An official website of the United States Government Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Afghanistan

Executive Summary

Afghanistan is an Islamic republic with a directly elected president, a bicameral legislative branch, and a judicial branch. Based on the electoral calendar specified in the constitution, parliamentary elections were to have taken place in 2015; however, these elections were not held by year’s end.

Civilian authorities generally maintained control over the security forces, although security forces occasionally acted independently.

The most significant human rights issues included extrajudicial killings by security forces; disappearances, torture; arbitrary arrest; detention, including of women accused of so-called moral crimes; and sexual abuse of children by security force members. Additional problems included violence against journalists, criminalization of defamation; pervasive government corruption; and lack of accountability and investigation in cases of violence against women. Discrimination against persons with disabilities and ethnic minorities and discrimination based on race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation persisted with little accountability.

Widespread disregard for the rule of law and official impunity for those who committed human rights abuses were serious problems. The government did not consistently or effectively prosecute abuses by officials, including security forces.

There were major attacks on civilians by armed insurgent groups and targeted assassinations by armed insurgent groups of persons affiliated with the government. The Taliban and other insurgents continued to kill security force personnel and civilians using indiscriminate tactics such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs), suicide attacks, and rocket attacks, and to commit disappearances and torture. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) attributed 67 percent of civilian casualties (1,141 deaths and 3,574 injured) to nonstate actors. The Taliban used children as suicide bombers, soldiers, and weapons carriers. Other antigovernment elements threatened, robbed, kidnapped, and attacked government workers, foreigners, medical and nongovernmental organization (NGO) workers, and other civilians.

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

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

There were several reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. From January 1 to June 30, UNAMA reported an overall increase in civilian deaths over the same period for 2016, from 1,637 to 1,662. The number of civilians killed by progovernment forces, however, decreased from 396 to 327. The number of civilian casualties decreased from 5,267 to 5,243.

According to UNAMA, in January Afghan National Police (ANP) in Nesh district, Kandahar Province, beat three young men to death because police believed they were supporters of antigovernment forces. There were numerous allegations of deaths resulting from torture, particularly in Kandahar Province. Although the government investigated and prosecuted some cases of extrajudicial killing, an overall lack of accountability for security force abuses remained a problem.

There were numerous reports of politically motivated killings or injuries by the Taliban, ISIS-Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), and other insurgent groups. UNAMA reported 1,141 civilian deaths due to antigovernment and terrorist forces in the first six months of the year. These groups caused 67 percent of total civilian casualties, a 12 percent increase from 2016. On May 31, antigovernment forces injured more than 500 civilians and killed an additional 150 in a vehicle-borne IED attack against civilians during rush hour on a busy street in Kabul.

b. Disappearance

There were reports of disappearances committed by security forces and antigovernment forces alike.

UNAMA, in its April 24 Report on the Treatment of Conflict-Related Detainees, reported multiple allegations of disappearances by the ANP in Kandahar.

On February 8, an armed group abducted two International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) aid workers in Qush Tepah district, Jowzjan Province, during which six other ICRC staff were killed. In September the two aid workers were released.

In March an Australian aid worker, kidnapped in Kabul in November 2016, was released after five months in captivity. Two professors, working for the American University of Afghanistan and kidnapped by the Taliban in August 2016, were still in captivity.

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

Although the constitution and law prohibit such practices, there were numerous reports that government officials, security forces, detention center authorities, and police committed abuses.

NGOs reported security forces continued to use excessive force, including torturing and beating civilians. On April 22, the government approved a new Anti-Torture Law, which expands the previous prohibition on torture contained in the original penal code. The new law, however, applies only to torture committed in the context of the criminal justice system and does not clearly extend to torture committed by military or other security forces.

UNAMA, in its April 24 Report on the Treatment of Conflict-Related Detainees, cited multiple reports of torture and other abuse committed by security forces, most frequently after the initial arrest, during interrogation, and with the purpose of eliciting confessions. The UNAMA report noted a high concentration of torture and abuse by police in Kandahar Province. Of the 469 National Directorate for Security (NDS), ANP, and Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) detainees interviewed, 39 percent reported torture or other abuse. Types of abuse included severe beatings, electric shocks, prolonged suspension by the arms, suffocation, wrenching of testicles, burns by cigarette lighters, sleep deprivation, sexual assault, and threats of execution.

In November 2016, First Vice President General Abdul Rashid Dostum allegedly kidnapped Uzbek tribal elder and political rival Ahmad Ishchi. Before detaining Ishchi, Dostum let his bodyguards brutally beat him. After several days in detention, Ishchi alleged he was beaten, tortured, and raped by Dostum and his men. On August 14, Balkh Governor Atta Mohammed Noor allegedly attempted to arrest his political rival Asif Mohmand. The ensuing shootout resulted in three deaths and 13 persons injured. There were reports that Atta and his sons then detained and beat Mohmand and bit off a piece of his ear. The Attorney General’s Office opened investigations into both of the cases. As of September 16, there was no progress on either case, and both Dostum and Atta remained free. Dostum was no longer in the country, and he had not been allowed to exercise his duties as first vice president pending resolution of the legal charges against him.

There were numerous reports of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment by the Taliban and other antigovernment groups. In March the Taliban in northern Badakhshan Province stoned a woman to death for suspected “zina” (extramarital sex). There were other reports of the Taliban cutting off the hands and feet of suspected criminals.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were difficult due to overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and limited access to medical services. The General Directorate of Prisons and Detention Centers (GDPDC), part of the Ministry of Interior, has responsibility for all civilian-run prisons (for both men and women) and civilian detention centers, including the large national prison complex at Pul-e Charkhi. The Ministry of Justice’s Juvenile Rehabilitation Directorate is responsible for all juvenile rehabilitation centers. The NDS operates short-term detention facilities at the provincial and district levels, usually collocated with their headquarters facilities. The Ministry of Defense runs the Afghan National Detention Facilities at Parwan. There were reports of private prisons run by members of the ANDSF and used for abuse of detainees.

Physical Conditions: Media and other sources continued to report inadequacies in food and water and poor sanitation facilities in prisons. Some observers, however, found food and water to be sufficient at GDPDC prisons. Nevertheless, the GDPDC’s nationwide program to feed prisoners faced a severely limited budget, and many prisoners relied on family members to provide food supplements and other necessary items.

Authorities generally lacked the facilities to separate pretrial and convicted inmates or to separate juveniles according to the seriousness of the charges against them. There were reports the Parwan detention facility held 145 children for security-related offenses separate from the general population. Local prisons and detention centers did not always have separate facilities for female prisoners.

Overcrowding in prisons continued to be a serious, widespread problem. Based on standards recommended by the ICRC, 28 of 34 provincial prisons for men were severely overcrowded. The country’s largest prison, Pul-e Charkhi, held 11,527 prisoners, detainees, and children of incarcerated mothers as of June, which was more than double the number it was designed to hold. UNAMA found no reports of torture within the Ministry of Interior prison system. In April, 500 prisoners at Pul-e Charkhi carried out a multiday hunger strike to protest the administration of their court cases and insufficient food and medical care at the prison.

Access to food, potable water, sanitation, heating, ventilation, lighting, and medical care in prisons varied throughout the country and was generally inadequate. In November the local NGO Integrity Watch Afghanistan reported that Wardak Prison had no guaranteed source of clean drinking water and that prisoners in Pol-e Charkhi, Baghlan, and Wardak had limited access to food, with prisoners’ families also providing food to make up the gap.

Administration: The law provides prisoners with the right to leave prison for up to 20 days for family visits. Most prisons did not implement this provision, and the law is unclear in its application to different classes of prisoners.

There were reports of abuse and mistreatment by prison officials. On August 20, Takhar prison guards and police allegedly used clubs to beat 15 female inmates during a protest where approximately 60 women protested their continued imprisonment, despite promises of amnesty made by the government. The Attorney General’s Office investigated the allegations and recommended criminal charges against three guards for the alleged beating.

Independent Monitoring: The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), UNAMA, and the ICRC monitored the NDS, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Justice, and Ministry of Defense detention facilities. NATO Mission Resolute Support monitored the NDS, ANP, and Defense Ministry facilities. Security constraints and obstruction by authorities occasionally prevented visits to some places of detention. UNAMA and the AIHRC reported difficulty accessing NDS places of detention when they arrived unannounced. The AIHRC reported NDS officials usually required the AIHRC to submit a formal letter requesting access at least one to two days in advance of a visit. NDS officials continued to prohibit AIHRC and UNAMA monitors from bringing cameras, mobile phones, recording devices, or computers into NDS facilities, thereby preventing AIHRC monitors from properly documenting physical evidence of abuse, such as bruises, scars, and other injuries. The NDS assigned a colonel to monitor human rights conditions in its facilities.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but both remained serious problems. Authorities detained many citizens without respecting essential procedural protections. According to NGOs, law enforcement officers continued to detain citizens arbitrarily without clear legal authority or due process. Local law enforcement officials reportedly detained persons illegally on charges not provided for in the penal code. In some cases authorities wrongfully imprisoned women because they deemed it unsafe for the women to return home or because women’s shelters were not available to provide protection in the provinces or districts at issue (see section 6, Women). The law provides a defendant the right to object to his or her pretrial detention and receive a court hearing on the matter, but authorities generally did not observe this requirement.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

Three ministries have responsibility for law enforcement and maintenance of order in the country: the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Defense, and the NDS. The ANP, under the Interior Ministry, has primary responsibility for internal order and for the Afghan Local Police (ALP), a community-based self-defense force. The Afghan National Army, under the Ministry of Defense, is responsible for external security, but its primary activity is fighting the insurgency internally. The NDS functions as an intelligence agency and has responsibility for investigating criminal cases concerning national security. The investigative branch of the NDS operated a facility in Kabul, where it held national security prisoners awaiting trial until their cases went to prosecution. Some areas were outside of government control, and antigovernment forces, including the Taliban, oversaw their own justice and security systems.

There were reports of impunity and lack of accountability by security forces throughout the year. According to observers, ALP and ANP personnel were largely unaware of their responsibilities and defendants’ rights under the law. Accountability of NDS, ANP, and ALP officials for torture and abuse was weak, not transparent, and rarely enforced. Independent judicial or external oversight of the NDS, ANP, and ALP in the investigation and prosecution of crimes or misconduct, including torture and abuse, was limited or nonexistent.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

UNAMA, the AIHRC, and other observers reported arbitrary and prolonged detention frequently occurred throughout the country. Authorities often did not inform detainees of the charges against them.

The law provides for access to legal counsel and the use of warrants, and it limits how long authorities may hold detainees without charge. Police have the right to detain a suspect for 72 hours to complete a preliminary investigation. If police decide to pursue a case, they transfer the file to the Attorney General’s Office. With court approval, the investigating prosecutor may continue to detain a suspect while continuing the investigation, with the length of continued detention depending on the severity of the offense. The investigating prosecutor may detain a suspect for a maximum of 10 additional days for a petty crime, 27 days for a misdemeanor, and 75 days for a felony. The prosecutor must file an indictment or release the suspect within those deadlines; there can be no further extension of the investigatory period if the defendant is already in detention. Prosecutors often ignored these limits. Incommunicado imprisonment remained a problem, and prompt access to a lawyer was rare. Prisoners generally were able to receive family visits.

The criminal procedure code provides for release on bail. Authorities at times continued to detain defendants who had been acquitted by the courts on the grounds that defendants who were released pending the prosecution’s appeal often disappeared. In other cases authorities did not rearrest defendants they released pending the outcome of an appeal, even after the appellate court convicted them in absentia.

According to international monitors, prosecutors filed indictments in cases transferred to them by police, even where there was a reasonable belief no crime occurred.

According to the juvenile code, the arrest of a child “should be a matter of last resort and should last for the shortest possible period.” Reports indicated children in juvenile rehabilitation centers across the country lacked access to adequate food, health care, and education. Detained children frequently did not receive the presumption of innocence, the right to know the charges against them, access to defense lawyers, and protection from self-incrimination. The law provides for the creation of special juvenile police, prosecution offices, and courts. Due to limited resources, special juvenile courts functioned in only six provinces (Kabul, Herat, Balkh, Kandahar, Nangarhar, and Kunduz). Elsewhere, children’s cases went to ordinary courts. The law mandates authorities handle children’s cases confidentially.

Some children in the criminal justice system were victims rather than perpetrators of crime. In the absence of sufficient shelters for boys, authorities detained abused boys and placed them in juvenile rehabilitation centers because they could not return to their families and shelter elsewhere was unavailable.

Police and legal officials often charged women with intent to commit zina to justify their arrest and incarceration for social offenses, such as running away from home, rejecting a spouse chosen by her family, fleeing domestic violence or rape, or eloping. The constitution provides that in cases not explicitly covered by the provisions of the constitution or other laws, courts may, in accordance with Hanafi jurisprudence (a school of Islamic law) and within the limits set by the constitution, rule in a manner that best attains justice in the case. Although observers stated this provision was widely understood to apply only to civil cases, many judges and prosecutors applied this provision to criminal matters. Observers reported officials used this article to charge women and men with “immorality” or “running away from home,” neither of which is a crime. Police often detained women for zina at the request of family members.

Authorities imprisoned some women for reporting crimes perpetrated against them and detained some as proxies for a husband or male relative convicted of a crime on the assumption the suspect would turn himself in to free the family member.

Authorities placed some women in protective custody to prevent violence by family members. They also employed protective custody (including placement in a detention center) for women who had experienced domestic violence, if no shelters were available to protect them from further abuse. The Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) presidential decree–commonly referred to as the EVAW law–obliges police to arrest persons who abuse women. Implementation and awareness of the EVAW law was limited, however.

Arbitrary Arrest: Arbitrary arrest and detention remained a problem in most provinces. Observers reported some prosecutors and police detained individuals without charge for actions that were not crimes under the law, in part because the judicial system was inadequate to process detainees in a timely fashion. Observers continued to report those detained for moral crimes were almost exclusively women.

Pretrial Detention: The law provides a defendant the right to object to his or her pretrial detention and receive a court hearing on the matter. Nevertheless, lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem. Many detainees did not benefit from the provisions of the criminal procedure code because of a lack of resources, limited numbers of defense attorneys, unskilled legal practitioners, and corruption. The law provides that, if there is no completed investigation or filed indictment within the code’s 10-, 27-, or 75-day deadlines, the defendant must be released. Many detainees, however, were held beyond those periods, despite the lack of an indictment.

Amnesty: In September 2016 the government concluded a peace accord with the Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) group, which granted its leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, amnesty for past war crimes and human rights abuses. In May, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar returned to Kabul for the first time in 20 years. The deal also included the release of HIG political detainees.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, but the judiciary continued to be underfunded, understaffed, inadequately trained, largely ineffective, and subject to threats, bias, political influence, and pervasive corruption.

Judicial officials, prosecutors, and defense attorneys were often intimidated or corrupt. Bribery and pressure from public officials, tribal leaders, families of accused persons, and individuals associated with the insurgency impaired judicial impartiality. Most courts administered justice unevenly, employing a mixture of codified law, sharia, and local custom. Traditional justice mechanisms remained the main recourse for many, especially in rural areas. Corruption was common within the judiciary, and often criminals paid bribes to obtain their release or a reduction in sentence (see section 4).

The formal justice system was stronger in urban centers, closer to the central government, and weaker in rural areas. Courts and police forces continued to operate at less than full strength nationwide. The judicial system continued to lack the capacity to absorb and implement the large volume of new and amended legislation. A lack of qualified judicial personnel hindered the courts. Some municipal and provincial authorities, including judges, had minimal training and often based their judgments on their personal understanding of sharia without appropriate reference to statutory law, tribal codes of honor, or local custom. The number of judges who graduated from law school continued to increase. Access to legal codes and statutes increased, but their limited availability continued to hinder some judges and prosecutors.

In March, TOLO News reported that an attorney working on the Farkhunda case called on President Ghani to review the murder case, citing failure to investigate the case properly. In March 2016 President Ghani established an investigatory committee to look into Farkhunda’s case after the Supreme Court’s decision to reduce the sentences of the perpetrators. As of year’s end, there were no results from that committee.

There was a widespread shortage of judges, primarily in insecure areas. During the year the judiciary attempted to send new female judges to insecure provinces without adequate provisions for security. The new female judges protested, and as of September 16, the judiciary relented and agreed to send the female judges to other, more secure provinces.

In major cities courts continued to decide criminal cases as mandated by law. Authorities frequently resolved civil cases using the informal system or, in some cases, through negotiations between the parties facilitated by judicial personnel or private lawyers. Because the formal legal system often was not present in rural areas, local elders and shuras (consultative gatherings, usually of men selected by the community) were the primary means of settling both criminal matters and civil disputes. They also imposed punishments without regard to the formal legal system.

In some areas the Taliban enforced a parallel judicial system based on a strict interpretation of sharia. Punishments included execution and mutilation. On March 13, the Taliban cut off a 15-year-old’s hand and foot in the western province of Herat for the alleged theft of a motorcycle.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides the right to a fair and public trial, but the judiciary rarely enforced this provision. The administration and implementation of justice varied in different areas of the country. The government formally uses an inquisitorial legal system. By law all citizens are entitled to a presumption of innocence, and those accused have the right to be present at trial and to appeal, although the judiciary did not always respect these rights. Some provinces held public trials, but this was not the norm.

Three-judge panels decide criminal trials, and there is no right to a jury trial under the constitution. Prosecutors rarely informed defendants promptly or in detail of the charges brought against them. Indigent defendants have the right to consult with an advocate or counsel at public expense when resources allow. The judiciary applied this right inconsistently, in large part due to a severe shortage of defense lawyers. Citizens were often unaware of their constitutional rights. Defendants and attorneys are entitled to examine physical evidence and documents related to a case before trial, although observers noted court documents often were not available for review before cases went to trial, despite defense lawyers’ requests.

Criminal defense attorneys reported justice system officials slowly demonstrated increased respect and tolerance for the role of defense lawyers in criminal trials, but at times defendants’ attorneys experienced abuse and threats from prosecutors and other law enforcement officials.

The criminal procedure code establishes time limits for the completion of each stage of a criminal case, from investigation through final appeal, when an accused is in custody. The code also permits temporary release of the accused on bail, but this was rarely honored. An addendum to the code provides for extended custodial limits in cases involving crimes committed against the internal and external security of the country. Courts at the Justice Center in Parwan elected to utilize the extended time periods. If the deadlines are not met, the law requires the accused be released from custody. In many cases courts did not meet these deadlines, but detainees nevertheless remained in custody.

In cases where no clearly defined legal statute applied, or where judges, prosecutors, or elders were unaware of the statutory law, judges and informal shuras enforced customary law. This practice often resulted in outcomes that discriminated against women.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports the government held political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Corruption and limited capacity restricted citizen access to justice for constitutional and human rights violations. Citizens submit complaints of human rights violations to the AIHRC, which reviews and submits credible complaints to the Attorney General’s Office for further investigation and prosecution.

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

The law prohibits arbitrary interference in matters of privacy, but authorities did not always respect its provisions. The criminal procedure code contains additional safeguards for the privacy of the home, prohibiting night arrests and strengthening requirements for body searches. The government did not always respect these prohibitions.

Government officials continued to enter homes and businesses of civilians forcibly and without legal authorization. There were reports that government officials monitored private communications, including telephone calls and other digital communications, without legal authority or judicial warrant.

Residents of Baghlan Province reported the Taliban commandeered civilian homes without permission to use as bases to plan and stage attacks against government forces.

g. Abuses in Internal Conflict

Continuing internal conflict resulted in civilian deaths, abductions, prisoner abuse, property damage, displacement of residents, and other abuses. The security situation remained a problem due to insurgent attacks. Terrorist groups caused the vast majority of civilian deaths.

Killings: During the first half of the year, UNAMA counted 1,662 civilian deaths due to conflict, an increase of 2 percent from the first half of 2016. UNAMA noted an increase of women and child deaths due to more indiscriminate IED attacks by antigovernment forces in urban centers, including the country’s capital of Kabul. UNAMA attributed 67 percent of civilian casualties to antigovernment forces, including the Taliban and ISIS, and 18 percent to progovernment forces. The AIHRC, in its annual report of civilian casualties, reported 2,823 civilians killed from March 2016 to March 2017. On August 5, ISIS-K and the Taliban attacked a Shia village in Sayyad district of Sar-e-Pul Province and killed more than 40 civilians. UNAMA noted the majority of civilian casualties resulted from deliberate attacks by antigovernment forces against civilians.

UNAMA documented an increase in attacks by antigovernment forces against religious leaders from only two incidents in 2016 to 11 in the first six months of 2017. On August 1, ISIS-K bombed a Shia mosque in Herat, killing 29 civilians, and on August 25, suicide attackers stormed a Shia mosque in Kabul during Friday Prayer, killing at least 20 individuals and injuring dozens.

The increase in complex suicide attacks was evidenced by repeated attacks in Kabul. On January 10, a Taliban suicide attack in Kabul killed more than 30 individuals and injured some 70 others, as twin blasts hit a crowded area of the city during the afternoon rush hour. On May 31, a truck bomb exploded, killing 150 and injuring 500 outside the German embassy in Kabul. While no group claimed responsibility, protesters took to the streets on June 2, accusing government officials of cooperating with terrorists. Police shot and killed five protesters, including Salem Izidyar, the eldest son of Deputy Speaker of the Senate Alam Izidyar. At Izidyar’s funeral three suicide bombers struck on foot, killing at least a dozen persons.

Antigovernment elements continued to attack religious leaders who they concluded spoke against the insurgency or the Taliban. On September 9, Taliban gunmen on motorcycles in the Kohestan district of Kapisa Province killed Mawlawi Gul Mohammad Hanifyar, head of the Kapisa Ulema Council. The Kapisa police chief reported the arrest of five suspects in the case. According to UNAMA’s statistics, this was the 12th targeted assassination of a religious leader by the Taliban or other antigovernment forces during the year, more than double the number in 2016.

Antigovernment elements also continued to target government officials and entities throughout the country. On January 10, an explosion killed 12 individuals, including Kandahar’s deputy governor, Abdul Ali Shamsi, and Afghan diplomat, Yama Quraishi, at a guesthouse on Kandahar governor Humayun Azizi’s compound. Injured in the attack were 14 individuals, including United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to Afghanistan, Mohammed Abdullah al-Kaabi, who later died from his injuries.

Abductions: UNAMA documented 131 cases of conflict-related abductions and 467 abducted civilians in the first six months of the year, a decrease from more than 1,100 abducted civilians in the same period in 2016. On or around August 31, the Taliban abducted three government employees in western Herat Province, where reports noted an increase in abductions for ransom. The bodies of the three were found 20 days later.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: According to some reports, in February a group of Uzbek elders from Takhar Province alleged abuses of the local population by local commander and former parliamentarian Piram Qul. They claimed that in addition to having killed popular Takhar Provincial Council member Ainuddin Rustaqi in April 2016, Piram Qul’s men killed four local police officers during the year and continued to torture detainees and jail residents in extrajudicial prisons. They complained that Piram Qul received government support for his leadership of a “people’s uprising group”–a progovernment militia.

Antigovernment elements continued to punish civilians. In February, Taliban members killed four civilians at a wedding party in the Sar Hakwza district of Paktika Province, accusing them of cooperating with government officials.

Antigovernment groups regularly targeted civilian noncombatants and used indiscriminate IEDs to kill and maim civilians. Land mines, unexploded ordnance, and explosive remnants of war (ERW) continued to cause deaths and injuries. The ANP reported that unexploded ordnance (UXO) killed 140 individuals per month. Media regularly reported cases of children killed and injured after finding UXO. The Ministry of Education and NGOs continued to conduct educational programs and mine awareness campaigns throughout the country. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration provided mine risk education for refugee and undocumented returnees.

Between January 1 and June 30, child casualties from ERW increased by 12 percent compared with the same period in 2016, accounting for 81 percent of all civilian casualties caused by ERW in 2017. ERW caused 296 child casualties (81 deaths and 215 injured), making it the second-leading cause of child casualties in the first half of the year. In the same period, UNAMA documented 192 incidents of ERW detonation resulting in 365 civilian casualties (93 deaths and 272 injured), a 17 percent increase compared with the first half of 2015.

Child Soldiers: There were reports the ANDSF, particularly the ANP and ALP, and progovernment militias recruited children. The AIHRC reported that government security forces in Kandahar Province used child recruits. UNAMA documented the recruitment and use of 14 boys by security forces from January to June. The government continued to work towards the expansion of Child Protection Units to all 34 provinces. As of August there were 21 active units.

Under a government action plan, the ANP took steps that included training staff on age-assessment procedures, launching an awareness campaign on underage recruitment, investigating alleged cases of underage recruitment, and establishing centers in some provincial recruitment centers to document cases of attempted child enlistment. Recruits underwent an identity check, including an affidavit from at least two community elders that the recruit was at least 18 years old and eligible to join the ANDSF. The Ministries of Interior and Defense also issued directives meant to prevent the recruitment and sexual abuse of children by the ANDSF. Media reported in some cases ANDSF units used children as personal servants, support staff, or for sexual purposes.

According to AIHRC, the Taliban in Kandahar used children for front-line fighting and setting IEDs. The Ministry of Interior reported arresting 166 children for involvement in attacks against the government, with the largest contingent (28) recruited by ISIS-K in Nangarhar Province. UNAMA also documented the recruitment of 15 boys by antigovernment elements (11 by ISIS-K, three by the Taliban, and one by an unidentified armed group). In some cases the Taliban and other antigovernment elements used children as suicide bombers, human shields, and IED emplacers, particularly in southern provinces. Media, NGOs, and UN agencies reported the Taliban tricked children, promised them money, used false religious pretexts, or forced them to become suicide bombers.

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

Other Conflict-related Abuse: The security environment continued to have a negative effect on the ability of humanitarian organizations to operate freely in many parts of the country. Insurgents deliberately targeted government employees and aid workers. Violence and instability hampered development, relief, and reconstruction efforts. NGOs reported insurgents, powerful local individuals, and militia leaders demanded bribes to allow groups to bring relief supplies into the country and distribute them. Antigovernment elements increased their targeting of hospitals and aid workers compared with 2016. According to media reports, since the start of the year, 15 aid workers were killed and as many injured. During the first six months of 2017, UNAMA documented 32 incidents targeting health-care facilities and health-care workers, resulting in 58 civilian casualties (27 deaths and 31 injured) compared with 67 incidents during the same period in 2016 that caused 11 civilian casualties (five deaths and six injured). On March 8, ISIS-K attacked a military hospital in Kabul, killing 26 patients and hospital staff.

In the south and east, the Taliban and other antigovernment elements frequently forced local residents to provide food and shelter for their fighters. The Taliban also continued to attack schools, radio stations, and government offices. From June to August, armed groups forced dozens of health facilities to close temporarily in Laghman Province, north of Kabul, and in the western provinces of Farah and Badghis in an attempt to coerce nongovernmental organizations to improve service delivery for their combatants.

Angola

Executive Summary

Angola is a constitutional republic. On February 4, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos announced he would not seek re-election after 37 years in power. The government held presidential and legislative elections on August 23, which the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) won with 61 percent of the vote. On September 26, Joao Lourenco was inaugurated president for a five-year term.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life; cruel, excessive, and degrading punishment, including cases of torture and beatings; harsh and potentially life-threatening prison and detention conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; lack of due process and judicial inefficiency; forced evictions without compensation; limits on freedoms of assembly, association, speech, and press; official corruption and impunity; lack of effective accountability and prosecution in cases of rape and other violence against women and children; discrimination against indigenous San; and limits on workers’ rights.

The government took some steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses; however, accountability was weak due to a lack of checks and balances, lack of institutional capacity, a culture of impunity, and widespread government corruption.

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

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

There were reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. On December 7, human rights activist and journalist Rafael Marques de Morais released a report, “The Field of Death,” alleging Criminal Investigation Service (SIC) officers engaged in a campaign of extrajudicial killings of young men in Luanda from April 2016 through November 2017. According to Marques, many of the victims were accused of petty criminality or otherwise labeled as “undesirable” by residents of their respective communities. The report alleged the national police at times coordinated with SIC officers in the killings. On December 11, the public prosecutor announced the creation of a commission of inquiry to investigate the allegations.

Fifteen months after the August 2016 killing of 14-year-old Rufino Antonio during an Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) demolition operation of allegedly unauthorized housing, authorities arrested and charged an FAA soldier with Rufino’s death. The trial of the FAA soldier continued at year’s end.

At year’s end the Supreme Court had not rendered a decision on the appeal of the 28-year sentence imposed in April 2016 on Jose Kalupeteka, leader of the Light of the World religious sect, for the 2015 clashes between members of his group and police that left 13 civilians and nine police officers dead, according to official figures. There was no information on the status of the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) investigation into the August 2016 clashes between police and Light of the World followers in Kwanza Sul Province that reportedly resulted in the deaths of five church members and three police officers.

b. Disappearance

There were unconfirmed reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

For example, Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) representatives alleged that on June 28, MPLA party members kidnapped Adelino Joao Cassoma, a UNITA party member, tortured him, and threw him into the Cuango River in Lunda Norte Province. The MPLA accused UNITA of lying and concealing Cassoma’s whereabouts. On August 8, a man alleging to be Adelino Joao Cassoma appeared before the media to insist that he had not been kidnapped but had hidden in the forest for more than 20 days due to fear of political intolerance. UNITA claimed that the man was an imposter and that Cassoma remained missing. There was no additional information on the case at year’s end.

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

The constitution and law prohibit all forms of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, but the government did not always enforce these prohibitions. Periodic reports continued of beatings and other abuses of persons on the way to and in police stations during interrogations. The government acknowledged that at times members of the security forces used excessive force when apprehending individuals. Police authorities openly condemned some acts of violence or excessive force against individuals and asked that victims report abuses to the national police or the Office of the Public Defender (Ombudsman).

On September 16, police found Dias Casa Mbata dead in a police station in Luanda following his arrest the previous day. An autopsy revealed Mbata suffered three skull fractures, a broken arm, and multiple bruises. The Ministry of Interior opened an investigation into possible unlawful arrest and police brutality in the case.

Security forces reacted harshly and sometimes violently to public demonstrations against the government. The visible presence of security forces was enough to deter significantly what were deemed by the government to be unlawful demonstrations. Authorities claimed known agitators who sought only to create social instability organized many of the public demonstrations.

Unlike in previous years, there were no reports of abuses by private security companies in diamond producing regions.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions were harsh and potentially life threatening. Domestic NGOs, activists, and the media continued to highlight corruption, violence, overcrowding, a lack of medical care, and generally poor conditions.

Physical Conditions: In April 2016 Antonio Fortunato, director general of penitentiary services, acknowledged overcrowding in prisons was a serious problem.

Authorities frequently held pretrial detainees with sentenced inmates, and short-term detainees with those serving long-term sentences for violent crimes, especially in provincial prisons.

Prison conditions varied widely between urban and rural areas. Prisons in rural areas were less crowded and reportedly had better rehabilitation, training, and reintegration services. Prisons did not always provide adequate medical care, sanitation, potable water, or food, and it was customary for families to bring food to prisoners. Local NGOs stated prison services were insufficient. In 2015 Fortunato acknowledged that approximately five prisoners died each month in the country’s prisons from diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.

In 2016, while a prisoner inside the Viana jail, Bruno Marques took photographs that allegedly depicted the jail’s deplorable conditions and sick and malnourished prisoners. Newspaper Novo Jornal published the photographs in a September 2016 article, and there were reports that members of the Rapid Intervention Police and Special Prison Services Detachment tortured Marques while he was still a prisoner in response to the publication. On March 25, unknown assailants shot and beat Marques to death in a Luanda suburb. Police opened an investigation into the killing, which was pending at year’s end.

On July 20, the NGO Ame Naame Omunu denounced conditions in Peu Peu prison in Cunene Province. After receiving complaints from family members of deceased prisoners, the NGO contacted the municipal hospital, which confirmed the presence of nine deceased prisoners’ bodies in the hospital morgue. No information was available on causes of death. The NGO filed a letter of complaint with the provincial-level representative of the Ministry of Interior, but authorities conducted no official investigation.

Administration: The government investigated and monitored prison and detention center conditions.

Some offenders, including violent offenders, reported paying fines and bribes to secure their freedom, but it was unclear how prevalent this practice was.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits to prisons by independent local and international human rights observers and foreign diplomats. Nevertheless, civil society organizations faced difficulties in contacting detainees, and prison authorities undermined civil society work in the prisons.

Members of opposition parties visited prisons around the country on a regular basis and reported uneven improvements in living conditions and rehabilitation programs. A local NGO that provides pro bono legal services to inmates said prison officials were trying to improve conditions but overcrowding limited results. According to the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, ministry representatives made monthly visits to detention centers with representatives of the Office of the Public Defender, the PGR, and members of the National Assembly to assess prisoners’ living conditions.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, security forces did not always respect these prohibitions. The constitution provides the right of habeas corpus to citizens to challenge their detention before a court.

According to several NGO and civil society sources, police arbitrarily arrested individuals without due process and routinely detained persons who participated, or were about to participate, in antigovernment protests, despite this right being protected by the constitution. While they often released detainees after a few hours, police at times charged them with crimes.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The national police, controlled by the Ministry of Interior, are responsible for internal security and law enforcement. The SIC, also under the Ministry of Interior, are responsible for preventing and investigating domestic crimes. The Expatriate and Migration Services and the Border Guard Police, in the Ministry of Interior, are responsible for migration law enforcement. The state intelligence and security service reports to the presidency and investigates sensitive state security matters. The FAA are responsible for external security but also have domestic security responsibilities, including border security, expulsion of irregular migrants, and small-scale actions against Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda separatists in Cabinda.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the FAA and the national police, and the government has mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. The security forces generally were effective, although sometimes brutal, at maintaining stability. There were allegations during the year that the SIC committed extrajudicial killings, at times in coordination with the national police, to combat crime (see section 1.a.). The national police and FAA have internal mechanisms to investigate security force abuses, and the government provided some training to reform the security forces. Impunity for security force abuses remained a problem, however.

Local populations generally welcomed police presence in neighborhoods and on streets as enhancing general safety and security. Nevertheless, police routinely were believed to extort civilians to supplement their income. Corruption and impunity remained serious problems. The national police handled most complaints internally through opaque disciplinary procedures, which sometimes led to formal punishment, including dismissal. They participated in a television series designed to show a gamut of interactions between police and civilians. The goal of the show was to encourage the population to collaborate with police while discouraging security force members’ procurement of bribes or their payment. The national police also utilized social media to communicate with civilians. The PGR has an anticorruption unit, charged with oversight of police wrongdoing. The government disclosed publicly the results of some investigations that led to disciplinary action. For example, on October 3, the Zaire Military Court sentenced three police officers to between three and four years in prison for insubordination and facilitating illegal immigration in order to extort money from irregular migrants.

Police participated in professional training provided by national and international organizations that focused on human rights, combatting trafficking in persons, and law enforcement best practices during elections.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires a magistrate or judge to issue a warrant before an arrest may be made, although a person caught committing an offense may be arrested immediately without a warrant. Authorities, however, did not always procure warrants before making an arrest.

By law the public prosecutor must inform the detainee of the legal basis for his or her detention within 48 hours. NGO sources reported authorities often did not respect the law. If the public prosecutor is unable to determine whether there is a legal basis for the detention within 48 hours, the prosecutor has the authority to release the person or, depending on the seriousness of the case, require the person to submit to one or more pretrial procedures prescribed by law, such as posting bail, periodic appearance before authorities, or house arrest.

If the public prosecutor determines a legal basis exists for the detention, a person can be held in pretrial detention for up to four months without charge and up to 12 months before a judge is required to rule on the case. Cases of special complexity regarding crimes punishable by eight or more years allow for pretrial detention without charge for up to six months, and up to 14 months before a judge is required to rule on the case. By law the period of pretrial detention counts toward the total amount of time served.

The law states that all detainees have the right to a lawyer, either chosen by them or appointed by the government on a pro bono basis. The lack of lawyers in certain provinces at times impeded the right to a lawyer. There was an insufficient number to handle the volume of criminal cases, and the geographical distribution of lawyers was a problem, since most lawyers were concentrated in Luanda. During the year the Angolan Justice, Peace, and Democracy Association published a study, “Angola: Justice Sector, Human Rights and State Law,” which reported 1,528 accredited and 2,426 unaccredited (those who have yet to pass the bar exam) lawyers in the country. More than 80 percent of accredited and unaccredited lawyers resided in Luanda Province. In 2015 the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights reported that all municipal courts were staffed with licensed lawyers, but at the same time it recognized access to a lawyer, especially in the provinces and in rural areas, remained a problem. Several lawyers and NGOs noted that even in Luanda most poor defendants did not have access to lawyers during their first appearance before a judicial authority or during their trial. When a lawyer is unavailable, a judge may appoint a clerk of the court to represent the defendant, but clerks of the court often lacked the necessary training to provide an adequate defense.

The law allows family members prompt access to detainees, but prison officials occasionally ignored this right or made it conditional upon payment of a bribe. The law requires detainees be held incommunicado for up to 48 hours until being presented to a public prosecutor, except they may communicate with their lawyer or a family member.

A functioning but ineffective bail system, widely used for minor crimes, existed. Prisoners and their families reported that prison officials demanded bribes to release prisoners.

Arbitrary Arrest: Unlawful arrest and detention remained serious problems. According to the PGR, allegations of government wrongdoing on arrest practices made by local and international NGOs were due to a lack of understanding of national laws. For example, on April 17, police detained seven activists in the Cacuaco suburb of Luanda for holding a protest demanding transparent elections. The young men, charged with acts of rebellion and resisting arrest, received a sentence of 45 days’ imprisonment and a fine of 65,000 kwanzas ($382); authorities released them on June 9 after they had completed their sentence.

Pretrial Detention: Excessively long pretrial detention continued to be a serious problem. An inadequate number of judges and poor communication among authorities contributed to the problem. In some cases authorities held inmates in prison for up to two years before their trials began. The Ministry of Interior reported in 2016 that 11,000 inmates were pretrial detainees, approximately 45 percent of the total inmate population. The government often did not release detainees confined beyond the legal time limit, claiming previous releases of pretrial detainees had resulted in an increase in crime. During the year the provincial government of Cunene held twice-monthly court sessions inside the Peu Peu prison to alleviate lengthy pretrial detention.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: In June 2016 the Supreme Court granted a group of activists known as the “15+2” a writ of habeas corpus, ruling that following their March conviction and sentencing to between two and eight years in prison by the Luanda Provincial Court, the appeal lodged by their lawyers had a suspensive effect and required their release pending the outcome of their appeal. Judge Domingos Januario, the judge of first instance for the Luanda Provincial Court, was later accused of concealing the activists’ petition for habeas corpus from the Supreme Court. The attorney general launched an investigation of the judge’s handling of the case, which was pending at year’s end.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

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

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

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

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

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

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

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

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

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

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

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but the government did not always respect these prohibitions. Civil organizations and politically active individuals, including government critics, members of opposition parties, and journalists, complained the government maintained surveillance of their activities and membership. These groups also frequently complained of threats and harassment based on their affiliations with groups that were purportedly or explicitly antigovernment.

Armenia

Executive Summary

Armenia’s constitution provides for a republic with an elected head of state and a unicameral legislature, the National Assembly. According to a constitutional referendum conducted in 2015, the country is on track to transition to a parliamentary republic by the end of the existing presidential term in 2018. The Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) held a majority of seats in the National Assembly and, with President Serzh Sargsyan as leader, continued to dominate the country’s political scene. The country held parliamentary elections under the amended constitution on April 2. According to the report issued by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the elections “were well administered and fundamental freedoms were generally respected,” but they were tainted by credible reports of vote buying and pressure on civil servants and employees of private companies. This contributed to an overall lack of public confidence and trust in the elections. The OSCE described the 2013 presidential election as well administered but with shortcomings, including an uneven playing field, serious election-day violations, and concerns regarding the integrity of the electoral process. Similar flaws marred the 2015 constitutional referendum.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included: torture; harsh and life threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; lack of judicial independence; failure to provide fair trials; violence against journalists; interference in freedom of the media, using government legal authority to penalize critical content; physical interference by security forces with freedom of assembly; restrictions on political participation; systemic government corruption; failure to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons from violence; and worst forms of child labor, which the government made minimal efforts to eliminate.

The government conducted only cursory investigations into reports of abuses by officials. Law enforcement officers often committed abuses with impunity, at times under direct orders from law enforcement chiefs. Authorities did not hold anyone accountable for the 10 deaths that occurred following postelection clashes in 2008, nor did it hold officials responsible for the beating of journalists and citizens during protests in 2015 and July 2016.

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

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

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

Separatists, with Armenia’s support, continued to control most of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding Azerbaijani territories. The final status of Nagorno-Karabakh remained the subject of international mediation by the OSCE Minsk Group, cochaired by France, Russia, and the United States. Violence along the Line of Contact continued. Recurrent shooting and shelling caused casualties among military and civilians. Following the April 2016 outbreak in violence, the sides to the conflict submitted complaints to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) accusing each other of committing atrocities during that time. The cases remained pending with the ECHR.

The number of noncombat deaths in the military reportedly decreased. According to the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Peace Dialogue, there were 59 noncombat deaths during the year, compared with 162 in 2016. Peace Dialogue considered all noncombat deaths to be suspicious, although it did not specify its reason or reasons. In several cases, however, families of soldiers who died under noncombat conditions voiced distrust of official investigations, and their lawyers reported multiple procedural violations and a lack of time to review the case materials. On August 22, investigative online publication Hetq published an article describing many official obstacles the outlet and Peace Dialogue faced in obtaining statistics on the number of suicides in the army as well as specifics of the cases.

In one noncombat death case, the ECHR ruled in November 2016 that the state had violated the right to life in connection with the 2002 death of Private Suren Muradyan (stationed on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh) and ordered the government to pay 50,000 euros ($60,000) to the Muradyan family. While the government paid the fine, no actions were taken to prosecute those responsible for Muradyan’s death.

b. Disappearance

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

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

The law prohibits such practices. Nevertheless, there were reports that members of the security forces regularly tortured or otherwise abused individuals in their custody. There were no known cases of prosecution of officials who engaged in these practices.

Police abuse of suspects during their arrest, detention, and interrogation remained a significant problem. According to human rights NGOs, most victims did not report abuses due to fear of retaliation. Mistreatment occurred in police stations, which, unlike prisons and police detention facilities, were not subject to public monitoring. According to observers, police used arrest as a form of punishment. Criminal justice bodies relied on confessions and information obtained during questioning to secure convictions. According to human rights lawyers, there were no sufficient procedural safeguards against mistreatment during police questioning, such as access to a lawyer by those summoned to the police as witnesses, as well as inadmissibility of evidence obtained through force or procedural violations.

According to human rights observers, hardly any investigations into suspected police mistreatment led to criminal sanctions against law enforcement officers. Human rights lawyers pointed to biased judicial and investigatory practices in torture cases and to the practice of opening investigations of possible false accusations when a victim of torture reported abuse.

According to government statistics, since the 2015 adoption of a new definition of torture in the criminal code, no official had been convicted in such cases as of year’s end.

As of mid-December the authorities had not prosecuted any law enforcement officials for the reported cases of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of demonstrators, journalists, civic and political activists, and ordinary citizens during the political protests related to the July 2016 seizure by the armed group Sasna Tsrer of the Erebuni police compound.

On June 28, according to human rights lawyers, police beat four members of the armed group Sasna Tsrer during an altercation that ensued while they were awaiting resumption of their court hearing. The defendants suffered cuts and bruises on their faces, heads, abdomens, backs, and legs in the beatings. On June 30, the ombudsperson’s office released a statement calling on the Prosecutor General’s Office to investigate the reports. While an investigation was opened, the officers were not suspended or put on leave and continued to handle the same prisoners during the trial.

According to an October 2016 submission by the Partnership for Open Society Initiative (POSI) to the UN Committee against Torture, the lack of independent civilian oversight over psychiatric institutions led to inadequate protection of the right of persons with mental and social disabilities. According to the submission, regulations did not provide safeguards to prevent use of physical restraints, which were used not only on a physician’s decision, but also as a punishment and a method to intimidate other patients.

The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) noted in a 2016 report on its visit to the country that a significant number of patients in two psychiatric clinics appeared to be de facto deprived of their liberty. Although they had signed agreements of voluntary admission, the patients no longer wished to remain in the hospitals. According to POSI’s submission, persons often underwent compulsory treatment because in practice patients’ consent was obtained under pressure and through threats by relatives and the staff of the medical institution.

According to human rights experts, deaths in psychiatric institutions were not properly investigated. The government reported 73 deaths in psychiatric institutions, most due to illness and one due to suicide in 2016-17. There were two investigations launched on charges of medical negligence (one was dropped due to absence of a crime and the other continued at year’s end) and one criminal case on charges of inducing suicide. The latter was also dropped.

Although there were no reliable statistics on the extent of abuse in the military services, substandard living conditions, corruption, and commanders’ lack of accountability contributed to mistreatment and injury of soldiers by their peers or superiors. According to the Ministry of Defense, soldiers often underreported criminal behavior and abuse. While military leaders recognized the problem and sought to overcome it, some observers maintained that certain military commanders regarded it, as well as violence towards conscripts in general, as an effective way to maintain discipline.

In January the Ministry of Defense Human Rights and Integrity Center opened a hotline that the public as well as current or former members of the military and their families could use to find information on a range of problems, including allegations of harassment and corruption in the military. The center processed more than 100 calls a day.

Soldiers’ families claimed corrupt officials controlled many military units, and there were media reports that the government conscripted soldiers with serious health conditions. According to an interview with a representative of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzort, the number of complaints they received from soldiers who were conscripted despite disqualifying health conditions grew every year.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were marked by poor sanitation, inadequate medical care, and systemic corruption; overcrowding in some facilities remained a problem, and conditions in some cases were harsh and life threatening. Prisons generally lacked accommodations for inmates with disabilities.

Physical Conditions: In its 2016 report, the CPT noted that while there was no longer overcrowding of prisons at the national level, some facilities, especially Nubarashen Prison, remained overcrowded. The CPT noted material conditions of detention at Nubarashen Prison also remained unacceptable. According to the NGO Prison Monitoring Group (PMG), detention conditions in some cells of the Nubarashen Prison constituted torture and degrading and inhuman treatment. According to the CPT, many cells were damp, affected by mold, poorly lit and ventilated, dirty, and infested with vermin. For most inmates, water was only available at certain hours. Inmates relied on their families for food, bedding, and hygiene items. According to the CPT, similar conditions were observed in other penitentiary establishments.

According to official data, 14 prisoners died during the first 10 months of the year, 11 due to illness, two from suicide, and one by accident. According to the PMG, impunity related to the deaths of inmates was one of the most significant human rights problems in prison. The PMG noted authorities typically did not open an investigation on a prison death if the deceased did not have a family to make such a request.

According to human rights organizations, in addition to the poor physical condition of the facilities, an organized criminal structure dominated prison life, and negligence in providing health care contributed to the death rate. The CPT noted in its 2016 report a continued tendency for prison managers to delegate authority partially to a select number of inmates (called “watchers”) at the top of the informal prison hierarchy and to use them to keep control over the inmate population.

In one death case, on April 5, Hrachya Gevorgyan died in custody at Armavir Penitentiary. Gevorgyan, who was serving an eight-year sentence for hostage-taking, violence against a representative of authorities, and extortion, was suffering from a number of serious health problems. During his imprisonment, including four years in pretrial detention, his physical and mental health had deteriorated to the degree that he was hardly able to talk and was unable to walk. Gevorgyan went on a number of hunger strikes to demand that authorities provide him proper care. According to lawyers for Helsinki Association of Human Rights, Gevorgyan, who continuously raised the problem of corruption and other prison abuses, was subjected to violence in prison on more than one occasion. On April 7, the prosecutor’s office of Armavir region opened a case on Gevorgyan’s death on charges of medical neglect.

Former inmates and many human rights observers also raised the issue of systemic corruption and bribery in the penitentiaries.

Health-care services in the prisons visited by CPT remained understaffed (the situation had actually worsened at Nubarashen Prison, compared with CPT’s prior visits) and poorly equipped, and there were problems with access to specialist care. There was also a serious shortage of medication. Prison medical personnel lacked independence and had to obtain administrative approval to transfer an inmate to a hospital or record a physical injury in a prisoner’s file.

According to the PMG and other human rights organizations, LGBTI individuals experienced the worst prison conditions. They were frequent targets of discrimination, violence, and sexual abuse and were forced by other inmates to perform degrading labor. Prison administrators reinforced and condoned such treatment and held LGBTI individuals in segregated cells in relatively worse conditions. The PMG noted that homosexual males, those associating with them, and inmates convicted of crimes such as rape, were segregated from other inmates and forced to perform humiliating jobs and provide sexual services.

Administration: Authorities did not routinely conduct credible investigations nor take action to address in a meaningful manner problems involving the mistreatment of prisoners, disputes and violence between inmates, or widespread corruption. The early release program and release on medical grounds remained areas of concern due to systemic gaps in legislation and implementation. Convicts and detainees did not always have reasonable access to visitors due to the lack of suitable space for visitations. Heads of prisons and detention facilities arbitrarily used their discretion to deny prisoners and detainees visitation, contact with families, or the ability to receive periodicals.

Prisons did not have ombudspersons, and prisoners lacked effective mechanisms to report problems with their confinement. Authorities did not always permit prisoners and detainees to submit uncensored appeals to authorities concerning credible allegations of inhuman conditions.

Independent Monitoring: The government generally permitted domestic and international human rights groups, including the CPT, to monitor prison and detention center conditions, and they did so regularly. Authorities allowed monitors to speak privately with prisoners and permitted the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit prisons and pretrial detention centers. In a notable exception, however, prison authorities continued to deny PMG monitors access to certain individuals in detention, including some detained members of the Sasna Tsrer armed group.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

While the law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, police arbitrarily detained citizens, including participants in demonstrations.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The national police force is responsible for internal security, while the National Security Service (NSS) is responsible for national security, intelligence activities, and border control. The Special Investigative Service (SIS) is a separate agency specializing in preliminary investigation of cases involving suspected abuses by public officials. The Investigative Committee is responsible for conducting pretrial investigations into criminal cases and incorporates investigative services. Police conduct initial investigations and detentions before turning a case over to the Investigative Committee. The president appoints the heads of all these bodies.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the NSS, the SIS, and the Investigative Committee, but the government lacked effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. Selective application of the law and impunity for powerful law enforcement officials were problems. In multiple instances throughout the year, law enforcement bodies refused to prosecute high-profile cases involving individuals linked to the government.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Although the law requires law enforcement officers to obtain warrants or have reasonable suspicion in making arrests, authorities on occasion detained and arrested suspects without warrants or reasonable suspicion. By law an investigative body must either arrest or release individuals within three hours of taking them into custody. Within 72 hours, the investigative body must release the arrested person or file charges and obtain a detention warrant from a judge. Judges rarely denied police requests for detention warrants or reviewed police conduct during arrests. According to observers, police did not keep accurate records and either backdated or failed to fill out protocols of detention and arrest.

The law requires police to inform detainees of the reasons for their detention or arrest as well as their rights to remain silent, legal representation, and to make a telephone call. Bail was a legal option, but judges employed it rarely and selectively. In practice, the judicial system and the law enforcement bodies placed the burden of proof on suspects to demonstrate they did not present a flight risk or would hamper the investigation, when determining the form of pretrial preventive measure.

Defendants were entitled to representation by an attorney from the moment of arrest, and the law provides for a public defender if the accused is indigent. According to human rights observers, few detainees were aware of their right to legal representation. Observers indicated police often avoided granting individuals their due-process rights by summoning and holding, rather than formally arresting, them, under the pretext that they were material witnesses rather than suspects. Police were thereby able to question individuals without giving them the benefit of a defense attorney.

In its 2016 report, the CPT reported observing the practice of persons being “invited” (usually by telephone) to come to police for what was presented as informal talks. Such talks could last several hours or even days, as the examiners sought to elicit confessions or collect evidence before declaring the persons interviewed a suspect and informing them of their rights.

Arbitrary Arrest: According to international organizations and human rights observers, police and NSS personnel often detained or arrested individuals without a warrant or probable cause. Human rights organizations stated such detentions were often a way to begin an investigation, with authorities hoping the suspect would confess and make further investigation unnecessary.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention remained a chronic problem. According to official statistics, as of November 1, almost 35 percent of the prison population consisted of pretrial detainees. According to the Ministry of Justice, during the first 10 months of the year, trial courts received 2,022 requests to use pretrial detention as a preventative measure, of which 1,911 were approved. In the same period, courts received 1,176 requests to extend pretrial detention, and 1,096 were approved; courts also received 567 requests for bail, of which 83 were approved. Some observers saw police use excessive pretrial detention as a means of inducing defendants to confess or to reveal self-incriminating evidence.

According to government data, 40 civilians were arrested and charged with various crimes related to the 2016 Sasna Tsrer takeover of a police station; charges included organizing mass disorders, damaging and destroying property, assistance in seizure of the building and seizure of hostages. By the end of the year, 15 persons were charged, indicted, and sentenced. Several were released from pretrial detention, but other civilian protestors remained in detention since July 2016 and were undergoing trial.

In a related high profile case, on March 16, Artur Sargsyan, nicknamed the “bread bringer” for taking food to members of the armed Sasna Tsrer group during their July 2016 seizure of the Erebuni police station, died in a civilian hospital, following a three-week hunger strike to protest his pretrial detention. Sargsyan was arrested in July 2016 and detained on charges of aiding the armed group. He was released in December 2016, but rearrested on February 9, allegedly for failing to show up at the summons of the investigative committee. According to media reports, Sargsyan suffered multiple health conditions incompatible with detention according to the law. Reportedly, Sargsyan was released from detention the first time only after the ECHR asked the government about his health. He was released on March 6 after his health further deteriorated and promptly hospitalized. In the days following his death, hundreds of demonstrators reportedly claimed Sargsyan died because the government refused his lawyers’ initial pleas to release him from detention on the grounds of deteriorating health. While a criminal case reportedly was opened on March 31 concerning the actions of doctors treating Sargsyan, the prosecutor’s office decided not to open a criminal case on the actions of the investigators, judges, and prison staff involved in the case.

The overuse of detention also applied to juvenile offenders. According to the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, juveniles were especially vulnerable in the criminal justice system and were not protected from violation of their rights.

Although the law requires prosecutors to present a well reasoned justification every two months for extending pretrial custody, judges routinely extended detention on unclear grounds. Authorities generally complied with the six-month limit in ordinary cases and 12-month limit for serious crimes as the total time in pretrial detention. Once prosecutors forward their cases to court for trial, the law does not provide time limits on further detention but indicates only that a trial must be of “reasonable length.” Prosecutors regularly requested and received trial postponements from judges. Prosecutors tended to blame trial delays on defense lawyers and their requests for more time to prepare a defense. Severely overburdened judicial dockets at all court levels also contributed to lengthy trials.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: According to legal experts, suspects had no practical opportunities to appeal the legality of their arrests. In cases where the courts ruled on a pretrial detention, another court was unlikely to challenge its ruling.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the law provides for an independent judiciary, the judiciary did not generally exhibit independence and impartiality. Administrative courts were relatively more independent. A few attorneys reported they believed the Court of Cassation dictated the outcome of all significant cases to lower-court judges. According to some human rights groups, the Court of Cassation’s control over judicial decisions remained an overarching problem affecting judicial independence.

Judges remained subject to political pressure from every level of the executive branch, from law enforcement agencies, and the judicial hierarchy. Lacking life tenure, judges were vulnerable to dismissal and had no effective legal remedies.

According to legal experts, the courts felt compelled to satisfy investigators’ requests for pretrial detentions and prosecutors’ requests for detention while cases were at trial; legal experts stated such practices undermined judicial independence and reinforced the impression that courts were simply tools and that investigators actually determined the length of a detention. According to lawyers, dismissals of certain judges for independent decisions had a chilling effect on the judiciary.

Authorities generally complied with court orders.

Both prosecutors and defense attorneys often failed to comply with procedural standards. Judges have no authority to discipline attorneys or compel their timely attendance at hearings, having to resort to complaints to the Prosecutor General’s Office or the Chamber of Advocates. Many judges felt compelled to work with prosecutors to achieve convictions.

NGOs reported judges routinely ignored defendants’ claims that their testimony was coerced through physical abuse. Human rights observers continued to report concerns about the reliance of courts on evidence that defendants claimed was obtained under duress, especially when such evidence was the basis for a conviction.

Human rights NGOs highlighted abuses of human rights of persons serving life sentences. According to these NGOs, individuals serving such sentences lacked the opportunity to have their sentences meaningfully reviewed by courts when changes in criminal law could possibly have resulted in less severe punishment. According to human rights groups, one of the greatest obstacles to justice for those serving life sentences was the court-ordered destruction of case files and evidence. This action deprived convicts of the opportunity to have their cases reviewed based on forensic analysis using new technologies, such as DNA testing.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and laws provide for the right to a fair and public trial, but the judiciary largely lacked the independence to enforce this right.

The law provides for presumption of innocence, but suspects usually did not enjoy this right. During trials authorities informed defendants in detail of the charges against them, and the law required the provision of free language interpretation for non-Armenian speakers when necessary.

The law requires that most trials be public but permits exceptions, including in the interest of “morals,” national security, and the “protection of the private lives of the participants.” Defendants have the right to counsel of their own choosing, and the law requires the government to provide them with a public defender upon request. A shortage of defense lawyers sometimes led to denial of this right outside of Yerevan.

According to the law, defendants may confront witnesses, present evidence, and examine the government’s case in advance of a trial, but defendants and their attorneys had very little ability to challenge government witnesses or police, while courts tended to accept prosecution materials routinely. In particular, the law prohibits police officers from testifying in their official capacities unless they were witnesses or victims in a case. Judges were reluctant to challenge police experts, hampering a defendant’s ability to mount a credible defense. Judges’ control over witness lists and over the determination of the relevance of potential witnesses in criminal cases also impeded the defense. Defense attorneys complained that judges at times did not allow them to request the attendance at trial of defense witnesses. According to lawyers and domestic and international human rights observers, including the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, the prosecution retained a dominant position in the criminal justice system.

NGOs reported the authorities’ treatment of defense lawyers and defendants during the Sasna Tsrer and other high-profile trials deprived the defendants of the right to a fair trial. On July 11, for example, the local NGO Protection of Rights without Borders (PRWB) stated in its report, Crisis of Justice, that authorities violated the right to a fair trial in the Sasna Tsrer case and four other cases through interference and hindrance of the professional activities of defense lawyers, harassment of defense lawyers, violence and harassment against defendants; and efforts to restrict citizen participation in the court sessions, including, in one case, by prosecution. The PRWB attributed the authorities’ harassment of defense attorneys to the tendency of officials to identify defense lawyers with the persons they defended.

On August 9, the Civic Solidarity Platform (CSP), an international network of human rights NGOs, elaborated on a concern that independent defense lawyers working on high-profile cases allegedly were subjected to harassment and obstruction by state agents. According to the CSP, lawyers working on the Sasna Tsrer and similar high-profile cases were prevented from visiting their clients in detention and denied the opportunity to hold private discussions with them. In other cases, officials at detention facilities allegedly searched defendants after lawyer-client meetings and confiscated or destroyed meeting notes. Some defense lawyers were subjected to lengthy and intrusive security checks when arriving in court. When the lawyers protested the checks, considering them unlawful, judges barred them from attending the court sessions, effectively preventing them from defending their clients. The presiding judge then requested that the Chamber of Advocates (i.e., bar association) discipline the absent defense attorneys. Such requests also were made when lawyers refused to continue to take part in hearings after their clients were temporarily removed from the courtroom for allegedly violating court rules.

On September 13, 184 attorneys went on strike to object to the security checks.

Defendants, prosecutors, and injured parties have the right to appeal a court verdict and often exercised it.

There was an expectation that judges would find the accused guilty in almost every case, and the vast majority of criminal cases sent to trial, including many weak cases, resulted in conviction.

In one of the rare cases in which a judge acquitted a defendant, on July 18, a criminal court of appeal reversed the 2015 acquittal of Karen Kungurtsev on charges of attempted murder of Davit Hovakimyan, sentencing him to seven years in prison by pressing additional charges. According to Kungurtsev’s lawyers, the judges made their decision based on assertions that were not examined in court with the aim of covering up the true perpetrator of the crime. The victim’s family continued to support Kungurtsev’s claim of innocence, asserting that the real killer of Davit Hovakimyan was the son of a NSS official who had used his position to influence police and prosecutors to pin the crime on Kungurtsev.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

According to local human rights NGOs, there were political prisoners and detainees in the country, but many of the cases in which trials were underway involved allegations of the use of violence. A number of cases of alleged politically motivated incarcerations were pending with the ECHR. Human Rights Watch called on the government to “make publicly available any credible evidence that justifies the serious criminal charges against the protest organizers and participants. The authorities should not seek to prosecute protesters and impose long prison sentences in retaliation for their vocal, but peaceful activism.”

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Although citizens had access to courts to file lawsuits seeking damages for alleged human rights violations, the courts were widely perceived as corrupt. Citizens also had the option of challenging in Constitutional Court the constitutionality of laws and legal acts that violated their fundamental rights and freedoms. According to lawyers, the lower instance courts did not adhere to precedents of the Cassation Court, the ECHR, and the Constitutional Court. As a result, the lower instance courts continued to carry out the same legal mistakes. According to lawyers, while civil and administrative judicial proceedings happened with a greater degree of independence, the lack of judicial independence in criminal proceedings resulted in overall discrediting of the judicial system.

