis, malaria, hepatitis, scabies, and numerous other untreated conditions, including infections, parasites, dehydration, and diarrhea, were rampant. The number of deaths associated with detention conditions or actions of staff members or other authorities was unknown. Observers indicated there had been 26 cases of tuberculosis in the central prison in Garoua, North region, since January. Amnesty International estimated that dozens of detainees died in both BIR and DGRE-run detention facilities between late 2013 and May 2017 because of torture and other mistreatment.

Corruption among prison personnel was reportedly widespread. Visitors were forced to bribe wardens to access inmates. Some visitors reported paying 2,000 CFA francs ($3.73)–the minimum daily wage is roughly CFA francs 570 ($1.06). Prisoners bribed wardens for special favors or treatment, including temporary freedom, cell phones, beds, and transfers to less crowded areas of the prisons. Due to inability to pay fines, some prisoners remained imprisoned after completing their sentences or receiving court orders of release.

As in the previous year, Amnesty International reported cases of persons held in unofficial detention sites, including BIR and/or DGRE-run facilities and other detention centers run by the security forces. As of mid-March the number of persons held in Salak (Maroua, Far North region) and DGRE Lac (Yaounde, Center region) was at least 20 in each facility, based on estimates by Amnesty International. Local news sources reported that authorities had released 18 presumed Boko Haram members on August 10 after holding them for more than 10 months in Salak. Some sources stated that a number of Salak prisoners had been transferred to the central prison in Maroua.

Administration: Independent authorities often investigated credible allegations of life-threatening conditions. Visitors needed formal authorization from the state counsel; without authorization, they had to bribe prison staff to communicate with inmates. In addition, visits to Boko Haram suspects were highly restricted. Some detainees were held far from their families, reducing the possibility of visits.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted international humanitarian organizations access to prisoners in official prisons. For example, the International Committee of the Red Cross had access to five prisons, including Maroua and Kousseri in the Far North region, Garoua in the North, Bertoua in the East, and Kondengui principal prison in Yaounde, Center region. Observers did not have access to prisoners held in unofficial military detention facilities. The National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms (NCHRF) and NGOs, including the Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Archdiocese, made infrequent unannounced prison visits. In July authorities denied a request by a joint delegation of foreign experts to visit the Yaounde Kondengui principal and central prisons. As of September, authorities had not approved an August 11 request by the NCHRF to visit detention facilities at the Secretariat of State for Defense (SED), DGRE, and National Surveillance Directorate.

Authorities allowed NGOs to conduct formal education and other literacy programs in prisons. At the principal prison in Edea, Littoral region, NGO Christian Action for the Abolition of Torture sponsored a Literacy and Social Reintegration Center that provided primary and lower secondary education to inmates. Human IS Right, a Buea-based civil society organization, in partnership with Operation Total Impact, continued their formal education and reformation education program in principal prisons of Buea and Kumba, Southwest region.

Improvements: An international humanitarian organization reported that health conditions, especially malnutrition, had improved in the prisons it worked in since it started collaborating more closely with government. It also stated it had agreements with some hospitals and took care of some medical bills of prisoners who required outside medical attention.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of their arrest or detention in court. The law states that, except in the case of an individual discovered in the act of committing a felony or misdemeanor, the officials making the arrest shall disclose their identity and inform the person arrested of the reason. The law also provides that persons arrested on a warrant shall be brought immediately before the examining magistrate or the president of the trial court who issued the warrant, and that the accused persons shall be given reasonable access to contact their family, obtain legal advice, and arrange for their defense. On several occasions the government did not respect these provisions.


The national police, DGRE, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralization, and, to a lesser extent, Presidential Guard, are responsible for internal security. The Ministry of Defense–which includes the gendarmerie, army, and the army’s military security unit–reports to an office of the Presidency, resulting in strong presidential control of security forces. The army is responsible for external security; the national police and gendarmerie have primary responsibility for law enforcement. The gendarmerie alone has responsibility in rural areas. The national police–which includes the public security force, judicial police, territorial security forces, and frontier police–report to the General Delegation of National Security (DGSN), which is under the direct authority of the Presidency.

The government took some steps to hold police accountable for abuses of power. Police remained ineffective, poorly trained, and corrupt. Impunity continued to be a problem.

Civilian authorities maintained some control over the police and gendarmerie, and the government had some mechanisms in place to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. The DGSN and gendarmerie investigated reports of abuse and forwarded cases to the courts. Lesser sanctions were handled internally. The DGSN, Ministry of Defense, and Ministry of Justice claimed members of security forces were sanctioned during the year for committing abuses, but few details were known about investigations or any subsequent accountability.

The National Gendarmerie and the army have special offices to investigate abuse. The secretary of state for defense and the minister-delegate at the Presidency are in charge of prosecuting abusers. The minister-delegate of defense refers cases involving aggravated theft, criminal complicity, murder, and other major offenses to the military courts for trial.

As of November, the Military Court had not issued a decision in the prosecution of gendarme officer Lazare Leroy Dang Mbah, who was placed on pretrial detention following his involvement in the death of Moupen Moussa in March 2016 at an SED detention facility. Mbah detained and beat Moussa for failing to produce his national identity card. In the criminal procedure, the accused pleaded guilty of the charges listed against him. In addition the trial for Colonel Charles Ze Onguene, former commander of the Far North Gendarmerie Legion, continued before the Military Court in Yaounde. Colonel Ze was charged in connection with a cordon-and-search operation carried out in the villages of Magdeme and Double, Far North region, in 2014, during which more than 200 men and boys were arbitrarily arrested and taken to the gendarmerie in Maroua. At least 25 of them died in custody the same night, according to official sources.


The law requires police to obtain a warrant before making an arrest, except when a person is caught in the act of committing a crime, but police often did not respect this requirement. The law provides that detainees be brought promptly before a magistrate, although this often did not occur. Police may legally detain a person in connection with a common crime for up to 48 hours, renewable once. This period may, with the written approval of the state counsel, be exceptionally extended twice before charges are brought. Nevertheless, police and gendarmes reportedly often exceeded these detention periods. The law also permits detention without charge for renewable periods of 15 days by administrative authorities such as governors and civilian government officials serving in territorial command. The law provides for access to legal counsel and family members, although police frequently denied detainees access to both. The law prohibits incommunicado detention, but it occurred, especially in connection with the fight against Boko Haram. The law permits bail, allows citizens the right to appeal, and provides the right to sue for unlawful arrest, but these rights were seldom respected.

Arbitrary Arrest: Police, gendarmes, BIR officials, and government authorities reportedly continued to arrest and detain persons arbitrarily, often holding them for prolonged periods without charge or trial and at times incommunicado. “Friday arrests,” a practice whereby individuals arrested on a Friday typically remained in detention until at least Monday unless they paid a bribe, continued albeit to a limited extent. There were several reports police or gendarmes arrested persons without warrants on circumstantial evidence alone, often following instructions from influential persons to settle personal scores. There were also reports police or gendarmes arbitrarily arrested persons during neighborhood sweeps for criminals and stolen goods or arrested persons lacking national identification cards, especially in connection with the Anglophone crisis and the fight against Boko Haram.

There were several reports the government arbitrarily arrested and detained innocent citizens. Between November 2016 and July 2017, authorities arrested dozens of Anglophone activists and bystanders for no apparent reason. Police arrested some persons without informing them of the charges. In some instances the government did not inform family members where relatives were taken. On August 31 and September 1, the government released 55 Anglophone detainees. Others, up to 69 by some estimates, remained in detention as of September 30. In some cases, journalists covering events in the Anglophone regions were arrested and held for long periods of time without being notified of the charges against them.

On January 21, unidentified individuals in civilian clothing arrested Ayah Paul Abine, advocate general at the Supreme Court. The men took Ayah from his private home to the SED, where they held him without charge. In March, Ayah’s lawyers filed an application for immediate release with the Mfoundi High Court in Yaounde. On March 16, Ayah learned the charges against him. Lawyers believed Ayah’s detention was arbitrary because it happened over a weekend, he did not learn about the charges until several weeks later, and the arrest was in violation of the provisions of the criminal procedure code applicable to magistrates. On August 30, President Biya ordered the discontinuance of proceedings pending before the Military Court against Ayah, Nkongho Felix Agbor Balla, Fontem Aforteka’a Neba, and 52 others arrested in relation to the Anglophone crisis.

Amnesty International’s July report indicated that arbitrary arrests and detentions continued on a large scale in the Far North region, and even the basic legal safeguards concerning arrest and detention were rarely respected. According to the report, individuals were arrested arbitrarily and held in secret detention for several weeks or even months.

Pretrial Detention: The law provides for a maximum of 18 months’ detention before trial, but many detainees waited for years to appear in court. No comprehensive statistics were available on pretrial detainees. As of July, the central prison in Ngaoundere, Adamawa region, hosted 1,286 inmates, 735 of whom were pretrial detainees and appellants. Some pretrial detainees had been awaiting trial for more than two years. An international humanitarian organization claimed some alleged terrorists in detention had been in prison for so long that they no longer knew the addresses of their relatives. The increase in pretrial prison populations was due in large part to mass arrests of Anglophone activists and persons accused of supporting Boko Haram; staff shortages; lengthy legal procedures; lost files; administrative and judicial bottlenecks, including procedural trial delays; and corruption.

As of November, Oben Maxwell, an activist, remained in pretrial detention in the central prison in Buea, Southwest region. He was arrested in 2014 for holding an illegal meeting. The Military Court initially handled the case, but it was then assigned to the Court of First Instance in Buea with no progress. On October 30, the Military Court in Yaounde sentenced Abdoulaye Harissou, a public notary, to three years’ imprisonment for nondenunciation. Having already served his sentence, he was released on November 12. The court sentenced another defendant in the case, Aboubakar Sidiki, president of opposition party Patriotic Movement of the Cameroonian Salvation, to 25 years. He appealed the court decision. Harissou and Sidiki were accused of hostility against the homeland and illegal possession of weapons of war and had been in pretrial detention since their arrests in August 2014.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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

Although the constitution and law prohibit arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence, these rights were subject to restriction for the “higher interests of the state,” and there were credible reports police and gendarmes harassed citizens and conducted searches without warrants.

The law permits a police officer to enter a private home during daylight hours without a warrant if he is pursuing a criminal suspect. Police and gendarmes often did not comply with this provision. A police officer may enter a private home at any time in pursuit of a person observed committing a crime.

An administrative authority, including a governor or senior divisional officer, may authorize police to conduct neighborhood sweeps without warrants, and this occurred.

Police and gendarmes sometimes sealed off a neighborhood, systematically searched homes, arrested persons, sometimes arbitrarily, and seized suspicious or illegal articles. In the early morning of March 18, security forces allegedly conducted a cordon-and-search operation in the neighborhoods of Metta Quarter, Azire, and T-Junction in Bamenda, Northwest region. They arrested and detained citizens without national identity cards until their identities could be established. They allegedly transported some of the persons arrested to unknown destinations in military trucks.

There were several reports police arbitrarily confiscated electronic devices and did not return them, especially in Anglophone regions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

The law provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, but the government often restricted this right.

Freedom of Expression: Government officials penalized individuals or organizations that criticized or expressed views at odds with government policy. Individuals who criticized the government publicly or privately frequently faced reprisals. On several occasions, the government used the law requiring permits or government notification of public protests to stifle discourse, and many civil society and political organizations reported increased difficulty in obtaining approval to organize public gatherings. The government attempted to impede criticism by monitoring political meetings. In May government authorities reportedly shut down an Amnesty International news conference at which the rights group planned to discuss the plight of three students sentenced to a decade in prison for a Boko Haram joke.

The government also used antiterrorism legislation to exercise control over public and private expression. On April 24, the military court in Yaounde sentenced Radio France International (RFI)’s Hausa service journalist Ahmed Abba to 10 years in prison for “nondenunciation of acts of terrorism” and “laundering the proceeds of terrorist acts.” Authorities arrested Abba in 2015 in Maroua, Far North region, on suspicion of collaborating with Boko Haram and withholding information. After a 29-month imprisonment, Abba was released on December 22 when an Appeals Court judge acquitted him of “laundering of the proceeds of terrorism.” The judge, however, upheld the “nondenunciation of acts of terrorism” charge and sentenced Abba to 24 months in prison (time served) and a fine of CFA 55 million francs ($102,611).

Press and Media Freedom: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views, although there were restrictions, especially on editorial independence, in part due to stated terrorism concerns, the fight against Boko Haram, and the crisis in the two Anglophone regions. Journalists reported practicing self-censorship to avoid repercussions for criticizing the government, especially on security matters.

Violence and Harassment: Police, gendarmes, and other government agents arrested, detained, physically attacked, and intimidated journalists for their reporting.

Based on estimates by the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms, and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), authorities arrested at least eight journalists in connection with their reporting of the Anglophone crisis. On February 9, security forces arrested Atia Tilarious Azohnwi, a political journalist with The Sun and Amos Fofung, bureau chief at The Guardian Post. Both were released in August without charges. Tim Finnian and Hans Achomba were arrested in January for reporting critical of the government; they were released after the president’s August 30 decree, which freed 55 detainees.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The National Communication Council (NCC) is empowered to ensure all printed media comply with the legal requirement that editors in chief deposit two signed copies of each newspaper edition with the Prosecutor’s Office for scrutiny within two hours of publication. Journalists and media outlets practiced self-censorship, especially if the NCC had suspended them previously. The NCC issued several warnings and suspensions during the year.

NCC president Peter Esoka publicly warned journalists several times in the year to refrain from publishing stories on secession and federalism activities in the two Anglophone regions. On January 10, Northwest regional authorities sealed the premises of Bamenda-based Hot Cocoa 94 FM Radio. The authorities allegedly accused the station of inciting the population to civil disobedience. According to a CPJ report, the station was allowed to resume broadcasting within 48 hours with the condition that it handle sensitive issues objectively, especially during crisis situations. Epervier Plus and its editor received a six-month suspension for publishing allegations of embezzlement involving a senior divisional officer.

Libel/Slander Laws: Press freedom is further constrained by strict libel laws. These laws authorize the government, at its discretion and the request of the plaintiff, to criminalize a civil libel suit or to initiate a criminal libel suit in cases of alleged libel against the president or other high government officials. Such crimes are punishable by prison terms and heavy fines. The libel law places the burden of proof on the defendant. The government contended libel laws were aimed at safeguarding citizens whose reputations could be permanently damaged by defamation. The government and public figures reportedly used laws against libel or slander to restrict public discussion. On February 22, police arrested Medjo Lewis, editor of La Detente Libre. The High Court of Bafoussam, West region, subsequently sentenced him to two years in prison plus a fine of 10 million CFA francs ($18,656) for defamation. Lewis was granted an early release in September.


From January 17 to April 20, the government blocked access to the internet in the Southwest and Northwest regions. On January 17, the country’s four telephone operators, including South Africa’s MTN and France’s Orange, informed their subscribers in both regions that internet services were no longer available for reasons “beyond their control.” In late March the minister of telecommunications acknowledged authorities were behind the internet shutdown. Government authorities claimed the shutdown was an attempt to limit the propagation of images and misinformation about the crisis in the Anglophone regions, which the government perceived as a threat to peace and national unity. The Global Network Initiative released a statement in January expressing deep concerns about the restrictions on the internet and urging the government to lift the restrictions immediately.

Civil society organizations reported renewed, targeted Internet disruptions in select locations in the Southwest and Northwest regions after September 22 and following major protests in the Anglophone regions on October 1. Public announcements from the government indicated a willingness to block internet access again should the government deem it necessary. In October the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights voiced concern over tensions in the country’s Anglophone regions, noting that people should be allowed to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, including through uninterrupted access to the internet.

The International Telecommunication Union estimated that 25 percent of the population used the internet in 2016.


Although there were no legal restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events, state security informants reportedly continued to operate on university campuses. There were no reports the government censored curricula; sanctioned academic personnel for their teachings, writing, or research; restricted academic travel or contacts; intimidated academics into self-censorship; or attempted to influence academic appointments based on political affiliation. There were a few reports, however, of security personnel disrupting student extracurricular activities.

The government restricted freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.


Although the law provides for freedom of peaceful assembly, the government often restricted this right. The law requires organizers of public meetings, demonstrations, and processions to notify officials in advance but does not require prior government approval of public assemblies and does not authorize the government to suppress public assemblies that it has not approved in advance. Nevertheless, officials routinely asserted the law implicitly authorizes the government to grant or deny permission for public assemblies. The government often refused to grant permits for assemblies and used force to suppress assemblies for which it had not issued permits. Authorities typically cited “security concerns” as the basis for deciding to block assembly. The government also prevented civil society organizations and political parties from holding press conferences. Police and gendarmes forcibly disrupted meetings and demonstrations of citizens, trade unions, and political activists throughout the year.

The Divisional Officer (DO) for Douala V, Littoral region, prohibited a meeting and rally that the opposition Social Democratic Front party intended to organize on March 4 at “Carrefour Le Pauvre” intersection, followed by a march along a specific itinerary. The DO stated the event was likely to disrupt public order. On March 4, authorities allegedly deployed police and gendarmerie antiriot cars, as well as armed gendarmes and police officers, around the planned meeting spot. Security forces erected barricades along the planned course for the rally. In the early hours of the day, authorities also deployed troops around the DO’s residence in Ndogpassi neighborhood in Douala.

In May authorities banned two events scheduled to take place in Yaounde, including press conferences by Amnesty International and NGO New Human Rights (NDH). The objective of Amnesty International’s conference was to communicate the contents of letters and petitions requesting President Biya to release three students whom a military court sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for exchanging jokes about Boko Haram by short message service. A dozen security agents in uniform and plainclothes invaded the meeting venue early in the morning and asked hotel officials to close the meeting hall. The NDH conference intended to focus on the topic “human rights and the fight against terrorism in Cameroon.” The DO alleged the event was likely to disturb public order. In August the Cameroon Political Journalists Club could not hold the ninth edition of its monthly Cafe Politique, which was scheduled to host a National Democratic Institute representative. Yaounde’s DO claimed the conference would disturb the public order and peace.


The constitution and law provide for freedom of association, but the law also limits this right. On the recommendation of the senior divisional officer, the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralization may suspend the activities of an association for three months on grounds the association is disrupting public order. The minister may also dissolve an association if it is deemed a threat to state security. National associations may acquire legal status by declaring themselves in writing to the ministry but the ministry must explicitly register foreign associations and religious groups; if they do not, the law imposes heavy fines for individuals who form and operate any such association. The law prohibits organizations that advocate a goal contrary to the constitution, laws, and morality, as well as those that aim to challenge the security, territorial integrity, national unity, national integration, or republican form of the state.

The conditions for recognition of political parties, NGOs, or associations were complicated, involved long delays, and were unevenly enforced. This resulted in associations operating in legal uncertainty, their activities tolerated but not formally approved.

On January 17, the minister of territorial administration and decentralization banned the Southern Cameroons National Council and the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium, officially prohibiting all activities, meetings, and demonstrations initiated by either group or anyone sympathetic to them. The minister stated the purpose and activities of these organizations were contrary to the constitution and could jeopardize the security of the state, territorial integrity, national unity, and integration.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

Although the constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, at times the government restricted these rights. The government worked closely with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations to provide protection and assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

In-country Movement: Police and gendarmes at roadblocks and checkpoints in cities and on most highways often extorted bribes and harassed travelers. Police frequently stopped travelers to check identification documents, vehicle registrations, and tax receipts as security and immigration control measures. Between September 29 an October 5, authorities in the two Anglophone regions closed regional land and sea borders, banned movement from one division to another, and in some cases, prevented people from leaving their homes on October 1.


Several thousand persons abandoned their homes in some villages on the border with Nigeria and fled to cities in the Far North region because of frequent attacks by Boko Haram. The International Organization for Migration’s Displacement Tracking Matrix Round 11 for the Far North region indicated a total displaced population of 335,016 individuals, including 241,987 IDPs, 29,337 unregistered refugees, and 63,692 returnees. Of the IDP population, 92 percent was reportedly displaced due to the conflict with Boko Haram; and 8 percent was displaced due to flooding and other climatic factors.


Refoulement: Following security measures taken by authorities in the Far North region to counter Boko Haram, UNHCR and NGOs reported more than four thousand cases of forced returns in the year to December, mostly of Nigerians. In a press release on February 23, UNHCR expressed concern over the forced expulsion of 517 Nigerians, including 313 who had requested asylum. During a press conference on March 23, the minister of communications refuted all allegations of forced returns. He acknowledged, however, that the government escorted refugees from several localities of Mayo Sava Division to Banki, Borno State, Nigeria. The minister said the operations were carried out in agreement with Nigerian authorities, especially the National Emergencies Management Agency and Borno’s State Emergency Management Agency. UNHCR also reported that 887 Nigerian refugees, who were alleged to have been forcibly returned, arrived in Banki on June 27.

Access to Asylum: The laws provide for granting asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system of providing protection to refugees. UNHCR continued to provide documentation and assistance to the refugee population. UNHCR and the government continued to conduct biometric verification and registration of refugees, including of those not living in refugee camps. Nevertheless, local authorities did not always recognize these documents as official, which prevented refugees from travelling and engaging in business activities. As of November 30, the country hosted 247,777 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) and 90,728 from Nigeria. The country hosted 652,967 persons of concern to UNHCR as of November 30.

Access to Basic Services: Most refugees had access to health care, education, and limited employment opportunities. Access to these services varied according to the location of the refugees, with those in camps receiving support through humanitarian organizations while refugees living in host communities faced difficulty receiving services.

Durable Solutions: On March 2, UNHCR and the governments of Cameroon and Nigeria signed a tripartite agreement concerning voluntary repatriation. On August 10, the tripartite commission met for the first time and directed its technical working group to set up a timetable and procedures “to ensure the safe, dignified, voluntary return and sustainable reintegration of Nigerian refugees from Cameroon.” Between April and June, the number of Nigerian refugees returning from Cameroon to Banki, Nigeria, reached 15,036. In addition the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) registered 5,224 individuals who had earlier returned to Banki between January and March. In total the NIS registered 20,260 returnees between January and June, according to UNHCR. Observers and NGOs, however, continued to report as of November that the agreement had yet to be fully implemented and that Cameroon continued forcibly to repatriate Nigerian refugees to Nigeria.

Temporary Protection: The government provided temporary, unofficial protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees, extending this protection to hundreds of individuals during the year, including third-country nationals who had fled violence in the CAR. Due to their unofficial status and inability to access services or support, however, many of these persons were subject to harassment and other abuse.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

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

The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. President Biya and the majority Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement (CPDM), however, controlled key elements of the political process, including the judiciary.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In the three elections held in 2013, the CPDM was the most popular party except in the Northwest, where it faced strong competition from the Social Democratic Front. The CPDM remained dominant in state institutions, partially due to strategic redrawing of voter districts, use of government resources for CPDM campaigning, interference with the right of opposition parties to organize and publicize views during electoral campaigns, and privileges associated with belonging to the ruling party.

In September 2013 the country held simultaneous legislative and municipal elections, with 29 parties participating in the legislative elections and 35 in the municipal elections. The CPDM won 148 of 180 parliamentary seats and 305 of 360 municipal council positions, representing slight gains for opposition parties, compared with the parliament elected in 2007. In preparation for the 2013 legislative and municipal polls, Elections Cameroon (ELECAM), whose members the president appointed, compiled new voter rolls using biometric technology and issued biometric voter identification cards that were required at polling booths. Despite irregularities, such as the inconsistent use of identification cards due to a lack of expertise among local polling officials, opposition parties generally accepted the results. The high voter turnout (70 percent of registered voters) and ELECAM’s administration of the election were viewed as major improvements over previous elections.

In April 2013 the country held its first Senate elections. The ruling CPDM won 54 of the 70 elected seats; the president, in accordance with the constitution, appointed an additional 30 senators. The elections were peaceful and generally free and fair.

In 2011 President Biya was re-elected in a poll marked by irregularities, but one that most observers believed reflected popular sentiment.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The country had 300 registered political parties. Membership in the ruling political party conferred significant advantages, including in the allocation of key jobs in state-owned entities and the civil service. The president appoints all ministers, including the prime minister; the governors of each of the 10 regions, who generally represented CPDM interests; and important lower-level members of the 58 regional administrative structures. The government pays the salaries of (primarily nonelected) traditional leaders, which supports a system of patronage.

Authorities sometimes refused to grant opposition parties permission to hold rallies and meetings.

Participation of Women and Minorities: There are no laws preventing women or members of minority groups from voting, running for office, and serving as electoral monitors, or otherwise participating in political life on the same basis as men or nonminority citizens. The law provides that lists of candidates for legislative and municipal elections should take into account the sociological components of the constituency, including gender. Cultural and traditional factors, however, reduced women’s political participation compared to that of men. Women remained underrepresented at all levels of government, but their political participation continued to improve. For the 2013-18 electoral period, women occupied 26 of 374 council mayor positions, in comparison with 23 in 2007-13 and 10 in 2002-07. Women occupied 10 of 62 cabinet positions, 76 of 280 parliamentary seats, and senior government offices, including territorial command and security/defense positions.

The minority Baka people took part as candidates in municipal and legislative elections but were not represented in the Senate, National Assembly, or higher offices of government.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, although these were seldom enforced. The penal code identifies different offenses as corruption, including influence peddling, involvement in a prohibited employment, and nondeclaration of conflict of interest. Reporting of corruption is encouraged through exempting whistleblowers from criminal proceedings. Corruption in official examinations is punished with imprisonment of up to five years, fines up to two million CFA francs ($3,731), or both. Nevertheless, corruption remained pervasive at all levels of government. The government did not always effectively address high-profile cases, and officials continued to engage in corrupt practices with impunity. The judiciary was not always free to independently investigate and prosecute corruption cases. In the context of the fight against Boko Haram, local sources indicated that corruption-related inefficiencies and diversion of resources from their intended purposes continued to represent a fundamental national security vulnerability.

Corruption: Launched in 2006 to fight corruption, including embezzlement of public funds, Operation Sparrow Hawk continued. As in the previous year, the court opened new corruption cases and issued verdicts on some pending cases. During the year vehicle owners in Yaounde consistently complained about corrupt city officials, including police, pocketing communal taxes and parking fines. In March the Special Criminal Court (SCC) issued an arrest warrant against former minister of agriculture and rural development, Lazare Essimi Menye, who fled the country in 2015. Essimi Menye was charged with complicity in the misappropriation of more than one billion CFA francs ($1.87 million) in public funds. On July 31, the prosecution case against Amadou Vamoulke, former director general of Cameroon Radio Television, and two others, opened at the SCC after 12 months of pretrial detention. The defendants pled not guilty during this initial hearing session. The judges then adjourned the case to August 16. The examining magistrate placed Vamoulke in pretrial detention in July 2016 for the alleged misappropriation of more than 10 billion CFA francs ($18.7 million).

Some officers convicted of corruption were relieved of their duties but continued to be paid due to weak oversight, accountability, and enforcement mechanisms for internal disciplining. Individuals reportedly paid bribes to police and the judiciary to secure their freedom. Police demanded bribes at checkpoints, and influential citizens reportedly paid police to make arrests or abuse individuals with whom they had personal disputes. There were reports some police associated with the issuance of emigration and identification documents collected additional fees from applicants. The minister-delegate in charge of defense and the secretary of state for defense in charge of the gendarmerie were charged with investigating and sanctioning officers involved in unethical practices, including corruption.

Financial Disclosure: The constitution requires senior government officials, including members of the cabinet, to declare their assets, but a law passed to implement this provision has itself never been implemented.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons


Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men and women and provides penalties of between five and 10 years’ imprisonment for convicted rapists. Police and courts, however, rarely investigated or prosecuted rape cases, especially since victims often did not report them. The law does not address spousal rape.

The law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence, although assault is prohibited and punishable by imprisonment and fines.

The DGSN, in partnership with UN Women, also carried out activities to combat rape and other forms of gender-based violence (GBV). From January 30 to March 31, the two organizations trained 250 police officers in the Far North region on the protection of rights of women and children vis-a-vis national and international legal frameworks. Following the training, four special units referred to as “gender desks” were established in four divisions where Boko Haram was active: Diamare, Mayo-Tsanaga, Mayo-Sava, and Logone and Chari. The units were intended to serve as counseling centers for victims of GBV.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law protects the physical and bodily integrity of persons, and the 2016 penal code prohibits genital mutilation of all persons. Whoever mutilates the genitals of a person is subject to imprisonment from 10 to 20 years, and imprisonment for life if the offender habitually carries out this practice, does so for commercial purposes, or if the practice causes death. FMG/C remained a problem, but its prevalence remained low. As in the previous year, children were reportedly subjected to FGM/C in isolated areas of the Far North, East, and Southwest regions and in the Choa and Ejagham tribes, although the practice continued to decrease. For more information, see .

