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Algeria

Executive Summary

Algeria is a multiparty republic whose president, the head of state, is elected by popular vote for a five-year term. The president has the constitutional authority to appoint and dismiss cabinet members and the prime minister, who is the head of government. Presidential term limits, which were eliminated in 2008, were reintroduced in a 2016 revision of the constitution and limit the president to two five-year terms. Voters re-elected President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has held office since 1999, in the 2014 presidential elections. Foreign observers characterized the elections as largely peaceful but noted low voter turnout and a high rate of ballot invalidity. The 2012 legislative elections did not result in significant changes to the composition of the government.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces.

The three most significant continuing human rights problems were restrictions on the freedom of assembly and association, lack of judicial independence and impartiality, and limits on freedom of the press.

Other human rights concerns were the excessive use of force by police, including allegations of torture; limitations on the ability of citizens to choose their government; widespread corruption accompanied by reports of limited government transparency; and societal discrimination against persons with disabilities, persons with HIV/AIDS, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons. Women faced violence and discrimination, and there was some reported child abuse. Additionally, the government maintained restrictions on worker rights.

The government did not take sufficient steps to investigate, prosecute, or punish public officials who committed violations. Impunity for police and security officials remained a problem, and the government rarely provided information on actions taken against officials accused of wrongdoing.

Abuses by terrorist groups remained a significant problem. Terrorist groups committed attacks against the security services and targeted military personnel in particular.

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

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

There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. In 2015 the deaths of two individuals in detention raised public concern. In September 2015 several newspapers reported that Benchikh Aissa died in a Ghardaia prison. His lawyers said he suffered from depression, and prison officials refused to provide necessary health services. Afari Baaouchi died several weeks earlier in a Laghouat prison. Authorities arrested both detainees in July 2015 in the wake of the clashes between Mozabite Ibadi Muslims and Arab Sunni Maliki Muslims in Ghardaia. The Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH) called for an official investigation into the deaths, but no public information was available at year’s end on whether the government conducted investigations.

Some terrorist groups remained active in the country, including al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and a Da’esh affiliate, Jund al-Khilafah, and attacked security services personnel. On April 15, terrorists killed four soldiers in Constantine Province. On August 6, an improvised explosive device killed four civilians in Khenchela Province. Da’esh (also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) took credit for the October 28 killing of a police officer in Constantine. Terrorists reportedly killed two police officers and a civilian in a November 13 attack in Ain Defla.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

The government stated it was in discussion with the UN Human Rights Council Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances regarding a visit to the country. The government regarded this as the next step to addressing cases of enforced or involuntary disappearances from the 1990s that the working group submitted to it in 2014.

Government officials declared there were 84 reported cases of child kidnapping in 2015 and 28 in the first half of 2016. Figures on total ransom payments were unavailable, since the government maintained a strict no-concessions policy with regard to individuals or groups holding its citizens hostage.

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

The law prohibits torture, but nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and local human rights activists alleged that government officials sometimes employed torture and abusive treatment to obtain confessions. The government denied these charges. Government agents face prison sentences of between 10 and 20 years for committing such acts, and there were two convictions during the year. There were no other reported cases of prosecution of civil or military security service officials for torture or abusive treatment. Local and international NGOs asserted that impunity was a problem.

On May 12, the UN Human Rights Committee found the country to be in violation of article seven of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. The decision was based on the government’s failure to contest allegations made in the case of financial consultant Chani Medjoub, who was initially arrested in 2009 in connection with a corruption case and who alleged that members of the judicial police of the Intelligence and Security Department (DRS) tortured him.

On May 25, two police officers were convicted and sentenced to seven and 15 years in prison, respectively, following their May 2015 arrests for raping a woman during her detention in a police station.

In September, LADDH called for an investigation into reports that male police officers in Ain Benian, west of Algiers, forced a detained 29-year-old woman with developmental disabilities to undress in front of them in the local police station. The woman’s family reportedly filed a complaint with the local tribunal, but additional information was unavailable as of September.

The Surete Nationale (DGSN) stated that it did not receive any reports of abuse or misconduct from the public during the year. Information from the National Gendarmerie was not available.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions generally met international standards.

A 2013 presidential decree dissolved the Central Bureau of the Judicial Police under the DRS, removing its authority to detain individuals and hold them in separate detention facilities. A 2014 presidential decree, however, reinstated this authority and permitted the DRS to manage prison facilities. A January 20 presidential decree dissolved the DRS and reorganized the intelligence services. The July 2015 amendment of the penal code prohibits police officers from detaining suspects in any facilities not designated for that purpose and declared to the local prosecutor, who has the right to visit such facilities at any time.

Physical Conditions: According to statistics provided in August, the Ministry of Justice’s General Directorate for Prison Administration and Resettlement (DGAPR) had responsibility for approximately 60,000 prisoners. Convicted terrorists had the same rights as other inmates but were held in prisons of varying degrees of security, determined by whether authorities considered the prisoners highly dangerous or of high, intermediate, or low risk.

The government used specific facilities for prisoners age 27 and younger. With support from the British, Canadian, and French governments, the DGAPR modernized its inmate classification system and maintained different categories of prisons that separated prisoners among facilities according to the general lengths of their sentences. Several detention facilities reportedly operated at 200 to 300 percent of capacity. Some observers, including government-appointed human rights officials, attributed overcrowding in pretrial detention facilities to “excessive use” of pretrial detention.

Authorities generally transferred pretrial detainees, after presenting them before the prosecutor, to prisons and did not hold them in separate detention facilities. In some prisons pretrial detainees were held in cellblocks separate from those that housed the general prison population.

Administration: No ombudsman existed to serve on behalf of prisoners or detainees. Prisoners may submit uncensored complaints to penitentiary administration, doctors, and their judge. It was unclear how frequently prison authorities collected the complaints or requests. Authorities permitted family members to visit prisoners in standard facilities weekly and to provide detainees with food and clothing, although the common practice of holding inmates in prisons very far from their families discouraged visits. In the majority of the prisons, nonfunctional telephones further exacerbated the difficulty for detainees to maintain regular contact with family.

Independent Monitoring: The government allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and local human rights observers to visit regular prisons and detention centers. ICRC staff visited prisons, police and gendarme stations under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice, and an administrative detention center operated by the Ministry of Interior. By September the ICRC had visited 32 detention facilities, representing approximately one-third of the total prison population. Delegates paid special attention to vulnerable detainees, including foreigners, women, minors, persons in solitary confinement, and individuals held for security reasons by police and gendarmes. The ICRC provided the government confidential feedback, when applicable, to help authorities improve detainee treatment and living conditions, reinforce respect for judicial protections, and expand access to health care. During the year the ICRC hosted training sessions on human rights–as they relate to arrest, detention, and interrogation procedures–for judicial police from the DGSN and National Gendarmerie and judges.

Improvements: Authorities improved prison conditions to meet international standards. The Ministry of Justice’s Directorate of Penal Affairs and Pardons announced that since 2010, the government opened 31 new detention centers. Of the new facilities, 10 were minimum-security centers that held prisoners in cells and permitted them to work. Intelligent camera systems were installed in some pretrial detention facilities to allow the DGSN to monitor conditions of detention.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

Overuse of pretrial detention remained a problem. Security forces routinely detained individuals who conducted activities against the order of the state such as protesting, striking, or rioting. Arrested individuals reported that authorities held them for four to eight hours before releasing them without charges.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The 130,000-member National Gendarmerie, which performs police functions outside of urban areas under the auspices of the Ministry of National Defense, and the approximately 210,000-member DGSN or national police, organized under the Ministry of Interior, share general responsibility for maintaining law and order. A January 20 presidential decree dissolved the DRS, which had been subordinate to the Ministry of National Defense. It was replaced by three intelligence directorates reporting to a presidential national security counselor and performing functions related specifically to internal, external, and technical security.

Impunity remained a problem. The law provides mechanisms to investigate abuses and corruption, but the government did not always provide public information on disciplinary or legal action against police, military, or other security force personnel. The DGSN conducted a two-week training session for police officers specifically focusing on human rights practices in September and another two-day training session in November.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

According to the law, police must obtain a summons from the Prosecutor’s Office to require a suspect to appear in a police station for preliminary questioning. With this summons police may hold a suspect for no more than 48 hours. Authorities also use summonses to notify and require the accused and the victim to attend a court proceeding or hearing. Police may make arrests without a warrant if they witness the offense. Public lawyers reported that authorities usually carried out procedures for warrants and summonses properly.

If authorities require time beyond the authorized 48-hour period for gathering additional evidence, they may extend a suspect’s authorized time in police detention with the prosecutor’s authorization in the following cases: once, if charges pertain to an attack on data processing systems; twice, if charges relate to state security; three times, for charges concerning drug trafficking, organized and transnational crime, money laundering, and other currency-related crimes; and five times (for a maximum of 12 days), for charges related to terrorism and other subversive activities. The law stipulates that detainees should immediately be able to contact a family member and receive a visit, or to contact an attorney. The 2015 report of the National Consultative Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (CNCPPDH), a governmental human rights commission, criticized this provision for forcing detainees to choose between contacting their families and consulting an attorney.

The law provides detainees the right to see an attorney for 30 minutes if the time in detention has been extended beyond the initial 48-hour period. In these cases authorities permit the arrested person to contact a lawyer after half the extended time has expired. Authorities may use in court confessions and statements garnered during the period prior to access to an attorney–which a prosecutor’s application to a judge may extend. The court appearance of suspects in terrorism cases is public. At the end of the period of detention, the detainee has the right to request a medical examination by a physician of choice within the jurisdiction of the court. Otherwise, the judicial police appoint a doctor. Authorities enter the certificate of the medical examination into the detainee’s file.

In non-felony cases and in cases of individuals held on charges of terrorism and other subversive activities that exceed a 12-day period plus any authorized extension, the law calls for the release of suspects on provisional liberty, referred to as “judicial control,” while awaiting trial. Under provisional liberty status, authorities subjected suspects to requirements such as reporting periodically to the police station in their district, stopping professional activities related to the alleged offense committed, surrendering all travel documents required to leave the country, and, in some terrorism-related cases, residing at an agreed-upon address. The law provides that foreigners may be required to furnish bail as a condition of release on provisional liberty status.

Judges rarely refused prosecutorial requests to extend pretrial detention, which by law may be appealed. Should the detention be overturned, the defendant has the right to request compensation. Most detainees had prompt access to a lawyer of their choice as accorded by law, and the government provided legal counsel to indigent detainees. There were reports that authorities held some detainees without access to their lawyers and reportedly abused them physically and mentally.

Various press outlets reported that in October 2015 National Gendarmerie officers told a Cameroonian female migrant, who claimed a group of Algerian men assaulted and raped her, that they could not file charges because she was an illegal migrant. The victim reported that several hospitals refused to provide her treatment and to issue her a certificate documenting her sexual assault. After social media and local civil society organizations mobilized over the issue, authorities accepted her complaint and arrested two of the eight alleged actors. As of September the status of the investigation was not known.

Arbitrary Arrest: Although the law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, authorities sometimes used vaguely worded provisions, such as “inciting an unarmed gathering” and “insulting a government body,” to arrest and detain individuals considered to be disturbing public order or criticizing the government. Amnesty International (AI) and other human rights organizations criticized the law prohibiting unauthorized gatherings and called for its amendment to require only notification as opposed to application for authorization. These observers, among others, pointed to the law as a significant source of arbitrary arrests intended to suppress activist speech. Police arrested protesters in Algiers and elsewhere in the country throughout the year for violating the law against unregistered public gatherings.

On July 13, attorney and human rights activist Salah Debouz and six other activists were arrested at a cafe in Ghardaia and detained for eight hours for holding an unlawful gathering. The activists had been meeting near the local courthouse to discuss the case of one of Debouz’s clients. Debouz had also been arrested on February 6 during a meeting with labor union activists and subsequently released the same day.

Authorities arrested Youcef Ouled Dada in March 2014 for “harming a national institution” and “insulting a government body” when he posted a video on Facebook that captured three police officers engaged in looting during riots in the city of Ghardaia. In September 2014 a Ghardaia court reaffirmed the two-year prison term and DZD 100,000 ($916) fine it imposed in June 2014 on Dada. He was released March 27 after two years in prison.

Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention remained a serious problem. Nongovernmental observers believed pretrial detainees comprised a significant portion of the total detainee and prisoner population but admitted they did not have specific statistics. The Ministry of Justice said that as of September, the proportion of detainees in preventive detention was 13.85 percent of the total detainee and prisoner population, compared with 15.02 percent during the same period in 2015, and that the proportion in police custody was 5.66 percent. Ministry statistics did not include prisoners whose cases were pending appeal. July 2015 changes to the penal code limit the grounds for pretrial detention and stipulate that before it can be imposed, a judge must assess the gravity of a crime and whether the accused is a threat to society or a flight risk.

AI alleged that authorities sometimes detained individuals on security-related charges for longer than the 12-day prescribed period.

Authorities held KBC TV journalists Mehdi Benaissa and Ryad Hartouf and Ministry of Culture official Nora Nedjai in pretrial detention for 26 days. They were arrested on June 22 in connection with the alleged unauthorized production of satirical television programs that were broadcast in July. All three received suspended prison sentences and were released July 18.

Police arrested Nacer Eddine Hadjadj, former mayor of Beriane municipality and member of the Rally for Culture and Democracy party, in July 2015. Press reports indicated authorities detained Hadjadj for questioning regarding the violent events that took place in Ghardaia, but the government did not confirm this. In August 2015 Hadjadj’s lawyer, Salah Debouz, denounced the government for not notifying him of his client’s hearing for provisional liberty. The judge rejected his request for provisional liberty, and he remained in pretrial detention as of September.

The government implemented changes adopted in 2015 to the criminal procedure code that prohibit the use of pretrial detention for crimes with maximum punishments of less than three years imprisonment. The revised law, however, exempts infractions that resulted in deaths and persons considered a “threat to public order.” In these cases the revised law limits the use of pretrial detention to one month, nonrenewable. The government also amended the criminal procedure code to state that in all other criminal cases, pretrial detention may not exceed four months. Representatives of the CNCPPDH said that the penal code amendments had succeeded in reducing the use of pretrial detention in 2016 but did not maintain their own statistics demonstrating a decrease from the previous year.

Judges rarely refused prosecutorial requests to extend pretrial detention, which by law may be appealed. Should the detention be overturned, the defendant has the right to request compensation. Most detainees had prompt access to a lawyer of their choice as accorded by law, and the government provided legal counsel to indigent detainees. There were reports that authorities held some detainees without access to their lawyers and reportedly abused them physically and mentally.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The Code of Criminal Procedure grants pre-trial detainees the right to appeal a court’s order of pre-trial detention. The appeal must be filed within three days. A person released from custody following a dismissal or acquittal may apply to a civil commission to seek compensation from the government for “particular and particularly severe” harm caused by pre-trial detention. The person must submit an application for compensation within six months of the dismissal or acquittal.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

While the constitution provides for the separation of powers between the executive and judicial branches of government, the executive branch’s broad statutory authorities limited judicial independence. The constitution grants the president authority to appoint all prosecutors and judges. These presidential appointments are not subject to legislative oversight but are reviewed by the High Judicial Council, which consists of the president, minister of justice, chief prosecutor of the Supreme Court, 10 judges, and six individuals outside the judiciary chosen by the president. The president serves as the president of the High Judicial Council, which is also responsible for the appointment, transfer, promotion, and discipline of judges. The judiciary was not impartial and was often subject to influence and corruption.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a fair trial, but authorities did not always respect legal provisions that protect defendants’ rights. The law presumes defendants are innocent and have the right to be present and to consult with an attorney provided at public expense if necessary. Most trials are public, except when the judge determines the proceedings to be a threat to public order or “morals.” The July 2015 amendment of the penal code guarantees defendants the right to free interpretation as necessary. Defendants have the right to be present during their trial but may be tried in absentia if they do respond to a summons ordering their appearance.

Defendants may confront or question witnesses against them or present witnesses and evidence on their behalf. There were a few reports that courts occasionally denied defendants and their attorneys’ access to government-held evidence. Defendants have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and they have the right to appeal. The testimony of men and women has equal weight under the law.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

International and local observers alleged that authorities used antiterrorism laws and restrictive laws on freedom of expression and public assembly to detain political activists and outspoken critics of the government.

In March 2015 the National Coordination of Families of Political Prisoners called for the release of 160 persons who had remained incarcerated since the 1990s. In April 2015 Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal stated the government held no political prisoners. He declared that courts convicted the detainees in question of violent crimes, making them ineligible for government pardons under the National Charter for Peace and Reconciliation. The government permitted the ICRC to visit detainees held for “security reasons.”

