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Afghanistan

Executive Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

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

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

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

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

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

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

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

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

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

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

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

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

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

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

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

g. Abuses in Internal Conflict

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bangladesh

Executive Summary

According to its constitution, Bangladesh is a secular, democratic people’s republic. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the Awami League (AL) party that she led assumed power in 2009. The 2014 parliamentary elections that resulted in the prime minister and AL’s re-election were characterized by domestic and international observers as falling short of international standards.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included: extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary or unlawful detentions, and forced disappearances by government security forces; restrictions on civil liberties, including freedom of speech, press, and the activities of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); a lack of freedom to participate in the political process; corruption; violence and discrimination based on gender, religious affiliation, caste, tribe, including indigenous persons, and sexual orientation and gender identity also persisted and, in part, due to a lack of accountability. Trafficking in persons remained a serious problem; as did restrictions on worker’s rights and the worst forms of child labor.

There were reports of widespread impunity for security force abuses. The government took limited measures to investigate and prosecute cases of abuse and killing by security forces. Public distrust of police and security services deterred many from approaching government forces for assistance or to report criminal incidents.

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

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

The constitution provides for the rights to life and personal liberty. There were numerous reports, however, that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

Suspicious deaths occurred during raids, arrests, and other law enforcement operations. Security forces frequently claimed they took a suspect in custody to a crime scene or hideout late at night to recover weapons or identify conspirators and that the suspect was killed when his conspirators shot at police. The government usually described these deaths as “crossfire killings,” “gunfights,” or “encounter killings,” terms used to characterize exchanges of gunfire between the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) or other police units and criminal gangs. The media also sometimes used these terms to describe legitimate uses of police force. Human rights organizations and media outlets claimed many of these “crossfire” incidents actually constituted extrajudicial killings. In some cases human rights organizations claimed law enforcement units detained, interrogated, and tortured suspects, brought them back to the scene of the original arrest, executed them, and ascribed the death to lawful self-defense in response to violent attacks. A domestic human rights organization, Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), reported that security forces killed 162 individuals in “crossfire.” Another domestic human rights organization, Odhikar, reported that security forces killed 118 individuals extrajudicially in the first 10 months of the year.

On May 12, RAB forces allegedly shot and killed Rakibul Hasan Bappi and Lalon Molla in Goalanda Upazila, Rajbari District. According to RAB, the men died during a gunfight that occurred during a RAB raid of a meeting of the Purba Banglar Communist Party, a banned organization. Family members of the suspects claimed law enforcement arrested and detained the individuals months prior to the alleged May 12 incident. The circumstances of the encounter remained disputed.

ASK stated that law enforcement personnel killed up to 53 detainees in custody during the year, while Odhikar reported that security forces killed six detainees in the first six months of the year.

The family of Mazharul Islam, a community leader who protested against the government, alleged RAB tortured him to death after his arrest in Naogaon District. On September 8, Islam’s family said that RAB arrested Islam at a tea stall at Singarhat Bazar and later detained him in his home, where RAB members allegedly tortured him. RAB members then took him to Rajshahi Medical College Hospital, where he died on September 9. The hospital reported injuries to multiple areas of Islam’s body, according to press reports. On September 18, Islam’s wife, Shamima Akhtar Swapna, filed a murder case accusing the company commander of RAB-5 at Joypurhat, the Kanshopara Union Parishad chairman, and other local residents of torturing and killing her husband. Police were unable to provide all case documents for the original October 18 court date, so a new court date of January 15, 2018, was set. Swapna and a witness in the case stated they had received threats from unknown cell phone numbers for their roles in the case.

Competition among factions and members of the ruling party for local offices provoked violent clashes between supporters of rival Awami League candidates that resulted in killings. ASK reported political violence resulted in 44 deaths and 3,506 injuries in the first nine months of the year.

In August a violent Awami League intraparty clash took place between supporters of Rajnagar Union leaders in a power struggle before approaching general elections. The confrontation injured 56 individuals, and a Jubo League youth official died from a gunshot wound.

Terrorists committed killings in three separate terror incidents in March, all of which were claimed by ISIS. On March 17, a suspected suicide bomber infiltrated a RAB barracks and killed one person. On March 24, a suicide bomber killed two individuals at a police checkpoint near Dhaka’s Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. On March 25, eight individuals were killed and more than 40 injured in two blasts during a raid on a suspected ISIS safe house in Sylhet.

b. Disappearance

Human rights groups and media reported that disappearances and kidnappings continued, some committed by security services. The government made limited efforts to prevent or investigate such acts. Following alleged disappearances, security forces released some individuals without charge, arrested some, some were found dead, and others were never found. ASK stated there were 60 enforced disappearances during the year.

Authorities took into custody in August 2016 the sons of three former opposition politicians convicted by Bangladesh’s International Criminal Tribunal. Authorities alleged they were conspiring to prevent the execution of one of their fathers, but they were never charged with a crime. Authorities released Humam Quader Chowdhury seven months later, but Mir Ahmed Bin Quasem and Amaan Azmi remained missing at year’s end. In February the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights published a report claiming at least 40 disappearances. The government did not respond to a request from the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances to visit the country.

High-ranking government officials repeatedly denied the incidents of enforced disappearance and claimed victims were hiding of their own accord. A July 4 judicial inquiry concluded that enforced disappearances occurred and ordered the Police Bureau of Investigation to take action regarding a disappeared person. In April Swedish Radio reported a secretly recorded interview with a senior RAB officer admitting that his unit routinely picked up individuals, killed them, and disposed of the bodies.

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

Although the constitution and law prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, local and international human rights organizations and the media reported security forces, including RAB, intelligence services, and police, employed torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. Security forces reportedly used torture to gather information from alleged militants and members of political opposition parties. Security forces reportedly used threats, beatings, kneecappings, and electric shock, and they sometimes committed rapes and other sexual abuses. During the year Odhikar reported security forces tortured approximately 12 persons to death.

The law contains provisions allowing a magistrate to place a suspect in interrogative custody, known as remand, during which questioning of the suspect can take place without a lawyer present. Human rights organizations alleged that many instances of torture occurred during remand as a means of obtaining information from the suspect.

As of October 20, the United Nations reported that it received two allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against Bangladeshi peacekeepers during the year. Alleged victims said Bangladeshi police officers deployed with the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti sexually assaulted children and demanded transactional sex. As of November investigations of both allegations were pending.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions remained harsh and at times life threatening due to overcrowding, inadequate facilities, and a lack of proper sanitation. ASK stated these conditions contributed to custodial deaths, which it claimed totaled 53 in the year.

Physical Conditions: According to the Department of Prisons, 76,025 prisoners occupied a system designed to hold 36,614 inmates. Authorities often incarcerated pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners.

Due to overcrowding, prisoners slept in shifts and did not have adequate toilet facilities. According to a 2016 report by the German Agency for International Cooperation, the prisons did not meet minimum standards for adequate light, air, decency, and privacy. In 2016 human rights organizations and the media stated some prisoners did not receive medical care or water, although prison authorities maintained that each prisoner had access to water. Water available in prisons was comparable with water available in the rest of the country, which was frequently not potable.

Conditions in prisons, and often within the same prison complex, varied widely. Authorities lodged some prisoners in areas subject to high temperatures, poor ventilation, and overcrowding. The law allows individuals whom prison officials designated as “VIPs” to access “Division A” prison facilities with improved living conditions and food, more frequent family visitation rights, and the provision of a poorer prisoner to serve as an aide in their cell.

While the law requires holding juveniles separately from adults, authorities incarcerated many juveniles with adults. Children were sometimes imprisoned (occasionally with their mothers) despite laws and court decisions prohibiting the imprisonment of minors.

Authorities routinely held female prisoners separately from men. Although the law prohibits women in “safe custody” (usually victims of rape, trafficking, and domestic violence) from being housed with criminals, officials did not always provide separate facilities. Authorities must issue permission for these women to leave this “safe custody.”

Although Dhaka’s central jail had facilities for those with mental disabilities, not all detention facilities did, nor are they required to by law. Judges may reduce punishments for persons with disabilities on humanitarian grounds. Jailors also may make special arrangements, for example, by transferring inmates with disabilities to a prison hospital.

Administration: Prisons had no ombudsmen to whom prisoners could submit complaints. Prison authorities indicated they were constrained by significant staff shortages. The scope for retraining and rehabilitation programs was extremely limited.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but the Special Powers Act of 1974 permits authorities to arrest and detain an individual without an order from a magistrate or a warrant if authorities perceive the individual may constitute a threat to security and public order. The act was widely cited by law enforcement in justifying their arrests. The constitution provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court, but the government did not generally observe these requirements. Media, civil society, and human rights organizations accused the government of conducting enforced disappearances not only against suspected militants, but also against civil society and opposition party members. Authorities sometimes held detainees without divulging their whereabouts or circumstances to family or legal counsel, or without acknowledging having arrested them in the first place.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Bangladesh Police, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Home Affairs, have a mandate to maintain internal security and law and order. Numerous units of the Bangladesh Police operate under competing mandates. The most significant among such units are the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime Unit (CTTCU), the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB)–a mostly counterterrorism-focused Special Mission Unit–and the Detective Branch.

The military, which reports directly to the prime minister (who also holds the title of minister of defense), is responsible for external security. The military may also be “activated” as a backup force with a variety of domestic security responsibilities when required to aid civilian authorities. This includes responding to instances of terrorism.

The Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) and National Security Intelligence (NSI) are the two primary intelligence agencies with overlapping responsibilities and capabilities. Both are responsible for domestic as well as foreign affairs and report directly to the prime minister in her capacity as minister of defense. Media reports asserted that the DGFI and, to a lesser degree, the NSI engaged in politically motivated violations of human rights. This included violations against suspected terrorists, members of opposition parties, civil society, and others.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the military and other security forces. While the government has mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption within the security forces, these mechanisms were not regularly employed. The government continued to take steps to improve police professionalism, discipline, training, and responsiveness and to reduce corruption. Police basic training continued to incorporate instruction on the appropriate use of force as part of efforts to implement community-based policing.

According to police policy, all significant uses of force by police, including actions that resulted in serious physical injury or death, trigger an automatic internal investigation, usually by a professional standards unit that reports directly to the Inspector General of Police. The government neither released statistics on total killings by security personnel nor took comprehensive measures to investigate cases, despite previous statements by high-ranking officials that the government would show “zero tolerance” and fully investigate all alleged extrajudicial killings by security forces that occurred in 2016. In 2016 human rights groups expressed skepticism over the independence of the professional standards units conducting these assessments. In the few known instances in which the government brought charges, those found guilty generally received only administrative punishment.

Security forces continued to commit abuses with impunity. Plaintiffs were reluctant to accuse police in criminal cases due to lengthy trial procedures and fear of retribution. Reluctance to bring charges against police also perpetuated a climate of impunity. Officers loyal to the ruling party occupied many of the key positions in the law enforcement agencies.

The government continued support of the Internal Enquiry Cell within the RAB that investigates cases of human rights abuses. RAB did not widely publish its findings and did not otherwise announce significant actions against officers accused of human rights abuses.

Security forces failed to prevent societal violence (see section 6).

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The constitution requires that arrests and detentions be authorized by a warrant or occur as a result of observation of a crime in progress, but the Special Powers Act of 1974 grants broad exceptions to these protections.

Under the constitution detainees must be brought before a judicial officer to face charges within 24 hours, but this did not regularly occur. The government or a district magistrate may order a person detained for 30 days to prevent the commission of an act that could threaten national security; however, authorities sometimes held detainees for longer periods with impunity.

There is a functioning bail system, but police routinely did so with impunity, despite a May 2016 directive from the Supreme Court’s Appellate Division prohibiting rearrest of persons when they are released on bail in new cases without producing them in court.

Authorities generally permitted defense lawyers to meet with their clients only after formal charges were filed in the courts, which in some cases occurred weeks or months after the initial arrest. Detainees are legally entitled to counsel even if they cannot afford to pay for it, but the country lacked sufficient funds to provide for this entitlement.

Arbitrary Arrest: Arbitrary arrests occurred, often in conjunction with political demonstrations or as part of security force responses to terrorist activity, and the government held persons in detention without specific charges, sometimes in an attempt to collect information about other suspects. The expansiveness of the 1974 Special Powers Act grants a legal justification to arrests that would often otherwise be considered arbitrary, since it removes the requirement that arrests be based on crimes that have previously occurred. Unlike in the past year, when police engaged in a mass arrest campaign, reportedly arresting 14,000 individuals including a purported 2,000 opposition-party activists, during the year police made periodic arrests of opposition activists on various charges.

Pretrial Detention: Arbitrary and lengthy pretrial detention continued due to bureaucratic inefficiencies, limited resources, lax enforcement of pretrial rules, and corruption. In some cases the length of pretrial detention equaled or exceeded the sentence for the alleged crime.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: A magistrate must inform a detainee of the grounds for detention within 15 days. Regulations require an advisory board, appointed by the government and composed of two individuals who could be appointed to the High Court and a “senior officer in service to the republic,” to examine a detainee’s case after four months. Detainees have the right to appeal.

Vacancies hampered the ability to challenge lawfulness of detention. On September 23, the Daily Star newspaper reported delays in recruitment of judges, which were hampering judicial proceedings and leading to a substantial case backlog, rendered 397 positions of lower court judges, including 51 district judges, vacant. More than 2.7 million cases were pending with the lower courts and 400,000 cases were pending with the High Court Division of the Supreme Court.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, but corruption and political interference compromised its independence. In 2014 parliament passed the 16th amendment, affording it the right to remove judges. During the year the Supreme Court ruled the amendment unconstitutional, and the chief justice’s resulting public dispute with parliament and the prime minister resulted in the chief justice’s resignation and departure from the country. The chief justice claimed the government forced him to resign, while the government denied the charge. The government continued to pursue corruption charges against the chief justice at year’s end, which human rights observers alleged were politically motivated.

Human rights observers maintained that magistrates, attorneys, and court officials demanded bribes from defendants in many cases, or they ruled based on influence by or loyalty to political patronage networks. Observers noted that judges who made decisions unfavorable to the government risked transfer to other jurisdictions. Some officials reportedly discouraged lawyers from representing defendants in certain cases.

Corruption and a substantial backlog of cases hindered the court system, and the granting of extended continuances effectively prevented many defendants from obtaining fair trials.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, but the judiciary did not always protect this right due to corruption, partisanship, and weak human resources and institutional capacities.

Defendants are presumed innocent, have the right to appeal, and have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them. The accused are entitled to be present at their public trial. Indigent defendants have the right to a public defender. Trials are conducted in the Bengali language. The government does not provide free interpretation for defendants who cannot understand or speak Bengali. Defendants also have the right to adequate time to prepare a defense. Accused persons have the right to confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence. They also have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, although defendants who do not confess their guilt are often kept in custody. The government frequently did not respect these rights.

Mobile courts headed by executive branch magistrates rendered immediate verdicts that often included prison terms to defendants who were not afforded the opportunity for legal representation. In their annual conferences in Dhaka in 2016 and 2017, deputy commissioners from all 64 districts requested that the government expedite the passage of an amendment to the Mobile Court Act of 2009 giving the executive magistrates increased judicial powers, but parliament had not introduced such legislation by year’s end. In May the High Court ruled that empowering executive magistrates with judicial powers was “a frontal attack on the independence of the judiciary and violates the theory of separation of powers.” The government appealed the verdict through the Appellate Panel of the Supreme Court, which stayed the verdict, allowing the mobile courts to function pending the Appellate Panel’s next decision.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were reports of political prisoners or detainees. Political affiliation often appeared to be a factor in claims of arrest and prosecution of members of opposition parties, including through spurious charges under the pretext of responding to national security threats. The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) maintained that its members had been arrested arbitrarily but did not offer specific examples.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals and organizations may seek judicial remedies for human rights violations; however, lack of public faith in the court system deterred many from filing complaints. While the law has a provision for an ombudsman, one had not been established.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The government did not amend the 2001 Vested Property (Return) Act to accelerate the process of return of land to primarily Hindu individuals (see section 2.d.). The act allows the government to confiscate property of anyone whom it declares to be an enemy of the state. It was often used to seize property abandoned by minority religious groups when they fled the country, particularly after the 1971 independence war.

Minority communities continued to report many land ownership disputes that disproportionately displaced minorities, especially in areas near new roads or industrial development zones where land prices had increased. They also claimed that local police, civil authorities, and political leaders were sometimes involved in evictions or shielded politically influential land grabbers from prosecution (see section 6). In August 2016 the government amended the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act, which may allow for land restitution for indigenous persons living in the CHT (see section 2.d.).

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

The law does not prohibit arbitrary interference with private correspondence. Intelligence and law enforcement agencies may monitor private communications with the permission of the Ministry of Home Affairs, but police rarely obtained such permission from the courts to monitor private correspondence. Human rights organizations alleged the Special Branch of police, the National Security Intelligence, and the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence employed informers to conduct surveillance and report on citizens perceived to be critical of the government.

There were at least three incidents in which the children of those convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal were arrested for alleged offenses committed by relatives (see section 1.b.).

Colombia

Executive Summary

Colombia is a constitutional, multiparty republic. In 2014 voters elected Juan Manuel Santos president in elections that observers considered free and fair.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included extrajudicial and unlawful killings; reports of torture and arbitrary detention; corruption; rape and abuse of women and children by illegal armed groups; forced abortion carried out by illegal armed groups; and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons. Violence against and forced displacement of Afro-Colombian and indigenous persons persisted, as did illegal child labor and killings and other violence against trade unionists.

The government took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed human rights abuses, including judges, mayors, and other local authorities.

The government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), formerly the country’s largest guerrilla insurgency group, continued to implement the November 2016 peace accord. The agreement provides for the creation of a Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition, including the establishment of a Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP, or JEP in Spanish) designed to investigate and ensure accountability for serious conflict-related crimes. The FARC completed its disarmament on August 15, and former members reincorporated as a political party on September 1. The government and a smaller guerrilla force, the National Liberation Army (ELN), announced on September 4 a temporary, bilateral ceasefire (the first-ever such agreement during the 50-year conflict with the ELN), which began on October 1 while peace talks continued. There were reports the ELN violated the agreement during the year. The ELN perpetrated armed attacks across the country for much of the year, mostly prior to the temporary ceasefire. In September the government received an offer from the Gulf Clan (formerly known as Clan Usuga or Los Urabenos), the country’s largest criminal organization, to demobilize through a surrender (“sometimiento”) process, or submission to justice. Illegal armed groups and drug trafficking gangs continued to operate, with approximately 2,900 members nationwide. Illegal armed groups, as well as narcotics traffickers, were significant perpetrators of human rights abuses and violent crimes and committed acts of extrajudicial and unlawful killings, political killings, extortion, kidnapping, torture, human trafficking, bombings and use of landmines, restriction on freedom of movement, recruitment and use of child soldiers, and intimidation of journalists, women, and human rights defenders.

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

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

There were reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, and related investigations and prosecutions proceeded slowly (see section 1.g.).

For example, on October 5, at least seven persons, including two members of the Awa indigenous people, were killed and another 20 injured in the southwestern municipality of Tumaco, Narino Department, during a protest against government coca eradication operations, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Some eyewitnesses alleged that members of the antinarcotics police force fired their weapons into the crowd, while others alleged FARC dissidents first attacked the protesters and authorities, and that the security forces acted in self-defense. On October 10, the Minister of Defense announced the government would transfer 102 police officers out of Tumaco in an effort to restore public trust. Media reported the government suspended four police officers. The president ordered a prompt and thorough investigation. The vice president traveled to the region to oversee the investigation and the government response to community concerns. The IACHR urged authorities to investigate the events thoroughly and “to ensure the safety and integrity of the campesino, indigenous, and Afro-descendant communities.”

Nongovernmental monitors reported a decrease in extrajudicial killings and an overall reduction in violence. According to the National Police, between January 1 and October 25, there were 9,380 homicides and 69 terrorist attacks, compared with 9,850 homicides and 138 terrorist attacks over the same period in 2016, a decrease they attributed to the implementation of the peace accord between the government and the FARC (see section 1.g.).

From January 1 through July, the Attorney General’s Office registered three new cases of alleged aggravated homicides by state agents. During the same period, authorities formally accused 19 members of the security forces and arrested three for aggravated homicide or homicide of a civilian, 16 of them for crimes that occurred prior to 2016. The Attorney General’s Office registered the arrest of eight members of the security forces in connection with homicides.

There were developments in efforts to hold officials accountable in false positive extrajudicial killings, in which thousands of civilians were killed and falsely presented as guerrilla combatants in the late 1990s to late 2000s. As of March 15, the Attorney General’s Office reported 455 open investigations, 836 cases in the prosecution phase, and 238 cases in the sentencing phase related to false positive killings. The Attorney General’s Office reported that from 2008 through 2016, it had reached convictions in 1,414 false positive cases, with defendants ranging up to the rank of colonel.

On April 3, Lieutenant Colonel Gabriel Rincon Amado and 20 soldiers under his command were convicted for their role in “false positive” killings in Soacha in 2008 and received sentences ranging from 38 to 52 years in prison.

The Attorney General’s Office reported that as of June, there were open investigations against 18 retired and active duty generals related to false positive killings, although no new investigations were opened in 2016 or 2017. The Attorney General’s Office reported investigations against two other generals were closed in 2016 and 2017.

The Attorney General’s Office reported that the case against retired general William Henry Torres Escalante involving false positive killings was transferred to the special investigations unit in 2016, after a court upheld his indictment. Torres Escalante was granted conditional liberty on August 4 under the transitional justice mechanism of the peace accord. According to media reports, in December the Superior Court of Yopal revoked Torres Escalante’s conditional liberty and ordered that he be rearrested. The court held that conditional liberty could only be granted once the Special Jurisdiction for Peace was operational. Media reported that retired general Mario Montoya Uribe was scheduled to appear before a judge to face charges related to false positive killings in 2016, but the hearing was postponed. The Attorney General’s Office reported the investigation of Montoya Uribe was in the preliminary investigation and inquiry phase as of June.

On November 14, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a public statement alleging five army officers recommended for promotion were “credibly linked” to false positive killings. HRW stated two of the five officers in question–Brigadier General Francisco Javier Cruz Ricci, the then commander of the army’s Sixth Division, and Colonel Miguel Eduardo David Bastidas–were under investigation by the Attorney General’s Office for alleged involvement in false positive cases. According to HRW, General Cruz Ricci was under investigation for the killing of two civilians in July 2004, when he commanded the Ninth Special Energy and Roads Plans Battalion of the 27th Brigade. HRW’s statement further alleged that Juan Pablo Rodriguez Barragan, former commander of the armed forces, was under investigation for false positive extrajudicial killings allegedly committed under his command.

Subsequently, media reported David Bastidas’ name was removed from the promotion list after prosecutors sought his arrest in connection with the false positive extrajudicial killings of Uber Esneider Giraldo, Disney Villegas, and 30 other persons, as well as other crimes allegedly committed when he was second-in-command of the Fourth Artillery Battalion “Jorge Eduardo Sanchez.” The Senate voted to approve the remaining promotions on December 5.

On September 13, an International Criminal Court (ICC) delegation, including Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, visited Bogota in the context of the ICC’s preliminary examination of the situation in Colombia. According to a public statement, the delegation sought to obtain information concerning the status of national proceedings related to false positive killings, as well as information about aspects of the future SJP, sexual and gender-based crimes, and forced displacement.

On April 18, the then commander of the army General Alberto Jose Mejia Ferrero honored Sergeant Carlos Mora, a whistleblower in the false positives scandal. Mejia urged the army’s leaders to hold themselves and their units to the highest standards of transparency and to respect human rights and international humanitarian law. In December the president elevated General Mejia to serve as armed forces commander, replacing Juan Pablo Rodriguez Barragan, who retired.

Human rights organizations, victims, and government investigators accused some members of government security forces of collaborating with or tolerating the activities of organized criminal gangs, which included some former paramilitary members.