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Widows were sometimes forcibly married to one of the deceased husband’s relatives to secure continued use of property left by the husband, including the marital home. To protect women, including widows, better, the government included provisions in the 2016 penal code addressing the eviction of one spouse from the marital home by any person other than the other spouse.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment. The penal code provides for imprisonment from six months to one year and fines from 100,000 to one million CFA francs ($187-$1,865) for whoever takes advantage of the authority conferred on them by their position to harass another using orders, threats, constraints, or pressure to obtain sexual favors. The penalty is imprisonment for one to three years if the victim is a minor and from three to five years if the offender is in charge of the education of the victim. Despite these legal provisions, sexual harassment was widespread.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: .

Discrimination: The constitution provides for the same legal status and rights for women and men; however, in law women did not enjoy the same rights and privileges as men. Although local government officials including mayors claimed women had access to land in their constituencies, the overall sociocultural practice of denying women the right to own land, especially through inheritance, was prevalent in most regions.


Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from parents, and it is the parents’ responsibility to register births. Because many children were not born in formal health facilities and many parents were unable to reach local government offices, many births were unregistered. (For data, see the UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey.

Education: The law provides for tuition-free compulsory primary education but does not set an age limit. Children were generally expected to complete primary education at age 12. Secondary school students had to pay tuition and other fees in addition to buying uniforms and books. This rendered education unaffordable for many children.

Teachers and students from the Northwest and Southwest regions boycotted classes as part of broader Anglophone protests during the year. In the Far North region, the 2016-17 academic year was largely lost for many children due to the fight against Boko Haram. Stand Up For Cameroon, a Cameroon People’s Party platform for political leaders, civil society activists, and engaged citizens, stated in August that the Boko Haram conflict had made approximately 114,000 school-aged children IDPs.

Child Abuse: Boko Haram continued to abduct children and, according to reports, used 83 children, including 55 girls, as “suicide bombers” between January 1 and July 31. News reports also cited cases of child rape and the kidnapping of children for ransom. (For additional data, see the UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey.)

Security force abuse of children was also a problem. In March a gendarme in Boumba and Ngoko Division, East region, raped a 10-year-old girl after breaking into her home. The child’s parents filed complaints with the gendarmerie brigade commander, the company commander, and the DO, but the officials allegedly took no immediate action. On March 27, the prosecutor at the local military court allegedly transferred the case to the gendarmerie commander in Bertoua, East region, for preliminary investigations. The suspect and a person considered to be his facilitator were arrested and detained at the Bertoua Central Prison pending the preliminary investigation. On September 19, the government commissioner at the Bertoua Military Court reportedly ordered their release, and as of November no information was publicly available on the reason for the release. Since then, the suspect reportedly threatened the victim’s family with reprisal.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 18. The law punishes anyone who compels another to marry with imprisonment for five to 10 years, and with fines of 25,000 CFA francs ($47) to 1,000,000 CFA francs ($1,865). When victims are minors, punishment may not be less than a two-year prison sentence, regardless of mitigating circumstances. The court may also take away custody from parents who give away their underage children in marriage. Despite these legal provisions, some families reportedly tried to marry their girls before age 18. (For data, see the UNICEF website.)

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, as well as practices related to child pornography. A conviction, however, requires proof of the use of a threat, fraud, deception, force, or other forms of coercion. Penalties include imprisonment of 10 to 20 years and a fine of 100,000 to 10 million CFA francs ($187-$18,656). The law does not specifically provide a minimum age for consensual sex. Children under age 18 were exploited in prostitution, especially by restaurant and bar promoters, although no statistics were available.

Child Soldiers: The government did not recruit or use child soldiers, but Boko Haram continued to utilize child soldiers, including girls, in their attacks on civilian and military targets. There were also limited reports that some vigilance committees in the Far North region incorporated children in their ranks to combat Boko Haram. For example, Child Soldiers International reported that vigilance committees in Amchide, Fotokol, Kolofata and Maroua used children. The NGO further stated the children were mostly between the ages of 15 and 17 and accounted for 10 percent of vigilance committee membership. UN agencies and NGOs operating in the region could not confirm these numbers.

Displaced Children: The International Organization for Migration’s Displacement Tracking Matrix Round 11 estimated that 67 percent of IDPs and refugees were children. Many children lived on the streets of major urban centers, although their number apparently declined as a result of stringent security measures against Boko Haram and the amended penal code that criminalizes vagrancy.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at


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

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

Persons with Disabilities

The law does not specifically address discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, but the constitution explicitly forbids all forms of discrimination, providing that “everyone has equal rights and obligations.” Secondary public education is tuition free for persons with disabilities and children born of parents with disabilities, and initial vocational training, medical treatment, and employment must be provided “when possible,” and public assistance “when needed.”

The majority of children with disabilities attended schools. The curriculum of the Government Teacher Training College in Buea, Southwest region, was modified to include training in inclusive education skills for teaching the deaf, blind, and developmentally disabled, among others. The government aimed to introduce inclusive education nationwide.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The population consists of an estimated 286 ethnic groups. Members of the president’s Beti/Bulu ethnic group from the South region held key positions and were disproportionately represented in the government, state-owned businesses, security forces, and CPDM.

Indigenous People

An estimated 50,000 to 100,000 Baka, including Bakola and Bagyeli, resided primarily in (and were the earliest known inhabitants of) the forested areas of the South and East regions. The government did not effectively protect the civil or political rights of either group. Other groups often treated the Baka as inferior and sometimes subjected them to unfair and exploitative labor practices. There were credible reports the Mbororos, itinerant pastoralists living mostly in the North, East, Adamawa, and Northwest regions, were subject to harassment, sometimes with the complicity of administrative or judicial authorities.

The government continued long-standing efforts to provide birth certificates and national identity cards to Baka. Most Baka did not have these documents, and efforts to reach them were impeded by the difficulty in accessing their homes deep in the forest.

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

Consensual same-sex sexual activity is illegal and punishable by a prison sentence of six months to five years and a fine ranging from 20,000 to 200,000 CFA francs ($37-$373).

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) rights organizations such as the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS (CAMFAIDS), Humanity First Cameroon, Alternatives Cameroun, National Observatory of the Rights of LGBTI Persons and Their Defenders, and others reported several arrests of LGBTI persons. LGBTI individuals received anonymous threats by telephone, text message, and email, including of “corrective” rape, but authorities did not investigate allegations of harassment. Police were generally unresponsive to requests to increase protection for lawyers who received threats because they represented LGBTI persons. Both police and civilians reportedly continued to extort money from presumed LGBTI individuals by threatening to expose them.

Humanity First Cameroon and Alternatives Cameroun claimed in their joint 2017 annual report that eight LGBTI persons remained imprisoned for homosexuality in the Kondengui central prison in Yaounde. The two NGOs also documented 578 other cases of human rights abuses related to homosexuality, including 27 arbitrary arrests.

On August 11, police summoned CAMFAIDS’ leadership to the DGSN for “promotion of homosexual practices.” On August 16, police interrogated four members of CAMFAIDS. While some questions concerned the legal status of the advocacy group and its funding sources, police also requested a list of its members and a list of similar organizations.

Some LGBTI persons had difficulty accessing birth registration and other identification documents. Officials at identification units refused to issue identification cards for persons whose physical characteristics were not consistent with their birth certificate.

In 2016 Johns Hopkins University, Metabiota Cameroon, and Care USA, in collaboration with the National AIDS Coordinating Council, conducted an Integrated Biological and Behavioral Survey on gay men, using a sample of 1,323 men. The preliminary report released in March showed inter alia that 14.7 percent were arrested for being homosexual. (For more information, see .

Human rights and health organizations continued to advocate for the LGBTI community by defending LGBTI individuals under prosecution, promoting HIV/AIDS initiatives, and working to change laws prohibiting consensual same-sex activity. Organizations undertaking these activities faced obstacles securing official registration, as well as, limited or non-existent responses from police when they experienced harassment.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Persons afflicted with HIV or AIDS often suffered social discrimination and were isolated from their families and society due to social stigma and lack of education about the disease.

Unlike previous years, there were no credible reports of specific cases of discrimination in employment.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Several cases of vigilante action and other attacks were reported during the year.

Several arson attacks were also recorded, involving the destruction of both public and private property. On March 30, unidentified individuals set fire to the Old Market in Limbe, Southwest region. The fire lasted about four hours and destroyed at least fifty shops.

The law provides for sentences of between two and 10 years’ imprisonment and fines of between 5,000 and 100,000 CFA francs ($9-$187) for witchcraft. There were no reported arrests or trials for alleged witchcraft reported during the year.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the rights of workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law also prohibits antiunion discrimination and requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. Statutory limitations and other practices substantially restricted these rights. The law does not permit the creation of a union that includes both public- and private-sector workers or the creation of a union that includes different, even if closely related, sectors. The law requires that unions register with the government, permitting groups of no fewer than 20 workers to organize a union by submitting a constitution and by-laws; founding members must also have clean police records. The law provides for heavy fines for workers who form a union and carry out union activities without registration. Trade unions or associations of public servants may not join a foreign occupational or labor organization without prior authorization from the minister responsible for “supervising public freedoms.”

The constitution and law provide for collective bargaining between workers and management as well as between labor federations and business associations in each sector of the economy. The law does not apply to the agricultural or informal sectors, which included the majority of the workforce.

Legal strikes or lockouts may be called only after conciliation and arbitration procedures have been exhausted. Workers who ignore procedures to conduct a legal strike may be dismissed or fined. Before striking, workers must seek mediation from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security at the local, regional, and ministerial levels. Only if mediation fails at all three levels can workers formally issue a strike notice and subsequently strike. The provision of law allowing persons to strike does not apply to civil servants, employees of the penitentiary system, or workers responsible for national security, including police, gendarmerie, and army personnel. Instead of strikes, civil servants are required to negotiate grievances directly with the minister of the appropriate department in addition to the minister of labor and social security. Arbitration decisions are legally binding but were often unenforceable if one party refused to cooperate.

Employers guilty of antiunion discrimination are subject to fines of up to approximately one million CFA francs ($1,866).

Free Industrial Zones are subject to labor law, except for the following provisions: the employers’ right to determine salaries according to productivity, the free negotiation of work contracts, and the automatic issuance of work permits for foreign workers.

In practice, the government and employers did not effectively enforce the applicable legislation on freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Penalties for violations were rarely enforced and useless as a deterrent. Administrative judicial procedures were infrequent and subject to lengthy delays and appeals. The government and employers often interfered in the functioning of workers’ organizations. The government occasionally worked with nonrepresentative union leaders to the detriment of elected leaders, while employers frequently used hiring practices such as subcontracting to avoid hiring workers with bargaining rights. Blacklisting of union members, unfair dismissal, promotion of employer-controlled unions, and threatening workers trying to unionize were common practices.

New trade unions did not have easy access to registration. In a letter dated July 30, officials of the newly formed Private Security Workers Union in Wouri Division, Littoral region, informed the Registrar of Trade Unions of the creation of their organization in April 2016 and at the same time requested its affiliation with the Confederation of Workers’ Unions of Cameroon (CSTC). The registrar requested additional time to authenticate the documents provided.

More than 100 trade unions and 12 trade union confederations operated, including one public-sector confederation.

The government undermined the leadership of the CSTC elected in 2015 by continuing to cooperate with former leaders of the CSTC. Jean Marie Zambo Amougou, the former leader, continued to use the title of “President of the CSTC,” despite a January 17 court decision ordering him to stop doing so with immediate effect. The Minister of Labor and Social Security continued to consider Zambo Amougou as the official representative of the CSTC, inviting him to meetings and sending all CSTC correspondence to him, to the detriment of CSTC’s legitimate leader, Andre Moussi Nolla, and other new leaders, despite multiple complaints by the CSTC. The minister also appointed Zambo Amougou, Tsoungui Fideline Christelle, Beyala Jule Dalamard, Nintcheu Walla Charles, Malloum Lamine, and Hamadou Nassourou, all members of the former CSTC management team, to be workers’ representatives in the country’s delegation at the 106th International Labor Conference in Geneva June 5-16. In a May 31 letter to the International Labor Organization’s Credentials Committee, the new leaders of the CSTC unsuccessfully attempted to oppose the inclusion of these delegates.

As in 2016, trade unionists reported on officials prohibiting the establishment of trade unions in their private businesses, including Fokou, Afrique Construction, Eco-Marche, and Quifferou, or otherwise hindering union operations. Some companies based in Douala II, IV, and V and in Tiko (Southwest region), for example, retained 1 percent of unionized workers’ salaries but refused to transfer the money to trade unions. Some companies that were initially against unionization of their workers changed their minds and allowed their employees to join trade unions, such as DANGOTE Ciment Cameroon, which allowed elections of workers’ representatives.

Many employers frequently used hiring practices such as subcontracting to avoid hiring workers with bargaining rights. Workers’ representatives stated that most major companies, including parastatal companies, engaged in the practice, citing ENEO, CDE, Cimencam, Guinness, Alucam, and many others. Subcontracting was reported to involve all categories of personnel, from the lowest to senior levels. As a result, workers with equal expertise and experience did not always enjoy similar advantages when working for the same business; subcontracted personnel typically lacked a legal basis to file complaints.

A number of strikes were announced, some of which were called off after successful negotiation. Others, however, were carried out without problems, or with some degree of repression. Workers’ grievances generally involved poor working conditions, including lack of personal protective equipment, improper implementation of collective agreements, nonpayment of salary arrears or retirement benefits, illegal termination of contracts, lack of salary increases, and failure of employers to properly register employees and pay the employer’s contribution to the National Social Insurance Fund, which provides health and social security benefits.

The government suspended the salaries of 11 workers’ representatives affiliated with the Wouri divisional union of council workers following a strike on April 10. Employees of the city council in Douala demanded health insurance for themselves and their immediate relatives. The government-delegate fired the complainants, but was overruled by the Minister of Labor and Social Security. The government-delegate, however, had not reinstated the employees as of December.

Medical doctors staged a series of strikes for better working conditions and higher pay in April and May, after unsuccessful negotiations with health minister Andre Mama Fouda in January had failed to yield positive outcomes. Minister Fouda cautioned the doctors against striking, which he described as illegal, stating that the doctors union was not registered. In an attempt to neutralize the movement after the April strike, he transferred union leaders to health facilities in remote rural areas in the northern part of the country. In none of the transfers did the technical level of the health facility match the profile of the doctors.

Teachers and lawyers in the Anglophone regions also went on a strike that lasted for many months to protest what they referred to as their marginalization by the French-speaking majority. After initially restricting the lawyers significantly, the government subsequently implemented a series of measures aimed at diffusing tension. Lawyers and teachers resumed work in the two regions by November.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The constitution and law prohibit all forms of forced and compulsory labor. The law prohibits slavery, exploitation, and debt bondage and voids any agreement in which violence was used to obtain consent. Violations of the law are punishable by prison terms of five to 20 years and fines ranging from 10,000 to 10 million francs ($18-$17,668). In cases of debt bondage, penalties are doubled if the offender is also the guardian or custodian of the victim. The law also extends culpability for all crimes to accomplices and corporate entities. Although the statutory penalties are fairly severe, the government did not enforce the law effectively, due to lack of knowledge of trafficking and limited labor inspection and remediation resources. In addition, due to the length and expense of criminal trials and the lack of protection available to victims participating in investigations, many victims of forced or compulsory labor resorted to amicable settlement.

There continued to be reports of hereditary servitude imposed on former slaves in some chiefdoms in the North region. Many Kirdi, whose tribe had been enslaved by Fulani in the 1800s, continued to work for traditional Fulani rulers for compensation, while their children were free to pursue schooling and work of their choosing. Kirdi were also required to pay local chiefdom taxes to Fulani, as were all other subjects. The combination of low wages and high taxes, although legal, effectively constituted forced labor. While technically free to leave, many Kirdi remained in the hierarchical and authoritarian system because of a lack of viable options.

In the South and East regions, some Baka, including children, continued to be subjected to unfair labor practices by Bantu farmers, who hired the Baka at exploitive wages to work on their farms during the harvest seasons.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law generally protects children from exploitation in the workplace and specifies penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment. The law sets a minimum age of 14 for child employment, prohibits children from working at night or longer than eight hours per day, and enumerates tasks children under 18 cannot legally perform, including moving heavy objects, undertaking dangerous and unhealthy tasks, working in confined areas, and prostitution. Employers were required to train children between ages 14 and 18, and work contracts must contain a training provision for minors. The Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security were responsible for enforcing child labor laws through site inspections of registered businesses. Although the government did not allocate sufficient resources to support an effective inspection program, workers’ organizations reported child labor was not a major problem in the formal sector.

The use of child labor, including forced labor, in informal sectors remained rampant. According to an International Labor Organization 2012 survey, 40 percent of children between the ages of six and 14 were engaged in economic activity; 89 percent of working children were employed in agriculture, 5 percent in commerce, and 6 percent in either industrial work or domestic service. UNICEF’s 2014 Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveyindicated that 47 percent of children ages five-14 engaged in child labor. Children working in agriculture frequently were involved in clearing and tilling the soil and harvesting crops, such as bananas and cocoa. In the service sector, children worked as domestic servants and street vendors. Children worked at artisanal mining sites under dangerous conditions. Children were also forced to beg by adults, often by their parents to provide additional income for the household. According to anecdotal reports, child labor, especially by refugee children, was prevalent in the building construction sector. Chinese firms also reportedly resorted to child labor in the manufacture of children’s shoes.

Parents viewed child labor as both a tradition and a rite of passage. Relatives often brought rural youth, especially girls, to urban areas to exploit them as domestic helpers under the pretense of allowing them to attend school. In rural areas many children began work at an early age on family farms. The cocoa industry and cattle-rearing sector also employed child laborers. These children originated, for the most part, from the three northern and the Northwest regions.

The Ministry of Social Affairs implemented activities to sensitize parents to the negative impact of child labor. For example, during the vacation period in June, the ministry, in collaboration with the second police district in Yaounde, conducted a two-week campaign to identify children from ages seven to 17 selling items on the streets of Mokolo. Police took the children to the district police station, where they registered and held the children until they could notify the parents. Police interrogated the parents, informed them of the risks to which their children were exposed, and warned them they would be prosecuted if the children returned to the streets.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law contains no specific provisions against discrimination.

Discrimination in employment and occupation allegedly occurred with respect to ethnicity, HIV status, disability, gender, and sexual orientation, especially in the private sector. Ethnic groups often gave preferential treatment to fellow ethnic group members in business and social practices, and persons with disabilities reportedly found it difficult to secure employment. There were no reliable reports of discrimination against internal migrant or foreign migrant workers, although anecdotal reports suggested such workers were vulnerable to unfair working conditions. During the year, however, no reliable reports highlighted any concrete case of discrimination with respect to employment. The government did not report publicly or privately on its efforts to prevent or eliminate employment discrimination.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The minimum wage in all sectors is 36,270 CFA francs ($68) per month. Premium pay for overtime ranges from 120 to 150 percent of the hourly rate, depending on the amount of overtime and whether it is weekend or late-night overtime. Despite the minimum wage law, employers often negotiated with workers for lower salaries, in part due to the high rate of unemployment in the country. Salaries lower than the minimum wage remained prevalent in the public works sector, where many positions required unskilled labor, as well as in the domestic work sector, where female refugees were allegedly vulnerable to unfair labor practices.

The law establishes a standard workweek of 40 hours in public and private nonagricultural firms and a total of 2,400 hours per year, with a maximum limit of 48 hours per week in agricultural and related activities. There are exceptions for guards and firefighters (56 hours a week), service-sector staff (45 hours), and household and restaurant staff (54 hours). The law mandates at least 24 consecutive hours of weekly rest.

The law mandates paid leave at the employer’s expense at the rate of one and one-half working days for each month of actual service. For persons under age 18, leave accrues at the rate of two and one-half days per month of service. A maximum of 10 days per year of paid special leave, not deductible from annual leave, is granted to workers on the occasion of immediate family events. For mothers the leave is increased by either two working days for each child under age six on the date of departure on leave, where the child is officially registered and lives in the household, or one day only if the mother’s accrued leave does not exceed six days. The leave is increased depending on the worker’s length of service with the employer by two working days for each full period whether continuous or not of five years of service. For mothers, this increase is in addition to the one described above.

The government sets health and safety standards in the workplace. The minister in charge of labor establishes the list of occupational diseases in consultation with the National Commission on Industrial Hygiene and Safety. These regulations were not enforced in the informal sector. The labor code also mandates that every enterprise and establishment of any kind provide medical and health services for its employees. This stipulation was not enforced. By law workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, but authorities did not effectively protect employees in these situations.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Security is responsible for national enforcement of the minimum wage and work-hour standards. Ministry inspectors and occupational health physicians are responsible for monitoring health and safety standards, but the ministry lacked the resources for a comprehensive inspection program. Although there were ministries tasked with upholding the labor laws, resources were inadequate to support their mission. For example, the city of Douala, which has six subdivisions, hundreds of companies, and thousands of employees, had only one labor inspectorate, which was generally poorly staffed. Meme Division of the Southwest region had only one labor delegate and no labor inspectors. This labor delegate did not have any means or transportation to travel throughout the division. The office had not had computers since 2016 due to a burglary, so the delegate often visited the communal technology center or other government offices to type and print official correspondence and notices.


Executive Summary

Uganda is a constitutional republic led since 1986 by President Yoweri Museveni of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party. In February 2016 voters re-elected Museveni to a fifth five-year term and returned an NRM majority to the unicameral parliament. The elections fell short of international standards and were marred by allegations of disenfranchisement and voter intimidation, harassment of the opposition, closure of social media websites, and lack of transparency and independence in the Electoral Commission. The periods before, during, and after the elections were marked by a closing of political space, intimidation of journalists, and widespread use of torture by the security agencies.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

On December 20, Parliament passed a bill removing presidential age limits from the constitution, and on December 27, President Museveni signed the bill, thereby paving the way for him to run for another term. During the period before passage of the bill, the government limited freedoms of speech and assembly.

The most significant human rights issues included unlawful killings and torture by security forces; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary detention; restrictions on freedoms of press, expression, assembly, and political participation; official corruption; and criminalization of same-sex consensual sexual conduct, including security force harassment and detention of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons.

The government was reluctant to investigate, prosecute, or punish officials who committed human rights violations, whether in the security services or elsewhere in government, and impunity was a problem.

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 several reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, including due to torture.

On June 23, media reported that, Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) and Uganda Police Force (UPF) personnel allegedly shot and killed Erasmus Irumba, a coordinator at local human rights nongovernmental organization (NGO) The Twerwaneho Listener’s Club, and his friend Vide Kanyoro. According to NGO, Irumba had been investigating two high-profile corruption cases involving security officials. According to local media, a police spokesperson claimed the men were suspected arms traders and said that elements of the security forces killed them. The UPF later announced it had arrested Third Mountain Battalion Commander Richard Muhangi, Ntoroko District Police Commander Gerald Atuhairwe, and District Internal Security Officer Elidard Babishanga on charges of murder and robbery and remanded them to Kitojjo Prison, where they awaited trial at year’s end.

According to the local NGO Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), the UPF tortured to death a suspect arrested for alleged involvement in the March 17 killing of Assistant Inspector General of Police Andrew Felix Kaweesi. FHRI reported that in the course of investigating Kaweesi’s killing, police arrested and tortured at least 13 suspects, including tying polythene bags over two suspects’ heads while transferring them between detention facilities, asphyxiating one suspect to death.

The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) had yet to release the findings of its investigation into the security service’s November 2016 raid on Rwenzururu King Charles Wesley Mumbere’s palace, during which, according to local and international media and human rights organizations, UPDF and UPF personnel killed between 60 and 250 persons, including a number of unarmed civilians. Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) March 13 report noted that, as of year’s end, 15 children ages three to 14 years who were last seen in the palace compound the day of the raid remained missing. On March 15, UPDF spokesperson Richard Karemire told a local television station that under the law, the military could not investigate the raid while the court case against Mumbere and some of his guards was pending.

On February 6, the Jinja Magistrate’s Court released Mumbere on bail and confined his movements to Kampala, Wakiso, and Jinja Districts, hence forbidding him from travelling to his kingdom in Western Uganda. Trials of the king and his guards continued at year’s end.

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices. The 2012 Anti-Torture Act stipulates that any person convicted of an act of torture may be sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment, a fine of 7.2 million shillings ($2,000), or both. The penalty for conviction of aggravated torture is life imprisonment. Nevertheless, there were credible reports security forces tortured and physically abused suspects.

From January through May, of the 289 detainees the African Center for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV) interviewed, 255 said that UPF or UPDF personnel had tortured them. ACTV provided legal advice to 64 torture victims.

Media reported multiple cases of the UPF torturing detainees suspected of involvement in the Kaweesi killing. On May 12, ACTV reported that UPF and UPDF personnel tortured 13 detainees suspected of involvement in his death. Reportedly, the suspect’s lawyer said police had tortured his clients by flogging them while they hung upside down, inserting red peppers in their noses and mouths, cutting them with knives, burning them with clothes irons, giving them electric shocks, and submerging them in water, among other methods. On October 12, a court awarded 22 individuals, whom police had arrested for alleged involvement in the Kaweesi killing, with 80 million shillings ($22,200) each, as compensation for being tortured by UPF and UPDF personnel.

Of the 22 individuals arrested in May, on November 7, the court granted seven of them bail. Immediately after their release, plain-clothed armed men violently apprehended four of the men in front of the courthouse. Several hours later the UPDF took responsibility for the arrests and stated that the men were suspected of belonging to the Allied Defense Forces, a Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)-based militia group, unrelated to Kaweesi’s death. On November 9, local media reported that the UPDF and UPF denied holding the four men and accused each other of doing so.

On May 11, local media reported UPF personnel also arrested and allegedly tortured Kamwenge Town Mayor Geoffrey Byamukama for suspected involvement in Kaweesi’s death. Local media broadcast images of deep wounds on Byamukama’s knees and ankles and reported on May 30 that according to state prosecutors, UPF officers had beaten him with metal bars. On May 11, UPF spokesperson Asan Kasingye denied that UPF officers tortured Byamukama, claiming that he was injured during a struggle with the arresting officers. After public criticism and calls for accountability, however, local media reported on May 20 that the UPF arrested four police officers, Habib Roma, Ben Odeke, Fred Tumuhairwe, and Patrick Muramira, on charges of torturing Byamukama. The court arraigned them on May 26 and released them on bail on May 30. The case continued at year’s end. Byamukama remained in police custody at the Flying Squad Unit’s (FSU) headquarters, the site of many previous allegations of police torture, until his September 9 release on police bond, without having been charged with any crime.

On May 11, local media reported that UPF officers arrested Ministry of East African Community Affairs’ Principal Assistant Secretary James Okuja on allegations of torture. The UPF said Okuja instructed security guards at his hotel to detain two individuals, including a UPDF soldier whom Okuja accused of trespassing and damaging hotel toilets, and then burn him with a hot metal object. On May 16, the state charged Okuja with torture. The case continued at year’s end.

There were no known updates on the trial of police officers Patrick Katete and Charles Okure concerning the 2016 torture and murder of Twaha Kasaija at Walukuba Police Station. ACTV reported in 2016 that, after police arrested Kasaija on suspicion of theft, unidentified individuals beat him to death while he was in police custody.

The UHRC reported that during 2016, it awarded one billion shillings ($275,000) in compensation to victims of torture.

On May 15, HRW reported that since 2015 UPDF soldiers (deployed as part of an African Union effort to eliminate the Lord’s Resistance Army, a nonstate armed group) had sexually abused and exploited at least 13 women and girls in the Central African Republic. HRW reported that a UPDF soldier raped a 15-year-old girl in Obo village, while other soldiers offered food and money to girls and women in exchange for sex. According to HRW, in 2016 the UPDF investigated certain rape allegations against its soldiers and “found no evidence of wrongdoing.” According to HRW, three of the victims said that UPDF soldiers threatened reprisals if they told Ugandan and UN investigators about the abuse.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in detention centers remained poor and, in some cases, life threatening. Serious problems included overcrowding, physical abuse of detainees by security staff and fellow inmates, inadequate food, and understaffing. Local human rights groups, including the ACTV, received reports of torture by security forces and prison personnel. Reports of forced labor continued. Most prisons did not have accommodations for persons with disabilities.

Physical Conditions: Gross overcrowding remained a problem. On June 19, Inspector General of Prisons Johnson Byabashaija told local media that the Uganda Prisons Service (UPS) held 55,784 inmates, yet its capacity was 22,000. Luzira Maximum Security Prison, the country’s largest, housed 8,500 inmates, yet its capacity was 3,000. At the three Kampala police stations FHRI visited through May, it found food shortages, overcrowding, and unsanitary living conditions. FHRI reported that at Katwe and Kabalagala police stations, detainees had to remain in a sitting position on the floor at night, because there was insufficient room for them to lie down. FHRI also reported that at the police stations it visited, the UPF fed detainees once daily and prisoners had to rely on family members to bring food for basic nutrition. FHRI also observed that detainees at Katwe, Wandegeya, and Kabalagala police stations did not have access to toilet paper or soap and had to secure these items personally through police officers. On September 12, Byabashaija told local media that the UPS required an additional 1,500 medical personnel to provide adequate medical services to its inmates.