On March 7, a Tamanrasset court convicted Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Unemployed Workers activist Abdelali Ghellam to a year in prison following his December 2015 arrest on charges of taking part in an unauthorized gathering and obstructing traffic. AI reported that seven other men were also arrested in connection with the same protest and received one-year sentences and DZD 50,000 ($458) fines.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The judiciary was neither independent nor impartial in civil matters and lacked independence in some human rights cases. Family connections and status of the parties involved influenced decisions. Individuals may bring lawsuits, and administrative processes related to amnesty may provide damages to the victims or their families for human rights violations and compensation for alleged wrongs. Individuals may appeal adverse decisions to international human rights bodies, but their decisions would not have the force of law.

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

The constitution provides for the protection of a person’s “honor” and private life, including the privacy of home, communication, and correspondence, although government authorities infringed on citizens’ privacy rights. According to human rights activists, citizens widely believed the government conducted frequent electronic surveillance of a range of citizens, including political opponents, journalists, human rights groups, and suspected terrorists. Security officials reportedly searched homes without a warrant. Security forces conducted unannounced home visits.

The government established a new anticybercrime agency charged with coordinating anticybercrime efforts and engaging in preventive surveillance of electronic communications in the interests of national security. Falling under the purview of the Ministry of Justice, the agency has exclusive authority for monitoring all electronic surveillance activities, but the decree did not provide details regarding the limits of surveillance authority or corresponding protections for persons subject to surveillance. The Ministry of Justice said the agency was subject to all existing judicial controls that apply to law enforcement agencies.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution provides for freedom of speech and press, and independent media outlets criticized government officials and policies, but the government restricted these rights. The government’s techniques included harassment of some critics; arbitrary enforcement of vaguely worded laws; informal pressure on publishers, editors, advertisers, and journalists; and control of a significant proportion of the country’s advertising money and printing capabilities. Some media figures alleged the government used its control over most printing houses and large amounts of public sector advertising preferentially, and that the lack of clear regulations over these practices permitted it to exert undue influence on press outlets.

Freedom of Speech and Expression: Individuals were limited in their ability to criticize the government publicly without reprisal. Authorities arrested and detained citizens for doing so, and citizens practiced self-restraint in expressing public criticism. The law criminalizing speech about the conduct of the security forces during the internal conflict of the 1990s remained in force, although there were no cases of arrest or prosecution under the law during the year. The law provides for up to three years’ imprisonment for tracts, bulletins, or flyers that “may harm the national interest” or up to one year for defaming or insulting the president, parliament, army, or state institutions. Government officials monitored political meetings. Authorities used laws against slander of public officials to restrict public discussion.

On August 3, the government published a law passed by parliament that broadens laws on defamation to cover the conduct of retired military officers. The law specifies that retired officers who engage in a “dereliction of duty that harms the honor and respect due to state institutions constitutes an outrage and defamation” and can result in legal action under applicable laws. The law further prohibits speech that damages “the authority and the public image of the military institution.”

In March a court in Tlemcen issued human rights activist Zoulikha Belarbi a DZD 100,000 ($916) fine for posting a photograph on Facebook that was deemed insulting to President Bouteflika. The offending post showed a retouched image of the president and other political figures that made them look like characters from a Turkish television show, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Press and Media Freedoms: The National Agency for Publishing and Advertising (ANEP) controls public advertising for print media. According to the NGO Reporters without Borders, private advertising existed but frequently came from businesses with close links to the ruling political party. In September 2015 ANEP stated it represented only half of the total advertising market, while nongovernmental sources assessed the majority of daily newspapers depended on ANEP-authorized advertising to finance their operations. Minister of Communication Hamid Grine stated in February that ANEP’s budget had been cut by 50 percent. The government’s lack of transparency over its use of state-funded advertising permitted it to exert undue influence over print media.

Activists and journalists criticized the government for criminally prosecuting two KBC TV journalists, Mehdi Benaissa and Ryad Hartouf, for allegedly making false statements in their applications for filming permits and their alleged unauthorized use of a television studio. The studio had previously belonged to Al-Atlas TV, which authorities shut down in 2014. In addition to the arrests of Benaissa and Hartouf, authorities shut down two of KBC’s political satire programs, which were filmed in the studio in question. Benaissa and Hartouf’s suspended sentences were announced on July 18, shortly after a court on July 13 canceled the sale of KBC’s parent company, El Khabar Group, to a subsidiary of a company owned by businessman Issad Rebrab, who has been critical of the government. The Ministry of Communication, which had sued to cancel the transaction, said the ruling was based on the law’s prohibition on one person owning multiple news outlets.

In October 2015 Algiers police raided the headquarters of El-Watan El-Djazairya, a private, foreign-based television station broadcasting in the country, and closed down the station upon orders of the Algiers mayor. Minister of Communication Grine accused the television station of “harming a state symbol” during an interview it transmitted on October 3, 2015, with the former emir of the Islamic Salvation Army, Madani Mezrag. During the interview Mezrag indirectly threatened President Bouteflika after the president affirmed the government would not let Mezrag form a political party due to his connection to terrorist activities. In September, Djaafar Chelli, the former owner of El Watan El-Djazairya, received a DZD 10 million ($91,575) fine for broadcasting the interview with Mezrag.

Many civil society organizations, government opponents, and political parties, including legal Islamist parties, had access to independent print and broadcast media and used them to express their views. Opposition parties also disseminated information via the internet and published communiques but stated they did not have access to the national television and radio. Journalists from independent print and broadcast media expressed frustration over the near impossibility of receiving information from public officials. With the exception of several daily newspapers, the majority of print media outlets relied on the government for physical printing materials and operations.

In January a court reclassified a charge against journalist and LADDH board member Hassan Bouras, resulting in his release from El Bayadh prison after three months in custody. Prosecutors had charged Bouras in October 2015 with insulting a government body and inciting armed conflict against the state. As of November charges against Bouras had not been dropped, according to his lawyer. Separately, in November an El Bayadh court indicted Bouras for producing a video alleging that certain police officials and judges were involved in corruption. The court on November 28 convicted Bouras of complicity in offending a judicial officer, law enforcement officers, and a public body and of unlawfully practicing a profession regulated by law, sentencing him to one year in prison plus fines. Bouras’s appeal remained pending at year’s end.

Organizations wishing to initiate regular publications must obtain authorization from the government. The law requires the director of the publication to hold Algerian citizenship. The law additionally prohibits local periodicals from receiving direct or indirect material support from foreign sources. The CNCPPDH noted in its 2014 annual report that lack of a law controlling advertising was the largest hurdle to improving transparency of the distribution of public advertising (see also section 5). In May CNCPPDH president Farouk Ksentini said that depriving certain newspapers of public advertising revenue was “contrary to democracy and a violation of the constitution.”

In September the Ministry of Communication stated there were 332 accredited written publications, which included 149 daily newspapers, 47 weekly and 75 monthly magazines, and other specialized publications. Of the daily printed publications, the ministry stated six were state-operated.

The ministry’s Media Directorate is responsible for issuing and renewing accreditations to foreign media outlets operating in the country. Although this accreditation is required to operate legally, the vast majority of foreign media were not accredited. While the government tolerated their operations in the past, Minister Grine stated in April the number of private satellite channels that would receive frequencies would be limited to 13. He said in September that foreign-based unaccredited television outlets would be shut down. As of year’s end, however, the government had not shut down any such outlets. On June 20, the government instated the Audiovisual Regulatory Authority (ARAV), a nine-member body that regulates television and radio. In August ARAV published regulations that require the shareholders and managers of any radio or television channel to be Algerian citizens and prohibits them from broadcasting content that offends “values anchored in Algerian society.”

The ministry also issues and renews accreditation of foreign correspondents reporting in the country. According to the ministry, 13 accredited foreign press agencies reported during the year. In addition to five private domestic television channels, 12 foreign broadcasting channels and two foreign radio stations operated throughout the year.

The law mandates that online news outlets must inform the government of their activities but does not require them to request authorization to operate.

Violence and Harassment: News sources critical of the government reported instances of government harassment and intimidation due to their reporting. Government officials arrested and temporarily detained journalists.

On June 27, police arrested Mohamed Tamalt, a freelance journalist and blogger based in the United Kingdom. He was charged with insulting President Bouteflika on Facebook and sentenced to two years in prison and a DZD 200,000 ($1,832) fine. On December 11, Tamalt died following a prolonged hunger strike protesting his arrest and continued imprisonment.

On June 21, police officers encircled the new headquarters of the El Watan daily newspaper and ordered its staff to vacate the building. Local officials said the building did not conform to the construction permits granted by the government. As of September El Watan had not been permitted to take occupancy of the building.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Some major news outlets faced direct and indirect retaliation for criticism of the government.

Some observers viewed the July conviction of two KBC TV journalists and the cancelation of the sale of KBC’s parent company, El Khabar Group, as motivated by the political views expressed in KBC’s programming and by the owner of the company that attempted to purchase El Khabar Group.

On May 3, Minister Grine called on private companies to cease advertising in three unnamed newspapers, widely assumed to be the El KhabarEl Watan, and Liberte newspapers, viewed as critical of the government. In an interview published online that day, the director general of El Khabar said Minister Grine’s opposition to El Khabar was based on the fact that it “does not follow the editorial line that he wishes.”

In a May 23 speech calling for unaccredited foreign satellite channels to be shut down, Prime Minister Sellal criticized channels that “use misleading advertising, violate private life, strike a blow to the dignity of persons, spread disinformation, and worse still, attack the cohesion of Algerian society through calls for hatred, regionalism, and chaos.”

Libel/Slander Laws: NGOs and observers criticized the law on defamation as vaguely drafted and the definitions therein as failing to comport with internationally recognized norms. The law defines defamation as “any allegation or imputation of a fact offending the honor or consideration of a person, or of the body to which the fact is imputed.” The law does not require that the fact alleged or imputed be false or that the statement be made with malicious intent to damage another individual’s reputation. Defamation is not a crime but carries a fine ranging from DZD 100,000 to DZD 500,000 ($916 to $4,579). The Ministry of Justice did not provide information on the percentage of defamation claims that originated from private citizens, as opposed to government officials.

The law criminalizes statements denigrating Islam or insulting the Prophet Mohammed or “messengers of God.” On June 14, the National Gendarmerie published a press release saying it had “dismantled an international criminal network of blasphemers and anti-Muslim proselytizers on the internet.” News reports appeared to reference the case when they reported the arrests of Rachid Fodil and one or two other men in M’Sila Province, but the status of charges against them was unclear as of September. On July 31, police in Setif arrested Slimane Bouhafs, a Christian convert, for posting statements on his Facebook page questioning the morals of the Prophet Mohammed. A court tried and convicted Bouhafs the same day and sentenced him on August 7 to five years in prison, plus a DZD 100,000 ($916) fine. On September 6, his sentence was reduced to three years in prison.

Mohamed Chergui, a journalist for the El-Djoumhouria newspaper, was sentenced to three years in prison and a DZD 200,000 ($1,832) fine in February 2015 for a column he wrote in 2014 that was deemed offensive to the Prophet Mohammed and Islam. In April an appeals court in Oran overturned his conviction and ordered his release.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government impeded access to the internet and monitored certain e-mail and social media sites. On June 18, state-run media reported the government planned to block access to social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter, on June 19-23 during nationwide high school exams. The decision was in response to previous leaks of exam results, which were posted on social media earlier in the month. On June 19-20, internet users reported that access to not only social media, but nearly all websites, was blocked. While internet service returned on June 20, access to social media was not fully restored until June 24.

In January police arrested an activist for the unemployed, Belkacem Khencha, and in May he was sentenced to six months in prison for posting a video on Facebook criticizing the judicial system’s handling of arrests of fellow activists.

In a July statement, the human rights organization Collective of Families of the Disappeared said the government had blocked Radio of the Voiceless, the online radio station it launched in June, making it inaccessible to the public.

Internet users regularly exercised their right to free expression and association online, including through online forums, social media, and e-mail. Activists reported that some postings on social media could result in arrest and questioning; observers widely understood that the intelligence services closely monitored the activities of political and human rights activists on social media sites, including Facebook.

The law on cybercrime establishes procedures for using electronic data in prosecutions and outlines the responsibilities of service providers to cooperate with authorities. Under the law the government may conduct electronic surveillance operations to prevent offenses amounting to terrorist or subversive acts and infractions against state security, pursuant to written authorization from a competent judicial authority.

By law internet service providers face criminal penalties for the material and websites they host, especially if subject matters are “incompatible with morality or public opinion.” The Ministries of Justice, Interior, and Post, Information Technology, and Communication have oversight responsibilities. The law provides sentences of six months to five years in prison and fines between DZD 50,000 and DZD 500,000 ($458 and $4,579) for users who do not comply with the law, including the obligation to cooperate with law enforcement authorities against cybercrime.

In September the government estimated there were 18,583,427 internet users in the country in 2015. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 38.2 percent of the population used the internet in 2015.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

Academic seminars and colloquia occurred with limited governmental interference. The Ministry of Culture reviewed the content of films before they could be shown, as well as books before publication or importation. The Ministry of Religious Affairs did the same for religious publications.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Although the constitution provides for freedom of assembly and association, the government severely restricted the exercise of these rights.

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for the right of assembly, but the government continued to curtail this right. A ban on demonstrations in Algiers remained in effect. Authorities utilized the ban to prohibit assembly within the city limits. Nationwide, the government required citizens and organizations to obtain permits from the government-appointed local governor before holding public meetings or demonstrations. The government restricted licenses to political parties, NGOs, and other groups to hold indoor rallies or delayed permission until the eve of the event, thereby impeding publicity and outreach efforts by organizers. Nonetheless, in many cases authorities allowed unauthorized protests to proceed while negotiations continued regarding the protesters’ demands or when government attempts to disperse protests potentially risked igniting violence.

On March 21, media outlets reported that police shoved and kicked protesters gathered in front of the Central Post Office in Algiers to demand permanent positions for teachers working on fixed-term contracts. Two women sought hospital treatment for injuries, according to HRW. On April 4, police stopped hundreds of protesting teachers in Boudouaou, preventing them from completing the final leg of a 140-mile march from Bejaia to Algiers. Protesters remained camped in Boudouaou until April 18, at which point police grabbed and shoved some protesters and loaded them onto buses.

Hotels in Algiers and other major cities continued their historic practice of refusing to sign rental contracts for meeting spaces with political parties, NGOs, and civil associations without a copy of a written authorization from the Ministry of Interior for the proposed gathering.

Throughout the year police dispersed unauthorized gatherings or prevented marching groups of protesters from demonstrating. Police typically dispersed protesters shortly after a protest began and arrested and detained organizers for a few hours. HRW, AI, and other NGOs criticized the government’s use of the law to restrict peaceful assembly.

In July police reportedly arrested more than 100 communal guards arriving in Algiers en route to a planned demonstration outside of parliament. In June authorities arrested several Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylie (MAK) activists who were preparing to hold an unauthorized meeting in Larbaa Nath Irathen to mark the 15th anniversary of a Berber-led protest in Algiers. Clashes ensued when area residents gathered in the town center to demand the activists’ release, resulting in injuries to police and some demonstrators, according to press reports. In February MAK president Bouaziz Ait Chebib stated to the El Watan newspaper that approximately 100 MAK activists had been briefly arrested in Tizi Ouzou to prevent their attendance at the MAK’s national assembly.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for the right of association, but the government severely restricted this right.

The law’s extensive requirements and uneven enforcement served as major impediments to the development of civil society. The law grants the government wide-ranging oversight of and influence in the day-to-day activities of civil society organizations. It requires national-level civil organizations to apply to the Ministry of Interior for permission to operate. Once registered, organizations must inform the government of their activities, funding sources, and personnel, including notification of personnel changes. The law imposes an additional requirement that associations obtain government preapproval before accepting foreign funds. If organizations fail to provide required information to the government or attempt to operate with or accept foreign funds without authorization, they are subject to fines between DZD 2,000 and DZD 5,000 ($18 and $46) and up to six months’ imprisonment. The law prohibits formation of a political party with a religious platform, but observers stated they knew some political parties were Islamist.

According to the law, associations that apply for accreditation as required by law are entitled to receive a response regarding their application within two months for national organizations, 45 days for interregional-level associations, 40 days for province-level associations, and 30 days for communal organizations. While the Ministry of Interior oversees the accreditation process for most associations, the president of a local assembly approves applications for communal associations.