Investigations of past killings proceeded, albeit slowly. The Attorney General’s Office reported that through July, it obtained three new convictions of security force members in cases involving homicide of a “protected person” (i.e., civilians and others accorded such status under international humanitarian law), four new convictions in cases involving aggravated homicide, and 11 new convictions in cases involving “simple homicide” committed by security force members. Of these sentences, 15 corresponded to cases that took place before 2017.

Illegal armed groups, including the ELN and narcotics traffickers, were significant perpetrators of violent crimes and committed unlawful killings (see section 1.g.).

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported 73 social leaders were killed between January and December 20. For example, on June 7, Bernardo Cuero Bravo, a prominent human rights activist and Afro-Colombian community leader, was shot and killed in his home in Villa Esperanza, Atlantico. Bravo worked as an attorney for the National Association of Displaced Afrodescendants (AFRODES). The president addressed the attacks on social leaders at the one-year anniversary of the peace accord saying, “Every murder, every attack, every threat hurts us,” and pledging to “protect [social] leaders and to capture those responsible.”

The IACHR held a public hearing at the request of the government on “Investigation of Attacks on Human Rights Defenders in Colombia” during its 161st Period of Sessions in March. Civil society organizations that participated urged the government to investigate and address the root causes of violence against social and ethnic leaders. The deputy attorney general provided updates on progress in cases of human rights defenders killed in 2016 and 2017, stating that, of 74 individuals that had been linked to the killings, 58 persons had been arrested, four had been sentenced, and six were on trial. According to the Attorney General’s Office, of 118 cases in 2016 and 2017, 59 showed procedural advances. The Attorney General’s Office Special Investigation Unit provided for in the peace accord was established. The focus of the unit was on investigating and prosecuting criminal organizations and their support networks.

On November 30, the Minister of Defense attributed the delay in investigating and prosecuting killings of social leaders to difficulty in determining motive and delays in reaching the remote crime scenes. He announced a rapid response mechanism that he stated would ensure a combined security force/Attorney General’s Office response within two hours to any attack on a social leader, anywhere in the country.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities. From January 1 through the end of July, however, a total of 3,957 persons were registered as missing, including 79 persons believed to be victims of forced disappearances. The National Institute of Forensic Medicine and Forensic Science reported that from 1938 to 2016, a total of 120,104 cases of disappearances were registered, including 25,102 cases of forced disappearances. The government did not provide information on the number of victims of forced disappearances who were located nor a disaggregation of the number found alive or dead.

The Attorney General’s Office indicated that between January 1 and July 31, there were no new convictions of members of the security forces involved in forced disappearances cases.

As part of a peace process confidence-building measure, the FARC agreed in 2015 to search for those missing in the conflict. The government agreed to accelerate the identification of anonymous victims killed in security operations and extrajudicial killings and to turn over their remains to family members. The parties also agreed to create a new search unit for the missing, which was established in April by presidential decree 589 and would receive technical support from the international community.

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

Although the law prohibits such practices, under articles 137 and 178 of the criminal code, there were reports government officials committed abuses. The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Center for Research and Education of the Populace (CINEP) reported that through June 30, security forces were allegedly involved in 17 cases of torture, four committed by the National Prison Institute (INPEC) and 13 by the National Police. Members of the military and police accused of torture generally were tried in civilian rather than military courts.

Between January 1 and July 31, the Attorney General’s Office charged five members of the police force with torture; all the cases occurred prior to 2017. During the same period, the Attorney General’s Office reported four convictions of members of the security forces and one conviction of a member of an illegal armed group in a case of torture.

CINEP reported criminal bands were responsible for five documented cases of torture through June 30. In 11 other documented cases, CINEP was not able to identify the party responsible for the abuses.

According to NGOs monitoring prison conditions, there were numerous allegations of sexual and physical violence committed by guards and other inmates.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

With the exception of new facilities, prisons and detention centers were overcrowded, lacked adequate sanitation, and provided poor health care and other basic services. Poor training of officials remained a problem throughout the prison system.

Physical Conditions: INPEC, which operated the national prisons and oversaw the jails, estimated there were 115,950 persons incarcerated in 136 prisons across the country, of whom 19,167 were in pretrial detention. Overcrowding existed in men’s as well as in women’s prisons. INPEC cited several prisons in Cali, Santa Marta, Valledupar, Itagui, and Apartado that were more than 200 percent overcrowded. INPEC reported 48 percent of federal prisons were overcrowded.

The law prohibits holding pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners, although this sometimes occurred. The Superior Judiciary Council stated the maximum time that a person may remain in judicial detention facilities is three days. The same rules apply to jails located inside police stations. These regulations were often violated.

The practice of preventive detention, in combination with inefficiencies in the judicial system, continued to exacerbate overcrowding. In July the government began to implement new procedures that provide for the immediate release of some pretrial detainees, including many accused of serious crimes such as aggravated robbery and sexual assault.

The Inspector General’s Office continued to investigate allegations that some prison guards routinely used excessive force and treated inmates brutally. No further information was available at year’s end regarding the status of the 54 investigations opened in 2016.

Many prisoners continued to face difficulties receiving adequate medical care. Nutrition and water quality were deficient and contributed to the overall poor health of many inmates. Inmates claimed authorities routinely rationed water in many facilities.

INPEC’s physical structures were in generally poor repair. The Inspector General’s Office noted some facilities had poor ventilation and overtaxed sanitary systems. Prisoners in some high-altitude facilities complained of inadequate blankets and clothing, while prisoners in tropical facilities complained that overcrowding and insufficient ventilation contributed to high temperatures in prison cells. Some prisoners slept on floors without mattresses, while others shared cots in overcrowded cells.

Administration: Prisoners generally could submit complaints to judicial authorities, request investigations of inhuman conditions, and request that third parties from local NGOs or government entities, such as the Ombudsman’s Office, represent them in legal matters and aid them in seeking an investigation of prison conditions. Authorities investigated prisoner complaints of inhuman conditions, including complaints of prison guards soliciting bribes from inmates, but some prisoners asserted the investigations were slow and the results were not accessible to the public.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions by local and international human rights groups. INPEC required a three-day notice before granting consular access. Some NGOs complained that authorities, without adequate explanation, denied them access to visit prisoners.

Improvements: During the year the Attorney General’s Office assigned 27 additional prosecutors to units aimed at preventing noncriminal cases from entering the criminal justice system, including prisons, thereby freeing up both prosecutors and judges to focus on genuine criminal cases.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention; however, there were allegations that authorities detained citizens arbitrarily. CINEP reported 45 cases of arbitrary detention committed by state security forces through June 30.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Colombian National Police (CNP) is responsible for internal law enforcement and is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defense. The Migration Directorate, part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is the immigration authority. The CNP shares law enforcement investigatory duties with the Technical Investigation Body. In addition to its responsibility to defend the country against external threats, the army shares limited responsibility for law enforcement and maintenance of order within the country. For example, military units sometimes provided logistical support and security for criminal investigators to collect evidence in high-conflict or remote areas. The government continued to expand education and training of the armed forces in human rights and international humanitarian law.

Some NGOs complained that military investigators, not members of the Attorney General’s Office, were sometimes the first responders in cases of deaths resulting from actions of security forces and might make decisions about possible foul play. By law the Attorney General’s Office is the main entity responsible for investigating allegations of human rights abuses committed by security forces. The government made improvements in investigating and trying abuses, but claims of impunity for security force members continued. This was due in some cases to obstruction of justice, opacity in the process by which cases are investigated and prosecuted in the military justice system, and a lack of resources for investigations. Inadequate protection of witnesses and investigators, delay tactics by defense attorneys, the judiciary’s failure to exert appropriate controls over dockets and case progress, and inadequate coordination among government entities that sometimes allowed statutes of limitations to expire–resulting in a defendant’s release from jail before trial–were also significant obstacles.

The military functions under both the old inquisitorial and a newer accusatory system. The military had not trained its criminal justice actors to operate under the accusatory system, which they were to begin to implement during the year. The military also had not developed an interinstitutional strategy for recruiting, hiring, or training investigators, crime scene technicians, or forensic specialists, which is required under the accusatory system. As such the military justice system did not exercise criminal investigative authority; all new criminal investigations duties are conducted by judicial police investigators from the CNP and Corps of Technical Investigators.

The Attorney General’s Office reported open investigations into 18 retired and active duty generals for alleged involvement in false positive extrajudicial killings (see section 1.a.).

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Authorities must bring detained persons before a judge within 36 hours to determine the validity of the detention, bring formal charges within 30 days, and start a trial within 90 days of the initial detention. Public defenders contracted by the Office of the Ombudsman assisted indigent defendants. Detainees received prompt access to legal counsel and family members as provided for by law. Authorities generally respected these rights.

Arbitrary Arrest: The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, this requirement was not always respected. NGOs characterized some arrests as arbitrary detention: arrests allegedly based on tips from informants about persons linked to guerrilla activities, detentions by members of the security forces without a judicial order, detentions based on administrative authority, detentions during military operations or at roadblocks, large-scale detentions, and detentions of persons while they were “exercising their fundamental rights.”

Pretrial Detention: The judicial process moved slowly, and the civilian judicial system suffered from a significant backlog of cases, which led to large numbers of pretrial detainees. The failure of many local military commanders and jail supervisors to keep mandatory detention records or follow notification procedures made accounting for all detainees difficult. INPEC estimated that 19,167 prisoners, or 17 percent of the country’s prison inmates, were being held in pretrial detention. In some cases detainees were released without a trial because they had already served more than one-third of the maximum sentence for their charges.

Civil society groups complained that authorities subjected some community leaders to extended pretrial detention.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. Much of the judicial system was overburdened and inefficient, however, and subornation, corruption, and intimidation of judges, prosecutors, and witnesses hindered judicial functioning.

The government continued efforts to investigate, prosecute, and punish perpetrators of abuses, including public officials and members of the security services. Despite governmental improvements, the system struggled to close out cases quickly and efficiently.

The Inspector General’s Office conducts disciplinary investigations into allegations of misconduct by public employees, including members of government security forces. In addition to conducting its own investigations, the Inspector General’s Office referred all cases of human rights violations it received to the attorney general’s Human Rights Unit for separate criminal proceedings. No further information was available at year’s end regarding the status of disciplinary processes against members of the armed forces and police for alleged offenses.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. While the government began implementing an accusatory system of justice in 2008, the use of delay tactics by defense lawyers to slow or impede proceedings, prosecutors’ heavy caseloads, and other factors diminished the anticipated increased efficiencies and other benefits of adopting the adversarial model. Under the existing criminal procedure code, the prosecutor presents an accusation and evidence before an impartial judge at an oral, public trial. Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and have the right to confront the trial evidence and witnesses against them, present their own evidence, and communicate with an attorney of their choice (or have one provided at public expense). Defendants have adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense. Defendants are not compelled to testify or confess guilt and have the right to appeal their proceedings. Although defendants have the right to an interpreter, the court system lacked interpreters for less commonly encountered languages. Crimes committed before 2008 are processed under the prior written inquisitorial system in which the prosecutor is a magistrate who investigates, determines evidence, and makes a finding of guilt or innocence. In those cases the trial consists of the presentation of evidence and finding of guilt or innocence to a judge for ratification or rejection.

In the military justice system, military judges preside over courts-martial. Counsel may represent the accused and call witnesses, but most fact finding takes place during the investigative stage. Military trial judges issue rulings within eight days of a court-martial hearing. Representatives of the civilian Inspector General’s Office are required to be present at courts-martial.

Criminal procedure within the military justice system includes elements of the inquisitorial and accusatory systems. The law provides for the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty and have the right to timely consultation with counsel.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

The government declared that it did not hold political prisoners; nevertheless, authorities held some members of human rights advocacy groups on charges of conspiracy, rebellion, or terrorism, which the groups described as government harassment against human rights advocates. According to INPEC, the government held a total of 427 pretrial and 545 convicted detainees on charges of rebellion or of aiding and promoting insurgency. The government provided the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) regular access to these prisoners.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Citizens may sue a government agent or entity in the Administrative Court of Litigation for damages resulting from a human rights violation. Although critics complained of delays in the process, the court generally was considered impartial and effective. Cases involving violations of an individual’s human rights may be submitted through petitions by individuals or organizations to the IACHR, which in turn may submit the case to the Inter-American Court on Human Rights. The court may order civil remedies, including fair compensation to the individual injured.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The 2011 Victims’ and Land Restitution Law (Victims’ Law) continued to provide a legal basis for assistance and reparations to persons, including victims of government abuses, but the government admitted that the pace of restitution was slow. The Administrative Department for Social Prosperity (DPS) handles problems related to victims, poverty, consolidation, historical memory, and protection of children and adolescents. Through July 31, a total of 8,504,127 victims registered with the Victims’ Unit of the DPS. Of these, 7,243,838 were victims of forced displacement, with 360,325 registered during 2016, the latest date for which information was available. The government did not provide information on the number of those registered who received some form of assistance. Both individual and collective reparations are mandated by the Victims’ Law; however, the original budget for implementation of the law contemplated only 4.5 million victims. The Land Restitution Unit, a semiautonomous entity in the Ministry of Agriculture, is responsible for returning land to displaced victims of conflict.

The Land Restitution Unit reported that it reviewed 148 requests for collective restitution of ethnic territories and 106,833 individual restitution claims, of which 8,551 were awaiting final judicial decision. The claims encompassed more than 12 million acres benefitting 52,017 families. Of the 106,833 individual cases received through July 3, a total of 3,285 belonged to individuals who self-identified as Afro-Colombian, 1,992 belonged to individuals who self-identified as indigenous, and 654 belonged to individuals who self-identified as belonging to other ethnic groups.

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

The law prohibits such actions, but there were allegations that the government failed to respect these prohibitions. Government authorities generally need a judicial order to intercept mail or email or to monitor telephone conversations, including in prisons. Government intelligence agencies investigating terrorist organizations sometimes monitored telephone conversations without judicial authorization; the law bars evidence obtained this way from being used in court.

On September 11, Jorge Aurelio Noguera, the former director of the dismantled Administrative Department of Security (DAS), was sentenced to seven years in prison for engaging in illegal monitoring activities against human rights defenders, journalists, and civil society organizations during former president Uribe’s administration.

As of July the Attorney General’s Office initiated one new criminal investigation of government agents for illegal monitoring activities.

The Inspector General’s investigation continued into journalist Vicky Davila’s accusations that police had been monitoring her communications, including trailing and wiretapping her and her reporting team, since 2014.

An investigation continued into abuses by the Army Intelligence Unit, known by its code name “Andromeda.” In 2016 Semana magazine alleged the unit illegally wiretapped personal telephones of peace negotiators belonging to both the government and FARC negotiating teams. General Mauricio Forero, former head of the military’s intelligence center, left the army in 2016 due to alleged connections to Andromeda. As of 2016 he had not been charged or arrested in connection with these allegations.

There were no developments regarding the case of Martha Ines Leal, former DAS director of operations; Jorge Lagos, former DAS intelligence director; and Fernando Tabares, former DAS counterintelligence director, who submitted to the IACHR allegations that the Attorney General’s Office placed undue pressure on them in order to coerce them into testifying in the DAS illegal surveillance case. DAS allegedly engaged in illegal surveillance of high-court magistrates, journalists, human rights organizations and activists, opposition leaders, and the vice presidency.

In its annual report published in March, the OHCHR registered 72 complaints of illegal surveillance and robbery of information of human rights defenders and social activists in 2016. While statistics for 2017 were unavailable as of year’s end, NGOs continued to accuse domestic intelligence or security entities of spying on lawyers and human rights defenders, threatening them, and breaking into their homes or offices to steal information.

The government continued to use voluntary civilian informants to identify terrorists, report terrorist activities, and gather information on criminal gangs. Some national and international human rights groups criticized this practice as subject to abuse and a threat to privacy and other civil liberties. The government maintained that the practice was in accordance with the “principle of solidarity” outlined in the constitution and that the Comptroller General’s Office strictly regulated payments to such informants.

Dominican Republic

Executive Summary

The Dominican Republic is a representative constitutional democracy. In May 2016 Danilo Medina of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) was re-elected president for a second four-year term. Impartial outside observers assessed the elections were generally free and orderly despite failures in the introduction of an electronic voting system.

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

The most significant human rights issues included extrajudicial killings by security forces; torture; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; arbitrary interference with privacy; criminal libel for individual journalists; impunity for corruption; police violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex individuals; and child labor, sometimes as a result of human trafficking.

The government took some steps to punish officials who committed human rights abuses, but there were widespread reports of official impunity and corruption, especially concerning officials of senior rank.

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

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

There were numerous reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) reported more than 180 extrajudicial killings by police forces through early December.

In November the National Police arrested Fernando de los Santos, nicknamed “The Rope,” a former police lieutenant who had been wanted since 2011 for killing at least 35 persons while working as a police officer. Some of those killed were believed to be criminals wanted by the police, while others were killings for hire committed on behalf of drug traffickers, according to news accounts.

In July, Blas Peralta, a former transportation union president, was convicted of killing a man during the 2016 presidential campaign and sentenced to 30 years in prison. As of November his appeal was pending.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities. The NHRC reported it continued investigating six unresolved disappearance cases of human rights activists that occurred between 2009 and 2014, which they believed were politically motivated.

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

Although the law prohibits torture, beating, and physical abuse of detainees and prisoners, there were reports that security force members, primarily police, carried out such practices.

The NHRC reported that police used various forms of physical and mental abuse to obtain confessions from detained suspects. According to the NHRC, methods used to extract confessions included covering detainees’ heads with plastic bags, hitting them with broom handles, forcing them to remain standing overnight, and hitting them in the ears with gloved fists or hard furniture foam so as not to leave marks.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions ranged from compliance with international standards in “model” prisons or correctional rehabilitation centers (CRCs) to harsh and life threatening in “traditional” prisons. Threats to life and health included communicable diseases, poor sanitation, poor access to health-care services, a lack of well-trained prison guards, and prisoner-on-prisoner violence, all of which were exacerbated in the severely overcrowded traditional prisons.

Physical Conditions: Gross overcrowding was a problem in traditional prisons. The Directorate of Prisons reported that as of June there were approximately 17,750 prisoners in traditional prisons and 8,960 in CRCs, a ratio that remained constant for the past several years because traditional prisons had not been phased out. La Victoria, the oldest traditional prison, held nearly 9,000 inmates, although it was designed for a maximum capacity of 2,011. The inmate population at all 19 traditional prisons exceeded capacity, while only two of 22 CRCs were over capacity. Both male and female inmates were held in La Romana Prison but in separate areas.

Police and military inmates received preferential treatment, as did those in traditional prisons with the financial means to rent preferential bed space and purchase other necessities.

According to the Directorate of Prisons, military and police personnel guarded traditional prisons, while a trained civilian guard corps provided security at CRCs. Reports of mistreatment and violence in traditional prisons were common, as were reports of harassment, extortion, and inappropriate searches of prison visitors. Some traditional prisons remained effectively outside the control of authorities, and there were reports of drug and arms trafficking, prostitution, and sexual abuse within prisons. Wardens at traditional prisons often controlled only the perimeter, while inmates ruled the inside with their own rules and system of justice. Although the law mandates separation of prisoners according to severity of offense, authorities did not have the capability to do so.

In traditional prisons health and sanitary conditions were generally poor. Prisoners often slept on the floor because there were no beds available. Prison officials did not separate sick inmates. Delays in receiving medical attention were common in both the traditional prisons and CRCs. All prisons had infirmaries, but most infirmaries did not meet the needs of the prison population. In most cases inmates had to purchase their own medications or rely on family members or other outside associates to deliver their medications. Most reported deaths were due to illnesses.

According to the Directorate of Prisons, all prisons provided HIV/AIDS treatment, but the NHRC stated that none of the traditional prisons was properly equipped to provide such treatment. In CRCs some prisoners with mental disabilities received treatment, including therapy, for their conditions. In traditional prisons the government did not provide services to prisoners with mental disabilities. Neither CRCs nor traditional prisons provided access for inmates with disabilities.

In October the Constitutional Tribunal declared the condition of some jails were a “gross and flagrant” violation of the constitution and ordered the Attorney General’s Office to take steps to improve them within 180 days or face a fine of approximately 21,450 pesos ($450) per day.

Administration: Prisoners could submit complaints regarding their treatment verbally or in writing to the human rights committees and most often did so through family members, lawyers, or human rights defenders. Public defenders provided legal services to prisoners and in some cases assisted with certain complaints. The NHRC director served as a prisoner advocate.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits and monitoring by independently funded and operated nongovernmental organization (NGO) observers and media. The NHRC, National Office of Public Defense, Attorney General’s Office, and CRC prison administration together created human rights committees in each CRC that were authorized to conduct surprise visits.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits detention without a warrant unless authorities apprehend a suspect during the commission of a criminal act or in other special circumstances but permits detention without charge for up to 48 hours. The constitution provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her detention in court, and the government generally observed this requirement. Arbitrary arrest and detention were problems, and there were numerous reports of individuals held and later released with little or no explanation for the detention. NGOs reported that many detainees were taken into custody at the scene of a crime or during drug raids. In many instances authorities fingerprinted, questioned, and then released those detainees.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Ministry of Interior and Police oversees the National Police, Tourist Police, and Metro Police. The Ministry of Armed Forces directs the military, Airport Security Authority and Civil Aviation, Port Security Authority, and Border Security Corps. The National Department of Intelligence and the National Drug Control Directorate, which have personnel from both police and armed forces, report directly to the president.

The Internal Affairs Unit investigates charges of gross misconduct by members of the National Police. These cases involved physical or verbal aggression, threats, improper use of a firearm, muggings, and theft. Authorities fired or prosecuted police officers found to have acted outside of established police procedures.

Training for military and the National Drug Control Directorate enlisted personnel and officers and the National Police included instruction on human rights. The Ministry of the Armed Forces provided human rights training or orientation to officers of various ranks as well as to civilians during the year. The Border Security Corps conducted mandatory human rights training at its training facilities for border officers. The Graduate School of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Rights trained civilians and armed forces personnel. The school also had programs in which members of the armed forces and civilians from the Supreme Court, congress, district attorney offices, government ministries, National Police, and Central Electoral Board participated.

In October the National Police announced that officers and recruits applying to join the police force who were suspected of corruption would be required to take polygraph tests.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The constitution provides that an accused person may be detained for up to 48 hours without a warrant before being presented to judicial authorities. The law also permits police to apprehend without an arrest warrant any person caught in the act of committing a crime or reasonably linked to a crime, such as in cases involving hot pursuit or escaped prisoners. Police sometimes detained suspects for investigation or interrogation longer than 48 hours. Police often detained all suspects and witnesses to a crime. Successful habeas corpus hearings reduced abuses of the law significantly. There was a functioning bail system and a system of house arrest.

The law requires provision of counsel to indigent defendants, although staffing levels were inadequate to meet demand. The National Office of Public Defense (NOPD) represented 80 percent of the criminal cases brought before the courts, covering 28 of 34 judicial districts. Many detainees and prisoners who could not afford private counsel did not have prompt access to a lawyer. Prosecutors and judges handled interrogations of juveniles, which the law prohibits by or in the presence of police.

Arbitrary Arrest: Police made sporadic sweeps or roundups in low-income, high-crime communities during which they arrested and detained individuals without warrants. During these operations police arrested large numbers of residents and seized personal property allegedly used in criminal activity. The Attorney General’s Office reported a decrease in arbitrary arrests connected to mass arrests at the scene of a crime due to training conducted in concert with human rights NGOs.

Pretrial Detention: Many suspects endured long pretrial detention. Under the criminal procedures code, a judge may order detention to be between three and 18 months. According to the Directorate of Prisons, as of November, 63 percent of inmates were in pretrial custody. The average pretrial detention time was three months, but there were reports of cases of pretrial detention lasting up to three years. Time served in pretrial detention counted toward completing a sentence.

The failure of prison authorities to produce detainees for court hearings caused some trial postponements. Many inmates had their court dates postponed because of a lack of transportation from prison to court or because their lawyer, codefendants, interpreters, or witnesses did not appear. Despite additional protections for defendants in the criminal procedures code, in some cases authorities held inmates beyond the legally mandated deadlines even when there were no formal charges against them.

