Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
There were several reports security force members committed arbitrary and unlawful killings through excessive use of force in the execution of official duties, as a result of personal grievances, or through torture or other abuse of detainees. A June report by Amnesty International (AI) documented the deaths of six persons in custody following torture or mistreatment and the deaths of an additional four individuals in custody whose cause of death was unknown. Civil society organizations and newspapers generally blamed members of the three primary security forces–the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR), the Motorized Infantry Battalion, and the gendarmerie–as being responsible for the deaths.
On March 25, Moupen Moussa, a motorbike rider, allegedly died at a Secretary of State for Defense (SED) detention facility after gendarmes severely beat him for failing to produce his national identity card. According to reports, Moussa and another motorbike rider were returning from work late at night when a gendarme from the joint control unit stopped them and asked for identification. The officer physically abused Moupen and took the two to an SED facility, where gendarmes allegedly stripped them and beat them with a belt and baton. The gendarmes eventually released the second man after Moupen died. As of April 5, the responsible gendarmerie officer was allegedly in custody awaiting trial.
The terrorist network Boko Haram continued killing civilians, including members of vigilance committees and members of defense and security forces in the Far North Region. As of September 30, Boko Haram carried out at least 113 attacks in the Far North Region, which killed at least 262 civilians, 30 vigilance committee members, and at least six soldiers. There were numerous examples of abuses, such as the following: on January 13, a suicide bomber killed 13 during prayers at the Kouyape mosque, Kolofata subdivision, in the Far North Region.
Some abuses committed in 2014 and 2015 became public during the year. According to AI’s June report, at least five of the 15 men arrested and brought to the Salak military base following a raid in Bornori in November 2014 died in custody, some as a result of torture inflicted by the BIR.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. Nevertheless, there continued to be reports of arrests and disappearances of individuals by security forces in the Far North Region. In its June report, AI reconfirmed earlier reporting that since December 2014 at least 130 individuals arrested in Magdeme and Double remained unaccounted for. As of September 30, there was no news of the whereabouts of most of them. In its 2016 report, AI stated it had documented 17 additional cases of suspected enforced disappearances of persons accused of supporting Boko Haram committed by security forces in the Far North Region between April 2015 and February. As of June AI had not received a response to requests submitted to authorities about their whereabouts.
Boko Haram insurgents kidnapped civilians, including women and children, during numerous attacks in the Far North Region. Some of the victims remained unaccounted for.
Although the constitution and law prohibit such practices, there were reports that security force members tortured, beat, harassed, or otherwise abused citizens. According to credible nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), soldiers, police, and gendarmes tortured persons inside and outside detention facilities. Police, gendarmerie, and BIR officials reportedly detained and tortured persons in temporary holding cells in police, gendarmerie, and BIR facilities, and in cells located at the Directorate General for External Research (DGRE).
Police reportedly tortured detainees. For example, on February 4, Eyebe Levodo died while in detention at the legal department of the court of first instance in Yaounde. According to newspaper and NGO reporting, members of the regional delegation of judicial police arrested Eyebe on January 30 in the Yaounde neighborhood of Tongolo on suspicion of membership in a criminal gang. Police officers detained Eyebe on February 4 and referred him to the public prosecutor, a few hours prior to his death. At the mortuary of Yaounde central hospital, observers reported seeing bruises on his neck, wrists, shoulders, arms, ankles, and legs. In addition, they noticed Eyebe’s mouth was swollen and there were other injuries to the head and other parts of the body, in addition to many other signs of trauma. The victim’s sister allegedly told a journalist from Kalara weekly newspaper she received a telephone call from her brother who claimed that he had suffered horrific violence and that police used force to extort information from him. The public prosecutor opened an investigation shortly after the death. As of year’s end, there was no publicly available update on the investigation.
On May 28, in Nom-Kandi, Ngan-Ha subdivision, Adamawa Region, four members of the fifth BIR tortured to death two young men named Abdou and Moussa. According to reports, villagers witnessed the torture but did not intervene because the soldiers were armed. The incident occurred after a woman accused Moussa of stealing 5,000 CFA francs ($9). Four BIR soldiers rushed to the suspect’s residence, where they found him and Abdou. Moussa allegedly acknowledged the theft but pointed out that Abdou was not involved. The soldiers ordered both of them to get down on their knees and beat them. After Abdou and Moussa died, regional authorities, including the governor, confirmed the incident and claimed they had ordered an investigation. No information was released as of year’s end.
AI’s July report documented 29 cases of torture at the BIR military bases in Salak and Mora and at the headquarters of the DGRE in Yaounde. For example, Radio France International journalist Ahmed Abba was stripped and beaten while detained at the DGRE. Fifteen men arrested in Bornori were brought to Salak, where many of them were tortured and one died; four others later died in custody in Maroua prison. Other torture victims documented by AI described being beaten for long periods with sticks, whips, and machetes and stomped with boots, often with their hands tied behind their backs, as well as being slapped and kicked. AI documented the cases of six persons who died in custody following such torture.
Other government employees, including one teacher, abused children with disabilities placed under their custody (see section 6). During the year Mbuaye Manga Emmanuel, a staff member of the Bulu Rehabilitation Institute for the Blind in Buea, allegedly raped a dozen children with vision disabilities at the center. According to credible organizations, both public and nongovernmental, the victims were boys and girls ages seven to 17. They told police on May 28 Mbouehe had been sexually abusing them since 2014 and on several occasions he had forceful anal intercourse with them. Children said they had informed the director of the center, Jerome Nkwelle Ewang, but he did not act to help them. According to reports, barrister Mfontem Ozongashu eventually uncovered the abuses and filed a criminal complaint against the perpetrator with consent of the victims’ parents. Preliminary investigations suggested the director helped the offender escape. The prosecutor remanded the director in custody for alleged complicity but granted him bail a few days later, and Ewang was able to resume work. As of September 10, the case was still open.
The United Nations announced in March that in 2015 there were 69 allegations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers in 10 peacekeeping missions around the world. At least one of these was committed by a Cameroonian peacekeeper in the Central African Republic (CAR). Reportedly new Cameroonian peacekeepers are required to sign individual commitment forms not to engage in sexual abuse as proof of the government’s resolve in ensuring missions are carried out in good conditions, but their binding nature under the law remained unclear.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions remained harsh and potentially life threatening due to gross overcrowding, inadequate food and medical care, and poor sanitary conditions.
Physical Conditions: Overcrowding was pervasive in most prisons, especially in major urban centers. Officials held prisoners in dilapidated, colonial-era prisons, where the number of inmates was as much as four to five times the intended capacity. Sanitation, food, and medical care were wholly inadequate. Authorities stated sick persons were detained separately from the general population; this was often not the case.
In January the country’s prisons, which had an intended capacity of 17,000, held 27,997 inmates, according to the Ministry of Justice. Prisons in the Centre Region, with an intended capacity of 4,270, held 7,304 inmates. Those in the Littoral Region with a designed capacity for 1,550 held 4,250, while prisons in the North Region with a combined capacity of 1,300 held 2,776 inmates. At the individual prison level, for example, the Yaounde Kondengui Central Prison, with an intended capacity of 1,500, held 4,210 inmates; Maroua Central Prison, with an intended capacity of 400 inmates, held 1,486; and the Garoua Central Prison, with an intended capacity of 500, held 1,758 inmates.
Prisons generally had separate wards for men, women, and children. Unlike in previous years, there were no reported cases of officials routinely holding women in police and gendarmerie facilities with men.
As in 2015 physical abuse by prison guards and prisoner-on-prisoner violence were problems. In addition, “disciplinary cells” were often used to enforce discipline. Prison overcrowding led to a riot in one prison. According to media outlets and NGOs, on March 12-13, inmates of Garoua Central Prison launched a protest that developed into a mutiny. The prisoners were reportedly protesting life-threatening overcrowding, as there were nearly 2,000 inmates in the 500-capacity prison. Prisoners denounced lack of potable water and other inhuman conditions. Some detainees besieged the main prison courtyard and refused to return to their cells because of excessive heat and poor ventilation. The protest allegedly became violent when security force members attempted to return forcibly the prisoners to their cells. Three inmates died, according to official sources, and more than 40 wounded.
Overall, the quantity and quality of medical care, hygiene, and medicines was inadequate. Disease and illness were widespread, and sick inmates were not systematically and promptly separated from the general population due to lack of facilities. Malnutrition, tuberculosis, bronchitis, malaria, hepatitis, scabies, and numerous other untreated conditions, including infections, parasites, dehydration, and diarrhea, were rampant. In the Buea Central Prison, for instance, the infirmary contained four beds and a staff of four, including a doctor, a nurse, an assistant nurse, and a lab technician, some of whom were also expected to provide services to other prisons. Potable water and food were inadequate. Prisoners generally had one meal a day, and officials expected prisoners’ families to provide additional food. There were reports of detainees using buckets as latrines in some temporary holding cells within police or gendarme facilities.
Corruption among prison personnel was reportedly widespread. Visitors were forced to bribe wardens to access inmates, and prisoners bribed wardens for special favors or treatment, including temporary freedom, beds, and transfers to less crowded areas of the prisons. Due to inability to pay fines, some prisoners remained imprisoned after completing their sentences or receiving court orders of release.
Many citizens in the North and Far North Regions turned to traditional chiefs for dispute resolution. In contrast with previous years, there were no reports of persons held in private detention facilities. There were, however, reports of the use of unofficial military detention facilities in the Far North Region, including on the BIR bases at Salak and Mora.
Administration: Recordkeeping on prisoners remained inadequate, especially in holding cells at police and gendarmerie premises where detainees often were not registered. Independent authorities often investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions. Visitors needed formal authorization from the state counsel, failing which they had to bribe prison staff to communicate with inmates. In addition visits to Boko Haram suspects were highly restricted. Some detainees were held far from their families, reducing the possibility of visits.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted international humanitarian organizations access to prisoners in official prisons; observers did not have access to prisoners held in unofficial military detention facilities. The National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms and NGOs, including the Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Archdiocese, made infrequent unannounced prison visits. The government continued to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to make more regular prison visits. As in 2015 there were no reports human rights activists attempting to visit prisoners were required to pay bribes to prison officials.
Improvements: On July 12, the president enacted a law to amend the existing penal code, providing for alternatives to detention, including community service and reparative sentences to reduce prison overcrowding. Under the amended penal code, a person convicted of an offense punishable by a maximum of two years or a fine may be allowed to work for a public entity or compensate victims as alternatives to incarceration. Human IS Right, a Buea-based civil society organization, in partnership with Operation Total Impact, implemented a formal education and reformation education program in Buea and Kumba principal prisons.
The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention. The law states that, except in the case of an individual discovered in the act of committing a felony or misdemeanor, the officials making the arrest shall disclose their identity and inform the person arrested of the reason. The law also provides that persons arrested on a warrant shall be brought immediately before the examining magistrate or the president of the trial court who issued the warrant, and that the accused persons shall be given reasonable access to contact their family, obtain legal advice, and arrange for their defense. The government occasionally did not respect these provisions.
There were several reports the government arbitrarily arrested and detained innocent citizens. In April, 63 individuals, including leading members of the opposition, were detained until late into the evening without charge, and at least one senior member of an opposition party sustained injuries from police handling. Government officials unofficially accused them of rebellion and inciting revolt, reportedly for organizing a campaign to wear black and distributing pamphlets. In October, 54 opposition members were again arrested at a political party meeting and detained for more than eight hours without being informed of the reason for their detention.
AI’s July report indicated arbitrary arrests and detentions continued on a large scale in the Far North Region, and even the basic legal safeguards concerning arrest and detention were rarely respected.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
The national police, DGRE, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Territorial Administration, and, to a lesser extent, Presidential Guard, are responsible for internal security. The Ministry of Defense–which includes the gendarmerie, army, and the army’s military security unit–reports to an office of the Presidency, resulting in strong presidential control of security forces. The army is responsible for external security; the national police and gendarmerie have primary responsibility for law enforcement. The gendarmerie alone has responsibility in rural areas. The national police–which includes the public security force, judicial police, territorial security forces, and frontier police–report to the General Delegation of National Security (DGSN), which is under the direct authority of the presidency.
The government took some steps to hold police accountable for abuses of power. Police remained ineffective, poorly trained, and corrupt. Impunity continued to be a problem.
Civilian authorities maintained some control over the police and gendarmerie, and the government had somewhat effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. The DGSN and gendarmerie investigate reports of abuse and forward cases to the courts. Lesser sanctions are handled internally. The DGSN, Ministry of Defense, and Ministry of Justice claimed members of security forces were sanctioned during the year for committing abuses, but the government provided few details.
On August 26, Captain Hamadjam Hamadjida Rene, commander of the Mokolo gendarmerie, Mayo-Tsanaga Division, Far North Region, was allegedly remanded in custody at the Kaele prison on a warrant issued by the government commissioner at the Maroua military tribunal. Captain Hamadjam allegedly played a role in a series of armed robberies targeting traders. He was relieved of his duties and immediately replaced.
The National Gendarmerie and the army have special offices to investigate abuse. The secretary of state for defense and the minister-delegate at the presidency are in charge of defense of sanctioned abusers. The minister-delegate of defense refers cases involving aggravated theft, criminal complicity, murder, and other major offenses to the military courts for trial.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
The law requires police obtain a warrant before making an arrest, except when a person is caught in the act of committing a crime, but police often did not respect this requirement. The law provides that detainees be brought promptly before a magistrate, although this often did not occur. Police may legally detain a person in connection with a common crime for up to 48 hours, renewable once. This period may, with the written approval of the state counsel, be exceptionally extended twice before charges are brought. Nevertheless, police and gendarmes reportedly often exceeded these detention periods. The law permits detention without charge for renewable periods of 15 days by administrative authorities such as governors and civilian government officials serving in territorial command. The law also provides for access to legal counsel and family members, although police frequently denied detainees access to both. The law prohibits incommunicado detention, but it occurred, especially in connection with the fight against Boko Haram. The law permits bail, allows citizens the right to appeal, and provides the right to sue for unlawful arrest, but these rights were seldom respected.
Arbitrary Arrest: Police, gendarmerie, and government authorities reportedly continued to arrest and detain persons arbitrarily, often holding them for prolonged periods without charge or trial and at times incommunicado. “Friday arrests,” a practice whereby individuals arrested on a Friday typically remained in detention until at least Monday unless they paid a bribe to be released earlier, continued. There were several reports police or gendarmes arrested persons, without warrants, on circumstantial evidence alone, often following instructions from influential persons to settle personal scores. There were also reports police or gendarmes arbitrarily arrested persons during neighborhood sweeps for criminals and stolen goods or arrested persons lacking identification cards, especially in connection with the fight against growing insecurity, including the Boko Haram threat.
On April 22, in Esu, Mentchum Division, Northwest Region, at approximately 2 a.m., four gendarmes allegedly forced open the door to the home of Redemption Godlove, a high school teacher, seized him without warrant, and secretly detained him in Bamenda at the gendarmerie. On May 2, the gendarmerie referred Godlove to the state counsel of Mezam, who prepared a holding charge accusing him of “depredation by band” along with eight others and sent the accused to the examining magistrate of Mezam, who remanded Godlove in custody while conducting preliminary inquiries. The arrest was allegedly orchestrated by Baba Ahmadou Danpullo, owner of the Elba Ranch, who claimed the accused committed the alleged offenses. Godlove had served as spokesperson for Esu during a meeting with administrative authorities over a protracted land conflict with Danpullo. On May 31, the magistrate declined jurisdiction, claiming the state counsel of Mezam could not have jurisdiction since the alleged offense was committed in Mentchum Division, which has a high court, state counsel, and examining magistrate. The magistrate of Mezam canceled the remand warrant. The state counsel, however, kept Godlove in detention until July 14 when he complied, allegedly following the intervention of the attorney general of the Northwest Region.
Pretrial Detention: The law provides for a maximum of 18 months’ detention before trial, but many detainees waited years for a date in court. In January the Ministry of Justice indicated that of a prison population of 27,977 inmates, 15,616 were in pretrial detention. Some pretrial detainees had been waiting for trial for more than two years. The increase in prison population was attributed to staff shortages, lengthy legal procedures, and administrative and judicial bottlenecks, including procedural trial delays and corruption.
For example, Oben Maxwell, an activist, remained in pretrial detention in Buea Central Prison, Southwest Region, as of August 31, where he had been detained since his arrest in 2014. The cited reason for his detention was holding an illegal meeting. The military tribunal initially handled the case; it was then assigned to the Buea court of first instance.
Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: By law persons arrested or detained, whether on criminal or other grounds, are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis of their detention and obtain prompt release and compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained. There were no reported cases of challenges.
The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary. While the judiciary demonstrated impartiality and independence at times, it was often corrupt and subject to political influences. Individuals reportedly accused innocent persons of crimes or caused trial delays to solve personal disputes. As in 2015 there were no reliable reports that authorities disregarded court orders.
Over the past several years, Alhadji Baba Danpullo, a politically influential businessperson, used the judicial system to harass Musa Usman Ndamba, the senior vice president of the Mbororo Social and Development Association. The most recent episode of harassment was on April 27, when the examining magistrate at the Bamenda court of first instance committed Usman Ndamba and two others for trial over an issue that the court earlier dismissed in 2014. The magistrate charged them with propagation of false information and defamation of character, despite irrefutable evidence that he was not linked to the alleged offense.