Citizens who exhaust domestic legal remedies may appeal to the ECHR cases involving alleged government violations of the European Convention on Human Rights. The government generally complied with ECHR awards of monetary compensation but did not meaningfully review the cases on which the ECHR had ruled. When ruling on a case to which a prior ECHR decision applied, courts often did not follow the applicable ECHR precedent.

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

The constitution prohibits unauthorized searches and provides for the rights to privacy and confidentiality of communications. Law enforcement organizations did not always abide by these prohibitions.

Authorities may not legally wiretap telephones, intercept correspondence, or conduct searches without obtaining the permission of a judge based on compelling evidence of criminal activity. The constitution, however, stipulates exceptions when confidentiality of communication may be restricted without a court order when necessary to protect state security and conditioned by the special status of those in communication. Although law enforcement bodies generally adhered to legal procedures, attorneys claimed judges often authorized wiretaps, the interception of correspondence, and searches without receiving the compelling evidence required by law, rendering the legal procedures largely a formality. Authorities reportedly tapped the telephone communications, email, and other digital communications of individuals the government wanted to keep under scrutiny, including human rights defenders, activists, and political figures. According to some human rights observers, authorities maintained “dossiers” of activists, political figures, and others that were used to exert pressure on a person.

Azerbaijan

Executive Summary

The Azerbaijani constitution provides for a republic with a presidential form of government. Legislative authority is vested in the Milli Mejlis. The Presidential Administration is the predominant power, exceeding that of the judiciary, legislature, and other elements of the executive. Legislative elections in 2015 could not be fully assessed due to the absence of an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) election observation mission; independent observers alleged irregularities throughout the country. The 2013 presidential election did not meet a number of key OSCE standards for democratic elections.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

Separatists, with Armenia’s support, continued to control most of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding Azerbaijani territories. The final status of Nagorno-Karabakh remained the subject of international mediation by the OSCE Minsk Group, cochaired by France, Russia, and the United States. Violence along the Line of Contact continued. Recurrent shooting and shelling caused casualties among military and civilians. Following the April 2016 outbreak in violence, the sides to the conflict submitted complaints to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) accusing each other of committing atrocities during that time. The cases remained pending with the ECHR.

The most significant human rights issues included unlawful or arbitrary killing; torture; harsh and sometimes life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest; lack of judicial independence; political prisoners; criminalization of libel; physical attacks on journalists, arbitrary interference with privacy; interference in the freedoms of expression, assembly, and association through intimidation, incarceration on questionable charges, and harsh physical abuse of selected activists, journalists, and secular and religious opposition figures, and blocking of websites; restrictions on freedom of movement for a growing number of journalists and activists; severe restrictions on political participation; and systemic government corruption; and police detention and torture, of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals; and worst forms of child labor, which the government made minimal efforts to eliminate.

The government did not prosecute or punish most officials who committed human rights abuses; impunity remained a problem.

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

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

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

Human rights defenders and media outlets reported at least six cases of torture or other physical abuse during the year that led to death. No single source could confirm the exact number of such cases.

On April 28, pro-opposition blogger Mehman Galandarov died in the Kurdakhani Pretrial Detention Center under suspicious circumstances. The center’s administration reported he committed suicide by hanging himself and opened a criminal investigation of the circumstances of his death. Prominent human rights activist Leyla Yunus, who previously had been incarcerated there, reported Galandarov would never have been permitted to be alone for long enough to hang himself. There were no reports on the results of the investigation. Journalists stated Galandarov was quickly and secretly buried so his body could not be inspected for signs of abuse.

In May media reported that during the spring five servicemen accused of espionage died in unclear circumstances in police custody. The military reportedly hastily buried the soldiers and did not permit relatives to see their bodies, so they could not be inspected for signs of alleged torture.

Separatists, with Armenia’s support, continued to control most of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding Azerbaijani territories. The final status of Nagorno-Karabakh remained the subject of international mediation by the OSCE Minsk Group, cochaired by France, Russia, and the United States. Violence along the Line of Contact continued. Recurrent shooting and shelling caused casualties among military and civilians. Following the April 2016 outbreak in violence, the sides to the conflict submitted complaints to the ECHR accusing each other of committing atrocities during that time period. The cases remained pending with the ECHR.

Local human rights organizations reported, as of November 20, at least 40 noncombat-related deaths in security forces, including suicides and soldiers killed by fellow service members.

b. Disappearance

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

The State Committee on the Captive and Missing reported that 3,868 citizens were registered as missing because of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) processed cases of persons missing in connection with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and worked with the government to develop a consolidated list of missing persons. According to the ICRC, more than 4,496 persons remained unaccounted for because of the conflict.

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

While the constitution and criminal code prohibit such practices and provide for penalties for conviction of up to 10 years’ imprisonment, credible allegations of torture and other abuse continued. Most mistreatment took place while detainees were in police custody, where authorities reportedly used abusive methods to coerce confessions.

On January 9, prominent blogger and Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) chairman Mehman Huseynov was arrested for allegedly resisting police. In a news conference the following day, he stated police tortured him while he was in their custody. The head of Nizami police pressed charges against Huseynov for criminal defamation, and on March 3, a Baku court convicted him and sentenced him to two years in prison. On April 12, the Baku Court of Appeals rejected Huseynov’s appeal, and on September 29, the Supreme Court returned the case to the Baku Court of Appeals for reconsideration. On December 15, the appeals court again upheld the original conviction.

There were also reports of torture in prisons. In one example, media and human rights lawyers reported that in August imprisoned Muslim Unity Movement figures Abbas Huseynov and Jabbar Jabbarov were tortured in Gobustan Prison. Abbas Huseynov, the movement’s deputy chair, was reportedly handcuffed “as if crucified” in Gobustan Prison’s punishment cell. Authorities did not investigate these allegations (see section 1.e.).

Authorities reportedly maintained a de facto ban on independent forensic examinations of detainees who claimed mistreatment and delayed their access to an attorney, practices that opposition and other activists stated made it easier for officers to mistreat detainees with impunity. Defense lawyers stated authorities delayed the forensic examination of journalist Afgan Mukhtarli for 38 days to obscure signs of physical abuse by security force members (see section 2.a.).

Authorities threatened prisoners and detainees with rape while in custody. For example, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals detained in September stated police threatened them with rape, and in some cases raped them with truncheons. Most did not publicize such threats.

Local observers again reported bullying and abuse in military units during the year. The Ministry of Defense, however, maintained a telephone hotline for soldiers to report incidents of mistreatment in order to hold unit commanders responsible, which reportedly resulted in improved conditions throughout the armed forces.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

According to a reputable prison-monitoring organization, prison conditions were sometimes harsh and potentially life threatening due to overcrowding, inadequate nutrition, deficient heating and ventilation, and poor medical care. Detainees also complained of inhuman conditions in the crowded basement detention facilities of local courts where they awaited trial. They reported those facilities lacked ventilation and proper sanitary conditions.

Physical Conditions: Authorities held men and women together in pretrial detention facilities in separate blocks but housed women in separate prison facilities after sentencing. Local NGO observers reported female prisoners typically lived in better conditions than male prisoners, were monitored more frequently, and had greater access to training and other activities, but that women’s prisons still suffered from many of the same problems as prisons for men. Human rights monitors reported four cases of children under the age of seven living in adult prison facilities with their incarcerated mothers. Convicted juvenile offenders may be held in juvenile institutions until they are 20 years old.

While the government continued to construct facilities, some Soviet-era facilities still in use did not meet international standards. Gobustan Prison, Prison No. 3, Prison No. 14, and the penitentiary tuberculosis treatment center reportedly had the worst conditions.

Human rights advocates reported guards sometimes punished prisoners with beatings or by holding them in isolation cells. Local and international monitors reported markedly poorer conditions at the maximum-security Gobustan Prison.

Prisoners at times claimed they endured lengthy confinement periods without opportunity for physical exercise. They also reported instances of cramped, overcrowded conditions; inadequate ventilation; poor sanitary facilities; and insufficient access to medical care. Although the national ombudswoman stated that some medication was eventually provided, lawyers reported Baku prison authorities denied needed medication for Gozel Bayramli, deputy chair of the opposition Popular Front Party, causing significant deterioration of her health.

Former prisoners and family members of imprisoned activists reported prisoners often had to pay bribes to use toilets or shower rooms or to receive food. Although the law permits detainees to receive daily packages of food to supplement the food officially provided, authorities at times reportedly restricted access of prisoners and detainees to family-provided food parcels. Some prisons and detention centers did not provide access to potable water.

Administration: While most prisoners reported they could submit complaints to judicial authorities and the Ombudsman’s Office without censorship, prison authorities regularly read prisoners’ correspondence, and human rights lawyers reported some prisoners in high-security facilities experienced difficulty submitting complaints. While the Ombudsman’s Office reported conducting systematic visits and investigations into complaints, activists reported the office was insufficiently active in addressing prisoner complaints by, for example, failing to investigate allegations of torture and abuse, such as Muslim Unity Movement deputy chair Abbas Huseynov and N!DA activist Bayram Mammadov.

Authorities at times limited visits by attorneys and family members, especially to prisoners widely considered to be incarcerated for political reasons.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted some prison visits by international and local organizations, including the ICRC, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture, the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and parliamentarians and diplomats from European countries. Authorities generally permitted the ICRC access to prisoners of war and civilian internees held in connection with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as well as to detainees held in facilities under the authority of the Ministries of Justice and of Internal Affairs and the State Security Services.

The ICRC conducted regular visits throughout the year to ensure protection of prisoners under international humanitarian law and regularly facilitated the exchange of messages between them and their families to help them re-establish and maintain contact.

A joint government-human rights community prison-monitoring group known as the Public Committee was allowed access to prisons without prior notification to the Penitentiary Service. On some occasions, however, other groups that reportedly gave prior notification experienced difficulty obtaining access.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

Although the law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of persons to challenge the lawfulness of their arrest or detention in court, the government generally did not observe these requirements. In May 2016 the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Arrests expressed concern regarding conditions in the special facilities for persons with disabilities and the prosecution of human rights defenders, journalists, and political opposition.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Security Service are responsible for security within the country and report directly to the president. The Ministry of Internal Affairs oversees local police forces and maintains internal civil defense troops. The State Security Service is responsible for domestic matters, and the Foreign Intelligence Service focuses on foreign intelligence and counterintelligence issues. NGOs reported both services detained individuals who exercised their rights to fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression. The State Migration Service and the State Border Service are responsible for migration and border enforcement.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the State Security Service, and the Foreign Intelligence Service. The government lacked effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse; widespread corruption resulted in limited oversight, and impunity involving the security forces was widespread.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law provides that persons detained, arrested, or accused of a crime be accorded due process, including being advised immediately of their rights and the reason for their arrest. In cases deemed to be politically motivated, due process was not respected, and accused individuals were convicted under a variety of spurious criminal charges.

According to the law, detainees are to be brought before a judge within 48 hours of arrest, and the judge may issue a warrant placing the detainee in pretrial detention, place the detainee under house arrest, or release the detainee. In practice, however, authorities at times detained individuals held for longer than 48 hours for several days without warrants. The initial 48-hour arrest period may be extended to 96 hours under extenuating circumstances. During pretrial detention or house arrest, the Prosecutor General’s Office is to complete its investigation. Pretrial detention is limited to three months but may be extended by a judge up to 18 months, depending on the alleged crime and the needs of the investigation. There were reports of detainees not being informed promptly of the charges against them.

A formal bail system existed, but judges did not utilize it during the year. The law provides for access to a lawyer from the time of detention, but there were reports that authorities frequently denied lawyers’ access to clients in both politically motivated and routine cases. For example, lawyers for investigative journalist Afgan Mukhtarli (see sections 1.c., l.e., and 2.a.) and Popular Front Party deputy chair Gozal Bayramli (see sections 1.c, 1.e., and 3) reported they were denied access to their clients for days following their initial detention. Access to counsel was poor, particularly outside of Baku. Although entitled to legal counsel by law, indigent detainees often did not have such access.

Police at times time held politically sensitive and other suspects incommunicado for periods that ranged from several hours to several days. For example, Popular Front Party activist Rajab Huseynli was detained on October 18 and held incommunicado for three days.

Prisoners’ family members reported that authorities occasionally restricted visits, especially to persons in pretrial detention, and withheld information about detainees. Days sometimes passed before families could obtain information about detained relatives. Authorities sometimes used family members as leverage to put pressure on individuals to turn themselves in to police or to stop them from reporting police abuse.

Arbitrary Arrest: Authorities often made arrests based on spurious charges, such as resisting police, illegal possession of drugs or weapons, tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship, abuse of authority, or inciting public disorder. Local organizations and international groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticized the government for arresting individuals exercising their fundamental rights and noted that authorities frequently fabricated charges against them. In particular, police detained individuals who peacefully sought to exercise freedom of expression. In one example, on May 22, journalist Nijat Amiraslanov was given 30 days of administrative detention for allegedly resisting police. His lawyer reported that Amiraslanov was tortured and forced to forgo appealing his arrest. He lost the majority of his teeth while in custody, and it was not clear whether they were intentionally torn out or were knocked out during a beating.

Pretrial Detention: Authorities held persons in pretrial detention for up to 18 months. The Prosecutor General’s Office routinely extended the initial three-month pretrial detention period permitted by law in successive increments of several months until the government completed an investigation.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: By law persons arrested or detained, regardless of whether on criminal or other grounds, are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis, length, or arbitrary nature of their detention and obtain prompt release and compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained. The judiciary did not rule independently in such cases, however, and in some cases the outcomes appeared predetermined.

Amnesty: On March 16, the president pardoned 423 prisoners, but human rights defenders considered few of those pardoned to be political prisoners, with the exceptions of blogger Abdul Abilov; Popular Front Party activist Elvin Abdullazadeh; Rufat and Rovshan Zahidov, relatives of the editor of the opposition newspaper Azadliq, Ganimat Zahid, who was living in political exile; and Nazim Agabekov, brother-in-law of the head of Meydan TV, Emin Milli. There were reports authorities pressed some of the released prisoners to write letters seeking forgiveness for past “mistakes” as a condition of their pardon. On September 11, the president pardoned blogger Alexander Lapshin, and the court ordered the early release of 18 individuals connected to the 2015 special police operation against the politically active Muslim Unity Movement in the village of Nardaran.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

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

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

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

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

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

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

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

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

The law prohibits arbitrary invasions of privacy and monitoring of correspondence and other private communications. The government generally did not respect these legal prohibitions.

While the constitution allows for searches of residences only with a court order or in cases specifically provided for by law, authorities often conducted searches without warrants. It was widely reported that the State Security Service and the Ministry of Internal Affairs monitored telephone and internet communications, particularly those of foreigners, prominent youths active online, some political and business figures, and persons engaged in international communication. There were indications the postal service monitored certain mail for politically sensitive subject matter. For example, human rights attorneys complained during the year that the postal service frequently did not send their appeals to the ECHR, forcing them to use courier services at greater cost.

Police continued to intimidate, harass, and sometimes arrest family members of suspected criminals, independent journalists, and political opposition members and leaders, as well as employees and leaders of certain NGOs. For example, Elnur Seyidov, the brother-in-law of opposition Popular Front Party chairman Ali Kerimli, remained incarcerated since 2012 on charges widely viewed as politically motivated.

There were several examples of the use of politically motivated incarceration of relatives as a means of putting pressure on exiles. On February 18, police interrogated family members of exiled blogger Ordukhan Temirkhan. His brother and nephew were sentenced to administrative detention on fabricated charges of resisting police.

There were also reports authorities fired individuals from their jobs or had individuals fired in retaliation for the political or civic activities of family members inside or outside the country. For example, during the year there were reports at least five Popular Front Party members were fired from their jobs after participating in a peaceful protest.

Burundi

Executive Summary

The Republic of Burundi is a constitutional, multiparty republic with an elected government. The 2005 constitution provides for an executive branch that reports to the president, a bicameral parliament, and an independent judiciary. In June, July, and August 2015, voters re-elected President Pierre Nkurunziza and chose a new National Assembly (lower house) in elections boycotted by nearly all independent opposition parties who claimed Nkurunziza’s election violated legal term limits. International and domestic observers characterized the elections as largely peaceful but deeply flawed and not free, fair, transparent, or credible.

Civilian authorities at times did not maintain control over the security forces. Observers considered the military generally professional and apolitical, but the National Intelligence Service (SNR) and police tended to be influenced directly by, and responsive to, the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) party. Some armed elements within the CNDD-FDD’s youth group, the Imbonerakure, committed human rights violations at the instruction or direction of some senior officials in the SNR, police, army, and the President’s Office, but also at times operated independently of any identifiable oversight. Imbonerakure members abducted or detained individuals, despite having no legal powers of arrest; beat, extorted, tortured, and killed persons with impunity; and often handed individuals over to the SNR or police, indicating that authorities knew of and failed to punish their conduct. Individuals perceived to be members of the political opposition were specifically targeted. Police abuse was widespread and carried out with impunity.

The most significant human rights issues included extrajudicial killings; disappearances; torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, including rape of both male and female detainees; arbitrary arrest and politicized detention; prolonged pretrial detention; harsh and sometimes life-threatening prison conditions; a highly politicized judicial system that lacked independence from the executive branch; government infringement on the freedoms of speech, press and other media, peaceful assembly, and association; restrictions on freedom of movement; government corruption; restrictions on domestic and international human rights and civil society organizations; lack of prosecutions and accountability in cases of sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls; violence against persons with albinism; criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct; and inadequately enforced labor rights.

The reluctance of police and public prosecutors to investigate and prosecute and of judges to hear cases of government corruption and human rights abuse in a timely manner resulted in widespread impunity for government and CNDD-FDD officials.

Overt violence between the government and armed opposition groups was limited in comparison to 2015 and early 2016. Armed opposition groups committed acts of violence including attempted assassinations and ambushes of government officials, security forces, and ruling party members. There were at least 75 grenade attacks as of December, some of which killed civilians; some were linked to political violence, while others appeared to result from criminal activity or private vendettas.

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

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

There were numerous reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, often against perceived supporters of the political opposition or those who exercised their lawful rights. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) documented more than 400 cases of arbitrary or unlawful killings in 2015. The banned but still operating nongovernmental organization (NGO) Ligue Iteka documented 338 killings by the end of October. The 2017 UN Commission of Inquiry (UN COI), which was denied access to the country by the government but conducted interviews with more than 500 witnesses, reported that unlawful or arbitrary killings by government security services continued and reported allegations of security forces executing detained individuals and leaving their bodies in the Rusizi River, often after having weighed them down with stones. Many of the bodies were decapitated, were found with hands tied behind their backs, and showed signs of extreme torture and mutilation. NGOs reported numerous cases of extrajudicial killings committed by police, the SNR, and military personnel, sometimes with involvement of local government officials. Local and international organizations also charged that members of the Imbonerakure were responsible for some unlawful killings, including summary executions.

There were press and government reports of attempted killings targeting government officials, security force personnel, and individuals associated with the CNDD-FDD. In November 2016 Presidential Communications Advisor Willy Nyamitwe was shot and wounded in an assassination attempt by an unknown assailant; his bodyguard was killed. On January 1, Minister of the Environment, Land Management, and Urban Planning Emmanuel Niyonkuru was shot and killed in front of his residence; four suspects were detained as of October. On August 15, the motorcade of the governor of Bubanza province came under attack; there were no fatalities. There were also reports of extrajudicial killings of members of the security forces by members of the police and army, including General Kararuza, who was killed by police and army personnel in April 2016.

As of December there were at least 75 grenade attacks throughout the country, of which 26 occurred in Bujumbura. It was often difficult to identify perpetrators and motives behind the attacks. While some attacks specifically targeted police and other members of the security services with apparent political motives, others were likely motivated by personal or business vendettas. Responsibility for attacks was often unclear, as in the case of a July 9 grenade explosion at a crowded bar in Kayanza province that killed eight persons and wounded more than 50. It remained unclear whether this was an intentional attack or an accident involving one or more grenades or other incendiary devices. A police investigation was conducted but no conclusive details were released.

b. Disappearance

There were numerous reports that individuals were victims of politically motivated disappearances after they had been detained by elements of the security forces or in kidnappings where the identities of the perpetrators were not evident. Ligue Iteka documented 88 disappearances as of the end of October. The UN COI found that numerous victims of disappearances were political opponents, members of civil society, or former members of the Burundian Armed Forces (“ex-FAB”) who had received threats prior to their disappearance. The report documented specific cases of disappearance it alleged were the responsibility of government security services. The UN COI stated it had received information indicating the SNR was responsible for the April 8 disappearance of Pacifique Birikumana, the driver for the Catholic bishop of Ngozi. The UN COI also documented the disappearance of Oscar Ntasano, a hotel owner and member of the CNDD-FDD. The report suggested possible links between his disappearance and the SNR and other government officials, but did not definitively determine government responsibility.

On August 23, Kampala-based NGO International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) released a report based primarily on interviews with 30 Burundian asylum seekers who had recently arrived in Uganda, mostly between April and June. According to the report, some left Burundi because of threats and abuses by elements of the Imbonerakure or SNR officials as well as killings and enforced disappearances of family members. IRRI reported that Imbonerakure targeted family members of asylum seekers. For example, in January the Imbonerakure arrested in Muyinga province the brother of an asylum seeker in Uganda and took him to the local SNR office. He has not been heard from since.

On September 12, armed men, including one in police uniform, kidnapped Leopold Habarugira in Bujumbura. The Independent National Commission on Human Rights (CNIDH) stated he was not being held at any official jail in Bujumbura; police stations in the city also denied holding him. Habarugira is a member of the nonrecognized wing of the Union for Peace and Democracy political party. It was not possible to confirm motive or responsibility for his disappearance.

Jean Bigirimana, a journalist for independent newspaper Iwacu, was abducted from his car in July 2016. Bigirimana’s spouse was present at the abduction and stated publicly that SNR officers were responsible. Despite continued attention from the CNIDH, his whereabouts remained unknown as of October. According to media reports, his spouse received several anonymous death threats and subsequently fled the country with her children.

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

The constitution and penal code prohibit cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, but there were numerous reports government officials employed these practices. NGOs reported cases of torture committed by security services or members of the Imbonerakure; as of October, Ligue Iteka alleged 236 such cases. According to IRRI some asylum seekers testified they had fled the country after suffering gang rape and other sexual violence, torture, and illegal detention by members of the security forces. The UN COI cited members of the SNR, Imbonerakure, police, and to a lesser extent the Burundian National Defense Forces (BNDF) as perpetrators of torture. The UN COI documented allegations of practices employed by security forces since 2015, including beating detainees with electric wires, belts, batons, firearm stocks, and other implements; pouring boiling liquid on detainees; inserting long needles or injecting unidentified substances into victims’ bodies; placing victims beside human remains; forcing victims to eat feces; cutting detainees with knives; removing fingernails; and threatening to kill victims; among others. The report also documented allegations of security services employing sexual- and gender-based violence against detainees.

Sexual violence remained pervasive and was often used as a means of torture to obtain information or confessions from detainees. Rape was also committed while police officers or members of the Imbonerakure arrested a victim’s spouse or relative accused of belonging to an opposition party. On April 8, following the inauguration of a CNDD-FDD party office in the eastern province of Ruyigi, an estimated 200 persons, including Imbonerakure, chanted a song urging the impregnation of female opposition members so that more Imbonerakure would be born, which was widely interpreted as threatening rape. On September 29, Amnesty International (AI) published a report based on June 2016 and July 2017 interviews with 129 refugees in Uganda and Tanzania, some who had recently arrived, regarding the reasons for their flight from Burundi. One woman told Amnesty International that she was raped by two Imbonerakure members in her home in the presence of her two children.

Representatives of the wing of the National Liberation Forces (FNL) political party associated with National Assembly Vice President Agathon Rwasa alleged that security service members tortured detained members of the party.

The country contributed peacekeepers to the African Union Mission in Somalia since 2008 and to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) since 2014. As of October there were almost 800 Burundian personnel serving in MINUSCA. The United Nations received one allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) against two members of the Burundian military contingent serving with MINUSCA during the year. The allegation of the solicitation of transactional sex was pending investigation as of November. Burundian authorities were also investigating certain remaining SEA allegations against MINUSCA peacekeepers from Burundi referred to them by the United Nations in 2016 and 2015. Other allegations made during 2016 were found to be unsubstantiated.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prisons were overcrowded, and conditions remained harsh and sometimes life threatening. Conditions in detention centers managed by the SNR and in local “lock-ups” managed by police generally were worse than in prisons. According to its September 29 report, AI interviewed 16 Burundian refugees who alleged that they had been tortured or mistreated by members of the security services, including through physical blows and sexual and gender-based violence. Prisons did not meet the standards established by the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Mandela Rules).

Physical Conditions: The Office of Penitentiary Affairs reported that, as of October, there were 10,093 inmates, including 5,580 pretrial detainees, in 11 prisons, the majority of which were built before 1965 to accommodate 4,194 inmates. Of the 10,093 inmates, 492 were women and 107 were juveniles. As of October authorities held 96 juveniles (most but not all of whom had been convicted; others were awaiting trial) in two juvenile rehabilitation facilities that opened in 2015; they were allowed to participate in recreational activities and received psychosocial support and preparation for eventual return to their families and communities. In addition there were 95 children living with their incarcerated mothers. The most crowded prisons were Muramvya (30 miles from Bujumbura), where the inmate population was at 539 percent of capacity and Mpimba (in Bujumbura) which was at 428 percent of capacity. No information was available on the number of persons held in detention centers managed by the SNR or in communal jails operated by police. There was a prison for women in Kayanza. Authorities commonly held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners. No data were available on the number of deaths in detention, reports of abuse by guards, or prisoner-on-prisoner violence. There were reports of physical abuse, lack of adequate medical treatment, and prolonged solitary confinement.

Prisons did not have adequate sanitation systems (toilets, bathing facilities), drinking water, ventilation, or lighting. Prisons and detention centers did not have special facilities for persons with disabilities.

According to government officials and international human rights observers, many prisoners suffered from intestinal illnesses and malaria (which were also epidemic among the country’s general population). An unknown number died from disease. Each inmate received approximately 12 ounces of manioc and 12 ounces of beans daily; rations also included oil and salt on some days. Authorities expected family and friends to provide funds for all other expenses. Each prison had at least one qualified nurse and received at least one weekly visit by a doctor, but prisoners did not always receive prompt access to medical care; inmates with serious medical conditions were sent to local hospitals.

Radio Bonesha and NGOs reported prison guards used live ammunition to restore order following a demonstration at Rumonge prison on August 3, reportedly wounding several prisoners. There were allegations authorities delayed access to medical treatment for wounded prisoners. During the incident the security detail of the prison director shot and wounded Adrien Kadende, a former military officer detained since September 2016. Prison management reportedly denied his referral to a civilian hospital, instead transferring him to the health unit of Mpimba prison, where he received medical treatment.

Conditions for political prisoners were sometimes worse than for ordinary prisoners. In September 2015 officials transported 28 high-profile prisoners accused of participating in the failed May 2015 coup attempt to the Central Prison in Gitega. They reportedly were incarcerated four to a cell in isolation cells intended to hold one person. Twenty-one of the 28 were sentenced to life imprisonment, six were sentenced to 30-year terms, and one was acquitted; the Court of Cassation of the Supreme Court upheld the sentences in December 2016. Independent human rights observers noted the cells did not have windows or toilet facilities. Conditions of detention for these political prisoners remained the same as of October.

Administration: Prison authorities allowed prisoners to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship, but they rarely investigated prisoners’ complaints. There were credible reports of mistreatment of prisoners, but no record that abusers were punished. Visitors were authorized to see prisoners in most cases.

Independent Monitoring: The UN COI during the year documented the existence of numerous secret, unofficial detention facilities, including one located in the headquarters of the SNR. No independent monitors were able to visit these secret facilities. The September 2016 UN Independent Investigation on Burundi (UNIIB) report concluded there were “reasonable grounds to believe” security forces and Imbonerakure had established 13 places of detention that were denied or unacknowledged by the prosecutor general, according to victims the UNIIB had interviewed. In its response to the UNIIB report, the government challenged UNIIB’s “reasonable grounds to believe” there were unacknowledged detention centers by asserting there was no tangible evidence to support the allegations.

The government permitted visits requested by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the CNIDH. Monitors visited known, official prisons, communal jails, and SNR detention centers regularly. Monitoring groups had complete and unhindered access to those prisoners held in known detention facilities. Since the government’s October 2016 decision to suspend official cooperation with the local OHCHR office, the OHCHR was not allowed to conduct prison visits.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but the government did not observe these prohibitions. The law provides for a fine of 10,000 Burundian francs ($5.65) and imprisonment of 15 days to one year for any member of the security forces implicated in arbitrary arrest. Human rights groups reported numerous arbitrary arrests and detentions, including some involving the participation of Imbonerakure members. The UN COI described an ongoing trend of arbitrary arrests and detentions during the period of its mandate, starting in 2015, but did not provide statistics. As of October 31, Ligue Iteka documented 2,153 cases it deemed to be arbitrary arrests, but was not able to document the subsequent disposition of all cases. Although regulations obligated government officials to notify family members of an arrest and allow communication, there were documented cases where families of arrested individuals did not receive timely notification or were not allowed contact.

Among other reasons for arbitrary arrests or detentions, police arrested persons on accusations of “undermining state security, participation in armed banditry, holding illegal meetings, illegal detention of weapons, or simply because they were traveling to or from other provinces or neighboring countries,” according to the OHCHR. Police routinely detained adults and children for begging, which was not a crime. A draft law to revise the Penal Code that would include the criminalization of begging was approved by the Council of Ministers during the year and was under consideration by the National Assembly and Senate.

As of October there were reportedly 15 cases of children detained for “participation in armed groups, participation in an insurrectional movement, or illegal possession of arms,” all receiving legal assistance through civil society organizations. This was a decrease from 2016, when there were more than 150 such cases. Some of those detained were subsequently convicted and sentenced. Those convicted were placed in government-run rehabilitation centers in Ruyigi and Rumonge provinces for children in conflict with the law and received psychosocial support, recreational activities, and preparation for eventual return to their families and communities.

NGOs reported numerous cases of individuals arrested without due process and accused of being part of or intending to join the armed opposition. Members of the FNL associated with National Assembly Vice President Agathon Rwasa alleged that security services arrested party members in retaliation for their political activism and membership in the party. Authorities charged some of those identified with the FNL with threats to state security, participation in rebellion, or illegal possession of firearms.

In April, six representatives of university students were arrested while protesting against the reduction of scholarships provided by the government. They were charged with undermining state security and promoting insurrection. As of November, three remained in detention while undergoing trial; the other three had been released.

On July 13, Germain Rukuki, a former employee of the banned NGO Christian Action for the Abolition of Torture-Burundi, was arrested by SNR officials and subsequently transferred to Ngozi Prison. Rukuki was accused of acts against state security and rebellion; international and local human rights organizations criticized the nature of his detention and the charges against him as politically motivated. On November 21, Nestor Nibitanga, a human rights monitor and former representative of the Burundian Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detainees (APRODH) was arrested in Gitega and accused of acts against state security.

SOS-Torture Burundi continued to report instances in which persons arrested allegedly had to pay bribes to be released. The amount demanded typically ranged from 5,280 to 52,800 Burundian francs ($3 to $30). The September 29 AI report recounted instances wherein persons arrested by security forces or detained by members of the Imbonerakure were subjected to extortion and asked to pay between 200,000 and two million Burundian francs (between $115 and $1,150). The October COI report stated that members of the SNR, police, judiciary, and Imbonerakure often demanded large sums of money for the release of detainees or for their transfer to official prisons.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The National Police, which is under the Ministry of Public Security’s authority, is responsible for law enforcement and maintenance of order. The armed forces, which are under the Ministry of Defense’s authority, are responsible for external security but also have some domestic security responsibilities. The SNR, which reports directly to the president, has arrest and detention authority. Members of the Imbonerakure, who have no arrest authority, were involved in or responsible for numerous detentions and abductions, according to the OHCHR. According to an August report by IRRI, the Imbonerakure regularly took over the role of state security agents. The UN COI report stated that since 2015 the security forces, including police, SNR, and defense forces, have been the principal perpetrators of human rights violations, including when they acted jointly with nonstate actors such as the Imbonerakure. Impunity for these crimes was widespread.

The constitution provides for equal numbers of Hutu and Tutsi in the military, police, and the SNR to prevent either of these ethnic groups from having disproportionate power that might be used against the other. The integration of police and the SNR did not achieve equilibrium between Hutu and Tutsi members, as a large majority remained Hutu. The International Crisis Group reported in April that the disproportionate retirement of older (ex-FAB) Tutsi officers in the military risked shifting this balance in favor of the Hutu. In 2016 the government replaced the 50/50 quota for army recruits to a 40 (Tutsi) /60 (Hutu) quota.

Police generally were poorly trained, underequipped, underpaid, and unprofessional. Local citizens widely perceived them as corrupt, often demanding bribes and engaging in criminal activity. The Anticorruption Brigade, which reports to the Office of the President, is responsible for investigating police corruption, but was widely perceived to be ineffective.

Approximately 75 percent of police were former rebels. Eighty-five percent of police received minimal entry-level training but had no refresher training in the past five years, while 15 percent received no training. Wages were low and petty corruption widespread.

Police were heavily politicized and responsive to the CNDD-FDD. Police officials complained that militant youth loyal to the CNDD-FDD and President Nkurunziza infiltrated their ranks. Civil society organizations (CSOs) claimed the weaponry carried by some supposed police officers was not in the official arsenal. Some police officers prevented citizens from exercising their civil rights and were implicated in or responsible for summary executions, arbitrary arrests and detentions, enforced disappearances, acts of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and sexual violence. The UN COI stated that the Anti-Riot Brigade and the Protection of Institutions unit were particularly implicated in grave violations of human rights since 2015. The government rarely investigated and prosecuted these cases, which resulted in widespread police impunity and politicization.

A report by the Senate published in August stated authorities had dismissed 38 police officers while incarcerating and prosecuting 59 others for “grave breaches.” In its response to the UN COI report, the government admitted that “certain elements of the security forces have overstepped the framework of their competencies.” The government stated they had been held accountable by the justice system but provided no supporting documentation.

Mixed security committees, whose members came from local government, regular security services, and the citizenry, operated in towns and villages throughout the country. Local government authorities designed the committees to play an advisory role for local policymakers and to flag new threats and incidents of criminality for local administration. Human rights organizations and the UN COI alleged the committees allowed the Imbonerakure a strong role in local policing, which permitted the ruling party to harass and intimidate opposition members and those perceived to favor the opposition on the local level. Government officials and a spokesperson for the CNDD-FDD confirmed that Imbonerakure members participated in mixed security committees. The mixed security committees remained controversial because lines of authority increasingly blurred between Imbonerakure members and police. Imbonerakure members reportedly detained individuals for political or personal reasons. According to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), Imbonerakure members set up unofficial roadblocks in many provinces, sometimes detaining and beating passersby and extorting money or stealing their possessions.

Independent observers generally regarded the BNDF as professional and politically neutral. The UN COI, however, reported that military personnel were implicated in summary executions, arbitrary arrests, and torture. Among the units involved in grave violations of human rights, the commission identified the Special Brigade for the Protection of Institutions, the Combat Engineer Battalion (Camp Muzinda), and the Support Battalion of the First Military Region (Camp Muha) in Bujumbura. The commission and other organizations reported that major decisions, including those that have given rise to gross violations of human rights, were allegedly made through parallel chains of command reporting to senior government and ruling party leadership.

The SNR’s mandate is to provide both external and internal security. It often investigated certain opposition political party leaders and their supporters. Many citizens perceived the SNR as heavily politicized and responsive to the CNDD-FDD. The UN COI and NGOs asserted SNR officials committed acts of torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance, and arbitrary arrest and detention.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Arrests require warrants issued by a presiding magistrate, although police may arrest a person without a warrant by notifying a supervisor in advance. Police have seven days to finish their investigation and transfer suspects to appear before a magistrate but may request a seven-day extension if they require additional investigation time. Police rarely respected these provisions and routinely violated the requirement that detainees be charged and appear before a magistrate within seven days of arrest.

A magistrate must either order the release of suspects or confirm the charges and continue detention, initially for 14 days, and for an additional seven days if necessary to prepare the case for trial. Magistrates routinely failed to convene preliminary hearings, often citing their heavy case backlog or improper documentation by police. The CNIDH identified some cases of prisoners held in detention without a preliminary hearing or in excess of the statutory limits for preventive detention. A UN human rights team that visited SNR facilities in Bujumbura in April 2016 reported that 25 of the 67 detainees they saw had been kept in custody beyond the prescribed maximum. Due to suspension of the OHCHR’s memorandum of understanding, it was unable to collect data during the year.

Lack of transportation for suspects, police, and magistrates was the most frequently cited reason for the failure to convene preliminary hearings. This was a particular problem in the six provinces without prisons, where lack of transport prevented the transfer of suspects from the site of detention to the provincial court with jurisdiction over the case.

Judges have authority to release suspects on bail but rarely used it. They may also release suspects on their personal recognizance and often did so. Suspects may hire lawyers at their own expense in criminal cases, but the law does not require legal representation, and the government did not provide attorneys for those unable to afford one. Prisons have solitary confinement facilities, and detainees were sometimes held in solitary confinement for long periods. Authorities on occasion denied family members prompt access to detainees, particularly those detainees accused of opposing the government.

The law provides for prisoners to have access to medical care and legal assistance. The SNR denied lawyers access to detainees held at its headquarters in Bujumbura. The ICRC continued to have access to official prisons and detention centers. Several credible organizations, however, reported that the SNR, National Police, senior officials of the government, and other security organizations maintained clandestine holding cells to which no independent monitors, including the ICRC, were granted access. The September report of the UN COI documented cases of torture and mistreatment that occurred in unofficial detention centers where national and international observers had no access.

Arbitrary Arrest: The law provides for a fine of 10,000 Burundian francs ($6) and imprisonment of 15 days to one year for security force members found guilty of arbitrary arrest. There was no evidence that this law has ever been applied. NGOs reported numerous instances of alleged arbitrary arrests wherein no underlying offense in law existed; Ligue Iteka alleged 1,922 such cases as of September. Comprehensive data was not available on the subsequent handling of the cases; authorities released many within a day or two of their detention.

Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention remained a serious problem. The law specifies authorities may not hold a person longer than 14 days without charge. As of August 31, according to the director of prison administration, 55 percent of inmates in prisons and detention centers were pretrial detainees. The average time in pretrial detention was approximately one year, according to the Office of Penitentiary Affairs, and authorities held some without charge. Some persons reportedly remained in pretrial detention for nearly five years. In some cases the length of detention equaled or exceeded the sentence for the alleged crime. Inefficiency and corruption among police, prosecutors, and judicial officials contributed to the problem. For example, authorities deprived many persons of their legal right to be released on their own recognizance, because public prosecutors failed to open case files or files were lost. Others remained incarcerated without proper arrest warrants, either because police failed to complete the initial investigation and transfer the case to the appropriate magistrate or because the magistrate failed to convene the required hearing to rule on the charges.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested or detained, regardless of whether on criminal or other grounds, are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention and obtain prompt release if found to have been unlawfully detained. There was no record that any person challenged their arrest on these grounds during the year.

Amnesty: On January 3, a presidential decree announced an amnesty of prisoners who were serving sentences of less than five years and halving the sentences of others. As of October at least 2,576 prisoners were released and 592 prisoners saw their sentences reduced. Some, including members of opposition political parties, were reported to have been subsequently rearrested. Most of those prisoners were considered to be political prisoners. The decree specifically excluded those imprisoned for the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, armed robbery, illegal possession of firearms, threatening the internal or external security of the state, voluntary homicide, being a mercenary, cannibalism, and all other crimes committed in association with organized gangs. As of October a total of 1,706 prisoners were found ineligible for a presidential pardon.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, there were instances when authorities subjected members of the judiciary to political influence or bribery to drop investigations and prosecutions, predetermine the outcome of trials, or avoid enforcing court orders.

A report by the Senate published in August stated that, over an unspecified timeframe, authorities had dismissed 21 judges, arrested nine, and suspended 19 for corruption or “unjust decisions.”

There were allegations the public prosecutor willfully ignored calls to investigate senior figures within the security services and national police. Serious irregularities undermined the fairness and credibility of trials, and the failure to prosecute members of the security forces accused of abuse created an atmosphere of impunity.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

Defendants are presumed innocent under the law. Panels of judges conduct all trials publicly. Defendants have the right to prompt and detailed information on the charges and free interpretation from the moment charged through all appeals, if necessary, although these rights were not always respected. Defendants have the right to a fair trial without undue delay and to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, although this did not always occur. Defendants have a right to counsel but not at the government’s expense, even in cases involving serious criminal charges. Few defendants had legal representation because few could afford the services of a lawyer. Some local and international NGOs provided legal assistance to some. Defendants have a right to defend themselves, including questioning prosecution or plaintiff witnesses, calling their own witnesses, and examining evidence against them. Defendants also may present evidence on their own behalf and did so in the majority of cases. Defendants have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt. The law extends the above rights to all citizens.

The right to a fair trial was often violated. On January 26, 20 individuals accused of participating in an armed group attack on the Mukoni military camp in Muyinga province were tried, convicted, and received prison sentences in an expedited procedure in the Superior Court of Muyinga. They were reportedly tried without access to counsel, and signs that some had been subjected to torture were reportedly not taken into account by the court. According to HRW those standing trial had badly swollen hands and feet, many were limping, one had his arm in a sling, and another vomited blood during the trial. The judge denied a defendant’s request that the trial be postponed because his testicles had been tortured, and he wanted to be treated before presenting his defense. The defendants were given 30 years of prison time and each fined five million Burundian francs ($2,900), approximately 10 times the average annual income in the country, with an increase to 55 years in prison if they failed to pay the fine.

All defendants, except those in military courts, have the right to appeal their cases to the Supreme Court. The inefficiency of the court system extended the appeals process for long periods, in many cases for more than a year.

Procedures for civilian and military courts are similar, but military courts typically reached decisions more quickly. The government does not provide military defendants with attorneys to assist in their defense, although NGOs provided some defendants with attorneys in cases involving serious charges. Military trials generally are open to the public but may be closed for reasons such as national security or when publicity might harm the victim or a third party; for example, cases involving rape or child abuse. Defendants in military courts are entitled to only one appeal.

While many of the above rights were violated, no rights were systematically denied to persons from specific groups.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

In 2016 the OHCHR estimated there were more than 500 political prisoners or detainees. Statistics for the year were unavailable due to the government’s suspension of the OHCHR’s activities and refusal to cooperate with or allow the UN COI access to the country, but independent observers continued to estimate that the number of political prisoners was in the hundreds. The government denied it held persons for political reasons, citing instead threats made against the state, participation in a rebellion, or inciting insurrection.

The director of prison affairs said he could not identify political prisoners, as they were incarcerated on charges just like ordinary criminals. In some cases, however, political prisoners were housed in separate cells. In an August 2 presidential statement, the UN Security Council acknowledged the release of some political prisoners as part of the amnesty announced January 3.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations and may appeal decisions to an international or regional court. In December 2016 five civil society organizations that the government closed in October 2016 contested the decision in the East African Court of Justice. A preliminary hearing took place on September 14. As of December the court had not taken further action on the case; a scheduled hearing for November was postponed.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

In the wake of violence and repression, fear, hunger, insecurity, abuse, and severe economic hardship following the 2015 political crisis, more than 400,000 Burundians fled to neighboring states, primarily Tanzania. There were reports that in some instances government officials and private citizens seized land owned or legally occupied by departing refugees. In general, however, government officials prevented the occupation of lands belonging to refugees.

The National Commission for the Land and Other Properties (CNTB) was established in 2006 to resolve land ownership conflicts, particularly between returning refugees who had fled successive waves of conflict in Burundi and those who had remained. Land disputes were frequently a source of conflict given small plot sizes and the reliance of the vast majority of citizens on subsistence agriculture. In 2015 the president suspended the implementation of all decisions to expropriate taken by the CNTB due to violence associated with land disputes in Makamba province. CNTB’s reported practice of generally restoring lands to returning refugees, many of whom were ethnic Hutu, led to accusations of ethnic favoritism. The president lifted the suspension in January, and the CNTB continued its work to resolve land ownership conflicts.

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

The constitution and law provide for the right to privacy and require search warrants, but authorities did not always respect these rights. Police, SNR agents, and Imbonerakure members–sometimes acting as mixed security committees–set up roadblocks and searched vehicles for weapons. They conducted search-and-seizure operations in contested neighborhoods of the country throughout the year. During these searches security agents seized weapons and household items they claimed could be used to supply an insurgency, including large cooking pots and mosquito nets.

Individuals often needed membership in, or perceived loyalty to, a registered political party to obtain or retain employment in the civil service and the benefits that accrued from such positions, such as transportation allowances, free housing, electricity, water, exemption from personal income taxes, and interest-free loans.

Cameroon

Executive Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

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

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

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

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

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

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

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

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

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

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

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

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

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Central African Republic

Executive Summary

The Central African Republic is a presidential republic. Voters elected Faustin-Archange Touadera president in a February 2016 run-off. International observers reported the February 2016 presidential and legislative elections were free and fair, despite reports of irregularities. The 2016 constitution established a bicameral parliament, with a directly elected National Assembly and an indirectly elected Senate. The National Assembly convened in May 2016; elections for the Senate were not held, and no date had been announced by year’s end.

Unlike in the previous year, civilian authorities’ control over the security forces improved but remained weak. State authority beyond the capital, Bangui, was limited; armed groups controlled significant swaths of territory throughout the country and acted as de facto governing institutions, taxing local populations, providing security services, and appointing armed group members to leadership roles.

(Note: This report refers to the “ex-Seleka” for all abuses attributed to the armed factions associated with Seleka, including the Popular Front for the Renaissance in the Central African Republic (FPRC), the Union for Peace (UPC), and the Patriotic Movement for Central African Republic (MPC), which occurred after the Seleka was dissolved in 2013.)

The most significant human rights issues included reports of arbitrary and unlawful killings by government agents; enforced disappearances; and sexual violence, including rape, committed by ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka groups, among others; arbitrary arrest and detention; delays in holding criminal sessions in the judicial system, resulting in prolonged pretrial detention; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, particularly in cities not controlled by the government and in illegal detention facilities not operated by government; seizure and destruction of property without due process; use of excessive and indiscriminate force in internal armed conflict; restrictions on freedom of movement; lack of protection and access for internally displaced persons to basic services, especially outside Bangui; widespread corruption; harassment of and threats to domestic and international human rights groups; lack of prosecution and accountability in cases of violence against women and children, including sexual violence and rape; criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct; forced labor; and use of child soldiers.

The government did not take steps to investigate and prosecute officials who committed violations, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government, creating a climate of impunity reinforced by a general lack of citizen access to judicial services. There were allegations that peacekeepers in the UN mission sexually abused children and sexually exploited adults (see section 1.c.).

Armed groups perpetrated serious violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law during the internal conflict. Both ex-Seleka and the anti-Balaka committed unlawful killings, torture and other mistreatment, abductions, sexual assaults, looting, and destruction of property.

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

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

There were several reports of some government elements or its agents committing arbitrary or unlawful killings while serving as clandestine partisans of the anti-Balaka.

In May the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report documenting patterns of “serious human rights and international humanitarian law violations committed on the territory of the Central African Republic between January 1, 2003 and December 31, 2015.” The report documented 620 such incidents.

Armed rebel groups, particularly members of the various factions of ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka, killed civilians, especially persons suspected of being members or sympathizers of opposing parties in the conflict (see section 1.g.). The killings, often reprisals in nature, included summary executions and deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on civilians.

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan rebel group that operated in eastern regions of the country, and other armed groups, including Reclamation, Return, and Rehabilitation (3R), Revolution and Justice, MPC, UPC, FPRC, and Democratic Front of the Central African People, were responsible for civilian killings (see section 1.g.).

The 3R, MPC, UPC, FPRC, and anti-Balaka groups participated in ethnic killings related to cattle theft (see section 6).

b. Disappearance

There were reports that forces from the ex-Seleka, anti-Balaka, and other armed groups were responsible for politically motivated disappearances. Those abducted included police and civilians (see section 1.g.).

There were many reports of disappearances committed by the LRA for the purposes of recruitment and extortion (see section 1.g.).

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

Although the law prohibits torture and specifies punishment for those found guilty of physical abuse, there were reports from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that soldiers of the Central African Armed Forces, gendarmes, and police were responsible for torture.

Inhuman treatment, akin to torture, by forces from the ex-Seleka, anti-Balaka, LRA, and other armed groups, including abuse and rape of civilians with impunity, resulted in deaths (see section 1.g.).

The United Nations reported it had received 12 allegations (as of August 31) of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers deployed to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), with seven alleged incidents occurring during the year, four in 2016, and one in 2014-15. These allegations involved peacekeepers from Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Mauritania, and the Republic of the Congo. Of the 12 allegations, three involved minors, 11 remained pending investigation by the United Nations or the troop- or police-contributing country, and one allegation was substantiated. Officials repatriated one Mauritanian peacekeeper for having a sexually exploitative relationship with an adult.

In June the United Nations announced the withdrawal of the remaining Republic of the Congo peacekeeping forces following a request by the MINUSCA force commander. Republic of the Congo troops had been accused of multiple cases of sexual exploitation and abuse.

There were credible allegations of human rights violations and abuses by members of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) deployed to the country since 2009 as part of the African Union Regional Task Force to counter the LRA. Preliminary investigations found at least 18 women and girls were subjected to sexual violence and harassment by UPDF soldiers. There were an additional 14 reported cases of rape, including of victims who were minors. Several women and girls reported that UPDF members took them from their villages and forced them to become prostitutes or sex slaves or to marry Ugandan soldiers.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) independent expert and international NGOs, detention conditions in the prisons did not generally meet international norms and were often inhuman.

MINUSCA detained and transferred to government custody several medium and high-level armed group members.

Physical Conditions: The government operated three prisons in or near Bangui: Ngaragba Central Prison, its high-security Camp de Roux annex for men, and the Bimbo Women’s Prison. A combination of international peacekeepers, soldiers of the Central African Armed Forces, prison officers trained by MINUSCA and the Ministry of Justice, and judicial police guarded both men’s and women’s prisons. Three prisons were operational outside the Bangui area: Bouar, Berberati, and Mbaiki. In other locations, including Bambari, Bossembele, Bossangoa, and Boda, police or gendarmes kept prisoners in custody. Conditions in other prisons not emptied or destroyed by recent conflict were life threatening and substantially below international standards. Basic necessities, such as food, clothing, and medicine, were inadequate and often confiscated by prison officials. The national budget did not include adequate funds for food for prison inmates.

In 2016 MINUSCA and international donors worked with the National Penitentiary Administration to begin a gradual demilitarization of facilities and a reduction in escapes.

Ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka forces held an unknown number of persons in illegal prisons and detention centers, but neither the government nor humanitarian agencies visited these sites, and their conditions were unknown.

Authorities sometimes held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners, juveniles with adults, and failed to separate prisoners by gender in government prisons. In Bangui men and women were held in separate prisons. In Bouar, Mbaiki, Berberati, and other cities, the small prisons put men and women in separate cells; however, conditions were substantially below international standards. Officials segregated women into three large rooms with no ventilation or electric lighting. All detainees, including pregnant women, slept on thin straw mats on concrete floors.

No juvenile prison or separate cells in adult prisons for juveniles existed. The Ngaragba Prison housed 34 juveniles. Accusations ranged from murder to witchcraft and petty crimes.

Official prisons lacked basic sanitation and ventilation, electric lighting, basic and emergency medical care, and sufficient access to potable water. Prisoners seldom had access to health care, and disease was pervasive. Official statistics regarding the number of deaths in prisons were not readily available.

According to MINUSCA’s Corrections Section, in the Bouar Prison, approximately 50 percent of inmates suffered from malnutrition, with 25 percent severely malnourished. There was no running water in the prison because authorities did not pay the water invoice, leading the water company to cut the water supply.

Administration: Prison detainees have the right to submit complaints of mistreatment, but victims rarely did so, due to lack of a functioning formal complaint mechanism and fear of retaliation by prison officials. Authorities seldom initiated investigations of abuse in the prisons.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring by independent observers, including the UNHCR independent expert and international donors in January, February, and July.

Improvements: During the year MINUSCA and international donors began a three-year training program for new civilian prison guards with the objective of demilitarizing the prison guard corps.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law provides protection against arbitrary arrest and detention and accords detainees the right to a judicial determination of the legality of their detention, but the government did not always provide for exercise of these rights. Obtaining and affording a lawyer, and the ability to get courts to act, remained serious impediments to such challenges. In the territories controlled by ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka, arbitrary arrest and detention remained serious problems.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

Police and gendarmerie have responsibility for enforcing law and maintaining order; however, both largely withdrew from the interior of the country during the violence in 2013 and maintained limited or no presence in many areas. Police and gendarmerie increased the number of towns in which they were present during the year, but deployed officers remained poorly trained, few had functioning arms, and there was little ammunition. Local commanding officers paid for basic necessities (office supplies) out of their own pockets.

Impunity persisted. Contributing factors included insufficient staffing, training, and resources; corruption; unpaid salaries for police, gendarmerie, and judiciary; and threats by local armed groups to any arrest or investigation of their cronies or members.

MINUSCA had a uniformed force, including military, civilian police, and military observers of 11,846, of whom 1,896 were police officers. The role of MINUSCA’s uniformed force was to protect the civilian population from physical violence within its capabilities and areas of deployment. MINUSCA police had the authority to make arrests and transfer persons to national authorities.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Judicial warrants are not required for arrest. The law stipulates that authorities must inform persons detained in all cases, other than those involving national security, of the charges and bring them before a magistrate within 72 hours. This period is renewable once, for a total of 144 hours. Authorities often did not respect these deadlines, in part due to a lack of recordkeeping, inefficient and slow judicial procedures, and a lack of judges.

A bail system exists but it did not function. Authorities sometimes followed legal procedures in cases managed by gendarmes or local police. Detainees had access to a lawyer, but the cost was often beyond the ability of a detainee to pay. The law provides a lawyer for those unable to pay in felony cases where a sentence of 10 years or more could be imposed. Lawyers were not provided for nonfelony cases. Remuneration for state-provided attorneys was 5,000 CFA francs ($8.85) per case, which deterred many lawyers from taking such cases. For individuals detained by ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka and placed in illegal detention centers, legal procedures were not followed and access to lawyers was not provided.

Prosecution of persons subject to sanctions by the UN Sanctions Committee was minimal.

Arbitrary Arrest: The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention. Arbitrary arrest was a serious problem, however, and some ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka groups arbitrarily targeted and detained individuals.

Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention was a serious problem, although specific reliable data was not available.

Although recordkeeping of arrests and detentions was poor, the slow investigation and processing of a case was the primary cause of pretrial detention. The judicial police force charged with investigating cases was poorly trained, understaffed, and had few resources, resulting in poorly processed cases with little physical evidence. The court system did not hold the constitutionally mandated two criminal sessions per year. The judges resisted holding sessions out of security concerns and insisted on receiving stipends beyond their salaries.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, there was a lack of independence between the judiciary and political actors. In March the president issued a decree appointing eight members of the Constitutional Court, four of whom, including the president of the court, were women. In 2013 the Seleka destroyed court buildings and records throughout the country, leaving the judicial system barely functional. Courts in Bangui and some prefectures resumed operations, but the deployment of magistrates and administrators outside Bangui was limited. Many judges were unwilling to leave Bangui citing security concerns, the inability to receive their salaries while in provincial cities, and the lack of office space and housing.

Corruption was a serious problem at all levels. Courts suffered from inefficient administration, understaffing, a shortage of trained personnel, salary arrears, and a lack of resources. Authorities, particularly those of high rank, did not always respect court orders.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The penal code presumes defendants are innocent until proven guilty. Trials are public, and defendants have the right to be present and consult a public defender. Criminal trials use juries. The law obliges the government to provide counsel for indigent defendants; this process delayed trial proceedings due to the state’s limited resources. Defendants have the right to question witnesses, present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf, and file appeals. The government sometimes complied with these requirements. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges (with free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals), to receive adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, and not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Authorities seldom respected these rights.

With assistance from MINUSCA and international donors, the government began the process of establishing the Special Criminal Court tasked to investigate and prosecute serious human rights violations, with a focus on conflict-related and gender-based crimes. The internationally nominated chief prosecutor for the court took office in May. More than a dozen international and national positions within the court, including judges, prosecutors, and clerks, had also been filled.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary in civil matters, but citizens had limited access to courts to bring lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, a human rights violation. Civil courts operated since 2015 and held regular sessions. One international legal NGO was able to assist citizens in filing more than 1,680 civil and penal cases and obtain judgments in more than 175. There is no system for the protection of victims and witnesses, who faced intimidation and insecurity. Victims, who often lived side-by-side with perpetrators, were often unable to testify against perpetrators, especially since there was no guarantee of a credible judicial process.

Several civil courts were operational in Bangui and prefectures in western parts of the country.

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

The law prohibits searches of homes without a warrant in civil and criminal cases, and there were no reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

g. Abuses in Internal Conflict

Serious violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law, including unlawful killings, torture and other mistreatment, abductions, sexual assaults, looting, and destruction of property, were perpetrated by all armed groups in the conflict, including the ex-Seleka and the anti-Balaka, whose fighters operated freely across much of the country, facilitated by the widespread circulation of small arms.

MINUSCA documented 492 human rights violations or abuses, or violations of international humanitarian law, between February and June, including against 103 women and 172 children. These incidents included arbitrary killings, violations of physical integrity, conflict-related sexual violence, arbitrary arrests and detentions, and abductions.

Killings: In May self-defense groups reportedly associated with anti-Balaka forces killed 115 persons in the town of Bangassou, Mbomou Prefecture. The conflict displaced several thousand persons, with some fleeing to the nearby Democratic Republic of the Congo. Six UN peacekeepers were also killed. As of September 1, a total of 2,000 Muslim displaced persons were still sheltering at the Catholic seminary in the town.

On May 2, in the town of Niem between Bouar and the Cameroonian border, members of the 3R rebel group reportedly shot nine men in the head in a church, killing them.

Abductions: The LRA, ex-Seleka, anti-Balaka, and other armed groups abducted numerous persons. According to MINUSCA, abductions and hostage taking were used to extort money from relatives, press authorities into releasing incarcerated colleagues, and intimidate populations into allowing armed groups to impose authority.

Kidnappings by the LRA reportedly continued. For example, on February 11, in the village of Derbissaka in the eastern region, the LRA abducted two women, burned their homes, and burned and looted their businesses.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Members of armed groups reportedly continued to rape girls and women with impunity.

The ex-Seleka and forces associated with anti-Balaka groups reportedly mistreated, beat, and raped civilians in the course of the conflict. In an October 5 report, Human Rights Watch documented widespread use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. It reported 305 cases of sexual slavery and rape carried out against 296 women and girls by members of armed groups between early 2013 and mid-2017. Anti-Balaka and Seleka armed groups used sexual violence as revenge for perceived support of those on the other side of the sectarian divide.

There were reports peacekeeping forces, including MINUSCA and international contingents, exploited women and children (see section 1.c.).

Child Soldiers: Reports of unlawful use and recruitment of child soldiers continued during the year. According to estimates by UNICEF, armed groups recruited between 6,000 and 10,000 child soldiers during the latest conflict through 2015; some remained with armed groups. NGOs reported that armed groups sent recruited children to fight, used them for sexual purposes, and as cooks, porters, or messengers. According to the UN independent expert, the LRA forced children to commit atrocities such as killing village residents, abducting or killing other children, and looting and burning villages.

According to the 2016 Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, the United Nations documented 40 cases of child recruitment and use in 2015; more than half the cases were perpetrated by the LRA and more than a quarter by ex-Seleka factions of the UPC. Armed groups forced children to be combatants, messengers, informants, and cooks, and they used girls as sex slaves. In addition the United Nations documented the presence of children manning checkpoints and barricades alongside armed individuals reportedly sympathetic to or affiliated with anti-Balaka and ex-Seleka elements.

During the first phase of the pilot national Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration, and Repatriation Consultative Committee plan in September in Bangui, two minors (both age 17) applied to participate. One presented a firearm. UNICEF took both minors into its care.

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

Chad

Executive Summary

Chad is a centralized republic in which the executive branch dominates the legislature and judiciary. In April 2016 President Idriss Deby Itno, leader of the Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS), was elected to a fifth term with 59.92 percent of the vote. While the election was orderly and had a high voter turnout, it was neither free nor fair, and there were numerous irregularities. Runner-up Saleh Kebzabo, who received 12.8 percent of the vote, refused to accept the outcome of the election, stating it was an “electoral stickup.” In the 2011 legislative elections, the ruling MPS won 118 of the National Assembly’s 188 seats. International observers deemed that election legitimate and credible. Since 2011, legislative elections have been repeatedly postponed for various reasons and, at year’s end, had not been rescheduled.

