Eswatini

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, but the government restricted this right, particularly with respect to press freedom and matters concerning the monarchy. Although no law bans criticism of the monarchy, the prime minister used threats and intimidation to restrict such criticism.

Press and Media Freedom: The law empowers the government to ban publications if it deems them “prejudicial or potentially prejudicial to the interests of defense, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health.” Many journalists practiced self-censorship. Journalists expressed fear of reporting on matters involving the monarchy.

Daily newspapers criticized government corruption and inefficiency but generally avoided criticizing the royal family.

Broadcast media remained firmly under state control. Most persons obtained their news from radio broadcasts. Access to speak on national radio is generally restricted to government officials, although a leader of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland received an opportunity in September to share trade union frustrations and demands. Despite invitations issued by the media regulatory authority for parties to apply for licenses, no licenses were awarded. Stations practiced self-censorship and hesitated to broadcast anything perceived as critical of the government or the monarchy.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Some journalists practiced self-censorship due to fear of reprisals, such as losing paid government advertising, if their reporting was perceived as critical of the monarchy.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 30 percent of the population used the internet in 2017.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

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

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

In June, August, and September, REPS officials used nonlethal measures to control and disperse crowds when protesters deviated from agreed routes or provoked the police by throwing stones or trying to enter government facilities without authorization. Some protesters experienced non-life-threatening injuries during these incidents.

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

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. During the year the government enacted the Refugees Act, which improved recognition of and protection for refugees in the country while domesticating the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, its 1967 Protocol, and the 1969 Organization of African Unity Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern. By traditional law and custom, chiefs have the power to decide who may reside in their chiefdoms; evictions occurred due to internal conflicts, alleged criminal activity, or opposition to the chief.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

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.

Durable Solutions: The government permanently resettled refugees in the country. It allowed some refugees to compete for jobs and granted them work permits and temporary residence permits. The government also provided refugees with free transportation twice a week to buy and sell food in local markets. Refugees who live in the country more than five years are eligible for citizenship. The government continued to implement a psychological support program that provided counseling to refugees. Refugees could visit the neighboring countries of Mozambique and South Africa with ease.

Somalia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

The provisional federal constitution provides for freedom of speech, including for the press, but neither federal nor regional authorities respected this right. The Somali penal code criminalizes the spreading of “false news,” which it does not define, with penalties including imprisonment of up to six months. The government, government-aligned militias, authorities in Somaliland and Puntland, South West State, Galmudug, Jubaland, ASWJ, al-Shabaab, and unknown assailants killed, abused, and harassed journalists with impunity (see sections 1.a. and 1.g.).

The Somaliland constitution prohibits publication or circulation of exaggerated or tendentious news capable of disturbing public order, and officials used the provision to charge and arrest journalists.

The Puntland constitution limits freedom of opinion and expression through broadly worded limitations–including conformity with moral dignity, national stability, and personal rights of others–and allows for exceptions from the right to freedom of expression in times of war or other public emergency.

Freedom of Expression: Individuals in government-controlled areas risked reprisal for criticizing government officials, particularly for alleged official corruption or suggestions that officials were unable to manage security matters. Such interference remained common outside the capital, particularly in Puntland and Somaliland.

Press and Media Freedom: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views, although self-censorship was common due to a history of arbitrary arrest of journalists and search and closure of media outlets that criticized the government. While there were no reports of such interference in Mogadishu since President Farmaajo’s election, it remained common outside the capital, particularly in Puntland and Somaliland.

Somaliland authorities continued to fine and arbitrarily arrest journalists for defamation and other alleged crimes, including meeting with colleagues. Prison terms ranged from a few days to several months, and fines could be as high as 573,000 shillings ($1,000). Journalists were intimidated and imprisoned for conducting investigations into corruption or topics deemed sensitive, such as investment agreements regarding the Berbera Port or the conflict between Somaliland and Puntland over the disputed Sool and Sanaag regions.

Violence and Harassment: Between January and August, the United Nations documented 20 cases of arbitrary arrests and or prolonged detentions of journalists and other media workers, of which 12 occurred in Somaliland. During that same period, five media outlets were closed. On July 26, a Somali soldier in Mogadishu killed a television cameraman; the death allegedly resulted from a personal property dispute. On September 18, another journalist was stabbed to death in Galkayo. Investigations in neither case found evidence that the killings were carried out because of the journalists’ work.

In January, two journalists were sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in Somaliland on charges that included conducting propaganda against the state.

On January 13, NISA officers reportedly beat and harassed two journalists at an airport in Galkaayo during a visit by President Farmaajo. No investigation was reported despite requests by the Puntland Media Association.

On February 17, Somaliland police arrested the bureau chief of London-based Universal TV in response to a news report broadcast by the station earlier in February.

In April a journalist was arrested in Middle Shabelle after reporting on a clash between security forces. He was later released through negotiations between journalists and authorities.

In July a civil society activist was arrested in Garowe by Puntland police after making a Facebook post critical of the Puntland Government.

According to the Somaliland Journalists Association, local authorities continued to harass and arbitrarily detain journalists systematically.

Journalists based in the Lower Juba region continued to report that local security authorities harassed them.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Journalists engaged in rigorous self-censorship to avoid reprisals.

In May Somaliland authorities banned two private television stations, accusing them of broadcasting propaganda and false news regarding the dispute between Somaliland and Puntland in Tukaraq, Sool region. Somaliland continued to punish persons who espoused national unification.

On June 13, in the midst of conflict between Somaliland and Puntland, the Puntland Ministry of Information instructed Puntland internet provider DSAT to remove the Somaliland television channel from the list of channels available in Puntland.

On June 19, the Hargeisa Regional Court ordered the suspension of Waaberi, the local newspaper, alleging the paper was not run by its registered owners.

Al-Shabaab banned journalists from reporting news that undermined Islamic law as interpreted by al-Shabaab and forbade persons in areas under its control from listening to international media outlets.

Libel/Slander Laws: Puntland and Somaliland authorities prosecuted journalists for libel.

On April 16, blogger Mohamed Kayse Mohamud was sentenced to 18 months in prison for comments he made in February calling Somaliland President Bihi a local, not national, president. Kayse’s lawyer said that police denied him access to Kayse during pretrial detention, which began February 7, and did not meet him until April 1, the first day of the trial.

National Security: Federal and regional authorities cited national security concerns to suppress criticism and prevent press coverage of opposition political figures.

INTERNET FREEDOM

Authorities restricted access to the internet, but there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

Al-Shabaab prohibited companies from providing access to the internet and forced telecommunication companies to shut data services in al-Shabaab-controlled areas.

According to the International Telecommunication Union, less than 2 percent of the population used the internet in 2017.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

Academics practiced self-censorship.

Puntland required individuals to obtain government permits to conduct academic research.

Except in al-Shabaab-controlled areas, there were no official restrictions on attending cultural events, playing music, or going to the cinema. The security situation, however, effectively restricted access to and organization of cultural events in the southern and central regions.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

The federal provisional constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly, but the government limited this right. A general lack of security effectively limited this right as well. The federal Ministry of Internal Security continued to require its approval for all public gatherings, citing security concerns, such as the risk of attack by al-Shabaab suicide bombers.

In May Somaliland authorities in the Sool region arrested 57 demonstrators for staging a protest in support of Somali unity, including some in support of Puntland. All the demonstrators were later released.

Al-Shabaab did not allow any gatherings without its prior consent.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The provisional federal constitution provides for freedom of association, but government officials harassed NGO workers. There were also reports that regional authorities restricted freedom of association. Al-Shabaab did not allow most international NGOs to operate.

Persons in the southern and central regions outside of al-Shabaab-controlled areas could freely join civil society organizations focusing on a wide range of problems. Citizens generally respected civil society organizations for their ability to deliver social services in the absence of functioning government ministries.