The Ministry of Interior may deny a license to or dissolve any group regarded as a threat to the government’s authority or to public order, and on several occasions failed to grant in an expeditious fashion official recognition to NGOs, associations, religious groups, and political parties. According to the Ministry of Interior, organizations receive a deposit slip after submitting their application for accreditation, and after the time periods listed above, this slip is legally sufficient for them to begin operating, to open a bank account, and to rent office or event space. The law does not explicitly include this provision, however. If the application is approved, the Ministry of Interior issues a final accreditation document.

Many organizations reported that they never received a deposit slip and that even with the deposit slip it was difficult to conduct necessary administrative tasks without the formal accreditation. Other organizations reported that they never received any written response to their application request. The ministry maintained that organizations refused accreditation or that did not receive a response within the specified time periods were able to submit an appeal to the State Council, the administrative court responsible for cases involving the government.

During the year the Youth Action Movement, a civil society youth organization, was again unsuccessful in renewing its license despite submitting all documentation required by the Ministry of Interior. The ministry also did not renew the accreditations of the NGOs SOS Disparu (Missing) and LADDH, which submitted their renewal applications in 2013. According to members of the National Association for the Fight Against Corruption, the Ministry of Interior refused to approve the organization’s request for accreditation, stating that the application did comply with the law on associations but did not provide any further information. The organization first submitted its application for accreditation in 2012.

The government issued licenses and subsidies to domestic associations, especially youth, medical, and neighborhood associations. According to the Ministry of Interior, there were 108,940 local and 1,293 national associations registered. A 2015 study conducted by several prominent domestic civil society organizations found, however, that nearly two-thirds of the approximately 93,000 associations registered with the government when the law on associations went into force in 2012 were either inactive or no longer operating. Unlicensed NGOs did not receive government assistance, and citizens at times hesitated to associate with these organizations.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, but the government restricted the exercise of this right.

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

In-country Movement: The government maintained restrictions for security reasons on travel into the southern locales of El-Oued and Illizi, near hydrocarbon industry installations and the Libyan border, respectively. Citing the threat of terrorism, the government also prevented overland tourist travel between the southern cities of Tamanrasset, Djanet, and Illizi. Newspapers reported that the government restricted foreign tourists from traveling through trails in Tassili and Hoggar, as well as certain areas in and around Tamanrasset, due to security concerns. Civil society organizations reported that the authorities prevented sub-Saharan migrants in the areas around Tamanrasset from traveling north toward coastal population centers.

Foreign Travel: The law does not permit those under age 18 to travel abroad without a guardian’s permission. Married women under 18 may not travel abroad without permission from their husbands, but married women over 18 may do so. The government did not permit young men eligible for the draft, who had not completed their military service, to leave the country without special authorization, although the government granted such authorization to students and persons with special family circumstances. The Ministry of Interior affirmed that in 2014 the government ended its requirement for background checks on passport applicants.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

The government provided protection to an estimated 90,000 to 165,000 Sahrawi refugees who departed Western Sahara after Morocco took control of the territory in the 1970s. UNHCR, the World Food Program (WFP), the Algerian Red Crescent, the Sahrawi Red Crescent, and other organizations also assisted Sahrawi refugees. Neither the government nor the refugee leadership allowed UNHCR to conduct registration or complete a census of the Sahrawi refugees. In the absence of formal registration, UNHCR and the WFP based humanitarian assistance on a planning figure of 90,000 refugees with an additional 35,000 supplementary food rations.

Access to Asylum: While the law provides generally for asylum or refugee status, the government has not established a formal system through which refugees can request asylum. There were no reports that the government granted refugee status and asylum to new refugee applicants during the year. According to UNHCR, the government did not accept UNHCR-determined refugee status for individuals. UNHCR offices in Algiers reported an estimated 200 to 300 asylum requests per month, mostly from Syrian, Palestinian, and sub-Saharan African individuals coming from Mali, Guinea, Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Those determined by UNHCR to have valid refugee claims were primarily from the DRC, Cote d’Ivoire, Iraq, and the Central African Republic. There was no evidence of any pattern of discrimination toward asylum applicants, but the lack of a formal asylum system made this difficult to assess.

As of September 2015 the Ministry of National Solidarity, Family, and the Status of Women reported that since the start of the conflict in Syria, it accepted more than 24,000 Syrian refugees. Other organizations estimated the number to be closer to 43,000 Syrians. Starting in January 2015 the government instituted visa requirements for Syrians entering the country. Since 2012 UNHCR registered more than 6,000 Syrians, but only approximately 5,000 remained registered with UNHCR as of September. The Algerian Red Crescent, which is subordinate to the Ministry of Solidarity, maintained “welcome facilities” that provided food and shelter for those Syrians without means to support themselves. The facilities were located at a summer camp in the seaside area of Algiers known as Sidi Fredj. The government did not grant UNHCR access to these reception centers but reported that by 2016 most Syrians no longer used the centers.

Since the outbreak of violence in northern Mali in 2012, international observers reported an influx of individuals into Algeria across the Malian border inconsistent with traditional migratory movements.

The Ministry of Interior estimated in August that there were 21,073 illegal migrants residing in the country, while other sources assessed there were 30,000 in Tamanrasset alone and as many as 100,000 in the country. As of July the Algerian Red Crescent had closed all four of the refugee camps it had been managing, including its camp housing 600 migrants, mostly from Mali, near the southern city of Bordj Badj Mokhtar.

Refoulement: The government provided some protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. In early December, however, the government gathered an estimated 1,400 sub-Saharan migrants in communities outside of Algiers and removed nearly 1,000 of them to Niger. The president of the Algerian Red Crescent said all returns were voluntary, adding that some migrants were permitted to remain in Tamanrasset. The removals followed a period of several years in which the government had largely refrained from deporting sub-Saharan migrants due to security concerns and the instability in northern Mali.

The government, led by the Algerian Red Crescent, repatriated a total of more than 17,000 Nigerien migrants to their country at the request of the government of Niger since 2014, in several repatriation operations. Various international humanitarian organizations and observers criticized the operations, citing unacceptable conditions of transport, primarily on the Niger side of the border, and what they described as a lack of coordination between the Algerian Red Crescent and the government and Red Cross of Niger. Observers also questioned whether all of the migrants were voluntarily repatriated. In August the government arranged the repatriation of approximately 500 Malians per a request from the Malian consulate in Tamanrasset.

Employment: UNHCR provided registered refugees with modest food assistance and lodging support. Because the government does not formally allow refugee employment, many worked in the informal market and were at risk of labor exploitation due to their lack of legal status in the country. Other migrants, asylum seekers, and Malians and Syrians who had a “special status” with the government, relied largely on remittances from family, the support of local family and acquaintances, and assistance from the Algerian Red Crescent and international aid organizations.

Access to Basic Services: Sahrawi refugees lived predominantly in five camps near the city of Tindouf, administered by the Popular Front for the Liberation of the Saguia el Harma and Rio de Oro (Polisario). The Polisario (through the Sahrawi Red Crescent Society), UNHCR, WFP, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and partner NGOs largely provided basic services including food aid, primary health care, and primary and secondary education, while the government invested heavily in developing the camps’ infrastructure and also provided free secondary and university educations, as well as advanced hospital care, to Sahrawi refugees. The remote location of the camps and lack of government presence resulted in a lack of access by police and courts. Other refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants had access to free public hospitals, but independent NGOs reported instances of migrants turned away.

In August 2015 the Ministry of Education instructed all school administrators to allow migrant and refugee children to enroll in primary school through high school and require only that they present their passport and documentation showing their level of schooling from their home country. International organizations reported the children had trouble in their attempts to integrate into the educational system but that migrants’ access to education was improving, particularly in the north of the country. These organizations reported that migrant parents were often reluctant to enroll their children in Algerian schools.

Durable Solutions: The government did not accept refugees from foreign countries for resettlement. The Sahrawi refugees had not sought local integration or naturalization during their 40-year stay in the refugee camps near Tindouf, and their ruling party, the Polisario, continued to call for a referendum on independence in Western Sahara.

Temporary Protection: The law does not address formal temporary protection, but authorities provided informal, temporary protection to groups such as Syrians and Malians.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. Restrictions on freedom of assembly and association as well as restrictions on political party activities greatly inhibited the activity of opposition groups.

Elections and Political Participation

The law states that members of local, provincial, and national assemblies are elected for five-year mandates and that presidential elections occur within 30 days prior to the expiration of the presidential mandate. Presidential term limits, which were eliminated in 2008, were reintroduced in a 2016 revision of the constitution and limit the president to two terms. The Ministry of Interior maintains oversight of the election and voting processes. Legislation passed by parliament in July established an independent electoral monitoring body. The president appointed the head of the monitoring body on November 6, but as of November the other members had not been appointed.

Recent Elections: Presidential elections took place in April 2014, and voters re-elected President Bouteflika for a fourth term. Although he did not personally campaign, Bouteflika won approximately 81 percent of the votes, while his main rival and former prime minister, Ali Benflis, placed second with slightly more than 12 percent.

Several hundred international election observers from the United Nations, Arab League, African Union, and Organization of Islamic Cooperation monitored voting. Foreign observers characterized the elections as largely peaceful but pointed to low voter turnout and a high rate of ballot invalidity. El Watan, an opposition-leaning daily newspaper, reported that almost 10 percent of ballots cast were invalid. The Ministry of Interior did not provide domestic or foreign observers with voter registration lists. The president of the Constitutional Council, Mourad Medelci, announced voter participation in the elections was just under 51 percent, a sharp drop from the slightly more than 74 percent turnout during the previous presidential election in 2009.

Ali Benflis rejected the results and claimed that fraud marred the elections. He appealed to the Constitutional Council without result. A coalition of Islamic and secular opposition parties boycotted the election, describing it as a masquerade and asserting that President Bouteflika was unfit to run due to his health. Several candidates withdrew from the race, claiming that the outcome was a foregone conclusion.

Elections for the lower chamber of parliament were held in 2012 and did not result in significant changes in the composition of the government. The government allowed international observation of the elections but did not permit local civil society organizations to do the same. Several opposition parties subsequently boycotted the opening session of parliament, alleging fraud during the elections.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The Ministry of Interior must approve political parties before they may operate legally.

The government maintained undue media influence and opposition political parties claimed they did not have access to public television and radio. Security forces dispersed political opposition rallies and interfered with the right to organize.

Pursuant to the constitution, all parties must have a “national base.” Under the previous electoral law, a party must have received 4 percent of the vote or at least 2,000 votes in 25 provinces in one of the last three legislative elections to participate in national elections, making it very difficult to create new political parties. The new electoral law adopted by parliament in July requires parties to have received 4 percent of the vote in the preceding election or to collect 250 signatures in the electoral district in order to appear on the ballot. Opposition parties from across the political spectrum criticized the new law for creating a more stringent qualification threshold for parties, as well as for establishing an electoral monitoring body whose members would be appointed by the president and parliament, which is controlled by a coalition headed by the president’s party.

The law prohibits parties based on religion, ethnicity, gender, language, or region, but there were various political parties commonly known to be Islamist, notably members of the Green Alliance. According to the Ministry of Interior, in August there were 71 registered political parties.

The law does not place significant restrictions on voter registration, but implementation of voter registration and identification laws proved inconsistent and confusing during past elections.

Membership in the Islamic Salvation Front, a political party banned since 1992, remained illegal. The law also bans political party ties to nonpolitical associations and regulates party financing and reporting requirements. According to the law, political parties may not receive direct or indirect financial or material support from any foreign parties. The law also stipulates the collection of resources from contributions by the party’s members, donations, and revenue from its activities, in addition to possible state funding.

As of September parliamentarian and founder of the Democratic and Social Union (UDS) party, Karim Tabbou, awaited authorization from the Ministry of Interior to hold his party’s congress. Originally scheduled in 2014, the UDS could not hold its congress because the party had not received the authorization for its required regional congresses.

In August a local government official in Tamanrasset sent the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) political party a letter stating it may decline to authorize future RCD meetings after a gathering of RCD youth members turned disorderly. The party denied the allegation of disorderliness, asserting instead that security personnel were displeased because of the presence of an Amazigh flag beside the Algerian national flag and because organizers removed a portrait of President Bouteflika from the meeting hall.

On July 16 and September 17, the media reported that police prevented members of the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) party, including members of parliament, from gathering. On both occasions party members who opposed the party’s secretary general planned to meet at the home of Senator Boualam Djaafar. The online news site Tout sur L’Algerie reported that Abderrahmane Belayat, a former minister and FLN secretary general who was a member of the group, said the intelligence services regularly monitored the group’s meetings.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minorities in the political process, and women and minorities did participate.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides for criminal penalties of two to 10 years in prison for official corruption, but the government generally did not implement the law effectively. Corruption remained a problem as reflected in the Transparency International corruption index.

Corruption: The criminal code stipulates that charges related to theft, embezzlement, or loss of public and private funds may be initiated against senior, public sector “economic managers” only by the board of directors of the institution. Critics of the law asserted that by permitting only senior officials of state businesses to initiate investigations, the law protects high-level government corruption and promotes impunity.

The Ministry of Justice declared that as of October, 987 government employees or employees of state-run businesses had been charged with corruption-related offenses. The government brought several major corruption cases to trial, resulting in dozens of convictions. Media reporting and public opinion viewed the absence of charges against the most senior of government officials as an indication of impunity for government officials.

In July the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published an article based on the “Panama Papers,” leaked documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, related to allegations of bribery in connection with contracts awarded by Sonatrach, the national oil company. The ICIJ said the documents demonstrated that Mossack Fonseca created 12 of the 17 shell companies established by businessman Farid Bedjaoui for the alleged purpose of funneling bribes to government officials. Former energy minister Chekib Khelil, who had previously been under a 2013 international arrest warrant to face charges in Algeria in connection with the case, returned to Algeria in March after charges were dropped. Former minister of justice Mohamed Charfi claimed he was pressured by FLN secretary general Amar Saadani in 2013 to drop charges against Khelil shortly before he was removed from his post.

On February 2, a court sentenced 12 persons to sentences ranging from 18-month suspended jail terms to six years in prison in a corruption case involving Sonatrach contracting practices. Former Sonatrach CEO Mohamed Meziane received a suspended six-year sentence, and two of his sons were sentenced to five and six years’ imprisonment.

Corruption throughout the government stemmed largely from the bloated nature of the bureaucracy and a lack of transparent oversight. The CNCPPDH stated in its 2014 annual report that public corruption remained a problem and hindered development. The National Association for the Fight Against Corruption noted the existence of an effective anticorruption law but stated that the government lacked the “political will” to apply the law.

Financial Disclosure: The law stipulates that all elected government officials and those appointed by presidential decree must declare their assets the month they commence their jobs, if there is substantial change in their wealth while they are in office, and at the end of their term. Few government officials made their personal wealth public, and there was no enforcement of the law.

Public Access to Information: Lack of government transparency remained a serious problem. Most ministries had websites, but not all ministries regularly maintained them with updated information. Analysts, academics, and other interested parties often had difficulty obtaining even routine and nominally public economic data from government ministries.

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

A variety of domestic human rights groups operated with varying degrees of government restriction and cooperation. The law requires all civil associations to apply for operating permission, and at year’s end several major civil associations remained unrecognized but tolerated.

AI maintained an office and actively reported on human rights issues, but it did not receive official authorization to operate from the Ministry of Interior.

Although the government did not renew the accreditation of LADDH, the organization had members countrywide, received independent funding, and was the most active independent human rights group. The smaller Algerian League for Human Rights, a separate but licensed organization based in Constantine, had members throughout the country monitoring individual cases.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government extended an invitation to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances in 2014 and again in September 2015, but as of September no visit occurred. The country joined the UN Human Rights Council in 2014 but continued to deny requests for visits from the UN special rapporteurs on extrajudicial executions (pending since 1998) and on human rights and counterterrorism (pending since 2006) and the UN Working Group on arbitrary detention (pending since 2009).

Government Human Rights Bodies: The CNCPPDH plays a consultative and advisory role to the government. It issues an annual report on the status of human rights in the country. Published in July, the 2015 report highlighted government advances in social and legal rights with increased protections for women and children, the introduction of mediation in nonfelony criminal cases, and limits on the use of pretrial detention. The commission identified its principal concerns as public corruption, shortfalls in the recent law on violence against women, heavy bureaucracy, and impediments limiting citizens’ access to justice.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, both spousal and nonspousal, occurred. The law criminalizes nonspousal rape but does not address spousal rape. Prison sentences for nonspousal rape range from five to 10 years, and authorities generally enforced the law. Many women did not report incidents of rape because of societal and family pressures. The CNCPPDH’s 2015 report called on the government to repeal the provision of the penal code that allows someone accused of raping a minor to avoid prosecution if he subsequently marries his victim.