Civilian authorities did not always maintain effective control of the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included arbitrary killings by security forces and use of torture; security force abuse; harsh and potentially life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention, incommunicado detention; denial of fair public trial; restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and movement; limited ability of citizens to choose their government; government corruption; violence against women and children, including rape and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C); early and forced marriage and the sexual exploitation of children with inadequate government action to enforce accountability; trafficking in persons, particularly children; and criminalization of same sex sexual conduct.

The government seldom took steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses, whether in the security services or elsewhere in the government, and impunity was a problem.

Members of Boko Haram, the Nigerian militant terrorist group, killed numerous persons in the country, often using suicide bombers.

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

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

There were reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary and unlawful killings, including by torture. Human rights groups credibly accused security forces of killing and torturing with impunity, according to Freedom House.

Interethnic violence resulted in deaths (see section 6).

There were no trials of any of the 340 Boko Haram detainees, neither the male prisoners kept in the remote Koro-Toro prison, nor in the Amsinene prison in N’Djamena, where authorities held approximately 16 women and children. The children were kept in custody not because of their involvement in any criminal offense, but because no other childcare was available.

b. Disappearance

Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but there were reports government officials employed them. In early October, Member of Parliament Dionadji, who led a mission to assess prison conditions, reported that officials refused some sick prisoners health-care treatment as punishment. During a November 27 round table in N’Djamena, he reported that some of those prisoners had chickenpox.

Nadjo Kaina and Bertrand Solloh, two leaders of the citizen movement Iyina (“We are tired” in local Arabic), were arrested on April 6 and April 15, respectively, by purported agents of the National Security Agency (ANS). They had called on citizens to wear red on April 10 to show their solidarity with the movement on the anniversary of the 2016 presidential election. ANS detained them without access to their families or lawyers for 16 and eight days, respectively, before handing them over to the judicial police and charging them with attempted conspiracy and organizing an unauthorized gathering. They were eventually convicted and released with six-month suspended sentences. They alleged that they had been tortured while in detention.

Security forces used excessive force against demonstrators.

As of November 6, the United Nations had received one allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse against a Chadian peacekeeper. In August an allegation of transactional sex was made against a Chadian military officer serving with the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali. The incident allegedly took place in July. As of November 6, the investigation was pending. In the interim the United Nations suspended payments to the individual.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in the country’s 45 prisons remained harsh and potentially life-threatening due to food shortages, gross overcrowding, physical abuse, and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care.

Physical Conditions: Prison overcrowding was a serious problem. Despite the near doubling of the prison population since 2012, no new facilities had been constructed. Authorities did not separate juveniles from adult male prisoners and sometimes held children with their inmate mothers. Authorities did not always separate male and female prisoners, and held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners.

Local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported food, potable water, sanitation, and health services were inadequate. Prison guards, who were not regularly paid, sometimes released prisoners if bribed. Provisions for heating, ventilation, and lighting were inadequate or nonexistent. The law stipulates a doctor must visit each prison three times a week, but authorities did not respect this provision. The few prisons that had doctors lacked medical supplies. Family members of detainees frequently provided them with food, soap, medicine, and other supplies. Forced labor in prisons occurred.

No estimate of deaths in prisons or detention centers was available.

On April 17, six prisoners escaped from Massakory prison. The prison guards captured three of them, but at year’s end, three others remained at large. On March 26, at least 95 detainees escaped from Abeche prison after a violent mutiny.

On November 18, President Deby, as a follow-up to the 2016 Government Commission for Prison Reform, visited Amsinene prison and observed alarming prison conditions. In a press conference, he stated that the Amsinene prison, designed to accommodate 300 inmates, held 2,000 persons and lacked appropriate sanitation and other facilities. The commission discovered detainee cases that had been pending for years and cases in which persons were incarcerated without commitment orders. The commission recommended the adoption of a number of measures, including holding special hearings to reduce time in detention, releasing prisoners whose remand time exceeded the penalty, and constructing a separate facility for juvenile detainees, to include a social reintegration center.

Regional prisons were crumbling, overcrowded, and without adequate protection for women and youths. They reportedly received insufficient funding to feed inmates.

Administration: There was no prison ombudsman, and there were no functioning mechanisms by which prisoners could submit complaints about prison conditions to judicial authorities.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to visit prisons, and the ICRC conducted such visits during the year. At the maximum-security Koro-Toro prison, where few families visited due to its distance from N’Djamena, the ICRC visited every four to six weeks.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but the government did not always observe these prohibitions. The law does not provide for the right of persons to challenge the lawfulness of their arrest or detention in court, or to obtain prompt release and compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained. In its Freedom in the World 2016report, Freedom House stated security forces “routinely ignore” constitutional protections regarding detention. Police and gendarmes also detained individuals for civil matters, contrary to law. There were reports that officials held detainees in police cells or in secret detention facilities.

On several occasions authorities arrested journalists solely for covering a demonstration. For example, on May 29, journalist Boulga David from Dja FM was arrested by ANS agents while covering a demonstration organized by staff of the fourth community district who were requesting payment of their past months’ salary. He was taken to an ANS facility and detained for several hours before being released.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The military (ANT), gendarmerie, national police, the Chadian National Nomadic Guard (GNNT), and ANS are responsible for internal security. A specialized gendarmerie unit, the Detachment for the Protection of Humanitarian Workers and Refugees (DPHR), is responsible for security in refugee camps. The ANT reports to the Ministry of Defense. The national police, GNNT, and DPHR are part of the Ministry of Public Security and Immigration. The ANS reports directly to the president. The ANS’s powers were increased in January, and it was given authority to “arrest and detain suspects for purposes of investigation, where they represent a real or potential threat, in accordance with the laws of the Republic.”

Security forces were corrupt and involved in extortion. According to media reports, police also were involved in violence and arms trafficking. Impunity was a problem. Members of the Judicial Police, an office within the national police with arrest authority, did not always enforce domestic court orders against military personnel or members of their own ethnic groups. There were isolated reports of former soldiers posing as active-duty soldiers and committing crimes with government-issued weapons.

Two gendarmerie entities, the National Judiciary Investigations Section and the Special Intervention Squad of the Gendarmerie, investigate all gendarmerie, GNNT, and army killings to determine whether they occurred in the line of duty or were otherwise justifiable. The Judicial Police investigate police killings.

The government continued efforts to reform police forces and, in partnership with UNICEF, trained police and gendarmes on child rights.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Although the law requires a judge to sign and issue arrest warrants before arrests may take place, this did not always occur. By law detainees must be charged within 48 hours or released, unless the district attorney authorizes an extension of detention for investigative purposes. Nevertheless, authorities often did not make judicial determinations promptly. The law provides for bail and access to counsel, but there were cases in which authorities provided neither. In some cases authorities denied detainees visits from doctors. While the law provides for legal counsel for indigent defendants and prompt access to family members, this often did not occur. Authorities occasionally held detainees incommunicado.

Arbitrary Arrest: Security forces arbitrarily arrested journalists, demonstrators, critics of the government, and other individuals.

The ANS’ practice of holding government critics in secret detention was not limited to the Iyina (an opposition civil society organization) leaders. On May 5, Maoundoe Decladore, spokesperson of the platform “It Must Change,” was arrested by four armed men in plain clothes. Detained for 25 days without any access to his family or lawyer, he was held at an ANS facility in Moundou before eventually being passed to the judicial police and charged with public disorder. He was then released on bail for health reasons, and at year’s end he was awaiting trial.

On February 26, journalist Daniel Ngadjadoum was arrested by men in military uniform and held at ANS headquarters for three days, allegedly for having written an article in Tribune Infos newspaper critical of President Deby. Two days later, the NGO Reporters Without Borders issues a statement condemning alleged harassment of the publishers of two opposition newspapers, Tribune Infos and Mutation, by the ANS or persons purporting to represent the ANS.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem, despite government efforts to address it. Authorities sometimes held pretrial detainees without charge for years, particularly for felonies allegedly committed in the provinces. The length of detention sometimes equaled or exceeded the sentence for conviction of the alleged crime. Lengthy pretrial detention resulted from a weak judiciary.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, the judiciary was underfunded, overburdened, and subject to executive interference and corruption. Members of the judiciary sometimes received death threats or were demoted for not acquiescing to pressure from officials. Government officials, particularly members of the military, often were able to avoid prosecution. Courts generally were weak and in some areas nonexistent. Judicial authorities did not always respect court orders.

A judicial oversight commission has the power to investigate judicial decisions and address suspected injustices. The president appointed its members, increasing executive control of the judiciary.

The legal system is based on French civil law, but the constitution recognizes customary law in locales where it is long established, provided it does not interfere with public order or constitutional provisions for equality of citizens. Courts tended to blend the formal French-derived legal code with traditional practices. Local customs often superseded Napoleonic law. Residents of rural areas and refugee/internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps often lacked access to formal judicial institutions, and legal reference texts were not available outside the capital or in Arabic. In minor civil cases, the population often relied on traditional courts presided over by village chiefs, canton chiefs, or sultans. Penalties in traditional courts sometimes depended on the clan affiliations of the victim and perpetrator. Decisions of traditional courts may be appealed to a formal court.

A 2011 law provides that crimes committed by military members be tried by a military court, although as of year’s end the government had not established a military court. In the absence of a permanent military court, members of the military were tried in civilian courts.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for a presumption of innocence. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them and to be provided free interpretation; these rights, however, were seldom respected. Trials are public. Only criminal trials used juries, but not in politically sensitive cases. While defendants have the right to consult an attorney in a timely manner, this did not always occur. By law indigent persons have the right to legal counsel at public expense in all cases, although this seldom occurred. Human rights groups sometimes provided free counsel to indigent clients. Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants and their attorneys have the right to question witnesses and present witnesses and evidence. Defendants have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, but the government did not always respect this right. Defendants have the right to appeal court decisions.

Local leaders may apply the Islamic concept of “dia,” which involves a payment to the family of a crime victim. The practice was common in Muslim areas. Non-Muslim groups challenged the practice, asserting it was unconstitutional.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

In detention since mid-July for embezzlement, Meedard Laoukein was released in early December, after awaiting a hearing before judges for five months. He was the head of the political party, the Chadian Convention for Peace and Development and the mayor of the city of Moundou, and ran for president in 2016 against President Deby.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Lawsuits for human rights violations may be brought before a criminal court, but compensation is addressed by a civil court. Administrative and judicial remedies, such as mediation, are available. The judiciary was not always independent or impartial in civil matters.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports of the government demolishing homes without due process.

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

Although the constitution provides for the right to privacy and inviolability of the home, the government did not always respect these rights. Authorities entered homes without judicial authorization and seized private property without due process. Security forces routinely stopped citizens to extort money or confiscate goods.

A government decree prohibits possession and use of satellite telephones.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Executive Summary

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a nominally centralized constitutional republic. Voters popularly elect the president and the lower house of parliament (National Assembly). Under the constitution the president’s second and final term in office expired in December 2016. The government, however, failed to organize elections in 2016 in accordance with constitutional deadlines and the president remained in office. In December 2016 the government and opposition parties agreed to a power-sharing arrangement that paved the way for elections in 2017, the release of political prisoners, and an end to politically motivated prosecutions. The government failed to implement the agreement as written, however, and elections had not occurred by year’s end. On November 5, the national electoral commission announced that elections would be held in December 2018. The country’s most recent presidential and National Assembly elections, which many local and international observers characterized as lacking in credibility and seriously flawed, were held in 2011. All national-level democratically elected officials, including the president and both houses of parliament, have overstayed their elected mandates.

Civilian authorities did not always maintain control over the security forces.

Armed conflict in the east and Kasai regions exacerbated an already precarious human rights situation.

The most significant human rights issues included: unlawful killings; disappearances and abductions; torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and punishment, including sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and rape; life-threatening conditions in prisons and detention facilities; arbitrary arrests and prolonged detention; denial of fair public trial; arbitrary interference with privacy, family, and home; restrictions on freedoms of speech and the press, assembly, and association; abuse of internally displaced persons (IDPs); inability of citizens to change their government through democratic means; harassment of civil society, opposition, and religious leaders; corruption and a lack of transparency at all levels of government; violence and stigmatization against women, children, persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities, indigenous persons, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons, and persons with albinism, with little government action to investigate, prosecute, or hold perpetrators accountable; trafficking in persons, including forced labor, including by children; and violations of worker rights.

Authorities often took no steps to investigate, prosecute, or punish officials who committed abuses, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government, and impunity for human rights abuses was a problem.

Government security forces, as well as rebel and militia groups (RMGs) continued to commit abuses, primarily in the east and the central Kasai region. These abuses included unlawful killings, disappearances, torture, destruction of government and private property, and SGBV. RMGs also recruited, abducted, and retained child soldiers and compelled forced labor. The government took military action against some RMGs but had limited ability to investigate abuses and bring the accused to trial (see section 1.g.).

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

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

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

State security forces (SSF) committed arbitrary or unlawful killings in operations against RMGs in the east and in the Kasai region (see section 1.g.). According to the UN Joint Office of Human Rights (UNJHRO), security forces were responsible for 1,176 extrajudicial killings during the year across the country. Many of these extrajudicial killings occurred in the Kasais, where the SSF fought Kamuina Nsapu and other antigovernment militias. In December, UNJHRO reported that at least 170 women were victims of extrajudicial killings nationwide from January to October.

In February video footage of the SSF massacring unarmed civilians, including women and children, in the village of Mwanza Lomba in East Kasai Oriental circulated on social media. The massacre reportedly occurred in December 2016 during an engagement between the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and Kamuina Nsapu. Another video, which also appeared on social media at the same time, showed government officials insulting and beating a mortally injured girl in what appeared to be a government office in Kananga (see section 1.d.). On March 14-15, the SSF killed at least 100 individuals, including women and children, in Kananga, according to reporting by the Catholic Church. From March 28-30 in Kananga, the SSF reportedly killed hundreds more civilians during what the SSF described as cordon and search operations for Kamuina Nsapu members. According to eyewitnesses, the Catholic Church, and UN personnel, civilians executed by the SSF included children as young as six months old, some of whom were shot in their beds.

In June the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) confirmed that 251 persons, including 62 children, of whom three were under the age of eight, were victims of extrajudicial and targeted killings from March 12 to June 19 in Kamonia territory of Kasai Province. The OHCHR reported that “local security forces and other officials actively fomented, fueled, and occasionally led, attacks on the basis of ethnicity.” According to the OHCHR, “survivors have spoken of hearing the screams of people being burned alive, of seeing loved ones chased and cut down, of themselves fleeing in terror.” The OHCHR also reported that the SSF and local authorities supported and allegedly armed a militia, the Bana Mura, responsible for killing civilians in Kasai. According to the OHCHR, “FARDC soldiers were seen leading groups of Bana Mura militia during attacks on villages.” In April and May, the Bana Mura reportedly attacked ethnic Luba and Lulua, “beheading, mutilating, and shooting victims; in some cases burning them alive in their homes.” The OHCHR determined that, in one attack on April 24, in the village of Cinq, “90 patients, colleagues and people who had sought refuge in a health center were killed, including patients who could not escape when the surgical ward was set on fire.” The OHCHR reported seeing “children as young as two whose limbs had been chopped off; many babies had machete wounds and severe burns. One two-month-old baby seen…had been hit by two bullets four hours after birth; the mother was also injured. At least two pregnant women were sliced open and their foetuses mutilated.”

In June the country’s Council of Catholic Bishops (CENCO) estimated that at least 3,383 civilians were killed in the Kasai region from October 2016 to June 19 by both the SSF and RMGs. This included as many as 500 persons allegedly killed by the SSF and RMGs in Dibula in December 2016, 150 allegedly killed by RMGs in Mbawu-Milambu in January, 100 allegedly killed by the SSF in Tshimbulu in February, 400 allegedly killed by the SSF in Kananga in March, 800 allegedly killed by the SSF in Mwene-Ditu in March, 100 allegedly killed by the SSF in Tshisuku in May, and 130 allegedly killed by the SSF in Maswika in May.

On September 15, the SSF shot and killed 36 Burundian refugees and asylum seekers in Kamanyola outside of Bukavu in eastern DRC.

In December the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) reported that at least 80 persons were killed by FARDC’s 2103 Regiment from November 29 to December 1 in Kabeya Lumbu and Mbawu, which are 15 miles and 27 miles north of Tshikapa, respectively. The killings reportedly took place during a military operation against a Kamuina Nsapu-affiliated militia group. Six FARDC personnel were also reportedly killed.

On December 7, Human Rights Watch and the Congo Research Group published a report stating that at least 526 civilians were killed in North and South Kivu provinces from June to November. The reported stated that the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), other RMGs, and government proxy RMGs were responsible for some of these killings.

RMGs committed arbitrary and unlawful killings throughout the year (see section 1.g.). Kamuina Nsapu militants recruited and used children as soldiers and human shields and targeted SSF, members of the government, and others. In June the OHCHR stated it had documented serious abuses committed by the Kamuina Nsapu militia and accused the Kamuina Nsapu of carrying out targeted killings, including against “members of the armed forces, police, public officials, and civilians perceived to cooperate with them, as well as alleged sorcerers. Witnesses indicated that the Kamuina Nsapu militia comprises many children, some as young as seven, many of them under the influence of drugs.” In March Kamuina Nsapu killed, beheaded, and dismembered the wife of a local mayor in Luebo. Kamuina Nsapu killed three employees of the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) in Kasai Central Province, including a CENI official who was killed and beheaded on April 3 and the director of the territorial CENI office killed in May. In April the same RMG killed three officials from the Ministry of Education who had travelled to Kasai to administer student examinations. The government stated that the Kamuina Nsapu also beheaded 39 police officers on the road between Tshikapa and Kanaga in March, but provided no names of those allegedly killed.

On August 7, another RMG, the Bundu dia Kongo militia, killed as many as eight SSF members during attacks in Kinshasa. According to the United Nations, the SSF response resulted in the deaths of at least 40 persons.

b. Disappearance

There were reports of disappearances attributable to the SSF during the year. Authorities often refused to acknowledge the detention of suspects and in some cases detained suspects in unofficial facilities, including on military bases. The whereabouts of some civil society activists and civilians arrested by the SSF remained unknown for long periods. For instance, a local NGO reported in July that dozens of individuals arrested during September and December protests in 2016 were still being held at Makala Central Prison.

RMGs and some FARDC elements kidnapped numerous persons, generally for forced labor, military service, or sexual slavery. Many of these victims disappeared (see section 1.g.).

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

The law criminalizes torture, but there were credible reports that the SSF continued to torture civilians, particularly detainees and prisoners. In July the DRC National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) stated, “Most people arrested by security forces on suspicion of belonging to [Kamuina Nsapu] claim they were victims of serious torture. Following this treatment, some lost their lives or became mentally ill.” The CNDH also noted that suspected militants brought to military camp Bobozo in Kananga were “subjected to torture and treatment of a rare cruelty.” In February government officials were filmed beating a mortally injured girl in what appeared to be a government building in Kananga. On December 31, police were filmed beating peaceful and in some cases sedentary protesters with sticks in the towns of Beni and Kasindi.

As of October 24, the United Nations reported that it had received 15 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against military, police, and civilian personnel deployed with MONUSCO during the year. Nine of these cases involved allegations of transactional sex; four involved allegations of an exploitative relationship; one involved the sexual assault of a child; and one involved the alleged rape of a child. As of October 24, all investigations were pending.

The United Nations reported that it received one allegation during the year of sexual exploitation and abuse against DRC peacekeepers serving outside the DRC. The allegation of transactional sex, alleged to have taken place at an unspecified time in 2014-15, was made against a DRC military officer deployed with the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). As of October 24, an investigation was pending.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in most prisons throughout the country remained harsh and life threatening due to food shortages, gross overcrowding, and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care. Even harsher conditions prevailed in small detention centers run by the National Intelligence Agency (ANR), Republican Guard (RG), or other security forces, which often detained prisoners for lengthy pretrial periods without access to family or legal counsel. Some civil society activists arrested in Kinshasa were reportedly held in an underground cell operated by the RG at a military camp.

Physical Conditions: Serious threats to life and health were widespread and included violence (particularly rape); food shortages; and inadequate potable water, sanitation, ventilation, temperature control, lighting, and medical care. Because inmates had inadequate supplies of food and little access to water, many relied exclusively on relatives, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and church groups to bring them sustenance. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited an unknown number of prisoners. In July a prison director in Tshikapa reported that eight prisoners had died of malnutrition in three weeks, citing food shortages. Also in July part of the central prison in Goma caught fire, reportedly due to electrical problems. Authorities generally confined men and women in separate areas but often held juveniles with adults. In August the provincial office of the CNDH successfully advocated for 10 minors detained in Mbuji Mayi to be separated from adults in the prison. Authorities rarely separated pretrial detainees from convicted prisoners. Central prison facilities were severely overcrowded, with an estimated occupancy rate of 200 percent of capacity; they also had little ventilation or light, subjecting detainees to extreme heat. For example, Makala Central Prison in Kinshasa, which was constructed in 1958 to house 1,500 prisoners, held as many as 8,500 inmates during the year, although as many as 4,000 of these escaped during a mass prison break on May 17. The United Nations reported 100 individuals died in detention between January and June, mostly from starvation or illness; 45 of these deaths occurred in Kongo Central Province.

Most prisons were understaffed, undersupplied, and poorly maintained, often allowing escapes. From January to June 30, the United Nations documented at least 5,528 prisoner escapes.

Authorities often arbitrarily beat or tortured detainees. For example, the United Nations reported that one 14-year-old boy arrested by the FARDC for association with the Kamuina Nsapu militia was tortured by soldiers who hacked off his thumb and cut him at least 22 times over his body with a machete. Government officials were also filmed beating a mortally injured girl in what appeared to be a government building in Kananga (see section 1.a.).

RMGs detained civilians, often for ransom, but little information was available concerning detention conditions (see section 1.g.).

Administration: Some prison directors could only estimate the numbers of detainees in their facilities. Authorities denied access to visitors for some inmates and often did not permit inmates to contact or submit complaints to judicial authorities. Directors and staff generally ran prisons for profit, selling sleeping arrangements to the highest bidders and requiring payment for family visits.

Independent Monitoring: The government regularly allowed the ICRC, MONUSCO, and NGOs access to official detention facilities maintained by the Ministry of Interior but consistently denied access to facilities run by the ANR and the RG.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest or detention, but both the SSF and RMGs routinely arrested or detained persons arbitrarily (see section 1.e.).

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Congolese National Police (PNC) operates under the Ministry of Interior and has primary responsibility for law enforcement and public order. The PNC includes the Rapid Intervention Police and the Integrated Police Unit. The ANR, overseen by the presidency, is responsible for internal and external intelligence. The FARDC and the military intelligence service operate under the control of the Ministry of Defense and are primarily responsible for external security, but also fulfill an internal security role. The presidency oversees the RG, and the minister of interior oversees the Directorate General for Migration, which, together with the PNC, are responsible for border control. Military magistrates are responsible for the investigation and prosecution of all crimes allegedly committed by SSF members, whether or not committed in the line of duty. Civilians can be tried in military tribunals if charged with offenses involving firearms. The military justice system often succumbed to political and command interference, and security arrangements for magistrates in areas affected by conflict were inadequate. Justice mechanisms were particularly ineffective for addressing misconduct by mid- and high-ranking officials due to a requirement the judge of a military court must outrank the defendant.

Elements of the SSF were undisciplined and corrupt. PNC and FARDC units regularly engaged in illegal taxation and extortion of civilians. They set up checkpoints to collect “taxes,” often stealing food and money and arresting individuals who could not pay bribes. The FARDC suffered from weak leadership, poor operational planning, low administrative and logistical capacity, lack of training, and questionable loyalty of some of its soldiers, particularly in the east. In August, two FARDC soldiers in Ituri, including a regiment commander, were arrested and brought before a military court in Kisangani for selling their weapons to South Sudanese rebels. On January 5 and 8 in Lubumbashi, Upper Katanga Province, PNC officers shot and injured two men and one agent of the CENI in an altercation related to PNC officers charging a 1,000 Congolese francs ($0.63) entrance fee to voter registration centers.

Although the military justice system convicted some SSF agents of human rights abuses, impunity remained a serious problem. For example, the government’s inquiry into September and December 2016 opposition protests failed to attribute responsibility for dozens of extrajudicial killings and disappearances perpetrated by the SSF, and no SSF members were prosecuted or held accountable by year’s end. The government maintained joint human rights committees with MONUSCO and used available international resources, such as the UN-implemented technical and logistical support program for military prosecutors as well as international NGO-supported mobile hearings.

Military courts convicted some SSF agents of human rights abuses. The United Nations reported that the government convicted at least 77 FARDC soldiers and 28 PNC officers for crimes constituting human rights violations from January to June. On July 6, a military court in Mbuji Mayi, East Kasai Province, convicted eight FARDC soldiers for their roles in a December 2016 massacre of civilians in Mwanza Lomba in the province. The soldiers received sentences ranging from 12 months to life in prison. Video footage of the massacre circulated in February and showed FARDC executing civilians, including women and children. In May military prosecutors arrested and started legal proceedings against four police officers accused taking a bribe to facilitate the escape of an individual suspected of involvement in the March 12 killings of UN experts Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan. The four police officers were charged, and the trial continued at year’s end. A fifth police officer implicated in the case remained at large.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

By law arrests for offenses punishable by more than six months’ imprisonment require warrants. Detainees must appear before a magistrate within 48 hours. Authorities must inform those arrested of their rights and the reason(s) for their arrest, and they may not arrest a family member in lieu of the suspected individual. Authorities must allow arrested individuals to contact their families and consult with attorneys. Security officials, however, routinely violated all of these requirements.

While the law provides for a bail system, it generally did not function. Detainees who were unable to pay were rarely able to access legal counsel. Authorities often held suspects incommunicado, including in facilities run by the ANR, military intelligence, and the RG, and refused to acknowledge these detentions.

Prison officials often held individuals longer than their sentences due to disorganization, inadequate records, judicial inefficiency, or corruption. Prisoners unable to pay their fines remained indefinitely in prison (see section 1.e.).

In 2014 the PNC issued a decree reforming arrest and detention procedures. The decree requires the PNC to verify facts before arresting individuals, separate men from women, and ensure the detention centers are sanitary. Authorities did not consistently implement the decree.

Arbitrary Arrest: Security personnel arrested and detained numerous perceived opponents and critics of the government, occasionally under the pretext of state security, and often denied them due process, such as access to an attorney (see sections 1.a., 2.a., and 5). Throughout the year security forces regularly held protestors and civil society activists incommunicado and without charge for extended periods. For example, on June 15, state agents arrested opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) Youth League president David Mukeba in Kisangani for raising concerns about the country’s voter registration process. The ANR allegedly held Mukeba incommunicado until August 31, when he was released.

On July 31, the SSF arbitrarily arrested at least 131 civil society activists and civilians following nationwide protests. While most were released within two days, five individuals who attempted to deliver a letter to the local CENI office in Lubumbashi were prosecuted. In August a court convicted four of the activists for disturbing the peace and sentenced them to eight months in prison. In November a court convicted the fifth activist, Timothee Mbuya, of provocation and incitation of disobedience and sentenced him to 12 months in prison. The United Nations reported that the SSF arbitrarily arrested 32 persons in Lubumbashi on October 22 in connection with the visit of opposition politician Felix Tshisekedi and released them on October 24.

The SSF arrested as many as 74 persons across the country for planning or participating in November 15 protests. Among those arrested and later released was Binja Yalala, a 15-year-old girl on the island of Idjwi in Lake Kivu. According to MONUSCO, the SSF arbitrarily arrested 213 persons during protests on November 30. Most of those arrested were subsequently released.

On December 31, police arrested as many as 180 persons for participating in peaceful protests organized by the Catholic Church in support of the December 2016 agreement and credible elections. Most of these were subsequently released. Several civil society activists who were arrested on December 30, including Carbone Beni, remained in ANR detention facilities at year’s end. Other civil society activists arrested in late December were imprisoned in Kindu, Kananga, and Kisangani.

In December, UNJHRO reported that at least 528 women were victims of arbitrary arrest during the year.

Police sometimes arbitrarily arrested and detained persons without filing charges to extort money from family members or because administrative systems were not well established.

Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention, ranging from months to years, remained a problem. NGOs estimated that at least three quarters to four-fifths of the prison population was in pretrial detention. Judicial inefficiency, administrative obstacles, corruption, financial constraints, and staff shortages also caused trial delays.

Local NGOs reported in August that several individuals arrested during or following protests in 2016 were being held incommunicado and without charge at Makala Central Prison in Kinshasa.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention; however, few were able to obtain prompt release and compensation.

Amnesty: Following the defeat of the March 23 Movement (M23) in 2013, the National Assembly enacted a law in 2014 that provides amnesty for acts of insurgency, acts of war, and political offenses. Many individuals who should have benefited from the amnesty, however, reportedly remained in custody at year’s end in contravention of both the 2014 law and the December 2016 agreement between the government and opposition parties.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

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

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

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

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

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

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

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

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

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

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

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

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

Although the law prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence, the SSF routinely ignored these provisions. The SSF harassed and robbed civilians, entered and searched homes and vehicles without warrants, and looted homes, businesses, and schools. The United Nations reported that FARDC soldiers conducted door-to-door searches in the Nganza commune of Kananga, Kasai Central Province, from March 28 to 30 looking for suspected Kamuina Nsapu militia sympathizers. According to the United Nations, the SSF broke into homes and killed hundreds of civilians. NGOs reported that some individuals were killed if they could not pay members of the SSF.

g. Abuses in Internal Conflict

Both local and foreign-influenced conflicts continued in parts of the East, particularly in the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, Tanganyika, Ituri, Upper Uele, Lower Uele, Kongo Central, and provinces in the Kasai region. Foreign RMGs, such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), the Allied Democratic Forces/National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF/NALU), the National Forces of Liberation (FNL), and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), as well as indigenous RMGs such as different Mai Mai (local militia) groups, Kamuina Nsapu, and Bundu Dia Kongo, continued to battle government forces and one another and to attack civilian populations.

There were reports the government provided support to the ADF, at least two local militias fighting the FDLR, and three militia groups in the Kasai region. In June the UN high commissioner for human rights stated he was “appalled” by reports that government authorities had created and armed a local militia called Bana Mura to fight Kamuina Nsapu militants in the Kasai region. According to the UN high commissioner, the Bana Mura targeted civilians of the Luba and Lulua ethnic groups for extrajudicial killing, and on April 24, killed dozens of men, women, and children of those communities with firearms or machetes, or burnt them to death. The high commissioner stated that hundreds of Bana Mura assailants also allegedly attacked the health center in the village of Cinq and killed approximately 90 patients, medical personnel, and others.

By impeding humanitarian aid and development assistance in some areas, the fighting in the east exacerbated an already severe humanitarian crisis. There were credible reports that local authorities also impeded humanitarian assistance in Tanganyika Province, where thousands of persons have been displaced by violence between the Twa and Luba communities.

There were credible reports that the SSF and RMGs perpetrated serious human rights abuses during internal conflicts. These RMGs included the Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo, the ADF, the FDLR, the Forces of the Patriotic Resistance of Ituri (FRPI), the LRA, various ethnic Hutu factions of Nyatura, the Nduma Defense of Congo, Raia Mutomboki, Kamuina Nsapu, Bana Mura, ethnic Tshokwe and Pende militias, several Burundian antigovernment militias, and the following Mai Mai groups: Mazembe, Charles Shetani, and William Yakutumba, among others. Bakata Katanga leader Gedeon Kyungu Mutunga, who in 2009 was convicted in a national court for crimes against humanity but escaped from prison in 2011, surrendered to the government in October 2016 and remained under a form of government-supported house arrest as of year’s end instead of being returned to prison. The government took no steps to hold him accountable.

The United Nations reported that the Kamuina Nsapu militia, based in the central Kasai region, carried out targeted killings of members of the military, police, public officials, and civilians perceived to cooperate with them (see section 1.a.). Kamuina Nsapu militants also allegedly targeted institutions of the Catholic Church for its perceived support of the government through its mediation of the December 2016 agreement. Due to the proliferation of militia groups using the “Kamuina Nsapu” name, however, it was difficult to determine which Kamuina Nsapu groups were responsible for certain attacks.

Kamuina Nsapu militias also committed serious human rights abuses against children (see section 6).

In October the ADF clashed with the FARDC and MONUSCO near Beni in the East, killing several FARDC and three MONUSCO troops and executing as many as 25 civilians. On December 7, an RMG attacked and killed 15 Tanzanian peacekeepers outside Beni.

The government took military action against several major RMGs, including establishing a new operational zone in the Kasai region to fight Kamuina Nsapu militias. Operational cooperation between MONUSCO and the government continued in the East but not in the Kasai region, where FARDC troops were accused of serious human rights abuses. MONUSCO and the FARDC cooperated against the FDLR, the ADF, and the FRPI during the year. Nduma Defense of Congo leader Ntabo Ntaberi Cheka, charged with crimes related to the 2010 Walikale rapes, surrendered to MONUSCO forces on July 25 and was transferred to government custody August 5.

There was widespread killing, rape, and displacement of civilians by ethnic militias in Tanganyika Province in clashes between ethnic Luba and ethnic Twa communities. The United Nations reported at least 58 persons were killed between January and June. During the same period, the United Nations documented rapes of at least 57 women, five children, and nine men committed by Twa militias. On February 5, Luba elements attacked the majority Twa village of Monde in Tanganyika Province, shooting and killing at least 30 persons and injuring 50 others. In 2015, 10 Twa and 27 Lubas were charged with crimes against humanity and crimes of genocide. On September 30, a Lubumbashi appeal court convicted four of these individuals, sentencing them to 15 years’ imprisonment and the payment of $10,000 in reparation fees for the victims. The others were acquitted.

On March 31, the UN Security Council extended MONUSCO’s mandate for 12 months and renewed the intervention brigade to neutralize armed groups. The mandate prioritized protection of civilians and support to the implementation of the December 2016 agreement, and cut the troop ceiling by 3,600 military personnel. As of August 31, MONUSCO consisted of approximately 17,900 peacekeepers, military observers, and police.

Killings: In the Kasai region, CENCO reported that at least 3,383 civilians were killed from October 2016 to June by the SSF and RMG. According to reports by UN agencies and NGOs, the SSF summarily executed or otherwise killed 591 persons, including more than 200 children, from January to June. The United Nations confirmed the existence of as many as 89 mass graves in the Kasai region, where government and Kamuina Nsapu forces were blamed for widespread extrajudicial killings. According to the United Nations, the SSF prevented MONUSCO personnel from accessing some mass grave sites, including a suspected mass grave site located on the grounds of the FARDC officers training school in Kananga.

Abductions: UN agencies and NGOs reported that RMGs abducted individuals, generally to serve as porters or guides or to demand ransom. In August members of the LRA kidnapped at least 40 persons approximately 60 miles from Dungu in Haut Ulele Province. LRA militants robbed them of their belongings and took them into the forest. Two CENI controllers were among the group, and LRA militants reportedly stole information the agents were carrying from 18 enrollment centers as well as a satellite phone and money.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: UN agencies and NGOs reported the SSF arrested, illegally detained, raped, and tortured civilians. UN officials reported that the SSF “pre-emptively executed” children, including some as young as six months of age, in Kananga on March 28-30, allegedly to “prevent” them from joining the Kamuina Nsapu militia. The United Nations reported that in April FARDC soldiers arrested at least 30 individuals, including young boys, who were taken to Kamako village, where they were presented to the public as members of the RMG Kamuina Nsapu. Witness accounts indicated that some of the detainees were executed after digging their graves, while others were executed and dumped in a village well. According to media reports, members of the FARDC raped as many as 25 women in Makobola, 14 miles south of Uvira, in late September and mid-October after the withdrawal of a Mai Mai group that had been operating in the area.

RMGs committed abuses in rural areas of North Kivu, South Kivu, Katanga Orientale, and the Kasai provinces, including killing, raping, and torturing civilians. On June 4, FRPI combatants attacked the town of Mandje in Ituri Province, beating at least three men, raping at least five women, and setting at least 12 homes on fire. FRPI militants reportedly vandalized a government building and looted houses and shops. In certain areas in the east, RMGs looted, extorted, illegally taxed, and kidnapped civilians, often for ransom. For example, in the territory of Lubero, NDC combatants imposed taxes on populations under their control and used violence to enforce payment.

RMG members raped men, women, and minors as part of the violence among and between them and the FARDC. Statistics on rape, including rape of males, were not available.

Child Soldiers: From January through June, the MONUSCO Child Protection Section reported at least 868 children were separated from RMGs and that nearly 37 percent of these were under 15 years of age when recruited, which could constitute a war crime. This represented a 40 percent increase in overall recruitment and a 13 percent increase in children under 15 compared to the same period in 2016. UNICEF assisted the children through a number of NGOs. These children were separated from various RMGs known generally as Mai Mai groups (151), Nyatura (149), Kamuina Nsapu (97), the Forces Democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda-Forces Combattantes Abacunguzi (FDLR-FOCA) (94), Raia Mutomboki (86), Nduma Defense of Congo /Renove/Guidon (45), FDLR-Rassemblement Uni pour la Democratie (FDLR-RUD) (29), the FDLR (29), the Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (20), Front Populaire pour la Democratie (FPD)/Shetani (15), and other groups. Most of the children were separated in North Kivu (73 percent), followed by the Kasai region (12 percent), Ituri (7 percent), and South Kivu (5 percent). Eight children were separated from government forces, although these children were not recruited into government forces. Of those eight cases, five children were separated from a rogue FARDC commander in Ituri and three were separated from a single police officer in the national police.

According to the United Nations, children made up approximately 50-70 percent of Kamuina Nsapu militia ranks, including those used as fighters and human shields. In July the special representative to the secretary general reported thousands of children were estimated to be associated with Kamuina Nsapu; only 375 had been separated to date. There were credible reports that Kamuina Nsapu leaders slashed children across their stomachs to see if they would survive and how the wound would heal as part of an initiation ritual prior to being deployed as human shields or child soldiers. Some children reportedly died as a result of this initiation process.

The SSF continued to arrest and detain children for their association with armed groups. The United Nations secured the release of 474 children from Kananga prison in Kasai Central Province where they were held on allegations of association with Kamuina Nsapu militias. Some children reported having been held for weeks at other remote facilities before being transferred to Kananga.

A presidential advisor on sexual violence and child recruitment, appointed in 2014, raised awareness of the problems of sexual violence throughout the country and encouraged efforts to remove child soldiers from the SSF and provide services to victims. There were no reports of recruitment of child soldiers by the FARDC during the year, but there was evidence of FARDC support to armed groups that recruited and used children in hostilities. The government cooperated with international organizations to eliminate recruitment and remove children from the SSF and RMGs.

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

Other Conflict-related Abuse: Fighting between the FARDC and RMGs continued to displace populations and limit humanitarian access, particularly in the Kasai provinces; Rutshuru, Walikale, Lubero, Beni, and Nyiragongo territories in North Kivu Province; South Kivu Province; and Tanganyika Province.

In North Kivu, South Kivu, East Kasai, and Upper Katanga provinces, RMGs and FARDC soldiers continued to illegally tax, exploit, and trade natural resources for revenue and power. Clandestine trade in minerals and other natural resources facilitated the purchase of weapons and reduced government revenues. The natural resources most exploited were gold, cassiterite (tin ore), coltan (tantalum ore), and wolframite (tungsten ore) but also included wildlife products, timber, charcoal, and fish.

According to media and civil society, the LRA trafficked in elephant ivory from Garamba National Park to finance its operations, likely by smuggling ivory through the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and the disputed Kafia Kingi region controlled by Sudan, to link with illicit networks transferring these goods to China.

The illegal trade in minerals was both a symptom and a cause of weak governance. It financed the SSF and RMGs, and sometimes generated revenue for traditional authorities and local and provincial governments. With enhanced government regulation encouraged by global advocacy efforts and donor support, the mining of cassiterite, coltan, and wolframite resulted in a small but increasing amount of legal conflict-free export from North and South Kivu, Upper Katanga, and Maniema provinces. The SSF and RMGs continued to control, extort, and threaten remote mining areas in North Kivu, South Kivu, East Kasai, and Upper Katanga provinces but had much less influence in Maniema Province.

The law prohibits the FARDC and RMGs from engaging in mineral trade, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. Criminal involvement by FARDC units and RMGs included protection rackets, extortion, and theft. There were unsubstantiated reports government officials were involved in illegal gold mining.

The UN group of experts (UNGOE) reported that several RMGs and elements of the FARDC profited from illegal trade and exploitation in the minerals sector (see section 7.b.). The UNGOE also reported that smuggling of minerals continued in the east and from there to Uganda and the United Arab Emirates.

Egypt

Executive Summary

According to its constitution, Egypt is a republic governed by an elected president and unicameral legislature. Domestic and international observers concluded the 2014 presidential election was administered professionally and in line with the country’s laws, while also expressing serious concerns that government limitations on association, assembly, and expression constrained broad political participation. Domestic and international observers also concluded that government authorities professionally administered parliamentary elections in 2015 in accordance with the country’s laws, while also expressing concern about restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly, association, and expression and their negative effect on the political climate surrounding the elections.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

A three-month state of emergency (SOE), subsequently renewed for an additional three months, was imposed following the Palm Sunday terrorist attacks on Coptic churches in April. Two days after the expiration of the second SOE in October, a three-month SOE was imposed. By law SOEs may only be renewed once.

The most significant human rights issues included arbitrary or unlawful killings by the government or its agents; major terrorist attacks; disappearances; torture; harsh or potentially life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; including the use of military courts to try civilians; political prisoners and detainees; unlawful interference in privacy; limits on freedom of expression, including criminal “defamation of religion” laws; restrictions on the press, internet, and academic freedom; and restrictions on freedoms of assembly and association, including government control over registration and financing of NGOs. LGBTI persons faced arrests, imprisonment, and degrading treatment. The government did not effectively respond to violence against women, and there were reports of child labor.

The government inconsistently punished or prosecuted officials who committed abuses, whether in the security services or elsewhere in government. In most cases the government did not comprehensively investigate human rights abuses, including most incidents of violence by security forces, contributing to an environment of impunity.

Attacks by terrorist organizations caused arbitrary and unlawful deprivation of life. Terrorist groups conducted deadly attacks on government, civilian, and security targets throughout the country, including places of worship and public transportation. Authorities investigated terrorist attacks.

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

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

There were numerous reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, including incidents that occurred while making arrests or holding persons in custody, during disputes with civilians, or while dispersing demonstrations. There were also reports of civilians killed during military operations in Sinai. Impunity was a problem.

There were instances of persons tortured to death and other allegations of killings in prisons and detention centers. The government charged, prosecuted, and convicted perpetrators in some cases.

On February 13, Mahmoud Sayed Hussein died due to what government investigators described as beatings and torture following a 15-day detention on charges of murder and theft. In March the Giza Public Prosecutor’s Office ordered the detention of three police officers involved. The investigation was still pending at year’s end.

As of year’s end, an investigative team led by the Prosecutor General’s Office had not released its conclusions of its investigation into the killing of Italian graduate student Giulio Regeni in 2016. In February 2016 authorities found Regeni’s body with what forensics officials said were signs of torture, including cigarette burns, broken bones, and head injuries. Local and international human rights groups stated such signs of torture were consistent with forms of abuse committed by security services. Some human rights groups further alleged torture by security services was responsible for Regeni’s death. An international news agency reported security services detained Regeni prior to his death, citing intelligence and police sources. The Interior Ministry denied such claims and any connection with Regeni’s death.

There were reports of suspects killed in unclear circumstances during or after arrest. On July 19, authorities arrested Gamal Aweida, a 43-year-old Coptic Christian man, on charges of procuring false drivers’ licenses. According to an Amnesty International (AI), 15 hours after his arrest, authorities informed his family he was dead by suicide. A subsequent Forensic Medical Authority report listed his cause of death as “suspect criminal action and a severe drop in blood circulation.” Family members stated Aweida’s body bore marks of torture. The prosecutor’s office summoned police officers for questioning, but there were no reports of further action.

There were reports of police killing unarmed civilians during personal or business disputes, which local academics and human rights groups asserted were part of a culture of excessive violence within the security services. On January 18, the Prosecutor’s Office charged two police officers with beating and torturing to death a laborer in July 2016 after the laborer attempted to bribe a friend of the officers.

There were reports of suspected terrorists and other suspected criminals killed during security raids conducted by police. The Interior Ministry claimed police officers fired at suspects only when suspects fired first. In July press reported that the Ministry of Interior killed 54 persons in 14 operations following a May 26 terrorist attack on a bus carrying Coptic Christians (see below). According to state-affiliated press reporting, the ministry alleged 29 of those killed were Arms of Egypt Movement (HASM) and Islamic State Sinai Province (IS-Sinai) terrorists and had not yet identified the remaining 25. Rights groups claimed these shootings might have amounted to extrajudicial killings. In some cases, human rights organizations and media reported there was evidence that police detained suspects before killing them. On January 13, the Interior Ministry reported it killed 10 alleged members of the armed group IS-Sinai in al-Arish during a house raid. The Interior Ministry named six of the 10. According to AI and Human Rights Watch (HRW), all six were in police custody at the time of the reported house raid, and police had held them for three months.

The government, at times, used excessive force to disperse both peaceful and nonpeaceful demonstrations. On July 16, security forces killed one protester on Warraq Island, near Cairo, reportedly due to suffocation from tear gas. The Ministry of Interior and press reporting claimed protesters attacked security forces with rocks and birdshot. A local resident claimed police fired birdshot as well as tear gas at protesters.

On February 14, the Court of Cassation ordered a retrial in the case of the Central Security Forces officer previously convicted of killing secular activist Shaimaa el-Sabbagh at a peaceful demonstration in 2015. A Cairo criminal court previously convicted the officer of manslaughter and sentenced him to 15 years’ imprisonment (see section 1.d.). On June 19, a Cairo criminal court reduced the sentence to 10 years’ imprisonment prison.

A second appeal was pending at year’s end in the case of four police officers charged in the 2013 deaths of 37 Muslim Brotherhood (MB) detainees while transferring them to Abu Zaabal Prison near Cairo. In 2014 an appeals court overturned their original conviction. In 2015 the officers were convicted again, but the court reduced one officer’s sentence from 10 to five years, while maintaining the one-year suspended prison sentences for the three other officers.

At year’s end the government had not held accountable any individual or governmental body for state violence after 2013, including the deaths of hundreds of civilians during the 2013 dispersals of the sit-ins at Rabaa al-Adawiya Square in Cairo and Nahda Square in Giza.

The independent online newspaper Mada Masr reported that, on July 5, an airstrike killed an engineer and two workers near the Bahariya Oasis in the Western Desert. No party took responsibility for the attack.

Terrorist groups, including IS-Sinai (formerly known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis) and Ajnad Misr, among others, conducted deadly attacks on government, civilian, and security targets throughout the country, including schools, places of worship, banks, and public transportation. On April 9, twin terrorist attacks on the St. George Church in Tanta and the St. Mark Church in Alexandria during Palm Sunday prayers killed 53 civilians and injured dozens more. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. On April 18, police arrested Ali Mahmoud Mohamed Hassan on suspicion of involvement with the bombings. On June 22, according to a Ministry of the Interior statement, police killed seven persons with alleged links to the attacks in a security operation.

On May 26, a terrorist attack on a bus carrying Coptic Christians killed 29 civilians. According to government statements, the perpetrators were HASM and IS-Sinai terrorists.

There were no published official data on the number of victims of terrorist violence during the year. According to local media reports, terrorists killed hundreds of civilians throughout the country. In Sinai alone militant violence had killed at least 405 civilians and 137 security force members (police and military), according to publicly available information. During the same period in Sinai, the government killed 753 terrorists, according to official public statements.

b. Disappearance

Several international and local human rights groups reported continuing large numbers of enforced disappearances, alleging authorities increasingly relied on this tactic to intimidate critics. According to an August AI statement, security agents caused the disappearance of at least 1,700 persons since 2015. According to an August report issued by the Cairo-based nongovernmental organization (NGO) Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), authorities forcibly disappeared 254 individuals during the first six months of the year. In the cases ECRF presented, authorities arrested those forcibly disappeared in a manner that did not comply with due process (see section 1.d.). Authorities also detained individuals after forcing their way into homes without producing arrest or search warrants. According to ECRF, many of these individuals were detained in police stations or Central Security Forces’ camps but were not included in official registers. Authorities held detainees incommunicado and denied their requests to contact family members and lawyers. The length of disappearances documented by AI ranged from a few days to seven months. Local rights groups provided various estimates of forced disappearances, with one reporting 630 cases between January and May 15. According to government statements, in 2016 the National Council for Human Rights raised 448 cases of enforced disappearances with the Interior Ministry, which responded with information on 393.

On June 17, security forces detained human rights lawyer Tarek Hussein at his home and detained him for 42 days. According to his public statements, officers did not present an arrest warrant at the time of his detention, despite his request to see one. According to Hussein, security forces moved him among multiple facilities, his family was often unaware of his whereabouts, and he was initially denied contact with his lawyer. Authorities charged him with belonging to the MB, calling for a protest, and several other minor charges. Several cases against him remained open.

The next hearing in the trial of Aser Mohamed, which began in August 2016, was scheduled for February 10, 2018. In January 2016 authorities detained 14-year-old Aser Mohamed, taking him from his home without producing an arrest warrant, as reported by AI. Mohamed was missing for 34 days before he was located at a Central Security Forces camp on the outskirts of Cairo, as stated by AI. According to AI, authorities reportedly tortured Mohamed to “confess” to participating in a terrorist attack and other crimes during his detention. In February 2016 authorities charged Mohamed and 25 others with belonging to a banned group. According to available information, Mohamed remained at the Central Security Forces camp.

According to a 2016 AI report, authorities held many victims of forced disappearance at the National Security Sector Lazoughly Office. There were also reports that military authorities continued to hold civilians in secret at al-Azouly Prison inside al-Galaa Military Camp in Ismailia. Authorities did not charge the detainees with crimes or refer them to prosecutors or courts. They also prevented detainees’ access to their lawyers and families.

According to a July 31 report of the UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, 258 disappearance cases were under the working group’s review. The report noted the working group’s “concern” that, despite the government’s engagement, 101 cases were transmitted under its urgent action procedure during the reporting period of May 2016 through May 2017. As of December the working group had not received a response to its 2011 request to visit the country (see section 5).

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

The constitution states that no torture, intimidation, coercion, or physical or moral harm shall be inflicted upon a person whose movements are restricted or whom authorities have detained or arrested. The penal code forbids torture to induce a confession from a detained or arrested suspect but does not account for mental or psychological abuse against persons whom authorities have not formally accused, or for abuse occurring for reasons other than securing a confession. The penal code also forbids all public officials or civil servants from “employing cruelty” or “causing bodily harm” under any circumstances.

Local rights organizations documented hundreds of incidents of torture throughout the year, including deaths that resulted from torture (see section 1.a.). According to domestic and international human rights organizations, police and prison guards resorted to torture to extract information from detainees, including minors. Reported techniques included beatings with fists, whips, rifle butts, and other objects; prolonged suspension by the limbs from a ceiling or door; electric shocks; sexual assault; and attacks by dogs. A June UN Committee against Torture report concluded that torture was a systematic practice in the country. Government officials denied the use of torture was systemic. A September HRW report catalogued multiple cases in which members of the public prosecution, the authority empowered with investigating abuses, ignored victims’ allegations of torture. According to HRW and local NGOs, torture was most common in police stations and other Interior Ministry detention sites. Local NGO al-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence documented an average of 35 to 40 instances of torture per month. Authorities stated they did not sanction these abuses and, in some cases, prosecuted individual police officers for violating the law (see section 1.a.).

On July 6, AI released a report claiming that four individuals, whom authorities stated were killed in shootouts with police, may have earlier been detained in May, tortured, released, and in June extrajudicially executed. AI reported that family members who saw victims’ bodies at the morgue told AI three bore signs of torture including bruises and, in one case, burns.

On February 7, the Cairo Criminal Court released assistant detective Karim Magdy, accused in the torture and death of cart driver Magdy Makeen, on bail of 5,000 Egyptian pounds (EGP) ($283). In November 2016 authorities found Makeen dead with signs of severe torture. A forensic report stated Makeen died as a result of one or more persons standing on his back. Authorities arrested nine persons, including Magdy. No further information was available on the status of the investigation at year’s end.

A third retrial continued for two national security officers accused of torturing to death lawyer Karim Hamdy in 2015. The most recent hearing was scheduled for January 2018. In October 2016 the Court of Cassation canceled the five-year prison sentences for the two security officers. Hamdy died in custody after authorities arrested him on charges of taking part in antigovernment protests. According to a forensic report, he sustained fractures to the ribs and bruises and bleeding in the chest and head. The accused officers remained free pending the results of the retrial.

On June 7, the Court of Cassation upheld the death sentences against six men who were forcibly disappeared and tortured to obtain the confessions used to convict them, according to AI. The men were arrested by the National Security Sector in 2014 and disappeared for periods ranging from days to three months during which time authorities tortured them. On June 15, the men’s lawyers submitted a final appeal, requesting a retrial based on due process errors in the previous trial. No further information on the state of the appeal was available at year’s end.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in the prisons and detention centers were harsh and potentially life threatening due to overcrowding, physical abuse, inadequate medical care, poor infrastructure, and poor ventilation.

Physical Conditions: According to domestic and international nongovernmental NGO observers, prison cells were overcrowded, and prisoners lacked adequate access to medical care, proper sanitation and ventilation, food, and potable water. Tuberculosis was widespread. Provisions for temperature control and lighting generally were inadequate. Reports that guards abused prisoners, including juveniles, in adult facilities were common. Prison conditions for women were marginally better than those for men. Media reported that some prisoners protested conditions in July by going on hunger strikes, including at Wadi al-Natrun Prison.

According to the law, religious books are required to be available for prisoners, religious counsel (including confession if appropriate) should be provided to prisoners in keeping with the tenets of their religious group, and prisoners should not be compelled to work during religious holidays.

The large number of arrests and the use of pretrial detention during the year exacerbated harsh conditions and overcrowding, contributing to the prevalence of deaths in prisons and detention centers. During the year the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) reported police detention centers were at 150 percent of maximum capacity and that prisons were at 300 percent of maximum capacity. Health care in prisons was inadequate, leading to a large number of prisoner deaths due to possibly treatable natural causes. Human rights groups and the families of some deceased prisoners claimed that prison authorities denied prisoners access to potentially life-saving medical care and, in some cases, denied requests to transfer the prisoners to the hospital, leading to deaths in prison.

According to an August 14 HRW report, journalist Hisham Gaafar’s health, including his eyesight, was deteriorating because prison authorities could not provide him necessary health care. Since 2015 authorities detained Gaafar on charges including membership in the MB and illegally receiving foreign funds for his foundation. According to HRW Gaafar suffered from a number of ailments, which required continuing specialist care.

On November 4, Nubian activist Gamal Sorour (see section 6) died after falling into a diabetic coma while in pretrial detention. According to press reports, Sorour was one of at least 223 detainees participating in a hunger strike protesting prolonged pretrial detention and maltreatment.

There were reports authorities sometimes held prisoners accused of crimes related to political or security issues separately from common criminals and subjected them to verbal or physical abuse and punitive solitary confinement. On October 12, the Court of Cassation ordered the retrial of imprisoned activist Ahmed Douma. In 2015 authorities convicted Douma of several offenses, including assaulting police and military forces during clashes between protesters and police in 2011. Beginning with his arrest in 2015, Douma was held in solitary confinement for more than 1,200 days.

Authorities did not always separate juveniles from adults and sometimes held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners. Rights organizations alleged the illegal use of Central Security Forces camps as detention facilities.

The law authorized prison officials to use force against prisoners who resisted orders.

Administration: The penal code provides for reasonable access to prisoners. According to NGO observers and relatives, the government sometimes prevented visitors’ access to detainees. Prisoners could request investigation of alleged inhumane conditions. NGO observers claimed, however, that prisoners sometimes were reluctant to do so due to fear of retribution from prison officials. The government investigated some, but not all, of these allegations. As required by law, the public prosecutor inspected prisons and detention centers.

Independent Monitoring: The government did not permit visits by nongovernmental observers but did permit some visits by the National Council for Women and Parliament’s Human Rights Committee to prisons and detention centers. The law formally recognizes the NCHR’s role in monitoring prisons, specifying that visits require notifying the prosecutor general in advance. The NCHR did not visit any prisons in 2017. Authorities did not permit other human rights organizations to conduct prison visits.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court, but reported incidents of arbitrary arrests and detentions remained frequent.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces. The government does not have effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. Official impunity was a problem. Police investigative skills remained poor. Police did not investigate reported police abuses sufficiently, according to local and international human rights groups. The government investigated and prosecuted some, but not all, reports of abuse, and some prosecutions resulted in acquittals due to insufficient or contradictory evidence. The government frequently called for investigations of abuses by security forces, although these investigations rarely resulted in judicial punishment.

The primary security forces of the Interior Ministry are the Public Police and the Central Security Forces. The Public Police are responsible for law enforcement nationwide. The Central Security Forces provide security for infrastructure and key domestic and foreign officials, and are responsible for crowd control. The National Security Sector, which investigates counterterrorism and internal security threats, also reports to the minister of interior. The armed forces report to the minister of defense and are generally responsible for external defense, but they also have a mandate to “assist” police in protecting “vital public facilities,” including roads, bridges, railroads, power stations, and universities. Military personnel have arrest authority during “periods of significant turmoil.” The Border Guards Department is responsible for border control and includes members from the army and police. Single-mission law enforcement agencies, such as the Tourist and Antiquities Police and the Antinarcotics General Administration, also worked throughout the country.

On June 19, the retrial of a Central Security Forces officer previously convicted of killing secular activist Shaimaa el-Sabbagh at a peaceful demonstration in 2015 concluded when a Cairo Criminal Court sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

On March 2, the Court of Cassation found former president Hosni Mubarak, former minister of interior Habib al-Adly, and six others innocent of issuing an order to kill protesters during the 2011 revolution. The decision marked the end of a retrial that began in late 2015. The court also rejected lawyers’ and victims’ requests to reopen civil suits. There are no further options for repeal or retrial. Thus far no entity or individual has been found responsible for the deaths of protesters during the 2011 revolution.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

For persons other than those apprehended in the process of committing a crime, the government required a warrant issued either under the penal code or the code of military justice, both of which were in effect simultaneously; however, there were numerous reports of arrests without such a warrant.

Ordinary criminal courts and misdemeanor courts hear cases brought by the prosecutor general. Arrests under the penal code occurred openly and with warrants issued by a public prosecutor or judge. There was a functioning bail system, although some defendants claimed judges imposed unreasonably high bail.

Criminal defendants have the right to counsel promptly after arrest, and usually, but not always, authorities allowed access to family members. The court is obliged to provide a lawyer to indigent defendants. Nevertheless, defendants often faced administrative and, in some cases, political obstacles and could not secure regular access to lawyers or family visits. A prosecutor may order four days of preventative detention for individuals suspected of committing misdemeanors and 15 days for individuals suspected of committing felonies. The period of preventative detention is subject to renewal by the prosecutor for up to 60 days, in cases of both misdemeanors and felonies. On the 61st day, the prosecutor must submit a case to a relevant judge who may release the accused person or renew the detention in increments of 15 days (but no longer than 45 days at a time). Detention may extend from the stage of initial investigation through all stages of criminal judicial proceedings. Except in cases involving the death penalty or life imprisonment, the combined periods of prosecutor and court-ordered detentions may not exceed six months in cases of misdemeanors and 18 months in cases of felonies. After the detention reaches its legal limit without a conviction, the accused person must be released immediately. Legal experts offered conflicting interpretations of the law in cases in which convictions carry the death penalty or life imprisonment, with some arguing there is no time limit to court-ordered renewals of detention in such cases.

Charges involving the death penalty or life imprisonment sometimes could apply to cases related to demonstrations, such as blocking roads or demonstrating outside government buildings; as a result authorities might hold some appellants charged with nonviolent crimes indefinitely.

Arbitrary Arrest: The constitution prohibits arrest, search, or detention without a judicial order, except for those caught in the act of a crime. There were frequent reports of arbitrary arrest and detention. Local activists and rights groups stated that hundreds of arrests did not comply with due-process laws. For example, authorities did not charge the detainees with crimes or refer them to prosecutors and prevented access to their lawyers and families (see section 1.b.).

Pretrial Detention: The government did not provide figures on the total number of pretrial detainees. Rights groups and the quasi-governmental NCHR alleged excessive use of pretrial detention and preventative detention during trials for nonviolent crimes. Authorities sometimes held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners. Large backlogs in the criminal courts contributed to protracted periods of pretrial detention. Estimates of the number of pretrial and preventive detainees were unreliable. According to a May 2016 report by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, at least 1,464 persons in four governorates remained in detention without bail for more than two years without a conviction and at various stages in the legal process. According to a 2015 report by the NCHR, citing Interior Ministry figures, at least 7,000 persons remained in detention without a conviction at various stages in the legal process on charges related to incidents after mid-2013, including approximately 300 “activists.” Most others were affiliated with the MB, according to the NCHR.

On June 30, Ministry of Interior authorities arrested Ola al-Qaradawi and her husband Hosam Khalaf while they were on vacation in the country. HRW reported the couple is being held in solitary confinement in Cairo, have limited access to a lawyer, and have yet to be formally charged but are being investigated in connection with belonging to the MB and spreading information aimed at distorting Egypt’s image.

