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Crimea

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

b. Disappearance

There were reports of abductions and disappearances by occupation authorities. Crimea SOS reported 45 individuals have gone missing since Russian forces occupied Crimea in 2014, and the fate of 15 of these individuals remained unknown. The OHCHR reported occupation authorities have not prosecuted anyone in relation to the forced disappearances. NGO and press reports indicated occupation authorities were responsible for the disappearances. For example, in March 2014, Maidan activists Ivan Bondarets and Valerii Vashchuk telephoned relatives to report police in Simferopol had detained them at a railway station for displaying a Ukrainian flag. Relatives have had no communication with them since, and the whereabouts of the two men remained unknown. Occupation authorities denied international monitors, including the OHCHR and OSCE, access to Crimea, which made it impossible for monitors to investigate forced disappearances there properly.

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

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

There were widespread reports that occupation authorities in Crimea tortured and otherwise abused residents who opposed the occupation. According to the Crimean Human Rights Group, “The use of torture by the FSB and the Russia-led police against Ukrainian citizens became a systematic and unpunished phenomenon after Russia’s occupation of Crimea.” Human rights monitors reported that Russian occupation authorities subjected Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians in particular to physical abuse. For example, on January 28, plainclothes occupation authorities from the “ministry of internal affairs” detained Server Rasilchak, a 17-year-old Crimean Tatar, shortly after Rasilchak, his father, and two friends were stopped by traffic police at a gas station in Saki. The men beat and arrested Rasilchak and took him to a police station, where he was subjected to electric shocks, beaten, and threatened with sexual assault for several hours. Rasilchak’s mother claimed she filed a formal complaint with police, but human rights groups noted the difficulty of tracking the status of complaints and investigations in Crimea given the atmosphere of fear and impunity.

Occupation authorities reportedly demonstrated a pattern of using punitive psychiatric incarceration as a means of pressuring detained individuals. For example, according to press reports, on June 23, authorities transferred Crimean Tatar Ruslan Suleimanov to the Crimean Clinical Psychiatric Hospital for a forced psychiatric evaluation. Suleimanov was arrested in March 2019 and charged with allegedly belonging to the pan-Islamic organization Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is banned in Russia as a terrorist group but legal in Ukraine. Human right defenders viewed the authorities’ move as an attempt to break his client’s will and intimidate him.

According to the Crimean Human Rights Group, as of late September, approximately 10 Crimean Tatar defendants had been subjected to psychiatric evaluation and confinement against their will without apparent medical need since the beginning of the occupation (see section 1.d.).

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

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

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

Arbitrary Arrest: Arbitrary arrests continued to occur, which observers believed were a means of instilling fear, stifling opposition, and inflicting punishment on those who opposed the occupation. Security forces conducted regular raids on Crimean Tatar villages and the homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses, accompanied by detentions, interrogations, and often criminal charges. The Crimean Resource Center recorded 68 detentions and 70 interrogations that were politically motivated as of September 30. For example, on May 30, Ukrainian soldier Yevhen Dobrynsky disappeared while on duty near the administrative boundary between mainland Ukraine and Crimea. On June 2, the FSB announced it had detained Dobrynsky for “illegally crossing the border from Ukraine to Russia.” As of October, Dobrynsky was still detained by occupation authorities.

The HRMMU noted that justifications underpinning the arrests of alleged members of “terrorist” or “extremist” groups often provided little evidence that the suspect posed an actual threat to society by planning or undertaking concrete actions.

The HRMMU noted the prevalence of members of the Crimean Tatar community among those apprehended during police raids. According to the Crimean Tatar Resource Center, of the 173 individuals arrested between January and August, 133 were Crimean Tatars. The HRMMU noted raids were often carried out on the pretext of purported need to seize materials linking suspects to groups that are banned in the Russian Federation, but lawful in Ukraine.

For example, according to press reports, on July 7, the FSB raided houses of Crimean Tatars in various parts of the peninsula. Security forces reportedly targeted the houses of activists belonging to the Crimean Solidarity movement, a human rights organization that provides the relatives and lawyers of political prisoners with legal, financial, and moral support. Seven individuals were arrested during the raid. According to human rights groups, security forces had no warrant for the raid and denied detained individuals access to lawyers. Of the seven men arrested during the raid, three were charged with organizing the activities of a terrorist organization (Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is legal in Ukraine), which carries a sentence of up to life in prison. The rest were charged with participating in the activities of a terrorist organization, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

Jehovah’s Witnesses were also targeted for raids and arbitrary arrests. For example, on May 26, Russian security forces in Kerch conducted searches of four homes belonging to Jehovah’s Witnesses, and one man was arrested on “extremism” charges as a result of the searches. The group is banned in Russia as an extremist organization but is legal in Ukraine. On June 4, Jehovah’s Witness Artyom Gerasimov was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment on “extremism” charges. Prosecutors presented secret audio recordings of Gerasimov and his family reciting prayers and Bible verses in their home, alleging these actions constituted illegal “organizational activities” on behalf of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Gerasimov was the second Jehovah’s Witness during the year to receive a six-year prison sentence on extremism charges after an arbitrary arrest for exercising his freedom of religion.

Failure to submit to conscription into the Russian military was also used as a basis for arbitrary arrests. Since 2015, Russia has conducted annual spring and fall conscriptions in Crimea, and failure to comply is punishable by criminal penalty. Since the beginning of the occupation, nearly 30,000 persons have been conscripted, and in February the Crimean Human Rights Group documented eight new criminal cases of Crimean residents for evading military service in the Russian Federation Armed Forces.

Detainees were often denied access to a lawyer during interrogation. For example, on August 31, FSB officers searched the homes of four Crimean Tatar activists belonging to the group Crimean Solidarity. FSB officers detained all four activists: Ayder Kadyrov, a correspondent for the Grani.ru online media, Ridvan Umerov (a leader of the local mosque), and Crimean Solidarity members Ayder Yabliakimov and Enver Topchi. The men were interrogated for eight hours, during which authorities refused to grant their lawyers access to them. Kadyrov’s lawyer claimed that authorities forced Kadyrov to sign a confession.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Under Russian occupation authorities, the judicial system was neither independent nor impartial. Judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys were subject to political directives, and the outcomes of trials appeared predetermined by government interference. The HRMMU noted that lawyers defending individuals accused of extremism or terrorism risked facing harassment or similar charges themselves. For example, human rights lawyer Emil Kurbedinov reported that occupation authorities physically surveilled him and likely tapped his office phone. Kurbedinov has faced longstanding pressure for his involvement in defending human rights defenders and activists in Crimea, including being previously arrested in 2017 and 2018.

Trial Procedures

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

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

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

Occupation authorities intimidated witnesses to influence their testimony. On June 11, the FSB charged a former witness with providing false testimony at the hearings of individuals accused of membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir. In an August 2019 court hearing, the witness retracted his pretrial statements, claiming they had been coerced by FSB officers during interrogation. While the HRMMU found the witness’s claims of mistreatment to be credible, the court dismissed the allegations and ruled that the witness’s retraction was intended to assist the defendant in avoiding criminal liability. The former witness faced five years in prison.

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

Political Prisoners and Detainees

According to the Crimean Human Rights Group, as of August, 105 Crimeans were being deprived of freedom in occupied Crimea or in Russia on political or religious charges, 73 of whom were Crimean Tatar Muslims prosecuted on terrorism charges.

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

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

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

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

Occupation authorities routinely conducted raids on homes to intimidate the local population, particularly Crimean Tatars, ethnic Ukrainians, and Jehovah’s Witnesses ostensibly on the grounds of searching for weapons, drugs, or “extremist literature.” According to the Crimean Tatar Resource Center, occupation authorities conducted 38 searches between January and August; 25 were in the households of Crimean Tatars.

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

Occupation authorities regularly used recorded audio of discussions regarding religion and politics, obtained through illegal wiretapping of private homes, and testimonies from unidentified witnesses as evidence in court. For example, in June 2019 occupation authorities detained four Crimean Tatars in the Alushta region of Crimea on terrorism charges related to alleged involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir. Russian prosecutors used FSB wiretaps of the men’s conversations during private religious classes about the concept of an Islamic caliphate in Crimea as evidence the men were planning a “forcible seizure of power.” As of November the men were being held at detention facility in Rostov-on-Don in Russia as the trial proceeded.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press

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

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

Freedom of Speech: The HRMMU noted occupation authorities placed “excessive limitations on the freedoms of opinion and expression.” On July 31, occupation authorities began enforcing a law that prohibited the unauthorized dissemination of information damaging to the FSB’s reputation without the FSB’s approval. Enforcement of this law in Crimea deprived Crimean residents of the opportunity to publicly criticize and disseminate information about reportedly unlawful actions of FSB officers and alleged violations or abuses of human rights.

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

Occupation authorities often deemed expressions of dissent “extremism” and prosecuted individuals for them. For example, according to press reports, on January 18, the FSB placed a 34-year entry ban on Taras Ibrahimov, a Ukrainian journalist who covered politically motivated lawsuits and human rights violations in Crimea. Occupation authorities officially informed Ibrahimov of the ban but did not provide a justification.

Occupation authorities harassed and fined individuals for the display of Ukrainian or Crimean Tatar symbols, which were banned as “extremist.” For example, on March 9, police dispersed a small group of women who began singing the Ukrainian national anthem during an authorized ceremony next to a monument to Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko in Simferopol. Police told the women their actions constituted an “act of provocation.”

Occupation authorities deemed expressions of support for Ukrainian sovereignty over the peninsula to be equivalent to undermining Russian territorial integrity. For example, on May 22, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation charged in absentia Crimean Tatar television channel ATR deputy director Ayder Muzhdabaev with violating a Russian law against “public calls for committing terrorist activities.” The charges were purportedly due to his support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity, which he routinely expressed on the daily talk show that he cohosted.

There were multiple reports that occupation authorities detained and prosecuted individuals seeking to film raids on homes or court proceedings. For example, according to press reports, journalist Amet Suleimanov was among those arrested on “terrorism” charges in the FSB’s March 11 raid on multiple Crimean Tatars’ homes in Bakhchisaray district. Occupation authorities first detained Suleimanov in 2017 for filming security forces during a raid on the home of a fellow member of Crimean Solidarity. Occupation authorities have detained and released him multiple times since 2017, citing vague “terrorism” concerns. As of October Suleimanov was under house arrest.

During the year occupation authorities prosecuted individuals for the content of social media posts. For example, on May 28 a “district court” in occupied Crimea fined the acting chairman of the Alushta Muslim community, Ruslan Emirvaliev, for a social media post made in 2016 containing an image of a boy pointing at a banner displaying the words of the Islamic shahada, or statement of faith, in Arabic script. Court documents characterized these words as “an inscription in an unknown language, of an unknown nature and content.”

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

Violence and Harassment: There were numerous cases of security forces or police harassing activists and detaining journalists in connection with their civic or professional activities. For example, on November 3, occupation authorities detained two journalists of the Russia-based Grani.ru website near a Russia-controlled military court building in Simferopol on administrative charges related to public order. The journalists had come to the military court building to report on the sentencing of three Crimean Tatars by a military court in Rostov-on-Don, which was due to be delivered on the same day. Occupation authorities suggested the reporters had been involved in protests in support of the defendants, although local media reported the crowds of protesters had already dispersed when the journalists were arrested.

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

There were reports occupation authorities sought to restrict access to or remove internet content about Crimea they disliked. As of September Russia-led authorities blocked 30 websites in Crimea, including the websites of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis (a representative body that Russia deems extremist), Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Ministry of Integration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine, and several independent Ukrainian news outlets, among others. Censorship of independent internet sites was widespread (see Internet Freedom).

Occupation authorities banned most Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar-language broadcasts, replacing the content with Russian programming. On June 22, the Crimean Human Rights Group reported that occupation authorities were continuing to block Ukrainian FM radio stations in northern Crimea by broadcasting their stations on the same wavelength. The signal of Ukrainian FM radio stations was heard in only five of the area’s 19 settlements.

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

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

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

Authorities frequently used the threat of “extremism,” “terrorism,” or other purported national security grounds to justify harassment or prosecution of individuals in retaliation for expressing opposition to the occupation. For example, on May 25, the Russia-controlled “supreme court” in occupied Crimea began hearing the in absentia trial of Lenur Isliamov, the owner of the Crimean Tatar television channel ATR. In 2015 occupation authorities charged Isliamov with “organizing an illegal armed group, committing sabotage, [and] public calls for extremist activities.” In 2015 Isliamov led a group of volunteers near the administrative border in blocking the transport of commercial goods to and from occupied Crimea. The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group called the act an “essentially peaceful civic blockade of Crimea,” and the Ukrainian government subsequently approved the formal registration of Isliamov’s organization.

Internet Freedom

Russian occupation authorities restricted free expression on the internet (see section 2.a. of the Country Reports on Human Rights for Russia), by imposing repressive Russian Federation laws on Crimea. Security services routinely monitored and controlled internet activity to suppress dissenting opinions. According to media accounts, occupation authorities interrogated and harassed residents of Crimea for online postings with pro-Ukrainian opinions (see Censorship or Content Restrictions, above).

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

Occupation authorities engaged in a widespread campaign to suppress the Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian languages (see section 6, National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities).

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

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

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

Human rights monitors reported that occupation authorities routinely denied permission to hold assemblies based on political beliefs, in particular to opponents of the occupation or those seeking to protest the actions of the occupation authorities. Those who gathered without permission were regularly charged with administrative offenses. Expansive rules about what type of gatherings required permits and selective enforcement of the rules made it difficult for protesters to avoid such offenses. For example, according to a local news website, on January 19, police shut down a small women-led rally in Kerch against the possible closure of the Taigan Safari Park, which faced mismanagement-related litigation in Russia-based courts. Police and representatives of the Kerch city council told the rally’s participants that holding a public event unauthorized by the city council was illegal. The participants complied in ending the rally, and several of them began disseminating leaflets to passers-by. An hour later, police detained several of the women and took them to the police station. Police did not register the arrests.

Occupation authorities brought charges for “unauthorized assemblies” against single-person protests, even though preauthorization is not required for individual protests. For example, according to the Crimean Human Rights Group, on June 8, police charged activist Serhiy Akimov with an administrative offense for holding a one-person protest in Simferopol in front of the Crimean “parliament” building in support of Russian politician Nikolay Platoshkin, who was under house arrest in Moscow.

There were reports that authorities used a ban on “unauthorized missionary activity” to restrict public gatherings of members of religious minorities. For example, on April 1, the “prosecutor” of Alushta opened administrative proceedings against Yusuf Ashirov, the imam of the local Islamic community, for “illegal missionary activity.” The prosecutor did not explain how Ashirov’s performance of Friday prayers, a traditional rite for Muslims, violated the law.

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

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

Freedom of Association

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

Occupation authorities broadly restricted the exercise of freedom of association for individuals who opposed the occupation. For example, there were numerous reports of authorities taking steps to harass, intimidate, arrest, and imprison members of the human rights group Crimean Solidarity, an unregistered movement of friends and family of victims of repression by occupation authorities (see section 1.d.). During the year the Crimean Human Rights Group documented multiple cases in which police visited the homes of Crimean Solidarity activists to threaten them or warn them not to engage in “extremist” activities. For example, on May 6, Seyran Menseitov, a member of the Crimean Solidarity movement, received a letter from the Yevpatoriya “prosecutor’s office,” which warned him against participating in gatherings related to the May 18 “Day of Remembrance for the victims of the Crimean Tatar Genocide,” as they might constitute “extremist” activities. At least 10 other Crimean Tatar activists and journalists received similar “preventive warnings” in advance of the May 18 holiday.

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

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

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement

Occupation authorities imposed restrictions on freedom of movement.

In-country Movement: Occupation authorities maintained a state “border” at the administrative boundary between mainland Ukraine and Crimea. According to the HRMMU, the boundary and the absence of public transportation between Crimea and mainland Ukraine continued to undermine freedom of movement to and from the peninsula, affecting mainly the elderly and individuals with limited mobility. The government simplified crossing the administrative boundary for children in a decree that came into force on February 9. Children younger than 16 were allowed to cross the administrative boundary between mainland Ukraine and Crimea both ways if accompanied by one parent. Notarized permission of the second parent was no longer required. Children ages 14-16 could cross the administrative line both ways unaccompanied if they studied at an educational institution located in mainland Ukraine and resided or were registered in Crimea.

There were reports occupation authorities selectively detained and at times abused persons attempting to enter or leave Crimea. According to human rights groups, occupation authorities routinely detained adult men at the administrative boundary for additional questioning, threatened to seize passports and documents, seized telephones and memory cards, and questioned them for hours.

On March 14, Ukrainian authorities restricted crossing of the administrative boundary as a COVID-19 preventative measure. Under the restrictions, only individuals registered as residents of government-controlled territory could cross into mainland Ukraine, and only individuals registered in Crimea could cross into the occupied peninsula. Public backlash to the measures led the government to expand authorized crossings four days later, allowing for crossings for humanitarian reasons, such as family reunification, cases of serious illness, and the death of a close relative. On June 15, the State Border Guard Service rescinded the residency requirements and resumed normal operations of checkpoints along the administrative boundary, while still requiring self-isolation for persons leaving occupied Crimea. On August 1, the service rescinded the self-isolation requirement but temporarily closed the crossing points again from August 8 to 30.

On March 18, Russian occupation authorities banned Ukrainian citizens from entering occupied Crimea, citing COVID-19 prevention as justification. The number of administrative boundary crossings dropped to nearly 1 percent of historical levels as a result of these restrictions. For instance, from April to May, the State Border Guard Service registered 4,000 crossings of the administrative boundary, compared with 344,000 crossings during the same period in 2019.

On April 3, Russian occupation authorities imposed upon Ukrainians in Crimea a measure banning those they considered Russian citizens from leaving the territory of what they considered the Russian Federation. Occupation authorities justified the action by asserting that many Ukrainians in Crimea had Russian passports, many of which were issued without being requested. For example, on April 5, FSB officials at the administrative boundary denied the request of a Ukrainian citizen seeking cancer treatment in Kyiv to exit occupied Crimea, citing her alleged Russian citizenship. Similarly, on April 17, Soviet dissident and marathon swimmer Oleh Sofianyk presented a Ukrainian passport to Russian officials at the administrative boundary in order to cross into mainland Ukraine. The officials refused his request to exit occupied Crimea, citing his alleged Russian citizenship. On April 27, Sofianyk attempted a second time to exit Crimea, but authorities again refused his request. Sofianyk managed to leave the peninsula on June 2.

In other cases, occupation authorities issued entry bans to Crimean Tatars attempting to cross the administrative boundary. For example, on May 23, the FSB detained 61-year-old human rights defender Diliaver Memetov when he attempted to pass through an administrative boundary checkpoint for a planned trip to mainland Ukraine. Occupation authorities took Memetov to a police station, where he claims police tore out pages from his passport. Upon his release three hours later, Memetov attempted to cross again, but was denied entry and fined a substantial amount for presenting a damaged passport.

Occupation authorities launched criminal cases against numerous high-profile Crimean Tatar leaders, including Member of Parliament Mustafa Jemilev; the chairman of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, Refat Chubarov; the director general of the ATR television channel, Lenur Isliamov; and ATR deputy director Aider Muzhdabayev.

According to the HRMMU, Ukrainian law restricts access to Crimea to three designated crossing points and imposes penalties, including long-term entry bans, for noncompliance. Crimean residents lacking Ukrainian passports, who only possessed Russian-issued Crimean travel documents not recognized by Ukrainian authorities, often faced difficulties when crossing into mainland Ukraine.

Citizenship: Russian occupation authorities required all residents of Crimea to be Russian citizens. Those who refused Russian citizenship could be subjected to arbitrary expulsion. According to the Crimean Human Rights Group, during the six years of Russia’s occupation, approximately 2,000 Ukrainians were prosecuted for not having Russian documents, and approximately 530 persons were ordered to be “deported.”

According to the HRMMU, in 2019 Crimean “courts” ordered “deportation” and forcible transfer of 109 Ukrainian citizens whose residence rights in Crimea were not recognized.

Residents of Crimea who chose not to adopt Russian citizenship were considered foreigners but in some cases could obtain a residency permit. Persons without Russian citizenship holding a residency permit were deprived of key rights and could not own agricultural land, vote or run for office, register a religious congregation, or register a vehicle. Authorities denied those who refused Russian citizenship access to “government” employment, education, and health care as well as the ability to open bank accounts and buy insurance, among other limitations.

According to the Crimean Human Rights Group, Russian authorities prosecuted private employers who continued to employ Ukrainians. Fines could be imposed on employers for every recorded case of employing a Ukrainian citizen without a labor license. Fines in such cases amounted to several million dollars.

In some cases authorities compelled Crimean residents to surrender their Ukrainian passports, complicating international travel, because many countries did not recognize “passports” issued by Russian occupation authorities.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Approximately 47,000 residents of Crimea registered as IDPs on the mainland, according to the Ministry of Social Policy. The Mejlis and local NGOs, such as Crimea SOS, believed the actual number could be as high as 100,000, as most IDPs remained unregistered. Many individuals fled due to fear that occupation authorities would target them for abuse because of their work as political activists or journalists. Muslims, Greek Catholics, and Evangelical Christians who left Crimea said they feared discrimination due to their religious beliefs.

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

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

Recent Elections: Russian occupation authorities prevented residents from voting in Ukrainian national and local elections since Crimea’s occupation began in 2014.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

Corruption: There were multiple reports of systemic rampant corruption among Crimean “officeholders,” including through embezzlement of Russian state funds allocated to support the occupation. For example, on March 28, a “district court” found the former head of the Feodosiya city administration, Dmitri Shchepetkov, guilty of abuse of office and attempted bribe taking. He was sentenced to eight years in prison and fined 42 million rubles ($560,000).

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

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

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

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

Children

Birth Registration: Under both Ukrainian law and laws imposed by Russian occupation authorities, either birthplace or parentage determines citizenship. Russia’s occupation and purported annexation of Crimea complicated the question of citizenship for children born after February 2014, since it was difficult for parents to register a child as a citizen with Ukrainian authorities. Registration in the country requires a hospital certificate, which is retained when a birth certificate is issued. Under the occupation regime, new parents could only obtain a Russian birth certificate and did not have access to a hospital certificate. In 2016 the Ukrainian government instituted a process whereby births in Crimea could be recognized with documents issued by occupation authorities.

Anti-Semitism

According to Jewish groups, the Jewish population in Crimea was approximately 10,000 to 15,000, with most living in Simferopol. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Members of National/Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups

Since the beginning of the occupation, authorities singled out Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians for discrimination, abuse, deprivation of civil liberties and religious and economic rights, and violence, including killings and abductions (also see sections 1.a.-1.d., 1.f., 2.a., 2.b., and 2.d.). The June UN secretary-general’s report noted, “Law enforcement authorities seemed to target actual or perceived critics of the occupation of Crimea and the policies of the Russian Federation on the peninsula, such as the Mejlis and Crimean Solidarity.”

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

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

By the end of 2014, Ukrainian as a language of instruction was removed from university-level education in Crimea. According to the Crimean Resource Center, schools in Crimea no longer provided instruction in Ukrainian. Crimean Tatar was the sole instruction language for seven schools, and five schools that previously offered all instruction in Crimean Tatar added Russian language instruction. In 2017 the International Court of Justice ruled on provisional measures in proceedings brought by Ukraine against the Russian Federation, concluding unanimously that the Russian Federation must “ensure the availability of education in the Ukrainian language.”

Occupation authorities have not permitted churches linked to ethnic Ukrainians, in particular the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, to register under Russian law. Occupation authorities harassed and intimidated members of the churches and used court proceedings to force the OCU in particular to leave properties it had rented for years. On July 24, “court bailiffs” issued an order to Archbishop Klyment of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine to dismantle the only OCU church in Yevpatoriya within five days.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Section 7. Worker Rights

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

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

Although no official data were available, experts estimated there was growing participation in the underground economy in Crimea.

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Ukraine

Eswatini

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but there were occasional reports that government officials employed them. The law prohibits police from inflicting, instigating, or tolerating torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. It also establishes a disciplinary offense for officers who use violence or unnecessary force, or who intimidate prisoners or others with whom they have contact in the execution of their duties. In February, Bongani Kunene of Moyeni alleged that during an interrogation police beat him and placed a plastic bag over his head. During the year there were scattered reports of police brutality towards those alleged to have violated COVID lockdowns. In one pending case, a police officer was arrested and charged with attempted murder for shooting a teenager in the arm after having fired his weapon to disperse a group of teens who were contravening COVID regulations by playing soccer during the partial lockdown.

There were isolated reports throughout the country of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment by “community police”–untrained, volunteer security personnel who exist outside the country’s formal legal structures and are empowered by rural communities to act as vigilantes, patrolling against rural crimes such as cattle rustling. In November 2019 a group of community police severely beat five suspected thieves on their buttocks and paraded them naked through the street as punishment.

Impunity remained a concern but was not a significant problem in the security forces. The HMCS had strong internal mechanisms to investigate alleged wrongdoing and apply disciplinary measures. The reliability of such internal mechanisms within REPS and the military forces remained less clear, although members of these forces have been investigated, prosecuted, and convicted in recent years. Where impunity existed, it generally was attributable more to inefficiency than politicization or corruption, although the latter remained legitimate concerns. In recent years security forces have added training modules to help promote respect for human rights. In October the national commissioner of police publicly condemned police brutality and called on officers to refrain from cruel or degrading treatment.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

The law requires warrants for arrests, except when police observe a crime being committed, believe a person is about to commit a crime, or conclude evidence would be lost if arrest is delayed. The law requires authorities to charge detainees with the violation of law within a reasonable time, usually within 48 hours of arrest or, in remote areas, as soon as a judicial officer is present to assume responsibility. Authorities sometimes failed to charge detainees within this time period, sometimes taking up to a week. There is a bail system, and suspects may request bail at their first appearance in court, except in serious cases such as those involving murder or rape charges. In general detainees could consult with lawyers of their choice, to whom they were generally allowed prompt access. Lawyers may be provided to indigent defendants at public expense in capital cases or if conviction of a crime is punishable by life imprisonment.

The director of public prosecutions has the legal authority to determine which court should hear a case. The director delegated this responsibility to public prosecutors. Persons convicted in the traditional courts may appeal to the High Court.

Arbitrary Arrest: In September the Supreme Court held that the arrest and five-week detention of robbery suspect Sibongiseni Khumalo had been unlawful because, shortly after the arrest, police realized that most or all of the allegedly stolen items they seized belonged, in fact, to the suspect. Nevertheless, the government detained the suspect for more than five weeks, even after the suspect was granted bail on the second day of his detention but lacked sufficient funds to pay it. The Supreme Court concluded that the arrest and detention of the suspect had been unlawful and awarded him damages and costs.

Pretrial Detention: CHRPAI stated lengthy pretrial detention was common, with the majority of pretrial detainees incarcerated due to shortages of judges, prosecutors, and courtrooms; a weak case management and coordination system; and a lack of access to legal representation. As of December the 845 pretrial detainees was approximately 21 percent of the total prison and detainee population. A 2018 survey of detainees by CHRPAI concluded that 245 of them had been awaiting or undergoing trial for 12 or more months.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government with some limitations respected judicial independence and impartiality in nonpolitical criminal and civil cases not involving the royal family or government officials. The king appoints Supreme Court and High Court justices on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission, which is chaired by the chief justice and consists of other royal appointees.

Judicial powers are based on two systems: Roman-Dutch law and a system of traditional courts that follows traditional law and custom. Neither the Supreme Court nor the High Court that interprets the constitution have jurisdiction in matters concerning the Offices of the King or Queen Mother, the regency, chieftaincies, the Swati National Council (the king’s advisory body), or the traditional regiments system. Unwritten traditional law and custom govern all these institutions. Traditional courts were unwilling to recognize many of the fundamental rights provided for in the constitution and instead relied on customary laws that often reduce or disregard these rights.

Most citizens who encountered the legal system did so through the 13 traditional courts. Each court has a presiding judicial officer appointed by the king. These courts adjudicate minor offenses and violations of traditional law and custom. Authorities generally respected and enforced traditional, as well as magistrate, High Court, and Supreme Court rulings.

Trial Procedures

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

Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and the right to be informed of charges promptly, in detail, and with free interpretation if necessary. The constitution provides for the right to a fair public trial without undue delay, except when exclusion of the public is deemed necessary in the “interests of defense, public safety, public order, justice, public morality, the welfare of persons younger than 18, or the protection of the private lives of the persons concerned in the proceedings.” Although the judiciary generally enforced rights to a fair public trial, prolonged delays during trials in the magistrate courts and High Court were common. Court-appointed counsel is provided to indigent defendants at government expense with free assistance of an interpreter for any defendant who cannot understand or speak English or SiSwati, and conviction of the crime is punishable by death or life imprisonment. Defendants and their attorneys have access to relevant government-held evidence, generally obtained from the Public Prosecutor’s Office during pretrial consultations. Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants may question witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants and prosecutors have the right of appeal up to the Supreme Court. The law extends the foregoing rights to all persons.

The traditional courts operate under traditional authorities, including local chiefs. In general chiefs preside over traditional courts as court presidents. Traditional courts hear both civil and minor criminal matters. By law traditional courts may only impose token monetary fines and no prison sentences longer than 12 months.

Traditional courts are empowered to administer customary law only “insofar as it is not repugnant to natural justice or morality” or inconsistent with the provisions of any civil law in force, but some traditional laws and practices violate civil laws, particularly those involving women’s and children’s rights. Defendants in traditional courts are not permitted formal legal counsel but may speak on their own behalf, call witnesses, and be assisted by informal advisors. Traditional law and custom provide for an appeals process, but the process is long and cumbersome. Under the constitution the High Court has review and appellate jurisdiction over matters decided in traditional courts. Judicial commissioners within the traditional legal system may adjudicate appeals themselves or refer appeals to a court within the civil judicial system on their own volition. Those making or receiving an appeal also have the right to seek High Court review of traditional court decisions.

Military courts are not allowed to try civilians. They do not provide the same rights as civilian criminal courts. For example, military courts may use confessions obtained under duress as evidence and may convict defendants based on hearsay.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were two reports of persons detained in lengthy pretrial detention for criticism of the king. In May the government withdrew the sole remaining charge against activist Goodwill Sibiya, who was arrested in May 2019 and charged with violating the law after having accused the king of embezzlement and lawlessness. The government dismissed one charge against Sibiya in September 2019 and dismissed the remaining charge against him in May. Sibiya was released on the same day the government dismissed his charge.

Also in May police arrested Ncamiso Ngcamphalala, the president of the political party Economic Freedom Fighters-Swaziland and charged him with violating a section of law that was ruled unconstitutional by the High Court in 2016. Although Ngcamphalala was released on bail in June, his charge remained pending.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

Individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights abuses, including appeal to international courts or bodies. Administrative remedies are also available under civil service rules and regulations.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions except “in the interest of defense, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, town and country planning, use of mineral resources, and development of land in the public benefit.” There were isolated reports of unlawful interference by the government. The wife of a blogger wanted by police in connection with various alleged crimes claimed that police officers visited her home without a warrant, harassed her, and compelled her to accompany them to a police station for questioning regarding her husband’s whereabouts. The law requires police to obtain a warrant from a magistrate before searching homes or other premises, but officers with the rank of subinspector or higher have authority to conduct a search without a warrant if they believe delay might cause evidence to be lost.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, but the government restricted this right, particularly with respect to press freedom and matters concerning the monarchy.

Freedom of Speech: In one case an activist was arrested for criticizing the king in a civil court case (see section 1.e, Political Prisoners and Detainees).

Freedom of Press and Media, Including Online Media: The law empowers the government to ban publications it deems “prejudicial or potentially prejudicial to the interests of defense, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health.”

Daily independent newspapers criticized government corruption and inefficiency but generally avoided criticizing the royal family. Independent online media and an independent monthly magazine were more likely to criticize the royal family as well as government. After the new government took office in November 2018, government officials became far more communicative, with official spokespersons appointed to every ministry, the launch of an official government Twitter page, and quarterly, on-the-record press briefings for all editors with the prime minister and other cabinet members.

Broadcast media remained under state control. Most persons obtained their news from radio broadcasts. Access to speak on national radio was generally limited to government officials, although the University of Eswatini, religious organizations, and the country’s first community radio station have received radio licenses.

Violence and Harassment: Zweli Martin Dlamini, editor of Swaziland News, fled to South Africa after police harassed and allegedly physically abused him for criticizing the king. On at least one other occasion, editors of the two daily newspapers were pressured and threatened by senior government officials to refrain from printing articles that criticized the royal family for its lavish lifestyle and spending practices. In one instance government officials admonished editors for having failed to defend the king when someone criticized the royal family’s practices while in the editors’ presence.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Although journalists have become more willing to speak out against the government in recent years, criticism of the king was strongly discouraged by government and traditional leaders. Most journalists and broadcast media felt compelled to avoid criticizing the palace due to fear of reprisals, such as being professionally ostracized or losing paid government advertising. Self-censorship was widespread in relation to the king, but virtually nonexistent in relation to the government. Government officials and security personnel repeatedly made it clear that criticism of the king could result in serious consequences.

National Security: Although the country has no formal criminal libel or slander laws and has no laws forbidding criticism of the monarchy, the government prosecuted one individual for criticizing the king, using provisions of antiterrorism and other laws (see section 1.e, Political Prisoners and Detainees).

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

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

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

Several national demonstrations and community meetings and rallies occurred without incident, although such gatherings were far less widespread during the year in view of the COVID pandemic and health-related restrictions on large gatherings. In September police violated existing law by prohibiting a proposed peaceful gathering by members of the political party SWADEPA. Throughout the year there were isolated reports of violence by both demonstrators and security forces, although there were no reports of serious injury or death.

Freedom of Association

The law provides for the right of freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right. Although several political parties competed in elections, the constitution requires candidates for public office to run as independents; their parties may not offer slates of candidates, so their affiliation does not appear on ballots. In 2019 the registrar of companies refused to register a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) nongovernmental organization on the grounds the constitution and domestic laws do not protect against discrimination on the basis of sex or sexual orientation and prohibit same-sex relations. The LGBTI organization challenged the government’s stance as being unconstitutional in a lawsuit that remained pending (see also section 6).

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement

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

In-country Movement: By traditional law and custom, chiefs have the power to decide who may reside in their chiefdoms; evictions sometimes occurred due to internal conflicts, alleged criminal activity, or opposition to the chief.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

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

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees.

Freedom of Movement: The government generally allowed freedom of internal movement for resettled refugees. Refugees could visit the neighboring countries of Mozambique and South Africa with ease.

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

g. Stateless Persons

UNHCR figures from 2016 found only three stateless persons, who were descendants of refugees. The constitution does not provide for women to transmit citizenship except in cases of births out of wedlock. In 2019 in consultation with UNHCR, the government approved a national action plan to end statelessness, including by eliminating gender discrimination in the country’s nationality laws and allowing women to transmit citizenship.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

Political rights were restricted, although citizens could choose 59 of the 69 members of the House of Assembly in procedurally credible, periodic elections held by secret ballot.

Legislation passed by parliament requires the king’s consent to become law. Under the constitution the king selects the prime minister, the cabinet, two-thirds of the Senate, 10 of 69 members of the House of Assembly, the chief justice and other justices of the superior courts, members of commissions established by the constitution, and the heads of government offices. On the advice of the prime minister, the king appoints the cabinet from among members of parliament.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: International observers described the 2018 parliamentary elections as credible, peaceful, and well managed. The system of nominations in the country organizes nominations for members of parliament by chiefdoms. Traditional chiefs convene nominating meetings for candidates to parliament and other offices and in a few cases confirm whether nominees are members of the chiefdom. Candidates for each chiefdom are then chosen in a primary election conducted by secret ballot. Although some chiefs may exercise influence through lobbying, there was little evidence their influence was widespread or decisive in the formation of electoral lists.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The constitution provides for freedom of association but does not address how political parties may operate, and there was no legal mechanism for them to contest elections. The constitution also requires that candidates for public office compete on their individual merit, which courts have interpreted as blocking competition based on political party affiliation.

Participation in the traditional sphere of governance and politics takes place predominantly through chiefdoms. Chiefs are custodians of traditional law and custom, report directly to the king, and are responsible for the day-to-day running of their chiefdoms and maintenance of law and order. Although local custom mandates that chieftaincy is hereditary, the constitution, while recognizing that chieftaincy is “usually hereditary and is regulated by Swati law and custom,” also states the king “may appoint any person to be chief over any area.” As a result, many chieftaincies were nonhereditary appointments, a fact that provoked land disputes, especially at the time of the death and burial of chiefs.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women and members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. The constitution provides for five of the king’s 10 appointed seats in the House of Assembly to be held by women and for the appointed members to represent “interests, including marginalized groups not already adequately represented in the House.” The king appointed only three women to the House of Assembly following the 2018 elections, in which only two women were elected. If, after an election, women constitute less than 30 percent of the total membership of parliament, the constitution and law require the House to elect four additional women, one from each region. The House complied with this requirement.

The king appoints 20 members of the 30-seat Senate, and the House of Assembly elects the other 10. The constitution requires that eight of the 20 members appointed by the king be women and that five of the 10 members elected by the House be women. The House of Assembly complied by electing five women to the Senate, but the king appointed only seven women.

Widows in mourning (for periods that may extend up to two years) were prevented from appearing in certain public places or being in proximity to the king or a chief’s official residence. Widows were sometimes excluded from running for office or taking active public roles in their communities during those periods.

There were very few ethnic minorities in the country, and they were represented in government at a commensurate ratio.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and, in contrast with previous years, the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were isolated reports of government corruption during the year. Officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

Corruption: Corruption continued to be a problem, most often involving personal relationships and bribes being used to secure government contracts on large capital projects. In contrast with previous years, prosecutors pursued corruption charges against several officials, including a prominent member of parliament, and a handful of senior current and former government officials. In March, Director of Social Welfare Moses Dlamini in the deputy prime minister’s office was arrested and charged with corruption, sexual harassment, and indecent assault after allegedly demanding sexual favors from a female subordinate as a quid pro quo for approving her participation in a training course in South Africa. In May the director of public prosecutions enrolled eight additional corruption cases, including one alleging that a prominent member of parliament had misappropriated more than six million emalangeni ($360,000) of public funds.

There were credible reports that a person’s relationship with government officials influenced the awarding of government contracts; the appointment, employment, and promotion of officials; recruitment into the security services; and school admissions. In contrast with previous years, authorities took action on some nepotism cases. In May, Thembinkosi Mamba, former principal secretary in the Ministry of Justice, was charged with corruption for allegedly awarding a contract valued at more than one million emalangeni ($60,000) to his fiancee.

Although parliament’s Public Accounts Committee was limited in its authority to apply and enforce consequences except by drawing public attention to potential corruption, it continued to pursue investigations, particularly those related to public spending, and received broad media attention for its efforts.

Financial Disclosure: The constitution prohibits government officials from assuming positions in which their personal interests are likely to conflict with their official duties. The constitution requires appointed and elected officials to declare their assets and liabilities to CHRPAI. The commission is mandated to monitor and verify disclosures. There are criminal and administrative sanctions for noncompliance. Sanctions for failure to disclose assets and conflicts of interest include removal from office, disqualification from holding a public office for a period determined by a court, and confiscation of any property illegitimately acquired during tenure in office. According to the commission, the majority of those required to declare assets and liabilities did so, but the commission suspected underreporting in some cases. The commission did not make this information public.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were generally cooperative but only sometimes responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: CHRPAI is empowered by the constitution to investigate complaints of corruption, abuse of power, human rights abuses, and mismanagement of public administration. During the year CHRPAI investigated dozens of complaints, made findings of fact, appeared in court on behalf of aggrieved parties, issued recommendations to judicial and governmental bodies, and provided human rights training to law enforcement officers. Topics CHRPAI addressed included evictions, corporal punishment in schools, police torture, and prolonged detentions. CHRPAI increased cooperation and collaboration with the HMCS and REPS on human rights matters, including investigation of human rights abuses, and secured seconded staff from the HMCS and REPS to help it conduct human rights investigations.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes domestic violence and rape, including rape of a spouse or intimate partner. The penalties for conviction of rape are up to 30 years’ imprisonment for first offenders and up to 40 years’ imprisonment for repeat offenders. The penalty for conviction of domestic violence is a substantial fine, up to 15 years’ imprisonment, or both. Several convicted perpetrators received sentences of 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment, and one man was sentenced in August to a total of 55 years’ imprisonment after repeatedly raping his daughter and niece (30 years for rape and 25 for other offenses). In March prosecutors charged the director of the children’s unit in the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office, Lucky Ndlovu, with rape of a minor. Although men remained the primary perpetrators, women have also been arrested and convicted under the law.

Rape remained common, and domestic violence against women sometimes resulted in death. There were few social workers or other intermediaries to work with victims and witnesses to obtain evidence of rape and domestic violence.

Rural women who pursued prosecution for domestic violence in traditional courts often had no relief if family intervention failed, because traditional courts were less sympathetic to women and less likely than courts using Roman-Dutch-based law to convict men of spousal abuse.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Accusations of witchcraft were employed against women in family or community disputes that could lead to their being physically attacked, driven from their homes, or both.

Sexual Harassment: The law establishes broad protections against sexual harassment, with penalties if convicted of a monetary fine, 10 years’ imprisonment, or both.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children free from discrimination, coercion, or violence, but they often lacked the information and means to manage their reproductive health.

There was wide access to contraception, including in health facilities, retail stores, public restrooms, and workplaces throughout the country, and most persons had access to reproductive health and contraception information free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. The UN Population Division estimated 68 percent of girls and women ages 15-49 used a modern method of contraception during the year.

According to the World Health Organization, the maternal mortality ratio was 437 deaths per 100,000 live births. This high ratio resulted from a host of factors, one of which was the quality of medical care, but others were patient-dependent factors such as not seeking antenatal care, late presentation to facilities, and home deliveries.

The government provided reproductive health services to victims of gender-based violence.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Discrimination: Women occupied a subordinate role in society. The dualistic nature of the legal system complicated the protection of women’s rights. Since unwritten customary law and custom govern traditional marriage and certain matters of family law, women’s rights often were unclear and changed according to where and by whom they were interpreted. Couples often married in both civil and traditional ceremonies, creating problems in determining which set of rules applied to the marriage and to subsequent questions of child custody, property, and inheritance in the event of divorce or death.

In 2019 the High Court ruled common law “marital power” that formerly denied married women the right to act without their husband’s consent in many instances is unconstitutional. The High Court in 2019 also struck down sections of the law that allowed marital power and spousal property rights to be governed by Swazi law and custom.

Women faced employment discrimination and were prevented from working in some industries (see section 7.d.). The constitution provides for equal access to land, and civil law provides for women to register and administer property, execute contracts, and enter into transactions in their own names.

Girls and women in rural areas faced discrimination by community elders and authority figures. Boys received preference in education. Although customary law considers children to belong to the father and his family if the couple divorce, custody of the children of unmarried parents typically remains with the mother, unless the father claims paternity. When the husband dies, tradition dictates the widow must stay at the residence of her husband’s family in observance of a strict mourning period for one month. Media reported widows heading households sometimes became homeless and were forced to seek public assistance when the husband’s family took control of the homestead. Women in mourning attire were generally not allowed to participate in public events and were barred from interacting with royalty or entering royal premises. In some cases the mourning period lasted up to two years. No similar mourning period applied to men.

Children

The law sets the age of majority at 18. It defines child abuse and imposes penalties for abuse; details children’s legal rights and the responsibility of the state, in particular with respect to orphans and other vulnerable children; establishes structures and guidelines for restorative justice; defines child labor and exploitative child labor; and sets minimum wages for various types of child labor.

Birth Registration: Birth on the country’s territory does not convey citizenship. Under the constitution children derive citizenship from the father, unless the birth occurs outside marriage and the father does not claim paternity, in which case the child acquires the mother’s citizenship. If a Swati woman marries a foreign man, even if he is a naturalized Swati citizen, their children carry the father’s birth citizenship.

The law mandates compulsory registration of births. According to the 2014 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, 50 percent of children younger than five were registered, and 30 percent had birth certificates. Lack of birth registration may result in denial of public services, including access to education.

Education: The law requires that parents provide for their children to complete primary school. Parents who do not send their children to school through completion of primary education were required to pay fines for noncompliance. Education was tuition-free through grade seven. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister received an annual budget allocation to subsidize school fees for orphans and other vulnerable children (OVC) in both primary and secondary school. Seventy percent of children were classified as OVC and so had access to subsidized education through the secondary level.

Child Abuse: The law provides broad protections for children against abduction, sexual contact, and several other forms of abuse. The penalty for conviction of indecent treatment of children is up to 20 or 25 years’ imprisonment, depending upon the age of the victim. Child abuse remained a serious problem, especially in poor and rural households, although authorities have increased prosecutions of such abuse.

Corporal punishment was banned in schools in 2015, and the last reported incident occurred in 2019.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage is 18 for both boys and girls, but with parental consent and approval from the minister of justice, girls may marry at 16. The government recognizes two types of marriage, civil marriage and marriage under traditional law. In March prosecutors charged director of the children’s unit in the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office Lucky Ndlovu with rape of a minor whom he attempted to marry when she was age 16. Prosecutors argued that the marriage was invalid since the minor lacked the legal capacity to consent.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation, sale, offering, and procuring of children for prostitution, and practices related to child pornography; conviction of these acts carries a substantial fine, up to 25 years’ imprisonment, or both. Children were occasional victims of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. The law criminalizes “mistreatment, neglect, abandonment, or exposure of children to abuse” and imposes a statutory minimum of five years’ imprisonment if convicted. Although the law sets the age of sexual consent at 16, a 2018 law provides for a penalty of up to 20 years’ imprisonment for conviction of “maintaining a sexual relationship with a child,” defined as a relationship that involves more than one sexual act with a person younger than 18. The government enforced the law effectively, charging at least 163 individuals between January and September, prosecuting dozens of individuals, and sentencing multiple perpetrators to jail for more than 50 years in the most egregious cases.

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

Anti-Semitism

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

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law protects the rights of persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, including their access to education, employment, health services, information, communications, buildings, transportation, the judicial system, and other state services. The law mandates access to health care for persons with disabilities and accessibility to buildings, transportation, information, communications, and public services.

The Deputy Prime Minister’s Office is responsible for upholding the law and for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. The government did not effectively enforce the law. Persons with disabilities complained of government neglect and a significantly lower rate of school attendance for children with disabilities. Little progress has been made to date in expanding accessibility and access to public services for persons with disabilities, although some newer government buildings, and those under construction, included various improvements for persons with disabilities, including access ramps. Public transportation was not easily accessible for persons with disabilities, and the government did not provide any alternative means of transport.

There were only minimal services provided for persons with disabilities, and there were no programs in place to promote the rights of persons with disabilities. There was one private school for students with hearing disabilities and one private special-education school for children with physical or mental disabilities. The hospital for persons with mental disabilities, located in Manzini, was overcrowded and understaffed.

By custom, persons with disabilities may not be in the presence of the king, because they are believed to bring “bad spirits.” Persons with disabilities were sometimes neglected by families.

Members of National/Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups

Governmental and societal discrimination sometimes occurred against nonethnic Swatis, primarily persons of South Asian descent. Nonethnic Swatis sometimes experienced difficulty in obtaining official documents, including passports, and suffered from other forms of governmental and societal discrimination, such as delays in receiving building permits for houses, difficulties in applying for bank loans, and being required to obtain special permits or stamps to buy a car or house.

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

While there are colonial-era common law prohibitions against sodomy, no penalties are specified, and there has never been an arrest or prosecution for consensual same-sex conduct. The law does not prohibit discrimination against LGBTI persons in housing, employment, nationality laws, and access to government services such as health care. Societal discrimination against LGBTI persons, although gradually lessening, remained a concern, and LGBTI persons often concealed their sexual orientation and gender identity. LGBTI persons who were open regarding their sexual orientation and relationships faced censure and exclusion from the chiefdom-based patronage system. Some traditional, religious, and government officials criticized same-sex sexual conduct as neither morally Swati nor Christian. Despite these barriers, LGBTI persons conducted several well publicized public events during the year, including a virtual pride celebration and various organized dialogues, all of which occurred without incident. In contrast to prior years, the government invited outspoken LGBTI rights advocates to participate in government-hosted workshops and dialogues designed to improve public policy, promote inclusion, and develop better economic opportunities for the youth.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Although HIV-related stigma and discrimination appeared to be in decline, discriminatory attitudes and prejudice against persons with HIV persisted. Individuals with HIV reported it was difficult or uncomfortable for them to disclose their HIV status and that frequently their status was revealed to others without their permission. The armed forces encouraged testing and did not discriminate against active military members testing positive. Persons who tested HIV-positive, however, were not recruited by the armed forces.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides that workers, except for those in essential services, have the right to form and join independent unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. The law places restrictions on these rights. The law provides for the registration of unions and federations but grants far-reaching powers to the labor commissioner with respect to determining eligibility for registration.

The constitution and law provide for the right to organize and bargain collectively, subject to various legal restrictions. The law gives employers discretion as to whether to recognize a labor organization as a collective employee representative if less than 50 percent of the employees are members of the organization. If an employer agrees to recognize the organization as the workers’ representative, the law grants the employer the ability to set conditions for such recognition. The law provides for the registration of collective agreements by the Industrial Court. The court is empowered to refuse registration if an agreement conflicts with the law, provides terms and conditions of employment less favorable to employees than those provided by any law, discriminates against any person, or requires membership or nonmembership in an organization as a condition for employment. The Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration Commission (CMAC) presides over resolution of all labor disputes.