Protracted Detention of Rejected Asylum Seekers or Stateless Persons: There were isolated cases of asylum seekers detained due to a lack of documentation (see sections 2.d. and 6).

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary; however, the government did not respect judicial independence and impartiality. Improper influence on judicial decisions was widespread. Interference ranged from selective prosecution to dismissal of cases amid allegations of bribery or undue political pressure. The judiciary routinely dismissed high-level corruption cases. Corruption of the judiciary was also a serious problem. The NOPD reported that the most frequent form of interference with judicial orders occurred when authorities refused to abide by writs of habeas corpus to free detainees.

The Office of the Inspector of Tribunals, which disciplines judges and handles complaints of negligence, misconduct, and corruption, received an increase in its budget and technical training, and as a result it opened more investigations. Eighteen judges and 295 administrative personnel were suspended and the cases referred to the Attorney General’s Office for prosecution.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a defense in a fair and public trial; however, the judiciary did not always enforce this right.

The District Attorney’s Office is required to notify the defendant and attorney of criminal charges. The law provides for a presumption of innocence, the right to confront or question witnesses, and the right against self-incrimination. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial and consult with an attorney in a timely manner, and the indigent have a right to a public defender. Defendants have the right to present their own witnesses and evidence. The law provides for free interpretation as necessary. The constitution also provides for the right to appeal and prohibits higher courts from increasing the sentences of lower courts. The courts frequently exceeded the period of time provided by the criminal procedures code when assigning hearings dates.

Military and police tribunals share jurisdiction over cases involving members of the security forces. Military tribunals have jurisdiction over cases involving violations of internal rules and regulations. Civilian criminal courts handle cases of killings and other serious crimes allegedly committed by members of the security forces.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There are separate court systems for claims under criminal law, commercial and civil law, and labor law. Commercial and civil courts reportedly suffered lengthy delays in adjudicating cases, although their decisions were generally enforced. As in criminal courts, undue political or economic influence in civil court decisions remained a problem.

Citizens have recourse to file an “amparo,” an action to seek redress of any violation of a constitutional right, including violations of human rights protected by the constitution. This remedy was used infrequently and only by those with sophisticated legal counsel.

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

The law prohibits arbitrary entry into a private residence, except when police are in hot pursuit of a suspect, when a suspect is caught in the act of committing a crime, or if police suspect a life is in danger. The law provides that all other entries into a private residence require an arrest or search warrant issued by a judge. Police conducted illegal searches and seizures, however, including raids without warrants on private residences in many poor neighborhoods.

Although the government denied using unauthorized wiretaps, monitoring of private email, or other surreptitious methods to interfere with the private lives of individuals and families, human rights groups and opposition politicians alleged such interference occurred. Opposition political parties alleged government officials at times threatened subordinates with loss of employment and other benefits to compel them to support the incumbent PLD party and attend PLD campaign events. The NOPD reported two cases in which police imprisoned family members of a suspect to compel the suspect to surrender.

Egypt

Executive Summary

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

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

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

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

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

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

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

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

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

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

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

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

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

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

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

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

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

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

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

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

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

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

g. Abuses in Internal Conflict

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

India

Executive Summary

India is a multiparty, federal, parliamentary democracy with a bicameral legislature. The president, elected by an electoral college composed of the state assemblies and parliament, is the head of state, and the prime minister is the head of the government. Under the constitution the 29 states and seven union territories have a high degree of autonomy and have primary responsibility for law and order. Voters elected President Ram Nath Kovind in July to a five-year term, and Narendra Modi became prime minister following the victory of the National Democratic Alliance coalition led by the Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2014 general elections. Observers considered these elections, which included more than 551 million participants, free and fair despite isolated instances of violence.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included police and security force abuses, such as extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, rape, harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, and lengthy pretrial detention. Widespread corruption; reports of political prisoners in certain states; and instances of censorship and harassment of media outlets, including some critical of the government continued. There were government restrictions on foreign funding of some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including on those with views the government stated were not in the “national interest,” thereby curtailing the work of these NGOs. Legal restrictions on religious conversion in eight states; lack of criminal investigations or accountability for cases related to rape, domestic violence, dowry-related deaths, honor killings, sexual harassment; and discrimination against women and girls remained serious problems. Violence and discrimination based on religious affiliation, sexual orientation, and caste or tribe, including indigenous persons, also persisted due to a lack of accountability.

A lack of accountability for misconduct at all levels of government persisted, contributing to widespread impunity. Investigations and prosecutions of individual cases took place, but lax enforcement, a shortage of trained police officers, and an overburdened and underresourced court system contributed to a small number of convictions.

Separatist insurgents and terrorists in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the northeast, and the Maoist-affected areas committed serious abuses, including killings and torture of armed forces personnel, police, government officials, and of civilians, and recruitment and use of child soldiers.

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

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

There were reports the government and its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, including extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals and insurgents.

During the year the South Asian Terrorism Portal, run by the nonprofit Institute for Conflict Management, reported the deaths of 111 civilians, 15 security force members, and 210 terrorists or insurgents as of June 2. Data from the institute also showed 317 fatalities from terrorist violence were recorded in the state of Jammu and Kashmir through August, compared with 329 for 2016.

There were 108 reported deaths as a result of “encounter killings”–a term used to describe any encounter between the security or police forces and alleged criminals or insurgents that resulted in a death–documented countrywide by the Investigation Division of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), according to Ministry of Home Affairs 2016-17 data.

On June 6, police killed six individuals during a protest in Madhya Pradesh. The Madhya Pradesh government appointed a one-member commission to investigate police action and paid 10 million rupees ($160,000) to each of the victims’ families. By year’s end the investigation had not concluded.

Reports of custodial death cases, in which prisoners or detainees were killed or died in police custody, continued. Decisions by central and state authorities not to prosecute police or security officials despite reports of evidence in certain cases remained a problem. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reported 92 cases of custodial deaths nationwide in 2016 with Maharashtra reporting the highest number of cases at 16. Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat reported 11 cases, and Uttar Pradesh, nine cases. According to a media report, in response to a “Right to Information” (RTI) petition, the NHRC stated that 74 persons died in police custody from January 1 through August 2.

On July 24, the Supreme Court sought an update from the government’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Madhya Pradesh state government on a court-monitored investigation into the October 2016 killings of eight suspected members of the outlawed Students’ Islamic Movement of India after they allegedly killed a guard and escaped from a high security prison. In November 2016 the NHRC issued a formal complaint against the state government, police, and prison authorities, expressing doubt that the men were killed while attempting to escape, classifying them instead as custodial deaths. A relative of one of the deceased, in her petition to the Supreme Court, criticized the Madhya Pradesh government for only appointing only a one-person investigative commission.

On October 25, a special CBI court brought charges against 16 law enforcement officers for their alleged involvement in the encounter deaths of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati. A joint Rajasthan and Gujarat antiterrorist squad allegedly killed Sheikh on a highway near Ahmedabad in November 2005; later, police allegedly killed his wife Kausar Bi and Tulsiram Prajapati, a key witness in the case. According to the CBI, charges were not brought against those accused who had applications pending in the Bombay High Court or the Supreme Court.

On March 25, the High Court of Madras directed the Tamil Nadu government to pay one million rupees ($16,000) to the family of a man named Ramesh, known as “Nambu,” who died in 2010 after reportedly being tortured while in police custody on suspicion of theft. The court also imposed a fine of 50,000 rupees ($800) on the municipal administration secretary of the Tamil Nadu government for failing to provide compensation to the family of the victim. A probe into the case by the additional director general of police confirmed in July that Nambu was subjected to “ill treatment” during his illegal detention and died as a result of this treatment.

Three individuals died in separate incidents due to alleged torture while in Telangana state police custody. On April 7, Mohan Krishna died on the way to a hospital after he returned from Begumpet police station in Hyderabad, where he was detained and questioned in a case of alleged sexual harassment of a minor. On April 21, a man identified as “Ganesh” died on the way to a hospital after he was interrogated in the Hayathnagar police station near Hyderabad for “suspicious movement” on the road. On March 18, Bhim Singh died in a Hyderabad police station after being detained for questioning following an altercation. In all these instances, police denied that detainees were tortured, citing previous illnesses as the cause of death.

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) remained in effect in Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, and parts of Mizoram, and a version of the law was in effect in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The government also declared Meghalaya’s border areas adjoining Assam and three districts in Arunachal Pradesh as “disturbed” for two more months from August through October. While the Nagaland government demanded the AFSPA be lifted in the state, the central government extended it through December.

Under the AFSPA, a central government designation of a state or union territory as a “disturbed area” authorizes security forces in the state to use deadly force to “maintain law and order” and arrest any person “against whom reasonable suspicion exists” without informing the detainee of the grounds for arrest. The law also provides security forces immunity from civilian prosecution for acts committed in regions under the AFSPA, although in 2016 the Supreme Court concluded that every death caused by the armed forces in a disturbed area, whether a common person or a terrorist, should be thoroughly investigated, adding that the law must be equally applied.

There was considerable public support for repeal of the AFSPA, particularly in areas that experienced a significant decrease in insurgent attacks. Human rights organizations also continued to call for the repeal of the law, citing numerous alleged human rights violations over the years. On July 14, the Supreme Court directed the CBI to set up a five-member team to examine at least 87 of 1,528 alleged killings by police, army, and paramilitary forces between 1979 and 2012 in Manipur. This order was in response to a petition filed by victims’ families and NGOs. According to rights activists, until mid-December the CBI had not summoned any victims or witnesses and was still collecting documents related to the killings from the courts and the government of Manipur. The Supreme Court judgment stated the CBI must file formal charges by December 31.

The NGO Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative noted in its 2016 report that of 186 complaints of human rights violations reported against the armed forces in states under the AFSPA, between 2012 and 2016, 49.5 percent were from the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The data supplied by the Ministry of Home Affairs under the RTI Act did not, however, indicate whether complaints were deemed to have merit.

On June 27, the Gujarat High Court granted bail to Atul Vaidya, one of 24 individuals convicted in the 2002 Gulbarg Society killings, when a rioting mob killed 69 individuals during communal unrest. The Gujarat government did not allow the Supreme Court-appointed special investigation to appeal to the Supreme Court to enhance the sentences awarded to some of the 24 persons convicted or to challenge the acquittal of 14 others accused. On October 5, the Gujarat High Court dismissed Zakia Jafri’s plea, upholding a lower court’s verdict exonerating senior Gujarat government officials, citing lack of prosecutable evidence following her allegations of “a larger conspiracy” behind the 2002 riots. The court allowed Jafri to appeal in higher courts.

Nongovernmental forces, including organized insurgents and terrorists, committed numerous killings and bombings in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the northeastern states, and Maoist-affected areas (see section 1.g.). Maoists in Jharkhand and Bihar continued to attack security forces and key infrastructure facilities such as roads, railways, and communication towers. On April 24, Maoist insurgents attacked a convoy in Chhattisgarh, killing 25 Central Reserve Police Force personnel and critically injuring six.

b. Disappearance

There were allegations police failed to file required arrest reports for detained persons, resulting in hundreds of unresolved disappearances. Police and government officials denied these claims. The central government reported that state government screening committees informed families about the status of detainees. There were reports, however, that prison guards sometimes required bribes from families to confirm the detention of their relatives.

Disappearances attributed to government forces, paramilitary forces, and insurgents occurred in areas of conflict during the year (see section 1.g.).

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

The law prohibits torture, but NGOs reported torture occurred during the year.

Police beatings of prisoners resulted in custodial deaths (see section 1.a.).

The law does not permit authorities to admit coerced confessions into evidence, but NGOs and citizens alleged authorities used torture to coerce confessions. In some instances authorities submitted these confessions as evidence in capital cases. Authorities allegedly also used torture as a means to extort money or as summary punishment. According to human rights experts, the government continued to try individuals arrested and charged under the repealed Prevention of Terrorism Act and Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act. Under the repealed laws, authorities treated a confession made to a police officer as admissible evidence in court.

On June 19, Abhay Singh, an antiques dealer, died while in custody in Odisha, allegedly following seven days of torture. Police took Singh into custody on May 30 to investigate the theft of a mobile phone, subsequently charged him with drug trafficking, and transported him to a hospital on June 10 where his health reportedly deteriorated. The NHRC and Odisha State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) ordered the state human rights protection cell of police to investigate and submit a report. At year’s end there were no updates to the case.

On July 18, a 19-year-old lower-caste man reportedly committed suicide at Engadiyur in Kerala’s Thrissur District a day after he was released from police custody for not having proper motor vehicle registration papers. His father and friends alleged instead that he died from injuries sustained from police brutality while in custody, and a postmortem report confirmed he had injuries consistent with torture. Based on the complaint by the victim’s father, a case was filed against several police officers under the Criminal Procedure Code and the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act. Two police officers were suspended for the death, and the case was transferred to the Crime Bureau for further investigation.

There were continued reports that police raped female and male detainees. The government authorized the NHRC to investigate rape cases involving police officers. By law the NHRC may also request information about cases involving the army and paramilitary forces, but it has no mandate to investigate those cases. NGOs claimed the NHRC underestimated the number of rapes committed in police custody. Some rape victims were unwilling to report crimes due to social stigma and the possibility of retribution, compounded by a perception of a lack of oversight and accountability, especially if the perpetrator was a police officer or other official. There were reports police officials refused to register rape cases.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were frequently life threatening, most notably due to inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care and extreme overcrowding. Prisons did not meet international standards.

Physical Conditions: Prisons were often severely overcrowded, and food, medical care, sanitation, and environmental conditions often were inadequate. Potable water was often unavailable. Prisons and detention centers remained underfunded, understaffed, and lacking sufficient infrastructure. Prisoners were physically mistreated.

According to the NCRB Prison Statistics India 2015 report, there were 1,401 prisons in the country with an authorized capacity of 366,781 persons. The actual incarcerated population was 419,623. Persons awaiting trial accounted for more than two-thirds of the prison population. The law requires detention of juveniles in rehabilitative facilities, although at times authorities detained them in adult prisons, especially in rural areas. Authorities often detained pretrial detainees along with convicted prisoners. In Uttar Pradesh occupancy at most prisons was two and sometimes three times the permitted capacity, according to an adviser appointed by the Supreme Court.

In November 2016 the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative launched two reports on the “alarming conditions” in prisons. According to the reports, those awaiting trial included 67 percent of the country’s prison population, and independent monitors regularly inspected less than 1 percent of prisons.

According to the NCRB Prison Statistics India 2015 report, overcrowding was most severe in Dadra and Nagar Haveli at 277 percent of capacity, while Chhattisgarh prisons were at 234 percent of capacity and Delhi prisons, at 227 percent of capacity. On August 8, Minister of State for Home Affairs Hansraj Gangaram Ahir quoted NCRB data to inform the lower house of parliament that 149 out of 1,401 jails in the country had an overcrowding rate of more than 200 percent at the end of 2015.

In March, Minister of State for Home Affairs Ahir informed the lower house of parliament that there were 4,391 female jail staff for a population of 17,834 female prisoners as of 2015.

On September 26, police submitted charges in a local court against six prison officials for the death of Manjula Shetye, a female convict in Mumbai. On July 8, Mumbai police arrested six prison officials who allegedly assaulted Shetye following her complaint about inadequate food. Her death resulted in violent protests by 200 prison inmates, who were later charged with rioting. On July 31, the Bombay High Court ordered an inquiry into the cause of Shetye’s death. A government doctor who signed the death certificate was suspended.

Administration: Authorities permitted visitors some access to prisoners, although some family members claimed authorities denied access to relatives, particularly in conflict areas, including the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

On August 4, through an alternative dispute resolution mechanism, the Tamil Nadu State Legal Services Authority released 570 pretrial detainees (in nine Central Prisons and five Special Prisons for women in Tamil Nadu) who had been detained for longer than the minimum term prescribed for their alleged crimes.

Independent Monitoring: The NHRC received and investigated prisoner complaints of human rights violations throughout the year, but civil society representatives believed few prisoners filed complaints due to fear of retribution from prison guards or officials. On May 26, the NHRC ordered an investigation into torture allegations by 21 inmates on trial in a jail in Bhopal.

Authorities permitted prisoners to register complaints with state and national human rights commissions, but the authority of the commissions extended only to recommending that authorities redress grievances. Government officials reportedly often failed to comply with a Supreme Court order instructing the central government and local authorities to conduct regular checks on police stations to monitor custodial violence.

In many states the NHRC made unannounced visits to state prisons, but NHRC jurisdiction does not extend to military detention centers. An NHRC special rapporteur visited state prisons to verify that authorities provided medical care to all inmates. The rapporteur visited prisons on a regular basis throughout the year but did not release a report to the public or the press.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but both occurred during the year. Police also used special security laws to postpone judicial reviews of arrests. Pretrial detention was arbitrary and lengthy, sometimes exceeding the duration of the sentence given to those convicted.

According to human rights NGOs, some police used torture, mistreatment, and arbitrary detention to obtain forced or false confessions. In some cases police reportedly held suspects without registering their arrests and denied detainees sufficient food and water.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The 29 states and seven union territories have primary responsibility for maintaining law and order, with policy oversight from the central government. Police are under state jurisdiction. The Ministry of Home Affairs controls most paramilitary forces, the internal intelligence bureaus, and national law enforcement agencies, and provides training for senior officials from state police forces. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), cases of arbitrary arrest, torture, and forced confessions by security forces remained common. Police continued to be overworked, underpaid, and subjected to political pressure, in some cases contributing to corruption. The HRW 2017 India country report found that officials were rarely prosecuted for crimes committed because the law made it “difficult, if not impossible” to prosecute public officials.

The effectiveness of law enforcement and security forces varied widely throughout the country. According to the law, courts may not hear a case against a police officer unless the central or state government first authorizes prosecution. Nonetheless, NGOs reported that in many instances police refused to register victim’s complaints, termed “first information reports” (FIR), on crimes reported against officers, effectively preventing victims from pursuing justice. Additionally, NGOs reported that victims were sometimes reluctant to report crimes committed by police due to fear of retribution. There were cases of officers at all levels acting with impunity, but there were also cases of security officials held accountable for illegal actions. Military courts investigated cases of abuse by the armed forces and paramilitary forces. Authorities tried cases against law enforcement officers in public courts but sometimes did not adhere to due process. Authorities sometimes transferred officers after convicting them of a crime.

The NHRC recommended the Criminal Investigations Department of the state police investigate all deaths taking place during police pursuits, arrests, or escape attempts. Many states did not follow this nonbinding recommendation and continued to conduct internal reviews at the discretion of senior officers.

While NHRC guidelines call for state governments to report all cases of deaths from police actions to the NHRC within 48 hours, state governments did not consistently adhere to those guidelines. The NHRC also called for state governments to provide monetary compensation to families of victims, but the state governments did not consistently adhere to this practice. Authorities did not require the armed forces to report custodial deaths to the NHRC.

On July 27, the Armed Forces Tribunal suspended the life sentences of five army personnel involved in the 2010 killing of three civilians from the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The civilians were reportedly killed in a staged encounter and later accused of being foreign militants.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Police may detain an individual without charge for up to 30 days, although an arrested person must be brought before a judge within 24 hours of arrest. Lengthy arbitrary detention remained a significant problem due to overburdened and under resourced court systems and a lack of legal safeguards.

Arraignment of detainees must occur within 24 hours unless authorities hold the suspect under a preventive detention law. State authorities invoked preventive detention laws, most frequently in Delhi but also in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Jammu and Kashmir.

Authorities must promptly inform persons detained on criminal charges of the charges against them and of their right to legal counsel. By law a magistrate may authorize the detention of an accused person for a period of no more than 90 days prior to filing charges. Under standard criminal procedure, authorities must release the accused on bail after 90 days if charges are not filed. The law also allows police to summon individuals for questioning, but it does not grant police prearrest investigative detention authority. There were incidents in which authorities allegedly detained suspects beyond legal limits.

The law also permits authorities to hold a detainee in judicial custody without charge for up to 180 days (including the 30 days in police custody). The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), which gives authorities the ability to detain persons without charge in cases related to insurgency or terrorism, makes no bail provisions for foreign nationals and allows courts to deny bail in the case of detained citizens. It presumes the accused to be guilty if the prosecution can produce evidence of the possession of arms or explosives, or the presence of fingerprints at a crime scene, regardless of whether authorities demonstrate criminal intent. State governments also reportedly held persons without bail for extended periods before filing formal charges under the UAPA.

The law permits preventive detention in certain cases. The National Security Act allows police to detain persons considered security risks anywhere in the country, except the state of Jammu and Kashmir, without charge or trial for as long as one year. The law allows family members and lawyers to visit national security detainees and requires authorities to inform a detainee of the grounds for detention within five days, or 10 to 15 days in exceptional circumstances.

The Public Safety Act, which applies only in the state of Jammu and Kashmir permits state authorities to detain persons without charge or judicial review for up to two years without visitation from family members. Authorities allowed detainees access to a lawyer during interrogation, but police in the state of Jammu and Kashmir allegedly routinely employed arbitrary detention and denied detainees access to lawyers and medical attention.

Accused individuals have a right to free legal assistance, including for their first hearing after arrest. The constitution specifies that the state should furnish legal aid to provide that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities, but authorities did not assess this need systematically.

There were reported cases in which police denied suspects the right to meet with legal counsel as well as cases in which police unlawfully monitored suspects’ conversations and violated confidentiality rights. By law authorities must allow family members access to detainees, but this was not always observed.

Arbitrary Arrest: The law prohibits arbitrary arrest or detention, but in some cases police reportedly continued to arrest citizens arbitrarily. There were reports of police detaining individuals for custodial interrogation without identifying themselves or providing arrest warrants.

Pretrial Detention: The Center for Constitutional Right, Research and Advocacy (CCRRA) in Kochi, Kerala, reported certain prisoners with mental disabilities in the Kerala central prison considered “not fit for trial” had awaited trial for 10 to 26 years. According to the NGO, the prisoners in some cases were in detention far longer than their potential sentences. In 2013 CCRRA’s founder filed a writ petition with the Kerala High Court for the release of those prisoners. The court responded by issuing an order directing the state government to provide adequate medical treatment to the accused to render them fit for trial. The case was pending in the Kerala High Court at year’s end.

The government continued efforts to reduce lengthy detentions and alleviate prison overcrowding by using “fast track” courts, which specified trial deadlines, provided directions for case management, and encouraged the use of bail. Some NGOs criticized these courts for failing to uphold due process and requiring detainees unable to afford bail remain in detention.

NCRB data from 2015 showed most individuals awaiting trial spent more than three months in jail before they could secure bail, and nearly 65 percent spent between three months and five years before being released on bail. The NCRB’s 2016 report did not include updated statistics.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, but judicial corruption was widespread. For example, in May, The Hindu newspaper reported on the case of five judges facing impeachment proceedings for a variety of offenses, including allegations of corruption.

The judicial system remained seriously overburdened and lacked modern case management systems, often delaying or denying justice. According to 2015-16 data released by the Supreme Court, there was a 43 percent vacancy of judges in the country’s 24 high courts.

There were developments related to the 2010 killing of Amit Jethwa, an RTI activist. In June the Gujarat High Court ordered a retrial after concluding that Dinu Solanki, a member of parliament at the time he was accused of ordering Jethwa’s killing, had tampered with witnesses after 105 out of 195 witnesses turned hostile during the trial. On October 30, the Supreme Court cancelled Solanki’s bail and directed him to surrender to police. The court also ordered the trial to be held on a day-to-day basis and directed that Solanki not be in Gujarat unless required in the case.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for public trials, except in proceedings that involve official secrets or state security. Defendants enjoy the presumption of innocence, except as described under UAPA conditions, and may choose their counsel. The state provides free legal counsel to defendants who cannot afford it, but circumstances often limited access to competent counsel, and an overburdened justice system resulted in lengthy delays in court cases, with disposition sometimes taking more than a decade.