On April 16, following almost three years of detention, the Cairo Criminal Court acquitted spouses Aya Hijazi and Mohamed Hassanein, founders of the Belady Foundation NGO, and their codefendants of torturing children, sexual assault, forcing children to participate in illegal demonstrations, and operation of a criminal group for the purposes of trafficking, among other charges. Authorities had held them in detention without bail since 2014. Local human rights groups described the charges against them as baseless and depicted the delays in the defendants’ trial as spurious. While the first trial hearing was held in 2015, according to local human rights groups, authorities delayed proceedings on procedural grounds and the defense could not begin to argue its case until February 2016.

Authorities have held photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid (known as Shawkan) in detention without bail since 2013. Authorities arrested him while he was taking pictures during the security forces’ dispersal of the MB sit-in at Rabaa al-Adawiya Square in Cairo. Authorities charged Shawkan and 737 other defendants with belonging to the MB, possessing firearms, and murder. The court issued a decision to continue his detention during trial, according to his lawyers. The trial began in 2015, but no substantive hearings have taken place. The next hearing was scheduled for January 2, 2018.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: According to the constitution, detainees have the right to challenge the legality of their detention before a court, which must decide if the detention is lawful within one week or otherwise immediately release the detainee. In practice authorities deprived some individuals of this right, according to international and local human rights groups.

Amnesty: The constitution gives the president the power to grant a pardon or reduce a sentence after consulting with the cabinet. According to press reports, as of September the president had used this authority to pardon more than 2,000 prisoners–generally those who had served more than one-half their sentences, including secular activists, student protesters, MB members, and others.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. Individual courts sometimes appeared to lack impartiality and to arrive at outcomes that were politically motivated or without individual findings of guilt. The government generally respected court orders. Judicial and executive review is available to individuals sentenced to the death penalty.

Some trials involving hundreds of defendants continued, particularly in cases involving demonstrators sympathetic to former president Morsi and the MB in 2013 and 2014.

On September 18, a mass trial of 494 demonstrators concluded when a court acquitted 52 persons, sentenced 43 persons to life in prison, 17 persons to 15-year prison terms, 67 persons to 10-year terms, and 216 persons to five-year terms. Acquitted individuals included Irish-Egyptian citizen Ibrahim Halawa, who had asserted in an article published online in September 2016 that authorities tortured him while in prison, mostly through beatings. The sentences of the remaining defendants were unclear. Authorities arrested the defendants, including several minors, in 2013 for participating in protests following the removal of former president Morsi from power. AI stated there was only evidence against two of the 330 defendants who had been in pretrial detention for more than four years.

Of two retrials based in Minya, authorities resolved one with hundreds of defendants, and one continued at year’s end. On August 7, the Minya Criminal Court sentenced 24 persons to death, 12 of them in their absence, and a further 119 to life in prison, eight of them in their absence in connection with charges of killing a police officer and attempting to kill two other police officers in 2013. It sentenced a further two defendants to 10 years in prison and acquitted the remaining 238 defendants. Four defendants died while waiting for the case’s resolution.

A retrial continued in the case of 683 individuals, including MB Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, charged with attacking a police station and killing two police officers in 2013. In 2015 the Court of Cassation ordered a retrial after the Minya Criminal Court issued provisional death sentences in 2014 to 683 defendants. In December 2016 a judge ordered the release of 13 defendants pending trial. The next hearing in the retrial was scheduled for December 31.

In April the government enacted a law giving the president the authority to appoint the chiefs of top courts. Previously judicial seniority played the deciding role in such appointments. On July 19, in a move viewed by some observers as political reprisal, President Sisi appointed Ahmed Abo al-Azm instead of the more senior Yehia al-Dakroury as Chief Justice of the Council of State, a judicial body providing legal advice to the government. Judge Yehia al-Dakroury had ruled against the government in 2016 on the controversial issue of the sovereignty of two Red Sea islands, which the government transferred to Saudi Arabia.

The law imposes penalties on individuals designated by a court as terrorists, even without criminal convictions. In January a court approved the addition of 1,538 persons to a national terrorists list. Individuals placed on the list included former president Mohamed Morsi and his sons; senior MB leaders and their sons and daughters; Safwan Thabet, a businessperson; the former soccer star Mohamed Abu Trika; Mostafa Sakr, a newspaper publisher; and Hisham Gaafar, a journalist. Effects of a designation include a travel ban, asset freeze, loss of political rights, and passport cancellation. HRW claimed designated individuals could not contest the designation, and authorities may not have informed most of their designation before the court ruled. The decision may be appealed directly to the country’s highest appeals court.

The constitution states: “Civilians may not stand trial before military courts except for crimes that represent a direct assault against military facilities, military barracks, or whatever falls under their authority; stipulated military or border zones; military equipment, vehicles, weapons, ammunition, documents, military secrets, public funds or military factories; crimes related to conscription; or crimes that represent a direct assault against its officers or personnel because of the performance of their duties.”

Nevertheless, authorities used military courts to try civilians during the year. Public access to information concerning military trials was limited. Military trials were difficult to monitor because media were usually subject to restraint orders. Rights groups and lawyers stated defense attorneys in military trials had difficulty gaining access to their clients and to documentation related to the cases.

According to HRW military courts had tried at least 7,400 civilians since the issuance of a 2014 decree ordering the military to “assist” police in securing “vital public facilities.”

On July 27, the Western Alexandria Prosecutor’s office referred 235 persons to military court on charges including violence and damaging public property during rioting following a soccer match. According to press reporting, 150 of the 235 detainees were younger than 18 years old. A military court ordered their release on December 17.

On December 26, authorities executed 15 individuals convicted in 2015 by a military court of staging a deadly attack on an army checkpoint in Sinai in 2013. Three others defendants were acquitted and a minor was sentenced to five years in jail. Human rights organizations claimed legal procedures against the men were flawed and at least one of the 15 may have been tortured in detention.

On December 30, a court convicted former president Morsi and 18 others, including activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah, of insulting the judiciary. The defendants received three-year prison sentences. On September 16, the Court of Cassation upheld former president Morsi’s 25-year prison sentence for leading the MB and canceled a 15-year sentence imposed in 2016 on charges of spying for Qatar. Morsi remained a defendant in two pending cases related to participating in a prison break and spying for Hamas. Some local and international rights groups questioned the impartiality of proceedings. According to press statements by Morsi’s lawyers, authorities have allowed them to visit him three times since his 2013 incarceration; the most recent visit took place in November.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

The law presumes defendants are innocent, and authorities usually inform them promptly and in detail of charges against them. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials. Attendance is mandatory for individuals charged with felonies and optional for those charged with misdemeanors. Civilian criminal and misdemeanor trials usually are public. Defendants have the right to consult an attorney, and the government is responsible for providing counsel if the defendant cannot afford a lawyer. Defendants have the right to free interpretation from the moment charged through all appeals. The court assigns an interpreter. The law allows defendants to question witnesses against them and to present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. The constitution provides for the right of an accused person to remain silent in his own trial. Defendants have the right of appeal up to the Court of Cassation. Judges must seek the nonbinding review of the Grand Mufti on all death sentences, and the president must confirm all such sentences.

The law permits individual members of the public to file charges with the prosecutor general, who is charged with deciding whether the evidence justifies referring the charges for a trial. Observers reported, however, that, due to unclear evidentiary standards, the Prosecutor General’s Office investigates and refers for trial the overwhelming majority of such cases, regardless of the strength of the evidence.

On October 7, the prime minister decreed that certain economic and security crimes, including violations of protest laws, should be referred to state security courts instead of the public prosecutor. State security courts may have two military judges appointed to sit alongside three civilian judges and verdicts of state security courts can only be appealed on points of law rather than the facts of the case as in a civilian court.

Military courts are not open to the public. Defendants in military courts nominally enjoyed the same due process rights, but the military judiciary has wide discretion to curtail these rights in the name of public security. Military courts often tried defendants in a matter of hours, frequently in groups, and sometimes without access to an attorney, leading lawyers and NGOs to assert they did not meet basic standards of due process. Consequently, the quick rulings by military courts sometimes prevented defendants from exercising their rights. Defendants in military courts have the right to consult an attorney, but sometimes authorities denied them timely access to counsel. According to rights groups, authorities permitted defendants in military trials visits from their attorneys every six months, in contrast with the civilian court system, where authorities allowed defendants in detention attorney visits every 15 days.

The Military Judiciary Law governing the military court system grants defendants in the military court system the right to appeal up to the Supreme Military Court of Appeals. The president must certify sentences by military courts.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were reports of political prisoners and detainees, although verifiable estimates were not available. The government claimed there were no political prisoners and all persons in detention had been or were in the process of being charged with a crime. Human rights groups and international observers maintained the government detained or imprisoned as many as several thousand persons solely or chiefly because of their political beliefs. One local rights organization estimated there were more than 2,000 political prisoners in the Borg al-Arab Prison alone. A local rights group considered any persons arrested under the 2013 demonstrations law to be political prisoners.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals had access to civil courts for lawsuits relating to human rights violations and filed such lawsuits during the year. Nonetheless, courts often dismissed cases or acquitted defendants for lack of evidence or conflicting witness testimonies. Individuals and organizations can appeal adverse domestic decisions to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

In response to a continuing terrorist insurgency in Sinai, the government continued its efforts to establish a buffer zone in the region to interdict weapons smuggling and incursions to and from the Gaza Strip. According to government statements to media, authorities demolished 3,272 residential, commercial, administrative, and community buildings between mid-2013 and August 2016. In October authorities expanded the buffer zone resulting in the destruction of more than 100 homes and hundreds of acres of farmland. Human rights groups stated that the military had evicted without adequate notice thousands of persons as part of the demolitions. The government promised it would appropriately compensate all families whose homes it destroyed. Some persons complained they did not receive adequate or timely restitution. The government did not compensate residents for agricultural land.

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

The constitution prohibits such actions and provides for the privacy of the home, correspondence, telephone calls, and other means of communication. There were reports, however, that security agencies sometimes placed political activists, journalists, foreigners, and writers under surveillance; monitored their private communications; screened their correspondence, including email and social media accounts; examined their bank records; searched their persons and homes without judicial authorization; and confiscated personal property in an extrajudicial manner.

g. Abuses in Internal Conflict

The conflict involving security forces, militant groups, and terrorist organizations in Sinai continued. Rights groups and international media reported the armed forces used indiscriminate force during military operations resulting in killings of civilians and destruction of property, particularly along the border with Gaza, where there was extensive smuggling of weapons and other equipment to terrorist groups. The government did not report any civilian casualties during operations in Sinai.

Killings: At year’s end the government recognized no civilian deaths due to security force actions. Human rights organizations stated some persons allegedly killed in raids on terrorist hideouts in Sinai had in fact been in state detention for months before their deaths (see section 1.a.). On April 22, a Turkish-based media network released a video apparently showing members of the armed forces killing detainees. Human rights organizations claimed eight individuals were killed, including one minor. The government claimed the video was a fabrication.

Human rights groups reported the cities of Rafah and al-Arish witnessed repeated artillery and rocket bombardment as well as sporadic gunfire from ambushes affiliated with security forces. On January 20, a drone strike killed 10 civilians attending Friday prayers in the North Sinai city of Rafah. An artillery shell killed eight civilians when it fell on a house in Southern Rafah in January, according to press reports.

Human rights groups and media also reported authorities killed civilians for allegedly not adhering to security personnel instructions at checkpoints or for unknown reasons. For example, according to press reports, security forces shot and killed Abdul-Latif al-Nasayira at the Raysa military checkpoint in Arish, North Sinai Governorate, as he exited his car at the Raysa checkpoint vehicle queue to get food on February 7. Security forces injured another individual.

Militants and terrorist groups in Sinai also targeted the military and civilians, using tactics including gunfire and beheading. ISIS claimed in a public infographic that, between October 2016 and September, it had killed 86 persons and deployed 27 improvised explosive devices. On July 8, a suicide bomb attack on an army checkpoint in North Sinai Governorate killed 26 soldiers, according to security sources. On November 24, militants attacked the Sufi-associated al-Rawda mosque in Bir al-Abd during Friday prayers, killing 309 persons, including 27 children. More than 100 additional individuals were injured. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. According to the prosecutor general, the 25-30 attackers, some of whom carried ISIS flags, shot at worshipers and ambulances as they left the mosque.

There were multiple reports of attacks on military-owned or -affiliated industries and that militants killed civilians for allegedly cooperating with security forces. For example, on November 10, militants attacked a convoy of cement trucks from an Egyptian military factory in central Sinai resulting in the deaths of eight civilian employees and two soldiers.

IS-Sinai reportedly targeted Coptic Christian civilians in Sinai. In February IS-Sinai claimed responsibility for the deaths of seven Coptic Christian civilians in al-Arish. One of the civilians was beheaded and another set on fire, according to press reports. In response to the attacks, at least 90 Coptic families reportedly fled to Ismailia.

Fighting between armed Bedouin tribal groups and IS-Sinai also resulted in deaths. In April members of the Tarabin tribe reportedly set on fire and killed a captured member of IS-Sinai. In May, IS-Sinai killed 10 members of the Tarabin tribe in an attack.

Abductions: Militants abducted civilians in North Sinai. According to human rights groups, militants rarely released abductees; they were more often shot or beheaded. According to human rights groups, militants abducted civilians rumored or known to cooperate with security forces. Militants warned citizens of North Sinai not to cooperate with the security forces or risk beheading. On February 22, militants kidnapped and later killed two Coptic Christians as part of a wave of killings targeting Copts (see above).

Other Conflict-related Abuse: According to press reports, militants attacked health-care personnel and ambulances trying to reach security checkpoints or transfer injured soldiers to hospitals. State authorities forcibly displaced civilians from the Rafah border area in an attempt to curb smuggling operations, according to press reports (see section 2.d.).

Equatorial Guinea

Executive Summary

Equatorial Guinea is nominally a multiparty constitutional republic. Since a military coup in 1979, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has dominated all branches of government in collaboration with his clan and political party, the Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE), which he founded in 1991. In April 2016 President Obiang received a claimed 93.7 percent of the vote in an election that was considered neither free nor fair.

On November 12, the country held legislative and municipal elections that lacked independent domestic or international monitoring and verification of the voter census, registration and the tabulation of ballots. The ruling PDGE party and its 14 coalition parties won 92 percent of the vote taking all 75 Senate seats, 99 of 100 seats in the lower chamber, and all except one seat in municipal councils. The voter registration process was not transparent or independently monitored by domestic or international observers. The government restricted media access to the opposition and blocked access to social media and opposition websites during the electoral campaigns. Official observer communication was restricted on the day of the elections by a shutdown of the internet. EU and diplomatic observers noted numerous irregularities at monitored polling stations.

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

The most significant human rights issues included: police and military personnel use of excessive force and torture, including deadly force against political opponents; severe conditions in prisons and detention facilities, including abuse of inmates; disregard for rule of law, including arbitrary arrest and incommunicado detention; the use of internal exile against political opponents; restrictions on rights to privacy and internal movement; denial of freedoms of press, assembly, and association; the inability of citizens to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections; widespread official corruption; violence against women, including rape, with limited government action to investigate or prosecute those responsible; harassment and deportation of foreign residents without due process; trafficking in persons; and forced labor.

The government took few steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government, and impunity was a serious problem.

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

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

There were reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. For example, on June 17, a security official shot and killed Jose Vidal Ndong Micha for allegedly failing to stop at a military checkpoint. The security official claimed he intended to threaten the driver but his gun’s safety was not in place and the weapon fired. Following the incident, Secretary of State for National Security Aquilina Evuna warned the public that persons failing to stop at military checkpoints and to obey security officials risked being shot and killed.

b. Disappearance

Unlike in prior years, there were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

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

The law prohibits such practices, but traffic police and military personnel used excessive force during traffic stops, house-to-house searches, and interrogations, sometimes including sexual assault, robbery, and extortion. Police and security forces also tortured opposition members.

For example, in November 2016 two military members stopped and brutally beat Joaquin Elo Ayeto, a member of the Executive Commission of opposition party Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS). Prior to the beating, Elo posted a picture of one of the two officers on the internet and commented that the officer had refused to pay a road toll. On December 1, Elo filed a complaint against the officers. On December 5, when he checked on the status of his complaint, he was detained by police and held without charge at Black Beach prison for two weeks.

Police beat and threatened detainees to extract information or force confessions.

Police also detained and threatened foreign businessmen and diplomats. For example, in July a traffic police officer stopped a prominent member of the foreign business community to check his registration, removed the man from his car, and beat him until he collapsed for refusing to pay a bribe. Authorities took no disciplinary action against the officer, who continued to operate checkpoints at year’s end. In August a military member stopped a foreign diplomat while she was visiting a tourist site in Malabo and demanded money. The diplomat declined to pay a bribe; the military member did not impede her departure.

Authorities routinely harassed, intimidated, arbitrarily arrested, detained, and deported foreigners–primarily African immigrants–without due process (see section 2.d.).

Military personnel sexually assaulted and beat women, including at checkpoints. Senior government officials took no steps to address such violence and were sometimes implicated in the violence themselves.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in the country’s three prisons and 12 police station jails were harsh and life threatening due to abuse, overcrowding, disease, inadequate food, poorly trained staff, and lack of medical care.

Physical Conditions: In 2016 there were approximately 475 adult male inmates and 25 adult female inmates in police station jails; no data were available on the number of inmates in prisons. Six inmates were incarcerated due to mental disabilities. There was no information available on the number of juvenile detainees.

Men, women, and minors had separate sleeping quarters and bathrooms but shared a common area for meals. Pretrial and convicted prisoners were incarcerated separately, although they shared a common area.

Lawyers and others who visited prisons and jails reported serious abuses, including beatings.

Prison cells were overcrowded, dirty, and lacked mattresses. Inmates rarely had access to exercise. Diseases including malaria, typhoid, tuberculosis, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS were serious problems. Authorities sporadically provided a limited number of prisoners and detainees with medical care as well as basic meals, but the food was generally insufficient and of poor quality. Ventilation and lighting was not always adequate.

Statistics on prisoner deaths were unavailable; the Ministry of Justice, Worship, and Penitentiary Institutions reported two deaths in 2015, one from malaria and one from HIV/AIDS.

The Ministries of Justice and National Security operate civilian prisons on military installations, with military personnel handling security around the prisons and civilians providing security and other services within the prisons.

Conditions in jails and detention centers were harsh. Authorities beat citizen and foreign inmates on their hands and feet, and did not provide medical care. Police station jails were often overcrowded, particularly when police conducted sweeps of primarily African foreigners to identify and deport irregular migrants. In the Central Police Station, located inside the Ministry of Interior compound, authorities held men, women, and children together. Water from rain and overflowing toilets often soaked into the bedding of detainees. Up to 30 detainees shared one toilet facility that lacked toilet paper and a functioning door. Rodent infestations were common.

Jails did not provide food to detainees, but authorities generally allowed families and friends to deliver meals twice daily, although police did not always pass on the food to detainees. Visitors had to pay guards small bribes to see detainees and to provide them with food.

Administration: Authorities did not investigate credible allegations of mistreatment. Visitors and religious observance were restricted for political prisoners.

Independent Monitoring: No independent monitoring of prisons or detention centers was conducted. International Committee of the Red Cross monitoring ceased in 2015 with the closure of its Malabo office. The government allowed UNICEF to visit youth rehabilitation centers in Centro Sur and Riaba. The government did not permit monitoring by media or local human rights groups.

Improvements: On May 11, Minister of Justice, Worship, and Penitentiary Institutions Evangelina Filomena Oyo Ebule opened the Riaba Juvenile Rehabilitation Center for minors. Unlike in prior years, minors were not incarcerated under harsh conditions with adults. The center provided vocational training.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, but police arbitrarily arrested and detained persons. Authorities held detainees incommunicado, denied them access to lawyers, and jailed them for long periods without charge.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The vice president asserts overall control over the security forces. Police generally are responsible for maintaining law and order in the cities, while gendarmes are responsible for security outside cities and for special events. Both entities report to the minister of national security. Military personnel, who report to the minister of defense, also fulfill police functions in border areas, sensitive sites, and high-traffic areas. Additional police elements are in the Ministries of Interior (border and traffic police), Finance (customs police), and Justice (investigative/prosecuting police). Presidential security officials also exercise police functions at or near presidential facilities.

Civilian authorities did not maintain effective control over the security forces. Police, gendarmes, and military personnel were poorly trained, ineffective, and corrupt, and impunity was a problem. Security force members, who often were inebriated, extorted money from citizens and foreigners at police checkpoints and during routine traffic stops. The government did not maintain effective internal or external mechanisms to investigate and punish security force abuses.

No government body examines security force killings to evaluate whether they occurred in the line of duty or were otherwise justifiable. Nevertheless, in some high-profile cases, the prosecutors and the judiciary performed show trials to exonerate the accused.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The constitution requires arrest warrants unless a crime is in progress or national security is implicated. Security force members frequently arrested persons in violation of the warrant requirement. A detainee has the right to a judicial determination of the legality of detention within 72 hours of arrest, excluding weekends and holidays, but determination of the legality of detention often took longer, sometimes several months. Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) indicated the majority of detainees were not charged and that judges typically failed to issue a writ of habeas corpus within the legal time limit of 36 hours.

Some foreigners complained of detention and deportation without being informed of the charges against them. Courts rarely approved bail. The bar association supplied public defenders to those who could not afford private counsel but only at the time they were charged. Authorities occasionally denied access to lawyers, particularly to political detainees. The law prohibits incommunicado detention, but local police chiefs did not always respect this prohibition.

Arbitrary Arrest: The government arbitrarily arrested immigrants, opposition members, businesspersons, and others. Many detainees complained that bribes had to be paid to obtain release.

Police detained foreigners and took them into custody even when they provided proper documentation. Police raided immigrant communities. Reliable sources reported police abused, extorted, or detained legal and irregular immigrants during raids. Diplomatic representatives in the country criticized the government for the harassment, abuse, extortion, and detention of foreign nationals and for not renewing residence and work permits in a timely manner, making foreign nationals vulnerable to such abuse.

There were numerous reported cases of arbitrary arrest similar to the following example. On April 16, police detained Enrique Asumu and Alfredo Okenve of the NGO Center for Development Studies and Initiatives for the Development of Equatorial Guinea (CEID) at the Malabo airport and prevented them from boarding a flight to Bata city. Police interrogated them for more than five hours. The following day, the minister of national security ordered their arrest and detention at Malabo’s Central Police Station. On April 25 and May 3, authorities released Asumu and Okenve without charge but fined them two million CFA francs ($3,350) each, ostensibly for resuming CEID operations, which the government had suspended, without approval.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem and was often politically motivated. Inefficient judicial procedures, corruption, lack of monitoring, and inadequate staffing contributed to the problem.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: By law detainees have the right to challenge their detention and obtain release, although there is no provision for compensation if a detainee is found to have been unlawfully detained. Nevertheless, authorities did not respect this right, and detainees could not challenge the validity of the charges against them in practice.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution does not provide for an independent judiciary, in that the president is designated the “First Magistrate of the Nation” and chair of the Judicial Council responsible for appointing judges and magistrates. In 2015 the president dissolved the entire judiciary by presidential decree, leaving the country with no judiciary for two weeks.

Judges in sensitive cases are often influenced by members of the government before issuing a ruling. Judges sometimes decided cases on political grounds; others sought bribes. Authorities did not always respect court orders, and many persons turned to the parliament, the Constitutional Court, or the president as first magistrate of the nation for enforcement of civil judgments on matters such as employment, land, and personal injury disputes.

The military justice system, based entirely on the system in effect in Spain when Equatorial Guinea gained its independence in 1968, provided defendants with fewer procedural safeguards than in the criminal court system. The code of military justice states that persons who disobey a military authority or who are accused of committing an offense considered a “crime against the state” should be judged by a military tribunal, regardless of whether the defendant is civilian or military. A defendant may be tried without being present, and the defense does not have the right to cross-examine an accuser. Such proceedings were not public, and defendants had no right of appeal to a higher court.

In rural areas tribal elders adjudicated civil claims and minor criminal matters in traditional courts. Traditional courts conducted cases according to customary law that does not afford the same rights and privileges as the formal system. Persons dissatisfied with traditional judgments could appeal to the civil court system.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair public trial, but the judiciary generally did not enforce this right. The law provides for the presumption of innocence, and defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of charges against them with free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals, and to have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. The courts did not respect these rights. Defendants have the right to a public trial without undue delay, and most trials for ordinary crimes were public. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials but unless they could afford private counsel rarely were able to consult promptly with attorneys. A defendant unable to afford a lawyer is entitled to request a government-appointed lawyer but only after first appearing in court, which generally did not occur within the mandated 72 hours. The law provides for defendants to confront and question witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence. Courts seldom enforced this right. Defendants have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt and the right to appeal. The law extends these rights equally to all citizens, but authorities did not respect the law.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were reports of political prisoners or detainees, but no data were available on their number. They were generally held at Black Beach prison where they remained without charge or trial and without access to attorneys for several months.

On September 16, authorities arrested political activist and cartoonist Ramon Nse Esono Ebale. According to Human Rights Watch, interrogators questioned him regarding his political cartoons, which often caricatured the president and other government officials, and told him since he was not associated with an official party he could not engage in political activity. On December 7, authorities charged Ebale with a counterfeiting and money laundering. He remained incarcerated at year’s end.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Courts ruled on civil cases submitted to them, some of which involved human rights complaints. Plaintiffs could not appeal decisions to regional human rights bodies. Civil matters were often settled out of court, and in some cases tribal elders adjudicated local disputes.

The government sometimes failed, for political reasons, to comply with domestic court decisions pertaining to human rights, including political rights.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but the government often did not respect these prohibitions. Search warrants are required unless a crime is in progress or for reasons of national security. Nevertheless, security force members entered homes without required warrants and arrested alleged criminals, foreign nationals, and others; they confiscated property and demanded bribes with impunity. Break-ins were widely attributed to military and police personnel.

Authorities reportedly monitored opposition members, NGOs, journalists, and foreign diplomats, including through internet and telephone surveillance. The government blocked employment of known members of opposition parties.

Ethiopia

Executive Summary

Ethiopia is a federal republic. The ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a coalition of four ethnically based parties, controls the government. In the 2015 general elections the EPRDF and affiliated parties won all 547 House of People’s Representatives (parliament) seats to remain in power for a fifth consecutive five-year term. In 2015 parliament elected Hailemariam Desalegn to his first full mandate as prime minister. Hailemariam assumed that office in 2012 after the death of his predecessor. Government restrictions severely limited independent observation of the general election vote. A mission from the African Union, the sole international institution or organization permitted to observe the voting, called the elections “calm, peaceful, and credible.” Some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported an environment conducive to a free and fair election was not in place prior to the election. There were reports of unfair government tactics, including intimidation of opposition candidates and supporters, and violence before and after the election that resulted in at least six deaths.

It was widely reported that civilian authorities at times did not maintain control over security forces. Local police in rural areas and local militias sometimes acted independently.

In October 2016 parliament imposed a State of Emergency (SOE) and extended it in March. According to the SOE, an executive body called the Command Post managed security policy under the leadership of the minister of defense. During the SOE the Command Post held broad powers, including the ability to detain individuals, restrict speech, and restrict movement. On August 4, parliament voted to end the SOE, which took effect immediately.

The most significant human rights issues included: arbitrary deprivation of life, disappearances, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention by security forces; denial of a fair public trial; infringement of privacy rights; restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, internet, assembly, association, and movement; lack of accountability in cases involving rape and violence against women; and criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct.

The government generally did not take steps to prosecute or otherwise punish officials who committed human rights abuses other than corruption. Impunity was a problem; there was an extremely limited number of prosecutions of security force members or officials for human rights abuses during the year.

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

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

There were numerous reports that the government and its agents committed arbitrary and unlawful killings. Security forces used excessive force against civilians. A May 28 report from the independent NGO Human Rights Council (HRCO) that conducted field investigations covering 32 districts in 16 zones from Oromia, Amhara, and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR), as well as Addis Ababa city, stated government security forces killed 19 citizens between the start of the SOE in October 2016 and May. The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in April reported to parliament that 669 persons died and more than a thousand persons were injured in the 2016 protests in Oromia, Amhara, and SNNPR. Other NGO reports stated a higher number of casualties. In late February and March, weeks-long raids by armed militiamen from the Somali region reportedly resulted in the deaths of more than 100 civilians in bordering East Hararge, West Hararge, Bale, and Guji zones of Oromia region. Oromia region’s Communications Office confirmed the raids and subsequent deaths but did not give figures.

b. Disappearance

Individuals, including children, arrested by security forces during the SOE temporarily were held incommunicado. The government announced plans to disclose names of SOE detainees in November 2016, but this effort was not comprehensive. According to a May HRCO report, authorities used local government offices, colleges, training centers, and military training camps throughout the country as temporary detention centers.

Due to poor prison administration, family members reported individuals missing who were in custody of prison officials, but whom the families could not locate.

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

Although the constitution prohibits such practices, there were reports that security officials tortured and otherwise abused detainees.

In its May report HRCO reported that victims testified authorities hung SOE detainees by their feet and tortured them during interrogations. Detainees in Finote Selam Prison in Amhara region told HRCO investigators that prison officials beat and tortured detainees and immersed some in latrine pits full of human feces. The report stated maltreatment of members of the Oromo and Amhara ethnicities, and some religious minorities, occurred.

The HRCO reported authorities kept several SOE detainees in overcrowded detention centers without sufficient food, water, medical care, toilets, and other facilities. Authorities did not permit these detainees to have visitors. It also found that detainees in several detention centers experienced inhuman treatment including beatings/whippings, forced physical exercises, and denial of food. Authorities forced detainees in Awash Arba to walk barefoot and sit exposed to the sun for three consecutive days.

Multiple sources reported general mistreatment of detainees at official detention centers, unofficial detention centers, police stations, and in Kilinto federal prison. Interrogators administered beatings and electric shocks to extract information and confessions from detainees. Police investigators used physical and psychological abuse to extract confessions in Maekelawi, the federal crime investigation center in Addis Ababa that often held high-profile political prisoners. Authorities restricted access by diplomats and NGOs to Maekelawi; some NGOs reported limited access.

As of October 23, the United Nations reported that it had received one allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse against Ethiopian peacekeepers during the year. The allegation of transactional sex, made against one member of the military contingent serving with the UN Mission in South Sudan, was alleged to have taken place at an unspecified time in 2016. As of October 23, the investigation was pending identification of the personnel involved.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and pretrial detention center conditions remained harsh and in some cases life threatening. There were reports that authorities physically abused prisoners in detention centers, military facilities, and police stations. Problems included gross overcrowding and inadequate food, water, sanitation, and medical care. There also were many unofficial detention centers throughout the country, including in Dedessa, Bir Sheleko, Tolay, Hormat, Blate, Tatek, Jijiga, Holeta, and Senkele. Observers were denied access to these facilities. Activists detained in some of these centers during the SOE reported overcrowding, inadequate food and water, and poor medical care. Pretrial detention often occurred in police station detention facilities, where conditions varied widely and where reports stated there was poor hygiene and police abuse of detainees. Detention center officials in Tolay and Awash Arba made more than one hundred detainees use a single open-pit toilet.

During the SOE, the government operated detention centers in Awash, Ziway, and Dilla, and detained suspects at various police stations in Addis Ababa. The government also held detainees in military facilities, local administration offices, and other temporary sites. Although conditions varied, problems of gross overcrowding and inadequate food, water, sanitation, and medical care were common at sites holding SOE detainees.

Physical Conditions: Severe overcrowding was common, especially in prison sleeping quarters. For example, one prison in Asella with capacity for 400 held 3,000 inmates. Authorities sometimes incarcerated juveniles with adults. Prison officials generally separated male and female prisoners, although mixing occurred at some facilities. There were reports that authorities physically abused prisoners in detention centers, military facilities, and police stations. Medical attention following physical abuse was insufficient in some cases.

For example, Ayele Beyene, an inmate of Killinto Prison, died in July while in prison custody. Prison officials reported Ayele’s death to the court on July 24. In a court hearing on July 25, Ayele’s codefendants told the court that they were subject to severe beating in Maekelawi detention center prior to being moved to Killinto Prison. Codefendants also stated they reported Ayele’s condition to the prison authorities repeatedly, but authorities ignored them. Authorities detained Ayele in September 2016 and kept him at the Maekelawi detention center until May 10 when they charged him and seven codefendants with terrorism.

The government budgeted approximately nine birr ($0.40) per prisoner per day for food, water, and health care, although this amount varied across the country. According to the World Bank, the per capita GDP was $1.62 per day. Many prisoners supplemented this amount with daily food deliveries from family members or by purchasing food from local vendors. Reports noted officials prevented some prisoners from receiving food from their families, and some families did not know of their relatives’ locations. Medical care was unreliable in federal prisons and almost nonexistent in regional ones. Prisoners had only limited access to potable water. Water shortages caused unhygienic conditions, and most prisons lacked appropriate sanitary facilities. Many prisoners had serious health problems but received little or no treatment. There were reports prison officials denied some prisoners access to needed medical care.

HRCO investigators who visited two prisons in Amhara region reported in May that detainees in Debre Tabor Prison faced serious water shortages and overcrowding leading to illness. Detainees in Finote Selam Prison did not get medical services during weekends and emergency cases were not transported to a hospital.

The governmental Institution of the Ombudsman presented its annual report to parliament in June. The report described underpayment of a limited number of prisoners for their labor in Dangla and Debre Markos prisons in the Amhara Region. This prison labor system operates separately from the federal per capita budget for prisoners. Prisoners faced problems accessing food, water, medical treatment, and education. Prison officials made policy changes following recommendations from the Institution of the Ombudsman, which later verified improvements for some criticisms in its report.

Visitors to political prisoners and other sources reported political prisoners often faced significantly different treatment compared with other prisoners. Allegations included lack of access to proper medication or medical treatment, lack of access to books or television, and denial of exercise time.

Administration: There were reports that prisoners mistreated by prison guards did not have access to prison administrators or ombudspersons to register their complaints. Some legal aid clinics existed in some prisons. At the regional level, these clinics had good working relations with judicial, prison, and other government officials. Some prison officials allowed detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship. Courts sometimes declined to hear such complaints.

The law generally provides visitor access for prisoners. Authorities, however, denied some indicted defendants visits with their lawyers or with representatives of the political parties to which they belonged. In some cases police did not allow pretrial detainees access to visitors, including family members and legal counsel. Prison regulations stipulate that lawyers representing persons charged with terrorism offenses may visit only one client per day, and only on Wednesdays and Fridays. Authorities denied family members access to persons charged with terrorist activity.

Officials permitted religious observance by prisoners, but this varied by prison and even by section within a prison. There were allegations authorities denied detainees adequate locations in which to pray.

Independent Monitoring: The International Committee of the Red Cross visited prisons throughout the country during the year as part of its normal activities. The government did not permit access to prisons by other international human rights organizations.

Regional authorities allowed government and NGO representatives to meet with prisoners without third parties present. The EHRC monitored federal and regional detention centers and interviewed prison officials and prisoners in response to allegations of widespread human rights abuses. In 2000 the parliament created the EHRC and defined its mandate and powers. Parliament funds and oversees the EHRC. The NGO Justice for All-Prison Fellowship Ethiopia (JPA-PFE) had access to various prison and detention facilities around the country.

Improvements: The Federal Prisons Administration Commission (FPAC) completed construction of a prison complex in Addis Ababa during the year. The prison has a 6,000-inmate capacity. FPAC also completed construction of additional prisons in Shoa Robit, Ziway, and Dire Dawa. JPA-PFE worked with the above prisons to improve conditions so they met international minimum standards.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention; however, SOE regulations allowed law enforcement officers to arrest and detain individuals without a court warrant. There were reports of thousands of arbitrary arrests and detentions related to the SOE targeting protesters, professors, university students, musicians, businesspersons, health workers, journalists, children, and others. The HRCO in its May report stated authorities detained more than 22,000 citizens in two rounds of arrests under the SOE. It stated the Command Post established to implement the SOE detained 15,370 persons between October 9 and December 20, 2016 in Oromia, Amhara, SNNPR, and Addis Ababa city. The Command Post, however, reported it detained 12,249, of whom 9,800 were released on December 20 after receiving “training.” Authorities filed charges against the remaining 2,449 detainees. They reported 12,500 persons detained from December 22, 2016 to February 3, when they released 11,352; remaining detainees faced charges. The opposition disputed these figures, stating that the government detained more individuals than it acknowledged.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Federal Police report to the Office of the Prime Minister and are subject to parliamentary oversight. That oversight was limited. Each of the nine regions has a state or special police force that reports to regional civilian authorities. Local militias operated across the country in loose and varying coordination with regional and Federal Police and the military. In some cases these militias functioned as extensions of the ruling party. Local militias are members of a community who handle standard security matters within their communities in rural areas. Local government authorities select militia members, who take basic training. Militia members serve as a bridge between the community and local police by providing information and enforcing rules. The military played an expanded role with respect to internal security during the SOE.

Impunity remained a serious problem, including impunity for killings and other violence against protesters. An internal investigation process existed, although officials acknowledged that it was inadequate. There were no public reports whether internal investigations of the federal police for possible abuses during the SOE occurred. In a report presented in April to the parliament, the EHRC reported 669 persons, including 66 security personnel, killed in the 2016 protests, and 939 individuals, including 100 security personnel, injured in Oromia, Amhara, and SNNPR. The report stated security forces used excessive force in some localities in Oromia and Amhara regions. The commission blamed local government officials, a local opposition political party, and police for the deaths of 34 individuals in Gedeo Zone of SNNPR. The commission did not publicly release its report. The government rarely publicly disclosed the results of investigations into abuses by local security forces, such as arbitrary detention and beatings of civilians. In August a local media report stated that government forces commandeered an NGO or Ministry of Health vehicle to transport security forces in Oromia.

The government supported human rights training for police and army personnel. It accepted assistance from NGOs and the EHRC to improve and professionalize its human rights training and curriculum by including more material on the constitution and international human rights treaties and conventions. Additionally, the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) routinely conducts training on human rights, protection of civilians, gender-based violence, and other courses at the Peace Support Training Center in Addis Ababa.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The constitution and law require that detainees be brought to court and charged within 48 hours of arrest or as soon thereafter as local circumstances and communications permit. Travel time to the court is not included in this 48-hour period. With a warrant, authorities may detain persons suspected of serious offenses for 14 days without charge and for additional and renewable 14-day periods if an investigation continues. The courts allowed security officials to continue investigations for more than 14 days without bringing formal charges against suspects.

Under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP), police may request to detain persons without charge for 28-day periods, up to a maximum of four months, during an investigation. In some cases during the SOE defendants spent more than the maximum four months detained during an investigation. The law permits warrantless arrests for various offenses including “flagrant offenses.” These include suspects apprehended while committing an offense, attempting to commit an offense, or having just completed an offense.

The law prohibits detention in any facility other than an official detention center; however, local militias and other formal and informal law enforcement entities operated an unknown number of unofficial local detention centers. Under the SOE, authorities detained persons in military training camps, colleges, schools, and other facilities built for other purposes.

A functioning bail system was in place. Bail was not available for persons charged with terrorism, murder, treason, and corruption. In other cases the courts set bail between 500 and 10,000 birr ($22 and $444), which most citizens could not afford. The government provided public defenders for detainees unable to afford private legal counsel, but defendants only received these services when their cases went to court and not during the critical pretrial phases. In some cases a single defense counsel represented multiple defendants. There were reports that while some detainees were in pretrial detention, authorities allowed them little or no contact with legal counsel, did not provide full information on their health status, and did not allow family visits. There were reports officials sequestered prisoners for weeks at a time and placed civilians under house arrest for undisclosed periods.

The constitution requires authorities under an SOE to announce the names of detainees within one month of their arrest. Authorities generally published the names of those detained under the SOE but not always within the 30-day period. Civilians were not always able to locate the rosters of names of those imprisoned.

Arbitrary Arrest: Authorities regularly detained persons arbitrarily, including protesters, journalists, and opposition party members. There were thousands of reports of arbitrary arrest by security forces. The May HRCO report stated authorities illegally detained 22,525 persons during the SOE.

For example, authorities temporarily detained Blue Party chairman Yeshiwas Assefa on July 26 in the city of Bahir Dar, Amhara Region. Three officers who detained Yeshiwas for three hours also threatened to kill him if he returned to the city.

The government arbitrarily arrested journalists and those who expressed views that opposed the government (see section 2.a.). For example, in November 2016 security officers detained journalists Elias Gebru and Ananya Sorri as well as opposition politician Daniel Shibeshi in Addis Ababa. On March 13, they released journalist Ananya. On May 28, authorities filed criminal charges against Elias and Daniel on allegations they violated the law under the SOE. On July 17, an appeals court ruled them each eligible for bail. Authorities released Elias on August 2 and Daniel on August 4, each on bail of 50,000 birr ($2,200).

In 2015 police arrested and detained former Blue Party spokesperson Yonatan Tesfaye. On May 4, the federal attorney general charged Yonatan with incitement of terrorism through posts under a pseudonym on Facebook, citing article 4 of the ATP, covering preparation, conspiracy, incitement, and attempt of terrorist acts. At the subsequent court hearing, the attorney general’s office changed the charge to encouragement of terrorism (article six in the ATP) that carries a lesser sentence. On May 25, the Federal High Court convicted Yonatan and sentenced him to six years and six months in prison after finding him guilty of encouraging terrorism through his Facebook posts.

Pretrial Detention: Some detainees reported indefinite detention for several years without charge or trial. The percentage of the inmate population in pretrial detention and average length of time held was not available. Lengthy legal procedures, large numbers of detainees, judicial inefficiency, and staffing shortages contributed to frequent trial delays, in some cases years. SOE regulations allowed authorities to detain a person without a court order until the end of the SOE. At the conclusion of the SOE, several thousand individuals remained remanded and awaiting trial.

Detainees’ Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law provides for detainees to be informed of the nature of their arrest. It also provides persons accused of or charged with a crime the ability to appeal. During the year no cases were brought to the courts by individuals claiming unlawful detention. There were reports of thousands of arbitrary arrests and detentions related to the SOE. Security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained protesters, professors, university students, musicians, businesspersons, health workers, journalists, children, and others. The criminal law does not provide compensation for persons found to have been unlawfully detained.

Amnesty: In September, in keeping with a long-standing tradition of issuing pardons at the Ethiopian New Year, the federal and regional governments released 13,389 persons. In January Oromia regional government released 10,000 prisoners on pardon. Prisoners who had served a third of their sentences, women prisoners with babies, the elderly, and those with serious health problems benefitted from the pardon. Prisoners sentenced to death and those convicted of corruption, kidnapping, or rape did not qualify for pardons.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary. Although the civil courts operated with a large degree of independence, criminal courts remained weak and overburdened and subject to political influence.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

Under the constitution, accused persons have the right to “a fair public trial without undue delay, a presumption of innocence, legal counsel of their choice, appeal, the right not to self-incriminate, the right to present witnesses and evidence in their defense, and cross-examine prosecution witnesses.” The law requires translation services be provided in a language defendants understand. The federal courts have staff working as interpreters for the major local languages, and are required to hire interpreters for defendants that speak other languages.

Detainees did not, however, always enjoy all these rights, and as a result defense attorneys were sometimes unprepared to provide an adequate defense. The courts did not always presume a defendant’s innocence, allow defendants to communicate with an attorney of their choice, provide timely public defense, or provide access to government-held evidence. Defendants were often unaware of the specific charges against them until the commencement of their trials. There were reports of authorities subjecting detainees to torture and other abuse while in detention to obtain information or confessions.

The federal Public Defender’s Office provided legal counsel to indigent defendants, but the scope and quality of service were inadequate due to a shortage of attorneys. A public defender may handle more than 100 cases and may represent multiple defendants in a single case. Numerous free legal aid clinics, based primarily at universities, provided legal services. In certain areas of the country, the law allows volunteers, such as law students and professors, to represent clients in court on a pro bono basis. There was no bar association or other standardized criminal defense representation.

The constitution recognizes both religious and traditional courts. Many citizens residing in rural areas had little access to formal judicial systems and relied on traditional mechanisms for resolving conflict. By law all parties to a dispute must agree to use a traditional or religious court before such a court may hear a case, and either party may appeal to a regular court at any time. Sharia (Islamic law) courts may hear religious and family cases involving Muslims if both parties agree to use the sharia court before the formal legal process begins. Sharia courts received some funding from the government. These sharia courts adjudicated a majority of cases in the Somali and Afar regions, which are predominantly Muslim. Other traditional systems of justice, such as councils of elders, functioned predominantly in rural areas. Some women felt they lacked access to free and fair hearings in the traditional court system because local custom excluded them from participation in councils of elders and due to persistent gender discrimination.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were an unknown number of political prisoners and detainees at year’s end. Throughout the year the government detained journalists, activists, and political opposition members, although not explicitly on political grounds. The most common charges against journalists, activists, or opposition politicians were terrorism via ATP, participation in a proscribed terrorist group, incitement, and outrage against the constitution or the constitutional order.

Police arrested Bekele Gerba, deputy chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), and 21 others in late 2015. On July 13, the High Court downgraded charges against Bekele from committing terrorist acts to carrying out criminal acts. The court acquitted five defendants and amended the charges against the remaining 16 from planning and preparation of terrorist acts to participation in a terrorist organization, which carries a lesser sentence.

Police arrested other leaders and members of political parties, including OFC leader Merera Gudina, in November 2016 (see section 3, Political Parties and Political Participation). On March 3, the attorney general brought multiple criminal charges against Merera and four others, including Ginbot 7 leader Berhanu Nega and diaspora-based Oromo activist Jawar Mohammed. The authorities charged all the defendants, save Merera, in absentia. The charges against Merera included outrage against the constitutional order and violation of the SOE measures prohibiting communication with proscribed terrorist groups. The trial continued at year’s end.

The High Court acquitted opposition politicians Abraha Desta and Daniel Shibeshi of terrorism crimes on July 28. The court started hearing the terrorism trial involving the two opposition politicians in 2015, following the Supreme Court’s reversal of an earlier lower court acquittal.

Authorities detained Shibeshi for a separate case in November 2016 and charged him with violating SOE rules; he was released on bail November 8 for the second case.

On April 6, the 1st Criminal Appellate Bench of the Federal Supreme Court upheld the High Court’s acquittal of Zone 9 bloggers Soliyana Shimeles (in absentia) and Abel Wabella and downgraded the charges against bloggers Natnael Feleke and Atnaf Berhane from terrorism to criminal provocation of the public. The High Court did not set a court date to hear the trial of Natnael and Atnaf. The court downgraded charges against Befekadu Hailu, another member of the blogging collective, from terrorism to criminal. Hailu was released on bail pending the continuation of his trial.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The law provides citizens the right to appeal in civil court, including in cases with human rights violations. For rights violations where a government agency is the accused perpetrator, the victim initiates the process by filing a complaint at the EHRC. The EHRC investigates and makes recommendations to the government agency. Citizens did not file any human rights violations under this system primarily due to a lack of evidence and a lack of faith in their ability to secure an impartial verdict in these types of cases.

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

The law generally requires authorities to obtain court-issued search warrants prior to searching private property. Under the SOE court approval for searches was suspended. In an amendment to the initial SOE provisions, security officials had to provide a reason to the individual or household subject to the search, an official identification card, and have a community member accompany them before conducting a search. Separate from the SOE, the law also recognizes exceptions for “hot pursuit” cases in which a suspect enters a premises or disposes of items that are the subject of an offense committed on the premises. This legal carve-out also applies when police have reasonable suspicion that evidence of a crime punishable if convicted by more than three years’ imprisonment is concealed on or in the property and that a delay in obtaining a search warrant would allow the evidence to be removed. Moreover, the antiterrorism law permits warrantless searches of a person or vehicle when authorized by the director general of the Federal Police, his designee, or a police officer who has reasonable suspicion that a terrorist act may be committed and deems a sudden search necessary.

Opposition political party leaders and journalists reported suspicions of telephone tapping, other electronic eavesdropping, and surveillance, and they stated government agents attempted to lure them into illegal acts by calling and pretending to be representatives of officially designated terrorist groups.

The government used a widespread system of paid informants to report on the activities of individuals. Opposition members, journalists, and athletes reported ruling party operatives and militia members made intimidating and unwelcome visits to their homes and offices. These unwelcome contacts included entry and searches of homes without a warrant. Security forces continued to detain and intimidate family members of persons sought for questioning by the government.

There were reports that authorities dismissed opposition members from their jobs and that those not affiliated with the EPRDF sometimes had trouble receiving the “support letters” from their kebeles (neighborhoods or wards) necessary to get employment (see section 3, Political Parties and Political Participation).

Fiji

Executive Summary

Fiji is a constitutional republic. The country held general elections in 2014, which international observers deemed credible and “broadly reflected the will of the Fijian people.” Josaia Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama’s Fiji First party won 32 of the 50 seats, and he was sworn in as prime minister.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included: abuse of persons in custody; government restrictions on freedoms of expression and on the press and media; forced exile of government opponents; restrictions on the formation and operation of political parties; government corruption; and forced labor (including of children).

The government investigated some security forces officials who committed abuses, and prosecuted or punished officials who committed abuses elsewhere in the government; however, impunity was a problem.

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

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

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

On July 7, an appellate court granted permission to appeal the sentences of eight police officers and a soldier imprisoned in 2016 for the rape, sexual assault, and death of robbery suspect Vilikesa Soko. The appellate court, however, denied the officers’ application for bail while the appellate court’s decision was pending.

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit torture, forced medical treatment, and degrading treatment or punishment. The Public Order Act Amendment Decree (POAD), however, authorizes the government to use whatever force it deems necessary to enforce public order. There were reports security forces abused persons during the year.

On February 16, Vikram Nand, arrested for violating a domestic violence restraining order, was found dead in a cell at a local Valelevu police station. A police investigation into the case continued.

Commissioner of Police Sitiveni Qiliho ordered an official investigation of two police officers who beat and threw two persons from a moving bus after a video recording went viral on social media. There were no reports the officers received disciplinary action by year’s end.

Investigation into several other past allegations of police abuse remained pending, including a 2016 complaint by farmer Alipate Sadranu that security forces beat him and 10 other men whom they apprehended for unlawful cultivation of illicit drugs, and the alleged abuse of Sakiusa Niulala by police in 2015.

The United Nations received one allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse committed by Fijian peacekeepers in Beirut, Lebanon, during the year. The accusation of transactional sex was made against a member of the military contingent serving with the UN Disengagement Observer Force, and allegedly occurred in September. At year’s end the investigation was pending, and the United Nations took the interim step of suspending peacekeeping payments to the government.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions did not meet international standards. The national prison system remains overcrowded, with deteriorating infrastructure and complaints about inadequate essential services.

Physical Conditions: Prisons were somewhat overcrowded, holding more than 1,400 inmates in facilities intended for 1,000. There were insufficient beds, inadequate sanitation, and a shortage of other necessities. Authorities generally separated pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners at shared facilities, although in some cases authorities held them together. Prison facilities reportedly were unsuitable for inmates with physical and mental disabilities.

On January 9, a decision by authorities to ban inmates from using prison kitchen facilities prompted 30 inmates at the Lautoka corrections facility to conduct a three-day hunger strike in protest. Several inmates who participated in the protest alleged that corrections officers beat them.

A police investigation into a 2016 case involving the alleged rape of a female inmate by a corrections officer was completed, and the case was pending trial at Suva’s High Court. Government officials reported one inmate death during the year; Rudra Maharaj died while doing farm work at a prerelease center.

Administration: Prisoners may submit complaints to the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission (FHRADC), which investigated several complaints during the year, including a complaint by inmates alleging corrections officers abused them for their hunger strike in January.

The law allows prisoners to submit complaints to judicial authorities. Although the law prohibits authorities from reviewing, censoring, or seizing prisoner letters to the judiciary and the FHRADC, authorities have routinely reviewed such letters and, in most cases, had authority to seize them. Authorities did not investigate or document credible allegations of inhuman conditions in a publicly accessible manner.

Independent Monitoring: During the year the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the FHRADC visited official detention facilities and interviewed inmates; prison authorities permitted such visits without third parties present.

Improvements: Construction continued on a new 200-inmate capacity remand center to alleviate overcrowding at the corrections facility in Lautoka.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements. The law details procedures for lawful arrest. The POAD authorizes security forces to detain a person for a maximum of 16 days before bringing charges; the minister of defense must authorize detention without charge exceeding 48 hours. There were no reports of unlawful detentions during the year.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Ministry of Defense oversees both the Fiji Police Force and the Republic of Fiji Military Force (RFMF). Police are responsible for law enforcement and the maintenance of internal security. The RFMF is responsible for external security. The POAD authorizes soldiers to perform the duties and functions of police and prison officers in specific circumstances. RFMF Commander Viliame Naupoto announced the military would assume policing functions to assist police combat crime in the country. Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho supported Naupoto’s announcement adding that the joint military-police effort would assist in curbing burglaries and robberies. Opposition critics expressed concern the move could weaken the local police force, which has primary responsibility for domestic law enforcement.

The police Ethical Standards Unit is responsible for investigating complaints of police misconduct. On October 13, police reported the dismissal of 30 police officers for a range of disciplinary offenses that occurred over a two-year period from November 2015. The Fiji Independent Commission against Corruption (FICAC), established by parliament and reporting directly to the president, investigates public agencies and officials, including police. Following investigations by FICAC, six police officers appeared in court on September 2 on bribery-related charges, although the court later dismissed charges against one of the officers. A former head of the police criminal investigations department also appeared in court on bribery related charges.

Impunity and corruption remained problems.

In an attempt to increase respect for human rights by security forces, the FHRADC, international organizations, and local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) conducted a number of human rights training courses with law enforcers. For example authorities conducted human rights and gender training for 28 military officers on May 9.

The constitution and POAD provide immunity from prosecution for members of the security forces for any deaths or injuries arising from the use of force deemed necessary to enforce public order. Legal proceedings against five security force officers charged in 2015 for the alleged 2012 sexual assault on an escaped prisoner, Ioane Benedito, remained pending.

The constitution provides immunity for the president, prime minister, members of the cabinet, and security forces for actions taken relating to the 2006 coup, the 2009 abrogation of the 1997 constitution, and the suppression of a mutiny at military headquarters in 2000.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The constitution provides that detained persons be charged and brought to court within 48 hours of arrest or as soon as practicable thereafter, and that right was generally respected. Police officers may arrest persons without a warrant for violations of the crimes decree.

Police also conduct arrests in response to warrants issued by magistrates and judges. Police may detain persons under the POAD for a maximum of 16 days, after which authorities must charge or release persons in custody. There is no legal requirement to bring to court persons detained under provisions of the POAD for judicial review of the grounds for their detention, unless authorities charge them with an offense. The POAD prohibits any court, tribunal, or other body from reviewing a detention under POAD provisions.

The law provides accused persons the right to bail, unless it is “not in the interests of justice” to grant bail. Under the law both police and the courts may grant bail. Although there is a legal presumption in favor of granting bail, the prosecution may object, and in practice often did so in cases where the accused was appealing a conviction or had previously breached bail conditions. An individual must apply for bail by a motion and affidavit that require the services of a lawyer.

Authorities generally allowed detainees prompt access to counsel and family members. The Legal Aid Commission provided counsel to indigent defendants in criminal cases, a service supplemented by voluntary services from private attorneys. The “First Hour Procedure,” which began in 2016 requires police to provide every suspect with legal aid assistance within the first hour of arrest. In addition, police are required to record the “caution interview” with each suspect before questioning, to confirm that police inform all suspects of their constitutional rights and to confirm whether suspects suffered any abuse by police prior to questioning.

Pretrial Detention: The number of pretrial detainees remained high at 21 percent of the total prison population, attributed to a continuing pattern of refusal of bail by the courts. A shortage of prosecutors and judges contributed to slow processing of cases. Consequently, some defendants faced lengthy pretrial detention.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The bill of rights grants detained persons the right to “challenge the lawfulness of the detention in person before a court and, if the detention is unlawful, to be released.” Persons found to have been detained unlawfully may seek compensation through domestic courts.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but in practice its independence is compromised. The president appoints or removes from office the judges of the Supreme Court, justices of appeal, and judges of the High Court on the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission in consultation with the attorney general. The commission, following consultations with the attorney general, may appoint magistrates, masters of the High Court, the chief registrar, and other judicial officers. The constitution and various decrees provide for a variety of restrictions on the jurisdiction of the courts. An amended decree removed the courts’ jurisdiction to hear challenges to government decisions on judicial restructuring, terms and conditions of remuneration for the judiciary, and terminated court cases. Various other decrees contained similar clauses limiting the jurisdiction of the courts on decisions made by the cabinet, ministers, or government departments.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

In most cases defendants have the right to a fair public trial, and the court system generally enforced this right.

Defendants generally enjoy a presumption of innocence; they may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. They may present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf and confront witnesses against them. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, with free interpretation if necessary through all appeals. Authorities also must accord them adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense and be present at trial. In most cases defendants have the right to counsel, but many reportedly were unaware of their rights when detained or interviewed and, therefore, often did not ask for legal counsel. The Legal Aid Commission, supplemented by voluntary services of private attorneys, provided free counsel to some indigent defendants in criminal cases. The right of appeal exists, but procedural delays often hampered this right. The constitution allows for limitations on the right to public trial and provides for trials to “begin and conclude without unreasonable delay.”

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts. In the event of a human rights violation, an individual may complain to the FHRADC, but the constitution prohibits the FHRADC from investigating cases filed by individuals and organizations relating to the 2006 coup and the 2009 abrogation of the 1997 constitution.

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

The constitution prohibits such actions, but the POAD permits military personnel to search persons and premises without a warrant from a court and to take photographs, fingerprints, and measurements of any person. Police and military officers also may enter private premises to break up any meeting considered unlawful. There were no credible reports police did so during the year.

Georgia

Executive Summary

The constitution provides for an executive branch that reports to the prime minister, a unicameral parliament, and a separate judiciary. The government is accountable to parliament. The president is the head of state and commander in chief. In September, a controversial constitutional amendments package that abolished direct election of the president and delayed a move to a fully proportional parliamentary election system until 2024 became law. Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observers termed the October local elections as generally respecting fundamental freedoms and reported candidates were able to campaign freely, while highlighting flaws in the election grievance process between the first and second rounds that undermined the right to effective remedy. They noted, too, that the entire context of the elections was shaped by the dominance of the ruling party and that there were cases of pressure on voters and candidates as well as a few violent incidents. OSCE observers termed the October 2016 parliamentary elections competitive and administered in a manner that respected the rights of candidates and voters but stated that the campaign atmosphere was affected by allegations of unlawful campaigning and incidents of violence. According to the observers, election commissions and courts often did not respect the principle of transparency and the right to effective redress between the first and second rounds, which weakened confidence in the election administration. In the 2013 presidential election, OSCE observers concluded the vote “was efficiently administered, transparent and took place in an amicable and constructive environment” but noted several problems, including allegations of political pressure at the local level, inconsistent application of the election code, and limited oversight of alleged campaign finance violations.

While civilian authorities maintained effective control of the Ministry of Defense, there were indications that at times they did not maintain effective control of domestic security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included: alleged participation by government officials in the reported kidnapping and forced rendition to Azerbaijan of an Azerbaijani journalist; arbitrary detentions and deprivation of life by Russian and de facto authorities of the country’s citizens along the administrative boundary lines (ABL) with the Russian-occupied Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia; interference in judicial independence and impartiality; interference with privacy; and violence against LGBTI persons.

The government took steps to investigate some allegations of human rights abuses, but shortcomings remained.

De facto authorities in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia remained outside central government control and were supported by several thousand Russian troops and border guards occupying the areas since the 2008 conflict with Russia. A cease-fire remained in effect in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russian border guards restricted the movement of local populations. While there was little official information on the human rights and humanitarian situation in South Ossetia due to limited access, allegations of abuse persisted.

De facto authorities in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia restricted the rights, primarily of ethnic Georgians, to vote or otherwise participate in the political process, own property, register businesses, and travel. Although de facto South Ossetian authorities refused to permit most ethnic Georgians driven out due to the 2008 conflict to return to South Ossetia, a special crossing arrangement existed for those from Akhalgori district. De facto authorities did not allow most international organizations regular access to South Ossetia to provide humanitarian assistance. Russian “borderization” of the ABL of the occupied territories continued, separating residents from their communities and livelihoods.

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

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

There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. The government continued to conduct investigations into several killings allegedly committed in prior years by former government officials.

In May de facto Abkhaz authorities announced they had suspended the prosecution of the prime suspect in the May 2016 killing of a Georgian IDP in Khurcha on Tbilisi-administered territory near the ABL with Abkhazia. The suspect, Rashid Kanji Ogli, remained the subject of an Interpol red notice.

The International Criminal Court investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the 2008 war in breakaway South Ossetia continued.

b. Disappearance

Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli accused government officials in May of kidnapping him in Tbilisi and facilitating his rendition to Azerbaijan (see section 1.d., Role of the Police and Security Apparatus).

There were also frequent reports of detentions of Georgians along the ABL of both the occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

More than 2,300 individuals were still missing following the 1992-93 war in Abkhazia and the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The organization continued to work with all sides, including de facto authorities in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, to identify remains.

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

While the constitution and law prohibit such practices, there were reports government officials employed them. The Public Defender’s Office reported an increase in complaints regarding mistreatment by police and considered investigations into alleged mistreatment as not effective, independent, prompt, or impartial. NGOs and the Public Defender’s Office continued to recommend the creation of an independent mechanism to investigate allegations of misconduct by law enforcement officials. They also called for greater oversight of security officials.

The Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) reported it submitted seven complaints of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment from those in penitentiary facilities to the Chief Prosecutor’s Office for investigation. GYLA also reported it submitted five complaints of such treatment by law enforcement officers, one of which it identified as torture, involving forced testimony for an alleged crime in February. The investigation continued as of December. The Chief Prosecutor’s Office reported it received 11 complaints from GYLA of mistreatment by police and four complaints of mistreatment by penitentiary staff during the year. According to the Chief Prosecutor’s Office, it opened eight investigations into the complaints of police abuse, six of which were underway at year’s end, and was examining the four complaints of penitentiary abuse within other ongoing investigations.

As of October the Public Defender’s Office submitted 10 cases of alleged mistreatment by police officers to the Chief Prosecutor’s Office, but did not submit cases of alleged violence against prisoners by penitentiary officials.

Authorities conducted investigations into allegations of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment reported during the year. The Public Defender’s Office commended the government for investigating four incidents of alleged mistreatment in accordance with the articles of torture, inhuman, and degrading treatment.

An investigation into the alleged 2015 assault on lawyer Giorgi Mdinaradze by police officers in Vake-Saburtalo Police Department No. 5 continued. The Public Defender’s Office reported the prosecution did not submit charges against any additional police officers who allegedly participated in the assault and noted the court hearings had been postponed a number of times because the police officers called as witnesses did not show up in court. The Prosecution Service charged one officer involved in the incident with abusing official power with violence. In October the Tbilisi City Court found him guilty of abuse of authority, but without the aggravating circumstance of violence, and fined him 12,000 lari ($4,870), reduced to 10,000 lari ($4,000) because of time served in pretrial detention. The Prosecution Service appealed the decision in the Tbilisi Appellate Court and this appeal was pending.

As of December, several former officials remained on trial at Tbilisi City Court in various cases of alleged torture and other crimes during the former government. They included former deputy defense minister Davit Akhalaia, former deputy chief of the general staff Giorgi Kalandadze, former deputy culture minister Giorgi Udesiani, former director of Gldani No. 8 prison Aleksandre Mukhadze, and former defense minister Bacho Akhalaia.

Unlike the previous year, individuals detained in Russian-occupied South Ossetia and Abkhazia who later returned to Georgian government-controlled territory did not report incidents of physical abuse.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

While overall prison and detention facility conditions improved, conditions in some old facilities were inhuman and lacked sufficient ventilation, natural light, minimum living space, and adequate health care.

Physical Conditions: While persons in pretrial detention were required by law to be held separately from convicted prisoners, the Public Defender’s Office reported convicts and accused persons were still placed together in several facilities, especially Gldani # 8 and Kutaisi # 2 due to constant overcrowding.

According to the Ministry of Corrections, 27 prisoners died in the penitentiary system in 2016, 10 in prisons and 17 in civil hospitals. As of July, 11 inmates died, eight in prisons and three in civil hospitals.

While the Ministry of Corrections maintained a special medical unit for prisoners with disabilities, in 2015 the Public Defender’s Office reported the needs of persons with disabilities, including for medical services, were not taken into account in prisons and temporary detention centers. The Public Defender’s Office also noted the majority of institutions failed to compile data on and register the needs of persons with disabilities.

Prison conditions in Abkhazia and South Ossetia were reported to be chronically substandard.

Administration: The Public Defender’s Office noted there was only one ombudsperson authorized to respond to complaints by prisoners and reported that obstacles such as a lack of information on their rights, fear of intimidation, distrust of the outcome, and lack of confidentiality could deter prisoners from filing complaints with judicial authorities.

According to the Public Defender’s Office, records on registering and distributing detainees in temporary detention centers were often incomplete or erroneous.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions by international prison monitoring organizations and some local and international human rights groups. The national preventive mechanism operating under the Public Defender’s Office had access to penitentiaries, conducted planned and unscheduled visits, and was allowed to take photographs during monitoring visits. National preventive mechanism members, however, did not have unimpeded access to video recordings of developments in penitentiaries.

The ICRC had full access to prisons and detention facilities in undisputed Georgian territory and some access to prison and detention facilities in South Ossetia. The ICRC did not have access to prisons and detention facilities in Abkhazia.

Improvements: Based on the recommendation of the Public Defender’s Office, the Ministry of Corrections developed a list of authorized documents inmates may retain in cells, including an indictment, detailed court judgment, a receipt for personal property held upon intake, and any documents from their case file up to 100 pages. Parliament passed legislative amendments that allow low-risk inmates and inmates serving sentences in juvenile rehabilitation institutions to acquire higher education. The Public Defender’s Office commended the reduction of the maximum term for holding detainees in administrative detention de-escalation rooms to 72 hours, and the increase to five days as the minimum term for storing video recordings in the penitentiary system, while advocating that the former be reduced to 24 hours, and the latter be extended to at least 10 days. The Ministry of Internal Affairs reported it trained its Temporary Detention Department staff on recording detainees’ injuries, including by photograph, renovated nine temporary detention facilities, and installed ventilation systems in 10 facilities.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court. The government’s observance of these prohibitions was inconsistent.

In July the Chief Prosecutor’s Office charged former justice minister Zurab Adeishvili in absentia in connection with the allegedly illegal detention and kidnapping of a former opposition leader, Koba Davitashvili, in 2007. Adeishvili also ordered the deputy head of the Revenue Office in the Ministry of Finance, Davit Karseladze, to use a special unit to prevent opposition leaders from appearing in crowds or addressing the public as well as to attack protesters. As of December, Adeishvili’s trial was underway in the Tbilisi City Court.

On July 20, the Tbilisi City Court found former senior Ministry of Internal Affairs official David Devnozashvili and former director of Prison # 8, Aleksandre Mukhadze, guilty of misuse of power in the 2011”photographers” case in which the previous government arrested four photographers and charged them with espionage. Devnozashvili and Mukhadze reportedly forced the photographers, using threats against them and their children, to confess to spying. The photographers were targeted for having documented and supplied media sources with evidence of human rights abuses during authorities’ dispersal of a demonstration in 2011. The Tbilisi Appellate Court was reviewing a judgment against the photographers based on the motion of the Prosecution Service.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Security Service have primary responsibility for law enforcement and the maintenance of public order. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is the primary law enforcement organization in the country and includes the national police force, the border security force, and the Georgian Coast Guard. The State Security Service is the internal intelligence service responsible for counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and anticorruption efforts. The Ministry of Finance and the Prosecution Service have investigative services with police powers in financial investigations, and the Prosecution Service is required to investigate high-profile cases and other criminal offenses. The Prosecution Service may take control of any investigation if it determines doing so is in the best interest of justice (e.g., in cases of conflict of interest and police abuse cases). In certain politically sensitive cases investigated by the Prosecution Service, impunity remained a problem. The Ministry of Defense is responsible for external security, although the government may call on it during times of internal disorder.

Senior civilian authorities reportedly did not always maintain effective control over the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Security Service. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the Ministry of Defense. The effectiveness of government mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse by law enforcement and security forces was limited, and domestic and international attention to impunity increased.

The president, the public defender, local and international NGOs, and the international community expressed concerns about impunity for government officials in the reported late-May abduction and forced rendition of Azerbaijani freelance journalist and activist Afgan Mukhtarli from Georgia to Azerbaijan. Immediately following the incident, the heads of Georgia’s and Azerbaijan’s security services claimed Mukhtarli had voluntarily crossed the border into Azerbaijan. According to Mukhtarli’s lawyer, Mukhtarli believed Georgian security services personnel abducted him in Tbilisi. Mukhtarli reported Georgian-speaking men dressed in Georgian criminal police uniforms abducted him in Tbilisi, beat him in a Georgian criminal police vehicle, resulting in bruising and a broken nose, and transported him to the Azerbaijani border where he was turned over to Azerbaijani security service representatives. Senior Georgian government officials, including the prime minister and several cabinet members, ruled out that Georgian authorities played any part in the incident. Georgian government officials, including the prime minister, later stated the government needed to complete its investigation before drawing conclusions.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs opened an investigation, but Mukhtarli’s wife Leyla Mustafayeva (see section 2.d.), other Azerbaijani activists and journalists, the Public Defender’s Office, local and international NGOs, and media outlets questioned the investigation’s integrity. NGOs and local news outlet Rustavi 2 separately conducted a private investigation that focused on searching for available closed-circuit television footage from private business along the presumed route of Mukhtarli’s alleged rendition. The NGOs and Rustavi 2 reported their investigations discovered widespread government tampering with evidence, including editing and removal of closed-circuit television footage from private businesses. In July the government suspended the head of the Border Security Service and the head of the Counterintelligence Service for the duration of the investigation. On July 20, the Prosecutor’s Office took over the investigation after the public defender noted that the Ministry of Internal Affairs had a conflict of interest when investigating its own employees. As of December, the Chief Prosecutor’s Office continued to investigate the incident.

There were reports that abuses of state resources included politically motivated interference by State Security Service officials (see section 3).

In November the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe monitoring corapporteurs for Georgia called on authorities to strengthen checks and balances, in view of the reported increasing prominence of the security services in governance, and to provide for proper parliamentary control and oversight of the security services. The corapporteurs called on the Chief Prosecutor’s Office to continue its investigation into Mukhtarli’s reported abduction in a fully transparent manner.

In September 2016 the former head of the Constitutional Security Department, Davit Akhalaia, and three additional former officials of the Ministry of Internal Affairs were charged in connection with the violent dispersal of a protest in 2011 that allegedly was ordered by then internal affairs minister Vano Merabishvili, who remained in prison. The trial in the Tbilisi City Court remained underway at year’s end.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Law enforcement officers must have a warrant to make an arrest except in limited cases where destruction of evidence or a perpetrator is in the process of committing a crime. The criminal procedure code provides that an arrest warrant may be obtained only where probable cause is shown that a person committed a crime for which conviction is punishable by imprisonment and that the individual may abscond or fail to appear in court, destroy evidence, or commit another crime. GYLA noted the law did not explicitly specify the role and powers of a judge in reviewing the lawfulness of arrests, and that courts often failed to examine the factual circumstances of the detention.

Upon arrest, a detainee must be advised of his or her legal rights. Any statement made after arrest but before a detainee is advised of his or her rights is inadmissible in court. The arresting officer must immediately take the detainee to the nearest police station and record the arrest, providing a copy to the detainee and his or her attorney. The Public Defender reported, however, that maintenance of police station logbooks was haphazard and in a number of cases the logbooks did not establish the date and time of an arrest.

Detainees must be indicted within 48 hours and taken to court within 72 hours. Violating the time limit results in the immediate release of the person. Anyone taken into custody on administrative grounds has the right to be heard in court within 12 hours after detention, and violating the time limit results in the immediate release of the person.

The law permits alternatives to detention. NGOs and court observers reported that the judiciary failed to use alternative measures adequately.

Detainees have the right to request immediate access to a lawyer of their choice and the right to refuse to make a statement in the absence of counsel. An indigent defendant charged with a crime has the right to counsel appointed at public expense.

Detainees facing possible criminal charges have the right to have their families notified by the prosecutor or the investigator within three hours of arrest; persons charged with administrative offenses have the right to notify family upon request. The law requires the case prosecutor to approve requests by detainees in pretrial detention to contact their family.

In February 2016 a law came into force that provides the right for witnesses to refuse to be interviewed by law enforcement officials for certain criminal offenses. In such instances, prosecutors and investigators may petition the court to compel a witness to be interviewed if they have proof that the witness has “necessary information.”

Concerns persisted regarding the use of administrative detention that authorities applied to detain an individual for up to 15 days without the right to an effective defense, defined standards of proof, and the right to appeal. The Public Defender criticized the enforcement of an amendment that began on November 1 that permitted administrative arrest during nonworking hours for 48 hours without a hearing, despite a statutory 12-hour limit for administrative arrest. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 549 persons served terms of administrative detention in temporary detention isolation cells during the year, compared with 701 in 2016 and 998 in 2015.

In March the Prosecution Service issued guidelines for prosecutors regarding investigation of cases of alleged mistreatment by public officials. Ninety-nine investigations were initiated. Eight public officials and seven employees of the penitentiary department were charged with inhuman and degrading treatment and a one police officer was charged with misuse of power.

Arbitrary Arrest: NGOs did not report any instances of arbitrary arrest.

Pretrial Detention: NGOs noted inconsistent application of the standards to grant bail or order detention and reported prosecutors and judges at times did not articulate a reasoned and specific justification for requesting or ordering detention, and did not discuss the lawfulness of the detention. According to Supreme Court statistics, as of September pretrial detention was used in 33.5 percent of cases compared with 28.2 percent for the same period in 2016. Noncustodial preventive measures were used in 66.5 percent of cases (bail was the most frequently used noncustodial preventive measure applied by the courts in 61.6 percent of cases).

On November 28, the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) Grand Chamber ruled, on appeal, that the government and court violated former Prime Minister Vano Merabishvili’s rights during his pretrial detention in 2013 but that the initial decision to detain him had not violated ECHR standards. This ruling was consistent with the June 2016 ECHR judgment. The court ordered the government to pay 4,000 euros ($4,800) in damages.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The criminal procedure code provides that in exigent circumstances, a person can be arrested without a court warrant. A person must be released immediately if the substantial breach of an arrest procedure has been identified. This decision can be made by a prosecutor or a judge at the first appearance hearing within 72 hours from the arrest. The law provides that the arrested person shall be fully reimbursed from the state budget for the damage incurred as a result of an unlawful and unjustified arrest. The legality of administrative arrest–which is not to exceed 12 hours–may be appealed with a prosecutor. There is no meaningful judicial review provided by the code of administrative violations for an administrative arrest.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

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

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

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

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

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

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

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

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

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions without court approval or legal necessity and prohibit police from searching a residence or conducting nonconsensual electronic surveillance or monitoring operations without a warrant. NGOs, media, and others asserted that the government did not respect these prohibitions. For example, there were widespread reports that the government monitored the political opposition. Local and international NGOs also reported that government officials monitored independent Azerbaijani journalists and activists residing in the country.

In April, NGOs and the Public Defender’s Office submitted separate cases to the Constitutional Court challenging a law on electronic surveillance. The plaintiffs asserted that the new law did not satisfy the requirements of a 2016 ruling from the Constitutional Court requiring an independent body to oversee electronic surveillance.

The government’s investigation into a September 2016 audio tape released on the internet that allegedly recorded a former president and other opposition leaders discussing the feasibility and logistics of organizing a revolution continued. Some opposition politicians raised concerns that the government was delaying the investigation in order to justify monitoring of political opponents allegedly involved in the recording.

India

Executive Summary

India is a multiparty, federal, parliamentary democracy with a bicameral legislature. The president, elected by an electoral college composed of the state assemblies and parliament, is the head of state, and the prime minister is the head of the government. Under the constitution the 29 states and seven union territories have a high degree of autonomy and have primary responsibility for law and order. Voters elected President Ram Nath Kovind in July to a five-year term, and Narendra Modi became prime minister following the victory of the National Democratic Alliance coalition led by the Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2014 general elections. Observers considered these elections, which included more than 551 million participants, free and fair despite isolated instances of violence.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included police and security force abuses, such as extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, rape, harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, and lengthy pretrial detention. Widespread corruption; reports of political prisoners in certain states; and instances of censorship and harassment of media outlets, including some critical of the government continued. There were government restrictions on foreign funding of some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including on those with views the government stated were not in the “national interest,” thereby curtailing the work of these NGOs. Legal restrictions on religious conversion in eight states; lack of criminal investigations or accountability for cases related to rape, domestic violence, dowry-related deaths, honor killings, sexual harassment; and discrimination against women and girls remained serious problems. Violence and discrimination based on religious affiliation, sexual orientation, and caste or tribe, including indigenous persons, also persisted due to a lack of accountability.

A lack of accountability for misconduct at all levels of government persisted, contributing to widespread impunity. Investigations and prosecutions of individual cases took place, but lax enforcement, a shortage of trained police officers, and an overburdened and underresourced court system contributed to a small number of convictions.

Separatist insurgents and terrorists in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the northeast, and the Maoist-affected areas committed serious abuses, including killings and torture of armed forces personnel, police, government officials, and of civilians, and recruitment and use of child soldiers.

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

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

There were reports the government and its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, including extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals and insurgents.

During the year the South Asian Terrorism Portal, run by the nonprofit Institute for Conflict Management, reported the deaths of 111 civilians, 15 security force members, and 210 terrorists or insurgents as of June 2. Data from the institute also showed 317 fatalities from terrorist violence were recorded in the state of Jammu and Kashmir through August, compared with 329 for 2016.

There were 108 reported deaths as a result of “encounter killings”–a term used to describe any encounter between the security or police forces and alleged criminals or insurgents that resulted in a death–documented countrywide by the Investigation Division of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), according to Ministry of Home Affairs 2016-17 data.

On June 6, police killed six individuals during a protest in Madhya Pradesh. The Madhya Pradesh government appointed a one-member commission to investigate police action and paid 10 million rupees ($160,000) to each of the victims’ families. By year’s end the investigation had not concluded.

Reports of custodial death cases, in which prisoners or detainees were killed or died in police custody, continued. Decisions by central and state authorities not to prosecute police or security officials despite reports of evidence in certain cases remained a problem. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reported 92 cases of custodial deaths nationwide in 2016 with Maharashtra reporting the highest number of cases at 16. Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat reported 11 cases, and Uttar Pradesh, nine cases. According to a media report, in response to a “Right to Information” (RTI) petition, the NHRC stated that 74 persons died in police custody from January 1 through August 2.

On July 24, the Supreme Court sought an update from the government’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Madhya Pradesh state government on a court-monitored investigation into the October 2016 killings of eight suspected members of the outlawed Students’ Islamic Movement of India after they allegedly killed a guard and escaped from a high security prison. In November 2016 the NHRC issued a formal complaint against the state government, police, and prison authorities, expressing doubt that the men were killed while attempting to escape, classifying them instead as custodial deaths. A relative of one of the deceased, in her petition to the Supreme Court, criticized the Madhya Pradesh government for only appointing only a one-person investigative commission.

On October 25, a special CBI court brought charges against 16 law enforcement officers for their alleged involvement in the encounter deaths of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati. A joint Rajasthan and Gujarat antiterrorist squad allegedly killed Sheikh on a highway near Ahmedabad in November 2005; later, police allegedly killed his wife Kausar Bi and Tulsiram Prajapati, a key witness in the case. According to the CBI, charges were not brought against those accused who had applications pending in the Bombay High Court or the Supreme Court.

On March 25, the High Court of Madras directed the Tamil Nadu government to pay one million rupees ($16,000) to the family of a man named Ramesh, known as “Nambu,” who died in 2010 after reportedly being tortured while in police custody on suspicion of theft. The court also imposed a fine of 50,000 rupees ($800) on the municipal administration secretary of the Tamil Nadu government for failing to provide compensation to the family of the victim. A probe into the case by the additional director general of police confirmed in July that Nambu was subjected to “ill treatment” during his illegal detention and died as a result of this treatment.

Three individuals died in separate incidents due to alleged torture while in Telangana state police custody. On April 7, Mohan Krishna died on the way to a hospital after he returned from Begumpet police station in Hyderabad, where he was detained and questioned in a case of alleged sexual harassment of a minor. On April 21, a man identified as “Ganesh” died on the way to a hospital after he was interrogated in the Hayathnagar police station near Hyderabad for “suspicious movement” on the road. On March 18, Bhim Singh died in a Hyderabad police station after being detained for questioning following an altercation. In all these instances, police denied that detainees were tortured, citing previous illnesses as the cause of death.

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) remained in effect in Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, and parts of Mizoram, and a version of the law was in effect in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The government also declared Meghalaya’s border areas adjoining Assam and three districts in Arunachal Pradesh as “disturbed” for two more months from August through October. While the Nagaland government demanded the AFSPA be lifted in the state, the central government extended it through December.

Under the AFSPA, a central government designation of a state or union territory as a “disturbed area” authorizes security forces in the state to use deadly force to “maintain law and order” and arrest any person “against whom reasonable suspicion exists” without informing the detainee of the grounds for arrest. The law also provides security forces immunity from civilian prosecution for acts committed in regions under the AFSPA, although in 2016 the Supreme Court concluded that every death caused by the armed forces in a disturbed area, whether a common person or a terrorist, should be thoroughly investigated, adding that the law must be equally applied.

There was considerable public support for repeal of the AFSPA, particularly in areas that experienced a significant decrease in insurgent attacks. Human rights organizations also continued to call for the repeal of the law, citing numerous alleged human rights violations over the years. On July 14, the Supreme Court directed the CBI to set up a five-member team to examine at least 87 of 1,528 alleged killings by police, army, and paramilitary forces between 1979 and 2012 in Manipur. This order was in response to a petition filed by victims’ families and NGOs. According to rights activists, until mid-December the CBI had not summoned any victims or witnesses and was still collecting documents related to the killings from the courts and the government of Manipur. The Supreme Court judgment stated the CBI must file formal charges by December 31.

The NGO Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative noted in its 2016 report that of 186 complaints of human rights violations reported against the armed forces in states under the AFSPA, between 2012 and 2016, 49.5 percent were from the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The data supplied by the Ministry of Home Affairs under the RTI Act did not, however, indicate whether complaints were deemed to have merit.

On June 27, the Gujarat High Court granted bail to Atul Vaidya, one of 24 individuals convicted in the 2002 Gulbarg Society killings, when a rioting mob killed 69 individuals during communal unrest. The Gujarat government did not allow the Supreme Court-appointed special investigation to appeal to the Supreme Court to enhance the sentences awarded to some of the 24 persons convicted or to challenge the acquittal of 14 others accused. On October 5, the Gujarat High Court dismissed Zakia Jafri’s plea, upholding a lower court’s verdict exonerating senior Gujarat government officials, citing lack of prosecutable evidence following her allegations of “a larger conspiracy” behind the 2002 riots. The court allowed Jafri to appeal in higher courts.

Nongovernmental forces, including organized insurgents and terrorists, committed numerous killings and bombings in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the northeastern states, and Maoist-affected areas (see section 1.g.). Maoists in Jharkhand and Bihar continued to attack security forces and key infrastructure facilities such as roads, railways, and communication towers. On April 24, Maoist insurgents attacked a convoy in Chhattisgarh, killing 25 Central Reserve Police Force personnel and critically injuring six.

b. Disappearance

There were allegations police failed to file required arrest reports for detained persons, resulting in hundreds of unresolved disappearances. Police and government officials denied these claims. The central government reported that state government screening committees informed families about the status of detainees. There were reports, however, that prison guards sometimes required bribes from families to confirm the detention of their relatives.

Disappearances attributed to government forces, paramilitary forces, and insurgents occurred in areas of conflict during the year (see section 1.g.).

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

The law prohibits torture, but NGOs reported torture occurred during the year.

Police beatings of prisoners resulted in custodial deaths (see section 1.a.).

The law does not permit authorities to admit coerced confessions into evidence, but NGOs and citizens alleged authorities used torture to coerce confessions. In some instances authorities submitted these confessions as evidence in capital cases. Authorities allegedly also used torture as a means to extort money or as summary punishment. According to human rights experts, the government continued to try individuals arrested and charged under the repealed Prevention of Terrorism Act and Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act. Under the repealed laws, authorities treated a confession made to a police officer as admissible evidence in court.

On June 19, Abhay Singh, an antiques dealer, died while in custody in Odisha, allegedly following seven days of torture. Police took Singh into custody on May 30 to investigate the theft of a mobile phone, subsequently charged him with drug trafficking, and transported him to a hospital on June 10 where his health reportedly deteriorated. The NHRC and Odisha State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) ordered the state human rights protection cell of police to investigate and submit a report. At year’s end there were no updates to the case.

On July 18, a 19-year-old lower-caste man reportedly committed suicide at Engadiyur in Kerala’s Thrissur District a day after he was released from police custody for not having proper motor vehicle registration papers. His father and friends alleged instead that he died from injuries sustained from police brutality while in custody, and a postmortem report confirmed he had injuries consistent with torture. Based on the complaint by the victim’s father, a case was filed against several police officers under the Criminal Procedure Code and the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act. Two police officers were suspended for the death, and the case was transferred to the Crime Bureau for further investigation.

There were continued reports that police raped female and male detainees. The government authorized the NHRC to investigate rape cases involving police officers. By law the NHRC may also request information about cases involving the army and paramilitary forces, but it has no mandate to investigate those cases. NGOs claimed the NHRC underestimated the number of rapes committed in police custody. Some rape victims were unwilling to report crimes due to social stigma and the possibility of retribution, compounded by a perception of a lack of oversight and accountability, especially if the perpetrator was a police officer or other official. There were reports police officials refused to register rape cases.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were frequently life threatening, most notably due to inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care and extreme overcrowding. Prisons did not meet international standards.

Physical Conditions: Prisons were often severely overcrowded, and food, medical care, sanitation, and environmental conditions often were inadequate. Potable water was often unavailable. Prisons and detention centers remained underfunded, understaffed, and lacking sufficient infrastructure. Prisoners were physically mistreated.

According to the NCRB Prison Statistics India 2015 report, there were 1,401 prisons in the country with an authorized capacity of 366,781 persons. The actual incarcerated population was 419,623. Persons awaiting trial accounted for more than two-thirds of the prison population. The law requires detention of juveniles in rehabilitative facilities, although at times authorities detained them in adult prisons, especially in rural areas. Authorities often detained pretrial detainees along with convicted prisoners. In Uttar Pradesh occupancy at most prisons was two and sometimes three times the permitted capacity, according to an adviser appointed by the Supreme Court.

In November 2016 the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative launched two reports on the “alarming conditions” in prisons. According to the reports, those awaiting trial included 67 percent of the country’s prison population, and independent monitors regularly inspected less than 1 percent of prisons.

According to the NCRB Prison Statistics India 2015 report, overcrowding was most severe in Dadra and Nagar Haveli at 277 percent of capacity, while Chhattisgarh prisons were at 234 percent of capacity and Delhi prisons, at 227 percent of capacity. On August 8, Minister of State for Home Affairs Hansraj Gangaram Ahir quoted NCRB data to inform the lower house of parliament that 149 out of 1,401 jails in the country had an overcrowding rate of more than 200 percent at the end of 2015.

In March, Minister of State for Home Affairs Ahir informed the lower house of parliament that there were 4,391 female jail staff for a population of 17,834 female prisoners as of 2015.

On September 26, police submitted charges in a local court against six prison officials for the death of Manjula Shetye, a female convict in Mumbai. On July 8, Mumbai police arrested six prison officials who allegedly assaulted Shetye following her complaint about inadequate food. Her death resulted in violent protests by 200 prison inmates, who were later charged with rioting. On July 31, the Bombay High Court ordered an inquiry into the cause of Shetye’s death. A government doctor who signed the death certificate was suspended.

Administration: Authorities permitted visitors some access to prisoners, although some family members claimed authorities denied access to relatives, particularly in conflict areas, including the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

On August 4, through an alternative dispute resolution mechanism, the Tamil Nadu State Legal Services Authority released 570 pretrial detainees (in nine Central Prisons and five Special Prisons for women in Tamil Nadu) who had been detained for longer than the minimum term prescribed for their alleged crimes.

Independent Monitoring: The NHRC received and investigated prisoner complaints of human rights violations throughout the year, but civil society representatives believed few prisoners filed complaints due to fear of retribution from prison guards or officials. On May 26, the NHRC ordered an investigation into torture allegations by 21 inmates on trial in a jail in Bhopal.

Authorities permitted prisoners to register complaints with state and national human rights commissions, but the authority of the commissions extended only to recommending that authorities redress grievances. Government officials reportedly often failed to comply with a Supreme Court order instructing the central government and local authorities to conduct regular checks on police stations to monitor custodial violence.

In many states the NHRC made unannounced visits to state prisons, but NHRC jurisdiction does not extend to military detention centers. An NHRC special rapporteur visited state prisons to verify that authorities provided medical care to all inmates. The rapporteur visited prisons on a regular basis throughout the year but did not release a report to the public or the press.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but both occurred during the year. Police also used special security laws to postpone judicial reviews of arrests. Pretrial detention was arbitrary and lengthy, sometimes exceeding the duration of the sentence given to those convicted.

According to human rights NGOs, some police used torture, mistreatment, and arbitrary detention to obtain forced or false confessions. In some cases police reportedly held suspects without registering their arrests and denied detainees sufficient food and water.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The 29 states and seven union territories have primary responsibility for maintaining law and order, with policy oversight from the central government. Police are under state jurisdiction. The Ministry of Home Affairs controls most paramilitary forces, the internal intelligence bureaus, and national law enforcement agencies, and provides training for senior officials from state police forces. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), cases of arbitrary arrest, torture, and forced confessions by security forces remained common. Police continued to be overworked, underpaid, and subjected to political pressure, in some cases contributing to corruption. The HRW 2017 India country report found that officials were rarely prosecuted for crimes committed because the law made it “difficult, if not impossible” to prosecute public officials.

The effectiveness of law enforcement and security forces varied widely throughout the country. According to the law, courts may not hear a case against a police officer unless the central or state government first authorizes prosecution. Nonetheless, NGOs reported that in many instances police refused to register victim’s complaints, termed “first information reports” (FIR), on crimes reported against officers, effectively preventing victims from pursuing justice. Additionally, NGOs reported that victims were sometimes reluctant to report crimes committed by police due to fear of retribution. There were cases of officers at all levels acting with impunity, but there were also cases of security officials held accountable for illegal actions. Military courts investigated cases of abuse by the armed forces and paramilitary forces. Authorities tried cases against law enforcement officers in public courts but sometimes did not adhere to due process. Authorities sometimes transferred officers after convicting them of a crime.

The NHRC recommended the Criminal Investigations Department of the state police investigate all deaths taking place during police pursuits, arrests, or escape attempts. Many states did not follow this nonbinding recommendation and continued to conduct internal reviews at the discretion of senior officers.

While NHRC guidelines call for state governments to report all cases of deaths from police actions to the NHRC within 48 hours, state governments did not consistently adhere to those guidelines. The NHRC also called for state governments to provide monetary compensation to families of victims, but the state governments did not consistently adhere to this practice. Authorities did not require the armed forces to report custodial deaths to the NHRC.

On July 27, the Armed Forces Tribunal suspended the life sentences of five army personnel involved in the 2010 killing of three civilians from the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The civilians were reportedly killed in a staged encounter and later accused of being foreign militants.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Police may detain an individual without charge for up to 30 days, although an arrested person must be brought before a judge within 24 hours of arrest. Lengthy arbitrary detention remained a significant problem due to overburdened and under resourced court systems and a lack of legal safeguards.

Arraignment of detainees must occur within 24 hours unless authorities hold the suspect under a preventive detention law. State authorities invoked preventive detention laws, most frequently in Delhi but also in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Jammu and Kashmir.

Authorities must promptly inform persons detained on criminal charges of the charges against them and of their right to legal counsel. By law a magistrate may authorize the detention of an accused person for a period of no more than 90 days prior to filing charges. Under standard criminal procedure, authorities must release the accused on bail after 90 days if charges are not filed. The law also allows police to summon individuals for questioning, but it does not grant police prearrest investigative detention authority. There were incidents in which authorities allegedly detained suspects beyond legal limits.

The law also permits authorities to hold a detainee in judicial custody without charge for up to 180 days (including the 30 days in police custody). The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), which gives authorities the ability to detain persons without charge in cases related to insurgency or terrorism, makes no bail provisions for foreign nationals and allows courts to deny bail in the case of detained citizens. It presumes the accused to be guilty if the prosecution can produce evidence of the possession of arms or explosives, or the presence of fingerprints at a crime scene, regardless of whether authorities demonstrate criminal intent. State governments also reportedly held persons without bail for extended periods before filing formal charges under the UAPA.

The law permits preventive detention in certain cases. The National Security Act allows police to detain persons considered security risks anywhere in the country, except the state of Jammu and Kashmir, without charge or trial for as long as one year. The law allows family members and lawyers to visit national security detainees and requires authorities to inform a detainee of the grounds for detention within five days, or 10 to 15 days in exceptional circumstances.

The Public Safety Act, which applies only in the state of Jammu and Kashmir permits state authorities to detain persons without charge or judicial review for up to two years without visitation from family members. Authorities allowed detainees access to a lawyer during interrogation, but police in the state of Jammu and Kashmir allegedly routinely employed arbitrary detention and denied detainees access to lawyers and medical attention.

Accused individuals have a right to free legal assistance, including for their first hearing after arrest. The constitution specifies that the state should furnish legal aid to provide that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities, but authorities did not assess this need systematically.

There were reported cases in which police denied suspects the right to meet with legal counsel as well as cases in which police unlawfully monitored suspects’ conversations and violated confidentiality rights. By law authorities must allow family members access to detainees, but this was not always observed.

Arbitrary Arrest: The law prohibits arbitrary arrest or detention, but in some cases police reportedly continued to arrest citizens arbitrarily. There were reports of police detaining individuals for custodial interrogation without identifying themselves or providing arrest warrants.

Pretrial Detention: The Center for Constitutional Right, Research and Advocacy (CCRRA) in Kochi, Kerala, reported certain prisoners with mental disabilities in the Kerala central prison considered “not fit for trial” had awaited trial for 10 to 26 years. According to the NGO, the prisoners in some cases were in detention far longer than their potential sentences. In 2013 CCRRA’s founder filed a writ petition with the Kerala High Court for the release of those prisoners. The court responded by issuing an order directing the state government to provide adequate medical treatment to the accused to render them fit for trial. The case was pending in the Kerala High Court at year’s end.

The government continued efforts to reduce lengthy detentions and alleviate prison overcrowding by using “fast track” courts, which specified trial deadlines, provided directions for case management, and encouraged the use of bail. Some NGOs criticized these courts for failing to uphold due process and requiring detainees unable to afford bail remain in detention.

NCRB data from 2015 showed most individuals awaiting trial spent more than three months in jail before they could secure bail, and nearly 65 percent spent between three months and five years before being released on bail. The NCRB’s 2016 report did not include updated statistics.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, but judicial corruption was widespread. For example, in May, The Hindu newspaper reported on the case of five judges facing impeachment proceedings for a variety of offenses, including allegations of corruption.

The judicial system remained seriously overburdened and lacked modern case management systems, often delaying or denying justice. According to 2015-16 data released by the Supreme Court, there was a 43 percent vacancy of judges in the country’s 24 high courts.

There were developments related to the 2010 killing of Amit Jethwa, an RTI activist. In June the Gujarat High Court ordered a retrial after concluding that Dinu Solanki, a member of parliament at the time he was accused of ordering Jethwa’s killing, had tampered with witnesses after 105 out of 195 witnesses turned hostile during the trial. On October 30, the Supreme Court cancelled Solanki’s bail and directed him to surrender to police. The court also ordered the trial to be held on a day-to-day basis and directed that Solanki not be in Gujarat unless required in the case.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for public trials, except in proceedings that involve official secrets or state security. Defendants enjoy the presumption of innocence, except as described under UAPA conditions, and may choose their counsel. The state provides free legal counsel to defendants who cannot afford it, but circumstances often limited access to competent counsel, and an overburdened justice system resulted in lengthy delays in court cases, with disposition sometimes taking more than a decade.

While defendants have the right to confront accusers and present their own witnesses and evidence, defendants sometimes did not exercise this right due to lack of proper legal representation. Defendants have the right not to testify or confess guilt. Courts must announce sentences publicly, and there are effective channels for appeal at most levels of the judicial system.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were reports of political prisoners and detainees. NGOs reported the state of Jammu and Kashmir held political prisoners and temporarily detained individuals under the Public Safety Act (PSA). More than 650 such cases were registered by the Jammu and Kashmir state government under the PSA through June and referred to the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals, or NGOs on behalf of individuals or groups, may file public-interest litigation (PIL) petitions in any high court or directly to the Supreme Court to seek judicial redress of public injury. Grievances may include a breach of public duty by a government agent or a violation of a constitutional provision. NGOs credited PIL petitions with making government officials accountable to civil society organizations in cases involving allegations of corruption and partiality.

In January 2016 the Bombay High Court addressed a two-fold rise in reported custodial death and police torture cases from 2014 to 2015 and directed the Maharashtra government to submit a report to the court. The court also criticized the government for its failure to install closed-circuit television cameras in police stations. In January the Maharashtra government allocated 27.5 million rupees ($440,000) to install closed-circuit television cameras in 25 of the 91 police stations in Mumbai in the first phase of implementation of a court order to install them in all police stations.

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

While the constitution does not contain an explicit right to privacy, the Supreme Court has found such a right implicit in other constitutional provisions. In August the Supreme Court ruled that privacy is a “fundamental right” in a case involving government collection of biographical information. The law, with some exceptions, prohibits arbitrary interference. The government generally respected this provision, although at times authorities infringed upon the privacy rights of citizens. The law requires police to obtain warrants to conduct searches and seizures, except in cases in which such actions would cause undue delay. Police must justify warrantless searches in writing to the nearest magistrate with jurisdiction over the offense.

The law hindered transparency and accountability with regard to electronic surveillance. According to a government report quoting NCRB provisional data for 2016, Minister of State for Home Affairs Ahir cited 30 registered cases in violation of the law in 2016 compared with nine in 2015.

Both the central and state governments intercepted communications under legal authority. The Group of Experts on Privacy convened in 2012 by the Government of India Planning Commission, the most recent review available, noted that the differences between two provisions of law had created an unclear regulatory regime that was, according to the report, “inconsistent, nontransparent, prone to misuse, and does not provide remedy or compensation to aggrieved individuals.”

The UAPA provides an additional legal basis for warrantless searches. The UAPA also allows use of evidence obtained from intercepted communications in terrorist cases. In the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, and Manipur, security officials have special authorities to search and arrest without a warrant.

The Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA) of 2005 allows police to detain a person without charge for as long as 90 days. Opponents argued the law, which authorizes detention of individuals with a “tendency to pose an obstacle to the administration of law,” infringed upon privacy and free speech. The government detained two journalists under the CSPSA, accusing them of complicity in a deadly attack on police by Naxalite insurgents; some media reports indicated authorities imprisoned the journalists because of their reporting. A local court acquitted one of the two journalists in July 2016. On February 27, the Supreme Court granted bail to Santosh Yadav, a freelance journalist from Chhattisgarh’s Bastar District jailed under the CSPSA and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for alleged links with Maoist insurgents.

g. Abuses in Internal Conflict

The country’s armed forces, the security forces of individual states, and paramilitary forces engaged in armed conflict with insurgent groups in several northeastern states, and with Maoist insurgents in the north, central, and eastern parts of the country–although the intensity of these conflicts continued to decrease significantly. Army and central security forces remained stationed at conflict areas in the northeast.

The use of force by all parties to the conflicts resulted in deaths and injuries to both conflict participants and civilians. There were reports government security forces committed extrajudicial killings, including staging encounter killings to conceal the deaths of captured militants. Human rights groups claimed police refused to release bodies in cases of alleged “encounters.” Authorities did not require the armed forces to report custodial deaths to the NHRC.

In July the SHRC directed the state of Jammu and Kashmir to pay one million rupees ($16,000) as compensation to a textile worker who was tied to the front bumper of a military jeep by an army major and used as a human shield against demonstrators in central Kashmir in May. Media reported Major Nitin Gogoi used the victim to prevent an angry mob from attacking military personnel during a parliamentary by-election on April 9. Human rights activists also criticized Army Chief General Bipin Rawat’s statement backing Gogoi’s actions. Gogoi was also awarded the army chief’s commendation card for his action and was not individually punished.

The central and state governments and armed forces investigated complaints and punished some violations committed by government forces. Authorities arrested and tried insurgents under terrorism-related legislation.

There were few investigations and prosecutions of human rights violations arising from internal conflicts. NGOs claimed that due to AFSPA immunity provisions, authorities did not hold the armed forces responsible for the deaths of civilians killed in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in previous years.

Killings: Various domestic and international human rights organizations continued to express serious concern at the use of pellet guns by security forces for crowd control purposes in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In 143 instances in which pellet guns were reportedly used across 12 districts of the Kashmir Valley through July 31, one civilian was killed and 36 were injured. ‎By comparison in 2016 777 instances of pellet gun use across the state of Jammu and Kashmir, mostly during violent protests following the July 2016 killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani, left at least 15 civilians dead and 396 injured.‎ In a report during the year, Amnesty International detailed cases of 88 individuals in the country whose eyesight was damaged by metal pellets fired by the state of Jammu and Kashmir police and the Central Reserve Police Force in the years 2014-17. Both national and international media sources and NGOs have reported on the harm, both physical and psychological, to individuals injured by pellet guns.

In Maoist-affected areas, there were reports of abuses by security forces and insurgents. On March 29, two tribal-affiliated citizens died in Assam’s Chirang District after an encounter with security forces. The two were believed to be members of a banned armed insurgent group called the National Democratic Front of Bodoland. In a report filed by the Assam Police, the security forces stated they came under heavy fire from the group and that retaliatory fire from the security forces killed the two men. An inquiry conducted by the inspector general of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), however, stated that the two men, already in police custody, were taken to a nearby village, shot, and killed. The report also found that security forces planted arms and ammunition, including a hand grenade with Chinese markings, as incriminating evidence. The CRPF refused to make the inspector general’s report public, although a pirated, online version was available.

On March 12, Maoist insurgents killed 13 paramilitary personnel near the Bheji village of Sukma in Chhattisgarh. On April 25, Maoist insurgents killed 25 paramilitary personnel and injured six others, also in Chhattisgarh. The soldiers were providing security for road construction at the time of the attack.

Abductions: Human rights groups maintained that military, paramilitary, and insurgent forces abducted numerous persons in Manipur, Jharkhand, and Maoist-affected areas. Human rights activists alleged cases of prisoners tortured or killed during detention. During the year media outlets reported cases of abduction by insurgent groups in Manipur. According to media reports, in May militants abducted three Kuki tribal members in Manipur and killed two of them. No one claimed responsibility for the incident. United NGOs Mission Manipur reported 291 cases of extrajudicial killing, rape, and disappearance committed by security forces, including Assam Rifles, Manipur Police, and the army as of June.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: There were reports government security forces tortured, raped, and mistreated insurgents and alleged terrorists in custody and injured demonstrators.

Child Soldiers: Insurgent groups reportedly used children to attack government entities. The Ministry of Home Affairs reported Maoist groups conscripted boys and girls ages six to 12 into specific children’s units (Bal Dasta and Bal Sangham) in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha. The Maoist groups used the children in combat and intelligence-gathering roles. Insurgents trained children as spies and couriers, as well as in the use of arms, planting explosives, and intelligence gathering.

Although the United Nations was not able to verify all allegations of child soldiers, reports submitted to parliament contained similar allegations. Recruitment of children by Maoist armed groups allegedly continued. Observers reported children as young as age 12 were members of Maoist youth groups and allied militia. The children reportedly handled weapons and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Maoists reportedly held children against their will and threatened severe reprisals, including the killing of family members, if the children attempted to escape. The government claimed, based on statements of several women formerly associated with Maoist groups, that sexual violence, including rape and other forms of abuse, was a practice in some Maoist camps. NGOs quoting police contacts stated that children employed by Maoist groups in Jharkhand were made to carry IED triggers with them. Police did not engage the children to retrieve these triggering devices.

According to government sources, Maoist armed groups used children as human shields in confrontations with security forces. Attacks on schools by Maoists continued to affect children’s access to education in affected areas. There were continued reports on the use of schools as military barracks and bases. The deployment of government security forces near schools remained a concern. There were reports armed groups recruited children from schools in Chhattisgarh.

Other Conflict-related Abuse: The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center estimated that conflicts, violence, and natural disasters in the country displaced 2.8 million persons in 2016.

In August, Minister of State for Home Affairs Ahir informed parliament’s lower house there were approximately 62,000 registered Kashmiri migrant families in the country. The Jammu and Kashmir state government reported threats to Kashmiri Pandits (Hindus) in the Kashmir Valley during the year. Tens of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits have fled the Kashmir Valley to Jammu, Delhi, and other areas in the country since 1990 because of conflict and violent intimidation, including destruction of houses of worship, sexual abuse, and theft of property, by Kashmiri separatists.

During the year the state of Jammu and Kashmir allotted apartments to 31 Kashmiri Pandit migrant families who did not leave the valley during the 1990s. These flats were constructed under a program approved by the central government for rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants.

In the central and eastern areas, armed conflicts between Maoist insurgents and government security forces over land and mineral resources in tribal forest areas continued. According to the South Asian Terrorism Portal’s existing conflict map, Maoist-affected states included Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Assam. Human rights advocates alleged the government’s operations sought not only to suppress the Maoists but also to force tribal populations from their land, allowing for purchase by the private sector.

Internally displaced person (IDP) camps continued to operate in Chhattisgarh for tribal persons displaced during the 2005 fighting between Maoists and the subsequently disbanded state-sponsored militia Salwa Judum.

Throughout the year there were reports by media organizations and academic institutions of corporations’ abuses against tea workers, including violations of the law. In some cases violent strikes resulted from companies withholding medical care required by law. Other reports indicated workers had difficulty accessing clean water, with open sewage flowing through company housing areas.

On January 6, the NHRC found that Chhattisgarh police personnel in Bijapur District raped 16 tribal women in 2015. The NHRC directed state authorities to compensate the victims and initiate action against the perpetrators. The NHRC also began an investigation into details of the sexual assault allegations, which the victims reported in January 2016. There was no update on the status of the investigation or delivery of compensation by year’s end.

Iraq

Executive Summary

Iraq is a constitutional parliamentary republic. The outcome of the 2014 parliamentary elections generally met international standards of free and fair elections and led to the peaceful transition of power from former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

Civilian authorities were not always able to exercise control of all security forces, particularly certain units of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) that were aligned with Iran.

Violence continued throughout the year, largely fueled by the actions of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Government forces successfully fought to liberate territory taken earlier by ISIS, including Mosul, while ISIS sought to demonstrate its viability through targeted attacks. Armed clashes between ISIS and government forces caused civilian deaths and hardship. By year’s end Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) had liberated all territory from ISIS, drastically reducing ISIS’s ability to commit abuses and atrocities.

The most significant human rights issues included allegations of unlawful killings by some members of the ISF, particularly some elements of the PMF; disappearance and extortion by PMF elements; torture; harsh and life-threatening conditions in detention and prison facilities; arbitrary arrest and detention; arbitrary interference with privacy; criminalization of libel and other limits on freedom of expression, including press freedoms; violence against journalists; widespread official corruption; greatly reduced penalties for so-called “honor killings”; coerced or forced abortions imposed by ISIS on its victims; legal restrictions on freedom of movement of women; and trafficking in persons. Militant groups killed LGBTI persons. There were also limitations on worker rights, including restrictions on formation of independent unions.

The government, including by the Office of the Prime Minister, investigated allegations of abuses and atrocities perpetrated by the ISF; by year’s end the results of some of these investigations were made public. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) High Committee to Evaluate and Respond to International Reports reviewed charges of Peshmerga abuse, largely against IDPs, and exculpated them in public reports and commentaries. Impunity effectively existed for government officials and security force personnel, including the Peshmerga and PMF.

ISIS committed the majority of serious abuses and atrocities. ISIS members committed acts of violence on a mass scale, including killings through suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices (IEDs); executions including shootings and public beheadings; use of civilians as human shields; as well as use of chemical weapons. They also engaged in kidnapping, rape, enslavement, forced marriage, and sexual violence, committing such acts against civilians from a wide variety of religious and ethnic backgrounds, including Shia, Sunnis, Kurds, Christians, Yezidis, and members of other religious and ethnic groups. Reports of ISIS perpetrating gender-based violence, recruiting child soldiers, trafficking in persons, and destroying civilian infrastructure and cultural heritage sites were credible and common. On August 15, Secretary Tillerson stated that, “ISIS is clearly responsible for genocide against Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims in areas it controls or has controlled. ISIS is also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups, and in some cases against Sunni Muslims, Kurds, and other minorities.”

The government investigated allegations of ISIS abuses and atrocities, and in some instances, publicly noted the conviction of suspected ISIS members under the 2005 counterterrorism law.

The government’s reassertion of federal authority in disputed areas bordering the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR), after the Kurdistan Region’s September 25 independence referendum, resulted in reports of abuses and atrocities by the security forces, including those affiliated with the PMF.

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

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

There were numerous reports that ISIS and other terrorist groups, as well as some government forces, including the PMF, committed arbitrary or unlawful killings (see section 1.g.). During the year the security situation remained unstable due to widespread fighting between the ISF and ISIS; periodic clashes between the ISF, including the PMF, and Peshmerga; and the presence of militias in many liberated areas, as well as sectarian, ethnic, and financially motivated violence. From January 1 to June 30, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) reported at least 2,429 civilians killed and 3,277 injured in the country.

Some government security forces allegedly committed extrajudicial killings; the government rarely made public its identification and prosecution of specific perpetrators of abuses and atrocities. Human rights organizations reported that both Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense personnel tortured detainees to death. Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated that the Iraqi Army’s 16th division summarily executed suspected ISIS members it had detained.

During the year frequent unlawful killings by unidentified gunmen occurred throughout the country. For example, in May local police reported the killing of a member of a Sunni tribal militia operating under the umbrella of the PMF, and another injured, in an attack carried out by unknown gunmen in Baghdad. In August local police reported unknown gunmen killed a police officer stationed northwest of Kirkuk.

Terrorist and politically motivated violence continued throughout the year, including ISIS attacks on cities. Baghdad was particularly affected. UNAMI reported that from January to October Baghdad experienced IED attacks on a nearly daily basis. According to UNAMI, some attacks targeted government buildings or checkpoints staffed by security forces, while many others targeted civilians. ISIS carried out attacks against Baghdad’s civilian population, including car bomb and suicide bomber attacks on May 30 that killed at least 20 civilians; two IED attacks in the Muqdadiya District on July 27, killing two and injuring three; and an August 28 IED attack on a Sadr City market that reportedly killed 12 and injured 30.

During the year authorities discovered numerous mass graves, including in Anbar, Babil, and Ninewa Governorates. On February 9, the ISF uncovered two mass graves in Rutba, Anbar Governorate, reportedly containing the remains of as many as 25 ISF soldiers and civilians killed by ISIS in 2014. On February 15, Shlomo Organization for Documentation reported the discovery of a mass grave west of Mosul containing 150 remains, possibly of Christian civilians from the area. On August 25, the Iraqi Army announced it found two mass gravesites at Badoush prison and formed an investigative committee to exhume and investigate the remains; but the continuing strike of the forensic investigators of the Martyr’s Foundation, the government’s unit to investigate mass graves, prevented further action by year’s end.

Ethnic and sectarian-based fighting escalated in mixed governorates after liberation operations. For example, Arab residents reported that Shia Turkomen PMF units arrested, kidnapped, or killed Sunni Turkomen Arabs in Tal Afar after the ISF liberated the city from ISIS rule in August. None of those responsible within PMF units were brought to justice by year’s end. Additionally, media reported allegations that unknown groups kidnapped or threatened Arabs in Kirkuk, particularly in the weeks prior to the September 25 Kurdish independence referendum. For example, unknown gunmen reportedly abducted and killed two relatives of a Hawija-based ISIS leader in Daquq, south of Kirkuk August 23. On September 12, unidentified gunmen reportedly killed three persons from a family associated with an ISIS member in Mosul.

In June the Prime Minister’s Office established an investigative committee to review allegations the ISF committed abuses and atrocities. Regarding May 2016 torture allegations against the Ministry of Interior’s Emergency Response Division (ERD), on August 17, the Prime Minister’s Office stated, “The committee has concluded…that clear abuses and violations were committed by members of the ERD,” adding that the perpetrators of the abuses would face prosecution. At year’s end the investigative committee continued its work but had not yet publicly released its findings.

There were also reports of killings or other sectarian violence in the IKR. Minority groups reported threats and attacks targeting their communities in non-IKR areas that the KRG effectively controlled.

b. Disappearance

There was no publicly available comprehensive account of the extent of the problem of disappeared persons.

Although officially under the command of the prime minister, some PMF units operated with limited government oversight or accountability. According to multiple nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the 643 men and boys whom PMF units intercepted at ad hoc security screening sites following the liberation of Fallujah in June 2016 remained missing and feared dead at year’s end.

ISIS carried out most abductions that targeted members of various ethnic and religious communities. ISIS frequently abducted members of the security or police forces, members of ethnic and religious minorities, and other non-Sunni communities in areas under its control.

According to the KRG Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs, authorities rescued more than 3,100 kidnapped Yezidi men, women, and children from ISIS; however, authorities believed another 3,293 Yezidis, mainly women and children, remained in ISIS captivity. IKR-based civil society organizations (CSOs) reported some ISIS-kidnapped Yezidi children had been trafficked into Turkey. Authorities located four such children in Turkey by year’s end, but efforts to establish their identity and repatriate them moved slowly through Turkish courts. According to the Turkmen Women’s Association, ISIS militants kidnapped an estimated 500 Turkmen Shia women and children from Ninewa Governorate in 2014, and 495 remained in captivity at year’s end.

Individuals, militias, and organized criminal groups carried out abductions and kidnappings for personal gain or for political or sectarian reasons. For example, in September security forces rescued four Christian youths, kidnapped for several days as they traveled from Baghdad to Basrah for a national soccer team match. The kidnappers reportedly planned to extort ransom from the families of the kidnapped.

HRW reported that in June Yezidi fighters from the Ezidkhan Brigades, associated with the PMF, disappeared 52 civilians (22 men, 20 women, and 10 children) from the Sunni Imteywit tribe. Yezidi officials alleged that Imteywit and Jahaysh tribal members participated in ISIS atrocities against Yezidis in 2014, allegations that the tribal members denied.

Journalist and political activist Afrah Shawqi al-Qaisi, who was abducted by gunmen in Baghdad in December 2016, was released in January. Members of a Qatari hunting party, abducted in Muthanna in 2015, were released in April.

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

Although the constitution expressly prohibits torture in all its forms and under all circumstances, including cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, government officials, as well as local and international human rights organizations, documented instances of government agents committing torture and other abuses. There were reports police sometimes used abusive methods and coerced confessions for investigations, and courts accepted forced confessions as evidence. ISIS, however, committed most of such abuses.

As in previous years, there were credible reports that government security forces, to include militia units associated with the PMF, abused and tortured individuals during arrest, pretrial detention, and after conviction. International human rights organizations documented cases of torture and abuse in Ministry of Interior-run facilities and to a lesser extent in Ministry of Defense-run detention facilities, as well as in facilities under KRG control. In particular human rights organizations alleged torture or other abuse of detainees by Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense forces during the final stages of liberating Mosul and other areas from ISIS rule.

Former prisoners, detainees, and human rights groups reported a wide range of torture and abuse.

Abusive interrogation, under certain conditions, reportedly occurred in some detention facilities of the KRG’s internal security unit, the Asayish, and the intelligence services of the major political parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s (KDP) Parastin and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’s (PUK) Zanyari. During monitoring visits to KRG prisons and places of detention between January 2015 and June 2016, UNAMI reported 70 detainees raised allegations of torture or other mistreatment during interrogation.

On January 29, HRW reported that KRG authorities tortured boys between ages 11 and 17, who authorities had arrested because of alleged links to ISIS, and prevented them from accessing counsel. According to the KRG Independent Human Rights Commission there were 215 boys held by the KRG in an Erbil juvenile detention facility on ISIS-related accusations. The commission interviewed 165 boys. Most of the juveniles alleged both PMF and KRG security forces subjected them to various forms of abuse, including beatings. Lawyers provided by an international NGO were reportedly granted access and provided representation to any juvenile without a court-appointed attorney.

Torture and abuse by terrorist groups was widespread. CSOs, humanitarian organizations, and former ISIS captives reported numerous cases of torture, rape, forced labor, forced marriage, forced religious conversion, material deprivation, and battery by ISIS members. There were numerous reports of ISIS torturing and killing civilians for attempting to flee areas under ISIS control. For example, on August 28, local media reported that ISIS burned alive eight civilians, including an infant, who had tried to flee ISIS-held Hawija.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions at some prison and detention facilities remained harsh and life threatening due to overcrowding, physical abuse, and inadequate access to sanitation facilities and medical care.

The Ministry of Justice reported that there were no accommodations for inmates with disabilities, and a previously announced ministry initiative to establish facilities for such detainees had not been fully implemented by year’s end.

Physical Conditions: Overcrowding in government-run prisons was a systemic problem exacerbated by an increase in the number of alleged ISIS members detained during the year. Physical conditions in government-run detention facilities and prisons were often poor, according to international observers. Three of the 24 correctional facilities managed by the Iraqi Corrections Service, the government entity with legal authority to hold persons after conviction, were not operational due to the security situation.

For example the sole prison in Muthanna governorate was designed to hold no more than 50 prisoners in each cell; however, observers reported more than 120 persons in one cell. Basrah Central Prison, with a capacity of 1,900, held more than 3,000 inmates; Ma’aqal Prison in Basrah, with a capacity of 250, held 500 prisoners. Overcrowding exacerbated corruption among some police officers and prison administrators in southern governorates, who reportedly took bribes to reduce or drop charges, cut sentences, or release prisoners early.

Inmates in government-run detention and prison facilities sometimes lacked adequate food and water. Access to medical care was inconsistent. Some detention facilities did not have an onsite pharmacy or infirmary, and authorities reported that even when they existed, pharmacies were often undersupplied. Women’s prisons often lacked adequate child-care facilities for inmates’ children, whom the law permits to remain with their mothers until age four. Limited and aging infrastructure worsened sanitation, limited access to potable water, and led to preparation of poor-quality food in many prison facilities.

Authorities separated detainees from convicts in most cases. Prisoners facing terrorism charges were isolated from the general detainee population and were more likely to remain in Ministry of Interior or Ministry of Defense detention for longer periods.

Although the government held most juvenile pretrial detainees and convicts in facilities operated by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, there were reports that Ministry of Justice-administered prisons, Ministry of Interior police stations, and other Ministry of Interior detention facilities held some juveniles.

In March the Iraqi Army and the PMF took control of Badoush Prison, the site where ISIS formerly held hundreds of women in captivity, near Mosul.

According to UNAMI, the KRG’s newer detention facilities in major cities were well maintained, although conditions remained poor in many smaller detention centers operated by the KRG Ministry of Interior. In some KRG Asayish detention centers and police-run jails, KRG authorities occasionally held juveniles in the same cells as adults. A Kurdistan Independent Human Rights Commission report stated that authorities housed 37 minors in Erbil prisons with their convicted mothers as of the middle of the year.

Administration: The central government reported it took credible steps to address allegations of mistreatment in central government facilities; however, the extent of these steps was not fully known. According to the Higher Judicial Council, the judicial system dealt promptly with abuse allegations, and authorities sentenced to one- to three-years’ imprisonment at least five Ministry of Interior officials for committing abuses in Ministry of Interior facilities. The KRG had no uniform policy for addressing allegations of abuse by the KRG Ministry of Interior or the Asayish.

Human rights organizations reported that prison guards or arresting officers released detainees only after the detainees paid a bribe. International and local human rights groups reported that authorities in numerous instances denied family visits to detainees and convicts. Guards allegedly often demanded bribes when detainees asked to call their relatives or legal counsel.

Independent Monitoring: Iraqi Corrections Service prisons allowed regular visits by independent nongovernmental observers. The International Committee of the Red Cross reported the Ministries of Justice, Interior, Defense, and Labor and Social Affairs largely permitted them access to prisons and detention facilities. Authorities also granted UNAMI access to Ministry of Justice prisons and detention facilities in Baghdad. There were reports of some institutional interference in prison visits, and in some cases institutions required advance notification to wardens and prison officials for outside monitor visits.

The KRG generally allowed international human rights NGOs and intergovernmental organizations to visit convicted prisoners and pretrial detainees, but occasionally authorities delayed or denied access to some individuals, usually in cases involving terrorism. The United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross had regular access to IKR prisons and detention facilities. In July the Kurdistan Independent Human Rights Commission reported the commission often faced obstacles accessing Asayish facilities.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution provides legal safeguards against arbitrary arrest and detention. During the year, however, there were numerous reports of arbitrary arrests and detentions.

A 2014 prime ministerial executive order prohibits the arrest or remand of individuals, except by order of a competent judge or court or as established by the code of criminal procedures. The executive order requires authorities within 24 hours of the detention to register the detainee’s name, place of detention, reason for detention, and legal basis for detention. The Ministry of Justice is responsible for updating and managing these registers. The order requires the Ministries of Defense and Interior and the National Security Service to establish guidelines for commanders in battlefield situations to register detainees’ details in this central register. The executive order also prohibits any entity, other than legally competent authorities, to detain any person.

In 2016 the Council of Representatives (COR) passed an amended amnesty law that provides for retrials of detainees convicted based on forced confessions or evidence provided by secret informants. The Ministry of Justice reported authorities released nearly 4,500 detainees from government custody between the law’s enactment in 2016 and May 31.

There were numerous reports of arrests and temporary detention by government forces, including the PMF and Peshmerga, of predominantly Sunni Arab IDPs throughout the year. On June 3, HRW reported that KRG authorities detained incommunicado three men and two boys from IDP camps for suspicion of ISIS affiliation.

Prison authorities sometimes delayed the release of exonerated inmates or extorted bribes from prisoners to vacate detention facilities at the end of their sentence terms. According to NGO contacts, inmates whom the judiciary ordered released sometimes faced delays from the Ministry of Interior or other ministries to clear their record of other pending charges.