The court system is subordinate to the Ministry of Justice. The constitution designates the president as “first magistrate,” thus “chief” of the judiciary, making him the legal arbiter of any sanctions against the judiciary, although he has not played this role publicly. The constitution specifies the president is the guarantor of the legal system’s independence. He appoints all judges, with the advice of the Higher Judicial Council. While judges hearing a case should be governed only by the law and their conscience as provided for by the constitution, in some matters they are subordinate to the minister of justice. For example, the Special Criminal Court must have approval from the minister of justice before it may drop charges against a defendant who offers to pay back the money he/she was accused of having embezzled. Despite the judiciary’s partial independence vis-a-vis the executive and legislative powers, the president appoints all members of the bench and legal department of the judicial branch, including the president of the Supreme Court, and may dismiss them at will.
The legal system includes statutory and customary law, and many criminal and civil cases may be tried using either one. Criminal cases generally were tried in statutory courts.
Customary courts served as a primary means for settling domestic cases, including succession, inheritance, and child custody cases. Customary courts may exercise jurisdiction in a civil case only with the consent of both parties. Either party has the right to have a case heard by a statutory court and to appeal an adverse decision by a customary court to the statutory courts.
Customary court convictions involving alleged witchcraft are automatically transferred to the statutory courts, which act as the courts of first instance. The law provides for sentences of between two and 10 years’ imprisonment and fines of between 5,000 and 100,000 CFA francs ($9-$170). There were no arrests or trials for alleged witchcraft reported during the year.
Customary law is deemed valid only when it is not “repugnant to natural justice, equity, and good conscience,” but many citizens in rural areas remained unaware of their rights under civil law and were taught they must abide by customary law. Customary law partially provides for equal rights and status; men may limit women’s rights regarding inheritance and employment. Customary law practiced in rural areas is based on the traditions of the predominant ethnic group and is adjudicated by traditional authorities of that group. Some traditional legal systems regard wives as the legal property of their husbands.
Military tribunals may exercise jurisdiction over civilians when the president declares martial law and in cases involving civil unrest or organized armed violence. Military tribunals also have jurisdiction over gang crimes, banditry, and highway robbery if such crimes are committed with firearms.
The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair public hearing, without undue delay, in which the defendant is presumed innocent, but authorities did not always respect the law. For instance, trials of Boko Haram suspects were sometimes not public. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges, with free interpretation as necessary from the moment they are charged through all appeals. They have the right to a presumption of innocence, but the government often did not respect that right, resulting in many pretrial suspects being treated as if they were convicted. Defendants have the right to be present and to consult with an attorney of their choice or have one provided at public expense, and the government generally respected this right, especially in criminal matters. Authorities generally allowed defendants to question witnesses and to present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense and not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants have access to government-held evidence relevant to their cases, although in some cases the government did not make the evidence available in timely fashion. Defendants may appeal a conviction. The law extends these rights to all citizens, although they were not always extended in the cases of suspected Boko Haram affiliates.
On August 24, barrister Mohamad Al Amine of Maroua stated persons suspected of complicity with Boko Haram or being likely to compromise the security of the state were consistently tried by military court. He said the accused typically had no legal counsel and noted that, while the government commissioner assigned lawyers to defend them, the lawyers in turn assigned the cases to trainee lawyers, who received 5,000 CFA francs ($9) for legal fees. Often these designated lawyers were not allowed to access case files or visit their clients, which contributed to the poor quality of legal assistance. There were more than one hundred capital punishment sentences issued by the courts in the Far North Region between July 2015 and July 2016.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
No statistics were available on the precise number of political prisoners. Political prisoners were detained under heightened security, often in the SED. Some were allegedly held in the DGRE and at the Yaounde central and principal prisons, and the government did not permit access to such persons on a regular basis, or at all, depending on the case.
Former minister of state for territorial administration Marafa Hamidou Yaya, convicted in 2012 on corruption charges and sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment, remained in detention. On May 18, the Supreme Court reduced the sentence to 20 years. On June 2, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued a decision qualifying Marafa’s detention “a violation of international laws” and asked the government to immediately free and compensate him for damages suffered. The United Nations made it clear there were multiple irregularities in the judicial procedure.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
Citizens and organizations have the right to seek civil remedies for human rights violations through administrative procedures or the legal system; both options involved lengthy delays. There were a few reports the government failed to comply with a court decision on labor issues. For example, despite a court order, the government continued to work with the Cameroon Confederation of Trade Unions’ former leader, who no longer represented the organization, to the detriment of newly elected officials.
Individuals and organizations may appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies. In 2012, for example, Jean-Marie Atangana Mebara, former secretary general at the presidency, filed a complaint against the government with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Mebara complained the government was keeping him imprisoned on the basis of the Operation Sparrow Hawk Affair even though the Mfoundi High Court ordered his release. The commission delivered its verdict in April in Banjul, The Gambia. The commission directed the government of Cameroon to release Mebara immediately, compensate him 400 million CFA francs ($681,000) for damages, and punish all officials involved in the violations perpetrated on Mebara. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has no ability to compel a state to comply with its decisions.
Over the past few years, to implement infrastructure projects, the government seized land occupied or used by civilians. The government failed to resettle or compensate those displaced in a prompt manner, leading them to protest in the streets on several occasions. In a few cases, corrupt officials misappropriated the money the government had earmarked for compensation. The government identified some offenders and opened cases against them. No particular group was reported to have been intentionally targeted for discriminatory treatment.
Although the constitution and law prohibit arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence, these rights were subject to restriction for the “higher interests of the state,” and there were credible reports police and gendarmes harassed citizens and conducted searches without warrants.
The law permits a police officer to enter a private home during daylight hours without a warrant if he is pursuing a criminal suspect. Police and gendarmes often did not comply with this provision. A police officer may enter a private home at any time in pursuit of a person observed committing a crime.
An administrative authority, including a governor or senior divisional officer (SDO), may authorize police to conduct neighborhood sweeps without warrants, and this occurred.
Police and gendarmes sometimes sealed off a neighborhood, systematically searched homes, arrested persons, sometimes arbitrarily, and seized suspicious or illegal articles. In Wum, Northwest Region, on February 17, during an early morning raid following arson at the military barracks a few days earlier, police detained citizens without identification cards until identity could be established. There were several complaints police arbitrarily confiscated motorbikes and electronic devices.
Central African Republic
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
There were several reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
Members of the Central Office for the Repression of Banditry (OCRB), a police anticrime unit, conducted extrajudicial killings near Bangui. International nongovernmental organization (NGO) Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported 18 extrajudicial killings allegedly committed by the OCRB between April 2015 and March. For example, on January 27, witnesses told HRW that OCRB members apprehended and unlawfully killed a market vendor. Led by Colonel Robert Yekoua-Kette, the OCRB was largely composed of soldiers of the Central African Armed Forces (FACA) who operated as police officers. In June the government removed Colonel Yekoua-Kette as commander of the OCRB but failed to investigate or punish suspected OCRB perpetrators.
Armed rebel groups, particularly members of the various factions of ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka, killed civilians, especially persons suspected of being members or sympathizers of opposing parties in the conflict (see section 1.g.). The killings, often reprisals in nature, included summary executions and deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on civilians.
The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan rebel group that operated in eastern regions of the country, and other armed groups, including Reclamation, Return, and Rehabilitation (3R), Revolution and Justice (RJ), and the Democratic Front of the Central African People, were responsible for civilian killings (see section 1.g.).
Ethnic killings related to cattle theft occurred (see section 6).
There were reports forces from the ex-Seleka, anti-Balaka, and other armed groups were responsible for politically motivated disappearances. Those abducted included police and civilians (see section 1.g.).
There were many reports of disappearances committed by the LRA for the purpose of recruitment and extortion (see section 1.g.).
In June 2015 the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) issued a statement regretting the lack of progress by the Republic of the Congo government in the investigation of the disappearances following the arrest of persons from a private home in Boali in 2014. In June, HRW reported the discovery of a mass grave near a peacekeeping base in Boali, exhumed on February 16. The grave contained the remains of 12 persons identified as those detained by the Republic of the Congo peacekeepers. The Congolese government conducted no known investigations.
Although the law prohibits torture and specifies punishment for those found guilty of physical abuse, there were several reports government officials employed them.
The UN independent expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic and HRW reported allegations that security forces, particularly members of the OCRB, mistreated individuals in pretrial detention and during the arrest of suspected criminals. For example, on April 28, the OCRB arrested a former anti-Balaka fighter accused of armed robbery. Former OCRB commander Yekoua-Kette ordered his men to beat the arrestee in public.
In February the government arrested a member of the FACA guarding Bimbo Women’s Prison, near Bangui, for the alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl in the prison. On March 3, the suspect was remanded into custody and placed in Ngaragba Prison; he had not been brought before a judicial authority by year’s end. In March the UN independent expert expressed concern over allegations of rape of detainees at Bimbo Women’s Prison and raised the issue with the public prosecutor. MINUSCA subsequently took charge of national prison staffing in Bangui and Bouar and trained female prison officers to manage Bimbo Women’s Prison.
Forces from the ex-Seleka, anti-Balaka, LRA, and other armed groups abused, raped, and tortured civilians with impunity. Deaths due to torture occurred (see section 1.g.).
The United Nations reported it had received 50 allegations during the year (as of December 20) of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) by UN peacekeepers deployed to MINUSCA, with 16 alleged incidents occurring in 2016, 31 in 2015, one in 2014, and two for which the dates of the alleged incidents were unknown. These allegations involved peacekeepers from Burundi, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, the Republic of the Congo, and Zambia. Of the 50 allegations, 34 involved minors, 43 remained pending investigation by the United Nations or the troop or police contributing country at year’s end, and four allegations were found to be unsubstantiated. Three investigations substantiated the allegations and resulted in a one-year sentence for a peacekeeper from Bangladesh for sexually abusing a minor, a court-martial and five-year sentence for an Egyptian peacekeeper for sexually assaulting an adult, and 45 days’ imprisonment for a Gabonese peacekeeper for sexual activity with a minor.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on all countries that contribute peacekeepers to increase predeployment education and human rights training, enhance vetting procedures, conduct rapid and effective investigations, ensure consistent penalties for offenders, increase assistance to victims, and strengthen reporting of cases of sexual exploitation and abuse.
On December 5, the United Nations announced that its Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) had completed an internal investigation into more than 100 allegations of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers deployed in Dekoa, Kemo Prefecture, in 2014-15. During the investigation, which began in April, OIOS interviewed 139 persons and found that 45 were able to identify, via photographs and other corroborating evidence, 41 alleged perpetrators–16 of whom were from Gabon and 25 from Burundi. Of the 45 alleged victims, 25 were minors. Eight alleged victims, including six minors, made paternity claims. The United Nations announced it had shared the OIOS report with Gabon and Burundi, including the names of the identified alleged perpetrators, and requested appropriate judicial actions to ensure criminal accountability. The United Nations reported the alleged perpetrators had all been rotated out of the Central African Republic before the allegations surfaced. The United Nations requested a copy of the final national investigation reports to be transmitted urgently.
During the year MINUSCA continued to strengthen its prevention measures and reinforce its outreach among communities and peacekeepers across the country, especially in high-risk areas, to improve awareness and reporting on sexual exploitation and abuse and other forms of misconduct. MINUSCA also regularly monitored conditions and behavior of peacekeeping personnel and partnered with UN agencies and implementing partners in the country that provide psychosocial, medical, and legal assistance to victims of sexual exploitation and abuse.
There were credible allegations of human rights violations and abuses by members of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) deployed to the country since 2009 as part of the African Union Regional Task Force to counter the LRA. Preliminary investigations found at least 18 women and girls were subjected to sexual violence and harassment by UPDF members. There were an additional 14 reported cases of rape, including of victims who were minors. Several women and girls reported they had been taken from their villages by UPDF members and forced to become prostitutes or sex slaves or to marry Ugandan soldiers.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
According to the UN independent expert, detention conditions in the country’s prisons did not generally meet international norms and were often inhuman. The government operated two prisons in or near Bangui: Ngaragba Central Prison for men (with an estimated 500 inmates) and Bimbo Women’s Prison (with an estimated 300 inmates). A combination of international peacekeepers, FACA troops, and judicial police guarded the men’s prison and its perimeter, while female prison officers, trained by MINUSCA and the Ministry of Justice, guarded the women’s prison. There were also staffed prisons in 10 other towns. Conditions in other prisons not emptied or destroyed by recent conflict were life threatening and substantially below international standards. Basic necessities, including food, clothing, and medicine, were inadequate and often confiscated by prison officials.
MINUSCA’s contribution to prison administration resulted in a gradual demilitarization of facilities and a reduction in escapes.
Ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka forces held an unknown number of persons in illegal prisons and detention centers, but neither the government nor humanitarian agencies visited these sites, and their conditions were unknown.
Physical Conditions: Authorities sometimes held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners and juveniles with adults. In prisons outside Bangui, it was common practice to hold men and women together.
Official prisons lacked basic sanitation and ventilation, electric lighting, basic and emergency medical care, and sufficient access to potable water. Prisoners seldom had access to health care, and disease was pervasive. In the women’s prison, authorities divided inmates into three large rooms with no ventilation or electric lighting, and all, including pregnant women, slept on thin straw mats on concrete floors.
Administration: There was no centralized recordkeeping system to track the number of prisoners. There was no ombudsman system. Prison detainees have the right to submit complaints of mistreatment, but victims rarely did so, due to lack of a functioning formal complaint mechanism and fear of retaliation by prison officials. Authorities seldom initiated investigations of abuse in the prisons.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring by independent observers, including the UN independent expert in March.
The law provides protection against arbitrary arrest and detention and accords detainees the right to a judicial determination of the legality of their detention, but the government did not always observe these prohibitions. In the territories they controlled, the ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka also ignored such provisions, and arbitrary arrest and detention remained serious problems throughout the country.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
The police and gendarmerie have responsibility for enforcing law and maintaining order; however, both largely were withdrawn from the interior of the country during the violence in 2013 and had limited or no presence in many areas. While the police and gendarmerie increased the number of towns in which they were present during the year, they remained poorly trained and had few functioning arms and little ammunition.
Impunity was a problem. Contributing factors included insufficient staffing and resources; corruption; unpaid salaries for the police, gendarmerie, and judiciary; and too few prisons.
In April and May, 320 police officers and agents were trained by MINUSCA’s police component on community policing, human rights, and gender-based violence (GBV). MINUSCA also trained 77 police and gendarmes, including 18 women, on human rights and the use of force.
MINUSCA had a military police force of 11,820, including 1,820 police officers. The role of MINUSCA’s police force was to protect the civilian population from physical violence within its capabilities and areas of deployment. MINUSCA police had the authority to make arrests and transfer persons to national authorities but not to investigate cases.
On July 16, the EU launched its military training mission in the country. The mission contributed to defining the overall approach of the EU to security-sector reform.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
Judicial warrants are not required for arrest. The law stipulates persons detained in cases other than those involving national security must be informed of the charges against them and brought before a magistrate within 72 hours. This period is renewable once, for a total of 144 hours, but authorities often did not respect these deadlines, in part due to inefficient judicial procedures and a lack of judges.
The bail system did not function. Authorities sometimes followed legal procedures in cases managed by gendarmes or local police. Lawyers continued to work and were sometimes accessible. For individuals detained by ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka and placed in illegal detention centers, legal procedures were not followed, and access to lawyers was not provided.
The prosecution of persons subject to sanctions was minimal, although arrest warrants reportedly were issued for several sanctioned individuals.
Arbitrary Arrest: The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention. Arbitrary arrest was a serious problem, however, and some ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka groups arbitrarily targeted and detained individuals.
Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention was a serious problem.
Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: No information was available on this subject.
The constitution provides for a judiciary, whose independence is guaranteed by the president. By year’s end no judges had been appointed to the Constitutional Court established by the new constitution. In 2013 the Seleka plundered the courts and destroyed records throughout the country, leaving the courts barely able to operate. Many magistrates and government workers who fled the violence in 2013 did not return to their homes during the year, especially outside the capital, due to fear for their safety. Corruption was a serious problem. Courts suffered from inefficient administration, a shortage of trained personnel, salary arrears, and a lack of resources. Authorities, particularly those of high rank, did not always respect court orders.
The penal code presumes defendants are innocent until proven guilty. Trials are public, and defendants have the right to be present and consult a public defender. Criminal trials use juries. The law obliges the government to provide counsel for indigent defendants; this process delayed trial proceedings due to the state’s limited resources. Defendants have the right to question witnesses, present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf, access government-held evidence, and file appeals. The law extends these rights to all citizens. The transitional government sometimes complied with these requirements. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges (with free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals), to receive adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, and not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Authorities seldom respected these rights.
The government reiterated its desire to establish the Special Criminal Court. The selection committee for national magistrates was established and the operating budget for the first 18 months was approved.
In June the International Criminal Court sentenced the former leader of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, Jean-Pierre Bemba, to 18 years’ imprisonment for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by his troops in the country in 2002-03.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary in civil matters, but citizens had limited access to courts to bring lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, a human rights violation. There is no system for the protection of victims and witnesses, who faced intimidation and insecurity. Civil society organizations claimed victims, who often lived side-by-side with perpetrators, were unable to testify against perpetrators, especially since there was no guarantee of a credible judicial process.
The Criminal Court held its annual session in August and September. Some 55 cases were on the docket, many with multiple defendants, including trials for murder, criminal conspiracy, illegal retention of weapons of war, misappropriation of public funds, rape, and witchcraft.
For example, the court sentenced Honniset Sabin, Olivier Ngala, and Ghislain Kolet in absentia to 20 years’ imprisonment for conspiracy and armed robbery. A warrant was issued for their arrest.