Employees not engaged in “essential services” have the right to undertake peaceful protest actions to “promote or defend socioeconomic interests” of workers. The law defines “socioeconomic interest” as including “solutions to economic and social policy questions and problems that are of direct concern to the workers but shall not include matters of a purely political nature.” The law prohibits antiunion discrimination. Extensive provisions allow workers to seek redress for alleged wrongful dismissal, and courts have broad powers to award reinstatement and retroactive compensation.

Although the law permits strikes, the right to strike is strictly regulated, and the administrative requirements to register a legal strike made striking difficult. Strikes and lockouts are prohibited in essential services, and the minister’s power to modify the list of these essential services provides for broad prohibition of strikes in sectors not normally deemed essential, including postal services, telephone, telegraph, radio, and teaching. The procedure for announcing a protest action requires advance notice of at least seven days. The law details the steps to be followed when disputes arise and provides penalties for employers who conduct unauthorized lockouts. When disputes arose with civil servant unions, the government often intervened to reduce the chances of a protest action, which may not be called legally until alternative dispute resolution mechanisms before CMAC are exhausted and a secret ballot of union members conducted. The commissioner of labor has the power to “intervene” in labor disputes before they are reported to the commission if there is reason to believe a dispute could have serious consequences for the employers, workers, or the economy if not resolved promptly.

The government generally enforced the law, although labor inspectors lacked authorization to assess penalties and had insufficient resources to enforce compliance.

In August the government and labor unions resolved a years-long dispute over annual cost-of-living adjustments to public-sector wages, signing a collective agreement to memorialize the settlement. Resolution of the case removed a major irritant in government-labor relations. Most observers agreed the absence of public demonstrations was probably due to COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings.

To protect employee welfare and prevent exploitation, the government has legal restrictions on labor brokers who recruit domestically for foreign contracts of employment, but these were inconsistently enforced.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor and imposes penalties commensurate with similar crimes. Government did not enforce the law in all sectors. Forced labor occurred almost exclusively in the informal sector, where labor laws applied but were rarely enforced.

Forced labor, including forced child labor, takes place in the sectors of domestic work, agriculture, and market vending.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law does not prohibit all of the worst forms of child labor. The minimum age for employment is 15, for night work 16, and for hazardous employment 18. The Employment Act, however, does not extend minimum age protections to children working in domestic or agricultural work. The law also prohibits children younger than 18 from engaging in hazardous work in industrial undertakings, including mining, manufacturing, and electrical work, but these prohibitions do not address hazardous work in the agriculture sector. The law limits the number of night hours children may work on school days to six and the overall hours per week to 33.

The Ministry of Labor, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister through the Department of Social Welfare, and REPS are responsible for enforcement of laws relating to child labor. The government did not effectively enforce laws combating child labor. The government did not dedicate sufficient resources to combat child labor, coordinate effectively among different sectors, or provide labor inspectors sufficient authority in the informal sector, where the majority of child labor took place.

Penalties for conviction of child labor violations were commensurate with those for similar laws.

Children were employed in the informal sector, particularly in domestic services and agricultural work such as livestock herding. This work might involve activities that put at risk their health and safety, such as working long hours, carrying heavy loads, being exposed to pesticides, and working alone in remote areas.

Child domestic servitude was also prevalent, disproportionately affecting girls. Such work could involve long hours of work and could expose children to physical and sexual exploitation by their employer. Children’s exploitation in illicit activities was a problem. Children, particularly in rural areas, grew, manufactured, and sold cannabis.

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

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The labor law prohibits discrimination in employment and occupation based on race, gender, language, HIV/AIDS or other communicable disease status, religion, political views, or social status. The law does not prohibit discrimination based on age, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

The government did not enforce the law consistently. Gender-based discrimination in employment and occupation occurred (see section 6). While women have constitutional rights to equal pay and treatment and may take jobs without the permission of a male relative, there were few effective measures protecting women from discrimination in hiring, particularly in the private sector. The average wage rates for men by skill category consistently exceeded those of women.

Persons with disabilities faced discrimination in hiring and access to work areas. The government did not effectively raise awareness of or enforce disability and employment law provisions. Openly LGBTI persons were subject to discrimination in employment and to social censure.

Migrant workers enjoy the same legal protections, wages, and working conditions as citizens but sometimes faced discrimination in employment due to societal prejudice against foreigners.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no national minimum wage. The Ministry of Labor and Social Security sets wage scales for each industry. There is a legally mandated sliding scale of minimum wages depending on the type of work performed. Minimum wages are above the poverty line in all sectors.

There is a standard 48-hour workweek for most workers and a 72-hour workweek for security guards spread over a period of six days. The law requires all workers to have at least one day of rest per week and provides for premium pay for overtime. Most workers received paid annual leave and sick leave.

The government set appropriate safety standards for industrial operations and encouraged private companies to develop accident prevention programs. By law workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. Authorities did not effectively protect employees in this situation.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Security is responsible for enforcement of labor laws but did not effectively enforce them. The government did not dedicate sufficient resources to enforcement, resulting in constraints such as a lack of motor vehicles and inability to hire additional staff. The number of labor inspectors was insufficient to enforce the law, and while the labor commissioner’s office conducted inspections in the formal sector, it did not conduct inspections in the informal sector.

Labor laws are applicable to the informal sector but were seldom enforced. Most workers were in the informal sector, but credible data on the proportion were not available. Workers in the informal sector, particularly foreign migrant workers, children, and women, risked facing hazardous and exploitative conditions. Minimum wage guidelines do not apply to the informal sector.

Public transportation workers complained that they were required to work 12 hours a day or more without overtime compensation and that they were not entitled to pensions and other benefits.

Credible data on workplace fatalities and accidents were not available.

Sierra Leone

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

The law prohibits such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them. NGOs reported, however, that security forces used excessive force to manage civil protests in Freetown and provincial town (see section 1.a.).

Impunity remained a significant problem in the security forces, notably in the Sierra Leone Police (SLP). Observers noted police lacked training on crowd control and on human rights topics.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but human rights groups such as Amnesty International and the HRCSL indicated that police occasionally arrested and detained persons arbitrarily, including members of an opposition party. The government allows the SLP and the chiefdom police to hold suspects in police detention cells without charge or explanation for up to three days for suspected misdemeanors and up to 10 days for suspected felonies. The NGO Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI) reported cases of illegal detentions at several police stations and the Freetown Male Correctional Center. Chiefs sometimes subjected both adults and children to arbitrary detention and imprisoned them unlawfully in their homes or “chiefdom jails.”

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

The law requires warrants for searches and arrests of persons taken into custody on criminal grounds, but arrests without warrants were common. CHRDI reported some arrests were made without warrants and that the SLP in some instances did not follow proper arrest procedures.

The law requires authorities to inform detainees of the reason for their arrest within 24 hours and charge them in court within 72 hours for suspected misdemeanors or within 10 days for suspected felonies. Detainees, however, were not always informed promptly of charges brought against them. According to Prison Watch, authorities routinely brought remanded (detained pretrial) inmates to court on a weekly basis to be remanded again to circumvent the legal restrictions.

The judiciary applied the bail system inconsistently and sometimes demanded excessive bond fees.

Detainees have the right to access family members and to consult with an attorney in a timely manner. Lawyers generally were allowed unrestricted access to detainees. According to the director of public prosecution and the office of the Legal Aid Board, an estimated 80 percent of inmates received legal representation, while the CHRDI reported 40 percent of accused persons received legal representation. Only defendants in the military justice system had automatic access to attorneys, whose fees the Ministry of Defense paid. Although there were 53 active state counsels (public defenders), the majority worked in the capital and were often overburdened, poorly paid, and available only for more serious criminal cases.

Arbitrary Arrest: There were reports of individuals held for questioning for longer than permissible under law.

On May 1, police arrested Sylvia Blyden, former minister of social welfare, gender and children’s affairs and a journalist and opposition All People’s Congress (APC) party member, for alleged libel offenses involving social media posts critical of the government. Police detained her beyond the 72 hours legal limit provided by law. On May 29, authorities released Blyden on bail but then re-arrested her June 2 for allegedly violating bail conditions. On June 25, police released Blyden again on bail. The charges were dropped after the law criminalizing seditious libel was amended in August.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem. As of September of the 3,808 persons held in prisons and detention centers, 33 percent were convicted, 41 percent were in pretrial detention, and 26 percent were on trial. The SLCS attributed the high percentage of pretrial detainees to a severe shortage of legal professionals. A donor-funded program identified other specific reasons for extensive pretrial detention, such as magistrates and judges not consistently granting bail when warranted, the Ministry of Justice Law Officers Department often failing to bring indictments, and inadequate information exchange and case management across the criminal justice system. Pretrial and remand detainees spent an average of three to five years in pretrial detention before courts examined their cases or filed formal charges. In extreme cases the wait could be as long as 12 years.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary. Observers, including NGOs, assessed the judiciary maintained relative independence.

In addition to the formal court system, local chieftaincy courts administer customary law with lay judges, primarily in rural areas. Appeals from these lower courts are heard by the magistrate courts. Paramount chiefs in villages maintained their own police and courts to enforce customary local law. Chieftaincy police and courts exercised authority to arrest, try, and incarcerate individuals. Traditional trials were generally fair, but there was credible evidence that corruption influenced many cases. Paramount chiefs acting as judges routinely accepted bribes and favored wealthier defendants. In response in 2019 the government sent 36 paralegals to rural areas to provide access to justice and training for chiefdom officials.

The limited number of judicial magistrates and lawyers, along with high court fees, restricted access to justice for most citizens. Since 2019, six new judges were appointed to the High Court and one to the Court of Appeal.

The military justice system has a different appeals process. For summary hearings the defendant may appeal for the redress of a complaint, which proceeds to the next senior ranking officer, while the civilian Supreme Court hears appeals in a court-martial. According to civil society members and government interlocutors, corruption is prevalent in the redress system.

Authorities at all levels of government generally respected court orders.

Trial Procedures

The law provides for the right to a fair trial for all defendants, but this right was not always enforced.

Defendants enjoy the right to a timely trial, but the lack of judicial officers and facilities regularly resulted in long trial delays. Some cases reportedly were adjourned 20 to 30 times. Trials are public, but NGOs reported that due to corruption they were not always fair. Defendants generally enjoyed a presumption of innocence. While defendants have the right to be present and to consult with an attorney in a timely manner, some defendants were not afforded access to counsel. Although the law provides for attorneys at public expense if defendants are not able to afford their own attorneys, these attorneys were overburdened with cases, and often defendants who could not afford to pay for an attorney had no access to legal aid prior to trial.

Defendants were not always informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them and did not always have access to free assistance from an interpreter as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. Defendants generally had adequate time to prepare their defenses, although they generally did not have adequate facilities to do so. Defendants may confront or question witnesses against them, and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Police officers, many of whom had little or no formal legal training, prosecuted some of cases on the magistrate level. Defendants have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Although the law provides defendants with the right to appeal, delays in the appeals process were excessive, sometimes lasting more than two years. The law extends these rights to all defendants.

Traditional justice systems continued to supplement the central government judiciary, especially in rural areas, in cases involving family law, inheritance, and land tenure. The customary law guiding these courts was not codified, however, and decisions in similar cases were inconsistent. Paramount chiefs have authority over civil matters, such as land disputes, and referred criminal cases to police for investigation and prosecution. Local chieftains at times exceeded their mandates and administered harsh punishments.

Laws on gender equality were inconsistently enforced, and many traditional courts continued to ignore the rights of women regarding family law and inheritance. Juveniles were afforded few rights in the traditional justice system.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

Both the central government judiciary and customary law courts handled civil complaints. Corruption influenced some cases and judgments, and awards were inconsistent. Individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights abuses through regular access to domestic courts. Individuals may also seek redress from regional bodies, such as the Economic Community of West African States Court of Justice.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions. There were, however, reports the government used technology to surveil a journalist and opposition activist (see section 1.d., Arbitrary Arrest–case of Sylvia Blyden).

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press

The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and press, and the government generally respected these rights, but there were exceptions.

Freedom of Speech: On July 23, parliament approved the Public Order Amendment Act 2020 decriminalizing seditious libel and slander. President Bio signed the amended act on August 14. Media organizations and NGOs welcomed the amendment, which repealed part of the Public Order Act of 1965, a law previously used to impede witness testimony in anticorruption and other cases, and to target persons making statements the government considered against the national interest.

The HRCSL and Amnesty International reported no arrests or detentions in relation to freedom of expression.

Freedom of Press and Media, Including Online Media: Most registered newspapers were independent, although several were associated with political parties. Newspapers openly and routinely criticized the government and its officials as well as opposition parties. While independent broadcast media generally operated without restriction, there were exceptions. International media could operate freely but were required to register with the Ministry of Information and Communications and the government-funded Independent Media Commission to obtain a license.

Violence and Harassment: There were reports authorities used violence and harassment against journalists. In April Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces personnel beat two journalists, Fayia Amara Fayia and Stanley Sahr Jimmy, after Fayia photographed a COVID-19 quarantine center. The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) condemned the incident and urged the military and police to investigate. Authorities charged the journalists with riotous conduct, and the case continued at the High Court in Kenema.

Libel/Slander Laws: Parliament on July 23 approved the Public Order Amendment Act, which also decriminalized criminal and seditious libel. President Bio signed the amended act on August 14. According to the SLAJ, during the year at least six journalists were arrested under criminal libel law on allegations of defamation and libel.

Internet Freedom

There were no reports that the government restricted or disrupted access to the internet. There were credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority (see section 1.d, Arbitrary Arrest–Sylvia Blyden case).

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

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

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of assembly and association, and the government generally respected the right of freedom of association.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

In a March 24 address, President Julius Maada Bio declared a 12-month state of emergency due to COVID-19. Parliament approved the measure, which granted the president broad powers to maintain peace and order, including mandating restrictions on movement. The March state of emergency declaration related to COVID-19 included restrictions on assembly, as it banned meetings of more than 100 persons.

In a few cases, police used excessive force when dealing with demonstrators and used public order law to deny requests for protests and demonstrations (see section 1.a.).

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement

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

In-country Movement: In response to COVID-19, in April the government limited interdistrict movement to essential services, and implemented a countrywide curfew. President Bio lifted the restrictions on June 24. On July 20, the government suspended the ban restricting public movement on the first Saturday of each month to support a nationwide cleaning exercise.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

In January 2019 members of a traditional secret society reportedly attacked an Ahmadiyya Muslim community in a village in the Kenema District to initiate forcibly three young men, an incident which ignited confrontation between the society and the Ahmadiyya community and led to the displacement of approximately 90 Ahmadiyya members to the provincial capital, Kenema city. The regional minister and a local authority from the displaced community reported that the persons displaced returned to their communities later in 2019.

f. Protection of Refugees

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

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for protecting refugees. UNHCR worked with government authorities to develop standard operating procedures for refugee status determination.

g. Stateless Persons

More than 400 former Liberian refugees remained without legal status in the country. Their refugee status expired in 2017 when they became “residual caseloads” under UNHCR protection. They refused repatriation and integration and demanded resettlement in a third country. UNHCR denied their resettlement, citing the former refugees’ contradictory statements. The group applied for local national identification documents, but authorities had not acted on these applications as of year’s end.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

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

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The March 2018 presidential election, in which Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) prevailed, and the January 2018 parliamentary election, were regarded by most observers as free and fair. Several parliamentary and local re-run and by-elections held on December 12 were regarded as free and fair. There were no national level elections held during the year.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Political parties were free to register and operate in the country. A total of 17 political parties were registered with the Political Parties Registration Commission but only four were elected into parliament during the 2018 general elections. Fourteen traditional authorities (paramount chiefs) and three independent candidates were represented in the state legislature. The NGO Center for Accountability and Rule of Law reported clashes in Freetown between supporters of the APC and SLPP took place in January. In a January 27 incident, 27 persons were reportedly wounded. Police arrested 19 persons after the clash; all were later released on bail.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Women have the right to vote and did cast votes at similar rates as men. A 2018 poll by the International Republican Institute found women most frequently cited fear of violence, cultural norms, and lack of support from political parties as reasons why they avoided a more active role in politics. Women were underrepresented in government. Of the 146 parliamentarians, 17 were women, one fewer than in 2019. As of September women led five of the 26 ministries. On the three highest courts, 10 of 35 judges were women. Cultural and traditional practices in the northern areas of the country prevented women from holding office as paramount chiefs (a parallel system of tribal government operated in each of the 190 chiefdoms).

All citizens have the right to vote, but citizenship at birth is granted only to persons of “Negro-African” descent, thus disenfranchising the significant number of Lebanese and other “non-Negro-African” persons who were born in and continued to reside in the country. Persons of “non-Negro-African” groups may apply to be naturalized. If naturalized they are eligible to vote in all national and local elections, but no naturalized citizen may run for public office.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. Officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. During the year there were fewer reports of government corruption compared with 2019.

Corruption: During 2019 the Anticorruption Commission (ACC) indicted and charged more than 33 persons, convicted 16 individuals, and recovered more than 17.8 billion leones ($1.97 million) from corrupt government officials. On March 4, the High Court convicted Alfred Kallon, former Human Resource Officer at the Office of Administrator and Registrar General, on 34 counts of corruption offenses. Kallon was accused of using his office improperly to facilitate the issuance of official service passports for unauthorized individuals. Justice Miata Samba ruled that Kallon pay a substantial monetary fine of or serve three years in prison.

In 2019 a survey by Transparency International found that 52 percent of the residents of the country had paid a bribe for public services, with the highest rate of bribery for health services. In Transparency International’s previous 2015 survey, 41 percent reported paying bribes.

In May 2019 the judiciary assigned five high court justices to a new Anti-Corruption Court to deal with corruption cases brought by the ACC. During the year, these judges separately presided over anticorruption cases. In October 2019 parliament passed a law that increased penalties for corruption and provided the ACC with alternative powers to prosecution, including out-of-court settlements to recoup stolen monies. The law also strengthened protection for witnesses and whistleblowers in cases of corruption. During the year, Anti-Corruption Commissioner Kaifala stated that the provisions of the law had assisted in several continuing corruption investigations.

In April the Center for Accountability and Rule of Law published a perception survey indicating the SLP, Parliament, and Ministry of Health and Sanitation were the most corrupt institutions in the country.

Some police and guards exacted bribes at checkpoints, falsely charged motorists with violations, impounded vehicles to extort money, and accepted bribes from suspects to drop charges or to arrest their rivals and charge them with crimes. In exchange for kickbacks, police reportedly arrested persons for civil disputes, such as alleged breach of contract or failure to satisfy a debt.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires public officers, their spouses, and their children to declare their assets and liabilities within three months of assuming office, and according to the ACC, officials largely complied. The law further requires public officials to declare their assets no later than three months after the end of their employment.

The law also mandates disclosure of assets by government ministers and members of parliament. The ACC is empowered to verify asset disclosures and may publish in media the names of those who refuse to disclose and petition courts to compel disclosure. The particulars of individual declarations were not available to the public without a court order.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restrictions, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to the views of local and international NGOs and generally acknowledged the problems presented. The government, including security forces, generally responded to human rights concerns raised by the HRCSL but was at times slow to support the HRCSL or implement its recommendations.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Parliamentary Human Rights Committee operated without government or party interference. It focused on keeping human rights matters on the parliamentary agenda, paving the way for the passage of amended laws such as the repeal during the year of the 1965 Public Order Act criminalizing libel and sedition and the ratification of international conventions, as well as doing public outreach. Separately, the HRCSL, modeled in accord with the UN Paris Principles, monitored and investigated human rights abuses.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of both men and women. In February 2019, President Bio declared a State of Emergency against rape and other sexual violence. In September 2019 parliament passed new legislation that raised the penalty for those convicted of rape to a minimum of 15 years’ imprisonment (see also section 6, Sexual Exploitation of Children). Previously, a conviction was punishable by between five- and 15-years’ imprisonment, although many offenders were given lesser prison terms. Rape was common and viewed more as a societal norm than a criminal problem. The law specifically prohibits spousal rape. Indictments were rare, especially in rural areas. The lack of an effective judicial system continued to foster impunity for offenders, which helped perpetuate violence against women. During the year, the Family Support Unit (FSU) within the SLP reported increased cases of rape and sexual assault.

On July 24, President Bio launched the country’s first Sexual Offences Model Court with 20 judges to address sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) cases. In his statement, Bio stated the special sexual offenses court is aimed at addressing the increasing number of SGBV cases in the country. On July 9, President Bio announced a “One-Stop Centers Initiative” piloted in six government hospitals across the country, where SGBV survivors can access medical, psychosocial, and legal support.

According to the local NGO Rainbo Initiative, there were 1,272 sexual assaults reported in five districts with 217 pregnancies between January and May. Rainbo Initiative further estimated 3,701 sexual assault cases, 598 pregnancies resulting from assaults, and 255 successful prosecutions in 2019.

Violent acts against women, especially wife beating and spousal rape, were common and often surrounded by a culture of silence. Conviction of domestic violence is punishable by a substantial fine and two years’ imprisonment. Survivors seldom reported SGBV due to their fear of social stigma and retaliation. The HRCSL observed that the incidence of gender-based violence continued to rise while arrests and convictions of perpetrators were negligible. A psychosocial worker of the NGO Rainbo Center blamed the structure of the justice system and lengthy court processes for the delay in accessing justice. First Lady Fatima Bio and NGOs such as the Rainbo Center actively promoted public awareness, calling on men to refrain from violence against women.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law does not prohibit FGM/C for women or girls. According to a 2017 UNICEF report, 86.1 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 have undergone a form of FGM/C. FGM/C is considered a traditional rite of passage into womanhood. UNICEF polling indicated that societal support for FGM/C remained strong in the country. FGM/C was excluded from the First Lady’s “Hands Off Our Girls” Campaign in 2019 that called for an end to child marriage and sexual violence. In December 2019 approximately 70 initiates aged above 19 underwent the Bondo secret society ceremony without the ritual circumcision as part of an initiative of the NGO Amazonian Initiative Movement. This alternative rite of passage was preceded by dozens of cutters (soweis) handing in their knives to demonstrate their commitment to refraining from cutting. The soweis signed a declaration against practicing FGM/C, preceded by the 2015 MOU the local soweis signed with the UN Population Fund to abandon harmful practices including FGM/C.

Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes sexual harassment, but authorities did not always effectively enforce it. It is unlawful to make unwanted sexual advances, repeatedly follow or pursue others against their will, initiate repeated and unwanted communications with others, or engage in any other “menacing” behavior. Conviction of sexual harassment is punishable by a substantial fine or imprisonment not exceeding three years. No reliable data was available on the prevalence of sexual harassment.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, timing, and spacing of their children, and they have the right to manage their reproductive health free from coercion, discrimination, or violence, although they sometimes lacked the information and means to enjoy these rights.

Religious, social, and cultural barriers adversely limited access to contraception. The law prohibits individuals younger than the age of consent from access to contraception. The availability of contraception at health facilities varied, and individuals did not have consistent access to their specific method of choice. The inaccessibility of contraceptives for adolescents contributed to the adolescent birth rate of 101 births per 1,000 girls ages 15-19. The proportion of women of reproductive age who had their need for family planning satisfied with modern methods was 57 percent. Modern contraceptive prevalence rates for women and girls ages15 to 49 was 21 percent.

The government established “one-stop centers” for survivors of gender-based violence in six districts across the country in government referral hospitals in Moyamba, Kailahun, Pujehun, Kabala, Port Loko, and the King Harman Road Government Referral Hospital. These centers provided comprehensive care including psychosocial, legal, medical, and shelter assistance to survivors of sexual violence, including access to sexual and reproductive health services.

No legal barriers or government policies hindered access to safe and quality maternal health-care services, including access to skilled health attendants during pregnancy and childbirth, but social or cultural barriers sometimes limited such access. According to the UNFPA, maternal mortality rate in 2017 was 1,120 per 100,000 live births, and 87 percent of births were attended by a skilled health attendant.

Major factors in the high maternal death rate included poverty; distance to medical facilities; lack of access to sufficient information about availability of health-care services; inadequate and poor-quality services, especially in remote settings; cultural beliefs and practices; early marriages and childbearing; delay in decision making to seek health-care service; and malnutrition.

According to the Ministry of Health, FGM/C increased the risk of childbirth complications, maternal death, and infertility–in addition to posing health risks associated with the procedure itself.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for men and women under family, labor, property, and inheritance law. Women continued to experience discriminatory practices. Their rights and positions are largely contingent on customary law and the ethnic group to which they belong. The law provides for both Sierra Leonean fathers and mothers to confer nationality to children born abroad. The law provides for equal remuneration for equal work without discrimination based on gender. Both spouses may acquire property in their own right, and women may obtain divorces without being forced to relinquish dowries.

Authorities at the Ministry of Social Welfare Affairs reported that women faced widespread societal discrimination, particularly in matters of marriage, divorce, property, and inheritance, which are guided by customary law in all areas except Freetown. Formal law applies in customary as well as formal courts, but customary judges had limited or no legal training and often were unaware of formal law or chose to ignore it. Women’s rights and status under customary law varied significantly depending upon the ethnic group to which they belonged, but such rights and status were routinely inferior to those of men. Under customary law, women’s status in society is equal to that of a minor. Women were frequently perceived to be the property of their husbands and to be inherited on his death with his other property.

Discrimination occurred in access to credit, equal pay for similar work, and the ownership and management of a business. Women did not have equal access to education, economic opportunities, health facilities, or social freedoms. In rural areas, women performed much of the subsistence farming and had little opportunity for formal education (see also section 7.d.).

The Ministry of Social Welfare has a mandate to protect the rights of women, but most international and domestic NGOs asserted the ministry did not have the resources, infrastructure, and support of other ministries to handle its assigned projects effectively. The ministry routinely relied on the assistance of international organizations and NGOs to help combat women’s rights abuses.

Children

Birth Registration: Although the constitution explicitly prohibits discrimination based on race, tribe, gender, place of origin, political opinion, color, and religion, the constitution also denies citizenship at birth to persons who are not of “Negro-African descent.” Non-Africans who have lived in the country for at least eight years (two years for foreigners married to Sierra Leonean citizens) may apply for naturalization, subject to presidential approval. Citizenship derived by birth is restricted to children with at least one parent or grandparent of Negro-African descent who was born in the country. Children not meeting the criteria must be registered in their parents’ countries of origin.

In 2016 parliament established the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA). The NCRA is responsible for the recording of vital events including births, deaths, marriages, divorces, annulments, adoptions, legitimization, and recognition of citizens and noncitizens. The NCRA is mandated to maintain an Integrated National Civil Register. Until the outbreak of COVID-19, the NCRA was scheduled to begin operations on March 24, but the start of operations has been delayed.

The NCRA also generates and assigns unique National Identification Numbers and issues multipurpose national identity cards to citizens and other residents. It confirms personal details of citizens and noncitizen residents whose information is in the NCRA’s database and records those who have not registered with the authority. Lack of registration did not affect access to public services or result in statelessness.

Education: On March 30, President Bio and the minister of basic and senior secondary education announced the immediate end to a ban on visibly pregnant girls and teenage mothers attending school. The 10-year-old ban was characterized as divisive and discriminatory. In December 2019 the Economic Community of West Africa Court of Justice ruled that the government’s policy against pregnant girls attending school breached their rights to access education. The change in policy has resulted in more pregnant girls attending school. During the year the Ministry of Education reported that approximately 1,572 pregnant girls took the West African Examination Council exam and the Basic Education Certificate Examination.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits child abuse, including sexual abuse of children. A pattern of violence against and abuse of children existed, and according to the FSU, it increased when schools were closed. FSU personnel were trained in dealing with sexual violence against children, and cases of child sexual abuse generally were taken more seriously than adult rape cases.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18. According to UNICEF’s world children report of 2017, 39 percent of girls in the country are married before their 18th birthday and 13 percent before their 15th birthday. The report stated that child marriage in the country is linked to poverty and lack of education, and it varied among regions of the country. According to the 2019 Demographic Health Survey, 21 percent of girls in the country were pregnant or had given birth before the age of 19. In addition to the first lady’s Let Girls be Girls, Not Mothers project, President Bio in February 2019 declared a state of emergency over sexual and gender-based violence in the country. Also in July he launched the first Sexual Offences Model Court for rape proceedings.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age of consensual sex is 18. Although the law criminalizes the sexual exploitation of children, sale of children, child trafficking, and child pornography, enforcement remained a challenge and conviction numbers remained low. In many cases of sexual assault of children, parents accepted payment instead of taking the perpetrator to court due to difficulties dealing with the justice system, fear of public shame, and economic hardship.

In September 2019 parliament passed a law that increased the maximum penalty for rape and sexual penetration of a minor from 15-years’ to life imprisonment. The law also increased the minimum sentence for rape of a minor to 15 years in prison and made provisions for the introduction of a new “aggravated sexual assault” offense.

Child sex trafficking–especially of children from poor homes–is a serious problem, including at beaches and in nightclubs. Local demand fueled the majority of child sex trafficking cases, although foreign tourists were also clients at beaches and nightclubs.

Displaced Children: In 2019 the NGO Help a Needy Child International reported that approximately 50,000 children worked and lived on the street, with 45,000 of them engaged in artisanal gravel production in the Western Area.

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

Anti-Semitism

There was no Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment and provision of state services, including judicial services. The government did not effectively implement the law and programs to provide access to buildings, information, and communications. The government-funded Commission on Persons with Disabilities is charged with protecting the rights and promoting the welfare of persons with disabilities. In view of the high rate of general unemployment, work opportunities for persons with disabilities were limited, and begging was commonplace. Children with disabilities were also less likely to attend school than other children. According to the Coordinator of the National Disability Coalition, during the year the coalition received no complaints of employment denial on the basis of disability. The coalition stated the actual number of incidents is likely much higher.

There was considerable discrimination against persons with mental disabilities. The vast majority of persons with mental disabilities received no treatment or public services. At the Sierra Leone Psychiatric Hospital in Kissy, the only inpatient psychiatric institution that served persons with mental disabilities, authorities reported that only one consulting psychiatrist was available, patients were not provided sufficient food, and restraints were primitive and dehumanizing. The hospital lacked running water and had only sporadic electricity. Only basic medications were available.

The Ministry of Health and Sanitation is responsible for providing free primary health-care services to persons with polio and diabetic retinopathy as well as to blind or deaf persons. The ministry did not provide these services consistently, and organizations reported many persons with disabilities had limited access to medical and rehabilitative care. At year’s end the ministry had not established the legally required medical board to issue Permanent Disability Certificates that would make persons with disabilities eligible for all the rights and privileges provided by law. The Ministry of Social Welfare has a mandate to provide policy oversight for problems affecting persons with disabilities but had limited capacity to do so.

Members of National/Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups

Strong ethnic loyalties, biases, and stereotypes existed among all ethnic groups. Ethnic loyalty was an important factor in the government, armed forces, and business. Complaints of ethnic discrimination in government appointments, contract assignments were common. Little ethnic segregation was apparent in urban areas, where interethnic marriage was common.

Residents of non-African descent faced some institutionalized discrimination, particularly in the areas of citizenship and nationality (see sections 3, Participation of Women and Minorities, and 6, Birth Registration).

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

An 1861 law criminalizes same-sex sexual activity between men. There is no legal prohibition against same-sex sexual activity between women. The law, which carries a penalty of life imprisonment for “indecent assault” upon a man or 10 years’ imprisonment for attempting such an assault, was not enforced. The constitution does not offer protection from discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) civil society groups alleged that because the law prohibits same-sex sexual activity between men, it limits LGBTI persons from exercising their freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly. The law, however, does not restrict the rights of persons to speak out on LGBTI human rights. No hate crime law covers bias-motivated violence against LGBTI persons. The law does not address transgender persons.

A few organizations, including Dignity Association, supported LGBTI persons, but they maintained low profiles. Although LGBTI groups noted that police bias against LGBTI individuals had not disappeared, they did report that police were increasingly treating LGBTI persons with understanding.

LGBTI advocates reported that the community faced challenges ranging from violence, stigma, discrimination, blackmailing, and public attack to denial of public services such as health care and justice. Advocates reported LGBTI persons faced no discrimination in schools. The government reportedly registered a transsexual organization in 2018, and advocates stated they have engaged with the HRCSL on LGBTI matters.

It was difficult for LGBTI individuals to receive health services; many chose not to seek medical testing or treatment due to fear their right to confidentiality would be ignored. Obtaining secure housing was also a problem for LGBTI persons. Families frequently shunned their LGBTI children, leading some to turn to commercial sex to survive. Adults risked having their leases terminated if their LGBTI status became public. Women in the LGBTI community reported social discrimination from male LGBTI persons and the general population.

As of September there was no information regarding any official action by government authorities to investigate or punish public entities or private persons complicit in abuses against LGBTI persons.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The law prohibits discrimination based on actual, perceived, or suspected HIV status, but society stigmatized persons with HIV/AIDS. The Network of HIV Positive in Sierra Leone in 2017 informed stakeholders and government officials that HIV/AIDS stigma was on the increase. A study published by the journal BMC Public Health in February on Ebola-related stigma and its association with informal healthcare utilization among Ebola survivors indicated that HIV/AIDS patients share similar psychosocial challenges with Ebola survivors in terms of social isolation, fear of contagion, and family and community stigma and discrimination.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law allows workers in both the public and private sectors to join independent unions of their choice without prior authorization, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes, but it prohibits police and members of the armed services from joining unions or engaging in strike actions. The law allows workers to organize but does not prohibit discrimination against union members or prohibit employer interference in the establishment of unions. The government may require that workers provide written notice to police of an intent to strike at least 21 days before the planned strike. The law prohibits workers at certain specified public utilities from going on strike. Labor union officials, however, pointed out that public utility workers frequently went on strike (and were in fact among those union employees most likely to strike), the legal prohibition notwithstanding.

The government generally protected the right to bargain collectively. Collective bargaining was widespread in the formal sector, and most enterprises were covered by collective bargaining agreements on wages and working conditions. Although the law protects collective bargaining activity, the law required that it must take place in trade group negotiating councils, each of which must have an equal number of employer and worker representatives. There were no other limits on the scope of collective bargaining or legal exclusions of other particular groups of workers from legal protections.

While labor unions reported that the government generally protected the right of workers in the private sector to form or join unions, the government has not enforced applicable law through regulatory or judicial action. Penalties were not commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights.

The government generally respected freedom of association. All unions were independent of political parties and the government. In some cases, however, such as the Sierra Leone Teachers’ Union, the union and government had a close working relationship. There were no reports of labor union members being arrested during the year for participating in industrial actions or other union activities.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The constitution prohibits all forms of forced and compulsory labor, including by children. Penalties for both forced labor include imprisonment, fines, or both. By law individual chiefs may impose forced labor (compulsory cultivation) as punishment. The government stated to the International Labor Organization that this provision is unconstitutional and unenforceable, but sporadic incidences of its use have been reported in previous years. Chiefs also required villagers to contribute to the improvement of common areas. There was no penalty for noncompliance.

The government improved enforcement of the antitrafficking in persons law and in February secured two convictions against traffickers resulting in jail sentences for the first time in 15 years. The pair allegedly trafficked at least nine victims into debt bondage in Oman. Penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, but the government did not effectively enforce laws against forced labor that occurred within the country.

Men, women, and child victims of forced labor originated largely from rural provinces within the country and were recruited to urban areas for artisanal and granite mining, petty trading, rock breaking, fishing and agriculture, domestic servitude, and begging (see also section 7.c. and section 6, Sexual Exploitation of Children). The Ministry of Social Welfare reported it was aware of trafficking, domestic service, mining, or other activities, but it had no specific data on these forms of forced or compulsory labor.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law does not prohibit or criminalize all of the worst forms of child labor. There is no law prohibiting the use, procurement, or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs. The law limits child labor, allowing light work, the conditions of which are not adequately defined by the law, at age 13, full-time nonhazardous work at 15, and hazardous work at 18. The law states that children younger than age 13 should not be employed in any capacity. Provided they have finished schooling, children age 15 may be apprenticed and employed full time in nonhazardous work. The law also proscribes work by any child younger than age 18 between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. While the law does not stipulate specific conditions of work, such as health and safety standards, it prohibits children younger than age 18 from being engaged in hazardous work, which the law defines as work that poses a danger to the health, safety, and “morals” of a person, including going to sea; mining and quarrying; porterage of heavy loads; chemicals manufacturing; work in places where machines are used; and work in places such as bars, hotels, and places of entertainment where a child may be exposed to “immoral behavior.” The prohibitions on hazardous work for children, including quarrying and sand mining, do not adequately cover the sectors where child labor is known to occur.

In remote villages children were forced to carry heavy loads as porters, which contributed to stunted growth and development. There were reports that children whose parents sent them to friends or relatives in urban areas for education were forced to work on the street, where they were involved in street vending, stealing, and begging.

The government did not effectively enforce applicable child labor-related law, in part due to lack of funding, the limited numbers of labor inspectors in areas where child labor was prevalent, and the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The legal penalty for employing children in hazardous work or for violating age restrictions was not commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes.

According to the NGO GOAL Ireland, more than 45 percent of children aged 5-17 were engaged in child labor, with more than 20 percent involved in dangerous work. Children were on the streets selling water, groundnuts, cucumbers, and other items. Children engaged in petty trading, carrying heavy loads, breaking rocks, harvesting sand, begging, diamond mining, deep-sea fishing, agriculture (production of coffee, cocoa, and palm oil), domestic work, commercial sex, scavenging for scrap metal and other recyclables, and other hazardous work. Larger mining companies enforced strict rules against child labor, but it remained a pressing problem in small-scale informal artisanal diamond and gold mining.

As in previous years, many children worked alongside parents or relatives and abandoned educational or vocational training. In rural areas children worked seasonally on family subsistence farms. Children also routinely assisted in family businesses and worked as petty vendors. There were reports that adults asked orphanages for children to work as household help. Because the adult unemployment rate remained high, few children were involved in the industrial sector or elsewhere in the formal economy.

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

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits most discrimination with respect to employment and occupation. The constitution prohibits discrimination based on religion, national origin or citizenship, social origin, age, language, HIV status or that of other communicable diseases, sexual orientation, or gender identity. NGOs at times expressed concerns that discrimination appeared to occur based on sex, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity with respect to employment and occupation. Women experienced discrimination in access to employment and it was common for an employer to dismiss a woman if she became pregnant during her first year on the job. The law does not prohibit dismissal of pregnant workers. The law prohibits women from working in mines or any underground work site.

As of August there was no information available on whether the government enforced the applicable provisions of the law regarding combating discrimination at workplaces. Penalties were not commensurate with laws related to civil rights.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

There was a national minimum wage, but it fell below the basic poverty line in the country. The Ministry of Labor and Social Security is responsible for enforcing labor law, including the minimum wage, but the number of labor inspectors was insufficient to enforce compliance, and the penalties for noncompliance were not commensurate with those for similar crimes.

Although not stipulated by law, the customary workweek was 40 hours (60 hours for security personnel). There is no statutory definition of overtime wages to be paid if an employee’s work hours exceed 40. There is no prohibition on excessive compulsory overtime nor a requirement for paid leave or holidays.

The occupational safety and health (OSH) regulations are outdated and remained under review by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security. The government did not effectively enforce these standards in all sectors. Although the responsibility for identifying unsafe situations remains with an OSH expert and not the worker, the small number of labor inspectors was insufficient to enforce compliance. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. Inspections were reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A union may make a formal complaint about a hazardous working condition; if the complaint is rejected, the union may issue a 21-day strike notice. The law also requires employers to provide protective clothing and safety devices to employees whose work involves “risk of personal safety or potential health hazard.” The law protects both foreign and domestic workers. The law does not provide workers with the right to remove themselves from situations that endanger their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and the government took no steps to protect employees who so acted. In June frontline workers involved in the COVID-19 response went on strike over nonpayment of risk allowances that the government had committed to pay them. Doctors went on strike in July over the risk allowances as well as insufficient protective equipment provided to treat patients with COVID-19.

Violations of wage, overtime, and OSH standards were most frequent within the artisanal diamond-mining sector. Violations were common in the case of street vendors and market-stall workers, rock crushers, and day laborers, many of whom came to Freetown from elsewhere in the country to seek employment and were vulnerable to exploitation. There were numerous complaints of unpaid wages and lack of attention to injuries sustained on the job, but victims often did not know where to turn for recourse and as a result their complaints went unresolved.

Slovakia

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

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

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

The constitution and the law prohibit such practices, and the government mostly respected these provisions.

In August a Bratislava district court acquitted a police officer in the 2017 case of alleged police abuse during witness interrogation at the Senec police station. The court concluded that the witness was apparently subjected to brutal physical violence but that evidence against the police officer was insufficient. An appeal was pending. During the investigation of the incident, a leaked recording revealed that the head of the criminal investigation unit advised his subordinates to coordinate their testimony to present a consistent narrative of the event. Police inspectors charged the police unit head with abetting the crime. Court proceedings were pending.

A report released in June 2019 by the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) found a number of credible allegations of deliberate physical mistreatment consisting of kicks and baton blows prior to or immediately following police arrest. The report also cited allegations of threats and verbal abuse by police officers. The CPT criticized the continuing practice of handcuffing detained persons to wall fixtures or similar objects in police establishments for several hours and occasionally overnight.

Impunity was a problem in the security forces. The Control and Inspection Service of the Ministry of Interior still dismissed or discontinued most investigations into cases involving injuries allegedly caused by police.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and the law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

The constitution and law stipulate that authorities may take a person into custody only for explicit reasons and must inform a detainee immediately of the reasons for detention. Persons are apprehended only with warrants issued by a judge or prosecutor based on evidence, and there were no reports of individuals detained without judicial authorization. Suspects in terrorism cases can be held for 96 hours. In other cases a court must grant a hearing to a person accused of a crime within 48 hours (or a maximum of 72 hours in “serious cases,” defined as violent crimes, treason, or other crimes carrying a sentence of at least eight years’ imprisonment) and either release or remand the individual into custody.

The bail system rarely was used. The law gives detainees the right to consult an attorney immediately after authorities submit charges, and authorities must inform them of this right. The law provides counsel to indigent detainees free of charge. This right, however, was not fully respected in practice and authorities did not systematically inform detainees of their right to access a lawyer or right to an ex officio lawyer free of charge. The law allows attorneys to visit detainees as frequently as necessary and allows two-hour monthly family visits upon request. There were no reports of suspects detained incommunicado or held under house arrest.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality, but alleged corruption, inefficiency, and a lack of integrity and accountability undermined public trust in the judicial system.

In February 2019 the Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional a constitutional amendment requiring that all sitting judges and candidates for judicial positions receive security clearances from the government that attest to their suitability for public office. Some legal experts criticized the decision as resting on weak legal arguments and asserted that it harmed the separation of powers by infringing on the legislature’s ability to amend the constitution.

Courts employed a computerized system for random case assignment to increase fairness and transparency. There were reports, however, that this system was subject to manipulation. Leaked mobile telephone communications of businessman Marian Kocner, who was accused of ordering the 2018 murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee, highlighted continuing corruption in the justice system, including the judiciary. Allegations of bribery in exchange for manipulated court decisions and personal influencing of judges were subjects of a continuing police investigation.

Trial Procedures

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial without undue delay, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Investigations into judicial corruption, including individual testimonies of former judges, showed that in individual cases, judges failed to act impartially and violated basic principles for conducting fair trials.

Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence, and a person found guilty by a court does not serve a sentence or pay a fine until a final decision on his or her appeal has been reached. Persons charged with criminal offenses have the right to be informed promptly of the charges against them with free interpretation as necessary. Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, to be present at their trial, consult in a timely manner with an attorney (at government expense if indigent), and to obtain free interpretation as necessary from the moment of being charged through all appeals. They can confront prosecution and plaintiff witnesses and can present witnesses and evidence on their behalf. Defendants have the right to refuse self-incrimination and may appeal adverse judgments. The law allows plea bargaining, which was often applied in practice.

Unpredictability of court decisions and inefficiency remained major problems in the country’s judiciary, leading to long trials, which in civil cases discouraged individuals from filing suit. Cases involving violation of the right to trial without undue delay continued to dominate the Constitutional Court agenda.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

Citizens had unrestricted access to courts to file lawsuits in civil matters, including human rights violations. Courts that hear civil cases, as with criminal courts, were subject to delays. Public trust in the judiciary continued to be low, with domestic surveys measuring it at 34 percent. According to the surveys, the public perceived corruption as the judiciary’s most urgent problem, followed by delays in proceedings.

Administrative remedies were available in certain cases. The National Center for Human Rights has the authority to provide mediation for cases of discrimination and to represent claimants in court. Human rights organizations criticized the center for lack of activity and ineffectiveness. Individuals and organizations may appeal domestic court decisions with respect to alleged violations of human rights to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Property Restitution

Rent-control regulations for apartment owners whose property was restituted after the fall of the communist regime remained a problem. The state has regulated rents in these properties at below-market rates since 1992. In 2017 the ECHR ordered the state to pay property owners 1.87 million euros ($2.2 million) in compensation for damages. Although authorities took legislative steps to eliminate the discriminatory treatment of the owners, according to the ECHR, property owners should receive specific and clearly regulated compensatory remedies.

The ombudsperson reported excessive delays in numerous land property restitution proceedings that have remained unresolved since the fall of the communist regime. In 2018 the ombudsperson presented to parliament a special report that listed 9,198 unresolved cases. In a 2019 report, the ombudsperson pointed to long-lasting inactivity of the Slovak Land Office, resulting in individual violations of property rights. Several measures were implemented at land offices to resolve the problem, although lack of land office staff and insufficient training remained challenges.

The country is a signatory to the Terezin Declaration on Holocaust restitution. The government has laws and mechanisms in place, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and advocacy groups reported the government broadly complied with the declaration and made progress on resolution of Holocaust-era claims, including for foreign citizens.

For information regarding Holocaust-era property restitution and related issues please see the Department of State’s Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act report to Congress, released publicly on July 29, at https://www.state.gov/reports/just-act-report-to-congress/.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and police must present a warrant before conducting a search or within 24 hours afterwards. There were reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions in some cases. In one example proceedings remained pending against the commanding officer of a 2015 police raid in the Romani community in Vrbnica, which included house-to-house searches without warrants and complaints of excessive use of police force.

The continuing investigation into violations related to the 2018 murder of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee involved allegations of illegal information collection on journalists and their family members by law enforcement bodies (see section 2.a.).

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected these rights.

Freedom of Speech: The law prohibits the defamation of nationalities and race, punishable by up to three years in prison, and denial of the Holocaust and crimes committed by the fascist and communist regimes, which carry a prison sentence of six months to three years.

Freedom of Press and Media, Including Online Media: The prohibitions against defamation of nationalities and denial of the Holocaust and crimes committed by the fascist and communist regimes also applied to the print and broadcast media, the publication of books, and online newspapers and journals. According to media organizations, criminal libel provisions restrict freedom of expression, including freedom of media. In one instance criminal court proceedings were pending against a journalist who was sentenced for libel after he published a 2015 article concerning alleged corruption by former speaker of parliament Jaroslav Paska involving his health-care business.

In June 2019 a Bratislava district court issued a preliminary measure ordering former presidential candidate Martin Dano to withdraw his online videos targeting investigative journalist and anticorruption NGO director Zuzana Petkova. The court ruled Dano’s videos incited hatred and defamed Petkova and other investigative journalists. Petkova informed media outlets that Dano had not complied with the court decision. Appeal proceedings were pending. In December 2019 an investigator pressed charges against Dano and his YouTube partner, Rudolf Vasky, for hooliganism after they allegedly incited violence against several political, judicial, and media personalities. In January a Bratislava district court issued a similar ruling against Dano and ordered him to remove his online videos targeting a journalist. Criminal proceedings were pending.

The majority of media are privately owned or funded from private sources. Radio and Television Slovakia and the TASR news agency received state funding for specific programming. Observers expressed concern, however, about the increasing consolidation of media ownership and its potential long-term threat to press freedom. NGOs reported most of the country’s private media outlets, including television stations and print publications, are controlled by relatively few financial conglomerates or wealthy individuals.

Violence and Harassment: In 2018 investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee, Martina Kusnirova, were murdered in their home. Kuciak regularly reported on allegations of high-level corruption and documented tax-fraud schemes. In 2019 authorities arrested and indicted four suspects in the case, including businessman Marian Kocner, who was charged with ordering the murder. In January the Specialized Criminal Court sentenced Zoltan Andrusko and in April sentenced Miroslav Marcek to prison sentences of 20 and 23 years, respectively, for their involvement in the murders. In September the Specialized Criminal Court acquitted both Marian Kocner and indicted collaborator Alena Zsuzsova of ordering the murder, citing a lack of evidence. The prosecutor appealed the acquittals to the Supreme Court. The court sentenced Tomas Szabo to 25 years in prison as an accessory to the murder.

Nationwide public protests in 2018 following the killings prompted the resignation of then interior minister Robert Kalinak, then prime minister Robert Fico, and then police president Tibor Gaspar. Since the resignations, Fico on multiple occasions accused media outlets and NGOs of using the killings to foment a “coup.”

The investigation into the Kuciak murder led to allegations that Kocner and his collaborators conducted surveillance of selected investigative journalists, allegedly with the assistance of law enforcement. According to media reports, the investigation revealed that police representatives illegally accessed government databases to collect information on journalists and their family members. Information collected through surveillance and from state databases was allegedly used to intimidate individual journalists. In June a court took into custody the former chief of the Financial Intelligence Unit, Pavol Vorobjov, who was accused of unlawfully accessing police databases. Investigations into the surveillance and intimidation cases involving unlawfully collected personal data of 140 individuals, including 28 journalists, were pending (see section 4, Corruption).

Libel/Slander Laws: Libel and slander are treated as criminal offenses. Media organizations criticized a criminal libel provision in the criminal code as restricting freedom of expression.