There were some reports of PMF forces detaining Sunnis following the liberation of ISIS-dominated areas; as well as Kurds and Turkmen in Kirkuk; and Christians in the Ninewa Plains. In a May 22 article, HRW reported that PMF fighters arbitrarily detained men who had fled fighting in their Mosul-area village in April. PMF fighters interrogated the detainees regarding their ISIS affiliation and in some cases beat and tortured them before releasing them.

ISIS also detained individuals for a wide variety of reasons, including silencing critics, punishing those accused of insurrection, or preventing residents from fleeing ISIS-held territory. For example, on August 24, ISIS reportedly abducted five families fleeing ISIS-held al-Qa’im, Anbar Governorate.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

Civilian authorities did not maintain effective control over some of the security forces.

Numerous domestic security forces operate throughout the country. The regular armed forces and domestic law enforcement bodies maintain order within the country. The Peshmerga, including militias of the KDP and PUK, maintain order in the IKR. The PMF, a state-sponsored umbrella military organization composed of approximately 60 groups, operates throughout the country. The plurality of PMF units were Shia, reflecting the demographics of the country, while Sunni, Yezidi, Christian, and other minority PMF units also operate within their home regions. A law and prime ministerial decree in 2016 established prime ministerial authority over the PMF. While limited by law to operations in Iraq, in some cases units reportedly supported the Assad regime in Syria independently of the Iraqi government’s authority. The Iraqi government does not recognize these fighters as PMF even if their organizations are part of the PMF. All PMF units officially report to the National Security Advisor, but several units in practice are also responsive to Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). At year’s end the prime minister and the ISF did not demonstrate consistent command and control over all of the PMF’s activities, particularly those units aligned with Iran. The government’s efforts to formalize the PMF as a governmental security entity continued at year’s end, but portions of the PMF remained Iranian-aligned. Actions of these disparate units at times exacerbated security challenges, especially but not only in ethnically and religiously diverse areas of the country.

The ISF consists of security forces administratively organized within the Ministries of Interior and Defense, the PMF, and the Counterterrorism Service. The Ministry of Interior is responsible for domestic law enforcement and maintenance of order; it oversees the Federal Police, Provincial Police, Facilities Protection Service, Civil Defense, and Department of Border Enforcement. Energy police, under the Ministry of Oil, are responsible for providing infrastructure protection. Conventional military forces under the Ministry of Defense are responsible for the defense of the country but also carry out counterterrorism and internal security operations in conjunction with the Ministry of Interior. The Counterterrorism Service reports directly to the prime minister and oversees the Counterterrorism Command, an organization that includes three brigades of special operations forces.

Impunity was a problem. There were reports of torture and abuse throughout the country in facilities used by the Ministries of Interior and Defense. According to international human rights organizations, abuse took place primarily during detainee interrogations while in pretrial detention.

Problems persisted, including corruption, within the country’s provincial police forces. The army and federal police recruited and deployed soldiers and police officers on a nationwide basis. This practice led to complaints from local communities that members of the army and police were abusive because of ethnosectarian differences.

Security forces made limited efforts to prevent or respond to societal violence. Although 16 family protection units, located in separate buildings at police stations around the country, operated under police authority to respond to claims of domestic violence made by women and children, they lacked sufficient capacity. The most recent report detailing the units’ work is from 2014.

Additionally, some tribal leaders in the south reportedly banned their members from seeking redress through these police units, claiming domestic abuse was a family matter in which police should not become involved.

The two main Kurdish political parties, the KDP and the PUK, had their own security apparatuses. Under the federal constitution, the KRG has the right to maintain internal security forces, supported financially by the federal government but under the KRG’s operational control. Accordingly, the KRG’s Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs oversees 14 infantry brigades and two support brigades, but the PUK and KDP controlled tens of thousands of additional military personnel, including militia forces generally referred to as the Peshmerga 70s and 80s brigades.

The KDP and PUK maintained separate security and intelligence services, the KDP’s Asayish and Parastin, and the PUK’s Asayish and Zanyari, respectively. The KRG Independent Human Rights Commission routinely notified the Kurdistan Ministry of Interior when it received credible reports of police human rights violations.

KRG security services detained suspects in areas the regional government controlled. The poorly defined administrative boundaries between these areas and the rest of the country resulted in continuing confusion regarding the jurisdiction of security forces and the courts, an issue exacerbated by ISIS control of parts of these areas.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The constitution prohibits unlawful detention and mandates that authorities submit preliminary documents to a competent judge within 24 hours of arrest, a period that may extend in most cases to a maximum of 72 hours. For offenses punishable by death, authorities may legally detain the defendant as long as necessary to complete the judicial process. According to local media and rights groups, authorities arrested suspects in security sweeps without warrants, particularly under the antiterrorism law, and held some detainees for prolonged periods without charge.

The government arbitrarily detained individuals and often did not inform them promptly of the nature of the charges against them. The government periodically released detainees, usually after concluding that it lacked sufficient evidence for the courts to convict them. Many others remained in detention pending review of other outstanding charges. The law allows release on bond for criminal (but not security) detainees. Authorities rarely released detainees on bail. KRG internal security units held some suspects incommunicado without an arrest warrant and transported detainees to undisclosed detention facilities.

The law provides for judges to appoint paid counsel for the indigent. Attorneys appointed to represent detainees frequently complained that insufficient access to their clients hampered adequate attorney-client consultation. In many cases detainees were not able to meet their attorneys until their scheduled trial date. There were reports that defendants did not have access to legal representation during the investigation phase, appointed lawyers lacked sufficient time to prepare a defense, and courts failed to investigate claims of torture while in detention.

Arbitrary Arrest: Police and military personnel sometimes arrested and detained individuals without judicial approval, although there were no reliable statistics available regarding the number of such acts or the length of detentions. Authorities often failed to notify family members of the arrest or location of detention, resulting in incommunicado detention.

There were reports that central government security forces, including the PMF and Peshmerga, detained and arrested individuals, including IDPs, following the liberation of areas from ISIS rule. For example, in September the Ninewa Provincial Council reportedly filed a complaint to the central government and the United Nations stating the PMF routinely detained local Sunni men under suspicion of supporting ISIS. Humanitarian organizations also reported that in many instances central government security forces did not inform detainees of the reason for their detention or the charges filed against them. Humanitarian agencies similarly reported central government security forces detained IDPs suspected of ISIS membership or support.

HRW accused KRG forces of arresting 2,000 men and boys in IDP camps in February. On February 28, the KRG’s High Committee to Evaluate and Respond to International Reports confirmed the majority of the detainees were suspected ISIS members. The committee claimed it informed detainees’ families of their detention and that authorities released suspects within 24 hours thereafter unless they were found to have terrorist affiliation.

KRG police and internal security service officers arrested and detained protesters and activists critical of the KRG, according to NGO contacts and local press reporting. On March 18, HRW accused KRG security authorities of detaining 32 unarmed protesters in Erbil on March 4 and allegedly using threats of retaliation to discourage future protests.

Pretrial Detention: The Ministries of Justice, Defense, Interior, and Labor and Social Affairs are legally authorized to hold pretrial detainees. Lengthy detentions without due process and without judicial action were a systemic problem, particularly during and immediately after ISF campaigns to liberate areas from ISIS. The lack of judicial review resulted from several factors, including a large number of detainees, undocumented detentions, slow processing of criminal investigations, an insufficient number of judges and trained judicial personnel, authorities’ inability or reluctance to use bail or other conditions of release, lack of information sharing, bribery, and corruption. Overcrowding of pretrial detainees remained a problem in many detention facilities.

Lengthy pretrial detentions were particularly common in areas liberated from ISIS. For example, the Ministry of Interior reportedly placed detainees in homes rented from local residents in Ninewa, rather than in proper detention facilities, because the fight against ISIS had mostly destroyed the latter. Use of makeshift facilities led to significant overcrowding and inadequate services. There were allegations of detention beyond judicial release dates as well as of unlawful releases.

There were no independently verified statistics concerning the number of pretrial detainees in central government facilities.

In August the ISF detained more than 1,400 non-Iraqi women and children who fled military operations in Tal Afar. The group included nationals primarily from Turkey, Azerbaijan, Russia, and China. Security forces held the group at a transit facility for two weeks before moving them to a detention facility north of Mosul and later to a facility near Baghdad. Authorities provided residents’ basic needs, but the facility lacked sufficient medical care or shower facilities. Authorities noted that the seclusion of this population protected the group from revenge attacks expected due to their alleged affiliation with ISIS. As of November nearly the entire group remained in central government custody, with some having been repatriated to their countries of origin. Several hundred faced possible charges of violating the counterterrorism law, while the remainder allegedly awaited repatriation.

According to some observers, authorities held some detainees without trial for months or years after arrest, particularly those detained under the antiterrorism law. Authorities sometimes held detainees incommunicado, without access to defense counsel or without formal charge before a judge within the legally mandated period. Authorities at times detained spouses and other family members of fugitives–mostly Sunnis wanted on terrorism charges–to compel their surrender.

KRG authorities also reportedly held detainees for extensive periods in pretrial detention. According to local NGOs and the IKR Independent Human Rights Commission, prisoners held in regional government-administered Asayish prisons sometimes remained in detention for more than six months without trial. According to IKR judicial officials, IKR law permits extension of pretrial detention of up to six months under court supervision. As of September there were an estimated 1,700 pretrial detainees, including 71 women, in various KRG facilities, according to the KRG Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The constitution grants detainees the right to a prompt judicial determination on the legality of their detention and the right to prompt release and compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained. In practice individuals faced lengthy detentions without the possibility of prompt release, regardless of guilt. Despite the 2016 reform law concerning rights of detainees, NGOs widely reported that detainees had limited ability to challenge the lawfulness of detention before a court, and a bribe was often necessary to gain release. While a constitutional right, the law does not allow for compensation for a person found to have been unlawfully detained.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, although certain articles of law restricted judicial independence and impartiality. The country’s security situation and political history left the judiciary weak and dependent on other parts of the government. One individual heads both the Federal Supreme Court that rules on issues related to federalism and constitutionality and the Higher Judicial Council that manages and supervises the court system, including disciplinary matters. Local and international media claimed this arrangement was politically motivated and undermined judicial independence.

Corruption or intimidation reportedly influenced some judges in criminal cases at the trial level and on appeal at the Court of Cassation. The Commission of Integrity routinely investigated judges on corruption charges, but some investigations were reportedly politically motivated.

Numerous threats and killings by sectarian, tribal, extremist, and criminal elements impaired judicial independence. Judges, lawyers, and their family members frequently faced death threats and attacks. Lawyers participated in protests demanding better protection from the government against threats and violence. Judges were also vulnerable to intimidation and violence. For example, in June gunmen attempted to kill a judge hearing terrorism-related cases in Basrah.

The Kurdistan Judicial Council is legally, financially, and administratively independent from the KRG Ministry of Justice, but the KRG executive influenced politically sensitive cases.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides all citizens the right to a fair and public trial.

By law accused persons are innocent until proven guilty. The law requires detainees to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them and the right to a fair, timely, and public trial. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial, the right to a privately retained or court-appointed counsel, at public expense if needed, and the right to an interpreter without a fee. Nonetheless, officials routinely failed to inform defendants promptly or in detail of charges against them. Judges assemble evidence and adjudicate guilt or innocence. Defendants and their attorneys have the right to confront witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence. They may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Nevertheless, in numerous cases, forced confessions served as the primary source of evidence without the corroboration of forensic evidence or independent witness testimony. The law provides the right to appeal, although there is a statute of limitations for referral; the Court of Cassation reviews criminal cases on appeal.

Observers, including some government officials, the United Nations, and NGOs, reported trial proceedings fell short of international standards. Although investigative, trial, and appellate judges generally sought to enforce the right to a fair trial, defendants’ insufficient access to defense attorneys was a serious defect in proceedings. Many defendants met their lawyers for the first time during the initial hearing and had limited access to legal counsel during pretrial detention. This was particularly true in counterterrorism courts, where judicial staff reportedly sought to complete convictions and sentencing for thousands of suspected ISIS members in short periods of time. Trials were public, except in some national security cases, but some faced undue delays.

KRG officials noted that prosecutors and defense attorneys frequently encountered obstacles in carrying out their work and that prisoners’ trials were unnecessarily delayed for administrative reasons. According to the IKR’s Independent Human Rights Commission, detainees have remained in KRG internal security service facilities for extended periods even after court orders for their release.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

The government did not consider any incarcerated persons to be political prisoners or detainees and stated that all individuals in prison had been either convicted or charged under criminal law or were detained and awaiting trial while under investigation.

It was difficult to assess claims that there were no political prisoners or detainees due to the lack of government transparency, prevalence of corruption in arrest procedures, slow case processing, and inaccessibility to detainees, especially those held in counterterrorism, intelligence, and military facilities. Political opponents of the government asserted the government imprisoned or sought to imprison persons for political activities or beliefs under the pretense of criminal charges ranging from corruption to terrorism and murder.

Niaz Aziz Saleh, convicted in 2012 of leaking KDP party information related to electoral fraud, remained in a KRG prison, despite the completion of his sentence in 2014.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies for, or cessation of, human rights violations. Administrative remedies also exist, although due to the overwhelming security focus of the executive branch, coupled with an understaffed judiciary dependent on the executive, the government did not effectively implement civil or administrative remedies for human rights violations.

KRG law provides for compensation to persons subject to unlawful arrest or detention. The KRG’s Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs handles compensation for unlawful arrests or detentions, and its Human Rights Commission reported that while approximately 5,000 cases (including many historical cases) received approval for compensation of a piece of land, 10 years’ salary, and college tuition for one family member, the government could not pay compensation due to budget constraints. The ministry stated there were 13,000 unlawful arrests pending compensation decisions.

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

The constitution mandates that authorities may not enter or search homes except with a judicial order. The constitution also prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, but security forces often entered homes without search warrants.

Some government forces and militia groups forced alleged ISIS sympathizers from their homes in several governorates. For example, there were reports that PMF militia group Kata’ib Hizballah kidnapped and intimidated local Arab Sunni residents in Diyala and Babil Governorates and prevented Arab Sunni IDPs from returning to their places of origin. There were credible reports that local authorities punished family members of suspected ISIS members. In some instances local community leaders threatened to evict these family members from their homes forcibly; bulldoze the homes; and/or injure or kill these relatives.

IDPs returning to towns and areas in the Ninewa Plains reported ISIS had destroyed temples, houses of worship, cemeteries, and schools. A Catholic social organization conducted a survey of several historically Christian towns and found 1,233 houses destroyed, 3,520 houses burned, and 8,217 partially damaged. The same organization reported that as of September 3, only 200 Christian families from a pre-ISIS population of 19,000 families had returned to the Ninewa Plains; Christian IDPs in several Ninewa Plains villages under PMF control reported the PMF imposed arbitrary checkpoints and detained civilians without legal authority to do so.

g. Abuses in Internal Conflict

Killings: From January 1 to June 30, UNAMI reported a minimum of 5,700 civilian casualties, including at least 2,429 persons killed and 3,277 injured. It was not clear how many civilians were intentionally targeted.

According to international human rights organizations, some Shia militias, including some under the PMF umbrella, committed abuses and atrocities. The groups participated in operations against ISIS as part of the PMF and were implicated in several attacks on Sunni civilians, reportedly avenging ISIS crimes against the Shia community. For example, in September HRW reported that Shia PMF fighters affiliated with the Badr Organization detained and beat at least 100 male villagers and allegedly shot and killed four who self-identified as ISIS-affiliated during counter-ISIS operations outside Hawija.

ISIS was the major perpetrator of abuses and atrocities in the country, responsible for deaths of many innocent civilians. The United Nations, international human rights groups, and media reported that ISIS executed hundreds of noncombatants, including civilians living under, or trying to flee from, its rule. From May 26-29, according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, ISIS killed more than 200 civilians as they attempted to flee fighting in western Mosul.

These abuses were particularly evident in and around Mosul, as well as western Anbar, where ISIS reportedly killed numerous civilians who attempted to flee ISIS rule or refused to fight the ISF. There were also numerous reports of ISIS killing civilians in al-Qa’im, Anbar Governorate, in August and September for allegedly cooperating with ISF or attempting to flee to liberated territory.

Throughout the year ISIS detonated vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices and suicide bombs in public markets, security checkpoints, and predominantly Shia neighborhoods. For example, ISIS claimed responsibility for September 14 attacks on a checkpoint and restaurant in Dhi Qar that killed 94 civilians.

ISIS also reportedly killed individuals, including minors, who did not conform to ISIS dictates. For example, on August 3, ISIS reportedly killed a 12-year-old boy publicly in al-Qa’im, Anbar Governorate, for verbally insulting ISIS members.

Abductions: Militias, criminal armed groups, ISIS, and other unknown actors kidnapped many persons during the year. While in some cases individuals were kidnapped due to their ethnic or sectarian identity, other individuals were taken for financial motives. ISIS reportedly detained children in schools, prisons, and airports, and separated girls from their families to sell them in ISIS-controlled areas for sexual slavery.

According to Yezidi NGO contacts, since 2014 ISIS caused more than 360,000 Yezidis to flee to areas under KRG control. The KRG Office of Yezidi Rescues reported ISIS kidnapped 6,417 Yezidis (3,547 women and 2,870 men); of that number, the office facilitated the rescue of 1,108 women, 335 men, and 1,635 children. The office reported there were 3,319 Yezidis still missing as of September.

In May, COR member Vian Dakhil reported the KRG had paid more than 5.8 billion Iraqi dinars ($5.0 million) in ransom to secure the release of 3,004 Yezidis from ISIS, and more than 69.9 million Iraqi dinars ($60,000) to middlemen to arrange safe passage to IKR-controlled areas.

Kidnappings also were a tactic used in tribal conflicts throughout the country. For example, Basrah police reported four tribal dispute-linked kidnappings during the year.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Reports from international human rights groups stated that government forces and PMF abused prisoners and detainees, particularly Sunnis (see section 1.a.).

According to international human rights organizations, ISIS used torture to punish individuals connected to the security services and government, as well as those they considered apostates, such as Yezidis. Thousands of women, particularly those from ethnic and religious communities that ISIS considered as not conforming to their doctrine of Islam, were raped, sexually enslaved, murdered, and endured other forms of physical and sexual violence.

ISIS forces killed civilians who cooperated with the government and anyone who refused to recognize ISIS and its caliphate or tried to escape ISIS-controlled territory. For example, in September ISIS reportedly killed 10 civilians in Hawija for allegedly cooperating with the ISF. ISIS also punished minors in areas under its control.

ISIS attempted to attack both ISF units and civilian-populated areas with chemical substances, including chlorine and sulfur mustard gas. For example, in March humanitarian agencies reported ISIS used chemicals containing blistering agents during the ISF’s battle to liberate Mosul.

Child Soldiers: There were no reports that the central government’s Ministries of Interior or Defense conscripted or recruited children to serve in the security services. Some armed militia groups, however, under the banner of the PMF, provided weapons training and military-style physical fitness conditioning to children under age 18. The government and Shia religious leaders expressly forbid children under age 18 from serving in combat; even so, there was evidence on social media of children serving in combat positions. For example, local media reported at least one PMF-linked Shia militia managed a military readiness training camp for teenagers below age 18 in the Taza area south of Kirkuk during the summer months.

KRG and independent sources stated the Yezidi Resistance Forces and Yezidi Women’s Protection Units’ militias employed Yezidi minors in paramilitary roles in Sinjar. Kurdish media reported that the Kurdistan Worker’s Party recruited children from Sulaimaniyah and Halabja Governorates and had armed and transferred more than 250 Yezidi youth from the town of Sinjar to bases in Qandil. Media reported the party also recruited children from Makhmour. Turkish air strikes in April killed one child soldier in Khanasour District of Sinjar.

ISIS forced children to serve as informants, checkpoint staff, and suicide bombers in areas under its control. The NGO Yazda claimed ISIS continued to force Yezidi children into combat roles, including sending young boys to conduct suicide attacks against the ISF in Mosul.

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

Other Conflict-related Abuse: Conflict disrupted the lives of hundreds of thousands of persons throughout the country, particularly in Baghdad, Anbar, and Ninewa Governorates.

The government, the PMF, and ISIS established roadblocks that impeded the flow of humanitarian assistance to communities in need. Local officials reported PMF-affiliated militias looted Kurdish homes and threatened Kurdish residents in Kirkuk and Tuz Khurmatu in October and November. The KRG, specifically KDP-run checkpoints, also restricted the transport of food, medicines, and medical supplies, and other goods into some areas. In September, Yazda accused the KDP of using checkpoints to prevent Yezidi IDP returns to southern Sinjar. Local sources reported that Asayish required clearance letters for anyone to cross the main bridge from Dahuk to Ninewa.

Reports of ISIS’s targeted destruction of civilian infrastructure were common, including attacks on roads, religious sites, and hospitals.

ISIS attacked cultural and religious heritage sites in areas under its control. On June 21, ISIS destroyed the al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul, famed for its leaning minaret.

ISIS increasingly used civilians as human shields in combat and targeted civilian areas with mortars. Amnesty International reported that ISIS used hundreds of Mosul residents as human shields during the ISF’s campaign to retake the city from ISIS control.

Israel, Golan Heights, West Bank, and Gaza

Executive Summary

READ A SECTION: ISRAEL AND THE GOLAN HEIGHTS (BELOW) | WEST BANK AND GAZA


Israel is a multiparty parliamentary democracy. Although it has no constitution, the parliament, the unicameral 120-member Knesset, has enacted a series of “Basic Laws” that enumerate fundamental rights. Certain fundamental laws, orders, and regulations legally depend on the existence of a “state of emergency,” which has been in effect since 1948. Under the Basic Laws, the Knesset has the power to dissolve the government and mandate elections. The nationwide Knesset elections in 2015, which were considered free and fair, resulted in a coalition government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security services.

The most significant human rights issues included terrorist attacks targeting civilians and politically and religiously motivated killings by nonstate groups and individuals; administrative detention of Palestinians, often extraterritorially in Israel; and legal requirements and official rhetoric that adversely affected the operating environment for human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

The government took steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses within Israel regardless of rank or seniority.

This section includes Israel, the Golan Heights, and problems primarily related to Israeli residents of Jerusalem. Problems primarily related to Palestinian residents of Jerusalem are covered in the “West Bank and Gaza” section. On December 6, 2017, the United States recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It is the position of the United States that the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations between the parties.

As stated in Appendix A, this report contains data drawn from foreign government officials; victims of alleged human rights violations and abuses; academic and congressional studies; and reports from the press, international organizations, and NGOs concerned with human rights. In the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, some of those sources have been accused of harboring political motivations. The Department of State assesses external reporting carefully but does not conduct independent investigations in all cases.

We have sought and received input from the government of Israel with regard to allegations of human rights abuses, and we have noted any responses where applicable. Because of timing constraints, the Israeli government was not able to provide a detailed response to every alleged incident, but it did maintain generally that all incidents were thoroughly investigated and parties held accountable, as appropriate, according to due process of law.

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

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

There was a report the government or its agents committed an arbitrary or unlawful killing. On January 18, during a police action to demolish homes in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev region of southern Israel, police shot local resident Yaqub Musa Abu al-Qian. Abu al-Qian’s car subsequently struck and killed one police officer. Abu al-Qian died of his injuries shortly thereafter. NGOs alleged, based on an autopsy report leaked to Israel Channel 10, that he bled to death after authorities denied him immediate medical treatment. Police also fired sponge-tipped bullets at protesters, injuring Joint List Chairman Member of Knesset (MK) Ayman Odeh. The Department for Investigations of Police Officers had not completed its investigation into the incident as of October 15.

According to the government and media reports, during the year terrorist attacks killed seven persons and injured 23 others. The locations of attacks included Jerusalem, Yavne, Petah Tikva, Tel Aviv, and Arad. Most of the attackers were Palestinians from the West Bank, and two were Arab citizens of Israel.

In April authorities indicted Koren Elkayam and Tamir Bartal on charges of terrorism targeting Arab citizens of Israel in a series of attacks, including a stabbing, in Be’er Sheva that began in December 2016. According to the indictment, on several occasions, the defendants assaulted men who they thought were Arab to deter them from dating Jewish women.

On October 4, police discovered the body of Reuven Schmerling, a 70-year-old Israeli man, who had been stabbed to death. Authorities arrested West Bank residents Yusef Khaled Mustafa Kamil and Muhammad Ziad Abu al-Roub for the killing and on October 29 indicted them for premeditated murder and entering Israel illegally, according to media reports.

b. Disappearance

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

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

The law does not refer to a specific crime of torture but prohibits assault and pressure by a public official. In 1999 the Supreme Court ruled that, although torture and the application of physical or psychological pain were illegal, Israeli Security Agency (ISA) interrogators may be exempt from criminal prosecution if they used “exceptional methods” in extraordinary cases determined to involve an imminent threat, such as the “ticking bomb” scenario, as long as such methods did not amount to torture. Human rights organizations such as the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), Defense for Children International-Palestine, and Military Court Watch reported that “physical interrogation methods” permitted by the law and used by security personnel could amount to torture. Methods documented by the organizations included beatings, forcing an individual to hold certain stress positions for long periods, sleep deprivation, threatening an illegal act against the detainee or a family member, and painful pressure from shackles or restraints. The government stated that ISA rules, procedures, and methods of interrogation are confidential for security reasons, but they are subject to governmental supervision from within and outside of the ISA.

Authorities continued to state the ISA held detainees in isolation only in extreme cases and when there was no alternative option, and that the ISA did not use isolation as a means of augmenting interrogation, forcing a confession, or punishment. An independent Inspector for Complaints Against ISA Interrogators in the Ministry of Justice handled complaints of misconduct and abuse in interrogations. The decision to open an investigation against an ISA employee is at the discretion of the attorney general.

The government established the Turkel Commission to implement the findings of the 2010 report of the Public Commission to Examine the Maritime Incident, which concerned the interception and capture by the Israeli Navy of ships carrying humanitarian aid bound for Gaza. This led to the 2015 “Ciechanover Report,” which deferred a decision to impose responsibility on military commanders and civilian superiors for offenses committed by their subordinates. The report instead recommended that: “[T]he question of the explicit anchoring of the responsibility of military commanders and civilian superiors in Israeli law would continue to be examined by the relevant parties before being decided.” The report also recommended increasing and clarifying civilian oversight (via the attorney general) of the military justice system. In July 2016 the security cabinet adopted the report’s recommendations. In the context of the Ciechanover report, and in response to more than 60 complaints of violent acts by soldiers that the military closed without response since 2014, the Supreme Court ruled in September 2016 that complaints should be examined within 14 weeks. The government did not publish the number of complaints it examined during the year.

In criminal cases investigated by police involving crimes with a maximum imprisonment of 10 years or more, regulations require recording interrogations; however, an extended temporary law exempts the General Security Services from audio and video recording of interrogations of suspects related to “security offenses.” In December 2016 the Knesset passed an amendment to the Criminal Procedure (Interrogation of Suspects) Law whereby the questioning of a suspect in relation to a security offense is subject to random inspections by a supervising authority, which may supervise any interrogation of such suspects, at any time, without advance notice and without the interrogator’s awareness.

The Ciechanover report recommended installing closed-circuit cameras in all ISA interrogation rooms that broadcast to a control room in real time. The government’s implementation team recommended that this control room be located in an ISA facility in which interrogations are not conducted and that it be accessible and available to a supervising entity from the Ministry of Justice at any time. According to the recommendation, the supervising entity would prepare a concise memorandum on what the observer saw, but no other record would be kept. In the event that the supervising entity believes that interrogators used illegal means during the interrogation, the observer would be required to report the matter to the Office of the Inspector for Complaints against ISA Interrogators in the Ministry of Justice. The government had not finished preparations to implement this mechanism as of September. Human rights NGOs criticized this mechanism as insufficient to prevent and identify torture, arguing there is no recording of interrogations for later accountability and judicial review. NGOs submitted a petition to the Supreme Court opposing the recommendation in 2015. The court rejected the petition on January 17 on the grounds that it was outdated, following significant legal changes.

According to PCATI, as of October the government had never opened a criminal investigation nor indicted an ISA interrogator for torture during an investigation–despite more than 1,100 complaints of torture by detainees in the country since 2001, in some of which cases the government acknowledged that “exceptional measures” were used. The government stated none of these complaints led to a criminal investigation due to insufficient evidence. Nonetheless, some preliminary examinations led to disciplinary measures, changes in procedures, and changes in methods of interrogation. The government noted 139 open cases as of June, of which one-half were received between 2013 and 2015. PCATI reported the preliminary examinations of complaints averaged 28 months, and all but one complaint the organization submitted regarding incidents in 2014 remained unanswered as of September. PCATI submitted 48 new cases of alleged torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment for the year as of October 24.

In its May 2016 review of the country’s compliance with the UN Convention Against Torture, the UN Committee Against Torture recommended (among 50 other recommendations) that the government provide for independent medical examinations for all detainees. In a September 2017 response, the government listed the services available to detainees by the medical staff of the Israel Prison Service (IPS) and stated that requests from prisoners for independent examination at the prisoner’s expense are reviewed by an IPS medical team. PCATI added that professional training for medical personnel to identify, document, and report all allegations and evidence of torture had not been implemented as of October.

PCATI stated the government’s system for investigating allegations of mistreatment of detainees was complex and fragmented. For example, allegations against police and the ISA are investigated by two separate departments of the Police Investigation Department in the State Attorney’s Office of the Ministry of Justice, each with different procedures. The National Prison Wardens Investigation Unit is responsible for investigating allegations against members of the IPS. PCATI reported this fragmentation created a disorganized system characterized by widely varying response times and professional standards. PCATI noted victims often did not know the institutional affiliations of the perpetrators and that complaints were often passed from one organization to another for months or years with each authority denying jurisdiction in the case.

In May 2016 plainclothes Border Police officers beat an Arab citizen, Maysam Abu Alqian, outside the supermarket in which he was working in central Tel Aviv. After requesting to see his identification, the officers beat Alqian severely. The officers alleged Alqian attacked them, but the Tel Aviv District Court ordered him released the day after his arrest. Authorities dropped the criminal charges against the police officers during the year. On March 30, the Department for Investigations of Police Officers (DIPO) in the Ministry of Justice ordered disciplinary actions against one officer, Ben Edri, for “unreasonable use of force and improper behavior.”

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

The law provides prisoners and detainees the right to conditions that do not harm their health or dignity. Conditions in permanent detention facilities run by the IPS generally met international standards, according to the International Commission of the Red Cross (ICRC). For information about the Holot detention facility for irregular migrants, see section 2.d.

Physical Conditions: As of October 19, according to the government, there were 9,279 Israeli citizens held in IPS facilities (5,432 Jewish and 3,847 non-Jewish, the latter predominantly Arab citizens). IPS facilities also held 3,494 prisoners who were legal residents of Israel (including Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem), and 6,552 Palestinian prisoners from the West Bank or Gaza. The prison population included 157 minors who were citizens or residents of Israel–most of them Palestinians from East Jerusalem–and 282 Palestinian minors from the West Bank or Gaza. Of the total prisoner population, 5,821 were characterized as “security prisoners” (those convicted or suspected of nationalistically motivated violence). These prisoners often faced harsher conditions than those for prisoners characterized as criminals, including increased incidence of administrative detention, restricted family visits, ineligibility for temporary furloughs, and solitary confinement.

The vast majority of the security prisoners held in Israel were Palestinian residents of the West Bank; there were a small number of Israeli citizens and Palestinian residents of Gaza. Extraterritorial detention of Palestinians in Israel imposed heavy logistical burdens on family members who wished to visit them. Additionally, because the two Israeli military courts that try Palestinian suspects were both located in the West Bank, detention of Palestinians in Israel led to extensive delays for Palestinian prisoners due to transportation to and from each hearing.

A June report on 62 prisons by the Public Defender’s Office described physical neglect and harsh living conditions. The report also cited a shortage of treatment and rehabilitation groups for non-Hebrew-speaking prisoners, lack of social workers in some prisons, excessive shaking of detainees during transportation, and extended stays in court detention facilities beyond the duration of legal proceedings.

The percentage of minors of Ethiopian origin in prison was significantly higher than their proportion of the population, comprising 14 percent of the inmates in Ofek Prison for juveniles as of October. Data from the Public Defender’s Office reported by the newspaperHa’aretz in September 2016 revealed that the proportion of Ethiopian-Israeli minors convicted of crimes and sentenced to prison instead of treatment was nearly 90 percent, three times the percentage for non-Ethiopian-Jewish minors and almost double that of minors who are Arab citizens of Israel.

On June 13, following a petition by the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and the Academic Center for Law and Business in Ramat Gan, the Supreme Court ruled that within 18 months, prisons must allocate a living space of 48 square feet to each prisoner, including toilet and shower, or 43 square feet, not including toilet and shower. According to ACRI each prisoner is currently allocated 33 square feet, including toilet and shower, and approximately 40 percent of the prisoners were imprisoned in an area that amounted to less than 32 square feet per person.

In 2015 the Knesset passed a law authorizing force-feeding of hunger-striking prisoners under specific conditions; however, the Israel Medical Association declared the legislation unethical and urged doctors to refuse to implement it. The government had not applied this law as of October. Approximately 1,500 Palestinian prisoners participated in all or part of a hunger strike between April 17 and May 27. The prisoners’ principal demands were reinstatement of a second monthly family visit and an end to administrative detention (detention without charge).

In February the IPS installed heaters in the cells of Palestinian security prisoners at Gilboa prison, following a letter from the Arab legal rights NGO Adalah alleging that excessively cold temperatures in prisoners’ cells during the winter months constituted inhuman treatment.

During the year, according to the government, 17 prisoners died in IPS custody, including seven in prisons and 10 in hospitals.

Administration: While authorities usually allowed visits from lawyers and stated that every inmate who requested to meet with an attorney was able to do so, this was not always the case. NGOs alleged authorities did not allow Palestinian detainees, including minors, access to a lawyer during their initial arrest. Travel restrictions on entry into Israel from the West Bank and Gaza affected the access of lawyers and family visitors to some Palestinian prisoners held extraterritorially in Israel. The government granted permits to family members from the West Bank on a limited basis and restricted those entering from Gaza more severely.

After MK Basel Ghattas smuggled items to security prisoners, the Knesset House Committee decided in December 2016 to ban MKs from visiting security prisoners, with limited exceptions for parliamentary oversight of prison conditions. As of August 31, the government authorized two MKs from the coalition and two from the opposition to visit security prisoners. The Public Defender’s Report published in June 2016 cited difficulties in holding meetings between detainees and their lawyers in detention facilities in Jerusalem, Tiberias, Nazareth, Petah Tikva, and Be’er Sheva.

On April 25, Adalah complained that the IPS prevented seven lawyers from meeting Palestinian prisoners regarding their hunger strike. On May 3, following a petition to the Supreme Court, the IPS, and Adalah reached an agreement allowing the prisoners to meet their lawyers under restricted conditions.

Independent Monitoring: The ICRC monitored all facilities in accordance with its standard modalities, except for urgent or isolated cases that the ICRC raised bilaterally with the concerned authorities (that is, relating to the composition of the visiting team and the conditions for interviews without witnesses). PCATI and other organizations continued to press for structural reforms, including mandatory audio-video recordings of interrogations. The Public Defender’s Office is officially responsible for monitoring and reporting on prison conditions, which it does every two years (see above).

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements. Authorities subjected non-Israeli residents of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to the same laws as Israeli citizens. Noncitizens of Palestinian origin detained on security grounds fell under military jurisdiction as applied by Israel to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, even if detained inside Israel (see “West Bank and Gaza” section).

With regard to irregular migrants, the most recent amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law allows the government to detain migrants and asylum seekers who arrived after December 2014 for three months in the Saharonim Prison facility “for the purpose of identification and to explore options for relocation of the individual.” The law also states authorities must bring irregular migrants taken into detention to a hearing within five days and inform them of their rights, including the right to legal counsel. After three months in Saharonim, the government may then hold them for 12 months in Holot, a remote, semiopen facility run by the IPS (see section 2.d.). The law also allows authorities to send those who fail to renew their visas on time to Holot for up to 120 days. It prohibits, however, detention in Holot based on certain factors including age, health, gender, or other protected status. Authorities can send those who violated rules at Holot to Saharonim Prison and reportedly transferred two or three detainees per day, on average. A policy dating to 2014 authorizes the government to detain without trial and for an indefinite period irregular migrants who were “implicated in criminal proceedings.” The NGO Hotline for Refugees and Migrants noted this policy enabled indefinite detention even in cases in which there is insufficient evidence to try a suspect, including for relatively minor crimes, as well as cases of migrants who completed a sentence following conviction. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) stated this policy is “at variance with international human rights and refugee law,” and called for migrants suspected of crimes to be treated equally under Israel’s existing criminal laws. On January 4, the Supreme Court ruled that the legality of this policy requires additional review. It had not issued any new guidance as of October 27.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

Under the authority of the prime minister, the ISA combats terrorism and espionage in Israel and the West Bank. The national police, including the border police and the immigration police, are under the authority of the Ministry of Public Security. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have no jurisdiction over Israeli citizens. ISA forces operating in the West Bank and East Jerusalem fall under the IDF for operations and operational debriefing. The Ciechanover report (see section 1.c.) clarified that the Ministry of Justice and its investigators and the IDF and its investigators would divide investigative and prosecutorial responsibilities in incidents in which police operated under the authority of the military.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the ISA and police forces, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. The government took steps to investigate allegations of the use of excessive force by police and military.

PCATI continued to criticize the extremely low number of indictments issued relative to the number of investigations opened, the reliance on internal disciplinary measures instead of criminal charges, and the high percentage of cases closed due to investigation failures by military police.

DIPO is responsible for investigating complaints against ISA bodies, including incidents involving police and the border police that do not involve the use of a weapon. On April 5, the state comptroller published a report criticizing DIPO for investigating complaints narrowly on criteria of individual criminal or disciplinary violations rather than broadly on criteria of systemic or organizational problems. According to its annual report DIPO published in February, after reviewing 2,945 cases in 2016, DIPO filed criminal indictments in 110 cases (4 percent), ordered disciplinary proceedings in 128 cases (4 percent), closed 974 cases without further investigation (33 percent), and closed 843 cases following a preliminary examination (29 percent). In 2016 courts in Israel ruled on 86 cases brought by DIPO and issued 67 convictions.

Investigative responsibility for alleged abuses by the IDF, including incidents involving a weapon in which police units were operating under IDF authority in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, remains with the Military Police Criminal Investigations Department of the Ministry of Defense.

Human rights NGOs, including Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI), continued to allege that accountability mechanisms precluded serious internal investigations by the military and were marred by severe structural flaws.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Police must have warrants based on sufficient evidence and issued by an authorized official to arrest a suspect. The following applies to detainees, excluding those in administrative detention: Authorities generally informed such persons promptly of charges against them; the law allows authorities to detain suspects without charge for 24 hours prior to bringing them before a judge, with limited exceptions allowing for up to 48 hours; authorities generally respected these rights for persons arrested in the country; there was a functioning bail system, and detainees could appeal decisions denying bail; and authorities allowed detainees to consult with an attorney in a timely manner, including one provided by the government for the indigent and to contact family members promptly. (Further information on arrest procedures under military law can be found in the West Bank and Gaza section.)

Authorities detained most Palestinian prisoners within Israel. The government stated that the establishment of new prisons in the West Bank could adversely affect detainees’ living conditions. Authorities prosecuted Palestinian noncitizens held in Israel under Israeli military law, a practice Israel has applied since the 1967 occupation. According to the circumstances of each case, such as the severity of the alleged offense, status as a minor, risk of escape, or other factors, authorities either granted or denied bail to noncitizens of Palestinian origin detained for security violations.

Authorities may prosecute persons detained on security grounds criminally or hold them as administrative detainees or illegal combatants, according to one of three legal regimes. First, under a temporary law on criminal procedures, repeatedly renewed since 2006, the IPS may hold persons suspected of a security offense for 48 hours prior to bringing them before a judge, with limited exceptions allowing the IPS to detain a suspect for up to 96 hours prior to bringing the suspect before the senior judge of a district court. In security-related cases, authorities may hold a person for up to 35 days without an indictment (versus 30 days for nonsecurity cases), and the law allows the court to extend detentions on security grounds for an initial period of up to 20 days for interrogation without an indictment (versus 15 days for other than security-related cases). Authorities may deny security detainees access to an attorney for up to 60 days under military regulations or 21 days under Israeli civilian procedures.

Second, the Emergency Powers Law allows the Ministry of Defense to detain persons administratively without charge for up to six months, renewable indefinitely. As of May 31, according to data provided to the NGO B’Tselem by the IPS, 475 Palestinians including two minors were in administrative detention.

Third, the Illegal Combatant Law permits authorities to hold a detainee for 14 days before review by a district court judge, deny access to counsel for up to 21 days with the attorney general’s approval, and allow indefinite detention subject to twice-yearly district court reviews and appeals to the Supreme Court. As of May 31, according to B’Tselem based on IPS data, no Palestinian prisoners were held under this law.

While international law allows the use of administrative detention in rare “ticking time bomb” scenarios, civil society organizations and some MKs continued to criticize the government for using it excessively, adding that the practice was undemocratic since there was no due process. In its September submission regarding compliance with the UN Convention Against Torture, the government claimed it issued administrative detention orders “as a preventive measure where there is a reasonable basis to believe that the detention is absolutely necessary for clear security purposes. Administrative detention is not employed where the security risk can be addressed by other legal alternatives, especially criminal prosecution.” The government further emphasized the role of military judges in reviewing administration detention orders and noted that 395 such orders were appealed to the Supreme Court as of September 10.

Arbitrary Arrest: The annual report of the Office of the Public Defender in 2016 highlighted indictments on problems of trivial importance or against persons who break the law to obtain basic needs such as food, electricity, water, or housing. Allegations continued of arbitrary arrests of Arab citizens during protests, as well as of Ethiopian-Israelis. The NGO Human Rights Defenders Fund reported police detained nine lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) participants in a July 20 protest (see section 6) and strip-searched seven of them at the police station. In response to a complaint, the Tel Aviv District Police legal advisor wrote that the search was not in accordance with regulations and that the officers involved would face disciplinary action.

Pretrial Detention: Administrative detention continued to result in lengthy pretrial detention for security detainees (see above).

Detainees’ Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: By law persons arrested or detained on criminal or other grounds are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention and any delay in obtaining judicial rulings. If the court finds persons to have been detained unlawfully, they are entitled to prompt release, compensation, or both. An administrative detainee has the right to appeal any decision to lengthen detention to a military court of appeals and then to the Supreme Court. All categories of detainees routinely did so, including citizens, legal residents, and Palestinian noncitizens. Military courts may rely on classified evidence denied to detainees and their lawyers when determining whether to prolong administrative detention. There is no system whereby authorities may clear a defense team member to view classified information used to justify holding an administrative detainee.

For information on procedures related to the detention of irregular migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers, see section 2.d.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Exceptions to the right for a public trial include national security concerns, protection of the interest of a minor or an individual requiring special protection, and safeguarding the identity of an accuser or defendant in a sex-offense case.

Defendants enjoy the rights to a presumption of innocence, to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, to a fair and public trial without undue delay, and to be present at their trial. They may consult with an attorney or, if indigent, have one provided at public expense. They have adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense. Defendants who cannot understand or speak the language used in court have the right to free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. Defendants have the right to confront witnesses against them and to present witnesses and evidence on their behalf. They may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt and may appeal to the Supreme Court.

The prosecution is under a general obligation following an indictment to provide all evidence to the defense. The government may on security grounds withhold from defense lawyers evidence it has gathered but will not use in its case against the accused. The Supreme Court (with regard to civilian courts) and the Court of Appeals (with regard to military courts) can scrutinize the decision to withhold such evidence. The rules of evidence in espionage cases tried in criminal court do not differ from the normal rules of evidence, and no use of secret evidence is permissible.

In August 2016, in response to a wave of attacks, many perpetrated by minors, that began in September 2015, the Knesset passed a “Youth Law” legalizing imprisonment of children as young as 12 years old if convicted of serious crimes such as murder, attempted murder, or manslaughter. The government reported no child had been imprisoned under this law as of October.

Military court trials are open to the public, but, since authorities conduct them in a military camp, members of the public require an entry permit from the military. Authorities conducted certain trials in a closed setting, not open to the public, for reasons of security or for the protection of the identity of a minor.

The evidentiary rules governing military trials of noncitizen Palestinians, all of whom are subject to military law, are the same as evidentiary rules in criminal cases. According to the Ministry of Justice, the law does not permit convictions based solely on confessions. Counsel may assist the accused in such trials, and a judge may assign counsel to defendants. Indigent detainees do not automatically receive free legal counsel for military trials, but almost all detainees had counsel, even in minor cases. Court indictments were read in Hebrew and, unless the defendant waived this right, in Arabic. Authorities translated all military court indictments into Arabic. At least one interpreter was present for simultaneous interpretation in every military court hearing, unless the defendant waived that right. Various human rights organizations claimed the availability and quality of Arabic interpretation was insufficient; most interpreters were bilingual Israelis performing mandatory military service. Defendants may appeal through the Military Court of Appeals and then to the Supreme Court. (Further information on military court proceedings against Palestinians and others can be found in the West Bank and Gaza section, Political Prisoners and Detainees.)

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

Some human rights organizations claimed that Palestinian security prisoners held in Israel should be considered political prisoners. The government described security prisoners as those convicted or suspected of nationalistically motivated violence.

ACRI petitioned the Supreme Court in 2013 regarding a practice by the ISA of calling in Israeli political activists suspected of “subversive” activity unrelated to terror or espionage for questioning under caution, meaning they might be charged with a crime. In response the government confirmed a classified secret procedure regulates Israel National Police assisting the ISA in the summoning process. In February the Supreme Court imposed the following restrictions on this process: Summoning will be carried out only after consultation with the legal advisor of the ISA; police and the ISA will clarify that questioning is voluntary and the person summoned is not required to appear; and the ISA will clarify during questioning that the suspect’s statements cannot be used in court for other proceedings.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

An independent and impartial judiciary adjudicates lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations. Administrative remedies exist, and court orders usually were enforced. By law noncitizen Palestinians may file suit in civilian courts to obtain compensation through civil suits in some cases, even when a criminal suit is unsuccessful and the actions against them considered legal.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

In 35 unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev inhabited by approximately 70,000 persons, the government viewed all buildings as illegal and subject to demolition. The government maintained a program to encourage Bedouins to relocate from unrecognized villages, which lacked basic infrastructure, to established towns by providing low-cost land. It offered compensation for demolition of illegal structures for those willing to move to designated permanent locations. Bedouins often refused to participate because they asserted they owned the land or that the government had given them prior permission to settle in their current locations.

According to a 2016 report from the state comptroller, from 2008-14 the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development resolved only 3 percent of ownership claims through settlement agreements and legal proceedings. In cases of demolitions with no agreement from the residents to relocate, the government levied fines against residents to cover expenses incurred in the course of demolitions. On August 16, the Be’er Sheva Magistrate’s Court ruled that six residents of al-Araqib (see below) must pay 262,000 shekels ($73,400) for the costs of demolitions of their village from July to December 2010 and 100,000 shekels ($27,800) for the expenses of the state’s lawyer. On December 24, following a trial that lasted four years, a Be’er Sheva court sentenced the head of al-Araqib, Sheikh Sayyah al-Turi, to 10 months in prison and a fine of 36,000 shekels ($10,000) for charges relating to residence in the village, including trespassing and entering public space against the law. Many Bedouins whose residences or structures were subject to demolition orders elected to demolish them themselves to avoid fines.

According to the NGO Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality (NCF), Jewish citizens reside in 126 out of 144 communities in the Negev, in addition to approximately 60 family farms, alongside 18 government-approved communities for Bedouin citizens. According to the NCF, 115 of the 126 Jewish communities maintained admission committees to screen new residents, effectively excluding non-Jewish residents. Authorities approved plans for new Jewish communities called Hiran (see below), Daya, and Neve Gurion to replace existing Bedouin villages. Authorities planned Daya to replace the unrecognized Bedouin village of al-Qatamat, and Neve Gurion was to replace some houses in the recognized village of Bir Haddaj. In June the government completed registration of 44,500 acres of land in the Negev, effectively nullifying approximately 600 land claims filed by Bedouin citizens in the 1970s. As of October it was unclear whether the Bedouin plaintiffs would accept monetary compensation the government offered as restitution. The NCF noted the Negev was sparsely populated, with only 8 percent of the country’s population living on 60 percent of the land, so there was ample room to establish new communities without razing existing ones.

Authorities halted efforts to demolish homes in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, in preparation for replacing it with a Jewish community called Hiran, after protests and a fatal police shooting in January (see section 1.a.). Construction in the area surrounding Umm al-Hiran stopped after this incident, then resumed in July, but the government had not conducted any further demolitions in the village as of October 24. In January 2016 the Supreme Court ruled that eviction orders issued against the residents of Umm al-Hiran, where the Israeli government had moved them in 1956, were valid. The government offered plots of land and cash compensation to villagers willing to accept resettlement to the nearby Bedouin town of Hura, three miles away. Village leaders had rejected this option because, according to the Hura local council, there was insufficient space for natural growth in the town, and due to fears it would force the villagers to abandon a traditional rural lifestyle for an urban one. Village leaders expressed openness to almost any option that would allow them to remain in place, including living side by side with Jewish neighbors in an expanded community. On August 7, Adalah wrote a letter to the National Planning and Building Council objecting to bylaws drafted by the Hiran cooperative association that would allow only Orthodox Jews to live in Hiran. A group of 35 Jewish families sponsored by the OR Movement (an organization dedicated to expanding the Jewish population of the Negev region) who planned to move to Hiran remained in the forest outside Umm al-Hiran living in mobile homes donated by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), while waiting to obtain the land.

The NCF recorded 1,158 demolitions in 2016, the highest number since they began tracking in 2013. Demolitions by Israeli authorities increased to 412 in 2016 from 365 in 2015, while Bedouins demolished the remaining structures to avoid fines. In May 2016 a report from the state comptroller stated: “The ongoing circle of construction for housing and demolition of these structures deepens the alienation of the Bedouin residents of the Negev towards the state and does not contribute to the regulation of their settlement.” The report recommended the government act to settle land claims as early as possible, plan resettlement of Bedouin citizens in cooperation with the Bedouin community, develop infrastructure in recognized Bedouin communities, and formulate an enforcement policy regarding illegal construction.

One week before the January demolitions in Umm al-Hiran, the government demolished 11 homes in the Arab city of Qalansawe, which Prime Minister Netanyahu applauded in a Facebook posting. The demolitions in Qalansawe and Umm al-Hiran, as well as planned demolitions in the northern Druze town of Maghar, led thousands of Arab and Druze citizens to protest in multiple locations from January 21 to 24. (For details about housing construction and demolitions, see section 6.)

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

The law prohibits such actions, and the government generally respected those prohibitions.

Separate religious court systems adjudicate matters such as marriage and divorce for the Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Druze communities. The country lacks a civil marriage law. In order to be considered legal, civil marriages, marriages of some non-Orthodox Jews, marriages in non-Orthodox ceremonies, same-sex marriages, marriages of a Jew to a non-Jew, or marriages of a Muslim woman to a non-Muslim must take place outside the country to be considered legal, because religious courts refuse to conduct these marriages. Approximately 11 percent of marriages registered with the Ministry of the Interior in 2015 occurred abroad, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

The majority of Jewish citizens objected to exclusive Orthodox control over aspects of their personal lives, including marriage and “kashrut “(Jewish dietary laws), according to a survey of 800 Jewish Israelis published in September by the NGO Hiddush. The Orthodox Rabbinate did not consider to be Jewish approximately 337,000 Israeli citizens who considered themselves Jewish and who immigrated either as Jews or as family members of Jews; therefore, these citizens could not be married or buried in Jewish cemeteries. The Orthodox Rabbinate had the authority to handle divorces of any Jewish couple regardless of how they were married. The government stated that 24 cemeteries in the country served immigrants not considered Jewish by the Orthodox Rabbinate. Authorities did not fully implement a law requiring the government to establish civil cemeteries.

The 2003 Law of Citizenship and Entry, which is renewed annually, prohibits non-Jewish Iranians, Iraqis, Syrians, Lebanese, and Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza, including those who are spouses of Israeli residents or citizens, from obtaining resident status in Jerusalem or Israel unless the Ministry of the Interior makes a special determination, usually on humanitarian grounds. AI and other human rights organizations repeatedly called on the government to repeal this law and resume processing of family unification applications. The law allows the entry of spouses of Israelis on a “staying permit” if the male spouse is age 35 or older and the female spouse is age 25 or older. The NGO Mossawa reported this law impacts approximately 30,000 Arab families in Israel.

Israel, Golan Heights, West Bank, and Gaza – West Bank and Gaza

Executive Summary

READ A SECTION: ISRAEL AND THE GOLAN HEIGHTS | WEST BANK AND GAZA (BELOW)


The Palestinian Authority (PA), according to PA basic law, has an elected president and legislative council. The PA exercised varying degrees of authority in the West Bank and no authority over Jerusalem. The PA maintains civil and security control in Area A of the West Bank. In Area B, it has civil control and joint security control with Israel. The PA has no authority over either Israeli or Palestinian residents in Area C of the West Bank (in which Israel retains both security and civil control).

Although PA laws apply in the Gaza Strip, the PA did not have authority there. While the PA deployed personnel at Gaza’s border crossings in November, Hamas continued to exercise de facto control of security and other matters.

The PA head of government is Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. President Mahmoud Abbas, in office since he was elected to a four-year term in 2005, is also chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and general commander of Fatah. The Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) has not functioned since 2007. In 2007 Hamas staged a violent takeover of PA government installations in the Gaza Strip and has since maintained a de facto government in the territory.

Both PA and Israeli civilian authorities maintained effective control over their security forces. Hamas maintained control of security forces in Gaza.

The most significant human rights issues included Palestinian terror attacks against Israeli civilians and security forces in the West Bank and Jerusalem, which killed 13 Israelis. Israeli forces killed 68 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, four of whom nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and media reported did not pose a lethal threat to Israeli Security Forces (ISF) or civilians at the time they were killed. Other significant human rights issues included allegations that interrogation techniques used by Israeli security forces constituted torture; allegations that security detention procedures constituted arbitrary arrest; demolition and confiscation of Palestinian property; limitations on freedom of expression, assembly, and association; severe restrictions on Palestinians’ internal and external freedom of movement pursuant to military law; and concerns that Palestinian children were vulnerable to Israeli violations of the law regarding arrest, physical restraint, night interrogations, treatment during interrogations, and holding conditions. The government of Israel asserted these events took place in a context of Palestinian incitement to violence against Israel.

The most significant human rights issues in the parts of the West Bank under PA control included allegations of torture; political prisoners; increased restrictions on freedom of speech and press, including detention of journalists and blocking access to critical websites; and limitations on freedom of association, including government preapproval of NGO programs and limits on independent labor unions. The Palestinian Authority has not held national elections since 2006, significantly limiting political participation. The government did not effectively prosecute allegations of rape and domestic violence; same-sex sexual activity was criminalized, although the law was not enforced; there were reports of forced labor and child labor.

Terrorist organizations and militant factions in Gaza launched rocket and mortar attacks against civilian targets in Israel, and they did so at or near civilian locations in Gaza. The most significant human rights abuses under Hamas de facto rule included unlawful and arbitrary killings, disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention; political prisoners; severe infringements on privacy rights; severe restrictions on freedoms of speech and press, including violence against journalists; interference with academic freedom and cultural events; violent interference in the freedom of assembly; severe restrictions on freedom of association, including arbitrary interference with NGO operations and opposition political parties; negation of the right to participate in the political process; widespread and arbitrary enforcement of “morality codes” against women by authorities; official harassment and arbitrary detention of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons; restrictions on independent labor unions, and reports of forced labor and child labor.

The PA and Israeli authorities took steps to address impunity or reduce abuses, but there were criticisms both did not adequately pursue investigations and disciplinary actions related to violations. Impunity was a major problem under Hamas.

This section includes areas subject to the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority and issues primarily related to Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. Issues primarily related to Israeli residents of Jerusalem are covered in the “Israel and the Golan Heights” section. On December 6, 2017, the United States recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It is the position of the United States that the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations between the parties.

As stated in Appendix A, this report contains data drawn from foreign government officials; victims of alleged human rights violations and abuses; academic and congressional studies; and reports from the press, international organizations, and NGOs concerned with human rights. In the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, some of those sources have been accused of harboring political motivations. The Department of State assesses external reporting carefully but does not conduct independent investigations in all cases.

We have sought and received input from the government of Israel (and, where relevant, the Palestinian Authority) with regard to allegations of human rights abuses, and we have noted any responses where applicable. Because of timing constraints, the Israeli government was not able to provide a detailed response to every alleged incident, but it did maintain generally that all incidents were thoroughly investigated and parties held accountable, as appropriate, according to due process of law.

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

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

In the West Bank, there were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities. Some detainees registered complaints with the PA’s Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) that their arrests were arbitrary. In Gaza, Hamas security operatives carried out extrajudicial detentions based on political affiliation. Information concerning the whereabouts and welfare of those detained was not consistently or reliably available. Hamas denied due process or access to family and legal counsel to many of those detained. There was no new information on the disappearances in 2014 and 2015 of two Israeli citizens who crossed into Gaza and whom Hamas reportedly apprehended and held incommunicado.

b. Disappearance

In the West Bank, there were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities. Some detainees registered complaints with the PA’s Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) that their arrests were arbitrary. In Gaza, Hamas security operatives carried out extrajudicial detentions based on political affiliation. Information concerning the whereabouts and welfare of those detained was not consistently or reliably available. Hamas denied due process or access to family and legal counsel to many of those detained. There was no new information on the disappearances in 2014 and 2015 of two Israeli citizens who crossed into Gaza and whom Hamas reportedly apprehended and held incommunicado.

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

The PA basic law prohibits torture or use of force against detainees; however, international and local human rights groups reported that torture and abuse remained a problem.

Palestinian detainees held by PASF registered complaints of abuse and torture with the ICHR. Reported abuses by PA authorities in the West Bank included forcing prisoners, including those accused of affiliation with Hamas, to sit in a painful position for long periods, beating, punching, flogging, intimidation, and psychological pressure. Independent observers assessed abuse was not systematic or routinely practiced in PA prisons, although some prisoners experienced abuse during arrest or interrogation. The PA Corrections and Rehabilitation Centers Department, under the authority of the Ministry of Interior, continued to maintain a mechanism for reviewing complaints of prisoner abuse in civil prisons but reported no cases of inmate abuse by its staff.

Detainees held by Hamas filed claims of torture and abuse with the ICHR. Other human rights organizations reported that Hamas internal security tortured detainees. According to a media report, Hamas security officials tortured Mohammad Sufian al-Qassas, a 30-year-old Palestinian living in Gaza, after his arrest on September 18. Al-Qassas was arrested following complaints that some of his internet cafe clients were “insulting God.” On September 19, 19-year-old Khalil Abu Harb from Gaza died after falling from a window in an interrogation room in the district prosecutor’s office, after authorities arrested him on charges of theft. Hamas claimed Abu Harb committed suicide. The incident prompted local human rights groups to call for an end to torture in Gazan prisons.

Human rights organizations such as the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) reported that “special interrogation methods” used by Israeli security personnel against Palestinian security detainees in the West Bank and East Jerusalem could amount to torture. The methods reportedly included beatings, forcing an individual to hold a stress position for long periods, threats of rape and physical harm, and painful pressure from shackles or restraints applied to the forearms. According to a Haaretz media report based on a freedom of information request to the Ministry of Justice, as of January the Ministry of Justice unit that handles complaints about interrogations against Shin Bet officers had in no case opened a criminal investigation against or indicted any of its personnel implicated by such allegations, despite the fact that more than 1,100 complaints had been submitted since 2001. The Ministry of Justice did not accept any appeal against the closure of such an investigation since the appeals process was established in 2013. PCATI further noted that preliminary examinations into complaints continue to take an average of 28 months. As of November 21, all except one complaint filed since 2014 awaited initial responses from the Ministry of Justice.

Israeli officials stated they did not use techniques that could amount to torture. Israeli and Palestinian NGOs continued to criticize Israeli detention practices they termed abusive, including isolation and prolonged solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, lack of food, exposure to the elements, and psychological abuse, including threats to interrogate spouses, siblings, or elderly parents, or to demolish family homes.

Israeli authorities reportedly used similar tactics on Palestinian minors. Military Court Watch (MCW), Hamoked, and other human rights NGOs claimed Israeli security services continued to employ abuse, and in some cases torture, to coerce confessions from minors arrested on suspicion of stone throwing or others acts of violence. In May the MCW released a briefing note that reported 93 percent of Palestinian children arrested by the ISF during the year were hand-tied, 80 percent blindfolded, 58 percent subjected to physical abuse, and 90 percent denied access to a lawyer prior to questioning. According to the latest Israeli Prison Service data, the ISF as of May held in detention 331 Palestinian children between ages 12 and 17, an 82-percent increase from the monthly average for 2015.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Physical conditions in prisons and detention centers in the West Bank were reportedly poor. The PA Corrections and Rehabilitation Centers Department, under the authority of the Ministry of Interior, continued to maintain a mechanism for reviewing complaints of prisoner abuse in civil prisons but reported no cases of inmate abuse by its staff.