Domestic violence was widespread. The law states that a person claiming domestic abuse must visit a “forensic physician” for an examination to document injuries and that the physician must determine that the victim suffered from injuries that “incapacitated” the person for 15 days. The law also requires that the physician provide the victim with a “certificate of incapacity” attesting to the injuries, which the victim presents to authorities as the basis of the criminal complaint. The government, working with the UN Population Fund, undertook a public awareness campaign to inform women of their rights under the law, encourage reporting of domestic violence, and engage men in conversations on violence against women.

According to statistics released by the Ministry of Justice, between the beginning of 2015 and June 2016, there were 14,366 cases of domestic abuse, of which 12,804 involved male perpetrators. As of October, 10,536 of the cases had resulted in convictions. The government said that most of those convicted received prison time as well as a fine. According to statistics from women’s advocacy groups published in the local press, between 100 and 200 women died each year from domestic violence.

The Information and Documentation Center on the Rights of Children and Women (CIDDEF), a network of local organizations that promoted the rights of women, managed call centers in 15 provinces and reported that each center received 300-400 calls during the year from female victims of violence seeking assistance.

The law provides for sentences of one to 20 years’ imprisonment for domestic violence and six months’ to two years’ incarceration for men who withhold property or financial resources from their spouses. While supporting the law when it was drafted, AI and domestic women’s rights groups criticized its “forgiveness” clause that permits the annulment of charges if the abused spouse pardons her husband.

Sexual Harassment: The punishment for sexual harassment is one to two years’ imprisonment and a fine of DZD 50,000 to DZD 100,000 ($458 to $916); the punishment doubles for a second offense. Women’s groups reported that official statistics on harassment were not available but that the majority of reported cases of harassment occurred in the workplace. Women also reported harassment by men when walking in public. The government acknowledged that street harassment continued to be a problem despite advances in the law.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, timing, and spacing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, with limited societal discrimination and coercion. Conservative elements of society challenged the government’s family planning program, including the provision of free contraception. Married and unmarried women had access to contraceptives, although there were reports of pharmacists who refused to sell contraception to unmarried women. A study by a prominent women’s group in 2015 found that approximately 68 to 70 percent of women used contraception, the majority of whom took birth control pills. Women did not need permission to obtain birth control pills, but doctors required permission of the partner for women who sought tubal ligation.

Societal and family pressure restricted women from making independent decisions about their health and reproductive rights.

Discrimination: Although the constitution provides for gender equality, many aspects of the law and traditional social practices discriminated against women. In addition, religious extremists advocated practices that led to restrictions on women’s behavior, including freedom of movement. In some rural regions, women faced extreme social pressure to veil as a precondition for freedom of movement and employment. In September a security guard at a high school in Algiers reportedly prevented unveiled students from entering the school on the first day of classes. The law contains traditional elements of Islamic law. It prohibits Muslim women from marrying non-Muslims, although authorities did not always enforce this provision. Muslim men may marry non-Muslim women. A woman may marry a foreigner and transmit citizenship and nationality to both her children and spouse.

Women may seek divorce for irreconcilable differences and violation of a prenuptial agreement. In a divorce the law provides for the wife to retain the family’s home until children reach age 18. Authorities normally awarded custody of children to the mother, but she may not make decisions about education or take the children out of the country without the father’s authorization. Women were more likely to retain the family’s home if they had custody of the children. In January 2015 the government created a subsidy for divorced women whose ex-husbands failed to make child support payments.

The law affirms the religiously based practice of allowing a man to marry as many as four wives. The law permits polygamy only upon the agreement of the first wife and the determination of a judge as to the husband’s financial ability to support an additional wife. A joint Ministry of Health and UN study from 2013 estimated that 3 percent of marriages were polygamous. It was unclear whether authorities followed the law in all cases.

Amendments to the law supersede the religiously based requirement that a male sponsor consent to the marriage of a woman. The sponsor represents the woman during the religious or civil ceremony. Although the law formally retains the requirement of a sponsor to contract the marriage, the woman may choose any man that she wishes to be her sponsor. Some families subjected women to virginity tests before marriage.

Women suffered from discrimination in inheritance claims and were entitled to a smaller portion of an estate than male children or a deceased husband’s brothers. Women did not often have exclusive control over assets that they brought to a marriage or that they earned. Women may take out business loans and use their own financial resources. Women enjoyed rights equal to those of men concerning property ownership, and property titles listed female landowners’ names.

Women faced discrimination in employment. Leaders of women’s organizations reported that discrimination was common and women were less likely to receive equal pay for equal work or promotions. In urban areas there was social encouragement for women to pursue higher education or a career. Girls graduated from high school and attended university more frequently than boys.

According to a study released by CIDDEF, women represented 19.5 percent of the active workforce, with 61 percent of these women working in the public sector. As of September 2015, female unemployment was higher than that of men, with 16.6 percent of women unemployed compared to 9.9 percent of men, according to a National Office of Statistics report. While the presence of women in the workforce grew, access to management positions remained limited. Women served at all levels in the judicial system. The government employed an increasing number of female police, including approximately 6 percent of DGSN police officers. Women may own businesses, enter into contracts, and pursue careers similar to those of men.

Children

Birth registration: The mother or father may transmit citizenship and nationality. By law children born to a Muslim father are Muslim, regardless of the mother’s religion. The law did not differentiate between girls and boys in registration of birth.

Education: Education was free, compulsory, and universal through the secondary level to age 16. UNICEF reported that the attendance of girls was higher in secondary school due to instances of boys leaving school after the primary level. The United Nations estimated primary school enrollment at more than 97 percent. The government estimated that during the 2014-15 school year, children under the age of six were enrolled in school at a rate of 98.49 percent, with those between the ages of six and 16 enrolled at a rate of 95 percent.

Child Abuse: Child abuse is illegal but was a serious problem to which the government devoted increasing resources and attention. In June the government appointed a national ombudsperson responsible for monitoring and publishing an annual report on the rights of children. The government supported the country’s Network for the Defense of Children’s Rights (NADA). Experts assumed that many cases went unreported because of family reticence. The head of NADA reported that the NGO’s free helpline received more than 23,000 calls requesting assistance as of August. The DGSN reported 1,663 cases of child sexual abuse in 2014, and the National Gendarmerie reported 380 cases.

Kidnapping for any reason is a crime. Laws prohibiting parental abduction do not penalize mothers and fathers differently. In 2014 legislation increased the punishment for convicted kidnappers to include the death penalty. The DGSN commissioner for the National Office of Child Protection reported the kidnapping of 28 children for the period of January through August, compared with 84 in 2015.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 19 for both men and women, but minors may marry with parental consent, regardless of gender. The law forbids legal guardians from forcing minors under their care to marry against the minor’s will. The Ministry of Religious Affairs required that couples present a government-issued marriage certificate before permitting imams to conduct religious marriage ceremonies.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits solicitation for prostitution and stipulates prison sentences of between 10 and 20 years when the offense is committed against a minor under age 18. By law the age for consensual sex is 16. The law stipulates a prison sentence of between 10 and 20 years for rape when the victim is a minor. The law does not call for prosecuting a man accused of raping a female minor if he legally marries the victim, and there were no available reports of this practice during the year. The law prohibits pornography and establishes prison sentences from two months to two years as well as fines up to DZD 2,000 ($18).

A 2015 law created a national council to address children’s issues, improved social services and protection for children, gave judges authority to remove children from an abusive home, and allowed sexually abused children to provide testimony on video rather than in court.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

Some religious leaders estimated that the country’s Jewish population numbered fewer than 200 persons. Local Jewish community leaders estimated the number to be in the low hundreds. The media did not publish any known derogatory political cartoons or articles directed at the Jewish community, but observers found anti-Semitic postings on social media sites.

Jewish leaders reported that the Jewish community faced unofficial, religion-based obstacles to government employment and administrative difficulties when working with government bureaucracy.

In May a member of parliament affiliated with the Islamist Green Alliance criticized the government for granting a visa to an Israeli journalist accompanying the French prime minister on an April visit to Algeria. An Arabic-language newspaper wrote that the journalist had a “strong Jewish-sounding name” and stated that, in the member of parliament’s view, the government was normalizing relations with “Zionists who make France a door to infiltrate” Algeria. An online news outlet referred to the journalist as an “Israeli Jew” and stated that the visa allowed him to “strut in the streets of Algiers to meet whoever he wants.”

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, or the provision of other state services, although the government did not effectively enforce these provisions. Persons with disabilities faced widespread social discrimination. Few government buildings were accessible to persons with disabilities. Few businesses abided by the law that they reserve 1 percent of jobs for persons with disabilities. Business that did not meet the 1 percent quota received a DZD 140,000 ($1,282) fine. NGOs reported that the government did not enforce payment of fines. The Ministry of National Solidarity, Family, and the Status of Women provided some financial support to health-care-oriented NGOs, but for many NGOs, such financial support represented a small fraction of their budgets. The ministry also provided disability benefits to persons with disabilities who registered with the government. Social security provided payments for orthopedic equipment.

The Ministry of Solidarity reported that it ran 222 centers throughout the country that provided support for persons with intellectual, auditory, vision, and physical disabilities. The ministry stated that it worked in concert with the Ministry of Education to integrate children with disabilities into public schools to promote inclusion. The majority of the ministry’s programs for children with disabilities remained in social centers for children with disabilities rather than in formal educational institutions. Advocacy groups reported that children with disabilities rarely attended school past the secondary level. Many schools lacked teachers trained to work with children with disabilities, threatening the viability of efforts to mainstream children with disabilities into public schools. Numerous private schools existed but, according to advocacy organizations, staff often acted more as caretakers than teachers due to a lack of training.

Many persons with disabilities faced challenges in voting due to voting centers that lacked accessible features.

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

The law criminalizes public and consensual same-sex sexual relations by men or women with penalties that include imprisonment of six months to three years and a fine of DZD 1,000 to DZD 10,000 ($9 to $92). The law also stipulates penalties that include imprisonment of two months to two years and fines of DZD 500 to DZD 2,000 ($5 to $18) for anyone convicted of having committed a “homosexual act.” If a minor is involved, the adult may face up to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of DZD 10,000 ($92).

LGBTI activists reported that the vague wording of laws identifying “homosexual acts” and “acts against nature” permitted sweeping accusations that resulted during the year in multiple arrests for same-sex sexual relations but no known prosecutions.

LGBTI persons faced strong societal and religious discrimination. While some lived openly, the vast majority did not, and most feared reprisal from their families or harassment from authorities. One activist reported that of the 100 LGBTI persons he knew, only three had “come out.” During a May 2015 radio interview, Minister of Religious Affairs Mohamed Aissa said that combatting individuals who promote the deviation of morality and the dismantling of the family (a reference to the behavior of LGBTI individuals) was more important than the fight against Da’esh.

Activists said that the government did not actively punish LGBTI behavior, but it was complicit in the hate speech propagated by conservative, cultural, and religion-based organizations, some of which associated LGBTI individuals with pedophiles and encouraged excluding them from family and society. Trans Homos DZ, a local organization that advocated for the rights of LGBTI persons, published a report on anti-LGBTI hate speech in the media, detailing several incidents from recent years including programs broadcast by Arabic-language media outlets, such as Ennahar TV and Echourouk TV, that demonized LGBTI persons. The report also detailed social media and other online hate speech directed at the LGBTI community between 2013 and 2015. The organization reported in April that two men who used homophobic slurs physically attacked an activist who supported LGBTI rights in Algiers. In another incident a video posted on YouTube in November 2015 showed what appeared to be a group of men surrounding a transgender woman on the street. Several of the men were shown kicking and punching her while others looked on without intervening. The government did not announce investigations into the perpetrators of either alleged attack.

Another report released by Trans Homos DZ in November included allegations by an anonymous former prisoner alleging that prisoners at El Harrach Prison suffered physical and sexual abuse based on their sexual orientation. The former prisoner’s report said prisoners who were perceived as gay or transgender were placed in a specific cellblock near other prisoners who had committed serious crimes. The report said gay and transgender prisoners were frequently victims of sexual assaults, including one incident in which prison guards mocked and initially refused medical treatment to a prisoner who was the victim of a gang rape.

Due to the hacking of one LGBTI organization’s website in 2015 and increased offensive and derogatory media coverage specifically denouncing LGBTI practices, activists reported the need to focus their advocacy on personal safety and minimized their activities during the year. Activists reported that members of the LGBTI community declined to report abuse and thus lessened their capacity to report cases of homophobic abuse and rape due to fear of reprisal by authorities. Reporting that access to health services could be difficult because medical personnel often treated LGBTI patients unprofessionally, activists noted that some organizations maintained a list of “LGBTI-friendly” hospitals, and several NGOs operated mobile clinics specifically for vulnerable communities.

Employers refused jobs to LGBTI persons, particularly men perceived as effeminate. Activists also reported cases of individuals denied drivers licenses due to their perceived sexual orientation. Community members said that obtaining legal assistance was also a challenge due to similar discrimination. Members of the LGBTI community reported that forced marriage was a problem, particularly for lesbians.

Alouen, an Oran-based LGBTI advocacy group, continued cyberactivism on behalf of the LGBTI community.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

HIV/AIDS was widely considered a shameful disease. There were more reported cases in men than women, with the exception of women between ages 15 and 24. The government continued to offer free antiretroviral treatment to all persons, including migrants. Authorities virtually eliminated new HIV infections among children. The Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) reported the existence of more than 2,000 centers offering free testing and counseling services, 1,500 of which the government managed. Strong social stigma towards the vulnerable groups in which HIV/AIDS was most concentrated–commercial sex workers, men who have sexual relations with men, and drug users–deterred testing of these groups. A 2014 study found a 5 percent prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS among commercial sex workers in Oran, the country’s second largest city. Another NGO reported the prevalence rate of the same community at nearly 10 percent.

A Ministry of Health report found that there were 740 new cases of HIV/AIDS in 2015, contributing to an official estimate of 9,843 persons with HIV/AIDS. The government provided treatment to 7,915 individuals in 2015. UNAIDS estimated that 8,800 persons had HIV/AIDS in 2015, 300 of whom were under age 15.

Led by the Ministry of Health, the government established the National AIDS Committee, which met twice during the first eight months of the year. The committee brought together various government and civil society actors to discuss implementation of the national strategy to combat HIV/AIDS.

The Green Tea Association, an NGO working in the field of HIV/AIDS treatment, continued to operate an information and orientation center in Tamanrasset, a province known for its large and diverse population of migrants.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Clashes between Algerian citizens and sub-Saharan migrants in March injured dozens of persons in Ouargla and Bechar and prompted the government to relocate more than 1,000 migrants to other locations in the country (see section 2). In Ouargla press reported that Algerians attacked Malian and Nigerien migrants on March 2 after learning that a sub-Saharan migrant had broken into a house and fatally stabbed an Algerian man. On March 25, dozens of reportedly masked men in Bechar threw stones and other objects at migrants in response to allegations that a migrant was involved in an attempted rape of a child.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The constitution provides workers with the right to join and form unions of their choice provided they are citizens. The country has ratified the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) conventions on freedom of association and collective bargaining but failed to enact legislation needed to implement these conventions fully.

The law requires that workers obtain government approval to form a union, and the Ministry of Labor must approve or disapprove a union application within 30 days. To found a union, an applicant must be Algerian by birth or have held Algerian nationality for 10 years. The law also provides for the creation of independent unions, although the union’s membership must account for at least 20 percent of an enterprise’s workforce. Unions have the right to form and join federations or confederations, and the government recognized four confederations. Unions may recruit members at the workplace. The law prohibits discrimination by employers against union members and organizers and provides mechanisms for resolving trade union complaints of antiunion practices by employers.

The law permits unions to affiliate with international labor bodies and develop relations with foreign labor groups. For example, the General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA), which represented a majority of public-sector workers, is an affiliate of the International Trade Union Confederation. Nevertheless, the law prohibits unions from associating with political parties and receiving funds from foreign sources. The courts are empowered to dissolve unions that engage in illegal activities. The government may invalidate a union’s legal status if authorities perceive its objectives to be contrary to the established institutional system, public order, good morals, law, or regulations in force.

The law provides for collective bargaining by all unions, and the government permitted the exercise of this right for authorized unions. Nevertheless, the UGTA remained the only union authorized to negotiate collective bargaining agreements.