Financial elites targeted the press in several civil defamation lawsuits, which often required the press to pay large sums of money in penalties or legal costs. The International Press Institute Slovakia and other observers expressed concern this financial risk and the administrative burden of constantly contesting lawsuits could lead to media self-censorship.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. Police, however, monitored websites containing hate speech and attempted to arrest or fine the authors.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

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

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement

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

In March the government introduced sweeping restrictions on the freedom of movement in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including closing borders for all but exempted foreign nationals, imposing a mandatory 14-day isolation period for all citizens arriving from abroad in government-run quarantine centers, and sealing off entire marginalized Romani settlements under quarantine for COVID-19. Human rights activists and the ombudsperson questioned whether the extraordinary measures and restrictions introduced to contain the spread of COVID-19, particularly the 14-day quarantine of arrivals from abroad in state-run facilities, were proportionate, had a valid legal basis, or violated the constitution. As of September the Constitutional Court continued to review the legality of the government measures after several citizens lodged official complaints, citing violations of their fundamental rights and freedoms.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has an established system for providing some protection to refugees. Some organizations criticized the Migration Office for applying a restrictive asylum policy and granting asylum only in a very limited number of cases. During the year, for example, the government had received 249 asylum applications and granted asylum to 10 individuals. The government granted asylum to nine individuals in 2019.

NGOs reported asylum seekers had only limited access to qualified, independent legal advice. The contract for legal assistance to asylum seekers did not cover asylum seekers in detention, so these persons could access free legal assistance only in the second, appellate-level hearing on their asylum application process. Migration Office staff allegedly endeavored to provide legal advice to some asylum applicants, even though they were also interviewing the asylum seekers and adjudicating their asylum applications.

There was no independent monitoring by local NGOs of access to asylum procedures on the country’s borders and only limited monitoring of access to asylum by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The country denied asylum to applicants from a safe country of origin or transit. The law requires authorities to ensure the well-being of individual asylum seekers is not threatened if deported to a non-EU “safe country.” Some observers criticized the Bureau of Border and Alien Police for lacking the information necessary to determine whether a country would be safe for persons facing deportation there.

Freedom of Movement: NGOs reported that the Bureau of Border and Alien Police unnecessarily detained migrants on badly founded or arbitrary detention orders, including asylum seekers who police believed made false asylum claims, and that police failed adequately to use alternatives to detention, such as supervised release or financial bonds. NGOs reported it was routine practice to issue detention orders and place asylum seekers with children in the immigration detention center in Secovce, where they often faced degrading treatment.

Access to Basic Services: NGOs reported schools generally did not make use of available government support for language and integration assistance for foreign students.

The human rights organization Marginal stated that integration of approved asylum seekers in the country was hampered by the absence of a comprehensive government-funded and -operated integration program. These services had to be provided by NGOs and funded through a patchwork of domestic and international sources.

Human rights organizations reported that asylum seekers placed in immigration detention did not have adequate access to quality health care, contributing to the spread of contagious diseases in detention facilities.

Durable Solutions: The Migration Office accommodated refugees processed at the UNHCR emergency transit center in Humenne for permanent resettlement to a third country. The refugees were moved to Slovakia from other countries due to security and humanitarian concerns. The center was able to accommodate up to 250 refugees at a time but operated at near zero occupancy throughout the year.

Temporary Protection: The government provided temporary “subsidiary protection” to individuals who might not qualify as refugees but could not return to their home countries and during the year granted it to 21 persons. Subsidiary protection is initially granted for one year, with possible extensions. NGOs asserted this approach created uncertainty regarding the individual’s status in the country and significantly hindered their employment and overall integration prospects. There were reports persons granted subsidiary protection had only limited access to health care. The Ministry of Interior issued health coverage documentation directly to persons with subsidiary protection without clear explanation of benefits.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

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

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe considered parliamentary elections held on February 29, as well as presidential elections held in 2019, to have been free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. In 2019 the country elected its first female president. Women constituted slightly more than 21 percent of the parliament elected in the February elections, a slight increase compared with the previous election period.

While there were small but increasing numbers of Romani mayors and members of local councils, few Roma were in communal, provincial, and national elective bodies. In February, three Romani candidates were elected to parliament, the highest number to date.

The Hungarian minority, the largest in the country, was proportionately present at the local and regional levels and participated actively in the political process. In the February parliamentary elections, none of the ethnic-Hungarian parties crossed the threshold to enter parliament for the first time since the country’s independence in 1993.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not always implement the law effectively. There were reports of government corruption during the year, and some officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

According to a special 2019 Eurobarometer report on corruption, 87 percent of the country’s citizens perceived corruption as widespread, particularly in political parties, the health sector, and the courts. Investigative journalists and NGOs documented cases of well connected businesspersons siphoning off state finances through tax fraud. Observers blamed political influence over police and the prosecution services for blocking or hampering anticorruption investigations.

Corruption: The police initiated a series of interconnected, high-level, and unprecedented corruption investigations beginning in March and continuing through December, leading to the arrests of more than 30 current and former officials as well as notable members of the business community. In October, for example, police arrested the head of the Special Prosecution Service, Dusan Kovacik, for accepting bribes, supporting an organized criminal group, and covering up the attempted murder of a police officer. In November, as part of the same operation, police arrested several former high-level law enforcement officials for operating a criminal organization, including former police president Tibor Gaspar. Former police president Milan Lucansky was arrested in December for accepting bribes and committed suicide while in custody. Police launched an inquiry into Lucansky’s death, but there was no credible evidence suggesting foul play. Also in December billionaire cofounder of Penta Investments Jaroslav Hascak was arrested for corruption and money laundering. These cases all remained underway.

Investigations into judicial corruption widened as well. In August 2019 police seized mobile phones of several judges and prosecutors allegedly involved in encrypted telephone conversations with Kocner. In March, based on the seized conversations, a special prosecutor charged 13 judges with corruption. The investigation was pending as of October with some judges confessing to being part of corruption scheme and some judges remanded in custody.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires income and asset disclosure by appointed and elected officials and mandates a parliamentary conflict of interest committee to monitor and verify such disclosures. The government made a general summary of the declarations publicly available, and there were penalties for noncompliance. NGOs, experts, and some politicians maintained the financial disclosure forms were vague and did not clearly identify the value of the declared assets, liabilities, and interests. Limited authority and inadequate human and technical resources made financial disclosure processing ineffective for the purpose of transparency.

Enforcement of financial disclosure violations was not effective and enabled members of parliament to block sanctions against violators. Criminal sanctions for noncompliance were not applied in practice.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases.

Throughout the year member of parliament (MP) and chair of the opposition Smer-SD Party, Robert Fico, continued to claim that countrywide public protests in 2018 that led to the resignation of his cabinet when he was prime minister were financed and organized from abroad as part of a “coup” against his government.

Several members of parliament from both the coalition and opposition criticized the ombudsperson’s attempts to raise awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) issues. In May parliament refused to recognize formally the ombudsperson’s annual report, with several coalition and opposition MPs criticizing the ombudsperson on the floor of parliament for her outspoken defense of the rights of LGBTI persons.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The justice minister headed the Government Council on Human Rights and National Minorities, an advisory body including government officials and civil society representatives.

Maria Patakyova headed the Office of the Public Defender of Rights (ombudsperson) and submitted an annual report on human rights problems to the parliament. Human rights activists credited Patakyova with raising the profile of fundamental rights problems in the country, despite criticism, obstruction, and a lack of interest from politicians.

Parliament has a 12-member Human Rights and National Minorities Committee that held regular sessions during the year. The committee remained without a chairperson due to disputes between the opposition and coalition. NGOs consistently criticized the committee for failing to address serious human rights issues. Committee members included far-right People’s Party-Our Slovakia (LSNS) MP Milan Mazurek who participated in a 2015 attack against a Saudi family during antirefugee demonstrations, denied the legitimacy of the Holocaust, and praised Hitler on social media. He also made defamatory statements against the Romani minority and Muslim refugees, for which he was convicted and fined, causing him to lose his parliamentary mandate in the previous term.

The Slovak National Center for Human Rights acts as the country’s national human rights institution and as the dedicated equality body but was criticized for inactivity by NGOs and members of the Government Council on Human Rights and National Minorities. Between December 2019 and September 2020, the institution remained without an officially appointed director after the management board failed on multiple occasions to elect new leadership. On September 25, the board elected new director Silvia Porubanova, a sociologist and expert on gender equality.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape and sexual violence, which carry a penalty of five to 25 years in prison. The law does not specifically define spousal rape, but the criminal code covers spousal rape and spousal sexual violence under the crime of rape and sexual violence. NGOs and rape victims criticized police for sometimes failing to enforce the law effectively and for often failing to communicate appropriately with rape victims. Rape and domestic violence victims had access to shelters and counseling offered by NGOs and government-funded programs. NGO service providers complained that authorities provided only a small portion of necessary funding, forcing many centers to close or fundraise additional resources from private and international donors.

Domestic violence against women is punishable by three to eight years’ imprisonment. Domestic violence was widespread, and activists claimed official statistics failed to capture the magnitude of the problem. NGOs also asserted the government did not enforce the law effectively. Experts complained there were no written procedures for referring battered women to counselling centers or shelters and no services for batterers. The lack of affordable public housing or rent-controlled housing often forced victims to return to abusive households.

The General Prosecution Service reported that the incidence of domestic violence increased rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions on free movement, with the number of recorded cases in the four-month period between April and June increasing by 47 percent compared with the same period in 2019. The number of calls to a national helpline for domestic violence victims increased fourfold in April compared with previous years. NGOs providing victim care services confirmed the deteriorating trend and reported difficulties in assisting victims because of a government-issued ban on admitting new clients into accommodation facilities during the early stages of the pandemic, insufficient testing capabilities, and a shortage of personal protective equipment.

In April, President Caputova, responding to reports of the unprecedented increase in domestic and gender-based violence cases during the COVID-19 pandemic, requested the police president to increase attention paid to the problem; rigorously enforce existing rules, including the authority of police officers responding to domestic disturbance calls to expel the abusive party from the household for up to 10 days; and improve police cooperation with NGOs providing victim-care services. In July police began testing a new smartphone application that would allow victims secretly to place distress calls to them.

In one example, in August a man attacked his partner with a knife just days after being sentenced to house arrest for causing a traffic accident while under the influence of alcohol. Following the attack, the man forcibly removed an electronic ankle monitor and fled the scene of the crime. Police held him in custody pending charges for aggravated assault and obstructing a court decision that carry a five- to 10-year prison sentence. Prosecution of the case continued as of September. Experts questioned whether the man’s psychological state had been considered by the court that originally sentenced him to house arrest.

Sexual Harassment: The law defines sexual harassment as unlawful discrimination, which is subject to civil penalties. Victims usually avoided legal action due to fear of reprisal, lengthy court proceedings, and lack of accessible legal services. A coordination center for gender-based and domestic violence under the Labor, Social Affairs, and Family Ministry implements and coordinates countrywide policies to prevent and eliminate violence against women, including sexual harassment, and coordinates education and training efforts for the public and professionals. The government operated a 24/7 hotline for women subjected to violence.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals generally have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and most individuals had access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. NGOs reported that Romani women from marginalized communities in Eastern Slovakia at times faced reproductive health-care discrimination and a general lack of information on reproductive health. Authorities also required persons seeking a legally recognized sex change to undergo permanent sterilization, effectively ending their ability to reproduce.

While contraception was widely available, NGOs reported that a lack of reimbursement from the national health system (unless used for health-related reasons) constituted a significant barrier to access, especially for young and vulnerable populations.

In 2020 the Public Defender of Rights expressed concerns about some practices imposed on women in childbirth, including medically unjustified separations of mothers and new-born babies or refusal of a birth companion’s presence, notably due to measures implemented by health-care providers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Media and NGOs also reported some cases in which health-care providers refused reproductive health services to patients due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The country does not have a national sexual and reproductive health program to provide dedicated access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Victims approached their general practitioners, emergency rooms, or, less frequently, their gynecologists. Survivors generally had access to legal abortion and emergency over-the-counter contraception. The government runs a 24/7 national multilanguage helpline for women experiencing violence, and the Coordinating Methodical Centre for Prevention of Violence against Women offered emergency help to victims of sexual violence.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities, although human rights organizations maintained that medical personnel often asked Romani women to sign consent forms for these procedures without fully explaining their meaning or providing them in the women’s language. The government also did little to investigate cases of involuntary sterilizations of Romani women reported in the past or provide restitution to the victims.

In April the regional court in Kosice upheld a lower court ruling that awarded compensation to an illegally sterilized Romani woman. The woman was sterilized without informed consent in 1999 in Krompachy Hospital in eastern Slovakia during the birth of her second child by Caesarean section. She was not informed about the sterilization procedure by the hospital staff and did not give informed consent to this intervention. She became aware that she had been sterilized only after the procedure. The ensuing court case continued for more than 15 years.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status for women as for men. Discrimination against women remained a problem, particularly in the labor market, where women were less likely to be offered employment than men with equal qualifications and faced a 20 percent gender pay gap (also see section 7.d.).

Children

Birth Registration: Children acquire citizenship by birth to at least one citizen parent, regardless of where the child is born. Each domestic birth is recorded at the local vital statistics office, including for children born to asylum seekers, stateless persons, and detained migrants.

Child Abuse: Domestic abuse carries basic penalties of three to eight years’ imprisonment. Child abuse remained a problem according to child advocates. A 2017 government study (the latest available) indicated that 70 percent of 13- to 15-year-olds had experienced some form of physical, emotional, or sexual violence or parental neglect.

The government continued implementing and annually updating the National Action Plan for Children for 2013-22, funded through the government budget. Government bodies provided financial support to crisis centers for abused children and to NGOs that worked on child abuse. The Labor and Social Affairs Office had dedicated departments for overseeing childcare and operated a national coordination body for dealing with violence against children, which collected data, provided information on domestic violence and abuse of minors, helped refer victims to service providers, and ran a national helpline.

The new government, coalition MPs, and civil society experts criticized the ombudsperson for child rights for her inactivity and failure to protect the best interests of children; there were also allegations that she employed family members without necessary professional qualifications at her institution.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18. In exceptional cases, based upon request of one of the marrying couple, a competent court may allow marriage of a person as young as 16, if both parents consent. Law enforcement authorities reported a growing number of cases of Slovak children of Romani descent being subjected to forced marriage, often by their legal guardians who sought financial benefit. Women from marginalized Romani communities were transported to the United Kingdom by force or deception to marry foreign citizens attempting to avoid deportation by marrying an EU citizen and might consequently have been subjected to trafficking in persons.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Rape and sexual violence against a child carry basic penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment. The law establishes 15 as the minimum age for consensual sex. In addition to prohibiting trafficking in persons, the law criminalizes the prostitution of children. These abuses were not common, and there were no obstacles to enforcement of the law.

The production, distribution, or possession of child pornography is a crime with penalties ranging from two to 20 years’ imprisonment.

Institutionalized Children: Reports published by the ombudsperson during the year and in 2013 found that juvenile offenders at educational rehabilitation centers regularly endured hunger and were subjected to degrading treatment, including compulsory gynecological examinations of girls after their trips outside the facility. The reports also found substandard levels of education at the centers.

In March the prosecution service opened three new criminal investigations and prosecutions related to the scandal-ridden private juvenile rehabilitation facility Cisty den (Clean Day), which lost its official accreditation in 2017 after a series of allegations of severe malpractice and misconduct. In 2018 and 2019, courts convicted a former therapist and cook employed at the facility and sentenced them to a three-year suspended sentence and a five-year prison sentence, respectively, for sexual abuse of underage clients at the facility. In 2019 the prosecution service exonerated the former manager of the facility from accusations of battery and assault of a minor but continued investigating him for alleged fraud. New investigations opened during the year focused on suspicions of obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and unlawful use of personal data after leaked text messages between jailed businessman Marian Kocner and Cisty den managers showed the latter sharing sensitive client information with Kocner, who allegedly intervened on behalf of Cisty den through his network of corrupt police officials, prosecutors, and judges.

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

Anti-Semitism

Jewish community leaders estimated, and the 2011 census data indicated, there were 2,000 persons in the Jewish community.

Organized neo-Nazi groups with an estimated 500 active members and several thousand sympathizers occasionally spread anti-Semitic messages. Latent anti-Semitic stereotypes characterizing Jews as greedy or secretly influencing world affairs were widespread, even beyond neo-Nazi groups and their sympathizers. The neo-Nazi LSNS received 7.97 percent of the vote in the February parliamentary elections, securing 17 of 150 seats in parliament. Among the elected representatives for LSNS were several individuals prosecuted or convicted of hate crimes, including party chair Marian Kotleba, who was convicted for giving a charitable donation with Nazi symbolism; Andrej Medvecky, convicted of attacking a foreigner because of race; Stanislav Mizik, acquitted for lack of evidence of posting an anti-Semitic message on his Facebook profile criticizing the president for giving state awards to citizens of Jewish origin; and Milan Mazurek, convicted for anti-Romani statements made in a public radio broadcast.

In August the National Criminal Agency announced it would bring extremism-related charges against nine individuals suspected of disseminating extremist materials and collecting Nazi paraphernalia. Three members of the extremist musical group Kratky Proces (Short Process) were taken into custody during related police raids on charges of producing an extremist musical album. The detained singer of the band, who also repeatedly ran for the LSNS, faced three to eight years in prison.

In October the Specialized Criminal Court convicted LSNS chairman Marian Kotleba of supporting and promoting groups aimed at suppressing fundamental rights and freedoms for a March 2017 ceremony where Kotleba handed over three checks to families with children with disabilities, each worth 1,488 euros ($1,790). Experts provided by the prosecution testified that the amount was a well known neo-Nazi cypher, representing the white supremacist “14-word” slogan and a numerical representation of “Heil Hitler.” Witnesses also testified that organizers played the unofficial anthem of the wartime Slovak State, an ally of Nazi Germany, at the handover ceremony of the charitable donation and pointed out the event was held on March 14, the anniversary of the founding of the Slovak State. The ceremony concluded with a concert by neo-Nazi singer Reborn, who himself faced prosecution on extremism charges. The court sentenced Kotleba to four years and four months in prison. The case remained pending at year’s end following the defense’s appeal to the Supreme Court.

In May former LSNS candidate Marian Magat, labelled by media as a far-right extremist, published a blog questioning the existence of the Holocaust on the disinformation outlet Kulturblog. Magat summarized known conspiracy theories claiming that people did not die in concentration camps due to systemic extermination by the Nazis, but rather due to bombing by allied forces, typhoid outbreaks, or the interruption of supplies of food and medicine caused by the bombardment. Magat also presented claims that gas chambers at concentration camps were used for delousing. The National Criminal Agency opened an investigation on suspicion of denying the crimes of totalitarian regimes, a crime that carries a sentence of up to three years in prison. The case remained pending.

In January the Specialized Criminal Court convicted LSNS regional chairman Anton Grno of supporting a movement aimed at suppressing fundamental rights and freedoms for shouting the greeting of the World War II-era Slovak fascist state’s paramilitary force during a 2018 Supreme Court hearing. Grno was fined 5,000 euros ($6,000) and sentenced to six months in prison should he fail to pay the fine. Media reported that Grno’s social media profiles contained several openly racist and anti-Semitic posts.

While direct denial of the Holocaust was relatively rare, expressions of approval of the World War II-era Slovak fascist state, which deported tens of thousands of Jews, Roma, and others to death camps, occurred frequently. Throughout the year far-right groups organized small events to commemorate dates associated with the Slovak fascist state and its president, Jozef Tiso. On March 14, the Slovenske Hnutie Obrody or SHO (Slovak Renewal Movement), a far-right political party, which ran in the February parliamentary elections but did not win any seats, organized a commemoration of the 1939 creation of the fascist Slovak state, laying wreaths at a statue of Jozef Tiso in the village of Cajakovce. On April 18, the LSNS commemorated the anniversary of the execution of Tiso through a post on its website, stating that April 18 marks the “sad day of the judicial murder of the first Slovak president, Jozef Tiso.”

On September 9, government officials commemorated the Day of the Victims of the Holocaust and of Racial Violence at the Holocaust Memorial in Bratislava. The coalition government undertook initiatives to promote Holocaust education in schools and funded school field trips to Auschwitz and the Slovak Holocaust Museum in Sered. Government leaders, including President Caputova, Prime Minister Matovic, and Speaker of Parliament Kollar, denounced the anti-Semitic rhetoric of the far right.

In January, President Caputova attended the Fifth World Holocaust Forum in Israel where she stated, “Fascism is still alive in our society, that’s why I think it’s very necessary that we…do our utmost to prevent it from getting back to power.” She also highlighted that racial hatred always starts with words and cautioned against increasing hatred over the internet and discrimination against some parts of the population.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, the judicial system, other transportation, or the provision of other public services. The antidiscrimination law does not qualify the denial of reasonable accommodation as discrimination on the basis of disability.

NGOs reported that persons with disabilities continued to experience a number of challenges, particularly in access to education, employment, and government as well as private services.

According to the government’s Commissioner for Disabled Persons, while a few children with disabilities were able to participate in mainstream education, most were educated separately in so-called “special” schools that further contributed to their social isolation and stigmatization. Among the main reasons for the separate schooling of children with disabilities were physical barriers at state schools, lack of qualified support staff, and reluctance from teachers and parents of children without disabilities.

NGOs and municipalities continued to report problems, including excessive administrative burden and red tape, in applying the law on opening and operating “social enterprises” that could serve to employ persons with disabilities.

Psychiatric institutions and hospitals, which fall under the purview of the Ministry of Health, used cage beds to restrain patients. The law prohibits both physical and nonphysical restraints in social care homes managed by the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Family.

Broadcasters complied with laws requiring television stations to provide audio descriptions for viewers who are blind or have impaired vision only to a limited extent.

While the law defines mandatory standards for access to buildings, NGOs noted they were not fully implemented, although access to privately owned buildings improved more rapidly than access to public buildings. Civil society organizations and the disability rights commissioner noted that navigating most cities with a visual impairment or on a wheelchair remained difficult due to the many obstacles and barriers on sidewalks and in public transport.

The government’s Council on Human Rights, National Minorities, and Gender Equality operated a committee on persons with disabilities. The council served as a governmental advisory body and included representation from NGOs working on disability problems. The country’s national human rights strategy included a chapter on the rights of persons with disabilities. The disability rights commissioner presented an annual report to parliament summarizing progress in implementing the human rights strategy and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; containing recommendations for legislative and policy changes, based on the commissioner’s own monitoring and complaints lodged by citizens; and providing recommendations for legislative and policy changes, based on the commissioner’s own monitoring and complaints lodged by citizens.

Members of National/Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups

Segregation and societal discrimination against Roma and individuals of non-European ethnicity was common. A 2019 study by the UN Development Program (UNDP) and the Ministry of Interior, the most recent available, found that as much as 49 percent of the Romani population resided in marginalized communities, a slight decrease compared with the previous iteration of the study in 2013, which estimated that 53 percent of Roma resided in settlements. According to the same study, only 19 percent of the Romani minority lived integrated among the majority population. The UNDP identified 180 segregated rural settlements located outside municipalities and 418 communities on the outskirts of municipalities. The UNDP study found that 61 percent of inhabitants in the 100 largest concentrations of Romani citizens had access to drinking water, compared with 48 percent in 2013.

There were reports of harassment of members of ethnic minorities during the year and reports of violence and excessive use of force by members of the police against Romani citizens.

In April police officers allegedly beat a group of five Romani children trying to leave a marginalized Romani settlement that was placed under quarantine due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the community. According to the Union of Roma in Slovakia, the officers first threatened the children with a gun and then beat them using batons, causing bruises and other injuries. The ombudsperson, the government plenipotentiary for Romani communities, and the Slovak National Center for Human Rights condemned the incident and called for a thorough investigation. The Ministry of Interior’s inspection service launched an investigation into possible abuse of power by a public official.

Ahead of the February parliamentary elections, the LSNS party organized meetings and gatherings in areas with higher concentrations of Romani citizens, rallying voters from the majority against “asocial Gypsies” and “parasites” and promising to “restore order.” There were reports of small clashes between LSNS supporters and antifascist protesters at some of the LSNS rallies, but police mostly prevented an escalation of violence.

Police generally responded quickly to gatherings targeting the Romani community and prevented crowds from entering Romani communities or inciting confrontations.

There were instances of public officials at every level defaming minorities and making derogatory comments about Roma. In April former prime minister and chair of the opposition Smer Party Robert Fico criticized Prime Minister Matovic for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, asserting that Matovic was “the prime minister of gypsies” and claiming the COVID tests were made available for Roma but not senior citizens or homes for the elderly.

In August, President Caputova, Prime Minister Matovic, Interior Minister Roman Mikulec, Human Rights Ombudswoman Maria Patakyova, and other government officials attended a Romani Holocaust remembrance ceremony in Banska Bystrica. Media highlighted that this was the first time the Romani Holocaust Remembrance Day was marked by such high-level government attendance.

In February the Slovak Academy of Sciences released a representative survey of majority attitudes toward Romani citizens. When examining stereotypes about Roma, the survey found that most respondents (80 percent) tended to agree with a statement that Roma in the country received undeserved benefits from the social system, and almost two-thirds of respondents tended to identify with openly negative stereotypes of Roma. Only half of the respondents tended to agree with the statements that highlighted the value of Romani culture. The survey also found that respondents identified most with a so-called hostile political discourse, where politicians referred negatively to Romani citizens, particularly regarding work habits and crime rates in Romani communities.

Widespread discrimination against Roma continued in employment, education, health care, housing, loan practices, restaurants, hair salons, religious services, and public transportation.

In April the government began blanket testing for the presence of COVID-19 in chosen marginalized Romani settlements with a higher recorded number of persons returning from abroad. The government used the military to assist in the testing, arguing the process was necessary to protect public health and safety. Human rights NGOs reported the targeted testing contributed to further stigmatization and anti-Romani prejudice and that there were reports of increased hate speech against Roma on social media. The targeted testing contributed to further stigmatization and anti-Romani prejudice and there were reports of increased hate speech against Roma on social media.

Based on the result of COVID-19 testing in marginalized Romani communities, the government’s chief medical officer ordered mandatory full-area quarantines in five settlements, with armed police and military guards stationed at the entrances to the settlements. Quarantines lasted up to one month in some of the settlements. NGO Amnesty International spoke to residents of the quarantined settlements, who confirmed that no one informed them about the duration and conditions of the quarantine. Authorities reportedly did not isolate persons who tested positive for COVID-19 from other persons in the community. In addition human rights watchdogs reported that authorities did not ensure a sufficient supply of food and medical supplies to the sealed-off settlements, forcing impoverished inhabitants to procure grossly overpriced supplies from vendors offering delivery services. Amnesty International considered the conduct of the government a violation of human rights.

Local authorities continued to use regulatory obstacles, such as withholding of construction permits, to discourage the legal establishment of Romani settlements. Media reported cases where non-Romani persons tried to prevent Romani customers from buying or renting property in “their” neighborhood.

Members of the Romani minority continued to experience obstacles and discrimination in the access to quality health care. A government report released by the Ministry of Finance in January 2019, the latest available, estimated life expectancy within the marginalized Romani population at 69.6 years, nearly seven years less than the general population, and infant mortality at three times the country average. NGOs reported Romani women faced multiple forms of discrimination in reproductive health care, including segregation in maternity departments, verbal harassment, and maltreatment by medical personnel. The hospitals claimed they grouped persons according to their levels of hygiene and adaptability, not by race. NGOs continued to express concerns over the way medical personnel obtained informed consent from Romani patients.

Romani children from socially excluded communities faced educational discrimination and segregation and were disproportionately enrolled in “special” schools or placed in segregated classrooms within mainstream schools. A government review released by the Ministry of Finance’s analytical unit in January 2019, the latest available, confirmed earlier reporting from the ombudsperson that Romani children received an inferior education compared with their non-Romani peers. The report found a disproportionately high share of Romani children in “special” schools for children with intellectual disabilities (42 percent of all children enrolled) and schools with special classes for Romani children (63 percent). According to the review, only 32 percent of Romani children had received preschool education, compared with 75 percent for the general population, and one-third of Romani children dropped out of the education system before completing elementary school.

School closures during the COVID-19 pandemic deepened the educational gap between children from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds, particularly children from marginalized Romani settlements, and children from more affluent families, educational experts pointed out. According to a study conducted by NGO EduRoma, 70 percent of marginalized Romani children did not participate in distance learning, and 60 percent of them had no contact with their teachers whatsoever during the nearly four-month-long closure of primary and secondary schools, mainly because they did not have access to a computer or the internet. Educational professionals warned this interruption in the education of children from disadvantaged backgrounds would have lasting impacts on their future educational and career prospects.

There were reports of racial discrimination and inappropriate language being used against members of the Romani minority at all levels of the education system. In April the regional court in Bratislava upheld a 2016 trial court ruling dismissing an antidiscrimination lawsuit against the segregation of Romani children at an elementary school in the town of Stara Lubovna. The court determined Romani children were not segregated in education even though the school was ethnically homogenous and attended exclusively by Romani children from a nearby marginalized settlement. The human rights NGO Poradna, which initiated the lawsuit, considered the court’s judgment in breach of international human rights law and planned to file an extraordinary appeal to the Supreme Court.

The government’s Council on Human Rights, National Minorities, and Gender Equality operated a Committee for the Prevention and Elimination of Racism, Xenophobia, Anti-Semitism, and Other Forms of Intolerance. Since 2017 “extremist” crimes, including incitement towards racial, religious, and ethnic hatred; discrimination on the basis of a deliberate hate motive; defamation of race, nation or belief; founding, supporting and expressing sympathy towards movements aimed at suppressing fundamental rights and freedoms; and producing and disseminating “extremist” materials, fall under the purview of the National Counter-Terrorism Unit at the National Crime Agency and are prosecuted by the Specialized Prosecution Service at the Specialized Criminal Court. Experts credited these specialized law enforcement and prosecution agencies for increasing the number of cases and the conviction rate for perpetrators of “extremist” crimes as well as for raising the profile of the issue in Slovak society.

The law bans the spreading of profascist propaganda and hatred in public, including on social media.

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

LGBTI organizations reported the law requires that persons seeking legal gender recognition provide confirmation from a medical practitioner that a person has undergone a “gender change” to obtain new identity documents. The law, however, does not define “gender change.” In practice authorities required confirmation that a person had undergone permanent sterilization before issuing new identity documents.

The law does not allow educational establishments to reissue educational certificates with a new first name and surname to transgender individuals after they have transitioned. The law does allow institutions to issue such individuals new birth certificates reflecting the name with which they identify.

NGOs reported violence and online harassment of LGBTI persons. Due to COVID-19 and associated restrictions on public gatherings, annual LGBTI Rainbow Pride celebrations in Bratislava and Kosice moved online. While there were no reports of physical altercations, organizers reported online hate speech directed at their virtual programs.

Ahead of the February parliamentary elections, several political parties, notably the LSNS and the Vlast (Homeland) Party of former Supreme Court judge Stefan Harabin, campaigned on anti-LGBTI platforms, presenting sexual minorities as “sick,” “decadent,” or “perverted.” In June during a debate about the ombudsperson’s annual report in parliament, LSNS MP Milan Mazurek stated that according to him, “there are no transgender people, there are some fools who say from day to day that I am no longer a woman, I am a man, I am no longer a man, I am a woman.”

According to an EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) survey released in June, more than three-quarters of Slovak same-sex couples reported fears of holding hands in public. The survey also indicated only 26 percent of members of the LGBTI community openly declared their orientation and that 36 percent were afraid to visit certain sites for fear of being attacked. In total, 46 percent of members of the LGBTI community felt discrimination in at least one area and at least one in five transgender and intersex persons reported being physically assaulted in the five years prior to the survey, double the number of other LGBTI persons. The FRA survey found that only 8 percent of victims reported such an attack to the police and 6 percent alerted an equality body or other organization to discrimination.

The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, education, state social services, health care, and access to goods and services and identifies sexual orientation as a hate crime motivation that warrants stiffer sentences. NGOs reported the government did not always actively enforce these laws.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

NGOs reported online hate speech towards refugees.

Government officials at all levels and leaders from across the political spectrum, including the opposition, engaged in rhetoric portraying refugees and Muslims as a threat to society, and several political parties used antimigrant rhetoric in their parliamentary election campaign messaging. In January the political party Smer released a cartoon campaign video that mocked former president Andrej Kiska and his Za ludi political party and spread false statements that Kiska and his party intended to introduce legislation obliging each family in the country to take in one migrant family. In February, 12 major human rights organizations working with refugees and migrants in the country addressed an open letter to politicians urging them to refrain from spreading unfounded fear of migrants and using dehumanizing statements against migrants and refugees; the letter called for consistency and caution in the use of migration-related terms.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law, including related regulations and statutory instruments, provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions of their choice. The law also provides for unions to conduct their activities without interference, including the right to organize and bargain collectively, and workers exercised these rights. The law recognizes the right to strike with advance notice, both when collective bargaining fails to reach an agreement and in support of other striking employees’ demands (solidarity strike). Civil servants in essential services, judges, prosecutors, and members of the military do not have the right to strike. The law prohibits dismissing workers who legally participate in strikes but does not offer such protection if a strike was illegal or unofficial. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination. The law does not state whether reinstatement of workers fired for union activity is required.

The government effectively enforced applicable laws and remedies, and penalties for violations were commensurate with penalties for other laws involving the denial of civil rights. These procedures were, however, occasionally subject to delays and appeals.

Workers and unions generally exercised these rights without restrictions. The government generally respected their rights.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. Police are responsible for investigating forced labor, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. The law provides strong penalties for labor traffickers, including imprisonment for terms of four to 25 years, depending on the seriousness of the case. These penalties were commensurate with those for other serious crimes, but were not fully applied. The Ministry of Interior, together with the International Organization for Migration, trained government officials in identifying victims subjected to trafficking for forced labor.

There were reports by NGOs of male and female migrants forced to work in the country under conditions of forced labor, including nonpayment of wages. Migrant workers in the retail and construction sectors or employed as household help were considered particularly vulnerable. Underemployed and undereducated Roma from socially segregated rural settlements were disproportionately vulnerable to forced labor. The government carried out extensive awareness-raising campaigns on the dangers of trafficking in persons with a focus on forced labor and organized joint inspections of business entities to identify illegal employment and forced labor. Courts continued to issue light and suspended sentences for the majority of convicted traffickers that failed to deter trafficking offenses or protect victims.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The minimum age for employment is 15, although younger children may perform light work in cultural or artistic performances, sports events, or advertising activities if it does not affect their health, safety, personal development, or schooling. The National Labor Inspection Service (NLI) and the Public Health Office must approve, determine the maximum hours, and set conditions for work by children younger than 15. The law does not permit children younger than 16 to work more than 30 hours per week on average and restricts children younger than age 18 to 37.5 hours per week. The law applies to all children who are high school or full-time university students. The law does not allow children younger than age 18 to work underground, work overtime, or perform labor inappropriate for their age or health. The violation of child and juvenile labor rules is punishable by penalties which are commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, although application of those penalties was not always sufficient to deter violations. The NLI did not report serious violations of laws relating to child labor.

Regional inspection units, which are under the auspices of the NLI, received and investigated child labor complaints. Apart from regional inspection units, the state Social Insurance Company was also responsible for monitoring child labor law compliance. If a unit determined that a child labor law or regulation had been broken, it transferred the case to the NLI, which may also impose fines on employers and individuals that fail to report such incidents adequately.

The government generally enforced the law effectively. Resources, inspections, and remediation were generally adequate.

There were reports Romani children in some settlements were subjected to trafficking for commercial sex or forced marriage (see section 6, Children). NGOs reported that family members or other Roma exploited Romani victims, including children with disabilities. Child labor in the form of forced begging was a problem in some communities.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination regarding age, religion, ethnicity, race, sex, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation, social status, or “other status” but does not specifically prohibit discrimination based on HIV status. Relevant inspection bodies provide for the protection of migrant workers against abuses from private employment agencies. The Central Office of Labor, Social Affairs and Family and the Trade Business Office may cancel or suspend the business license of violators and impose penalties which are commensurate with those for other civil rights laws. The government did not consistently enforce the law.

Employers discriminated against members of the Romani minority. The government continued implementing a program to increase the motivation of the long-term unemployed Roma to find jobs. The Operational Program–Human Resources for 2014-20 included as one of its priorities the integration of marginalized Romani communities in the labor market through educational measures. A January 2019 government report prepared by the Ministry of Finance, the latest available, showed that Romani jobseekers were less likely to benefit from effective active labor market measures, particularly further training and requalification, compared with the non-Romani population of jobseekers. Activists frequently alleged that employers refused to hire Roma, and an estimated 70 percent of Roma from socially excluded communities were unemployed. NGOs working with Roma from such communities reported that, while job applications by Roma were often successful during the initial phase of selection, in a majority of cases employers rejected the applicants once they found they were Roma. Rejected job applicants rarely pursued discrimination cases through the courts, and if they did, the proceedings resulted in excessive and undue delays; even successful cases awarded minimal financial compensation. Human rights NGOs noted that Romani employees from marginalized settlements were disproportionately affected by the economic downturn and subsequent layoffs caused by COVID-19 and were usually among the first employees to be let go when companies began downsizing.

Despite having attained higher levels of education than men, women faced an employment gap of approximately 13 percent, and only 33 percent of entrepreneurs were women. Experts noted motherhood negatively affected career prospects due to long maternity and parental leave and a lack of preschool facilities and flexible work arrangements. Women earned on average 18 percent less than their male colleagues according to a 2017 survey by the personnel agency Trexima.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The minimum wage exceeds the minimum living standard (an official estimate of the poverty income level).

The law mandates a maximum workweek of 48 hours, including overtime, except for employees in the health-care sector, whose maximum workweek is 56 hours, including overtime. Worker overtime generally could not exceed 150 hours per year, except for health-care professionals who, in specific cases and under an agreement with labor unions, could work up to 250 hours overtime. Employees who worked overtime were entitled to a 25 percent premium on their hourly rate. Employees who work under conditions that endanger their health and safety are entitled to “relaxation” leave in addition to standard leave and an additional 35 percent of their hourly wage rate. Employees who work during government holidays are entitled to an additional 50 percent of their hourly rate. Employers who fail to follow wage and overtime rules face fines that were commensurate with those for similar violations. If employers fail to pay an employee, they may face imprisonment of one to five years.

Trade unions, local employment offices, and the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Family monitored observance of these laws, and authorities effectively enforced them.

The law establishes occupational safety and health standards that the Office for Labor Safety generally enforced. Workers could generally remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in this situation.

Minimum wage, hours of work, and occupational safety and health standards were appropriate for the main industries and effectively enforced. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes. The number of labor inspectors was sufficient to ensure compliance with the law. The Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Family may impose financial penalties on companies found to be noncompliant. In serious cases of labor rights violations, the NLI may withdraw an employer’s license. If there are safety and security concerns found at a workplace, the inspectors may require companies to stop using equipment that poses risks until they meet safety requirements. In cases of “serious misconduct” at a workplace, the law permits labor inspectors to impose additional financial penalties. There were 88 accidents during the year that caused serious workplace injuries or death and 8,934 workplace accidents that resulted in less severe injuries.

Slovenia

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

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

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

Police generally made arrests with warrants issued by a prosecutor or judge based on evidence. Authorities may detain suspects for 48 hours before charging them. The law requires authorities to inform suspects of their rights immediately after arrest and to advise detainees in writing within six hours (or within three hours for minor offenses) of the reasons for their arrest. Suspects must have prompt access to a judge to assess whether they qualify for release on bail or should remain incarcerated pending trial. Authorities generally released defendants on bail except in the most serious criminal cases. The law provides for prompt access to immediate family members and detention under house arrest.

Upon arrest, detainees have the right to contact legal counsel of their choice and the right to counsel during interrogations, and the government protected these rights. While indigent defendants have the right to an attorney provided at public expense, there was no formal system for providing such legal counsel. The NGO Legal Information Center and the government’s Free Legal Aid Office made free counsel available to indigents. In a 2017 report, the committee for the Prevention of Torture expressed concern that persons unable to pay for a lawyer could not, as a rule, benefit from the right of access to a lawyer from the outset of their detention. The report noted, “ex officio lawyers would only be appointed if such an appointment was considered ‘in the interests of justice’ and, if appointed, they would meet detainees only after police questioning, very briefly before the court hearing.” Such practices remained common for persons facing minor offenses, but indigent defendants facing serious criminal charges generally had access to an attorney throughout legal proceedings provided at public expense.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

Trial Procedures

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants enjoy rights to a presumption of innocence, to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges, to a fair and public trial without undue delay, to be present at their trial, and to communicate with an attorney of their choice or have one provided at public expense if unable to pay. Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, to free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals, to confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence, not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and to appeal. The law also provides safeguards against self-incrimination. These rights extend to all defendants.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

The constitution and law provide for an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, including damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations. Individuals may appeal court decisions involving alleged government violations of the European Convention on Human Rights to the European Court of Human Rights once they exhaust all avenues of appeal in domestic courts.

Property Restitution

The law permits all persons who were citizens of the former Yugoslavia or Allied nations to recover property confiscated by fascist or Nazi occupying forces. Cases involving property confiscated after 1945-46 are subject to restitution procedures under the Criminal Procedure Act. Cases involving property that was nationalized are subject to restitution procedures under the Denationalization Act of 1991. The Denationalization Act requires claimants to have had Yugoslavian citizenship at the time the property was confiscated and excludes, with some exceptions, property confiscated before 1945. Some cases involving the restitution of property seized during the communist era (especially from 1946 to 1958) remained unresolved.

Although some heirs of Holocaust victims may seek restitution of confiscated property through these laws and mechanisms, NGOs and advocacy groups reported the government did not make significant progress on the resolution of Holocaust-era claims. This includes both former citizens who were required to renounce Yugoslavian citizenship as a condition for emigrating and Holocaust survivors from Yugoslavia and their heirs who did not return and never had Yugoslav citizenship. The World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) engaged the government regarding Holocaust survivors and their heirs who were not eligible to file claims based on Slovenian law.

Some Holocaust survivors and their relatives, along with Slovene deportees, reclaimed pre-1945 confiscated property through 1945-46 restitution legislation. Most Holocaust-era claims are categorized as heirless property, for which there is no provision in law for restitution or compensation. In 2018 the WJRO and Ministry of Justice agreed to launch a joint research project to compile as complete a historical record as possible of heirless, formerly Jewish-owned properties in the country. Research teams commenced the project in 2018. Ministry of Justice researchers concluded their research in October 2019, while the WJRO report was under review as of year’s end. The ministry agreed to a one-year timeline for evaluating the values of heirless property after completion of the study.

Some remaining non-Jewish confiscated properties appeared to be unrecoverable because the parties occupying the sites were politically influential and thwarted attempts to reach a negotiated settlement. For example, since 1993 close ties between the local government’s administrative unit and Radenska d.d., a major mineral water producer, stymied a foreign family’s claims to the Radenci Spa property located on the family’s ancestral lands. Although the Supreme Court rejected the family’s claim in 2015, the litigants appealed to the Constitutional Court, which returned the case to lower courts where it remained pending consideration.

The Department of State’s Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act report to Congress, released publicly on July 29, can be found on the Department’s website: https://www.state.gov/reports/just-act-report-to-congress/.

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

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

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press

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

Freedom of Speech: The law prohibits the incitement to hatred, violence, and intolerance based on nationality, race, religion, gender, skin color, social status, political or other beliefs, sexual orientation, and disability in a way that could threaten or disrupt public order, typically requiring violence to occur for the prosecution of such incitement. The penal code also prohibits the expression of ideas of racial superiority and denial of the Holocaust.

On May 11, police launched an investigation against demonstrators for their participation in regular antigovernment protests, at which some brandished the slogan “Death to Jansism,” in reference to Prime Minister Janez Jansa. The Prime Minister claimed the slogan was a death threat that could escalate into physical violence. The state prosecution did not press charges, determining on May 20 that the word “death” in the slogan should be seen as metaphorical and as a call to halt the policies of Jansa.

Freedom of Press and Media, Including Online Media: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction. Nevertheless, journalist organizations reported growing hateful rhetoric and threats against journalists online, spurred by animosity from officials. The International Press Institute highlighted a series of Twitter attacks on reporters, “enabling a wider increase in digital harassment from online trolls and contributing to an increasingly hostile climate for watchdog journalism.”

On March 15, the government’s COVID-19 Crisis Headquarters retweeted an insulting claim about investigative journalist Blaz Zgaga, alleging that he had a “COVID Marx-Lenin virus,” after Zgaga filed a freedom of information request regarding the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following this tweet, progovernment media and social media users engaged in smears and verbal attacks on Zgaga, claiming he was an “enemy of the state.” Zgaga also received online death threats. Several international organizations, including the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, as well as press freedom groups, condemned the threats against the journalist, and European Union Commissioner for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova contacted the country’s authorities about the media freedom situation. In a reply to the Council of Europe, the government condemned the case of alleged harassment of the journalist, but stated that there is no conclusive evidence as to what caused the harassment.

The European Commission reported in its September rule of law report for the country that concerns have been raised by stakeholders about possible politically motivated changes to the funding of the national public broadcaster and the governance of the national press agency.

Media freedom watchdogs also expressed concerns about government moves to exert pressure on public broadcaster RTV through changes to its governing bodies, especially following criticism by government officials of RTV’s reporting that was unfavorable to the government. One of the new administration’s early actions was to replace a subset of RTV’s supervisory board, intended to insure its financial independence, as is not uncommon with a change in government. Though the move was not unprecedented, one of the supervisory board members appealed, noting their terms had not expired. The case was still being adjudicated, however, an attempt to change two other supervisory board members was blocked by a parliamentary committee on May 21. The government also appointed some new members to RTV’s Program Council, which oversees its editorial policy and selects its director general.

On March 20, Prime Minister Jansa accused RTV on Twitter of spreading lies about an alleged decision by the government to raise salaries of ministers and state secretaries, adding that “obviously, there are too many of you and you are overpaid.” The Association of Slovenian Journalists expressed concern about the Prime Minister’s statement, asserting that it should be understood as a threat to RTV employees against possible loss of employment if they do not report according to the government’s liking. RTV Director General Igor Kadunc claimed that the comment had damaging consequences for media freedom and was aimed at the subordination of the central media to one political option.

RTV complained about a growing number of insulting tweets and verbal attacks against the institution and its journalists by politicians, labeling such attacks an attack on democracy. Following these verbal attacks, RTV journalists experienced several physical attacks by nongovernment actors.

The International Press Institute estimated that “few countries in Europe have experienced such a swift downturn in press and media freedom after a new government came to power,” leading to “a worrying decline in press freedom in a very short space of time in a country previously considered a relative safe haven for independent journalism, sending up further warning signs about deteriorating media freedom in Central Europe.”

Responding to allegations of pressure on the media in the country, the government attempted to justify its criticisms of the press by providing additional context in a April 7 letter to the Council of Europe, stating that the situation is a result of the country’s media having “their origin in the former communist regime” and the consolidation of media ownership in the hands of circles close to the left.

Journalists and media representatives stated existing media legislation does not address the problem of excessive concentration of ownership in media, which could limit the diversity of views expressed. On July 23, the European Commission expressed concern about transparency of media ownership in its rule of law report for the country. Particularly in the case of multiple shell owners, the law may make it difficult to identify who ultimately controls editorial decision making.

The European Commission also reported on a high level of political influence over some media companies, which could trickle down to the press and broadcasters at regional and local levels. Most media in the country are perceived by the population as somewhat biased, with those on the right asserting that the predominantly left-leaning media environment prevents a full spectrum of political views from being widely expressed.

Watchdog groups’ concerns about alleged financing of certain Slovenian media outlets by sources tied to Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party increased on September 30, when Telekom Slovenije sold Planet TV to Hungary’s TV2 Media, owned by Jozsef Vida, reportedly linked to the business network of Fidesz. Two Slovenian media outlets associated with the Slovenian Democratic Party, weekly newspaper Demokracija and the NovaTV web portal and TV channel, have long been rumored to receive funding from Fidesz allies.

The print and broadcast media, like online newspapers and journals, as well as book publishers, are subject to the laws prohibiting hate speech, libel, and slander.

Violence and Harassment: RTV journalists reported several physical attacks. On March 31, a news crew from RTV was verbally abused and threatened in the street by an unidentified individual as they were reporting from the capital, Ljubljana. After walking away, the assailant returned to the crew’s company vehicle and damaged the tires.

Such incidents were strongly condemned by the country’s senior officials and parties, including Prime Minister Jansa, who tweeted: “We condemn any form of street violence targeting journalists or anyone else, as well as any instigating of such acts.”

On June 1, Eugenija Carl, a journalist at RTV, received an envelope addressed to her containing a threatening handwritten note and a suspicious white powder that she said caused irritation and gave her a sore throat.

Physical attacks on journalists by nongovernment actors occurred particularly during protests. For example, on November 5, an unknown assailant hit photojournalist Borut Zivulovic in the head, apparently deliberately as journalists covered violent clashes with riot police during protests in Ljubljana. Press freedom groups strongly condemned the attack. A police investigation is ongoing. Several other media outlets also reported that their crews were intimidated, pushed, and obstructed during the protest.

During an antigovernment rally in Ljubljana on October 16, a protester, rapper Zlatan “Zlatko” Cordic, approached a cameraman for progovernment broadcaster Nova24 and grabbed his camera, demanding that he erase the recording. After police intervened, the camera was returned. Several videos of the incident appeared on social media. Journalist groups on both sides of the political spectrum condemned violence against media in response to the incident.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Instances of overt political pressure on the press remained isolated. The Slovenian Association of Journalists and media analysts observed that standards of journalistic integrity suffered because of economic pressure, nonstandard forms of employment such as freelance or student status, and reduced protections for journalists, leading some to practice self-censorship to maintain steady employment.