Regional administrations took steps to control or gain benefit from humanitarian organizations, including by imposing duplicative registration requirements at different levels of government; attempting to control humanitarian organization contracting, procurement, and staffing; and using opaque and vague taxation.

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

The provisional federal constitution states that all persons lawfully residing in the country have the right to freedom of movement, to choose their residence, and to leave the country. Freedom of movement, however, was restricted in some areas.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: The country hosts a relatively small number of refugees, primarily from Yemen, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. Economic migrants also use the country as a transit point in route to the Gulf, which exposes them to exploitation and abuse primarily by human traffickers.

The government and Somaliland authorities cooperated with UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration to assist IDPs, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

During the year dialogue continued between humanitarian agencies, the FGS, and regional authorities to remove checkpoints and facilitate movement of humanitarian assistance, food aid, and essential commodities.

In-country Movement: Checkpoints operated by government forces, allied groups, armed militias, clan factions, and al-Shabaab inhibited movement and exposed citizens to looting, extortion, harassment, and violence. Roadblocks manned by armed actors and attacks on humanitarian personnel severely restricted movement and the delivery of aid in southern and central sectors of the country.

Al-Shabaab and other nonstate armed actors continued to hinder commercial activities in the areas they controlled in the Bakool, Bay, Gedo, and Hiraan regions and impeded the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Attacks against humanitarian workers and assets impeded the delivery of aid to vulnerable populations.

Somaliland prohibited federal officials, including those of Somaliland origin who purported to represent Hargeisa’s interests in Mogadishu, from entering Somaliland. It also prevented its citizens from traveling to Mogadishu to participate in FGS processes or in cultural activities.

Foreign Travel: Few citizens had the means to obtain passports. In view of widespread passport fraud, many foreign governments did not recognize Somali passports as valid travel documents. Beginning August 1, Norway began recognizing Somali passports of all types.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPS)

Continuing conflict during the year led to an increase in internal displacement. The country was home to more than 2.6 million IDPs. The food security situation continued to improve due to a sustained humanitarian response and an above-average rainy season, but needs remained critical. As of August, 4.6 million persons were in need of assistance, more than before the onset of the 2016 drought crisis.

UNHCR advocated for the protection of IDPs and provided some financial assistance given the group is a population of concern, and Somalis who have returned often wind up in IDP camps.

While government and regional authorities were more involved in the recent famine prevention and drought response than in prior years, their capacity to respond remained extremely limited. In addition, forceful evictions of IDPs continued. Since January more than 204,000 individuals have been evicted. Private persons with claims to land and government authorities, for example, regularly pursued the forceful eviction of IDPs in Mogadishu. Increased reports of sexual and gender-based violence accompanied increased displacement, including reports of incidents committed by various armed groups and security personnel.

Women and children living in IDP settlements were particularly vulnerable to rape by armed men, including government soldiers and militia members. Gatekeepers in control of some IDP camps reportedly forced girls and women to provide sex in exchange for food and services within the settlements.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Refoulement: The provisional federal constitution states that every person who seeks refuge in the country has the right not to be returned or taken to any country in which that person has a well-founded fear of persecution. There was no official system for providing such protection to refugees.

Access to Asylum: The provisional constitution recognizes the right to asylum in accordance with international treaties; however, the FGS had yet to implement a legal framework and system to provide protection to refugees on a consistent basis. Authorities, however, granted prima facie status to most refugees, most of whom were Yemeni.

Employment: Employment opportunities were limited for refugees, Somali returnees, and other vulnerable populations. Refugee returnees from Kenya reported limited employment opportunities in the southern and central sections of the country, consistent with high rates of unemployment throughout the country.

Access to Basic Services: The FGS continued to work with the international community to improve access to basic services, employment, and durable solutions for displaced populations, although this remained a challenge primarily due to security, lack of political will, and financial constraints.

South Africa

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

The law provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, a generally effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press. Nevertheless, several apartheid-era laws and the Law on Antiterrorism permit authorities to restrict reporting on the security forces, prisons, and mental institutions.

In a March court judgment, Vicki Momberg was convicted of “crimen injuria” (unlawfully, intentionally, and seriously injuring the dignity of another person) for repeatedly addressing black police officers with a racial slur. She was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment without parole. Many human rights groups applauded the ruling–the first of its kind–but the Afrikaner rights group AfriForum called it a case of “double standards… a white person who insults a black person goes to prison, while a senior officer in the defense force who says that white people’s eyes and tongues must be stabbed out is simply asked nicely not to repeat it.”

Press and Media Freedom: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction.

According to the South African Advertising Research Foundation, print media reached 49 percent of the adult population. Despite the number and diversity of publications, the concentration of media ownership in a few large media groups drew criticism from the government and some political parties, which complained print media did not always adequately cover their points of view.

The state-owned South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) was criticized for violating its stated editorial independence in favor of progovernment reporting (see section 4, elections, and political participation). In January former independent television station (eNCA) presenter and journalist Chris Maroleng was hired as the SABC’s chief operating officer, and stated he was committed to promoting fair, balanced, and impartial coverage, to limit political interference, and to regain public trust in the SABC.

Nonprofit community radio stations played an important role in informing the mostly rural public, although these stations often had difficulty producing adequate content and maintaining quality staff. Community activists complained some community radio stations self-censored their programming because they were dependent on government advertising for revenue. Government broadcast regulators withdrew community radio licenses on a regular basis for noncompliance with the terms of issuance.

Talk radio broadcast in the country’s 11 official languages played a significant role in public debate, providing a forum for discussion by government officials, politicians, commentators, and average citizens.

Many in the public credited media with exposing corruption in former president Zuma’s administration and with his eventual resignation. For example, the online Daily Maverick’s investigative unit “amaBhungane and Scorpio” ran a series of stories exposing details regarding state capture by the politically connected Gupta family and the family’s level of influence on government officials and institutions.

Violence and Harassment: Journalists covering the ANC’s national elective conference reported security officers manhandled them to prevent their access to delegates. SABC journalists covering protests in North West Province reported being attacked and robbed by protesters. SABC journalists reported that soccer fans in Durban destroyed some of their media equipment. These incidents did not appear to be orchestrated attacks on media.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Government and political officials often criticized media for lack of professionalism and reacted sharply to media criticism, frequently accusing black journalists of disloyalty and white journalists of racism. Some journalists believed the government’s sensitivity to criticism resulted in increased media self-censorship.

Jacques Pauw, an investigative journalist and author of an expose of corruption in former president Zuma’s administration, was investigated by the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation for allegedly using secret government documents as material for his book. The South African Revenue Service also filed charges against Pauw for violating confidentiality laws. Human rights activists charged that Pauw was targeted for exposing the corruption.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. The law authorizes state monitoring of telecommunication systems, however, including the internet and email, for national security reasons. The law requires all service providers to register on secure databases the identities, physical addresses, and telephone numbers of customers.

According to the International Telecommunication Union, 56.2 percent of individuals used the internet in 2017.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

Unlike in prior years, there were no reports of government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right. According to SAPS, from April 2017 through March there were 11,058 peaceful protests and an additional 3,583 demonstrations that turned violent. Protest action was most common in Gauteng, North West, Western Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal Provinces.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for the right of association, and the government generally respected this right.