The law prohibits searches of homes without a warrant in civil and criminal cases, and there were no reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions.
The country’s administrative and commercial infrastructure remained significantly damaged or destroyed due to widespread looting and pillaging in 2013.
Serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, including unlawful killings, torture and other mistreatment, abductions, sexual assaults, looting, and destruction of property were perpetrated by all armed groups in the conflict, including the ex-Seleka and the anti-Balaka, whose fighters operated freely across much of the country, facilitated by the widespread circulation of small arms.
In February armed Fulani (Peulh) herders, at times supported by ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka fighters, attacked civilians along a corridor used for the seasonal movement of livestock in the central regions, leading to temporary mass displacement of populations in the towns of Kouango, Kaga Bandoro, and Batangafo.
Killings: Attacks by armed groups resulted in numerous civilian casualties. For example, on January 5, outside the village of Pakam, in Nana Mambere Prefecture, armed Peulh affiliated with the 3R group led by self-proclaimed Colonel Siddiki reportedly shot and killed a civilian before burning the body. The same group allegedly was responsible for the death of two men on March 21 during an attack on the village of Ngouvota, near Kaga Bandoro. On March 4, members of the ex-Seleka UPC allegedly killed three women from the same family who were returning from their fields five miles from Bambari; the killings were in retaliation for the deaths of two UPC members.
Beginning in May localized communal violence increased in the North. The movement of nomadic herders in the Northwest sparked tensions, including in Ngaoundaye, in Pende, Ouham Prefecture, after a refusal by residents to allow herders to cross their land. Violence in Ngaoundaye on June 15 resulted in at least 10 deaths, destroyed houses, and the displacement of thousands of persons to surrounding towns, as well as to neighboring Cameroon and Chad, according to the United Nations.
In June and July, a series of attacks by armed groups occurred in and outside of Bangui. On June 20, for example, armed fighters clashed with MINUSCA soldiers in Bangui’s PK-5 area, which resulted in the deaths of six armed men and 15 civilians. On June 24, unidentified assailants killed a Senegalese peacekeeper. In early July clashes between the different ex-Seleka factions in Kaga Bandoro forced civilians to seek protection in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) protected by international forces. Since mid-June the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) registered more than 6,000 new refugees from the Central African Republic in Chad and Cameroon.
On September 16, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported attacks in Kouango that resulted in 19 deaths, 380 houses burned, and populations from 11 villages fleeing.
The LRA also killed civilians during the year, targeting in particular the Haute-Kotto and Mbomou prefectures. Attacks against civilians since the beginning of the year included killings, abductions, and GBV. Between January and April, the LRA abducted more than 290 persons, including 60 children. Thousands of civilians were displaced.
Abductions: The LRA, ex-Seleka, anti-Balaka, and other armed groups abducted numerous persons. According to MINUSCA, abductions and hostage taking were used to extort money from relatives, press authorities into releasing their incarcerated colleagues, and intimidate populations into allowing armed groups to impose authority.
On June 19, the armed group in Bangui’s PK-5 area led by Abdoulaye Issene held six police officers hostage for five days. Earlier security force members arrested armed Fulani (Peulh) herders who were bringing their cattle into Bangui, which spiraled into reprisal attacks against the police. After several days of government negotiations, the hostages were released unharmed, with MINUSCA facilitating their handover.
Kidnappings by the LRA reportedly increased. The LRA significantly stepped up its activity in the eastern region, especially in the mining areas east of Bria, in the Haute-Kotto Prefecture, and along the Mbomou River between the towns of Rafai and Obo. According to an international NGO, the LRA was responsible for 42 incidents, six civilian fatalities, and 252 civilian abductions in the country in the first quarter.
Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: The ex-Seleka and forces associated with anti-Balaka groups reportedly tortured, beat, and raped civilians in the course of the conflict.
Members of armed groups reportedly continued to rape girls and women with impunity. For example, on February 23, four armed men affiliated with the RJ movement gang-raped a 14-year-old girl who was returning home on foot in the village of Pende, Ouham and afterward attacked her with machetes. On February 26, an anti-Balaka leader raped a pregnant 25-year-old woman in the Batangafo, Ouham IDP camp before beating her husband and two other persons who were trying to protect her. MINUSCA arrested the attacker.
Between January and August, at least 110 persons were accused of witchcraft or quackery. Suspected individuals were often subject to arbitrary arrests and executions by members of armed groups, lynching by a mob, or expulsion from their communities.
There were reports peacekeeping forces, including MINUSCA and international contingents, exploited women and children, although some of the reports referred to cases that occurred prior to 2016 (see section 1.c.).
Child Soldiers: Reports of use of child soldiers continued during the year. According to estimates by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), between 6,000 and 10,000 child soldiers were recruited during the latest conflict through 2015; some remained with armed groups. NGOs reported children recruited by armed groups were sent to fight, used for sexual purposes, and used as cooks, porters, or messengers. According to the UN independent expert, the LRA forced children to commit atrocities such as looting and burning villages, killing village residents, and abducting or killing other children.
According to the 2016 Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, the United Nations documented 40 cases of child recruitment and use in 2015; more than half the cases were perpetrated by the LRA and more than a quarter by ex-Seleka faction the UPC. Armed groups forced children to be combatants, messengers, informants, and cooks. Girls also were used as sex slaves. In addition the United Nations documented the presence of children manning checkpoints and barricades alongside armed individuals reportedly sympathetic to or affiliated with anti-Balaka and ex- Seleka elements.
Also see the Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
Security forces committed arbitrary or unlawful killings in operations against RMGs in the east (see section 1.g.).
There were numerous reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. According to the UN Joint Office of Human Rights (UNJHRO), under the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), security forces were responsible for at least 298 extrajudicial killings as of November 30. Victims included 48 demonstrators during September protests in Kinshasa and civilians killed during military operations in the east.
In July, six bodies, some bearing signs of torture, were discovered in Kinshasa’s Ndjili River. The government impeded UNJHRO efforts to identify the bodies or conduct an investigation, and no action had been taken against alleged perpetrators by year’s end.
According to UNJHRO, seven civilians died on September 20, when security forces attacked and burned the Kinshasa headquarters of the opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress (see section 3).
In August a captain and lieutenant in the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) were sentenced to life imprisonment for murders committed in Irumu Territory.
RMGs committed arbitrary and unlawful killings throughout the year (see section 1.g.). The United Nations estimated the RMG Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) killed 206 persons near the town of Beni from January through November (see section 1.d.).
There were reports of disappearances attributable to state security forces (SSF) during the year and following protests in September and December in Kinshasa. Authorities often refused to acknowledge the detention of suspects and in some cases detained suspects in unofficial facilities. The whereabouts of some civil society activists arrested by SSF remained unknown for long periods. For instance, civil society activist Jean Marie Kalonji’s whereabouts were unknown from his arrest by SSF in December 2015 until his transfer to an official prison in April. The National Intelligence Agency (ANR) held another civil society activist, Jean de Dieu Kilima, incommunicado in Kisangani for approximately 10 days following his arrest on July 8 (see section 1.d.). On December 13, SSF arrested civil society activists Carbone Beni wa Beya, Chris Shematsi, Samuel Bosassile, and John Ngandu during a peaceful protest in Kinshasa , and their whereabouts remained unknown until family members located them at an ANR detention facility on December 27. The activists remained in ANR custody, without charge, at year’s end.
RMGs and some FARDC elements kidnapped numerous persons, generally for forced labor, military service, or sexual slavery. Many of these victims disappeared (see section 1.g.).
The law criminalizes torture, but several human rights organizations and activists reported the SSF continued to torture civilians, particularly detainees and prisoners. For example, civil society activist Jean Marie Kalonji was reportedly held in an underground Republican Guard (RG) cell and tortured from December 2015 until his transfer to a regular prison in April. In March the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment found the government tortured civil society activist Fred Bauma after arbitrarily arresting him in March 2015. The government held Bauma incommunicado and subjected him to mistreatment and poor detention conditions, including insufficient food, poor hygiene conditions, and lack of access to medical care. In May the military garrison tribunal of Haut-Uele convicted a FARDC captain of torture, arbitrary arrest, illegal detention, and violation of orders. He was sentenced to a 10-year prison term and ordered to pay 17.6 million Congolese francs ($15,000) in damages to four victims of torture and 23.5 million Congolese francs ($20,000) to three other victims of torture.
The SSF utilized cruel, inhuman, or degrading methods of punishment. For instance, on October 24 in Goma, police caned six arrested civil society activists, giving each 50 lashes to the feet. At year’s end the government had taken no disciplinary actions against police officials responsible for this beating.
There were reports that DRC troops operating with multinational forces in the Central African Republic (CAR) sexually exploited and abused members of the local population in 2014 and 2015. During the year the government initiated legal proceedings against 19 troops accused of rape. Legal proceedings were suspended, however, to allow for continued joint DRC-CAR investigations.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Conditions in most prisons throughout the country remained harsh and life threatening due to food shortages, gross overcrowding, and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care. Even harsher conditions prevailed in small detention centers run by the ANR, RG, or other security forces, which often detained prisoners for lengthy pretrial periods without access to family or legal counsel. Some civil society activists arrested in Kinshasa were reportedly held in an underground cell operated by the RG at a military camp.
Physical Conditions: Serious threats to life and health were widespread and included violence (particularly rape); food shortages; and inadequate potable water, sanitation, ventilation, temperature control, lighting, and medical care. Because inmates had inadequate supplies of food and little access to water, many relied exclusively on relatives, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and church groups to bring them sustenance. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) assisted more than 7,900 detainees who were severely malnourished. Authorities generally confined men and women in separate areas but often held juveniles with adults. They rarely separated pretrial detainees from convicted prisoners. Central prison facilities were severely overcrowded, with an estimated occupancy rate of 200 percent of capacity; they also had little ventilation or light, subjecting detainees to extreme heat. For example, Makala Central Prison, constructed in 1958 to house 1,500 prisoners, regularly held as many as 8,000 inmates during the year. The United Nations reported 59 individuals died in detention from starvation or illness nationwide between January and June.
Most prisons were understaffed, undersupplied, and poorly maintained, often allowing escapes. From January to July, the United Nations documented 519 prison escapes. In February alone the United Nations documented 113 cases of prison escapes, mostly in two mass escapes from prisons in Fizi (43 escapees) and Uvira (31 escapees) in South Kivu.
Authorities often arbitrarily beat or tortured detainees.
RMGs detained civilians, often for ransom, but little information was available concerning detention conditions (see section 1.g.).
Administration: Recordkeeping on detainees was inadequate and irregular. Some prison directors could only estimate the numbers of detainees in their facilities. There were no ombudsmen available to respond to complaints. Authorities denied access to visitors for some inmates and often did not permit inmates to contact or submit complaints to judicial authorities. Directors and staff generally ran prisons for profit, selling sleeping arrangements to the highest bidders and requiring payment for family visits.
Independent Monitoring: The government regularly allowed the ICRC, MONUSCO, and NGOs access to official detention facilities maintained by the Ministry of Interior but consistently denied access to facilities run by the ANR and the RG. The ICRC visited at least 22,600 detainees over the course of the year and provided support for health care, water, sanitation, and nutrition in 10 prisons.
Improvements: Authorities made efforts to improve prison conditions and reduce overcrowding. For example, the government issued collective presidential pardons that would apply to all women, youth, and young adults under 30 years of age and individuals older than 65 who had not committed violent crimes. As of September the minister of justice reported more than 1,800 persons had been released under these measures; however, NGOs and international organizations observed the pardons were rarely and irregularly applied. The ICRC worked with the Ministry of Justice to correct 937 cases with severe judicial irregularities, resulting in the release of 443 prisoners. At the end of 2015, the Ministries of Justice and Health issued a decree that local health zones would assume responsibility for the medical needs of detainees, and ministries made some effort to standardize procedures for this; however, only limited implementation was achieved during the year.
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest or detention, but both the SSF and RMGs routinely arrested or detained persons arbitrarily (see section 1.e.).
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
The Congolese National Police (PNC) operates under the Ministry of Interior and has primary responsibility for law enforcement and public order. The PNC includes the Rapid Intervention Police and the Integrated Police Unit. The ANR, overseen by the president’s national security adviser, is responsible for internal and external intelligence. The FARDC and the military intelligence service operate under the control of the Ministry of Defense and are primarily responsible for external security but also fulfill an internal security role. The presidency oversees the RG, and the minister of interior oversees the Directorate General for Migration, which is responsible for border control. Military magistrates are responsible for the investigation and prosecution of all crimes allegedly committed by SSF members, whether or not committed in the line of duty.
Elements of the SSF were undisciplined and corrupt. PNC and FARDC units regularly engaged in illegal taxation and extortion of civilians. They set up checkpoints to collect “taxes,” often stealing food and money and arresting individuals who could not pay bribes. The FARDC suffered from weak leadership, poor operational planning, low administrative and logistical capacity, lack of training, and questionable loyalty of some of its soldiers, particularly in the east. In October a military court in Kongo Central Province sentenced five FARDC officers and their subordinates to prison terms ranging from one to 15 years for violating orders and attempted corruption in facilitating fraudulent border crossings.
Although the military justice system convicted some SSF agents of human rights abuses, impunity remained a serious problem. For example, during the year the government’s inquiry into 2013’s Operation Likofi failed to attribute responsibility for extrajudicial killings and disappearances perpetrated by SSF, and no SSF members were prosecuted or held accountable by year’s end. The government maintained joint human rights committees with MONUSCO and used available international resources, such as the UN-implemented technical and logistical support program for military prosecutors as well as international NGO-supported mobile hearings.
Military courts convicted some SSF agents of human rights abuses. The United Nations reported the government convicted at least 79 FARDC soldiers and 35 PNC agents for crimes constituting human rights violations from January to June. On March 4, the military court of Equateur Province convicted a FARDC corporal and sentenced him to seven years’ imprisonment, a fine of 400,000 Congolese francs ($340), and 120,000 Congolese francs ($100) as court fees for the rape of a girl. Also in March the same court sentenced a PNC agent to 12 years in prison for murder. In June a military court also arrested and began legal proceedings against a provincial member of parliament accused of abduction, rape, and genital mutilation of dozens of children in Kavumu, South Kivu Province, since 2013.
Civilians can be tried in military tribunals if charged with offenses involving firearms. For example, Huit Mulongo, former chief of staff to former governor of Katanga, Moise Katumbi, was arrested on April 22 and tried by a military court for illegal possession of a firearm. On August 30, he was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison. The military justice system often succumbed to political and command interference, and security arrangements for magistrates in areas affected by conflict were inadequate. Justice mechanisms were particularly ineffective for addressing misconduct by mid- and high-ranking officials due to a requirement the judge of a military court must outrank the defendant.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
By law arrests for offenses punishable by more than six months’ imprisonment require warrants. Detainees must appear before a magistrate within 48 hours. Authorities must inform those arrested of their rights and the reason(s) for their arrest, and they may not arrest a family member in lieu of the suspected individual. Authorities must allow arrested individuals to contact their families and consult with attorneys. Local NGOs reported security officials routinely violated all of these requirements, in particular the 48-hour deadline for pretrial hearings.
While the law provides for a bail system, it generally did not function. Detainees who were unable to pay were rarely able to access legal counsel. Authorities often held suspects incommunicado, including in facilities run by the ANR and the RG, and refused to acknowledge these detentions.
Prison officials often held individuals longer than their sentences due to disorganization, inadequate records, judicial inefficiency, or corruption. Prisoners unable to pay their fines remained indefinitely in prison (see section 1.e.).
Following visits by the vice minister of justice to detention centers, the PNC issued a decree in 2014 reforming arrest and detention procedures. The decree requires the PNC to verify facts before arresting individuals, separate men from women, and ensure the detention centers are sanitary. Authorities did not consistently implement the decree.
Arbitrary Arrest: Security personnel sometimes arrested and detained perceived opponents and critics of the government, occasionally under the pretext of state security, and often denied them due process, such as access to an attorney (see sections 1.a., 2.a., and 5). For example, on July 8, state agents arrested Jean de Dieu Kilima in Kisangani, and the ANR held him incommunicado for approximately 10 days. The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights filed charges against Kilima upon his transfer from ANR detention. Kilima was provisionally released on September 5 as part of a government effort to reduce political tensions, but charges against him were still pending at year’s end. The SSF also arbitrarily arrested numerous civil society activists and civilians following protests in Kinshasa in September and December, often holding them incommunicado and without charge for extended periods.
Police sometimes arbitrarily arrested and detained persons without filing charges to extort money from family members or because administrative systems were not well established.
Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention, ranging from months to years, remained a problem. Lawyers Without Borders reported between 75 and 82 percent of the prison population was in pretrial detention. In August officials released several dozen youth from pretrial detention in Makala Prison in Kinshasa after a review found they had been in detention longer than the maximum sentences if convicted. Judicial inefficiency, administrative obstacles, corruption, financial constraints, and staff shortages also caused trial delays.
In April Human Rights Watch reported that many prisoners, including at least 29 children, had been detained at Angenga Prison since the first half of 2015 without formally being charged with crimes or having access to lawyers or their families. During that time four of these prisoners died of illness, and, in February, two were shot and killed, allegedly during an escape attempt.
Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention; however, few were able to obtain prompt release and compensation.
Amnesty: Following the defeat of the March 23 Movement (M23) in 2013, the National Assembly enacted a law in 2014 that provides amnesty for acts of insurgency, acts of war, and political offenses.