The law provides for the right to strike, and workers exercised this right, subject to conditions. Striking requires a secret ballot of the whole workforce. The decision to strike must be approved by majority vote of workers at a general meeting. The government may restrict strikes on a number of grounds, including economic crisis, obstruction of public services, or the possibility of subversive actions. Furthermore, all public demonstrations, including protests and strikes, must receive prior government authorization. By law workers may strike only after 14 days of mandatory conciliation or mediation. The government occasionally offered to mediate disputes. The law states that decisions reached in mediation are binding on both parties. If mediation does not lead to an agreement, workers may strike legally after they vote by secret ballot to do so. The law requires that a minimum level of essential public services must be maintained during public-sector service strikes, and the government has broad legal authority to requisition public employees. The list of essential services included services such as banking, radio, and television. Penalties for unlawful work stoppages range from eight days to two months’ imprisonment.

The government affirmed there were 101 registered trade unions and employer’s organizations. No new trade unions were registered between January and August. Many trade unions remained unrecognized by the government; they identified delayed processing and administrative hurdles imposed by the government as the primary obstacles to establishing legal status. In June the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations stated that the lengthy registration process seriously impedes the establishment of new unions.

Attempts by new unions to form federations or confederations suffered similar challenges. Representatives of the National Autonomous Union for Public Administration Personnel (SNAPAP) stated that the union continued to function without official status.

Formed in 2013 but not recognized by the government, the General Autonomous Confederation of Workers in Algeria (CGATA) included public and economic sector unions and committees. In March 2015 the Ministry of Labor refused to register CGATA as a national confederation, thus preventing it from establishing an independent multisector confederation that would include private sector employees. CGATA membership included workers from unions representing government administrators, diplomatic personnel, state electricity and gas employees, university professors, public transport and postal workers, and lawyers. The confederation also included migrants working in the country.

SNAPAP and other independent unions faced government interference throughout the year, including official obstruction of general assembly meetings and police harassment during sit-in protests. Furthermore, unions in multi-national companies, specifically in oil and gas production, were virtually nonexistent due to antiunion practices, threats, and harassment by employers.

In April police stopped hundreds of protesting teachers in Boudouaou, preventing them from completing a union-organized march into Algiers. Authorities reportedly jammed mobile networks in the area and blocked deliveries of food and drink to the protest site. Teachers’ union members said police grabbed and shoved protesters during an attempt to break up the protest.

On February 6, police surrounded a trade union office in Bab Ezzouar, where a meeting was planned to discuss the 2016 finance law. Press reported that police arrested six activists and union members, including Salah Debouz, for assembling without a permit.

The Committee of Experts at the International Labor Conference in June requested that the government reinstate employees that the committee determined were fired based on antiunion discrimination and act expeditiously to process pending trade union registration applications.

Antiunion intimidation was commonplace, and there were several strikes launched in reaction to the government’s refusal to extend official recognition to fledgling new unions and its practice of engaging only with the UGTA. In March the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association urged the government to reinstate two Autonomous National Union of Postal Workers officials, in compliance with a court order. The committee concluded that the governmental postal system improperly dismissed the two officials in 2014 in connection with statements they made to the media and with one official’s role in organizing a work stoppage.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of human trafficking. There were reports from NGOs that such practices occurred. Forced labor conditions existed for migrant workers, and the law did not fully protect them. For example, female migrants were subjected to debt bondage as they worked to repay smuggling debts through domestic servitude, forced begging, and forced prostitution. Prescribed penalties under this statute range from three to 20 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Construction workers and domestic workers were reportedly vulnerable. The government made limited efforts to prosecute traffickers and protect victims but created an interministerial committee to coordinate antitrafficking efforts and adopted a national antitrafficking action plan.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits employment by minors in dangerous, unhealthy, or harmful work or in work considered inappropriate because of social and religious considerations. The minimum legal age for employment is 16, but younger children may work as apprentices with permission from their parents or legal guardian. The law prohibits workers under age 19 from working at night.

Although specific data was unavailable, children reportedly worked mostly in the informal sales market, often in family businesses. There were isolated reports that children were subjected to commercial sexual exploitation (see section 6, Children). According to UNICEF, 5 percent of children ages five to 14 were economically active.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing child labor laws and refers violators to the Ministry of Justice for prosecution. There is no single office charged with this task, but all labor inspectors are responsible for enforcing laws regarding child labor. The Ministry of Labor conducted inspections and in some cases investigated companies suspected of hiring underage workers. The ministry’s Labor Inspector Service conducted an investigation into child labor in 2015 of 15,093 businesses from the trade, agriculture, construction, and services industries. It reported the discovery of 97 minors, of whom 47 were under the age of 16. The law for the protection of the child, adopted in 2015, criminalizes anyone who economically exploits a child with a penalty of one to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of DZD 50,000 to DZD 100,000 ($476 to $952); the punishment is doubled if the offender is a family member or guardian of the child. These penalties are neither sufficiently stringent nor commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Monitoring and enforcement practices for child labor were inconsistent and hampered by an insufficient number of inspectors.

The Ministry of Solidarity leads a national committee composed of 12 ministries and NGOs that meets yearly to discuss child labor issues. The committee was empowered to propose measures and laws to address child labor as well as conduct awareness campaigns.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment, salary, and work environment based on age, gender, social and marital status, family links, political conviction, disability, national origin and affiliation with a union. The law does not prohibit discrimination with respect to employment based on sexual orientation, HIV-positive status, or religion. The government did not adequately enforce the law, since discrimination reportedly existed, specifically against migrant workers in the informal economy who lacked a legal means to address unfair working conditions.

Women occupied few decision-making positions. Many unescorted or migrant female youth were exploited as domestic workers and were known to be loaned out to families for extended periods to work in homes and/or exploited as prostitutes (see section 6).

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

A tripartite social pact among business, government, and the official union established the national minimum wage of DZD 18,000 ($165) per month in 2012. The World Bank estimated in 2011 that the poverty rate was 5.5 percent, a level that some observers considered too low.

The standard workweek was 40 hours, including one hour for lunch per day. Half of the lunch hour is considered compensated working time. Employees who worked longer than the standard workweek received premium pay on a sliding scale from time-and-a-half to double time, depending on whether the overtime occurred on a normal workday, a weekend, or a holiday.

The law contains occupational health and safety standards that were not fully enforced. There were no known reports of workers dismissed for removing themselves from hazardous working conditions. If workers face such conditions, they may reserve the right to renegotiate their contract or, failing that, resort to the courts. While this legal mechanism exists, the high demand for employment in the country gave an advantage to employers seeking to exploit employees. Labor standards do not protect economic migrants from sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere working in the country without legal immigration status, which made them vulnerable to exploitation. The law does not adequately cover migrant workers employed primarily in construction and as domestic workers.

The government requires employers to declare their employees to the Ministry of Labor and to pay social security benefits. Penalties for noncompliance include a prison sentence of two to six months and a fine ranging from DZD 100,000 to DZD 200,000 ($916 to $1,832) and DZD 200,000 to DZD 500,000 ($1,832 to $4,579) for repeat offenders. In 2015 the director general of social security at the Ministry of Labor stated that employers had not declared 15 percent of workers to the government, down from 40 percent in 2001. Employers who violated the law faced DZD 200,000 ($1,832) fines and between two and six months in prison. An enforcement initiative in 2015 identified 13,473 undeclared workers, all but 3 percent of whom were employed in the private sector. The government allowed undeclared workers to gain credit for social security and retirement benefits for time spent in the informal economy if they repay any taxes owed after registering.

The Labor Ministry employed 624 labor inspectors and approximately 380 supervisors. The ministry generally enforced labor standards, including providing for compliance with the minimum wage regulation and safety standards. Nevertheless, broad enforcement remained insufficient.

Egypt

Executive Summary

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

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights problems were excessive use of force by security forces, deficiencies in due process, and the suppression of civil liberties. Excessive use of force included unlawful killings and torture. Due process problems included the excessive use of preventative custody and pretrial detention, the use of military courts to try civilians, trials involving hundreds of defendants in which authorities did not present evidence on an individual basis, and arrests conducted without warrants or judicial orders. Civil liberties problems included societal and government restrictions on freedoms of expression and the media, as well as on the freedoms of assembly and association in statute and practice.

Other human rights problems included disappearances; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary arrests; a judiciary that in some cases appeared to arrive at outcomes not supported by publicly available evidence or that appeared to reflect political motivations; reports of political prisoners and detainees; restrictions on academic freedom; impunity for security forces; harassment of some civil society organizations; limits on religious freedom; official corruption; limits on civil society organizations; violence, harassment, and societal discrimination against women and girls, including female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C); child abuse; discrimination against persons with disabilities; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against religious minorities; discrimination and arrests based on sexual orientation; discrimination against HIV-positive persons; and worker abuse, including child labor.

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

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

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

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

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

There were instances of persons tortured to death and other allegations of killings in prisons and detention centers. Amnesty International (AI) reported eight deaths due to torture as of March 29. The government charged, prosecuted, and convicted perpetrators in some cases. On February 3, authorities found the body of Italian graduate student Giulio Regeni with what forensics officials said were signs of torture, including cigarette burns, broken bones, and head injuries. Local and international human rights groups stated such signs of torture were consistent with forms of abuse committed by security services. Some human rights groups further alleged torture by security services was responsible for Regeni’s death. An international news agency reported security services detained Regeni prior to his death, citing intelligence and police sources. The Interior Ministry denied such claims and any connection with Regeni’s death. As of November an investigative team led by the Prosecutor General’s Office had not released its conclusions.

On November 13, authorities arrested Magdy Maken, a fish cart vendor, following an altercation with a police officer. His family’s lawyer claimed police officers subsequently beat him in the streets before taking him to a police station in the neighborhood of el-Ameriyah and that several hour later authorities took his corpse to a nearby hospital with marks of torture. Videos of Maken’s body posted on social media showed a bleeding backside and bruises on his face. Authorities stated they arrested Maken for possession of the painkiller tramadol and claimed he later died of diabetes-related complications. Authorities investigated 10 police officers in connection with the case. At year’s end police captain Karim Madgy and three other officers were detained pending investigations, and six others were released on bail pending further investigations.

There were reports of suspects killed in unclear circumstances during or after arrest. On July 24, police detained Mohamed Samir and later beat him to death, according to Samir’s family members’ comments to media. The Interior Ministry stated Samir escaped from police while being escorted to a police station and authorities later found him dead in the Nile River.

There were reports of police killing unarmed civilians during personal or business disputes, which local academics and human rights groups claimed were part of a culture of excessive violence within security services. On April 2, a court sentenced police officer Mostafa Abdel Haseeb to life imprisonment after Haseeb killed a rickshaw driver in February during a dispute over a fare. On April 19, a police officer shot and killed a tea seller in New Cairo and injured two others after a dispute over the price of a cup of tea. According to media reports, witnesses stated there was an altercation between a police officer and a tea seller after the officer refused to pay for a cup of tea, and the officer shot the seller and a bystander who tried to intervene, killing the seller and injuring the bystander. On November 16, authorities convicted the police officer of murder and sentenced him to life in prison.

There were continued reports of suspected terrorists and other suspected criminals killed during security raids conducted by police. The Interior Ministry claimed police officers fired at suspects only when suspects fired first. Rights groups claimed these shootings might have amounted to extrajudicial killings. In some of these cases, media reported that family members said there was evidence that police detained suspects before killing them. On February 7, police reportedly killed four alleged members of the terrorist group Ajnad Misr during a raid on a house near central Cairo. The Interior Ministry claimed those killed were suspects in the killing of two police officers, a soldier, and a civilian. On March 24, police killed four members of a criminal gang during an exchange of gunfire in New Cairo, according to an Interior Ministry statement. The ministry alleged the gang members were responsible for killing Regeni (see above) and claimed that police found Regeni’s passport at the gang’s apartment. Family members of those killed denied these allegations, Italian investigators highlighted inconsistencies in the ministry’s account linking the gang to Regeni, and the public prosecutor initially denied such a link.

On October 4, the Interior Ministry stated that security forces had killed a senior leader of a Muslim Brotherhood faction, Mohamed Kamal, whom it described as responsible for the group’s “armed wing,” as well as his aide, Yasser Shehata, in an exchange of gunfire during a raid on an apartment in Cairo’s southern Bassateen District. A lawyer representing the two men’s families told media they both surrendered as soon as police arrived around 6 p.m. on October 3, and after police searched their apartments, police shot the men.

The government used force, and at times used excessive force, to disperse both peaceful and nonpeaceful demonstrations. According to local media reports, on February 26, security forces shot and killed two protesters, al-Sayed Abu al-Maaty and Mohamed al-Badawi, who the Ministry of Interior claimed were members of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Interior Ministry stated the two men were armed and initiated the attack on security forces, while the Muslim Brotherhood claimed police and “thugs” fired randomly at the protesters.

On February 14, the Court of Cassation ordered a retrial in the case of the Central Security Forces officer previously convicted of killing secular activist Shaimaa el-Sabbagh at a peaceful demonstration in January 2015. A Cairo criminal court previously sentenced the officer to 15 years in prison for manslaughter (see section 1.d.). The retrial began in October, and the next hearing was scheduled for February 19, 2017.

Although there were claims that demonstrators sometimes instigated violence, there were no reports of investigations of loss of life during these incidents.

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

On October 25, Egyptian security forces killed 15-year-old Israeli Bedouin Nimer Abu Amer, who was accompanying relatives employed in maintenance work on the border fence between Israel and Egypt by a contractor for the Israeli Ministry of Defense. An Egyptian security official told press a border guard mistook the teenager for a migrant attempting to cross the border illegally.

A government investigation continued into the killing of 12 persons, including eight Mexican citizens, in September 2015, when air force units mistakenly attacked a tourist convoy near the Bahariya oasis in the western desert while in pursuit of an armed militant group. The government alleged the company entered an unauthorized area without proper permits, while the company claimed it had the correct permits and an official escort. On May 9, the quasi-governmental Egyptian Travel Agents Association, a union of local tourism chambers of commerce, told press that it had paid the families of three of the victims 2.21 million Egyptian pounds (LE) ($120,000) each in compensation after they agreed to drop legal proceedings against Egypt. Negotiations continued with the other five families who lost relatives in the attack, according to the association.

In 2014 a court sentenced one police officer to 10 years in prison for manslaughter and three other officers to one-year suspended prison sentences in the 2013 case in which police killed 37 Muslim Brotherhood detainees while transferring them to Abu Zaabal Prison near Cairo. In 2014 an appeals court vacated the sentences and returned the case to the public prosecution for reinvestigation. In August 2015 the appeals court reduced the officer’s sentence from 10 to five years and upheld the one-year suspended prison sentences for the three other officers. A second appeal was pending at year’s end.

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

Terrorist groups, including Da’esh Sinai Province (formerly known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis) and Ajnad Misr, among others, conducted deadly attacks on government, civilian, and security targets throughout the country, including schools, places of worship, and public transportation. On May 8, terrorists killed eight police officers in an attack on an unmarked police microbus in Helwan. Both a Da’esh Egyptian affiliate and terrorist group Popular Resistance claimed responsibility for the attack. On November 15, the press reported that authorities had arrested more than 30 suspects following the attacks. Official investigations continued at year’s end.

In February the president acknowledged that terrorism caused the October 2015 crash of Metrojet flight 9268, which killed all 224 individuals on board. Da’esh Sinai Province claimed responsibility for the attack; official investigations of the crash continued at year’s end.

On December 11, a terrorist attack during Mass at the Boutrusiya church, adjacent to the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, killed 27 and injured dozens more, most of whom were women and children. Authorities stated that a suicide bomber collaborated with the Muslim Brotherhood to carry out the attack, a claim Muslim Brotherhood spokesmen denied. Da’esh later claimed responsibility for the attack

There was no published official data on the number of victims of terrorist violence during the year. According to local media reports, terrorists killed hundreds of civilians throughout the country. In Sinai alone, as of the end of October, militant violence had killed at least 230 civilians and 299 security force members (police and military), according to publicly available information. During the same period in Sinai, the government killed 2,436 terrorists, according to official public statements.

b. Disappearance

Several international and local human rights groups, including the quasi-governmental National Council on Human Rights (NCHR), reported a spike in enforced disappearances, alleging authorities increasingly relied on this tactic to intimidate critics. According to a July AI report, authorities had forcibly disappeared at least several hundred individuals since the beginning of 2015. In all of the cases AI presented, authorities arrested those forcibly disappeared in a manner that did not comply with due process laws (see section 1.d.). In most of the cases AI documented, authorities detained individuals after forcing their way into homes and, in all such cases, without producing arrest or search warrants. Authorities then allegedly detained many in police stations or Central Security Forces’ camps but did not include them in official registers. Authorities held detainees incommunicado and denied their requests to contact family members and lawyers. The length of disappearances documented by AI ranged from a few days to seven months. In most cases according to AI, the period of disappearance ended when authorities took the detainee before a prosecutor for questioning. Local rights groups provided various estimates of forced disappearances, with one reporting 630 cases between January and May 15. According to its July 3 report, the NCHR raised 266 cases of enforced disappearances with the Interior Ministry, which had responded with information on 238 of those cases as of March. According to the report, the Interior Ministry was unable to locate 44 of the individuals identified by the NCHR.