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

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, but the government did not always respect these rights. The government cooperated with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern. Nevertheless, refugee advocacy groups criticized the government’s processes for determining asylum and refugee status, citing large case backlogs, low approval rates, inadequate use of country-of-origin information, limited locations at which to request status, and susceptibility to corruption and abuse.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Refugee advocacy organizations stated that police and immigration officials abused refugees and asylum seekers. Xenophobic violence was a continuing problem across the country. Although no official data existed on this subject, Xenowatch, an open-source system for information collection and interactive mapping that allows crowd sourcing of xenophobia-related incidents, reported that 27 persons were killed, 77 persons were assaulted, 588 shops were looted, and 1,143 persons were displaced due to xenophobic incidents during the 18 months between February 2017 and August 31. According to Xenowatch, during that period xenophobic-related killings, assaults, and displacements declined, but the looting of foreign-owned or -managed shops increased.

Xenophobic violence occurred against foreign nationals, often refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They often owned or managed small, informal township grocery stores. In May, Durban police were on high alert after the North Region Business Association sent letters to foreign national shop owners advising them to shut down their businesses in Inanda, Ntuzuma, and KwaMashu townships.

Although the DHA had anticorruption programs in place and punished officials or contracted security officers found to be accepting bribes, NGOs and asylum applicants reported that immigration authorities sought bribes from those seeking permits to remain in the country, particularly in cases where applicants’ documentation had expired.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum and refugee status, and the government has an established system for providing protection to refugees. According to local organizations, the DHA rejected the vast majority of refugee applications. There were more than one million refugees and asylum seekers at year’s end. An estimated 120,000 were granted refugee status. Government services strained to keep up with the caseload, and NGOs criticized the government’s implementation of the system as inadequate. According to UNHCR, the government registered 24,174 asylum seekers in 2017, a 46-percent decline from 2016.

The DHA operated only three processing centers for refugees but refused to transfer cases among facilities. The DHA thus required asylum seekers to return to the office at which they were originally registered to renew asylum documents, usually valid for only three months, which NGOs argued posed an undue hardship. During the year the government did not expand the number of reception centers, resulting in large backlogs. NGOs reported asylum seekers sometimes waited in line for days to access the reception centers.

Employment: According to NGOs, refugees and asylum seekers were regularly denied employment due to their immigration status.

Access to Basic Services: Although the law provides for access to basic services, including educational, police, and judicial services, NGOs stated that health-care facilities and law enforcement personnel discriminated against asylum seekers, migrants, and refugees. Some refugees reported they could not access schooling for their children. They reported that schools often refused to accept asylum documents as proof of residency.

One immigrant group stated the government would not recognize it as an official NGO because it did not have a bank account; however, no bank would issue an account to the group because its representatives lacked government-issued identification documents.

Temporary Protection: The government offered temporary protection to some individuals who may not qualify as refugees. The government allowed persons who applied for asylum to stay in the country while their claims were adjudicated and if denied, to appeal.

South Sudan

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

The transitional constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press. The government and its agents frequently violated these rights in the name of national security, however, and the downward trend in respect for these freedoms since 2011 continued.

Freedom of Expression: Civil society organizations must register with the government under the 2013 NGO Act (and the subsequent 2016 Act). The government regularly attempted to impede criticism by monitoring, intimidating, harassing, arresting, or detaining members of civil society who publicly criticized the government.

Press and Media Freedom: The government maintained strict control of media, both print and electronic. The government suppressed dissenting voices, forcing some civil society organizations and media houses to shut down or flee the country. Government officials or individuals close to the government regularly interfered in the publication of articles and broadcasting of programs, and high-level government officials stated press freedom should not extend to criticism of the government or soliciting views of opposition leaders.

During the year the governmental Media Authority rejected the accreditation of 20 foreign journalists whose past reporting they deemed to be inaccurate, to tarnish the image of the country, or to incite violence. Most organizations practiced self-censorship to ensure their safety, and authorities regularly censored newspapers, directly reprimanded publishers, and removed articles deemed critical of the government. Many print media outlets reported NSS officers forcing the removal of articles at the printing company (where all newspapers are printed), often leaving a blank spot where the article was originally meant to appear. For example, on May 24, the NSS removed an article from The Dawn, even though that newspaper is known for progovernment sentiment.

Since the outbreak of conflict in 2013, the government tried to dictate media coverage of the conflict and threatened those who tried to publish or broadcast views of the opposition. NSS regularly harassed, intimidated, and summoned journalists for questioning. The environment for media workers remained precarious throughout the year.

On March 9, the media regulatory body, the Media Authority, announced its intention to shut down Miraya FM, run by UNMISS, for “persistent noncompliance.” The Media Authority stated it was not censoring the station, but rather monitoring for “hate speech and incitement.” Because Miraya FM’s transmitter is located within a UN compound, the government was unable to take it off the air, although for most of the year, the government broadcast its own signal over Miraya’s frequency in order to disrupt its broadcasts.

Violence and Harassment: Security forces commonly intimidated or detained journalists whose reporting they perceived as unfavorable to the military or government. Security forces confiscated or damaged journalists’ equipment and restricted their movements. During the year journalists were interrogated, harassed, detained, and imprisoned, and there were instances of severe violence. NSS representatives frequently harassed journalists by detaining them at NSS headquarters or local police stations without formal charges. Government harassment was so pronounced that several journalists chose to flee the country. Journalists and media agencies that reported on news of the opposition could expect questioning and possibly closure. Journalists in Juba experienced threats and intimidation and routinely practiced self-censorship. On several occasions, high-level officials publicly used intimidating language directed toward media outlets and representatives.

There were numerous reports of such abuses similar to the following example: On February 6, security operatives covering a progovernment protest physically assaulted two western journalists.

There continued to be no credible investigation into the killing of freelance journalist Christopher Allen in August 2017.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government’s South Sudan National Communication Authority (SSNCA) blocks access to certain websites, such as two popular news websites, Tamazuj and Sudan Tribune, and two blogs, Paanluel Wel and Nyamilepedia, disseminating “nonpeace” messages considered not to be “in the best interest of peace building in this country.” There were credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. The government also targeted and intimidated individuals who were critical of the government in open online forums and social media.

The internet was unavailable in most parts of the country due to lack of electricity and communication infrastructure. Only approximately 7 percent of the population used the internet, according to the International Telecommunication Union.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

The government restricted cultural activities and academic workshops. In several parts of the country, NSS authorization is required for public events including academic workshops, which particularly affected NGOs and other civic organizations. To obtain permission, NSS sometimes requested a list of national and international staff members employed by the organizations and names of participants. Permission was often predicated upon the expectation the NSS would be able to monitor the events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The government generally respected freedom of peaceful assembly but restricted freedom of association.

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

The transitional constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly, and the government generally respected this right, but many citizens did not gather due to fear of targeted violence. Security officials lacked nonviolent crowd control capabilities and at times fired live ammunition into the air to disperse crowds.

In February security officials disrupted and dispersed a meeting of the South Sudan Civil Society Forum, which had met to discuss the peace process.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The transitional constitution provides for freedom of association, but the government did not respect this right for those suspected of associating with or having sympathies for opposition figures (see section 1.g.). Some civil society leaders interpreted the 2012 Political Parties Act as an attempt to suppress opposition to the SPLM (see section 3).

A law passed in 2016 strictly regulating the activity and operations of civil society was widely enforced throughout the year. The law focused particularly on NGOs working in the governance, anticorruption, and human rights fields, and it imposed a range of legal barriers including limitations on the types of activities in whichorganizations can engage, onerous registration requirements, and heavy fines for noncompliance. Human rights groups and civil society representatives reported NSS officials continued surveillance and threats against civil society organizations.

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

The transitional constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, and repatriation. The government, however, often restricted these rights, and routinely blocked travel of political figures within the country and outside the country. Despite multiple pledges from the government to dismantle checkpoints, they remained a common problem. Security forces manning these checkpoints routinely used them as opportunities to charge illegal fees and discriminate against minorities.

The transitional constitution does not address emigration.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Refugees sometimes suffered abuse, such as armed attacks, killings, gender-based violence, forced recruitment, including of children, and forced labor, according to UNHCR.