While defendants have the right to confront accusers and present their own witnesses and evidence, defendants sometimes did not exercise this right due to lack of proper legal representation. Defendants have the right not to testify or confess guilt. Courts must announce sentences publicly, and there are effective channels for appeal at most levels of the judicial system.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were reports of political prisoners and detainees. NGOs reported the state of Jammu and Kashmir held political prisoners and temporarily detained individuals under the Public Safety Act (PSA). More than 650 such cases were registered by the Jammu and Kashmir state government under the PSA through June and referred to the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals, or NGOs on behalf of individuals or groups, may file public-interest litigation (PIL) petitions in any high court or directly to the Supreme Court to seek judicial redress of public injury. Grievances may include a breach of public duty by a government agent or a violation of a constitutional provision. NGOs credited PIL petitions with making government officials accountable to civil society organizations in cases involving allegations of corruption and partiality.

In January 2016 the Bombay High Court addressed a two-fold rise in reported custodial death and police torture cases from 2014 to 2015 and directed the Maharashtra government to submit a report to the court. The court also criticized the government for its failure to install closed-circuit television cameras in police stations. In January the Maharashtra government allocated 27.5 million rupees ($440,000) to install closed-circuit television cameras in 25 of the 91 police stations in Mumbai in the first phase of implementation of a court order to install them in all police stations.

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

While the constitution does not contain an explicit right to privacy, the Supreme Court has found such a right implicit in other constitutional provisions. In August the Supreme Court ruled that privacy is a “fundamental right” in a case involving government collection of biographical information. The law, with some exceptions, prohibits arbitrary interference. The government generally respected this provision, although at times authorities infringed upon the privacy rights of citizens. The law requires police to obtain warrants to conduct searches and seizures, except in cases in which such actions would cause undue delay. Police must justify warrantless searches in writing to the nearest magistrate with jurisdiction over the offense.

The law hindered transparency and accountability with regard to electronic surveillance. According to a government report quoting NCRB provisional data for 2016, Minister of State for Home Affairs Ahir cited 30 registered cases in violation of the law in 2016 compared with nine in 2015.

Both the central and state governments intercepted communications under legal authority. The Group of Experts on Privacy convened in 2012 by the Government of India Planning Commission, the most recent review available, noted that the differences between two provisions of law had created an unclear regulatory regime that was, according to the report, “inconsistent, nontransparent, prone to misuse, and does not provide remedy or compensation to aggrieved individuals.”

The UAPA provides an additional legal basis for warrantless searches. The UAPA also allows use of evidence obtained from intercepted communications in terrorist cases. In the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, and Manipur, security officials have special authorities to search and arrest without a warrant.

The Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA) of 2005 allows police to detain a person without charge for as long as 90 days. Opponents argued the law, which authorizes detention of individuals with a “tendency to pose an obstacle to the administration of law,” infringed upon privacy and free speech. The government detained two journalists under the CSPSA, accusing them of complicity in a deadly attack on police by Naxalite insurgents; some media reports indicated authorities imprisoned the journalists because of their reporting. A local court acquitted one of the two journalists in July 2016. On February 27, the Supreme Court granted bail to Santosh Yadav, a freelance journalist from Chhattisgarh’s Bastar District jailed under the CSPSA and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for alleged links with Maoist insurgents.

g. Abuses in Internal Conflict

The country’s armed forces, the security forces of individual states, and paramilitary forces engaged in armed conflict with insurgent groups in several northeastern states, and with Maoist insurgents in the north, central, and eastern parts of the country–although the intensity of these conflicts continued to decrease significantly. Army and central security forces remained stationed at conflict areas in the northeast.

The use of force by all parties to the conflicts resulted in deaths and injuries to both conflict participants and civilians. There were reports government security forces committed extrajudicial killings, including staging encounter killings to conceal the deaths of captured militants. Human rights groups claimed police refused to release bodies in cases of alleged “encounters.” Authorities did not require the armed forces to report custodial deaths to the NHRC.

In July the SHRC directed the state of Jammu and Kashmir to pay one million rupees ($16,000) as compensation to a textile worker who was tied to the front bumper of a military jeep by an army major and used as a human shield against demonstrators in central Kashmir in May. Media reported Major Nitin Gogoi used the victim to prevent an angry mob from attacking military personnel during a parliamentary by-election on April 9. Human rights activists also criticized Army Chief General Bipin Rawat’s statement backing Gogoi’s actions. Gogoi was also awarded the army chief’s commendation card for his action and was not individually punished.

The central and state governments and armed forces investigated complaints and punished some violations committed by government forces. Authorities arrested and tried insurgents under terrorism-related legislation.

There were few investigations and prosecutions of human rights violations arising from internal conflicts. NGOs claimed that due to AFSPA immunity provisions, authorities did not hold the armed forces responsible for the deaths of civilians killed in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in previous years.

Killings: Various domestic and international human rights organizations continued to express serious concern at the use of pellet guns by security forces for crowd control purposes in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In 143 instances in which pellet guns were reportedly used across 12 districts of the Kashmir Valley through July 31, one civilian was killed and 36 were injured. ‎By comparison in 2016 777 instances of pellet gun use across the state of Jammu and Kashmir, mostly during violent protests following the July 2016 killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani, left at least 15 civilians dead and 396 injured.‎ In a report during the year, Amnesty International detailed cases of 88 individuals in the country whose eyesight was damaged by metal pellets fired by the state of Jammu and Kashmir police and the Central Reserve Police Force in the years 2014-17. Both national and international media sources and NGOs have reported on the harm, both physical and psychological, to individuals injured by pellet guns.

In Maoist-affected areas, there were reports of abuses by security forces and insurgents. On March 29, two tribal-affiliated citizens died in Assam’s Chirang District after an encounter with security forces. The two were believed to be members of a banned armed insurgent group called the National Democratic Front of Bodoland. In a report filed by the Assam Police, the security forces stated they came under heavy fire from the group and that retaliatory fire from the security forces killed the two men. An inquiry conducted by the inspector general of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), however, stated that the two men, already in police custody, were taken to a nearby village, shot, and killed. The report also found that security forces planted arms and ammunition, including a hand grenade with Chinese markings, as incriminating evidence. The CRPF refused to make the inspector general’s report public, although a pirated, online version was available.

On March 12, Maoist insurgents killed 13 paramilitary personnel near the Bheji village of Sukma in Chhattisgarh. On April 25, Maoist insurgents killed 25 paramilitary personnel and injured six others, also in Chhattisgarh. The soldiers were providing security for road construction at the time of the attack.

Abductions: Human rights groups maintained that military, paramilitary, and insurgent forces abducted numerous persons in Manipur, Jharkhand, and Maoist-affected areas. Human rights activists alleged cases of prisoners tortured or killed during detention. During the year media outlets reported cases of abduction by insurgent groups in Manipur. According to media reports, in May militants abducted three Kuki tribal members in Manipur and killed two of them. No one claimed responsibility for the incident. United NGOs Mission Manipur reported 291 cases of extrajudicial killing, rape, and disappearance committed by security forces, including Assam Rifles, Manipur Police, and the army as of June.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: There were reports government security forces tortured, raped, and mistreated insurgents and alleged terrorists in custody and injured demonstrators.

Child Soldiers: Insurgent groups reportedly used children to attack government entities. The Ministry of Home Affairs reported Maoist groups conscripted boys and girls ages six to 12 into specific children’s units (Bal Dasta and Bal Sangham) in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha. The Maoist groups used the children in combat and intelligence-gathering roles. Insurgents trained children as spies and couriers, as well as in the use of arms, planting explosives, and intelligence gathering.

Although the United Nations was not able to verify all allegations of child soldiers, reports submitted to parliament contained similar allegations. Recruitment of children by Maoist armed groups allegedly continued. Observers reported children as young as age 12 were members of Maoist youth groups and allied militia. The children reportedly handled weapons and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Maoists reportedly held children against their will and threatened severe reprisals, including the killing of family members, if the children attempted to escape. The government claimed, based on statements of several women formerly associated with Maoist groups, that sexual violence, including rape and other forms of abuse, was a practice in some Maoist camps. NGOs quoting police contacts stated that children employed by Maoist groups in Jharkhand were made to carry IED triggers with them. Police did not engage the children to retrieve these triggering devices.

According to government sources, Maoist armed groups used children as human shields in confrontations with security forces. Attacks on schools by Maoists continued to affect children’s access to education in affected areas. There were continued reports on the use of schools as military barracks and bases. The deployment of government security forces near schools remained a concern. There were reports armed groups recruited children from schools in Chhattisgarh.

Other Conflict-related Abuse: The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center estimated that conflicts, violence, and natural disasters in the country displaced 2.8 million persons in 2016.

In August, Minister of State for Home Affairs Ahir informed parliament’s lower house there were approximately 62,000 registered Kashmiri migrant families in the country. The Jammu and Kashmir state government reported threats to Kashmiri Pandits (Hindus) in the Kashmir Valley during the year. Tens of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits have fled the Kashmir Valley to Jammu, Delhi, and other areas in the country since 1990 because of conflict and violent intimidation, including destruction of houses of worship, sexual abuse, and theft of property, by Kashmiri separatists.

During the year the state of Jammu and Kashmir allotted apartments to 31 Kashmiri Pandit migrant families who did not leave the valley during the 1990s. These flats were constructed under a program approved by the central government for rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants.

In the central and eastern areas, armed conflicts between Maoist insurgents and government security forces over land and mineral resources in tribal forest areas continued. According to the South Asian Terrorism Portal’s existing conflict map, Maoist-affected states included Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Assam. Human rights advocates alleged the government’s operations sought not only to suppress the Maoists but also to force tribal populations from their land, allowing for purchase by the private sector.

Internally displaced person (IDP) camps continued to operate in Chhattisgarh for tribal persons displaced during the 2005 fighting between Maoists and the subsequently disbanded state-sponsored militia Salwa Judum.

Throughout the year there were reports by media organizations and academic institutions of corporations’ abuses against tea workers, including violations of the law. In some cases violent strikes resulted from companies withholding medical care required by law. Other reports indicated workers had difficulty accessing clean water, with open sewage flowing through company housing areas.

On January 6, the NHRC found that Chhattisgarh police personnel in Bijapur District raped 16 tribal women in 2015. The NHRC directed state authorities to compensate the victims and initiate action against the perpetrators. The NHRC also began an investigation into details of the sexual assault allegations, which the victims reported in January 2016. There was no update on the status of the investigation or delivery of compensation by year’s end.

Kenya

Executive Summary

Kenya is a republic with three branches of government: an executive branch, led by a directly elected president; a bicameral parliament consisting of the Senate and the National Assembly; and a judiciary. On August 8, the country held its second general election under the 2010 constitution. Citizens cast ballots for president and deputy president, parliamentarians, and county governors and legislators. International and domestic observers judged the elections generally credible, although some civil society groups and the opposition pointed to irregularities. On August 11, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) declared Jubilee Coalition Party candidate Uhuru Kenyatta had won reelection as president. Opposition presidential candidate Raila Odinga challenged the presidential election result in court. On September 1, the Supreme Court annulled the results for president and deputy president, citing chiefly irregularities in the transmission and verification of the poll tabulations. The court ordered a new vote for president and deputy president for October 26. Odinga withdrew from the new election on October 10 and called for his supporters to boycott the vote. Low voter turnout in many areas and episodic violence in opposition strongholds characterized the October 26 vote. The IEBC declared President Kenyatta the winner of the October 26 vote, and the Supreme Court upheld the results on November 20.

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

The most significant human rights issues included: unlawful and politically motivated killings; forced disappearances; torture; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; impunity; arbitrary arrest and detention; an inefficient judiciary; arbitrary infringement of citizens’ privacy rights; restrictions on press freedom and freedom of assembly; lack of accountability in many cases involving violence against women, including rape and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C); and criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct.

The governmental Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) established to provide civilian oversight over the work of police, investigated numerous cases of misconduct. Impunity at all levels of government continued to be a serious problem, despite public statements by the president and deputy president and police and judicial reforms. The government took only limited and uneven steps to address cases of alleged unlawful killings by security force members, although the IPOA continued to increase its capacity and referred cases of police misconduct to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP) for prosecution. Impunity in cases of alleged corruption was also common. President Kenyatta continued his anticorruption campaign launched in March 2015, and the inspector general of police continued his strong public stance against corruption among police officers.

Al-Shabaab terrorists conducted deadly attacks and guerilla-style raids on isolated communities along the border with Somalia, targeting both security forces and civilians. Human rights groups alleged that security forces committed abuses while conducting counterterror operations.

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

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

There were numerous reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary and unlawful killings, particularly of known or suspected criminals, including terrorists. In July the nongovernmental organization (NGO) International Federation for Human Rights reported 80 cases of individuals killed by police since January, and according to the NGO Independent Medico Legal Unit, at least 33 of these were summary executions. On March 31, video footage surfaced on the internet of an alleged plainclothes police officer shooting two subdued suspects in the Nairobi neighborhood of Eastleigh. According to the daily newspaper Daily Nation, the Nairobi police commander defended the shooting, calling the victims “gangsters.” The inspector general of police then ordered an investigation, which had not concluded as of year’s end.

Some groups alleged authorities significantly underestimated the number of extrajudicial killings by security forces due to underreporting of such killings in informal settlements, including those in dense urban areas. The NGO Mathare Social Justice Center estimated police killed at least one young male every week in the Mathare neighborhood of Nairobi. From April 1 to September 22, IPOA received 147 complaints regarding deaths resulting from police actions, including 44 fatal shootings involving police and 20 deaths due to other actions by police.

In October, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report documenting more than 100 persons badly injured and at least 33 killed by police, including a six-month old child, in response to protests following the August election. The report documented that police and other security forces, namely the General Services Unit and Administrative Police (AP), used excessive force, including unlawful killings and beatings. The autonomous governmental entity Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) reported police killed at least 35 persons in opposition strongholds following the August 8 elections. Both reports urged law enforcement authorities to investigate these deaths.

Media reports and NGOs attributed many of the human rights abuses not related to elections to Kenya Defense Forces counterterrorism operations in the northeast counties of Mandera, Garissa, and Wajir bordering Somalia. For example, the daily newspaper The Standard reported on July 4 some locals accused security forces of killing four men and one woman whose bodies were found in a shallow grave in Mandera County.

Impunity remained a serious problem (see section 1.d.).

Al-Shabaab terrorists conducted deadly attacks and guerilla-style raids on isolated communities along the border with Somalia. For example, in July al-Shabaab terrorists hijacked at gunpoint Public Works Principal Secretary Miriam El-Maawy and six others traveling in her motorcade in Lamu County. On September 26, El-Maawy died from injuries she sustained in the attack.

b. Disappearance

Observers and NGOs alleged members of the security forces were culpable of forced disappearances. On January 27, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) called on the governments of Kenya and South Sudan to reveal what happened to Sudanese human rights activists Dong Samuel Luak and Aggrey Idri Ezibon, who were allegedly abducted in Kenya on January 23 and 24, respectively, by members of Kenyan and South Sudanese security forces. On February 24, a branch of the high court ruled there was no evidence to support the allegation that the Kenyan government held the two men. Their whereabouts remained unknown as of year’s end (see section 1.a.).

The media also reported on families on the coast and in northeastern counties searching for relatives who disappeared following arrest and of authorities holding individuals incommunicado for interrogation for several weeks or longer (see section 1.d.).

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

On April 13, President Kenyatta approved the Prevention of Torture Act, which provides a basis to prosecute torture. The law provides a platform to apply articles of the 2010 constitution, including: Article 25 on freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; Article 28 on respect and protection of human dignity; and Article 29 on freedom and security of the person. The law brings all state agencies and officials under one, rather than multiple pieces of legislation. Additionally, the law provides protections to vulnerable witnesses and law enforcement officials who refuse to obey illegal orders that would lead to torture.

Police reportedly used torture and violence during interrogations as well as to punish both pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners. According to human rights NGOs, physical battery, bondage in painful positions, and electric shock were the most common methods of torture used by police. A range of human rights organizations and media reported police committed torture and indiscriminate violence with impunity. For example, there were numerous press and NGO reports on police brutality against protestors and unarmed citizens, including in house-to-house operations in the days following the August 8 election (see section 3). According to reports, the postelection violence largely targeted ethnic areas where support for the opposition parties was the strongest (see section 6).

In July the International Federation for Human Rights reported KNCHR had collected multiple, credible narratives of security forces rounding up and torturing suspects while in extended detention.

There were numerous reports of police using excessive force in a cruel, inhuman, or degrading fashion during postelection violence (see section 2.b). For example, on October 2, AP forces teargassed a nursery school in Kisumu during election-related protests happening nearby, injuring three children.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Human rights organizations reported that prison, detention center, and police station conditions were harsh due to overcrowding, food and water shortages, and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care. A Directorate of Health Services in the Prisons Department oversees health and hygiene issues.

Physical Conditions: According to the Kenya Prisons Service (PS), the prison population as of October 2 was 50,572, held in prisons with a designated capacity of 26,837. More than 90 percent of prisoners were men. According to the National Council on the Administration of Justice’s (NCAJ) January report, the country has 105 prisons–87 for men and 18 for women. While the PS noted that seven prisons have been constructed since 2012, serious overcrowding was the norm, with an average prisoner population of nearly 200 percent capacity and some prisons housing up to 400 percent of capacity. Authorities continued a “decongestion” program that entailed releasing petty offenders and encouraging the judiciary to increase use of the Community Service Orders program in its sentencing.

The PS reported 50 deaths as of August 2016, mostly from natural causes, representing a dramatic reduction from previous years, which the service attributed to improvements in prison health services. According to a study by the NCAJ released in January, sanitary facilities were inadequate, and tuberculosis remained a serious problem at eight prisons.

In January the NCAJ reported that despite the legal requirement to separate male prisoners from women and children, the mixing of genders and ages remained a problem in some prisons. Between January and June IPOA observed that authorities separated women from men in detention facilities on average 89 percent of the time in the 29 detention facilities its representatives visited. In smaller jails, female prisoners were not always separated from men. There were no separate facilities during pretrial detention, and sexual abuse of female prisoners was a problem. Human rights groups reported that police routinely solicited sex from female prisoners and that many female inmates resorted to prostitution to obtain necessities, such as sanitary items and underwear, which the Prisons Service did not provide.

Authorities generally separated minors from adults except during the initial detention period at police stations, when authorities often held adults and minors of both sexes in a single cell. Minors often mixed with the general prison population during lunch and exercise periods, according to the Coalition for Constitutional Interpretation, a domestic NGO. Prison officials reported that because there were few detention facilities for minors, authorities often had to transport them very long distances to serve their sentences, spending nights at police stations under varying conditions along the way. On October 6, the Daily Nationnewspaper reported a witness had accused a police officer of raping a 13-year-old victim while she was held overnight at a police station for alleged theft. IPOA investigated the incident, and a criminal prosecution was pending in the courts.

The law allows children to stay with their inmate mothers in certain circumstances until age four or until arrangements for their care outside the facilities are concluded, whichever is earlier.

Prisoners generally received three meals a day, but portions were inadequate. The PS stated in August that it no longer served a penal diet for punishment. Water shortages, a problem both inside and outside of prison, continued. Prisoners generally spent most of their time indoors in inadequately lit and poorly ventilated cellblocks. This was especially true for the more than one-third of inmates awaiting trial, as they were not engaged in any work programs that would allow them to leave their cells regularly.

Administration: Recordkeeping on prisoners remained inadequate despite the enactment and entry into force in 2014 of the Security Laws Amendment Act. The act requires improved recordkeeping at prisons and jails. The Prisons Service took steps to improve recordkeeping, including engaging with prison reform NGOs and IPOA, and to conduct training and improve practices.

Mechanisms for prisoners to report abuse and other concerns improved due to collaboration between the PS and the KNCHR to monitor human rights standards in prison and detention facilities. By law, the Commission on the Administration of Justice serves as ombudsman on government administration of prisons. It is to receive and treat as confidential correspondence from inmates and recommend remedies to address their concerns, including those pertaining to prison living conditions and administration. Government-established special committees, which included paralegals and prison officials, also served to increase prisoners’ access to the judicial system. The Legal Aid Center of Eldoret noted there was no single system providing “primary justice” to prisoners and detainees, who instead relied on a patchwork of services largely provided by NGOs. Many government-designated human rights officers lacked necessary training, and some prisons did not have a human rights officer.

Noncustodial community service programs and the release of some petty offenders alleviated somewhat prison overcrowding. The total prison population did not decrease substantially, however, because of unaffordable bail and bond terms for pretrial detainees, high national crime rates, overuse of custodial sentencing, and a high number of death row and life-imprisoned inmates. Legal rights NGOs and prison officials reported overuse of the charge of “robbery with violence,” which may carry a life sentence, without sufficient evidence to support it. Some petty offenders consequently received disproportionately heavy sentences.

Prison officials sometimes denied prisoners and detainees the right to contact relatives or lawyers. Family members who wanted to visit prisoners commonly reported bureaucratic obstacles that generally required a bribe to resolve. According to the Legal Resources Foundation, prisoners had reasonable access to legal counsel and other official visitors, although there was insufficient space in many prisons and jails to meet with visitors in private and conduct confidential conversations.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted prison visits by independent nongovernmental observers.

Improvements: On August 8, a total of 167 inmates at four prisons voted in the presidential election, the first time prisoners have been permitted to participate in an election.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arrest or detention without a court order unless there are reasonable grounds for believing a suspect has committed or is about to commit a criminal offense. Police, however, arrested and detained citizens arbitrarily, accused them of more severe crimes than they had committed, or accused them of a crime to mask underlying police abuses.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The National Police Service (NPS) maintains internal security and is subordinate to the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government (Interior).

The NPS includes the Kenya Police Service (KPS) and the Administration Police Service. The KPS is responsible for general policing and maintains specialized subunits, such as the paramilitary General Services Unit, which is responsible for responding to significant and large-scale incidents of insecurity and guarding high-security facilities. The Administration Police Service’s mandate is border security, but it also assumed some traditional policing duties. The Directorate of Criminal Investigation is an autonomous department responsible for all criminal investigations and includes specialized investigative units, such as the Antinarcotics Unit, the Antiterrorism Police Unit, and the Forensics Unit.

The National Intelligence Service collects intelligence internally as well as externally and is under the direct authority of the president.

The Kenya Defense Forces are responsible for external security but have some domestic security responsibilities, including border security and supporting civilian organizations in the maintenance of order, as allowed by the constitution. The defense forces are subordinate to the Ministry of Defense. In September 2015 the defense forces and police launched a coordinated operation to drive al-Shabaab terrorists out of the Boni Forest in northern Lamu and southern Garissa Counties; the operation continued throughout the year.

The National Police Service Commission (NPSC) and IPOA, both government bodies, report to the National Assembly. The NPSC consists of six civilian commissioners, including two retired police officers, as well as the NPS inspector general’s two deputies. Two commissioner positions remained vacant despite requests from the NPSC and public pressure to fill those positions. The NPSC is responsible for recruiting, transferring, vetting, promoting, and removing police officers in the National Police Service. IPOA investigates serious police misconduct, especially cases of death and grave injury at the hands of police.

The ODPP is empowered to direct the inspector general to investigate any information or allegation of criminal conduct and to institute criminal proceedings in police abuse or corruption cases.

Impunity was a major problem. Authorities sometimes attributed the failure to investigate a case of police corruption or unlawful killing to the failure of victims to file official complaints. Victims could file complaints at regional police stations, police headquarters through the Internal Affairs Unit (IAU), and through the IPOA website and hotline. Sometimes police turned away victims who sought to file complaints at police stations where alleged police misconduct originated, and instead directed them to other area stations. This created a deterrent effect on reporting complaints against police. NGOs documented threats against police officers who attempted to investigate criminal allegations against other police officers. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders lauded the adoption on March 21 of the National Coroners Service Act, which established an agency to investigate suspicious deaths and to create a coroner position in each county with the authority to collect related forensic evidence.

Police failed to prevent vigilante violence in numerous instances but in other cases played a protective role (see section 6).

Poor casework, incompetence, and corruption undermined successful prosecutions; the overall conviction rate for criminal prosecutions was between 13 and 16 percent. Police also frequently failed to enter detainees into custody records, making it difficult to locate them. Dispute resolution at police stations resolved a significant number of crimes, but authorities did not report or record them, according to human rights organizations.