In its 2016 annual report, the UHRC reported it inspected 164 of the country’s 253 prisons and 292 of 296 police stations. The UHRC reported that at 52 of the country’s 70 prison farms–correctional facilities designed to rehabilitate prisoners through agricultural production training–it visited, prisoners had to use water or leaves to clean themselves, as the UPS did not provide inmates with toilet paper. The UHRC also found that the UPS did not provide adequate soap at 78 percent of the prisons it visited. At one prison farm, the UHRC found that the UPS provided one bar of soap for more than 40 inmates to use for three months.

On May 23, the UHRC told the media that the UPF separated a lactating mother detainee at the FSU headquarters from her seven-month-old child and prevented her from breastfeeding for an unspecified period. The UPF denied the accusation. On June 6, the UPS told local media that 284 babies lived in the prisons with their mothers. The UHRC reported the women’s sections at Luzira and Mbarara prisons had day-care centers. A local newspaper reported, however, it did not find any day-care facilities at the seven prisons it visited. Authorities in Kampala separated pretrial detainees from convicted prisoners, but prison authorities in other parts of the country did not.

The UPS reported 67 inmate deaths in 2016. Causes of death included malaria, cardiac arrest, anemia, pneumonia, and tuberculosis. Media also reported deaths by suicide and police abuse.

FHRI reported that UPF officers at the Kisugu Police Post beat some detainees at night. It also reported that the UPF did not intervene to break up fights between detainees at Katwe Police Station.

Local media reported that at some prisons, inmates walked up to 15 miles to appear at their court hearings. The UPS told local media that inmates had to walk to court because it had insufficient vehicles to transport them and that some UPS staff transported inmates to court in their personal vehicles.

Administration: Although the UPF said its Police Standards Unit duly investigated accusations of improper conduct, its officers mistreated inmates, and the UPF frequently failed to investigate the accusations properly (see section 1.a.). Local television stations and newspapers published images of some of the Kaweesi murder suspects bearing deep wounds at their first court hearing on May 6, which the suspects said resulted from police torture. With no known investigation or evidence, the UPF told local media that the suspects bore those injuries before police arrested them.

Local media and NGOs reported the UPF occasionally prohibited visitors from accessing detainees. On May 15, local media reported that UPF personnel at the FSU headquarters had blocked Byamukama’s family from visiting him since his arrest in late March and also prevented the families of 13 suspects in the Kaweesi case from seeing their incarcerated relatives. On August 18, however, media reported that the UPF had since allowed Byamukama’s wife to visit him.

Independent Monitoring: Although local NGOs such as FHRI and ACTV visited some detention facilities, ACTV reported the UPF and the UPS denied it permission to visit FSU headquarters and Luzira Prisons, where authorities detained individuals suspected of links to Kaweesi’s killing. The International Committee of the Red Cross declined to comment on whether it conducted prison visits during the year.

Improvements: On June 19, the UPS told local media that it had transferred 100 inmates from Luzira Maximum Security prison and distributed them among Jinja, Nakasongola, Kitalya, and Kigo prisons to reduce congestion. The UHRC reported newly constructed and renovated cells, wards, stores, and offices at 12 percent of prisons. It also reported the UPS had phased out the use of buckets for collecting human waste at 38 percent of prisons and 15 percent of police stations.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

Although the law prohibits such practices, security forces often arbitrarily arrested and detained persons, including opposition leaders, politicians, activists, demonstrators, and journalists. The law provides for the right of persons to challenge the lawfulness of their arrest or detention in court, but this mechanism was seldom employed and rarely successful.


Under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the UPF has primary responsibility for law enforcement. The UPDF, under the Ministry of Defense, is responsible for external security and may aid civil authorities when responding to riots or other disturbances of the peace. The Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence is legally under UPDF authority and may detain civilians suspected of rebel or terrorist activity. Other agencies with law enforcement powers include the Directorate of Counter Terrorism, Joint Intelligence Committee, and Special Forces Brigade.

The security services continued to use excessive force, including torture, often failed to prevent societal violence, and at times targeted civilians. Local media reported on June 26 that the UPF fired on teenage students of Kacheera High School in Rakai District to disperse a protest, injuring three of them with gunshot wounds. Media reported the UPF shot students Hassan Magara in the groin and Jackie Ahimbisibwe and Boaz Serwanja in the thighs. The UPF said it arrested the officers involved and intended to charge them with “unlawful wounding.” The case was underway at year’s end.

On February 1, a police disciplinary court convicted nine UPF officers of unlawful or unnecessary exercise of authority, and with discreditable or irregular conduct, related to the 2016 public beatings of unarmed supporters of opposition leader Kizza Besigye in Kampala. The court demoted three senior officers and reprimanded the six others, fining each of the nine officers one-third of their monthly salary. A case against the inspector general of police (IGP) for his supervisory role during the beatings remained pending at year’s end.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the UPDF and UPF. Due to corruption, political interests, and weak rule of law, however, the government’s mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse were ineffective, and impunity was pervasive (see sections 1.a. and 1.c.). Despite the domestic and international controversy surrounding the UPDF’s 2016 raid on a traditional king’s palace in the western region, on January 10, the president promoted the raid commander, Brigadier General Peter Elwelu, to major general and appointed him commander of land forces.

As of year’s end, former Kampala central police station commander Aaron Baguma’s trial for his alleged role in a 2015 murder had yet to begin. The judiciary transferred the assigned trial judge in November 2016 but had yet to reassign the case. Baguma turned himself in to authorities in August 2016 after media reports incited a public outcry for justice and accountability. The court released Baguma on bail nine days after his arraignment, and he remained free while awaiting trial.

The UHRC reported it trained 221 UPDF soldiers on respecting human rights and freedoms in the performance of their duties.


The law requires that judges or prosecutors issue a warrant before an arrest is made, unless the arrest is made during commission of a crime or while in pursuit of a perpetrator. Nevertheless, authorities often arrested suspects without warrants. The law requires authorities to arraign suspects within 48 hours of arrest, but they frequently held suspects longer without charge. Authorities must try suspects arrested under the Antiterrorism Law within 120 days (360 days if charged with a capital offense) or release them on bail; if prosecution presents the case to the court before the expiration of this period, there is no limit on further pretrial detention. While the law requires authorities to inform detainees immediately of the reasons for detention, at times they did not do so. The law provides for bail at the judge’s discretion, but many suspects were unaware of the law or lacked the financial means to cover the bond. Judges generally granted requests for bail. The law provides detainees the right to legal representation and access to a lawyer, but authorities did not always respect this right. The law requires the government to provide an attorney for indigent defendants charged with capital offenses. Citizens detained without charge have the right to sue the Attorney General’s Office for compensation for unlawful detention; however, this right was rarely exercised. Security forces often held opposition political members and other suspects incommunicado and under house arrest.

Arbitrary Arrest: Arbitrary arrests and unlawful detention, particularly of opposition political party members, remained problems. On September 12, the government initiated a process aimed at rescinding Article 102 (b) of the constitution, which prohibits anyone younger than 35 years and older than 75 years from running for president. Opponents of the amendment feared it would enable the president to remain in power indefinitely. Police regularly detained activists protesting the initiative and broke up public meetings and rallies perceived as opposing the amendment. In Rukungiri District, while dispersing an October 19 protest against the initiative, police arrested Besigye and detained him for six days without an arraignment. At his October 25 arraignment, the state charged Besigye with inciting violence, malicious damage to property, and disobeying a statutory authority, and released him on bail. Immediately after his release, however, police rearrested Besigye and detained him at Kampala Central Police Station, 230 miles away, before taking him home later the same day.

Besigye’s trial for treason, related to his taking a mock presidential oath in May 2016, continued at year’s end. Police had not concluded their investigation by year’s end, and Besigye remained free on bail.

According to local media, the UPF detained without charge at least 13 children ages two to 15 years old for 51 days. According to police, the parents of the children were suspects in the killing of Assistant Inspector General Kaweesi. The UPF initially denied holding the children after their mothers made a public outcry for help via local media on May 7. The UPF then told the media on May 8 that it had been holding the children to protect them from their parents, who police claimed intended to traffic them. Local human rights NGOs asserted the police took the children to pressure the parents to confess to the crime or provide information. On May 11, police released the children.

Pretrial Detention: Case backlogs due to an inefficient judiciary that lacked adequate funding and staff, the absence of plea bargaining prior to 2015, insufficient use of bail, and the absence of a time limit for the detention of detainees awaiting trial contributed to frequent prolonged pretrial detentions. FHRI and the UPS reported 52 percent of the country’s 55,784 inmates were pretrial detainees. FHRI also reported 20 percent of prisoners had spent at least three years in pretrial detention. After a successful pilot program in 2014, the judiciary introduced a plea-bargaining mechanism to the High Court in 2015. The UPS reported that between June 2016 and June 2017, the judiciary reached plea bargains with 1,245 defendants. The judiciary’s March-June report stated that the High Court concluded 2,010 capital cases through plea bargaining in 2016, at a third of the cost it would ordinarily take to do so.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but there were reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions. Police did not always obtain search warrants to enter private homes and offices.

The Antiterrorism Act and the Regulation of Interception of Communications Act authorize government security agencies to tap private conversations to combat terrorism-related offenses. The government utilized both statutes to monitor telephone and internet communications.

The government continued to encourage university students and government officials, including members of the judiciary, to attend NRM political education and military science courses known as “chaka mchaka.”

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech, including for the press, but the government often restricted this right.

Freedom of Expression: The government restricted the ability of some individuals to criticize it or to discuss matters of general public interest. It restricted some political buttons and symbols, music lyrics, and theatrical performances.

Local media reported that in response to public opposition to the government’s efforts to rescind Article 102 (b) of the constitution, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) issued several veiled warnings aimed at intimidating the public and media organizations from using social media to oppose the change. The UCC’s September 14 statement said, “Social and electronic communication platform users, account managers, and administrators should refrain themselves and group members against authoring, posting, receiving and sharing or forwarding any forms of electronic communications containing and or referring to illegal and/or offensive content to avoid the risk of being investigated and/or prosecuted.”

On October 7, the UPF banned football fans from wearing red ribbons, which had become a symbol for opposition to the government’s plan to rescind Article 102 (b) of the constitution. On October 17, the UPF banned member of parliament (MP) and musician Robert Kyagulanyi from performing concerts pending the police’s investigation into allegations that Kyagulanyi used “words that incite the public” at an October 15 concert. On October 18, a UPF official warned musicians not to politicize their art, saying, “Music is not supposed to be partisan.” On October 19, Kyagulanyi sued the government for 300 million shillings ($82,500) in damages for infringing on his right to employment, freedom of speech, expression, association, and conscience. The case was pending at year’s end.

On April 7, plain-clothed UPF officers arrested Makerere University professor Stella Nyanzi on charges of cyber harassment related to a series of Facebook (FB) posts in which she criticized the government’s failure to fulfill the president’s 2016 campaign pledge to provide sanitary pads for school girls and called the president “a pair of buttocks” (see section 1.e.). According to local media, the UPF interrogated Nyanzi about her posts for six hours on March 7 and told her she had offended the president. On March 18, airport immigration officers prevented Nyanzi from traveling to the Netherlands for an academic conference. Further, the state-controlled Makerere University suspended Nyanzi on March 31 for “continually insulting the first lady.” On April 10, the state charged Nyanzi with cyber harassment and offensive communication. A court released Nyanzi on bail on May 10, and the case continued at year’s end.

Press and Media Freedom: The country had an active media environment with numerous privately owned newspapers and television and radio stations. These media outlets regularly covered stories and often provided commentary critical of the government and officials. The UPF’s Media Crimes Unit, however, closely monitored all radio, television, and print media, and security forces subjected numerous journalists to harassment, intimidation, and arrest. Government officials and ruling party members owned many of the private rural radio stations and imposed reporting restrictions. Media practitioners said government and security agents occasionally called editors and instructed them not to publish stories that negatively portrayed the government. On September 14, local media reported that the president had warned FM radio stations that his government would not tolerate any that hosted opposition politicians who campaigned against government legislation.

Violence and Harassment: Security forces often harassed journalists. According to local media, on April 7, unidentified individuals kidnapped a local television journalist and held her for eight hours for posting messages on FB that supported Nyanzi’s criticism of the government’s failure to fulfill the president’s campaign promise to distribute sanitary pads to poor girls. The kidnappers interrogated her about her connections with Nyanzi, beat her, cut off her hair, threatened to kill her and her family, and forced her to delete the FB posts. By year’s end there was no known update on the investigation into the reporter’s kidnapping.

On April 1, unidentified individuals broke into the office of local newspaper The Observer, taking at least 20 computers, the computer server, one camera, and a television, as well as the security camera footage covering the burglary. This marked the second time in six months that unidentified individuals had broken into The Observer’s offices (the first break-in occurred in October 2016). The Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ), whose premises were also broken into in 2013 and 2015, criticized police for not taking these break-ins seriously; the HRNJ stated that as of September 19, the police investigation had not made progress on any of the break-ins. On September 19, The Observer stated that police had asked for money to facilitate the investigation and added there had been no updates from the police. According to The Observer and the HRNJ, investigations remained pending as of year’s end.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The government directly and indirectly restricted media coverage and content. On September 26, the UCC prohibited local television stations from live broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings after MPs brawled in the House, claiming that such broadcasts incited public violence and hatred. On October 5, the UCC lifted the ban.

On September 30, Kyagulanyi reported that the UCC had warned radio stations that they could be shut down if they allowed him to participate on their talk shows. The UCC, however, denied making this statement. Local media reported that the UCC also ordered some radio stations to dismiss employees who had criticized government’s plan to rescind Article 102 (b) of the constitution and suspended the broadcasting licenses of those that refused to comply with the directive.

On April 21, after the IGP learned that four media outlets had been publishing leaked internal UPF information concerning Kaweesi’s killing (see sections 1.a. and 1.c.) and the ensuing investigation, the IGP successfully petitioned the Constitutional Court to prohibit these outlets from reporting on these subjects, claiming the publications were “injurious” to the investigation.

Many print and broadcast journalists practiced self-censorship, particularly when reporting on the president and his inner circle.

Libel/Slander Laws: Authorities used libel and slander laws to suppress criticism of government officials. On June 20, the UPF detained, questioned, and later released Ben Byarabaha, editor of local newspaper Red Pepper, whom it accused of offensive communication, following the newspaper’s report the IGP was ill. The UPF said the report was false.

National Security: Local media reported that a UPF disciplinary tribunal charged two officers with breach of confidence for recording and then sharing images from the November 2016 UPDF and UPF raid on the Rwenzururu Kingdom’s palace. This case was pending at year’s end.


There were allegations that government security agents censored online content by harassing and threatening authors of online statements that criticized the government or government officials. Although the government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet during the year, it established the legal authority to do so in the future. An amendment to the Uganda Communications Act, passed by parliament on April 6, authorizes the minister of information to regulate communications, including blocking access to the internet, without parliament’s approval. The amendment also affords parliament the ability to block any communication regulation issued by the minister within 30 days of issuance.

On June 28, local media reported that the government had created the Government Citizen Interaction Center, which would “scrutinize FB profiles and follow up on people who are angry with government, so it could give them solutions.” Several journalists reported that security agents monitored them and threatened to attack them if they continued to criticize the government on social media. Two bloggers reported in April they received threatening messages on FB demanding they stop posting messages in support of Nyanzi.

Citing the Antiterrorism Act, the Regulation of Interception of Communications Act, and the Computer Misuse Act, the government monitored social media. According to local media, the minister for information told a crowd gathered to mark World Communications Day on May 28 that the government was filtering social media content because internet users “have taken advantage of such platforms to terrorize the country.”

According to the International Communication Union, approximately 22 percent of the population used the internet in 2016.


The government occasionally restricted academic freedom and cultural events. On May 16, media reported that the Uganda Media Council prohibited the embassy of the Netherlands from screening The Dinner Club during the European Film Festival because the film “depicted and glorified homosexuality, which is a criminal offense in Uganda.” In a public statement, the Netherlands embassy stated it “deplores” the government’s decision and would withdraw from the film festival.

The government limited freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.


While the constitution provides for freedom of assembly, the government did not respect this right. The government used the 2013 Public Order Management Act to limit the right to assemble and disrupted opposition and civil society-led public meetings and rallies. The act also placed a significant bureaucratic burden on those wishing to organize or host gatherings and afforded the UPF wide discretion to prevent an event by refusing to approve it, or, more commonly, by not responding to the permission request, which then created a legal justification for disrupting almost any gathering.

According to local media, between September 12 and November 9, the UPF dispersed at least 30 rallies protesting the government’s plan to rescind Article 102 (b) of the constitution and arrested at least 170 protesters. On October 19, the UPF shot and killed three persons in Rukungiri District who were protesting against the government’s plan to rescind the article. On July 19, local media reported that the UPF arrested more than 60 persons, at various venues in Kampala, who were protesting against the proposed constitutional amendment. The UPF claimed the assemblies were unlawful and detained participants at FSU headquarters for three days before releasing them without charge. Such arrests of persons peacefully protesting efforts to amend the constitution occurred throughout the fall.


While the constitution and law provide for freedom of association, the government did not always respect this right and restricted the operations of local NGOs, especially those that work on civil and political rights (see section 5). On May 5, the government published implementing regulations for the 2015 NGO Act. The regulations require NGOs to disclose sources of funding and personal information about their employees and impose onerous registration and reporting requirements. The regulations enables the NGO Bureau and its local level structures to deny registration to any organization focused on issues deemed to be “undesirable” or “prejudicial” to the “dignity of the people of Uganda.” The regulations also provide the NGO Bureau broad powers to inspect NGO offices and records and to suspend their activities without due process. The regulations increase registration and annual permit renewal fees for local NGOs from 20,000 shillings ($5.50) to 100,000 ($27.50), and from 20,000 shilling ($5.50) to 60,000 shillings ($16.50), respectively. They also introduce new fees, including for the NGO Bureau to review permit applications (60,000 shillings, or$16.50) and for NGOs to file annual reports (50,000 shillings, or$13.80).

The Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) said police concluded the investigation into the 2016 break-in into HRAPF offices, which included the killing of a guard, and that they found it was a normal burglary with no correlation to the organization’s work. The HRAPF stated that police did not provide any evidence to support this conclusion.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

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

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern. The government continued to uphold its enabling asylum policies and practices towards refugees and asylum seekers from various countries, mainly from South Sudan, the DRC, Burundi, and Somalia. Most refugees enjoyed unhindered access to asylum, freedom of movement, freedom of residence, right to registration and documentation, and access to justice, education, health care, and employment

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Some South Sudanese refugees reported that customs officials at border points confiscated their motorbikes and vehicles. Customs officials said they would release these items when the owners could present documentation establishing their ownership. Some of the affected refugees stated that they were unable to provide such documentation because they had fled their homes due to the conflict in South Sudan, and they asserted that the customs officials were requiring documents as a ploy to steal their possessions. UNHCR and government authorities continued to investigate these incidents at year’s end.

According to UNHCR, the UPF was unable to protect fully refugees in several of the large refugee settlements because of insufficient equipment, transportation, and personnel. As of year’s end, Bidi Bidi refugee settlement, one of 21 refugee settlements in the country, hosted more refugees than any other settlement in the world. UNHCR received reports that South Sudanese armed groups had infiltrated some refugee settlements near the border with South Sudan and abducted South Sudanese men to force them to fight in the country’s civil war. UNHCR reported the government deployed additional troops to improve its border surveillance and was investigating the alleged abductions.


Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. While individuals fleeing South Sudan have prima facie refugee status (status without determination of individual refugee status), the Refugee Eligibility Committee determines whether individuals fleeing from the DRC, Somalia, and Burundi are eligible for refugee status. The committee was functional, but administrative issues and the continued influx of asylum seekers from the DRC and Burundi created a case backlog.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The country does not have a policy of presumptive denials of asylum to applicants. There were reports, however, that police officers at the asylum registration office in Kampala turned away two lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals who sought asylum due to discrimination in their home countries (Kenya and Afghanistan), in violation of the country’s asylum policy.

Durable Solutions: The government did not accept third-country refugees for resettlement, but it assisted in the safe and voluntary return of refugees to their homes and supported the resettlement of third-country refugees to other countries by providing birth certificates and travel documents. Following a 2015 constitutional court ruling that confirmed the right to naturalization for certain long-term refugees, however, the government in May 2016 committed to begin processing naturalization cases for an estimated 15,000 refugees who had resided in the country for approximately 20 years. By year’s end there were no known cases of a refugee having naturalized.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government through free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. Nevertheless, the February 2016 presidential and National Assembly elections were marred by serious irregularities. The 2015 amendment to the Local Government Act instructs authorities to carry out elections for the lowest-level local government officials by having voters line up behind their preferred candidate or the candidate’s representative, portrait, or symbol. Civil society organizations criticized this legislation, saying it violated citizens’ constitutional right to vote by secret ballot. On December 20, Parliament passed a bill removing presidential age limits from the constitution, and on December 27, President Museveni signed the bill, thereby paving the way for him to run for another term. During the period before passage of the bill, the government limited freedoms of speech and assembly.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In February 2016 the country held its fifth presidential and legislative elections since President Museveni came to power in 1986. The president was re-elected with 61 percent of the vote, and Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) candidate Besigye finished second with 36 percent. The ruling NRM party captured approximately 70 percent of the seats in the 431-member unicameral National Assembly.

Domestic and international election observers stated that the elections fell short of international standards for credible democratic elections. The Commonwealth Observer Mission’s report noted flawed processes, and the EU’s report noted an atmosphere of intimidation and police use of excessive force against opposition supporters, media workers, and the general public. Domestic and international election observers noted biased media coverage and the Electoral Commission’s (EC) lack of transparency and independence.

Media reported voter bribery, multiple voting, ballot box stuffing, and the alteration of precinct and district results.

Late delivery of voting materials on election day, including ballots, disenfranchised many voters. The most significant delays–up to eight hours–occurred in opposition-affiliated areas, including Kampala and Wakiso Districts. While the EC extended voting from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at a number of polling stations that experienced delayed starts, officials at more than 30 of the most delayed stations cancelled voting and postponed it to the following day.

During the 10-day period in which opposition candidates could contest election results, police confined Besigye to his home and limited his access to his lawyers and party leadership. Besigye’s lawyers claimed the police actions rendered it impossible for Besigye to file a legal challenge to the election results, although Amama Mbabazi, who came third in the election, did challenge the results. In March 2016 the Supreme Court upheld Museveni’s victory, ruling that any incidents of noncompliance with electoral laws before and during the election process did not substantially affect the results. In August 2016 the Supreme Court recommended changes to electoral laws to increase fairness, including campaign finance reform and equal access for all candidates to state-owned media. The Supreme Court instructed the attorney general to report in two years on the government’s implementation of the reforms.

Domestic election observers reported irregularities during 2017 parliamentary by-elections. The Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) reported incidents of ruling political party members bribing voters, and that the government deployed UPDF and UPF personnel on voting day, and during campaigns for the June 29 Kyadondo East by-election, to intimidate opposition supporters. Local media and the FDC also reported the UPF deployed a large number of police to intimidate opposition supporters during the campaign for the May 11 Kagoma County by-election and took no action to stop ruling party supporters who attacked them.

Political Parties and Political Participation: According to the EC, there were 29 registered political parties. Security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained opposition leaders and intimidated and beat their supporters. While the ruling NRM party operated without restriction, regularly holding rallies and conducting political activities, authorities often prevented opposition parties and critical civil society organizations from organizing meetings or conducting activities. According to local media, on September 9, authorities in Kabale District instructed radio stations not to allow opposition supporters to participate on radio or television talk shows.

The CCEDU reported that authorities responsible for the parliamentary by-elections denied its observers access to witness all aspects of the voting process.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit the participation of women and/or members of minorities in the political process.

Cultural factors limited women’s political participation. Local NGOs reported that in rural communities, husbands restricted their wives from contesting for public office.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The 2009 Anticorruption Act provides criminal penalties of up to 12 years’ imprisonment for official corruption. A 2015 amendment to the act mandates confiscation of the convicted persons’ property. Nevertheless, the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Government up to the highest levels lacked the political will to combat corruption, and many corruption cases remained pending for years. Media reported numerous cases of government corruption during the year. Police arrested and suspended several police officers implicated in bribery, extortion, and corruption cases. Authorities arrested several magistrates and judicial officials for forgery as well as for soliciting and receiving bribes.

During the year a number of reports alleged that ruling party officials bribed MPs to support a constitutional amendment to remove presidential age limits, which would enable President Museveni to run for another term.

On May 8, the minister of state for privatization and investment announced the establishment of the Uganda Investment Authority Anti-Corruption Hotline. The minister of state also noted that army personnel would staff the hotline due to corruption in the civil service.

On March 31, the chief justice criticized the IGG for pardoning magistrates caught in acts of corruption (see section 1.e.).

Corruption: In January the president was widely condemned after local media reported he had approved performance awards totaling six billion shillings ($1.7 million) for 42 high-ranking government officials for their work to secure $400 million in capital gains tax during a protracted court case involving an oil deal. The recipients, including senior officials from the Uganda Revenue Authority, Attorney General’s Office, Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, and Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, received payments ranging from 45 million shillings ($12,400) to 267 million shillings ($73,500). Civil society activists and parliamentarians asserted the rewards had violated the 2015 Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). While President Museveni maintained the recipients deserved their awards, during an April 27 meeting with the parliamentary committee investigating the legality of the payments, the president acknowledged he did not follow the appropriate process. On June 22, the investigating committee released a report concluding that the awards violated the PFMA and Public Service Standing Orders on rewarding public officers and recommended the recipients return the money with interest. Parliament unanimously adopted the report, but it was waiting for approval from the Prime Minister’s Office at year’s end.

On March 28, police arrested Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning Principal Finance Officer Charles Ogol and Senior Economist Geoffrey Turyamuhika for allegedly soliciting bribes from the Guagzhou Dongsongh Energy Group in exchange for expedited documentation processing for the financing and construction of a power substation and transmission line. On March 30, local media reported that the investors had complained about the solicitation to the president, who then ordered the police to conduct a sting operation to catch the two men in the act of receiving the bribe. Police caught Ogol and Turyamuhika receiving 58 million shillings ($16,000) of the 1.1 billion shilling ($303,000) they had requested. Local media reported that civil society activists criticized the arrests for focusing only on lower-level officials. On April 9, the court remanded the two men on charges of corruption and granted them bail on April 20. The case was underway at year’s end.

The 2016 Office of the Auditor General report to parliament found that approximately 168 billion shillings ($46 million) was spent on items unrelated to the intended purpose of the funds and that a number of ministries, departments, and agencies improperly transferred an estimated 2.3 billion shillings ($633,000) to civil servants’ personal accounts. The report also concluded that local-level government officials had become increasingly corrupt.

In February 2016 the Global Fund reported the government failed to account for $21.4 million (equivalent to 78 billion shillings) of donated medicines stored in government-operated warehouses and $2.4 million (equivalent to 8.7 billion shillings) worth of donated HIV/AIDS test kits. On May 15, the Global Fund Office of the Inspector General (OIG) reported its internal investigation found that more than 80 percent of the unaccounted for medicine and test kits were erroneously reported missing due to inaccurate data in the Uganda National Medical Stores’ recordkeeping and inventory tracking systems. The OIG acknowledged, however, that almost 20 percent of the medicine in question remained unaccounted for. Following the OIG report, the Global Fund worked with the government to ensure more accurate reporting.

Financial Disclosure: The 2002 Leadership Code Act requires public officials to disclose their income, assets, and liabilities, and those of their spouses, children, and dependents, within three months of assuming office, and every two years thereafter. The requirement applies to 42 position classifications, totaling approximately 25,000 officials, including ministers, members of parliament, political party leaders, judicial officers, permanent secretaries, and government department heads, among others. Public officials who leave office six or more months after their most recent financial declaration are required to refile. The IGG is responsible for monitoring compliance with the declaration requirements, and penalties include a warning, demotion, and dismissal. In August 2016 the IGG launched an online system to make it easier for officials to declare their wealth. According to Transparency International, however, most officials did not comply with the disclosure requirements and those who did tended to underreport their assets.

While these financial disclosures were officially considered public information, the Hub for Investigative Media (HIM), a local NGO promoting government transparency, reported the IGG had not made this information publicly available or approved any requests to release individual declarations. According to HIM, the IGG said that, while this information was supposed to be publicly available, the 2005 Access to Information Act exempts the government from releasing information that would violate an individual’s personal privacy. The IGG had not released this information, therefore, due to concerns that public officials might sue the IGG under this statute. HIM stated the government intended to amend the act to revoke public access to officials’ financial declarations.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons


Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, which is punishable by life imprisonment or the death penalty. The law does not address spousal rape. The penal code defines rape as “unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or a girl without her consent.” Men accused of raping men are tried under section 145(a) of the penal code that prohibits “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature.” The law also criminalizes domestic violence and provides up to two years’ imprisonment for conviction.