In-country Movement: IDPs remained on UNMISS PoC sites due to fear of retaliatory or ethnically targeted violence by armed groups, both government- and opposition-affiliated. The government often obstructed humanitarian organizations seeking to provide protection and assistance to IDPs and refugees. Continuing conflict between government and opposition forces restricted the movement of UN personnel and the delivery of humanitarian aid (see section 1.g.).

Foreign Travel: Individuals, due to arbitrary restrictions, were sometimes prevented from leaving the country.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPS)

Throughout the year, conflict in the country intensified and spread to areas previously less affected by fighting. The result was mass population displacement, both within the country and into neighboring countries, and high levels of humanitarian and protection needs, which strained the ability of UN and international humanitarian personnel to provide protection and assistance. According to OCHA, conflict and food insecurity had displaced internally more than two million persons. Approximately 200,000 persons were sheltered in UNMISS PoC sites as of September. The increased violence and food insecurity forced relief actors to delay plans for the safe return and relocation of some IDP populations.

Violence severely affected areas such as the regions of Greater Equatoria, Upper Nile, and Western Bahr el Ghazal with dire humanitarian consequences, including significant displacement and serious and systematic reported human rights violations and abuses, including the killing of civilians, arbitrary arrests, detentions, looting and destruction of civilian property, torture, and sexually based violence, according to UNHCR.

The government promoted the return and resettlement of IDPs but did not provide safe environments and often denied humanitarian NGOs or international organizations access to IDPs.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: In September the government acceded to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, providing a comprehensive legal framework for refugee protection. The South Sudan Refugee Act provides for protection of refugees as well as the granting of asylum and refugee status. The government allowed refugees from a variety of countries to settle and generally did not treat refugees differently from other foreigners.

Access to Basic Services: While refugees sometimes lacked basic services, this generally reflected a lack of capacity in the country to manage refugee problems rather than government practices that discriminated against refugees. Refugee children had access to elementary education in refugee camps through programs managed by international NGOs and the United Nations. Some schools were shared with children from the host community. In principle, refugees had access to judiciary services, although a lack of infrastructure and staff meant these resources were often unavailable.

Due to continuing conflict and scarcity of resources, tension existed between refugees and host communities in some areas over access to resources.

Durable Solutions: The government accepted refugees and returnees for reintegration, and efforts to develop a framework for their integration or reintegration into local communities were in progress. No national procedures were in place to facilitate the provision of identity documents for returnees or the naturalization of refugees beyond procedures that were in place for all citizens and other applicants.

STATELESS PERSONS

Citizenship is derived through the right of blood (jus sanguinis) if a person has a South Sudanese parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent on either the mother’s or the father’s side, or if a person is a member of one of the country’s indigenous ethnic communities. Individuals also may derive citizenship through naturalization. Birth in the country is not sufficient to claim citizenship.

According to a report from the National Dialog, a government-sponsored initiative, it was more difficult for those from the southern region of Equatoria to rightfully claim citizenship due to discrimination from other tribes, which suspected them of being Ugandans or Congolese. According to UNHCR, certain nomadic pastoralist groups were systematically denied access to application procedures for nationality certification.

Spain

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

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

Freedom of Expression: The law prohibits, subject to judicial oversight, actions including public speeches and the publication of documents that the government interprets as celebrating or supporting terrorism. The law provides for imprisonment from one to four years for persons who provoke discrimination, hatred, or violence against groups or associations on the basis of ideology, religion or belief, family status, membership in an ethnic group or race, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, illness, or disability.

The law penalizes downloading of illegal content and use of unauthorized websites, violent protests, insulting a security officer, recording and disseminating images of police, and participating in unauthorized protests outside government buildings. The NGO Reporters without Borders (RSF) called the law a threat to press freedom, while the Professional Association of the Judiciary considered it contrary to freedom of speech and information. The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party challenged the law in the Constitutional Court, where a decision was pending.

On March 20, the RSF expressed its concern for the increase in the number of court rulings limiting the freedom of expression with disproportionate censorship and harsh sentences imposed in accordance with the law.

Violence and Harassment: The RSF and other press freedom organizations stated that the country’s restrictive press law and its enforcement impose censorship and self-censorship on journalists.

An April 24 statement by the RSF alleged that the October 2017 independence referendum in Catalonia, ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, “exacerbated tensions and created a suffocating environment for journalists.” The RSF alleged that Catalan authorities increased harassment against “pro-Spanish unity” journalists on social media platforms, while regional police intimidated other journalists.

The Barcelona Hate Crimes Prosecutor’s 2017 report documented an increase in the number of hate crimes beginning in October 2017, mostly attributable to political beliefs related to the independence movement. In Barcelona Province, 30.8 percent of 279 registered cases represented hate speech and discrimination against those holding differing political views.

Actions to Expand Freedom of Expression, Including for the Media: On March 13, the ECHR ruled in favor of Enric Stern and Jaume Roura, who in 2007 burned a photograph of the king and were sentenced to 15 months in prison for insulting the crown. The ECHR found the punishment issued by the national court violated their right to freedom of expression and ordered the government to compensate them with 7,200 euros each ($8,280).

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. Authorities monitored websites for material containing hate speech or promoting anti-Semitism or terrorism.

The International Telecommunication Union reported that 85 percent of the population used the internet in 2017.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

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

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the freedom of peaceful assembly, and the government generally respected this right. The law provides for fines of up to 600 euros ($690) for failing to notify authorities about peaceful demonstrations in public areas, up to 30,000 euros ($34,500) for protests resulting in “serious disturbances of public safety” near parliament and regional government buildings, and up to 600,000 euros ($690,000) for unauthorized protests near key infrastructure. By law any protestors who refuse to disperse upon police request may be fined.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and law provide for the freedom of association, and the government generally respected it.

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

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

The government cooperated with UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: The latest report of the National Ombudsman indicated that the center for the temporary accommodation of migrants in the enclave of Melilla was “severely overcrowded.” The center housing migrants in the enclave of Ceuta was also overcrowded.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Refoulement: According to a UNHCR report on April 3, there were cases where migrants who crossed the border from Morocco to the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla were returned to Morocco without receiving a complete eligibility review for asylum.

Access to Asylum: According to the Ministry of the Interior, by November 30, 59,048 persons arrived in the country illegally via the Mediterranean Sea or land border crossing points in Ceuta and Melilla bordering Morocco, a number higher than the total numbers for 2015, 2016, and 2017 combined.

The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The country has bilateral return agreements with Morocco and Algeria. Authorities review asylum petitions individually, and there is an established appeals process available to rejected petitioners. The law permits any foreigner in the country who is a victim of gender-based violence or of trafficking in persons to file a complaint at a police station without fear of deportation, even if that individual is in the country illegally. Although potential asylum seekers were able to exercise effectively their right to petition authorities, some NGOs, such as CEAR, and Accem, as well as UNHCR alleged that several migration reception centers lacked sufficient legal assistance for asylum seekers. The NGOs reported that getting an appointment to request asylum could take months. CEAR reported the government granted refugee status to 595 individuals in 2017. This number does not include refugees accepted from Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Lebanon, as part of the EU relocation and resettlement plan.

On April 9, the government granted political asylum to three Turkish citizens requesting protection from persecution related to the 2016 attempted coup against the Turkish government. They were the first Turkish nationals granted asylum by the government in connection with the attempted Turkish coup.