On January 12, authorities detained 14-year-old Aser Mohamed, taking him from his home without producing an arrest warrant, according to his family, as reported by AI. Mohamed’s family searched for him for the next 34 days. On February 15, Mohamed’s family learned of his whereabouts, when Mohamed telephoned on his way to a Central Security Forces camp on the outskirts of Cairo, as stated by AI. During his time of enforced disappearance, according to his family’s account, as described by AI, authorities reportedly tortured Mohamed to “confess” to participating in a terrorist attack and other crimes. After appearing before a prosecutor on February 15, authorities charged Mohamed with belonging to a banned group. As of July Mohamed remained at the Central Security Forces camp, according to AI. Mohamed’s trial began in August, and the next hearing was scheduled for February 15.

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

According to a July 28 report of the UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, 226 disappearance cases were under the working group’s review, an increase of more than 80 percent from the previous year. The report noted the working group’s “extreme concern” with what appeared to be an increasing pattern of disappearances, notably short-term disappearances. By year’s end the working group had not received a response to its 2011 request to visit the country (see section 5).

In March, after several statements by human rights groups on the increase in forced disappearances, the Interior Ministry claimed there were no forced disappearances in the country and no detainees held incommunicado or beyond judicial oversight in contravention of Egyptian law.

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

The constitution states that no torture, intimidation, coercion, or physical or moral harm shall be inflicted upon a person whose movements are restricted or whom authorities have detained or arrested. The penal code forbids torture to induce a confession from a detained or arrested suspect but fails to account for mental or psychological abuse against persons whom authorities have not formally accused, or for abuse occurring for reasons other than securing a confession. The penal code also forbids all public officials or civil servants from “employing cruelty” or “causing bodily harm” under any circumstances. Local rights organizations documented hundreds of incidents of torture throughout the year, including deaths that resulted from torture (see section 1.a.). According to domestic and international human rights organizations, police and prison guards sometimes resorted to torture to extract information from detainees, including minors. Reported techniques included beatings with fists, whips, rifle butts, and other objects; prolonged suspension by the limbs from a ceiling or door; electric shocks; sexual assault; attacks by dogs; and forced standing for hours. Government officials denied the use of torture was systemic. Authorities stated they did not sanction these abuses and, in some cases, prosecuted individual police officers for violating the law (see section 1.a.).

In an article published online on September 2, Ibrahim Halawa, an Irish-Egyptian citizen who authorities arrested in 2013 and remained in detention without bail (see section 2.d.) while his trial continued, claimed authorities tortured him while in prison, mostly through beatings. Authorities charged Halawa, along with 493 codefendants, with participating in a violent protest and other counts. Halawa’s family stated that Halawa took refuge in al-Fath mosque during a dispersal of a protest nearby. Halawa’s next hearing was scheduled for January 17.

A local rights group reported that authorities redetained 14-year-old Akram al-Sawy, along with his father, whom authorities accused of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, in January 2015, after Sawy described torture and abuse that authorities inflicted on Sawy and other prisoners at a Central Security Forces camp in Banha. Authorities previously detained both Sawy and his father from September 2014 until January 2015.

On July 12, a Luxor criminal court convicted six police officers of manslaughter in connection with the November 2015 death of 47-year-old Talaat Shebeeb in a Luxor police station hours after police arrested him. The Forensic Medical Authority’s report determined that a severe beating had broken the vertebrae in his back and severed his spinal cord. Authorities sentenced First Lieutenant Hani Samir to seven years in prison and five lower-ranked officers to three years. Authorities acquitted three other police officers and four soldiers charged in connection with Shebeeb’s death.

No information was available about the results of the public prosecutor’s investigation into a 2014 case in which police at the Matariya police station reportedly tortured to death a man they detained after a neighborhood quarrel. On February 3, a local human rights organization reported that 14 deaths in custody as a result of torture had occurred over the previous two years at this police station.

The United Nations reported that during the year (as of December 20) it received one allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse against Egyptian peacekeepers for an incident occurring in 2015. The Egyptian government investigated the allegation, which involved a military officer deployed to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic, and found it to be substantiated. The officer was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

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

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

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

On April 26, Mamdouh Shaldam died in Burj al-Arab Prison after prison authorities denied him access to medical care needed to treat his hepatitis C, according to Shaldam’s family, as reported by media.

There were reports authorities sometimes held prisoners accused of crimes related to political or security issues separately from common criminals and subjected them to verbal or physical abuse and punitive solitary confinement. Human rights lawyer Malek Adly was held in solitary confinement for more than 100 days in connection with protests against the government’s announcement of a maritime border demarcation agreement with Saudi Arabia in which the government determined that Tiran and Sanafir islands fell under Saudi sovereignty. Rights groups alleged that his treatment while in detention, including being kept in solitary confinement, was to punish him for his work as a human rights lawyer. On August 28, Adly was released from prison pending investigation.

Authorities did not always separate juveniles from adults and sometimes held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners. Rights organizations continued to allege the illegal use of Central Security Forces camps as detention facilities. In 2014 a local rights group claimed that authorities held at least 600 children between the ages of 14 and 17 at a Central Security Forces camp in Banha.

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

Administration: The penal code provides for reasonable access to prisoners. The NCHR considered itself an ombudsman on behalf of prisoners, but there was no official ombudsman. According to NGO observers and relatives, the government sometimes prevented visitors’ access to detainees. Prisoners could request investigation of alleged inhuman conditions. NGO observers claimed, however, that prisoners sometimes were reluctant to do so due to fear of retribution from prison officials. The government investigated some, but not all, of these allegations. As required by law, the public prosecutor continued to inspect prisons and detention centers.

Independent Monitoring: The government did not permit visits by nongovernmental observers but did permit some visits by the quasi-governmental NCHR to prisons and detention centers. The NCHR visited four prisons, one of which it visited twice, between January and November, after receiving approval from the Ministry of Interior’s Prisons Authority or prosecutor general. The law formally recognizes the NCHR’s role in monitoring prisons, specifying that visits require notifying the prosecutor general in advance. Authorities did not permit other organizations to conduct prison visits.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but reported incidences of such practices remained high.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

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

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

On February 14, the Court of Cassation ordered a retrial in the case of a Central Security Forces officer previously convicted of killing secular activist Shaimaa el-Sabbagh at a peaceful demonstration in January 2015. A Cairo criminal court previously sentenced the officer to 15 years in prison for manslaughter. The retrial began in October, and the next hearing was scheduled for February 19.

A retrial in the case against former president Hosni Mubarak, former minister of interior Habib al-Adly, and six others for issuing an order to kill protesters during the 2011 revolution continued at year’s end. The retrial began in November 2015, and the next hearing was scheduled for March 2, 2017. By year’s end authorities had not found any entity or individual responsible for the deaths of protesters during the 2011 revolution.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

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

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

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

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

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

Pretrial Detention: The government did not provide figures on the total number of pretrial detainees. Rights groups and the quasi-governmental NCHR alleged continued excessive use of pretrial detention and preventative detention during trials for nonviolent crimes. Authorities sometimes held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners. Large backlogs in the criminal courts contributed to protracted periods of pretrial detention. Estimates of the number of pretrial and preventive detainees were unreliable. According to a May 10 report by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, at least 1,464 persons in four governorates remained in detention without bail for more than two years without a conviction and at various stages in the legal process. According to a May 2015 report by the NCHR, citing Interior Ministry figures, at least seven thousand persons remained in detention without a conviction at various stages in the legal process on charges related to incidents after June 2013, including approximately 300 “activists.” Most others were affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, according to the NCHR.

Authorities have held spouses Aya Hijazi and Mohamed Hassanein, the two founders of the NGO Belady Foundation, in detention without bail since 2014. Among other counts, authorities charged the two with torturing children, sexual assault, forcing children to participate in illegal demonstrations, and operation of a criminal group for the purposes of trafficking. Local human rights groups described such charges as baseless and depicted the delays in the defendants’ trial as spurious. While the first trial hearing was held in March 2015, authorities delayed proceedings on procedural grounds several times, and the defense could not begin to argue its case until the fourth session, on February 13, according to local human rights groups. The next hearing was scheduled for January 14, 2017.

Authorities have held photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid (known as Shawkan) in detention without bail since 2013. Authorities arrested him while he was taking pictures during the security forces’ dispersal of the Muslim Brotherhood sit-in at Rabaa al-Adawiya Square in Cairo. Authorities charged Shawkan and 737 other defendants with belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, possessing firearms, and murder. The court issued a decision to continue his detention during trial, according to his lawyers. The trial began in December 2015, but no substantive hearings had taken place by year’s end. The next hearing was scheduled for January 17, 2017.

On March 25, authorities released Mahmoud Mohamed Hussein on bail of LE 1,000 ($55) pending investigations, after spending more than two years in detention in Cairo’s Tora Prison. Authorities arrested then 17-year-old Hussein on a microbus in January 2014. According to AI, National Security Sector officers used electric shocks to his hands, back, and testicles to elicit a videotaped confession to membership in a banned group, possessing Molotov cocktails and hand grenades, protesting without authorization, and receiving money to protest.

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

Protracted Detention of Rejected Asylum Seekers or Stateless Persons: Authorities detained and sometimes deported without providing access to asylum procedures persons who entered the country illegally or who were present in the country illegally. As of September authorities detained 2,845 non-Egyptian foreign nationals attempting to depart from the north coast in an irregular manner. The majority were Sudanese (959) and Somalis (811), followed by Eritreans (379), Comorians (302), and Ethiopians (300). Approximately 52 percent of those detained were registered refugees or asylum seekers, whom authorities usually quickly released. Others remained in detention without access to asylum procedures or due process. Those who authorities released could obtain and renew Egyptian residency permits, if registered as persons of concern to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Authorities arrested and detained children, including unaccompanied children, without adequate access to food, clothing, sanitation, and health care, according to a local advocacy organization.

Amnesty: The constitution gives the president the power to grant a pardon or reduce a sentence, after consulting with the cabinet. The president used this authority to pardon hundreds of prisoners–generally those who had served the majority of their sentences during the year, including secular activists, student protesters, Muslim Brotherhood members, and others. According to press reports, the president had pardoned more than one thousand prisoners as of September. On May 4, authorities convicted and sentenced Sana Seif, a secular activist arrested in 2014 for breaking the demonstrations law and pardoned in 2015, to six months in prison for insulting a member of the prosecution by not complying with a summons on suspicion of inciting protests. Seif was released from prison on November 15 after completing her six-month sentence.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for the independence and immunity of judges. Courts generally acted independently, although individual courts sometimes appeared to lack impartiality and to arrive at politically motivated outcomes or without individual findings of guilt. The government generally respected court orders. Judicial and executive review is available to individuals sentenced to the death penalty.

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

Retrials in two cases based in Minya with hundreds of defendants continued at year’s end. In January 2015 the Court of Cassation ordered a retrial in the case in which a Minya court issued a provisional sentence condemning 529 persons to death on charges of killing a police officer and attempting to kill two other police officers. Authorities scheduled the next hearing for January 4, 2017.

In February 2015 the Court of Cassation ordered a retrial in the second high-profile Minya trial, in which the Minya Criminal Court issued provisional death sentences in 2014 to 683 defendants, including Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, on charges of attacking a police station and killing two police officers. On December 28, a judge ordered the release of 13 defendants pending trial. The retrial continued, and the next hearing was scheduled for January 23, 2017.

An NGO, the International Commission on Jurists, alleged that authorities subjected judges who spoke out against attacks on the rule of law and human rights violations to unfair disciplinary proceedings. On October 18, Reuters reported that authorities forcibly retired 32 of 75 judges who had signed a document in 2013 criticizing the ouster of then president Morsy.

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

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

In April, one local rights group alleged that military courts had tried at least 7,420 civilians, including at least 86 children, since the issuance of a 2014 decree ordering the military to “assist” police in securing “vital public facilities.”

On May 29, AI reported that a military court sentenced eight civilians to death on charges including belonging to a banned group, possession of firearms and explosives, and obtaining classified information without authorization. The court also sentenced 18 codefendants to prison. The defendants bore signs of torture; however, authorities ignored their request to the court to be referred for evaluation by the Forensic Medical Authority, according to the defendants’ lawyers, as reported by AI.

On February 16, a military court sentenced 116 individuals to life in prison, including then three-year-old Ahmed Mansour Qorani Sharara, on charges of murder, attempted murder, possession of firearms and explosives, and six other counts, according to media reports. Of the 116, authorities sentenced 100 in their absence, including Sharara. Authorities later said Sharara’s inclusion in the case was due to mistaken identity and the court should have sentenced a 16-year-old with a similar name instead.

Former president Morsy remained in detention as a defendant in five cases brought by the prosecutor general in civilian court, all of which were in trial proceedings at year’s end. The charges included incitement to murder, murder, fraud, insulting the judiciary, and espionage. Some local and international rights groups questioned the impartiality of proceedings. There were reports authorities periodically denied some family visit requests for security reasons.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

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

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

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

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were reports of political prisoners and detainees, although verifiable estimates were not available. The government claimed there were no political prisoners and all persons in detention had been or were in the process of being, charged with a crime. Human rights groups and international observers maintained the government detained or imprisoned as many as several thousand persons solely or chiefly because of their political beliefs or opposition to the government. One local rights organization estimated there were 60,000 political prisoners. A local rights group considered any persons arrested under the 2013 demonstrations law to be political prisoners. In their view these persons were political prisoners or detainees because authorities held them based on laws that restricted the exercise of a human right, because charges were false or inflated motivated by the individual’s political opinion or membership in a particular group, or because some individuals faced unduly harsh and disproportionate treatment due to their political opinions or membership in particular groups.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

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

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

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

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

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

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press but includes a clause stating, “it may be subject to limited censorship in times of war or public mobilization.”

Freedom of Speech and Expression: Citizens expressed their views on a wide range of political and social topics. The government investigated and prosecuted critics for alleged incitement of violence, insults to religion, insults to public figures and institutions such as the judiciary and the military, or violation of public morals. Individuals also faced societal and official harassment for speech viewed as sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood, such as using a hand gesture showing four fingers, a reference to the 2013 security operation to disperse the sit-in at Rabaa al-Adawiya Square.

The law provides a broad definition of terrorism, to include “any act harming national unity or social peace.” The president stated in a September speech that lying was a form of terrorism. Human rights observers expressed concern that authorities could use the ambiguous definition to stifle nonviolent speech and nonviolent opposition activity.

On February 20, a Bulaq Abu el-Ela appellate misdemeanor court sentenced author Ahmed Naji to two years in prison on charges of violating public morals based on the publication of an excerpt of his novel, The Use of Life, which contained explicit descriptions of sexual acts and illegal drug use. Authorities had acquitted Naji of the same charges in January, but prosecutors appealed the decision. Numerous writers and intellectuals decried the verdict, describing it as part of a larger government campaign against free expression. On December 18, a court suspended the implementation of Naji’s sentence pending the appeal of his sentence. Naji’s next hearing was scheduled for January 1, 2017.

In May authorities arrested the five members of the satirical group Street Children after it released a video criticizing supporters of the president and the increasing number of arrests. Band members were reportedly under investigation on charges of attempting to topple the regime, publishing offensive videos, and inciting citizens against authorities. In May authorities released one band member on bail and released the remaining four members in September pending investigations.

Press and Media Freedoms: The constitution, penal code, and media and publications law govern media issues. The government regulated the licensing of newspapers and controlled the printing and distribution of a majority of newspapers, including private newspapers and those of opposition political parties. The law does not impose restrictions on newspaper ownership.

The more than 20 state-owned media outlets broadly supported official state policy. The term for the governmental Higher Press Council, which had the power to appoint and dismiss editorial leadership of state-owned print outlets, expired in January. The governmental Egyptian Radio and Television Union appointed the heads of state-owned radio and television channels. Both state-owned and private media (including television and online journalism) sometimes criticized the government, but dominant media narratives supported the president and his policy initiatives.