Witness harassment and fear of retaliation severely inhibited the investigation and prosecution of major crimes. The Witness Protection Agency was underfunded, doubts about its independence were widespread, and the Supreme Court cited its weaknesses as a serious judicial shortcoming. It cooperated closely with IPOA and other investigative bodies.

Human rights activists reported that at times police officers in charge of taking complaints at the local level were the same ones who committed abuses. Police officials resisted investigations and jailed some human rights activists for publicly registering complaints against government abuses.

Research by a leading legal advocacy and human rights NGO found police used disciplinary transfers of officers to hide their identities and frustrate investigations into their alleged crimes. Many media and civil society investigations into police abuse ended after authorities transferred officers, and police failed to provide any information about their identities or whereabouts.

Police accountability mechanisms, including those of IAU and IPOA, increased their capacity to investigate cases of police abuse. The IAU acting director reported directly to the inspector general of police. Fifty-eight officers served in the unit, mostly investigators with a background in the Kenya Police Service and the Administration Police Service. The IAU handles allegations of bribery, harassment, and indiscipline. Between January and June, the IAU generated approximately 650 complaints, the number of which has increased year-to-year as police and the public became more familiar with the IAU.

IPOA opened three regional offices, in Mombasa, Kisumu, and Garissa, and increased its staff by 30 to approximately 120. Between January and June IPOA received 1,013 complaints, bringing the total since its inception in 2012 to 8,042. IPOA defines five categories of complaints. Category One complaints comprise the most serious crimes–such as murders, torture, rape, and serious injury–and result in an automatic investigation. Category Two, serious crimes such as assault without serious injury, are investigated on a case-by-case basis. Categories Three to Five, less serious crimes, are generally not investigated. Approximately one-third of IPOA complaints fall under Categories One and Two. If, after investigation, IPOA determines there is criminal liability in a case, it forwards the case to the ODPP. Between January and June IPOA conducted 137 investigations, of which 48 were forwarded to the ODPP. As of September, IPOA and ODPP had 50 cases pending in courts. In April 2016, IPOA secured its first and only manslaughter conviction against two police officers who killed a 14-year-old girl in Kwale County in 2014.

The NPSC continued vetting all serving police officers. Vetting required an assessment of each officer’s fitness to serve based on a review of documentation, including financial records, certificates of good conduct, and a questionnaire, as well public input alleging abuse or misconduct. The NPSC reported it had vetted approximately 1,000 officers between January and July, bringing the total number vetted to 4,116. More than half of the officers vetted during the year were from the traffic department, which had a reputation for extensive corruption. The NPSC has removed 21 senior officers and 127 traffic officers from the service since 2015. Some legal challenges brought by officers vetted out of the service continued in court.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law provides police with broad powers of arrest. Police officers may make arrests without a warrant if they suspect a crime occurred, is happening, or is imminent. Victims’ rights NGOs reported that in some cases authorities required victims to pay bribes and to provide transportation for police to a suspect’s location to execute a legal arrest warrant.

The constitution’s bill of rights provides significant ‎legal protections, including provisions requiring persons to be charged, tried, or released within a certain time and provisions requiring the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus to allow a court to determine the lawfulness of detention. In many cases, however, authorities did not follow the prescribed time limits. According to the attorney general in a response to a questionnaire from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2013, “an unexplained violation of a constitutional right will normally result in an acquittal.” While authorities in many cases released the accused if held longer than the prescribed period, some cases did not result in an acquittal, and authorities provided no compensation.

Police used excessive force in some cases when making arrests. In 2016, two officers were charged and convicted of using of excessive force in the shooting death of a 14-year-old girl in Kwale. A High Court judge found both officers guilty of manslaughter for their actions during the search of the girl’s home and sentenced each to prison for seven years.

The constitution establishes the right of suspects to bail unless there are compelling reasons against release. There is a functioning bail system, and all suspects, including those accused of capital offenses, are eligible for bail. Many suspects remained in jail for months pending trial because of their inability to post bail. Due to overcrowding in prisons, courts rarely denied bail to individuals who could pay it, even when the circumstances warranted denial. For example, NGOs that worked with victims of sexual assault complained that authorities granted bail to suspects even in cases in which there was evidence that they posed a continuing threat to victims.

Although the law provides pretrial detainees with the right to access family members and attorneys, family members of detainees frequently complained that authorities permitted access only upon payment of bribes. When detainees could afford counsel, police generally permitted access to attorneys.

Arbitrary Arrest: Police arbitrarily arrested and detained persons. Victims of arbitrary arrest were generally poor young men. Human rights organizations complained that security forces made widespread arbitrary arrests and detentions during counterterrorism operations and targeted ethnic Somalis and Kenyan Muslims. On March 22, AP officers allegedly arrested and assaulted Standard newspaper journalist, Isaiah Gwengi, presumably because of his stories on police brutality. The IPOA investigation continued at the end of the reporting year.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was a serious problem and contributed to prison overcrowding. Some defendants were held in pretrial detention longer than the statutory maximum term of imprisonment for the crime with which they were charged. The government claimed the average time spent in pretrial detention was 14 days, but there were reports many detainees spent two to three years in prison before their trials were completed. Police from the arresting locale are responsible for bringing detainees from prison to court when hearings are scheduled but often failed to do so, forcing detainees to wait for the next hearing of their cases (see section 1.e.).

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law entitles persons arrested or detained to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention, but that right was not always protected in practice.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary. Reform of the judiciary continued. The judiciary demonstrated independence and impartiality. Despite widespread belief in judicial corruption, there were no credible allegations of, or investigations into, significant corruption among judges, prosecutors, or defense attorneys. Authorities generally respected court orders, and the outcomes of trials did not appear to be predetermined.

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC)–a constitutionally mandated oversight body intended to insulate the judiciary from political pressure–provides the president with a list of nominees for judicial appointment. The president selects one of the nominees for parliamentary approval. The president appoints the chief justice and appellate and High Court judges through this process. The commission publicly reviews judicial appointees.

The Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board, established in 2011 to determine the suitability of judges and magistrates to hold office, completed its vetting and submitted its final report to the president in September 2016. The judiciary adopted some of the recommendations in that report. For example, the JSC made the deputy chief justice the judicial ombudsman, rather than a magistrate, clarifying questions of rank. The JSC also adopted a code of conduct applicable to all judicial staff, including magistrates and judges, and employed additional audit staff to ensure compliance with the Public Finance Management Act.

The constitution gives the judiciary authority to review appointments and decisions by other branches of government. Parliament sometimes ignored judicial decisions. For example, in August 2016 a High Court deadline expired for parliament to enact legislation to implement the constitutionally mandated two-thirds gender principle (see section 3). In May a second High Court-ordered deadline expired for implementation, despite a promise by the National Assembly majority leader to bring it to a vote.

The law provides for “kadhi” courts, which adjudicate Muslim law on marriage, divorce, and inheritance among Muslims. There were no other traditional courts. The national courts used the traditional law of an ethnic group as a guide in personal matters as long as it did not conflict with statutory law.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair public trial, although individuals may give some testimony in closed session; the independent judiciary generally enforced this right. The law provides for a presumption of innocence, and defendants have the right to attend their trials, confront witnesses, and present witnesses and evidence in their defense. The law also provides defendants the right to receive prompt and detailed information on the charges against them, with free interpretation if necessary, including during trials; to be tried without undue delay; to have access to government-held evidence; and not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Authorities generally respected these rights, although they did not always promptly inform persons of the charges against them. A pilot project implementing the Active Case Management Guidelines, developed to improve prosecution procedures, continued in four courts as of November. A randomized bench selection system was partially implemented within the Court of Appeal to avoid the public perception that parties with vested interests could influence the composition of a bench of judges.

Trial delays sometimes resulted because witnesses failed to present themselves, judges cancelled trial dates without notice, witnesses were not protected, or legal counsel failed to appear. Authorities generally respected a defendant’s right to consult with an attorney in a timely manner. Defendants generally had adequate time to prepare a defense if they were capable of doing so. The government and courts generally respected these rights. There was no government-sponsored public defenders service, and courts continued to try the vast majority of defendants without representation because they could not afford legal counsel. The Legal Aid Act enacted in June 2016 established the National Legal Aid Service to facilitate access to justice, with the ultimate goal of providing pro-bono services for indigent defendants who cannot afford legal representation. On April 25, the attorney general launched the National Legal Aid Service Board to offer free legal assistance to vulnerable litigants, including children, some women, and persons with disabilities, although the assistance was largely available only in Nairobi. Other pro-bono legal aid was available only in major cities where some human rights organizations, notably the Federation of Women Lawyers, an international NGO, provided it. The government declared September 25-29 Legal Awareness Week, with the theme “Safeguarding Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms through Improved Law Enforcement,” and offered free legal services at the Milimani law courts in Nairobi.

The ODPP significantly increased the number of trained prosecutors. According to the ODPP, as of June 29, there were an estimated 627 state prosecutors, compared with 200 in 2013, as well as 402 support staff. The ODPP phased out police prosecutors entirely in 2016. The expansion of the prosecution service also reduced delays in court proceedings. The judiciary improved its case clearance rate and substantially reduced case backlog by increasing benches of judges sitting daily.

Discovery laws are not clearly defined, handicapping defense lawyers. Implementation of a High Court ruling requiring provision of written statements to the defense before trial remained inconsistent. Defense lawyers often did not have access to government-held evidence before a trial. There were reports the government sometimes invoked the Official Secrets Act as a basis for withholding evidence.

Defendants may appeal a verdict to a High Court and ultimately to the Court of Appeal and, for some matters, to the Supreme Court.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals may use the civil court system to seek damages for violations of human rights and may appeal decisions to the Supreme Court as well as to the African Court of Justice and Human Rights. In May 2016 the judiciary launched a program of Enhanced Service Delivery Initiatives to promote more efficient and affordable justice. The program introduced Performance Management Understandings as a method for measuring the performance of judicial staff, judges, and magistrates by work delivery. In January the Supreme Court’s chief justice launched a strategic blueprint for judicial reform, which included an Implementation and Monitoring Committee.

According to human rights NGOs, bribes, extortion, and political considerations influenced the outcomes in some civil cases. Court fees for filing and hearing civil cases effectively barred some from access to the courts.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

There is no single established system of land tenure in the country: private titles compete with customary land rights and community land, while public land is vulnerable to squatters or to unscrupulous developers. There is no clear legal framework for issuing title deeds or for adjudicating land disputes because of legal disputes between the National Land Commission, vested with powers of land adjudication through the constitution and 2012 implementing legislation, and the Ministry of Lands. Plots of land were sometimes allocated twice. The Community Land Act signed into law in August 2016 allows communities to apply for land registrations as a single entity and put in train the adjudication process in which their applications will be considered alongside any competing claims.

A report by the Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) established in the aftermath of the 2007-08 postelection violence identified land reform, including titling, as a key issue, and issued recommendations, which were largely not implemented. NGOs and media reported progress had been uneven. For example, according to the daily Standard newspaper, on January 17, a branch of the High Court ruled that more than three million land title deeds issued by the government since 2013 had been irregularly processed and were therefore invalid. The judgment was based on the parliament’s failure to approve regulations required to implement the Land Registration Act. The High Court suspended its ruling for one year to give the Ministry of Lands time to issue the deeds in accordance with title regulations already in force.

There is no established system for restitution or compensation for those declared to be squatters and ordered to vacate land. Both private and communal clashes were common because of land disputes. The government used forced eviction and demolition to restore what it claimed was illegally occupied public land. For example, according to two OHCHR communications, in December 2016 authorities gave 1,200 indigenous Sengwer families seven days’ notice to depart ancestral lands in Embobut Forest, following previous cycles of evictions. Subsequently, Kenya Forest Service (KFS) guards reportedly burned down several Sengwer dwellings. On December 8, the High Court in Eldoret stayed the evictions, but KFS resumed evictions in March, allegedly firing live ammunition and burning additional homes. In some cases, authorities arranged ad hoc restitution or relocation of residents under NGO pressure. On May 26, the African Union Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights found in favor of the indigenous Ogiek community evicted in 2009 from the Mau Forest. The court ruled the government’s actions had violated seven articles of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, to which the country is a signatory. The ruling gave the Kenyan government until November 6 to implement the required remedies, but as of this report, the Attorney General has taken no action.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, except “to promote public benefit,” but authorities sometimes infringed on citizens’ privacy rights. The law permits police to enter a home without a search warrant if the time required to obtain a warrant would prejudice an investigation. Although security officers generally obtained search warrants, they occasionally conducted searches without warrants in the course of large-scale security sweeps to apprehend suspected criminals or to seize property believed stolen. For example, on August 11 and 12, according to multiple press and NGO reports, police conducted house-to-house operations in Kisumu County in connection with protests in the wake of the August 8 election. In one of the homes, police allegedly beat a husband, wife, and their six-month-old daughter. KNCHR confirmed the infant died of her injuries on September 15. In November, IPOA completed its investigation into the infant’s death and referred the case to the ODPP for potential prosecution.

Human rights organizations reported police officers raided homes in informal settlements in Nairobi and communities in the coast region in search of suspected terrorists and weapons. The organizations documented numerous cases in which plainclothes police officers searched residences without a warrant and household goods were confiscated when residents were unable to provide receipts of purchase on demand.

Pakistan

Executive Summary

Pakistan is a federal republic. In May 2013 the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party won a majority of seats in parliamentary elections, and Nawaz Sharif became prime minister for the third time. While judged to be mostly free and fair, some independent observers and political parties raised concerns about election irregularities. On July 28, the Supreme Court disqualified Sharif from office over corruption allegations. Parliament elected Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as the new prime minister on August 1. Asif Ali Zardari completed his five-year term as president in September 2013 with Mamnoon Hussain (PML-N) succeeding him. Orderly transitions in the military (chief of army staff) and the judiciary (Supreme Court chief justice) solidified the democratic transition.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included extrajudicial and targeted killings; disappearances; torture; lack of rule of law, including lack of due process; poor implementation and enforcement of laws; and frequent mob violence and vigilante justice with limited accountability. Additional problems were arbitrary detention; lengthy pretrial detention; a lack of judicial independence in the lower courts; governmental infringement on citizens’ privacy rights; harassment of journalists, and high-profile attacks against journalists and media organizations. Government restrictions on freedom of assembly, freedom of movement, and freedom of religion and discrimination against religious minorities, and sectarian violence continued. Corruption within the government and police; lack of criminal investigations or accountability for cases related to rape, violence based on gender, gender identity and sexual orientation, sexual harassment, so-called honor crimes, and female genital mutilation/cutting remained problems. Consensual same-sex sexual conduct is a criminal offense; however, the government rarely prosecuted cases. Child labor resulting in frequent exposure to violence and human trafficking–including forced and bonded labor–persisted.

There was a lack of government accountability, and abuses often went unpunished, fostering a culture of impunity among the perpetrators, whether official or unofficial. Authorities seldom punished government officials for human rights abuses.

Terrorist violence and human rights abuses by nonstate actors contributed to human rights problems in the country. The military sustained significant campaigns against militant and terrorist groups. Nevertheless, violence, abuse, and social and religious intolerance by militant organizations and other nonstate actors, both local and foreign, contributed to a culture of lawlessness in some parts of the country, particularly in the provinces of Balochistan, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). As of the end of October, terrorism fatalities stood at 1,084, in comparison with 1,803 fatalities in the full year 2016, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), a database compiled by the public-interest advocacy organization Institute for Conflict Management that collects statistics on terrorism and low intensity warfare in South Asia.

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

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

There were numerous reports authorities committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Security forces reportedly committed extrajudicial killings in connection with conflicts in Punjab, Balochistan, FATA, Sindh, and KP (see section 1.g.).

Physical abuse while in official custody allegedly caused the death of some criminal suspects. Lengthy trial delays and failure to discipline and prosecute those responsible for killings contributed to a culture of impunity.

On June 27, the Frontier Corps fired into a crowd in Parachinar, Kurram Agency, killing four. The crowd was staging a sit-in, protesting the perceived failure of authorities to protect Parachinar from terrorism. Following the incident, the chief of army staff (the army’s highest-ranking military official), General Qamar Javed Bajwa, personally visited Parachinar, ordered the removal of the Parachinar Frontier Corps commandant, and opened an investigation into the occurrence.

There were continued allegations of politically motivated killings in Balochistan and Sindh. On July 6, unidentified gunmen killed Balochistan National Party leader Malik Naveed Dehwar and his guard, Mohammad Zareef. On April 27, local authorities recovered the mutilated bodies of five abducted Baloch activists, including Baitullah Mehmood Baloch, a leader of the Baloch National Movement. The perpetrators were unknown.

The SATP reported that journalists, teachers, students, and human rights defenders also were targeted by state and nonstate actors in Balochistan. According to the SATP, at least 183 civilians were killed due to terrorist-related violence in Balochistan, compared with 251 in 2016.

There were reports of politically motivated killings by political factions or unknown assailants in Sindh. In July unidentified gunmen killed two Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) activists–Abdul Hameed (alias Mulla) and Rashid Khan–in Karachi. PSP’s chairman blamed the London faction of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement political party for their deaths.

The provincial governments and political parties in Sindh, Balochistan, KP, and Punjab remained targets of attack by militant and other nonstate actors.

Following its announced formation in February, the Ansar ul-Sharia Pakistan (ASP, also known as Jamaat-ul-Ansar al-Sharia Pakistan) was allegedly involved in at least seven attacks that killed a retired colonel, six police officers, and a private security guard in Sindh and a bombing that targeted security forces in Balochistan. On August 12, ASP killed Deputy Superintendent of Police (Traffic) Hanif Khan, 56, and his driver, Constable Sultan Ishtiaq, in Karachi. ASP spokesperson Abdullah Hashmi stated the attack was “revenge” for alleged torture of militants in jail. The Sindh police Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) continued to investigate the case, although no arrests had been made. Authorities claimed ASP was responsible for the attempted assassination of Sindh Assembly opposition leader Khwaja Izharul Hassan.

There were numerous reports of attacks against police. On June 23, a blast near the inspector general of police’s office in Quetta killed at least 11 individuals, including seven police officers. According to Punjab provincial officials, police were the main targets of a July 24 suicide attack in Lahore that killed 26, including nine police officers.

Militants and terrorist groups killed hundreds and injured thousands with bombs, suicide attacks, and other violence (see section 1.g.).

b. Disappearance

There were kidnappings and forced disappearances of persons from various backgrounds in nearly all areas of the country. Some police and security forces reportedly held prisoners incommunicado and refused to disclose their location.

In January, five social media bloggers disappeared, triggering a public outcry against the government, which was widely believed to be responsible for the abductions. Several weeks later, four of the five bloggers reappeared; as of December, one of the bloggers, Samar Abbas, was still missing. In October, one of the four bloggers who returned home publicly claimed he was tortured by a state intelligence agency during his disappearance.

Media reported that on December 2, Raza Khan disappeared after cohosting a small public event in Lahore to discuss issues such as the government’s recent capitulation to the demands of a hardline religious group that held a weeks-long protest in Islamabad. Press reports indicated that according to a friend who also attended the meeting, the issue of the misuse of blasphemy laws was also raised. According to media reports, Khan’s brother reported his disappearance to local police.

The Karachi-based political party Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) alleged that the paramilitary Sindh Rangers kidnapped, tortured, and killed some of its members in security operations in Karachi. MQM claimed 21 such cases took place in July.

Human rights organizations reported many Sindhi and Baloch nationalists had disappeared. Nationalist parties in Sindh also alleged that law enforcement agencies kidnapped and killed Sindhi political activists.

Leading members of Jiye Sindh Qaumi Mahaz and Jiye Sindh Muttahida Mahaz (JSMM), prominent nationalist parties, reportedly were missing. Sindhi nationalist and political activist Dodo Chandio disappeared July 11 along with his fellow activists Mehran Chandio, Asif Buledi, Nadeem Kolachi, and Saif Jatoi. On August 5, family members of a self-exiled separatist JSMM leader, Shafi Burfat, were taken from their residence. JSMM president Qambar Shahdadkot, party member Ejaz Tunio, central committee member Sabir Chandio, and party supporters Murtaza Junejo, Hidayat Lohar, Khadim Hussain Arijo, and Mohammad Ayub Kandhro also went missing from Sindh Province. Eight advocates for the recovery of victims of involuntary disappearance in Sindh were themselves forcibly disappeared: Abbas Lund, journalist Ghulam Rasool Burfat, writer Inamullah Abbasi, Raza Jarwar, Partab Shivani, Naseer Kumbhar, Punhal Sario, and Shoaib Korejo. The last four returned home, while locations of the others remained unknown.

On June 12, police and other security agencies allegedly abducted Nasrullah Baloch, the chairman of the International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, an activist group focused on victims of enforced disappearances in Balochistan, along with three associates, all of whom remained missing.

The Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, headed by Supreme Court justice Javed Iqbal and retired law enforcement official Muhammad Sharif Virt, received 4,608 missing persons cases between 2011 and December 30. The commission claimed to have closed out 3,076 of those cases, while 1,532 remained open. While media and international attention focused heavily on enforced disappearances in Balochistan and Sindh, data from the commission showed the number of persons reported missing was highest in KP (751 missing), followed by Punjab (245 missing), Balochistan (98 missing), Sindh (50 missing), FATA (48 missing), the Islamabad Capital Territory (45 missing), Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) (14 missing), and Gilgit Baltistan (five missing) as of July.

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

Although the constitution prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, the criminal code has no specific section against torture. No legislative provisions specifically prohibit torture. There were reports that security forces, including the intelligence services, tortured and abused individuals in custody.

According to the Asian Human Rights Commission, the absence of proper complaint centers and the absence of a particular section in the criminal code that defines and prohibits torture contributed to such practices. The commission maintained the government undertook no serious effort to make torture a crime and that perpetrators, mostly police or members of the armed forces, operated with impunity.

There were reports police personnel employed cruel and degrading treatment and punishment. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reported that police committed “excesses” in at least 114 cases as of late December, compared with more than 147 cases in 2016. Multiple sources reported that torture occasionally resulted in death or serious injury and was often underreported.

On October 11, the newspaper Dawn reported that Punjab Police from Bahu Chowk police station beat to death an eighth grade student, Arsalan Mushtaq, in Jhabran Mandi. Police allegedly struck the boy’s head with a pistol, bundled him into a van, and later left his body on the side of the road.

The practice of collective punishment continued in the Federally and Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (FATA and PATA), as provided for in the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) of 1901, which governs FATA. In 2011 the government amended the FCR to exempt women, all individuals over age 65, and children below age 16 from collective punishment. Authorities apply collective punishment incrementally, starting with the first immediate male family members, followed by the subtribe, and continuing outward. Although this graduated approach reduces its scope, the FCR assigns collective punishment without regard to individual rights. Human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) expressed concern about the concept of collective responsibility, as authorities used collective responsibility to detain members of fugitives’ tribes, demolish their homes, confiscate or destroy their property, or lay siege to their villages pending surrender or punishment of the fugitives by their own tribes in accordance with local tradition. From November 2016 to June, the political administration of Mohmand Agency suspended all mining at the Ziarat marble mine due to alleged support of militants by the Safi tribe. In July the political agent of Khyber Agency suspended compensatory payments to the Sipah tribe after an attack on security forces. The political administration of South Waziristan Agency arrested and jailed 97 men including doctors, teachers, and students after a fire incident at Agency Headquarters Hospital in which two ambulances, a medical store, and National Database and Registration Authority offices were burned. The men remained in police custody despite protests and demonstrations staged by local political parties and student associations.

As of August the country had 7,009 police, military experts, and soldiers performing peacekeeping duties around the world. The United Nations reported that as of October 15 it received two allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against Pakistani peacekeepers for one incident alleged to have occurred in September 2016, and one allegedly continuing exploitative sexual relationship that lasted from an unspecified date in 2011 to June 2012. One pending allegation reported in 2016, which allegedly involved rape of a minor by military personnel deployed to the UN Operation in Cote d’Ivoire, was still under both Pakistani government and UN investigation as of October 15.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in some prisons and detention centers were harsh and life threatening. Problems such as overcrowding and inadequate medical care were widespread.