Although the law provides for an independent judiciary, the judiciary was corrupt and subject to influence. Officials and other influential individuals often subjected judges to coercion. For instance, on June 27, the senior judge presiding over the trial of opposition party leader Moise Katumbi–who was convicted in absentia on June 22 for the fraudulent sale of property, sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay 852 million Congolese francs ($722,000) in damages–wrote a public letter accusing ANR of placing her under “physical and moral” pressure to convict Katumbi. The judge and two of the court reporters involved in the case subsequently went into hiding. In an interview broadcast by international media on December 14, the judge publicly renounced her conviction of Katumbi, which she said was government-ordered. The judge claimed she experienced threats and pressure from the government to convict Katumbi before, during, and after the trial.
A shortage of judges hindered the government’s ability to provide expeditious trials, and judges occasionally refused transfers to remote areas where shortages were most acute because the government could not support them there. Authorities routinely did not respect court orders. Disciplinary boards created under the High Council of Magistrates continued to rule on numerous cases of corruption and malpractice each month. Many of these rulings included the firing, suspension, or fining of judges and magistrates.
The constitution provides for a presumption of innocence, but this was not observed in practice. Authorities are required to inform defendants promptly and in detail of the charges against them, with free interpretation as necessary. The public may attend trials at the discretion of the presiding judge. Defendants have the right to a trial within 15 days of being charged, but judges may extend this period to a maximum of 45 days. Authorities only occasionally abided by this requirement. The government is not required to provide counsel in most cases, with the exception of murder trials. While the government regularly provided free legal counsel to indigent defendants in capital cases, lawyers often did not have adequate access to their clients. Defendants have the right to be present and to have a defense attorney represent them. Authorities occasionally disregarded these rights. Authorities generally allowed adequate time to prepare a defense, although there were few resources available. Authorities did not regularly observe a law that requires defendants have access to government-held evidence. Defendants have the right to confront witnesses against them and to present evidence and witnesses in their own defense, but witnesses often were reluctant to testify due to fear of retaliation. Defendants are not compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants have the right to appeal, except in cases involving national security, armed robbery, and smuggling, which the Court of State Security usually adjudicates. These rights extend to all citizens.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
There were reports of political prisoners and detainees. Authorities charged political prisoners with a variety of offenses, including offending the person or threatening the life of the head of state, inciting tribal hatred or civil disobedience, spreading false rumors, treason, and attacking state security. While the government permitted international human rights organizations and MONUSCO access to some of these prisoners, authorities consistently denied access to detention facilities run by the RG and the ANR (see section 1.c.).
On February 16, SSF arrested Bienvenu Matumo, Marcel Heritier Kapitene, and Victor Tesongo of the civil society organization Struggle for Change (LUCHA) in Kinshasa ahead of a general strike planned by opposition and civil society. They were held at an ANR detention center until February 19, when they were transferred to prison. On May 20, they were convicted of inciting civil disobedience and spreading false rumors and sentenced to 12 months in prison. On August 19 and 26, the government released several jailed activists, including Matumo, Kapitene, Tesongo, Fred Bauma, Yves Makwambala, Christopher Ngoy, Jean de Dieu Kilima, and Jean-Marie Kalonji as part of an effort to reduce political tensions. Individuals with pending charges, such as Bauma and Makwambala, who were accused of an attempted attack on the head of state’s life, attempted coup, and treason, received a provisional release, meaning their cases could resume at any time. Individuals already convicted, such as Matumo, Kapitene, and Tesongo, received a conditional release. The provisional and conditional nature of these releases curtailed these individuals’ right to freedom of expression, assembly, and association.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
Individuals may seek civil remedies for human rights violations within the civil court system. Most individuals, however, preferred to seek redress in the criminal courts.
Although the law prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence, SSF routinely ignored these provisions. The SSF harassed and robbed civilians, entered and searched homes and vehicles without warrants, and looted homes, businesses, and schools. In February, PNC officers invaded the house of and ultimately arrested six LUCHA members in Goma. The activists were preparing posters for a demonstration planned for later that day. The SSF also conducted house-to-house searches and arrests in Kinshasa following the September 19-20 protests. Local human rights NGOs reported that between December 16 and 21, SSF conducted house-to-house searches in certain Kinshasa neighborhoods and arrested youth with suspected links to protests.
Both local and foreign-influenced conflicts continued in parts of the east, particularly in the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, Tanganyika, Ituri, Haut-Uele, and Bas-Uele. Foreign RMGs, such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), Allied Democratic Forces/National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF/NALU), National Forces of Liberation (FNL), and Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), as well as indigenous RMGs such as different Mai-Mai (local militia) groups, continued to battle government forces and one another and to attack civilian populations.
There were credible reports the government provided support to at least two local militias fighting the FDLR. By impeding humanitarian aid and development assistance in some areas, the fighting in the east exacerbated an already severe humanitarian crisis.
There were credible reports that SSF and RMGs perpetrated serious human rights abuses. These RMGs included the Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS), the ADF, Bakata Katanga, the FDLR, FNL, Forces of the Patriotic Resistance of Ituri (FRPI), the LRA, various Nyatura factions, Raia Mutomboki, and the following Mai-Mai groups: Mazembe, Charles Shetani, Yakutumba, and several others.
The government took military action against several major RMGs. Operational cooperation between MONUSCO and the government resumed after a one-year hiatus after UNJHRO discovered two generals appointed in January 2015 to lead counter-FDLR efforts had records of violating human rights. Disagreements between the two sides on the appropriate troop-level reductions stalled efforts to restart cooperation during 2015. The two forces were able to strengthen their cooperation against the FDLR, ADF, FRPI, and FNL during 2016.
There was widespread killing, rape, and displacement of civilians by ethnic militia in Tanganyika Province in clashes between ethnic Luba and ethnic Batwa communities. The conflict erupted in mid-2013 and continued intermittently through the year. In August 2015, 10 Batwa and 27 Lubas were charged with crimes against humanity and crimes of genocide. Their trial was underway at year’s end.
In March the UN Security Council extended MONUSCO’s mandate for 12 months and renewed the intervention brigade to neutralize armed groups. At year’s end MONUSCO consisted of approximately 17,500 peacekeepers, military observers, and police.
Killings: According to reports by UN agencies and NGOs, the SSF and RMGs summarily executed or otherwise killed 315 civilians from January to June. On August 13, alleged ADF combatants killed 50 persons with machetes and axes near the town of Beni.
Abductions: UN agencies and NGOs reported RMGs abducted individuals, generally to serve as porters or guides, or to demand ransom. In August the NGO Caritas accused the FDLR of kidnapping three of its Congolese workers in an area approximately 75 miles northwest of Goma. The three were released a few days later.
Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: UN agencies and NGOs reported the SSF arrested, illegally detained, raped, and tortured civilians. The United Nations reported that on July 3-4, FARDC soldiers raped 10 women who had been gathering firewood in Virunga National Park. The PNC opened an investigation into the case.
RMGs committed abuses in rural areas of North Kivu, South Kivu, Katanga, and Orientale, including killing, raping, and torturing civilians. Many of the victims of the August 13 massacre by suspected ADF members outside Beni town were bound and possibly tortured before they were killed. In certain areas in the east, RMGs looted, extorted, illegally taxed, and kidnapped civilians, often for ransom.
Both male and female RMG members raped men, women, and minors as part of the violence among and between them and the FARDC. Statistics for rape, including rape of males, were not available.
The ADF continued using crude improvised explosive devices that resulted in FARDC casualties. For example, on November 8, one of the devices exploded in Goma, killing a child and injuring 32 UN peacekeepers. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, and the perpetrators remained unknown at year’s end.
Child Soldiers: From January through November, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported 1,196 children were separated from RMGs; UNICEF assisted the children through a number of NGOs. These children were separated from the FDLR (379), Nyatura (201), FRPI (105), other Mai-Mai groups (77), Raia Mutomboki (72), FPD/Shetani (67), UPDI/Mai-Mai Mazembe(56), FDLR/RUD (50), NDC/Renove/Guidon (33), UPCP (31), APCLS (24), ADF (17), NDC/Cheka (18), GA Burundais (14), Mai-Mai Yira (13), LRA (11), Mai-Mai Kata Katanga, (eight) Mai-Mai Simba (seven), MAC (four), Mai-Mai Kifuafua (three), FARDC (two), FRF (two), FPP (one), and M23 (one). Most of the children were separated in North Kivu (81 percent), followed by Ituri (9 percent), South Kivu (8 percent) and Haut Ulele (2 percent). Twelve children were separated from FARDC during the year. Eleven of these children had been recruited in previous years, and one was recruited during the year.
Of the 3,338 children associated with armed forces and groups assisted by UNICEF via partners during the year, the majority–886–declared they were used as combatants; 744 were used for domestic work; 200 to fetch water, wood, and food; 391 as escorts; 147 to bear “fetishes” or transport weapons; and 148 as wives and/or for sexual exploitation. Other forms of use included working as spies, bodyguards, recruiters, camp guards, animal guards, or healers.
The SSF continued to arrest and detain children for their association with armed groups. The United Nations secured the release of nearly 200 children, mostly boys, from FARDC, police, and military prosecutor detention centers.
The president appointed an advisor on sexual violence and child recruitment in 2014. She raised awareness of the problems of sexual violence throughout the country and encouraged efforts to remove child soldiers from the SSF and provide services to victims. The government cooperated with international organizations to eliminate recruitment and remove children from SSF and RMGs.
See also the Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Other Conflict-related Abuse: Fighting between the FARDC and RMGs continued to displace populations and limit humanitarian access, particularly in Rutshuru, Walikale, Lubero, Beni, and Nyiragongo territories in North Kivu Province. During the year, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, humanitarian agency personnel were involved in 152 security incidents in North and South Kivu. This total included all incidents affecting national and international NGOs (humanitarian and postconflict/development combined), as well as the ICRC, but excluded all incidents against UN organizations or other international organizations (such as donors). There was a 22 percent reduction in incidents during the year, but the number of humanitarian workers killed in such incidents increased from one to four.
RMGs and SSF destroyed and looted towns and homes as a tactic in conflicts. For example, FARDC Sokola II forces targeted and emptied some of the Hutu IDP camps in North Kivu and burned several villages in an effort to disperse local civilian Hutu populations during their counter-FDLR operations. The FARDC alleged these communities held many FDLR “reservists” and dependents, and it took the actions to reduce the ability of Hutu communities to provide support for the FDLR.
In North Kivu, South Kivu, Oriental, and Katanga provinces, RMGs and FARDC soldiers continued to illegally tax, exploit, and trade natural resources for revenue and power. Clandestine trade in minerals and other natural resources facilitated the purchase of weapons and reduced government revenues. The natural resources most exploited were gold, cassiterite (tin ore), coltan (tantalum ore), and wolframite (tungsten ore), but also included wildlife products, timber, charcoal, and fish.
According to media and civil society, the LRA trafficked in elephant ivory from Garamba National Park to finance its operations, likely by smuggling ivory through the CAR, South Sudan, and the disputed Kafia Kingi region controlled by Sudan to link with illicit networks transferring these goods to China. The final report of the UN Group of Experts (UNGOE) in May 2015 indicated FARDC elements, local poachers, and armed groups were involved in the illegal exploitation of and trade in wildlife products, including ivory.
The illegal trade in minerals was both symptom and cause of weak governance. It financed the SSF and RMGs and sometimes generated revenue for traditional authorities and local and provincial governments. With enhanced government regulation encouraged by global advocacy efforts and donor support, the mining of cassiterite, coltan, and wolframite resulted in a small but increasing amount of legal conflict-free export from North and South Kivu, Katanga, and Maniema provinces. The SSF and RMGs continued to control, extort, and threaten remote mining areas in North Kivu, South Kivu, Orientale, and Katanga provinces but had much less influence in Maniema Province.
The law prohibits the FARDC and RMGs from engaging in mineral trade, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. Criminal involvement by FARDC units and RMGs included protection rackets, extortion, and theft. There were unsubstantiated reports government officials were involved in illegal gold mining.
The UNGOE reported several RMGs and elements of the FARDC profited from illegal trade and exploitation in the minerals sector (see section 7.b.). The UNGOE also reported that smuggling of minerals continued in the east and from there to Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi.
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
There were reports the government and its forces committed unlawful killings, particularly in the weeks following the election.
For example, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) stated the government’s use of excessive force to disperse demonstrators resulted in approximately 20 deaths; the opposition claimed at least 50 persons were killed. According to some reports, morgues were filled beyond capacity in the aftermath of the postelection violence.
There were numerous reports of disappearances.
On the night of August 31, heavily armed security forces, including republican guards and police, attacked the headquarters of opposition candidate Jean Ping. According to opposition leaders, two persons died, and many others were said to have disappeared. The government justified the attack by claiming criminals and weapons were being hidden at the headquarters.
The constitution prohibits torture and mistreatment of individuals, including prisoners. Security force personnel sometimes employed cruel and degrading treatment, however.
In September many sources reported the abuse of detainees arrested in the aftermath of the presidential election. A dual national with Gabonese citizenship claimed security forces beat him on the soles of his feet while he was in custody.
Refugees complained of harassment and extortion by security forces. According to reports from the African immigrant community, police and soldiers occasionally beat noncitizen Africans who lacked valid resident permits or identification. Authorities sometimes detained noncitizen Africans, ordered them to undress to humiliate them, and solicited bribes from them.
In December 2015, according to reliable international press sources, UN international peacekeeping troops, including from Gabon, allegedly took part in a prostitution ring in the M’Poko camp in the Central African Republic, paying 50 cents and $3 for sex with young girls. Government authorities investigated these cases but cleared those involved (in two cases, because the accuser mistook the flag of Rwanda on a soldier’s uniform for the flag of Gabon). In September, however, four Gabonese peacekeepers were repatriated following a separate incident of alleged sexual exploitation. These cases were under investigation at year’s end.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions were harsh and potentially life threatening due to low quality food, inadequate sanitation, lack of ventilation, gross overcrowding, and poor medical care. Conditions in jails and detention centers mirrored those in prisons. There were no specific accommodations for persons with disabilities in prisons.
Physical Conditions: According to official statistics, there were 3,254 male and 119 female prisoners in the country’s nine prisons at the end of 2015. Libreville’s central prison was severely overcrowded; it was built to hold 500 inmates but held 2,014 at the end of 2015. Reports indicated overcrowding was also a problem in other prisons. The Director of Penal Affairs indicated there were three deaths in Libreville’s prison. No other statistics were available.
In some cases authorities held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners, juveniles with adults, and men with women. Authorities separated juvenile prisoners from adults in Libreville and Franceville prisons. There were separate holding areas within prisons for men and women, but access to each area was not fully secured or restricted. Prisoners had only limited access to food, lighting, sanitation, potable water, and exercise. On-site nurses were available to provide basic medical care, although prison clinics often lacked necessary medicines. For serious illnesses or injury, authorities transferred prisoners to public hospitals. Management of the spread of infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, was inadequate.
Administration: Prison authorities reported having received two complaints of inhuman conditions during the year. Observers believed the low incidence of complaints was due to ignorance of the process or a lack of faith in its effectiveness. There was no prison ombudsperson or comparable independent authority available to respond to prisoner complaints.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted human rights organizations to conduct independent monitoring of prison conditions, but some reported difficulties in obtaining access to prisons. The International Committee of the Red Cross and the local NGO Malachie visited prisons.
The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but the government did not always observe these prohibitions. Security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained irregular immigrants throughout the year. In the days prior to the presidential election and after the election results were announced, there were many arrests without warrants of opinion leaders in civil society and labor unions, as well as politicians in Libreville and Port-Gentil. Authorities subsequently charged or released those arrested.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
The national police, under the Ministry of Interior, and the gendarmerie, under the Ministry of Defense, are responsible for law enforcement and public security. Elements of the armed forces and the Republican Guard, an elite unit that protects the president under his direct authority, sometimes performed internal security functions. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the national police, gendarmerie, republican guard, and all other branches of the security forces, and the government had mechanisms to investigate and punish those found responsible for abuse and corruption. Impunity was a significant problem, however.
Some police were inefficient and corrupt. Security force members sought bribes to supplement their salaries, often while stopping vehicles at legal roadblocks to check vehicle registration and identity papers. The Inspector General’s Office was responsible for investigating police and security force abuse and corruption. No independent information regarding the effectiveness of this office was available.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
Although the law requires arrest warrants based on sufficient evidence and issued by a duly authorized official to make arrests, security forces in some cases disregarded these provisions. The law allows authorities to detain a suspect up to 48 hours without charge after which time the suspect must be brought before a judge to be charged. Police often failed to respect this time limit. Conditional release was possible after charges were filed if further investigation was required. There was a functioning bail system. Detainees were not always allowed prompt access to family members and a lawyer of their choice. The law requires the government provide indigent detainees with lawyers, but this was not always done, often because the government could not find lawyers willing to accept the terms of payment offered for taking such cases. Instances of these shortcomings spiked following the disputed presidential election. Except for the series of arrests made in the lead up to the election and in the days after the announcement of the outcome, arrests were made based on warrants issued by a judge or prosecutor based on evidence.
Authorities did not detain suspects incommunicado or hold them under house arrest. There were no reports detainees submitted complaints of abusive detention, but detainees generally lacked knowledge of their rights and the procedure for submitting complaints.