The basic conditions of prisons in Gaza were reportedly poor and prison cells were overcrowded.

ISF detention centers for security detainees were less likely than Israeli civilian prisons to meet international standards, according to PCATI and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI). Authorities detained extraterritorially in Israel most Palestinian prisoners who had been arrested by the ISF in the West Bank and Gaza. According to the MCW, as of November 21, Israeli government authorities transferred and held 5,986 Palestinians detainees, or an average of 82 percent of all prisoners from the West Bank, in prisons inside (the 1949 Armistice line) Israel.

According to PCATI and Physicians for Human Rights in Israel, Israeli medics and doctors routinely ignored bruises and injuries resulting from violent arrests and interrogations. On one occasion prison health professionals were called to an interrogation room after a Palestinian detainee fainted during the interrogation, but they allowed the interrogation to continue unchecked. Although the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) directives provided for private doctor visitations for external medical second opinions, the IPS regularly denied access of external doctors to evaluate Palestinian prisoners.

NGOs reported PA, Israeli, and Gazan prisons lacked adequate facilities and specialized medical care for detainees and prisoners with disabilities.

Physical Conditions: Some PA prisons continued to be crowded and lacked ventilation, heating, cooling, and lighting systems conforming to international standards. Authorities at times held male juveniles with adult male prisoners. Security services used separate detention facilities. Conditions for women were virtually identical to those for men.

Most Israeli government facilities provided insufficient cell space. NGOs, including PCATI and the MCW, stated that authorities appeared to use poor conditions or exposure to weather as an interrogation or intimidation method. Prisoners also continued to claim inadequate medical care. PCATI, Hamoked, B’Tselem, and the MCW noted that most reports of abuse or poor conditions occurred during arrest and interrogation, generally within the first 48 hours following arrest.

Female prisoners and detainees reported harassment and abuse during arrest and in detention by the ISF. According to PCATI there was no investigation into these complaints.

Administration: By PA law any person sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not more than three months may petition the PA public prosecutor to be put to work outside the prison instead of imprisonment, unless the judgment deprives him of that option. Although the law allows for this option, the legal system did not have the capacity to implement such a process. The PA investigated allegations of mistreatment.

Little information was available about Hamas prison administration in the Gaza Strip.

NGOs, including the MCW and Hamoked, alleged Israeli authorities did not allow Palestinian detainees, including minors, access to a lawyer during their initial arrest. Human rights groups such as the PCHR reported families of imprisoned Palestinians, particularly Gazans, had only limited ability to visit prisoners due to their detention inside Israel and the lack of entry permits to Israel for most Palestinians.

PCATI claimed there was a systematic failure to investigate abuse claims made by Palestinians held in various Israeli interrogation and detention facilities. PCATI reported no torture complaint resulted in a criminal investigation, prosecution, or conviction. PCATI claimed the government regularly dismissed complaints of abuse following a preliminary examination by an Israeli Security Agency (ISA) employee. Authorities exempted ISA facilities from regular independent inspections. NGOs reported investigations of abuse at ISF and Israeli police facilities were slow and ineffective and rarely led to prosecutions. Of more than 200 complaints filed by PCATI between 2007 and 2017 regarding ISF violence against detainees in the West Bank, three complaints resulted in an indictment against an Israeli soldier on assault charges.

Independent Monitoring: In the West Bank, the PA permitted the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access to detainees to assess treatment and conditions in accordance with the ICRC’s standard modalities. Human rights groups, humanitarian organizations, and lawyers indicated that, as in previous years, there were some difficulties in gaining access to specific detainees held by the PA depending on which PA security organization managed the facility.

In Gaza the ICRC was given access to detainees to assess treatment and conditions in accordance with the ICRC’s standard modalities. Human rights organizations conducted monitoring visits to some prisoners in Gaza, but Hamas authorities denied representatives permission to visit high-profile detainees and prisoners.

The Israeli government permitted visits by independent human rights observers. The government permitted the ICRC to monitor treatment and prison conditions, including at detention centers, in accordance with the ICRC’s standard modalities. NGOs sent representatives to meet with Palestinian prisoners–including those on hunger strikes–and inspect conditions in Israeli prisons, detention centers, and some ISF facilities. Security prisoners held by the ISA remained inaccessible to independent monitors. Palestinian families and human rights groups reported delays and difficulties in gaining access to specific detainees from Israeli authorities. They also reported transfers of detainees without notice and claimed Israeli authorities at times used transfer practices punitively against prisoners engaging in hunger strikes.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

PA law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and PA prosecutors generally charged suspects prior to detaining them. Nonetheless, the PA criminal justice system often did not provide a prompt and speedy trial. There were instances of PA detention without charge or trial for selected security detainees in PASF custody.

Hamas reportedly practiced widespread arbitrary detention in Gaza, particularly of Fatah members, civil society activists, journalists, and those accused of publicly criticizing Hamas. Fatah officials claimed Hamas arrested several Fatah members for their participation in January demonstrations against electricity shortages in Gaza.

Since the 1967 occupation, Israel has prosecuted Palestinian residents of the West Bank under military law, based on orders from the Israeli military commander. Since 1967 the Israeli Knesset has since extended criminal and civil law protections to Israeli settlers in the West Bank. Israel applies Israeli civil law to all residents of Jerusalem, both Israeli and Palestinian.

Under Israeli military law, the IPS may hold adults suspected of a security offense for four days prior to bringing them before a judge, with limited exceptions that allow the IPS to detain a suspect for up to eight days prior to bringing the suspect before the senior judge of a district court. For minors, Israeli military law differentiates by age among those suspected of a security offense. Suspects between ages 12-14 can be held up to one day, with a possible one-day extension. Those age 14-16 can be held up to two days, with a possible two-day extension. Those age 16-18 can be held up to four days, with a possible four-day extension.

Under military law, in security-related cases, Israeli authorities may hold adults for 20 days prior to an indictment, with the possibility of additional 15-day extensions up to 75 days. An Israeli military appeals court can then extend the detention up to 90 days at a time. Prior to an indictment in security-related cases, authorities may hold minors for 15 days, with the possibility of 10-day extensions up to 40 days. An Israeli military appeals court can then extend the detention up to 90 days at a time.

The Emergency Powers Law allows the Israeli Ministry of Defense to detain persons administratively without charge for up to six months, renewable indefinitely. According to IPS statistics, as of November 30 there were 425 Palestinians in administrative detention, including two Palestinian minors over the age of 14.

The Illegal Combatant Law permits Israeli authorities to hold a detainee for 14 days before review by a district court judge, deny access to counsel for up to 21 days with the attorney general’s approval, and allow indefinite detention subject to twice-yearly district court reviews and appeals to Israel’s Supreme Court.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

West Bank Palestinian population centers mostly fall into Area A, as defined by the Oslo-era agreements. In Area A, which contains 55 percent of the Palestinian population on approximately 18 percent of West Bank land, the PA has formal responsibility for security and civil control. Nevertheless, since the Second Intifada in 2002, Israeli security forces have regularly conducted security operations in Area A, often without coordinating with the PASF. These incursions, which increased at the outbreak of violence beginning in 2015, continued throughout the year. PA officials claimed Israeli incursions in Area A increased to approximately 50 per week in September. The PA has civil control, and the PA and Israel maintain joint security control of Area B territory in the West Bank, which contains 41 percent of the population on approximately 21 percent of the land. Israel retains full civil and security control of Area C, which comprises approximately 4 percent of the Palestinian population and 61 percent of the land of the West Bank. Approximately 400,000 Israelis live in Area C Israeli settlements.

Six PA security forces operate in the West Bank. Several are under the PA Ministry of Interior’s operational control and follow the prime minister’s guidance. The Palestinian Civil Police have primary responsibility for civil and community policing. The National Security Force conducts gendarmerie-style security operations in circumstances that exceed the capabilities of the civil police. The Military Intelligence Agency handles intelligence and criminal matters involving PASF personnel, including accusations of abuse and corruption; it can refer cases to court. The General Intelligence Service is responsible for external intelligence gathering and operations. The Preventive Security Organization is responsible for internal intelligence gathering and investigations related to internal security cases (for example, antiterrorism, weapons violations, and money laundering). The Presidential Guard protects facilities and provides dignitary protection. The ICHR continued to report accusations of abuse and torture at the hands of the PASF.

The PA maintained effective control over its security forces and has mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption.

In the Gaza Strip, Hamas forces exercised de facto control. Press and NGO reports suggested Hamas enforced strict control across all sectors of society. Impunity remained a problem. There were numerous instances when Hamas forces failed to prevent or deter violence, such as rocket attacks into Israel by rival Salafist groups.

Israeli authorities maintained a West Bank security presence through the ISF, the ISA, the INP, and Border Guard. According to organizations such as Yesh Din, PCATI, and B’Tselem, Israeli authorities took some steps to investigate and punish abuse and corruption, but there were reports of failure to take disciplinary action in cases of abuse (see section 1.a.). The ISF stated it continued to open investigations automatically into claims of abuse of Palestinians in Israeli military police custody. Yesh Din claimed the automatic opening of investigations applied only to some Israeli military activity in the West Bank, but not to Palestinians reporting abuse in custody. NGOs such as Yesh Din, PCATI, and B’Tselem reported that impunity among Israeli security forces remained a problem, in part because mechanisms for investigating allegations were not effective. Reports of abuse go to the Israeli Attorney General’s Office; PCATI reported Israeli authorities systematically disregarded abuse allegations. In May 2016 B’Tselem announced it would no longer refer Palestinian complaints of abuse or injury by the ISF to Israeli military investigators and the MAG, citing a desire to avoid contributing to what the NGO called the pretense of an Israeli military law enforcement system in the West Bank.

NGOs such as Yesh Din and Rabbis for Human Rights also criticized Israeli efforts and accountability in investigating reports of Israeli security forces killing Palestinian civilians, noting that only one case since 2011 has resulted in an indictment. Israeli law restricts the ability of Palestinians to seek compensation in Israeli courts for harm by Israeli security forces. In January 2016 the State Attorney’s Office filed an indictment on charges of reckless and negligent use of a firearm against two soldiers who shot and killed a 16-year-old in the village of Budrus who was reportedly trying to flee a restricted area. The State Attorney’s Office proposed (inter alia) that the soldiers pay damages to the families, but the soldiers’ attorney rejected the offer. As of October the case remained pending.

According to Israeli and Palestinian NGO and press reports, the ISF did not respond sufficiently to violence perpetrated against Palestinians by Israeli settlers in the West Bank. The number of Israeli settler attacks perpetrated against Palestinians increased for the first time in three years, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). As of August, UNOCHA had identified 89 incidents of Israeli settler violence that resulted in Palestinian fatalities, injuries, or property damage, an 88-percent increase in the monthly average compared with 2016. The Israeli NGO Yesh Din, citing Israeli security forces and MAG figures, reported that Israeli authorities closed 75 percent of investigative files into alleged Israeli settler violence due to police investigators’ failure to locate suspects or find sufficient evidence to enable an indictment. Yesh Din claimed that failures in Israeli law enforcement procedure and management led to the limited results in terms of indictment and conviction of offenders.

In January the Israel Central District Attorney’s Office indicted two Israeli suspects on charges connected with a July 2015 “price tag” arson attack on a Palestinian home in the West Bank village of Douma, which killed a toddler and his parents, and severely injured his four-year-old brother. A perpetrator also spray-painted “Revenge!” and a Star of David on the wall of the home. One Israeli was charged with murder and another was charged with conspiring to commit a crime. The trial continued throughout the year without reaching a verdict. In May relatives of the Palestinian family killed in the attack filed a lawsuit against the Israeli government seeking admission of responsibility and damages.

ACRI and other NGOs stated Israeli security and justice officials operating in predominantly Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem–such as Issawiya, Silwan, Ras Alamud, At-Tur, Sheikh Jarrah, and the Old City–used excessive force or displayed bias against Palestinian residents in investigating incidents involving Palestinian and Israeli actors.

According to ACRI, during various security raids in Palestinian-majority neighborhoods in Jerusalem, the ISF fired sponge bullets at the head and upper torso of Palestinians (including minors) at close range, in violation of Israeli police rules of engagement. There were multiple reports of blinding and serious injury from synthetic black sponge bullets. On July 12, Israeli border guards shot and injured 13-year-old Nour al-Din Mustafa while he was sitting outside his home in East Jerusalem’s Issawiya neighborhood. Israeli security forces had reportedly entered the area due to a conflict between two Palestinian families and used crowd control weapons after local Palestinian residents threw stones. Israeli police said they were investigating this and other incidents. Palestinians claimed Israeli authorities closed most investigations of injury from sponge bullets for lack of evidence. Relaxed rules of engagement adopted in June 2016 also enabled the INP and Border Guard forces, which constitute the primary security forces operating in Palestinian-majority neighborhoods of Jerusalem, to use live fire as a first resort against suspects engaged in throwing Molotov cocktails, shooting fireworks, or using slingshots.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

PA law generally requires a warrant for arrest and provides for prompt judicial determination of the legality of detention. These provisions were largely–but not uniformly–observed in areas of the West Bank under PA control. There are exceptions that allow for PA arrest without a warrant. PA law allows police to hold detainees for 24 hours if there is sufficient evidence to charge a suspect, and for up to 45 days with court approval. PA authorities held some prisoners detained by order of Palestinian governors in lengthy pretrial detention, according to complaints received by the ICHR. PA law requires that a trial start within six months, or authorities must release the detainee. While some PA security forces reportedly detained Palestinians outside appropriate legal procedures, including without warrants and without bringing them before judicial authorities within the required time, there were no known PA detentions extending beyond the time limit without trial. PA authorities generally informed detainees of the charges against them, albeit sometimes not until interrogation. Bail and conditional release were available at the discretion of judicial authorities. PA authorities granted detainees access to a lawyer. PA courts consistently afforded the right to counsel to indigents charged with felony offenses. Indigent defendants charged with misdemeanors often did not receive counsel, although NGO efforts to represent indigent juveniles and adults in misdemeanor cases were at times successful. The Palestinian Bar Association (PBA) regulates the professional conduct of lawyers in the West Bank. In May the PBA adopted a policy that restricted lawyers’ ability to represent indigents free of charge. An NGO challenged this ruling in court, and in October the PBA rescinded this policy. AI reported that the PASF failed to provide prompt access to legal counsel to some detainees, effectively holding them incommunicado during interrogation.

The PA Military Intelligence Organization (PMI) operated de facto, without a service-specific mandate, to investigate and arrest PA security force personnel and civilians suspected of “security offenses,” such as terrorism. The PMI conducted these activities in a manner consistent with the other PA security services. Hamas continued to charge that the PA detained individuals during the year solely due to their Hamas affiliation. The PA stated it charged many of these individuals with criminal offenses under PA civil or military codes.

In Gaza, Hamas reportedly detained a large number of persons during the year without recourse to legal counsel, judicial review, or bail. There also were instances in which de facto Hamas authorities retroactively issued arrest warrants and used military warrants to arrest Gaza residents.

Israeli military law applied to Palestinians in the West Bank, while Israeli civil law was applied to Israelis living in the West Bank. Under Israeli military law as applied to Palestinians in the West Bank, Israeli authorities can hold detainees for up to 60 days without access to a lawyer. According to the most recent official data, Israeli military courts had a conviction rate of more than 95 percent for Palestinians. Israeli authorities informed Palestinian detainees of the charges against them during detention, but did not always inform minors and their families of the reasons for arrest at the time of arrest, according to the MCW. Israeli authorities stated their policy was to post notification of arrests within 48 hours, but senior officers could delay notification for up to 12 days, effectively holding detainees incommunicado during the interrogation process. An Israeli military commander may request that a judge extend this period. In accordance with law, Israeli authorities generally provided Palestinians held in Israeli military custody inside Israel access to a lawyer of their choice (and provided lawyers for the indigent). Nonetheless, Palestinian detainees often obtained lawyers only after initial interrogations, and 76 percent of minors did not see a lawyer prior to interrogation. Impediments to movement on West Bank roads or at Israeli-operated crossings often made legal consultation difficult and delayed trials and hearings. According to the MCW, most Palestinian detainees saw their lawyer for the first time when they appeared before an Israeli military court. Israeli military courts denied bail to Palestinians in most cases, including for minors. Israeli authorities delayed or deprived some Palestinian detainees of visits by their families or lawyers.

NGOs such as the MCW and Hamoked claimed Israeli authorities in the West Bank frequently failed to inform Palestinian parents why their children had been detained or where they had been taken. Israeli authorities stated their policy was to provide written notification about the arrest to parents when they arrested a child at home; however, this occurred only in 19 percent of cases. Legally, minors who are 16 and 17 years old can be held for 96 hours before seeing a judge, the same period applied to adults. In 2013 an Israeli military order reduced the time that authorities can detain Palestinian children between the ages of 12 and 15 before appearing before a military court judge, although there was no change for minors ages 16 and 17. In 2014 Israeli authorities amended the law to mandate audiovisual recording of all interrogations of minors in the West Bank but limited this requirement to nonsecurity-related offenses. That excluded approximately 95 percent of cases involving Palestinian minors in Israeli military courts. The ISF entered Palestinian homes at night to arrest or to take pictures of minors. Human rights organizations alleged this treatment could amount to torture in some cases. Israeli officials denied these allegations. Israeli military authorities began providing translations into Arabic of some recent changes to military laws affecting Palestinian minors.

As of November 30, there was a drop in Israeli detention rates of Palestinian minors, compared with an all-time high in 2016, but the rate remained significantly higher than 2011-2015 levels. From October 2015 through March 2016, there was a marked increase in Palestinian attacks and attempted attacks against the ISF and Israeli civilians. As of November 30, Israel detained 310 Palestinian minors. NGOs anecdotally reported a high number of arrests of Palestinian minors in December, but official statistics were not yet available. On December 15, the ISF arrested 16-year-old Palestinian Ahed Tamimi and charged her with assault after she was filmed slapping an Israeli soldier in the West Bank town of Nabi Saleh. NGOs criticized the nighttime arrest and charges, arguing that Tamimi did not pose a true threat. Tamimi remained in custody at the end of the year.

Israeli legislation approved in August 2016 effectively lowered the minimum age in Israel for criminal responsibility for serious crimes, such as attempted murder, from 14 to 12. In Jerusalem, where Palestinian residents are subject to Israeli civil law, NGOs reported that increased sentences and mandatory minimum sentences introduced in late 2015 for rock throwing led to increased use of pretrial detention and longer sentences for Palestinian minors. NGOs submitted a petition in 2016 challenging an Israeli civil law that revokes social welfare benefits for the parents of Palestinian minors convicted of security offenses. On January 28, Israel’s High Court of Justice (HCJ) issued a temporary injunction on the new law and required the government to prove the law was not discriminatory. As of November 21, there was no formal response from the Israeli government, but Jerusalem-based families of Palestinian children currently in prison continued to receive social welfare benefits.

Nighttime arrest raids by Israeli authorities in Palestinian-majority neighborhoods such as Issawiya and Silwan, including those resulting in detention of Palestinian minors, were routine in the West Bank and Palestinian-majority neighborhoods in Jerusalem. The MCW reported little substantive improvement since the publication of a 2013 report by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) that stated, “Mistreatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic, and institutionalized.” The MCW said data from more than 400 MCW detainee testimonials collected between 2013-17 confirmed UNICEF’s conclusion that mistreatment by Israeli authorities of Palestinian child detainees in the West Bank was widespread.

The ISA continued its practice of incommunicado detention of Palestinians, including isolation from outside monitors, legal counsel, and family throughout the duration of interrogation. NGOs including the MCW, Hamoked, and B’Tselem reported Israeli authorities used isolation to punish or silence politically prominent Palestinian detainees. According to the Israeli government, the IPS did not hold Palestinian detainees in separate detention punitively or to induce confessions. The Israeli government stated it uses separate detention only when a detainee threatens himself or others, and authorities have exhausted other options–or in some cases during interrogation, to prevent disclosure of information. In such cases, Israeli authorities maintained the detainee had the right to meet with ICRC representatives, IPS personnel, and medical personnel, if necessary.

Arbitrary Arrest: In the West Bank, the ICHR reported that the PA continued to perform arbitrary detentions, in which Palestinian detainees were held without formal charges or proper procedures, particularly in arrests based on political affiliation with Hamas. There were numerous reports the PASF improperly detained Palestinian journalists, as well as reports PA security officials arrested and physically abused Palestinians who posted criticism of the PA online.

The ICHR received complaints of arbitrary arrests by Hamas in Gaza. Many of these arrests and detentions by de facto Hamas authorities appeared to be politically motivated, targeting political opponents and those suspected of ties to Israel.

According to human rights NGOs, including the MCW, B’Tselem, and Hamoked, throughout the year there were reports Israeli security forces in both Jerusalem and the West Bank arbitrarily arrested and detained Palestinian protesters and activists, particularly those participating in demonstrations against the security barrier or against killings of Palestinians.

Pretrial Detention: PA law allows police to hold detainees for 24 hours if there is sufficient evidence to charge a suspect, and for up to 45 days with court approval. It requires a trial to start within six months, or authorities must release the detainee.

It was unclear how long detainees in Hamas custody stayed in pretrial detention or what legal means, if any, Hamas used to detain individuals.

Israeli authorities continued to detain Palestinians administratively (hold indefinitely without presenting charges or going to trial). As of November, Israeli authorities held 425 Palestinians on security grounds (including two minors) for renewable six-month sentences. Security offenses included alleged incitement to violence on social media. Many NGOs, including HRW, AI, and various Palestinian and Israeli NGOs called for an immediate end to Israeli administrative detention. An Israeli military court must approve an administrative detention order. Palestinian detainees may appeal the ruling to the Israeli Military Appeals Court and the Israeli HCJ. The HCJ did not free any Palestinians under administrative detention during this period.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Palestinian detainees held by Israel and the PA faced barriers to their ability to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention, and to obtain prompt release and compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained. Palestinians held by Israeli authorities in administrative detention have no right to trial and can only challenge their detention before a military court judge in a closed setting. In cases in which the evidence substantiating the charges against a detainee is classified, the detainee has no means of examining the evidence (and, in some cases, to examine the charges) in order to challenge his or her detention. Detainees held in PA custody faced delays in the enforcement of court rulings regarding their detention, especially regarding the PA’s obligation to release suspects who have met bail.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The PA basic law provides for an independent judiciary. The PA generally respected the judicial independence and impartiality of the High Judicial Council and maintained authority over most court operations in the West Bank. PA-affiliated prosecutors and judges stated that ISF prohibitions on movement in the West Bank, including Israeli restrictions on the PA’s ability to transport detainees and collect witnesses, hampered their ability to dispense justice.

Since 2011 the PA has mandated that Palestinian civilians appear before civilian courts. PA security services continued to pressure PA military justice court personnel to detain West Bank civilians charged with state security violations.

The PA civil, magistrate, and religious courts handle civil suits in the West Bank and provide an independent and impartial judiciary in most matters. There were unconfirmed reports of various Palestinian political factions’ attempting to influence PA judicial decisions. Palestinians have the right to file suits against the PA but rarely did so. Seldom-used administrative remedies are available in addition to judicial remedies. PA authorities did not always execute court orders.

In the Gaza Strip, Hamas-appointed prosecutors and judges operated de facto courts which the PA considered illegal.

Gaza residents can file civil suits. Unofficial, anecdotal reports claimed some Gaza courts operated independently of the Hamas government and were at times impartial. HRW reported Hamas internal security regularly tried civil cases in military courts.

Israeli law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected Israeli civil courts’ independence and impartiality. The ISF tried Palestinian residents of the West Bank accused of security offenses (ranging from rock throwing to membership in a terrorist organization to incitement) in Israeli military courts, which some NGOs claimed were inadequate and unfair. Israeli law defines security offenses to include any offense committed under circumstances that might raise a suspicion of harm to Israel’s security and which the ISF believes may link to terrorist activity.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

PA law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right in the West Bank. Trials are public, except when the court determines PA security, foreign relations, a party’s or witness’ right to privacy, protection of a victim of a sexual offense, or an “honor crime” requires privacy. If a court orders a session closed, the decision may be appealed to a higher PA court. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and the right to prompt and detailed information regarding the charges, with free interpretation as necessary, from the moment charged through all appeals. AI reported that PA political and judicial authorities sometimes failed to adhere to basic due process rights, including promptly charging suspects. PA law provides for legal representation, at public expense if necessary, in felony cases during the trial phase. Defendants have the right to be present and to consult with an attorney in a timely manner during the trial, although during the investigation phase, the defendant only has the right to observe. Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Suspects and defendants in the PA justice system have a right to remain silent when interrogated by the prosecutor according to the law. Defendants also have a legal right to counsel during interrogation and trial. They have the right to appeal. PA authorities generally observed these rights.

To address case backlogs, the PA piloted new processing techniques in public prosecutors’ offices (PPOs) in six of 11 governorates in the West Bank. From January 2016, when the PA began collecting statistics, until August, PA case backlogs (that is, misdemeanor case processing over three months, or felony processing over six months) declined by an average of 49.5 percent in the PPOs in the Ramallah, Jericho, Salfit, Bethlehem, Tulkarem, and Nablus Governorates.

Hamas authorities in Gaza followed the same criminal procedure law as the PA in the West Bank but implemented the procedures inconsistently.

Israeli authorities tried Israelis living in West Bank settlements under Israeli civil law in the nearest Israeli district court. Israeli military trials were provided for Palestinians in the West Bank. In Jerusalem both Israeli and Palestinian residents were subject to civil law proceedings. The same evidentiary rules used in Israeli criminal cases apply in both Israeli military and civilian proceedings; for example, Israeli authorities cannot base convictions solely on confessions. Indigent detainees do not automatically receive free legal counsel for military trials, but almost all detainees had counsel, in part because NGOs, such the Human Rights Defenders Fund funded their representation. Israeli military courts use Hebrew, but Palestinian defendants have the right to simultaneous interpretation at every hearing. Various human rights organizations claimed the availability and quality of Arabic interpretation was insufficient; most interpreters were bilingual Israelis performing mandatory military service. Defendants can appeal through the Military Court of Appeals and petition Israel’s HCJ. Israeli military courts rarely acquitted Palestinians charged with security offenses, although they occasionally reduced sentences on appeal.

Several NGOs, including ACRI and the MCW, claimed Israeli military courts were not equipped to adjudicate cases properly. NGOs and lawyers reported many Palestinian defendants elected to plead guilty and receive a reduced sentence rather than maintain innocence and go through a military trial that could last months, if not more than a year. Human rights lawyers also reported the structure of military trials–which take place in Israeli military facilities with Israeli military officers as judges, prosecutors, and court officials, and with tight security restrictions–limited Palestinian defendants’ rights to public trial and access to counsel.

The MCW reported that Israeli authorities continued to use confessions signed by Palestinian minors and written in Hebrew, a language most Palestinian minors could not read, as evidence against them in military courts. The MCW reported that 76 percent of Palestinian minors were shown or made to sign documentation written in Hebrew at the conclusion of their interrogation. PCATI reported that authorities coerced confessions during interrogations. Israeli authorities disputed these findings, asserting that interrogations of Palestinians took place only in Arabic and that authorities submitted no indictments based solely on a confession written in Hebrew.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

NGOs reported arrests of Palestinians on political grounds occurred in both the West Bank and Gaza. There was no reliable estimate of the number of political prisoners the PA held in the West Bank during the year.

In Gaza, Hamas allegedly detained several hundred persons because of political affiliation, public criticism of Hamas, or suspected collaboration with Israel and held them for varying periods. Observers associated numerous allegations of denial of due process with these detentions. The ICRC and NGOs had limited access to these prisoners.

The Palestinian NGO Addameer reported that Israel continued to hold PLC members in administrative detention without charges, most of whom had some affiliation with Hamas.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

A Palestinian resident of the West Bank can file suit against the PA, including on matters related to alleged abuses of human rights, but this was uncommon.

A Palestinian resident of Gaza can file suit against de facto Hamas authorities, including on matters related to alleged abuses of human rights, but this was also uncommon.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The Israeli government conducted multiple demolitions of Palestinian property in East Jerusalem and the West Bank on the basis of lack of permits, use of the property by the ISF, or as punishment. Israeli authorities pursued efforts through Israeli courts to demolish homes built by Palestinian Bedouin tribes in the West Bank villages of Khan al-Ahmar and Susiya, among several others (see section 1.f.).

Israeli authorities sometimes charged demolition fees for demolishing a home; this at times prompted Palestinians to destroy their own homes to avoid the higher costs associated with Israeli demolition. Palestinians had difficulty verifying land ownership in Israeli courts, according to Israeli requirements for proof of land ownership.

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

The PA penal procedure code generally requires the PA attorney general to issue warrants for entry and searches of private property; however, PA judicial officers may enter Palestinian houses without a warrant in case of emergency. There were no specific reports the PA harassed family members for alleged offenses committed by an individual, although NGOs reported this tactic was common.

Hamas de facto authorities in Gaza frequently interfered arbitrarily with personal privacy, family, and home, according to reporting from local media and NGO sources. Hamas authorities reportedly searched homes and seized property without warrants. They targeted Palestinian journalists, Fatah loyalists, civil society members, youth activists, and those whom Hamas security forces accused of criminal activity. Hamas forces monitored private communications systems, including telephones, email, and social media sites. They demanded passwords and access to personal information and seized personal electronic equipment of detainees. While Hamas membership did not appear to be a prerequisite for obtaining housing, education, or government services in Gaza, authorities commonly reserved employment in some government positions, such as those in the security services, for Hamas members. In several instances Hamas detained individuals for interrogation and harassment, particularly prodemocracy youth activists, based on the purported actions of their family members.

The ISF frequently raided Palestinian homes, including in areas designated as areas under PA security control by Oslo-era accords, according to media and PA officials. These raids often took place at night, which the ISF stated was due to operational necessity. Under Israeli occupation orders, only ISF officers of lieutenant colonel rank and above can authorize entry into Palestinian private homes and institutions in the West Bank without a warrant, based upon military necessity.

In the West Bank and Palestinian-majority neighborhoods in Jerusalem like Beit Hanina, Silwan, Shuafat, Wadi al-Joz, Sheikh Jarrah, Issawiya, Jabal al-Mukabber, and Sur Bahir, the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA), part of Israel’s Ministry of Defense; the Jerusalem municipality; and the Ministry of Interior continued to demolish homes, cisterns, and other buildings and property constructed by Palestinians in areas under Israeli civil control on the basis that these buildings lacked Israeli planning licenses. Properties close to the security barrier, ISF military installations, or firing ranges also remained subject to a heightened threat of demolition or confiscation. Demolition operations by the Israeli authorities focused on three major regions: the South Hebron Hills, the Ma’ale Adumim area, and the Jordan Valley. According to UNOCHA, as of October, the number of demolitions and seizures in Area C had declined compared with the record highs in 2016, but demolitions in Palestinian-majority neighborhoods in Jerusalem continued at nearly the same rates recorded in 2016, which were the highest since 2000.

Organizations such as UNOCHA, Ir Amim, and Peace Now expressed concern at the high rate of demolitions of Palestinian structures in Jerusalem. As of September 30, the ICA destroyed 39 structures in Palestinian-majority neighborhoods of Jerusalem, displacing 126 Palestinians and affecting many more. In both Jerusalem and the West Bank, the ICA targeted commercial structures and infrastructure in addition to residences. In August the ICA seized six caravans used as classrooms in the Palestinian community of Jubbet ad Dhib, in the Bethlehem governorate. The ICA also seized two solar panel systems in the Palestinian communities of Jabal al-Baba and Abu Nuwar, in the Jerusalem governorate. In a majority of demolitions in Area C, the ICA claimed that structures lacked Israeli building permits or were illegally located in a closed military zone (large parts of Area C were declared closed military zones after 1967).

The ISF continued punitive demolitions of the homes of the families of Palestinians implicated in attacks against Israelis. As of October 8, Israeli authorities partially or fully demolished five family homes of Palestinians who had carried out attacks on Israelis since 2014. These actions often also rendered other dwellings near the demolished homes uninhabitable. Punitive demolitions displaced 36 Palestinians, including 19 children, according to the United Nations. NGOs such as AI, HRW, and several Palestinian and Israeli NGOs widely criticized punitive demolitions as collective punishment. The Israeli government asserted such demolitions have a deterrent effect on would-be assailants.

On August 10, Israeli authorities demolished three homes in the Palestinian community of Deir Abu Mashaal, near Ramallah. The homes belonged to the families of the Palestinians who killed an Israeli border police officer in an attack near the Old City’s Damascus Gate in Jerusalem on June 16.

The Israeli government advanced efforts to demolish Palestinian homes in the West Bank Area C villages of Khan al-Ahmar and Susiya, both located near Israeli settlements. Khan al-Ahmar is a 145-person Bedouin community in E-1, an area that territorially connects Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. On March 5, the ICA changed 42 stop-work orders issued against 42 Khan al-Ahmar structures to demolition orders. These 42 structures comprised the entire village. All were built without ICA building permits (residents are not able to receive permits, as the Israeli government has not approved a master plan for the area). On September 13, ICA representatives entered Khan al-Ahmar and proposed the community evacuate and relocate to an ICA-built Jabal West transfer site about five miles away. In documents provided to the Israeli High Court, the ICA said it planned to move the Khan al-Ahmar residents and demolish the village in April 2018. The case continued at year’s end. Separately, the ICA proposed in 2016 that Palestinian residents of the Area C village of Susiya move to an area bordering PA-controlled Area A. Israeli residents of a nearby settlement continued to advocate that the ICA carry out demolition orders in Susiya. In August 2016 the Israeli High Court ordered the Israeli government to submit its position on the evacuation of the village and the government’s proposed demolition of 30 Palestinian houses. On November 22, the Israeli government submitted its position to the HCJ, stating its intent to demolish 20 structures–approximately 20 percent of the community. The case continued at year’s end.

Palestinians and human rights NGOs such as Yesh Din reported the ISF were largely unresponsive to Israeli settlers’ actions against Palestinians in the West Bank, including destruction of Palestinian property and agriculture (see section 6, National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities).

Laos

Executive Summary

The Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) is ruled by its only constitutionally legitimate party, the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP). The most recent National Assembly election held in March 2016 was not free and fair. The LPRP selected all candidates, and voting is mandatory for all citizens. Following the election the National Assembly approved Thongloun Sisoulith to be the new prime minister.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included: lack of due process, including arbitrary arrest, detention and punishment by the government; government infringements on the right to privacy and on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association; the denial to citizens of the ability to choose their government; trafficking in persons; and restrictions on workers’ rights, including the inability to form independent labor unions not associated with the government.

The government neither prosecuted nor punished officials who committed abuses, and police and security forces committed human rights abuses with impunity.

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

There was still no progress in the 2012 abduction of Sombath Somphone, a prominent civil society leader and retired founder of a nonprofit training center, by persons in plainclothes after what appeared to be an orchestrated stop of his vehicle by traffic police in Vientiane. The government denied knowledge of his whereabouts and claimed its investigation was continuing.

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

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

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention facility conditions varied widely and in some prisons were harsh due to minimal food supply, overcrowding, and inadequate medical care.

Physical Conditions: Cells were crowded. Some prisons reportedly held juveniles with adults, although no official or reliable statistics were available on the overall population or gender of prisoners countrywide. There was no information available on the prevalence of death in prisons or pretrial detention centers. Food rations were minimally adequate, and family members were responsible for bringing food to their relatives in prison. Some prisons required inmates to reimburse authorities upon release for the cost of food eaten during incarceration. Prisoners in the larger facilities in the capital generally fared better than did those in smaller, provincial prisons.

Although most prisons had some form of clinic, usually with a doctor or nurse on the staff, medical facilities were usually deficient. Prisoners had access only to basic medical care, and treatment for serious ailments was unavailable. For example, in a Vientiane prison there was a clinic with four sick beds and a staff of three for 700 inmates. Prisoners received vaccinations upon arrival; if sick, they had to pay for necessary medicine. In some facilities, prisoners could arrange for treatment in police hospitals, and authorities sent prisoners to these hospitals in emergencies.

Administration: The Ministry of Public Security is responsible for monitoring prison and detention center conditions. Authorities permitted prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and to request investigation of credible allegations of inhuman conditions, although there were no reports of prisoners, detainees, or their family members making such requests due to fear of exacerbating poor detention conditions. During the October 16-November 17 session of Laos’ National Assembly, the legislature’s Justice Committee raised–and the President of the Supreme Court acknowledged–concerns about deteriorating prison conditions, including overcrowding and the detention of suspects alongside convicted criminals.

There was no ombudsperson to serve on behalf of prisoners and detainees. Prison wardens set prison visitation policies. Family members generally had access to prisoners and detainees once per month. Prisoners and detainees could follow some religious observances, but authorities did not provide any facilities.

Independent Monitoring: Government officials did not permit regular independent monitoring of prison conditions. During the June 18 Australia-Laos Human Rights Dialogue, Australian and EU diplomats and other foreign government officials were permitted to visit the only prison that housed foreign prisoners, as well as a drug treatment detention center in Vientiane.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but some government officials did not respect these provisions, and arbitrary arrest and detention persisted.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Ministry of Public Security maintains internal security but shares the function of external security with the Ministry of Defense’s security forces and with the LPRP and the LPRP’s mass organizations. The Ministry of Public Security oversees local, traffic, immigration, and security police, village police auxiliary, plus other armed police units. The armed forces have domestic security responsibilities, including counterterrorism and counterinsurgency.

Impunity remained a problem; however, there were no statistics available on its prevalence. The Ministry of Public Security’s Inspection Department maintained complaint boxes throughout most of the country for citizens to deposit written complaints, but statistics on utilization were not publicly available. The government revealed no information regarding the existence or nonexistence of a body that investigates abuses by security forces. There were no known actions taken by the government to train security forces on respect for human rights.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Both police and military forces have arrest powers, although generally only police exercised them. The law provides detainees the right to a prompt judicial determination of the legality of their detention. The law also requires authorities to notify detainees of the charges against them and inform next of kin of their detention within 24 hours of arrest, but this did not always occur in remote provinces. There is a bail system, but authorities implemented it arbitrarily. There were procedures for house arrest of detainees, particularly for health reasons, and there were isolated reports of detainees held under house arrest. The law provides detained, arrested, or jailed persons the right to legal representation upon request. There were no reports of prisoners held incommunicado.

Arbitrary Arrest: Police continued to exercise wide latitude in making arrests, relying on a provision of the law that permits warrantless arrests in urgent cases. Police reportedly used the threat of arrest as a means to intimidate persons or extract bribes.

At times authorities detained prisoners after they completed their sentences, particularly if prisoners were unable to pay court fines. In some cases officials released prisoners if they agreed to pay fines upon their release. The government sometimes released offenders convicted of nonviolent crimes without formally sentencing them to prison. During the National Assembly’s fall session, legislators called on judicial bodies to investigate instances of arrests without warrants by local police, and to which public prosecutors had turned a blind eye.

Pretrial Detention: The law limits detention without trial to one year. The length of detention without a pretrial hearing or formal charges is also limited to one year. The Office of the Prosecutor General reportedly made efforts to have authorities bring all prisoners to trial within the one-year limit, but officials occasionally did not meet the requirement. The Office of the Prosecutor General must authorize police to hold a suspect pending investigation. It grants authorization in three-month increments, and police must release a suspect after a maximum of one year if they lack sufficient evidence to bring charges.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, but corruption and judges acting with impunity continued to be problems. Some judges reportedly accepted bribes. The National Assembly may remove judges from office for impropriety but did not announce any such removals during the year. The legal framework provides for defense counsel, evidentiary review, and the presumption of innocence. Despite these provisions, the country was still developing a formal justice system. Judges usually decided guilt or innocence in advance of trials, basing their decisions on police or prosecutorial investigation reports. The preferred and widely used policy for resolving disputes continued to be the “Harmonious Village Policy” or “No Case Village Policy,” which discouraged villages from referring cases to the formal justice system and provided incentives to village leaders to resolve legal disputes within village mediation units. Village leaders are not lawyers or judges and do not receive training.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, although the judiciary did not always uphold this right. The law provides defendants a presumption of innocence. Most trials, including criminal trials, were primarily pro forma examinations of the accused and reviews of the evidence. Defendants do not have a legal right to know promptly and in detail the charges against them, but the law requires authorities to inform persons of their rights. Trials are public, except for those involving certain types of family law or related to national security, state secrets, or children younger than 16 years.

The law provides defendants the right to defend themselves with the assistance of a lawyer or other persons, but there remained a lack of qualified lawyers. Lawyers sometimes were unwilling to defend sensitive cases due to fear of retaliation by local authorities. A defense attorney may be present during a trial, but his role is passive, such as asking the court for leniency in sentencing or appealing a technical matter, not arguing the merits of the case, challenging evidence, or mounting a true defense for the client. Authorities provided defense attorneys at government expense only in cases involving children, cases likely to result in life imprisonment or the death penalty, and cases considered particularly complicated, such as ones involving foreigners. There is no legal right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense.

The government allows interpreters to provide explanations of laws and defendant’s rights to ethnic minority citizens and foreigners who cannot communicate in the Lao language. Interpreters receive payment based on the court fee system, which the court passes on to the defendant.

Defendants may have someone assist them in preparing written cases and accompany them at trial, but only the defendant may present oral arguments at a criminal trial. Defendants may question, present witnesses, and present evidence on their own behalf. Defendants may refuse to testify, although authorities sometimes imposed harsher penalties on defendants who did not cooperate. Defendants have the right to object to charges brought against them, and they have the right to appeal, but only in civil cases. The Court of Appeals is legally obligated to decide a case within 45 days from the time it receives the appeal; however, appeals often took longer than six months or remained pending indefinitely.

Litigants may select members of the Lao Bar Association to represent them at trial. The bar association was nominally independent but received some direction from the Ministry of Justice. For several reasons, including the general perception that attorneys cannot influence court decisions, most defendants chose not to have attorneys or trained representatives. The government made efforts to train more lawyers and improved the curriculum at the Faculty of Law at the National University. In 2016, 172 students attended the one-year program, and 166 new students enrolled during the year.

Most judges and attorneys were LPRP members. Most had only basic legal training, and some court districts had few or no reference materials available for guidance. The National Assembly’s Legal Affairs Committee occasionally reviewed People’s Supreme Court decisions for accuracy and returned cases to it or the Prosecutor General’s Office for review when the committee believed the court made decisions improperly.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no government statistics or reliable estimates available regarding the number of political prisoners, but the government confirmed it had three political prisoners. The criminal court convicted Somphone Phimmasone, Soukan Chaithad, and Lodkham Thammavong in March to 20, 16, and 12 years’ imprisonment respectively on multiple charges including treason, propaganda against the state, and gatherings aimed at causing social disorder.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The law provides for judicial independence in civil matters, but enforcement of court orders remained a problem. A person may seek a judicial remedy for violations of civil or political rights in a criminal court or pursue an administrative remedy from the National Assembly. Individuals may seek redress for violations of social and cultural rights in a civil court.

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

The law generally prohibits such actions, including privacy of mail, telephone, and electronic correspondence, but the government continued its broad use of security law exemptions when there was a perceived security threat.

The law prohibits unlawful searches and seizures. Although the law requires police to obtain search authorization from a prosecutor or a panel of judges, police did not always obtain prior approval, especially in rural areas. Security laws allow the government to monitor individuals’ movements and private communications, including via mobile telephones and email (see section 2.a.).

The Ministry of Public Security monitored citizen activities through a surveillance network that included secret police. A police auxiliary program in urban and rural areas, operating under individual village chiefs and local police, shared responsibility for maintaining public order and reported undesirable elements to police. Members of the LPRP’s front organizations, including the Lao Women’s Union (LWU), the Youth Union, and the Lao Front for National Construction, also monitored citizens.

The law allows citizens to marry foreigners only with prior government approval. Authorities may annul marriages entered into without approval, with both parties subject to arrest and fines. The government normally granted permission to marry, but the process was lengthy and burdensome, offering officials opportunity to solicit bribes. Premarital cohabitation with foreigners is illegal, although it was rarely enforced, and generally only when the Lao party complained of some injustice.

Liberia

Executive Summary

Liberia is a constitutional republic with a bicameral national assembly. A legal challenge to the first round of presidential and legislative elections in October delayed the presidential runoff election pending resolution of the complaint process. In October, 73 legislative seats were contested for the House of Representatives in elections that domestic and international observers considered generally free and fair. On December 7, the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the first-round election results. On December 26, George Weah was elected president for a six-year term in a peaceful runoff election that was generally considered to be free and fair.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces, although lapses occurred.

The most significant human rights issues included extrajudicial killings by police; police abuse, harassment, and intimidation of detainees and others; arbitrary arrest and detention; press harassment; official corruption; lack of accountability in cases of violence against women and children, including rape, domestic violence, and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C); criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct; and trafficking in persons.

Impunity remained a serious problem for individuals who committed atrocities during the civil wars, as well as for those responsible for current and continuing crimes, despite intermittent and limited government attempts to investigate and prosecute officials accused of current abuses, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government. Corruption at all levels of government continued to undermine public trust in state institutions.

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

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

There were a few reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. For example, on February 4, an officer of the Liberia National Police (LNP) assigned in Brewerville, Monrovia, allegedly stabbed and killed civilian Fedesco Chea during an argument that began when the officer was reportedly impounding the victim’s motorcycle for violating a curfew. The Professional Standards Division of the LNP, which is responsible for disciplinary actions, has no record of the victim’s death.

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution prohibits practices such as torture and inhuman treatment. Sections 5.1 and 5.6 of the penal code provide criminal penalties for excessive use of force by law enforcement officers and address permissible uses of force during arrest or in preventing the escape of a prisoner from custody. Nonetheless, police and other security officers allegedly abused, harassed, and intimidated persons in police custody, as well as those seeking police protection. At least one police officer was convicted of rape of a person seeking police protection.

In February a police officer was tried and found guilty of statutory rape in Bong County after a child sought protection at the local police station; the officer digitally violated her four times during the course of the night. The incident provoked significant community agitation, and the officer was promptly arrested, tried by a jury, convicted, and sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment.

In September the Bureau of Corrections and Rehabilitation (BCR) fired 10 officers (including the prison superintendent), demoted one, and banned a Ministry of Health worker from all BCR facilities after a female inmate in Tubmanburg Prison became pregnant; prison officials and the Health Ministry worker attempted a forced abortion to hide the pregnancy, making the woman extremely ill. The investigation revealed a corrections officer had raped the same woman in 2014. As of September the case had been turned over to the solicitor general, but the woman had not filed criminal charges.

In 2015 the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services identified the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) as having a high incidence of alleged sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA). The UN’s Conduct and Discipline Unit (CDU) of the Department of Field Support identified 85 cases of alleged SEA in the period 2008-14. To address this, between July 2015 and June 2016, 5,042 UNMIL personnel received training in the UN’s “Zero Tolerance Policy” for sexual exploitation and abuse. In October 2016 UNMIL issued new standard operating procedures on reporting and investigating allegations of misconduct to combat further SEA cases. UNMIL also worked with the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection (MoGCSP) to integrate its SEA referral pathway with the ministry’s own sexual and gender-based violence pathway, and it undertook a comprehensive training and awareness campaign through its Anti-SEA Champions program involving prominent representatives from both UNMIL and local communities. A November 2016 special report of the secretary general reported only one allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse that took place in 2016 (by a police officer from Zimbabwe). Not all allegations were reported, however, and despite concerted efforts to oppose the practice, UNMIL’s CDU was aware of continued exploitation by personnel who frequented prostitutes.

As of November 20, UNMIL, which plans to close its mission in March 2018, had received six SEA allegations against its military personnel in 2017. One incident allegedly took place in 2017, four prior, and one at an unknown date. Five investigations were pending: One was an allegation of abuse by a military individual from the Philippines and four were allegations of exploitation by military members from Ghana, Pakistan, and Nigeria (two cases). One allegation against a military member from Nepal of attempted sexual assault was substantiated. The United Nations repatriated the individual, and the troop contributing country demoted the individual.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were harsh and at times life threatening due to overcrowding and inadequate medical care. Prisoners also complained of inadequate food, although one of the country’s largest prisons, in Zwedru, grew most of its own food (except rice).

Physical Conditions: Inadequate space, bedding and mosquito netting, food, sanitation, ventilation, cooling, lighting, basic and emergency medical care, and potable water contributed to harsh and sometimes life-threatening conditions in the 16 prisons and detention centers. Prison officials misappropriated food and other items intended for inmates; as of August after disciplinary procedures, the Ministry of Justice’s BCR had demoted one superintendent for misappropriation of food and other resources associated with feeding of prisoners. Many prisoners supplemented their meals by purchasing food at the prison or receiving food from visitors in accordance with the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. According to the BCR, the government’s food allocation is sufficient to meet daily calorie requirements, and both the allocation to prisons and distribution to prisoners were tracked by the BCR and were available upon request. The BCR reported five prisoner deaths through July 31. Four of these deaths were due to natural causes, and one sentenced prisoner was ruled a suicide by medical personnel.

Gross overcrowding continued to be a problem. The UNMIL Human Rights and Protection Section (HRPS) reported the total BCR prison population in the country was 200 percent higher than the planned capacity. In eight of the 16 BCR facilities, detention figures were 200 to 400 percent more than planned capacity. According to the BCR, as of July approximately one-half of the country’s 2,211 prisoners were at the Monrovia Central Prison (MCP). MCP’s official capacity is 375 detainees, but the prison held 1,071 in July of whom 75 percent (805) were pretrial detainees. As of July 26, the prison population countrywide included 51 women, of whom 15 were assigned to the MCP, which also held 25 male juveniles, 22 of whom were in pretrial detention. The BCR administration complained of understaffing, but 137 newly trained corrections officers were hired in August. No comprehensive staffing document exists to verify BCR staffing claims.

In some locations the BCR relied on the LNP to provide court and medical escorts; other locations relied on court officers to transport prisoners to court; still other locations reportedly had to call the county ambulance to transport prisoners and escorts to the hospital. The MCP had adequate vehicles to meet its transportation requirements (18 cars, trucks, and buses, and 11 motorcycles) and receives fuel coupons from the BCR administration when needed.

The Ministry of Justice funded the BCR, which did not have a specific funding allocation beyond those funds under the national budget. The BCR lacked funds for the maintenance of prison facilities, fuel, vehicle maintenance, cellular or internet communications, and regular and timely payment of employees, which remained a government-wide problem. According to the UNMIL HRPS, most prisons and facilities were far below UN minimum standards, in unacceptable condition, and often had leaking roofs, cracks in the walls, and in some cases lacked basic elements like septic tanks or electricity.

Medical services were available at most of the prisons but not on a daily or 24-hour basis. The only location where medical staff was available Monday through Friday was at the MCP. Health-care workers visited most other prisons and detention centers one to two times per week.

The Ministry of Health and County Health Teams had primary responsibility for the provision of medicines. The BCR’s budget included a small line item to supplement medicines to cover those that the Ministry of Health cannot provide. The Carter Center, Don Bosco Catholic Services, and the Catholic Sisters provided medical services, medicines, nutritional supplements, food, and related training to improve basic sanitary conditions at the MCP. The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Partners in Health and the Ministry of Health provided health services to all facilities. The supply chain for medicines was weak throughout the country; prison medical staff often did not have access to necessary medicines. NGOs and community groups also provided medicines to treat seizures, skin infections, and mental health conditions. The ministry and county health teams replenished medications to treat malaria and tuberculosis only when stocks were exhausted. Since replenishment sometimes took weeks or months, inmates went without medication for lengthy periods.

There were reports of inadequate treatment for ailing inmates and inmates with disabilities. At the MCP, the BCR works to identify individuals with special needs, including those with tuberculosis through screening provided by the Ministry of Health and Partners in Health. Although the law provides for compassionate release of prisoners who are ill, such release was uncommon. Authorities determined whether to release an ill prisoner on an ad hoc basis, and most were quarantined after presenting symptoms rather than being released. As a result public health in prisons and BCR’s ability to respond and contain disease among the prison population was poor.

Authorities held men and women in separate cellblocks at the MCP, but in counties with smaller detention facilities, authorities designated a single cell for female prisoners and held juveniles in the same cells with adults. In Barclayville the police have one cell while BCR has the other, as there are only two cells in the station. There is no designated cell for females or juveniles, and as of July, one female detainee in Barclayville was being held in the conference room. Except at the MCP, which had a juvenile cellblock, children were held in separate cells within adult cellblocks. Because many minors did not have identity documents at the time the court issued commitment orders, they were sometimes misidentified by the courts as adults, issued confinement orders as adults, and therefore held in adult cellblocks. There were also reports by NGOs and observers of inmates in the juvenile facility reaching age 18 who were not transferred to the adult population. Pretrial detainees were generally held with convicted prisoners.

Conditions for women prisoners were somewhat better than for men; women inmates were less likely to suffer from overcrowding and had more freedom to move within the women’s section of facilities. The UN HRPS stated female inmates’ personal hygiene needs were not accounted for, indicating that many female detainees lacked sanitary items.

Administration: UNMIL’s Corrections Advisory Unit (CAU) departed on June 30. The BCR has its own training staff, which conducted the last two preservice trainings (the CAU and Swedish government provided financial support for logistics and uniforms). To allay the end of UNMIL’s support for BCR’s electronic recordkeeping system, the BCR increased use of its own data collections and systems. BCR reporting expanded to capture data regarding prisoners with mental and physical disabilities. National records officers communicate (via telephone) weekly with facility records officers to collect updated information, and share a monthly roll with county attorneys; however, the transfer of paper records to Monrovia remained inadequate.

Testing of an electronic recordkeeping system and a biometric intake processing system ceased. Developed through a cooperative international initiative by two NGOs and a donor country, progress stopped due to a repeatedly broken computer, inconsistent access to electricity and the internet, lack of computer maintenance, virus attacks, the corrosive effect of salt air on electronic equipment, and insufficient government support.

Authorities sometimes used alternatives to prison sentencing for nonviolent offenders, but courts failed to make adequate efforts to employ alternatives to incarceration at the pretrial stages of criminal proceedings. Courts issued probationary sentences in some cases for nonviolent offenders. In Monrovia as of August, magistrates were sentencing prisoners with minor offenses who otherwise could receive sentences ranging from probation to prison terms up to one year in length. Circuit courts used a supervised pretrial release programs in conjunction with the Magistrate Sitting Program, established to expedite the trials of persons detained at the MCP, but the program was not widely used outside Monrovia. Public defenders continued to use a plea-bargaining system in some courts. The law provides for bail, including release on the detainee’s own recognizance. The bail system, however, was inefficient and susceptible to corruption. No ombudsman system operated on behalf of prisoners and detainees.

Staff complaints prompted a July investigation of the prison system by the BCR in conjunction with the Justice Ministry’s Internal Audit Division that revealed corruption in the distribution of food, including misappropriation. In prior years NGOs reported severe food shortages, but Ministry of Justice central administration records showed sufficient food purchased and sent to facility warehouses. The BCR investigated three superintendents during the year: two received demotions for misappropriation of resources, and one was fired.

The government did not make internal reports and investigations into allegations of inhuman conditions in prisons public; however, the BCR sometimes made prison statistics publicly available. Although not systematically implemented, the BCR has a media policy that dictates the release of information, including in response to requests from the public.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions by local human rights groups, the UNMIL HRPS, international NGOs, the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), diplomatic personnel, and media. Some human rights groups, including domestic and international organizations, regularly visited detainees at police headquarters and prisoners in the MCP. The Liberian Independent National Commission of Human Rights (INCHR) also had access to and visited all facilities.

Improvements: During the first half of the year, UNMIL’s CAU completed a quick-impact project at the MCP that set up a vocational tailoring program for approximately 40 inmates. UNMIL also provided the BCR with assistance in training and identifying officers for deployment on UN Peacekeeping missions. Upon its departure, UNMIL’s CAU donated its computers and other electronic equipment.

The ICRC worked with the BCR through April to train staff at every prison to do a body-mass index check quarterly and to submit the reports to the BCR Administration.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but the government did not always observe these prohibitions. The arbitrary arrest, assault, and detention of citizens continued. In July, two LNP officers assaulted and pepper-sprayed a civilian while attempting an arrest. The victim, Mark Doe, died from his injuries. The officers were dismissed, and a criminal case remained pending.

Police officers or magistrates frequently detained citizens for owing money to a complainant. In August 2016 Chief Justice Francis Korkpor ordered judges and magistrates to stop issuing criminal writs of arrest without the approval of prosecutors from the Ministry of Justice or based on case-specific police requests. Despite Korkpor’s order, some magistrates continued to order writs of arrest in exchange for payment from complainants. This occurred in both civil cases and criminal cases.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Ministry of Justice has responsibility for enforcing laws and maintaining order through supervision of the LNP and other law enforcement agencies. The armed forces, under the Ministry of National Defense, provide external security but also have some domestic security responsibilities, specifically coastal patrolling by the Coast Guard.

The INCHR reported violent police action during arrests was the most common complaint of misconduct. The LNP’s Professional Standards Division is responsible for investigating allegations of police misconduct and referring cases for prosecution. There were instances during the year in which civilian security forces acted with impunity. In 2016 the legislature passed and the president signed a police act that mandates establishment of a civilian complaints review board to improve accountability and oversight, but as of August the board had not been constituted.

An armed forces disciplinary board investigates alleged misconduct and abuses by military personnel. The armed forces administer nonjudicial punishment. As of August the disciplinary board had three active cases. In accordance with a memorandum of understanding between the ministries of justice and defense, the armed forces refer capital cases to the civil court system for adjudication.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

In general police must have warrants issued by a magistrate to make arrests. The law allows for arrests without a warrant if necessary paperwork is filed immediately afterwards for review by the appropriate authority. Nonetheless, arrests often were made without judicial authorization, and warrants were sometimes issued without sufficient evidence.

The law provides that authorities either charge or release detainees within 48 hours, and detainees generally were informed of the charges against them upon arrest and sometimes brought before a judge for arraignment within 48 hours. A detainee’s access to a hearing before a judge sometimes depended on whether there was a functioning court in the area. Those arraigned were often held in lengthy pretrial detention. Some detainees, particularly among the majority who lacked the means to hire a lawyer, were held for more than 48 hours without charge. The law also provides that, once detained, a criminal defendant must be indicted during the next succeeding term of court after arrest or, if the indicted defendant is not tried within the next succeeding court term and no cause is given, the case against the defendant is to be dismissed; nevertheless, cases were rarely dismissed on either ground.

Several reforms made to improve detainee access to an attorney included the November 2016 establishment of a public defender’s office at the MCP and the subsequent deployment of additional public defenders to courts around the country. Under the public defender program, each police station maintains an office of court liaison that works with the public defenders’ office in each county. Magistrates or police officers are responsible for contacting the public defender in cases where individuals are arrested on a warrant, whereas the court liaison officer is responsible for contacting the public defender when warrantless arrests are made. According to UNMIL’s HRPS, greater coordination between these offices would improve the likelihood that indigent detainees have access to legal representation.

The law provides for bail for all noncapital or drug-related criminal offenses; it severely limits bail for individuals charged with capital offenses or serious sexual crimes. Bail can be paid in cash, property, insurance, or be granted on personal recognizance. Detainees have the right to prompt access to counsel, visits from family members, and, if indigent, an attorney provided by the state in criminal cases. The government frequently did not respect these rights, and indigent defendants appearing in magistrate courts–the venue in which most cases are initiated–were rarely provided state-funded counsel. Public defender offices remained understaffed and underfunded, and some allegedly charged indigent clients for their services. Although official policy allows suspects detained to communicate with others, including a lawyer or family member, inadequate provision of telephone services resulted in many inmates being unable to communicate with anyone outside of the detention facility. House arrest was rarely used.

Arbitrary Arrest: Security forces continued to make arbitrary arrests, especially during major holidays, in an effort reportedly to prevent expected criminal activity. In April, five LNP officers in Grand Bassa County were charged with arbitrary arrest, illegal search, and detention of a civilian and suspended for five months after an operation targeting street crime transformed into a private business.

Pretrial Detention: Although the law provides for a defendant to receive an expeditious trial, lengthy pretrial and prearraignment detention remained serious problems. Pretrial detainees continued to account for approximately 63 percent of the prison population. Those arrested for sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) crimes constituted the fastest-growing category of pretrial detainees as of August.

Unavailability of counsel at the early stages of proceedings contributed to prolonged pretrial detention. Data provided by the BCR showed a pretrial detainee population of 1,494 as of August. On average, current pretrial detainees had been held for just over one year.

The Magistrate Sitting Program suffered from poor coordination among judges, prosecutors, defense counsels, and corrections personnel; deficient docket management; inappropriate involvement of extrajudicial actors; and lack of logistical support. In 2016 the program released 696 pretrial detainees. As of July 31, the program had released 234 pretrial detainees during the year.

The corrections system continued to develop its capacity to implement probation, including the use of the supervised pretrial release program. In some cases, however, the length of pretrial detention exceeded the maximum length of sentence that could be imposed for the alleged crime. A shortage of trained prosecutors and public defenders, poor court administration and file management, inadequate police investigation and evidence collection, and judicial corruption exacerbated the incidence and duration of pretrial detention.