Libel/Slander Laws: The print and broadcast media, like online newspapers and journals, as well as book publishers, are subject to the laws criminalizing hate speech, libel, and slander. The government has not used the law to retaliate against journalists or political opponents.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

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

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

There were reports that police in rare cases used excessive force when responding to demonstrations. On October 11, several demonstrators addressed a protest letter to the acting Police Commissioner over the conduct of police during antigovernment protests in Ljubljana on October 9, claiming officers used excessive force without reason in several cases. The letter alleged that despite keeping a safe distance, “individuals were targeted without a warranted reason,” adding that the police should have acted differently, as the use of force was unnecessary. The Ljubljana Police Department denied allegations that they used excessive force. The police stressed in a press release that their task was to uphold public order, considering the temporary government decree restricting movement and assembly in public areas.

Freedom of Association

Several civil society organizations alleged that the government took steps to retaliate against them for their criticism of government policy (see section 5).

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement

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

In-Country Movement: Due to COVID-19, the government instituted limitations on movement to within the borders of an individual’s municipality of residence from mid-March until mid-May. These limitations were re-established in October along with a 30-day epidemic declaration that included a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. On December 17, the government formally extended the limitations by another 30 days, from December 18 until January 16, 2021. In the four regions with the best epidemiological situation, individuals using the national contact tracing app #OstaniZdrav (#StayWell) will be able to move between municipalities despite the general ban on intermunicipal movement.

Citizenship: Based on a 2012 decision by the European Court of Human Rights, in 2013 the government introduced a system for providing just satisfaction (i.e., restitution for damages) for the “erased” citizens of other former Yugoslav republics denied the right to reside legally in the country in the 1990s. To date, more than 10,300 “erased” individuals have regularized their legal status in the country. An additional 3,000 were presumed deceased, and approximately 12,000 were believed to be living abroad with no intention of returning to the country.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. NGOs alleged that border authorities continued to reject without due process most individuals seeking asylum.

NGOs reported that asylum seekers returned by Slovenian police to Croatia have no legal remedies to challenge border police decisions. NGOs alleged Croatian police forcibly pushed returning many migrants to Croatia into Bosnia and Herzegovina. Amnesty International stated that the expulsions from Slovenia took place without appropriate procedural safeguards against refoulement. This situation has made it difficult for migrants to apply for international protection.

On August 24, the Supreme Court overturned an Administrative Court ruling that blocked the return of migrants to Croatia without a formal Slovenian decision, effectively authorizing the immediate return of migrants to Croatia. The Administrative Court had ruled fast-track returns based on a Slovenian-Croatian interstate agreement but without a specific Slovenian decision in each case violated European and Slovenian legislation and constitutionally secured rights. The Supreme Court ruled that the 2006 agreement provides for the summary return of migrants.

The government also contended it lacks the capacity to process and house all new asylum seekers. Seven EU members, including the country, addressed a letter to the European Commission in June, expressing opposition to compulsory redistribution of migrants among EU member states.

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: Due to an increase in numbers of asylum seekers and a backlog of cases, applicants were detained at asylum centers while waiting to lodge their application for international protection. The lack of capacity to address large numbers of arrivals resulted in lower hygienic standards and health risks.

A migrant rights advocacy group, Taskforce for Asylum, maintained that authorities were violating the rights of foreigners kept at the Center for Aliens in Postojna were being violated by returning them to Croatia. The center held 96 asylum seekers as of July, mostly from Pakistan, Morocco, Afghanistan, and Algeria, with 55 of them in the process of obtaining international protection. The remaining foreigners were in the process of being returned to neighboring countries on the basis of bilateral agreements or deported to their home countries.

Asylum seekers outside of EU resettlement and relocation programs often waited six or more months for their cases to be adjudicated and were barred from working during the initial nine months of this period, although many reportedly worked illegally. Local NGOs criticized this restriction, asserting it made asylum seekers vulnerable to labor exploitation and trafficking due to their illegal status, lack of knowledge of local labor laws, and language barriers.

Durable Solutions: In 2016 the government approved an EU plan to relocate asylum seekers from Italy and Greece and to resettle refugees from non-EU countries. The government also agreed to resettle Syrian refugees from Turkey. Individuals granted refugee status are eligible for naturalization once they have fulfilled the necessary legal conditions.

g. Stateless Persons

Not applicable.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

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

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In 2018 the country held parliamentary elections in which the Slovenian Democratic Party won the plurality of votes. Observers considered the elections free and fair. The List of Marjan Sarec won the second largest share of votes and formed a five-party coalition. In January, Prime Minister Marjan Sarec resigned and in March the new government under Prime Minister Janez Jansa of the Slovenian Democratic Party was sworn in.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate. Women only occupied 22 percent on elected seats in the national legislature. The constitution provides for the National Assembly to include one member each from the Hungarian and Italian minorities.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal and civil penalties for corruption, conflicts of interest, and illegal lobbying by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were widespread reports of government corruption during the year. Officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

Local anticorruption experts said corruption in the country is systemic, however only isolated cases were investigated. Corruption manifested itself through politically motivated staffing in state-owned enterprises, conflicts of interest, bribes, and lack of transparency throughout the country’s political and economic spheres, particularly in public tenders. Due to limited police capacity, just one percent of alleged corrupt practices were investigated, and courts also had a poor track record in trying corruption cases.

There were reports of corruption in public procurement. On April 23, a whistleblower from the Commodity Reserves Agency, Ivan Gale, exposed alleged wrongdoing in the government’s purchasing of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other equipment for the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, Gale alleged that Minister of Economic Affairs Zdravko Pocivalsek personally directed eight million Euros in contracts for ventilators to a favored firm, Geneplanet. Allegations were made that several other high-level political figures also pressured the procuring authority to benefit individual companies. Gale lost his job at the Agency in October. His termination took immediate effect, and he was not eligible for severance or unemployment compensation.

State prosecutors launched a criminal investigation into Gale’s allegations in April, after TV Slovenija released information that featured Gale’s allegations and an audio recording of Minister Pocivalsek demanding that the Commodity Reserves Agency execute an advance payment to Geneplanet. As a result, the police searched the minister’s house. The contract with Geneplanet was changed after the story broke and as the epidemiological situation improved, and the company ended up delivering 110 ventilators while also buying 20 back. According to the business newspaper Finance, the final price tag of the transaction was EUR 3.6 million ($4.3 million). Pocivalsek survived a no confidence motion in parliament over the purchases. The criminal investigation is still pending and led to the resignation of both Police Commissioner Anton Travner and Interior Minister Ales Hojs. Hojs, however, withdrew his resignation in September after Prime Minister Jansa asked him to reconsider his decision and he survived a no confidence motion that was filed against him by four left-leaning parties.

On November 11, the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption announced they had detected risks throughout the PPE procurement process including a lack of traceability and transparency as well as and unequal treatment of bidders and selected contractors. Commission president Robert Sumi did not specify the persons or authorities suspected of wrongdoing.

Financial Disclosure: The highest-level officials in the government, the parliament, and the judiciary, representing approximately 5,000 of the country’s 170,000 public employees, are subject to financial disclosure laws. There are administrative sanctions for failing to respect these provisions. The government did not publicize cases in which these provisions were violated, but they may become part of the public record in other procedures (e.g., criminal or tax cases).

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

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

Several civil society organizations alleged that the government took steps during the year to retaliate against them for their criticism of government policy. On April 8, the government notified 15 NGOs that it was terminating grant agreements for projects related to civic education, media literacy, and assisting migrants and other vulnerable groups which had been signed under the previous government. Authorities stated that the funds were needed to address the COVID-19 pandemic. The NGOs pointed to rhetoric by the Prime Minister and other officials alleging the NGOs were partners of left-wing parties engaged in self-enrichment as an indication that the termination of the grant agreements was made on a political basis.

On October 19, 18 NGOs with offices in a state-owned building in Ljubljana received a letter from the Ministry of Culture informing them they must vacate the premises by the end of January 2021 or face a court-imposed eviction. The government explained that this action was because the building was to be renovated, but the affected groups commented to the press that they believed the eviction notice was politically motivated. A total of 200 NGOs signed a letter protesting the government’s decision. On November 5, the parliamentary Culture Committee asked the government to provide new premises for the NGOs by June 2021. Culture Ministry State Secretary Ignacija Fridl Jarc said that the ministry had the necessary legal grounds to evict the groups. The ministry stated, “the premises should be turned into a Museum of Natural History as soon as possible, while solutions should be found for the eligible tenants to find adequate premises, with the tenants also expected to take their own initiative in this respect.”

Government Human Rights Bodies: The constitution provides for an independent human rights ombudsman to monitor violations of human rights. Individuals may file complaints with the independent ombudsman to seek administrative relief in the case of a human rights violation by the government. The human rights ombudsman was effective, adequately resourced, reported to parliament annually on the human rights situation, and provided recommendations to the government. The Office of the Advocate of the Principle of Equality raises awareness of and helps prevent all types of discrimination, but reported that a lack of resources and personnel limited its effectiveness.

The Human Rights Ombudsman reported being frustrated by the government’s slow progress in responding to recommendations. In his 2019 annual report to the government, Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina submitted 160 recommendations and criticized state organizations for failing to respond to as many as 200 recommendations from previous years.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of men and women, including spousal rape, and domestic violence, are illegal. Sexual violence is a criminal offense, and the penalty for conviction is six months’ to eight years’ imprisonment. The penalty for conviction for rape is one to 10 years’ imprisonment. Police generally investigated accusations of rape, and courts generally tried accused offenders. The penal code defines rape as a perpetrator coercing the victim into sexual intercourse by force or serious threats. Local NGOs criticized sentencing as excessively light and demanded the government change the penal code’s definition of rape to the absence of consent.

The law provides from six months’ to 10 years’ imprisonment for aggravated and grievous bodily harm. Upon receiving reports of spousal abuse or violence, police generally intervened and prosecuted offenders, but local NGOs reported victims of sexual violence often did not report crimes to police. Local NGOs assessed that police and courts did not effectively intervene in or prosecute cases of alleged domestic abuse. NGOs contend the problem lies in deficient institutional cooperation, lengthy court proceedings, untrained investigators, prosecutors, and judges in matters of domestic violence, and poor information flow between authorities, institutions, and NGOs.

A network of maternity homes, safe houses, and shelters provided care to women and children who were victims of violence. The police academy offered annual training on domestic violence. Local NGOs reported women lacked equal access to assistance and support services and that free psychosocial assistance from NGOs was unavailable in many parts of the country. NGOs also reported a lack of practical training and educational programs for professionals who are legally bound to offer services to survivors of violence. NGOs highlighted the lack of systematic and continuous prevention programs for domestic violence and rape and reported there were no specialized support programs for Romani women, elderly women, or other vulnerable groups.

Due to COVID-19, the police academy halted its annual training on domestic violence.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment of men and women is a criminal offense carrying a penalty if convicted of up to three years’ imprisonment. The law prohibits sexual harassment, psychological violence, mistreatment, or unequal treatment in the workplace that causes “another employee’s humiliation or fear.” Authorities did not prosecute any sexual harassment cases during the year.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children and had access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence.

Under the law infertility treatment and biomedical fertilization procedures are only available for men and women living in a marital or cohabiting relationship who cannot expect to become pregnant through sexual intercourse and cannot be assisted by other treatments. Marital and cohabiting LGBTI couples and all single persons are excluded from the right to state-supported infertility treatment.

Infertility treatment and biomedical fertilization procedures are only available for spouses or common-law partners who are of legal age, can perform parental duties, and are mentally sound. The law does not restrict the right to in vitro fertilization with age but requires women must be of an age suitable for childbirth. In practice, in vitro fertilization was not available or covered by health insurance for women over the age of 43, forcing some women to have procedures in other countries.

The government provides access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence but does not maintain specific statistics on whether a health services recipient was a victim of sexual violence.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men and prohibits official discrimination in matters such as employment, housing, inheritance, nationality, religious freedom, or access to education or health care. Despite legal provisions for equal pay, inequities persisted.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from the parents with certain limitations. A child is granted citizenship at birth if the child’s mother and father were citizens, or one of the child’s parents was a citizen and the child was born on the territory of the country, or one of the child’s parents was a citizen while the other parent was unknown or of unknown citizenship and the child was born in a foreign country. Naturalization is possible. Children of migrants and asylum seekers do not qualify for citizenship if they are born in the country; their parents may file for asylum or refugee status on their behalf.

Child Abuse: Child abuse is a criminal offense, and conviction carries a penalty of up to three years’ imprisonment. During school closures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, between March and May and again between October and November, police reported 54 cases of child abuse and 301 cases of negligence. Police were active with social media campaigns and appealed to citizens to report any violence against children and other vulnerable groups.

There were 10 crisis centers for youth with a combined capacity of 86 children. The government allowed children to stay at these centers until they reached the age of 18, or 21 if they were still in school.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 18. With the approval of parents or legal guardians, centers for social service may approve or deny the marriage of a person between 16 and 17. Child marriage, of individuals aged 16 or 17, occurred in the Romani community, but were not a widespread problem.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The possession, sale, purchase, or propagation of child pornography is illegal. The penalty for violations ranged from six months to eight years in prison. The government enforced the law effectively. The law prohibits sexual violence and abuse of minors and soliciting minors for sexual purposes. Statutory rape carries a prison sentence of three to eight years in prison. The law sets the minimum age of consent for sexual relations at 15. The government generally enforced the law. Some children were also subjected to sex trafficking; however, in 2019, the government did not identify any child trafficking victims.

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

Anti-Semitism

There are an estimated 300 persons of Jewish descent in the country. There were no reports of anti-Semitic violence or overt discrimination.

In 2019 the Supreme Court annulled the 1946 death sentence on General Leon Rupnik, who collaborated with the Nazi occupying forces during World War II, on an appeal lodged by a relative, and sent the case to the Ljubljana District Court for retrial. The annulment means the case will be sent to retrial. Under the criminal procedure act, however, courts cannot try dead persons, which means that Rupnik’s guilt might not be re-examined. If rehabilitated, Rupnik’s heirs may claim the return of property seized by the state after the trial. The Jewish Cultural Center in Ljubljana expressed deep concern to what it called “these contemptible acts of Holocaust denial, revision…and attempts at reviving and justifying the Fascist and Nazi horrors.”

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The law mandates access to buildings and public transportation for persons with disabilities, but modification of public and private structures to improve access continued at a slow pace, and some public transportation stations and buildings–particularly older buildings–were not accessible, especially in rural areas. The law provides social welfare assistance and early-childhood, elementary, secondary, and vocational education programs for children with disabilities. Children with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities are entitled to tailored educational programs with additional professional assistance and resources. Depending on their individual needs, some children attended school (through secondary school) with nondisabled peers, while others attended separate schools. The law also provides vocational and independent living resources for adults with disabilities. The government continued to implement laws and programs to provide persons with disabilities access to education, employment, health services, buildings, information, communications, the judicial system, transportation, and other state services. The government generally enforced these provisions effectively.

In April 2019 the government adopted a proposal to register Slovenian sign language as a constitutionally official language.

The electoral law requires all polling stations to be accessible to persons with disabilities, but the National Electoral Commission estimated that, as of the 2017 presidential election, only 56 percent of polling stations were accessible. In March a local NGO filed a suit at the Constitutional Court alleging the country’s existing legislation did not provide persons with disabilities full access to polling stations. As of December the case remained pending. In the 2018 parliamentary elections, the National Electoral Commission used mobile ballot boxes to provide equal access to voters with disabilities. Voters with disabilities who are unable to reach a polling station on election day may also vote by mail.

Members of National/Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups

Two constitutionally recognized national minorities and one ethnic minority living in the country: Roma, Hungarians, and Italians. Other minorities living in the country are not officially recognized, such as Germans, Albanians, Bosniaks, Croatians, Macedonians, Montenegrins, and Serbs. Only members of official minorities are guaranteed special parliamentary seats to represent their communities.

Discrimination against socially marginalized Roma persisted in some parts of the country. Organizations monitoring conditions in the Romani community noted that Roma faced difficulties securing adequate housing in traditional housing markets. Many Roma lived apart from other communities in illegal settlements lacking basic utilities and services, such as electricity, running water, sanitation, and access to transportation. Government officials emphasized that the illegality of settlements remained the biggest obstacle to providing Roma access to adequate housing, water, and sanitation. By law only owners or persons with other legal claims to land, such as legal tenants, may obtain public services and infrastructure (see also section 7, Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation). Ethnic Roma are particularly vulnerable to trafficking in the country.

In the first-ever case brought by the country’s Roma to the European Court of Human Rights, two families living in two separate informal Roma settlements asserted in 2014 that the government failed to offer access to basic public utilities, drinking water, and sanitation and that local authorities had engaged in negative and discriminatory treatment. In March the court found that the government took adequate steps to provide Roma settlements with drinking water and rejected the case. Several groups, including Amnesty International Slovenija and several Roma families, appealed the decision, alleging the court had not considered all circumstances in the case. In September, five judges forming the European Court of Human Rights grand chamber dismissed the appeals, quashed the allegations, and sustained the initial ruling.

Organizations monitoring conditions in the Romani community and officials employed in schools with large Romani student populations unofficially reported that high illiteracy rates among Roma persisted. While education for children is compulsory through grade nine, school attendance and completion rates by Romani children remained low.

Privacy protection laws limited the government’s ability to collect personal data on nationality, race, color, religious belief, ethnicity, sex, language, political or other belief, sexual orientation, material standing, birth, education, social position, citizenship, place or type of residence or any other personal circumstance. This resulted in, among other gaps, a lack of official data about Roma in the country.

The Center for School and Outdoor Education continued its 2016-22 project on Romani education, financed by the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport and the European Social Fund. The project helped Romani children succeed in the educational system through mentoring and support, including extracurricular activities and preschool education at community multipurpose centers. Although segregated classrooms are illegal, a number of Roma reported to NGOs their children attended segregated classes and that school authorities selected them disproportionately to attend classes for students with special needs. A local NGO estimated that 30 to 40 percent of the students attending special needs schools and classes were Romani, despite the fact that Roma comprise less than 1 percent of the total population.

In 2018 the government adopted the National Program of Measures for Roma for 2017-21 to improve living conditions of the Romani community through 41 specific measures, including improving health-care access; reducing poverty; providing antidiscrimination training; and promoting education, employment, and social inclusion. The Office for National Minorities coordinated this program and monitored its implementation. Although the government consulted Romani community representatives in preparing the National Program, NGOs claimed it focused too much on project-based initiatives and did not adequately consider the Romani community’s suggestions to address systemic issues, such as a lack of electricity, running water, sanitation, and access to transportation. Some Roma community members expressed concern over planned government reductions in funding for Roma communities due to budgetary pressures resulting from COVID-19 that could affect preparation of a National Program for 2022-26.

Local NGOs called on the government to adopt new measures to improve access to housing, education, and employment for Roma. The human rights ombudsman reported elderly Roma were among the most vulnerable individuals and needed additional care and support services. The average life expectancy of Roma is estimated to be 10 years shorter than that of the rest of the population.

A government-established commission to safeguard the rights of Roma continued to function. The commission included representatives from the Romani community, municipalities, and the government.

Representatives of the Romani community participated in a program that improved communication between police and individual Roma through discrimination prevention training for police officers working in Romani communities. As a result of COVID-19, for first time since the program’s inception in 2016, representatives of the Romani community did not participate in discrimination prevention training for police officers working in Romani communities.

The government provided medical equipment to health-care facilities and supported programs, workshops, and educational initiatives to provide best practices for health-care professionals working in Romani communities.

The German-speaking community called on the government to recognize the community as a minority officially in the constitution. The community called on the government to include German as a language of instruction in schools, recognize the minority language in radio and television programming, and provide additional funds to support German culture.

The ethnic Albanian, Bosniak, Croatian, Macedonian, Montenegrin, and Serbian communities also called on the government to recognize their communities officially in the constitution. In 2019 the government established the Government Council for Ethnic Communities of Members of Former Yugoslav Nations in Slovenia as a consultative body to address issues faced by such ethnic groups living in the country.

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

The law prohibits discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons in housing, employment, nationality laws, and access to government services. The government enforced such laws effectively, but societal discrimination was widespread.

The Ministry of Labor, Family, Social Affairs, and Equal Opportunities, as well as law enforcement authorities, recorded incidents of violence, but they did not track the number of cases of violence against LGBTI persons. Local NGOs asserted that violence against LGBTI persons was prevalent but that victims often did not report such incidents to police.

On June 5, a man attacked a well known gay activist and his friends at a bar in Maribor. The perpetrator approached the activist and insulted him, tore his jacket, and attacked the activist’s friends who stood up for him. The case was reported to the police, who established that it was a homophobic attack. The investigation is still under way and no arrests have been made. The case is pending.

Local NGOs assessed that transgender persons remained particularly vulnerable to societal discrimination and targeted violence. NGOs reported that in 2019, a transgender individual alleged a doctor refused to provide medical services due to the individual’s transgender status. In 2020 the case was placed under administrative complaint procedures and through the help of Amnesty International the transgender individual was able to access her desired medical services.

While the law and implementing regulations establish procedures for changing one’s legal gender, LGBTI NGOs maintained the provisions are too general, subject to misinterpretation and arbitrary decisions, and insufficiently protect the rights to health, privacy, and physical integrity of transgender persons. For example, NGOs reported only two psychiatrists were authorized to provide documentation required for individuals to begin the process, which resulted in waiting times of up to a year.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

NGOs reported HIV-positive individuals often faced stigma and discrimination in access to health care. For example, Activists for the Rights of People Living with HIV and medical experts from the Clinic for Infectious Diseases and Febrile Conditions reported that 90 percent of individuals living with HIV experienced discrimination in medical institutions due to their HIV status.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law does not prohibit antiunion discrimination or require reinstatement of workers fired for union activity; however, courts have ruled that the right to unionize is protected in law. NGOs reported that in practice employers have informally pressured employees to refrain from organizing or to deunionize, particularly workers in the metal industry and transport sector.

The law requires unionization of at least 10 percent of workers in a sector before the sector may engage in collective bargaining. The law restricts the right to strike for police, members of the military, and some other public employees, providing for arbitration instead. Local NGOs assessed that although penalties for violations were sufficient, a shortage of labor inspectors impeded the government’s ability to effectively prevent, monitor, and deter violations. Judicial and administrative procedures were not subject to lengthy delays or appeals.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

While the law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, and the government generally enforced the law, forced labor occurred and was most common in the metal and wood industry, construction, hospitality, and transport sectors. Local NGOs assessed that while penalties for violations were sufficient, there were concerns that the number of inspectors and resources dedicated to trafficking, coordination between labor inspectors and police, and the prioritization of prosecuting labor trafficking was insufficient, which impeded the government’s ability to effectively prevent and monitor violations.

There were reports men, women, and children were subjected to forced labor in the construction sector and forced begging. A government report found minors and migrant workers were particularly vulnerable to forced labor or trafficking conditions, while fraudulent employment and recruitment of migrant workers remained a problem. Penalties were not commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. The minimum legal age of employment is 15. The law limits hours, mandates rest periods, prohibits working in hazardous locations, and specifies adult supervision for workers younger than age 18. While no specific occupations are restricted, hazardous work locations specified by the law include those that are underground and underwater and those involving harmful exposure to radiation, toxic or carcinogenic agents, extreme cold, heat, noise, or vibrations. Penalties for child labor were not commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping. Penalties related to child labor violations range from a fine to one year in prison and were sufficient to deter violations. The government generally enforced child labor and minimum age laws effectively. Nevertheless, children younger than 15 in rural areas often worked during the harvest season.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law establishes a general framework for equal treatment and prohibits discrimination with respect to employment or occupation based on race or ethnic origin, sex, color, religion, age, citizenship, disability, or sexual orientation. The law specifically prohibits discrimination based on language or HIV-positive status. The government effectively enforced these laws. Penalties for violations range widely, depending on the type and size of the employing organization, and were sufficient to deter violations. Women’s earnings were approximately 68 percent of those of men; in comparable positions, women’s earnings were approximately 97 percent those of men. Under the law, women were prohibited from working in some industries.

There were few formal complaints of discrimination, although there were some reports of employment discrimination based on gender, age, and nationality. In certain sectors foreign workers are required to remain employed with their initial employer for a minimum of one year. Local NGOs assessed this requirement enabled labor exploitation through lower salaries, poor living conditions, and longer working hours. Migrant workers enjoyed the same labor rights as citizens, but they faced discrimination. Many migrants worked in the hospitality sector or in physically demanding jobs. Some migrant workers were not aware of local labor laws regarding minimum wage, overtime, health care, and other benefits, a problem compounded by language barriers.

One NGO estimated only 2 percent of Roma in the southeastern part of the country worked in the formal economy. Employment in informal sectors made Roma vulnerable to labor law violations, particularly in terms of benefits and procedures for termination of employment. Employment discrimination against Roma was not limited to a specific sector. The government attempted to address problems experienced by Roma (see also section 6, National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities).

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The national monthly gross minimum wage exceeded the poverty line. The official poverty line was increased from 662 ($794) euros to 703 euros ($823) per month for single-member households. The Ministry of Labor, Family, Social Affairs, and Equal Opportunities monitors minimum wage compliance and has inspection authority. According to NGOs and advocacy groups, authorities generally enforced the laws effectively, except in some cases involving migrant workers and asylum seekers, who faced conditions of exploitation. Penalties for violations were sufficient to deter violations.

Collective agreements determined whether workers received premium pay for overtime. The law limits overtime to eight hours per week, 20 hours per month, and 170 hours per year.

The European Trade Union Confederation reported five cases of potential labor exploitation of Slovenian nationals temporarily working in other EU countries to the European Labor Authority. A local trade union confederation expressed concern that authorities issued temporary work permits for its nationals to work in other EU countries based on false pretenses and without adequately monitoring the posted employees or checking for potential violations. The trade union confederation urged the government to adopt measures to prevent and combat such violations. Common examples of such exploitation included pay discrepancies between local workers (workers who are employed by companies in the country and also work there in the country) and posted workers (workers employed by companies in the country but whose job location is in other countries of the EU joint labor market), and companies neglecting to pay social security contributions or grant paid holidays and sick leave.

Special commissions under the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labor, Family, Social Affairs, and Equal Opportunities set occupational health and safety standards for workers that are appropriate for the main industries in the country. Workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardizing their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in this situation. Workers facing hazardous working conditions included professional divers, mountain rescuers, sailors, construction workers, and miners. Workers facing exploitative working conditions included those employed in construction, the transport sector, the wood industry, and exotic dancers. The government did not effectively enforce occupational safety and health laws. Penalties for violations of these laws were not commensurate with those for crimes like negligence.

The law requires employers to protect workers injured on the job. If incapacitated, such workers may perform other work corresponding to their abilities, obtain part-time work, and receive occupational rehabilitation and wage compensation.

The Ministry of Labor, Family, Social Affairs, and Equal Opportunities monitors labor practices and has inspection authority; police are responsible for investigating violations of the law. According to NGOs and advocacy groups, authorities enforced the laws effectively, except in some cases involving migrant workers and asylum seekers who faced conditions of exploitation. The International Labor Organization’s Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations observed that conflicts between laws governing inspection could lead to uncertainty over whether inspectors have the right to access work sites. The law requires employers to make social security payments for all workers. The Free Legal Aid Society reported that employers of migrant workers usually did not deduct social security from paychecks, leaving those workers without a future pension or access to social services. The number of inspectors was insufficient to monitor potential labor contract or occupational safety and health violations; the committee of experts and NGOs reported an urgent need to increase the number of inspectors to keep up with the workload. Labor inspectors carried out some labor contract and occupational safety and health inspections, found violations, and issued penalties. The majority of violations took place in the wood processing industry, the metal industry, construction, and bars and restaurants.

There were no major industrial accidents during the year in which workers were injured.

South Africa

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

Although the constitution and law prohibit such practices, there were reports of police use of torture and physical abuse during house searches, arrests, interrogations, and detentions, some of which resulted in death. The NGO Sonke Gender Justice reported that almost one-third of sex workers interviewed stated police officers had raped or sexually assaulted them.

Impunity was a significant problem in the security forces. The factors contributing to widespread police brutality were a lack of accountability and training.

As of October 30, the United Nations reported three allegations against South African peacekeepers, a reduction from six allegations in 2019. According to the Conduct in UN Field Missions online portal, since 2015 there have been 37 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against 43 peacekeepers from South African units deployed to the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Of the 37 allegations, the South African government had not reported taking accountability measures in 12 of the cases, including the three cases reported during the year, three from 2019, three from 2018, and three from 2017. One of these cases involved rape of a child, four involved transactional sex with one or more adults, six involved an exploitative relationship with an adult, and one involved sexual assault of an adult. In six of the open cases, the South African government, the United Nations, or both substantiated the allegations and the United Nations had repatriated the peacekeepers. According to the United Nations, South African authorities continued to investigate the other six open cases.

Since 2018 remedial legislation to address peacekeeper abuses has been pending.

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 arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements; however, there were numerous cases of arbitrary arrest of foreign workers, asylum seekers, and refugees.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

The law requires that a judge or magistrate issue arrest warrants based on sufficient evidence. Police must promptly inform detainees of the reasons for their detention, their right to remain silent, and the consequences of waiving that right. Police must charge detainees within 48 hours of arrest; hold them in conditions respecting human dignity; allow them to consult with legal counsel of their choice at every stage of their detention (or provide them with state-funded legal counsel); and permit them to communicate with relatives, medical practitioners, and religious counselors. The government often did not respect these rights. Police must release detainees (with or without bail) unless the interests of justice require otherwise, although bail for pretrial detainees often exceeded what suspects could pay.

Arbitrary Arrest: During the year there were numerous cases of arbitrary arrest, particularly of foreign workers, asylum seekers, and refugees. NGOs and media outlets reported security forces arbitrarily arrested migrants and asylum seekers–including those with proper documentation–often because police were unfamiliar with migrant and asylum documentation. In some cases police threatened documented migrants and asylum seekers with indefinite detention and bureaucratic hurdles unless they paid bribes. The law prohibits the detention of unaccompanied migrant children for immigration law violations, but NGOs reported the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) and SAPS nevertheless detained them.

Legal aid organizations reported police frequently arrested persons for minor crimes for which the law stipulates the use of a legal summons. Arrests for offenses such as common assault, failure to provide proof of identity, or petty theft sometimes resulted in the unlawful imprisonment of ordinary citizens alongside hardened criminals, which created opportunities for physical abuse. Human rights activists condemned the arrests and complained some of the individuals were undocumented because the DHA failed to reopen a refugee center in Cape Town, despite a court order. In October 2019 hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers encamped outside the offices of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Cape Town and Pretoria, claiming they were not safe in South Africa, demanding resettlement to third countries. In October 2019 SAPS removed protesters from UNHCR’s Cape Town office and in November 2019 from the UNHCR Pretoria office. Approximately 180 male protesters were arrested, charged, and convicted of trespassing on the UNHCR compound, most of whom received suspended sentences and were released. As of November approximately 60 protesters remained in prison, having rejected the option of release.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was common. According to the Department of Correctional Services 2019-2020 Annual Report the pretrial population averaged 47,233 detainees, 33 percent of the total inmate population. According to the DCS, detainees waited an average of 176 days before trial. Observers attributed the high rate of pretrial detention to arrests based on insufficient evidence for prosecution, overburdened courts, poor case preparation, irregular access to public defenders, and prohibitive bail amounts. Police often held detainees while prosecutors developed cases and waited for court dates. Legal scholars estimated less than 60 percent of those arrested were convicted. The law requires a review in cases of pretrial detention of more than two years’ duration. The pretrial detention frequently exceeded the maximum sentence for the alleged crime.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. There were numerous reports of lost trial documents, often when the accused was a government official. NGOs stated judicial corruption was a problem.

Government agencies sometimes ignored orders from provincial high courts and the Constitutional Court.

Trial Procedures

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Criminal defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence; to be informed promptly of the charges; to a fair, timely, and public trial; to be present at their trial; to communicate with an attorney of their choice or have one provided at public expense if unable to pay; to have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense; to free assistance of an interpreter; to confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence; and not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Police did not always inform detainees promptly and in detail of the charges against them, nor did they always accurately complete corresponding paperwork. Provision of free interpreter assistance depended on availability and cost. Limited access to interpreters sometimes delayed trials. According to civil society groups, interpretation standards were low and sometimes compromised the accuracy of exchanges between a defendant and officers of the court. Judges sometimes transferred cases from rural to urban areas to access interpreters more easily.

Although detainees and defendants have the right to legal counsel provided and funded by the state when “substantial injustice would otherwise result,” this right was limited due to a general lack of information regarding rights to legal representation and inadequate government funding of such legal services. There is no automatic right to appeal unless a convicted individual is younger than 16, but courts may give defendants permission to do so. Additionally, the law provides for the High Court to review magistrate court sentences exceeding six months.

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, including equality courts designated to hear matters relating to unfair discrimination, hate speech and harassment, and the South African Human Rights Commission, but the government did not always comply with court decisions. Individuals and organizations may not appeal domestic court decisions to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, because the government does not recognize the competence of the court.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions. There were no reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions. Civil society organizations raised concerns government management of the COVID-19 pandemic employed telephonic contact tracing that violated privacy rights. In April the government issued amended disaster management regulations. While the regulations recognized the right to privacy, the government urged citizens to make concessions until pandemic emergency measures were no longer necessary.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press

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

Freedom of Speech: Authorities limited free expression and public debate regarding hate speech. The decade-old case of journalist John Qwelane convicted of antigay hate speech for a 2008 editorial, “Call me names, but gay is not okay,” continued, as the Constitutional Court reviewed lower courts’ decisions on the case and examining the constitutionality of the Equality Act’s litmus test for defining hate speech.

Freedom of Press and Media, Including Online Media: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views; however, conviction of publishing “fake news” regarding COVID-19 was punishable by fine, up to six months’ imprisonment, or both. The country’s press ombudsman stated that the COVID-19 measure had a chilling effect on journalists. In June the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) stated that the pandemic led to the closure of two magazine publications and 80 other print publications, the elimination of 700 journalism jobs, and the loss of income of 70 percent of freelance journalists.

Violence and Harassment: There were instances of journalists being subjected to violence, harassment, or intimidation by authorities due to their reporting. For example, in August, ANC member of parliament Boy Mamabolo was recorded verbally insulting and threatening to shoot an investigative print journalist regarding allegations that Mamabolo had made derogatory remarks concerning the government’s decision to ban the sale of alcohol as a COVID-19 pandemic mitigation measure. In March Johannesburg police shot at a News 24 reporter when he started to report on police firing rubber bullets to disperse a group of individuals violating lockdown regulations. SANEF reportedly filed a formal complaint regarding the incident.

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

Internet Freedom

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

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

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

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights. Nevertheless, NGOs reported many municipalities continued to require protest organizers to provide advance written notice before staging gatherings or demonstrations.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

In prior years protest organizers could be legally required to notify local authorities before staging gatherings or demonstrations. In 2018 the Constitutional Court ruled unanimously against this requirement. Legal experts welcomed the decision as an advance for civil liberties; however, they noted the ruling did not address the question of assuring security by local authorities during protests.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. In March the president declared a national disaster to restrict the spread of COVID-19. Freedom of movement was severely curtailed, including movement across international and provincial borders. Beginning on March 26, authorities instituted a 35-day strict lockdown that allowed persons to leave their residences only to obtain food and essential services.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

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

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Refugee advocacy organizations stated police and immigration officials physically abused refugees and asylum seekers. Xenophobic violence was a continuing problem across the country, especially in Gauteng Province. In August and September 2019, a spate of looting and violence in Johannesburg and Pretoria targeted foreign nationals, principally Nigerians and refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Those targeted often owned or managed small, informal grocery stores in economically marginalized areas that lacked government services.

On social media immigrants were often blamed for increased crime and the loss of jobs and housing. Between January and November, there were at least 48 incidents of xenophobic violence. NGOs reported migrants were illegally evicted despite a national moratorium on evictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Violence against foreign truck drivers continued, including a flare-up in November of gasoline-bomb attacks on foreign truckers. Somali refugees continued to be among the most targeted groups, especially in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, and Gauteng Provinces. At least 29 Somalis were killed during the year. NGOs reported perpetrators of violence included ordinary citizens and law enforcement officers. According to the African Center for Migration and Society, perpetrators of crimes against foreign nationals were rarely prosecuted.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum and refugee status, and the government has an established system for providing protection to refugees. According to local migrants’ rights organizations, the DHA rejected most refugee applications. Those rejected then sought asylum. According to civil society groups, the system lacked procedural safeguards for seeking protection and review for unaccompanied minors, trafficked victims, and victims of domestic violence. Government services strained to keep up with the caseload, and NGOs criticized the government’s implementation of the system as inadequate.

Refugee advocacy groups criticized the government’s processes for determining asylum and refugee status, citing low approval rates, large case backlogs, a lack of timely information provided to asylum seekers on their asylum requests and status of their cases, inadequate use of country-of-origin information, an inadequate number of processing locations, and official corruption. Despite DHA anticorruption programs that punished officials found to be accepting bribes, NGOs and asylum applicants reported immigration officials sought bribes.

The DHA operated only three processing centers for asylum applications and refused to transfer cases among facilities. The DHA thus required asylum seekers to return to the office at which they were originally registered to renew asylum documents, which NGOs argued posed an undue hardship on those seeking asylum. NGOs reported asylum seekers sometimes waited in line for several days to access the reception centers.

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

Access to Basic Services: Although the law provides for asylum seekers, migrants, and refugees to have access to basic services, including education, health, social support, police, and judicial services, NGOs stated health-care facilities and law enforcement personnel discriminated against them. Some refugees reported they could not access schooling for their children. They reported schools often refused to accept asylum documents as proof of residency. NGOs reported banks regularly denied services to refugees and asylum seekers if they lacked government-issued identification documents. Following a June court order in response to a lawsuit filed by the refugee-advocacy NGO Scalabrini Center of Cape Town, the government provided COVID-19 support payments to refugees and migrants. Refugees already had the legal right to such social support.

Durable Solutions: The government granted some refugees permanent residency and a pathway to citizenship, and, in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration, assisted others in returning voluntarily to their countries of origin. The law extends citizenship to children born to foreign national parents who arrived in South Africa on or after January 1, 1995.

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

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

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

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In May 2019 the country held National Assembly, National Council of Provinces, and provincial legislature elections. The ANC won 58 percent of the vote, the leading opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) Party 21 percent, and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Party 11 percent. According to the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa, voter turnout was 66 percent, the lowest turnout for national elections since the end of apartheid. The institute stated the elections were transparent, fair, credible, and in line with the constitutional and legal framework for elections.

The ruling ANC won 230 of 400 seats in the National Assembly, the dominant lower chamber of parliament. Election observers, including the African Union and the Southern African Development Community, characterized the elections as largely credible. The government, however, restricted diplomatic missions from assigning more than two election observers each, effectively excluding diplomatic missions from broad observation of the elections. The DA won 84 parliamentary seats, the EFF won 44 seats, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) won 14 seats, and the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) won 10 seats. The remaining 27 seats were allocated to nine other political parties based on a proportional vote-count formula. In the National Council of Provinces, the upper house of parliament, the ANC won 29 seats, the DA 13 seats, the EFF nine seats, the FF+ two seats, and the IFP one seat. ANC leader Cyril Ramaphosa was sworn in for his first full term as president of the republic.

The ANC won control of eight of the nine provincial legislatures.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Opposition parties accused the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), the state-owned public broadcaster, of favoring the ruling party in its news coverage and advertising policies. Prior to the municipal elections, smaller political parties criticized the SABC for not covering their events. SABC regulations, however, dictate coverage should be proportional to the percentage of votes won in the previous election, and independent observers did not find the SABC violated this regulation.

Opposition parties claimed the ANC used state resources for political purposes in the provinces under its control. Prior to the elections, the DA accused ANC secretary general Ace Magashule of vote buying. ANC membership conferred advantages. Through a cadre deployment system, the ruling party controls and appoints party members to thousands of civil service positions in government ministries and in provincial and municipal governments.

There were reports government officials publicly threatened to boycott private businesses that criticized government policy.

Postponed from March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in November a total of 96 municipal ward by-elections were conducted. More than 600,000 voters participated nationwide. Although largely peaceful, in Soweto there was one report of residents blocking a polling station with boulders and burning tires to protest their community’s lack of electricity for six months.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits the participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Cultural factors, however, limited women’s political participation.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides for criminal penalties for conviction of official corruption, and the government continued efforts to implement the law effectively; however, officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

At least 10 agencies, including the SAPS Special Investigation Unit, Public Service Commission, Office of the Public Prosecutor, and Office of the Auditor General, were involved in anticorruption activities. During the year the Office of the Public Protector, which is constitutionally mandated to investigate government abuse and mismanagement, investigated thousands of cases, some of which involved high-level officials.

Corruption: Official corruption remained a problem. The ANC sought to remove party members implicated in corruption scandals due to concern the scandals undermined public confidence in the ANC-led government.

On November 10, ANC secretary general Magashule was arrested on 21 charges of corruption, theft, fraud, and money laundering, and he was released on bail. Magashule had yet to be tried by year’s end. He rejected calls by the ANC Integrity Commission to step down. The ANC National Executive Committee was considering whether to suspend him from the party at year’s end.

Financial Disclosure: Public officials, including members of national and provincial legislatures, all cabinet members, deputy ministers, provincial premiers, and members of provincial executive councils, are subject to financial disclosure laws and regulations, but some failed to comply, and the majority filed their reports late. The declaration regime clearly identifies the assets, liabilities, and interests that public officials must declare. Government officials are required to declare publicly their financial interests when they enter office, and there are administrative and criminal sanctions for noncompliance, but no office is mandated to monitor and verify disclosures and the compliance is not enforced.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: Although created by the government, the South African Human Rights Commission operated independently and was responsible for promoting the observance of fundamental human rights at all levels of government and throughout the general population. The commission has the authority to conduct investigations, issue subpoenas, and take sworn testimony. Civil society groups considered the commission only moderately effective due to a large backlog of cases and the failure of government agencies to adhere to its recommendations.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes domestic violence and rape of men or women, including spousal rape, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. The minimum sentence for conviction of rape is 10 years’ imprisonment. Under certain circumstances, such as second or third offenses, multiple rapes, gang rapes, or the rape of a minor or a person with disabilities, conviction requires a minimum sentence of life imprisonment, unless substantial and compelling circumstances exist to justify a lesser sentence. Perpetrators with previous rape convictions and perpetrators aware of being HIV positive at the time of the rape also face a minimum sentence of life imprisonment, unless substantial and compelling circumstances exist to justify a lesser sentence.

In most cases of rape and domestic violence, attackers were acquaintances or family members of the victim that, together with societal attitudes, contributed to a reluctance to press charges. NGOs stated that cases were underreported especially in rural communities due to stigma, unfair treatment, fear, intimidation, and lack of trust in the criminal justice system. According to Police Minister Bheki Cele, during the first week of the COVID-19 lockdown, police received more than 87,000 rape and other gender-based violence (GBV) complaints.

There were numerous reported sexual assaults similar to the following example. In June a woman eight months pregnant was found dead hanging from a tree in Johannesburg. She and her fetus had multiple stab wounds. Muzikayise Malephane, age 31, was arrested and charged with premeditated murder. He had yet to be tried by year’s end.

SAPS reported an increase in the number of reported raped cases from 41,583 in 2018/19 to 42,289 in 2019/20. According to the National Prosecuting Authority 20192020 Annual Report, the authority achieved its highest number of successfully prosecuted sexual offense cases during the time period. It prosecuted 5,451 sexual offense cases and had 4,098 convictions, a 75 percent conviction rate.

The Department of Justice operated 96 dedicated sexual offenses courts throughout the country. Although judges in rape cases generally followed statutory sentencing guidelines, women’s advocacy groups criticized judges for using criteria, such as the victim’s behavior or relationship to the rapist, as a basis for imposing lighter sentences.

The National Prosecuting Authority operated 51 rape management centers, or Thuthuzela Care Centers (TCCs), addressing the rights and needs of victims and vulnerable persons, including legal assistance. TCCs assisted 35,469 victims of sexual offenses and related crimes during the year. A key TCC objective is prosecution of sexual, domestic violence, child abuse offenders. Approximately 75 percent of the cases it took to trial resulted in conviction.

Domestic violence was pervasive and included physical, sexual, emotional, and verbal abuse, as well as harassment and stalking. The government prosecuted domestic violence cases under laws governing rape, indecent assault, damage to property, and violating a protection order. The law requires police to protect victims from domestic violence, but police commanders did not always hold officers accountable. Conviction of violating a protection order is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment, and up to 20 years’ imprisonment if convicted of additional criminal charges. Penalties for conviction of domestic violence include fines and sentences of between two and five years’ imprisonment.

The government financed shelters for abused women, but NGOs reported a shortage of such facilities, particularly in rural areas, and that women were sometimes turned away from shelters. In March 2019 the president signed a declaration regarding GBV against women and femicide (the killing of a girl or woman, in particular by a man) that provided for the establishment of the GBV Council and the National Strategic Plan for Gender-Based Violence and Femicide 2020-2030. In May the government began implementation of the plan. Its focus is on GBV faced by women across age, sexual orientation, sexual and gender identities, and on specific groups such as elderly women, women who live with a disability, migrant women, and transgender women.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C of girls and women, but girls in isolated zones in ethnic Venda communities in Limpopo Province were subjected to the practice. The government continued initiatives to eradicate the practice, including national research and sensitization workshops in areas where FGM/C was prevalent.

Sexual Harassment: Although prohibited by law, sexual harassment remained a widespread problem. Sexual harassment is a criminal offense for which conviction includes fines and sentences of up to five years’ imprisonment.

Enforcement against workplace harassment is initially left to employers to address as part of internal disciplinary procedures. The Department of Labor issued guidelines to employers on how to handle workplace complaints that allow for remuneration of a victim’s lost compensation plus interest, additional damages, legal fees, and dismissal of the perpetrator in some circumstances. NGOs and unions urged the government to ratify the International Labor Organization convention on the prevention of violence and harassment in the workplace. Despite presidential support, parliament had yet to ratify the convention by year’s end.

NGOs reported sexual harassment of women in the major political parties. For example, in October a female DA party member filed a complaint with police against former Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga. Msimanga subsequently sued for defamation. Only two of the seven major parties have policies against sexual harassment.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children; to manage their reproductive health; and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Contraception was widely available and free at government clinics. Emergency health care was available for the treatment of complications arising from abortion.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. The country has laws and policies to respond to gender-based violence and femicide, although authorities did not fully implement these policies and enforce relevant law. The law provides for survivors of gender-based violence to receive shelter and comprehensive care, including treatment of injuries, a forensic examination, pregnancy and HIV testing, provision of postexposure prophylaxis, and counseling rehabilitation services.

The maternal mortality ratio was 536 pregnancy-related deaths per 100,000 live births. According to the South Africa Demographic and Health Survey 2016, for every 1,000 live births, approximately five girls and women died during pregnancy or within two months after childbirth, 77 percent of girls and women ages 15-19 had four or more antenatal care examinations, and skilled health-care providers attended 97 percent of births.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of forced abortion on the part of government authorities; however, there were reports of forced sterilizations submitted to the Commission for Gender Equality and civil society organizations during the year. In February the Commission for Gender Equality documented 48 forced sterilization procedures conducted at 15 state hospitals between 2002 and 2015. According to the commission, the procedures were largely conducted on women who gave birth via cesarean section and were HIV positive.

Discrimination: Discrimination against women remained a serious problem despite legal equality in family, labor, property, inheritance, nationality, divorce, and child custody matters. Women experienced economic discrimination in wages, extension of credit, and ownership of land.

Traditional patrilineal authorities, such as a chief or a council of elders, administered many rural areas. Some traditional authorities refused to grant land tenure to women, a precondition for access to housing subsidies. Women could challenge traditional land tenure discrimination in courts, but access to legal counsel was costly.

By law any difference in the terms or conditions of employment among employees of the same employer performing the same, substantially similar, or equal value work constitutes discrimination. The law expressly prohibits unequal pay for work of equal value and discriminatory practices, including separate pension funds for different groups in a company (see section 7.d.).

Children

Birth Registration: The law provides for citizenship by birth (if at least one parent is a permanent resident or citizen), descent, and naturalization. Registration of births was inconsistent, especially in remote rural areas and by parents who were unregistered foreign nationals. Children without birth registration had no access to government services such as education or health care, and their parents had no access to financial grants for their children.

Education: Public education is compulsory and universal until age 15 or grade nine. Public education is fee based and not fully subsidized by the government. Nevertheless, the law provides that schools may not refuse admission to children due to a lack of funds; therefore, disadvantaged children, who were mainly black, were eligible for financial assistance. Even when children qualified for fee exemptions, low-income parents had difficulty paying for uniforms and supplies. In violation of law, noncitizen children were sometimes denied access to education based on their inability to produce identification documents, such as birth certificates and immunization documents.

Child Abuse: The law criminalizes child abuse. The penalties for conviction of child abuse include fines and up to 20 years’ imprisonment. Violence against children, including domestic violence and sexual abuse, remained widespread.

There were reports of abuse of students by teachers and other school staff, including reports of assault and rape. The law requires schools to disclose sexual abuse to authorities, but administrators sometimes concealed sexual violence or delayed taking disciplinary action.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: By law parental or judicial consent to marry is required for individuals younger than 18. Nevertheless, ukuthwala, the practice of abducting girls as young as 14 and forcing them into marriage, occurred in remote villages in Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal Provinces. The law prohibits nonconsensual ukuthwala and classifies it as a trafficking offense.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation, sale, and offering or procurement of children for prostitution and child pornography. Conviction includes fines and 10 years’ imprisonment. The Film and Publications Board maintained a website and a toll-free hotline for the public to report incidents of child pornography. In October 2019 Johannes Oelofse of Alberton in Gauteng Province was sentenced to life imprisonment for conviction of repeatedly raping his daughter who had a mental disability.