As of December the Committee to Protect Journalists reported there were 25 imprisoned journalists in the country. Authorities continued to keep journalist Ismail Alexandrani in detention without formal charges at year’s end. Authorities detained him in November 2015 on arrival at Hurgada airport. On November 20, a court ordered his release, but authorities successfully appealed the release order. According to local rights groups, Alexandrani was under investigation for “reporting false news” and “joining a banned group.” Alexandrani’s reporting and scholarly work focused on the Sinai.

On May 1, authorities raided the press syndicate headquarters and arrested two journalists, Mahmoud el-Sakka and Amr Badr, according to members of the syndicate. Both journalists worked for an opposition news site, Bawabet Yanayer. The Interior Ministry claimed it had not raided the headquarters, and the journalists had willingly surrendered to authorities. Authorities referred el-Sakka and Badr to trial on charges of spreading false news and possession of firearms and Molotov cocktails. On August 27, a court ordered Badr’s release on bail of LE 5,000 ($275) pending investigations. On September 29, a court ordered el-Sakka’s release on bail of LE 5,000 ($275) pending investigations. The journalists’ arrests followed arrests of dozens of others on April 25, in connection with protests against the government’s announcement of a maritime border demarcation agreement with Saudi Arabia in which the government determined that Tiran and Sanafir islands fell under Saudi sovereignty. According to a local rights group, authorities released most of those detained that day after a short incarceration.

On November 19, a court sentenced Yehia Kalash, president of the press syndicate, and Gamal Abdel Reheem and Khaled el-Balshy, two syndicate board members, to two years in prison for harboring fugitives (el-Sakka and Badr) inside the syndicate’s headquarters and spreading false news in connection with the May 1 raid on the syndicate headquarters. The three were sentenced in absentia; they appealed the verdict, and the hearing was scheduled for January 14, 2017.

On August 27, according to media reports, an administrative court referred Azza al-Henawy, an anchor for state-owned al-Qahera TV, to trial on charges including insulting the president. Al-Henawy had criticized the president and made allegations of corruption during a March television broadcast.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued statements condemning articles critical of the country in international publications, sometimes citing the authors by name.

Violence and Harassment: According to media reports and local and international human rights groups, state and nonstate actors arrested and imprisoned, harassed, and intimidated journalists. Foreign correspondents reported cases where the government denied them entry, deported them, and delayed or denied issuance of media credentials; some claimed these actions were part of a government campaign to intimidate foreign media.

On May 23, authorities denied French news correspondent Remy Pigaglio entry into the country when he arrived at Cairo International Airport after returning from vacation in France. Pigaglio claimed officials at first prevented him from contacting the French ambassador in Egypt and, and after detaining him for more than 24 hours, deported him.

In June security officers took British-Lebanese journalist Lilian Daoud from her Cairo home by security officers immediately following the end of her employment contract with ONTV. Authorities briefly detained and then deported her, according to media reports. On her television show, The Full Picture, Daoud had hosted protesters and youth leaders as well as government officials. The program had expressed views critical of the government.

In September 2015 the Cairo Criminal Court began a trial of 48 defendants accused of being Muslim Brotherhood members and charged with participating in the 2014 protest in Ain Shams during which journalist Mayada Ashraf was shot and killed while covering the clashes between protesters and police. The next hearing was scheduled for February 13, 2017.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Official censorship occurred. On February 3, art-house cinema Zawya stated that the country’s Censorship Authority refused to authorize the screening of three short films as part of Zawya’s Short Film Festival. Zawya’s director speculated to media that in the case of two of the three films, authorities objected to the content of the films, which included sexual content and discussions of atheism.

In August government officials confiscated copies of an issue of privately owned Sout Alomma newspaper, which included an article about the health of the president’s mother and articles critical of former president Hosni Mubarak.

Some activists and many journalists reported privately they self-censored criticism of the government or comments that could be perceived as sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood, due to the overall anti-Muslim Brotherhood and progovernment media environment. Publishers were also wary of publishing books that criticized religious institutions, such as al-Azhar, or challenged Islamic doctrine.

Libel/Slander Laws: Local and international rights groups reported several cases of authorities charging and convicting individuals with denigrating religion under the so-called blasphemy law, primarily targeting Christians but also Muslims.

On January 26, al-Khalifa Misdemeanor Court convicted writer Fatima Naoot in her absence and sentenced her to three years in prison and a fine of LE 20,000 ($1,100) for denigrating Islam by describing the Islamic ritual of sacrificing sheep during Eid al-Adha as a “massacre,” in a 2014 Facebook post. On March 31, the Sayeda Zeinab Appellate Misdemeanor Court confirmed the sentence. After Naoot appealed the decision, on October 20, the same court ordered her release pending investigations. On November 24, an appeals court reduced her sentence to a six months suspended.

On February 25, Bani Mazar Juvenile Misdemeanor Court sentenced four Christian high school students to five years’ imprisonment for denigrating Islam after the students appeared in video pretending to perform a Muslim prayer. The same court sentenced the students’ teacher, Gad Youssef Younan, who reportedly filmed the video, to three years in prison for denigrating Islam in December 2015.

Authorities released Mohamed Hegazy, also known as Bishoy Armia Boulous, from prison in July after spending more than two years in detention based on accusations that he had denigrated Islam in a symposium in 2009. A court ordered his release in June; however, over a period of several weeks, prison authorities claimed to have lost the court order and moved him to another prison without informing his attorney, according to media reports. During this time Hegazy recorded a video from prison in which he stated that he was reverting to Islam from Christianity; authorities released him shortly thereafter. Boulous unsuccessfully sued the Ministry of Interior in 2009 to recognize his conversion from Islam to Christianity, testing the constitutional right of freedom of religion.

National Security: The law allows government censors to block the publication of information related to intelligence and national security. Judges may issue and have issued restraint orders to prevent media from covering court cases considered sensitive on national security grounds. Rights groups stated authorities sometimes misused the orders to shield government, police, or military officials from public scrutiny. For example, on April 30, a court issued such an order in the case of protesters arrested during demonstrations against the government’s announcement of a maritime border demarcation agreement with Saudi Arabia in which the bilateral agreement determined that Tiran and Sanafir islands fall under Saudi sovereignty. Citing safety and security, the government and military restricted media access to many parts of North Sinai.

The law imposes a fine on any person who “intentionally publishes…or spreads false news” contradicting official Ministry of Defense statements. The fine is many times the average annual salary of most local journalists.

An amendment to the police authority law, approved by parliament on August 9, bars police from providing information related to their work to media without permission from the Interior Ministry. An international NGO argued the amendment illustrated the government’s continuing effort to undermine transparency.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not generally restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, albeit with some exceptions. The constitution protects the right to privacy, including on the internet. The constitution provides for the confidentiality and “inviolability” of postal, telegraphic, and electronic correspondence; telephone calls; and other means of communication. They may not be confiscated, revealed, or monitored except with a judicial order, only for a definite period, and only in cases defined by law. The constitution prohibits the government from “arbitrarily” interrupting, disconnecting, or depriving citizens seeking to use all forms of internet communications. Law enforcement agencies occasionally restricted or disrupted individuals’ access to the internet, and the government monitored social media accounts and internet usage, relying on a law that only allows targeted interception of communications under judicial oversight for a limited period of time and does not permit indiscriminate mass surveillance. The public prosecutor occasionally prosecuted individuals accused of posting “insulting” material.

The counterterrorism law criminalizes the use of the internet to “promote ideas or beliefs that call for terrorist acts” or to “broadcast what is intended to mislead security authorities or influence the course of justice in relation to any terrorist crime.” The law also authorizes the public prosecutor and investigators to monitor and record online communications between suspects in terrorism cases for a period of 30 days, renewable in 30-day increments. The law does not specify a maximum time period.

The government attempted to disrupt the communications of terrorist groups operating in northern Sinai by cutting telecommunication networks: mobile services, internet, and sometimes landlines. Cuts generally occurred from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Networks were again fully accessible at approximately 8 p.m. and sometimes later. This tactic disrupted operations of government facilities and banks. The law obliges internet service providers and mobile operators to allow government access to customer databases, which can allow security forces to obtain information about activities of specific customers, which could lead to lack of online anonymity. Individuals widely used social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, during demonstrations and included widespread criticism of the government and security forces.

In July, Internet Live Stats estimated internet penetration to be 33 percent. A local civil society organization estimated 57 percent of families had internet access at home and four million persons used Twitter. A digital consulting company stated 28 million persons used Facebook.

There were reports that authorities monitored social media and internet dating sites to identify and arrest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals (see section 6, Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity).

On January 13, police arrested three administrators of Facebook pages that allegedly promoted antigovernment protests scheduled for the fifth anniversary of the January 25 Revolution, according to media reports. Two of the three were Muslim Brotherhood members, according to state-owned media.

In April international media reported that in December 2015 Facebook terminated its Free Basics Service, which provided mobile phone users with free access to a limited suite of internet services, because the company would not allow the government to circumvent the service’s security to conduct surveillance. The government previously stated that it had only granted the mobile carrier Etisalat a temporary permit to offer the service for two months.

On December 19, Open Whisper Systems claimed that Egyptian authorities were blocking access to its encrypted messaging application Signal.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were reports of government restrictions on academic freedom. In October, Minister of Higher Education Ashraf al-Shihy published a statement requiring private universities to review all research papers and thesis dissertations to assure they do not include any “direct or indirect insult to societies or individuals belonging to any brotherly or friendly countries.” According to media and local rights groups, a degree of self-censorship, similar to that reported by nonacademic commentators, allegedly existed when academics publicly commented on sensitive political and socioeconomic issues. In February media reported that in December 2015, Cairo University revoked permission for one of its professors, Kholoud Saber, to pursue her doctoral degree abroad. Saber told media the decision came from an office connected to the Interior Ministry. Separately, Cairo University President Gaber Nassar told media that security forces did not intervene in the university’s academic affairs. Days after publication of the news reports, Cairo University reversed its decision to revoke Saber’s permission to study abroad.

There was censorship of cultural events. The Ministry of Culture must approve all scripts and final productions of plays and films. The ministry censored foreign films to be shown in theaters but did not censor the same films sold as DVDs.

On January 20, authorities cancelled a scheduled concert by the band Elawela Balady, according to an announcement by the group, which is widely associated with the January 25 Revolution. A local human rights group described the move as an attempt by authorities to silence voices connected to the revolution.

Independent film center, Cimatheque, associated with Khaled Abdalla from the prominent revolutionary documentary The Square and the sister production company Zero Productions, remained closed since October 2015 and received regular visits from authorities. In February authorities allowed Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art, which was closed by authorities in December 2015, to reopen under what its director told press were new legal restrictions; he alleged that some restrictions amounted to state control of its work. Townhouse’s affiliated Rawabet Theater, which was also raided in December 2015, also reopened. The Merit Publishing House, which authorities raided in December 2015, remained open. Authorities quickly released the Merit employee detained in December 2015.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for freedom of assembly “according to notification regulated by law.” Authorities implemented a 2013 demonstrations law that includes an expansive list of prohibited activities and gives the minister of interior the authority to prohibit or curtail planned demonstrations. Domestic and international human rights organizations asserted the law was not in keeping with international standards regarding freedom of assembly. There were protests throughout the year that varied widely in size, and some occurred without government interference. In other cases the government rigorously enforced the law restricting demonstrations, even in cases of small groups of protesters demonstrating peacefully.

Research center Daftar Ahwal reported at least 37,059 cases of individuals being stopped, arrested, or charged under the protest law between November 2013 and September. Of these, authorities charged 15,491 individuals under the protest law resulting in 6,382 convictions and 5,083 acquittals.

In January security forces arrested more than 150 individuals in connection with protests on the fifth anniversary of the January 25 Revolution, according to media reports.

In February 2015 the Cairo Criminal Court sentenced prominent activist Alaa Abdel Fattah to five years in prison on charges of breaking the demonstrations law related to his participation in a protest in front of the Shura Council in 2013. The ruling was subject to appeal to the Court of Cassation, which at year’s end had not ruled whether it would accept the appeal.

Authorities arrested at least 382 persons in the days leading to April 25 protests against the government’s announcement of a maritime border demarcation agreement with Saudi Arabia that determined Tiran and Sanafir islands fall under Saudi sovereignty, according to an international rights organization. Authorities convicted many of these under the protest law; however, upon appeal authorities overturned many of the convictions or reduced sentences. For example, on May 24, a Dokki and Agouza court sentenced 111 individuals to five years’ imprisonment in connection with the protests. The following day, the Dokki Misdemeanor Court cancelled the prison sentences but upheld fines of LE 100,000 ($5,500) for 86 of the defendants and refused their request to pay the fines in installments.

Thousands of persons remained imprisoned whom authorities arrested during 2013 and 2014 due to their participation in demonstrations (some of which were peaceful); however, authorities released others who had completed their sentences. Authorities held such individuals under charges of attending an unauthorized protest, incitement to violence, or “blocking roads.” Human rights groups claimed authorities inflated or used these charges solely to target individuals suspected of being members of groups in opposition to the government or those who sought to exercise the rights to free assembly or association.

Demonstrations on university campuses decreased throughout the country as compared with the previous academic year, but security forces continued to disperse them forcefully, according to a local rights group. In April student mobilization increased with students protesting the government’s announcement of a maritime border demarcation agreement with Saudi Arabia that determined Tiran and Sanafir islands fall under Saudi sovereignty. According to the same local rights group, authorities arrested 84 students and expelled 47 students during the 2015-16 academic year.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and the 2013 constitutional declaration provide for freedom of association. The law governing associations, however, significantly restricts this right. The law on associations affects all nongovernmental civil society associations, the overwhelming majority of which were domestic welfare, educational, and environmental foundations. The Ministry of Social Solidarity applied the law in a highly restrictive manner on international and domestic organizations receiving international funding, denying government approval of programs that domestic and international organizations sought to implement or granting governmental approval after lengthy delays (which in some cases amounted to effective denials). Rights groups reported several incidents of security services ordering the cancellation of planned training programs or other events. Over the course of one week in May, the Ministry of Social Solidarity closed 75 NGOs in Beheira Governorate, according to a ministry statement. The ministry alleged all of the 75 had Muslim Brotherhood connections and claimed the governorate was “free” of any NGOs receiving foreign funding as a result of the closures.

The penal code criminalizes the request for or acceptance of foreign funds, materiel, weapons, ammunition, or “other things” from states or NGOs “with the intent to harm the national interest.” Violators may be sentenced to life in prison, or the death penalty in the case of public officials and for crimes committed during times of war or with “terrorist purpose.” The broad language raised concern among civil society that the article could be used to prosecute NGOs receiving or requesting international funding.

At year’s end the conviction of 27 mostly foreign NGO workers sentenced in 2013 for operating unlicensed organizations and receiving foreign funding without government permission stood. Appeals for some defendants were pending at year’s end; defendants had not yet filed appeals in the remainder of cases.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party, and its NGO remained illegal, and the Muslim Brotherhood was a legally designated terrorist organization.

Authorities reopened investigations of local NGOs that received foreign funding under a case originally brought in 2011, and on December 7, human rights attorney Azza Soliman was arrested in connection with the case. She was subsequently released on bail pending investigations. On December 14, a Cairo criminal court ordered asset freezes against Soliman and the law firm she headed, Lawyers for Justice and Peace. Separately in the case, on September 17, a Cairo criminal court ordered asset freezes against five individuals–including Hossam Bahgat, founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights; Gamal Eid, executive director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information; and Bahey el-Din Hassan, director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)–and three organizations, including CIHRS, the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, and Egyptian Center for the Right to Education. The court denied a request to freeze the assets of six others including family members of those whose accounts were ordered frozen and support staff of the NGOs. On June 15, a Cairo criminal court ordered asset freezes against the Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies and its director, Ahmed Samieh. Freeze orders are subject to appeal after three months. Asset freeze cases were also pending against women’s rights organization Nazra for Feminist Studies and its executive director Mozn Hassan at year’s end. The next hearing was scheduled for January 11, 2017.

In February el-Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence (also registered under the name el-Nadeem for Psychological Rehabilitation), which documents torture and other forms of abuse and provides counseling for torture and rape victims, received administrative closure orders from three governmental bodies. The organization asserted the letters were politically motivated, targeting el-Nadeem because of its work on torture, deaths in detention, and impunity for these crimes. At year’s end authorities had neither rescinded nor enforced the orders, and the organization continued to operate but had suspended its clinical activities

On February 29, a misdemeanor court sentenced Amr Ali, coordinator of the April 6 Youth Movement, a political advocacy group, to three years’ imprisonment for inciting protests and attempting to topple the government. On July 30, an appeals court reduced his sentence to two years.