With UNICEF support, the Ministry of Justice and the MoGCSP established procedures to divert many juvenile offenders from the formal criminal justice system and place them in a variety of safe homes and “kinship” care situations. The program has dramatically decreased the number of minors in detention. According to UNICEF, as of June, 68 children had been released from detention and an additional 424 cases had been mediated to avoid confinement.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested or detained, regardless of whether on criminal or other grounds, are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention and to obtain prompt release. The government frequently did not respect these rights, and the court system lacked the capacity to process promptly most cases. Additionally, public defenders lacked the capacity to file the requisite motions, and many clients lacked the means to hire private attorneys to do so.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but judges and magistrates were subject to influence and engaged in corruption. Uneven application of the law, unequal distribution of personnel and resources, lack of training, and a poor road network remained problems throughout the judicial system.

Corruption persisted in the legal system. Some judges accepted bribes to award damages in civil cases. Judges sometimes solicited bribes to try cases, grant bail to detainees, or acquit defendants in criminal cases. Defense attorneys and prosecutors sometimes suggested defendants pay bribes to secure favorable decisions from judges, prosecutors, and jurors, or to have court staff place cases on the docket for trial.

According to the UNMIL HRPS, while the Supreme Court has made provision through the establishment of the Ethics and Grievance Committee for the review of unethical conduct of lawyers and has suspended some lawyers from legal practice for up to five years, the public has brought few cases for fear of retribution. Mechanisms for the public to bring complaints of corruption and malpractice include the Judicial Inquiry Commission, which deals with complaints on judges’ conduct, and the Grievance and Ethics Committee, which deals with lawyers. Both lacked appropriate guidelines to deliver their mandates effectively.

In February the Supreme Court suspended three judges for committing judicial malpractice, including breach of attorney-client privilege and “degrading the dignity and integrity of the judiciary,” after each was accused of corruption. In September the Daily Observer reported the Judicial Inquiry Committee had launched a “massive corruption” investigation of judges and court officers after a criminal court bailiff publicly confessed to colluding with judges to solicit bribes in exchange for predetermined outcomes.

The government continued efforts to harmonize the formal and traditional customary justice systems, in particular through campaigns to encourage trial of criminal cases in formal courts. Traditional leaders were encouraged to defer to police investigators and prosecutors in cases involving murder, rape, and human trafficking, as well as some civil cases that could be resolved in either formal or traditional systems. The Carter Center runs an access to justice program that seeks to strengthen access to justice for historically marginalized rural citizens with the goal of creating a functional and responsive justice system consistent with local needs, practices, and human rights standards. During the year the center successfully mediated a long-standing boundary dispute between residents of Kilepo-Kanweakean in River Gee County and Putu-Pennokon in Grand Gedeh County.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

By law trials are public. Circuit court but not magistrate court proceedings may be by jury. In some cases defendants may select a bench trial. Jurors were subject to influence and corrupt practices that undermined their neutrality. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials and consult with an attorney in a timely manner. Defendants have the right to be informed of charges promptly and in detail. If a defendant, complainant, or witness does not speak or understand English, the court provides an interpreter for the trial. The justice system does not provide interpreters throughout the legal process, however. For example, there are no accommodations or sign-language interpreters provided for the deaf, and rarely is interpretation available unless paid for by the defendant. Defendants also have the right to a trial without delay and to have adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense, although these rights often were not observed. Defendants are presumed innocent, and they have the right to confront and question prosecution or plaintiff witnesses, present their own evidence and witnesses, and appeal adverse decisions. The law extends the above rights to all defendants. These rights, however, were not observed and were rarely enforced.

Some local NGOs continued to provide legal services to indigent defendants and others who had no representation. The Liberian National Bar Association continued to offer limited pro bono legal services to the indigent. Financial constraints remained a major challenge in recruiting experienced lawyers for this service. Many lawyers also could not practice because they failed to pay bar association dues, further limiting the pool from which the association could draw pro bono attorneys. Ranging from L$20,000 ($223) to L$30,000 ($335) per year, bar dues are very expensive when compared with the World Bank’s 2015 estimated per capita gross national income of L$38,000 ($424) for the country.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

No specialized court exists to address lawsuits seeking damages for human rights violations. Individuals or organizations can seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts or through administrative mechanisms, which include out-of-court conferences, hearings concerning labor disputes at the Ministry of Labor for workers’ rights, and other grievance hearings at the Civil Service Agency of Liberia. While there are civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts, and adverse decisions in human rights cases may be appealed, the majority of human rights cases are brought against nonstate actors. Human rights violations are generally reported to the INCHR, which refers cases to relevant ministries, including the Ministry of Justice. In some cases individuals and organizations may appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies after all domestic redress options have been exhausted. While there is an Economic Community of West African States human rights court that citizens may access, few could afford to do so.

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

The constitution prohibits such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions.

Libya

Executive Summary

Libya is a parliamentary democracy with a temporary Constitutional Declaration, which allows for the exercise of a full range of political, civil, and judicial rights. Citizens elected the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) in free and fair elections in June 2014. The Libyan Political Agreement, which members of the UN-facilitated Libyan political dialogue signed in 2015 and the HoR approved in January 2016, created the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) Presidency Council (PC), headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. In March 2016 the GNA PC took its seat in Tripoli. In August 2016 a quorum of HoR members voted against the proposed cabinet, limiting the government’s effectiveness. The proposed ministers, however, led their ministries in an acting capacity. The elected Constitutional Drafting Assembly completed a draft constitution that remains contested.

The government had limited effective control over security forces.

Conflict continued during the year between government-aligned forces and various nonstate actors. The “Libyan National Army” (LNA) under its commander Khalifa Haftar continued operations in the east. Extralegal armed groups filled security vacuums across the country, although several in the West nominally aligned with the government. ISIS maintained a limited presence primarily in the central desert region, areas south of Sirte, and urban areas along the Western coast. Other extremist groups also operate in the country, particularly in the and around Benghazi, Derna, and in the southwest.

The most significant human rights issues included arbitrary and unlawful killings, including of politicians and members of civil society, by extralegal armed groups as well as militias affiliated with the government; lethal terrorist attacks by ISIS that led to civilian casualties; forced disappearances; torture perpetrated by armed actors on all sides; harsh and life-threatening conditions in prison and detention facilities, some of which were outside of government control; arbitrary arrest and detention; political prisoners held by nonstate actors; unlawful interference with privacy, again often by non-state actors; limits on the freedoms of speech and press, including violence against journalists and authors and criminalization of political expression; corruption; trafficking in persons; criminalization of sexual orientation; and violations of labor rights including forced labor.

Impunity from prosecution was a severe and pervasive problem. The government took limited steps to investigate abuses, but constraints on its reach and resources reduced its ability to prosecute and punish those who committed abuses. Security forces outside government control–to include armed groups in the West and LNA forces in the East–also did not adequately investigate credible allegations of killings and other misconduct by their personnel. Intimidation by armed actors resulted in paralysis of the judicial system, impeding the investigation and prosecution of those believed to have committed human rights abuses, including against public figures and human rights defenders.

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

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

There were numerous reports that pro-GNA militias, anti-GNA militias, LNA units, ISIS fighters, and other extremist groups committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Alliances, sometimes temporary, among elements of the government, nonstate militias, and former or active officers in the armed forces participating in extralegal campaigns made it difficult to ascertain the role of the government in attacks by armed groups. In the absence of an effective judicial and security apparatus, perpetrators remained unidentified, and most of these crimes remained unpunished.

Reports indicated extremist and terrorist organizations, criminal gangs, and militias played a prominent role in targeted killings, kidnappings, and suicide bombings perpetrated against both government officials and civilians. Criminal groups or armed elements affiliated with both the government and its opponents may have carried out others. Shelling, gunfire, airstrikes, and unexploded ordinances killed scores of persons during the year.

Through November the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) documented 287 civilian casualties. Airstrikes caused the largest number of deaths, while shelling injured the most victims. For example, on July 4, UNSMIL reported that the shelling of a beach in Tripoli killed five persons and injured six persons, all from the same family.

ISIS fighters committed extrajudicial killings and attacks against the military. On October 4, an ISIS suicide bomber attacked a court complex in Misrata, killing four persons.

Civil society and media reports claimed both pro-GNA, anti-GNA, and nonaligned militia groups committed human rights abuses, including indiscriminate attacks on civilians, kidnapping, torture, burning houses, and forced expulsions based on political belief or tribal affiliation. In February UNSMIL reported that a boy was fatally shot by members of an armed group when the car he was riding in reportedly failed to stop and was fired upon at a checkpoint in Zuwarah.

There were reports of killings of detainees by multiple actors. On April 1, the body of a man arrested by the al-Uruba Police Station in Benghazi the previous day was brought into the Benghazi Medical Center with a gunshot wound, broken ribs, and contusions. On September 4, a 26-year-old detainee of the Derna Mujahedeen Shura Council was killed in custody.

b. Disappearance

Government-aligned forces and armed groups acting outside government control committed an unknown number of forced disappearances. The government made few effective efforts to prevent, investigate, or penalize forced disappearances.

Kidnappings were common throughout the year. In November the World Health Organization condemned an attack on health facilities and health-care workers in Sabha and the reported kidnapping of a doctor from one medical center. Also in November, four Turkish nationals from the Ubari power plant were kidnapped by an unidentified armed group.

A Tripoli based activist, Jabir Zain, remained in captivity after an armed group linked to the Interior Ministry of the GNA abducted him in September 2016. Many disappearances that occurred during the Qadhafi regime, as well as many during the 2011 revolution, remained unresolved. Due to the continuing conflict, weak judicial system, legal ambiguity regarding amnesty for revolutionary forces, and the slow progress of the National Fact-finding and Reconciliation Commission, law enforcement authorities and the judiciary made no appreciable progress in resolving high-profile cases reported between 2013 and the end of the year.

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

While the Constitutional Declaration and postrevolutionary legislation prohibit such practices, according to credible accounts, personnel operating both government and extralegal detention centers tortured prisoners. At times during the year, due to its lack of resources and capability, the government relied on militias to manage its incarceration facilities. Furthermore, militias, not police, initiated arrests in most instances. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), militias held detainees at their discretion prior to placing them in official detention facilities. While judicial police controlled many facilities, management of a number of other prisons and detention facilities was under the partial or complete control of extralegal armed groups. Treatment varied from facility to facility and typically was worst at the time of arrest. Reported forms of abuses included beatings with belts, sticks, hoses, and rifles; administration of electric shocks; burns inflicted by boiling water, heated metal, or cigarettes; mock executions; suspension from metal bars; and rape. The full extent of abuse at the hands of extremists or militias remained unknown.

A November 3 article by Le Monde alleged that male detainees were raped systematically as an instrument of war by multiple factions.

UNSMIL documented cases involving deprivation of liberty and torture across the country. On May 20, the body of a man killed by a gunshot wound was brought to a Tripoli hospital. The victim’s hands and legs were bound with metal chains. An armed group reportedly abducted him approximately 40 days earlier in Wershfana. On September 13, the body of a boy age 17 showing signs of torture and bullet wounds was found in Benghazi.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prisons and detention facilities are often overcrowded, harsh, and life threatening, falling well short of international standards. Many prisons and detention centers were outside government control.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), migrant detention centers, operated by the Ministry of Interior’s Department to Combat Irregular Migration, also suffered from massive overcrowding, extremely poor sanitation conditions, lack of access to medical care, and significant disregard for the protection of the detainees.

Physical Conditions: In the absence of an effective judicial system or release of prisoners, overcrowding and limited access to health care reportedly continued during the year. Many prison facilities reportedly need infrastructural repairs. Accurate numbers of those incarcerated, including a breakdown by holding agency, were not available. A large number of detainees were foreigners, of whom migrants reportedly comprised the majority. Facilities that held irregular migrants generally were of poorer quality than other facilities.

Additionally, detention centers held minors with adults. There were reportedly separate facilities for men and women. Female judicial police staff reportedly guards female detainees in al-Quafiya prison. UNHCR and the IOM reported an estimated 14,000 migrant detainees in the country’s government-run centers alone as of December, with an unknown, large number of additional migrant detainees held in nongovernment centers.

There were reportedly no functioning juvenile facilities in the country, and authorities held juveniles in adult prisons.

In June unidentified armed groups killed 12 detainees upon their conditional release from al-Baraka prison in Tripoli. All 12 were members of the former Qadhafi government and accused of taking part in the violence against antigovernment protesters in 2011.

There were reports of killings and deaths in detention centers. Due to security conditions that limited monitoring, the exact number of those killed in prisons, jails, pretrial detention, or other detention centers was unknown.

Makeshift detention facilities existed throughout the country. Conditions at these facilities varied widely, but consistent problems included overcrowding, poor ventilation, and the lack of basic necessities. Officials, local militias, and criminal gangs moved migrants through a network of detention centers with little monitoring by the government or international organizations. Reports indicated the conditions in most of these detention facilities were below international standards.

Administration: The Judicial Police Authority, tasked by the Ministry of Justice to run the prison system, operates from its headquarters in Tripoli. It remained administratively split, however, with a second headquarters in al-Bayda near the HoR, reporting to a separate Eastern Ministry of Justice and providing oversight to prisons in eastern Libya and Zintan. During the year the ratio of detainees and prisoners to the generally poorly trained guards varied significantly. Monitoring and training of prison staff by international organizations remained largely suspended, although some training of judicial police resumed during the year.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted some independent monitoring, and, as of November 29, permitted increased access to transit facilities by the IOM and UNHCR. Nevertheless, the lack of clarity regarding who ran each facility and the sheer number of facilities made it impossible to gain a comprehensive view of the system.

Reports also raised questions concerning the capability and professional training of local human rights organizations charged with overseeing prisons and detention centers.

Due to the volatile security situation, few international organizations were present in the country monitoring human rights. While UNSMIL monitored the situation through local human rights defenders, members of the judiciary and judicial police, the absence of a sustained international presence on the ground made oversight problematic.

ctice.

Authorities generally transferred pretrial detainees, after presenting them before the prosecutor, to prisons rather than holding them in separate detention facilities. The government said pretrial detainees were normally held in cellblocks separate from those that housed the general prison population.

Independent Monitoring: The government allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and local human rights observers to visit prisons and detention centers. ICRC staff visited prisons, police and gendarme stations under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice, and an administrative detention center operated by the Ministry of Interior. During the year the ICRC hosted training sessions on human rights standards related to arrest, detention, and interrogation procedures for judicial police from the DGSN and National Gendarmerie, as well as for judges.

Improvements: Authorities improved prison conditions to meet international standards. The Ministry of Justice’s Directorate of Penal Affairs and Pardons said that the government alleviated overcrowding by opening new detention centers during the year, including minimum-security centers that permitted prisoners to work. The DGSN announced the creation of a new human rights office in July; one of its functions is to ensure implementation of measures to improve detention conditions.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

Nonstate armed groups detained and held persons arbitrarily in authorized and unauthorized facilities, including unknown locations, for extended periods and without legal charges or legal authority.

The prerevolutionary criminal code remains in effect. It establishes procedures for pretrial detention and prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but these procedures were often not enforced. Throughout the year the government had weak control over police and other state and local armed groups providing internal security, and some armed groups carried out illegal and arbitrary detentions unimpeded. The lack of international monitoring meant that there were no reliable statistics on the number of arbitrary detainees.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The government had limited control over the national police and other elements of the security apparatus. The national police force, which reports to the Ministry of Interior, has official responsibility for internal security. The military under the Ministry of Defense has as its primary mission the defense of the country from external threats, but it also supported Ministry of Interior forces on internal security matters. The situation varied widely from municipality to municipality contingent upon whether police organizational structures remained intact. In some areas, such as Tobruk, police functioned, but in others, such as Sebha, they existed in name only. Civilian authorities had nominal control of police and the security apparatus, and security-related police work generally fell to disparate militias–sometimes paid by government ministries–that exercised law enforcement functions without training or supervision and with varying degrees of accountability.

Impunity from prosecution was a serious problem. The government’s lack of control led to impunity for armed groups on all sides of the conflict. The killings of Sheikh Mansour Abdelkarim al-Barassi; International Committee of the Red Cross staff member Michael Greub; and human rights activist Salwa Bughaighis, all of which occurred in 2014, remained unresolved. At year’s end authorities had not investigated these attacks, and there had been no arrests, prosecutions, or trials of any alleged perpetrators of these killings.

There were no known mechanisms to investigate effectively and punish abuses of authority, abuses of human rights, and corruption by police and security forces. In the militia-dominated security environment, a blurred chain of command led to confusion regarding responsibility for the actions of armed groups, including those nominally under government control. In these circumstances police and other security forces were usually ineffective in preventing or responding to violence incited by militias. Amid the confusion regarding chain of command and absent effective legal institutions, a culture of impunity prevailed.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law stipulates an arrest warrant is required, but authorities may detain persons without charge for as long as six days and may renew detention for up to three months, provided there is “reasonable evidence.” The law also specifies authorities must inform detainees of the charges against them and have a detainee appear before a judicial authority every 30 days to renew a detention order. The law gives the government power to detain persons for up to two months if considered a “threat to public security or stability” based on their “previous actions or affiliation with an official or unofficial apparatus or tool of the former regime.”

Although the Constitutional Declaration recognizes the right to counsel, the vast majority of detainees did not have access to bail or a lawyer. Government authorities and militias held detainees incommunicado for unlimited periods in official and unofficial detention centers.

Arbitrary Arrest: Authorities frequently ignored or were unable to enforce the provisions of the criminal code prohibiting arbitrary arrest and detention. Quasi-state or nonstate militias arbitrarily arrested and detained persons throughout the year. On August 12, an armed group detained former prime minister Ali Zeidan in Tripoli. On August 22, he was released after international pressure. No information was available on why or under whose authority Zeidan was detained. According to HRW, prison authorities and militias held thousands of detainees without charges or due process.

Pretrial Detention: While authorities must order detention for a specific period not exceeding 90 days, the law in practice results in extended pretrial detention. An ambiguity in the language of the law allows judges to renew the detention period if the suspect is of “interest to the investigation.” In addition, limited resources and capacity of the courts resulted in a severe backlog of cases. According to international NGOs, there were numerous inmates held in government-controlled prisons in pretrial detention for periods longer than the sentences for the minor crimes they allegedly committed. Some individuals detained during the 2011 revolution detainees remained in custody, mostly in facilities in the west.

Militias held most of those they detained without charge and frequently outside the government’s authority. With control of the security environment diffused among various militia groups and a largely nonfunctioning judiciary, circumstances prevented most detainees from accessing a review process.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Affected individuals may challenge the measures before a judge. The law allows a detained suspect to challenge pretrial detention before the prosecutor and a magistrate judge. If the prosecutor does not order release, the detained person may appeal to the magistrate judge. If the magistrate judge orders continued detention following review of the prosecutor’s request, and despite the detainee’s challenge, there is no further right to appeal the assigned detention order. A breakdown in court system functions and security challenges transporting prisoners to the courts limited detainee access to the courts.

Amnesty: The government did not clarify whether it believed there was a blanket legal amnesty for revolutionaries’ actions performed to promote or protect the 2011 revolution.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

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

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

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

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

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

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

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

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

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

The Constitutional Declaration considers correspondence, telephone conversations, and other forms of communication inviolable unless authorized by a court order. Reports in the news and on social media indicated militias, gangs, extremist groups, and government-affiliated actors violated these prohibitions by entering homes without judicial authorization, monitoring communications and private movements, and using of informants.

Invasion of privacy left citizens vulnerable to targeted attacks based on political affiliation, ideology, and identity. Extrajudicial punishment extended to targets’ family members and tribes. Armed groups arbitrarily entered, seized, or destroyed private property with impunity.

Maldives

Executive Summary

The Republic of Maldives is a multiparty constitutional democracy. Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom won the presidential election in 2013, and most international observers and the local nongovernmental organization (NGO) Transparency Maldives (TM) determined it to be a credible and transparent election. Parliamentary elections held in 2014 were well administered and transparent according to TM, although there were credible reports of vote buying.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included the deterioration of democratic governance, as the executive branch increased its interference in legislative and judicial affairs; a politicized and inefficient judiciary; and political prisoners. The government severely restricted freedom of expression, including freedom of the press, by using an antidefamation law to silence dissenting voices and targeted harassment and arbitrary detention of journalists. The government restricted the freedoms of assembly and association, and freedom of religion. Same-sex sexual conduct is criminalized.

The government did not take steps to prosecute and punish police and military officers who committed abuses, and impunity for such abuses remained prevalent.

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

There were no official reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities. The government was taking steps to investigate disappearances reported in previous years.

In September, more than three years after the disappearance of independent news outlet Maldives Independent reporter Ahmed Rilwan, the Prosecutor General’s Office charged three suspected gang members under the 1990 antiterrorism act that prohibits abduction. Rilwan’s family continued to speak out publicly and blame senior government officials for Rilwan’s disappearance and accused police of negligence in handling the case. The National Integrity Commission (NIC) continued to investigate the allegations against police. The UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearance did not publish its findings on the case.

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

The constitution and the Anti-Torture Act prohibit such practices, but the law permits flogging and other forms of corporal punishment, and security officials employed such practices.

According to the Human Rights Commission of Maldives’s (HRCM) fourth annual antitorture report released during the year, the Maldives Police Service (MPS) was accused in 17 of the 30 cases of torture submitted to the commission between July 2016 and June 2017. The Maldives Correctional Service (MCS) was accused in 13 cases. In six of the cases alleging police torture, the victims were under the age of 18. The HRCM closed investigations in 29 of the 30 cases and found evidence of torture in one case, which was forwarded to the Prosecutor General’s Office and was in trial as of November. There were several allegations of police brutality from journalists and opposition protesters, who were routinely arrested during antigovernment protests. In July independent Raajje TV said one of its reporters arrested while covering an antigovernment rally was kicked by police, following which the International Federation of Journalists in a statement condemned the police for “roughing up” journalists carrying out their professional duty.

Government regulation permits flogging as a form of punishment. The government did not release the statistics on flogging punishments for the year. According to a 2014 Supreme Court guideline, the court must delay the execution of a flogging sentence on minors until they reach the age of 18.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Although overcrowded and lacking adequate medical care, prisons generally met most international standards.

Physical Conditions: According to the Prisons and Parole Act, pretrial detainees should be held separately from convicted prisoners, but this was not always followed. The MCS oversaw the operation of three prison facilities: Maafushi Prison, Asseyri Prison, and Male Prison. The MCS also operated Hulhumale Detention Center and the Ahuluveri Marukazu rehabilitation center for inmates scheduled for parole, while the MPS operated Dhoonidhoo pretrial Detention Center and Male Custodial Center. Detainees reported overcrowding and inadequate hygiene and sanitation standards in prisons and pretrial detention facilities. The MCS prison system, with an estimated capacity of 1,450 prisoners and detainees, had a detainee population of 1,852 as of September. Maafushi Prison, which has a capacity of 745, held 1,112 detainees as of September. The MPS detention system, with an estimated capacity of 347 detainees, had a detainee population of 204 as of September. Authorities held undocumented migrant workers awaiting deportation or legalization in a facility that also housed convicts. While the Ministry of Home Affairs published a list of all places of detention in the country, they had not categorized which type of detainees could be held at specific facilities.

In February independent MP Ahmed Mahloof, who was serving an 11-month prison term, expressed concerns about prisoners being denied access to medical care, poor quality of food served to prisoners, and harsh detention conditions. The HRCM reported conditions varied across detention facilities. In most of the facilities overseen by the MCS and MPS, the HRCM reported detainees were not allowed to leave their cells except for visitation. In Male Prison and the maximum security unit of Maafushi Prison, detainees had reportedly not been allowed outside to exercise for more than a year. The HRCM reported poor ventilation and lack of electricity in cells at Dhoonidhoo Custodial Center. Solitary confinement was practiced at Maafushi Prisons in specialized cells without ventilation or electricity. Although inmates were not held in solitary for extended periods of time, they were not provided a mattress or pillow to sleep on.

The MCS received 420 complaints from detainees regarding inadequate access to medical care, as of July. The HRCM received 44 complaints from detainees regarding a lack of access to medical care, with 40 of the detainees in MCS detention facilities, and four in MPS custody. As of October the HRCM closed 17 of the cases, having found adequate medical care had been provided for detainees. The HRCM was continuing to investigate the remaining cases. In their fourth annual antitorture report, the HRCM reported arrangements were not made for specialist doctors to examine some inmates who claimed to have been tortured, as recommended by doctors. The HRCM reported that on average it took four to six months for an inmate to secure an appointment with specialist doctors. Doctors and nurses were stationed for 24 hours at two of the five detention facilities overseen by the MCS. The MCS reported approximately 35 detainees required doctor consultation on a daily basis. Local hospitals did not set aside quotas for detainees, leading to difficulties in getting appointments for detainees to seek specialist care in a timely manner. Some high-profile convicts reported being denied permission to travel abroad for necessary medical treatment. In June Amnesty International called on the government to grant imprisoned former vice president Ahmed Adeeb’s request to travel abroad to undergo cancer screenings and treatment for conditions including internal cysts, kidney stones, and glaucoma. As of November the government continued to deny the requests, stating Adeeb posed a high flight risk. In July, President Yameen said Adeeb would be granted medical leave once he paid back millions he had allegedly embezzled from the state. The government denied similar requests for high-profile prisoners Gasim Ibrahim and Mohamed Nazim.

Some political prisoners in Maafushi Prison faced significantly different conditions from those of the general prison population. According to the MCS, most high-profile prisoners were usually placed in a dedicated unit with larger cells and better ventilation and were also allowed out of their cells during the day.

In contrast to the treatment of other political prisoners, Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla was reportedly kept in solitary confinement in a poorly ventilated cell and allowed out only for visitation from May to September. He was transferred back to Maafushi Prison following a transfer to house arrest for the month of Ramadan. According to the Adhaalath Party, Imran’s prison privileges were cut after he gave an interview to the press criticizing the government while under house arrest. MCS detention facilities usually suspended privileges such as family and conjugal visits, television privileges, and exercise time for detainees for violating the respective prison’s individual “local orders,” which were not publicized but posted at respective facilities.

There were seven cases of unexplained deaths in custody from August 2016 to October 2017. The NIC was investigating three of these deaths but had not concluded investigations as of October. The HRCM investigated six of the cases and concluded two of the cases were natural deaths. The HRCM had not concluded investigation in the four remaining cases, as of October. The law requires the HRCM be informed immediately in the case of any deaths in state custody and be allowed to inspect the body prior to burial. Authorities implemented this provision; however, in most cases the body was moved to a second location such as a hospital before the HRCM was able to inspect the bodies.

Administration: A police procedure introduced in 2016 prohibits meetings between detainees and legal counsel on Fridays and public holidays. Former solicitor general Ibrahim Riffath called the new procedure “unconstitutional,” saying only a law passed by parliament could narrow fundamental rights or freedoms.

Independent Monitoring: The government generally permitted regular and unannounced prison visits by the HRCM, which provided recommendations to the government to address deficiencies. As of July the HRCM conducted seven visits to prisons and other government centers. The HRCM reported that although it has the legal mandate to enter detention facilities without prior approval, the MCS and MPS required a letter signed by an HRCM commissioner before they were allowed access. Facilities required a commission member, appointed by the president, to accompany the visits. The NIC has a legal mandate to visit detention facilities as part of investigations in progress, but the commission reported MCS officers’ lack of awareness of the NIC mandate created difficulties. The NIC reported the MCS imposed arbitrary obstructions before investigation staff were allowed inside centers, such as requiring a letter from the commission listing the individuals who intended to participate in the visit and having a commission member present. The government generally permitted visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)/Red Crescent and other international assessment teams with prior approval. The ICRC conducted visits to all detention facilities during the year, but no report on its findings had been released by year’s end.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide the right for any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court; however, the government failed to enforce the law consistently, especially in cases against members of the political opposition.

Former vice president Ahmed Adeeb was serving a 33-year prison sentence on multiple counts of corruption and terrorism, including for an alleged plot to kill the president, and was being kept in solitary confinement. Former prosecutor general Muhtaz Muhsin was serving a 17-year sentence for an alleged coup plot. Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla was serving a 12-year sentence for alleged terrorism. Former president Mohamed Nasheed, who was serving a 13-year sentence for alleged terrorism, was granted refugee status by the United Kingdom while on temporary medical leave in 2016. Parliamentarian Ahmed Mahloof was released in June after serving 11 months for two counts of alleged obstruction of police duty.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The MPS is responsible for internal security, public safety, and law and order, and is subordinate to the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) is responsible for external security and disaster relief, but the MPS at times requested MNDF assistance in matters of internal security and law and order during some political protests. The chief of the MNDF reports to the minister of defense. The president is commander in chief of the MNDF.

Civilian authorities generally maintained control over the MPS and MNDF, and the government has mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. The NIC is the primary mechanism to investigate abuses by law enforcement agencies and employees, and it has the authority to forward any cases with criminal elements to the police for further investigation. The NIC reported a general lack of cooperation from the MPS in providing relevant information in a timely manner that obstructed NIC investigations. In November the NIC president was dismissed from his position after he posted a comment on social media about senior MPS officials obstructing NIC investigations. The MPS also refused to comply with certain NIC investigations on the basis the MPS was investigating the same cases internally. The NIC reported it received 61 complaints of MPS human rights violations as of July 31, but it had completed investigations in only three of the cases. Human rights organizations reported allegations of police brutality were not fairly adjudicated by the courts and, as a result, police enjoyed impunity. In September the Civil Court rejected a suit filed against the MPS by the family of deceased blogger Yameen Rasheed alleging the MPS had been negligent in failing to investigate several death threats against Rasheed since 2010. The Civil Court stated the case should be investigated by the NIC instead. In October the Civil Court used the same argument to dismiss a suit filed against the MPS by independent Raajje TV alleging police negligence in taking action to prevent a 2012 arson attack on their studio. The station reported it had received anonymous warnings of an imminent attack and had requested police protection prior to the attack.

There is no independent review mechanism to investigate abuses by military forces. Parliament and the judiciary, however, could initiate investigations on an ad hoc basis. There were no reported complaints of human rights abuses by military forces, but in some instances, military forces interfered in civilian political activities. On July 24, military officers blocked MPs’ access to parliament, and in July and March, MNDF officers serving as parliamentary security physically removed MPs from the building. Military officers also were stationed inside the parliament chambers during subsequent parliament hearings, although parliament security is usually a police function.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The constitution states an arrest may not be made unless the arresting officer observes the offense, has reasonable evidence, or has a court-issued arrest warrant. The Criminal Procedure Act, which came into force in July, allows police to arrest a person if a police officer has reason to believe that a person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit an offense or may attempt to destroy evidence of a major crime. The act introduced new arrest procedures, with which the MPS generally complied when making arrests. The MPS reported newer officers sometimes did not comply with the arrest procedures, such as timely informing of the reasons for an arrest. The law provides for an arrestee to be verbally informed immediately of the reason for arrest and to be informed in writing within 12 hours. Police did not consistently follow this requirement. Jumhooree Party secretary general Ahmed Sameer, who was arrested on the night of August 16 at an antigovernment protest, reportedly was not informed of the reason for arrest until the next morning.

Prisoners have the right to a ruling on bail within 36 hours, but bail procedures were not implemented consistently, and several lawyers and activists reported that judges were ignorant of bail procedures. The law also requires an arrestee be informed of the right to remain silent and that what the arrestee says may be used in a court of law. The law further provides that arrestees are to have access to a lawyer at the time of arrest. A lawyer may be court appointed in serious criminal cases if the accused cannot afford one. The law allows police to question a detainee in the absence of counsel if the detainee’s lawyer does not appear within 12 hours without adequate reasons for the delay. Police normally informed the arrestee’s family of the arrest within 24 hours. The law does not require that police inform the family of the grounds for the arrest unless the arrestee is under 18 years of age, in which case a parent or guardian must be informed within four hours.

The law provides for investigative detention. A person detained for investigation is allowed one telephone call prior to police questioning. Once a person is detained, the arresting officer must present evidence to a court within 24 hours to justify continued detention. Based on the evidence presented, the prosecutor general has the authority to determine whether charges may be filed. If law enforcement authorities are unable to present sufficient evidence within 24 hours, the prisoner is eligible for release. Judges have the authority to extend detention upon receiving an arresting officer’s petition, citing factors such as the detainee’s previous criminal record, status of the investigation, type of offense in question, and whether the detainee poses a threat if released.

Arbitrary Arrest: The Criminal Procedure Act allows police to detain individuals for questioning for four hours, without it being classified a formal arrest. Human rights organizations and defense lawyers reported police routinely abused this provision to detain protesters as an intimidation tactic. As an example, on August 8, two employees and a volunteer working for TM who participated in a protest raising concerns over the police investigation of reporter Ahmed Rilwan’s 2014 abduction were detained for four hours without questioning. The NIC confirmed proper arrest procedures were in place but noted police did not always fully implement them due to lack of adequate training. Sources reported police held the suspects under investigative or administrative detention without formal arrest as a way to remove opposition supporters and journalists from the streets.

In April the High Court ruled the April 6 arrest of Gasim Ibrahim was unlawful, since the arrest warrant was not requested by the prosecutor general, as required by law for the arrest of MPs. Gasim was released on April 13 following eight days in detention.

Pretrial Detention: Social media activist Ahmed Ashraf, who was arrested in Sri Lanka and returned to Maldives in 2015, was transferred to house arrest in March. He had been kept at a police custodial center since his 2015 arrest and extradition from Sri Lanka. Although he was first arrested on suspicion of “terrorism,” he was charged for a separate offense of “threatening” a ruling party council member. His trial had been stalled without explanation since the last hearing held in March 2016. If convicted, Ashraf faces a maximum sentence of one-year imprisonment.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The constitution and the Criminal Procedure Act stipulate conditions under which a person can be arrested or detained and provides everyone the right to appeal and the right to compensation for unlawful arrest or detention. The High Court routinely hears appeals of arrest warrants or pretrial detention orders, but defense lawyers claimed High Court judges tended to seek justification for upholding such orders rather than questioning the grounds and merits of detention, and delayed verdicts until the authorized pretrial detention orders expire. The courts routinely delay trials in high-profile cases. As of November the High Court had not issued a ruling in opposition MP Faris Maumoon’s appeal of a July 18 arrest warrant and July 19 remand order, despite having concluded appeal hearings in the first week of August. The appeal courts do not accept appeals of detentions authorized for the duration of a trial already in progress, based on a 2012 High Court decision that ruled trial judges have discretionary authority to authorize detention of suspects for the duration of pending trials as well as on a 2009 Supreme Court decision that stated decisions made by judges using discretionary authority cannot be appealed.

Victims of unlawful or arbitrary arrest or detention can submit cases to the Civil Court to seek compensation, but this right was not commonly exercised.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, but the judiciary was not completely independent or impartial and was subject to influence. There were numerous allegations of judicial impropriety and abuse of power, with large numbers of judicial officials, prosecutors, and attorneys reportedly intimidated or bribed. Government officials, opposition members, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, and members of domestic and international civil society at times accused the judiciary of bias and accused the executive branch of manipulating judicial outcomes. In his opening statement at the 36th session of the UN Human Rights Council in September, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid expressed concern over reports of continued violations of the right to a fair trial and allegations of political bias in the judiciary and called on the government to respect the right to an independent and impartial judiciary.

The five-member Supreme Court is constitutionally independent from the executive. It hears appeals from the High Court and considers constitutional matters brought directly before it. Many judges, appointed for life, held only a certificate in sharia, not a law degree. Most magistrate judges could not interpret common law or sharia because they lacked adequate English or Arabic language skills. An estimated one-quarter of the country’s 183 judges had criminal records. Media, human rights organizations, and NGOs criticized the Judicial Service Commission for appointing unqualified judges and, according to a 2016 Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative report, the composition of the commission, tasked with vetting and appointing judges, was flawed, leading to a politicized judiciary. In its report the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative accused the Supreme Court of harshly targeting independent institutions and lawyers and failing to guarantee the right to a fair trial. There was no government response.

On September 10, the Supreme Court suspended 54 lawyers who had signed a petition calling for judicial reform and barred them from practicing in local courts, pending an investigation for contempt of court, obstructing and interfering with the independence of judges and the judiciary, and signing an “illegal” document. The 54 lawyers comprised 30 percent of the lawyers registered to practice at the Criminal Court and also included the entire legal teams for prominent opposition politicians. On August 21, the Department of Judicial Administration, which functions under the direct supervision of the Supreme Court, issued a statement warning it would take legal action, including suspension and disbarment of lawyers who criticized or misrepresented judicial rulings in public.

In June 2016 the Supreme Court rejected former minister of defense and national security Mohamed Nazim’s appeal of his 2015 conviction. On June 21, just after Nazim filed the appeal but prior to the Supreme Court ruling, the MPS revealed the investigations into Nazim’s case were incomplete, adding it uncovered new evidence not previously available to the court that may exonerate him. The Supreme Court did not consider this additional evidence when deciding on Nazim’s appeal. During Nazim’s trial the High Court denied the defense team’s request to present rebuttal evidence it claimed would have exonerated Nazim.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and the Criminal Procedure Act provide for the right to a fair and public trial, although the judiciary did not always enforce this right. The law provides that an accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Most trials were public and conducted by judges and magistrates, some of whom were trained in Islamic, civil, or criminal law. The constitution states defendants have a right to be informed of the charge without delay in a language understood by the defendant. The law states a defendant must be provided with a copy of the case documents within five days of charges being submitted to court. The law provides that an accused person has a right to be tried in person and have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Some high-profile politicians, including opposition MPs Faris Maumoon and Gasim Ibrahim, reported authorities obstructed regular meetings with lawyers during detention. The constitution states the accused has the right not be compelled to testify. The law provides the right to free assistance of an interpreter and governs trial procedures. Judges question the concerned parties and attempt to establish the facts of a case. Accused persons have the right to defend themselves and during a trial may call witnesses and retain the right to legal representation. Defendants and their attorneys have the right to full access to all evidence relating to their case, may cross-examine any witnesses presented by the state, and may present their own witnesses and evidence. The judiciary generally enforced these rights.

Islamic law as interpreted by the country is applied in situations not covered by civil law. The law provides for the right to legal counsel, and those convicted have the right to appeal. The testimony of women is equal to that of men in court, except on rape and other issues specifically stipulated by the country’s legal code.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

The government asserted there were no political prisoners; however, the opposition, international and domestic NGOs, and members of the international community estimated there were at least four political prisoners and likely many more. The political prisoners identified by these groups were convicted of terrorism, weapons smuggling, or bribery charges. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN officials were allowed access to these prisoners on scheduled visits and upon request.

Former president Mohamed Nasheed, who was leader of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party and ran against President Yameen during the 2013 presidential election, was subjected to a rushed trial in 2015 on terrorism charges and many of his due process rights were ignored, according to international observers. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions in September 2015 determined Nasheed’s detention was politically motivated and assessed that serious due-process violations indicated Nasheed had not received a free and fair trial. The government announced its rejection of the working group’s findings in a September 2015 press release. In January 2016 the government granted approval for Nasheed to travel to London on a medical furlough. He remained in London at year’s end and stated he was unable to return due to concerns he would again be arbitrarily detained. In July former vice president Adeeb claimed Nasheed’s 13-year terrorism sentence was “masterminded under direct government scheming and influence” and offered to testify in the Supreme Court to provide evidence of his claims. The authorities had not responded at year’s end.

Opposition Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment in February 2016 on terrorism charges on the grounds his speech at an opposition rally incited protesters to become violent. Human rights NGO TM, however, asserted “during the speech Sheikh Imran repeatedly denied any intent of violence against the government.”

Opposition Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim was sentenced to three years imprisonment in absentia in August on bribery charges. The grounds for his charge was a speech Gasim gave at an opposition rally in which he said opposition parties would grant party tickets for 2019 parliamentary elections to MPs who voted for a no-confidence motion submitted against the Speaker, which the court said amounted to offering a bribe to an elected official. The Criminal Court had initially dismissed the charges on July 11, but the government appealed the dismissal of charges against Gasim on July 12. Two of the judges on the trial bench were transferred to lower courts within hours of the dismissal, and new judge Adam Arif restarted the trial within days of the government’s appeal. Judge Arif held closed hearings in Gasim’s case and sentenced him in absentia in a ruling issued after midnight, while Gasim was hospitalized after collapsing in the courtroom hours earlier. In September the government authorized Gasim to travel to Singapore on a medical furlough. The government identified Gasim as a fugitive of the state when Gasim did not return within the time allotted for medical furlough. Gasim remained in Singapore under medical advisement. In November, Gasim traveled to Germany for further medical treatment, in contravention of a travel ban the government placed on him.

In January the government rejected the opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention that former defense minister Mohamed Nazim’s arrest and detention was arbitrary based on two of the five categories used by the group to establish an opinion. The working group recommended Nazim’s immediate release and that he be accorded an enforceable right to reparations. Nazim remained in detention and reportedly had chronic medical problems that remained unaddressed. In July former vice president Adeeb claimed Nazim had been framed and offered to testify in the Supreme Court to provide evidence of his claims. The authorities had not responded to his offer at year’s end.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations. The Civil Court addressed noncriminal cases.

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

The law prohibits security officials from opening or reading radio messages, letters, or telegrams, or monitoring telephone conversations, “except as expressly provided by law.” Security forces may open the mail of private citizens and monitor telephone conversations if authorized to do so by a court during a criminal investigation. There were reports, nevertheless, of illegal recording of telephone conversations and monitoring of text messages allegedly executed by MNDF and other government agencies.

Rwanda

Executive Summary

Rwanda is a constitutional republic dominated by a strong presidency. The ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) led a governing coalition that included four smaller parties. In August voters elected President Paul Kagame to a third seven-year term with a reported 99 percent of the vote and a reported 98 percent turnout. One independent candidate and one candidate from an opposition political party participated in the presidential election, but authorities disqualified three other candidates. International election monitors reported numerous flaws, including irregularities in the vote tabulation process. In 2013 elections for parliament’s lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, candidates from the RPF coalition and two other parties that supported RPF policies won all of the open seats. In 2015 the country held a constitutional referendum; the National Electoral Commission reported 98 percent of registered voters participated of which 98 percent endorsed a set of amendments that included provisions that would allow the president to run for up to three additional terms in office.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over state security forces (SSF).

The most significant human rights issues included: arbitrary killings and politically motivated disappearances by security forces; torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison and detention center conditions; arbitrary arrest; security forces’ disregard for the rule of law; prolonged pretrial detention; infringement on citizens’ privacy rights and on freedoms of speech, assembly, and association; restrictions on and harassment of media and some local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); restrictions on freedom to participate in the political process and the ability to change government through free and fair elections; harassment, arrest, and abuse of political opponents, human rights advocates, and individuals perceived to pose a threat to government control of social order; trafficking in persons; and restrictions on labor rights.

The government occasionally took steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses, including within the security services, but impunity involving some civilian officials and some members of the SSF was a problem.

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

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

There were numerous reports the government committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

On July 13, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report documenting the cases of 37 individuals killed by police or other security forces in western areas between 2016 and 2017 for a variety of petty crimes, including theft of bananas, fishing with illegal nets, and unlawful border crossings. HRW reported, “The killings and enforced disappearances appear to have been part of a broader strategy to spread fear, enforce order, and deter any resistance to government orders or policies.” It was unclear, however, whether the national government ordered or approved this strategy. According to the report, local authorities, including law enforcement officers, threatened family members who reported the deaths. In January and February, members of unregistered opposition groups and local human rights activists issued similar reports that included some of the same cases covered by HRW as well as others. Minister of Justice Johnston Busingye publicly called the HRW report “fake news.”

On October 13, the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR), which is nominally independent but funded by the government, held a press conference to discredit HRW’s findings. The NCHR claimed that seven of the individuals cited in the report were alive and presented one individual with the same name at the press conference. The NCHR stated most of the others cited in the HRW report either had died of natural causes or were unknown to local authorities and residents. The NCHR reported that 10 of the individuals named in the HRW report were shot and killed by border patrols while using an illegal border crossing with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The NCHR stated that residents had been warned not to cross the border at night, and the government did not investigate the cases further. The NCHR also reported that in two cases documented by HRW, authorities had arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and jailed the security official responsible for the reported killings, a Rwanda Defense Forces (RDF) soldier, who was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.

On November 1, HRW issued a press release that called the NCHR findings “largely fabricated” and noted discrepancies in the ages, next of kin, and residences among three of the individuals whose deaths HRW had documented and the persons presented by the NCHR. HRW also claimed that government officials “threatened and coerced victims’ family members to present false information” and detained those who refused to contradict their initial testimonies to HRW. The government launched an investigation into HRW’s allegations but did not complete it by year’s end.

b. Disappearance

There were several reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

On February 14, Violette Uwamahoro, a dual British-Rwandan national whose husband was a member of a diaspora opposition movement, the Rwanda National Congress, disappeared after attending a family member’s funeral. The government refused to acknowledge her detention for three weeks. On March 23, the government announced that Uwamahoro had been charged with treason. On March 28, she was conditionally released pursuant to a judge’s order and allowed to return to the United Kingdom in mid-April.

On March 6, journalist John Ndabarasa, missing since August 2016, reappeared in Kigali. Ndabarasa told media that he had fled the country but decided to come back voluntarily because he no longer feared for his safety. HRW declared that Ndabarasa’s statement to media “raised a lot of suspicion” in light of the numerous cases documented by HRW “where former detainees were forced to make false claims following months of illegal, secret detention and torture.” According to local human rights organizations, authorities confiscated Ndabarasa’s identity documents and restricted his movements following his return.

On September 6, the Rwanda National Police (RNP) detained the Kigali representative of the United Democratic Forces (FDU) Inkingi, an unregistered opposition party, Theophile Ntirutwa, and at least nine other members of his party and its leadership. Whereas the other detainees were granted immediate access to FDU’s lawyer and charged in a timely manner, Ntirutwa was assumed missing for 18 days until the RNP confirmed his detention on September 24. According to HRW, in September 2016 the RNP had detained and tortured Ntirutwa for three days.

Domestic organizations critical of the SSF reported government interference in their operations and cited a lack of capacity and independence to investigate security-sector abuses, including reported enforced disappearances.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but there were numerous reports of abuse of detainees and prisoners by police, military, and National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) officials.

In 2012 the government signed into law a penal code that upgrades torture from an aggravating circumstance to a crime in itself. The law mandates the maximum penalty, defined by the extent of injury, for SSF and other government perpetrators. In 2015 the government ratified and indigenized the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT). However, the Constitution takes precedence over international treaties. In December the Committee Against Torture reported there were no cases in which the Convention was applied or invoked before domestic courts.

On October 10, HRW published a report documenting 104 cases of individuals who were illegally detained, and in many cases tortured, in military detention centers between 2010 and 2016. According to the report, military intelligence personnel and army soldiers employed torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment to obtain confessions before transferring the individuals to formal detention facilities. Detainees described asphyxiation, electric shocks, mock executions, severe beatings, and other mistreatment. HRW observed the trials of multiple individuals who alleged being tortured at unofficial military detention centers, including Kami and Mukamira military camps, a military base known as the “Gendarmerie” in Rubavu, and detention centers in Bigogwe, Mudende, and Tumba. According to the HRW report, many of the individuals told judges they had been illegally detained and tortured, but “HRW is not aware of any judges ordering an investigation into such allegations or dismissing evidence obtained under torture.” There were no reported prosecutions of SSF personnel for torture.

There were numerous reports police at times beat newly arrested suspects to obtain confessions or instructed other inmates to beat them. Allegations of abuse at the police station in Gisenyi, located across the border from Goma, DRC, and the Remera station in Kigali were particularly frequent. Official reports of sexual abuse were rare, but according to former detainees, transactional sex in prisons and detention centers occurred regularly.

In 2015 and 2016, HRW published reports documenting the abuse by police and other detainees of detained street vendors, persons in prostitution, and beggars at the Gikondo Transit Center, a detention facility in Kigali (locally known as “Kwa Kabuga”), as well as so-called transit centers in Muhanga, Mbazi, and Mudende. According to the HRW report and unpublished reports from domestic observers, inmates carried out the majority of beatings, often with sticks, acting under direction of detention center authorities. The government disputed HRW’s findings, denying the existence of undeclared detention centers and stating that Gikondo was a rehabilitation facility designed to provide “social emergency assistance” in lieu of incarceration. According to HRW, several persons died during or just after their detention in Mudende in 2016 from severe injuries sustained during detention. According to local human rights organizations, these abuses continued during the year despite government efforts since 2015 to improve conditions in Gikondo.

Three RNP officers serving in the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti were cited in a 2016 report by the UN secretary-general on sexual exploitation and abuse of civilians by international peacekeepers. All three were paternity cases arising from inappropriate relationships with adult victims. The government immediately suspended the officers and opened investigations into their conduct, promising appropriate disciplinary action, provided DNA to the United Nations, and sent a senior officer to Haiti to ensure cooperation with the UN investigation. The UN investigations had not concluded by year’s end.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions ranged from harsh and life threatening to meeting international standards. The government took steps to improve conditions in some prisons and constructed additional facilities to relieve overcrowding, but conditions varied widely among prisons.

Domestic civil society organizations reported impediments for persons with disabilities, including lack of sign language interpreters at police stations and detention centers.

Physical Conditions: According to the Rwanda Correctional Service (RCS), the prison population rose by approximately 15 percent, from fewer than 52,000 inmates in 2015 to more than 61,000 in August, which greatly exacerbated prison overcrowding. The government blamed inadequate facilities for two prison fires in March that caused severe damage to the Gasabo prison in Kigali. The government closed the prison in Gasabo and substantially reduced the prison population of the “1930” prison in Nyarugenge, transferring inmates to a newly constructed facility in Mageragere. Authorities held men and women separately in similar conditions, although overcrowding was more prevalent in men’s wards.

Conditions were generally harsh and life threatening in detention and transit centers, according to HRW reports in 2015 and 2016. Detention centers in general lacked separate facilities for children. According to HRW, officials held children together with adults in Muhanga, Mudende, and Gikondo. They sometimes held minors in separate facilities, such as in Mbazi that had marginally better conditions than the facilities for adults. There was also a minors-only facility in Nyagatare; observers reported Nyagatare came close to meeting international norms and noted authorities provided detained children with formal education opportunities.

According to the Ministry of Justice, approximately 150 children under age three lived with their mothers in prison. The law does not allow children above age three to remain with their incarcerated mothers.

Authorities generally separated pretrial detainees from convicted prisoners, although there were numerous exceptions due to the large number of detainees awaiting trial.

The government held six prisoners of the Special Court for Sierra Leone in a purpose-built detention center that the United Nations deemed met international standards for incarceration of prisoners convicted by international criminal tribunals. The government moved international transfers and some high-profile “security” prisoners previously held in maximum-security wings of Kigali Central “1930” Prison to the facility in Mageragere.

Prisoner deaths resulted from anemia, HIV/AIDS, respiratory diseases, malaria, and other diseases at rates similar to those found in the general population. Medical care in prisons was commensurate with care for the public at large because the government enrolled all prisoners in the national health insurance plan. Prisoners were fed once per day, but there were no provisions for feeding those in pretrial detention, who relied on family members for food. Authorities permitted family members to supplement the diets of vulnerable prisoners with health problems. HRW stated several detainees shared mattresses often infested with lice and fleas.

Conditions in police and military detention centers varied. Overcrowding was common in police stations and detention centers, and poor ventilation often led to high temperatures. Provision of adequate food and medical care was inconsistent.

Authorities transferred transit center male detainees and at-risk adults ages 18 to 35 to the Iwawa Rehabilitation and Vocational Development Center on Iwawa Island in Lake Kivu. Sanitation, nutrition, and health services at the center generally met international standards.

Administration: The RCS investigated reported abuses by corrections officers, and the same hierarchical structure existed in police and security forces; there was no independent institution charged with investigating abuses or punishing perpetrators.

Detainees held at the Iwawa Rehabilitation and Vocational Development Center did not have the right to appeal their detentions to judicial authorities.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions on a limited basis by diplomats and the International Committee of the Red Cross and also by members of the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists carrying out monitoring functions on behalf of the UN Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT). At times, however, it restricted access to specific prisoners and did not permit monitors to visit undeclared detention centers and certain military intelligence facilities. No domestic or international NGOs reported monitoring prison conditions during the year, citing intimidation by the government.

On October 20, the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture suspended its monitoring mission under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, citing government obstruction, restrictions on access to detention facilities and detainees, and fear of reprisals against individuals interviewed by the delegation.

Journalists could access prisons with a valid press card but required permission from the RCS commissioner to take photographs or interview prisoners or guards.

Improvements: Under its strategic plan for 2013-18, the RCS completed construction of a 9,500-person facility in the Mageragere suburb of Kigali to relieve overcrowding in the Kigali Central “1930” and Kimironko prisons. During the year the RCS established a correctional policy specialist position to oversee compliance with legal inmate rights provisions, and observers credited the RCS with continuing to take steps to improve prison conditions and eradicate abuses in formal detention facilities. The Ministry of Justice organized several conferences during the year on prisoners’ rights and encouraged corrections officers to respect the rights of inmates.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but SSF personnel regularly arrested and detained persons arbitrarily and without due process. The law provides for the right of persons to challenge the lawfulness of their arrest or detention in court, but in practice few tried, and there were no reports of any detainees succeeding in obtaining prompt release or compensation for unlawful detention.

According to HRW’s October 10 report, individuals “suspected of collaborating with enemies” were detained unlawfully, and held “for up to nine months in extremely harsh and inhuman conditions,” frequently incommunicado. HRW also documented cases “in which individuals believed to be held in military custody have never returned and appear to have been forcibly disappeared.” Individuals detained by military intelligence were not registered in the formal law enforcement system, and “the period of their detention in military facilities [is] erased from public record,” according to HRW.

Domestic observers and local media reported the RNP systematically rounded up and arbitrarily detained street children, street vendors, suspected drug abusers, persons in prostitution, homeless persons, and suspected petty criminals. As in previous years, the RNP held detainees without charge at the Gikondo Transit Center before either transferring them to the Iwawa Rehabilitation and Vocational Development Center without judicial review or forcibly returning them to their home areas in the countryside. In August, for example, the Ministry of Local Government and the mayor of Kigali ordered the forcible relocation to rural areas of more than 560 persons detained by police for begging and loitering in Kigali, according to local media. The government maintained that individuals in transit and rehabilitation centers were not detainees, although they could not leave the centers.

In the period preceding the August 4 presidential election, domestic observers noted that authorities intensified efforts to remove street children, unlicensed vendors, persons in prostitution, and the homeless from Kigali streets. Local human rights activists reported the SSF performed searches without a warrant of all residences near the president’s campaign rally points and detained those perceived to pose a potential threat. One human rights activist reported being detained for four days with at least one dozen other individuals without being charged.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The RNP, under the Ministry of Justice, is responsible for internal security. The RDF, under the Ministry of Defense, is in charge of providing external security, although the RDF also works on internal security and intelligence matters alongside the RNP. In 2016 the cabinet approved the creation of the Rwanda Investigation Bureau under the Ministry of Justice to assume the RNP’s investigation and prosecution responsibilities, but the bureau had not started operation by year’s end.

Civilian authorities generally maintained control over the RNP and the RDF, and the government had mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. The Inspectorate General of the RNP generally disciplined police for excessive use of force and prosecuted acts of corruption. Nevertheless, there were reports SSF elements at times acted independently of civilian control. For example, there were reports RDF J-2 (intelligence staff), NISS, and RNP intelligence personnel were responsible for disappearances, illegal detention, and torture in military and police detention centers, both declared and undeclared.

The RDF normally displayed a high level of military professionalism and discipline. In August RDF Major Aimable Rugomwa, who in 2016 shot and killed a young boy in Kanombe on suspicion of theft, was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined 11 million Rwandan francs ($13,000). In October, two RDF soldiers were convicted of murder and extortion and sentenced to life imprisonment. The soldiers were convicted of extorting payments from individuals who could not present an identification document (ID) and of shooting and killing a man who refused to comply with their demands while on a night patrol on May 9 in the Gikondo suburb of Kigali.

Police at times lacked sufficient basic resources–such as handcuffs, radios, and patrol cars–but observers credited the RNP with generally strong discipline and effectiveness. The RNP institutionalized community relations training that included appropriate use of force and human rights, although arbitrary arrests and beatings remained problems.

There were reports of abuse of suspects by the District Administration Security Support Organ (DASSO), including in May and August several incidents in which street vendors responded to alleged DASSO abuse by attacking DASSO officers. According to local media reports, street vendors also accused the DASSO of working with police to expropriate their merchandise. As in previous years, authorities disciplined individual DASSO officers and organized human rights training for all 2,600 DASSO personnel.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires authorities to investigate and obtain a warrant before arresting a suspect. Police may detain suspects for up to 72 hours without an arrest warrant. Prosecutors must submit formal charges within five days of arrest. Police may detain minors a maximum of 15 days in pretrial detention but only for crimes that carry a penalty for conviction of five years’ or more imprisonment. There were numerous reports police and prosecutors disregarded these provisions and held individuals, sometimes for months and often without charge, particularly in security-related cases. The SSF held some suspects incommunicado or under house arrest. At times police employed nonjudicial punishment when minor criminals confessed and the victims agreed to a police officer’s recommended penalty, such as a week of detention or providing restitution.

The law permits investigative detention if authorities believe public safety is threatened or the accused might flee, and judges interpreted these provisions broadly. A judge must review such detention every 30 days, which may not extend beyond one year, but the SSF held numerous suspects indefinitely after the first authorization of investigative detention and did not always seek reauthorization every 30 days. Police also routinely circumvented arrest procedures by summoning suspects for daily interrogation, requiring them to spend up to 16 hours each day at Criminal Investigations Division headquarters without formally charging them with a crime. Individuals subsequently reported spending the bulk of each day simply sitting in a cell, and said investigators only questioned them for 20 to 30 minutes each day.

After prosecutors formally file a charge, detention may be indefinite unless bail is granted. Bail exists only for crimes for which the maximum sentence if convicted is five years’ imprisonment or less, but authorities may release a suspect pending trial if satisfied the person would not flee or become a threat to public safety and order. Authorities generally allowed family members prompt access to detained relatives, unless the individuals were held on state security charges, at intelligence-related detention centers such as Camp Kami or Kwa Gacinya, or in undeclared detention facilities. The government at times violated the right to habeas corpus.

Convicted persons sometimes remained in prison after completing their sentences while waiting for an appeal date or due to problems with prison records. The law provides that pretrial detention, illegal detention, and administrative sanctions be fully deducted from sentences imposed, but it does not provide for compensation to persons who are acquitted. The law allows judges to impose detention of equivalent duration and fines on SSF and other government officials who unlawfully detained individuals, but there were no reports that judges exercised this authority.

Arbitrary Arrest: Unregistered opposition political parties reported authorities frequently detained their supporters and party officials but released most after detention of one week or less. Several, including FDU leaders, were detained longer than one week. FDU assistant treasurer Leonille Gasengayire, who was detained in August 2016 on what domestic and international observers called politically motivated charges, was released in March. On September 6, Gasengayire and eight other FDU members, including the party’s top leaders, were arrested, allegedly for “recruiting individuals into armed groups operating in a neighboring country.” On September 20, they were arraigned and charged with membership in a terrorist organization. Domestic and international observers disputed the prosecution’s claim and argued the charges were politically motivated. On September 6, Theophile Ntirutwa, the FDU’s Kigali representative, also was detained, but he was not charged with the others and was assumed missing until September 24, when RNP confirmed his detention. In October the courts denied bail to Ntirutwa and eight other FDU members and remanded them to pretrial detention. They remained in detention, and the trial had not commenced by year’s end.

Although there is no requirement for individuals to carry an ID, police and the DASSO regularly detained street children, vendors, and beggars without IDs and sometimes charged them with illegal street vending or vagrancy. Authorities released adults who could produce an ID and transported street children to their home districts, to shelters, or for processing into vocational and educational programs.

There were numerous reports that authorities detained family members of individuals suspected of committing crimes if the suspects themselves could not be located. Authorities advertised the detention of the suspects’ relatives but released them without charges if the suspects turned themselves in.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was a serious problem, and authorities often detained prisoners for extended periods without arraignment. HRW reported that when some detainees were transferred from military detention facilities to official detention facilities, military, intelligence, or police officials made detainees sign documents stating they had been arrested on the date of their transfer rather than their actual date of arrest, thereby erasing their military detention from the record. The law permits detention of genocide and terrorism suspects until trial. The inspector general of the National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA) sanctioned some government officials who abused regulations on pretrial detention with penalties, including fines and suspensions.

To eliminate case backlogs and reduce the average length of pretrial detention, in 2015 the government promulgated national regulations on the organization, jurisdiction, competence, and functioning of cell- and sector-level mediation committees (Abunzi), whose members were elected locally, expanding their jurisdiction to include criminal cases. In March a domestic NGO announced preliminary findings of a survey that showed a sizable majority of citizens viewed the Abunzi as biased; many survey respondents described the Abunzi as corrupt and reported dissatisfaction with their decisions. The government criticized the survey findings, and the organization did not publish survey results by year’s end. If one of the parties to a dispute rejected the sector-level mediation committee’s decision, it could appeal it to the local primary court, but few reported having the means to do so. In approximately half of the cases that were appealed, courts overturned the Abunzi decisions because of misapplication of the law.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Although detainees have the right to challenge their detention in court, few tried and none were able to obtain prompt release or compensation for unlawful detention.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

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

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

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

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

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

The RDF routinely tried military offenders, as well as civilians who previously served in the RDF, before military tribunals that handed down penaltie