On September 3, in a report from a March 18-24 observation mission in Ceuta and Melilla, the COE issued found the continued use of so-called “hot returns,” whereby migrants are returned without first registering and verifying eligibility for asylum. Lawyers and UNHCR reported that in August authorities returned 116 migrants to Morocco within 24 hours of their arrival after they crossed the border to Ceuta, without first verifying whether they were eligible for asylum. Spanish authorities, the International Organization for Migration, and the Spanish Red Cross asserted the migrants were identified and provided legal counsel under the terms of the country’s migration laws. The return of the migrants was carried out under terms of a 1992 agreement with Morocco that provides for the readmission of third-country nationals who illegally entered Spain from Morocco.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: Under EU law the country considers all other countries in the Schengen area, the EU, and the United States to be safe countries of origin.

Access to Basic Services: In Ceuta and Melilla, according to UNHCR, asylum seekers could wait up to several months in some cases before being transferred to the care of NGOs in mainland Spain. Migrants from countries without a return agreement and those who demonstrated eligibility for international protection were provided housing and basic care as part of a state-sponsored reception program managed by various NGOs.

Durable Solutions: The government accepted refugees for relocation and resettlement and provided assistance through NGOs such as CEAR and Accem. As of April the country received 2,792 refugees (1,359 through relocation and 1,433 through resettlement) from Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Lebanon. UNHCR noted the country’s system for integrating refugees, especially vulnerable families, minors, and survivors of gender-based violence and trafficking in persons, needed improvement.

The government assisted in the safe, voluntary return of failed asylum seekers and migrants to their homes or the country they came from.

Temporary Protection: The government also provided temporary protection to individuals whose applications for asylum were pending review, or who did not qualify as refugees and asylees. In 2017 it extended subsidiary protection to approximately 4,080 such persons.

STATELESS PERSONS

According to UNHCR, at the end of 2017, 1,596 stateless persons lived in the country. The law provides a path to citizenship for stateless persons. The law includes the obligation to grant nationality to those born in Spain of foreign parents, if both lack nationality or if legislation from neither parent’s country of nationality attributes a nationality to the child, as well as to those born in Spain whose parentage is not determined.

Sri Lanka

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

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

Freedom of Expression: Authorities restricted “hate speech,” including insult to religion or religious beliefs through the police ordinance and penal code. The government requested media stations and outlets to refrain from featuring hate speech in their news items and segments.

Press and Media Freedom: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views. Journalists in the Tamil-majority north, however, reported harassment, intimidation, and interference from the security sector when reporting on sensitive issues related to the civil war or its aftermath. They reported the military contacted them to request copies of photographs, lists of attendees at events, and names of sources from articles. They also reported the military directly requested that journalists refrain from reporting on sensitive events, such as Tamil war memorials or land occupation protests, and that they feared repercussions if they did not cooperate.

In October, after former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was appointed prime minister in a move challenged in court as unconstitutional, some of Rajapaksa’s supporters took control of state media outlets. The International Federation of Journalists reported serious concern about harassment of journalists at state media institutions, and in some cases mobs loyal to Rajapaksa entered facilities and threatened employees and forced them to leave the premises. In another case the bodyguard of a minister loyal to ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe opened fire into a crowd of protesters outside a state media outlet, killing a Rajapaksa supporter.

Violence and Harassment: There were reports of harassment and intimidation of journalists when covering sensitive issues. Reporters Without Borders reported authorities intimidated Tamil Guardian journalist Uthayarasa Shalin in August following his coverage of a festival at a Hindu temple, but there were conflicting reports whether Shalin was targeted due to his work as a journalist.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: On several occasions print and electronic media journalists noted they self-censored stories that criticized the president or his family. These journalists said they had received direct calls from private individuals or supporters of the government asking them to refrain from reporting anything that tainted the first family. On June 5, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) closed Telshan Network, a private television station. TRA accused the network of defaulting on its license fees. The network denied the allegations and claimed the closure was politically motivated. In November 2017 TRA blocked access of London-based website Lanka eNews after it published an expose into alleged corruption in President Sirisena’s office; the site remained blocked at year’s end.

INTERNET FREEDOM

There were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. The government placed limited restrictions on websites it deemed pornographic. In March the government imposed a weeklong ban on several social media platforms, including Facebook, Whatsapp, and Instagram, during a state of emergency imposed following an eruption of anti-Muslim violence in the Central Province.

According to International Telecommunication Union data, approximately 34 percent of the population used the internet in 2017.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

State university officials allegedly prevented professors and university students from criticizing government officials. There were no other reported government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, but the government restricted these rights in a limited number of cases.

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

The law provides for freedom of peaceful assembly, and the government generally respected this right. The constitution stipulates that the freedom of assembly may be restricted in the interest of religious harmony, national security, public order, or the protection of public health or morality. It also may be restricted in the interest of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others, or in the interest of meeting the just requirements of the general welfare of a democratic society. Under Police Ordinance Article 77(1), protesters must seek permission from the local police before holding a protest.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for freedom of association but limits the right, for example, by criminalizing association with or membership in banned organizations. Christian groups and churches reported some authorities classified worship activities as “unauthorized gatherings” and pressured them to end these activities. According to the groups, authorities sometimes justified their actions stating the groups were not registered with the government, although no law or regulation specifically requires such registration.

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

The law provides 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, stateless persons, or other persons of concern.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPS)

The country’s civil war that ended in 2009 caused widespread, prolonged displacement, including forced displacement by the government and the LTTE, particularly of Tamils. According to the Ministry of Resettlement, Rehabilitation, Northern Development, and Hindu Religious Affairs, 37,815 citizens remained IDPs as of June 30. The large majority resided in Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mannar, and Batticaloa Districts in the north and east. While all IDPs had full freedom of movement, most were unable to return home due to land mines; restrictions designating their home areas as part of HSZs; lack of work opportunities; inability to access basic public services, including acquiring documents verifying land ownership; and lack of government resolution of competing land ownership claims and other war-related reasons. The government did not provide protection and assistance to IDPs in welfare camps.

The government promoted the return and resettlement of IDPs by returning approximately 840 acres of military-seized land and making state land available for landless IDPs. The military and other government agencies supported the resettlement of IDPs by constructing houses, schools, toilets, and providing other social services on newly released lands.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status. The government relied on UNHCR to provide food, housing, and education for refugees in the country and to pursue third-country resettlement for them. The law does not permit refugees and asylum seekers to work or enroll in the government school system, but many worked informally.

Sudan

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

The Interim National Constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press “as regulated by law,” but the government heavily restricted this right.

Freedom of Expression: Individuals who criticized the government publicly or privately were subject to reprisal, including arrest. The government attempted to impede such criticism and monitored political meetings and the press.

In January and February, at least 18 journalists were arrested in and around Khartoum while covering protests against the declining economic situation and bread price increases. Arrested journalists included employees of Agence France Presse, Reuters, and the BBC. Most were released shortly after arrest, but several from Sudanese media outlets were held up to two months in detention, including Al Midan correspondent Kamal Karrar. No formal charges were ever brought against any of the journalists.

Journalist Mohamed Osman Babiker was arrested and taken from his home in El Gezira on July 31, after Kassala state authorities filed a complaint against him under the Information Act of 2015 for criticizing the state’s branch of the National Congress Party on social media. Babiker was transferred from a jail in Khartoum to Kassala to await trial.

The government also curtailed public religious discussion if proselytization was suspected and monitored religious sermons and teachings (see the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/).

Press and Media Freedom: The Interim National Constitution provides for freedom of the press, but authorities prevented newspapers from reporting on issues they deemed sensitive. Throughout the year the government verbally warned newspapers of “red line” topics on which the press could not report. Such topics included corruption, university protests, the weak economy and declining value of the Sudanese pound, deaths of persons in detention, the fuel crisis, government security services, and government action in conflict areas. Measures taken by the government included regular and direct prepublication censorship, confiscation of publications, legal action, and denial of state advertising. Confiscation after printing in particular inflicted financial damage on newspapers already under financial strain due to low circulation.