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

Anti-Semitism

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) estimated the Jewish community at 60,000 persons. The SAJBD recorded 69 anti-Semitic incidents between January and December, a steep increase from 37 in 2019. There were reports of verbal abuse and hate speech–especially in social media–and attacks on Jewish persons or property.

In October a district court issued the country’s first criminal conviction of anti-Semitism. The court sentenced defendant Matome Letsoalo to three years’ imprisonment. In 2008 Letsoalo posted anti-Semitic messages on Twitter that included images of Holocaust victims. In November the Randburg Magistrate Court issued a cessation order against Jan Lamprecht for posting online virulent anti-Semitism statements and personal information on SAJBD’s national vice chairperson.

Twin brothers, Brandon Lee Thulsie and Tony Lee Thulsie, arrested in 2016 for allegedly planning to set off explosives at Jewish establishments, continued to await trial in detention at year’s end. They were charged with contravening the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terror and Related Activities Act and with having ties to a foreign terrorist organization. On October 1, the Johannesburg High Court of Johannesburg denied bail to the brothers. They remained incarcerated at year’s end.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination based on physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disability in employment or access to health care, the judicial system, and education. The law, however, prohibits persons identified by the courts as having a mental disability from voting. Department of Transportation policies on providing services to persons with disabilities were consistent with the constitution’s prohibition on discrimination. The Department of Labor ran vocational centers at which persons with disabilities learned income-generating skills. Nevertheless, government and private-sector employment discrimination existed. The law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, but such regulations were rarely enforced, and public awareness of them remained minimal.

The law prohibits harassment of persons with disabilities and, in conjunction with the Employment Equity Act, provides guidelines on the recruitment and selection of persons with disabilities, reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities, and guidelines on proper handling of employees’ medical information. Enforcement of this law was limited.

The 20172018 Annual Report of the Department of Basic Education stated there were numerous barriers to education for students with disabilities, primarily a policy of channeling students into specialized schools at the expense of inclusive education. The department’s 2019/20 report reported progress toward a more inclusive basic education and cited expansion of “special schools” and increased enrollment of students with disabilities in both special and public schools. Separate schools frequently charged additional fees (making them financially inaccessible), were located long distances from students’ homes, and lacked the capacity to accommodate demand. Human Rights Watch reported that children with disabilities were often denied tuition waivers or tuition reductions provided to other children. Children often were housed in dormitories with few adults, many of whom had little or no training in caring for children with disabilities. When parents attempted to force mainstream schools to accept their children with disabilities–an option provided for by law–schools sometimes rejected the students outright because of their disabilities or claimed there was no room for them. Many blind and deaf children in mainstream schools received only basic care rather than education.

According to the Optimus Study on Child Abuse, Violence and Neglect in South Africa, children with disabilities were 78 percent more likely than children without disabilities to have experienced sexual abuse in the home. Persons with disabilities were sometimes subject to abuse and attacks, and prisoners with mental disabilities often received no psychiatric care. According to the NGO International Disability Alliance, on August 26, Nathaniel Julius, an unarmed boy age 16 who had Down syndrome, was shot and killed by SAPS officers. Police allegedly shot the boy when he did not respond to questioning. The officers were charged with murder (see section 1.a.).

Members of National/Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups

There were numerous reports of racially motivated abuses similar to the following examples. In June 2019 the Council on Medical Schemes launched an investigation into alleged discrimination against black and Indian medical professionals in the private health-care sector who stated that medical insurance companies denied payment of their medical-services claims on racial grounds. The SABC reported allegations that the FNB bank (First National Bank) charged black homebuyers up to 40 percent more for mortgages than it charged whites.

Some advocacy groups asserted white farmers were racially targeted for burglaries, home invasions, and killings, while many observers attributed the incidents to the country’s high and growing crime rate. According to the Institute for Security Studies, “farm attacks and farm murders have increased in recent years in line with the general upward trend in South Africa’s serious and violent crimes.” According to the SAPS Annual Crime Statistics 2019/2020 Report there were 36 homicides per 100,000 persons and a total of 21,325 reported homicides in 2019/2020.

Local community or political leaders who sought to gain prominence in their communities allegedly instigated some attacks on African migrants and ethnic minorities (see section 2.d., Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons). The government sometimes responded quickly and decisively to xenophobic incidents, sending police and soldiers into affected communities to quell violence and restore order, but responses were sporadic and often slow and inadequate. Civil society organizations criticized the government for failing to address the causes of violence, for not facilitating opportunities for conflict resolution in affected communities, for failing to protect the property or livelihoods of foreign nationals, and for failing to deter such attacks by vigorous investigation and prosecution of perpetrators.

Indigenous People

The NGO Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa estimated there were 7,500 indigenous San and Khoi in the country, some of whom worked as farmers or farm laborers. By law the San and Khoi have the same political and economic rights as other citizens, although the government did not always effectively protect those rights or deliver basic services to indigenous communities. Indigenous groups complained of exclusion from land restitution, housing, and affirmative action programs. They also demanded formal recognition as “first peoples” in the constitution. Their lack of recognition as first peoples excluded them from inclusion in government-recognized structures for traditional leaders. Their participation in government and the economy was limited due to fewer opportunities, lack of land and other resources, minimal access to education, and relative isolation.

In August 2019 the president signed into law the Protection, Promotion, Development and Management of Indigenous Knowledge Bill that established the National Indigenous Knowledge Systems Office, which is responsible for managing indigenous communities’ rights.

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

The constitution prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. The law prohibits discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons in housing, employment, nationality laws, and access to government services such as health care. In March 2019 the High Court of Gauteng ruled that the Dutch Methodist Church’s ban on solemnizing same-sex marriages was unconstitutional.

Despite government policies prohibiting discrimination, there were reports of official mistreatment or discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. For example, there were reports of security force members raping LGBTI individuals during arrest. A 2018 University of Cape Town report underscored violence and discrimination, particularly against lesbians and transgender individuals. The report documented cases of “secondary victimization” of lesbians, including cases in which police harassed, ridiculed, and assaulted victims of sexual and GBV who reported abuse. LGBTI individuals were particularly vulnerable to violent crime due to anti-LGBTI attitudes within the community and among police. Anti-LGBTI attitudes of junior members of SAPS affected how they handled complaints by LGBTI individuals.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

HIV and HIV-related social stigma and discrimination in employment, housing, and access to education and health care remained a problem, especially in rural communities. In June 2019 Deputy President David Mabuza stated, “We are not doing well in preventing new (HIV) infections. It is estimated that there are approximately 250,000 new infections annually, and our target is to get below 100,000 new infections by December 2020. This gap is big, and it must be closed.”

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

There were reports persons accused of witchcraft were attacked, driven from their villages, and in some cases killed, particularly in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, and Eastern Cape Provinces. Victims were often elderly women. Traditional leaders generally cooperated with authorities and reported threats against persons suspected of witchcraft.

Persons with albinism faced discrimination and were sometimes attacked in connection with ritual practices.

In August 2019 a court convicted a teacher in Mpumalanga Province of murdering and dismembering a teenage student with albinism. The suspect was convicted and sentenced to imprisonment of two life terms. Three alleged accomplices were charged and pled not guilty. They had yet to be tried by year’s end.

Ritual (muthi) killings to obtain body parts believed by some to enhance traditional medicine persisted. Police estimated organ harvesting for traditional medicine resulted in 50 killings per year.

NGOs reported intimidation and violent attacks on rural land rights activists. On October 27, environmental activist Fikile Ntshangase was killed in her home. As a prominent member of the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organization, she had been involved in legal proceedings protesting expansion in KwaZulu-Natal Province of one of the country’s largest open coal mines. No arrests were made. Another member of her community critical of the coal mine survived a drive-by shooting of his home. The South African Human Rights Commission called on the government to create a safe environment for activists to exercise their rights, including acting on threats against activists.

Discrimination against members of religious groups occurred. In June 2019 a female SANDF member Major Fatima Isaacs was ordered to remove her religious headscarf from beneath her military beret. She refused the order. In January SANDF dropped charges against Isaacs of willful defiance and disobeying a lawful command. A spokesperson for Major Isaacs stated that a complaint regarding discrimination across a wide range of SANDF policies would be filed with the Equality Court.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law allows all workers, except for members of the National Intelligence Agency and the Secret Service, to form and join independent unions of their choice without previous authorization or excessive requirements. The law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference and provides for the right to strike, but it prohibits workers in essential services from striking, and employers are prohibited from locking out essential service providers. The government characterizes essential services as a service, the interruption of which endangers the life, personal safety, or health of the whole or part of the population; parliamentary service; and police services.

The law allows workers to strike due to matters of mutual interest, such as wages, benefits, organizational rights disputes, socioeconomic interests of workers, and similar measures. Workers may not strike because of disputes where other legal recourse exists, such as through arbitration. Labor rights NGOs operated freely.

The law protects collective bargaining and prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or applicants based on past, present, or potential union membership or participation in lawful union activities. The law provides for automatic reinstatement of workers dismissed unfairly for conducting union activities. The law provides a code of good practices for dismissals that includes procedures for determining the “substantive fairness” and “procedural fairness” of dismissal. The law includes all groups of workers, including illegal and legally resident foreign workers.

The government respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Labor courts and labor appeals courts effectively enforced the right to freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, and penalties were commensurate with penalties for comparable violations of the law.

Worker organizations were independent of the government and political parties, although the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the country’s largest labor federation, is a member of a tripartite alliance with the governing ANC Party and the South African Communist Party. Some COSATU union affiliates lobbied COSATU to break its alliance with the ANC, arguing the alliance had done little to advance workers’ rights and wages. In 2017 COSATU’s breakaway unions, unhappy with the ANC alliance, launched an independent labor federation, the South African Federation of Trade Unions.

The minister of labor has the authority to extend agreements by majority employers (one or more registered employers’ organizations that represent 50 percent plus one of workers in a sector) and labor representatives in sector-specific bargaining councils to the entire sector, even if companies or employees in the sector were not represented at negotiations. Companies not party to bargaining disputed this provision in court. Employers often filed for and received Department of Labor exemptions from collective bargaining agreements.

If not resolved through collective bargaining, independent mediation, or conciliation, disputes between workers in essential services and their employers were referred to arbitration or the labor courts.

Workers frequently exercised their right to strike. Trade unions generally followed the legal process of declaring a dispute (notifying employers) before initiating a strike. The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union, a COSATU affiliate, organized a strike that pressed government to honor a wage agreement signed in 2018. Additionally, after years of division, the country’s largest trade federations united to organize a series of peaceful marches nationwide to reinvigorate labor union organizing, which had languished due to constraints imposed by COVID-19; to call attention to rising levels of corruption; and to reframe the nationwide discourse on workers’ rights. The event took place against a backdrop of rising tensions between the ANC and labor unions concerning the latter’s criticism of the ruling party’s handling of the economy and failure to advance policies that support the working poor. The 2019/20 striking season was heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and saw unions and business working together to salvage both jobs and industries by freezing negotiations until 2021.

Workers at a food factory were reportedly suspended for liking social media posts by trade union leadership. Anecdotal evidence suggested farmers routinely hampered the activities of unions on farms. Casual workers reported difficulty exercising their rights due to fear that their contracts would not be renewed.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced labor. The penalties were not commensurate with those for comparable crimes. Inspectors typically levied fines and required payment of back wages in lieu of meeting evidentiary standards of criminal prosecution.

The government did not always effectively enforce the law. Boys, particularly migrant boys, were forced to work in street vending, food services, begging, criminal activities, and agriculture (see section 7.c.). Women from Asia and neighboring African countries were recruited for legitimate work, but some were subjected to domestic servitude or forced labor in the service sector. There were also reports by NGOs of forced labor in the agricultural, mining, and fishing sectors.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits employment of children younger than 15. The law allows children younger than 15 to work in the performing arts if their employers receive permission from the Department of Labor and agree to follow specific guidelines. The law also prohibits children between ages 15 and 18 from work that threatens their wellbeing, education, physical or mental health, or spiritual, moral, or social development. Children may not work more than eight hours a day or before 6 a.m. or after 6 p.m. A child not enrolled in school may not work more than 40 hours in any week, and a child attending school may not work more than 20 hours in any week.

The law prohibits children from performing hazardous duties, including lifting heavy weights, meat or seafood processing, underground mining, deep sea fishing, commercial diving, electrical work, working with hazardous chemicals or explosives, in manufacturing, rock and stone crushing, and work in gambling and alcohol-serving establishments. Employers may not require a child to work in a confined space or to perform piecework and task work. Penalties for violating child labor laws were commensurate with those for comparable crimes.

The government enforced child labor law in the formal sector of the economy that strong and well-organized unions monitored, but enforcement in the informal and agricultural sectors was inconsistent. The Department of Labor deployed specialized child labor experts in integrated teams of child labor intersectoral support groups to each province and labor center.

According to the department, the government made progress in eradicating the worst forms of child labor by raising awareness, instituting strict legal measures, and increasing penalties for suspected labor violators. Nevertheless, it added that more efforts to address issues of child labor in migrant communities were needed.

Children were found working as domestic laborers, street workers, and scavenging garbage for food items and recyclable items. Boys, particularly migrant boys, were forced to work in street vending, food services, begging, criminal activities, and agriculture. Although the government did not compile comprehensive data on child labor, NGOs and labor inspectors considered its occurrence rare in the formal sectors of the economy but believe that there might instances in the informal economy of child labor that are underreported due to lack of dedicated resources.

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

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The Employment Equity Act protects all workers against unfair discrimination on the grounds of race, age, gender, religion, marital status, pregnancy, family responsibility, ethnic or social origin, color, sexual orientation, disability, conscience, belief, political, opinion, culture, language, HIV status, birth, or any other arbitrary ground. The legal standard used to judge discrimination in all cases is whether the terms and conditions of employment among employees of the same employer performing the same or substantially similar work, or work of equal value, differ directly or indirectly based on any of the grounds listed above. Employees have the burden of proving such discrimination. Penalties were commensurate with those for comparable crimes. The government has a regulated code of conduct to assist employers, workers, and unions to develop and implement comprehensive, gender-sensitive, and HIV/AIDS-compliant workplace policies and programs.

The government did not consistently enforce the law. Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, HIV status, and country of origin (see section 6).

Discrimination cases were frequently taken to court or the Commission for Conciliation, Arbitration, and Mediation.

In its 2018-19 annual report, the Commission for Employment Equity cited data on discrimination by ethnicity, gender, age, and disability in all sectors of the economy. The implementation of the Black Economic Empowerment Act, which aims to promote economic transformation and enhance participation of blacks in the economy, continued. The public sector better reflected the country’s ethnic and gender demographics. Bias against foreign nationals was common in society and the workplace.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

On January 1, the country’s first national minimum wage came into effect, replacing a patchwork of sectoral minimum wages set by the Department of Labor. The minimum wage was above the official poverty line. The law protects migrant workers, and they are entitled to all benefits and equal pay. The minimum wage law also established a commission to make annual recommendations to parliament for increases in the minimum wage.

The law establishes a 45-hour workweek, standardizes time-and-a-half pay for overtime, and authorizes four months of maternity leave for women. No employer may require or permit an employee to work overtime except by agreement, and employees may not work be more than 10 overtime hours a week. The law stipulates rest periods of 12 consecutive hours daily and 36 hours weekly and must include Sunday. The law allows adjustments to rest periods by mutual agreement. A ministerial determination exempted businesses employing fewer than 10 persons from certain provisions of the law concerning overtime and leave. Farmers and other employers could apply for variances from the law by showing good cause. The law applies to all workers, including workers in informal sectors, foreign nationals, and migrant workers, but the government did not prioritize labor protections for workers in the informal economy.

The government set appropriate occupational health and safety (OSH) standards through the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy for the mining industry and through the Department of Labor for all other industries.

There are harsh penalties for violations of OSH laws in the mining sector. Employers are subject to heavy fines or imprisonment if convicted of responsibility for serious injury, illness, or the death of employees due to unsafe mine conditions. The law allows mine inspectors to enter any mine at any time to interview employees and audit records. The law provides for the right of mine employees to remove themselves from work deemed dangerous to health or safety. The law prohibits discrimination against a mining employee who asserts a right granted by law and requires mine owners to file annual reports providing OSH statistics for each mine, including safety incidents. Conviction of violating the mining health and safety law is punishable by two years’ imprisonment, and the law empowers the courts to determine a fine or other penalty for perjury. The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy was responsible for enforcing OSH law.

Outside the mining industry, no law or regulation permits workers to remove themselves from work situations deemed dangerous to their health or safety without risking loss of employment, although the law provides that employers may not retaliate against employees who disclose dangerous workplace conditions. Employees were also able to report unsafe conditions to the Department of Labor that used employee complaints as a basis for prioritizing labor inspections. Penalties were commensurate with those for comparable offenses. The Department of Labor is responsible for enforcing safety laws outside the mining sector.

The Department of Labor is responsible for enforcing wage standards outside the mining sector, and a tripartite Mine Health and Safety Council and an Inspectorate of Mine Health and Safety enforced such standards in the mining sector. Penalties for violations of wages and workhour laws outside the mining sector were commensurate with those for comparable offenses.

The Department of Labor employed an insufficient number of labor inspectors to enforce compliance. Labor inspectors conducted routine and unannounced inspections at various workplaces that employed vulnerable workers. Labor inspectors investigated workplaces in both the formal and informal sectors. Labor inspectors and unions reported having difficulty visiting workers on private farms.

The government did not effectively enforce the law in all sectors. OSH regulations were frequently violated in the mining sector, and compensation for injuries was erratic and slow. Penalties were commensurate with those for comparable offenses, however, not sufficient to deter violations. Unions in the agriculture sector noted their repeated attempts to have the Department of Labor fine farm owners who failed to shield workers from hazardous chemicals sprayed on crops. Although labor conditions improved on large commercial farms, COSATU and leading agricultural NGOs reported labor conditions on small farms remained harsh. Underpayment of wages and poor living conditions for workers, most of whom were black noncitizens, were common. Many owners of small farms did not measure working hours accurately, 12-hour workdays were common during harvest time, and few farmers provided overtime benefits. Amendments to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act attempted to address some labor abuses at farms. For example, changes prohibited farms from selling goods from farm-operated stores to farm employees on credit at inflated prices. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers cut salaries, without following the law restricting an employer’s ability to change an employee’s pay; this was especially evident with domestic workers. Most domestic workers were either subject to staying with their employers or risk losing both their income and employment.

Farm workers also reported health and sanitation concerns. In a 2017 report, the NGO Women on Farms Project stated that 63 percent of the female farm workers surveyed did not have access to bathroom facilities and were forced to seek a bush or a secluded spot. The report also included the responses of female farm workers and their children who reported suffering from health problems such as skin rashes, cholinesterase depression, poisoning, harmful effects on the nervous system, and asthma due to the pesticides to which they were exposed.

Mining accidents were common. Mine safety has steadily improved from prior decades, however. For example, 553 miners lost their lives in 1995 compared with only 51 deaths in 2019 and 81 deaths in 2018. Mining operations were scaled down significantly during the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly deep-level mining. According to the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, between January and September, there were 37 reported fatalities and 1,053 injuries among workers in the mining industry.

In July 2019 the Constitutional Court ruled employees assigned to workplaces via a labor broker (“temporary employment service”) are employees of the client and entitled to wages and benefits equal to those of regular employees of the client.

In August 2019 the High Court of Gauteng expanded statutory workers’ compensation coverage to domestic workers for injuries suffered in the course of their employment.

Suriname

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

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities. In April persons allegedly acting on the order of the Directorate of National Security (DNV) were responsible for attacking and attempting to kidnap a candidate for the National Assembly from his home, but the attempt was unsuccessful; investigation of the incident continued at year’s end.

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

While the law prohibits such practices, human rights groups, defense attorneys, and media continued to report instances of mistreatment by police, including unnecessary use of force during arrests and beatings while in detention.

In late March and early April, multiple reports and videos appeared on social media showing the unnecessary use of force and degrading treatment of individuals who had violated the government’s curfew orders that were put in place beginning in March in response to the COVID-19 virus. One video appeared to show police officers beating an unarmed man walking in the street, while another appeared to show police officers ordering a group of teenagers to crawl across a sidewalk.

In August a lawyer informed the press that two of her clients were severely beaten by police when detained. The two suffered injuries that required medical treatment. One was treated by a doctor, while the other was allegedly denied medical treatment. The lawyer stated that filing a complaint was useless because the police officer involved denied the allegation while also receiving protection from colleagues.

Impunity was not a widespread problem within the police force. The Personnel Investigation Department investigated allegations citizens reported against officers and took appropriate disciplinary action. The Internal Affairs Unit conducted its own investigations involving various forms of misconduct. Penalties varied from reprimands to the dismissal of officers as well as prison sentences.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

Police apprehended individuals openly with warrants based on sufficient evidence and brought them before an independent judiciary. The law provides that detainees be brought before a judge within seven days to determine the legality of their arrest, and courts generally met the seven-day deadline. An assistant district attorney or a police inspector may authorize incommunicado detention. If additional time is needed to investigate the charge, a judge may extend the detention period in 30-day increments up to a total of 150 days. There is no bail system. Release pending trial is dependent on the type of crime committed and the judge handling the case. Detainees receive prompt access to counsel of their choosing, but the prosecutor may prohibit access if the prosecutor believes access could harm the investigation. Legal counsel is provided at no charge for indigent detainees. Detainees are allowed weekly visits from family members.

Pretrial Detention: The Court of Justice made significant progress in the processing of new criminal cases, which resulted in detainees spending less time in pretrial detention. Nonetheless, there was still a backlog, which the court was working to reduce.

In August police launched an internal investigation into the release of photographs showing minors who were detained for allegedly committing murder. Police authorities acknowledged the release of the pictures was in violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which requires additional protection of the identity of minors who are detained.

In keeping with COVID-19 precautionary measures, the Court of Justice put in place an alternative system that allows judges to question detainees via telephone with their lawyers present in order to meet required deadlines. In multiple cases defense attorneys were able to plead for their clients to be released pending trial, citing the threat of COVID-19 infection. Potential release also considered the type of crime committed.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitutional Court was installed in May, allowing laws to be tested on their constitutionality and compliance with agreements with other powers and international conventions, as well as assessing the compatibility of decisions of public bodies with the fundamental rights listed in the constitution. Within days after the court’s installation, the 2012 amendment to the amnesty law was forwarded to the Constitutional Court for its review. In August the court reported it could not provide a timely review of the amnesty law due to COVID-19 precautionary measures as well as a lack of adequate technical support.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary. The dependence of the courts on the Ministry of Justice and Police and the Ministry of Finance, both executive agencies, for funding continued to be a threat to judicial independence. Some progress was reportedly made towards financial independence of the Court of Justice when the two aforementioned ministries agreed to allow the court to manage a budget of its own for smaller expenditures.

There were 26 judges in the country, well short of the estimated 40 needed for proper functioning of the judicial system. The Court of Justice was unable to work efficiently, primarily due to capacity shortages as well as other restraints and a cumbersome bureaucratic process to access funding. The COVID-19 virus forced the court to take a more digital approach to its operations. Although this alleviated some of the problems, cases both in criminal and civil courts were suspended repeatedly, adding significantly to the backlog.

Trial Procedures

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

Defendants have a right to be informed promptly of the charges against them. Defendants have the right to trial without undue delay and the right to counsel. There were court-assigned attorneys for both the civil and penal systems. All trials are public except for indecency offenses and offenses involving children. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and have the right to appeal. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial and may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants’ attorneys may question witnesses and present witnesses and evidence on the defendant’s behalf. The courts assign private-sector lawyers to defend indigent detainees. If necessary, free interpretation is also provided. The law protects the names of the accused, and authorities do not release those names to the public or media prior to conviction.

Legal assistance to indigent detainees continued to come under pressure as lawyers threatened to cease legal assistance due to lack of payment by the government. Cases concerning non-Dutch-speaking detainees continued to experience delays on numerous occasions, as interpreters suspended their services to the court due to a backlog in payments by the government. Cases requiring psychological or psychiatric evaluations were also repeatedly postponed as this group of experts also ceased court services during the year due to the government’s failure to pay them. There was no notable progress during the year to alleviate these problems.

There are parallel military and civilian court systems, and military personnel generally are not subject to civilian criminal law. The military courts follow the same rules of procedure as the civil courts. There is no appeal from the military to the civil system.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

Individuals or organizations have the right to seek civil remedies for human rights violations in local courts. Individuals and organizations have the right to appeal decisions to regional human rights bodies; most cases are brought to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled against the country in several cases, but the government only sporadically enforced court rulings or took no action (see section 6, Indigenous People).

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

While the law prohibits such actions, on April 16, security personnel allegedly acting on the orders of the DNV director, Lieutenant Colonel Danielle Veira, raided the home of Rodney Cairo, a candidate for the National Assembly, after a post on his Facebook page criticized the then minister of defense. Police officers responding to a report of a potential armed robbery thwarted an attempt to kidnap Cairo. Police Chief Robert Prade ordered the officers not to take any further action, and Veira later allegedly stated the case concerned national security and therefore was secret and under internal investigation. The attorney general immediately denounced the attack, stating the DNV was not a law enforcement entity and lacked any authority to conduct raids or detain persons. One individual was detained and charged with theft and violation of the firearms code. Officials believed the suspect provided assistance in the attack on Cairo. While the officials did not believe the suspect was directly involved, materials stolen during the attack were found in his possession afterwards. The prosecutor recommended a sentence of one year in prison, of which eight months were suspended and subtracted due to time in detention. The suspect was released pending trial. On October 29, the Court of Justice ordered both the prosecutor and Cairo to appear before a special chamber on December 15 to review the state of the investigation of the case Cairo filed against Veira. On December 15, the Prosecutors’ Office told the Court that the investigation continued and that Veira was identified as suspect. Once it finalized the investigation, the Prosecutors’ Office intended to re-interview Cairo and Veira before taking the case to the Court Martial for a potential trial.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press

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

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

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

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

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Following the election, media freely criticized the new government on policy issues, as well as what it claimed was restricted access to the government or its events, while the government tried to contend there was no censorship, self-censorship, or content restriction. The political affiliation of news outlets had little impact on its criticism.

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

Libel/Slander Laws: The country’s criminal defamation laws carry harsh penalties, with prison terms between three months and seven years. The harshest penalty is for expressing public enmity, hatred, or contempt towards the government.

In January a journalist was detained for one week on charges of threatening and defaming then president Bouterse after posting a video in which he made critical comments about Bouterse. A judge ruled the charges of defamation proven but rejected charges of threatening and ordered the release of the journalist.

In April a lawyer acting on behalf of the Ministry of Public Works, Transport, and Communication sent Trishul Broadcasting Network a cease and desist letter ordering the network to stop broadcasting material critical of “acting” president Ashwin Adhin that it considered defamatory. The ministry threatened that the network’s license would be revoked and warned that the journalist who was arrested in January faced a five-year prison sentence and a fine. At the time the comments were made, Adhin was the vice president, not the acting president.

Internet Freedom

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

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

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

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

As part of the COVID-19 precautionary measures, the government limited gatherings, which affected the ability of political parties to hold election campaign rallies.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement

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

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

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

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The country relies on UNHCR to assign refugee or asylum seeker status. Once status is confirmed, refugees or asylum seekers obtain residency permits under the alien legislation law. Those with a UNHCR certificate receive a special certificate from the Ministry of Labor to work.

In August, UNHCR issued a notice to asylum seekers and refugees registered in the country not to cross the border during the COVID-19 pandemic, since they could be detained, fined, and returned to their country of origin. There were reports of Cuban nationals who entered Guyana illegally from Suriname and were detained.

g. Stateless Persons

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

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

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

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

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The constitution provides for direct election of the 51-member National Assembly no later than five years after the prior election date. The National Assembly in turn elects the president by a two-thirds majority vote. Following legislative elections on May 25, the National Assembly elected Chandrikapersad Santokhi unanimously as president on July 13.

Political Parties and Political Participation: A 2019 amendment to the electoral law prohibits political organizations from running on a combination ticket in elections, putting at a disadvantage smaller parties that seek to combine their strength to challenge larger parties. A fee for political parties to register for participation in the elections was also viewed as an attempt to form an additional burden for smaller or less wealthy parties to take part in the elections. Despite these obstacles, 17 of the 20 parties that initially registered to take part in the elections were found eligible and participated. Only five of the 17 won seats in the National Assembly.

Prior to the elections, state-owned media, both radio and television, were widely used for the purpose of advancing the views of the then ruling National Democratic Party, one of the larger political parties. Programs issuing land titles and assignments of low-cost government housing, granting of government jobs, and distribution of food welfare packages were widely used as campaign tools.

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

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government implemented the law effectively at times. Cases reported to the Attorney General’s Office were investigated. There were numerous reports that officials engaged in corrupt practices, including accusations from political opponents, civil society, and media.

Corruption: The Bouterse government (2010-2020) was marred by numerous allegations of corruption that reached the highest levels of government. The transition of government brought to light even more alleged cases of corruption. Practically no sector of government remained devoid of allegations, including the Central Bank of Suriname and state-owned companies such as the Postal Bank and the electricity company, EBS.

In January the directors of the Central Bank of Suriname, the president of the supervisory board, and the then minister of finance Gillmore Hoefdraad filed an official complaint against the dismissed governor of the Central Bank, Robert van Trikt, alleging fraud and mismanagement. In early February van Trikt was arrested and charged with corruption, fraud, money laundering, and other offenses. Three more suspects were detained, including a Central Bank director, an accountant and business partner of van Trikt, and the director of the Postal Bank. Hoefdraad was subsequently also identified as a suspect in the case and was formally indicted by the National Assembly in July. In August an arrest warrant was issued for Hoefdraad, who remained at large and was believed to have fled the country.

In July the new government launched investigations into several questionable last-minute land issuances by the previous government that took place during the transition period, including the issuance of titles on the territory of a nature park in Paramaribo. Corruption allegations further included government contracting to political party insiders, lack of transparency in the issuance of mineral and timber concessions, and the use of public power for private gain.

In August members of civil society and nongovernmental organizations filed a formal complaint with the attorney general against the then president of the EBS supervisory board and a business owner, alleging large-scale corruption at the electricity company.

In October the attorney general confirmed that he put in place a special unit within his office to deal with the investigation and prosecution of corruption cases. He further confirmed that his office was investigating 12 of the 20 cases it was presented. The attorney general also identified a need for more expertise to investigate these cases adequately.

Financial Disclosure: The anticorruption legislation includes financial disclosure requirements for certain groups of government officials. The law calls for income, asset, and financial disclosure and gives strict guidelines for submission timeframes. In August a presidential commission was appointed to prepare for the installation of an anticorruption commission, which was to be responsible for implementing the law. The presidential commission was given six months to complete its work.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A number of independent domestic human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. NGOs reported generally positive relationships with government officials, although officials were not always responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Human Rights Office of the Ministry of Justice and Police is responsible for advising the government on regional and international proceedings against the state concerning human rights. It is also responsible for preparing the state’s response to various international human rights reports. Its independence is limited as a ministerial office exclusively under executive branch control, and it does not solicit or investigate public complaints. The National Assembly has a commission dealing with issues related to human rights.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men and women, including spousal rape, and prescribes penalties for rape or forcible sexual assault of 12 to 15 years’ imprisonment and a substantial fine. The government enforced the law effectively, including applying its provisions in cases involving rape of men. Authorities investigated and prosecuted all reported cases of sexual abuse.

Violence against women remained a serious and pervasive problem. The law imposes sentences of four to eight years’ imprisonment for domestic violence. As of September, 12 cases of manslaughter, murder, or abuse resulting in death were linked to domestic abuse.

The Victim Assistance Bureau of the Ministry of Justice and Police provided resources and counseling for victims of domestic violence and continued to raise awareness about domestic violence through public television programs. There were victims’ rooms in police stations in Paramaribo and Nickerie. Authorities trained police units in dealing with survivors and perpetrators of sexual crimes and domestic violence. The Victim Assistance Bureau managed a shelter for female victims of domestic violence and children up to age 12 where victims can stay for up to three months. Use of the shelter was, however, far below its capacity, at a time when police reported 149 cases, a 100 percent increase of cases of domestic abuse for the first half of the year, compared with the first half of 2019.

The Office of Gender Affairs of the Ministry of Home Affairs continued its awareness programs on domestic violence against women and girls throughout the year. While COVID-19 precautionary measures limited in-person programming, awareness messaging continued. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, funding initially allocated for the UN’s Enabling Gender-Responsive Disaster Recovery, Climate, and Environmental Resilience in the Caribbean (EnGenDER) program, which initially focused on enabling gender-responsive disaster recovery in the Caribbean, was reallocated to strengthen the responsiveness of organizations that provide support on domestic violence during the pandemic.

In August the NGO Women’s Rights Center called for extra alertness in society for cases of domestic violence, which were exacerbated by persons being required to remain in the same spaces for longer periods of time during COVID-19 restrictions.

Sexual Harassment: There is no specific legislation criminalizing sexual harassment, but prosecutors cited various penal code articles in filing sexual harassment cases. There were no reported court cases involving sexual harassment in the workplace.

Stalking is a criminal offense, and police may investigate possible cases of stalking without filing a formal complaint. Pending investigation, police may issue temporary restraining orders limiting contact between victim and suspect for up to 30 days. If found guilty, offenders can receive prison sentences ranging from four to 12 years and a large fine. The government enforced the law effectively.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals were free to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children without discrimination, coercion, or violence. Information on reproductive health was widely available.

No legal barriers or government policies adversely affected access to contraceptives. In some rural areas, skilled healthcare workers were sometimes not readily available due to the distances between villages.

Survivors of sexual violence had access to government-supported health insurance that arranged services for sexual and reproductive health. Survivors requested assistance either through the Ministry of Social Affairs, which was primarily responsible for issuing government-supported health insurance, or through the Bureau of Victim Care of the Ministry of Justice and Police, which provided counseling and health-care assistance to victims.

The maternal death rate in 2017 was 120 per 100,000 live births. Complications because of hypertension or during the delivery were the primary causes of this high rate. An average of 57 percent of women married or in a union with a demand for family planning had their family planning needs met through a modern method. The adolescent birth rate for girls ages 15 to 19 was 65 per 1,000.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Discrimination: The law provides for the protection of women’s right to equal access to education, employment, and property. Nonetheless, women experienced discrimination in access to employment and in rates of pay for the same or substantially similar work as men.

Children

Birth Registration: The law on citizenship and residency provides that citizenship transmits to a child when either the father or mother has Surinamese citizenship at the time of birth, when the parent is Surinamese but has died before birth, or if the child is born in the country’s territory and does not automatically acquire citizenship of another country. Births must be registered with the Civil Registry within one week. Failure to do so within the mandated period results in a more cumbersome process of registration.

Child Abuse: Police registered 53 cases of physical abuse and 226 cases of child sexual abuse as of September. Subject-matter experts believed the actual number of abuse cases was significantly higher than reported. To avoid intimidation by perpetrators, there were arrangements for children to testify in special chambers at legal proceedings. The Youth Affairs Office continued to raise awareness about sexual abuse, drugs, and alcohol through a weekly television program. The government operated a telephone hotline for children and provided confidential advice and aid to children in need. Authorities reported an average of 80 calls per day.

UNICEF continued to cooperate with the government to provide training to officials from various ministries dealing with children and children’s rights. The Ministry of Justice and Police operated three child protection centers in different parts of the country.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: Parental permission to marry is required until the age of 21. The marriage law sets the age of marital consent at 15 for girls and 17 for boys, provided parents of the parties agree to the marriage. Children in certain tribal communities often marry at an age younger than that set forth by the law.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, the sale of children, offering or procuring a child for child prostitution, and practices related to child pornography. Authorities investigated all reported violations. While the legal age of sexual consent is 14, trafficking-in-persons legislation makes illegal the sexual exploitation of a person younger than age 18. Criminal law penalizes persons responsible for recruiting children into prostitution and provides penalties of up to six years’ imprisonment and a significant fine for pimping. The law also prohibits child pornography, which carries a maximum penalty of six years’ imprisonment and a fine. Violations are punishable by prison terms of up to 12 years.

Lack of economic opportunities led to an increasing number of adolescent boys and girls entering prostitution to support family or to pay for education. One NGO reported commercial sexual exploitation of children as young as 14. While not generally marketed as a destination for child sex tourism, in prior years cases were reported of tourists involved in sexual exploitation of children. Cases were also reported of parents forcing their young children into prostitution.

Several cases of sexual exploitation, sexual and physical abuse, and neglect came to trial. Victims included both boys and girls. Sentences range up to 10 years in prison.

Institutionalized Children: A lack of financial support from the Ministry of Social Affairs for orphanages and other shelters for children significantly affected these institutions’ ability to care for children adequately. There were reported cases of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse in some shelter facilities.

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

Anti-Semitism

There was a declared Jewish community of approximately 95 persons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts or discrimination.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

No laws specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with physical or mental disabilities. Persons with disabilities are eligible to receive general health benefits, but the process can be cumbersome. Persons with disabilities experienced discrimination when applying for jobs and services. Authorities provided some training programs for persons with impaired vision or other disabilities. No laws or programs provide that persons with disabilities have access to buildings. A judge may rule to deny a person with a cognitive disability the right to vote, take part in business transactions, or sign legal agreements. There was secondary and technical education for deaf and hard-of-hearing persons but not for those with visual disabilities. The Foundation for the Blind teaches persons who are visually impaired braille and life skills. Children with disabilities attended school at a far lower rate than their peers without a disability. Depending on the disability, children could attend regular schools. The Ministry of Social Affairs is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.

Indigenous People

The law affords no special protection for, or recognition of, indigenous peoples. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) identified the Maroons (descendants of escaped slaves who fled to the interior, approximately 22 percent of the population) as tribal peoples and thus entitled to the same rights as the indigenous Amerindian communities (approximately 4 percent of the population).

Maroons and Amerindians living in the remote and undeveloped interior had limited access to education, employment, and health and social services. Both groups participated in decisions affecting their tradition and culture, but they had limited influence in decisions affecting exploitation of energy, minerals, timber, and other natural resources on their lands. Both Maroons and Amerindians took part in regional governing bodies, as well as in the National Assembly, and were part of the governing coalition.

The government recognizes the different Maroon and indigenous tribes, but they hold no special status under national law, and there was no effective demarcation of their lands. Because authorities did not effectively demarcate or police Amerindian and Maroon lands, these populations continued to face problems with illegal and uncontrolled logging and mining. No laws grant indigenous peoples the right to share in the revenues from the exploitation of resources on their traditional lands. Organizations representing Maroon and Amerindian communities complained that small-scale mining operations, mainly by illegal gold miners, dug trenches that cut residents off from their agricultural land and threatened to drive them away from their traditional settlements. Many of these miners were themselves tribal or supported by tribal groups. Mercury runoff from these operations as well as riverbank erosion also contaminated sources of drinking water and threatened traditional food sources, especially freshwater fish.

Maroon and Amerindian groups complained about the government granting land within their traditional territories to third parties, who sometimes prevented the villagers from engaging in their traditional activities on those lands.

As of October the government did not take any action to carry out the orders of several Inter-American Court of Human Rights rulings against it dating back to 2005. These included a 2015 ruling ordering the government to recognize the Kalina and Lokono collective juridical personality; delimit, demarcate, and title the territory to the peoples; establish a community development fund; and rehabilitate areas affected by third-party mining. The court also ordered similar recognition and protection of the rights of all indigenous and tribal peoples within three years. The government likewise did not act in the 2005 Moiwana Community and 2007 Saramaka People rulings, in which the court ruled that the rights of these Maroon populations to property and judicial protection were violated. In addition to monetary compensation and other provisions, the rulings also called for the recognition of the rights of these groups to their lands.

As part of the 2018 Multi-Step Plan for the Legal Recognition of the Land Rights of the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Suriname, the demarcation of indigenous and Maroon tribal lands was completed along with the draft law on land rights in September 2019. The government failed to send the necessary legislation for recognition of these lands and other rights to the National Assembly for approval as outlined in the project.

During the year no steps were taken to implement any of the orders of the IACHR.

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

There were few official reports of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons, primarily due to fear of retribution against the alleged victims, and because authorities reportedly did not take seriously complaints filed by members of the LGBTI community. There were reports of societal discrimination against the LGBTI community in areas of employment and housing.

The law prohibits discrimination and hate speech based on sexual orientation, specifically protecting the LGBTI community. Violations are punishable by a fine or prison sentence of up to one year. The law does not set standards for determining what constitutes such discrimination or hate speech. The law on retirement benefits specifically excludes same-sex couples from benefits granted to heterosexual couples.

Among the LGBTI community, the transgender community faced the most stigmatization and discrimination. Transgender women arrested or detained by police were placed in detention facilities for men, where they faced harassment and other violence from other detainees.

An appeals case involving the Civil Registration Office concerning the ability of transgender individuals to update legal documents to reflect their gender identity in the public registry continued.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Persons with HIV and AIDS continued to experience discrimination in employment, housing, and medical services. Medical treatment is free for HIV/AIDS patients covered under government insurance, but private insurers did not cover such treatment. NGOs reported discriminatory testing, and subsequent denial, when applying for housing assistance from the Ministry of Social Affairs.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Chinese shop owners continued to be targets of violent armed robberies. Violence in the goldmining areas of the interior occurred primarily among and within the Brazilian community, where the government exercised little authority.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join unions of their choice without previous authorization or excessive requirements, the right to bargain collectively, and the right to strike. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination, requires that workers terminated for union activity be reinstated, and prohibits employer interference in union activities. Labor laws do not cover undocumented foreign workers.

The government effectively enforced applicable laws where it concerned the private sector. Penalties were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination.

Workers formed and joined unions freely and exercised their right to strike.

The majority of trade unions have some affiliation with a political party. In isolated cases private employers refused to bargain or recognize collective bargaining rights, but the unions usually pressured the employers to negotiate. There were some reports that companies exploited legislative gaps and hired more contract employees than direct-hire staff to perform core business functions to cut costs.

The government passed several laws to protect employees from various forms of discrimination and set restrictions on the ability to fire employees. The government itself (the largest employer in the country) was not bound by these laws, however, since it deemed labor laws applicable only to private employees, not civil servants.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government investigated and, if necessary, prosecuted all reported cases of forced labor. Penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping. The Ministry of Labor had 50 labor inspectors, of whom 11 were junior inspectors. Labor inspectors received training on detecting forced labor. Labor inspectors trained to identify trafficking victims were legally authorized to conduct inspections outside formal workplaces but lacked the manpower and capacity to do so.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. Legislation enacted in 2018 sets the new minimum age for employment at 16 and raises the minimum age for working on fishing vessels to 18. The new law also specifies the circumstances under which children younger than 16 can perform certain types of labor. Under the new law, children between 13 and 15 are allowed to assist in nonindustrial work of a light nature under specific circumstances. The law further specifies the responsibilities of employers and parents in employment of young persons. Special exemption is needed for children ages 13 and 14 to do any type of work. The law prohibits children younger than 18 from doing hazardous work, defined as work dangerous to life, health, and decency. The new law also sets forth the penalties and fines employers and parents can face when violating the law. Penalties were not commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

The Ministry of Labor’s Department of Labor Inspection identified three child labor violations during two separate inspections during the year. While the Labor Inspectorate is authorized to enforce the law in the informal sector, it usually lacked the resources and manpower to do so, particularly in mining and agricultural areas, fisheries, and the country’s interior. Enforcement in the informal sector was mostly left to police, which did so sporadically (see also section 6, Children).

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

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment based on birth, sex, race, language, religious origin, education, political beliefs, economic position, or any other status. The penal code prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. Enforcement of the law was selective, as there was reported discrimination in employment with regard to disability, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV/AIDS status. Penalties were commensurate with laws related to civil rights, such as election interference. Women’s pay lagged behind men’s pay. Persons with disabilities faced discrimination in access to the workplace, and LGBTI persons faced discrimination in hiring. A 2018 law protects pregnant women from dismissal, and a 2019 law formalizes maternity leave for women and also paternity leave and special leave for fathers or other family members in case a mother is unable to take care of a child after birth. As with other labor laws, this law is not applicable to government employees.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The law provides for a national minimum wage. The minimum wage was below the World Bank poverty income level. In the private sector, most unions were able to negotiate wage increases. In 2019 the National Assembly approved a new minimum wage law. The new law calls for a National Wage Council to be established to determine the minimum wage annually. As of October the National Wage Council had not been established.

The government employed approximately 50,000 of the estimated 133,000 total formal workforce. Government employees frequently supplemented their salaries with second or third jobs, often in the informal sector.

Inspectors in the Occupational Health and Safety Division of the Ministry of Labor did not effectively enforce OSH laws in the informal sector. Penalties for violations of OSH laws were commensurate with those for crimes such as negligence.

An estimated 15 percent of the working-age population worked in the informal economy, where there was limited enforcement of labor laws. Workers in the informal sector, particularly in small-scale mining, often were exposed to dangerous conditions and hazardous substances, such as mercury.

Limited data were available on workplace accidents. The International Labor Organization, however, noted an increasing number of serious or fatal occupational accidents, as well as steps by labor inspectors to begin OSH training in mines, construction, and public service. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and severe budgetary constraints, these trainings were put on hold. The majority of fatal occupational accidents took place in the mining sector.

The Labor Inspectorate, along with other government agencies, actively verified that businesses enforced COVID-19 prevention protocols as mandated by the government.

Workers in the formal sector may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in this situation. Workers in the informal sector did not enjoy the same protection.

Sweden

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

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

Impunity was not a significant problem in the security forces.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

The law requires warrants based on evidence and issued by duly authorized officials for arrests. Police must file charges within six hours against persons detained for disturbing public order or considered dangerous and within 12 hours against those detained on other grounds. Police may hold a person six hours for questioning or as long as 12 hours if deemed necessary for the investigation, without a court order. After questioning, authorities must either arrest or release an individual, based on the level of suspicion. If a suspect is arrested, the prosecutor has 24 hours (or three days in exceptional circumstances) to request continued detention. Authorities must arraign an arrested suspect within 48 hours and begin initial prosecution within two weeks unless there are extenuating circumstances. Authorities generally respected these requirements.

Although there is no system of bail, courts routinely released defendants pending trial unless authorities considered them dangerous, had reason to believe they would tamper with witnesses or evidence, or believed the suspect might leave the country. The law affords detainees prompt access to lawyers. A 2015 CPT report noted that access to legal counsel at times was delayed. A suspect has a right to legal representation when the prosecutor requests his detention beyond 24 hours (or three days in exceptional circumstances). Detainees may retain a lawyer of their choice. In criminal cases the government is obligated to provide an attorney, regardless of the defendant’s financial situation.

Restrictive conditions for prisoners held in pretrial custody remained a problem, although the law includes the possibility of appealing a decision to impose specific restrictions to the court of appeals and ultimately to the Supreme Court. Restrictions can be imposed on detainee’s rights to be held with other detainees, interact with others, follow events in the outside world, be in the possession of newspapers and magazines, see visitors, communicate with others by electronic means, and send or receive mail. Such restrictions may only be applied if there is a risk that a suspect will tamper with evidence or otherwise impede the investigation of the matter at issue.

By law a detainee not under restriction has the right to be with others during daytime hours. According to the Swedish Prison and Probation Service, 68 percent of those who ended a pretrial custody some time during 2019 had been under some kind of restriction at the beginning of their custody. The Swedish Prison and Probation Service failed to provide 30 percent of persons held in pretrial custody in 2019 with at least two hours per day of meaningful social interaction, which is the UN minimum. The government reimburses defendants found not guilty for damages suffered during pretrial detention.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

Trial Procedures

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

Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence, have a right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, and have a right to a fair, timely, public trial. Cases of a sensitive nature, including those involving children, rape, and national security, may be closed to the public. Defendants may be present at their trial. Defendants have the right to consult an attorney of their choice. In criminal cases the government is obligated to provide a defense attorney. Prisoners always have the right to meet their lawyers in private. Defendants generally have adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense, with free language interpretation as required, from the moment the defendant is charged through all appeals. Defendants may confront or question prosecution or plaintiff witnesses, and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. They may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. If convicted, defendants have the right to appeal.

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 in the general court system. Citizens may appeal cases involving alleged violations of the European Convention on Human Rights by the government to the European Court of Human Rights.

Property Restitution

The government did not confiscate property belonging to Jews, Roma, or other groups targeted by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust era, and Jewish and human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported no disputes related to restitution.

The Department of State’s Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act report to Congress, released publicly on July 29, 2020, can be found on the Department’s website: https://www.state.gov/reports/just-act-report-to-congress/.

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

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

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press

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

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

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

Nongovernmental Impact: Journalists were subjected to harassment and intimidation. Swedish Television (SVT) reported it handled an average of 35 security threats daily. Threats ranged from social media attacks on journalists and information technology breaches to physical threats against employees. The CEO stated in August that security costs had quadrupled since 2015 and that she had to have a bodyguard.

On February 26, Tumso Abdurakhmanov, a blogger critical of authorities in Chechnya, Russia, survived a violent assault in his home in Gavle. Two Russian nationals were arrested in connection with the attack.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

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

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement

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

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

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

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. Applicants may appeal unfavorable asylum decisions.

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

Access to Basic Services: Asylum seekers who have been denied residence are not entitled to asylum housing or a daily allowance, although some municipalities continued to support rejected asylum seekers through the social welfare system at the local level.