Rape remained a common problem throughout the country, and the government did not effectively enforce the law. The 2016 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) reported women were more than twice as likely as men to experience sexual violence. Local media reported numerous incidents of rape, often committed by persons in positions of authority, including police officers, employers, local government leaders, religious leaders, teachers, and soldiers. In many rape cases, the perpetrator also killed the victim.

According to the NGO Uganda Association of Women Lawyers (FIDA), incidents of rape and statutory rape were not commonly reported, in part due to societal factors. Parents, husbands, local leaders, religious leaders, police, prosecutors, and sometimes courts pressured victims to settle cases out of court, supposedly to “spare” the victim and her family from the social stigmatization. Of the cases brought to trial, few were completed.

Gender-based violence (GBV) was also common. The UPF recorded 163 deaths of women due to domestic violence in 2016, almost a 50 percent increase from 2010. International NGO FHI 360 reported in April that cultural factors fueled GBV. Its study found that 54 percent of women said it was acceptable for a husband to beat his wife if she cheated on him, and 21 percent said it was acceptable for a husband to beat his wife if she denied him sex.

FIDA reported it worked with the judiciary to organize two weeks of special court sessions between November and December 2016 focused solely on GBV cases in eight districts in northern and eastern areas. The sessions concluded 326 GBV cases. On June 20, the World Bank announced a $40 million (144 billion shillings) loan to the government to implement its 2016 Elimination of Gender Based Violence Policy. The loan, for which a memorandum of understanding was signed in October, focused on promoting behavioral change to prevent GBV and improving referral mechanisms and assistance services for GBV victims.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C and establishes a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment for convicted perpetrators, or life imprisonment if the victim dies. According to UNICEF statistics from February 2016, 1 percent of women under age 50 had undergone FGM/C. Local NGOs reported that many girls who had undergone FGM/C were discouraged from delivering in health centers to avoid revealing they had been cut.

On May 15, the UPF told local media that it conducted a radio campaign to raise communities’ awareness of the dangers of FGM/C. Local NGOs Development Network of Indigenous Voluntary Associations (DENIVA) and Law and Advocacy for Women in Uganda (LAW) reported that the Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development worked with civil society organizations to train UPF and judiciary personnel on FGM/C practices and how to handle such cases.

On May 30, local media reported the UPF had insufficient resources to monitor adequately the remote areas of the northeast where FGM/C was prevalent, which allowed many practitioners to continue working with impunity. DENIVA and LAW reported the absence of courts in Amudat and Kween Districts and a shortage of clinics that could provide medical evidence made it difficult to prosecute perpetrators. Local NGOs conducted training for practitioners in communities where FGM/C was prevalent to encourage them to end the practice.

According to Deniva, the government also built an unspecified number of girls-only boarding schools in northeastern and eastern areas to provide shelter for girls who fled their homes due to familial pressure to undergo FGM/C, or those who fled after being cut.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Media and local NGOs reported several cases of ritual child killings, violence against widows, and acid attacks. According to local media, traditional healers kidnapped and killed children to use their organs for ancestral worship. Local NGOs reported cases in which wealthy entrepreneurs paid traditional healers to sacrifice children to ensure their continued wealth and then bribed police officers to stop the investigations. On February 6, local media reported that the UPF arrested traditional healer Godfrey Lukeera in the South after security forces found the mutilated body of a five-year-old boy at his shrine. The state charged Lukeera with murder on March 8 and remanded him to Masaka Prison. The case continued at year’s end.

Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes sexual harassment and provides for penalties of up to 14 years’ imprisonment, but authorities did not effectively enforce the law. Sexual harassment was a widespread problem in homes, schools, universities, and workplaces. FIDA reported that most women declined to report sexual harassment due to fear of social stigmatization, and that those who did report it tended only to do so in conjunction with other violations. According to FIDA, the UPF recorded 548 cases of sexual harassment from January through March.

Local media and civil society also reported that the UPF often refused to investigate accusations of sexual harassment in the workplace or educational institutions. Most of these cases involved supervisors or teachers exploiting their authority; other cases were between peers.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: .

Discrimination: The law provides women the same legal status and rights as men. Local NGOs reported numerous cases of discrimination against women, including in divorce, employment, education, and owning or managing businesses and property. Many customary laws discriminate against women in adoption, marriage, divorce, and inheritance. Under customary laws in many areas, women could not own or inherit property or retain custody of their children if they were widowed. Traditional divorce law in many areas required women to meet stricter evidentiary standards than men to prove adultery. In some ethnic groups, men could “inherit” the widows of their deceased brothers. The law does not recognize cohabiting relationships, and women involved in such relationships had no judicial recourse to protect their rights.


Birth Registration: The law accords citizenship to children born in or outside the country if at least one parent or grandparent is a citizen at the time of birth. Abandoned children under the age of 18 with no known parents are considered citizens, as are children under 18 adopted by citizens.

The law requires citizens to register a birth within three months. According to the 2011 DHS, only 29 percent of rural and 38 percent of urban births were registered. Lack of birth registration generally did not result in denial of public services. Some primary schools, however, required birth certificates for enrollment, especially those in urban centers. Enrollment in public secondary schools, university, and tertiary institutions required birth certificates. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: The law provides for compulsory education through the completion of primary school at age 12, and the government provided tuition-free education to four children per family in select public primary and secondary schools (ages six to 18 years). Parents, however, were required to provide lunch and schooling materials for their children.

Child Abuse: Child abuse remained a common problem, including sexual assault, physical abuse, ritual killings, early marriage, human trafficking, drug and substance abuse, involvement in social unrest, and forced engagement in criminal activities. The Uganda Child Helpline received 1,607 reports of children’s rights violations from January through June, with denial of education being the most prevalent, followed by statutory rape and child marriage.

The law defines “statutory rape” as any sexual contact outside marriage with a child under the age of 18, regardless of consent or age of the perpetrator, carrying a maximum penalty of death. Victims’ parents, however, often opted to settle cases out of court for a cash or in-kind payment. The minimum age for consensual sex is 18.

The government continued to work with UNICEF and NGOs–including Save the Children, Child Fund, and the African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect–to combat child abuse. The UPF provided free rape and statutory rape medical examination kits to hospitals and medical practitioners throughout the country to assist with investigations.

Corporal punishment was illegal but remained a problem in schools and sometimes resulted in serious injuries. The 2015 Children Amendment Act made corporal punishment in schools illegal and punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment. The amendment also sought to protect children from hazardous employment and harmful traditional practices, including child marriage and FGM/C.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18, but authorities generally did not enforce this law in rural areas. Some parents commonly arranged marriages for their underage daughters. UNICEF’s 2016 State of the World’s Childrenreport estimated that 10 percent of girls married before age 15 and 40 percent before age 18. The Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development reported that from January through June, it annulled 35 child marriages and stopped five from taking place. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation, the sale and procurement of sexual services, and practices related to child pornography. The government did not enforce the law effectively, however, and the problem was pervasive.

Child Soldiers: The Lord’s Resistance Army continued to hold Ugandans, including children, against their will beyond Uganda’s borders.

Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: The Uganda Child Helpline received two reports of infanticide from January through June.

Displaced Children: Families in the remote North East Karamoja Region sent many children to Kampala during the dry season to find work and beg on the streets. Authorities worked with civil society organizations to return Karamojong street children to their families. Local media, however, reported that police often found those same children back on Kampala’s streets soon thereafter.

Institutionalized Children: Local NGOs reported that the UPF often detained child and adult suspects in the same cells and held them beyond the legal limit of 48 hours prior to arraignment. The local NGO Uganda Child’s Rights Network reported that some juvenile detention centers in the east denied their inmates the right to education.

By regulations an approved orphanage “shall only receive children in an emergency from a police officer or under an interim care order from a judge.” All approved homes are required to keep proper accounts, employ a qualified warden and registered nurse, keep health records for each child, provide adequate sleeping facilities, and provide for an appropriate education. Nevertheless, the government lacked the resources to register and monitor orphanages.

In 2015 the Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development estimated there were more than 50,000 children in approximately 1,000 orphanages, of which only 83 were licensed by the ministry. More than half of all orphanages did not meet minimal standards and housed children illegally. Nearly 70 percent of orphanages maintained inadequate records.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at


The Jewish community had approximately 2,000 members centered in Mbale District, in the eastern part of the country. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities. The law provides for access to all buildings “where the public is invited,” and information and communications for persons with disabilities, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. The Equal Opportunities Commission reported in February that most public buildings in Kampala were inaccessible to persons with disabilities, due to a lack of ramps or elevators.

Persons with disabilities faced societal discrimination, limited job and educational opportunities, and most schools did not accommodate persons with disabilities. The Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development and the National Council on Disability were the government agencies responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. Local media reported most schools did not make accommodations for students with disabilities. Local media said that due to discriminatory behavior by students and teachers, a lack of trained special education teachers, and limited specialized learning resources, children with disabilities were often absent from school.

The National Union for Disabled Persons of Uganda, media, and government officials said there was insufficient government funding for welfare programs for persons with disabilities. Due to continued decreases in government funding for training “Special Needs Education” teachers, the Ministry of Education certified seven new teachers in 2016, compared with approximately 30 per year a decade before. The Ministry of Education’s principal officer for inclusive education stated that, despite funding limitations, the government provided an additional two to three million shillings ($550-$825) each quarter to schools known to have children with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There were reports of violence among ethnic groups over land, grazing rights, water access, border demarcations, and other matters. On June 9, local media reported that unidentified individuals attacked members of the Acholi and Madi communities living in Apaa, killing nine persons with poison arrows. Local leaders said businesspersons hired the attackers to scare the residents off disputed ancestral land in order to claim it for themselves. The government deployed the UPDF and UPF to Apaa to stop the violence, and the Prime Minister’s Office donated food to the communities. Local government officials and traditional, civil society, and religious leaders criticized the government’s response as inadequate and accused it of tacitly supporting the businesspersons.

On April 29, opposition politicians asserted the UPDF and UPF hired only members of ethnic groups from the southwest, where the president is from, for senior positions, discriminating against other ethnic groups (see section 7). The UPDF denied any discrimination in recruitment and stated that all of its officers possessed the requisite qualifications for their assignments. In a May newspaper editorial, however, a government spokesperson criticized the UPF for ethnic discrimination in recruitment, deployment, and promotions, which “threatens to erode the (UPF’s) constitutional requirement of being national in character and composition.”

Indigenous People

The local NGO Cross Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU) reported that ethnic minorities did not participate in political leadership and decision-making processes affecting them. The CCFU reported that by year’s end, the government had not yet resettled the Batwa and Benet communities it had displaced from ancestral land claiming its actions were in the national interest, leaving them effectively landless and unable to maintain their livelihoods. In August the CCFU reported the 160-person Batwa community, which the government displaced to create a forest reserve in a western area in 1992, lived on two acres of land, in semipermanent buildings with inadequate sanitary facilities. The government displaced the Benet from their land in 1983 to create a forest reserve. The CCFU reported that although the High Court ruled in 2005 that the Benet could return to their land, authorities had not yet allowed them to do so.

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

Consensual same-sex sexual conduct is illegal according to a colonial era law that criminalized “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” and provided for a penalty of up to life imprisonment. LGBTI persons faced discrimination, legal restrictions, societal harassment, violence, and intimidation.

The HRAPF reported numerous incidents of societal and government-led harassment and violence against LGBTI persons. Between February and April, the HRAPF reported 11 cases in which attackers physically assaulted persons because of suspicions they were LGBTI individuals. In one case a mob doused a suspected LGBTI person with gasoline and set him on fire before police rescued him. The HRAPF also reported 14 cases of police arresting persons on suspicion of being LGBTI. In five of these cases, police officers conducted forced anal examinations on the detainees. In August government pressure forced the LGBTI community to cancel its annual Pride Week. Officials threatened to arrest anyone who participated in Pride Week activities and coerced the Sheraton Hotel to cancel the opening gala the morning of the event.

Sexual Minorities Uganda’s (SMUG) 2016 suit against the Uganda Registration Service Bureau (URSB) stalled because the judiciary transferred the judge handling the case but did not reassign it to another judge. SMUG had sued the URSB in 2016 for rejecting its application to reserve a name under which SMUG could officially register. The case continued at year’s end.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Although the law prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS, discrimination was common and inhibited these persons from obtaining treatment and support. In cooperation with the government, international and local NGOs sponsored public awareness campaigns to eliminate the stigma of HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS counselors encouraged clients to be tested and share information about HIV/AIDS with their partners and family. Persons with HIV/AIDS formed support groups to promote awareness in their communities.

Police and the UPDF regularly refused to recruit persons who tested positive for HIV, claiming their bodies would be too weak for the rigorous training and subsequent deployment.

HIV/AIDS-infected persons faced discrimination in employment, and some reported having been fired because of their HIV status. According to local media, some employers forced their staff and job applicants to undergo HIV tests and dismissed those who tested positive. On July 26, local media reported that Chinese construction company China Communications Construction Company, a contractor on multiple government infrastructure projects, forced its staff to take an HIV test and then fired two persons who tested positive. The two staff sued the company for wrongful dismissal and the health center for violating their right to personal privacy. The case continued at year’s end.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Mob violence remained a problem. Mobs attacked and killed persons suspected of robbery, murder, rape, theft, ritual sacrifice, and witchcraft, among other crimes. Communities often resorted to mob violence due to a lack of confidence in the UPF and judiciary to deliver justice. Mobs often beat, lynched, burned, and otherwise brutalized their victims. On July 7, local media reported that a mob in the eastern part of the country stoned a 17-year-old boy to death for allegedly stealing a goat. The police had yet to arrest any suspects by year’s end.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law allows workers, except members of the armed forces, to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The Ministry of Labor must register unions before they may engage in collective bargaining.

The law allows unions to conduct activities without interference, prohibits antiunion discrimination by employers, and provides for reinstatement of workers dismissed for union activity. The law also empowers the minister of gender, labor, and social development and labor officers to refer disputes to the Industrial Court if initial mediation and arbitration attempts fail.

The government did not effectively enforce applicable labor laws. Civil society organizations said the Ministry of Labor had insufficient funding to hire, train, and equip labor inspectors to enforce labor laws effectively. Employers who violate a worker’s right to form and join a trade union or bargain collectively may face up to four years’ imprisonment and a fine of 1.9 million shillings ($520). Penalties were generally insufficient to deter violations.

The government generally did not protect the constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining, and, at times, restricted some public servants’ right to strike. On the third day of a nationwide strike by medical doctors, on November 9, the minister of health stated the government would punish doctors that refused to work and would terminate trainee doctors’ internships if they participated in the strike. The minister added that the Uganda Medical Association’s (UMA) call for the strike was illegal, as it did not have a collective bargaining agreement with the government, making its action illegal. On November 10, the UMA stated that the government’s threats infringed on doctors’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining.

Antiunion discrimination occurred, and labor activists accused several companies of deterring employees from joining unions by denying promotions, not renewing their work contracts, and refusing to recognize unions. The local NGO Platform for Labor Action (PLA) reported that some sugar and rice producers threatened to dismiss employees who joined unions and then cited unrelated performance issues to justify firing the employees. PLA reported that most workers were unaware of their right to join a trade union and did not contest employers’ efforts to impinge upon this right. The National Organization of Trade Unions Uganda (NOTU) reported in 2016 that most employers did not provide their employees with written employment contracts, undermining employees’ job security and access to union representation.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including by children, but does not prohibit prison labor. The law states that prison labor would be considered forced labor only if a worker is “hired out to, or placed at the disposal of, a private individual, company, or association.” According to local NGOs, the government did not effectively enforce the law, rendering penalties ineffective to deter violations. Those convicted of using forced labor may be fined up to 960,000 shillings ($260), sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, or both, and be required to pay a fine of 80,000 shillings ($22) “for each day the compulsory labor continued.”

PLA and local media reported that many citizens working overseas, particularly in the Arab Persian Gulf States, became victims of forced labor. PLA said traffickers and legitimate recruitment companies continued to send mainly female jobseekers to Gulf countries where many employers treated workers as indentured servants, including withholding pay and leave, and subjecting them to other harsh conditions.

Concluding that its 2016 ban on exporting domestic workers had failed to reduce the outflow of vulnerable women, the Ministry of Labor lifted the ban on April 1.

The UHRC reported that some prisons and police stations subjected detainees to forced labor. It reported that some prisons hired out prisoners as manual laborers to private farms without the detainees’ consent, and in some cases prison authorities forced sick inmates to work.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

Child labor was common, especially in the informal sector. Children’s rights activists reported the employment of children as young as five years of age. The Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) reported in its 2016 Statistical Abstract that approximately 33 percent of children ages six to 17 years old were engaged in child labor. Children primarily worked in cattle herding, loading trucks, gold mining, street vending, begging, scrap collecting, street hawking, stone quarrying, brick making, road construction and repair, car washing, fishing, domestic services, service work (restaurants, bars, shops), cross-border smuggling, and commercial farming (including the production of tea, coffee, sugarcane, vanilla, tobacco, rice, cotton, charcoal, and palm oil). They also were exploited in commercial sex.

PLA reported that many parents forced their children to work on family farms instead of attending school. Many children voluntarily left school for agricultural or domestic work to help their family meet expenses. Other children, particularly among the country’s large orphan population, were compelled to work due to the absence of parents or because their parents were too sick to work.

Local media reported that some artisanal miners in central and eastern areas employed children in gold mining. While some children worked outside of school hours, others worked full-time and did not attend school. Local and international NGOs reported that children who worked as artisanal miners were exposed to mercury, and many were unaware of the medium- to long-term effects of the exposure. They felt compelled to continue working due to poverty and a lack of employment alternatives. Children also suffered injuries in poorly dug mine shafts that often collapsed.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

Although the law prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, religion, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, social origin, disability, age, language, and HIV/communicable disease status, there were reports of discrimination based on some of these categories, including, disability, social origin, and HIV/communicable diseases (see section 6).

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The government has not increased the legal minimum wage of 6,000 shillings ($1.65) per month since it established a minimum wage in 1984. This wage was far less than the government’s official poverty income level ($0.90 per day) and well below the market rate for unskilled labor. The government’s Minimum Wage Advisory Board, established in 2015 to assess the feasibility of a minimum wage, had yet to release the findings it presented to the president in 2016. NOTU officials reported in 2016 that due to the country’s high unemployment rate, which the 2014 National Census report estimated at 9.4 percent, and underemployment rate, which the UBOS reported at 12.9 percent in 2015, employers had disproportionate power to determine employees’ salaries in the formal sector.

The maximum legal workweek is 48 hours, and the maximum workday is 10 hours. The law provides that the workweek may be extended to 56 hours per week, including overtime, with the employee’s consent. An employee may work more than 10 hours in a single day if the average number of hours over a period of three weeks does not exceed 10 hours per day, or 56 hours per week. For employees who work beyond 48 hours in a single week, the law requires employers to pay a minimum of 1.5 times the employee’s normal hourly rate for the overtime hours, and twice the employee’s normal hourly rate for work on public holidays. The law grants employees a 30-minute break during every eight-hour work shift. For every four months of continuous employment, an employee is entitled to seven days of paid annual leave.

The law establishes occupational safety and health standards and regulations for all workers, enforced by the Ministry of Labor’s Department of Occupational Safety and Health. The law authorizes labor inspectors to access and examine any workplace, issue fines, and mediate some labor disputes. While the law allows workers to remove themselves from situations that endanger their health or safety without jeopardizing their employment, legal protection for such workers was ineffective.

Authorities did not effectively enforce labor laws, due to insufficient resources for monitoring. NOTU reported in 2016 that the government’s enforcement of applicable laws was ineffective due to understaffing, lack of funding, insufficient training, and weak interagency coordination mechanisms. Local NGOs said the Ministry of Labor had insufficient funds to employ and equip the number of labor officers needed to monitor labor conditions nationwide. In 2016 only 49 of the country’s 117 districts had a labor officer, and their training, funding, and logistical support were inadequate. The ministry reported in 2016 that it conducted more than 100 on-site inspections, 120 desk reviews, and 50 routine inspections during the year. According to PLA, many labor officers lacked the funds and resources to inspect work places where child labor and other violations were prevalent. PLA reported that civil society organizations often provided labor officers with transportation to conduct labor inspections.

In some of the districts without labor officers, community development officers, local officials responsible for supervising government-funded development programs, assumed this responsibility. While such individuals were responsible for conducting labor inspections, they often had insufficient training to fulfill this mandate effectively. NOTU officials said in 2016 the government favored investors over workers, rendering it difficult for labor inspectors to enforce the law.

According to PLA, most workers were unaware of their employers’ responsibility to ensure a safe working environment and many did not challenge unsafe working conditions, as they feared losing their job. The Ministry of Labor and civil society reported in 2016 that due to the high unemployment rate and ubiquitous informal economy, workers felt compelled to remain in work situations that failed to comply with labor laws and endangered their health, fearing reprisals if they requested improved conditions.

Labor officials reported that labor laws did not protect workers in the informal economy, including many domestic and agricultural workers. In 2016 the Uganda Retirement Benefits Regulatory Authority licensed a retirement benefits program for the informal sector. The program covers traders and individuals engaged in various forms of informal work. Figures released by UBOS in 2014 estimated the informal sector employed up to 80 percent of the labor force. URBRA reported most of the country’s 13 million eligible workers were in the informal and agricultural sectors. The formal pension systems covered less than 10 percent of the working population.

Violations of standard wages, overtime pay, or safety and health standards were common. Deaths occurred due to unsafe working environments. Local media reported that three staff at two food-processing factories died from injuries sustained at work between May and June.


Executive Summary

Zambia is a constitutional republic governed by a democratically elected president and a unicameral national assembly. In August 2016 the country held elections under an amended constitution for president, national assembly seats, and local government, as well as a referendum on an enhanced bill of rights. The incumbent, Patriotic Front (PF) President Edgar Chagwa Lungu, was re-elected by a tight margin. A legal technicality saw the losing main opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) candidate, Hakainde Hichilema, unsuccessfully challenge the election results. International and local observers deemed the election as having been credible but cited a number of irregularities. The pre-election and postelection periods were marred by limits on press freedom and political party intolerance resulting in sporadic violence across the country. Although the results ultimately were deemed a credible reflection of votes cast, media coverage, police actions, and legal restrictions heavily favored the ruling party and prevented the election from being genuinely fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. In accordance with the constitution, all security and defense service chiefs reported to the president through the minister of defense.

The most significant human rights issues included: arbitrary killings which were prosecuted by authorities; excessive use of force by police; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest; interference with privacy; restrictions on freedoms of the press, speech, and assembly; high-level official corruption; trafficking in persons; and criminalization and arrest of persons engaged in consensual same-sex sexual relationships.

The government selectively applied the law to prosecute or punish individuals who committed abuses and mostly targeted those who opposed the ruling party. In addition impunity remained a problem, as ruling party supporters were either not prosecuted for serious crimes or, if prosecuted, released after serving small fractions of prison sentences.

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 of extrajudicial killings by the government or its agents during the year. For example, on March 19, police brutally beat to death Mark Chongwa, an air force officer, while in detention for a minor traffic infraction. The Human Rights Commission (HRC) condemned the killing as an arbitrary deprivation of life, prompting the president to order a full inquiry into police actions. The HRC called for disciplinary action against the police officers responsible for the arrest and detention of Chongwa. Four individuals, including two police officers and two inmates, were arrested and charged with manslaughter. The case was referred to the High Court for prosecution; the trial continued at year’s end.

b. Disappearance

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

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

Although the constitution prohibits subjecting any person to torture or to inhuman or degrading punishment, no laws address torture specifically. According to the HRC, police used excessive force–including torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment–to obtain information and confessions when apprehending, interrogating, and detaining criminal suspects. For example, the HRC stated the March 19 death of Mark Chongwa was a result of torture.

The HRC reported allegations of torture in every detention facility it monitored but noted that it was difficult to prosecute perpetrators because no law exists that explicitly prohibits torture or the use of excessive force. Confessions obtained through torture are admissible in court.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

During the year the government changed its prison policy from punitive to correction and rehabilitation of inmates. Nevertheless, physical conditions in prisons and detention centers remained harsh and life threatening due to overcrowding, frequent outbreaks of disease, food and potable water shortages, and poor sanitation and medical care.

Physical Conditions: According to the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Prisons Care and Counseling Association (PRISCCA), there were 20,916 detainees (of whom 4,000 were awaiting trial at year’s end) in 90 prison facilities with a capacity of 8,550 inmates. PRISCCA noted overcrowding was due to a slow-moving judicial system, outdated laws, and increased incarceration due to higher numbers of persons driven to crime by poverty. Other factors included limitations on judges’ power to impose noncustodial sentencing, a retributive police culture, and poor bail and bonding conditions. Indigent inmates lacked access to costly bail and legal representation through the Law Association of Zambia. Other organizations such as the Legal Aid Board and the National Prosecutions Authority were also difficult for inmates to access due to a lack of representation outside Lusaka.

Other than the March 19 death of Mark Chongwa, no data on or estimates of deaths in jails, pretrial or other detention centers, or prisons attributed to physical conditions or actions of staff members or other authorities were available. While the HRC noted that prison overcrowding and sanitary and other physical conditions fell below international standards, it reported no cases of authorities abusing prisoners and no complaints of abuse filed by inmates. The HRC stated that it had no evidence of political prisoners being treated differently from other prisoners.

The law requires separation of different categories of prisoners, but only female prisoners were held separately. According to the HRC, conditions for female prisoners were modestly better primarily because of less crowded facilities. Juveniles were detained in the same holding cells with adult detainees. Prisons held an undetermined number of children who were born in prison or living in prisons while their mothers served sentences. Incarcerated women who had no alternative for childcare could choose to have their infants and children under age four with them in prison. According to PRISCCA, correctional facilities designated for pretrial detainees included convicted inmates.

Many prisons had deficient medical facilities and meager food supplies. Lack of potable water resulted in serious outbreaks of water- and food-borne diseases, including dysentery and cholera. PRISCCA reported that prison food was inadequate nutritionally. The prison system remained understaffed with only two full-time medical doctors and 84 qualified health-care providers serving the prison population. The incidence of tuberculosis remained very high due to overcrowding, lack of compulsory testing, and prisoner transfers. The supply of tuberculosis medication and other essential drugs was erratic. A failure to remove or quarantine sick inmates resulted in the spread of tuberculosis and other illnesses and the deaths of several prisoners. The HRC and PRISCCA expressed concern at the lack of isolation facilities for the sick and for persons with psychiatric problems. Although prisoners infected with HIV were able to access antiretroviral treatment services within prison health-care facilities, their special dietary needs and that of those on tuberculosis treatment were not met adequately. Prisons also failed to address adequately the needs of persons with disabilities. Inadequate ventilation, temperature control, lighting, and basic and emergency medical care remained problems.

According to the 2013 National Audit of Prisons, female inmates had limited access to health-care services. Gynecological care, cervical cancer screening, prenatal services, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission programs were nonexistent. Female inmates relied on donations of underwear, sanitary pads, diapers for infants and toddlers, and soap.

Authorities denied prisoners access to condoms because the law criminalizes sodomy and prevailing public opinion weighed against providing condoms. Prison authorities, PRISCCA, and the Medical Association of Zambia advocated for prisoners’ conjugal rights as a way to reduce prison HIV rates. Discriminatory attitudes toward the most at-risk populations (persons in prostitution and men who have sex with men) stifled the development of outreach and prevention services for these groups.

Administration: There were no ombudsmen to promote the interests of inmates. Prisoners and detainees generally could not submit complaints to judicial authorities or request investigation of credible allegations of inhuman conditions.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted prison monitoring by independent local and international NGOs and religious institutions.

Improvements: During the year the government introduced a prison policy of correction and rehabilitation of inmates. It changed the penal system from a punitive to a correctional model in order to transform prison facilities to concentrate on correction and rehabilitation. It stated that instead of being punished for wrongdoing, offenders required rehabilitation so that they may better contribute to the development of the country when released and reintegrated into society. The August opening of a 300-inmate capacity correctional facility in Monze increased total prison system capacity from 8,250 to 8,550 inmates.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

Although the constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of arrest or detention in court, the HRC reported authorities frequently violated these requirements. It stated there was an increase in arbitrary arrests and unnecessarily prolonged detention in various detention centers, including police stations, during the year. PRISCCA reported there was an increase in suspects arrested and detained following the president’s July 5 declaration of a “threatened” state of emergency in which he invoked emergency powers. The UPND stated police arrested its members on politically motivated pretenses and charged them with nonbailable offenses. The Zambian Police Service (ZPS), however, claimed police arrested these individuals while they committed assault and theft. Many were tried and acquitted due to insufficient evidence.

On April 12, police arrested opposition UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema and five other UPND members and charged them with treason. On April 10, police used tear gas on party officials during a raid on Hichilema’s residence in Lusaka. On April 23, the Roman Catholic bishops of Zambia issued a statement condemning the raid as a “massive, disproportionate” use of force by police. On August 16, the Lusaka High Court released Hichilema and his codefendants when the director of public prosecutions dropped treason charges against him.