The government influenced radio and television reporting through the permit process, as well as by offering or withholding government payments for advertisements, based on how closely affiliated they were with the government.

The government controlled media through the National Council for Press and Publications (NCPP), which administered mandatory professional examinations for journalists and oversaw the selection of editors. The council had authority to ban journalists temporarily or indefinitely. The registration of journalists was handled primarily by the Sudanese Journalists Network, which estimated there were 7,000 registered journalists in the country, although fewer than 200 of them were believed to be actively employed as journalists. The remainder were members of the government and security forces working on media issues, who received automatic licenses.

On June 10, the Parliament approved a new Combatting Cybercrimes Act for 2018. The new act makes spreading anything deemed to be “fake news” illegal and carries a punishment of up to three years’ imprisonment. On October 11, the act was applied after a judge sentenced a man in White Nile State to two years imprisonment and a fine of 10,000 SDG ($215) for creating a fake Facebook account and posting indecent photographs. Human rights activists were concerned about the potential use of the law to further censor content in news and social media, but there have not been any known cases against human rights activists as of November.

Violence and Harassment: The government continued to arrest, harass, intimidate, and abuse journalists and vocal critics of the government. NISS required journalists to provide personal information, such as details on their ethnic group, political affiliation, and family.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The government continued to practice direct prepublication and prebroadcast censorship of all forms of media. Confiscations of print runs was the censorship method most frequently used by NISS, This was an incentive to self-censorship.. On June 10, authorities confiscated the full run of Al Tayar newspaper for publishing an article about the economic situation. The same day, NISS asked the article’s author, journalist Shamile al Noor, to report to NISS for questioning. He was questioned for three hours and then told to report back the following day, when NISS told him to stop commenting publicly on President Bashir. On October 4, NISS seized print runs of two newspapers and summoned their editors-in-chief for a meeting after the editors met with foreign ambassadors and charges. NISS summoned the editors for a second meeting on October 24.

Authorities used the Press and Publications Court, specializing in media issues and “newspaper irregularities” and established under the Press and Publications Act, to prosecute “information crimes.”

In early August the Speaker of the National Assembly met with editors-in-chief of major newspapers and instructed them to comply with red line topics and, in exchange, NISS would no longer confiscate newspapers. The NCPP would then take on the responsibility of monitoring newspaper content. Some human rights groups expressed concern that this was a move by the government to further encourage self-censorship.

On July 31, the chief editor of Al-Jareeda newspaper, Ashraf Abdelaziz stated publically that NISS prevented the newspaper from being distributed for seven straight days, thus inflicting a huge financial loss on the paper.

Following the December protests, government censorship of media tightened, resulting in the arrests of several journalists and near daily confiscations of entire newspaper print runs. The NISS declared news on the protests a “red line” topic and then pre-censored newspapers to stop the publication of news on the protests.

Libel/Slander Laws: The law holds editors in chief criminally liable for all content published in their newspapers. In April Muhsin Musa was arrested in Kadugli, South Kordofan for defamation after he posted critisicm of the fuel crisis and general economic conditions on his Twitter account. A few days later, police arrested Awadia Abdulrahman in Khartoum North for sharing Musa’s posts.

National Security: The law allows for restrictions on the press in the interest of national security and public order. It contains loosely defined provisions for bans for encouraging ethnic and religious disturbances and incitement of violence. The criminal code, National Security Act, and emergency laws were regularly used to bring charges against the press. Human rights activists called the law a “punishment” for journalists.

NISS initiated and continued legal action against journalists for stories critical of the government and security services.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government regulated licensing of telecommunications companies through the National Telecommunications Corporation. The agency blocked some websites and most proxy servers judged offensive to public morality, such as those purveying pornography. There were few restrictions on access to information websites, but authorities sporadically blocked access to YouTube and “negative” media sites. On December 21, the government suspended service for key social media platforms including WhatsApp, Facebook and YouTube to disrupt communication among protestors. According to the International Telecommunication Union, approximately 28 percent of individuals used the internet in 2016.

Freedom House continued to rank the country as “not free” in its annual internet freedom report. According to the report, arrests and prosecutions under the Cybercrime Act grew during the year, reflecting a tactical shift in the government’s strategy to limit internet freedom. The report noted that many journalists writing for online platforms published anonymously to avoid prosecution, while ordinary internet users in the country had become more inclined to self-censor to avoid government surveillance and arbitrary legal consequences.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

The government restricted academic freedom, determining the curricula and appointing vice chancellors responsible for administration at academic and cultural institutions. The government continued to arrest student activists and cancel or deny permits for some student events. Youth activists reported some universities discouraged students from participating in antigovernment rallies and treated NCP students favorably. Some professors exercised self-censorship. On April 15, Esmatt Mahmoud, a philosophy professor at the University of Khartoum, was arrested after the university filed a complaint against him for a Facebook post he wrote criticizing the university’s handling of personnel issues. The Public Order Police monitored cultural events, often intimidating women and girls, who feared police would arrest them for “indecent” dress or actions.

On May 28, NISS prevented a theater troupe, Al Samandal, from performing a play entitled “The Worker’s Revolution” during a theater festival in Port Sudan.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

Although the Interim National Constitution and law provide for freedom of peaceful assembly, the government severely restricted this right. The criminal code makes gatherings of more than five persons without a permit illegal. Organizers must notify the government 36 hours prior to assemblies and rallies.

On March 9, a Public Order Court convicted 12 youths of gross indecency, committing an indecent or immoral act, and alcohol and drug consumption. The individuals were arrested at Burri Beach in Khartoum and accused of belonging to a sunworshipping cult, after they had brought mattresses to sleep on the beach with the intention, reportedly, of waking early to watch the sunrise and then slaughter a sheep.

The government continued to deny permission to Islamic orders associated with opposition political parties, particularly the Ansar (Umma Party) and the Khatmiya (Democratic Unionist Party), to hold large gatherings in public spaces, but parties regularly held opposition rallies on private property. Government security agents occasionally attended opposition meetings, disrupted opposition rallies, or summoned participants to security headquarters for questioning after meetings. Opposition political parties claim they were almost never granted official permits to hold meetings, rallys, or peaceful demonstrations. Security forces used tear gas and other heavy-handed tactics against largely peaceful protests at universities or involving university students. NISS and police forces regularly arrested Darfuri students at various universities for publicly addressing civilians).

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The Interim National Constitution and law provide for freedom of association, but the government severely restricted this right. The law prohibits political parties linked to armed opposition groups. The government closed civil society organizations or refused to register them on several occasions.

Government and security forces continued arbitrarily to enforce legal provisionsthat strictly regulate an organization’s ability to receive foreign financing and register public activities. The government maintained its policy of “Sudanization” of international NGOs. Many organizations reported they faced administrative difficulties if they refused to have progovernment groups implement their programs at the state level.

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

The Interim National Constitution and law provide for freedom of movement, foreign travel, and emigration, but the government restricted these rights for foreigners, including humanitarian workers. After the lifting of certain foreign economic sanctions in October 2017, however, the government slightly eased restrictions for humanitarian workers.

The government impeded the work of UN agencies and delayed full approval of their activities throughout the country, particularly in the Two Areas; however, there were fewer such restrictions than in prior years. NGOs also alleged the government impeded humanitarian assistance in the Two Areas. The SPLM-N also restricted access for humanitarian assistance in the Two Areas due to concerns over security of commodities crossing from government-held areas into SPLM-N-controlled areas.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Asylum seekers and refugees were vulnerable to arbitrary arrest and harassment outside of camps because they did not possess identification cards while awaiting government determination of refugee or asylum status. According to authorities registration of refugees helped provide for their personal security.

There were some reported abuses, including of gender-based violence, in refugee camps. The government worked closely with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to provide greater protection to refugees.