Durable Solutions: The government assisted in the voluntary return of rejected asylum seekers to their homes and authorized financial support for their repatriation in the amount of 30,000 kronor ($3,425) per adult and 15,000 kronor ($1,712) per child, with a maximum of 75,000 kronor ($8,562) per family. The country also participated in the European Reintegration Network that offered support for the reintegration of returning rejected asylum seekers.

Temporary Protection: The government also provided various forms of temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees and provided subsidiary protection to 2,307 persons in 2019.

g. Stateless Persons

According to UNHCR there were 30,305 stateless persons in the country at the end of December 2019. The large number of stateless persons was due to the influx of migrants and refugees and the birth of children to stateless parents who remained stateless until either one parent acquired citizenship or a special application for citizenship (available for stateless children under the age of five) was made. Most stateless persons came from the Middle East (Gaza and the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq) and Somalia.

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

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

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

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Observers considered the general elections held in 2018 to be free and fair.

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

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were isolated reports of government corruption.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires public officials and political parties to disclose their income and assets. The declarations are available to the public, and there are criminal and administrative sanctions for noncompliance.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

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

Government Human Rights Bodies: The country had nine national ombudsmen: four justice ombudsmen; the chancellor of justice; the children’s ombudsman; the consumer ombudsman; the child and school student ombudsman; and the equality ombudsman with responsibility for ethnicity, gender, transsexual identity, religion, age, sexual orientation, and disabilities. There were normally ombudsmen at the municipal level as well. The ombudsmen enjoyed the government’s cooperation and operated without government or party interference. They had adequate resources, and observers considered them generally effective.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of both women and men, including spousal rape and domestic violence, is illegal, and the government enforced the law effectively. Penalties range from two to 10 years in prison.

The National Council for Crime Prevention (NCCP) reported 8,580 cases of rape in 2019, an increase of approximately 8 percent compared with the previous year. Women and girls were victims in 92 percent of the cases. In 2019, 1,510 cases were taken to court (10 percent more than in 2018). The number of rape convictions increased by 75 percent between 2017 (190 convictions) and 2019 (333), since a new law based the criminal liability on the absence of consent. Domestic violence remained a problem, and 10,500 cases between adults were reported during 2019. Of these cases, 8,820 were violence against women.

The law provides for the protection of survivors from contact with their abusers. When necessary, authorities helped survivors to protect their identities or to obtain new identities and homes. Both national and local governments helped fund volunteer groups that provided shelter and other assistance for abused women.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Honor-related violence often involved immigrants from the Middle East or South Asia. The national support line for those who need advice in situations concerning honor-related violence reported a significant increase of calls from 223 in 2018 to 427 calls in 2019. The calls mostly concerned child or forced marriage, abduction or being held abroad, or female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C).

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and provides for criminal penalties from a fine to up to two years in prison. The government generally enforced this law.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; to manage their reproductive health; and to have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and rights as men, including under family, religious, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance law. Women were underrepresented in high-ranking positions in both the public and the private sectors. The government enforced the laws effectively.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents. The tax authority immediately registered in the national population register all children born in the country, regardless of their parents’ citizenship, or immigration or residency status in the country.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits parents or other caretakers from abusing children mentally or physically. Penalties range from a fine up to 10 years in prison. Cases of child abuse were reported. Authorities may remove abused children from their homes and place them in foster care. Rape of a child carries a penalty of two to 10 years in prison.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum age of marriage is 18, and it is illegal for anyone under 18 to marry. The government will legally recognize as valid the marriage of anyone who comes to the country after the age of 18, even if they were married abroad before the age of 18. The government does not recognize a foreign child marriage if either of the parties was a Swedish citizen or resident in Sweden at the time of marriage. According to changes in the law during the year, compelling or allowing a child to marry is punishable by up to two years in prison. Municipalities’ social welfare services can petition administrative courts to issue travel restrictions to protect at-risk children from being taken out of the country for marriage. Such children are not to be issued passports, and issued passports are to be rescinded. The law makes it a crime to take a child under travel restrictions out of the country, with a punishment of up to two years in prison.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes “contact with children under 15 for sexual purposes,” including internet contact intended to lead to sexual assault. Penalties range from fines to one year in prison. The law prohibits the sale of children; penalties range from two to 10 years in prison. It also bans child pornography with penalties ranging from fines to six years in prison. Authorities enforced the law. The minimum age for consensual sex is 15.

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

Anti-Semitism

Leaders of the Jewish community estimated there were 20,000 Jews in the country and approximately 6,000 registered members of Jewish congregations. The NCCP registered 280 anti-Semitic crimes in 2018, compared with 182 in 2016. Anti-Semitic crimes accounted for 4 percent of all hate crimes. Anti-Semitic crimes included threats, verbal abuse, vandalism, graffiti, harassment in schools, and Holocaust denial. Anti-Semitic incidents were often associated with neo-Nazi movements, events in the Middle East, and the actions of the Israeli government. Swedish Jews were often blamed for Israeli policies.

The most common forms of anti-Semitism were hate speech (45 percent of complaints), unlawful threats or harassment (34 percent), vandalism or graffiti (8 percent), and defamation (8 percent). Of the 182 investigations opened in 2016, 52 percent were dismissed; 37 percent were directly dismissed without a formal investigation due to lack of evidence. Formal charges were brought in 9 percent of the cases.

Media reported that on Yom Kippur, the most holy day of the Jewish calendar, approximately 10 members of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) demonstrated outside the synagogue in Norrkoping. The NRM also distributed flyers with anti-Semitic messages and hung posters with anti-Semitic messages in 10 cities. The Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities expressed disgust over the actions and called for the government to ban the organization. On October 1, the Swedish Committee against Anti-Semitism requested increased action and awareness from police and judicial agencies regarding anti-Semitic crimes in an opinion piece in the major newspaper, Dagens Nyheter.

In 2019 the government-appointed an all-party committee to consider the introduction of specific criminal liability for participation in a racist organization and a ban on racist organizations, such as the NRM.

In February unknown persons left a bag with a Star of David on it containing soap and anti-Semitic literature outside an exhibition about the Holocaust in Norrkoping.

Police, politicians, media, and Jewish groups have stated that anti-Semitism has been especially prevalent in Malmo. The Simon Wiesenthal Center left in place its travel advisory, first issued in 2010, regarding travel in southern Sweden, because Jews in Malmo could be “subject to anti-Semitic taunts and harassment.” A small group of young men participated in anti-Semitic chants during August riots that were sparked after a right-wing group burned a Quran.

In January the prime minister endorsed the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of Anti-Semitism, including its examples. In the same month, the prime minister visited Jerusalem and the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland.

In January the equality ombudsman concluded the first of three inquiries into a Jewish doctor’s allegations of anti-Semitism at New Karolinska Hospital and found that the hospital did not comply with its duty under the law to investigate alleged harassment. In November the equality ombudsman concluded the second inquiry and found that the doctor’s union, the Swedish Medical Association, also violated the law. The union had advised the doctor to file a criminal case, since it assessed a union complaint would be unsuccessful and risked harming the relationship between the union and the employer. The equality ombudsman found that the union would not have advised a member in this way if the grounds for the complaint had been disability or sex, and therefore it had discriminated against the doctor on the basis of ethnicity. The third inquiry continued at year’s end.

For 2019 and 2020, the government allocated 22 million kronor ($2.5 million) for grants to increase security for threatened places of worship and other parts of civil society. All religious communities and civil society actors who believe they have been threatened may apply for the grant. In 2019 a total of 9.2 million kronor ($1.1 million) was allocated for security measures in 10 different faith communities. Of the amount, 57 percent was granted to the Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities.

On February 27, the government allocated an additional 10 million kronor ($1.1 million) to increase knowledge-based activities about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism as a part of a special initiative connected to the high-level forum on Remembrance of the Holocaust and addressing contemporary anti-Semitism.

The Living History Forum is a public authority commissioned to address societal problems related to religious and ethnic tolerance, democracy, and human rights using the Holocaust and other crimes against humanity as its starting point. The Forum sensitized the public, and particularly the young, to the need to respect the equal value of all persons, with a specific focus on teaching about the Holocaust as a means of fighting Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism.

The Media Council, a government agency whose primary task is to train minors to be conscious media users and to protect them from harmful media influences, initiated a No Hate Speech Movement campaign and worked to stop anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. The government allocated five million kronor ($571,000) annually from 2018 to 2020 to strengthen opportunities for study visits to Holocaust memorial sites and allow more students and teachers to visit them.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. The government effectively enforced these provisions and held accountable those responsible for violations.

Government regulations require new buildings and public facilities to be fully accessible. Observers reported cases of insufficient access to privately owned buildings used by the public, such as apartments, restaurants, and bars. Some means of public transportation remained inaccessible.

Members of National/Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups

Societal discrimination and violence against immigrants and Roma continued to be problems.

Police registered reports of xenophobic crimes, some of which were linked to neo-Nazi or white supremacy ideology. Police investigated and the district attorney’s office prosecuted race-related crimes. The Security Service has concluded that right-wing extremism was on the rise in Sweden: Right-wing propaganda spread more widely, and more individuals were attracted to the movement. Neo-Nazi groups operated legally (see section 2.a.). The NRM was the largest white supremacy group with approximately 160 active members. The NRM registered as a political party and participated in the parliamentary and local elections in 2018 but did not win any seats. Rallies organized by the NRM attracted 500-600 participants.

The National Coordinator for Vulnerable EU Citizens estimated in 2019 that 4,500-5,000 vulnerable EU citizens, the vast majority of whom were Roma from Romania and Bulgaria, resided in the country in abject poverty at any given time. As EU citizens, they are allowed to stay in the country without permission for up to three months, but authorities did not enforce this limit. Police stated that most Roma were in the country voluntarily but that there were cases of trafficking and forced begging. When the coordinator’s work finished, NGOs criticized the final report as insufficiently thorough.

Several districts in the country where a majority of the population was of immigrant origin or parentage suffered social segregation from the rest of the country. The result was lower levels of education, higher levels of unemployment, and separation from the country’s mainstream culture mainly due to poor Swedish-language skills.

The country’s official minority languages are all varieties of Finnish, Yiddish, Meankieli, Romani Chib, and Sami. In 2019 government supported with grants a language workshop (Yiddish), a festival and summer camp (Meankieli), children’s reading with support of retired citizens as volunteers (Finnish), interviewing and writing about the Romani experience (Romani Chib), and a writing competition (Sami).

Indigenous People

The approximately 20,000 Sami in the country are full citizens with the right to vote in elections and participate in the government, including as members of the country’s parliament. They are not, however, represented as a group in parliament. A 31-member elected administrative authority called the Sami parliament (Sametinget) also represented Sami. The Sami parliament acts as an advisory body to the government and has limited decision-making powers in matters related to preserving the Sami culture, language, and schooling. The national parliament and government regulations govern the Sami parliament’s operations.

Longstanding tensions between the Sami and the government over land and natural resources persisted, as did tensions between the Sami and private landowners over reindeer grazing rights. Certain Sami have grazing and fishing rights, depending on their history.

Citing laws from the 14th and 15th century, the Supreme Court ruled that the Girjas Sami village, not the government, has the exclusive right to administer hunting and fishing in their area. The case, which lasted more than a decade, only applied to Girjas, but other Sami villages filed similar cases.

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

Antidiscrimination laws exist; apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex individuals; and were enforced. In the assessment of a crime’s penalty, special consideration must be given if the crime was motivated by a person’s or group’s sexual orientation.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

In 2018 the NCCP identified 7,090 police reports with a hate-crime motive, a majority with xenophobic motives. Of the reports, 8 percent were anti-Muslim. Anti-Christian, and other antireligious hate crimes accounted for 4 percent each.

In August, Swedish followers of a Danish right-wing extremist in Malmo burned a Quran. Right-wing extremists also burned Qurans in September in predominantly Muslim suburbs of Stockholm and Malmo. The Danish far-right Hard Line (Stram Kurs) party claimed responsibility for the burnings, which were filmed and posted on the internet. The August burning of the Quran in Malmo provoked rioting, but the September Quran burnings did not.

The basic training for police officers includes training on identifying and investigating hate crimes. Emergency call responders are continuously trained in identifying hate crime motives in crime reports. Police cooperated with Victim Support Sweden, which helps and supports victims, witnesses, and others affected by crime.

Police in Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmo have democracy and anti-hate-crime groups. The National Center for Preventing Violent Extremism under the auspices of the NCCP serves as a clearinghouse for information, best practices, and support of municipalities, agencies, and other actors.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The government effectively enforced the law and penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides for protection of workers from being fired because of union activity. If a court finds a dismissal to be unlawful, the employee has the right to reinstatement.

Foreign companies may be exempt from collective bargaining, provided they meet minimum working conditions and levels of pay. Public-sector employees enjoy the right to strike, subject to limitations in the collective agreements protecting the public’s immediate health and security. The government mediation service may also intervene to postpone a strike for up to 14 days for mediation. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) claimed the law restricts the rights of the country’s trade unions to take industrial action on behalf of foreign workers in foreign companies operating in the country. The law allows unions to conduct their activities largely without interference. The government effectively enforced applicable laws. The Labor Court settles any dispute that affects the relationship between employers and employees. An employer organization, an employee organization, or an employer who has entered into a collective agreement on an individual basis may lodge claims. The Labor Court may impose prison sentences commensurate with those for similar violations. Administrative and judicial procedures were not subject to lengthy delays and appeals.

Workers and employers exercised all legal collective bargaining rights, which the government protected. The government and employers respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. ITUC reported no serious violations of worker rights in 2019 and 2020.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, including by children, and the government effectively enforced the law. Penalties of imprisonment were generally commensurate with those for similar crimes. Forced labor involving trafficked men and women occurred in agriculture (including involving companies providing foreign labor for berry picking), construction, hospitality, domestic work, forced begging, and theft, and there were reports of forced begging involving trafficked children (see section 7.c.). In some cases employers or contractors providing labor seized the passports of workers and withheld their pay. Resources and inspections were adequate.

According to the latest government statistics from the NCCP, 274 cases of suspected human trafficking were reported to police in 2019. Of those, 42 concerned adult forced labor, six adult forced begging, and 54 other forms. The figures included reports for a new category of crime, human exploitation, with 41 cases of human exploitation for adult forced labor and three for human exploitation of adults for the purpose of begging.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. It permits full-time employment from the age of 16 under the supervision of local authorities. Employees younger than age 18 may work only during daytime and under supervision. Children as young as 13 may work part time or perform light work with parental permission. The law limits the types of work children may or may not engage in. For instance, a child may not work with dangerous machinery or chemicals. A child may also not work alone or be responsible for handling cash transactions. The law considers illegal employment of a child in the labor market a civil rather than a criminal violation. According to the law, forcing a child to work may be treated as coercion, deprivation of liberty, or child abuse, and it carries a wide range of penalties, including fines and imprisonment. The government effectively implemented these laws and regulations. Criminal penalties were commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

According to the most recent government statistics from the Crime Prevention Council, 274 cases of suspected human trafficking were reported to police in 2019. For children, there were 12 cases of child sex trafficking, seven cases of child forced labor, 11 cases of child forced begging, one case of forced child war service, and 45 cases of other forms of child trafficking.

Boys were mainly subjected to forced begging and forced petty theft. Girls were mainly subjected to sexual exploitation, forced begging, and child marriage. Police and social services reportedly acted promptly when cases were reported.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. The government effectively enforced applicable law, and penalties were commensurate with similar crimes. The law requires equal pay for equal work. The government effectively enforced the law prohibiting gender discrimination by investigating and prosecuting complaints. The equality ombudsman investigated complaints of gender discrimination in the labor market. In 2019 the ombudsman received 833 complaints of discrimination in the labor market, of which 185 were related to gender and 136 to disabilities. Of the complaints of ethnic discrimination, 246 involved the labor market. Complaints may also be filed with the courts or with the employer. Labor unions generally mediated in cases filed with the employer.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no national minimum wage law. Annual collective bargaining agreements set wages within industries, which were greater than the poverty income level. By regulation both foreign and domestic employers must offer conditions of employment on par with the country’s collective agreements. Nonunion establishments generally observed these contracts as well.

The labor law and collective bargaining agreements regulate overtime and rest periods. The law allows a maximum of 200 hours of overtime annually. Collective agreements determined compensation for overtime, which could take the form of money or time off. The law requires a minimum period of 36 consecutive hours of rest, preferably on weekends, over a seven-day period.

Occupational safety and health (OSH) standards were appropriate. The responsibility for identifying unsafe situations remains with OSH experts and not the worker. The Swedish Work Environment Authority, a government agency, effectively enforced these standards. In 2019 the authority conducted 27,715 inspections. The number of inspectors was sufficient to enforce the law. The Swedish Work Environment Authority reported 36 industrial accidents that caused death of workers in 2019, the third lowest number in the last 20 years. In 2019 the authority took part in a cross-agency task force that made 1,833 visits to check on work permits, taxes, and working environment regulations. In 2018 the number of inspectors increased to 274.

The Swedish Work Environment Authority issued occupational health and safety regulations and trained union stewards and safety ombudsmen whom government inspectors monitored. If an employee finds that the work involves immediate and serious danger to life or health, the employee must immediately notify the employer or safety ombudsman. Workers have the right to remove themselves from unsafe conditions without jeopardy to their employment. Safety ombudsmen have authority to stop unsafe activity immediately and to call in an inspector. The authority effectively enforced these rules. An employer may be fined for violating work environment regulations. Penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

Foreign seasonal workers, including berry pickers from Asia and Bulgaria, have faced poor living and working conditions. The guidelines of the Swedish Retail and Food Federation cover EU citizens who pick berries in the country but not workers from outside the EU. Under the guidelines, berry pickers are to be informed that they have the right to sell their berries to all buyers and that nobody has the right to control their work hours. A foreign company providing berry pickers to a local company must also demonstrate how it expects to pay workers in case of limited work or a bad harvest. The guidelines task food and retail organizations and brokers with ensuring their implementation. While the situation improved in previous years as the result of cooperation between unions and employers, during the COVID-19 pandemic, some problems returned. An exploitation complaint was filed on behalf of 100 Bulgarian berry pickers in Vidsel (578 miles north of Stockholm) in July. In September a group of berry pickers from an EU member state filed two complaints to police in Berg municipality (308 miles northeast of Stockholm) over exploitation for not being paid and trafficking.

Switzerland

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices. There were isolated reports that individual police officers used excessive force while making arrests and that prison staff engaged in degrading treatment of detainees. Impunity was not a significant problem in the security forces. According to the Federal Statistical Office, the country’s courts convicted 11 persons for abuse of authority in 2019.

In June the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the state had violated the right to life of a 40-year-old man who hanged himself in 2014 after being left alone in solitary confinement for 40 minutes despite having made suicidal statements.

In May the Federal Supreme Court ruled the detention conditions in the Champ-Dollon prison in Geneva violated the prohibition of torture according to the constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. The court found that a prisoner was held in a small cell for 234 days between 2014 and 2016. The prisoner was only allowed to walk for one hour a day and to exercise for three-to-four hours a week.

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 or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

By law police must apprehend criminal suspects based on warrants issued by a duly authorized official unless responding to a specific and immediate danger. In most instances, authorities may not hold a suspect more than 24 hours before bringing the suspect before a prosecutor or investigating magistrate, who must either formally charge a detainee or order his or her release. Authorities respected these rights. Immigration authorities may detain asylum seekers and other foreigners without valid documents up to 96 hours without an arrest warrant.

There is a functioning bail system, and courts granted release on personal recognizance or bail unless the magistrate believed the person charged to be dangerous or a flight risk. Alternatives to bail include having suspects report to probation officers and imposing restraining orders on suspects. Authorities may deny a suspect legal counsel at the time of detention or initial questioning, but the suspect has the right to choose and contact an attorney before being charged. The state provides free legal assistance for indigents charged with crimes carrying a possible prison sentence.

The law allows police to detain minors between ages 10 and 18 for a “minimal period” but does not explicitly state the length. Without an arraignment or arrest warrant, police may detain young offenders for a maximum of 24 hours (48 hours during weekends).

Pretrial Detention: Humanrights.ch claimed that lengthy pretrial detention was a problem. Approximately 27.5 percent of all prisoners were in pretrial detention. The average length of time was 2.1 months. The country’s highest court ruled pretrial detention must not exceed the length of the expected sentence for the crime for which a suspect is charged.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

Trial Procedures

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

Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence. They 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. Trials are public and held without undue delay. Defendants are entitled to be present at their trial. They have the right to consult with an attorney of their choice in a timely manner, and the courts may provide an attorney at public expense if a defendant faces serious criminal charges. Defendants have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. They have the right to confront and question witnesses, and to present witnesses and evidence. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. They have the right to appeal, ultimately to the Federal Tribunal, the country’s highest court. Prison sentences for youths up to age 15 cannot exceed one year. For offenders between the ages of 16 and 18, sentences may be up to four years. Authorities generally respected these rights and extended them to all citizens.

Military courts may try civilians charged with revealing military secrets, such as divulging classified military documents or classified military locations and installations. There were no reports that military courts tried any civilians during the year.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters. Citizens have access to a court to bring lawsuits seeking damages for or cessation of a human rights violation. Individuals and organizations may appeal adverse domestic decisions to the European Court of Human Rights.

Property Restitution

The government reported that Holocaust-era restitution is no longer a significant issue and that no litigation or restitution claims regarding real or immovable property covered by the Terezin Declaration, to which the government is signatory, were pending before authorities; Jewish communities in the country confirmed that no such claims regarding real or immovable property covered by the Terezin Declaration were pending. There remained much art in the country with unresearched provenance as many museums and art collections were under the purview of cantons rather than the federal government, or were maintained by private organizations and private individuals.

The Department of State’s Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act report to Congress, released publicly on July 29, 2020, can be found on the Department’s website: https://www.state.gov/reports/just-act-report-to-congress/.

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

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

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press

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

Freedom of Speech: While the law does not specifically mention libel and hate speech, it prohibits willful defamation as well as denigration and discrimination against another or a group of persons on the grounds of their race, ethnic origin, religion, or sexual orientation in a manner that violates human dignity, whether verbally, in writing or pictorially, by using gestures. It provides for punishment of violators by fines and imprisonment of up to three years. There were four convictions under this law in 2019.

In October the ECHR ruled that the country’s Federal Court violated the right to freedom of expression as outlined in the European Convention on Human Rights when it required a journalist to disclose her source. In 2012 the journalist published an article in Basler Zeitung in which she wrote about a cannabis dealer whose apartment she had visited. After the article was published, Basel’s public prosecutor asked the journalist to identify the dealer, but she refused claiming a right not to testify. The public prosecutor maintained that she was unable to assert such a right. Basel’s Cantonal Court ruled in favor of the journalist, but the Federal Court overturned the ruling, finding that the journalist must testify.

Freedom of Press and Media, Including Online Media: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction. The law’s restriction on hate speech and denial of crimes against humanity also applies to print, broadcast, and online newspapers and journals. According to federal law, it is a crime to publish information based on leaked “secret official discussions.”

Libel/Slander Laws: The law prohibits willful defamation and denigration with punishments ranging from fines to prison sentences of up to three years. In 2019, the latest year with statistics, 427 individuals were sentenced under the penal code on defamation. There were also 132 persons sentenced under the penal code on slander. No information was available on whether any persons were imprisoned under these provisions.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. The law provides for punishment of hate speech, including public incitement to racial hatred or discrimination, spreading racist ideology, and denying crimes against humanity, with monetary fines and imprisonment of up to three years.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

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

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement

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

In September parliament approved a new provision in the criminal law that criminalizes recruiting, training, and travel for terrorism. Under this provision individuals who authorities deem may pose a threat but are not subject to criminal proceedings may be obliged to report to a police station at certain times, banned from traveling abroad, and confined to specific areas in the country. These measures could be applied to residents as young as 12 years old. The Federal Office of Police could place persons they deem dangerous under house arrest for up to six months, renewable once.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

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

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Authorities may detain asylum seekers who inhibit authorities’ processing of their asylum requests, subject to judicial review, for up to six months while adjudicating their applications. The government may detain rejected applicants for up to three months to ensure they do not go into hiding prior to forced deportation, or up to 18 months if repatriation posed special obstacles. The government may detain minors between the ages of 15 and 18 for up to 12 months pending repatriation. Authorities generally instructed asylum seekers whose applications were denied to leave voluntarily but could forcibly repatriate those who refused.

In June the Federal Supreme Court upheld two complaints filed by AsylLex, ordering the immediate release of persons in administrative detention and calling their ongoing detentions illegal. In its ruling, the court found that deportations were not possible during the COVID-19 pandemic and were a mandatory prerequisite for the continuation of administrative detention.

In February media outlets reported allegations that in January, three security employees at a federal asylum center in Embach were violent towards a Kurdish asylum seeker, allegedly breaking his jaw. The State Secretariat for Migration disputed the allegations. Several asylum seekers told media the environment at the center was hostile, privacy was nonexistent, and treatment by the security forces was often arbitrary and degrading. The Zurich Solinetz, an association which campaigns for the rights of refugees in the country, alleged it was denied access after making critical statements. In May media outlets reported allegations of violent clashes between employees of Securitas, a Swedish private security services and investigation company, and asylum seekers at the Federal Asylum Center in Basel.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The government required asylum applicants to provide documentation verifying their identity within 48 hours of completing their applications; authorities, under the law, are to refuse to process applications of asylum seekers unable to provide a credible justification for their lack of acceptable documents or to show evidence of persecution. Under asylum law federal asylum centers are required to process applications within a maximum of 140 days and asylum seekers are granted immediate free legal representation facilitated by NGOs and financed by the federal government.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The State Secretariat for Migration relied on a list of “safe countries.” Asylum seekers who originated from or transited these countries generally were ineligible for asylum and returned to the safe country from which they originated or through which they transited. The country adheres to the EU’s Dublin III Regulation.

Employment: The law grants refugees the right to work pending the mandatory submission to cantonal authorities of key employment information, including personal employee and employer data and a description of the job and working conditions. According to the law, salary and employment conditions must fulfill the labor standards of the respective employment location, profession, and sector before refugees may take up work.

Durable Solutions: As of August authorities reported accepting 3,480 refugees during the year for resettlement. They were reported to have offered naturalization to 15,056 individuals from January through June. Through August they assisted in voluntary returns of 2,083 persons.

g. Stateless Persons

The law dictates that the State Secretariat for Migration is responsible for conducting procedures to recognize statelessness. Foreign nationals who believe that they are stateless under the UN Convention of 28 September 1954 relating to the Status of Stateless Persons can apply to the State Secretariat for Migration to have their status as stateless recognized. When a person is recognized as being stateless, he or she has the right to remain resident in Switzerland with a residency permit. If a recognized stateless person has committed a criminal offense, residence rights may be limited to temporary admission. Recognized stateless persons are regarded as equivalent to refugees recognized under the Refugee Convention of 1951 who have been granted asylum. Recognized stateless persons are issued Swiss travel documents on request.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

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

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In October 2019 voters elected parliamentary representatives for the National Council and the Council of States. Runoff elections for the Council of States in 12 of the 26 cantons were completed the following month. Parliament elected the executive leadership (the seven-member Federal Council) on December 9. Observers considered the elections free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women and members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate. Nearly 1,900 women, or 40 percent of all candidates, ran for election to the National Council in 2019, 565 more than in the last federal elections in 2015. Following federal parliamentary elections and runoffs in October and November 2019, women made up 43 percent of representatives in parliament’s lower house and 26 percent in parliament’s upper house.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were isolated reports of government corruption during the year.

In January, Transparency International announced that, despite showing strong results in combatting corruption, it found the country lacked full transparency in political funding, whistleblower protections, and the fight against money laundering.

Corruption: Investigating and prosecuting government corruption is a federal responsibility. According to the Federal Audit Office, authorities received 187 alerts regarding potential corruption and mismanagement of public contracts in 2018, 23 more than in the previous year. Approximately 80 alerts concerned federal government employees. The Federal Audit Office attributed the increase to the establishment of an online platform in 2017 that allows for the anonymous reporting of potential corruption.

In November the Federal Council adopted its first anticorruption strategy. The strategy’s objectives for 2021-24 include preventing and prosecuting corruption cases and promoting cooperation on this issue between the federal government and cantons as well as on the international level.

In August parliament lifted immunity for Federal Prosecutor Michael Lauber in the country’s first official investigation of a federal prosecutor. Lauber was investigated and resigned over allegations of abuse of office, breach of official secrecy, and favoritism following undisclosed meetings with Gianni Infantino, president of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).

In February the Office of the Attorney General filed an indictment against former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke for bribery and falsifying documents. The office also indicted the chairman of the BeIN Media Group, Nasser al-Khelaifi, for inciting Valcke to commit aggravated criminal management. Valcke accepted a refund of approximately 500,000 euros ($600,000) for the down payment on a villa in Sardinia after al-Khelaifi purchased it instead of Valcke. In addition Valcke received from al-Khelaifi the exclusive right to use the villa for 18 months without having to pay rent estimated at between 900,000 and 1.8 million euros (between $1.1 million and $2.2 million).

Financial Disclosure: Each year members of the Federal Assembly must disclose their financial interests, professional activities, supervisory board or executive body memberships, and activities as consultants or paid experts. A majority of cantons also required members of cantonal parliaments to disclose their financial interests. While parliamentary salaries were publicly disclosed, the salaries for parliamentarians’ separate professional activities may not be disclosed, as outlined in the federal act.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

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

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Swiss Competence Center for Human Rights (SCHR) consists of a network of universities and human rights experts responsible for strengthening and supporting human rights capacities and bridging gaps between federal and cantonal authorities on human rights concerns. During the year the center hosted presentations, training programs, and published reports on human rights themes, such as on the rights of intersex individuals, children’s rights and religious education, and workers’ rights.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of women, including spousal rape, and domestic violence, are statutory offenses for which penalties range from one to 10 years in prison. The government effectively enforced the law and prosecuted individuals accused of such crimes. The rape of a man is considered “sexual assault.” As with the rape of women, the courts may hand down maximum prison sentences of up to 10 years against those convicted of sexual abuse of men, but a minimum sentence of 12 months is only applicable in cases of rape against women. According to the Federal Statistics Office, police registered 287 reports of rape in 2019, a 16 percent increase over 2018.

In March the Violetta women’s shelter in Zurich temporarily closed and underwent a 14-day quarantine after a resident tested positive to COVID-19. The shelter’s closure added to growing concerns that the coronavirus crisis could lead to increased cases of domestic violence as a result of government advisories to stay home. In April the Federal Council announced a task force to work with the cantons on this issue.

A 2019 survey by gfs.berne on behalf of Amnesty International revealed that 22 percent of women in the country experienced unwanted sexual acts during their lives, 12 percent had suffered rape, and only 8 percent of those affected by sexual violence reported it to police afterwards. In 2019 police recorded 679 rape offenses and 626 cases of sexual assault.

In 2019 the Federal Statistics Office showed that police registered 19,669 domestic violence offenses in 2019, which included 79 attempted homicides, a six percent increase over 2018. Some 29 percent of the domestic violence cases involved a fatality.

The law penalizes domestic violence and stalking. A court may order an abusive spouse to leave the family home temporarily.

In March the Federal Office for Gender Equality established a task force to examine suitable measures in the event of an increase in domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. In April the task force began a poster campaign against domestic violence in 13 languages. In June the task force found that in some cantons, the victim support centers noticed an increase in consultations about domestic violence since mid-May. The task force reported, however, that cases of domestic violence during the pandemic remained stable compared to the previous year.

There were media reports almost every two weeks that someone died due to domestic violence, and women are almost always the victims. In June the Bern Higher Court convicted a 36-year-old Tunisian man who stabbed his wife to death in 2016 in their home, and sentenced him to 15 years in prison.

In July amendments to civil and criminal laws came into effect to bring more accountability for domestic violence. Criminal authorities can only suspend legal proceedings if the victim’s situation has stabilized or improved. If suspicion exists that violence will reoccur, authorities may no longer discontinue an investigation.

Specialized government agencies, numerous NGOs, including 17 women’s shelters, and nearly a dozen private or government-sponsored hotlines provided help, counseling, and legal assistance to survivors of domestic violence. The canton of Zurich prioritized addressing domestic violence in the legislature and committed additional financial support to women’s shelters and counseling centers. Most cantonal police forces included specially trained domestic violence units.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is illegal and punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment. While FGM/C was not a practice in the country, approximately 14,700 women and girls, primarily from Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt, had undergone FGM/C. According to the Federal Statistics Office, police registered no reports of FGM/C in 2019. A 2019 study by Caritas Switzerland estimated that 22,000 girls and women in the country were likely to be affected by FGM/C.

In November the Federal Council adopted a report entitled “Measures against the circumcision of girls,” which provides for better protection of girls and women. The report outlines a comprehensive approach to combatting FGM/C, including law enforcement and prevention, interdisciplinary networking, strengthening national and international cooperation, and improving healthcare for affected girls and women.

In June the Network against Female Circumcision announced a federally funded project that opened three new regional centers in the cantons of Lucerne, St. Gallen, and Graubünden to advise and support women and girls affected by FGM.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment of men and women and facilitates legal remedies for those claiming discrimination or harassment in the workplace. Special legal protection against the dismissal of a claimant expires after six months. Employers failing to take reasonable measures to prevent sexual harassment are liable for damages up to the equivalent of six months’ salary.

According to the Federal Statistics Office, police registered 61 reports of sexual harassment in 2019, down from 70 reports in 2018. According to an NGO, almost one in three women and one in 10 men had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Zurich city police maintained a counseling center on offenses against sexual integrity. Lausanne city officials maintained an online platform for victims to record instances of sexual harassment and provided extra training to police officers and teachers on the matter. In August the Unia Trade Union Group launched an online site to combat sexual harassment of apprentices after its 2019 study found that 80 percent of female and nearly 50 percent of male apprentices surveyed said they had experienced sexual harassment.

Reproductive Rights: The government recognized the right of couples and individuals to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children. Individuals have the right to manage their reproductive health and had access to the information and the means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence.

No legal, social, or cultural barriers would adversely affect access to contraception.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Discrimination: The constitution and law provide for the same legal status and rights for women as for men under family, religious, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. Authorities generally enforced the law effectively but did not sufficiently address employment discrimination and pay disparities affecting women.

In March the girls’ rights organization Plan International Switzerland released a report stating that 42 percent of women between the ages of 24 and 40 had experienced discrimination in the workplace. The report also found that six out of 10 girls and women between the ages of 14 and 24 and seven out of 10 women between the ages of 24 and 40 had experienced gender-based discrimination at some point in their lives.

The World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Gender Gap Report noted that women faced unequal career opportunities, with only 34.5 percent of leadership positions in the labor market occupied by women.

In July a new provision to the Equal Opportunities Act came into force requiring companies with at least 100 employees to complete an analysis of pay equity between genders within one year and to show every four years whether men and women earn the same amount in comparable positions and inform their employees of the results. Private companies have to communicate the results to their employees and investors. Public administrations must disclose this to all interested parties.

On July 1, the federal government launched Logib, a free web-based tool to provide confirmed third-party information on equal pay analyses. The UN awarded Logib the Public Service Award and the Equal Pay International Coalition labeled it a best practice. In July the Federal Commission for Women’s Issues published an animated film explaining the UN Women’s Rights Convention to the public.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship derives from one’s parents; either parent may convey citizenship. Authorities registered births immediately.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits parents from using corporal punishment to discipline their children, and the constitution states that all children have the right to special protection of their integrity. The law provides penalties for child abuse of up to three years in prison.

In May the Swiss Society of Pediatrics released 2019 statistics from surveying 21 of the 31 children’s clinics in the country. The clinics reported 1,568 cases of child abuse, of which 486 involved physical abuse, 321 involved psychological abuse, 470 were cases of neglect, and 279 were cases of sexual abuse.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18. The law prohibits forced marriage and provides penalties of up to five years in prison for violations. The federal government supports the NGO Center for Competence against Forced Marriage’s prevention activities, including a website where at-risk individuals could declare their unwillingness to be married while on foreign travel. The website enabled authorities either to stop vulnerable individuals from leaving the country or to pronounce the marriages as invalid upon their return.

In June the Center for Competence against Forced Marriage published an article on its website about a woman, originally from Turkey, who the organization helped to leave Switzerland for Germany to avoid a forced marriage to her cousin shortly after her 18th birthday. The agency reported it advised 123 young persons in 2019 who were married as children.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation, including child sex trafficking and practices related to child pornography. The production, possession, distribution, or downloading of pornography that involves children is illegal and punishable by fines or a maximum sentence of one year in prison. The law prohibits prostitution of persons under the age of 18 and punishes pimps of children subjected to child sex trafficking with prison sentences of up to 10 years. It provides for sentences of up to three years in prison for persons engaging in sex trafficking with a child victim. Authorities enforced the law.

With few exceptions, the law designates 16 as the minimum age for consensual sex. The maximum penalty for statutory rape is imprisonment for 10 years.

The mandate of the federal police Cybercrime Coordination Unit included preventing and prosecuting crimes involving the sexual exploitation of children online. According to the Federal Statistics Office, the police registered 383 reports of sexual acts involving children, 10 fewer cases than the previous year.

In September the Bernese Oberland regional court sentenced a 53-year-old man to a 10-month conditional prison sentence and fines for child abuse, exploitation of an emergency situation, and pornography. The court also awarded the victim 5,000 Swiss francs ($5,450). The president of the court ruled on the conditional sentence based on the convicted person’s willingness to continue therapy.

On September 11, the Federal Council adopted a report by the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences on prevention of sexual exploitation of children. The council agreed to expand financial assistance to the Say No counseling service in French-speaking Switzerland and to subsidize additional counseling services in other regions in Switzerland.

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

Anti-Semitism

According to the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities (SIG/FSCI), approximately 18,000 Jewish individuals resided in the country.

The 2019 Anti-Semitism Report, produced jointly by the SIG/FSCI and the Foundation against Racism and Anti-Semitism (GRE), cited 523 anti-Semitic incidents, including 485 cases of anti-Semitic online hate speech, in the German-speaking part of the country in 2019. Of the 485 online incidents, 90 percent were found on Facebook and Twitter. The SIG/FSCI and GRE assessed that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the country was stable and that violent anti-Semitic incidents remained rare. The SIG/FSCI and GRE attributed the slight decrease in recorded anti-Semitic statements and acts to fewer events throughout the year that triggered online anti-Semitic hate speech and anti-Semitic incidents, such as news reports and the release of anti-Semitism reports as well as efforts by media outlets to moderate their comments columns. The report documented one incident in July, in which a landlord told a Jewish family who wanted to rent a vacation home that she no longer rented to Jews. The report detailed how a Jewish soldier reported anti-Semitic comments among soldiers in recruit school to the SIG; the army took the incidents seriously and conducted an investigation immediately.

In 2019 the Geneva-based Intercommunity Center for Coordination against Anti-Semitism and Defamation (CICAD) reported 114 anti-Semitic incidents, including approximately 100 cases of online anti-Semitic hate speech, including insults and Holocaust denials on social media sites such as YouTube, in the French-speaking region. The report noted a drastic reduction in postings by far-right and far-left extremist groups on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media networks, resulting in a decrease in comments from their supporters on these same platforms. The report also found that media outlets in the French-speaking region had made a significant effort to moderate anti-Semitic content. The SIG report found no reports of assaults against Jews or damage to Jewish property in the German-speaking part of Switzerland; however, the CICAD found physical and verbal assaults against Jews in French-speaking areas increased and several synagogues were vandalized in 2019.

A federal report on racial discrimination released in April found that extreme right-wing incidents increased in 2019, particularly among young persons, including the Hitler salute. The report also highlighted a campaign calling for a boycott of an Israeli music competition to protest against Israel’s policies that included Nazi symbolism, which were removed following media protests.

In July a study published by the Zurich University of Applied Sciences of 500 Jews in the country found that one in two respondents had experienced anti-Semitic harassment in recent years. The most common form of harassment was offensive or threatening comments.

In January the president invited all surviving Holocaust survivors in the country to a lunch in their honor. Approximately 40-50 survivors attended.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, including access to education, employment, health services, information, communications, buildings, transportation, the judicial system, or other state services, and the government generally enforced the prohibition. The umbrella organization for disability NGOs, Inclusion Handicap, stated however that the Federal Court maintained a “very narrow interpretation” of discrimination, which required plaintiffs to prove malicious intent in discrimination complaints, resulting in insufficient legal protection for disabled persons.

The Federal Equal Opportunity Office for Persons with Disabilities promoted awareness of the law and respect for the rights of individuals with disabilities through counseling and financial support for projects to facilitate their integration in society and the labor market.

A 2019 SCHR study on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Switzerland found that implementation was inconsistent across the cantons. In March the SCHR launched a website that highlighted projects in six cantons aimed to assist with implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the areas of housing, work and training, access to services and facilities, and codetermination.

Effective July 1, a new regulation came into force by which automatic door entrances to apartment buildings and stair lifts at home can be financed by the government.

In September parliament’s lower house, the National Council, took several measures to assist persons with disabilities, including a motion to extend identification cards, which entitle users to discounts and serve as proof of a disability, to persons who receive an allowance from the government.

Members of National/Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups

Extremists, including skinheads, who expressed hostility toward foreigners, ethnic and religious minorities, and immigrants, continued to be active based on media and police reports.

In February the St. Gallen Cantonal Council approved a ban on extremist events, described as events “not compatible with the basic democratic and constitutional order and which significantly impair the population’s sense of security.”

In April the Consulting Network for Racism Victims, a partnership between Humanrights.ch and the Federal Commission against Racism, released its report for 2019, recording 352 cases of discrimination and documenting an increase in racism against dark-skinned individuals and persons of Arab background. Anti-Muslim incidents were the third-most recorded cases of racism, after general xenophobia and racism against persons with dark skins. The report found increased incidents involving right-wing extremism. The report attributed this sharp increase in reported cases to those affected being more aware of counseling centers and more willing to report incidents. The report also found that incidents with an extreme right-wing background increased noticeably in 2019 for the first time. The report also found that while reported incidents of discrimination in public space increased, reported cases of workplace discrimination decreased.

In April the Federal Council released an evaluation report on racial discrimination, which included 575 reported incidents, of which 352 cases were evaluated by 22 counseling centers from across the country. The report found a sharp increase in the number of reported and considered racist cases of discrimination in 2019. The most frequent forms were discrimination and verbal abuse; the most common motive was xenophobia. The report mentions a survey by the Federal Statistical Office finding that 60 percent of the respondents surveyed said racism is a serious social problem in the country. The report also found that incidents with an extreme right-wing background increased noticeably for the first time in 2019.

In June the SCHR released a study on the prevention of atrocities in Switzerland, which noted the numerous institutions that victims of discrimination can use in the country. The report found, however, that no systematic data collection on discrimination exists.

In July the Federal Office of Police announced 500,000 Swiss francs ($545,000) in federal funding to 11 organizations that service minorities as defined by their way of life, culture, religion, tradition, language, or sexual orientation to assist in their protection.

According to Romani interest groups, including the Romano Dialogue and the Roma Foundation, discrimination against Roma in the housing and labor markets persisted, with many Roma routinely concealing their identity to prevent professional and private backlash. According to the Society for Threatened Peoples, itinerant Roma, Sinti, and Yenish regularly faced arbitrary stops by police.

In February, Bern residents voted to create a transit place along the A1 highway in Seeland for foreign travelers, including Roma, who come to Switzerland for seasonal work between spring and fall each year.

In March the NGO Human Rights Platform Switzerland presented a report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination which found that the country must do more to ensure prevention and eradication of racism, xenophobia, and intolerance from its society and institutions. The report cited a severe lack of appropriate camping sites and that two-thirds of existing sites are inadequate as nearly half of the sites are parking lots.

In April the Federal Supreme Court ruled against provisions in Bern law which stipulated that persons who use property without the permission of the owner may be evicted without a right to be heard within 24 hours. As a result, traveling minorities may not be quickly turned away without a corresponding order and legal hearing.

The Society for Threatened Peoples called on the government in April to provide economic support and adequate infrastructure for Sinti, Roma, and Yenish people, stating the lack of camp sites made it challenging for these groups to comply with government health recommendations.

In May the Frauenfeld Higher Court convicted Roland Schoeni, parliamentary group president of the Arbon city parliament, for racist speech based on anti-Roma comments he made in 2018.

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

In a February 9 referendum, 63.1 percent of voters approved antidiscrimination legislation, which will make discrimination based on sexual orientation illegal. In the same month, parliament approved the new law, although the NGO Transgender Network noted it did not include transgender individuals.

There were multiple reports of violence or discrimination based on the victim’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) status. In February for example, police arrested a 15-year-old from Syria for allegedly attacking three men with a knife in Zurich. Several eyewitnesses claimed it was a targeted attack on gays, as the perpetrator bullied and insulted the men not far from a gay club before stabbing one of the victims. Police increased their presence outside the club and other locations. An investigation continued.

The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) Europe’s 2020 annual report for the country alleged an increased number of violent incidents against gay men in 2019, including a May 17 attack against an information stand at the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, and an attack against a gay couple on their way home from a Pride event in June. The Pink Cross received on average two reports per week regarding attacks against LGBTI persons, including harassment, hate speech on the Internet, tangible threats, and physical violence.

Pink Cross and the NGO Transgender Network reported that bullying in the workplace remained a problem for LGBTI persons. Both organizations noted isolated cases of discrimination against LGBTI individuals over the past year, including in the housing market. The organizations stated that in the past year, the cities of Bern, Biel, and Zurich have implemented LGBTI action plans for ensuring tolerance and measures to prevent discrimination. In Biel these measures include widening an existing hotline to report violence for LGBTI concerns and training opportunities for city employees on gender diversity, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

The Transgender Network stated a cantonal court granted a minor the right to gender self-determination this year, the first such ruling in the country.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There were occasional reports of discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS. To combat harassment and unfair behavior, the Swiss AIDS Federation conducted multiple campaigns to sensitize the public to the problem. Most discrimination cases recorded by the federation involved private data violations, insurance discrimination, and discrimination in the provision of health services.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The freedom of association for employers and employees, explicitly including the right to strike and the right to hold lockouts, is provided under the federal constitution. This provides for the right for all workers, including foreigners, public-sector officials, domestic workers, and agricultural workers, to form and join independent unions of their choice without previous authorization or excessive requirements. The constitution also foresees collective agreements between workers and employers and provides for the right to conduct legal strikes, and the government protected these rights. Strikes must be linked to industrial relations, however, and the government may curtail the right of federal public servants to strike for reasons of national security or to safeguard foreign policy interests. Laws prohibit public servants in some cantons and many municipalities from striking. The law protects employees from termination because they are trade union members or carrying out trade union activities in a lawful manner.

No law defines minimum or maximum penalties for violations of the freedoms of association or collective bargaining. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), unjustified dismissals for workers involved in trade union activity may result in compensation of up to six months’ wages. Collective agreements commit the social partners to maintain labor peace, thereby limiting the right to strike for the duration of an agreement, which generally lasts several years. The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs maintains a list of collective agreements that have been declared binding in various regions and sectors of the economy.

The government respected the freedoms of association and collective bargaining, but there have at times been cases when employers dismissed trade unionists or have used the legal system to limit legitimate trade union activities. Trade unions continued to report discriminatory behavior against their members.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced and compulsory labor. Penalties for forced labor violations were up to 20 years’ imprisonment or a fine. The law criminalizes sex trafficking and labor trafficking, and prescribed penalties of up to life imprisonment or a fine; the penalties included prison sentences of no less than one year for offenses involving a child victim and those where the trafficker acted for commercial gain. NGOs commented that fines for labor trafficking were often very low because authorities treated indications of forced labor as relatively minor labor violations; in addition, they reported that inspectors often regarded foreign victims of labor trafficking as criminals working illegally in the country. The government conducted several training programs for relevant authorities on labor trafficking aimed at raising awareness and reducing such exploitation. Through three joint action days between law enforcement, labor inspectors, and EUROPOL in 2019, the government reported conducting at least 145 labor inspections that resulted in the identification of at least five victims of labor trafficking, 46 potential victims, and 10 suspected traffickers (compared with the identification of 54 potential victims and seven suspects in 2018). The government conducted multiple antitrafficking training events for law enforcement in 2019, including a roundtable for 40 officials that focused on trafficking in the hospitality sector.

According to antitrafficking NGOs who provided services to victims, incidents of forced labor occurred primarily in the domestic-service, catering, agriculture, tourism, hospitality, construction, and nursing industries. Labor trafficking in the forms of forced begging, stealing, and financial scams occurred in several cantons.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. The minimum age for full-time employment is 15. Children who are ages 13 or 14 may engage in light work for no more than nine hours per week during the school year and 15 hours at other times. Children younger than 15 may, under special circumstances, work at sports or cultural events with the approval of cantonal authorities. Employment of youths between the ages of 15 and 18 is also restricted. Children who have not completed compulsory education may not work on Sundays, while all children younger than 18 are prohibited from working under hazardous conditions or at night. According to the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, the penal code prohibits the publication of pornography involving children, but the relevant provisions only cover persons who are younger than 16.

The government effectively enforced laws and policies to protect children from exploitation in the workplace. The Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education, and Research  monitored the implementation of child labor laws and policies, and cantonal labor inspectors effectively inspected companies to determine whether there were violations of child labor laws. Cantonal inspectors strictly enforced these provisions. Penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The constitution prohibits discrimination based on national origin, race, gender, age, language, social position, lifestyle, religion, beliefs or political convictions, or based on physical, mental or psychological disability. The constitution specifically states that men and women have equal rights, including at work, and that women have to right to equal pay for work of equal value. The criminal code prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, ethnic origin, religion, or sexual orientation, but does not contain provisions specifically on personnel operations such as hiring or firing.

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment on the basis of gender (including pregnancy). Violations of the law may result in the award of compensation to a prospective or dismissed employee equal to a maximum of three months’ salary in the public sector and six months’ salary in private industry. The government did not consistently enforce this provision.