The ZPS reports to the Ministry of Home Affairs. Divided into regular and paramilitary units, the ZPS has primary responsibility for maintaining law and order. The Zambia Security and Intelligence Service (ZSIS), under the Office of the President, is responsible for external and internal intelligence. The Central Police Command in Lusaka oversees 10 provincial police divisions with jurisdiction over police stations in towns countrywide.

The army, air force, and national service are responsible for external security. The commander of each service reports to the president through the minister of defense. By law defense forces have domestic security responsibilities only in cases of national emergency. In addition to security responsibilities, the Zambia National Service performs road maintenance and other public works projects and runs state farms for displaced children.

Paramilitary units of the ZPS, customs officers, and border patrol personnel guard lake, river, and other border areas. The Drug Enforcement Commission is responsible for enforcing the laws on illegal drugs, fraud, counterfeiting, and money laundering. The Drug Enforcement Commission, customs, and border patrol personnel operate under the Ministry of Home Affairs. Impunity was a problem. Senior police officials disciplined some officers for engaging in extortion of prisoners by suspending them or issuing written reprimands, but many abuses went unaddressed. Dismissals of officers for extortion were rare.


The constitution and law require authorities to obtain a warrant before arresting a person for most offenses. Police do not need a warrant, however, when they suspect a person has committed offenses such as treason, sedition, defamation of the president, or unlawful assembly. Police rarely obtained warrants before making arrests.

Although the law requires that detainees appear before a court within 24 to 48 hours of arrest and be informed of the charges against them, authorities routinely held detainees for as long as six months before trial, which often exceeded the length of the prison sentence corresponding to conviction for the defendant’s alleged crime. The HRC noted this abuse remained common, particularly in rural districts, where subordinate courts operated in circuits because detainees could be tried only when a circuit court judge was in the district.

On July 5, the president invoked emergency powers that gave police authority to detain individuals for up to seven days without charge. There were numerous reports of politically motivated detentions of individuals held for the maximum seven-day period without charge before release. On August 23, Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja claimed police officers had complied with the terms of the declaration and added that no complaints of police excesses were filed.

Based on a presumption of innocence provided for in the constitution, the Criminal Procedure Code provides for bail in case of any detention. Before granting bail, however, courts often required at least one employed person, often a government employee, to vouch for the detainee. Bail may not be granted in cases of murder, aggravated robbery, violations of narcotics laws, and treason.

Authorities frequently refused or delayed bail in politically sensitive cases. For example, United Progressive People party leader Saviour Chishimba was denied bail when he was charged with defaming the president. Chishimba was held for eight days, released, and the charges against him dropped.

Detainees generally did not have prompt access to a lawyer. Although the law obligates the government to provide an attorney to indigent persons who face serious charges, many indigent defendants were unaware of this right. The government’s legal aid office and the Legal Resources Foundation provided legal services to some indigent arrestees.

Arbitrary Arrest: According to human rights groups, arbitrary or false arrest and detention remained problems. Police often arbitrarily summoned family members of criminal suspects for questioning, and authorities arrested criminal suspects based on uncorroborated accusations or as a pretext for extortion. Human rights groups reported police routinely detained citizens after midnight, a practice legal only during a state of emergency. For example, five opposition UPND members were charged with robbery–a nonbailable offense–and held in detention for one year. When the case reached trial, the High Court dismissed the case due to lack of evidence.

Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention was a problem. Thirty-two percent of prison inmates were in pretrial detention. On average detainees spent an estimated six months in pretrial detention, which often exceeded the maximum length of the prison sentence corresponding to the detainee’s alleged crime. Contributing factors included inability to meet bail requirements, trial delays, and adjournments due to absent prosecutors and their witnesses.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees had the ability to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention, but police often prevented detainees from filing challenges to prolonged detention. For example, UPND vice president Mwamba and other opposition leaders were detained on numerous occasions during the 2016 election campaign and prevented from challenging the legality of their arrests in court until they had spent several days in jail.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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


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


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


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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but the government frequently did not respect these prohibitions. The law requires a search or arrest warrant before police may enter a home, except during a state of emergency or when police suspect a person has committed an offense such as treason, sedition, defaming the president, or unlawful assembly. Police routinely entered homes without a warrant even when one was legally required. Domestic human rights groups reported authorities routinely detained, interrogated, and physically abused family members or associates of criminal suspects to obtain their cooperation in identifying or locating the suspects.

On April 10, police used tear gas and destroyed property in a raid without a search warrant on the home of UPND leader Hichilema (see section 1.d.).

The law grants the Drug Enforcement Commission, ZSIS, and police authority to monitor communications using wiretaps with a warrant based on probable cause, and authorities generally respected this requirement. The government required cell phone service providers to register all subscriber identity module (SIM) cards. Critics contended the government’s Zambia Information and Communications Technology Agency monitored telecommunications.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

Although the constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, the law contains some provisions the government used to restrict these freedoms. For example, on July 5, the president invoked emergency powers that expanded police powers to close down newspapers. Although it was not employed, the announcement was seen as a significant threat to press freedom by private media outlets.

Freedom of Expression: The government remained sensitive to criticism in general and by the political opposition in particular. It was quick to prosecute critics on the pretext of incitement of public disorder and hate speech. For example, on August 3, police arrested‎ and charged opposition United Progressive People leader Saviour Chishimba for defaming the president by accusing him of becoming dictatorial (see section 1.d.).

Press and Media Freedom: The government published two of the country’s four most widely circulated newspapers. One of the two privately owned newspapers opposed the ruling PF party, while the other supported it and the government. Opposition political parties and civil society organizations contended government-run media failed to report objectively. According to the Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf), although state media covered government and nongovernmental events, coverage was not fair; state media failed to educate and inform citizens in an objective, balanced, and clear way.

The government continued its crackdown on press freedom and independent media. On April 24, it auctioned property belonging to the Post newspaper, which included a printing press, radio equipment, trucks, and other vehicles despite the case still being heard in the High Court. In June 2016 the Zambia Revenue Authority closed the Postostensibly for outstanding tax obligations.

In addition to a multichannel government-controlled radio station that broadcasts nationwide, approximately 73 private and community radio stations broadcast. These radio stations experienced political pressure. Although some local private stations broadcast call-in and other talk programs on which diverse and critical viewpoints were expressed freely, media bodies claimed journalists who appeared on such programs received threats from senior government officials and politicians. On October 10, the media regulatory body Independent Broadcasting Authority summoned Prime TV management for “flouting broadcasting” laws and ordered it to submit recordings of programs transmitted on the station from August 7 to October 7. Police on occasion used force to interrupt broadcasts.

The postelections media space remained constricted during the year because the government took further steps to silence its critics. On April 12, the government threatened to close down the independent Mast newspaper.

Violence and Harassment: The government stated it tolerated negative articles in newspapers and magazines, but there were several reports that showed government, ruling party, and some opposition officials harassed journalists. PSAf reported the arrests of journalists compromised media freedom, undermined journalists’ objectivity and impartiality to question or demand accountability, and led to “self-censorship.” Progovernment political activists and state agents subjected journalists to physical attack, harassment, and intimidation. For example, on March 3, ruling PF party supporters, locally known as “cadres,” attacked the Law Association of Zambia offices in Lusaka because association president, Linda Kasonde, argued that President Lungu was not legally eligible to run for another term in 2021. Local civil society groups condemned the attack.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The government remained sensitive to media criticism and indirectly censored publications or penalized publishers.

Libel/Slander Laws: Libel and slander laws were applied against government critics. For example, in April police arrested and charged opposition Economic and Equity Party leader Chilufya Tayali with libel regarding remarks he posted on Facebook accusing Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja of covering up irregularities in the arrest of UPND leader Hichilema. On August 18, Tayali was discharged and charges against him dropped.


Although access generally was not restricted and individuals and groups could freely express their views via the internet, the government threatened individuals with arrest and online media with closure. The government restricted access to antigovernment online publication Zambian Watchdog and other sites critical of the government.

On April 5, the president directed the Zambia Information and Communications Authority to monitor social media. On May 13, Transport and Communications Minister Brian Mushimba announced the government would regulate online content to curb “social media abuse and exploitation of members of the public.” On July 25, police arrested Edward Makayi, an engineering student at a private university in Lusaka, for online criticism of the president and other government officials.

According to the International Telecommunication Union, 25.5 percent of the population used the internet in 2016.


There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.


The constitution and law provide for freedom of peaceful assembly; however, the government restricted this right, and police and progovernment groups disrupted meetings, rallies, and other activities of opposition political parties and civil society organizations.

The Public Order Act requires political parties and other groups to notify police in advance of any rallies but does not require formal approval. Nevertheless, police did not allow some gatherings to take place without a “permit.” Opposition political parties complained of selective application of the law, noting police allowed ruling party gatherings without notification or permits. Police often prevented opposition and civil society groups planning to protest government actions from gathering on the grounds that police received notifications too late, had insufficient staff to provide security, or the gathering would coincide with government events in the same province. Although police claimed inadequate staff to provide security for gatherings, police responded in force to disrupt opposition gatherings and often allowed ruling party supporters to disrupt them.

For example, on August 24, police prevented a UPND thanksgiving prayers ceremony following the release of party leader Hichilema at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Lusaka. Police stated that the UPND lacked approval from the minister of religious affairs. On September 29, police arrested and detained human rights activist Alliance for Community Action director Laura Miti and opposition Patriots for Economic Progress leader Sean Tembo for staging a peaceful protest at parliament during the presentation of the national budget. The protest was in opposition to corruption in connection with the procurement of 42 fire trucks.


The constitution provides for freedom of association, but the government placed some limits on this right. All organizations must formally apply for registration to the registrar of societies in the Ministry of Home Affairs. The registration process was long and allowed the registrar considerable discretion.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

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

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

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Gender-based violence was a problem, and authorities failed to provide adequate physical protection. Violence against girls and women–including defilement, rape, marriages of girls under age 18, and prostitution–was a major problem affecting female asylum seekers and refugees in camps and among those residing independently, especially in urban areas. Gender inequality, economic dependence on men, and impunity of perpetrators were among the factors contributing to abuse.

In-country Movement: The government intermittently restricted freedom of internal movement. Although police generally used roadblocks to control criminal activity, enforce customs and immigration controls, check drivers’ documents, and inspect vehicles for safety compliance, there were reports police used roadblocks to limit participation in political gatherings, especially during parliamentary by-elections. Police routinely extorted money and goods from motorists at roadblocks.


Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has a system for providing protection to refugees. According to UNHCR, although the law provides for the granting of asylum, it also gives the minister of home affairs wide discretion to deport refugees without appeal. The government was responsible for conducting refugee status determinations.

Access to Basic Services: Although the government provided basic services, including housing and limited health-care services to refugees, the law does not accord equal access to education. The government, however, provided primary and secondary education in refugee settlements.

Refugees were required to obtain government permission to move or live outside refugee camps, which was frequently granted on a temporary basis. Government policy limited refugees’ legal employment options to refugee camps, unless refugees obtained specific government authorization to work outside camps.

Durable Solutions: The government accepted refugees for resettlement and offered naturalization to refugees residing in the country. The government and UNHCR pursued the integration of naturalized Angolan and Rwandan former refugees. Delayed passport issuance for both Angolans and Rwandans, however, kept several thousand in legal limbo.

Temporary Protection: The government provided temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees, and the recognition rate of asylum claims was high. The recourse for those rejected was appeal to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Provincial and district joint operations committees are responsible for establishing the identity of asylum seekers and their reasons for leaving their country of origin. According to the Department of Immigration, the government intercepted several groups from the Horn of Africa and other parts of Africa at the border and within the country. UNHCR interceded with the director of immigration to prevent forced deportations. The last instance of forced removal occurred in 2015.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. On August 14, the Constitutional Court declared provisions of the Electoral Process Act that prevented convicted prisoners from voting to be unconstitutional and ruled that they be allowed to vote. The electoral commission accepted the ruling and stated it would provide for voting stations in prisons.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In August 2016 the most recent national elections were held. They included five separate ballots for president, members of parliament, mayors, and local councilors, as well as a referendum on a revised bill of rights. The incumbent PF candidate Edgar Lungu won a close victory, garnering 50.4 percent of the vote. His closest opponent, UPND leader Hichilema, received 47.6 percent, and seven other candidates 2 percent of the vote. The presidential election was conducted under a revised electoral system that required a candidate to receive more than 50 percent of votes to avoid a second round runoff. Election observers and monitors noted that, while voting was peaceful, there were concerns relating to the electoral environment. Public media coverage, police actions, and legal restrictions heavily favored the ruling party, preventing the elections from being genuinely free or fair.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Historically, political parties operated without restriction or outside interference, and individuals could independently run for office. The ruling party, however, enjoyed the use of government resources for campaign purposes and had police harass opposition candidates and supporters. Opposition parties, particularly the UPND, faced police and legal harassment. Police arrested opposition officials, blocked public rallies, and dispersed participants in opposition political gatherings and public protests. In overturning the August 2016 election of two ruling party members of parliament, High Court rulings cited ruling party abuse of government resources.

There were reports during the year of forced retirement of civil servants based on their political affiliation and ethnicity. On February 28, a number of young doctors–some as young as 32–at the University Teaching Hospital were forced to “retire in national interests.” The retirement decisions were allegedly made because the individuals belonged to or were sympathetic to the opposition UPND. The civil servants in question were from UPND strongholds in the Southern, Western, and North-Western Provinces. On September 5, a prominent labor organization stated that a number of public service workers were forced to “retire in national interests” because they belonged to the UPND or other opposition parties.

Participation of Women and Minorities: There were no laws or cultural or traditional practices preventing women or members of minorities from voting, running for office, and serving as electoral monitors, or otherwise participating in political life on the same basis as men or nonminority citizens, and women and minorities did so. Some observers believed that traditional and cultural factors prevented women from participating in political life on the same basis as men. The constitution, however, requires a high school education for all elected officials, which had the unintended effect of disqualifying many female candidates from running for office.

Less than 20 percent of the members of parliament were women, and few women occupied public decision-making positions. Nevertheless, constitutional amendments passed in 2016 as well the institution of policies and programs to promote the participation of women and other minorities resulted in the appointment of more women to leadership positions. For example, during the year a number of women were appointed to leadership positions in the judiciary and corporate boards such as those of the National Pensions Scheme Authority and Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for officials convicted of corruption, and the government attempted to enforce the law but did not do so consistently. Officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. The government has a national anticorruption policy and a national anticorruption implementation plan that addresses matters such as resource mobilization, coordination of anticorruption programs in the public and private sectors, program monitoring and evaluation, and legal reform. According to the local Transparency International executive director, the National Anticorruption Policy (NACP) contributed to institutional coordination, harmonization of laws on corruption, and establishment of integrity committees. A lack of funds for the NACP and its implementation remained a challenge. Although the government collaborated with the international community and civil society organizations to improve capacity to investigate and prevent corruption, anticorruption NGOs observed the enforcement rate among senior government officials and in the civil service was low. According to Transparency International’s local executive director, the average conviction rate for those prosecuted for corruption was only 10 to 20 percent.

Corruption: NGOs observed the government only targeted minor offenders and avoided prosecuting serving senior officials until they left office or joined opposition political parties. For example, on March 6, the government newspapers Times of Zambia and Zambia Daily Mail reported government investigative and law enforcement agencies found no evidence of corrupt practices on the part of Minister of Agriculture Dora Siliya and other government officials. They had been accused of involvement in the illicit issuance of a permit to Transglobe Export Produce Ltd for a multimillion-dollar maize export to Malawi.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires income and asset disclosure by a small fraction of political officeholders and public servants. For example, although the Anti-Corruption Act requires certain officers of the Anti-Corruption Commission to disclose their assets and liabilities prior to taking office, it does not apply to other public officials. Under the Electoral Process Act, presidential candidates are required to declare their assets and liabilities. Conviction of making a false declaration is punishable by seven years’ imprisonment without the option of a fine. Some government departments and institutions such as the Zambia Revenue Authority maintained integrity committees to enhance asset disclosure mechanisms within the workplace. In several institutions asset disclosure requirements were vague or inadequately enforced.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons


Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and other sexual offenses, and courts have discretion to sentence convicted rapists to life imprisonment with hard labor.

The 2010 Anti-Gender-based Violence Act criminalizes spousal rape, and the penal code criminalizes domestic violence between spouses and among family members living in the same home. The law provides for prosecution of most crimes of gender-based violence, and penalties for conviction range from a fine to 25 years’ imprisonment, depending on the severity of injury and whether a weapon was used. The law provides for protection orders for victims of domestic and gender-based violence, and such orders were issued and enforced. Despite this legal framework, rape remained widespread.

During the year the NGO Coordinating Council (NGOCC) and its member organizations engaged traditional marriage counselors on gender-based violence and women’s rights. The Young Women’s Christian Association continued its “good husband” campaign and, in collaboration with other women’s movements, the “I Care about Her” campaign to promote respect for women and to end spousal abuse. Other efforts to combat and reduce gender-based violence included the establishment of shelters for victims of gender-based violence, training of police officers in the handling of cases of gender-based violence, roadshows to sensitize the public to gender-based violence, and instruction on how to file complaints and present evidence against perpetrators.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The NGOCC and several of its member organizations observed that the country’s dual system of customary and statutory law made it difficult to end injustices against women. The practice of “sexual cleansing,” in which a widow is compelled to have sexual relations with her late husband’s relatives as part of a cleansing ritual, continued to decline. The penal code prohibits “sexual cleansing” of girls under age 16.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was common, but the government took few steps to prosecute harassment during the year. The penal code contains provisions under which some forms of sexual harassment of women may be prosecuted. The NGOCC stated it received many reports of sexual harassment in the workplace but expressed concern that stringent evidence requirements in courts of law prevented victims from litigating. The families of perpetrators often pressured victims to withdraw complaints, especially if they were members of the same family, which hampered prosecution of offenders.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: .

Discrimination: In contrast to customary law, the constitution and statutory law provide for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including under family, labor, property, and nationality laws. The government did not adequately enforce the law, and women experienced discrimination.


Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents or, with the exception of refugees, by birth within the country’s territory. Failure to register births did not result in the denial of public services, such as education or health care, to children. Both state and nonstate institutions accepted alternative documents to access other basic services. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: Although government policy provides for tuition-free education through grade seven, education was not compulsory. The numbers of girls and boys in primary school were approximately equal, but fewer girls attended secondary school. According to UNICEF, girls tended to leave school at younger ages than did boys because of early marriage or unplanned pregnancies.

Child Abuse: The punishment for conviction of causing bodily harm to a child is five to 10 years’ imprisonment, and the law was generally enforced. Beyond efforts to eliminate child marriage, there were no specific initiatives to combat child abuse.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage is 16 for boys and girls with parental consent and 21 without consent. There is no minimum age under customary law. According to the Zambia Demographic and Health Survey 2013/2014, 31 percent of women ages 20-24 were married before 18. According to UNICEF, child marriage is largely between peers rather than forced.

The government, parliamentarians, civil society organizations, and donors worked together to fight early and forced marriages. The Ministries of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs and Gender and Child Development, in collaboration with traditional leaders, NGOs, diplomatic missions, and other concerned persons, increasingly spoke out against early and forced marriages. Some leaders nullified forced and early marriages and placed the girls removed from such marriages in school. In April 2016 the government adopted a national action plan to end child marriage. The action plan sets a five-year goal of reducing child marriage rates by 40 percent with an ultimate target to build “a Zambia free from child marriage by 2030.” During the year implementation of the strategy focused on girls remaining in school and promoting the prohibition by village chiefs of child marriage in customary law and practice. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sexual relations is 16. The law provides penalties of up to life imprisonment for conviction of statutory rape or defilement, which the law defines as the unlawful carnal knowledge of a child under age 16. The minimum penalty for conviction of defilement is 15 years’ imprisonment.

The law criminalizes child prostitution and child pornography and provides for penalties of up to life imprisonment for convicted perpetrators. The law provides for prosecution of child prostitutes age 12 years and older, but authorities did not enforce the law, and child prostitution was common.

Displaced Children: Orphaned children faced greater risks of child abuse, sexual abuse, and child labor. The 2013 Zambia Orphanhood and Fosterhood Report stated 13 percent of the 6.6 million children ages newborn to 17 were orphans. It attributed the high numbers of orphans to the loss of parents from HIV-related illnesses, malaria, and tuberculosis.

On September 20, the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services began implementing guidelines for the Alternative Care Act to promote deinstitutionalization of orphans and support family preservation.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at


There were fewer than 500 persons in the Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination in general, but no law specifically prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities in employment, education, transportation, access to health care, and the provision of other government services.

The Ministry of Gender and Child Development oversees the government’s implementation of policies that address general and specific needs of persons with disabilities in education, health care, accessibility to physical infrastructure, and electoral participation.

A lack of consolidated data was a major impediment to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in government programming and policy. Persons with disabilities had limited access to education and correspondingly low literacy levels. While the government did not restrict persons with physical or mental disabilities from voting or otherwise participating in most civic affairs, progress in providing for their participation remained slow. Persons with mental disabilities could not hold public office. Persons with disabilities also faced significant societal discrimination in employment and education.

By law the government must provide reasonable accommodation for all persons with disabilities seeking education and provide that “any physical facility at any public educational institution is accessible.” Public buildings, schools, and hospitals rarely had facilities to accommodate such persons, however. Five schools were designated for children with disabilities. Some children with physical disabilities attended mainstream schools.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There are seven major ethnic/language groups–Bemba, Kaonde, Lozi, Lunda, Luvale, Ngoni, and Tonga–and 66 smaller ethnic groups, many of which are related to the larger tribes. The government generally permitted autonomy for ethnic minorities and encouraged the practice of local customary law. Some political parties maintained political and historical connections to tribal groups and promoted their interests. The general election was marred by rhetoric that contributed to division among tribal groups.

The government grants special recognition to traditional leaders but does not recognize the 1964 Barotseland Agreement that granted the Lozi political autonomy and was signed by the United Kingdom, Northern Rhodesia, and the Barotse Royal Establishment immediately prior to the country’s independence. Some Lozi groups demanded official recognition of the Barotseland Agreement while others demanded independence.

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

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity, and penalties for conviction of engaging in “acts against the order of nature” are 15 years’ to life imprisonment. Conviction of the lesser charge of gross indecency carries penalties of up to 14 years’ imprisonment. The government enforced laws against same-sex sexual activity and did not address societal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons.

Societal violence against persons based on gender, sex, and sexual orientation occurred. LGBTI persons in particular were at risk of societal violence due to prevailing prejudices, misperceptions of the law, lack of legal protections, and inability to access health-care services. Some politicians, media figures, and religious leaders expressed opposition to basic protection and rights for LGBTI persons in arguing against same-sex marriage.

Rather than submit cases for trial, police on several occasions arrested suspected LGBTI persons on bogus charges, forcing them to spend at least one night in jail. In most cases police demanded bribes before releasing the individuals. Police increasingly charged transgender persons with “impersonation” and subjected them to verbal abuse and harassment while in detention. The charges generally could not be successfully prosecuted, and detainees were released. For example, on August 30, police in Kapiri Mposhi town arrested and charged two men for same-sex sexual conduct. The case was being tried at year’s end.

According to LGBTI advocacy groups, societal violence occurred, as did discrimination in employment, housing, and access to education and health care. LGBTI groups reported frequent harassment of LGBTI persons and their families, including threats via text message and email, vandalism, stalking, and outright violence. Activists stated several LGBTI persons committed suicide.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The government actively discouraged discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. Most employers adopted nondiscriminatory HIV/AIDS workplace policies. Training of the public sector including the judiciary on the rights of persons with HIV/AIDS increased public awareness and acceptance, but societal and employment discrimination against such individuals persisted. The government made some headway in changing entrenched attitudes of discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. In August 2016 the country’s first openly HIV-positive person was elected to parliament.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of workers, except for police, military personnel, and certain other categories of workers, to form and join independent unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. Statutory restrictions regulate these rights. The law also requires the registration of a trade union with the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, which may take up to six months. The ministry has the power to refuse official registration on arbitrary, unjustified, or ambiguous grounds. No organization may be registered as a trade union unless its application to register is signed by not less than 50 supporters or such lesser number as may be prescribed by the minister, and, with some exceptions, no trade union may be registered if it claims to represent a class of employees already represented by an existing trade union. Unions may be deregistered under certain circumstances, but the law provides for notice, reconsideration, and right of appeal to an industrial relations court. The government has discretionary power to exclude certain categories of workers from unionizing, including prison staff, judges, court registrars, magistrates, and local court justices.

Trade Union operations are guided by their constitutions and provisions of the Industrial and Labor Relations Act. The government, through the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, brokers labor disputes between employers and employees. In cases involving the unjustified dismissal of employees, the ministry settles disputes through social dialogue, and any unresolved cases are sent to the Industrial Relations Court. The act also provides a platform for employers, workers, and government to dialogue on matters of mutual interest through the Tripartite Consultative Labor Council.

The law provides for collective bargaining. In certain cases, however, either party may refer a labor dispute to a court or for arbitration. The law also allows for a maximum period of one year for a court to consider the complaint and issue its ruling. Collective agreements must be filed with the commissioner and approved by the minister before becoming binding on the signatory parties.

In 2015 the government reformed some labor laws, through the amendment of the Employment Act, to increase government agencies’ capacity to address overall labor issues in the informal sector. Additionally, the government established a call center to allow the public access to information relating to labor matters. With the exception of workers engaged in a broadly defined range of essential services, the law provides for the right to strike if recourse to all legal options is first exhausted.

The law defines essential services as any activity relating to the generation, supply, or distribution of electricity; the supply and distribution of water and sewage removal; fire departments; and the mining sector. Employees in the Zambian Defense Forces and judiciary as well as police, prison, and ZSIS personnel are also considered essential. The process of exhausting the legal alternatives to a strike is lengthy. The law also requires a union to notify employers 10 days in advance of strike action and limits the maximum duration of a strike to 14 days. If the dispute remains unresolved, it is referred to the court. The government may stop a strike if the court finds it is not “in the public interest.” Workers who engage in illegal strikes may be dismissed by employers. An employee or trade union that takes part in a strike that has not been authorized by a valid strike ballot is liable to a fine of up to 50,000 kwacha ($5,319) for a trade union or 20,000 kwacha ($2,128) for an employee.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and employer interference in union functions, and it provides for reinstatement and other remedies for workers fired for union activity. Except for workers in the “essential services” and those in the above-mentioned categories, no other groups of workers were excluded from relevant legal protections. Administrative judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals. Unions suffered from political interference and fracturing and were no longer seen as influential.

Although the Ministry of Labor and Social Security attempted to enforce applicable labor laws, enforcement was not effective. Penalties for employers were not sufficient and could not be effectively enforced to deter violations, which prompted the government to introduce a revised labor code. Other challenges that constrained effective enforcement included unaligned pieces of legislation, lack of financial capacity to implement programs, and lack of trained officers to enforce legislation.

Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were not always enforced. Most unions chose to strike illegally, either to circumvent lengthy procedural requirements for approval or when other legal avenues were exhausted. While the law provides that workers engaging in illegal strikes may be dismissed, the government often intervened in such matters. For example, in January, when Luanshya Copper Mine in Copperbelt Province suspended seven miners for inciting other workers to strike, the company reversed its decision following the intervention by the Copperbelt provincial minister. NGOs advocated for worker rights throughout the year without government restriction.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The law authorizes the government to call upon citizens to perform labor in specific instances, such as during national emergencies or disasters. The government also may require citizens to perform labor associated with traditional civil or communal obligations.

Penalties for conviction of forced labor violations range from 25 to 35 years’ imprisonment. Data were insufficient to determine whether these penalties were sufficient to deter violations. There were no prosecutions for forced labor during the year.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. While the government investigated cases involving a small number of victims, it lacked the resources to investigate more organized trafficking operations potentially involving forced labor in the mining, construction, and agricultural sectors. Gangs of illegal miners called “jerabos” at times forced children into illegal mining and loading stolen copper ore onto trucks in Copperbelt Province. Women and children from rural areas were exploited in urban domestic servitude and subjected to forced labor in the agricultural, textile, and construction sectors, and in small businesses such as bakeries. While orphans and street children were the most vulnerable, children sent to live in urban areas were also vulnerable to forced labor.

Women and children from Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Mozambique were forced into labor or prostitution after arriving in the country. Chinese, Indian, and Lebanese nationals were exploited in forced labor in textile factories, road construction, and bakeries. There were reports of abuses in labor-intensive work, including domestic service, hospitality, and construction.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the employment of children under age 15 at any commercial, agricultural, or domestic worksite or engaging a child in the worst forms of child labor as defined in international conventions. While the Employment of Young Persons and Children Act sets the minimum age for hazardous work at 18, it is not clear regarding the definition of a child. Various pieces of legislation define a child differently, which has implications on employment and education of children. Restrictions on child labor prohibit work that harms a child’s health and development or that prevents a child’s attendance at school. The law also prohibits the procurement or offering of a child for illicit activities.