Physical Conditions: Prison conditions often were extremely poor. Overcrowding was common. The Society for Human Rights and Prisoners’ Aid-Pakistan (SHARP) estimated the total nationwide prison population fluctuated between 95,000 and 107,000 while claiming that the normal capacity of prisons was approximately 36,000. The Inspector General’s Office reported prison capacity of 52,784.

Provincial governments were the primary managers of prisons and detention centers.

Although quality and quantity of prison food improved, inadequate food and medical care in prisons continued to cause chronic health problems and malnutrition among inmates unable to supplement their diets with help from family or friends. In many facilities sanitation, ventilation, lighting, and access to potable water were inadequate. Most prison facilities were antiquated and had no means to control indoor temperatures. A system existed for basic and emergency medical care, but bureaucratic procedures slowed access. Foreign prisoners often remained in prison long after completion of their sentences because they were unable to pay for deportation to their home countries. From January to May, 16 prisoners died in Karachi Central Prison and Malir Jail. Prison medical records listed the cause of death for the majority of the deceased as “heart failure.” According to press reports and prison hospital sources, prison medical facilities are in poor condition with limited medicine available.

Prison security remained a concern. On June 14, two members of the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi terrorist group–Shaikh Muhammad Mumtaz and Muhammad Ahmed Khan–escaped from Karachi Central Jail and were not recaptured as of December 6. They had been arrested by the Sindh Police CTD for alleged involvement in the killings of more than 60 individuals, mainly members of the Shia community and law enforcement officials. In a follow-up investigation, CTD highlighted prison officials’ fear of jihadi elements and MQM detainees, claiming they allowed prisoners to “virtually run” Karachi Central Jail.

Prisoners who were members of religious minorities generally received poorer treatment than Muslims and often suffered violence at the hands of fellow inmates. Representatives of Christian and Ahmadiyya Muslim communities claimed their members were often subjected to abuse in prison. Civil society organizations reported prisoners accused of blasphemy violations were frequently subjected to poor prison conditions. NGOs reported that many individuals accused of blasphemy remained in solitary confinement for extended periods, sometimes for more than a year. The government asserted this treatment was for the individual’s safety, given the likelihood that prisoners accused of blasphemy would face threats from the general prison population.

Authorities held female prisoners separately from men. NGOs reported transgender women were held with men and faced harassment. Balochistan had no women’s prison, but women were housed in separate barracks in prisons located in Khuzdar, Gaddani, Quetta, and Loralai.

Due to lack of infrastructure, police often did not segregate detainees from convicted criminals. Prisoners with mental disabilities usually lacked adequate care.

Prison officials kept juvenile offenders in barracks separate from adults. Juveniles and adults were in close proximity when waiting for transport but were kept under careful supervision at this time. According to the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), prisoners and prison staff subjected children to abuse, rape, and other forms of violence. SPARC described conditions for juvenile prisoners as among the worst in the country.

Administration: According to SHARP, there was adequate manual recordkeeping on prisoners, but there was a need for computerized records.

There was an ombudsman for detainees, with a central office in Islamabad and offices in each province. Inspectors general of prisons irregularly visited prisons and detention facilities to monitor conditions and handle complaints.

By law prison authorities must permit prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and to request investigation of credible allegations of inhuman conditions. According to SHARP, however, prisoners often refrained from submitting complaints to avoid retaliation from jail authorities.

Independent Monitoring: International organizations responsible for monitoring prisons reported difficulty accessing detention sites, in particular those holding security-related detainees. Authorities did not allow international organizations access to detention centers most affected by violence in KP, FATA, and Balochistan. Provincial governments in Sindh, Gilgit-Baltistan, and the AJK permitted some international organizations to monitor civil prisons, but leaders of monitoring organizations noted their operations were becoming more restricted each year.

Authorities at the local, provincial, and national levels permitted some human rights groups and journalists to monitor prison conditions of juveniles and female inmates.

Improvements: Infrastructure improvements and new policies in existing prisons, along with the construction of new facilities, increased the frequency with which pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners were separated. A digitized prison management information system was operational in 20 Punjab province prisons. The government, in collaboration with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, took steps to expand the system to an additional 24 prison facilities in Punjab.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court, but authorities did not always observe these requirements. Corruption and impunity compounded this problem.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

Police have primary domestic security responsibility for most of the country. Local police are under the jurisdiction of provincial governments. Police effectiveness varied by district, ranging from good to ineffective. The Rangers are a paramilitary organization under the authority of the Ministry of Interior, with branches in Sindh and Punjab. The Frontier Corps is the Rangers’ counterpart in Balochistan and the tribal areas; it reports to the Ministry of Interior in peacetime and military in times of conflict. The military is responsible for external security but continues to play a role in domestic security.

The FCR provides the framework for law and order in FATA, implemented through appointed political agents who report to the governor of KP. The court system and judiciary do not have jurisdiction in FATA. Under the FCR, the trial by jirga (an assembly of community leaders that makes decisions by consensus) does not allow residents legal representation. If the accused is an adult man, he normally appears before the jirga in person to defend his case. Parents normally represent their minor children, and men normally represent their female relatives. Observers often criticized the FCR for harsh provisions. In 2011 authorities amended some of these provisions, including modifying the collective responsibility of a tribe, restricting the arbitrary nature of the powers of political agents or district coordination officers, and granting citizens limited rights to challenge the decisions of political agents in a codified tribunal system.

In lieu of police, multiple law enforcement entities operated in FATA. They included the paramilitary Frontier Corps, the Frontier Constabulary, “Khasadars” (hereditary tribal police), and the FATA Levies Force–which reported to political agents (the appointed administrative heads of each tribal agency)–to help maintain order. Tribal leaders convened “lashkars” (tribal militias) to deal with temporary law and order disturbances, but they operated as private tribal militias and not as formal law enforcement entities. The military assumed interim responsibility for security from the Frontier Corps in Parachinar, Kurram Agency, FATA, on June 30, after three separate bombings killed more than 120 people. The bombings had prompted a seven-day protest against the perceived failure of the Frontier Corps to protect the citizens of Parachinar.

Failure to punish abuses contributed to a climate of impunity throughout the country. According to civil society sources, police and prison officials frequently used the threat of abuse to extort money from prisoners and their families. The inspectors general, district police, district nazims (chief elected officials of local governments), provincial interior or chief ministers, federal interior minister, prime minister, or courts can order internal investigations into abuses and order administrative sanctions. Executive branch and police officials have authority to recommend, and the courts may order, criminal prosecution. The court system remained the only means available to investigate abuses by security forces. The National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR), established in 2015, may not inquire into any complaints against intelligence agencies and must refer such complaints to the competent authority concerned. The NCHR may seek a report from the national government on any complaint made against the armed forces, and after receipt of a report, it can either end the process or forward recommendations for further action to the national government.

During the year the government continued to use the military to support domestic security. Paramilitary forces, including Rangers and the Frontier Constabulary, provided security to some areas of Islamabad and continued active operations in Karachi. On February 22, following several high-profile terrorist attacks, the military launched Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, using expanded civilian and paramilitary cooperation against militants throughout the country. Representing an upgraded effort to combat terrorism, the operation also included deployment of the paramilitary Ranger corps into Punjab Province.

In January 2015, in response to an attack on the Peshawar Army Public School, Parliament approved a constitutional amendment to allow military courts to try civilians on terrorism, militancy, sectarian violence, and other charges. The amendment included a provision under which the mandate of the courts to try civilians would expire in January 2017. The government, however, reauthorized the amendment, extending the mandate of the courts until January 2019. Civil society members expressed concerns about the use of military courts for trying civilian suspects, citing lack of transparency and their redundancy with the civilian judicial system.

Police often failed to protect members of religious minorities–including Ahmadiyya Muslims, Christians, Shia Muslims, and Hindus–from attacks. Mob violence often accompanied blasphemy allegations, and individuals accused of blasphemy from both majority and minority communities were killed during the year. In one high-profile case, a mob in Mardan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, killed university student Mashal Khan on April 13 after rumors circulated on his campus that he had committed blasphemy; police officers were present at the killing but took no action to stop it.

Shia organizations complained that the government failed to provide adequate security to pilgrims traveling through Sindh and Balochistan en route to Iran.

There were improvements in police professionalism and instances of local authorities protecting minorities from discrimination and communal violence. In August police rescued a Christian teenager accused of blasphemy from a vigilante mob in Alipur Chatha, Punjab. According to local human rights organizations, the mob was beating the accused until the police intervened and took him into protective custody while his blasphemy charges were pending.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

A first information report (FIR) is the legal basis for any arrest, initiated when police receive information about the commission of a “cognizable” offense. A third party usually initiates a FIR, but police can file FIRs on their own initiative. A FIR allows police to detain a suspect for 24 hours, after which a magistrate may order detention for an additional 14 days if police show detention is necessary to obtain evidence material to the investigation. Some authorities did not observe these limits on detention. Authorities reportedly filed FIRs without supporting evidence in order to harass or intimidate detainees or did not file them when adequate evidence was provided unless the complainant paid a bribe. There were reports of persons arrested without judicial authorization and individuals paying bribes to visit prisoners.

The Ministry of Interior frequently did not provide notification of the arrest of foreigners to their respective embassies or consulates. In 2015 the ministry introduced a new requirement that foreign missions request access to their arrested citizens 20 days in advance.

There was a functioning bail system. Human rights groups noted, however, that judges sometimes denied bail upon payment of bribes. NGOs reported authorities sometimes denied bail in blasphemy cases on the grounds that defendants who faced the death penalty were likely to flee or were at risk from public vigilantism. NGOs also reported that lawyers representing individuals accused of blasphemy often asked that their clients remain in custody to protect them from vigilante violence. Bail is not available in antiterrorism courts or in the military courts established under the 2015 amendment to the constitution.

The government provided state-funded legal counsel to prisoners facing the death penalty, but it did not regularly provide legal representation in other cases. The constitution recognizes the right of habeas corpus and allows the high courts to demand that a person accused of a crime be present in court. The law allows citizens to submit habeas corpus petitions to the courts. In many cases involving forced disappearances, authorities failed to present detainees according to judges’ orders.

Arbitrary Arrest: There were reports police arbitrarily detained individuals to extort bribes for their release or detained relatives of wanted individuals to compel suspects to surrender. Ethnic Rohingya in Karachi who lacked official identification documents reported arbitrary arrests and harassment by police authorities.

Pretrial Detention: Police sometimes held persons in investigative detention without seeking a magistrate’s approval and often held detainees without charge until a court challenged the detention. Magistrates generally approved investigative detention at the request of police without requiring justification. When police did not develop sufficient evidence to try a suspect within the 14-day period, they generally requested that magistrates issue new FIRs, thereby further extending the suspect’s detention.

By law detainees must be brought to trial within 30 days of arrest. There were exceptions: a district coordination officer has authority to recommend preventive detention on the grounds of “maintenance of public order” for up to 90 days and may–with approval of the Home Department–extend it for an additional 90 days.

In some cases trials did not start until six months after a FIR, and at times individuals remained in pretrial detention for periods longer than the maximum sentence for the crime with which they were charged. SHARP estimated that more than 70 percent of the prison population was awaiting trial. Authorities seldom informed detainees promptly of charges against them.

Special rules apply to cases brought to court by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), which investigates and prosecutes corruption cases. The NAB may detain suspects for 15 days without charge (renewable with judicial concurrence) and deny access to counsel prior to charging. Offenses under the NAB are not bailable, and only the NAB chairman has the power to decide whether to release detainees.

Under the FCR in FATA, the political agent has legal authority to detain preventively individuals on a variety of grounds and may require bonds to prevent undesired activities. Indefinite detention is not allowed, and detained persons may appeal to the FCR tribunal. Prisoners have the right to compensation for wrongful punishment. Cases must be decided within a specified period, and authorities may release arrested persons on bail. Regulations require prisoners to be brought before FCR authorities within 24 hours of detention, which curtails the ability of political agents to arbitrarily arrest and hold persons for up to three years. The accused have the right of appeal under a two-tiered system, which starts with an appellate authority consisting of an FCR commissioner and an additional judicial commissioner.

In FATA, PATA, and KP, security forces may restrict the activities of terrorism suspects, seize their assets for up to 48 hours, and detain them for as long as one year without charges. Human rights and international organizations reported that authorities held an unknown number of individuals allegedly affiliated with terrorist organizations indefinitely in preventive detention, where they were often tortured and abused. In many cases authorities held prisoners incommunicado, denying them prompt access to a lawyer of their choice. Family members often were not allowed prompt access to detainees.

The 2011 Actions in Aid of Civil Power Regulation (retroactive to 2008) provides the military legal authority to detain suspected terrorists in FATA and PATA when called upon by the civilian government. Critics stated the regulation violates the constitution because of its broad provisions expanding military authority and circumventing legal due process. Under the regulation, detainee transfers to internment centers continued on a regular basis.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: There were reports of persons arrested or detained who were not allowed to challenge in court the legal basis or nature of their detention, obtain relief, or receive compensation.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, but according to NGOs and legal experts, the judiciary often was subject to external influences, such as fear of reprisal from extremist elements in terrorism or blasphemy cases and public politicization of high-profile cases. Civil society organizations reported judges were reluctant to exonerate individuals accused of blasphemy, fearing vigilante violence. The media and the public generally considered the high courts and the Supreme Court credible.

Extensive case backlogs in the lower and superior courts, together with other problems, undermined the right to effective remedy and to a fair and public hearing. Delays in justice in civil and criminal cases were due to antiquated procedural rules, unfilled judgeships, poor case management, and weak legal education. In Punjab, lawyers’ strikes added to delays. From September 2016 to March, lawyers observed 1,474 strikes in 36 districts of Punjab, which severely hampered the functioning of the courts. The Lahore High Court took steps to improve judicial efficiency. The court’s chief justice introduced legal reforms intended to reduce strikes and formalized an alternate dispute resolution (ADR) system. The court established 36 ADR centers, which received 3,883 references in six months and resolved 2,497 cases by August.

The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the high courts does not extend to several areas that operated under separate judicial systems. For example, the AJK has its own elected president, prime minister, legislature, and court system. Gilgit-Baltistan also has a separate judicial system.

Many lower courts remained corrupt, inefficient, and subject to pressure from wealthy persons and influential religious or political figures.

There were instances in which unknown persons threatened and/or killed witnesses, prosecutors, or investigating police officers in high-level cases. According to press reports, a suicide bomber on February 15 targeted a van carrying four judges in Peshawar, KP. The attack killed the vehicle’s driver and injured the four judges.

Informal justice systems lacking institutionalized legal protections continued, especially in rural areas, and often resulted in human rights abuses. Landlords and other community leaders in Sindh and Punjab and tribal leaders in Pashtun and Baloch areas at times held local council meetings (panchayats or jirgas) outside the established legal system. Such councils settled feuds and imposed tribal penalties, including fines, imprisonment, and sometimes the death penalty. These councils often sentenced women to violent punishment or death for so-called honor-related crimes. In FATA such councils were held under FCR guidelines. Assistant political agents, supported by tribal elders of their choosing, are legally responsible for justice in FATA and conducted hearings according to their interpretation of Islamic law and tribal custom.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The civil, criminal, and family court systems provide for a fair trial and due process, presumption of innocence, cross-examination, and appeal. There are no trials by jury. Although defendants have the right to be present and consult with an attorney, courts must appoint attorneys for indigents only in capital cases. Defendants generally bear the cost of legal representation in lower courts, but a lawyer may be provided at public expense in appellate courts. Defendants may confront or question prosecution witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence. Due to the limited number of judges, a heavy backlog of cases, lengthy court procedures, frequent adjournment, and political pressure, cases routinely lasted for years, and defendants made frequent court appearances.

SPARC reported that adjudication of cases involving juveniles was slow due to a lack of special juvenile courts or judges. It concluded that a fair and just juvenile justice system did not exist. Many juveniles spent long periods behind bars because they could not afford bail. According to SPARC, rather than being rehabilitated, child prisoners often became hardened criminals after spending long periods in the company of adult prisoners.

The Juvenile Justice System Ordinance, which outlines the treatment of juveniles in the justice system, does not apply to juveniles accused of terrorism or narcotics offenses. SPARC reported that, in the past, officials arrested children as young as 12 on charges of terrorism under the Antiterrorism Act. Children convicted under the act could be sentenced to death. There were numerous cases of individuals on death row having been convicted of, and/or tried for, crimes they allegedly committed while under the age of 18. Lack of documentation continued to be a problem for verifying questions of legal age. Civil society sources reported that, while they had no official reports of juvenile inmates on death row, they could not rule out the possibility. Different courts made different decisions as to what was “adequate” proof of age.

There were instances of lack of transparency in court cases, particularly if the case dealt with high-profile or sensitive issues. NGOs reported the government often located trials in jails because of security concerns, which extended to defendants, lawyers, judges, prosecutors, and witnesses. NGOs expressed concerns regarding the security of jail trials and the lack of privacy for defendants to consult with a lawyer.

The Antiterrorism Act allows the government to use special, streamlined antiterrorism courts (ATCs) to try persons charged with violent crimes, terrorist activities, acts or speech designed to foment religious hatred, and crimes against the state. In other courts, suspects must be brought to court within seven working days of their arrest, but the ATCs are free to extend the period. Human rights activists criticized the expedited parallel system, charging it was more vulnerable to political manipulation. In 2014, after a judge’s ruling that the Antiterrorism Act had been incorrectly applied, authorities returned 15 percent of cases initially brought to ATCs to regular courts, according to Punjab’s prosecutor general. NGOs reported that if a case needed to be expedited due to the egregious nature of the crime or political pressure, it was often sent to an ATC rather than through the regular court system. Others commented that, despite being comparatively faster than the regular court system, the ATCs often failed to meet speedy trial standards and had significant case backlogs.

The government continued to utilize military courts to try civilians on terrorism and related charges. Trials in military courts are not public (see section 1.d.).

The Federal Shariat Court typically reviewed cases prosecuted under the Hudood Ordinance, a law enacted in 1979 by military leader Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq to implement a strict interpretation of Islamic law by punishing extramarital sex, false accusations of extramarital sex, theft, and drinking alcohol. Should a provincial high court decide to hear an appeal in a Hudood case, the Shariat Court lacks authority to review the provincial high court’s decision. The Supreme Court may bypass the Shariat Appellate Bench and assume jurisdiction in such appellate cases. The Federal Shariat Court may overturn legislation judged inconsistent with Islamic tenets, but such decisions may be appealed to the Shariat Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court and ultimately may be heard by the full bench of the Supreme Court.

Courts routinely failed to protect the rights of religious minorities. Courts discriminatorily used laws prohibiting blasphemy against Shia, Christians, Ahmadis, and members of other religious minority groups. Lower courts often did not require adequate evidence in blasphemy cases, and some convicted persons spent years in jail before higher courts eventually overturned their convictions or ordered them freed.

In 2015 the Supreme Court suspended the death sentence of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy in 2010, pending its decision on her appeal. Bibi had been on death row since 2010 after a district court found her guilty of making derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammed during an argument. Her lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court in 2014. The appeal was due to be heard in October 2016 but was delayed after one member of the three-judge bench recused himself. The court did not set a date for the next hearing.

In February 2016 authorities executed Mumtaz Qadri, who was convicted of killing then governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer after Taseer had publicly called for a presidential pardon for Asia Bibi.

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

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

Some Sindhi and Baloch nationalist groups claimed that authorities marked their members for arrest and detained them based on their political affiliation or beliefs. Under the 2009 Aghaz-e-Haqooq (“beginning of the rights”) Balochistan legislative “package” of reforms (intended to address the province’s political, social, and economic problems), the government announced a general amnesty for all Baloch political prisoners, leaders, and activists in exile as well as those allegedly involved in “antistate” activities. In 2015 the federal and Balochistan provincial governments jointly announced a new peace package called “Pur Aman Balochistan” (“peaceful Balochistan”), intended to offer cash and other incentives for “militants” who wished to rejoin mainstream society. Despite the amnesty offers, some Baloch groups claimed that illegal detention of nationalist leaders by state agencies continued. Several of the missing persons documented by the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons were well-known leaders of nationalist political parties and student organizations.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals may petition the courts to seek redress for various human rights violations, and courts often took such actions. Individuals may seek redress in civil courts against government officials, including on grounds of denial of human rights. Observers reported that civil courts seldom, if ever, issued official judgments in such cases, and most cases were settled out of court. Although there were no official procedures for administrative redress, informal reparations were common. Individuals and organizations could not appeal adverse decisions to regional human rights bodies, although some NGOs submitted human rights “shadow reports” to the EU and other international actors.

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

The law requires court-issued warrants for property searches. Police sometimes ignored this requirement and on occasion reportedly stole items during searches. Authorities seldom punished police for illegal entry. Police at times detained family members to induce a suspect to surrender. In cases pursued under the Antiterrorism Act, the government allowed security forces to search and seize property related to a case without a warrant.

Several domestic intelligence services monitored politicians, political activists, suspected terrorists, NGOs, employees of foreign entities, and media. These services included the Inter-Services Intelligence, police Special Branch, the Intelligence Bureau, and Military Intelligence. There were credible reports authorities routinely used wiretaps, monitored cell phone calls, intercepted electronic correspondence, and opened mail without court approval.

g. Abuses in Internal Conflict

Militant and terrorist activity continued, and there were numerous suicide and bomb attacks in all four provinces and FATA. Militants and terrorist groups, including the Pakistani Taliban (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) targeted civilians, journalists, community leaders, security forces, law enforcement agents, and schools, killing hundreds and injuring thousands with bombs, suicide attacks, and other forms of violence. Militant and terrorist groups often attacked religious minorities. A low-intensity separatist insurgency continued in Balochistan. Security forces reportedly committed extrajudicial killings in the fight against militant groups.

The military conducted multiple counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations to eradicate militant safe havens. In 2014 the military launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb, an operation against foreign and domestic terrorists in FATA. The operation continued until February, when the military replaced it with Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, a nationwide counterterrorism campaign aimed at consolidating Zarb-e-Azb’s gains. The government also acted throughout the country to weaken terrorist groups and prevent recruitment by militant organizations. For example, law enforcement agencies reported seizures of large caches of weapons in urban areas such as Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi. Police arrested Karachi gang members and TTP commanders who allegedly provided logistical support to militants in the tribal areas. Police arrested would-be suicide bombers in major cities, confiscating weapons, suicide vests, and planning materials.

Poor security, intimidation by both security forces and militants, and control by government and security forces over access by nonresidents to FATA impeded the efforts of human rights organizations to provide relief to victims of military abuses and efforts of journalists to report on any such abuses.

Political, sectarian, criminal, and ethnic violence in Karachi continued, although violence declined and gang wars were less prevalent than before security operations in the city. Natural disasters and instability caused by terrorist activity and military operations elsewhere in the country motivated ongoing relocation of citizens from different ethnic groups–including Sindhi, Baloch, and Pashtun migrants–to Karachi. This trend continued to shift the balance among political parties and the ethnic and sectarian groups they represented. Political parties and their affiliated gangs continued to vie for political and economic control, engaging in a turf war over bhatta (extortion) collection privileges and “ownership” over katchi abadis (illegal/makeshift settlements).

Killings: There were reports that government security forces caused civilian casualties and engaged in extrajudicial killings during operations against militants. Security forces killed militants throughout the country. There were numerous media reports of police and security forces killing terrorist suspects in “police encounters.” Some observers believed security forces orchestrated at least some of these killings.

The TTP faction Jamaat-ur-Ahrar claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack near the Punjab Provincial Assembly in Lahore on February 13 that killed 13 individuals and injured more than 80. The militant faction said the attack was the beginning of a new campaign of violence against the government, security forces, the judiciary, and secular political parties.

On July 24, at least 26 individuals died and 58 were injured in a suicide explosion in Lahore. Officials stated the attack targeted a group of police. According to provincial authorities, at least nine of those killed were police officers. The TTP claimed responsibility for the blast.