Although discrimination against women in the workplace is illegal, a disproportionate share of women held jobs with lower levels of responsibility. Employers promoted women less frequently than they did men, and women were less likely to own or manage businesses. According to a 2019 study by the University of St. Gallen, there was a 50-50 balance between men and women in the workforce at nonmanagement levels, but the proportion of women decreases at each successive level of management–from 38 percent in lower management, to 23 percent in middle management, and to only 18 percent among the top managers. In June 2019 parliament passed legislation calling for women to occupy at least 30 percent of corporate board positions, and 20 percent of corporate management positions in enterprises with a minimum of 250 employees. The nonbinding policy requires businesses that fail to reach the targets to submit a written justification to the government.

Although the constitution entitles women and men to equal pay for equal work, this was not enforced effectively according to TravailSuisse. According to the Federal Statistics Office, there was an 11.5 percent gender wage gap across both the public and private sectors in 2018, the most recent year for which data was available. The Statistics Office also noted that the wage gap increases with higher levels of responsibility. In upper management women earned 18.6 percent less than men in 2018.

According to Inclusion Handicap, problems remained in integrating individuals with disabilities, especially those with mental and cognitive handicaps, into the labor market. The NGO noted discrimination against disabled persons was particularly problematic in the private sector. Procap, one of the country’s largest organizations for persons with disabilities, welcomed a new law on the further development of social insurance for persons with disabilities in June 2020, which aims to provide greater support for disabled youth in getting a job, among other steps to promote sustained employment (also see section 6, Persons with Disabilities).

The NGOs Pink Cross and Transgender Network noted LGBTI persons experienced workplace discrimination. Pink Cross cited a decision by the Federal Court in April 2019 which made clear that the law did not apply in cases of discrimination based on sexual orientation. The case demonstrated that sexual orientation enjoys no protection from workplace discrimination under the law, the NGO commented. According to Transgender Network, 20 percent of transgender persons in the country are unemployed–nearly five times the rate among the general population.

The NGO Avenir50Plus stated that older persons also face discrimination at the workplace, stating that only 14 percent of unemployed persons older than age 50 found a stable job after losing their previous employment. Nearly 23 percent of the workforce over the age of 55 was unemployed, the NGO said.

There were reports of labor discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS. In 2019 the Swiss AIDS Federation registered 105 cases of discrimination against individuals with HIV, down from 122 in 2018. Of the complaints, 10 concerned employment discrimination or other discrimination in the workplace. Examples of workplace discrimination included a supervisor demanding an employee be tested for HIV, and a supervisor requesting an employee go on sick leave status due to the employee’s HIV-positive status.

According to the Advocacy and Support Organization for Migrant Women and Victims of Trafficking, migrant workers in low-wage jobs were more likely than other workers to face exploitative labor practices and poor working conditions. Women are particularly vulnerable, according to the NGO.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The country has no national minimum wage, but four (Geneva, Jura, Neuenberg, and Ticino) of the 26 cantons have minimum wage laws. Collective agreements on working conditions, including sectoral minimum wages, cover approximately 40 percent of the country’s workforce. Average wages for workers and employees covered by these contracts, particularly in the clothing, hospitality, and retail industries, however, remain relatively low. Authorities effectively enforced these collective agreements, and penalties were sufficient to deter violations. Minimum wages in the agreements exceeded the poverty income level for a single person, but often did not exceed the poverty level for families with two adults and two children.

Law sets a maximum 45-hour workweek for blue- and white-collar workers in industry, services, and retail trades, and a 50-hour workweek for all other workers. The rules exclude certain professions, such as medical doctors.

To protect worker health and safety, the law contains extensive provisions that are current and appropriate for the main industries. Workers can remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment.

The Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education, and Research and cantonal labor inspectorates effectively enforced laws relating to hours of work and occupational safety and health across all sectors including the informal economy. The ministry also oversees collective bargaining agreements. The number of labor inspectors was sufficient to enforce compliance.

The courts determined fines according to the personal and economic situation of the perpetrator. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud.

Migrant workers in low-wage jobs were more likely to experience exploitative labor practices, although the criminal code forbids human trafficking for the purpose of labor exploitation. During the year several local NGOs and international organizations expressed concern that authorities lacked the necessary resources and expertise to address adequately labor exploitation prevalent in the construction, hospitality, healthcare, and domestic-labor sectors. For example the Swiss Competence Center for Human Rights examined 12 cases that showed strong signs of labor exploitation of migrant workers, but found that only six of these cases resulted in courts confirming that labor exploitation had occurred.

Immigrant workers have the same rights as other workers. There are no special provisions or requirements for noncitizen workers apart from having legal immigration status and a valid work permit. The government did not allow individuals without legal status or work permits to work. Individuals who obtained legal status could request a work permit. Asylum seekers are usually not allowed to work until they are assigned to a canton and receive a work permit from cantonal authorities.

Tanzania

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

b. Disappearance

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

On July 20, police released Sheikh Ponda Issa Ponda nine days after he was arrested and his location not disclosed. He was detained after he released a statement detailing long-held Muslim grievances.

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

The constitution prohibits such practices; however, the law does not reflect this constitutional restriction nor define torture. There were reports that police officers, prison guards, and soldiers abused, threatened, or otherwise mistreated civilians, suspected criminals, and prisoners. These abuses often involved beatings.

On September 25, Dar es Salaam police arrested three senior officials from the opposition political party ACT-Wazalendo at their election headquarters. An ACT-Wazalendo representative reported that one of the officials was physically mistreated while in custody.

The law allows caning. Local government officials and courts occasionally used caning as a punishment for both juvenile and adult offenders. Caning and other corporal punishment were also used routinely in schools.

On April 18, police raided a number of bars in Dar es Salaam, including one called “The Great,” where police caned patrons, staff, and managers for ignoring Regional Commissioner Paul Makonda’s order against visiting bars during the height of COVID-19 prevention measures. Video from Arusha taken in April showed an unidentified Maasai man, acting in his capacity as a security guard, caning passersby on the street for not maintaining social distancing guidelines.

In March, seven men were arrested for homosexual activity and purportedly subjected to forced anal exams. Their case was ongoing as of year’s end (see section 6).

According to the Conduct in UN Field Missions online portal, there were two allegations submitted during the year of sexual exploitation and abuse by Tanzanian peacekeepers deployed to UN peacekeeping missions. There were also nine open allegations submitted between 2015 and 2019 of sexual exploitation and abuse by Tanzanian peacekeepers deployed to UN peacekeeping missions. The alleged abuses involved rape of a child, transactional sex with an adult, exploitative relationship with an adult, and sexual assault. As of September, the government had not provided accountability for any of the 11 open allegations.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

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

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

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

The law does not allow bail for suspects in cases involving murder, treason, terrorism, drugs, armed robbery, human trafficking, money laundering, other economic crimes, and other offenses where the accused might pose a public safety risk. In 2019 Dickson Paulo Sanga challenged nonbailable offenses as unconstitutional. In May the High Court ruled that section 148(5) of the Criminal Procedure Act was unconstitutional because it violated rights to personal liberty and presumption of innocence. The decision was appealed by the government on the same day. In August the Court of Appeals overruled the High Court decision, declaring that nonbailable offenses were constitutional, and that detention pending trial was important for peace and order in the country. The Court of Appeals ruling disappointed human rights stakeholders, who claimed authorities held human rights actors and businesspersons under false money laundering charges. For example, two businessmen, Harbinder Seth who is the owner of Independent Power Tanzania Limited (IPTL) and James Rugemalira, CEO of VIP Engineering Company were charged at Kisutu Court in 2017 with economic sabotage. The case was still pending in court and they remained in jail.

In some cases, courts imposed strict conditions on freedom of movement and association when they granted bail. In the primary and district courts, persons reportedly sometimes bribed officials to grant bail.

The law gives accused persons the right to contact a lawyer or talk with family members, but police often failed to inform detainees of this right. Indigent defendants and suspects charged with murder or treason could apply to the registrar of the court to request legal representation. Prompt access to counsel was often limited by the lack of lawyers in rural areas, lack of communication systems and infrastructure, and accused persons’ ignorance of their rights. In addition, on March 19, authorities banned all visits to prisons due to COVID-19, including those by prisoners’ lawyers. Since authorities provided no alternative methods for detainees to contact attorneys, Human Rights Watch argued this ban sharply slowed resolution of ongoing cases. As a result, most criminal defendants were not represented by counsel, even for serious offenses being tried before a high court. The government often did not provide consular notification when foreign nationals were arrested and did not provide prompt consular access when requested.

The government conducted some screening at prisons to identify and assist trafficking victims imprisoned as smuggling offenders; however, screenings were not comprehensive, potentially leaving some trafficking victims unidentified in detention centers. In June and July 2019, at the requests of the Ethiopian embassy, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) verified 1,354 Ethiopians in 27 prisons in 20 regions. Among the migrants were one woman and 219 minors. Between January 2015 and June 2019, the IOM provided assisted voluntary returns for 1,406 Ethiopian irregular migrants. The Ethiopians who remained in prison were either in pretrial detention (“remanded”), convicted, or postconviction but not released because of a lack of funds to deport them.

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

In July 2019 plainclothes police officers arrested investigative journalist and government critic Erick Kabendera and did not inform him of the charges. Initially, police did not inform his family to which police station he was taken. After seven days in detention, Kabendera was charged with money-laundering offenses. In February, Kabendera was released after agreeing to a plea deal. Kabendera was convicted on tax evasion and money laundering charges and he was fined 273 million Tanzanian shillings (TZS) ($118,000).

In December 2019 human rights lawyer Tito Magoti and his colleague Theodore Giyani, both working for the Legal and Human Rights Center, were arrested by plainclothes police officers after they tweeted support for vocal government critics. Following a public outcry, police admitted that they had arrested Magoti and Giyani. The accused were arraigned in Dar es Salaam in December 2019 and charged with money laundering, a nonbailable offense. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations called for their immediate and unconditional release in January, but at the end of the year the two remained in prison in pretrial detention.

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

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but many components of the judiciary remained underfunded, corrupt, inefficient (especially in the lower courts), and subject to executive influence. Judges and senior court officers are all political appointees of the president. The need to travel long distances to courts imposes logistical and financial constraints that limit access to justice for persons in rural areas. There were fewer than two judges per million persons. Court clerks reportedly continued to take bribes to open cases or hide or misdirect the files of those accused of crimes. Magistrates of lower courts reportedly occasionally accepted bribes to determine the outcome of cases. There were instances in which the outcomes of trials appeared predetermined by government. Authorities respected and enforced court orders.

Trial Procedures

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

The law provides for the presumption of innocence, and the standard for conviction in criminal cases is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Executive branch entities regularly accused political parties, civil society organizations, and international organizations of breaking the law and then demanded the accused clarify or defend their innocence. In most cases authorities informed detainees in detail of the charges against them once they had been taken to the police station. Charges were generally presented in Kiswahili or English with needed interpretation provided when possible. With some exceptions, criminal trials were open to the public and the press. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial. Courts that hold closed proceedings (for example, in cases of drug trafficking or sexual offenses involving juveniles) generally are required to provide reasons for closing the proceedings. In cases involving terrorism, the law states that everyone, except the interested parties, may be excluded from court proceedings, and witnesses may be heard under special arrangements for their protection.

The law requires legal aid in serious criminal cases, although only those accused of murder and treason were provided with free representation. Most other defendants could not afford legal representation and represented themselves in court. Defendants in criminal cases are entitled to legal representation of their choice. Legal representation was unavailable to defendants without the means to pay. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) represented some indigent defendants in large cities, such as Dar es Salaam and Arusha. For example, the Tanganyika Law Society provides free legal services upon request because its lawyers are encouraged to take at least one pro bono case per year. The Legal and Human Rights Centre and Tanzania Human Rights Defense Coalition also have had legal defense mechanisms for human rights defenders.

In Zanzibar the government sometimes provided public defenders in manslaughter cases. The law prohibits lawyers from appearing or defending clients in primary-level courts whose presiding officers are not degree-holding magistrates. Human rights groups criticized cases where lawyers attempting to represent clients in sensitive cases were reportedly themselves threatened with arrest.

Authorities did not always allow detainees sufficient time to prepare their defense, and access to adequate facilities was limited. Defendants have the right to free interpretation as necessary from the moment they are charged through all appeals. Defendants or their lawyers have the right to confront prosecution witnesses and the right to present evidence and witnesses on the defendant’s behalf. Prosecutors, however, have no disclosure obligations in criminal cases, and often the defense does not know what evidence the prosecutor will rely upon when the trial begins. Defendants were not compelled to testify or confess guilt.

All defendants charged with civil or criminal matters, except parties appearing before Zanzibari qadi courts (traditional Muslim courts that settle matters of divorce and inheritance), could appeal decisions to the respective mainland and Zanzibari high courts. All defendants can appeal decisions to the union Court of Appeal.

Judicial experts criticized the practice of police acting as prosecutors because of the risk police might manipulate evidence in criminal cases. The mainland Ministry of Constitutional and Legal Affairs continued hiring and training state prosecutors to handle the entire mainland caseload, although staffing shortages continued.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were reports of political detainees. Several opposition politicians and individuals critical of the government were arrested or detained during the year. These individuals were usually charged with sedition, incitement, or unlawful assembly. There was an unknown number of political prisoners, but according to opposition leaders and NGOs, there were at least 300 opposition activists and supporters who were detained or abducted on the mainland and about 150 in Zanzibar prior to and after the elections. The persons were given the same protections as other detainees, although the government often threatened to charge opposition leaders with nonbailable offenses.

For example, following the October 28 general election, members of the opposition parties, including some opposition leaders, were arrested. While some were subsequently released, there were still opposition party members in detention on November 6. There were also supporters of the opposition who were arrested, brought to prisons outside of Dar es Salaam, and who were still being held without bail.

For example, two opposition members of parliament (MPs), Freeman Mbowe and Esther Matiko of the opposition Party of Democracy and Development (CHADEMA), served four months in jail after the court revoked their bail in 2018. The High Court of Dar es Salaam upon appeal, however, ruled the bail revocation was invalid, and they were released in March 2019. Mbowe and Matiko were part of a group of nine CHADEMA members who were charged in 2018 with 11 crimes, including conspiracy, sedition, and inciting the commission of offenses. In March all nine CHADEMA leaders were found guilty of sedition and fined TZS 350 million ($150,000) or a five-month jail term. CHADEMA supporters fundraised and paid the fines of all the leaders.

On November 1, three CHADEMA leaders were arrested for planning postelection protests in Dar es Salaam. The three leaders were Freeman Mbowe, CHADEMA’s national chairman, Godbless Lema, former Arusha urban MP, and Boniface Jacob, former mayor of Ubungo. On November 3, Zitto Kabwe, party leader of ACT-Wazalendo was also arrested briefly on the same charges as the three CHADEMA leaders. On November 3, all four opposition leaders were released on bail without any charges.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

Persons may bring civil lawsuits seeking damages for or the cessation of human rights violations and can appeal those rulings to the Court of Appeal on the mainland and other regional courts. Civil judicial procedures, however, were often slow, inefficient, and corrupt. In December 2019 the government withdrew the right of individuals and NGOs to file cases directly against it at the Arusha-based African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. This meant that individuals and organizations with observer status were no longer able to bring complaints to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The East African Court of Justice (EACJ) has been a preferred route to bring human rights cases because it admits cases and eases the burden on local courts. For example the case concerning the 2017 government-led evictions of villagers in Loliondo was brought before the EACJ in September 2018; the EACJ ruled in the villagers’ favor. The implementation of this ruling, however, has yet to take place. According to a witness, individuals were beaten daily when they brought their cattle through the buffer zone to reach grazing lands.

Civil society organizations (CSOs) and politicians relied on the courts for challenges to government decisions. For example, in May 2019 the High Court of Dar es Salaam annulled the constitutional provision that empowered presidential appointees to supervise elections. This was significant because 80 percent of the supervising officials belonged to the ruling party. At first, this indicated the court provided an avenue to contest the ruling party, but the outcome of the decision was not upheld. In addition, in October 2019 the Court of Appeal, the country’s highest court, overturned the earlier High Court decision.

On June 10, parliament passed amendments to the Basic Rights and Duties Enforcement Act to restrict public interest lawsuits by limiting the ability of groups to challenge a law or policy that allegedly violates the constitution’s bill of rights. The restriction appeared to be aimed at stopping groups from filing purely public interest litigation without showing harm to an accuser. The amendment also provided broad immunity from civil and criminal cases to top government officials, including the president, vice president, prime minister, speaker, and chief justice.

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

The law generally prohibits such actions without a search warrant, but the government did not consistently respect these prohibitions. While only courts may issue search warrants, the law also authorizes searches of persons and premises without a warrant if necessary to prevent the loss or destruction of evidence or if circumstances are serious and urgent. The owners of social online platform Jamii Forums faced a court case for allegedly preventing a police force investigation, in violation of the law. Police had no search warrant but still requested the IP addresses of the platform’s users. The owners claimed that this request was a breach of privacy. In April the Dar es Salaam court sentenced the owners to pay a fine of three million TZS ($1,300) or face one year in prison. The owners paid the fine and immediately filed a notice of intent to appeal the case.

The law relating to terrorism permits police officers at or above the rank of assistant superintendent or in charge of a police station to conduct searches without a warrant in certain urgent cases, but there were no reports these cases occurred.

It was widely believed government agents monitored the telephones and correspondence of some citizens and foreign residents. The nature and extent of this practice were unknown, but due to fear of surveillance, many civil society organizations and leaders were unwilling to speak freely over the telephone. In July former deputy minister of good governance Mary Mwanjelwa’s telephone conversation with one of her supporters was recorded and leaked. However, it was not reported who recorded the conversation.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press

The constitution provides for freedom of speech but does not explicitly provide for freedom of the press. There were criminal penalties for libel, and authorities used these laws to stifle freedom of expression. Additionally, government attacks on human rights defenders and the arrest of opposition leaders calling for peaceful, democratic protests were restrictions on freedom of assembly and association. These rights have been further severely limited through a number of formal (legislative, regulatory) and informal (executive, government, and police statements) actions. These include the Written Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act, No. 3 of 2020, which curtailed the ability of citizens to bring suit against government legislative or executive action unless an individual can prove the action has affected him or her personally, effectively outlawing public interest litigation.

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

On April 24, journalist Prince Bagenda was arrested for sedition for writing a book tentatively titled Magufuli Personification of Power and the Rise of Authoritarianism. He was detained for six days before being released on bail. His laptop was seized and not returned. He had to report to police headquarters every Monday as a condition of his bail.

On May 29, Zitto Kabwe, leader of the ACT-Wazalendo party, who has frequently been arrested for being critical of the government, was found guilty of sedition and incitement for having made false statements that 100 persons were killed in his home region in 2018 during clashes between herders and police forces. He was released without sentencing under the condition that he not say or write anything potentially seditious for one year.

On July 14, the Registrar of Societies under the Ministry of Home Affairs instructed all societies–specifically religious institutions–to stop engaging in politics, and threatened legal action and deregistration if they did not comply. Minister of Home Affairs Simbachawene also warned that he would not hesitate to deregister religious organizations. At the time, some pointed to this as a way to prevent religious institutions from participating in election observation. However, none of the religious institutions was accredited as observers anyway (see also section 3, Elections and Political Participation). Many religious institutions have viewed election observation as a longtime priority (see also section 1.b., Disappearance).

Freedom of Press and Media, Including Online Media: Independent media on the mainland were active and generally expressed varying views, although media outlets often practiced self-censorship to avoid conflict with the government. The government often utilized COVID-19 as a means to restrict freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

Registering or licensing new print and broadcast media outlets was difficult. Newspaper registration was at the discretion of the registrar of newspapers at the information ministries on both the mainland and Zanzibar. Acquiring a broadcasting license from the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) took an estimated six months to one year, and the TCRA restricted the area of broadcast coverage. The TCRA imposes registration and annual fees for commercial and community radio stations which disadvantage the creation and operation of small community radio stations.

On April 13, the TCRA suspended the newspaper Mwananchis online license for six months and fined it five million TZS ($2,100) for allegedly violating the Electronic and Postal (Online Content) Regulations of 2018 by publishing false and misleading news. The newspaper had published a video of President Magufuli buying fish at a market, apparently not complying with social distancing and COVID-19 regulations.

On June 23, the Information Services Department, which registers print media, announced it would revoke the Swahili newspaper Tanzania Daimas distribution and publication license as of June 24. The government alleged Tanzania Daima had violated journalistic ethics and laws, including spreading false information. Tanzania Daima is associated with the opposition politician Freeman Mbowe. The newspaper had just published a front-page article concerning a local bishop who called for peaceful protests to demand an independent electoral commission.

On August 6, the TCRA summoned Mwanza-based Radio Free Africa and demanded an explanation of why Radio Free Africa ran a BBC-produced interview with opposition party CHADEMA presidential candidate Tundu Lissu on July 29 without pursuing the government’s position on some of Lissu’s criticisms. Just days later, new rules were issued that required TCRA approval of all local radio and television outlet agreements with domestic and foreign content providers and required TCRA presence at meetings between foreign and domestic media representatives. Local television and radio outlets with existing agreements with foreign content providers were given seven days to comply.

All broadcast stations are required to receive approval from the Tanzania Film Board for locally produced content, including music videos, films, cartoons, and other video content. In June the government passed an amendment to the Films and Stage Plays Act (Amendment 3), providing the Tanzania Film Board with the authority to regulate, monitor and determine if foreign and local motion pictures, television shows, radio shows, and stage performances are approved for exhibition.

The government of Zanzibar controlled content on the radio and television stations it owned. There were government restrictions on broadcasting in tribal languages, and broadcasts in Kiswahili or English were officially preferred. The nine private radio stations on Zanzibar operated independently, often reading the content of national dailies, including articles critical of the Zanzibari government.

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

On July 2, the TCRA Content Committee suspended Maria Sarungi’s Kwanza Online TV platform for 11 months for allegedly generating and disseminating biased, misleading, and disruptive content after reporting on a health alert by an embassy. According to TCRA Content Committee Vice-Chairperson Joseph Mapunda, Kwanza Online TV’s Instagram page posted COVID-19 stories that contradicted the government’s official reporting. Kwanza Online TV submitted a response on July 3 to the Ethics Committee arguing that it is the duty of the government to respond to anything misleading that could be in the embassy’s alert. On July 9, Kwanza Online TV announced its intention to appeal the suspension.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The law authorizes police to raid and seize materials from newspaper offices and authorizes the minister of information to “prohibit or otherwise sanction the publication of any content that jeopardizes national security or public safety.”

According to Reporters without Borders, after President Magufuli came to office in 2015 the laws regulating media tightened and there have been cases of newspapers and radio stations being suspended for “incitement.” The TCRA publicized a mobile number and email address for the public to use for reporting all misleading information concerning COVID-19, and encouraged citizens to share screen shots of social media groups discussing the pandemic. While combatting the considerable amount of conspiracy theory and misinformation surrounding COVID-19 may have had good intentions, over time the TCRA used the Cyber Crimes Act to punish critics of the government’s handling of COVID-19 and those sharing COVID-19 information contrary to the tightly controlled government information on COVID-19.

In August the government banned all local media outlets from broadcasting foreign content without official permission. The new regulation requires local media organizations to submit their agreements with foreign media outlets to the authority within seven days and prohibits meetings between local and international media representatives without government authorities present. These regulations had a chilling effect on local broadcasts, with Voice of America, BBC, and Deutsche Welle reporting that media outlets throughout the country quickly stopped airing their content, although most stations resumed broadcasting after a week. On August 14, the TCRA announced it was placing four local radio stations (Radio Free Africa, Radio One, Radio Abood, and CG FM Radio) under close monitoring for violating broadcasting regulations after airing the BBC interview with Lissu.

On August 27, the TCRA suspended Clouds TV and Radio operations for seven days for violating television broadcasting regulations when they reported election candidates’ nominations that were uncontested and without certification from the National Electoral Commission (NEC). NEC Director for Elections Wilson Mahera warned media not to report unofficial election nomination results. On September 11, the TCRA banned Watafi FM from broadcasting for 7 days for allegedly broadcasting abusive language.

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

There were examples of the government repressing information, extending to online newspapers and journals. Many government officials did not provide access to information for fear of sharing information that had not been approved by the National Bureau of Statistics. In June 2019 parliament lifted some restrictions on publishing statistical information and removed the threat of prison for civil society groups if they published independent statistical information. The law now allows individuals and organizations to conduct surveys and collect research data; however, Amnesty International stated that under the new law, authorities still maintain control over who is able to gather and publish information, as well as to determine what is factual. While the World Bank stated the amended law was in line with international norms, many observers continued to self-censor because of possible personal and professional repercussions, including the government’s ability to use media services and cybercrime acts against individuals who publish or share data that does not align with the government’s messaging.

Libel/Slander Laws: The law provides for arrest, prosecution, and punishment for the use of seditious, abusive, or derogatory language to describe the country’s leadership. The law makes defamation a criminal act. Defamation is defined as any matter likely to injure the reputation of any person by exposing him to hatred, contempt, or ridicule, or likely to damage any person in his profession or trade by an injury to his reputation.

In May authorities arrested and detained prominent comedian Idris Sultan for eight days before charging him on May 29 with “failure to register a SIM card previously owned by another person” and “failure to report change of ownership of a SIM card.” Police claimed that Idris had used the internet to harass the president after Idris had posted a video of himself laughing at the president in an ill-fitting suit. Amnesty International called the charges “politically motivated” and stated the government was trying to criminalize humor.

On October 2, authorities suspended campaign operations of CHADEMA presidential candidate Tundu Lissu for ethics violations after he reportedly used “seditious language” towards President Magufuli after Lissu accused Magufuli of attempting to rig the October 28 elections.

Internet Freedom

The government restricted access to the internet and monitored websites and internet traffic. In July the TCRA introduced new categories for online content licenses for news, educational, religious, and entertainment content, which widely expanded the scope of required license holders. The new categories require applicants for online content services, such as bloggers and persons operating online forums, to obtain licenses specifying a category of license depending on the content being offered. In addition, all online content providers must pay application and licensing fees totaling more than two million TZS ($870) in initial costs. Licenses are valid for three years, must be renewed annually for one million TZS ($435), and can be renewed upon expiration. Prohibitive costs led some citizens to stop blogging or posting content on online forums, including international social media platforms.

Under the regulations, internet cafes must install surveillance cameras to monitor persons online. Online material deemed “offensive, morally improper” or that “causes annoyance” is prohibited, and those charged with violating the regulations face a substantial monetary fine or a minimum sentence of 12 months in prison. The law criminalizes the publication of false information, defined as “information, data or facts presented in a picture, texts, symbol, or any other form in a computer system where such information, data, or fact is false, deceptive, misleading, or inaccurate.” Individuals who made critical comments on electronic media about the government were charged under the law, even when remarks reflected opinions or were factually true.

On January 21, police in Dodoma arrested Mugaya Tungu, a second-year student at the University of Dodoma, for cybercrimes. He allegedly posted on social media a photo of a long line of students waiting for water at the university campus.

On April 11, police in Shinyanga arrested Mariam Jumanne Sanane for cybercrimes for allegedly posting false information regarding COVID-19 on social media. On April 14, another person was arrested in Kilimanjaro for alleged cybercrimes after reporting on COVID-19 numbers. As of October, Sanane was awaiting trial.

In the days leading up to the October 28 elections, the internet slowed down and popular social media sites including Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, and YouTube were either blocked or rendered unusable, preventing the free flow of information. The TCRA also blocked bulk SMS messaging in the lead-up to the elections until November 11.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

In June 2019 parliament passed amendments to the law that previously had required individuals and organizations to obtain permission from the National Bureau of Statistics before conducting surveys, collecting research data, or publicizing results. The amendment removes the threat of prison for civil society groups if they publish independent statistical information. It also states persons have the right to collect and disseminate statistical information, and puts a system in place for persons who want to access or publish national data. (See also section 2.a., Freedom of Press and Media, Including Online Media.) Researchers were still required to obtain permission to conduct and publish research. There was a degree of self-censorship due to the government’s lack of tolerance for criticism.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

The government restricted freedom of peaceful assembly, including through bans decreed by authorities but not supported by law. For example, in June 2016 the government banned political parties from organizing political activities and rallies until the campaign schedule for the October 28 elections was announced in August. The government requires organizers of political rallies to obtain police permission. Any organizing of demonstrations or rallies online is prohibited. Police may deny permission on public safety or security grounds or if the permit-seeker belongs to an unregistered organization or political party. The government and police limited the issuance of permits for public demonstrations and assemblies to opposition political parties, NGOs, and religious organizations. The only allowable political meetings are by MPs in their constituencies; outside participants, including party leaders, are not permitted to participate. The government restricted nonpolitical gatherings deemed critical of the government.

Prior to the beginning of the election season in August, the ruling Revolution Party (CCM) was the only party allowed to conduct public rallies on a regular basis. It used the umbrella of the implementing party manifesto to inform members when it was time to register to vote.

The opposition party rallies were not only shut down but police also used teargas to disperse CHADEMA gatherings on numerous occasions. For example, on September 28, police in the Mara region used teargas to disperse a crowd that had gathered to support CHADEMA presidential candidate Tundu Lissu as his motorcade passed by en route to an official campaign event.

On January 14, police briefly detained popular Zanzibar opposition leader Seif Sharif Hamad and questioned him concerning alleged illegal assembly in December 2019. He was later released.

On February 29 in Kilimanjaro, police arrested CHADEMA chairman Freeman Mbowe shortly after his political rally at Nkoromu Hai, for allegedly not obtaining a permit. He was later released.

On June 23 in Kilwa, police arrested ACT-Wazalendo party leader and MP Zitto Kabwe and five others for illegal assembly while they attended an internal party meeting. They were later transferred to Lindi and released on bail. At the end of the year, the case was ongoing.

On July 22, ACT-Wazalendo party representatives reported that police arrested 14 party members in Masasi, Mtwara, for attending an internal party meeting. The meeting was led by ACT Chair Seif Sharif Hamad, who departed the meeting before the arrests.

In the aftermath of the elections, the government arrested opposition leaders in both the mainland and on Zanzibar. On November 1 and 2, several opposition leaders and members were arrested after calling for peaceful democratic protests in opposition to the October 28 elections. Some of those arrested included CHADEMA chairman Freeman Mbowe, CHADEMA presidential candidate Tundu Lissu, ACT-Wazalendo leader Zitto Kabwe, along with other prominent opposition leaders and members throughout the country. The protests never manifested.

On Zanzibar several ACT-Wazalendo leaders, including Zanzibar presidential candidate Sharif Seif Hamad and Deputy Secretary General of Zanzibar Nassor Mazrui were arrested after calling for peaceful protests. Some ACT-Wazalendo leaders were reportedly beaten by police after they were arrested. There were also reports of heavily armed security forces patrolling the streets to stop any protests. In Pemba, the smaller of the two main islands that make up Zanzibar, there were reports of a full security lockdown, with some reports of widespread violence, including gender-based violence. Pemba was also reportedly subject to a complete internet blackout while the lockdown was in place.

Freedom of Association

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

According to the Legal and Human Rights Center (LHRC) and the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, the freedom of association for NGOs has been jeopardized by the law, which reduces the autonomy of NGOs and provides for excessive regulation of the NGO sector. The registrar stated that the process of deregistering underscored the need for NGOs to comply with the law and provide transparency and accountability in their activities. Under existing law, however, the registrar of NGOs is granted sweeping powers to suspend and deregister NGOs, leaving loopholes that could be used to obstruct political opposition and human rights NGOs.

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

In May the minister of home affairs stated that from July 2019 to March the Registrar of Societies received 248 registration applications, 156 from religious institutions and 92 from CSOs. The registrar registered 71 applications, three were disqualified as they did not meet the registration criteria, and 174 were still working on their applications. NGOs in Zanzibar apply for registration with the Zanzibar Business and Property Registration Agency. While registration generally took several weeks, some NGOs waited months if the registrar determined additional research was needed.

In September an official from the Zanzibar office of the Tanzania Media Women Association said registering NGOs was still a problem in Zanzibar. This official also said authorities continued to interfere with the affairs of NGOs. NGOs were forced to change wording in their constitutions to get registered, and some NGOs were blacklisted, deregistered, or had their operations withheld.

During the year the NGO registrar sought to deregister at least 250 NGOs. In August the government froze the bank accounts of the Tanzanian Human Rights Defenders Coalition and arrested its director, Onesmo Olengurumwa, and has actively sought to suspend or prevent the functioning of several others–including the NGO Inclusive Development for Change, and on Zanzibar, the Centre for Strategic Litigation (see also section 6, Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity).

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement

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

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

Foreign Travel: During the election, several opposition political leaders were blocked from leaving the country. Immigration officers blocked Godbless Lema (the former CHADEMA MP from Arusha) from leaving the country, alleging that he had committed economic crimes and that he lacked proper travel documentation. He later escaped using informal routes to Kenya and was granted political asylum in Canada. Another CHADEMA leader, Lazaro Nyalandu, was also blocked from crossing into Kenya at the Namanga border. Opposition presidential candidate Tindu Lissu, due to fear for his life and of being arrested, sought refuge in the German embassy and later moved to Belgium. Some opposition leaders were unable to travel out of the country without permission from police, due to ongoing investigations against them.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

There were no reports of large numbers of internally displaced persons.

f. Protection of Refugees

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) regarding treatment of internally displaced persons, refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless persons along the western border. The government did not grant UNHCR access to the southern border to assess the status of refugees entering from Mozambique.

Despite government assurances that its borders remained open to refugees, authorities closed the borders to new refugee arrivals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi. In 2018 the government withdrew from the UN’s Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, announced it would no longer provide citizenship to Burundian refugees, and stated it would encourage refugees to return home. At that time the government assured UNHCR it would respect the choice of refugees on whether to return to their country of origin. While nearly 88,000 Burundian refugees have been repatriated since September 2017, there were numerous accounts of refugees facing intimidation or pressure by Tanzanian authorities to return home. UNHCR was concerned about validating the voluntariness of the returns. Some refugees who were pressured into returning to Burundi became refugees in other countries or returned to Tanzania. In November, Human Rights Watch released a report documenting at least 18 cases between October 2019 and August of Burundian refugees being forcibly disappeared, abused, and arbitrarily detained by police and intelligence services. Victims reported to Human Rights Watch that authorities detained them in rooms with no electricity or windows, hung them from the ceilings by their handcuffs, gave them electric shocks, rubbed their faces and genitals with chili, and beat and whipped them.

The government suspended livelihood options for refugees by closing businesses operating inside the camps and common markets outside the camps where refugees and the surrounding communities could exchange goods. According to NGOs working in the camps, there was an increase in gender-based violence and other problems due to the loss of livelihoods.

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

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

Refoulement: The government closed the last of the country’s official refugee reception centers in 2018, and during the year there were credible reports of push backs at the border as well as instances of obstructions to access for Congolese and Burundian asylum seekers following requests for international protection. In addition, the Burundian refugees who had been assisted by UNHCR during the year to return voluntarily to Burundi, but were forced to flee again and seek asylum for a second time, were unable to register with authorities. This prevented them from being able to access humanitarian assistance or basic services.

There were reports of refugees from Mozambique seeking asylum who were returned without access to UNHCR assessments of the voluntariness of the returns.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has an established system for providing protection to refugees. The National Eligibility Committee is required to meet regularly and make determinations on asylum applications. In December the committee conducted interviews in Dar es Salaam with asylum seekers for the first time since 2018. The rejection rate was 80 percent, but some families were recognized as refugees. The last session of the committee was held in the camps in 2018, at which point the rejection rate was 100 percent.

Despite the government’s strict encampment policy, authorities continued to permit a small population of asylum seekers and refugees to reside in Dar es Salaam. This group consisted principally of persons in need of international protection arriving from countries that are not contiguous, as well as individuals with specific reasons for being unable to stay in the refugee camps in the western part of the country. While access to formal employment opportunities remained limited for urban refugees, they did enjoy access to government health services and schools. UNHCR intervened in cases of irregular migrants in need of international protection following their arrest by authorities in Dar es Salaam or other urban centers to ensure that the migrants had access to national asylum procedures and were protected from forced return to their country of origin.

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

Freedom of Movement: Refugees apprehended more than 2.5 miles outside their camps without permits are subject by law to sentences ranging from a fine up to a three-year prison sentence. Policy restrictions limiting refugee freedom of movement and access to livelihoods left the refugee population almost totally dependent on humanitarian assistance and vulnerable to a range of protection risks, including sexual and gender-based violence. Interpartner violence continued to be reported as the leading category of sexual and gender-based violence, accounting for approximately 75 percent of incidents. Observers attributed this level of violence to the difficult living conditions in refugee camps, split-family decisions resulting from government pressure to return to their countries of origin; substance abuse; closure of larger markets, which undermined women’s self-reliance; and restrictions on freedom of movement, which placed women and girls in a precarious situation when they left the camps to collect firewood and seek foods to diversify their family’s diet.

Employment: Even when refugees have official status, they generally are not able to work, especially in view of the country’s strict encampment policies.

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

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, from July 2018 to March 2019 a total of 662 Burundian refugees repatriated voluntarily. According to UNHCR, nearly 88,000 Burundian refugees have returned to Burundi with assistance since 2017. The government granted 162,000 former Burundian refugees citizenship in 2014-15. During 2019, 1,350 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and 82 from other countries were resettled in other countries.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

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

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The country held its most recent multiparty general election on October 28. Separate elections are held for the union and for Zanzibar, ordinarily on the same day, in which citizens of the two parts of the union elect local officials, members of the national parliament, and a union (national) president. Additionally, Zanzibar separately elects a president of Zanzibar and members of the Zanzibar House of Representatives.

International and local observers noted that the October 28 elections were marred with numerous credible reports of irregularities, along with internet and social media outages. There were reports of the NEC denying registrations for opposition candidates, who were also frequently harassed and even arrested. The CCM benefitted from superior financial and institutional resources. This was the first election where the Zanzibar Electoral Commission allowed two days of voting. The first day was reserved for government security forces, who reportedly needed to vote on October 27 in order to stand duty on October 28. The mainland did not enact a similar policy, and voting there took place only on October 28.

In the lead-up to the national elections, the NEC was selective regarding approving credentials for organizations to provide election observers and voter education programs. Many asserted this represented a politicization of the accreditation process, whereby the government used the process to deny credentials to legitimate, experienced, and resourced domestic observer groups while approving observers without the resources, capacity, or reach to monitor the election effectively. Some organizations who were denied credentials appealed the decision to the commission, but ultimately were not accredited.

On August 25, the nomination day for candidates, 1,000 opposition candidates for parliament and councilor seats were disqualified. Many of the candidates appealed this ruling to the NEC, resulting in the reinstatement of 67 opposition candidates for parliament and 236 opposition candidates for ward council seats. Despite these reinstatements, 28 ruling party parliamentary candidates ran for their seats unopposed (equivalent to 10 percent of all constituencies), and 870 councilor seats were won unopposed (21.9 percent of ward seats).

On October 28, the country held its sixth multiparty general election, resulting in the reelection of the union president, John Magufuli, with 85 percent of the vote, and the election of Dr. Hussein Mwinyi, with 76 percent of the vote, for his first term as president of Zanzibar. International and local election observers and civil society noted widespread election irregularities in the pre-election period, on election day, and in the postelection period which affected the credibility of the electoral process. In the lead-up to the election, opposition candidates were routinely disqualified, harassed, and arrested. There were reports of significant and widespread voting irregularities, internet disruptions, intimidation of journalists, arrests, and violence by security forces both on the mainland and on Zanzibar resulting in an election that was neither free nor fair.

Local elections in November 2019 were widely criticized for a lack of fairness and credibility after thousands of opposition party candidates were disqualified from running. With most domestic observer groups banned from monitoring, and a widespread opposition boycott, the ruling party CCM claimed to have won 99.7 percent of the contests, ensuring nearly complete control at the local level.

In June 2019 the speaker of parliament removed opposition CHADEMA MP Tundu Lissu for absenteeism and failing to submit required disclosure statements in a timely manner. Lissu survived an attempt to kill him in 2017 and was abroad until July for medical care. The court dismissed Lissu’s challenge to his removal, and a CCM member was sworn in on September 3, 2019, to represent Lissu’s constituency. In August, Lissu became CHADEMA’s candidate for president.

In October 2019 the Court of Appeal overturned a May 2019 decision by the High Court of Dar es Salaam to prohibit district executive directors from supervising elections on the grounds that their supervision violates a constitutional ban on political parties from running elections. District executive directors are presidentially appointed to act as the secretary of district councils, and many are active members of the ruling CCM party.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The constitution establishes the country as a multiparty democracy and requires that persons running for office represent a registered political party. The law prohibits unregistered parties. There are 19 political parties with full registration and three with provisional registration. In the October election, 17 parties participated. To secure full registration, parties must submit lists of at least 200 members in 10 of the country’s 31 regions, including two of the five regions of Zanzibar.

The registrar of political parties has sole authority to approve registration of any political party and is responsible for enforcing regulations. In February 2019 an amendment of the Political Parties Act expanded the registrar’s powers, a move opposition MPs asserted would cement one-party rule. Under the amended act, the registrar may prohibit any individual from engaging in political activities and request any information from a political party, including minutes and attendee lists from party meetings. During the year, the political opposition faced difficulty forming a coalition due in part to the Political Parties Act requirement that all minutes, areas of agreement, and strategic plans be shared with the registrar of political parties.

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

MPs were sanctioned for criticizing the government, including in speeches on the floor of parliament.

The law provides for a “gratuity” payment of 235 million TZS to 280 million TZS ($102,000 to $121,000) to MPs completing a five-year term. Incumbents can use these funds in re-election campaigns. Several NGOs and opposition parties criticized this provision as impeding opposition parliamentary candidates from mounting effective challenges.

The mainland government allowed political opponents unrestricted access to media, but the ruling party had far more funding to purchase broadcast time.

The NEC updated the voter register in preparation for the October general elections. The law requires that voter registration drives be carried out twice every five years. The law, however, restricted political parties’ ability to offer civic education and outreach on voter registration and voting rights, as they had done in the past. With the mandate for providing voter education falling on NEC’s limited budget, combined with a rejection of foreign assistance, NEC issued accreditation for civic education to only 24 small and inexperienced CSOs. Since none of the accredited CSOs had the financial or technical capacity to carry out effective national voter education campaigns, few actual voter education messages reached citizens–especially during the voter registration period. In addition the NEC scheduled only seven days for registration in each region, a time frame stakeholders asserted was inadequate. Opposition parties asserted that widespread disenfranchisement resulted from a flawed voter registration process, especially on Zanzibar, where new Zanzibar identification requirements inserted political actors into the process and purportedly resulted in the disenfranchisement of as many as 80,000 voters on the island of Pemba.

There was political violence directed at opposition party members. On September 18, Deo Mosha, campaign manager of the opposition National Convention for Construction and Reform (NCCR) party, was wounded by knife-wielding assailants in Moshi. Other NCCR supporters were reportedly assaulted in Vunjo, the home constituency of James Mbatia, NCCR national chairman and MP candidate. One assault victim claimed that the perpetrators of this attack wanted her to pledge allegiance to the ruling party CCM but she refused.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Some observers believed cultural and financial constraints limited women’s participation in politics. There were special women’s seats in both parliament and the Zanzibar House of Representatives. Two women, Queen Sendinga of the Alliance for Democratic Change and Cecelia Mwanga of Demokrasia Makini, ran for president in October. There were also female running mates in five of the parties fielding presidential candidates. There were 21 women who won MP constituency seats on the mainland, including 19 from CCM. There were 94 CCM women who filled special seats. There are 20-22 seats that can be filled by CHADEMA.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year. Officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. President Magufuli took several high-profile steps to signal a commitment to fighting corruption. These included surprise inspections of ministries, hospitals, and the port of Dar es Salaam, often followed by the immediate dismissal of officials. Critics and observers claimed that President Magufuli used the anticorruption platform to go after those who opposed him.

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

NGOs reported allegations of corruption involving the Tanzania Revenue Authority, local government officials, police, licensing authorities, hospital workers, and media.

On July 19, the PCCB director general, Brigadier General Mbungo, vowed to take legal action against political aspirants seeking financial support from businesses.

On August 13, the PCCB stated that it would allow the ruling CCM party to deal with corruption charges internally. Some civil society actors claimed that the PCCB acted as a political tool, seeking to leverage its role to harass and frustrate opposition political aspirants.

Corruption featured in newspaper articles, civil complaints, and reports of police corruption from the PCCB and from the Ministry of Home Affairs. In January the Minister of Home Affairs, Kangi Lugola, and the Fire and Rescue Brigade Commissioner General, Thobias Andengenye, were both fired for allegedly procuring fire and rescue equipment without authorization from the Ministry of Finance and Planning or approval from parliament. No legal action was taken against them.

The PCCB’s mandate excludes Zanzibar. In July 2019 the Zanzibar Anticorruption and Economic Crime Authority reported it had reduced corruption, citing one conviction and a pending investigation into corruption cases at the Ministry of Finance. As of September the Zanzibar Anticorruption Authority had filed 23 cases during the year at the High Court, among which seven cases garnered convictions. There were also approximately 100 pending files at the office of the director of public prosecution.

Financial Disclosure: Government ministers and MPs, as well as certain other public servants, are required to disclose their assets upon assuming office, annually at year’s end, and upon leaving office. The Ethics Secretariat distributes forms each October for collection in December. As of 2017, 98 percent of government leaders had submitted their forms to the secretariat (16,064 out of 16,339). When Tundu Lissu, former CHADEMA MP, was removed from his seat in June 2019, one of the reasons cited was that he did not file financial disclosure forms.

The president submitted his forms and urged other leaders to do the same. Although penalties exist for noncompliance, there was no enforcement mechanism or sufficient means to determine the accuracy of such disclosures. Information on compliance was considered sensitive and available only on request to the commissioner of the secretariat. Secretariat officials reportedly asked the individuals who failed to meet the deadline to show cause for the delay. Any declaration submitted or filed after the deadline must also explain the failure to observe the law. Asset disclosures are not public.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

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

Many NGOs are concerned the government is using the NGO registration law passed in June 2019 to deregister NGOs that focus on human rights. In August 2019 the registrar of NGOs deregistered 158 NGOs for “unaccepted” behavior, alleging they were used for profit sharing and benefiting their members, which is outside the permitted NGO activities. In August the government froze the bank accounts of the Tanzanian Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) and arrested its director, Onesmo Olengurumwa. He was later released on bail. At the end of the year, the investigation of his case was ongoing. In the past, THRDC funded and trained many of the election-observer NGOs. The government actions against them created a void in the lead up to the elections, as many of the NGOs that were accredited did not have the needed expertise and guidance that THRDC usually provided.

In May 2019 the registrar of societies in the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a public notice requesting that all religious institutions and community-based organizations registered with the ministry verify their registration status, including all the required documentation. The countrywide process began with Dar es Salaam and the coastal regions in May and continued at year’s end. There are concerns about how the government can use this process to deregister organizations that make any statements related to human rights.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government generally cooperated with visits from UN representatives, such as special rapporteurs, as well as those from UN specialized agencies such as the International Labor Organization or other international organizations (but not including NGOs) that monitor human rights.

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

The CHRAGG operated on both the mainland and Zanzibar, but low funding levels and lack of leadership limited its effectiveness. The commission has no legal authority to prosecute cases but can make recommendations to other offices concerning remedies or call media attention to human rights abuses, violations, and other public complaints. It also has authority to issue interim orders preventing actions in order to preserve the status quo, pending an investigation. The CHRAGG also issued statements and conducted public awareness campaigns on several topics. These included the need for regional and district commissioners to follow proper procedures when exercising their powers of arrest, the need for railway and road authorities to follow laws and regulations when evicting citizens from their residences, and a call for security organs to investigate allegations of disappearances or abductions, including of journalists, political leaders, and artists.

In September 2019 President Magufuli appointed a CHRAGG chairman and five commissioners. Activists expressed concern that the CHRAGG was not acting independently nor holding the government accountable for human rights abuses.

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

Women

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

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

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

There were some government efforts to combat violence against women. Police maintained gender and children desks in regions throughout the country to support victims and address relevant crimes. According to a Ministry of Health, Gender, Elderly, and Children budget speech, police gender desks increased from 417 to 427 in the fiscal year ending June 30. In Zanzibar, at One Stop Centers in both Unguja and Pemba, victims could receive health services, counseling, legal assistance, and a referral to police. The LHRC released a statement that condemned an increase in gender-based violence within the community during COVID-19 restrictions.

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

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

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

The LHRC released a report in 2018 stating female students were frequently sexually harassed in higher-learning institutions, a point reiterated by a professor at the University of Dar es Salaam in a 2019 tweet calling on President Magufuli to intervene because there were so many incidents of harassment on campus. In July police arrested an assistant lecturer from the University of Dodoma, Jacob Paul Nyangusi, for alleged sexual harassment of female students. He was released on bail and at the end of the year the case was ongoing. Another lecturer from the National Institute of Transport was sentenced for sexual assault. He paid a fine of five million TZS ($2,160).

On May 22, two special-seat female MPs from CHADEMA, Joyce Sokombi and Suzan Macele, held a press conference where they alleged that male CHADEMA leaders had sexually abused women during the nomination process. They did not disclose who had sexually abused women. The two MPs defected and joined the CCM. They did not file a police report. On May 23, Deputy Secretary of CHADEMA Benson Kigaila held a press conference where he denied all allegations. He added that the two women were CHADEMA MPs for five years and they had never complained. He claimed that when the two women lost in the intraparty nomination process, they decided to defect to the CCM, implying that was the impetus for their allegations.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children. Individuals have the right to manage their reproductive health, but access to the information and means to do so was not free from discrimination, coercion, or violence.