According to UNICEF, there was a high prevalence of child labor, mostly in domestic and agricultural sectors mainly in rural areas. UNICEF noted there was a discrepancy between the right to education and child labor laws in the country. Although the law sets the minimum age of employment at 15, according to the Employment of Young Persons and Children Act, children ages 13 and 14 may be lawfully engaged in employment, as long as the work involved is not harmful to their health or development or prejudicial to their education. The Employment Act also permits the employment of children under age 15 receiving full-time education during school vacations or those who have either failed to secure admission to a suitable school or whose enrollment has been cancelled or terminated by the school authorities or for good cause by a parent. UNICEF reported that the majority of children worked in agriculture, forestry, and fisheries, with 83 percent working in the informal sector and therefore unable to access full legal employment benefits.

The Ministry of Labor recorded three cases of child labor and forced child labor in the informal sector. For example, in Kasama district, a child was forced by his parents to work in a field. The district labor officer intervened, withdrew the child from fieldwork, and cautioned the parents. In another case, in Kehema district, a father allegedly impregnated his own 13-year-old daughter, forced her to work, and restricted her movements. The girl’s father was arrested and charged with incest; his trial continued at year’s end.

The government did not effectively enforce the law outside of the industrial sector. Resources, inspections, and remediation were inadequate. Secondary education is not compulsory, and children who are not enrolled are vulnerable to child labor. Thus, child labor was a problem in agriculture, domestic service, construction, farming, transportation, prostitution, quarrying, mining, and other sectors where children under age 15 often were employed.

While the labor commissioner effectively enforced minimum age requirements in the industrial sector, where there was little demand for child labor, the government seldom enforced minimum age standards in the informal sector, particularly in mining, agriculture, and domestic service. Because more than 92 percent of child labor occurred in the agricultural sector, most often with the consent of families, inspectors from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security focused on counseling and educating families that employed children. Authorities did not refer any cases of child labor for prosecution during the year. Due to the scarcity of transportation, labor inspectors frequently found it difficult to conduct inspections in rural areas. The production of crops such as cotton, tobacco, maize, coffee, and sunflowers exposed children to dangerous pesticides, fertilizers, snake and other animal bites, and injuries from carting heavy loads and using dangerous tools and machinery.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The labor law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Various organizations had policies that protected individuals with HIV/AIDS. The NGOCC noted that although the Employment Act provides for maternity leave, the requirement of “continuous employment for two years” was discriminatory.

Generally, the government effectively enforced the law. There were reports, however, of discrimination against minority groups. Undocumented migrant workers are not protected by the law and faced discrimination in wages and working conditions.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity. LGBTI persons were at times dismissed from employment or not hired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Women’s wages lagged behind men’s, and training opportunities were less available for women. Women were much less likely to occupy managerial positions. Persons with disabilities faced significant societal discrimination in employment, education, and access.

Migrant workers, if documented, enjoy the same legal protections, wages, and working conditions as citizens.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The law allows the Ministry of Labor and Social Security authority to set wages by sector. Otherwise, the category of employment determines the minimum wage and conditions of employment. Minimum wage categories range from 700 kwacha ($74) to 1,445 kwacha ($154) per month for “protected employees,” such as general workers with low bargaining power, which was slightly less than the official estimate of the poverty income level. Wage laws were effectively enforced, and the law prescribes penalties for violations of labor laws. Every employer negotiates with employees their standard minimum wage. For unionized workers, wage scales and maximum workweek hours were established through collective bargaining. During the year, however, the minister of labor and social security refused to allow collective bargaining demanding less than minimum wage requirements. Almost all unionized workers received salaries considerably higher than the nonunionized minimum wage. Most minimum wage earners supplemented their incomes through second jobs, subsistence farming, or reliance on extended family.

According to the law, the normal workweek should not exceed 48 hours. The standard workweek is 40 hours for office workers and 45 hours for factory workers. There are limits on excessive compulsory overtime, depending on the category of work. The law provides for overtime pay. Employers must pay employees who work more than 48 hours in one week (45 hours in some categories) for overtime hours at a rate of 1.5 times the hourly rate. Workers receive double the rate of their hourly pay for work done on a Sunday or public holiday. The law requires that workers earn two days of annual leave per month without limit.

The law regulates minimum occupational safety and health standards in industry. Both the Workers Compensation Fund Control Board (WCFCB) and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security stated that existing government occupational safety and health (OSH) standards were appropriate for the main industries. The WCFCB reported that the Workers Compensation Act No. 10 of 1999 and the Factories Act of 1966 place on both workers and experts the duty to identify unsafe situations in a work environment. The WCFCB reported it encouraged workers to form “safety communities” to develop capacity among workers to manage risks or hazardous situations. The Ministry of Labor cited the World Bank-funded OSH Institute in Ndola as an example of a significant OSH investment, especially for tuberculosis screening for mineworkers.

The work hour law and the safety and health standards were not effectively enforced in all sectors, including in the informal sector. Miners faced poor health and safety conditions and threats by managers if they tried to assert their rights. Miners developed serious lung disease, such as silicosis, due to poor ventilation and constant exposure to dust and chemicals.

Violations of wage, overtime, or OSH standards were most common in the construction, mines, and domestic sectors, involving mainly Chinese companies. The major industrial accidents during the year occurred in the mining, transport, agriculture, and commercial sectors.

Approximately 80 percent of all workers were in the informal sector. The WCFCB publicized its services and information regarding workers compensation and solicited responses from the informal sector, resulting in the provision of social protections for many.

The government engaged with mining companies and took some steps to improve working conditions in the mines. By law workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, but authorities did not effectively protect employees in these situations. Despite legal protections, workers did not exercise the right to remove themselves from work situations that endangered their safety or health, and workers who protested working conditions often jeopardized their employment.


Executive Summary

Zimbabwe is constitutionally a republic. In November a military intervention, public demonstrations calling for President Robert Mugabe’s removal, the ruling party’s vote of no confidence, and impeachment proceedings led to Mugabe’s resignation after ruling the country since independence in 1980. The ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) nominated former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa to replace Mugabe as both president of ZANU-PF and the government. On November 24, Mnangagwa was sworn in as president with the constitutional authority to complete the remainder of former president Mugabe’s five-year term, scheduled to end in 2018. Presidential and parliamentary elections held in 2013 were free of the widespread violence of the 2008 elections, but the process was neither fair nor credible. Numerous factors contributed to a deeply flawed election process: a hastily convened and politically compromised Constitutional Court that unilaterally declared the election date before key electoral reforms were in place; heavily biased state media; a voter registration process that did not comply with the law and that skewed registration towards supporters of the ruling party; partisan statements and actions by security forces, including active-duty personnel running for office in contravention of the law; limitations on international observers; failure to provide a publicly useful voters register; and a chaotic, separate voting process for the security sector. The elections resulted in the formation of a unitary ZANU-PF government led by President Mugabe and ZANU-PF supermajorities in both houses of parliament. ZANU-PF again used intimidation and targeted violence to retain some parliamentary seats during by-elections.

Civilian authorities at times did not maintain effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included government-targeted abductions, arrests, torture, abuse, and harassment, including of members of civil society and political opponents; harsh prison conditions; executive political influence on and interference in the judiciary; government-sponsored evictions of farms, private businesses, and property; invasions and demolition of informal marketplaces and settlements; restrictions on freedoms of expression, press, assembly, association, and movement; government corruption, including at the local level; trafficking of men, women, and children; and criminalization of LGBTI status or conduct, including arrests.

The government took limited steps to punish security-sector officials and ZANU-PF supporters who committed violations, but impunity was a problem.

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 the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Security-sector forces sometimes organized or participated in political violence. Security-sector impunity for politically motivated abuses remained a problem.

Impunity for past politically motivated violence also remained a problem. Investigations continued of prior years’ cases of violence resulting in death committed by security forces and ZANU-PF supporters, but by year’s end no one had been arrested or charged in these cases.

There were no advances in holding legally accountable those responsible for the deaths of at least 19 citizens who died of injuries sustained during the 2008 political violence that targeted opposition party members; more than 270 others were also killed that year.

Unwillingness to acknowledge past atrocities or seek justice for victims continued to influence Shona-Ndebele relations negatively.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of long-term disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities. Although the High Court ordered the government to provide updates on the 2015 disappearance of democracy activist Itai Dzamara, government officials failed to do so. There were no reports of authorities punishing any perpetrators of previous acts of disappearance.

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

Although the constitution prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, security forces engaged in such practices with impunity and with the implicit support of officials affiliated with ZANU-PF. According to NGOs, security forces assaulted and tortured citizens in custody, including perceived opponents of ZANU-PF. Throughout the year police used excessive force in apprehending, detaining, and interrogating criminal suspects. In some cases police arrested and charged the victims of violence instead of the perpetrators. During the military intervention in November, political opponents of President Emmerson Mnangagwa alleged that military forces arrested, detained, and tortured them at military facilities.

Human rights groups reported security agents and ZANU-PF supporters continued to perpetrate physical and psychological torture. Reported torture methods included beating victims with sticks, clubs, whips, cables, and sjamboks (a heavy whip); falanga (beating the soles of the feet); solitary confinement; and sleep and food deprivation.

According to one NGO, from January through July, 254 victims of organized violence and torture sought medical treatment and counseling after sustaining injuries in separate incidents across the country. The NGO reported the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) was responsible for 45 percent of the violations, while ZANU-PF supporters were responsible for 42 percent of the violations. Nearly 39 percent of the cases occurred in the capital, Harare. Although the majority of victims did not indicate their political affiliation, more than 43 percent of all victims associated themselves with the Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T) or other opposition political parties.

On June 29, alleged state security agents abducted University of Zimbabwe political science student Fanuel Kaseke in the Harare suburb of Chitungwiza. A local NGO reported that alleged state security agents tortured Kaseke, drugged him, and held him incommunicado for six days before releasing him on July 4. The NGO reported that after his release, state security agents visited Kaseke’s residence and his family members on numerous occasions asking about his whereabouts.

According to a local NGO, from January to August, 30 victims of organized violence and torture sought assistance after security agents found them mining illegally at the Chiadzwa diamond mine in Manicaland Province. Victims reported security forces detained them at torture bases, beat them with sticks, kicked them, and sometimes allowed security dogs to attack them. Several victims reported that security forces shot them in the back, leg, or shoulder when they tried to flee.

Police used excessive force to disperse demonstrators, resulting in injuries.

For example, on July 12, police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse dozens of opposition supporters protesting against what they considered the slow pace of electoral reforms ahead of the 2018 presidential election.

ZANU-PF supporters–often with tacit support from police or government officials–continued to assault and mistreat scores of persons, including civil society activists and known opposition political party members and their families, especially in Harare neighborhoods and nearby towns. Violent confrontations between youth groups of the ZANU-PF (known as “Chipangano”) and opposition political parties continued, particularly in urban areas. ZANU-PF supporters were the primary instigators of political violence.

On February 13, local NGOs reported ZANU-PF youth supporters assaulted approximately 70 youth members of the opposition party Transform Zimbabwe (TZ) who had gathered in the Harare suburb of Chitungwiza for a neighborhood clean-up event. Three TZ supporters were badly injured and hospitalized. Observers reported that ZANU-PF youth attacked the TZ supporters in full view of several police officers, who failed to intervene.

The courts punished some ZANU-PF supporters and state security agents accused of political violence. According to a local NGO, for example, Brighton Sanyanga appeared at the Nyanga Police Station in 2014 to answer allegations of malicious damage to property that occurred after a demonstration allegedly staged by students. The NGO reported that police officer Crispen Chikazhe tortured Sanyanga by exposing him to electrical shocks and threatening to kill him. In March Brighton Sanyanga successfully sued Chikazhe for $570 in damages.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions remained harsh, partly due to overcrowding in older urban remand facilities, and the Zimbabwe Prison and Correctional Services (ZPCS) struggled to provide adequate food and sanitary conditions. The 2013 constitution added prisoner rehabilitation and reintegration into society to ZPCS responsibilities.

Physical Conditions: Conditions in prisons, jails, and detention centers were often harsh. There were approximately 18,000 prisoners, spread across 46 main prisons and 26 satellite prisons. While some prisons operated below capacity, NGOs reported that overcrowding continued, due to outdated infrastructure and judicial backlogs.

Prison guards occasionally beat and abused prisoners, but NGOs reported that the use of excessive force by prison guards was not systematic and that relations between prison guards and prisoners improved during the year.

NGOs reported female prisoners generally fared better than male prisoners. Authorities held women in separate prison wings and provided women guards. Women generally received more food from their families than did male prisoners. The several dozen children under age four living with their incarcerated mothers were required to share their mothers’ food allocation. NGOs were unaware of women inmates reporting rapes or other physical abuse. With support from NGOs, prisons distributed some supplies such as sanitary pads for women. In contrast to previous years, a local NGO working in the prison system reported prison officials stopped reserving many of these supplies for themselves. Officials did not provide pregnant women and nursing mothers with additional care or food rations out of the ZPCS budget, but the ZPCS solicited donations from NGOs and donors for additional provisions.

There was one juvenile prison housing boys only. Girls were held together with women. Authorities also held boys in adult prisons throughout the country while in remand. Officials generally tried to place younger boys in separate cells. Authorities generally sent juveniles to prison rather than to reformatory homes as stipulated in the law. Juveniles were particularly vulnerable to abuse by prison officials and other prisoners.

Prisoners with mental health issues were often held together with regular prisoners and received only limited specialized care.

According to the ZPCS, remand prisons were overcrowded. Authorities often held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners until their bail hearings. Due to fuel shortages, the ZPCS was at times unable to transport pretrial detainees to court hearings, resulting in delayed trials.

Food shortages were widespread but not life threatening. Prisoners identified as malnourished received additional meals. The harvest of prison farm products provided meals for prisoners. Prisoners had limited access to clean water.

Poor sanitary conditions contributed to disease, including diarrhea, measles, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS-related illnesses. Lighting and ventilation were inadequate. There were insufficient mattresses, blankets, warm clothing, sanitary supplies, and hygiene products.

Prisoners had access to very basic medical care, with a clinic and doctor at nearly every prison. In partnership with NGOs, the ZPCS offered peer education on HIV/AIDS. The ZPCS tested prisoners for HIV only when requested by prisoners or prison doctors. Due to outdated regulations and a lack of specialized medical personnel and medications, prisoners suffered from routine but treatable medical conditions such as hypertension, tuberculosis, diabetes, asthma, and respiratory diseases. Due to fuel shortages, the ZPCS was at times unable to transport prisoners with emergency medical needs to local hospitals.

Those detained for politically motivated reasons were held at police stations for days while their court dates or bail hearings were pending.

Administration: The inspections and audit unit of the ZPCS, intended to assess prison conditions and improve monitoring of prisoners’ rights, did not release the results of such assessments. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) continued to conduct monitoring visits. There was no prison ombudsman, but there were statutory mechanisms to allow alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders.

Record keeping on prisoners was inadequate. Prisoners moved from one facility to another were occasionally lost in the ZPCS’ noncomputerized administrative system for weeks or months. Authorities permitted prisoners to submit complaints without censorship, but investigations were rare.

Prisoners and detainees had relatively unrestricted access to visitors, except in maximum-security prisons, where geographic constraints hampered access by relatives of prisoners.

Independent Monitoring: The law provides international human rights monitors the right to visit prisons. Church groups and NGOs seeking to provide humanitarian assistance gained access. All organizations working in prisons reported that meetings with prisoners occurred without third parties present and with minimal restrictions.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, although other sections of the law effectively weakened these prohibitions. The government enforced security laws in conflict with the constitution. Security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained persons, particularly political and civil society activists and journalists perceived as opposing the ZANU-PF party. Security forces frequently arrested large numbers of persons during antigovernment protests.


The constitution provides for a National Security Council (NSC) composed of the president, vice president, and selected ministers and members of the security services. The NSC, chaired by the president, is responsible for setting security policies and advises the government on all security-related matters. In practice the NSC never met. Instead, the Joint Operations Command, an informal administrative body, discharged the functions of the NSC at national, provincial, and district levels. All security-sector chiefs reported directly to the president, who is the commander in chief of all security services.

The ZRP is responsible for maintaining internal law and order. The Department of Immigration and the ZRP, both under the Ministry of Home Affairs, are primarily responsible for migration and border enforcement. Although the ZRP is officially under the authority of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Office of the President directed some ZRP roles and missions in response to civil unrest. The Zimbabwe National Army and Air Force constitute the Zimbabwe Defense Forces under the Ministry of Defense. The armed forces are responsible for external security, but the government sometimes deployed them as a back-up to the police as a show of force. The Central Intelligence Organization (CIO), under the Office of the Vice President, is responsible for internal and external security.

Implicit assurances of impunity and a culture of disregard for human rights contributed to police use of excessive force in apprehending and detaining criminal suspects. During the year videos appeared on social media showing police officers assaulting motorists who refused to pay bribes. As one example, in August police officers assaulted lawyer Lucy Chivasa as she attempted to assert the rights of a bus driver whom the police were assaulting at a traffic checkpoint.

Ignorance of the provisions of the constitution also compromised the quality of police work. Police were ill equipped, underfunded, and underpaid, and they lacked comprehensive training, which negatively impacted recruitment and the professional development of senior officers. A lack of sufficient vehicles, fuel, and other resources reduced police effectiveness. Poor working conditions, low salaries, and high rates of dismissal resulted in corruption and high turnover. The government changed pay dates for security forces on a month-to-month basis and sometimes limited the amount of cash security force members could withdraw.

The constitution calls for a government body to investigate complaints against the police. Despite this provision, there were no external entities and no effective internal entities to investigate abuse by the security forces. Authorities reportedly investigated and arrested corrupt police officers for criminal activity but also punished or arrested police officers on arbitrary charges for failing to obtain or share illicitly gained funds. In August authorities arrested, prosecuted, and convicted five police officers involved in an altercation that resulted in motorist Washington Gezana losing an eye.

Government efforts to reform the security forces were minimal, and there were no reports of disciplinary actions against security officers who erred in ZANU-PF’s favor in their official conduct. Training on allegiance to ZANU-PF for securing the country’s sovereignty was commonplace, while authorities rarely provided training on nonpartisan implementation of the rule of law or human rights.


The law stipulates that arrests require a warrant issued by either a court or senior police officer and that police inform an arrested person of the charges before taking the individual into custody. Police did not respect these rights. The law requires authorities to inform a person at the time of arrest of the reason for the arrest. A preliminary hearing must be held before a magistrate within 48 hours of an arrest. According to the constitution, only a competent court may extend the period of detention.

The law provides for bail for most accused persons. In 2015 the Constitutional Court declared section 121(3) of the Criminal Procedures and Evidence Act unconstitutional. According to human rights attorneys, it allowed prosecutors to veto bail decisions made by the courts and keep accused persons in custody for up to seven days based on the prosecution’s stated intent to appeal bail. Despite the Constitutional Court ruling against section 121(3), the government amended the law by including provisions that allow prosecutors a veto over judicial bail decisions. Prosecutors relied on the provisions to extend the detention of opposition political activists.

Authorities often did not allow detainees prompt or regular access to their lawyers and often informed lawyers who attempted to visit their clients that detainees or those with authority to grant access were unavailable. An indigent detainee may apply to the government for an attorney in criminal cases, but requests were rarely granted except in capital cases. This occurred with cases involving opposition party members, civil society activists, and ordinary citizens. During the November military intervention, security forces also held several former ZANU-PF officials for approximately 10 days before they were brought before a magistrate, including former finance minister Ignatius Chombo and former ZANU-PF youth leaders Kudzanayi Chipanga and Innocent Hamandishe.

The government also harassed and intimidated human rights lawyers when they attempted to gain access to their clients.

Arbitrary Arrest: The government used arbitrary arrest and detention as tools of intimidation and harassment, especially against political activists, civil society members, journalists, and ordinary citizens asserting their rights. There were numerous reports that security forces arbitrarily arrested political and civil society activists and then released them the next day without charge.

There were numerous reports of arbitrary arrest similar to the following: On February 25, police assaulted and arrested human rights activist Linda Masarira and five others while they protested peacefully outside Parirenyatwa Hospital. According to an NGO, five police officers attacked Masarira using batons. Police released Masarira and the other five after detaining them at Harare Central police station. Masarira later sought medical treatment at a private hospital for injuries to her thighs, back, and legs.

During the November military intervention, the military reportedly arrested hundreds of police and intelligence operatives and detained them at military facilities for several weeks.

Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention was limited for nonpolitical prisoners. Delays in pretrial procedures were common, however, due to a shortage of magistrates and court interpreters, poor bureaucratic procedures, the low capacity of court officials, and a lack of resources. The constitution provides for the right to bail for detained suspects. Despite this provision, the government routinely opposed bail for political detainees.

Other prisoners remained in prison because they could not afford to pay bail, which remained exorbitant in view of economic conditions in the country. Magistrates rarely exercised the “free bail option” that authorizes them to waive bail for destitute prisoners. Lawyers reported juveniles usually spent more time in pretrial detention than adults because they could not attend court unless a parent or guardian accompanied them. Authorities occasionally did not notify parents of a juvenile’s arrest or the closest kin of an adult detainee’s arrest.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law provides arrested persons with the right to be brought before the courts within 48 hours of arrest. Political and civic leaders routinely challenged the lawfulness of their arrests in court.

The law absolves individual security agents from criminal liability regarding unlawful arrests and detention. Police officers routinely argued that they merely followed orders in conducting arrests and were not responsible for compensating victims of unlawful arrests. In April, however, a High Court judge ruled that officials could be sued in their personal capacities, especially if they acted unlawfully. The case related to the abduction and torture of human rights activist Jestina Mukoko, who was held incommunicado by state security officials for 21 days in 2008. Mukoko’s suit against the three individuals she claimed were responsible for her abduction remained pending as of November.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but the government did not respect these prohibitions. Government officials pressured local chiefs and ZANU-PF loyalists to monitor and report on persons suspected of supporting political parties other than ZANU-PF. Through threats and intimidation, local chiefs and ZANU-PF loyalists also compelled individuals, mostly in rural areas, to contribute money toward President Mugabe’s birthday celebrations and ZANU-PF political rallies.

Government entities manipulated the distribution of government-provided food aid, agricultural inputs, and access to other government assistance programs such as education assistance to exclude suspected political opposition supporters and to compel support for ZANU-PF.

NGOs reported ZANU-PF supporters threatened to withhold food aid in constituencies such as Bikita West and Mwenezi East, where by-elections were held during the year. In March, for example, NGOs reported that village heads in Mwenezi East told their villagers they would distribute government-provided food assistance only to those citizens who proved they registered to vote and were members of ZANU-PF. Separately, NGOs reported that ZANU-PF officials told villagers in some provinces that if they did not contribute money to President Mugabe’s birthday celebration, they would not be given government-supplied food assistance.

The government forcibly displaced persons from their homes, often without providing adequate notice, consulting victims, or providing alternative accommodation. According to local human rights and humanitarian NGOs, evictions continued. Land seizures remained a serious problem.

According to the attorney general and Ministry of Lands, every white-owned farm in the country was gazetted (officially announced as available in state media) and effectively became state property. According to the Commercial Farmers Union of Zimbabwe, after authorities gazetted a property, it was transferred to a politically connected individual at the first available opportunity. The exact number of remaining white commercial farmers was unknown; those remaining continued to be targeted, harassed, and threatened with eviction by farm beneficiaries, unemployed youth, and individuals hired by those standing to benefit. Abuse of the land reform laws continued, with invasions and seizures of noncommercial land on the privately owned wildlife conservancies and with the collusion of high-ranking government officials and provincial ZANU-PF party structures and leaders.

Titleholders who lost their homes or properties–where most of their life earnings were invested–were not compensated. By 2013 between 180 and 230 farmers had accepted settlements worth 5 to 10 percent of the value of their investments. As a result, like their former farm workers whom the new farm owners evicted, there were scores of destitute elderly former farmers.

Farm allocations continued to be politicized and used as a reward for political support to ZANU-PF. Beneficiaries divided many reallocated farms near cities for sale as small residential lots and sold them for personal gain without any compensation to the titleholders.

For example, in 2014 Raymond Ndhlukula, deputy chief secretary in the President’s Office, seized a farm near Figtree, Matabeleland South, while police watched. David Conolly, the lawful owner of the property, approached the courts for protection and received a High Court injunction against the seizure. Ndhlukula’s workers eventually forced Conolly off the property. Conolly filed an urgent High Court application regarding the seizure of his farm, and Ndhlukula was found in contempt of the court order, which Ndhlukula appealed. In 2016 Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister Douglas Mombeshora filed for Conolly’s eviction–giving him seven workdays to vacate the property–even though the case remained before the Supreme Court. In July the Supreme Court in Bulawayo reviewed Conolly’s case but reserved judgement.

During the year NGOs raised concerns over the forcible eviction of hundreds of black Zimbabwean families on commercial farms, including on Arnold Farm in Mashonaland Central, reportedly owned by President Mugabe’s family. On March 23, officials purporting to represent the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement as well as police officials arbitrarily demolished and burned the homes of approximately 200 families. Farm residents obtained a High Court order to stop the evictions. Police allegedly told lawyers representing the farm residents that they were acting on the orders of their superiors but did not have a High Court order approving the evictions. Antiriot police ordered residents to leave the farm and destroyed property, attacking those who resisted.

There were other reports of farmers forced off their farms, despite being in possession of a court order allowing them to remain on the property, and denied the opportunity to collect their personal belongings. Black farm workers were beaten, intimidated, or displaced. Police in most cases did not intervene while invaders and looters carried on their activities, nor did police enforce court judgments evicting squatters on illegally seized properties.

For example, in mid-June suspected armed police and ZANU-PF youth evicted white Zimbabwean commercial maize and tobacco farmer Robert Smart from his property in Lesbury Estate. Men armed with AK-47 rifles and shotguns occupied Smart’s farm, barricaded all roads leading into the farm, and reportedly looted Smart’s farm equipment and household belongings. Police officials also allegedly teargassed, assaulted, and arrested several of Smart’s farmworkers. Bishop Trevor Manhanga, who had reported links to ZANU-PF, stated he was the new owner of the farm but denied allegations he was involved in the eviction of Smart and his workers.

The law permits the interception and monitoring of any communication (including telephone, postal mail, email, and internet traffic) in the course of transmission through a telecommunication, postal, or other system in the country. Civil liberties advocates claimed the government used the law to stifle freedom of speech and target political and civil society activists.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

The constitution provides for freedoms of expression and of the media, but the law limits these freedoms in the “interest of defense, public safety, public order, state economic interests, public morality, and public health.” The government continued to arrest, detain, and harass critics, and journalists practiced self-censorship.

Freedom of Expression: Security authorities restricted freedom of speech and arrested individuals, particularly those who made or publicized comments critical of President Mugabe or made political statements opposing ZANU-PF or the government’s agenda. CIO agents and informers routinely monitored political and other meetings. Authorities targeted persons deemed to be critical of the government for harassment, abduction, interrogation, and physical abuse.

Government authorities arrested individuals for violating section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, routinely invoked against political and human rights activists as well as ordinary citizens for allegedly insulting or undermining the authority of the president. Individuals protesting against poor governance and economic conditions were often accused of subverting a constitutional government, an offense that carries a 20-year sentence.

On February 1, police arrested activist and pastor Evan Mawarire upon his arrival at Harare International Airport on charges of subverting a constitutional government, inciting public violence, and insulting the national flag. Mawarire was returning to Zimbabwe after spending six months out of the country following harassment and threats to his life by suspected state agents. On February 3, a magistrate’s court in Harare denied Mawarire bail and returned him to custody until February 17. Police later released Mawarire but placed him on remand and seized his travel documents. Mawarire faced additional subversion charges in September after posting a video on social media criticizing economic conditions in the country. By November the High Court had acquitted Mawarire of all charges. In July the ZLHR noted a dramatic increase in individuals being charged with “insulting or undermining the authority of the president.” The human rights organization said it had compiled close to 200 cases since 2010. Most victims were residents and villagers residing in the politically volatile Mashonaland Central Province.

Press and Media Freedom: The government restricted freedom of the press. The Ministry of Media, Information, and Publicity exercised control over state-run media. High-ranking ZANU-PF officials used these media to threaten violence against critics of the government.

Despite threats and pressure from the government, independent newspapers continued to operate.

Security services also prevented journalists from covering events that would expose government excesses. On April 21, police summoned leaders of local media organizations reportedly to understand how the media works and how journalists operate. The media leaders later described the meeting as a thinly disguised warning of an imminent crackdown on independent media voices.

On March 3, police arrested NewsDay editor Wisdom Mudzungairi and reporter Richard Chidza one day after the newspaper published a story about President Mugabe’s trip to Singapore for a medical examination. The report quoted sources as saying President Mugabe’s trip was due not just to his advanced age, but also because he had prostate cancer. Police released the journalists on the same day and indicated they would proceed with prosecution by way of summons.