Arbitrary Arrest: Serge Mabiala, a prominent critic of the president and a leading figure of a dissent movement within the ruling PDG party, was arrested by intelligence service officers on charges of corruption and detained from September 16, 2015 until January 15. He was accused of embezzling approximately two billion CFA francs ($3.4 million) when he served as director of tax collection for large businesses in 2006-09. Authorities held him in Libreville’s central prison and refused provisional release while he awaited a preliminary hearing. Mabiala’s lawyers and family claimed authorities did not present a warrant at the time of his arrest, held him four days before officially bringing charges against him, and did not follow proper procedures for filing corruption charges. His supporters asserted these irregularities and the timing of his arrest–seven years after the alleged embezzlement and two months after he began speaking out against the government–were evidence his arrest was arbitrary and politically motivated. After his release, Mabiala had one hearing. At year’s end the investigation continued.
Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention was common due to overburdened dockets and an inefficient judicial system. The law limits pretrial detention to six months for a misdemeanor and one year for a felony charge, with six-month extensions if authorized by the examining magistrate. The law provides for a commission to deal with cases of abusive or excessive detention and grant compensation to victims, but the government had yet to establish such a commission. Approximately two-thirds of prison inmates were held in pretrial detention that could sometimes last up to three years. There were instances in which the length of pretrial detention exceeded the maximum sentence for the alleged crime. Although there were no reports detainees submitted complaints of abusive detention, detainees generally lacked knowledge of their rights and the procedure for submitting complaints, and may not have submitted complaints due to fear of retribution.
Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law provides for detainees or persons arrested to challenge the legal basis and arbitrary nature of their detention. The law also provides for compensation if the court finds they were unlawfully detained. Authorities did not always respect these rights.
The law provides for an independent judiciary, but the judiciary demonstrated only partial independence and only in some cases. The judiciary was inefficient and remained susceptible to government influence. The president appoints and may dismiss judges through the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, to which the judiciary was accountable. In November magistrates went on strike, and one of their demands was for the removal of the head of state as the Magistrate Superior Council president. To address military cases, each year the Office of the Presidency appoints a military court composed of selected magistrates and military personnel. The military court provides the same basic legal rights as a civilian court. Outside the formal judicial system, minor disputes may be taken to a local traditional chief, particularly in rural areas, but the government did not always recognize such decisions. Corruption was a problem.
Authorities generally respected court orders.
The constitution provides for the right to a trial and to legal counsel, and the judiciary generally respected these rights. Trials were public. Trial dates were often delayed. In state security trials, the judge may deliver an immediate verdict of guilty at the initial hearing if the government presents sufficient evidence. Defendants have the right to a presumption of innocence. They have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of charges when booked at a police station, and authorities provided free interpretation as necessary, when staff members with the required language skills were available. A panel of three judges tries defendants, who enjoy the right to communicate with an attorney of choice and to adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense. Indigent defendants in both civil and criminal cases have the right to have an attorney provided at state expense, but the government often failed to provide attorneys because private attorneys refused to accept the terms of payment the government offered for such cases. Defendants have the right to confront witnesses against them, present witnesses or evidence on their behalf, access through their lawyer government-held evidence against them, and appeal. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants have the right to free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals and have a right to be present at trial. The government generally extended these rights to all defendants.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
There were no reports of persons imprisoned solely for political reasons. There were, however, numerous reports of persons arrested during or after the disturbances that followed the disputed presidential election in August. Most of those arrested were soon released, or in some cases charged with ordinary criminal acts. Opposition and human rights advocates argued, however, these latter charges were politically motivated.
On September 23, gendarmes arrested without warrant Fefe Onanga, president of the Popular Radical Movement. Authorities did not present a warrant at the time of his arrest. On September 30, he was released on provisional liberty with charges of inciting violence. The case was under investigation at year’s end.
On August 31, covert agency B2 forces (Direction Generale des Recherches) arrested a former PDG deputy who later joined the opposition. His lawyers and family claimed authorities did not present a warrant at the time of his arrest. The Secret Service held him 13 days before officially bringing charges against the defendant of criminal association, instigation of violence, and firearms possession. He denied all charges, denouncing his arrest as politically motivated and linked to his departure from the ruling party. The case against the defendant was pending at year’s end and the defendant in pre-trial detention.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
Individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts. Persons seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations may seek relief in the civil court system, although this seldom occurred.
The government continued the practice of removing structures, including homes, it claimed were built on or infringed public property. The government asserted structures illegally built close to utilities and streets impeded traffic, violated zoning laws, and interfered with legal construction.
Although the constitution and law prohibit such actions, the government did not always respect these prohibitions. As part of criminal investigations, police requested and easily obtained search warrants from judges, sometimes after the fact. Security forces conducted warrantless searches for irregular immigrants and criminal suspects. Authorities also reportedly monitored private telephone conversations, personal mail, and the movement of citizens. Around the time of the presidential election, both opposition figures and international observers reported evidence of monitoring of their cell phones and other communications.
In September, after the announcement of the presidential election results, the Telecommunications Regulation Agency impeded cell phone texting with no explanation; the suspension was lifted on September 28.
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
There were numerous allegations the government or its agents committed arbitrary and unlawful killings, particularly of known or suspected criminals, including terrorists. On September 7, the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Independent Medico Legal Unit reported 114 cases of individuals killed by police between January and August, including 101 individuals who were allegedly executed extrajudicially and 13 individuals who were killed in unclear circumstances. Some groups alleged authorities significantly underestimated the number of extrajudicial killings due to underreporting of security force killings in informal settlements, including those in dense urban areas. From January to September 22, IPOA received 62 complaints regarding deaths resulting from police actions, including 28 fatal shootings involving police and 34 deaths due to other actions by police. Of these, IPOA referred one to the ODPP, based on conclusive investigations. From the 7,169 complaints IPOA received against police since its inception, authorities were trying 30 cases as of October 25.
In July the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report documenting 34 cases of individuals who disappeared and 11 cases of individuals found dead after allegedly being taken into custody by security forces during counterterrorism operations in Nairobi and the country’s northeast region between December 2013 and December 2015. According to the report, law enforcement authorities did not meaningfully investigate these deaths and disappearances. The report attributed many of the human rights abuses to the Kenya Defense Forces in the northeast counties of Mandera, Garissa, and Wajir bordering Somalia.
In July, four police officers were charged with the homicides of International Justice Mission (IJM) investigator and lawyer Willie Kimani, IJM client Josphat Mwenda, and their driver Joseph Muiruri; the three went missing after Kimani filed a case against a police officer on behalf of Mwenda. Their severely tortured bodies were recovered from a river a week later. The case prompted demonstrations by lawyers and members of civil society across the country calling for an end to extrajudicial killings by police. In September a fifth police officer was charged. The trial continued at year’s end.
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. There were numerous cases of terrorist abuses, including the killing of at least six persons in Mandera County on July 1 by suspected al-Shabaab terrorists who attacked two commercial buses and the killing of 12 persons in Mandera County by al-Shabaab terrorists in an attack on a hostel.
Observers and NGOs suspected members of the security forces were culpable of forced disappearances. On the August 30 commemoration of the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, 15 international and local human rights organizations released a joint press statement calling on the government to acknowledge the practice of abductions by security agencies. The statement also reported that human rights organizations documented more than 300 cases of individuals who had gone missing while in the hands of security agencies since 2009. The Star, a daily newspaper, reported on August 31 that more than 100 citizens had disappeared during the year, and it cited NGO Haki Africa claims of 78 killings and enforced disappearances in the prior two months in Mombasa County. In July, HRW reported 34 suspected cases of enforced disappearances (see section 1.a.).
Several members of parliament representing northeastern and coastal constituencies noted their constituents reported cases of disappearances.
There were also separate media reports of 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.).
While the constitution and law prohibit torture, the legal code does not define torture and provides no sentencing guidelines for violating the constitutional and legal prohibitions. These gaps functionally prevent prosecution for 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, being tied up in painful positions, and electric shocks were the most common methods of torture used by police. A range of human rights organizations and media reported cases of torture and indiscriminate police beatings committed with impunity. For example, local media widely reported in July on leaked autopsy results from murdered IJM investigator and lawyer Willie Kimani, IJM client Josphat Mwenda, and their driver Joseph Muiruri that revealed the three were tortured to death by police officers, including by physical beating and strangulation (see section 1.a). HRW’s July report documented six cases of serious abuse of detainees that appeared to amount to torture that allegedly took place in military camps and bases in Garissa, Wajir, and Mandera Counties. The Standard daily newspaper reported on September 15 that a High Court awarded five million shillings ($50,000) in compensation to four civilians who suffered permanent disabilities through physical beating and gunshot wounds inflicted by Kenya Defense Forces soldiers in Garissa in 2012.
On April 2, according to an IPOA report, police officers from the General Service Unit deployed to the University of Nairobi entered academic and dormitory buildings, evicted, and assaulted an estimated 30 students with batons. Many students sustained serious injuries from police batons, including bone fractures (see section 1.f.).
In late May and early June, police used violent and at times deadly force against demonstrators denouncing the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (see section 3).
There were reports security forces deployed to quell ethnic violence committed abuses (see section 6).
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Human rights organizations reported in 2015 that prison, detention center, and police station conditions were harsh due to overcrowding, food and water shortages, and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care. Overall, health care improved during the year due to the Kenya Prisons Service’s enhanced capacity to respond to the health-care needs of inmates.
Physical Conditions: The Kenya Prisons Service reported a prison population of 53,841 as of August, more than 90 percent of which were men. The country’s 108 prisons had a designed capacity of 26,687 inmates. While the Prisons Service noted that 10 more facilities were built to improve capacity, with more than five others under construction, serious overcrowding was the norm. Authorities continued a “decongestion” program that entailed releasing petty offenders and encouraging the judiciary to increase utilization of the Community Service Orders program in their sentencing.
The Kenya Prisons Service reported 50 deaths as of August 5, mostly from natural causes, representing a dramatic reduction from previous years, which the service attributed to improvements in prison health services.
Between January and June, IPOA observed that authorities separated women from men in detention facilities 81 percent of the time in the 46 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. Conditions for female inmates in small, particularly rural, facilities were worse than for men. 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. Between January and June, IPOA observed that only 16 percent of the detention facilities visited included separate housing for juveniles. In the same period, IPOA observed that only 4 percent of detention facilities inspected had child protection units. 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.
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 Prisons Service stated in August that it no longer served a penal diet for punishment. Water shortages, a problem both inside and outside of prison, continued. Sanitary facilities were inadequate. 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 Prisons Service and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (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: Overall health care in prisons improved due to strengthened capacity to respond to health-care needs. A Directorate of Health Services was established in the Prisons Department to oversee health and hygiene issues, and prison and detention facilities added more health professionals. A program was launched to provide care for inmates with HIV/AIDS and improve tuberculosis diagnoses, important factors in decreasing morbidity and mortality. The Prisons Service opened its first facility exclusively for juvenile female offenders–the Kamae Girls Borstal Institution at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison in Kiambu County, which can accommodate up to 200 girls ages 15 to 17.
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 and the Administration Police Service. The Kenya Police Service 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 as of October.
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.
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.
Police corruption remained a significant problem. Human rights NGOs reported that police often stopped and arrested citizens to extort bribes; they jailed, on trumped-up charges, those who could not pay and sometimes beat them. During police vetting conducted by the NPSC, multiple police officers were exposed as having the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars in their bank accounts, far exceeding what would be possible to save from their salaries. Mobile money records showed that some officers also transferred money to superior officers. Media and civil society groups reported that police used illegal confinement, extortion, physical abuse, and fabricated charges to accomplish law enforcement objectives as well as to facilitate illegal activities.
Police failed to prevent vigilante violence in numerous instances but in other cases played a protective role (see section 6, Other Societal Violence or Discrimination).
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 common (see section 4), 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 going to a police station to make a complaint. In August, Kayole police chief Ali Nuno allegedly assaulted and detained an IPOA officer sent to deliver to him a summons for an investigation into allegations of Nuno’s abuse of office.
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 new whereabouts.
During the year police accountability mechanisms, including those of IPOA and the IAU, increased their capacity to investigate cases of police abuse. The IAU acting director reported directly to the inspector general of police. Close to 70 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, IPOA received six reports of deaths and one report of serious injury caused by NPS officers, which is legally required to report all deaths to IPOA. IPOA repeatedly expressed its concern about the lack of compliance with this legal requirement. Since its inception in 2012, IPOA had received 219 reports of deaths in addition to 89 reports of serious injuries.
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.
Between January and June, IPOA received 1,326 complaints, bringing the total since its inception to 7,835. In the same six-month period, IPOA completed 94 complaints, 13 of which were death cases. In the previous four years, IPOA completed 321 cases and referred 66 to the ODPP for prosecution. Of those 66 cases, 35 cases were before the courts. In April IPOA secured its first manslaughter conviction, against two police officers who killed a 14-year-old girl in Kwale in 2014.
The NPSC continued transitional vetting of 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 as consideration of public input regarding allegations of abuse or misconduct. By September the NPSC had vetted nearly 3,000 officers, of whom 919 were vetted during the year. All of the officers vetted during the year were from the traffic department, which has a reputation for extensive corruption. Nearly 50 officers were removed from the service based on 2015 vetting. Removals based on the year’s vetting had not been announced as of October 25. 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 for persons to be charged, tried, or released within a certain time and for issuing 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. Some officers were charged and convicted for use of excessive force during the year. For example, in a case reported by every major domestic newspaper in 2014, police officers in Kwale shot and killed a 14-year-old girl while searching for a suspect in her residence. Police claimed she confronted them with a machete. According to press reports, an eyewitness, who subsequently went into hiding, claimed police shot her without provocation. Two police officers stood trial for the homicide, and in March a high-court judge found them both guilty of manslaughter; they were each sentenced 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 arrested and detained persons arbitrarily. Victims of arbitrary arrest were generally poor young men. Human rights organizations complained that security forces engaged in widespread arbitrary arrests and detentions during counterterrorism operations and targeted ethnic Somalis and Kenyan Muslims. On the August 30 International Day of Victims of Enforced Disappearances, human rights activists in Mombasa asked the National Assembly to address the issue of arbitrary arrests and murder (see section 1.a.).
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; that right was not always protected in practice.
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary. Reform of the judiciary continued during the year. The judiciary demonstrated independence and impartiality, but there were media and other allegations of significant judicial corruption. Authorities generally respected court orders, and the outcomes of trials did not appear to be predetermined.
The Judicial Services Commission–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 on September 6. The board proposed to the president the formation of an independent disciplinary tribunal to receive complaints against judicial officers and make recommendations for appropriate action. In the final report, 44 percent of Court of Appeal judges, 15.9 percent of High Court judges, and 4.7 percent of magistrates were found unsuitable.
There were several allegations of judicial corruption. In January the Judicial Service Commission asked the president to form a tribunal to investigate claims that Supreme Court judge Philip Tunoi received an estimated 200 million shillings ($2 million) to influence an election petition opposing Nairobi’s governor. In February the president suspended the judge and appointed the tribunal, which ended its proceedings in June on the grounds that it lacked a legal mandate to investigate the judge after he retired at age 70, as required by law.
The constitution gives the judiciary authority to review appointments and decisions by other branches of government. Parliament sometimes ignored judicial decisions. For example, on August 27, a High Court deadline expired for parliament to enact legislation to implement the constitutionally mandated two-thirds gender principle (see section 3).
The law provides for “qadi” 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.
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 of the charges against them, with free interpretation if necessary; 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. Sentencing Policy Guidelines, a policy document drafted by the Judicial Task Force on Sentencing, was launched by the chief justice on January 25. The Active Case Management Guidelines, developed to improve prosecution procedures, were gazetted (announced via official publication) on February 29 and implemented as a pilot project in four courts as of September. 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, although there was no public defenders service. Defendants generally had adequate time to prepare a defense if they were capable of doing so. The government and court generally respected these rights. The Legal Aid Act enacted in June established the National Legal Aid Service to facilitate access to justice and promote pro-bono services for indigent defendants who cannot afford legal representation. The National Council on the Administration of Justice was working to implement the changes as of October. Courts continued to try the vast majority of defendants without representation because they could not afford legal counsel. 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 ODPP significantly increased the number of trained prosecutors. At year’s end there were an estimated 900 state prosecutors, compared with 200 in 2013. The ODPP phased out police prosecutors entirely. 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 the 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 its decisions to the Supreme Court as well as to the African Court of Justice and Human Rights. On May 5, the judiciary launched a program of Enhanced Service Delivery Initiatives to promote more efficient and affordable justice. For example, the Family and Commercial Divisions of the High Court at Milimani in Nairobi commenced a pilot Court Annexed Mediation Program to give parties an alternative forum for dispute resolution.
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.
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 on August 31 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.
While three-quarters of the population is rural, according to the National Land Commission, only 20 percent of citizens possessed actual titles to land.
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. In some cases authorities arranged ad hoc restitution or relocation of residents under NGO pressure. For example, according to the Guardian on August 18, more than 200 indigenous Ogiek families on the slopes of Mount Elgon were evicted in June by police and forest rangers; activists claimed the terms for compensation payments were unclear and that the families were not resettled.
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.
On April 2, according to the subsequent IPOA report, police officers from the General Service Unit deployed to the University of Nairobi; they entered academic and dormitory buildings, evicted, and then assaulted approximately 30 students with batons. The incident received extensive media coverage after a live video clip was widely shared on social media. Many students sustained serious injuries from police batons, including bone fractures. Both IPOA and the IAU initiated investigations into the events, but the investigations were frustrated by a lack of police cooperation. No charges against police officers had been filed as of October 25.
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.