ISIS-K claimed responsibility for several attacks in Balochistan and Sindh. On February 17, ISIS-K claimed responsibility for killing at least 75 persons and injuring more than 200 others, when a suicide bomber detonated at the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine in Sindh.

Sectarian violence also continued throughout the country. NGOs differed in their definitions of sectarian violence, leading to differences in accounting for the number of attacks and deaths. According to SATP, 15 sectarian attacks from January to mid-December resulted in the deaths of 229 individuals, compared with 132 deaths in 31 incidents in 2016. Kurram Agency, FATA, which is the only part of FATA that has a majority Shia population, was the target of three separate bombings that claimed the lives of more than 120 individuals. On January 21, a bomb was detonated in a vegetable market in Parachinar, the capital of Kurram Agency, killing 25; Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the TTP claimed responsibility. On June 23, twin blasts hit the Turi Market in central Parachinar, killing 72. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed the attack. On October 10, a suicide bomber killed at least 24 worshippers at a shrine in Balochistan.

Multiple Ahmadiyya community members died in what appeared to be targeted killings. Unknown gunmen killed three Ahmadis in three separate attacks on March 30, April 7, and May 3.

Abductions: There were reports militant groups kidnapped or took civilians hostage in FATA, KP, Punjab, Sindh, and Balochistan. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the May 24 abduction and killing of two Chinese nationals from Quetta.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Nonstate militant groups targeted noncombatants and killed civilians in various incidents across the country.

Child Soldiers: Nonstate militant groups kidnapped boys and girls and used fraudulent promises to coerce parents into giving away children as young as 12 to spy, fight, or die as suicide bombers. The militants sometimes offered parents money, often sexually and physically abused the children, and used psychological coercion to convince the children the acts they committed were justified. The government operated a center in Swat to rehabilitate and educate former child soldiers.

Other Conflict-related Abuse: The terrorist groups TTP, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and related factions bombed government buildings and attacked and killed female teachers and polio vaccination workers. During the year there were two reported cases of fatal attacks against health-care workers associated with a polio vaccination campaign. Both incidents took place in KP, the first on May 24 in Bannu and the second on July 2 in Peshawar. The TTP particularly targeted girls’ schools to demonstrate its opposition to girls’ education but also destroyed boys’ schools. Military operations created hardships for the local civilian population when militants closed key access roads and tunnels and attacked communications and energy networks, disrupting commerce and the distribution of food and water.

South Africa

Executive Summary

South Africa is a multiparty parliamentary democracy in which constitutional power is shared among the executive, judiciary, and parliament branches. In 2016 the country held largely free and fair municipal elections, in which the ruling African National Congress (ANC) received 54 percent of the vote. In 2014 the country held a largely free and fair national election in which the ruling ANC won 62 percent of the vote and 249 of 400 seats in the National Assembly, which re-elected Jacob Zuma to a second term as the country’s president.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included: police use of unlawful lethal force; harsh and life-threatening prison and detention center conditions; official corruption; and victimization by police of migrants and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons, including violence.

Although the government investigated and prosecuted officials who committed abuses, there were numerous reports of impunity.

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

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

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

Police use of lethal and excessive force, including torture, resulted in numerous deaths and injuries, according to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), Amnesty International, and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The country had a high crime rate and criminals were often well armed. The government recorded more than 20,000 killings (or homicides) in the 12-month period ending March 31, 2016. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) did not publish statistics on the number of murderers prosecuted, but watchdog groups estimated the conviction rate for all crimes reported was as low as 10 percent.

According to the 2016-2017 IPID annual report, 394 persons died in police custody or due to police action during the 12-month period ending March 31. IPID recommended prosecution in 115 of the 394 cases.

During the year IPID received 7,014 complaints ranging from killings to assault, recommended prosecution in 1,140 cases, and arrested 124 police officers. Of the cases recommended for prosecution, the NPA prosecuted nine, dropped 26, and left 1,105 pending at year’s end. IPID referred 1,238 disciplinary cases to the South African Police Service (SAPS); 139 cases referred resulted in disciplinary action.

A death resulting from police action was defined as a death that occurred while a police officer attempted to make an arrest, prevent an escape, or in self-defense. It also covered collisions involving one or more SAPS or municipal police vehicles as well as mass actions where police officers were present. IPID did not track deaths resulting from torture, which it classified as murder. Watchdog groups noted deaths in custody often resulted from physical abuse combined with a lack of medical treatment or neglect (see section 1.c.).

Although government officials categorized few killings as politically motivated, media and NGOs claimed most were a result of intra-ANC disputes at the local level.

Because political killings remained high in Kwazulu Natal province, Premier Willies Mchunu established the Moerane Commission to investigate. The key political parties submitted evidence, and key figures testified. The commission identified ANC infighting and readily available hitmen as major contributing factors to the assassinations. The most notable killing was of former ANC Youth League secretary-general and uMzimkhulu (municipality) Councilor Sindiso Magaqa. He was shot 15 times in July and died in the hospital in September. Police said two suspects in the killing were in a shoot-out with police on September 1. One suspect died from gunshot wounds; the other remained hospitalized.

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, police officers reportedly tortured, beat, raped, and otherwise abused suspects. Amnesty International corroborated cases of torture, including the use of electric shock and suffocation. Police also assaulted detainees with batons, fists, and booted feet. To force confessions, police sometimes moved a nonviolent suspect under interrogation into the cell of violent criminals. Police allegedly ignored activities in the cell as the violent criminals intimidated, beat, or raped the suspect, after which police continued the interrogation. Police torture and physical abuse allegedly occurred during house searches, arrests, interrogations, and detentions; it sometimes resulted in death (see section 1.a).

From January to June, 61 incidents of torture by police officers were reported. A midterm report to parliament by IPID in June indicated there were 207 deaths from police action between January and June–a 30 percent increase over the first half of 2016. IPID noted in June that Gauteng province had the highest number of police brutality deaths in the year to date. One of the cases involved a six-year-old who allegedly died from pepper-spray used by police during a domestic violence intervention. According to the Gauteng Department of Community Safety, during the year no police officer was suspended or charged in connection with a police brutality death. In Free State province, 42 persons died in the first half of the year from police brutality; 20 persons died there in the first half of 2016.

The same mid-term report highlighted rapes by police officers. In the first half of the year there were 51 cases reported, allegedly committed by both on-duty and off-duty officers. According to the report, Gauteng had the highest number of officers allegedly involved in rapes, with 15 cases registered.

In July police investigated a gang rape after a group of men dressed in police uniforms attacked a woman at gunpoint in Johannesburg. No arrests were made. Investigations were ongoing.

Incidents of police harassment of foreigners continued. Refugee and migration advocacy organizations received reports police confiscated immigration and identity documents of foreign nationals, threatened them with arrest on spurious charges, and forced them to pay bribes to be released. This was most prevalent among individuals whose legal documentation was not renewed in a timely fashion, according to refugee advocacy organizations, including the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). There were also reports police required bribes to protect the businesses of foreigners threatened by xenophobic violence.

In August, Kingsley Ikeriwas, a Nigerian, was allegedly killed by police while being interrogated for possession of drugs. In an effort to extort information, the police placed a plastic bag over his head and suffocated him in the process. The businessman and member of the Nigerian Union in South Africa died in the hospital in Free State province.

In September another Nigerian, businessman Clement Ofoma, was arrested by police on suspicion of dealing drugs. According to his wife, police searched their house and his store but did not find any evidence. Police allegedly put a cellophane bag over his head, which caused him to lose consciousness. Ofoma later died in hospital.

As of November 28, the United Nations reported that it had received six allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against South African peacekeepers during the year. Three allegations of exploitative relationships and three allegations of the solicitation of transactional sex were made against members of the military contingent serving with the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As of November, three of the allegations were substantiated, resulting in repatriation; and three allegations were still pending investigation.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

According to the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), many of the country’s operational prisons did not meet international standards, and prison conditions did not always meet the country’s minimum legal requirements.

Physical Conditions: In January 2016 the national commissioner for correctional services appealed to government security agencies to reduce overcrowding in the country’s correctional facilities. This followed a ruling by the High Court in December 2016 that the Pollsmoor detention facility’s inmate population be reduced to 150 percent of capacity within six months. Some prisoners believed they would be taken further away from their families, and often relatives could not afford increased travel costs.

The Judicial Inspectorate of Correctional Services (JICS) received 811 complaints of assaults on prisoners by correctional officers from April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016. In addition to monitoring by its own employees, JICS appointed an Independent Correctional Center Visitor (ICCV) for each correctional center to monitor prison conditions. Authorities recorded and verified monthly ICCV visits in official registers kept at all correctional centers. The visitors submitted monthly reports to the inspecting judge, listing the number and duration of visits, the number of inmates interviewed, and the number and nature of inmate complaints. There were reports of shortages of prison doctors, inadequate investigation and documentation of prisoner deaths, inadequate monitoring of the prison population, high suicide rates among prisoners, and a lack of financial independence for JICS. Some detainees awaiting trial contracted HIV/AIDS through rape. Media and NGOs also reported prisoners were tortured.

According to the 2015-16 DCS annual report, the country’s correctional facilities held 159,331 prisoners in facilities designed to hold 119,134; the correctional system was 32 percent above capacity, up 3 percent from the previous year. Many prisoners had less than 13 square feet in which to eat, sleep, and spend 23 hours a day. To reduce overcrowding, the government transferred prisoners to facilities that were below capacity. JICS reported the prisoner transfer program resulted in a reduction in the number of prisons considered “critically overcrowded” (at more than 200 percent of capacity).

Prison overcrowding and poor living conditions, including lack of ventilation, contributed to the spread of disease, particularly tuberculosis.

According to its 2015-2016 annual report, DCS tested 98 percent of prisoners for HIV, dramatically improving testing over the previous year in which only 67 percent were tested. Prisons dispensed antiretroviral therapy, and 97 percent of HIV-positive prisoners received such therapy. In areas where prisons did not have medication, authorities took prisoners to local clinics to obtain it. There were no HIV screening programs on intake or discharge of prisoners, but the DCS conducted HIV prevention programs in prisons, including condom distribution, and awareness sessions throughout the country. NGOs such as the Aurum Institute, Society for Family Health, and South Africa Partners provided correctional centers with HIV testing and antiretroviral therapy. According to its 2015-2016 annual report, 21,722 inmates were placed on anti-retroviral treatment, and 199,750 inmates were voluntarily tested for HIV and informed of their status.

General health care in prisons was inadequate, and 7,574 inmates filed health-care complaints during the reporting year. Prisons provided inmates with potable water, but supplies and food were occasionally inadequate, and plumbing problems occurred, according to JICS.

The 2015-2016 DCS annual report noted prisons held 4,126 youth (individuals under age 25). Prisons sometimes held youth alongside adults, particularly in pretrial detention. Prisons generally held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners, although in some large urban areas dedicated pretrial facilities were available.

According to the JICS report, there were 1,273 prison deaths between April 1, 2015 and March 31, 2016–511 from natural causes, including HIV/AIDS–and the remainder due to suicides, assaults, or accidents. The JICS report drew a correlation between deaths from natural causes and overcrowding, noting that less crowded conditions would likely result in a decrease of natural deaths. Inmate violence sometimes resulted in deaths.

DCS required doctors to complete and sign reports of inmate deaths to lessen the likelihood that a death caused by neglect would be reported as natural. Nevertheless, DCS failed to investigate many deaths due to an insufficient number of doctors.

Prisons provided detainees in cells with felt mattresses and blankets. Most cells had toilets and basins but often lacked chairs, adequate light, and ventilation. Food, sanitation, and medical care in detention centers were similar to those in prisons.

Prisoners with mental illness sometimes failed to receive psychiatric care.

Administration: NGOs accused DCS of moving prisoners between facilities to prevent them from reporting abuse; DCS countered that the inmates were members of rival gangs and needed to be separated.

JICS recommended DCS have an ombudsman to address juvenile confinement and improve procedures to make confinement unnecessary, but DCS had not implemented the changes by year’s end.

Prisoners are generally able to practice their faiths. In June, Muslim inmates at the Tswelopele Correctional Service in Northern Cape complained they were forced to attend Christian gatherings. The Department of Correctional Services has denied the allegations.

Corruption among prison staff remained a problem (see section 4).

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions, including visits by human rights organizations, but organizations were required to apply for permission to gain access. Organizations could also request permission to visit prisons to conduct specific research.

JICS was the primary monitoring group for prisons but was not autonomous since the DCS controlled its budget. According to JICS, during the reporting year 309 ICCVs collectively handled 456,994 cases. NGOs claimed the failure of DCS to follow up on ICCV recommendations hindered the program’s effectiveness. They also claimed many ICCVs appeared to be fully captured by DCS and lacked independence in their oversight or reporting of abuses.

Local NGO Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) criticized conditions at the Lindell Repatriation Center, the country’s largest immigrant detention facility. According to LHR, detainees were subject to physical and verbal abuse, corruption and demands for bribes, insufficient food, lack of reading and writing materials, lack of access to recreational facilities or telephones, lack of access to and poor quality of medical care, indefinite detention without judicial review, and lack of procedural safeguards such as legal guidelines governing long-term detention.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but security forces arbitrarily arrested numerous persons during the year.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

SAPS has primary responsibility for internal security. The police commissioner has operational authority over police. The president appoints the police commissioner, but the minister of police supervises the commissioner. The South African National Defense Force, under the civilian-led Department of Defense, is responsible for external security but also has domestic security responsibilities, such as patrolling the borders. Border Control Operational Coordinating Committees–composed of representatives of SAPS, DHA (Department of Home Affairs), the defense force, the South African Revenue Service, the Department of Health, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Trade and Industry, the State Security Agency, and the Department of Environmental Affairs–are charged with overall migration and border enforcement. A committee representative is present at all land, air, and sea ports of entry to facilitate an interagency approach to border enforcement and migration management. The departments each have a representative at major border crossings; regional representatives covered lesser border crossings. The SAPS Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the “Hawks”) coordinates efforts against organized crime, priority crimes, and official corruption. Despite continued efforts to professionalize, SAPS remained understaffed, ill equipped, and poorly trained. Corruption continued to be a problem (see section 4).

The government investigated and prosecuted security force members who committed abuses, although there were numerous reports of police impunity, including of high-ranking members. IPID investigates complaints and makes recommendations to SAPS and to the NPA on which cases to prosecute. IPID examines all SAPS killings and evaluates whether they occurred in the line of duty and if they were justifiable. IPID also investigates cases of police abuse, although it was unable to fulfill its mandate due to funding shortages, inadequate cooperation by police, and lack of investigative capacity. When it did complete investigations, the NPA often declined to prosecute cases involving criminal actions by police and rarely obtained convictions. In cases in which IPID recommended disciplinary action, SAPS often failed to follow IPID disciplinary recommendations.

The law provides IPID with additional enforcement powers and requires SAPS and metropolitan police departments to report any suspected legal violations by their own officers to IPID. The law criminalizes the failure to report wrongdoing; in 2016-2017, IPID recorded 62 cases in which SAPS or metropolitan police departments failed to report wrongdoing to IPID.

Security forces failed to prevent or adequately respond to societal violence, particularly in response to attacks on foreigners (see sections 2.d. and 6).

Officers from SAPS and metropolitan police departments received training in ethics, human rights, corruption, sexual offenses, domestic violence, gender violence, and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons. Training, however, was inconsistent. Many officers went years between refresher courses. SAPS also provided officers with access to social workers, psychologists, and chaplains. SAPS investigations of gender-based violence crimes and crimes against LGBTI individuals were often insufficient. For example, the minister of police ordered an investigation into the handling of a murder case of a man killing his girlfriend in Limpopo. Instead of arresting the suspect, detectives waited for him to turn himself in. The deceased’s sister alleged that the suspect bribed police with food to avoid arrest. The case continued at year’s end.

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.

Human rights groups, judges, and judicial scholars expressed concern about the Criminal Procedure Second Amendment Act that allows pretrial detention of children and prohibits bail in certain cases. Some judges also expressed concern that police and the courts often construed the exercise of the right to remain silent as an admission of guilt.

Arbitrary Arrest: During the year there were numerous cases of arbitrary arrest, particularly of foreign workers, asylum seekers, and refugees.

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.

NGOs and media outlets reported security forces arbitrarily arrested migrants and asylum seekers–even those with documentation–often because police were unfamiliar with asylum documentation. In some cases police threatened documented migrants and asylum seekers with indefinite detention and bureaucratic hurdles unless they paid bribes to obtain quick adjudication of their cases. The law prohibits the detention of unaccompanied migrant children for immigration violations, but immigrant rights NGOs reported that DHA and SAPS nevertheless detained them.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was common. According to the DCS 2015-2016 annual report, there were 45,043 pretrial detainees in the prison system. Police held approximately 1,678 detainees for more than two years (fewer than the 1,889 from the previous reporting year). According to the DCS 2015-2016 report, detainees waited an average of 176 days before trial. Observers attributed the high rate of pretrial detention to arrests without substantial evidence, 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 prosecutors failed to convict 60 percent of those arrested. The law requires a review of pretrial detention once it exceeds two years.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested, regardless of whether on criminal or other grounds, are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention and obtain prompt release and compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained. These rights, however, do not apply to undocumented residents in the country.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence. The judiciary, however, was understaffed and underfunded. There were numerous reports that legal documents used in trials were lost, particularly when the accused was a government official. Civil society alleged judicial corruption was a problem, although there were no proven cases of corruption during the year. According to the presidentially mandated Criminal Justice System Working Group (composed of ministers and deputy ministers), two-thirds of the estimated two million criminal cases reported annually never resulted in verdicts.

The government sometimes ignored orders from provincial high courts.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

Criminal defendants enjoy a legal presumption of innocence. The constitutional bill of rights provides for due process and equal protection. The law requires police to inform detainees promptly and in detail of the charges against them, but this did not always occur, nor did police always accurately complete the charge sheets. The law requires the government to provide interpretation in all 11 official languages but this was dependent on the availability and cost of interpreters. Interpretation standards were low and sometimes compromised the veracity of exchange between the defendant and the court. Judges sometimes transferred cases from rural to urban areas to access interpreters more easily. Limited access to qualified interpreters sometimes delayed trials. Judges and magistrates hear criminal cases and determine guilt or innocence. The law requires that a panel of lay assessors and a magistrate hear cases involving murder, rape, robbery, indecent assault, and assault leading to serious bodily harm. The two assessors may overrule magistrates on questions of fact. Magistrates also may use assessors in an advisory capacity in adjudicating bail applications and sentences.

Detainees and defendants have the right to legal counsel provided and funded by the state when “substantial injustice would otherwise result,” but this right was limited due to a general lack of information regarding rights to legal representation and the government’s inability to adequately budget for such services. Defendants have the right to be present in court and may question witnesses in court and present their own witnesses and evidence. Every accused person has a right to a fair public trial, including the right to have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. There is no automatic right to appeal unless the accused is younger than age 16, but courts may give defendants permission to do so. Additionally, the law requires a judge to review automatically all prison sentences longer than three months.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

The opposition Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) maintained the government had imprisoned 384 of its members since 1994 for political reasons, although international human rights organizations did not list these persons as political prisoners or detainees. In 2010 President Zuma announced he approved 154 and rejected 230 IFP applications for pardon. Following the president’s announcement, the government considered and rejected an additional six cases. The presidency continued to consider the remaining pardon requests on a case-by-case basis. In 2015 the Department of Justice announced it forwarded to the president additional recommendations for pardons for IFP members, but no additional pardons were granted by year’s end. Albert Mncwango, a former IFP member of parliament and now the mayor of Nongoma, claimed the president had no interest in resolving this matter despite assurances from the minister of justice the issue of IFP pardons was a priority.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations, although they may not appeal decisions to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, because the government has not made the obligatory declaration to accept the competence of the court. The government did not always comply with court decisions.

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

The law prohibits such actions, but magistrates issued search warrants despite inadequate evidence. The constitution contains an explicit right to privacy, but the 2013 General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill authorizes the interception of electronic communications known as “foreign signals intelligence” without a warrant.

The Promotion of Access to Information Act allows any person to access information from the government or any other individual for the exercise or protection of any right. Authorities could also use the act to obtain personal information in connection with criminal investigations. Opposition parties and human rights NGOs objected that its broadly defined provision enables the government to access an individual’s personal information.

Yemen

Executive Summary

Yemen is a republic with a constitution that provides for a president, a parliament, and an independent judiciary. In 2012 former vice president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi was chosen by the governing and opposition parties as the sole consensus candidate for president. Two-thirds of the country’s eligible voters went to the polls to confirm Hadi as president, with a two-year mandate. The transitional government he headed sought to expand political participation to excluded groups, including women, youth, and minorities. In 2014 Houthi forces aligned with forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh occupied the capital Sana’a, igniting a three-year civil war between Houthi forces and the Hadi government that continued through year’s end.

Civilian authorities did not maintain effective control over the security forces. Houthi-Saleh rebels controlled most of the security apparatus and state institutions. Competing family, tribal, party, and sectarian influences also reduced government authority.

In 2014 the Houthi uprising compelled the Hadi government to sign a UN-brokered peace deal calling for a “unity government.” The Hadi government resigned after Houthi forces seized the presidential palace in January 2015. In February 2015 Houthi-Saleh forces dissolved parliament, replacing it with the Supreme Revolutionary Committee, allied with the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s General People’s Congress (GPC) party. Hadi escaped house arrest and fled to Aden, where he declared all actions taken in Sana’a unconstitutional, reaffirmed his position as president, pledged to uphold the principles of the 2014 National Dialogue Conference, and called on the international community to protect Yemen’s political process. In March 2015 Houthi forces launched an offensive in southern Yemen and entered Aden, forcing Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia. In March 2015 a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia initiated Operation “Decisive Storm” on behalf of the Hadi government. The Saudi-led coalition continued air and ground operations against the Houthi-Saleh rebels throughout 2017. On December 2, Saleh publicly split from the Houthis and welcomed cooperation with the coalition; he was killed by Houthi forces two days later.

The most significant human rights issues attributable to the Houti-Saleh rebels, and sometimes to the government authorities or various armed actors in the country, included extrajudicial killings; forced disappearances and kidnappings; reports of torture; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; arbitrary infringements on privacy rights; repression of the freedoms of expression, the press, assembly, and association; the inability of citizens to choose their government through free and fair elections; pervasive corruption; criminalization of same sex sexual conduct, although the law was not enforced; recruitment and use of child soldiers; and trafficking in persons, including forced labor.

The Hadi government took steps to investigate, prosecute and punish officials who committed human rights abuses; however, impunity was persistent and pervasive. Houthi-Saleh influence over government institutions severely reduced the Hadi government’s capacity to conduct investigations.

Nonstate actors, including Houthi-Saleh rebels, tribal militias, militant secessionist elements, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and a local branch of ISIS, reportedly committed significant abuses. Few actions led to prosecutions. Saudi-led coalition airstrikes resulted in civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure on multiple occasions. Hadi government and coalition delays or denials of permits for commercial and aid shipments bound for rebel-held ports, as well as actions by Houthi rebels and others, disrupted aid delivery on the ground.

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

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

There were numerous reports that current or former members of the security forces committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Politically motivated killings by nonstate actors, including Houthi-Saleh rebel forces and terrorist and insurgent groups claiming affiliation with AQAP or ISIS, increased significantly during the year (see section 1.g.).

In June, the Mwatana Organization for Human Rights (Mwatana) reported that individuals in the Ministry of Interior’s Special Security Forces (SSF), led by Houthi-Saleh rebels, detained a 26-year-old man in Sana’a in November 2016 and imprisoned him in the Criminal Investigation Department. The man was held incommunicado for four days, after which a prison supervisor told his family the man had committed suicide and that his body was at the morgue. A forensic report obtained by Mwatana concluded that, although the man died from a gunshot wound, his hands showed no traces of gunpowder or blood spray. There were also indications of severe abuse.