Refugees often relied on human trafficking and smuggling networks to leave camps. Smugglers turned traffickers routinely abused refugees if ransoms were not paid.

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

In-country Movement: The government and rebels restricted the movement of citizens in conflict areas (see section 1.g.).

Internal movement was generally unhindered for citizens outside conflict areas. Foreigners needed travel permits for domestic travel outside Khartoum, which were bureaucratically difficult to obtain. Foreigners were required to register with the Ministry of Interior’s Alien Control Division within three days of arrival and were limited to a 15.5-mile radius from Khartoum. Once registered, foreigners were allowed to move beyond this radius, but travel outside of Khartoum State to conflict regions required official approval. Requirements for travel to tourist sites were loosened during the year.

Foreign Travel: The government requires citizens to obtain an exit visa to depart the country. Issuance was usually without complication, but the government continued to use the visa requirement to restrict some citizens’ travel, especially of persons it deemed a political or security interest. A number of opposition leaders were denied bording for flights out of the country, and in some cases their passports were confiscated.

Exile: The government observed the law prohibiting forced exile, but political opponents abroad risk arrest upon return. Some opposition leaders and NGO activists remained in self-imposed exile in northern Africa and Europe; other activists fled the country during the year. As of year’s end, several prominent opposition members had not returned to the country under the 2015 general amnesty for leaders and members of the armed movements taking part in the national dialogue; some expressed concern about their civic and political rights even with the amnesty.

In February National Umma Party chair Sadiq al-Mahdi began self-imposed exile in Cairo. In April authorities charged al-Mahdi with attempting to overthrow the government. On July 10, Egyptian Authorities refused Al-Mahdi entry to Egypt upon his return from a meeting of the Sudan Call opposition network in Paris. The refusal reportedly came after the Sudanese and Egyptian governments signed an agreement to ban opposition activities in each other’s countries and to collaborate on antiopposition efforts. Al-Mahdi then went to London and Jordan, but announced that he would return to the country in October.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPS)

Large-scale displacement continued to be a severe problem in Darfur and the Two Areas. The year saw an increase in conflict-related displacement in Jebel Marra, due to fighting between the government and armed opposition forces.

According to the United Nations and partners, during the year at least 15,000 persons were newly displaced in Darfur and 5,000 in South Kordofan, a substantial increase from 2017’s estimated 10,000 newly displaced persons. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported the vast majority of the displacement during the year was triggered by intercommunal and other armed conflict. Many IDPs faced chronic food shortages and inadequate medical care. Significant numbers of farmers were prevented from planting their fields due to insecurity, leading to near-famine conditions in parts of South Kordofan. The government and the SPLM-N continued to deny access to humanitarian actors and UN agencies in areas controlled by the SPLM-N. Information about the number of displaced in these areas was difficult to verify. Armed groups estimated the areas contained 545,000 IDPs and severely affected persons during the year, while the government estimated the number as closer to 200,000. UN agencies could not provide estimates, citing lack of access. Children accounted for approximately 60 percent of persons displaced in camps.

Government restrictions, harassment, and the threat of expulsion resulted in continued interruption of gender-based violence programming. Reporting and outreach were limited (see section 5). Some UN agencies were able to work with the Darfur governor’s advisers on women and children to raise awareness of gender-based violence and response efforts.

There were numerous reports of abuse committed by government security forces, rebels, and armed groups against IDPs in Darfur, including rapes and beatings (see section 1.g.).

Outside IDP camps and towns, insecurity restricted freedom of movement; women and girls who left the towns and camps risked sexual violence. Insecurity within IDP camps also was a problem. The government provided little assistance or protection to IDPs in Darfur. Most IDP camps had no functioning police force. International observers noted criminal gangs aligned with rebel groups operated openly in several IDP camps.

As in previous years, the government did not establish formal IDP or refugee camps in Khartoum or the Two Areas.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

UNHCR reported more than 927,000 refugees and asylum seekers in the country. The government’s Commission for Refugees estimated the total refugee population could be as high as 1.3 million persons, because a large number of potential refugees and asylum seekers remained unregistered. UNHCR reported there were countless South Sudanese in the country who were unregistered and at risk of statelessness.

Approximately 4,200 refugees from Chad and 5,100 refugees from the Central African Republic lived in Darfur. New Eritrean refugees entering eastern Sudan often stayed in camps for two to three months before moving to Khartoum, other parts of the country, or on to Libya in an effort to reach Europe. In eastern Sudan, UNHCR estimated there were 131,000 refugees from Eritrea and Ethiopia. According to UNHCR an average of 500 to 1,000 new asylum seekers arrived each month in eastern Sudan, but over 70 percent migrated onward. The government has eased international humanitarian NGOs’ access to eastern Sudan, as it did throughout the country.

During the year UNHCR and the government amended the official South Sudanese refugee statistics to include South Sudanese living in Sudan before December 2013. UNHCR estimated that 768,819 South Sudanese refugees were in Sudan. The government claimed that there were between 2 and 3 million South Sudanese refugees in Sudan. Many South Sudanese refugees arrived in remote areas with minimal public infrastructure and where humanitarian organizations and resources were limited.

According to UNHCR, Khartoum hosted an estimated 285,000 South Sudanese refugees, including 47,000 refugees who lived in nine settlements known as “open areas” until August. A December 2017 joint government and UN assessment of the open areas indicated gaps in protection, livelihood, shelter, health, and education services.

Sudan’s and South Sudan’s “four freedoms” agreement provides their citizens reciprocal freedom of residence, movement, economic activity, and property ownership, but was not fully implemented. The government stated that, because South Sudanese are recognized as refugees (since 2016), their rights were governed by the Asylum Act, justifying a lack of implementation of the four freedoms. Implementation also varied by state in each country. For example, South Sudanese in East Darfur had more flexibility to move around (so long as they were far away from the nearest village) than did those in White Nile State. Recognition as refugees allowed South Sudanese to receive more services from UNHCR. At the state level, however, governments still referred to them as “brothers and sisters.”

Refoulement: The country is a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and generally respected the principle of nonrefoulement with a few notable exceptions. With UNHCR’s assistance authorities were trained on referral procedures to prevent refoulement, including of refugees who previously registered in other countries. There were no reported cases of refoulement during the year; however, individuals who were deported as illegal migrants may have had legitimate claims to asylum and/or refugee status.

Access to Asylum: The law requires asylum applications to be nominally submitted within 30 days of arrival in the country. This time stipulation was not strictly enforced. The law also requires asylum seekers to register both as refugees with the Commission for Refugees and as foreigners with the Civil Registry (to obtain a “foreign” number).

The government granted asylum to many asylum seekers, particularly from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Syria; it sometimes considered individuals registered as asylum seekers or refugees in another country, mostly in Ethiopia, to be irregular movers or migrants. Government officials routinely took up to three months to approve individual refugee and asylum status, but they worked with UNHCR to implement quicker status determination procedures in eastern Sudan and Darfur to reduce the case backlog.

Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011, more than 12,500 Syrians have registered with UNHCR. Government sources, however, claimed that there were 106,000 Syrians in the country. The government waived regular entry visa requirements for Yemenis. As of September more than 3,200 Yemeni refugees had registered in the country.

Freedom of Movement: The country maintained a reservation on Article 26 of the UN Convention on Refugees of 1951 regarding refugees’ right to move freely and choose their place of residence within a country. The government’s encampment policy requires asylum seekers and refugees to stay in designated camps; however, 76 percent of South Sudanese refugees (the great majority of refugees in the country) lived with the local community in urban and rural areas. The government continued to push for the relocation of South Sudanese refugees living outside of Khartoum city to the While Nile state refugee camps. UNHCR notified the government that relocations must be voluntary and dignified. By year’s end the government had yet to relocate South Sudanese refugees to camps. The government allowed the establishment of two refugee camps in East Darfur and nine refugee camps in White Nile for South Sudanese refugees.