Republic of the Congo
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
There were reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
Journalists and local human rights activists presented evidence of four deaths resulting from torture. According to a joint report from three local human rights organizations, on February 26, police arrested Olgane Nioko Ngambou for an alleged robbery in Owando, in the central Cuvette region. Sergeant Cedric Akoul severely beat Ngambou while in custody at the Owando Police Station, and he died from internal hemorrhaging of the liver and kidneys on February 27 after officials transferred him to the Central Hospital in Brazzaville for urgent medical treatment. Other deaths reported included Steve Malonga, arrested March 25 and detained at the Chacona Police Station; Yeutcheu Faustin Aime, a Cameroonian citizen arrested in June in Pointe-Noire and detained at the Tie Tie Police Station; and Fabrice Oyakou, arrested June 15 and detained at the Poto Poto Police Station in Brazzaville.
According to multiple NGO reports, on July 21, police shot and killed Mankou Albert, Aikon Apollinaire, and Nsihou Paul, civilians belonging to a community night watch patrol in the Raffinerie neighborhood of Pointe-Noire. Police intercepted the men, who were armed with machetes and whistles, and according to eyewitnesses, questioned the men at gunpoint about their activities and moments later shot and killed them. On July 21, Itoua Poto, police chief of Pointe-Noire, stated the victims belonged to a militia and that police who shot them had committed no error.
Vigilante justice and abuse of power by police were problems. For example, on April 26, Police Brigadier General Mba Ferdinand, in the southern town of Madingou, shot Ngembo Olombi Mignon, age 15, at his house, after learning that Mignon had harmed a young neighbor girl. Mignon died later that night in a hospital. In response to his death, youth set fire to the police station in Madingou.
Human rights NGOs reported at least seven deaths resulting from abuse in prisons and pretrial detention centers (see sections 1.c. and 1.g.).
There were numerous credible reports of politically motivated disappearances. For example, independent media and local human rights NGOs reported the disappearance of political opposition members Marien Michel Ehouango Madzimba, arrested on April 30, and Rodiguez Bazembe, arrested on June 17. Additionally, there were several reports of night raids and daytime state-sponsored kidnappings of opposition supporters, after which family members were unable to find any information about the victims’ welfare and whereabouts.
Police detained minor children, who subsequently disappeared (see section 1.c.).
The constitution prohibits torture, and the law contains a general prohibition against assault and battery, but there is no legal framework specifically banning torture under the criminal code. There were widespread reports of cases of government-led torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.
A human rights NGO reported that in December 2015 sergeants Sabin Assima Atsouama and Morgan Atsouama allegedly tortured Rigobert Okuya. According to Okuya, he was strapped down on a table for hours, severely beaten, temporarily paralyzed by a stun gun, and sodomized with a metal rod.
In September, NGOs and media reported the arrest and torture of Augustin Kala Kala, a campaign official belonging to the Convention for Action, Democracy, and Development, an opposition political group. According to Kala Kala’s wife, more than a dozen armed and hooded men belonging to government security forces arrested Kala Kala at his residence in Brazzaville during the middle of the night on September 28. Police took him to a local intelligence police station where intelligence police subjected him to electric shock and beatings over a period of two weeks. On October 15, Kala Kala was found barely conscious in front of a morgue in Brazzaville and given medical attention.
According to human rights NGOs and social media reports, on November 12, armed and hooded men belonging to government security forces abducted Jugal Mayangui, a sergeant in the military, from his home in Brazzaville. According to Mayangui, he was muzzled, burned, molested, and subjected to severe beatings and accused of being an accomplice to Pastor Ntumi. The abductors released him on November 20, and he was taken to a hospital for treatment.
On December 21, prison authorities brought Roland Gambou, the younger brother of opposition candidate Okombi Salissa, to the hospital where he died of unspecified causes after more than four months of detention.
Other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment regularly took place. Human rights NGOs reported authorities regularly beat numerous detainees while in custody. On July 28, Jean Ngouabi, detained in the Brazzaville Prison, reported to a human rights NGO that police arrested him on March 25 and subsequently subjected him to severe beatings over the next 27 days. Because of the blows to his head, he developed blood clots, and according to medical records provided by his lawyer, lost all vision in his right eye and some vision in his left eye. The government denied responsibility, claiming a pre-existing health condition caused his vision loss. According to human rights NGOs, many detainees developed chronic medical problems such as organ damage and paralysis due to lack of proper medical care.
Police frequently required detainees to pay for protection or risk beatings. NGOs reported authorities generally ignored allegations of prisoner mistreatment.
Rape and sexual abuse by government agents occurred. In June a joint UN-Congolese government report cited indications that sexual violence toward women and teenage girls corresponded to the timing of security operations in the southern Pool region. Human rights NGOs reported multiple instances of rape and sexual abuse by police, particularly of prostitutes and gay men.
Although prostitution is legal, there were reports of police arresting prostitutes, including gay men, for alleged illegal activity; police then threatened or committed rape if the detainees did not pay a bribe for release.
The United Nations reported that during the year (through December 20), it received nine allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against Republic of the Congo peacekeepers deployed to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the CAR. These include three alleged incidents occurring in 2016, five in 2015, and one for which the date of the alleged incident was unknown. Investigations into these nine allegations by the United Nations and the Government of the Republic of the Congo were pending at year’s end.
Conflict abuses during international peacekeeping missions allegedly took place. On June 7, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that Congolese peacekeepers in Boali, CAR, killed 18 civilians between December 2013 and June 2015. HRW made these allegations based on a grave exhumed near a peacekeeping base on February 16, in which the remains of 12 bodies matched the identities of missing persons from March 2014. On June 8, Minister of Justice Pierre Mabiala, responded that the soldiers in question would face justice by the end of the year. At year’s end the investigation was still pending.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison and detention center conditions were harsh and life threatening due to inadequate sanitary conditions, gross overcrowding, and a severe deficit of medical and psychological care.
Authorities generally maintained separate areas within facilities for minors, women, and men in Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire, however, there were times when 16-17-year-old males were held in the same area as women in Pointe Noire. In Brazzaville, while these areas were separate, they were sometimes easily accessible with no locked entryways. In the other 10 prisons, authorities sometimes held juvenile detainees with adult prisoners.
Physical Conditions: As of September 8, there were approximately 1,200 inmates in the country’s two largest prisons–Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire prisons. A government source estimated 60 percent of inmates awaited trial, but according to an NGO, that total was closer to 75 percent. As of November 30, the Brazzaville Prison, built in 1943 to accommodate 150 prisoners, held more than 800 inmates, including women and minors. It had only 110 beds and 24 showers and toilets. The Pointe-Noire Prison, built in 1934 to hold up to 75 inmates, held an estimated 400, including 60 foreign nationals, more than half of whom were from the DRC. Police stations regularly housed individuals in their limited incarceration facilities beyond the maximum statutory holding period of 72 hours. In addition to these official prisons, the government’s intelligence and security services operated several secret detention centers and security prisons, which were inaccessible for inspection.
Prison conditions for women were better than those for men in all 12 prisons. There was less crowding in the women’s cells than in those for men. Authorities held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners. In Brazzaville authorities housed and treated prisoners with illnesses in one area but allowed them to interact with other inmates.
In Brazzaville prison conditions for wealthy or well connected prisoners generally were better than conditions for others.
There were several reported deaths resulting from abuse, neglect, and overcrowding in prisons and pretrial detention centers (see section 1.a.). For example, an NGO reported that in February Michel Nganda Manenga, incarcerated since 2013, died from malnutrition in the Ouesso Jail in Sangha Department. According to the same NGO, six inmates died in the Brazzaville Prison in July for reasons prison administrators did not disclose.
On June 11, NGOs reported the forced disappearance of Mayama Saint Etude, age 11. Police arrested Etude for alleged theft and detained him in a special unit called the Banditry Repression Group at the Ouenze Mandzandza Police Station in Brazzaville. They denied his parents’ repeated requests for access to visit him in detention. On June 29, the parents received an anonymous tip that their son had died in detention shortly after his arrest. On July 4, Etude’s parents met with the police commissioner of the police station, who denied Etude had ever been arrested or detained.
On December 29, an attempted prison break in Brazzaville led to the death of three individuals–a gendarme, a prisoner, and a passerby, according to the government.
In Brazzaville most inmates slept on the floor on cardboard or thin mattresses in small, overcrowded cells that exposed them to disease. The prisons lacked ventilation and had poorly maintained lighting with wiring protruding from the walls. In Brazzaville stagnant water with trash lined the interior space of one holding area. In Pointe-Noire water regularly backed into prisoners’ cells. Basic and emergency medical care was limited. Medical personnel at a Brazzaville prison cited tuberculosis, dysentery, malaria, and HIV as the most common maladies affecting prisoners. Authorities did not provide prisoners with HIV/AIDS with specialized medical care, nor were HIV tests available in prisons. Authorities took pregnant women to hospitals to give birth, and authorities sometimes allowed them to breastfeed their infants in prison. Access to social services personnel was severely limited due to insufficient staffing, overcrowding, and stigmatization of mental health issues.
Prison inmates reportedly received, on average, two daily meals consisting of rice, bread, and fish or meat. Authorities permitted women to cook over small fires built on the ground in a shared recreational space. The Pointe-Noire Prison occasionally had running water. All of the prisons supplied potable water to inmates in buckets.
Administration: Recordkeeping in the penitentiary system was inadequate. Despite having the necessary computer equipment in Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire, prison officials continued to rely mostly on a noncomputerized system, citing a lack of internet access, resources, and training.
Access to prisoners generally required a communication permit from a judge. The permit allowed visitors to spend five to 15 minutes with a prisoner, although authorities usually did not strictly enforce this limit. In most cases visits took place either in a crowded open area or in a small room with one extended table where approximately 10 detainees sat at a time. A new permit is technically required for each visit, but families were often able to return for multiple visits on one permit. Since many prisoners’ families lived far away, visits often were infrequent because of the financial hardship of travel.
Prison rules provide for prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship, but officials did not respect this right. Authorities did not investigate credible allegations of inhuman conditions brought to them by NGOs and detainees’ families.
Independent Monitoring: The government provided domestic and international human rights groups with limited access to prisons and detention centers. Observers generally considered the primary local NGO focused on prison conditions independent; authorities, however, denied it access to the interior of several different prisons on multiple occasions throughout the year.
Throughout the year human rights NGOs that monitored detention conditions requested letters of permission from the Ministry of Justice to visit prisons. Their repeated requests went unanswered, so prisons in Djambala and Brazzaville, and police detention stations in Sembe and Sangha, continued to refuse these NGOs access.
Representatives of religiously affiliated charitable organizations visited prisons and detention centers for charitable work and religious counseling. Authorities granted diplomatic missions access to both prisons and police jails to provide consular assistance to their citizens and for general inspection.
The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention. Nevertheless, arbitrary arrest continued to be a widespread problem. Local NGOs reported hundreds of arbitrary detentions in the period leading up to and after the March 20 presidential election, although more-definitive evidence was available for only 88 cases during the year.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
Security forces consist of the police, gendarmerie, and military. Police and the gendarmerie are responsible for maintaining internal order, with police primarily operating in cities and the gendarmerie mainly in other areas. Military forces are responsible for territorial security, but some units also have domestic security responsibilities. For example, the specialized Republican Guard battalion is charged with the protection of the president, government buildings, and diplomatic missions. The Ministry of Defense oversees the military and gendarmerie, and the Ministry of the Interior and Decentralization oversees the police.
A civilian police unit under the Ministry of Interior and Decentralization is responsible for patrolling the borders. Separately, a military police unit reports to the Ministry of Defense and is composed of military and police officers responsible for investigating professional misconduct by members of any of the security forces.
Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces; however, there were members of the security forces who acted independently of civilian authority, committed abuses, and engaged in malfeasance. The law charges both the military police and the Office of the Inspector General of Police with investigating reports of misconduct by security forces.
In March a Brazzaville court sentenced police officer Dany Mayala to five years in prison for committing “intentional injury” to a detainee at the Diata Police Station in 2013.
The government-established Human Rights Commission (HRC) receives reports from the public of security force abuses, but it was ineffective and did not meet during the year.
Impunity for members of the security forces remained widespread. On April 4, security forces were mostly professional and restrained during the aftermath of gunfire in Brazzaville that displaced thousands of persons. There were, however, several reports of security force members robbing displaced persons of their valuable possessions, such as cell phones, and demanding bribes at checkpoints within the city. Additionally, their commanders and other government officials often ordered them to commit human rights abuses, such as preventing freedom of movement throughout the country during the presidential campaign period in March.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
The constitution and law require that a duly authorized official issue warrants before making arrests, a person be apprehended openly, a lawyer be present during initial questioning, and detainees be brought before a judge within three days and either charged or released within four months. The government habitually violated these provisions. There is a bail system, but with 70 percent of the population living in poverty, most detainees could not afford to post bail. There is an option for provisional release, but officials usually denied these requests, even for detainees with serious medical conditions. Authorities sometimes informed detainees of charges against them at the time of arrest, but filing of formal charges often took at least one week. Authorities often arrested detainees secretly and without judicial authorization and sometimes detained suspects incommunicado or put them under de facto house arrest. Police at times held persons for six months or longer before filing charges due to the political nature of the cases or administrative errors. Observers attributed most administrative delays to lack of staff in the Ministry of Justice and the court system. Family members sometimes received prompt access to detainees but often only after payment of bribes. The law requires authorities to provide lawyers to indigent detainees facing criminal charges at government expense, but this usually did not occur.
The penal code states authorities may hold a detainee for a maximum of 48 to 72 hours in a police jail before an attorney general reviews the case. Thereafter, a decision must be made either to release or to transfer the individual to a prison for pretrial detention. Authorities generally did not observe the 72-hour maximum and frequently held detainees for several weeks before an attorney general freed or transferred them to a prison to await trial. The criminal code states that a defendant or accused person may apply for provisional release at any point during his or her detention, from either an investigating judge or a trial court, depending on the type of case. The law states that provisional release should generally be granted, provided that the judicial investigation is sufficiently advanced, that the accused does not pose a risk of subornation of witnesses, and does not pose a threat of disturbance to public order caused by the offense initially alleged; however, this law was not respected in practice.
Arbitrary Arrest: Arbitrary and false arrests continued to occur. Authorities arrested more than eight persons belonging to opposition political parties or suspected of supporting the opposition. According to eyewitnesses and local human rights NGOs, police conducted secret arrests, often at night, at the homes of opposition supporters. Independent media and local NGOS published lists of hundreds of names of individuals arrested between January and July.
Pretrial Detention: The penal code sets a maximum of four months in pretrial detention, which may be extended an additional two months with judicial approval; thereafter detainees must be released pending their court hearings. Authorities did not respect this limit, arguing that the two-month extension is renewable. Between 60 and 75 percent of detainees in the prisons were pretrial detainees. Prison authorities stated the average provisional detention for noncriminal cases lasted one to three months and for criminal cases at least 12 months. Human rights activists, however, stated the average was much longer, commonly exceeding a year, and sometimes exceeding the maximum sentence for the alleged crime.
For example, in November 2015 authorities arrested Paulin Makaya, president of the opposition United for Congo Party for “incitement to public disorder” for organizing and participating in an unauthorized demonstration in October 2015 against the constitutional referendum. Makaya remained in pretrial detention for six months before his trial began on June 13.
Lengthy pretrial detentions were primarily due to the judicial system’s lack of capacity and political will. The penal code defines three levels of crime: the misdemeanor (punishable by less than one year in jail), the delict (punishable by one to five years in jail), and the felony (punishable by more than five years in jail). Criminal courts try misdemeanor and delict cases regularly. The judicial system, however, suffered from a serious backlog of felony cases. By law criminal courts must hear felony cases four times per year. This was not possible because the ministry received funding irregularly for processing the more expensive and legally complex felony cases.
Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest, arbitrary detention, and false arrest, and provide detainees the right to challenge the legal basis of their detention before a competent judge or authority. If an investigating judge determines a detainee to be innocent, his or her release is promptly ordered, and he or she is entitled to file suit against the government for miscarriage of justice with the Administrative Court. The government generally did not observe the law. Local human rights NGOs reported numerous occasions when officials denied detainees in Brazzaville the right to challenge their detention.
Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, the judiciary continued to be overburdened, underfunded, and subject to political influence and corruption. Authorities generally abided by court orders; however, judges did not always issue direct court orders against accused authorities.
In rural areas traditional courts continued to handle many local disputes, particularly property, inheritance, and witchcraft cases, and domestic conflicts that could not be resolved within the family.
The constitution provides for the right to a fair trial presided over by an independent judiciary, but authorities did not always respect this right. In 2011 the Ministry of Justice began to decentralize the trial process. Appeals courts existed in five departments–Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire, Dolisie, Owando, and Ouesso–and each had authority to try felony cases brought within its jurisdiction.
Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges, with free interpretation as necessary. Defendants have a right to a fair and public trial in all criminal cases and felony cases. Defendants in all criminal trials have the right to be present at their trials and to consult with an attorney in a timely manner, although this did not always occur. The law obligates the government to provide legal assistance to any indigent defendant facing serious criminal charges, but such legal assistance was not always available because the government did not generally pay for public defenders.
Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. The defense has the right to access government-held evidence. Defendants also have the right to confront or question accusers and witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt and have the right to appeal. The law extends these rights to all citizens, and the government generally abided by these provisions, except in highly politicized cases.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
During the year NGOs reported authorities held 131 political prisoners, who had publicly opposed another term for the incumbent president; some cases dated back to August 2015. A total of 88 others were detained since January. For example, authorities arrested senior campaign officials of opposition presidential candidates the week following the March 20 presidential election, including Jean Ngouabi, Jacques Banagandzala, Anatole Limbongo Ngoka, Christine Moyen, Dieudonne Dhird, Raymond Ebonga, and Serge Blanchard Oba. In addition, the government put several opposition figures under house arrest or had their houses surrounded by security forces. On April 6, Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas, the declared runner-up in the presidential election, reported his house was under police surveillance for several weeks. Security forces reportedly surrounded the house of opposition candidate Okombi Salissa; the candidate’s actual whereabouts were unknown. From April 13 until April 20, security forces surrounded the private residence of candidate Claudine Munari. Security forces also surrounded the residence of retired general Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko, the candidate who came in third officially with 14 percent of vote. On June 14, authorities arrested Mokoko on charges of posing a threat to national security and possession of weapons of war. He faced an additional charge on August 17 of disturbing public order. On August 18, authorities denied him provisional release and as of year’s end, he remained in detention in Brazzaville.
The government permitted limited access to political prisoners by international human rights and humanitarian organizations, and diplomatic missions.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
In contrast to felony courts, civil courts reviewed cases on a regular basis throughout the year. Civil courts experienced long delays–although shorter than felony courts–but were considered functional. Individuals may file a lawsuit in court on civil matters related to human rights, including seeking damages for or cessation of a human rights violation. The public, however, generally lacked confidence in the judicial system’s ability to address human rights problems.
The constitution and law prohibit such actions; the government, however, did not always respect these prohibitions.
There were reports government authorities entered homes without judicial or other appropriate authorization; monitored private communications without appropriate legal authority, including e-mail, text messaging, or other digital communications intended to remain private; monitored private movements; accessed personal data and employed informer systems.
For example, on March 31, police issued fines of 500,000 CFA francs, ($856) under threat of permanent closure to shop owners who had closed during a March 29 general stay-at-home strike called by the opposition to protest the provisional results of the presidential election, announced on March 22.
Between January and June, there were dozens of reports police entered homes without judicial authorization, often in the middle of the night, to conduct searches and arrests.
Killings: Multiple sources reported at least one death resulting from violence on April 4 in Brazzaville; in October the government asserted that militiamen called Ninja/Nsiloulou killed 17 persons. A UN report cited one civilian death resulting from a security force operation launched on April 5 in the southern Pool region as well as multiple injuries to civilians fleeing their homes. The government reported that 14 persons, including 11 civilians, died during a September 30 attack on a freight train by Ninja militia in the southern Pool region.
Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: A joint UN-Congolese government report cited an increase in indicators of sexual violence toward women and teenage girls corresponding to security operations in the southern Pool region.
Other Conflict-related Abuse: From April 5 to May 6, the government deliberately restricted the passage of relief supplies, food, drinking water, and medical aid by impartial international humanitarian organizations like the United Nations. On April 6, a government helicopter strafed an empty elementary school in the village of Vindza and medical centers in Mayama in the southern Pool region. The government-led security operation forcibly displaced thousands of civilians for reasons other than military necessity. A UN humanitarian report said the government systematically burned and destroyed approximately half of homes in some villages in the region. According to NGOs, authorities ordered villagers in the region to flee the area, obligating them to walk many miles to larger urban areas. NGOs also reported a series of lootings by security forces in the region.
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
During the year there were several reports police committed unlawful killings. As of October media reported 10 cases of extrajudicial killings. Nine of these involved encounters between police and persons suspected of involvement with violent extremism, and one of which occurred during a confrontation between police and livestock keepers in Bagamoyo District.
The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Mining Watch Canada reported continuing violence at the North Mara gold mine owned by African Barrick Gold, where there were past reports of mine security personnel and police using lethal force. Since September 2014 local human rights sources recorded at least 22 cases of alleged unlawful killings by police or mine security personnel at the mine.
There were no confirmed reports of politically motivated disappearances.
The constitution prohibits such practices; however, the law does not reflect this constitutional restriction nor define torture. There were reports police officers, prison guards, and soldiers abused, threatened, and otherwise mistreated civilians, suspected criminals, and prisoners. In August an official of a political opposition party reported he had both of his legs broken during beatings while in police custody. Accountability for those who committed such abuses was limited. These abuses most commonly involved beatings.
During the year the United Nations reported allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by Tanzanian peacekeepers deployed to the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. One of the allegations involved one soldier for incidents alleged to have taken place in 2015; investigation by the government of Tanzania remained pending at year’s end. The other involved 12 military personnel concerning incidents alleged to have taken place between unspecified dates in 2014-15. UN and Tanzanian investigations substantiated allegations against two individuals and did not substantiate allegations against nine individuals; an allegation against one individual remained pending investigation.
The law allows caning. Local government officials and courts occasionally used caning as a punishment for both juvenile and adult offenders. Caning and other corporal punishment were also used routinely in schools.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions remained harsh and life threatening. Inadequate food, overcrowding, poor sanitation, and insufficient medical care were pervasive. According to the commissioner general of prisons, funding for prisons was less than half the level required to provide adequate care for prisoners. There were no private detention facilities.
Physical Conditions: As of December 2015, the prisons, whose total designed capacity was for 29,552 inmates, held 31,382, 6 percent above designed capacity. Pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners were held together. Authorities sometimes imprisoned irregular migrants before releasing them to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) if there was a pending asylum claim. Other irregular migrants were occasionally arrested if they bypassed refugee transportation services and attempted to work in Tanzanian border towns without permission.
Authorities held minors together with adults in several prisons due to lack of detention facilities. In 2013 the independent government department, the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG), visited selected prisons and detention facilities and found 452 minors detained in the adult prisons visited. Among these, 101 were convicts and 351 were pretrial detainees. In several adult prisons, minors were placed in a separate cell but mixed with adults during the day and while being transported to court. In other prisons children and adults mixed at all times.
Information on the prevalence of deaths in prisons, whether deliberate or unintended, was not available. According to government officials, there were deaths in prison due to HIV/AIDS.
Physical abuse of prisoners was common. Witnesses noted prisoners were routinely beaten.
Prison staff reported food and water shortages, a lack of electricity, inadequate lighting, and insufficient medical supplies. Prisons were unheated, but prisoners in cold regions of the country reportedly received blankets and sweaters. Sanitation was insufficient.
Medical care was inadequate. The most common health complaints by prisoners concerned malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and diseases related to poor sanitation. Prison dispensaries offered only limited treatment, and friends and family members of prisoners generally had to provide medications or the funds to purchase them. Limited transportation also affected the ability of prison staff to take prisoners to health centers and hospitals.
Administration: Judges and magistrates conducted regular visits to inspect prisons and hear concerns from convicts and detainees. In addition, relatives of inmates made complaints to the CHRAGG, which investigated reports of abuse, but the results of those investigations were not public. Recordkeeping in prisons was inadequate and resulted in discrepancies in reporting. Authorities did not take steps to improve record keeping.
On the mainland prisoners could submit complaints to judicial authorities. The CHRAGG also served as the official ombudsman. The union Ministry of Home Affairs’ Public Complaints Department and a prison services public relations unit responded to public complaints and inquiries sent to them directly or through the media about prison conditions.
Prisoners and detainees usually had reasonable access to visitors and could worship freely, with some exceptions. Seventh-day Adventists reported they had to work on Saturday. The mainland authorities often moved prisoners to different prisons without notifying their families.
Independent Monitoring: The law prohibits members of the press from visiting prisons. Generally, access to prisoners was difficult for outside organizations, and the process for obtaining access was cumbersome. The International Committee of the Red Cross conducted two prison visits in Zanzibar during the year. The Legal and Human Rights Center (LHRC) conducted a prison visit in July.
The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
Under the union’s Ministry of Home Affairs, the Tanzanian Police Force (TPF) has primary responsibility for maintaining law and order in the country. The Field Force Unit, a special division of the TPF, has primary responsibility for controlling unlawful demonstrations and riots. During the year there were reports of use of excessive force, police corruption, and impunity. Mainland police sometimes acted as prosecutors in lower courts. Although the TPF stated this practice was being phased out, the Ministry of Justice reported police continued to act as prosecutors in all districts except for Monduli and regional headquarters. Police reported to civilian authorities (regional commissioners, district commissioners, and police leadership) appointed by the president. The ruling party, therefore, maintained de facto control of police forces, which contributed to police abuses, particularly in opposition party strongholds.
Sungusungu, or citizens’ patrols, and traditional neighborhood anticrime groups existed throughout the mainland. The law grants them the power to make arrests. In general these groups provided neighborhood security at night. Sungusungu members are not permitted to carry firearms or machetes but may carry sticks or clubs. They coordinated with municipal governing authorities as well as police but operated independently from police. They formed or disbanded based on the perceived local need. In areas surrounding refugee camps, sungusungu members have authority to arrest refugees found outside the camps without permission. Within the camp, groups composed of refugees provided security, supplementing the police.
The Ministry of Defense is responsible for external security; it also has some limited domestic security responsibilities. The National Service is a branch of military service similar to a national guard; its service is primarily domestic.
Police and other security forces acted with impunity in many cases. While legal mechanisms exist for investigation and prosecution of security forces, authorities did not often use them. Police continued to hold educational seminars for officers to combat corruption and sometimes took disciplinary action against officers implicated in wrongdoing. In July a police officer from an antiriot unit was sentenced to 15 years in prison following his conviction for manslaughter in the 2012 killing of a journalist covering a political rally.
The mainland community policing initiative to improve community relations with police and enhance police effectiveness continued. Community police received standardized training, and police conducted awareness campaigns for citizens on how to assist community policing units. In Zanzibar the government continued similar training and awareness programs. Officials noted increases in assistance provided to police, leading to arrests and improved law enforcement.
A group of security units, referred to collectively as the “Zanzibar Special Forces,” was deployed at the district level for activities that would fall under police jurisdiction on the mainland. These forces report to the government of Zanzibar and are not affiliated with the TPF or the Tanzanian People’s Defense Forces. Recruitment, training, and actual command and control of the “special units” were opaque, although all units officially report to a top ruling party minister in Zanzibar. These units, including the fire brigade and prison guards, were often activated during political activities, such as voter registration or voting. Prior to the March rerun elections in Zanzibar, opposition parties and civil society organizations reported these units were involved in sporadic attacks on opposition supporters.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
On the mainland the law requires that persons be apprehended openly with warrants based on sufficient evidence, although authorities did not always comply with the law. Police often detained persons without judicial authorization. The law also requires that a person arrested for a crime, other than a national security detainee, be charged before a magistrate within 24 hours of arrest, excluding weekends and holidays, but police failed to comply consistently with this requirement. For example, Isaack Habakuk Emily, arrested on March 22 for violation of the Cybercrime Act, was not arraigned in court until April 15. In general authorities promptly informed detainees of the charges against them. There were reports of police using a rolling process of releasing and immediately rearresting individuals so that they would remain in custody while police completed their investigation and developed the required information for the accused to be charged.
The law does not allow bail for suspects in cases involving charges of murder, treason, drugs, armed robbery, human trafficking, or other violent offenses where the accused might pose a public safety risk. In some cases courts imposed strict conditions on freedom of movement and association when they granted bail. In the primary and district courts, persons sometimes bribed officials to grant bail. The law gives accused persons the right to contact a lawyer or talk with family members, but police often failed to inform detainees of this right. The government provided legal representation for some indigent defendants and for all suspects charged with murder or treason. Prompt access to counsel was often limited by the lack of lawyers in rural areas, lack of communication systems and infrastructure, and accused persons’ ignorance of their rights.
Arbitrary Arrest: By law the president may order the arrest and indefinite detention without bail of any person considered dangerous to the public order or national security. The government must release such detainees within 15 days or inform them of the reason for their continued detention. The law also allows a detainee to challenge the grounds for detention at 90-day intervals. The mainland government has additional broad detention powers under the law, allowing regional and district commissioners to arrest and detain for 24 hours anyone who “disturb[s] public tranquility.” Press reports indicated district commissioners or members of regional security committees, which are part of regional governments, ordered the arrest of at least nine persons during the year. Most of those arrested were journalists working on sensitive stories.
Pretrial Detention: According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, approximately 50 percent of the prison population consisted of pretrial detainees in 2015 (the latest available data). Detainees charged with crimes generally waited three to four years for trial due to a lack of judges to hear cases, an inadequate judicial budget, and the lengthy time required to complete police investigations.
Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law allows persons arrested or detained, regardless of whether on criminal or other grounds, the right to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention and obtain prompt release and compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained. The law requires that a civil case must be brought in order to make such a challenge. In practice this was rarely done.
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but many components of the judiciary remained underfunded, corrupt, inefficient (especially in the lower courts), and subject to executive influence. Judges and senior court officers are all political appointees of the president. The need to travel long distances to courts imposes logistical and financial constraints that limit access to justice for persons in rural areas. There were fewer than two judges per million persons. Court clerks reportedly continued to take bribes to open cases or hide or misdirect the files of those accused of crimes. According to news reports, magistrates of lower courts occasionally accepted bribes to determine the outcome of cases.
The law provides for the right to a fair public trial, but a weak judiciary often failed to protect this right.
The law provides for the presumption of innocence. In most cases authorities informed detainees in detail of the charges against them once they had been brought to the police station. Charges were generally presented in Kiswahili or English with needed interpretation provided when possible. With some exceptions, criminal trials were open to the public and the press. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial. Courts that hold closed proceedings (for example, in drug trafficking cases and sexual offenses involving juveniles) generally are required to provide reasons for closing the proceedings. In cases involving terrorism, the law provides that everyone, except the interested parties, may be excluded from court proceedings and witnesses may be heard under special arrangements for their protection.
In Tanzania the law requires legal aid in serious criminal cases, although in practice only those accused of murder and treason were provided with free representation. Most other defendants could not afford legal representation and represented themselves in court. Defendants in criminal matters are entitled to legal representation of their choice. In practice legal representation was unavailable to defendants without the means to pay. NGOs represented some indigent defendants in large cities, such as Dar es Salaam and Arusha. In Zanzibar there were no public defenders. The law prohibits lawyers from appearing or defending clients in primary-level courts whose presiding officers are not degree-holding magistrates. Human rights groups criticized several reported cases where lawyers attempting to represent clients in sensitive cases were themselves arrested. In July a lawyer from the prominent Legal and Human Rights Center was arrested and detained for more than 24 hours while trying to meet with clients in a sensitive land rights case.
Authorities did not always allow detainees sufficient time to prepare their defense, and access to adequate facilities was limited. Defendants had the right to free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. Defendants or their lawyers had access to evidence held by the government, the right to confront prosecution witnesses, and the right to present evidence and witnesses on the defendant’s behalf. Defendants were not compelled to testify or confess guilt.
All defendants charged with civil or criminal matters, except parties appearing before Zanzibari qadi courts (traditional Muslim courts that settle issues of divorce and inheritance), could appeal decisions to the respective mainland and Zanzibari high courts. All defendants can appeal decisions to the union Court of Appeal.
Police acted in some cases as prosecutors in lower courts, but authorities stated this practice was being phased out. Judicial experts criticized the practice of police acting as prosecutors because of the risk police might manipulate evidence in criminal cases. The mainland Ministry of Justice continued hiring and training state prosecutors to handle the entire mainland caseload.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
Persons may bring civil lawsuits seeking damages for or the cessation of human rights violations and can appeal those rulings to the Court of Appeal on the mainland and other regional courts. Civil judicial procedures, however, were often slow, inefficient, and corrupt. Individuals and organizations with observer status had the right to bring complaints to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The law generally prohibits such actions without a search warrant, but the government did not consistently respect these prohibitions. While only courts may issue search warrants, the law also authorizes searches of persons and premises without a warrant if necessary to prevent the loss or destruction of evidence or if circumstances are serious and urgent. The law relating to terrorism permits police officers at or above the rank of assistant superintendent or in charge of a police station to conduct searches without a warrant in certain urgent cases, but there were no reports this occurred.
It was widely believed government agents monitored the telephones and correspondence of some citizens and foreign residents. The nature and extent of this practice were unknown.
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
There were several reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, including as a result of torture.
Media outlets reported that, on November 26 and 27 in Kasese District, the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) and Uganda Police Force (UPF) killed between 60 and 250 persons, including unarmed civilians, during clashes with supporters of Charles Wesley Mumbere, the Rwenzururu king. According to the UPF, on November 26, the king’s royal guards attacked an unspecified number of police stations in Rwenzori Region, resulting in the deaths of 14 police officers; 41 royal guards also were killed. The following day security forces reportedly stormed the palace and arrested the king after he failed to comply with a UPDF order to surrender his royal guards to the military. According to unconfirmed reports, security forces killed women and children who were on the compound during the raid, and several bodies were found with bound hands, possibly indicating victims had submitted to arrest before being killed. Amnesty International reported that “many people appeared to have been summarily shot and their bodies dumped.” One international organization alleged security forces made no attempt to minimize civilian casualties, an assertion security forces did not dispute.
UPDF officers claimed soldiers fired in self-defense after royal guards attacked them with machetes, bows and arrows, and spears. Civil society and international organizations claimed the government’s disproportionate use of force was unjustified and that the Rwenzururu Kingdom presented no immediate security threat. The government claimed the kingdom had militant secessionist ambitions, which forced it to take immediate and definitive action.
In addition to the king, 139 royal guards were arrested and charged with murder, terrorism, and treason. On December 15, media published images of the guards at their initial hearing, where defense lawyers asserted their visible injuries resulted from torture. Media reported the president ordered a parliamentary committee tasked with investigating the raid to stop its investigation. The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) had not completed its investigation into the raid by year’s end. Trials of the king and his guards continued at year’s end.