Schools did not provide comprehensive sexuality education, and students reported they did not have adequate information to prevent pregnancy. In addition, many girls became pregnant as a result of rape. From March to June, 67 girls became pregnant in the Biharamula and Ngara districts in Kagera Region. According to an education officer, 32 of the girls were in secondary school and were automatically expelled from further studies because of their pregnancies.

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

Information was not available on government assistance to survivors of sexual violence.

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

Despite government efforts to improve the availability and quality of postabortion services, women and girls who suffered complications avoided seeking treatment for fear of being prosecuted, and many health-care providers were not aware they are legally allowed to provide treatment and that women have the right to such service. More than 21,400 women had untreated obstructed fistula, a situation resulting in large part from deficiencies in the health system. Women attributed fistula development to negative experiences such as disrespectful maternity care. Multiple studies reported that women also perceived that their fistula resulted from prolonged wait times in the primary health-care facility due to nurses’ negligence and failure to make decisions to transfer them to a better prepared facility in a timely manner. Moreover, mothers reported persistent systematic barriers and dismissive institutional norms and practice, including poor communication, denial of husbands’ presence at birth, denial of mobility, denial of safe traditional practices, no respect for their preferred birth positions, and poor physical condition of facilities. Community stigma was another major factor that delayed women seeking obstetric fistula treatment.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

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

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

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country or abroad if at least one parent is a citizen. Registration within three months of birth is free; parents who wait until later must pay a fee. Public services were not withheld from unregistered children. The Registration, Insolvency and Trusteeship Agency, in collaboration with the Tigo telecommunication company, facilitated birth registrations of more than 3.5 million children younger than age five over the last six years in 13 regions. The program is ongoing. As of August 12, they had registered 4.3 million children younger than age five in 16 regions. In Tanga and Kilimanjaro, Tigo provided 1,350 free smart phones to facilitate the registration process.

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

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

Under the Education and Training Policy launched by the government in 2015, pregnant girls may be reinstated in schools. In 2017, however, President Magufuli declared that girls would not be allowed to return to school after giving birth. Human rights NGOs criticized the policy as contrary to the country’s constitution and laws. This policy led to girls being excluded from educational opportunities, while the fathers of the babies were often their teachers or other older men who frequently did not suffer any consequences.

Child Abuse: Violence against and abuse of children were major problems. Corporal punishment was employed in schools and the law allows head teachers to cane students. The National Violence against Children Survey, conducted in 2009 (the most recent data available), found almost 75 percent of children experienced physical violence prior to age 18.

On August 17, police in the coast region arrested a primary school teacher, Evata Mboya, for allegedly caning a 12-year-old fifth-grade student. The student, who was being punished for making noise in the classroom, was admitted to Mloganzila hospital in Dar es Salaam with severe head injuries.

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

In October 2019 the Court of Appeal rejected a government appeal to retain provisions in the law, which would permit girls as young as 14 to marry with parental consent, ruling that the act was unconstitutional and discriminatory towards girls. The government was supposed to remove the parental consent exceptions provision for marriage before the age of 18, but had not amended the law yet.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes child sex trafficking and child pornography. Those convicted of facilitating child pornography are subject to fines ranging from nominal to substantial, a prison term between one and 20 years, or both. Those convicted of child sex trafficking are subject to fines ranging from nominal to substantial, a prison term of 10 to 20 years, or both. There were three prosecutions based on this law in 2019.

The law provides that sexual intercourse with a child younger than 18 is rape unless within a legal marriage. The law was not always enforced because cases were not always reported or because girls, facing pressure, dropped charges. For example there were accounts of statutory rapes of girls that went unreported in Zanzibar.

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

Displaced Children: According to the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly, and Children, large numbers of children were living and working on the street, especially in cities and near the borders. The ministry reported 6,132 children were living in hazardous conditions during the year. These children had limited access to health and education services because they lacked a fixed address or money to purchase medicines, school uniforms, and books. They were also vulnerable to sexual abuse. According to the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elders, and Children, from July 2019 to March, 15,680 displaced children received necessities including food, clothing, education, and health services from a combination of government and private organizations.

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

Anti-Semitism

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

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, but the government did not effectively enforce these provisions.

Few public buildings were accessible to persons with disabilities. New public buildings, however, were built in compliance with the law to provide access. The law provides for access to information and communication, but not all persons with disabilities had such access.

There were six members of the union parliament with disabilities. Persons with disabilities held three appointed seats in the Zanzibar House of Representatives. The Prime Minister’s Office includes a ministerial position responsible for disabilities. The country defines persons with albinism as disabled and appointed a person with albinism as its ambassador to Germany in 2017.

Limits to the political participation of persons with disabilities included inaccessible polling stations, lack of accessible information, limited inclusion in political parties, the failure of the NEC to implement directives concerning disability, and prejudice toward persons with disabilities.

According to the Annual Education Survey of 2018/19, the government expanded school infrastructure for children with disabilities as part of its National Strategy for Inclusive Education 2018-21. In 2018-19, there were 49,655 children with disabilities enrolled in primary schools and 10,749 enrolled in secondary schools. There were 2,485 primary schools identified as inclusive. The government procured equipment such as braille machines, magnifiers, large print books, audiometers, and specialized furniture. More than 340,000 learners with special needs remained out of school.

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

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

During the year the government opposed improved safeguards for the rights of LGBTI persons, which it characterized as contrary to the law of the land and the cultural norms of society. Senior government officials made several anti-LGBTI statements. There were also reports of arrests and detentions to harass LGBTI activists. In March, seven men were arrested for same-sex sexual conduct and were purportedly subjected to forced anal exams. Their case was ongoing at year’s end.

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

In 2017 authorities filed a case against two women in Mwanza who exchanged rings in an engagement ceremony that was recorded and posted on social media. The case was withdrawn without being heard in 2018 and then reopened as a new case in June 2019. It was ongoing as of December.

On June 16, in Zanzibar the registrar summoned Hamid Muhammad Ali, director of the AIDS Initiative Youth Empowerment and Development, an LGBTI rights group, to a meeting in which officials questioned him and informed him that his organization’s registration was being suspended for “promoting homosexuality.” The meeting was later broadcast on television. Four days later, police visited and searched his home and directed him to undergo an anal examination at a local hospital the following day. He said he went to the hospital and was asked to provide his fingerprints and a copy of his national ID card but was not forced to undergo the examination. On August 10, the minister for regional administration, local government, and special departments cancelled the group’s NGO license for going against the “religious and social values” of Zanzibar.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

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

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

After a pause in services earlier in the year, in 2017 the government allowed community-based services for key populations to be reinstated following the release of revised guidelines, although the distribution of lubricants was banned, as were “drop-in centers” that provided services specifically tailored for these marginalized groups. NGOs and CSOs serving these key populations continued to face occasional backlash and harassment from authorities and were often “de-registered” after investigations into whether they promote homosexuality. There was continuing fear among these NGOs to operate freely and openly, as well as among LGBTI persons to seek health services, including HIV prevention and treatment.

Gender desks at police stations throughout the country were established to help address mistrust between members of key populations and police, however, their effectiveness varied widely.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Despite efforts by the government and NGOs to reduce mob violence through educational outreach and community policing, mob violence continued. According to the LHRC 2019 Mid-Year Report, 385 were killed in mob violence. In May in the Rukwa region, a university student was killed by an angry mob after he stabbed his girlfriend. In July in Pwani, a domestic servant killed his boss’s two children and wounded the mother. He was killed by persons who witnessed the incident.

Witchcraft-related killings continued to be a problem. According to the LHRC Mid-Year Report in 2019, there were 106 witchcraft-related killings from January to June 2019. Major victims or targets of such killings were often children or elderly women. The regions with the greatest number of killings were Mbeya, Iringa, Dar es Salaam, and Shinyanga.

In 2015 the government outlawed witchdoctors in an attempt to curtail killings of persons with albinism. Attacks on persons with albinism declined, and there were no reported cases of persons with albinism being killed or attacked. Persons with albinism remained at risk of violence, however, especially during election times, as some ritual practitioners sought albino body parts in the belief they could be used to bring power, wealth, and good fortune. Schools used as temporary shelters in some cases evolved into long-term accommodations, with many students with albinism afraid to return to their homes.

Farmers and pastoralists sometimes argued over traditional animal grazing areas, and violence occurred during some disputes.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The mainland and Zanzibari governments have separate labor laws. Workers on the mainland, except for workers in the categories of “national service” and prison guards, have the right to form and join independent trade unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination. The government nevertheless restricted these rights. Reinstatement of workers fired for trade union activity is not mandatory.

Trade unions in the private sector must consist of more than 20 members and register with the government, while public-sector unions need 30 members. Five organizations are required to form a federation. Trade union affiliation with nonunion organizations can be annulled by the Labor Court if it was obtained without government approval, or if the union is considered an organization whose remit is broader than employer-worker relations. A trade union or employers association must file for registration with the Registrar of Trade Unions in the Ministry of Labor within six months of establishment. The law, however, does not provide for specific time limits within which the government must register an organization, and the registrar has the power to refuse registration on arbitrary or ambiguous grounds. The government prescribes the terms of office of trade union leaders. Failure to comply with government requirements is subject to fines, imprisonment, or both.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Zanzibar the law requires any union with 50 or more members to be registered, a threshold few companies could meet. The law sets literacy standards for trade union officers. The law provides the registrar considerable powers to restrict union registration by setting criteria for determining whether an organization’s constitution protects its members’ interests. The law applies to both public- and private-sector workers and bans Zanzibari workers from joining labor unions on the mainland. The law prohibits a union’s use of its funds, directly or indirectly, to pay any fines or penalties incurred by trade union officials in the discharge of their official duties. In Zanzibar both government and private-sector workers have the right to strike as long as they follow procedures outlined in the law. For example, workers in essential sectors may not strike; others must give mediation authorities at least 30 days to resolve the issue in dispute and provide a 14-day advance notice of any proposed strike action.

The law provides for collective bargaining in the private sector. Public-sector employees have the right to bargain collectively through the Trade Union of Government and Health Employees; however, members of the police force and prison service, and high-level public officials (for example, the head of an executive agency) are barred from joining a trade union. Zanzibar’s Dispute Handling Unit addresses labor disputes. In Zanzibar judges and all judicial officers, members of special departments, and employees of the House of Representatives are excluded from labor law protection. In Zanzibar the courts are the only venue in which labor disputes can be heard. Enforcement of labor law in Zanzibar is insufficient, especially on the island of Pemba.

The government did not effectively enforce the law protecting the right to collective bargaining. Penalties were commensurate with penalties for similar violations. On both the mainland and in Zanzibar, private-sector employers adopted antiunion policies or tactics, although discriminatory activities by an employer against union members are illegal. The Trade Union Congress of Tanzania (TUCTA)’s 2018 annual report claimed that international mining interests bribed government officials to ignore workers’ complaints and write false favorable reports on work conditions in mines. TUCTA also reported that employers discouraged workers from collective bargaining and retaliated against workers’ rights activists via termination of employment and other measures.

TUCTA expressed concern over the proposal of a new formula for calculating pensions. Under the new formula, 25 percent of a pension would be issued as a lump sum while the remaining 75 percent would be paid in monthly installments. TUCTA called for the government to revert to the old formula, under which workers received a 50 percent lump sum payment upon retirement. By the end of December 2018, President Magufuli announced the new formula would not go into effect until 2023 to provide more time to reach consensus.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits most forms of forced or compulsory labor. The law allows prisoners to work without pay on construction and agriculture projects within prisons. The law deems such work acceptable as long as a public authority ensures the work is not for the benefit of any private party. The law also allows work carried out as part of compulsory national service in certain limited circumstances. The constitution provides that no work shall be considered forced labor if such work forms part of compulsory national service in accordance with the law, or “the national endeavor at the mobilization of human resources for the enhancement of society and the national economy and to ensure development and national productivity.”

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

Prisoners perform unpaid and nonvoluntary labor on projects outside of the prison, such as road repair, agriculture, and government construction projects. The Ministry of Home Affairs reported that prisoners perform labor on a joint sugar plantation project, including planting 2,000 acres of sugar under an agreement between the National Social Security Fund and the Parastatal Pension Fund (PPF). The Moshi Prison Department, in collaboration with PPF, installed leather manufacturing equipment, and prisoners produce shoes and handbags. In Kigoma, the prisoners work on palm farms in palm oil production, in Dodoma and Singida they work on farms to produce corn and beans, and in Arusha, they work in meat production. The Minister of Home Affairs budget speech of 2020/21 included a statement about having prisoners produce their own food.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

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

Both the mainland’s and Zanzibar’s labor inspectorates lacked human and financial resources to adequately enforce minimum age laws, and labor inspectors lacked authority to assess penalties for violations. Inadequate enforcement left children vulnerable to exploitation. In January the ILO worked with the Ministry of Labor to train approximately 70 labor inspectors on child labor in Iringa.

Mainland officials arrested but were not able to obtain convictions for traffickers of children working in mining and domestic service. Zanzibar’s Ministry of Labor, Youth Development, Women, and Children did not take legal action related to child labor.

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

On the mainland children worked as domestic workers, street vendors, and shopkeepers as well as in agriculture, family-based businesses, fishing, construction, and artisanal mining of gold and tanzanite. According to Human Rights Watch, children as young as eight worked in mining. In Zanzibar children worked primarily in fishing, clove picking, domestic labor, small businesses, and gravel making. In Micheweni and Mwambe villages, for example, children engaged in stone crushing, exposing them to being hit by rock fragments. In fishing villages such as Matemwe, children’s work at fish markets prevents them from attending school.

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

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

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

Women have the same status as men under labor law on the mainland. According to TUCTA, gender-based discrimination in terms of wages, promotions, and legal protections in employment continued to occur in the private sector. It was difficult to prove and often went unpunished. While employers in the formal sector were more attentive to laws against discrimination, problems were particularly acute in the informal sector, in which women were disproportionately employed. Women often were employed for low pay and in hazardous jobs, and they reported high levels of bullying, threats, and sexual harassment. A 2015 study by the LHRC found that women faced particular discrimination in the mining, steel, and transport industries. The 2019 LHRC human rights and business report shows women still experienced discrimination.

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

The LHRC stated that persons with disabilities faced discrimination in seeking employment and access to the workplace. While nongovernment and government actors made efforts to curb discrimination and violence against persons with albinism, the LHRC reported that this population still lived in fear of their personal security and therefore could not fully participate in social, economic, and political activities.

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

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The government established minimum wage standards in 2015 for employees in both the public and private sectors on the mainland, and it divided those standards into nine employment sectors. The minimum wage was above the government poverty line, but in many industries, it was below World Bank standards for what constitutes extreme poverty. The government’s poverty line has not been updated since 2012. The law allows employers to apply to the Ministry of Labor for an exemption from paying the minimum wage. The labor laws cover all workers, including foreign and migrant workers and those in the informal sector. The minimum wage on Zanzibar was above the poverty line. According to the Tanzania Mainland Poverty Assessment 2019 published by the World Bank and the Tanzania National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the national basic needs poverty line for 2018 for the country was 49,320 TZS ($21) per adult per month (or $0.55 per day) and the food poverty line was 33,748 TZS ($14) per month ($0.50 per day).

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

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

Several laws regulate occupational safety and health (OSH) standards in the workplace. According to TUCTA, OSH standards are appropriate for the main industries and enforcement of these standards has improved, but challenges remained in the private sector. In March the National Audit Office released a follow-up report on a 2013 performance audit on the management of occupational health and safety in the country. The audit found the vast majority of recommendations had been fully implemented.

OSH standards, however, were not effectively enforced in the informal economy. The Occupational Safety and Health Authority did not employ sufficient inspectors. By law workers can remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, but authorities did not effectively enforce this protection.

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

Many workers did not have employment contracts and lacked legal protections. The LHRC reported many workers did not have written contracts, and those who did were often not provided with written copies of their contract. Additionally, employers often kept copies of the contracts that differed from the versions given to the employees. Companies frequently used short-term contracts of six months or less to avoid hiring organized workers with labor protections.

The government did not adequately enforce labor standards, particularly in the informal sector, where the majority of workers were employed. Penalties were insufficient to deter violations and were not commensurate with penalties for similar violations. The number of inspectors was insufficient to deter violations. Inspectors did have the authority to conduct unannounced inspections, but the penalties are imposed by the court.

In dangerous industries such as construction, employees often worked without protective equipment such as helmets, gloves, or harnesses. According to a 2008 Accident Notification Survey (latest available), the sectors with the highest rates of fatal accidents were construction and building, transport, and mining and quarrying. Domestic workers were reportedly frequent victims of abuse.

Trinidad and Tobago

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

Although the law prohibits such practices, there were reports that police officers and prison guards sometimes used excessive force.

Despite government steps to punish security force members and other officials charged with killings or other abuses, open-ended investigations and the generally slow pace of criminal judicial proceedings created a climate of impunity.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

A police officer may arrest a person based on a warrant issued or authorized by a magistrate, or without a warrant if the officer witnesses the commission of an offense. Detainees must be charged and appear in court within 48 hours, and the government respected this standard. There is a functioning bail system, and bail is ordinarily available for those accused of most crimes. Persons accused of murder, treason, piracy, kidnapping for ransom, or hijacking, as well as persons convicted twice of violent crimes, are ordinarily ineligible for bail for 120 days. Authorities granted detainees immediate access to a lawyer.

The minister of national security may authorize preventive detention to protect public safety, public order, or national defense; the minister must state the grounds for the detention.

In September the government amended the law to allow courts to use electronic monitoring devices as a condition of bail, probation, or community service.

Arbitrary Arrest: Independent reporting confirmed instances in which airline officials, with government permission, took individuals who were denied entry into the country and detained them in unofficial holding facilities. The individuals were taken out of the airport and into the country without legal entry and placed into a guarded hotel room until a return flight was available.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was a problem. Pretrial detainees constituted more than two-thirds of the prison population. Most detainees’ trials began seven to 10 years after their arrest, although some spent even longer in pretrial detention. The length of pretrial detention frequently equaled or exceeded the maximum sentence for the alleged crime. Officials cited several reasons for the backlog, including the burden of the preliminary inquiry process. The law requires anyone charged and detained to appear in person for a hearing before a magistrate every 10 days, even if only to have the case postponed for an additional 10 days. This increased the caseload and created further inefficiency.

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 and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Criminal defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence; to be informed promptly of the charges; to receive a fair, timely, and public trial; to be present at their trial; to communicate with an attorney of their choice or have one provided at public expense if unable to pay; to have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense; to receive free assistance of an interpreter for any defendant who cannot understand or speak English; to confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence; not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt; and to appeal.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts and may appeal adverse decisions to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

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

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

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press

The law provides for freedom of expression, including for the press. The government generally respected this right; however, the government sometimes used the antiquated Sedition Act to limit freedom of expression, according to some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

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

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

In July police officers fired shots into the air and arrested at least 72 persons who were protesting the killing of three men in Morvant by police. Protesters blocked roads in and out of the capital city and burned tires and debris. Police Commissioner Griffith stated the protests were driven by criminal elements and not fueled by anger over police brutality.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement

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

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

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

Refoulement: On September 18, the government reported it had deported 79 Venezuelans to Venezuela, some of whom were allegedly seeking asylum. Media and some NGOs said the figure was closer to 95. Some of the deported asylum seekers stated they expressed to government authorities a fear of abuse or retaliation from Venezuelan authorities.

On November 22, media reported 16 Venezuelan minors and nine women were placed by the coast guard on boats to Venezuela prior to an emergency court hearing and left them stranded at sea. Some of the children’s parents registered in the government’s June 2019 temporary amnesty exercise, and others held UNHCR cards. The group returned two days later and was placed in state quarantine. Among the more than 300 Venezuelans who were potentially refouled between January and July, some were registered with UNHCR.

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has not established a system for providing protection to asylum seekers. The government agreed to let UNHCR conduct refugee status determinations. Thousands of UNHCR’s determinations affirmed refugee status. A positive determination by UNHCR, however, did not confer recognition by the government of an individual as a refugee or otherwise affect the person’s legal status in the country. Access to asylum remained a significant challenge for detained individuals, since there are no formal procedures to register those who seek asylum. The refugee NGO Living Water Community and UNHCR did not have access to the Immigration Detention Center to register asylum seekers.

Access to Basic Services: Refugee and asylum-seeking children had no access to public education because they do not qualify for the required student permit under the Immigration Act.

Durable Solutions: The government collaborated with UNHCR to facilitate transit of a few refugees to countries that had offered them resettlement.

Temporary Protection: In response to a large influx of Venezuelans, the government conducted a one-time registration exercise in June 2019 and agreed to allow registrants to reside, work, and access emergency health services in the country for one year from their date of registration. Approximately 16,500 Venezuelans registered with the government. Registration was unavailable to those who arrived after or who failed to register during the June 2019 exercise. In June the government extended the status of those registered through the end of the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

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

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In the August 10 parliamentary elections, the ruling People’s National Movement, led by Keith Rowley, defeated the opposition United National Congress, led by Kamla Persad-Bissessar, winning 22 parliamentary seats to the United National Congress’s 19 seats. While there were no international election observers due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, local media observers considered the election to be generally free and fair.

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

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not enforce the law effectively, and officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were reports of government corruption during the year.

Corruption: Corruption was a problem at many levels of government. Opaque public procurement processes were a concern. There were allegations that some politicians and ministers had close relationships with gang leaders and facilitated procurement and contracting of road, bridge, and construction projects to companies owned and operated by criminal enterprises.

During the year authorities initiated high-profile corruption cases against opposition-party officials. A High Court judge ruled there was sufficient evidence for a corruption trial against one opposition member of parliament and others related to contracts with a government agency for road rehabilitation projects in 2015.

In September, Police Commissioner Griffith suspended Assistant Commissioner of Police Irwin Hackshaw after the Police Complaints Authority recommended several criminal charges against Hackshaw. Hackshaw was accused of using his official position to collect more than two million Trinidad and Tobago dollars (TTD) ($290,000) from local businesses while on vacation based on providing security services. Additionally, Hackshaw was accused of collecting money to offset costs for official social events for police. An internal investigation was not completed before Hackshaw retired on November 30.

Senior police officials acknowledged that police officers participated in corrupt and illegal activities and often accepted bribes to facilitate drug, weapons, and human smuggling, as well as human trafficking. On September 22, police and soldiers serving as special reserve police responding to a breach of COVID-19 restrictions discovered a pyramid scheme led by a soldier and seized 22 million TTD ($3.2 million). Video footage of a soldier stuffing cash into his uniform subsequently went viral on social media. Police authorities returned 18 million TTD ($2.6 million) with no explanation to the suspected head of the scheme. Four police officers were suspended and 11 were transferred pending investigations. Police officers from the United Kingdom and Barbados were called in to assist with the investigation.

Financial Disclosure: The law mandates that senior public officials disclose their assets, income, and liabilities to the Integrity Commission, which monitors, verifies, and publishes disclosures. The commission publishes an annual list of officials who fail to file by the deadline. The law provides criminal penalties for failure to comply, but there were no prosecutions.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Ombudsman investigates citizens’ complaints concerning the administrative decisions of government agencies. Where there is evidence of a breach of duty, misconduct, or criminal offense, the ombudsperson may refer the matter to the appropriate authority. The ombudsperson has a quasi-autonomous status within the government and publishes a comprehensive annual report. Both the public and the government had confidence in the integrity and reliability of the Office of the Ombudsman and the ombudsperson’s annual report.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of men or women, including spousal rape, is illegal and punishable by up to life imprisonment. The government generally enforced the law, but the courts often imposed considerably shorter sentences in cases of spousal rape. The law criminalizes domestic violence and provides for protection orders separating perpetrators of domestic violence, including abusive spouses and common-law partners, from their victims. Victims reported incidents but often claimed police trivialized the matter. Courts may fine or imprison abusive spouses but rarely did so.

Rape and domestic violence remained serious and pervasive problems. According to the UN Global Database on Violence against Women, 30 percent of women in the country experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime, and 19 percent experienced sexual violence from a nonpartner.

Victims of rape and domestic violence had access to national crisis hotlines and could access temporary shelter and psychosocial services through a law enforcement referral. The police Victim and Witness Support Unit encouraged reporting of rape and domestic violence.

In January police launched a gender-based violence unit in response to the growing number of domestic violence cases. In April the police commissioner noted an increase in domestic violence cases and stated the spike was consistent with global trends due to COVID-19 stay-at-home measures.

Sexual Harassment: The law does not criminalize sexual harassment. Despite the lack of specific sexual harassment legislation, citizens reported cases, and the Equal Opportunity Commission can provide legal remedy. The commission has the power to receive, investigate, conciliate, and refer sexual harassment complaints to the Equal Opportunity Tribunal.

In June police launched a sexual offenses unit for highly sensitive cases, including intimate partner abuse.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children. Sexual health education is not a part of the national school curriculum, and barriers to access to contraception included cost, availability, locality, and parental consent for minors under age 18. The government provides prenatal health care to all pregnant women, including Venezuelan refugees, free of cost at public health facilities. There are, however, reports of limited access to these services for Venezuelan refugees.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women and men, and the government enforced the law effectively. There is no law mandating equal pay for equal work between men and women. Married women are required to produce all marriage certificates to verify name changes, while married men are not required to do so.

Children

Birth Registration: Every person born in the country is a citizen at birth, unless the parents are foreign envoys accredited to the country. A child born outside the country can become a citizen at birth if either parent is a citizen. The law requires every child be registered within 42 days of birth. Registration is required to access public services.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits corporal punishment of children. According to NGOs, however, abuse of children in their own homes or in institutional settings was a serious problem. Penalties for child abuse can include a moderate fine, two years’ imprisonment, or both.

A 2019 report by the Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago noted that of the reported cases of child abuse, 54 percent of the victims were female while 43 percent were male. The gender of the remaining 3 percent of the victims was not identified. Cases involved sexual abuse (23 percent), neglect (21 percent), and physical abuse (14 percent). The Children’s Authority also reported in November an increase in reports of emotional abuse against minors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children through the sale, offering, or procuring for prostitution, and any practices related to child pornography. Authorities enforced the law.

The age of sexual consent is 18. The age of consent for sexual touching is 16.

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

Anti-Semitism

There were fewer than 100 Jewish persons in the country. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination based on disability but does not mandate equal access for persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities faced discrimination, stigma, and denial of opportunities, including access to employment and education. Children with learning disabilities generally did not attend mainstream schools. Persons who believe they were discriminated against may file a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission for conciliation. Complaints that remained unresolved may be brought before the Equal Opportunity Tribunal, a superior court that has the power to impose fines, make orders for compensation, and grant injunctions.

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

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults, but the government did not enforce it, and a court ruling deemed the law unconstitutional. As of November the government’s appeal of the ruling was pending.

The law decriminalizes sexual exploration between minors who are close in age. The law specifically retains language criminalizing the same activity between same-sex minors.

The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons. There were reports of harassment and threats against LGBTI persons, but victims tended to avoid media attention, and discrimination did not appear to be serious or widespread.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Persons with HIV or AIDS faced persistent stigmatization, especially persons in high-risk groups. This created barriers to access and use of prevention and treatment services. The government’s HIV and AIDS Unit coordinated the national response to HIV and AIDS, and the government employed HIV and AIDS coordinators in all ministries as part of its multisector response.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of most workers, including those in state-owned enterprises, to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes, but with some limitations. A union must have the support of an absolute majority of workers to obtain bargaining rights. Employees providing essential services do not have the right to strike; these employees negotiate with the government’s chief personnel officer to resolve labor disputes. The law stipulates that only strikes over unresolved labor disputes may take place, and that authorities may prohibit strikes at the request of one party unless the strike is called by a union representing a majority of the workers. The minister of labor may petition the court to curtail any strike he deems harmful to national interests.

The law prohibits employers from discriminating against workers due to union membership and mandates reinstatement of workers illegally dismissed for union activities.

The law’s definition of a worker excludes domestic workers (house cleaners, chauffeurs, and gardeners), but domestic workers had an established trade union that advocated for their rights.

The government effectively enforced applicable laws, and penalties were commensurate with penalties for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination.

A union must have the support of an absolute majority of workers to obtain bargaining rights. This requirement limits the right of collective bargaining. Furthermore, collective agreement negotiations are subject to mandatory mediation and must cover a minimum of three years, making it almost impossible for such agreements to include workers who are on short-term contracts. According to the National Trade Union Center, the requirement that all negotiations go through the Public Sector Negotiation Committee, rather than through the individual government agency or government-owned industry, was a further restriction that added significant delays. Some unions claimed the government undermined the collective bargaining process by pressuring the committee to offer raises of no more than 5 percent over three years.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits and criminalizes all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government enforced the law effectively, and penalties were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination. Forced labor cases are referred to the labor inspectorate for investigation. The government collaborated with India to extradite a forced labor suspect.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law sets the minimum age for employment at 16. Children ages 14 to 16 may work in activities in which only family members are employed or that the minister of education approves as vocational or technical training. The law prohibits children younger than age 18 from working between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. except in a family enterprise. There is no separate minimum age for working in hazardous activities.

The government was generally effective in enforcing child labor laws, but penalties were not commensurate with those for analogous crimes, such as kidnapping. There were anecdotal reports of children working in agriculture, as domestic workers, or in commercial sexual exploitation as a result of human trafficking.

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

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits employment discrimination based on political opinion, sexual orientation, gender identity, language, age, disability, and HIV or other communicable disease status. The government generally enforced the law effectively, but discrimination in employment occurred with respect to disability. Penalties were not commensurate with laws related to civil rights, such as election interference. Women’s pay lagged behind men’s, especially in the private sector. The law does not require equal pay for equal work between men and women.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The national minimum wage was greater than the official poverty income level.

Workers in the informal economy reported wages above the national minimum wage but reported other labor laws, including limits on the number of hours worked, were not enforced. There was a sharp drop in demand for labor, with job advertisements in print media declining by 43 percent from 2019. Although manufacturing businesses dismissed only 363 persons, they furloughed many more, along with cutting pay and reducing work hours.

The Ministry of Labour is responsible for enforcing labor laws related to minimum wage and acceptable conditions of work. The Occupational Safety and Health Agency enforced occupational safety and health (OSH) regulations. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes. Resources, inspections, and penalties appeared adequate to deter violations. The labor inspectorate faced a partial moratorium during the year because of COVID-19; however, inspectors conducted follow-up telephone and virtual meetings.

OSH standards are appropriate for the main industries in the country. Responsibility for identifying unsafe situations remained with OSH experts and not the worker. The law gives workers the right to remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities generally protected this right. According to government statistics, 24 fatalities and 1,403 accidents were reported from August 2019 through July.

The law establishes a 40-hour workweek, a daily period for lunch or rest, and premium pay for overtime. The law does not prohibit excessive or compulsory overtime. The law provides for paid leave, with the amount of leave varying according to length of service. Workers in the informal economy reported wages above the national minimum wage but noted that other labor laws, including on the number of hours worked, were not enforced.

Domestic workers, most of whom worked as maids and nannies, are covered by labor laws.

In July the Ministry of Labour implemented national workplace guidelines to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including a provision for pandemic leave.

Turkey

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

b. Disappearance

Domestic and international human rights groups reported disappearances during the year that they alleged were politically motivated.

In February the Ankara Bar Association filed a complaint with the Ankara prosecutor on behalf of seven men reportedly “disappeared” by the government, who surfaced in police custody in 2019. One of the men, Gokhan Turkmen, a civil servant dismissed under state of emergency powers following the 2016 coup attempt, alleged in a pretrial hearing that intelligence officials visited him in prison, threatened him and his family, and urged him to retract his allegations that he was abducted and tortured while in custody. In April the Ankara prosecutor declined to investigate Turkmen’s complaints. Six of the seven men were in pretrial detention on terrorism charges at year’s end. The whereabouts of the seventh were unknown.

In May former HDP MP Tuma Celik asserted that the disappearance of an Assyrian Chaldean Catholic couple in the village of Kovankaya (Syriac: Mehri), reported missing since January, was “a kidnapping carried out with the ones who lean on the state or groups within the state,” likely alluding to nonstate armed groups aligned with the government. Others, including witnesses on the scene, asserted that the PKK was responsible. The husband, Hurmuz Diril, remained missing at year’s end, while in March relatives found the dead body of the wife, Simoni Diril, in a river near the village.

The government declined to provide information on efforts to prevent, investigate, and punish such acts.

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

The constitution and law prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, but domestic and international rights groups reported that some police officers, prison authorities, and military and intelligence units employed these practices. Domestic human rights organizations, the Ankara Bar Association, political opposition figures, international human rights groups, and others reported that government agents engaged in threats, mistreatment, and possible torture of some persons while in custody. Human rights groups asserted that individuals with alleged affiliation with the PKK or the Gulen movement were more likely to be subjected to mistreatment or abuse.

In June, Emre Soylu, an adviser to ruling alliance member Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Mersin MP Olcay Kilavuz, shared photos on his Twitter account showing a man allegedly being tortured by police at the Diyarbakir Antiterror Branch. A short video shared widely on social media included the screams of a man at the same facility in Diyarbakir. Kurdish politicians and civil society organizations, including the Human Rights Association of Turkey (HRA), condemned the incident and called on authorities to investigate.

In July, Human Rights Watch reported there was credible evidence that police and community night watchmen (bekcis) committed serious abuses against at least 14 persons, including violent arrests and beatings, in six incidents in Diyarbakir and Istanbul from May through July. In four of the cases, authorities refuted the allegations and failed to commit to investigate. In one case on June 26, masked police allegedly raided former mayor and HDP member Sevil Cetin’s home in Diyarbakir city, setting attack dogs on her while beating her. On June 28, the Diyarbakir Governor’s Office released a statement refuting the allegations and stating authorities did not intend to investigate.

In September news reports claimed that Jandarma forces apprehended, detained for two days, tortured, and threw out of a helicopter two farmers in Van province as part of an anti-PKK operation. One of the men died from his injuries. The Van Governor’s Office denied the allegations and stated that the injuries resulted from of the men falling in a rocky area while trying to escape from the officers. A court approved a ban on all news reports on the case, as requested by the Van Prosecutor’s Office. On November 27, Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu stated one of the villagers, Osman Siban, was aiding PKK terrorists and that authorities therefore apprehended him.

In 2019 public reports alleged that as many as 100 persons, including former members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs dismissed under the 2016-18 state of emergency decrees due to suspected ties to the Gulen movement, were mistreated or tortured while in police custody. The Ankara Bar Association released a report that detailed its interviews with alleged victims. Of the six detainees the association interviewed, five reported police authorities tortured them. In August the Ankara Prosecution Office decided not to pursue prosecution based on the allegations, citing insufficient evidence.

Reports from human rights groups indicated that police abused detainees outside police station premises and that mistreatment and alleged torture was more prevalent in some police facilities in parts of the southeast. The HRA reported receiving complaints from 573 individuals alleging they were subjected to torture and other forms of mistreatment while in custody or at extracustodial locations from January through November. The HRA reported that intimidation and shaming of detainees by police were common and that victims hesitated to report police abuse due to fear of reprisal. In June, responding to a parliamentary inquiry, the minister of interior reported the ministry had received 396 complaints of torture and maltreatment since October 2019. Opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) human rights reports alleged that from May to August, 223 individuals reported torture or inhuman treatment.

The government asserted it followed a “zero tolerance” policy for torture and has abolished statute of limitations for cases of torture. On August 5, the Council of Europe released two reports on visits to the country by its Committee for the Prevention of Torture’s (CPT) in 2017 and 2019. The 2019 report stated that the delegation received “a considerable number of allegations of excessive use of force or physical ill-treatment by police and gendarmerie officers from persons who had recently been taken into custody (including women and juveniles). The allegations consisted mainly of slaps, kicks, punches (including to the head and face), and truncheon blows after the persons concerned had been handcuffed or otherwise brought under control.” The CPT noted, “A significant proportion of the allegations related to beatings during transport or inside law enforcement establishments, apparently with the aim of securing confessions or obtaining other information, or as a punishment. Further, numerous detained persons claimed to have been subjected to threats, and/or severe verbal abuse.” The CPT found that the severity of alleged police mistreatment diminished in 2019 compared with the findings of the 2017 CPT visit, although the frequency of the allegations remained worrying.

In its World Report 2020, Human Rights Watch stated: “A rise in allegations of torture, ill-treatment and cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment in police custody and prison over the past four years has set back Turkey’s earlier progress in this area. Those targeted include Kurds, leftists, and alleged followers of Fethullah Gulen. Prosecutors do not conduct meaningful investigations into such allegations and there is a pervasive culture of impunity for members of the security forces and public officials implicated.” According to Ministry of Justice 2019 statistics, the government opened 2,767 investigations into allegations of torture and mistreatment. Of those, 1,372 resulted in no action being taken by prosecutors, 933 resulted in criminal cases, and 462 in other decisions. The government did not release data on its investigations into alleged torture.

Some military conscripts reportedly endured severe hazing, physical abuse, and torture that sometimes resulted in death or suicide. Human rights groups reported that suspicious deaths in the military were widespread. The government did not systematically investigate them or release data. The HRA and HRFT reported at least 18 deaths as suspicious during the year. In September a Kurdish soldier serving in Edirne reported being beaten by other soldiers because of his ethnic identity. Turkish Land Forces Command opened an investigation into the incident.

The government did not release information on its efforts to address abuse through disciplinary action and 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 arrest or detention in court, but numerous credible reports indicated the government did not always observe these requirements.

Human rights groups noted that, following the 2016 coup attempt, authorities continued to detain, arrest, and try hundreds of thousands of individuals for alleged ties to the Gulen movement or the PKK, often with questionable evidentiary standards and without the full due process provided for under law (see section 2.a.).

On the four-year anniversary of the 2016 coup attempt in July, the government announced that authorities had opened legal proceedings against 597,783 individuals, detained 282,790, and arrested 94,975 since the coup attempt on grounds of alleged affiliation or connection with the Gulen movement. During the year the government started legal proceedings against 39,719 individuals, detained 21,000, and arrested 3,688. In July the Ministry of Justice reported that the government had conducted nearly 100,000 operations targeting Gulenists since the coup attempt. The government reportedly detained and investigated a majority of the individuals for alleged terror-related crimes, including membership in and propagandizing for the Gulen movement or the PKK. Domestic and international legal and human rights experts questioned the quality of evidence presented by prosecutors in such cases, criticized the judicial process, asserted that the judiciary lacked impartiality, and that defendants were sometimes denied access to the evidence underlying the accusations against them (see section 1.e., Trial Procedures).

The courts in some cases applied the law unevenly, with legal critics and rights activists asserting court and prosecutor decisions were sometimes subject to executive interference. In January an Ankara court of appeals reversed a lower court ruling for life imprisonment of a former three-star general, Metin Iyidil, accused of participation in the coup attempt. Two days after Iyidil’s release, another court reordered his detention. After President Erdogan publicly criticized the Ankara appeals court decision to acquit, the court ruled for Iyidil to be rearrested. The Council of Judges and Prosecutors opened an investigation into the acquittal decision, suspending the three judges who ruled for acquittal from their posts.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

The law requires that prosecutors issue warrants for arrests, unless the suspect is detained while committing a crime. The period for arraignment may be extended for up to four days. Formal arrest is a measure, separate from detention, which means a suspect is to be held in jail until and unless released by a subsequent court order. For crimes that carry potential prison sentences of fewer than three years’ imprisonment, a judge may release the accused after arraignment upon receipt of an appropriate assurance, such as bail. For more serious crimes, the judge may either release the defendant on his or her own recognizance or hold the defendant in custody (arrest) prior to trial if there are specific facts indicating the suspect may flee, attempt to destroy evidence, or attempt to pressure or tamper with witnesses or victims. Judges often kept suspects in pretrial detention without articulating a clear justification for doing so.

While the law generally provides detainees the right to immediate access to an attorney, it allows prosecutors to deny such access for up to 24 hours. In criminal cases the law also requires that the government provide indigent detainees with a public attorney if they request one. In cases where the potential prison sentence for conviction is more than five years’ imprisonment or where the defendant is a child or a person with disabilities, a defense attorney is appointed, even absent a request from the defendant. Human rights observers noted that in most cases authorities provided an attorney if a defendant could not afford one.

Under antiterror legislation adopted in 2018, the government may detain without charge (or appearance before a judge) a suspect for 48 hours for “individual” offenses and 96 hours for “collective” offenses. These periods may be extended twice with the approval of a judge, amounting to six days for “individual” and 12 days for “collective” offenses. Human rights organizations raised concerns that police authority to hold individuals for up to 12 days without charge increased the risk of mistreatment and torture. According to a statement by Minister of Justice Gul, 48,752 persons were in pretrial detention in the country as of July.

The law gives prosecutors the right to suspend lawyer-client privilege and to observe and record conversations between accused persons and their legal counsel. Bar associations reported that detainees occasionally had difficulty gaining immediate access to lawyers, both because government decrees restricted lawyers’ access to detainees and prisons–especially for those attorneys not appointed by the state–and because many lawyers were reluctant to defend individuals the government accused of ties to the 2016 coup attempt. Human rights organizations reported the 24-hour attorney access restriction was arbitrarily applied and that in terrorism-related cases, authorities often did not inform defense attorneys of the details of detentions within the first 24 hours, as stipulated by law. In such cases rights organizations and lawyers groups reported attorneys’ access to the case files for their clients was limited for weeks or months pending preparations of indictments, hampering their ability to defend their clients.

Some lawyers stated they were hesitant to take cases, particularly those of suspects accused of PKK or Gulen movement ties, because of fear of government reprisal, including prosecution. Government intimidation of defense lawyers also at times involved nonterror cases. The international NGO Freedom House in its 2020 Freedom in the World report stated, “In many cases, lawyers defending those accused of terrorism offenses were arrested themselves.” According to human rights organizations, since 2016 authorities prosecuted more than 1,500 lawyers, arrested 605, and sentenced 441 to lengthy prison terms on terrorism-related charges. Of the arrested lawyers, 14 were presidents of provincial bar associations. This practice disproportionately affected access to legal representation in the southeast, where accusations of affiliation with the PKK were frequent and the ratio of lawyers to citizens was low. In a September speech, the president suggested that lawyers who are “intimate” with terrorist organizations should be disbarred.

Arbitrary Arrest: Although the law prohibits holding a suspect arbitrarily or secretly, there were numerous reports that the government did not observe these prohibitions. Human rights groups alleged that in areas under curfew or in “special security zones,” security forces detained citizens without official record, leaving detainees at greater risk of arbitrary abuse.

In September the HDP released a statement detailing allegations that police kidnapped, physically assaulted, and later released six HDP youth assembly members in separate incidents in Diyarbakir, Istanbul, and Agri province. The HDP also stated that on May 4 police abducted HDP assembly member Hatice Busra Kuyun in Van province, forced her into a car, and threatened her. Police released Kuyun on the same day.

Pretrial Detention: The maximum time an arrestee can be held pending trial with an indictment is seven years, including for crimes against the security of the state, national defense, constitutional order, state secrets and espionage, organized crime, and terrorism-related offenses. Pretrial detention during the investigation phase of a case (before an indictment) is limited to six months for cases that do not fall under the purview of the heavy criminal court–referred to by the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) as the central criminal court–and one year for cases that fall under the heavy criminal court. The length of pretrial detention generally did not exceed the maximum sentence for the alleged crimes. For other major criminal offenses tried by high criminal courts, the maximum detention period remained two years with the possibility of three one-year extensions, for a total of five years.

For terror-related cases, the maximum period of pretrial detention during the investigation phase is 18 months, with the possibility of a six-month extension.

Rule of law advocates noted that broad use of pretrial detention had become a form of summary punishment, particularly in cases that involved politically motivated terrorism charges.

The trial system does not provide for a speedy trial, and trial hearings were often months apart, despite provisions in the code of criminal procedure for continuous trial. Trials sometimes began years after indictment, and appeals could take years more to reach conclusion.

Detainees Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees’ lawyers may appeal pretrial detention, although antiterror legislation imposed limits on their ability to do so. The country’s judicial process allows a system of lateral appeals to criminal courts of peace for arrest, release, judicial control, and travel ban decisions that substitutes appeal to a higher court with appeal to a lateral court. Lawyers criticized the approach, which rendered ambiguous the authority of conflicting rulings by horizontally equal courts. In addition since 2016 sentences of less than five years’ imprisonment issued by regional appellate courts were final and could not be appealed. Since 2019 the law provides for defendants in certain types of insult cases or speech-related cases to appeal to a higher court.

Detainees awaiting or undergoing trial prior to the 2016-18 state of emergency had the right to a review in person with a lawyer before a judge every 30 days to determine if they should be released pending trial. Under a law passed in 2018, in-person review occurs once every 90 days with the 30-day reviews replaced by a judge’s evaluation of the case file only. Bar associations noted this element of the law was contrary to the principle of habeas corpus and increased the risk of abuse, since the detainee would not be seen by a judge on a periodic basis.

In cases of alleged human rights violations, detainees have the right to apply directly to the Constitutional Court for redress while their criminal cases are proceeding. Nevertheless, a backlog of cases at the Constitutional Court slowed proceedings, preventing expeditious redress.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) noted that detention center conditions varied and were often challenging due to limited physical capacity and increased referrals. Refugee-focused human rights groups alleged authorities prevented migrants placed in detention and return centers from communicating with the outside world, including their family members and lawyers, creating the potential for refoulement as migrants accept repatriation to avoid indefinite detention.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, but there were indications the judiciary remained subject to influence, particularly from the executive branch.

The executive branch exerts strong influence over the Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK), the judicial body that assigns and reassigns judges and prosecutors to the country’s courts nationwide and is responsible for their discipline. Out of 13 total judges on the board, the president directly appoints six: The executive branch and parliament appoint 11 members (seven by parliament and four by the president) every four years; the other two members are the presidentially appointed justice minister and deputy justice minister. The ruling party controlled both the executive and the parliament when the existing members were appointed in 2017. Although the constitution provides tenure for judges, the HSK controls the careers of judges and prosecutors through appointments, transfers, promotions, expulsions, and reprimands. Broad leeway granted to prosecutors and judges challenges the requirement to remain impartial, and judges’ inclination to give precedence to the state’s interests contributed to inconsistent application of laws. Bar associations, lawyers, and scholars expressed concern regarding application procedures for prosecutors and judges described as highly subjective, which they warned opened the door to political litmus tests in the hiring process.

The judiciary faced a number of problems that limited judicial independence, including intimidation and reassignment of judges and allegations of interference by the executive branch. Following the 2016 coup attempt, the government suspended, detained, or fired nearly one-third of the judiciary accused of affiliation with the Gulen movement. The government in the intervening years filled the vacancies, but the judiciary continued to experience the effects of the purges. A Reuters international news organization analysis of Ministry of Justice data showed that at least 45 percent of the country’s prosecutors and judges have three years of legal professional experience or less.

Observers raised concerns that the outcome of some trials appeared predetermined or pointed to judicial interference. In February an Istanbul court ruled to acquit philanthropist Osman Kavala and eight others on charges of attempting to use the 2013 Gezi Park protests to overthrow the state. Kavala, the founder of Anadolu Kultur, an organization dedicated to cross-cultural and religious dialogue, had been in pretrial detention since 2017. The presiding judge permitted Kavala’s lawyer to argue on his client’s behalf but refused to allow any other defendant’s lawyers to do likewise. Without pausing for deliberation following final statements from the defendants, the presiding judge produced a paper that appeared to have the verdict already written. The court acquitted Kavala of the charges and ordered him released immediately, but authorities detained Kavala the same day upon exit from prison on new charges of espionage and attempting to overthrow the state order in connection with the 2016 failed coup. In March authorities issued an order of arrest for Kavala while he was in detention. In October prosecutors filed a new indictment against Kavala seeking three aggravated life sentences for espionage and renewed charges of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” and organizing the Gezi Park protests and supporting the Gulen movement. In December the Constitutional Court found that the government did not violate Kavala’s rights when he was re-arrested following acquittal in February. Kavala remained in detention at year’s end.

The government also targeted some defense attorneys representing a number of high-profile clients. In September authorities issued detention orders for 48 lawyers and seven legal trainees in Ankara on charges related to terrorism due to alleged links to the Gulen movement. Prominent bar associations, including those of Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, and Gaziantep, condemned the arrests and reported that investigators’ questions to the lawyers, as well as presented evidence, were related to their professional activities.

The country has an inquisitorial criminal justice system. The system for educating and assigning judges and prosecutors fosters close connections between the two groups, which some legal experts claimed encouraged impropriety and unfairness in criminal cases.

There are no military courts, and military justice is reserved for disciplinary action, not criminal cases.

Lower courts at times ignored or significantly delayed implementation of decisions reached by the Constitutional Court. The government rarely implemented European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decisions, despite the country’s obligation to do so as a member of the Council of Europe.

The government acknowledged problems in the judicial sector, and in 2019 parliament passed a Judicial Reform Strategy for 2019-23 reportedly designed to protect legal rights and freedoms and strengthen the independence of the judiciary while fostering more transparency, efficiency, and uniformity in legal procedures. Human rights groups criticized the strategy for focusing on cosmetic rather than structural changes; lacking a clear implementation plan, including timeline; failing to identify responsible government bodies and budget; and failing to address judicial independence concerns. Under the strategy the parliament in July adopted a legislative package amending trial procedures to streamline civil case processing and expanding use of arbitration and the scope of cases where trials may be closed to the public. Human rights organizations noted the effort to reduce trial durations was positive but voiced concern that the law may reduce trial transparency.

Trial Procedures

The constitution provides for the right to a fair public trial, although bar associations and rights groups asserted that increasing executive interference with the judiciary and actions taken by the government through state of emergency provisions jeopardized this right.

The law provides defendants a presumption of innocence and the rig