Refugees who left camps without permission and were intercepted by authorities faced administrative fines and return to the camp. Refugees and asylum seekers in urban areas, excluding Egyptians, Syrians, Yemenis, Iraqis, and Palestinians, were also subject to arrest. On average 150-200 refugees and asylum seekers were detained in Khartoum each month and assisted with legal aid by the joint UNHCR and Commission for Refugees legal team.

Employment: The government in principle allows refugees to work informally, but rarely granted work permits (even to refugees who obtained degrees in the country). A UNHCR agreement with the Commission for Refugees to issue more than 1,000 work permits to selected refugees for a livelihood graduation program implemented in Kassala and Gadaref was, due NISS suspension of the granting of permits, only 27 work permits were issued during the year, compared with 25 in 2016.

Some refugees in eastern states found informal work as agricultural workers or laborers in towns. Some women in camps reportedly resorted to illegal production of alcohol and were harassed or arrested by police. In urban centers the majority of refugees worked in the informal sector (for example, as tea sellers, house cleaners, and drivers), leaving them at heightened risk of arrest, exploitation, and abuse.

Temporary Protection: The government generally provided first asylum/temporary protection to individuals who might not qualify as refugees.

Suriname

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press. While there are no formal restrictions on the press, actions by government and nongovernment actors impeded the ability of the independent media to conduct their work.

Press and Media Freedom: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without formal restriction. Multiple media outlets published materials critical of the government. Ownership affiliations, either pro- or antigovernment, influenced the overall tone of reporting.

Agents of the government used state media, particularly the state-run radio station, as a tool to criticize and attack those with views opposing the government. In certain instances the attacks directly threatened democracy and rule of law.

Violence and Harassment: Journalists reported intimidation by government and nongovernment actors. To protect the identity of journalists, two of four leading daily newspapers intermittently printed only the initials of writers instead of their full names. Another newspaper printed articles without an author’s name.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Media members reported continued self-censorship in response to alleged pressure from government officials or government-affiliated entities on journalists who published negative stories about the administration. Nonetheless, the press carried articles critical of the government on a daily basis. Additionally, many news outlets retained affiliations with particular political parties that could bias reporting.

The generally low wages for journalists made them vulnerable to bias and influence, which further jeopardized the credibility of reporting. Independent media faced competition for qualified journalists. The government’s media office, as well as the private sector, hired jounalists away from independent media outlets, offering them higher wages. This practice made it difficult for independent media to retain qualified staff and impeded their ability to report adequately on government activities.

In May the Suriname Association of Journalists expressed its concerns about the centralization of information by the government, which limited the press in its ability freely and independently to gather news. Following the introduction of the centralized system in 2017, government officials and entities avoided direct contact with the press.

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported the selective awarding of advertising by the government.

Libel/Slander Laws: The country’s criminal defamation laws carry harsh penalties, with prison terms between three months and seven years. The harshest penalty is for expressing public enmity, hatred, or contempt towards the government. There were no reports of cases involving defamation during the year.

INTERNET FREEDOM

There were no government restrictions on access to the internet, and the government asserted that it did not monitor private online communications without appropriate legal oversight. Nevertheless, journalists, members of the political opposition and their supporters, and other independent entities perceived government interference or oversight of email and social media accounts.

Internet access was common and widely available in the major cities but less common in remote areas, with limited bandwidth and often limited or no access to electricity. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 49 percent of citizens used the internet in 2017.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

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

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

In contrast with 2017, there were no violations of the freedom to peaceful assembly during the year.

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

The constitution provides 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) in providing protection and assistance to refugees and asylum seekers.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

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. The country relies on UNHCR to assign refugee or asylum seeker status. Once status is confirmed, refugees or asylum seekers obtain residency permits under the alien legislation law.

The Red Cross Suriname was the local point of contact for those filing for refugee status with UNHCR.

In March the Ministry of Justice and Police passed a resolution that sets forth procedures for the formal processing of aliens filing for protective or refugee status and formalizes cooperation with the Red Cross as the UNHCR representative.

STATELESS PERSONS

A 2014 amendment to the Citizenship and Residency Law grants citizenship through place of birth to a child who is born in the country to non-Surinamese parents, but it does not automatically confer citizenship of one of the parents. The amended law aims to eliminate the possibility of statelessness among children but does not apply retroactively, so a person born before September 2014 continues to be subject to the previous citizenship rules. Thus, children born before September 2014 in undocumented Brazilian-national mining communities or to foreign women in prostitution become eligible to apply for citizenship only at the age of 18.

While officially the government does not limit services such as education to stateless children, the bureaucratic requirements of registering children for these services proved obstacles to obtaining services.

Sweden

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

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

Freedom of Expression: The law criminalizes expression considered to be hate speech and prohibits threats or statements of contempt for a group or member of a group based on race, color, national or ethnic origin, religious belief, or sexual orientation. Penalties for hate speech range from fines to a maximum of four years in prison. In addition the country’s courts have held that it is illegal to wear xenophobic symbols or racist paraphernalia or to display signs and banners with inflammatory symbols at rallies.

Press and Media Freedom: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction. The law criminalizing hate speech applies as well to print and broadcast media, the publication of books, and online newspapers and journals.

Nongovernmental Impact: Journalists were subjected to harassment and intimidation. In August a member of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) was arrested and charged with planning to murder two journalists. In September the man was sentenced to two and one-half years in prison. Utgivarna, an industry group representing major Swedish publishers, reported a general increase in threats to Swedish journalists during 2017 by criminal gangs, ISIS fighters, right-wing extremists, and other groups.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. According to data from the International Telecommunication Union, 96 percent of the population used the internet in 2017.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

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

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

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

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, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Police reported several fires involving housing facilities or planned housing facilities for asylum seekers by suspected arsonists.

A report published on September 12 by UN Women found that the benefits system does not cover survivors of violence against women who are not legally resident in the country, and most shelters are not allowed to house survivors from this group. Hospital emergency rooms may treat the survivors. Private shelters may also accept illegal migrants, but may incur legal liability for hiding and housing an illegal migrant.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

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. Applicants may appeal unfavorable asylum decisions.

Asylum seekers who have been denied residence are not entitled to asylum housing or a daily allowance, though many municipalities continued to support rejected asylum seekers through the social welfare system at the local level. The Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner criticized the government over delays in the appointment of guardians for unaccompanied minor refugees and in processing of asylum applications from unaccompanied minors.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: In accordance with EU regulations, the government denied asylum to persons who had previously registered in another EU member state or in countries with which Sweden maintained reciprocal return agreements.

Durable Solutions: The government assisted in the voluntary return of rejected asylum seekers to their homes and authorized financial support for their repatriation in the amount of 30,000 kronor ($3,450) per adult and 15,000 kronor ($1,700) per child, with a maximum of 75,000 kronor ($8,600) per family. The country also participated in the European Reintegration Network that offers support for reintegration for returning rejected asylum seekers.

Temporary Protection: The government also provided various forms of temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees. In 2017 it provided temporary protection to 1,091 persons.

STATELESS PERSONS

According to UNHCR there were 35,101 stateless persons in the country in December 2017. The large number of stateless persons was due to the influx of migrants and refugees and the birth of children to stateless parents who remained stateless until either one parent acquired citizenship or a special application for citizenship (available for stateless children under the age of five) was made. Most stateless persons came from the Middle East (Gaza and the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq) and Somalia.

Stateless persons who were granted permanent residence could obtain citizenship through the same naturalization process as other permanent residents. Gaining citizenship generally took four to eight years, depending on the individual’s grounds for residency, ability to establish identity, and lack of a criminal record.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future