On October 17, media reported game rangers attached to the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) killed seven unarmed, suspected poachers. Reports asserted the park rangers facilitated the poachers’ hunts in exchange for a portion of the revenue and then killed the seven for failing to pay the rangers their promised share. The UWA denied its staff was involved in the killings and said the UPF was investigating.
Local leaders and civil society organizations reported that police had yet to take action against officers who in September 2015 allegedly shot and killed five persons in Apaa Parish in the north. The killings occurred during a land dispute related to the government’s border demarcation.
There were no known developments in the investigation into the African Union’s August 2015 indictment of three UPDF soldiers for their alleged role in the July 2015 killing of seven civilians at a wedding party in Marka, Somalia. Media reported the killings occurred following a bomb attack on an African Union Mission in Somalia convoy.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances during the year.
Following the December 2015 disappearance of Christopher Aine–campaign aide to Amama Mbabazi, a former prime minister and presidential candidate–police offered a reward of 20 million shillings ($5,700) for information on his whereabouts, ostensibly to question him about his involvement in a clash between President Museveni’s supporters and security team. On April 7, a local television station aired footage of Aine with General Caleb Akandwanaho (aka Salim Saleh), the president’s brother, and a senior advisor at a Kampala hotel. Aine said he had fled to Tanzania in December 2015 to escape harassment and intimidation by state security operatives.
The constitution and law prohibit such practices. The 2012 Antitorture Act stipulates that any person convicted of an act of torture may be subject to 15 years’ imprisonment, a fine of 7.2 million shillings ($2,050), or both. The penalty for conviction of aggravated torture is life imprisonment. Nevertheless, there were credible reports security forces tortured and beat suspects.
From January to June, the African Center for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV) registered 856 allegations of torture by police, the Flying Squad (a UPF unit assigned to violent crimes), special investigations units of police, and the UPDF. The ACTV provided legal advice to 142 torture victims and initiated three public litigation cases of torture against the government.
The ACTV reported that Twaha Kasaija, whom marine police arrested for theft on March 23, was tortured to death at Walukuba Police Station. According to the ACTV, Kasaija’s injuries suggested he was punched, kicked, and beaten with batons, wire cable, and sticks. Kasaija’s brother, Abdul Rahman Muyima, and neighbor, Mohammed Kitakule, also were arrested and appeared to have been beaten with batons, wire cable, and sticks. Police arrested officers Patrick Katete and Charles Okure (the officer in charge) but later released Okure on bond; Katete remained in jail awaiting trial on murder charges at year’s end.
The UHRC reported it awarded 36.6 million shillings ($10,450) in compensation to victims of torture and other abuses from January through June.
PRISON AND DETENTION CENTER CONDITIONS
Prison conditions remained poor and, in some cases, life threatening. Serious problems included overcrowding, physical abuse of detainees by security staff and fellow inmates, inadequate food, and understaffing. Local human rights groups, including the ACTV, received reports of torture by security forces and prison personnel. Reports of forced labor continued. Most prisons did not have accommodations for persons with disabilities.
Physical Conditions: Gross overcrowding remained a problem. According to the Uganda Prisons Service (UPS), the prison system had a maximum inmate capacity of 22,000 but incarcerated 48,689. The Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), which had visited 13 police stations and 13 prisons by August, reported that four of the five prisons in the north were particularly overcrowded. Gulu Prison, for example, held 1,400 inmates in a facility designed for 400. Prison authorities blamed the overcrowding on the criminal justice system’s inability to process cases in a timely manner.
As of August, 233 babies stayed in prison with their mothers. Some women’s prisons also had day-care facilities. Authorities in Kampala separated pretrial detainees from convicted prisoners, but prisons in other areas did not.
The UPS reported 67 inmate deaths between January and August. Causes of death included malaria, cardiac arrest, anemia, pneumonia, and tuberculosis. Media reported deaths also occurred as a result of suicide and police abuse.
In interviews with prisoners, FHRI received reports of prison staff and fellow inmates beating and abusing prisoners, although there were fewer such reports than in previous years. In Koboko Prison, for example, guards reportedly assigned certain inmates leadership positions and gave them sticks, which they often used to beat fellow prisoners.
The UHRC inspected 106 of the country’s 247 prisons and four military detention facilities during the year. It found that prisons in Koboko and Nebbi districts did not have health centers, requiring inmates to walk long distances, under guard, to access medical care. Outside Kampala, some prisons lacked sufficient food, water, medical care, means to transport inmates to court, bedding, infrastructure, and sanitation facilities.
Provision of food and medical services in jails also was inadequate. According to detainees and guards at the 13 police stations FHRI had visited by August, detainees received only one meal per day. According to the UHRC, which inspected 183 of 300 police stations during the year, some stations did not provide meals to suspects and most lacked the means to transport suspects to court.
Administration: Recordkeeping remained a problem. The UPS claimed it was unable to manage information because it lacked computers.
The UPS reported that its assistant commissioner in charge of human rights investigated and mediated complaints between management and prisoners. The UPS added that each prison had a human rights committee responsible for addressing complaints and relaying them to the assistant commissioner. Prison authorities acknowledged a backlog in the investigation of complaints.
Independent Monitoring: Authorities allowed FHRI and the ACTV to conduct prison visits with advance notification. The International Committee of the Red Cross declined to comment on whether it conducted prison visits during the year.
Improvements: During the year prison authorities hired 1,548 new staff–mainly wardens, cadet principal officers, and cadet assistant superintendents of prisons–increasing the total number of UPS staff to 7,448. The UPS acknowledged, however, that it still had a staff shortage of 5,000. The UPS also installed flush toilets in 47 of the 58 prisons, constructed four new prisons, and renovated two others. Unlike in the previous year, women had separate facilities in all prisons. The UPS had a budget to accommodate pregnant women and mothers with infants, and pregnant mothers received antenatal care services and special diets.
Although the constitution and law prohibit such practices, security forces often arbitrarily arrested and detained persons, including opposition leaders, politicians, activists, demonstrators, and journalists.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
Under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the UPF has primary responsibility for law enforcement. The UPDF, under the Ministry of Defense, is responsible for external security and may aid civil authorities when responding to riots or other disturbances of the peace. The Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence is legally under UPDF authority and may detain civilians suspected of rebel or terrorist activity. Other agencies with law enforcement powers include the Directorate of Counter Terrorism, Joint Intelligence Committee, and Special Forces Brigade, among others.
The UPF reported its ability to perform its law enforcement duties was constrained by limited resources, including low pay and lack of vehicles, equipment, and training. The UPF’s Professional Standards Unit investigated complaints of police abuse, including torture, assault, unlawful arrest and detention, death in custody, mismanagement of case documentation, and corrupt practices. Police continued to use excessive force, including torture, and impunity was a problem (see sections 1.a. and 1.c.).
Between January and August, police ignored the instruction of the director of public prosecution (DPP) to add Aaron Baguma, former commander of Kampala’s Central Police Station, to the list of suspected accomplices in the October 2015 killing of Donah Katusabe, a Kampala businessperson. On August 30, 12 days after the court issued an arrest warrant for Baguma, he turned himself in and was charged with murder, kidnapping with intent to murder, and robbery. The court, which remanded him to Kigo Prison, subsequently released him on bail. The case continued at year’s end.
Police and soldiers not only failed to prevent societal violence, they sometimes targeted opposition supporters. For example, on July 12 and 13, media broadcast videos of police, soldiers, and plainclothes officers using sticks to beat unarmed supporters of the main opposition leader, Kizza Besigye, as his car passed on a Kampala street; they also beat motorcycle taxi drivers who appeared uninvolved in Besigye’s procession. In one instance a police truck veered onto a sidewalk to hit from behind and knock over a man waving at Besigye’s passing vehicle. Police arrested Benon Matsiko, an officer, for allegedly driving the truck, noting he would face internal disciplinary measures; Matsiko denied he was the driver. Another man–who media members subsequently identified as Yusuf Lubowa, a member of a progovernment civilian group called Bodaboda 2010–then kicked the fallen man in the same knee struck by the vehicle. Although media reports showed that Lubowa had participated in multiple police operations against Besigye supporters, the UPF claimed it did not know him. Police initiated an internal disciplinary proceeding and charged five officers and four commanders with unlawful exercise of authority and discrediting the reputation of police. There was no known update on these cases by the end of the year.
Private lawyers separately filed a criminal case against Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kale Kayihura and seven senior commanders, accusing them of torture for their role in the July 12 and 13 beatings. On July 21, a magistrate’s court issued criminal summonses for IGP Kayihura and the seven senior police officers to appear on August 10 for arraignment on charges of torture. According to the private prosecution lawyers, the officers refused to receive the summonses, and none appeared in court. On August 26, Deputy Chief Justice Steven Kavuma halted the criminal case against Kayihura and the other officers, stating the case could not proceed until the court resolved NRM Youth League member Robert Rutaro’s petition that challenged the court’s authority to try the IGP as a private citizen for actions he took in his institutional role. By year’s end, the court had not resolved the petition.
The UHRC reported it provided human rights training to 232 security officials in police and district administrations of Fort Portal, Mbarara, and Arua districts.
The UPF reported that it opened an unspecified number of new community police stations to expand its community policing operations. In 2015 it authorized civilians to police their respective communities as “crime preventers.” Crime preventers, nominally under the authority of district police commanders, received one to two months of training and have arrest authority. While estimates of their number varied, the IGP claimed there were 11 million crime preventers nationwide, equating to approximately one-third of the country’s population. UPF officials stated they intended to place 30 crime preventers in each village in the country. Media and civil society reports accused crime preventers of human rights abuses. On April 18, for example, the chief administrative officer of Lira District said his office had received many reports of crime preventers involved in rape, arbitrary arrests, and torture.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
The law requires that judges or prosecutors issue a warrant before an arrest is made, unless the arrest is made during commission of a crime or while in pursuit of a perpetrator. Nevertheless, authorities often arrested suspects without warrants. The law requires authorities to charge suspects within 48 hours of arrest, but they frequently held suspects longer without charge. Authorities must try suspects arrested under the Antiterrorism Law within 120 days (360 days if charged with a capital offense) or release them on bail; if the case is presented to the court before the expiration of this period, there is no limit on further pretrial detention. While the law requires authorities to inform detainees immediately of the reasons for detention, at times they did not do so. The law provides for bail at the discretion of the judge, but many suspects were unaware of the law. Judges generally granted requests for bail. The law provides detainees the right to legal representation and access to a lawyer; but this right often was not respected. The law requires the government to provide an attorney for indigent defendants charged with capital offenses. Citizens detained without charge may file civil suit against the Attorney General’s Office for compensation for unlawful detention. Security forces held suspects, particularly opposition leaders, incommunicado and under house arrest.
Arbitrary Arrest: Arbitrary arrests, particularly of opposition leaders, remained a problem. Police often carried out “preventative arrests” for alleged treason and incitement of violence.
On February 24, the day of local government elections, police detained opposition candidate Besigye at his home, effectively denying him the right to vote. Following the February elections, police intermittently placed Besigye under 10-day house arrests. Police reportedly confined him to his home for the entire month of March, releasing him on April 1, the day the Supreme Court validated the president’s electoral victory. Despite widespread media and nongovernmental organization (NGO) reporting, the UPF repeatedly denied Besigye was under house arrest, and the IGP claimed police were merely “closely monitoring Besigye’s movements.” Media reported that on May 5, police resumed Besigye’s house arrest and confined Kampala’s opposition-affiliated mayor, Erias Lukwago, and opposition chief whip Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda to their homes.
On May 11, Besigye eluded police surveillance at his home and drove to Kampala’s city center, where he was filmed taking a mock presidential oath of office in front of a crowd of protesters. Police arrested Besigye and flew him to the remote Karamoja Region in the northeast, where they detained him at the Moroto Police Station. Two days later, Besigye was charged with treason and remanded to Moroto Prison. On May 16, he was transferred to Luzira Prison in Kampala after defense lawyers and his family asked for a transfer. He remained in detention until July 12, when the court released him on bail. Besigye’s treason case continued at year’s end.
Pretrial Detention: Case backlogs due to an inefficient judiciary that lacked adequate funding and staff, the absence of plea bargaining prior to 2015, and insufficient use of bail contributed to pretrial detentions as long as seven years. The UPS reported 55 percent of inmates were pretrial detainees. The judiciary introduced a plea bargaining mechanism at High Court circuits across the country in 2015 after a successful pilot program in 2014.
FHRI reported police arrested Moses Tumusime in 2008 on murder charges. He last appeared in court in 2008 and remained in custody in Kitalya Prison. In November the officer in charge of the prison reported Tumusime was still held on remand and that his file was sent to the High Court in 2012.
Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested have the right to file a legal challenge against their detention and obtain prompt release and compensation if a judge determines the detention to have been unlawful. This mechanism was seldom employed and rarely successful.
Amnesty: Since 2000 the government has offered blanket unconditional amnesty for all crimes committed by individuals who engaged in war or armed rebellion against the government, barring grave breaches of the Geneva Convention, genocide, willful killings of innocent civilians, and other serious crimes perpetrated against civilians or communities without military necessity.
The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but the government did not always respect this provision. Corruption, understaffing, inefficiency, and executive branch interference with judicial rulings often undermined the courts’ independence.
The president appoints Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, and High Court judges and members of the Judicial Service Commission (which makes recommendations on appointments to the judiciary) with the approval of the National Assembly.
Due to vacancies on the Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, High Court, and the lower courts, the judiciary did not deliver justice in a timely manner. At times the lack of judicial quorum precluded cases from proceeding.
Judicial corruption was a problem. The Center for Public Interest Law (CEPIL) reported in August that judicial corruption mainly consisted of cash bribes to clerks and magistrates for favorable treatment. CEPIL noted that instances of corruption in the lower courts were more visible and egregious as magistrates openly contravened court rules to favor one party. In the higher courts (High Court, Court of Appeal, and Supreme Court), corruption was more discreet and nuanced. Media reported several incidents of police arresting lower court judicial officers for allegedly soliciting bribes, while there were no such arrests of higher court officials. CEPIL’s report noted that “systemic corruption within the justice system undermines human rights and public confidence.”
Although the law provides for a presumption of innocence, authorities did not always respect this right. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges and have free interpretation from the moment charged through all appeals, as necessary. An inadequate system of judicial administration resulted in a serious backlog of cases, undermining suspects’ right to a speedy trial. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial and to consult with an attorney of their choice. The law requires the government to provide an attorney for indigent defendants accused of capital offenses. Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense and appeal, with free interpretation as necessary. Defendants have the right to obtain evidence the state intends to use prior to their trial, although this right of disclosure is not absolute in sensitive cases, and authorities did not always respect this right. The law allows defendants to confront or question witnesses testifying against them and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf, but authorities did not always respect this right. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and they have the right to appeal. These rights extended to all groups.
All nonmilitary trials are public. A single judge decides cases in the High Court, while a panel of at least five judges decides cases in the constitutional and supreme courts. The law allows military courts to try civilians that assist members of the military in committing offenses or are found possessing arms, ammunition, or other equipment reserved for the armed forces. On September 16, the High Court ruled that member of parliament (MP) Michael Kabaziguruka, who was charged with treason along with 26 military officers, would be tried by a military court.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
During the year authorities detained numerous opposition politicians and activists on politically motivated grounds. Authorities released many without charge but charged others with crimes including terrorism, treason, inciting violence, holding illegal meetings, and abuse of office. No statistics on the number of political detainees or prisoners were available.
There was no available information on whether the government permitted international human rights or humanitarian organizations access to political detainees.
On February 29, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) claimed security force personnel had arrested and detained approximately 300 of its supporters nationwide over the course of the election season. The UPF claimed it had arrested 132 persons from various political parties for illegal election-related activities.
On June 8 and 13, police arrested Michael Kabaziguruka, an MP and FDC deputy commissioner on the Electoral Commission, and released him within two days of each arrest. On June 26, police rearrested Kabaziguruka and subsequently transferred him to Kigo Prison, where he awaited trial at year’s end. On June 28, a military court charged Kabaziguruka and 26 others, predominantly military officers, with treason for allegedly plotting the violent overthrow of the government. According to Kabaziguruka’s lawyers, the government based its most recent charges on the same evidence as it used for its 2012 treason case against Kabaziguruka and three other individuals, a case the government dropped. On July 1, in a meeting with opposition politicians, the president accused Kabaziguruka of attempting to assassinate him. On September 16, the High Court ruled that Kabaziguruka be tried in a military court; Kabaziguruka appealed.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters. Victims may report cases of human rights violations through the regular court system or the UHRC, which has judicial powers under the constitution. These powers include the authority to order the release of detainees, pay compensation to victims, and pursue other legal and administrative remedies, such as mediation. Victims may appeal their cases to the Court of Appeal and thereafter to the Supreme Court but not to an international or regional court. Civil courts and the UHRC have no ability to hold perpetrators of human rights abuses criminally liable, and bureaucratic delays hampered enforcement of judgments that granted financial compensation.
The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but there were reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions. Police did not always obtain search warrants to enter private homes and offices.
The Antiterrorism Act and the Regulation of Interception of Communications Bill authorize government security agencies to tap private conversations to combat terrorism-related offenses. The government utilized both statutes to monitor telephone and internet communications.
The government encouraged university students and government officials, including members of the judiciary, to attend NRM political education and military science courses known as “chaka mchaka.” While the government claimed the courses were not compulsory, human rights activists and opposition politicians reported authorities pressured civil servants and students to attend.