The government used accreditation laws to prevent international media journalists’ entry into the country. Foreign journalists were required to obtain permits 60 days before travelling to the country in order to report from the country. Most international media outlets such as CNN, al-Jazeera, and the BBC continued to operate in the country.

Radio remained the principal medium of public communication, particularly for the rural majority. All urban commercial radio stations licensed in 2015 were operating during the year. Despite their perceived allegiance to ZANU-PF, these stations included independent voices in their programming. The two national commercial radio stations, StarFM and ZiFM, also continued broadcast operations.

The government did not license any community radio stations during the year.

The government-controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, the country’s only domestically based television broadcasting station, operated one television channel. International satellite television broadcasts were available through private firms but were too expensive for most citizens.

On September 8, the High Court suspended a decision by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) to terminate private company Dr. Dish’s content distribution license after the latter announced a new partnership to broadcast content supplied by Kwese TV. BAZ terminated the license on the basis that Dr. Dish had not formally applied for an amendment to its license to provide Kwese TV channels. On September 29, the High Court granted Dr. Dish permission to continue offering Kwese services after Dr. Dish lodged a fresh appeal with the High Court to allow services to continue while BAZ’ appeal to the Supreme Court appeal was pending.

Violence and Harassment: Security forces arbitrarily harassed and arrested journalists who reported unfavorably on government policies or security operations. Senior ZANU-PF officials also criticized local and foreign independent media for allegedly biased reporting that discredited President Mugabe and misrepresented the country’s political and economic conditions.

On July 27, police arrested Alpha Media Holdings staffers Obey Manayiti, Abigail Matsikidze, and Shepherd Tozvireva as well as driver Ralph Phiri, who were on assignment in central Harare. The journalists were taking pictures of a crowd gathered in Harare’s central business district when police officer Peter Ndava assaulted Manayiti, who suffered bruising to the face. Manayiti filed assault charges against Ndava. Ndava filed his own assault charge against Manayiti.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The government used the law to control media content and the licensing of journalists, although many provisions of the law are inconsistent with the constitution. The law provides the government with extensive powers to control media and suppress free speech by requiring the registration of journalists and prohibiting the “abuse of free expression.”

On May 24, media reported that then minister of home affairs Ignatius Chombo appointed a new board in accordance with the Censorship and Entertainment Controls Act. The minister said that while the constitution provides for free artistic expression, cultural beliefs, and association, the board’s constitutional responsibility was to ensure these same freedoms are reasonably limited to curb infringement of other persons’ rights. Media groups said sections of the Censorship and Entertainment Controls Act did not align with the constitution.

Libel/Slander Laws: The Constitutional Court ruled the previous constitution outlaws criminal defamation. Civil defamation laws remain in force.

Newspapers exercised self-censorship due to government intimidation and the prospect of prosecution under civil libel laws.

National Security: The law grants the government a wide range of legal powers to prosecute persons for political and security crimes that are not clearly defined. For example, the extremely broad Official Secrets Act makes it a crime to divulge any information acquired in the course of official duties. Authorities used these laws to restrict publication of information critical of government policies or public officials.


The law permits the government to monitor all communications in the country, including internet transmissions, and the government sometimes restricted access to the internet. For example, the government blocked Blackberry’s internet services for Blackberries registered in the country, including its encrypted messaging service that prevented enforcement of the law, allowing the government to intercept and monitor communications.

Despite the restrictive environment for traditional media, internet and mobile phone communication in the country was widely available. The government, however, threatened to regulate internet and mobile phone communication to curb dissent, including by increasing the price of data. The government regularly monitored and interfered with use of social media.

On August 5, police arrested businessman Energy Mutodi on a charge of causing disaffection among the Zimbabwe Defense Forces after posting on his Facebook page that the president risked a coup if he did not manage the ZANU-PF succession process carefully. Mutodi was granted $100 bail, but police arrested him again for insinuating that Defense Minister Sydney Sekeremayi was responsible for poisoning Vice President Mnangagwa. On September 4, a magistrate’s court dismissed his application for removal from remand on the basis that while Mutodi was exercising his freedom of expression, he infringed on the rights of others.

Parliamentary and legal watchdog Veritas stated regulations under the Interception of Communications Act (ICA) along with the Postal and Telecommunications (Subscriber Registration) Regulations, 2014 (SI 95 of 2014) facilitated eavesdropping and call interception. Under ICA law enforcement officers may apply to the responsible minister for a warrant authorizing law enforcement to intercept communications, including calls, emails, and messages. Using the statutory instrument, officers may apply for interception warrants if they know the identities of individuals whose calls and messages they want to intercept.

According to the International Telecommunication Union, 22.4 percent of the population used the internet in 2016. According to state telecommunications regulator POTRAZ, at the end of the third quarter of 2016, more than 6.7 million connections were recorded from all internet providers in the country, representing an internet penetration rate of 50.1 percent.


The government restricted academic freedom. The country’s president is the chancellor of all eight state-run universities and appoints their vice chancellors. The government has oversight of higher education policy at public universities, and ZANU-PF controls the Ministry of Higher Education. The law restricts the independence of universities, subjecting them to government influence and providing disciplinary powers over staff and students to university authorities.

CIO personnel at times assumed faculty and other positions, or posed as students, at public and some private universities to intimidate and gather intelligence on faculty and students who criticized government policies and actions. CIO officers regularly attended classes in which noted MDC activists were lecturers or students. In response, both faculty and students often practiced self-censorship.

State-run universities frequently canceled scheduled events organized by foreign embassies and refused public lectures by foreign diplomats.

The government on occasion restricted human rights activists from using cultural platforms to criticize the ruling party, the president, or political violence.

The constitution provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, but the government restricted these rights.


The constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly, but the government often restricted this right.

The Public Order and Security Act requires organizers to notify police of their intention to hold a public gathering–defined as 15 or more individuals–seven days in advance. Failure to do so may result in criminal prosecution as well as civil liability. The law also allows police to prohibit a gathering based on security concerns but requires police to file an affidavit in a magistrate’s court stating the reasons behind the denial. Although many groups did not seek permits, other groups informed police of their planned events, and the police either denied permission or gave no response.

Authorities often denied requests by civil society, trade unions, religious groups, or political parties other than ZANU-PF to hold public events if the agenda conflicted with ZANU-PF policy positions. There were several reports of political rallies interrupted by opposing political parties.

On June 26, police arrested and used violent force against students protesting a decision by the University of Zimbabwe to raise tuition for medical students. University officials ordered the eviction of 600 medical students from student housing in response to the protest. A court nullified the university’s eviction on June 28, and the university allowed students to return to their residence halls. Police charged three arrested students, Ignatius Mukuchi, Steven Tsikirai, and Kudakwashe Guta, with disorderly conduct and public violence. Police discharged Mukuchi and Tsikirai and released Guta on $200 bail. Suspected state security agents abducted and held another student, Fanuel Kaseke, for six days (see section 1.c.).

On June 15, police in the Harare suburb of Chitungwiza stopped an MDC-T youth rally to commemorate the Day of the Africa Child, claiming the meeting did not satisfy the provisions of the Public Order and Security Act.

ZANU-PF trained and deployed youths to harass and disrupt the activities of opposition political party members, labor groups, student movements, civic groups, and journalists considered critical of ZANU-PF.

For example, on March 27, ZANU-PF youths forced the owners of a local store to close it down, accusing the owners of holding MDC-T meetings on the property. ZANU-PF youths burned furniture found in the building, locked the gates of the premises, and ordered the storeowners to stop their business operation. Police arrived on the scene, but ZANU-PF youths reportedly ordered them to depart.

Three days before President Mugabe’s November resignation, while military forces controlled the capital, tens of thousands of citizens peacefully took to the streets of Harare and Bulawayo, demanding President Mugabe step down. There were no reported incidents of violence.


The constitution and law provide for freedom of association, but the government restricted this right. Although the government did not restrict the formation of political parties or unions, security forces and ZANU-PF supporters continued to interfere with their activities. ZANU-PF supporters, sometimes with government support or acquiescence, intimidated and abused members of organizations perceived to be associated with other political parties. In addition to intimidation and harassment, ZANU-PF supporters sometimes burned to the ground the homes of individuals perceived to be associated with opposition political parties.

Persons suspected of being security force members visited the offices and inquired into the activities of churches, numerous NGOs, and other organizations believed to oppose government policies. Organizations generally were free of governmental interference only if the government viewed their activities as apolitical or supportive of ZANU-PF.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, but the government restricted these rights. The government generally cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern, but it interfered with some humanitarian efforts directed at internally displaced persons.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Security forces detained irregular migrants in prisons with convicted criminals. Prolonged detention for migrants was common. Migrants complained of mistreatment by other prisoners. The government sometimes worked with international organizations to assist the voluntary repatriation of migrants.

In-country Movement: Police made in-country movement difficult by regularly placing checkpoints nationwide along most major routes. In urban areas a single road could have several roadblocks in the span of a few miles. Despite court injunctions against “on-the-spot” fines, police levied fines for minor offenses ranging from five to several hundred dollars and demanded immediate payment. Pro-ZANU-PF police chiefs retained and failed to account for money collected at checkpoints. The government did not account for overall revenue collected as fines from these roadblocks in the national budget.

Foreign Travel: The constitution provides the right for citizens to enter and leave the country and the right to a passport or other travel documents. The Office of the Registrar General imposed administrative obstacles in the passport application process for citizens entitled to dual citizenship, particularly Malawian, Zambian, and Mozambican citizenship. Despite high-profile cases in which courts confirmed the rights of Zimbabweans to hold dual citizenship, many poorer citizens could not afford the legal costs of appealing passport and other travel document denials.

Many citizens left the country to settle in other countries. The majority of white citizens who lost their farms beginning in 2000 continued to move to other countries. Zambia, Mozambique, Namibia, and South Africa continued to support white Zimbabwean former farmers by making land available at concessionary rates. In search of employment, young Zimbabweans routinely settled in South Africa and Botswana. Although South Africa and Botswana repatriated hundreds of them each year, a majority of these individuals eventually found their way back to these countries.

Exile: The constitution prohibits expulsion from the country for all citizens. A number of persons, including former government officials, prominent businessmen, human rights activists, opposition party members, and human rights lawyers, left the country and remained in self-imposed exile due to fear of persecution.

Citizenship: The constitution provides for three different classes of citizenship: by birth, by descent, or by registration. The government deprived some sections of the population of citizenship rights based on the law, which revokes the citizenship of persons who fail to return to the country in any five-year period.

Despite a constitutional provision of citizenship and having voted previously, some persons were denied the right to vote during the 2013 elections because they could not adequately demonstrate their citizenship. In contravention of the 2013 constitution, which allows dual citizenship, independent groups estimated that as many as two million citizens might have been disenfranchised, including those perceived to have anti-ZANU-PF leanings, such as the more than 200,000 former commercial farm workers from neighboring countries and approximately 30,000 mostly white dual nationals. During the year citizens had to sue the government to assert dual citizenship rights. Poor citizens who could not afford the costs of litigation remained disadvantaged.


According to international organizations, approximately 113,000 households were displaced and more than 250 groups of identified IDPs lived throughout the country. The primary causes of displacement were rural evictions (45.7 percent), natural disasters (27.7 percent), localized conflict (13.3 percent), and urban evictions (13.1 percent). The most significant historical events that created internal displacement included state-sponsored election-related violence, land reform, and Operation Murambatsvina (the government’s eviction of citizens from nonfarming areas in 2005). According to one NGO, Operation Murambatsvina resulted in the destruction of homes and livelihoods affecting an estimated 700,000 persons. Until 2009 the government denied the existence of any IDPs.

In 2014 approximately 15,000 persons were displaced from the vicinity of the Tokwe-Mukosi dam in Masvingo Province. Other recent documented displacements were from disputed farming areas. At year’s end several thousand households in disputed farming areas were at risk of displacement due to verifiable threats or eviction notices. Most of the persons displaced had resided on their land for years without formal offer letters or title deeds. Eviction notices often were served in the presence of police or army personnel. The government’s campaign of forced evictions and the demolition of homes and businesses continued during the year under the land reform policy. The government provided no resettlement assistance to evicted families and depended primarily on international organizations to do so.

The overall rate of displacement increased due to urban evictions as well as continued farm evictions in rural areas. IDPs from previous years remained in near-emergency conditions, with an overwhelming majority living without basic sanitation. IDPs were among the populations at greatest risk of food insecurity. In addition to improved living conditions, IDPs required regularization of their status. Without needing any official documentation, several generations of farm workers originally from neighboring countries previously resided in insular commercial farming communities. With the eviction of farm owners, these farm workers were forced to adjacent communal lands and left without employment as well as health and education services.

Government-led humanitarian assistance programs were insufficient to meet the needs of targeted populations and subject to increased politicization during the year. Farm inputs and food aid occasionally were channeled through patronage networks or denied to those perceived as supporting ZANU-PF’s opponents. Despite this discrimination, the government generally cooperated with international agencies and NGOs providing humanitarian assistance.

Contractors and NGOs independent of the government that carried out food security and other assessments faced challenges in accessing certain rural districts. In isolated cases local authorities advised organizations against traveling to farms involved in ownership disputes, where aid workers might be at risk.


Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. According to UNHCR, the country hosted approximately 17,627 refugees and asylum seekers during the year.

Freedom of Movement: The government maintained a formal encampment policy requiring refugees to live at the Tongogara refugee camp. Nevertheless, at year’s end more than 1,500 refugees lived in urban areas, including Harare and Bulawayo, and more than 7,000 Mozambican asylum seekers lived among host communities along the border with Mozambique.

Employment: Refugees in the informal sector had limited employment options due to the encampment policy requiring all refugees to reside in the Tongogara refugee camp.

Durable Solutions: While the government did not accept refugees from foreign countries for resettlement, it facilitated the voluntary repatriation of refugees to their home countries by recognizing the Voluntary Repatriation Declaration Form as a valid document for travel purposes. The government also allowed Rwandan refugees, who lost prima facie refugee status following implementation of the 2013 Rwandan cessation clause, to remain in the country. Many refugees were unwilling to return to their home countries voluntarily, and resettlement remained the only viable solution for many of them.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

Although the constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections based on universal and equal suffrage and conducted by secret ballot, this right was restricted. The political process continued to be heavily biased in favor of the ruling ZANU-PF party, which has dominated politics and government and manipulated electoral results since independence in 1980. In November the Zimbabwe Defense Forces conducted an intervention followed by public demonstrations and the ruling party’s vote of no confidence that led to President Mugabe’s resignation. According to provisions detailed in the constitution, the ruling ZANU-PF party nominated former vice president Mnangagwa to replace outgoing President Mugabe as both president of ZANU-PF and the government. On November 24, Mnangagwa was sworn in as president and given the constitutional authority to complete the remainder of former president Mugabe’s five-year term.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Aside from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union, international and local independent observers characterized the 2013 harmonized presidential, parliamentary, and local elections as largely free of violence but not credible reflections of the people’s will. Before the election various political parties and civil society organizations complained of widespread voter disenfranchisement in opposition urban strongholds. The Constitutional Court set the 2013 date for elections. Participating political parties, including the two MDC parties that were part of the coalition government, contested the date in court. ZANU-PF ministers in government opposed and stalled the pre-election legal, political, media, and security-sector reforms mandated by the SADC-sponsored Global Political Agreement between ZANU-PF and the two MDCs. Parliament failed to pass laws to improve the fairness of the elections, while certain government elements failed to implement other election laws. Despite a constitutional provision of citizenship, large groups of the population were refused registration as voters because of their foreign ancestry. Other contraventions of the electoral act included a truncated special voter registration period, partisan public statements by senior security force officers, and active-duty police officers running for public office in contravention of the law.

While the law obliges traditional chiefs to be impartial, in rural areas ZANU-PF used traditional leaders to mobilize voters and canvass support. In return traditional leaders continued to receive farms, vehicles, houses, and other benefits.

The credibility and independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) were called into question for allegedly being composed largely of personnel from the pro-ZANU-PF security sector. The ZEC failed to provide an electronic copy of the voter register to any of the opposition political parties as required by law, but it supplied one hard copy of the voters roll to the MDC-T late on election day. The ZEC also failed to respond, as required by law, to legal and formal complaints by opposition parties with respect to its role in monitoring the media, postal voting procedures, and the number of ballots printed and distributed. When the ZEC released the election results, President Mugabe won with more than 61 percent of the vote, and he was inaugurated three weeks later. President Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party won a two-thirds majority in the 350-member parliament, resulting in a unitary ZANU-PF government weeks after his inauguration. The SADC declared the election free, and the African Union followed suit.

Other problems with the elections included restrictions on non-ZANU-PF party candidates, domestic media bias in favor of ZANU-PF, denial of permission for some foreign journalists to cover the elections, the failure of the registrar general and the ZEC to provide for open inspection of voter rolls, the courts’ failure to settle electoral matters before the elections’ date, and numerous discrepancies with the voter register, such as irregular registration patterns between urban and rural areas, as well as questionably large numbers of voters older than 100 and very low numbers of youth voters.

The ZEC held numerous by-elections during the year. Most observers found polling days were peaceful and the ZEC administered them well. Numerous irregularities undermined the credibility of the elections, however, including efforts by some traditional leaders to coerce and intimidate their communities into voting for ZANU-PF candidates, sporadic violence and intimidation in the pre-election environment, media coverage skewed toward ZANU-PF, police presence inside polling stations, and allegations of vote buying.

In January ZANU-PF won the Bikita West parliamentary by-election. Ten suspected ZANU-PF youth attacked opposition candidate Madock Chivasa on January 17, leaving him with a broken arm. Despite reporting the incident to local police, the matter was still under investigation at year’s end. In the period preceding the by-election, villagers complained of intimidation by traditional leaders and ZANU-PF supporters. Local election observers reported ZANU-PF engaged in vote buying by allocating grain to villagers who supported and voted for the ZANU-PF candidate. In April ZANU-PF won the Mwenezi East parliamentary by-election. Local human rights groups accused ZANU-PF supporters of using vote-buying tactics and intimidating villagers.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Although the constitution allows for multiple parties, elements within ZANU-PF and the security forces intimidated and committed abuses against other parties and their supporters and obstructed their activities. In August Harare police barred National Election Reform Agenda (NERA) supporters from demonstrating against First Lady Grace Mugabe but permitted a pro-Grace Mugabe ZANU-PF solidarity march to take place on the same day. In contravention of the law, active members of the police and army openly campaigned for and ran as ZANU-PF candidates in the elections. The government routinely interfered with MDC-T-led local governments. In April the minister for local government dissolved the elected Chitungwiza Municipality by firing all 25 councilors and replacing the opposition-led council with a caretaker committee. In February a minister fired Gweru mayor Hamutendi Kombayi and councilor Kenneth Sithole, both opposition leaders.

The constitution provides specific political rights for all citizens. Laws, however, are not fully consistent with the constitution and allow discrimination in voter registration to continue. Several problems persisted during the year–including a requirement to have a commissioner of oath stamp an affidavit as proof of residence–as the government began the switch to biometric voter registration. In past years authorities treated citizens with dual citizenship claims as “aliens” and required them to renounce their foreign citizenship before they could register to vote. On November 29, however, the High Court granted an order allowing “aliens” to register as prospective voters in the 2018 election provided they present certain identification documents.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit participation of women or members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate. Women remained largely underrepresented in local and national politics, and men overwhelmingly held most senior positions in the public sector. Some observers believed that traditional and cultural factors limited the participation of women. Following the 2013 elections, women filled three of 24 cabinet minister positions, well below their 52 percent share of the population, as recorded in the 2012 census, and well below the equal representation required by the constitution. Women held four of 12 minister of state positions and six of 24 deputy minister positions. Women’s rights organizations noted the cabinet minister positions occupied by women were less influential. Women made up 34 percent of the National Assembly and Senate. In accordance with the constitution, all 60 seats reserved for women in the National Assembly were filled by female members of parliament. At the local government level, women held approximately 17 percent of councilor positions nationwide. Men also dominated the judiciary; fewer than one-third of Supreme Court and High Court judges were women. Women were a minority among judicial officers, such as prosecutors, in lower courts.

The ZANU-PF congress allotted women one-third of party positions and reserved 50 positions for women on the party’s 180-member central committee, one of the party’s most powerful organizations. In 2015 the ZANU-PF Women’s League passed a resolution calling on the party to amend its constitution to accommodate the appointment of a female vice president and return to a 30 percent minimum threshold for female representation across all ZANU-PF party structures. ZANU-PF’s legal affairs department did not implement this resolution. MDC-T President Morgan Tsvangirai reportedly appointed two additional male vice presidents to neutralize the influence of his longstanding female Vice President Thokozani Khupe. In 2016 Joice Mujuru became the sole female leader of a mainstream opposition party, first forming the Zimbabwe People First political party and later the National People’s Party.

NGOs noted that young women were mostly excluded from decision-making structures and processes in all political parties.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

Although the law provides criminal penalties for conviction of corruption, the government did not implement the law effectively or impartially, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Despite government pronouncements, corruption remained a severe problem. Police frequently arrested citizens for low-level corruption while ignoring reports implicating high-level businesspersons and politicians.

Corruption: Corruption occurred at every level of the police force but took different forms, depending on position, rank, or location. At the junior levels, to augment their low salaries, corrupt officers extorted nominal to exorbitant fines from the public for various claimed offenses. Armed police routinely erected roadblocks, claiming to be looking for criminals or smuggled goods. In many cases police arbitrarily seized goods for their own consumption or extracted bribes from commuters. Municipal police in urban areas often raided vendors and confiscated their wares for personal use. Generally no records of the confiscated goods existed, despite the law’s requiring it.

Implementation of the government’s redistribution of expropriated white-owned commercial farms often favored the ZANU-PF elite and continued to lack transparency (see section 1.f.). High-level ZANU-PF officials selected numerous farms and registered them in the names of family members to evade the government’s policy of one farm per official. The government continued to allow individuals aligned with top officials to seize land not designated for acquisition. The government had yet to issue the mandated comprehensive land audit to reflect land ownership accurately. Landowners connected to ZANU-PF routinely sold land to citizens but refused to officially transfer ownership or to develop the land as agreed upon in contracts.

There were reports that ZANU-PF officials in the government discriminated against, harassed, or removed persons perceived to be opposition supporters from the civil service and the military (see section 7.d.).

It remained common for the ZANU-PF minister of local government to appoint or approve the appointment of ZANU-PF supporters to bureaucratic positions in local governments. The minister blocked the appointment of opposition politician James Mushore in 2016 and demanded that Harare City Council appoint another clerk in 2017. City public administrators earned hugely inflated salaries. In most rural areas, the government appointed ZANU-PF activists as “special interest” councilors.

The Minister of Finance announced the government’s intention to reduce the rolls of the civil service, but unqualified persons employed by the Public Service Commission remained on the state payroll. The majority served as youth and gender officers in various ministries and other public entities. According to the most recent audit, illicit salary payments were made to large numbers of persons who were retired, deceased, or otherwise absent from their place of employment. Uncovered duplicate personally identifiable information in files indicated some persons received more than one salary. In August President Mugabe ordered the finance minister to reinstate more than 2,000 youth and gender officers who had been removed from the government’s payroll.

Corruption was especially pervasive in local government, law enforcement, and the judiciary, where officials abused their positions and government resources openly and with impunity. Local councilors’ allocation of land lots for residential and commercial use led to numerous allegations of bribery attempts. Police arrested and charged some low-level land barons but not politicians benefiting from the deals. Government officials also demanded bribes or excessive fees for “expediting” paperwork, including birth certificates, passports, and driver’s licenses. Councilors practiced nepotism in hiring general council workers and in land allocation. Allegations of corruption continued against both ZANU-PF and MDC-T councilors. Most council employees were members of the political party dominating that council.

Prosecutions for corruption continued but were selective and generally seen as politically motivated. The government targeted MDC-T officials, persons who had fallen out of favor with ZANU-PF, and individuals without high-level political backing. Despite President Mugabe’s public allegations of corruption against senior ZANU-PF members, security officials made only a few arrests of low-level party members.

Financial Disclosure: The law does not require elected or appointed officials to disclose income or assets. The government did not enforce its policy requiring officials to disclose interests in transactions that form part of their public mandate. Most government departments failed to meet their statutory reporting obligations to parliament under the Public Finance Management Law.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons


Rape and Domestic Violence: While the law criminalizes sexual offenses, including rape and spousal rape, these crimes remained widespread problems. Spousal rape received less attention than physical violence against women. Almost a quarter of married women who had experienced domestic violence reported sexual violence, while 8 percent reported both physical and sexual violence.

Although conviction of sexual offenses is punishable by lengthy prison sentences, women’s organizations stated that sentences were inconsistent. Rape victims were not consistently afforded protection in court.

Social stigma and societal perceptions that rape was a “fact of life” continued to inhibit reporting of rape. In the case of spousal rape, reporting was even lower due to women’s fear of losing economic support or of reprisal, lack of awareness that spousal rape is a crime, police reluctance to be involved in domestic disputes, and bureaucratic hurdles. Most rural citizens were unfamiliar with laws against domestic violence and sexual offenses. A lack of adequate and widespread services for rape victims also discouraged reporting.

Government officials sometimes acted on reported rape cases if the perpetrators were security force members or aligned with ZANU-PF. For example, in August police arrested police deputy commissioner Cosmas Mushore and Zimbabwe National Army lieutenant-colonel Rangarirai Kembo on charges of rape in two separate incidents.

According to a credible NGO, there were no official reports of rape being used as a political weapon during the year, but female political leaders were targeted physically or through threats and intimidation. On August 6, MDC-T supporters reportedly attacked MDC-T vice president Thokozani Khupe at MDC-T’s Bulawayo provincial headquarters, accusing her of convening an unsanctioned meeting. In September MDC member of parliament Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga received death threats following a radio interview in which she appeared to attack MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Children born from rape suffered stigmatization and marginalization. The mothers of children resulting from rape sometimes were reluctant to register the births, and such children did not have access to social services.

The adult rape clinics in public hospitals in Harare and Mutare were run as NGOs and did not receive a substantial amount of financial support from the Ministry of Health. The clinics received referrals from police and NGOs. They administered HIV tests, provided medication for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and provided medical services for pregnancy. Although police referred for prosecution the majority of reported rapes of women and men who received services from the rape centers, very few individuals were prosecuted.

Despite the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act in 2006 that criminalized acts of domestic violence, domestic violence remained a serious problem, especially intimate partner violence perpetrated by men against women. Although conviction of domestic violence is punishable by a fine and a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment, authorities generally considered it a private matter, and prosecution was rare.

The joint government-NGO Anti-Domestic Violence Council as a whole was ineffective due to lack of funding and the unavailability of information on prevailing trends of domestic violence, although its members were active in raising domestic violence awareness.

The government continued a public awareness campaign against domestic violence. Several women’s rights groups worked with law enforcement agencies and provided training and literature on domestic violence as well as shelters and counseling for women. The law requires victims of any form of violence to produce a police report to receive treatment without cost at government health facilities. This requirement prevented many rape victims from receiving necessary medical treatment, including post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent victims from contracting HIV.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Virginity testing, although reportedly decreasing, continued to occur in some parts the country during the year.

Sexual Harassment: No specific law criminalizes sexual harassment, but labor law prohibits the practice in the workplace. Media reported that sexual harassment was prevalent in universities, workplaces, and parliament. The Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender, and Community Development acknowledged that lack of sexual harassment policies at higher education institutions was a major cause for concern. This occurred after a student advocacy group, the Female Students Network, revealed incidents of gender-based violence and sexual harassment against students. Female college students reported they routinely encountered unwanted physical contact from male students, lecturers, and nonacademic staff, ranging from touching and inappropriate remarks to rape. Of the 3,425 students interviewed, 94 percent indicated they had experienced sexual harassment, while 16 percent reported having been forced into unprotected sex with lecturers or other staff.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: .

Discrimination: The constitution provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The constitution’s bill of rights, in the section on the rights of women, states that all “laws, customs, traditions, and practices that infringe the rights of women conferred by this constitution are void to the extent of the infringement.” There is also an institutional framework to address women’s rights and gender equality through the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender, and Community Development and the Gender Commission–one of the independent commissions established under the constitution. Despite the appointment of commissioners in 2015, the commission received only minimal funding from the government and lacked sufficient independence from the ministry.

In July the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender, and Community, with support from the UN Development Program and UN Women, unveiled a revised National Gender Policy calling for greater gender equality and demanding an end to gender discrimination. Despite laws aimed at enhancing women’s rights and countering certain discriminatory traditional practices, women remained disadvantaged in society.

The law recognizes a woman’s right to own property, but very few women owned property due to the customary practice of patriarchal inheritance. Less than 20 percent of female farmers were official landowners or named on government lease agreements. Divorce and maintenance laws were equitable, but many women lacked awareness of their rights.

Women have the right to register their children’s births, although either the father or another male relative must be present. If the father or other male relative refuses to register the child, the child may be deprived of a birth certificate, which limits the child’s ability to acquire identity documents and enroll in school. Discrimination with respect to women’s employment also occurred.