On May 14, an unidentified gunman killed a law student in an internet cafe in Aden. Al-Hizam, a local Islamist security force aligned with southern secessionist groups, accused the student of apostasy and threatened Aden residents not to attend his funeral.

b. Disappearance

During the year there were reports of politically motivated disappearances and kidnappings of individuals associated with political parties, NGOs, and media outlets critical of government security forces and the Houthi movement (see section 1.g.). Houthi-Saleh rebels and their allies sometimes detained civilian family members of government security officials. Nonstate actors targeted and detained foreigners, including those believed to be working for foreign diplomatic missions.

The government’s National Commission to Investigate Alleged Violations to Human Rights (NCIAVHR) received 1,037 allegations of arbitrary arrest and enforced disappearances from September 2016 to June.

Many unofficial groups abducted persons to achieve specific goals. In September, Mwatana reported Houthi authorities carried out eight enforced disappearances and that forces led by the Hadi government carried out two others during the period from September 2016 to July.

In October 2016 media outlets reported that an Australian soccer coach working in Sana’a appeared in a video claiming to have been kidnapped by an unnamed group. He was released in May.

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

The constitution prohibits torture and other such abuses. Although the law lacks a comprehensive definition of torture, there are provisions allowing prison terms of up to 10 years for acts of torture.

Torture and other forms of mistreatment were common in Houthi-Saleh detention facilities and by Houthi-Saleh rebels, according to NCIAVHR. The commission stated it received reports of 386 cases of torture from September 2016 to June.

In June Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Associated Press both reported claims of torture by Hadrami Elite and Security Belt forces, tribal fighters aligned with the Hadi-led government and supervised by United Arab Emirates (UAE) security personnel in Mukalla and Aden. These forces reportedly abducted dozens of Yemenis to secret detention centers run by the UAE, where they were tortured. Accounts of torture included tying detainees to a pole and rotating them in a circle of fire, electric shocks, and beatings. The UAE government denied the existence of secret detention centers and the use of torture on prisoners during interrogation. The Hadi-led government ordered a six-member committee to investigate the reports of torture and abuses.

According to Mwatana, Security Belt forces detained a lost 15-year-old boy in December 2016 seeking help at a security checkpoint. The forces accused him of espionage for AQAP and drug use. Security Belt officers beat and burned him before releasing him in January.

Security Belt Forces detained another man in January 2016 and reportedly attempted to coerce a confession of AQAP ties by putting sand in his mouth, eyes, and ears and putting out cigarettes on his body. He was released in March.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were harsh and life threatening and did not meet international standards. The Hadi-led government exercised very limited control over prison facilities. In past years, government officials and NGOs identified overcrowding, lack of professional training for corrections officials, poor sanitation, inadequate access to justice, intermingling of pretrial and convicted inmates, lack of effective case management, lack of funding, and deteriorating infrastructure as problems within the 18 central prisons and 25 reserve prisons (also known as pretrial detention centers). Authorities held prisoners with physical or mental disabilities with the general population without special accommodations. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported during the year that conditions of detention facilities deteriorated, including overcrowding, damaged buildings, and shortages of food and medicine.

In 2014 Houthi-Saleh rebels began seizing control of most prisons and released many convicted criminals; they also engineered several jailbreaks from facilities they did not control. Under Houthi-Saleh rebel management, prisons and other places of detention failed to meet minimum health or hygiene standards, according to monitors from the state-affiliated Yemeni Coalition to Monitor Human Rights Violations who visited Houthi-run facilities in Sana’a in 2015. According to the OHCHR, Houthi-Saleh rebel-affiliated tribal militias, known locally as popular committees, operated at least eight detention facilities in Sana’a, including Habra in the al-Shu’aub District, Hataresh in the Bani Hashaysh District, and al-Thawra and the House of Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar in Haddah.

Tribes in rural areas operated unauthorized “private” detention centers based on traditional tribal justice. Tribal leaders sometimes placed “problem” tribesmen in private jails, sometimes simply rooms in a sheikh’s house, to punish them for noncriminal actions. Tribal authorities often detained persons for personal or tribal reasons without trial or judicial sentencing.

Physical Conditions: The continuing armed conflict negatively affected the condition of prisons. Observers described most prisons, particularly in rural areas, as overcrowded with poor sanitary conditions, inadequate food and access to potable water, and inadequate medical care. Limited information was available on prison populations during the year.

Prior to the outbreak of the conflict, local NGOs reported that prison authorities held juveniles with adults in some rural and women’s prisons as well as in some prisons in the capital. By custom, young children and infants born in prison remained in custody with their mothers until age nine. Prison authorities performed pregnancy tests on all female prisoners upon entry into a facility. Prisons segregated male and female adult prisoners.

Political prisoners reportedly faced torture, abuse, and other forms of mistreatment, while all prisoners experienced harsh physical conditions. Houthi-Saleh rebels reportedly hung detainees upside down, beat them repeatedly, and pulled their hair, according to former detainees.

No credible statistics were available on the number of inmate deaths during the year (see section 1.a.).

Administration: Limited information was available on prison administration since the Houthi-Saleh rebel takeover in 2014. Poor recordkeeping and a lack of communication between prisons and the government made it difficult for authorities to estimate accurately the size of the prison population.

In 2014 the NGO National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms (HOOD) claimed that bribery and corruption played major roles in prison mismanagement and that prisoners who paid bribes received better services and benefits. Many prisoners faced prolonged stays in detention beyond their sentences if they or their families could not pay fines or bribes.

There was no ombudsman to serve on behalf of prisoners and detainees. Under past practice, prisoners could submit complaints to judicial authorities; according to NGO reports, authorities largely ignored such complaints. Authorities generally allowed visitors to see prisoners and detainees when family members knew a detainee’s location but granted limited access to family members of those accused of security offenses. They generally allowed prisoners and detainees to engage in religious observances.

According to a November 2016 HRW report, the general prosecutor of the Houthi-Saleh-controlled Ministry of Justice ordered investigations into alleged abuses and the release of dozens of detainees held by Houthi and Saleh forces. In most cases, however, prison and police authorities ignored the orders and often blocked access to prisons by officials tasked with overseeing detainees. Saleh al-Sammad, president of the rebel-backed Supreme Political Council, issued a decree in September 2016 providing amnesty to those who had helped the Saudi-led coalition. There was little information, however, on whether the Houthi-Saleh rebels effectively implemented the decree.

Independent Monitoring: The continuing conflict prevented substantial prison monitoring by independent human rights observers.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but both continued to occur. The law prohibits arrests or serving subpoenas between sundown and dawn, but local NGOs reported that authorities took some persons suspected of crimes from their homes at night without warrants. Ministry of Interior security forces remained largely under the control of Houthi rebels as of year’s end.

The OHCHR reported 235 arbitrary or illegal detentions by Houthi-Saleh affiliates between January and June and 76 by progovernment affiliates.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The primary state security and intelligence-gathering entities, the Political Security Organization (PSO) and the National Security Bureau (NSB), came under Houthi-Saleh rebel control in 2014, although their structure and operations appeared to remain the same. The Hadi-led government, however, maintained its own appointments to the PSO and NSB in the parts of the country under government control. By law the PSO and NSB report first to the interior minister and then to the president. The relationship and coordination efforts between the PSO and NSB were unclear. The law charges the PSO with identifying and combating political crimes and acts of sabotage. There was no clear definition of many of the NSB’s duties.

The Criminal Investigation Division reports to the Ministry of Interior and conducted most criminal investigations and arrests. The ministry’s paramilitary SSF, often responsible for crowd control, was under the direct authority of the interior minister, as was the counterterrorism unit. The Ministry of Defense also employed units under its formal supervision to quell domestic unrest and to participate in internal armed conflicts.

Impunity for security officials remained a problem, in part because the Hadi-led government exercised limited authority and in part due to the lack of effective mechanisms to investigate and prosecute abuse and corruption. The SSF, the Yemen Special Operations Forces, the Presidential Guard (formerly the Republican Guard), the NSB, and other security organizations ostensibly reported to civilian authorities in the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defense, and Office of the President. Civilian control of these agencies continued to deteriorate, however, as regional efforts to promote national reconciliation stalled. Exacerbating the problem of impunity, interest groups–including former president Saleh’s family and other tribal and party entities–expanded their influence over security agencies, often through unofficial channels rather than through the formal command structure.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Since its relocation in 2015, the Hadi-led government lost control over much of the court or prison systems, and both systems deteriorated. The law provides that authorities cannot arrest individuals unless they are apprehended while committing a criminal act or being served with a summons. In addition, authorities must arraign a detainee within 24 hours or release him. The judge or prosecuting attorney, who decides whether detention is required, must inform the accused of the basis for the arrest. The law stipulates authorities may not hold a detainee longer than seven days without a court order. There was no confirmed information on whether the law was respected during the year.

The law contains provisions for bail, but no information was available on its application; in the past, some authorities allowed bail only if they received a bribe. The law prohibits incommunicado detention, provides detainees the right to inform their families of their arrest, and allows detainees to decline to answer questions without an attorney present, but no information was available on whether authorities respected these provisions; in the past, authorities did not always respect these rights. The law states the government must provide attorneys for indigent detainees, but no information was available on whether this occurred; in the past, the government often did not do so. Tribal mediators commonly settled rural cases without reference to the formal court system.

Detainees often did not know which investigating agency arrested them, and the agencies frequently complicated matters by unofficially transferring custody of individuals between entities. Prior to the rebel takeover, security forces routinely detained relatives of fugitives as hostages until the fugitive was located. Authorities stated they detained relatives only when the relatives obstructed justice, but human rights organizations rejected this claim.

Arbitrary Arrest: Houthi-Saleh rebels who seized power over government institutions routinely practiced arbitrary arrest. Prior to the outbreak of conflict, authorities did not record many detainees’ names, did not transfer some detainees to official detention centers, and arrested and released many detainees multiple times during the year. In many areas, Houthi-Saleh forces and their allies arbitrarily detained persons and kept them in temporary prisons, including at military sites. Other nonstate actors also arbitrarily detained persons. NGOs reported that Houthi-Saleh rebel forces denied detainees family visits or legal representation.

In August 2016 Amnesty International reported that Houthi-Saleh-controlled NSB officers arbitrarily arrested and detained 65 individuals from a Bahai youth workshop in Sana’a. One of those arrested remained imprisoned at year’s end (see section 1.e.).

Pretrial Detention: Very limited information was available on pretrial detention practices during the year. Prior to the outbreak of the conflict, international monitoring organizations estimated that one-half of the detainees held by the Ministry of Interior either awaited trial or were pending investigation. Prolonged detentions without charge or, if charged, without a public preliminary judicial hearing within a reasonable time were common practices, despite their prohibition by law. Staff shortages, judicial inefficiency, and corruption caused trial delays.

Hamed Kamal bin Haydara, a Bahai, remained in detention at year’s end after several court hearings were postponed during the year. The NSB detained him in 2013, reportedly for apostasy, proselytizing, and spying for Israel. Bin Haydara reported authorities tortured him during the first 45 days of his detention. After their takeover, Houthi-Saleh rebels kept him imprisoned and continued court proceedings against him.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Information was limited on whether persons arrested or detained were entitled to challenge the legal basis of their detention in court. The law provides that authorities must arraign a detainee within 24 hours or release him. It also provides that the judge or prosecuting attorney must inform the accused of the basis for the arrest. The Hadi government, however, lacked the capacity to enforce the law.

Mwatana claimed that those detained by the Houthi-Saleh rebels were often not informed of the charges against them. In some cases, detainees who were issued release orders from the Houthi-controlled courts had yet to be released.

HRW noted that in several cases in which individuals disappeared into detention centers allegedly run by UAE-supervised forces in the South, the Aden prosecutor’s office issued release orders that were not respected.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but under Houthi-Saleh control, the judiciary was weak and hampered by corruption, political interference, and lack of proper legal training. Judges’ social and political affiliations and occasional bribery influenced verdicts. The government’s lack of capacity and reluctance at times to enforce court orders, especially outside of cities, undermined the credibility of the judiciary. Criminals threatened and harassed members of the judiciary to influence cases. NCIAVHR stated it received reports of 693 cases of extrajudicial prosecution from September 2016 to June.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law considers defendants innocent until proven guilty. Trials were generally public, but all courts may conduct closed sessions “for reasons of public security or morals.” Judges, who play an active role in questioning witnesses and the accused, adjudicate criminal cases. Defendants have the right to be present and to consult with an attorney in a timely manner. Defendants can confront or question witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence on their behalf. The law provides for the government to furnish attorneys for indigent defendants in serious criminal cases, but no information was available on whether this occurred; in the past, the government did not always provide counsel in such cases. The law allows defense attorneys to counsel their clients, address the court, and examine witnesses and any relevant evidence. Defendants have the right to appeal and could not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. There was limited information available regarding respect for due process.

A court of limited jurisdiction considers security cases. A specialized criminal court, the State Security Court, operated under different procedures in closed sessions and did not provide defendants the same rights provided in the regular courts. Defense lawyers reportedly did not have full access to their clients’ charges or court files. The lack of birth registration compounded difficulties in proving age, which reportedly led courts to sentence juveniles as adults, including for crimes eligible for death sentences (see section 6, Children).

In addition to established courts, there is a tribal justice system for noncriminal issues. Tribal judges, usually respected sheikhs, often also adjudicated criminal cases under tribal law, which usually involved public accusation without the formal filing of charges. Tribal mediation often emphasized social cohesion more than punishment. The public often respected the outcomes of tribal processes more than the formal court system, which was seen by many as corrupt and lacking independence.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were numerous reports of political prisoners and detainees. Following their takeover of state institutions, rebels detained activists, journalists, demonstration leaders, and other political figures representing various political groups and organizations opposed to the Houthi-Saleh rebels. They did not charge detainees publicly, and they severely restricted or barred information to and access by local or international human rights organizations. NGOs claimed that, absent public charges, it was often difficult to determine whether authorities held detainees for criminal or political activity.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The law provides a limited ability to pursue civil remedies for human rights violations as tort claims against private persons. There were no reports of such efforts during the year. Citizens cannot sue the government directly but may petition the public prosecutor to initiate an investigation.

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

The law prohibits these actions, but authorities continued such interference. According to human rights NGOs, rebel security actors searched homes and private offices, monitored telephone calls, read personal mail and email, and otherwise intruded into personal matters without legally issued warrants or judicial supervision.

Prior to and throughout the continuing conflict, the attorney general was required personally to authorize telephone-call monitoring and reading of personal mail and email; information was not available on whether this practice continued.

Citizens may not marry a foreigner without permission from the Ministry of Interior, the NSB, and, in some instances, the PSO, under a regulation authorities enforced arbitrarily. The ministry typically approved marriages to foreigners if they provided a letter from their embassy stating that the government of the non-Yemeni spouse had no objection to the marriage and presented a marriage contract signed by a judge. Bribes frequently facilitated approval. There was no available information on current practice.

g. Abuses in Internal Conflict

In 2014 Houthi-Saleh rebels took control of the capital and occupied many government offices, precipitating the relocation of President Hadi and his government in 2015. The ensuing conflict continued as of year’s end. The UN-led peace process included attempts to reestablish a cessation of hostilities at intervals throughout the year. These efforts made no progress, and the conflict continued to escalate. Throughout the year, the Saudi-led coalition continued military operations against Houthi-Saleh rebels, including an active military role by the UAE.

The Hadi-led government re-established a presence in Aden and additional areas in the South in 2016. Prime Minister Ahmed Bin Dagher and part of the cabinet remained in Aden, with some cabinet members also present in Marib. President Hadi remained abroad in Saudi Arabia.

Throughout the year, clashes occurred as warring parties lost and regained territory. The military’s loyalty was divided among numerous local actors. Armed clashes expanded to several areas of the country among Houthi-Saleh rebels, supporters of the Islah Party (Sunni Islamist) and the Rashad Party (Salafi), armed separatists affiliated with the southern separatist movement Hirak tribal forces, progovernment resistance forces, and some Saudi-led coalition ground forces, with participation by elements of the Hadi-led government’s armed forces. Terrorist groups, including AQAP, carried out many deadly attacks against government representatives and installations, Houthi combatants, members of Hirak, and other actors accused of behavior violating sharia law.

Yemeni and international observers criticized all parties to the conflict for civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure resulting from shelling and airstrikes.

As a result of the fighting, the humanitarian situation in the country deteriorated significantly, with 8.4 million people at potential risk for famine and a reported 80 percent of the country’s population requiring humanitarian assistance by year’s end, according to the United Nations. An estimated three million Yemenis remained internally displaced during the year. The United Nations estimated that only 55 percent of health facilities remained functional.

Yemen suffered from two cholera outbreaks, the first in October 2016 and the second in April. The World Health Organization reported more than 964,000 suspected cases and more than 2,220 deaths since April.

Killings: While information on civilian casualties was incomplete–especially with the closure of many health facilities during the year due to insecurity and the lack of supplies–NGOs, media outlets, and humanitarian and international organizations reported what they characterized as disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by all parties to the continuing conflict.

At least 5,000 civilians, including 1,120 children, were killed and more than 8,700 injured in the conflict from March 2015 until August 2017, according to the OHCHR. The OHCHR further estimated there were more air strikes in the first half of the year than in all of 2016, resulting in an increase in the number of civilian deaths and a worsening humanitarian emergency. Civilian casualties also resulted from shelling by Houthi-Saleh rebels and their affiliated popular committees. Other deaths resulted from attacks and killings by armed groups, including AQAP and ISIS.

Near year’s end in November and December, Houthi militias fired two ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia over Riyadh. Saudi media reported that more than 370 Saudi civilians have been killed in Houthi attacks along the Saudi Arabia-Yemen border since March 2015.

The Saudi-led coalition airstrikes reportedly resulted in civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure on multiple occasions. The United Nations and NGOs, including HRW and Amnesty International, voiced serious concerns regarding Saudi-led coalition activities, claiming some coalition airstrikes were indiscriminate and caused disproportionate collateral impact on civilians. Coalition sources sometimes reported that damage in a given explosive incident resulted not from airstrikes but from shelling by Houthi-Saleh rebel forces; there were often contrary claims by pro-Houthi media. Due to continuing fighting, there was limited opportunity for postincident forensic investigations.

According to HRW, on March 16, a helicopter fired on a civilian boat in the Red Sea near Hudaydah that was carrying predominantly Somali citizens, including many refugees and migrants. There were 42 casualties, including women and children. Both the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi-Saleh forces denied responsibility for the attack; a UN investigation attributed responsibility to the Saudi-led coalition.

Reuters and several local media sources reported that, on June 17, two Saudi-led coalition air raids killed at least 25 civilians in al-Mashnaq market in the Shada District of the Sa’ada Governorate.

On July 18, the OHCHR reported a Saudi-led coalition airstrike killed at least 18 civilians, including 10 children in al-Asheerah village in Taiz. The three families in the house were internally displaced persons who moved due to airstrikes in their home village.

The coalition’s Joint Incident Assessment Team, based in Riyadh and consisting of 14 military and civilian members from coalition member states, investigated some incidents of airstrikes that reportedly resulted in civilian casualties and concluded that facilities hit during the year were targeted as legitimate military facilities.

Abductions: In its August report, the OHCHR stated it verified 491 cases of abduction and “deprivation of liberty” since July 2015. Of these, 89 percent were allegedly committed by the popular committees or tribal militias, 6 percent by AQAP affiliates, and 5 percent by the popular resistance committees or armed groups. The OHCHR reported that, as of March 24, some 249 individuals, including 18 journalists, were reportedly detained without cause in detention facilities throughout the country. Tribal groups were also responsible for kidnappings for ransom, as were other nonstate actors, such as AQAP (see section 1.b.).

Local press reports and activists also alleged that coalition and local forces abducted, arbitrarily detained, and mistreated individuals, including those without apparent ties to terrorist organizations, as part of their counterterrorism efforts in the Mukalla area.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: The NCIAVHR claimed to have received 386 cases involving torture from September 2016 to June (see section 1.c.).

Following a visit to Aden early in the year, HRW reported in an April statement that Houthi-Saleh forces used land mines in six governorates, including in residential areas, which appear to have killed and maimed hundreds of civilians since the conflict began.

In February the Yemen Executive Mine Action Center (YEMAC) found and cleared improvised mines on civilian roads near the port city of Mokha in Taiz governorate, from which Houthi-Saleh forces had recently withdrawn. HRW reported that AQAP has also used landmines.

Between July 2015 and March 2, YEMAC’s southern branch reportedly found and destroyed 65,272 landmines, including 20,807 antipersonnel landmines, attributed to Houthi-Saleh forces and AQAP in Aden, Abyan, Lahj, al-Dhale, and Taiz.

Child Soldiers: Although law and government policy expressly forbid the practice, children under the age of 18 directly participated in armed conflict for government, tribal, and militant forces, primarily as guards and couriers. Nearly one-third of the combatants in the country were younger than 18, by some estimates. The lack of a consistent system for birth registration compounded difficulties in proving age, which at times contributed to the recruitment of minors into the military. In September the OHCHR reported 1,702 verified cases of recruitment and use of child soldiers since March 2015, of which 67 percent were attributed to Houthi-Saleh forces and 20 percent to progovernment forces.

During the year the Houthis and other armed groups, including tribal and Islamist militias and AQAP, increased their recruitment, training, and deployment of children as participants in the conflict.

A February Amnesty International report found that the Houthis actively recruited boys as young as 15 to fight as child soldiers. According to the report, Houthi representatives ran local centers where young boys and men were encouraged to fight. One source said the Houthis imposed recruitment quotas on local representatives.

Tribes, including some armed and financed by the government to fight alongside the regular army, used underage recruits in combat zones, according to reports by international NGOs, such as Save the Children. Houthi-Saleh rebels routinely used children to staff checkpoints, act as human shields, or serve as suicide bombers. Combatants reportedly involved married boys between the ages of 12 and 15 in fighting in the northern tribal areas; tribal custom considered married boys as adults who owe allegiance to the tribe. As a result, according to international and local human rights NGOs, one-half of tribal fighters were youths under 18. Other observers noted that tribes rarely placed boys in harm’s way but used them as guards rather than fighters.

The UN Security Council Panel of Experts on Yemen reported in January 2016 that young men and child combatants of all local fighting groups in Aden were reportedly subject to rape upon capture.

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

Other Conflict-related Abuse: All parties to the conflict routinely imposed severe restrictions on movements of people, goods, and humanitarian assistance. Food insecurity, fuel shortages, damage to local infrastructure, and lack of access for humanitarian organizations to vulnerable populations contributed to the deteriorating humanitarian situation.

The Houthi-Saleh militias’ forceful takeover and misadministration of government institutions led to dire economic consequences–nonpayment of workers’ wages and allegations of widespread corruption, including at checkpoints controlled by Houthi-Saleh militias–that severely affected the distribution of food aid and exacerbated food insecurity.

The government, the coalition, or both delayed or denied clearance permits for humanitarian and commercial aid shipments bound for rebel-held Red Sea ports. After a Houthi ballistic missile attack was intercepted over the Riyadh airport on November 4, the Saudi-led coalition blocked all air, sea, and land crossings in and out of Yemen, ceasing all commercial imports and humanitarian aid into the country for more than two weeks. The Saudi-led coalition reversed this action on December 20, allowing ports, including the critical Red Sea port of Hudaydah, to reopen.

Militias held trucks containing food, medical supplies, and aid equipment at checkpoints and prevented them from entering major cities.

There were reports of attacks on health-care facilities and health-care workers. The September OHCHR report for Yemen noted that, according to the World Health Organization, as of October 2016, at least 274 health facilities had been damaged or destroyed by fighting, 13 health workers killed, and 31 injured while performing their duties.

In January the UN Security Council Panel of Experts found that all parties to the conflict–the Saudi-led coalition, the Houthi-Saleh military alliance, and forces associated with the government of Yemen–committed or contributed to violations against hospitals. The panel recorded three incidents in Taiz in which armed men threatened hospital staff and disrupted life-saving treatment to demand treatment first for their wounded.

There were reports of the use of civilians to shield combatants. Houthi-Saleh forces reportedly used captives as human shields at military encampments and ammunition depots under threat of coalition airstrikes.