Women and children were adversely affected by the government’s forced evictions, demolition of homes and businesses, and takeover of commercial farms. Widows, when forced to relocate to rural areas, were sometimes “inherited” into marriages with an in-law after the deaths of their spouses.

The government gave qualified women access to training in the armed forces and national service, where they occupied primarily administrative positions. Women comprised 35 percent of deployed personnel to peacekeeping missions.

The United Kingdom Department for International Development’s 2011 Gender and Social Exclusion Analysis Report indicated women experienced extensive economic discrimination, including in access to employment, credit, pay, and owning or managing businesses.


Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from birth in the country and from either parent, and all births are to be registered with the Births and Deaths Registry. The 2012 population census data showed that just one in three children under age five possessed a birth certificate. Of urban children under age five, 55 percent possessed a birth certificate, compared with 25 percent of rural children. Lack of birth certificates impeded access to public services, such as education and health care, resulting in many children being unable to attend school and increasing their vulnerability to exploitation. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: Primary education is not compulsory, free, or universal. The constitution states that every citizen and permanent resident of the country has a right to a basic state-funded education but adds a caveat that the state “must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within the limits of the resources available to it.” According to the 2012 population census, 87 percent of all children attended primary school. School attendance was only slightly higher in urban than in rural areas, and enrollment for children older than 14 was in decline. Urban and rural equity in primary school attendance rates disappeared at the secondary school level. Rural secondary education attendance (44 percent) trailed behind urban attendance (72 percent) by a wide margin.

Child Abuse: Child abuse, including incest, infanticide, child abandonment, and rape, continued to be serious problems. In 2016 the NGO Childline received more than 11,300 reports of child abuse via its national helpline. Childline managed nearly 7,000 in-person cases at its drop-in facilities across the country and counseled more than 4,500 children. More than half of all reported cases of abuse concerned a child who had been sexually, physically, or emotionally abused, neglected, or forced into marriage. Approximately twice as many girls reported abuse as boys.

It is legal for parents and schools to inflict corporal punishment on boys but not on girls. The constitution provides that “no person may be subjected to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment,” but the courts had not interpreted the clause nor determined whether it applied to corporal punishment. In addition, the Constitutional Court deferred ruling on the constitutionality of caning juvenile offenders as judicial punishment. While the issue remained pending, magistrates may impose corporal punishment on juvenile offenders.

Government efforts to combat child abuse continued to be inadequate and underfunded. The government continued to implement a case management protocol developed in 2013 to guide the provision of child welfare services. In addition, there were facilities that served underage victims of sexual assault and abuse.

Early and Forced Marriage: The constitution declares anyone under age 18 a child. In 2016 the Constitutional Court ruled no individual under age 18 may enter into marriage, including customary law unions. The court also struck down a provision of the Marriage Act that allowed girls but not boys to marry at age 16.

Despite legal prohibitions, mostly rural families continued to force girls to marry. According to the 2012 population census, almost one in four teenage girls were married. Child welfare NGOs reported evidence of underage marriages, particularly in isolated religious communities or among HIV/AIDS orphans who had no relatives willing or able to take care of them. High rates of unemployment, the dropout of girls from school, and the inability of families to earn a stable income were major causes of child marriage.

Families gave girls or young women to other families in marriage to avenge spirits, as compensatory payment in interfamily disputes, or when promised to others–to provide economic protection for the family. Some families sold their daughters as brides in exchange for food, and younger daughters at times married their deceased older sister’s husband as a “replacement” bride. An NGO study published in 2014 found that because of the cultural emphasis placed on virginity, any loss of virginity–real or perceived, consensual or forced–could result in marriage, including early or forced marriage. In some instances family members forced a girl to marry a man based on the mere suspicion that the two had had sexual intercourse. This cultural practice even applied in cases of rape, and the study found numerous instances in which families concealed rape by facilitating the marriage between rapist and victim.

For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Conviction of statutory rape, legally defined as sexual intercourse with a child under age 12, carries a fine of $2,000, up to 10 years’ imprisonment, or both. A person in possession of child pornography may be charged with public indecency and if convicted faces a fine of $600, imprisonment up to six months, or both. A person convicted of procuring a child under age 16 for purposes of engaging in unlawful sexual conduct is liable to a fine up to $5,000, up to 10 years’ imprisonment, or both. Persons charged with facilitating the prostitution of a child often were also charged with statutory rape. A parent or guardian convicted of allowing a child under age 18 to associate with or become a prostitute may face up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Girls from towns bordering South Africa, Zambia, and Mozambique were subjected to prostitution in brothels that catered to long-distance truck drivers. Increasing economic hardships coupled with the effects of drought also led more girls to turn to prostitution.

Displaced Children: Approximately 10,000 children were displaced from the Tokwe-Mukosi dam area in Masvingo Province (see section 2.d.). The disruption of their parents’ livelihoods negatively affected the children’s access to health care and schooling.

The UNICEF 2005-10 report estimated 25 percent of children had lost one or both parents to HIV or other causes. The proportion of orphans in the country remained very high. Many orphans were cared for by their extended family or lived in households headed by children.

Orphaned children were more likely to be abused, not enrolled in school, suffer discrimination and social stigma, and be vulnerable to food insecurity, malnutrition, and HIV/AIDS. Some children were forced to turn to prostitution for income. Orphaned children often were unable to obtain birth certificates because they could not provide enough information regarding their parents or afford to travel to offices that issued birth certificates. Orphans were often homeless.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at


The Jewish community numbered approximately 150 persons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, access to public places, and the provision of services, including education and health care. The constitution and law do not specifically address air travel or other transportation. They do not specify physical, sensory, mental, or intellectual disabilities. NGOs continued to lobby to broaden the legal definition of “disabled” to include persons with albinism, epilepsy, and other conditions. NGOs also petitioned the government to align the Disabled Persons Act with the constitution. Government institutions often were uninformed and did not implement the law. The law stipulates that government buildings be accessible to persons with disabilities, but implementation was slow.

The National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped (NASCOH) reported that access to justice in courts was compromised for persons with hearing disabilities due to a lack of sign language interpreters. Persons with disabilities living in rural settings faced even greater challenges.

Although two senators were elected to represent persons with disabilities, parliament rarely addressed problems especially affecting persons with disabilities. Parliament does not provide specific line items for persons with disabilities in the various social service ministry budgets.

Most persons holding traditional beliefs viewed persons with disabilities as bewitched, and in extreme cases families hid children with disabilities from visitors. According to NASCOH, the public considered persons with disabilities to be objects of pity rather than persons with rights. NASCOH reported that 75 percent of children with disabilities had no access to education.

There were very few government-sponsored education facilities dedicated to persons with disabilities. Educational institutions discriminated against children with disabilities. Essential services, including sign language interpreters, Braille materials, and ramps, were not available and prevented children with disabilities from attending school. Many schools refused to accept children with certain disabilities. Schools that accepted students with disabilities offered very little in the way of nonacademic facilities for those accepted as compared with their counterparts without disabilities. Many urban children with disabilities obtained informal education through private institutions, but these options were generally unavailable for persons with disabilities in rural areas. Government programs, such as the basic education assistance module intended to benefit children with disabilities, failed to address adequately the root causes of their systematic exclusion.

Women with disabilities faced compounded discrimination, resulting in limited access to services, reduced opportunities for civic and economic participation, and increased vulnerability to violence.

Persons with mental disabilities also suffered from inadequate medical care and a lack of health services. There were eight centralized mental health institutions in the country with a total capacity of more than 1,300 residents, in addition to the three special institutions run by the ZPCS for long-term residents and those considered dangerous to society. Residents in the eight centralized institutions received cursory screening, and most waited for at least one year for a full medical review.

A shortage of drugs and adequately trained mental health professionals resulted in persons with mental disabilities not being properly diagnosed and not receiving adequate therapy. There were few certified psychiatrists working in public and private clinics and teaching in the country. NGOs reported that getting access to mental health services was slow and frustrating. They reported persons with mental disabilities suffered from extremely poor living conditions, due in part to shortages of food, water, clothing, and sanitation.

Prison inmates in facilities run by the ZPCS were not necessarily convicted prisoners. Two doctors examined inmates with psychiatric conditions. The doctors were required to confirm a mental disability and recommend an individual for release or return to a mental institution. Inmates with mental disabilities routinely waited as long as three years for evaluation.

There were minimal legal or administrative safeguards to allow participation in the electoral processes by persons with disabilities. Administrative arrangements for voter registration at relevant government offices were burdensome, involving long queues, several hours or days of waiting, and necessary return visits that effectively served to disenfranchise some persons with disabilities. Advocacy groups petitioned the government in September, demanding the government protect persons with disabilities’ constitutional rights by considering their electoral needs. The law permits blind persons to bring an individual with them in marking their ballots.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

According to government statistics, the Shona ethnic group made up 82 percent of the population, Ndebele 14 percent, whites and Asians less than 1 percent, and other ethnic and racial groups 3 percent. ZANU-PF leaders often encouraged hatred of whites through public speeches and broadcasts. This created tension between ZANU-PF supporters and whites. In public remarks President Mugabe encouraged ZANU-PF supporters to seize all land that remained in the hands of white farmers. He also discouraged supporters from doing business with white farmers who sought partnerships in farming.

Historical tension between the Shona majority and the Ndebele minority resulted in marginalization of the Ndebele by the Shona-dominated government. During a February rally in Chiweshe, ZANU-PF supporters ignited tensions between two Shona subgroups, the Zezuru and the Karanga. The Zezuru, who dominated the government, sang “Zezuru Unconquerable,” reportedly offending the Karanga. During the year senior ZANU-PF leaders attacked each other, calling on their own ethnic group for support against the other in party in-fighting.

The government continued its attempts to blame the country’s economic and political problems on the white minority and western countries. Police seldom arrested ZANU-PF supporters or charged them with infringing upon minority rights, particularly the property rights of the minority white commercial farmers or wildlife conservancy owners targeted in the land redistribution program.

The government enforced few of the provisions or timelines in the 2007 indigenization law, and no businesses were forced to transfer ownership. The law defines an indigenous Zimbabwean as any person, or the descendant of such person, who before the date of the country’s independence in 1980 was disadvantaged. The official purpose of the indigenization law was to increase the participation of indigenous citizens in the economy, including at least 51 percent indigenous ownership of all businesses. Legal experts criticized the law as unfairly discriminatory and a violation of the constitution.

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

The constitution does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. According to the criminal code, “any act involving physical contact between men that would be regarded by a reasonable person to be an indecent act” carries a penalty if convicted of up to one year in prison or a fine up to $5,000. Despite that, there were no known cases of prosecutions of consensual same-sex sexual activity. Common law prevents gay men and, to a lesser extent, lesbians from fully expressing their sexual orientation. In some cases it criminalizes the display of affection between men.

President Mugabe and ZANU-PF leaders publicly criticized the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community, rejecting the promotion of LGBTI rights as contrary to the country’s values, norms, traditions, and beliefs.

The police reportedly detained and held persons suspected of being gay for up to 48 hours before releasing them. LGBTI advocacy groups also reported police used extortion and threats to intimidate persons based on their sexual orientation. Members of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, the primary organization dedicated to advancing the rights of LGBTI persons, experienced harassment and discrimination.

Religious leaders in this traditionally conservative and Christian society encouraged discrimination against LGBTI persons. Also, LGBTI persons reported widespread societal discrimination based on sexual orientation. In response to social pressure, some families subjected their LGBTI members to “corrective” rape and forced marriages to encourage heterosexual conduct. Women in particular were subjected to rape by male family members. Victims rarely reported such crimes to police.

LGBTI persons often left school at an early age due to discrimination. Higher education institutions reportedly threatened to expel students based on their sexual orientation. Members of the LGBTI community also had higher rates of unemployment and homelessness. Many persons who identified themselves as LGBTI did not seek medical care for sexually transmitted diseases or other health problems due to fear that health-care providers would shun them or report them to authorities. Since the completion of a nationwide sensitization program for health-care workers, however, the LGBTI community reported an improvement in health-service delivery.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The government has a national HIV/AIDS policy that prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS, and the law prohibits discrimination against workers with HIV/AIDS in the private sector and parastatals. Despite these provisions, societal discrimination against persons living with HIV/AIDS remained a problem. Local NGOs reported persons affected by HIV/AIDS faced discrimination in health services, education, and employment. Although there was an active information campaign to destigmatize HIV/AIDS by international and local NGOs, the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, and the National AIDS Council, such ostracism and criticism continued.

In the 2015 DHS, 22 percent of women and 20 percent of men reported they held discriminatory attitudes towards those living with HIV/AIDS.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Inexplicable disappearances and killings, sometimes involving mutilation of the victim, often were attributed to customary or traditional rituals, in some cases involving a healer who requested a human body part to complete a required task. Police generally rejected the “ritual killing” explanation, despite its being commonly used in society and the press.

Promotion of Acts of Discrimination

Throughout the year government-controlled media continued to vilify white citizens and blame them for the country’s problems. President Mugabe was complicit in vilifying white citizens and urged the eviction of remaining white farmers.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

While the law provides for the right of private-sector workers to form and join unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively, other provisions of law and economic realities (i.e., lack of ability to pay dues) abrogated these rights. Public-sector workers may not form or join trade unions but may form associations that bargain collectively and strike. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination, provides that the labor court handle complaints of such discrimination, and may direct reinstatement of workers fired due to such discrimination.

The law provides for the registrar of the Ministry of Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare to supervise the election of officers of workers’ and employers’ organizations, to cancel or postpone elections, and to change the venue of an election. The law also grants the minister extensive powers to regulate union activities. For example, the minister has the authority to veto collective bargaining agreements perceived to be harmful to the economy as well as to appoint an investigator who can, without prior notice, enter trade union premises, question any employee, and inspect and copy any books, records, or other documents. The Labor Amendment Act empowers the minister to order an investigation of a trade union or employers’ organization and to appoint an administrator to run its affairs.

The law strictly regulates the right to strike. Strikes are limited to disputes over work issues. The law provides that a majority of the employees must agree to strike by voting in a secret ballot. Strike procedure requirements include a mandatory 30-day reconciliation period and referral to binding arbitration (in essential services and in nonessential services where the parties agree or where the dispute involves rights). Following an attempt to conciliate a dispute of interest and a labor officer’s issuance of a certificate of no settlement, the party proposing a collective job action must provide 14 days’ written notice of intent to resort to such action, including specifying the grounds for the intended action, in order legally to call a strike. No provisions prohibit employers from hiring replacement workers in the event of a strike. The Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations (ZCIEA) participated in several strikes in the banking sector. National Railway of Zimbabwe (NRZ) workers also demonstrated to protest over two years of salary arrears. Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) assisted its members by approaching NRZ employers, which then offered half salaries, but the NRZ remained in arrears. Meanwhile, the NRZ dismissed its union president.

The Metal Allied Industries’ (MAI) employees demonstrated for approximately one week regarding salary arrears, leading to MAI paying its employees. There were also arrears in other sectors of the economy, and ZCTU requested that their members inform the union of such arrears so that they could pursue legal action against employers.

A union of bank employees demonstrated at Stanbic Bank to protest the mistreatment of Verity Mutsamwira, a former union leader. She was released from her contract in such a manner that was highly suspect. ZRP arrested organizers of the demonstration but later released them.

Members of the police and army are the only legally recognized essential services employees and may not strike, but the law allows the Ministry of Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare to declare any nonessential service an essential service if a strike is deemed a danger to the population. No provisions prohibit employers from hiring replacement workers in the event of a strike. The law also allows employers to sue workers for liability during unlawful strikes, with penalties for conviction that include fines, up to five years’ imprisonment, or both. The constitution does not extend the right of collective bargaining to security forces. In late 2014 the government, employer organizations, and union representatives, according to the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU), signed an agreement detailing how government security forces should conduct themselves in the event of a strike or other collective action.

Collective bargaining agreements applied to all workers in an industry, not just union members. Collective bargaining takes place at the enterprise and industry levels. At the enterprise level, work councils negotiate collective agreements, which become binding if approved by 50 percent of the workers in the bargaining unit. Industry-level bargaining takes place within the framework of the National Employment Councils (NEC). Unions representing at least 50 percent of the workers may bargain with the authorization of the Minister of Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare. The law encourages the creation of workers’ committees in enterprises where less than 50 percent of workers are unionized.

To go into effect, the ministry must announce collective bargaining agreements, thus giving the minister the power to veto the agreement. The Labor Amendment Act expands the minister’s power to veto a collective bargaining agreement if the minister deems it to be “contrary to public interest.” Workers and employers at the enterprise level also may come to a binding agreement outside of the official framework. Despite this provision, the ministry could block indefinitely any collective bargaining agreement if it was not announced officially.

Although the law does not permit national civil servants to collectively bargain, the Apex Council, a group of public service associations, represented civil servants in job-related negotiations with the Public Service Commission.

The Ministry of Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare did not effectively enforce applicable laws. Penalties for conviction of violations of freedom of association or collective bargaining laws range from a fine to imprisonment for a period not to exceed two years but were insufficient to deter violations. Administrative and judicial procedures often were subject to lengthy delays and appeals.

The government did not respect the workers’ right to form or join unions, strike, and bargain collectively. Worker organizations were loosely affiliated with political parties, and the leading opposition party MDC-T rose out of the labor movement.

Government interference with trade union activity was common. Authorities frequently withheld or delayed the registration certificate for a number of unions. Police and state intelligence services regularly attended and monitored trade union activities such as meetings. Police or ZANU-PF supporters sometimes prevented unions from holding meetings with their members and carrying out organizational activities. The International Labor Organization noted that the government took some steps to address the concerns raised by a 2010 commission of inquiry. The inquiry found the government responsible for serious violations of fundamental rights by its security forces, including a clear pattern of intimidation that included arrests, detentions, violence, and torture against members nationwide of the ZCTU–an umbrella group of unions with historical ties to the opposition MDC-T. The Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions has historical ties to the ruling ZANU-PF.

Although the law does not require unions to notify police of public gatherings, police required such notification. If the ZCTU attempted to hold an event not authorized by police, the ZRP attended and dispersed participants, telling them the event was not authorized and then might post armed police officers around ZCTU’s offices–even if the event was not ZCTU-organized. In September ZRP’s Harare Central District Headquarters denied ZCTU’s request to hold a peaceful workers’ rights commemoration to remember colleagues killed and maimed by ZRP members during 2013 demonstrations. ZRP and the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) officials also interrupted and used intimidation tactics during ZCTU training of employees, such as a Chinhoyi workshop and a May women’s leadership training in Mutare at which the OPC confiscated samples of the educational materials.

Although the ministry conducted training for security forces on the Public Order and Security Act, the training did not change security-sector attitudes. By law, the government could fine and imprison union members for organizing an illegal strike, and unions risked a 12-month suspension of their registration for minor infractions.

There were reports that some ZCTU affiliates were able to engage in collective bargaining with employers without interference from the government. Nevertheless, members of the ZCTU stated employers did not recognize their affiliates within the NECs. Workers’ committees existed in parallel with trade unions. Their role was to negotiate shop floor grievances, while that of the trade unions was to negotiate industry-level problems, notably wages. Trade unions regarded the existence of such a parallel body as an arrangement that employers potentially could use to undermine the role of the unions.

According to International Trade Union Confederation reports, employers frequently abused institutional weakness by creating a deadlock in the bargaining process, i.e., by forcing the referral of the dispute to arbitration and then to court, forestalling a decision within a reasonable timeframe. Agricultural workers experienced verbal and physical attacks by employers during negotiations. Due to the criminalization of informal economy workers and politicization of their operating spaces, reports described attacks and harassments. The ZCTU reported cases against Chinese employers that did not follow labor law regarding protective clothing. These same employers also denied labor unions access to job sites to provide education to their employees.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including by children, with exceptions for work for the national youth service and forced prison labor. The Labor Amendment Act defines forced labor as “any work or services which a person is required to perform against his or her will under the threat of some form of punishment.” Forced prison labor includes “any labor required in consequence of the sentence or order of a court” as well as what “is reasonably necessary in the interests of hygiene or for the maintenance or management of the place at which he is detained.”

Conviction of forced labor is punishable by a fine, two years’ imprisonment, or both; such penalties were insufficient to deter violations. A 2014 law prescribes punishment of not less than 10 years’ imprisonment and, with aggravating circumstances, up to imprisonment for life, for conviction of human trafficking–including labor trafficking. The law does not clearly define the crime of trafficking in persons and requires transportation of the victim, which further limits the cases in which the regulation could be applied.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. There were no reports the government attempted to prevent and eliminate forced labor during the year. There were no data on the numbers of victims removed from forced labor, if any. The ZCIEA reported cases of workers fired without compensation and, specifically in the farming sector, workers forced to work without wages or other compensation. Most workers did not receive regular wages and in some cases, only part of their allowances, such as a transportation allowance to facilitate the commute to work.

Forced labor, including by children, occurred, although the extent of the problem was unknown. Adults and children were subjected to forced labor in agriculture and domestic service in rural areas, as well as domestic servitude in cities and towns (see section 7.c.).

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The Labor Amendment Act sets the minimum age for general labor from 13 to 16. The law increases the minimum age for apprenticeship from 15 to 16 and declares void and unenforceable formal apprenticeship contracts entered into by children under age 18 without the assistance of a guardian. The law further states that no person under age 18 shall perform any work likely to jeopardize that person’s health, safety, or morals.

The laws were not effectively enforced. The Department of Social Welfare in the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare is responsible for enforcing child labor laws, but the department lacked personnel and commitment to carry out inspections or other monitoring. Penalties, including fines and imprisonment, were not sufficient to deter violations. There was no government action to combat child labor during the year.

Child labor remained endemic and was on the rise. Child labor occurred primarily in the informal sectors. Inspectors received no training addressing child labor and did not closely monitor it. Children worked in agriculture, fishing, cattle herding, forestry, informal mining, as domestic staff and street vendors, and in other parts of the informal sector.

According to a 2014 report compiled by ZimStat, the governmental statistics agency, 30 percent of children ages five to nine and 60 percent of children ages 10 to 14 were engaged in economic activity at least one hour per week. Seven percent of children ages five to nine and 12 percent of children ages 10 to 14 worked 21 hours or more per week in economic child labor. Ninety-seven percent of the children involved in economic child labor resided in rural areas, and 96 percent were employed in agriculture, forestry, and fisheries.

Children often faced hazards to their health and safety and lacked necessary equipment and training. Working on farms, in particular tea plantations, exposed children to bad weather, dangerous chemicals, and the use of heavy machinery. Most children involved in mining worked for themselves, a family member, or someone in the community. Exposure to hazardous materials, particularly mercury, was on the rise in the informal mining sector. The ZCTU conducted child labor training and identified focal points for further coordination in the education, mining, and informal economy sectors, as well as the teachers unions, since teachers regularly interacted with children and could be among the first to notice signs of abuse. The ZCTU prepared a handbook on child labor and children’s rights, including the negative effects of child labor.

Forced labor by children occurred in the agricultural, artisanal gold and chrome mining, and domestic sectors. Children also were used in the commission of illegal activities, including gambling and drug smuggling. Some employers did not pay wages to child domestic workers, claiming they were assisting a child from a rural home by providing room and board. Some employers paid the parents for a child’s work. Relatives often took children orphaned by HIV/AIDS into their homes but used them as domestic workers without pay. Still other children in Hopley Farms sold sex for as little as fifty cents a client to cover the cost of food. The Ministry of Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare took 54 girls from Hopley Farms and moved them to safe locations. They also sent teams to Epworth, Caledonia, and Hatcliffe to investigate child prostitution for survival. See the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits employment or occupational discrimination based on race, color, gender, tribe, political opinion, creed, place of origin, disability, HIV status, or pregnancy. The law does not expressly prohibit employment discrimination regarding age, language, citizenship, social origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or non-HIV-related communicable diseases. The government did not effectively enforce the law. Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to race, gender, disability, sexual orientation (see section 6), and political affiliation for civil servants.

The constitution provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. Labor legislation prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace, and an employer may be held liable for civil remedies if found to be in violation of provisions against “unfair labor practices,” including sexual harassment. The law does not specify penalties for conviction of such violations. Women commonly faced sexual harassment in the workplace (see section 6).

There were no formal complaints of wage discrimination filed with the Ministry of Labor; however, women’s salaries lagged behind those of men in most sectors, and women faced discrimination on the basis of gender, when seeking maternity leave guaranteed by the law, and other gender-based benefits. Unions expressed their concern regarding wage disparity between management and employees.

There was a relative lack of women in decision-making positions, despite a constitutional requirement that both genders be equally represented in all institutions and agencies of government at every level. In 2014 the share of women in wage employment in the nonagricultural sector was 37 percent, while their share in senior and middle management was 24 percent.

Discrimination against migrant workers occurred, especially those employed in the informal sector. Discrimination with respect to political affiliation also occurred.

Banks targeted union workers for dismissal, according to the ZCTU. Persons with HIV/AIDS and LGBTI persons faced discrimination in employment. White farmers were sometimes deprived of their livelihoods and property through illegal farm seizures. Employers discriminated against members of minority ethnic groups who they often perceived as opposition supporters. Disabled persons faced social and employment discrimination and lack of access to many workplaces. Members of trade unions and workers committees often perceived they were targeted specifically for adverse employment action and that workers themselves feared the consequences of participating in trade unions or workers committees.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The NECs set the minimum wage for all industrial sectors through a bipartite agreement between employers and labor unions. The minimum wage seldom exceeded the poverty line, when it was followed.

The law does not provide for a standard workweek, but it prescribes a minimum of one 24-hour continuous rest period a week. The maximum legal workweek is negotiated between unions and employers in each sector. No worker is allowed to work more than 12 continuous hours. According to the 2014 Labor Force Survey, 28 percent of the employed population worked excessive hours, defined as more than 48 hours per week. The law prescribes that workers receive not less than twice their standard remuneration for working on a public holiday or on their rest day. The government sets safety and health standards on an industry-specific basis. The public service commission sets conditions of employment in the public sector.

Labor law does not differentiate between workers based on sector or industry. The labor law does not apply to the informal sector, which includes a large majority of the labor force. The law applies to migrant laborers if they are in the formal sector. There were no reports of discrimination against migrant laborers in the formal sector.

Occupational safety and health standards were current and appropriate for the main industries in the country. In 2015 the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) commissioned an occupational health center in the capital and a mobile clinic to monitor the health of miners and industrial workers. The law provides for workers to remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment.

The Ministry of Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare is responsible for enforcing the minimum wage and work hours laws for each sector, but the standards were not enforced effectively due to inadequate monitoring systems and a labor inspector shortage. The number of labor inspectors was insufficient to enforce labor laws, including those covering children. The Zimbabwe Occupational Safety Council, a quasi-governmental advisory body to the NSSA, regulated working conditions. Budgetary constraints and staffing shortages, as well as its status as an advisory council, made it largely ineffective. Penalties for violations of wage or hours of work restrictions range from a fine to imprisonment but were insufficient to deter violations. Penalties for occupational safety and health violations were not harmonized and fall within the jurisdiction of numerous ministries.

Most injuries and deaths occurred in the mining sector. The ZFTU reported that workers at iron smelters often suffered burns due to a lack of protective clothing. Lack of adequate protective clothing was also an issue for workers in the informal sector. The NSSA attributed the high injury and fatality rates to low investment in occupational safety and health, noncompliance with rules and regulations, and low levels of awareness of occupational safety and health matters.

Employers paid many agricultural and domestic workers below the minimum wage. The ZCTU reported many agricultural workers earned $72 per month. Many public servants also earned less than the poverty line. During the year there was pervasive partial payment or nonpayment of salaries in both the public and private sectors. According to a report by the Labor and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe that analyzed data from ZCTU-affiliated union representatives at 442 companies, 54 percent of employees had gone at least 13 months without pay. All employees went at least three months without pay, and 16 percent had gone 25 or more months without pay.

There was little or no enforcement of the workhours law, particularly for agricultural and domestic workers. Although workers were generally unlikely to complain to authorities of violations due to fear of losing their jobs, some exceptions occurred.

Poor health and safety standards in the workplace were common problems faced by workers in both the formal and informal sectors due to lack of enforcement. Abuses by the management at certain foreign-owned enterprises and companies owned by well-connected politicians were common, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse of workers; poor working conditions; underpayment or nonpayment of wages; unfair dismissal; and firing without notice. Workers’ committee members of a foreign-owned mining company reported fear and serious victimization, including arbitrary nonrenewal of contracts, dismissals without charges, late payment of salaries, and insufficient provision of protective clothing. The ZCTU’s Health and Social Welfare Department engaged employers on occupational health and safety-related workplace needs. No information was available on the treatment of foreign and migrant workers. The government considered many commercial farm workers to be foreigners because one or both parents were born in another country.

Due to the growth of the informal mining sector, artisanal miners, including children, were increasingly exposed to chemicals and environmental waste. An estimated 1.5 million persons were engaged in artisanal mining, defined as mining activities carried out using low technology or with minimal machinery, according to the Zimbabwe Artisanal and Small-scale Miners Council.