In March student union leaders called for a general assembly meeting to discuss the future of the Egyptian Student Union–the largest countrywide student union–after the December 2015 decision by the Ministry of Higher Education to nullify the results of the union’s November 2015 elections. As of December no such assembly had taken place.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law provides for freedom of movement within the country, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights, albeit with some exceptions, including the handling of potential refugees and asylum seekers. The authorities maintained a “no-fly” list that prevented some defendants in court cases from fleeing the country.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Media, NGOs, and UNHCR staff reported multiple cases of attacks against refugees, particularly women and children. According to UNHCR, refugees reported harassment, sexual harassment, and discrimination. Refugee women and girls, particularly sub-Saharan Africans, faced significant societal, sexual, and gender-based violence.

According to a local civil society organization, police security sweeps increased in neighborhoods known to house Syrian, Sudanese, and other African refugees, as well as migrants, resulting in increased detentions. Detainees reported authorities subjected them to racist verbal abuse, beatings, and torture during detention.

While reports of abuse by Sinai-based facilitators and captors of illegal migrants continued to decline, a shift in human trafficking activities to mainland Egypt has accompanied this decline as a result of the security situation in Sinai and Libya.

Although the government did not cooperate consistently with UNHCR and humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to asylum seekers and other persons of concern, it allowed UNHCR access to registered refugees in detention.

In-country Movement: Citizens and foreigners may not travel in areas of the country designated as military zones. The government sought to prevent private individuals, journalists, and civil society activists from entering the Sinai Peninsula, stating it was to protect their safety; however, some persons avoiding government detection did enter the Sinai, particularly irregular migrants attempting to reach the Israeli border and the western border zone.

Foreign Travel: The constitution states, “No citizen may be prevented from leaving the State territory.”

Men who have not completed compulsory military service, however, may not travel abroad or emigrate. National identification cards indicated completion of military service. Married Bahais and their children faced difficulties obtaining national identification cards because the government did not recognize Bahai marriages as legitimate. Some Bahai men of draft age were unable to establish they either had fulfilled or were exempt from military service and, therefore, were unable to obtain passports. Police officials reportedly forced unmarried young women, sometimes including those in their 30s, to present their father’s written permission to obtain a passport and to travel abroad, although the law does not require such permission.

Authorities required citizens between the ages of 18 and 45 to obtain permission from the Interior Ministry to travel to 16 countries: Guinea, Indonesia, Israel, Jordan, Malaysia, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Qatar, Sudan, Syria, and Turkey. Enforcement of these regulations was sporadic. The government stated it intended these regulations to make it more difficult for citizens to join terrorist groups and to stop flight of criminals. These regulations also affected the ability of other individuals to travel outside the country.

The government increasingly imposed travel bans on human rights defenders and political activists. In March, Mada Masr reported there had been 554 cases of politically motivated banned entry and exit imposed by authorities in airports since 2011. In February local and human rights groups said that authorities intended to intimidate and silence human rights defenders. Several local and international human rights organizations reported a string of exit bans issued against human rights defenders and human rights activists.

Individuals connected with NGOs facing investigation as part of the reopened NGO foreign funding case faced travel bans. On June 27, authorities prevented women’s rights activist Mozn Hassan from departing the country and informed her that the prosecutor general had issued an order banning her from travel at the request of one of the case’s investigative judges. On July 15, authorities prevented human rights lawyer and member of the NCHR, Nasser Amin, from departing the country and told him that authorities had subjected him to a travel ban. According to statements by Amin’s lawyer, the travel ban was part of the reopened NGO foreign-funding case.

In January 2015 authorities prevented democracy activist Esraa Abdel Fattah from departing the country and informed her that authorities had issued a travel ban in her name. She filed a lawsuit to challenge the ban, but the court dismissed the suit. Separately, in 2015 authorities confiscated the passport of human rights defender Mohamed Lotfy and prevented him from traveling to Berlin to deliver a statement before the German parliament on the eve of President Sisi’s state visit to Germany in June 2015. Abdel Fattah and Lotfy continued to be unable to depart the country.

Exile: There was no government-imposed exile, and the constitution prohibits the government from expelling citizens or banning citizens from returning to the country. Some Mubarak- and Morsy-era politicians lived outside the country by choice and alleged they faced government threats of prosecution.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The constitution provides for the protection of political refugees, but the laws do not provide for granting asylum or refugee status, and the government has not established a comprehensive legal regime for providing protection to refugees. The government granted UNHCR authority to make refugee status determinations. UNHCR does not register Libyan citizens, nor does it register or provide any assistance to Palestinian refugees in the country.

According to UNHCR, as of September there were approximately 192,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers in the country, coming mainly from Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Iraq. The number of Syrian nationals newly registered as refugees increased since 2015. Observers attributed the increase to a new level of socioeconomic desperation among Syrians who had prolonged their stay in Egypt while depleting their assets, as well as an increase in new arrivals by way of Sudan, which remained the only country to which Syrians could travel without visas. As of August UNHCR reported 114,911 registered Syrian refugees in the country. The number of African refugees significantly increased during the year according to UNHCR, particularly among Ethiopian, Eritrean, and South Sudanese populations.

In 2012 and 2013 under the Morsy administration, the government accorded Syrians visa-free entry. Starting in mid-2013, the government applied a system of visa and security clearance requirements for Syrian nationals and Palestinian refugees from Syria, thus assuring no direct entries from Syria since Egypt lacked consular services there. UNHCR reported cases of prolonged separation of Syrian families in Egypt and family members in Syria, Libya, or the Gulf countries. The government rarely granted family reunification visas.

Since the regulations took effect in 2013, UNHCR stated authorities detained and deported dozens of Syrians who arrived in the country without a visa or with forged documents, usually to the transit countries from which they arrived, or to Turkey or Lebanon. According to UNHCR, the number of Syrians using forged documents to travel to the country increased during the year. Stricter visa restrictions imposed by Jordan and Turkey also resulted in the return of some Syrians to Egypt, where they remained in prolonged detention.

Reports of irregular movements of individuals, including asylum seekers, and of detention of foreign nationals attempting to depart the country irregularly remained numerous, after a dramatic increase in 2013. Syrians represented the largest portion of this group, which also included Sudanese, South Sudanese, Eritreans, Somalis, Ethiopians, and other Africans. UNHCR observed increased African irregular departures from the country, particularly Sudanese, Eritrean, and Ethiopian nationals. Irregular migrants continued to travel steadily through the land route from Sudan (Wedi Halfa/Abu Simbel). There were 4,913 reported deaths of irregular migrants in the Mediterranean during the year, an increase from 3,600 reported for 2015.

UNHCR access to detained registered refugees and asylum seekers was unscheduled and intermittent. According to UNHCR, authorities allowed access but only by request. Local rights groups faced continued resistance from the government when trying to interview detainees at Qanater men’s and women’s prisons outside Cairo, which housed the majority of detained refugees and asylum seekers. Authorities denied UNHCR access to unregistered asylum seekers at all prison and detention facilities, and UNHCR officials faced difficulties accessing prisoners to determine their status. The government subjected detained migrants, many of whom were Ethiopian, Eritrean, Sudanese, and Somali (and may have had a basis for asylum claims), to prolonged administrative detention for unauthorized entry or residence. Detained migrants–as unregistered asylum seekers–did not have access to UNHCR. Authorities often held them in jails, military camps, and regular prisons with convicted criminals.

Approximately three thousand Palestinian refugees from Syria were also present in the country, representing a significant decrease from 2015, which rights groups believed was a result of able-bodied men and teenage boys departing by sea to Europe as irregular migrants. The majority reportedly lived in Cairo. The Palestinian Authority mission in the country provided limited assistance to this population, who were not able to access UNHCR assistance provided to Syrians due to governmental restrictions. Despite UNHCR’s mandate for Palestinians outside of the fields of operations of the UN Relief and Works Agency, the government denied UNHCR permission to provide services, reportedly in part due to a belief that allowing UNHCR registration would negate Palestinian refugees’ right of return. Similar to 2014 authorities detained a few Palestinian refugees from Syria but promptly released them. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) mission in Cairo provided some humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees from Syria.

Refoulement: According to human rights advocates, migrants detained while attempting to enter the country irregularly were typically given two options: return to their country of origin or indefinite administrative detention. Because the government denied UNHCR access to unregistered detained migrants and asylum seekers, the number of potential asylum seekers returned to their countries was unknown. Authorities frequently encouraged those detained to choose to return to their countries of origin to avoid continued detention, even in cases where the individuals expressed a fear of return. Authorities also deported children to their countries of origin without their parents or an adult caregiver. In 2014 authorities deported children recognized as refugees by UNHCR to their country of origin without their mother or an adult caregiver. In September members of the humanitarian assistance community noted that the government did not deport every irregular migrant caught either crossing the country or trying to depart by sea but that this inconsistent approach was largely due to the government’s severe budgetary constraints.

UNHCR stated the Syrian embassy implemented a restrictive policy regarding the renewal of expired passports of Syrian nationals in detention, regardless of the grounds for arrest. In such cases the Syrian embassy issued a travel document valid only for return to Syria; therefore, the absence of a valid national passport for Syrian refugees in detention resulted in either prolonged detention or forced repatriation. According to UNHCR reports, the Syrian embassy renewed passports on an individual basis in a few cases for released detainees. Syrian authorities generally refused to renew passports for persons who had registered with UNHCR.

Fewer Palestinian refugees from Syria entered the country in an illegal manner with the intention to travel to Europe. In a number of cases, in the absence of valid travel documents or inability to confirm their identities, they faced either detention or deportation.

Employment: There is no law granting refugees the right to work. Those seeking unauthorized employment were challenged by lack of jobs and societal discrimination, particularly against sub-Saharan Africans. Refugees who found work took low-paying jobs in the informal market, such as domestic servants, and were vulnerable to financial and sexual exploitation by employers.

Access to Basic Services: Refugees, in particular non-Arabic-speaking refugees from sub-Saharan Africa, continued to face limited access to housing, public education, public health services, and other social services. The Interior Ministry restricted some international organizations seeking to assist migrants and refugees in the Sinai but provided the International Organization for Migration (IOM) access to some detention centers. UNHCR provided refugees with modest support for education and health care, as well as small monthly financial assistance grants for particularly vulnerable refugees. IOM provided additional assistance to particularly vulnerable migrants and individual asylum cases either rejected or being processed by UNHCR.

Some public schools enrolled Syrian refugee children, but universal access for refugee education was nonexistent largely due to concerns about overcrowded public schools and a lack of resources. Instead, refugee children mainly attended refugee-run schools, private schools, or were home schooled. The law requires government hospitals to provide free emergency medical care to refugees, but many of the hospitals did not have adequate resources to do so. In some cases hospitals insisted that refugees provide payment in advance of receiving services or refused to provide services to refugees. In response to the influx of Syrians, the government allowed Syrian refugees and asylum seekers access to public education and health services; however, due to lack of availability, the low quality of Egyptian public education, and cases of severe harassment of Syrian children, many Syrian children remained outside the formal education system.

STATELESS PERSONS

Most of the 22 stateless persons known to UNHCR were Armenians displaced for more than 50 years. According to a local civil society organization, the number of stateless persons in the country was likely higher than the number recorded by UNHCR. The government and UNHCR lacked a mechanism for identifying stateless persons, including those of disputed Sudanese/South Sudanese nationality and those of disputed Ethiopian/Eritrean nationality. An unknown number of the approximately 50,000 to 100,000 Palestinian refugees were stateless.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government through the right to vote in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal suffrage. Constraints on freedom of expression, association, and assembly, however, limited citizens’ ability to do so.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The country held parliamentary elections in several rounds October through December 2015. Domestic and international observers concluded that authorities administered parliamentary elections professionally and in accordance with the laws. Observers expressed concern about restrictions on freedoms of peaceful assembly, association, and expression and their negative effect on the political climate surrounding elections.

Domestic and international observers concluded authorities administered the 2014 presidential election professionally and in line with the law, but they expressed serious concerns regarding constraints on the freedoms of expression and association and limits on freedom of the press leading up to the election, which “prevented free political participation and severely compromised the broader electoral environment.”

Political Parties and Political Participation: The constitution grants citizens the ability to form, register, and operate political parties. The law requires new parties to have a minimum of five thousand members from at least 10 governorates. The constitution also states, “no political activity may be practiced and no political parties may be formed on the basis of religion or discrimination based on gender, origin, or sectarian basis or geographic location. No activity that is hostile to democratic principles, secretive, or of military or quasi-military nature may be practiced. Political parties may not be dissolved except by virtue of a court judgment.”

The Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, remained banned. Authorities did not ban other Islamist parties, including the Strong Egypt Party and the Building and Development Party, although those parties boycotted the 2015 parliamentary elections, citing a “negative political environment.” The Islamist al-Noor Party participated, winning 11 seats. In September, citing lack of jurisdiction, a court dismissed a lawsuit filed by a private individual demanding the dissolution of the al-Noor Party, among other parties alleged to have formed on a religious basis.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minorities in the political process, and women and minorities participated. Social and cultural barriers, however, continued to limit women’s political participation and leadership in most political parties and some government institutions. Voters elected a record number of 75 women, 36 Christians, and nine persons with disabilities to parliament during the 2015 elections, a substantial increase compared with the 2012 parliament, which included 11 women, 13 Christians, and no persons with disabilities. The House of Representatives law outlines the criteria for the electoral lists, which provides that the House of Representatives must include at least 56 women, 24 Christians, and nine persons with disabilities. In December 2015 the president appointed 28 additional members of parliament, including 14 women and two Christians. The House of Representatives law grants the president the authority to appoint House of Representatives members, not to surpass 5 percent of the total number of elected members. If the president opts to use this authority, half of his appointments must be women, according to the law. Parliament included 89 women and 38 Christians.

Women led four cabinet ministries; not all cabinet members hold portfolios. No women or members of religious minorities were among the appointed governors of the 27 governorates. No women were on the Supreme Constitutional Court. Legal experts said there were approximately 66 female judges serving in family, criminal, economic, appeals, and misdemeanor courts; that total was less than 1 percent of judges. Several senior judges were Christian.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, but the government did not consistently enforce the law. There were allegations members of the government, as well as the previous Mubarak and Morsy governments, engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Court cases still pending at year’s end were inconclusive regarding the accusations of impunity. The existing government pursued corruption cases against senior officials.

Corruption: The Central Agency for Auditing and Accounting (CAA) was the government’s anticorruption body and submitted reports to the president and the prime minister that were not available to the public. The auditing and accounting agency stationed monitors at state-owned companies to report corrupt practices. The Administrative Control Authority, another independent body, had jurisdiction over state administrative bodies, state-owned enterprises, public associations and institutions, private companies undertaking public work, and organizations to which the state contributes in any form.

On March 28, the president dismissed the head of the CAA, Hehsam Geneina. In December 2015 Geneina publicly claimed that corruption in public and government circles led to the squandering and misappropriation of more than LE 600 billion ($33 million). In January a government fact-finding committee alleged that Geneina deliberately exaggerated figures about corruption for political purposes. Geneina told media that the allegations against him were politically motivated. On July 28, a Cairo court convicted Geneina of spreading false information, sentencing him to a one-year suspended prison term and a fine of LE 20,000 ($1,100). A court rejected Geneina’s appeal on December 22 but suspended the implementation of his sentence for three years.

On January 9, the Court of Cassation rejected an appeal of a May 2015 Cairo criminal court conviction of former president Hosni Mubarak and his sons, Alaa Mubarak and Gamal Mubarak, on corruption charges, sentencing all three to three years’ imprisonment. They were also fined collectively LE 21.2 million ($1.17 million) and ordered to repay LE 125 million ($6.9 million) in stolen funds. In October 2015 the court ordered the release of Alaa Mubarak and Gamal Mubarak from prison upon completion of their sentences. No further appeals are possible.

On March 12, the government announced it had reached a reconciliation agreement with businessman Hussein Salem. Salem had lived in Spain since 2011, following sentencing in his absence to 15 years in prison on corruption charges related to the sale of natural gas and 10 years in prison on corruption charges related to the sale of electricity. According to Salem’s lawyer’s comments to media, the agreement included the transfer of 78 percent of the assets held by Salem, his children, and his grandchildren to the government.

On April 11, a Cairo court sentenced former agriculture minister Salah Eddin Helal to 10 years in prison and a fine of LE one million ($55,100). The court convicted Salah and other ministry officials of accepting bribes to help businessmen illegally acquire state land. Salah appealed the decision, and court proceedings continued at year’s end.

Financial Disclosure: There are no financial disclosure laws for public officials. A 2013 conflict-of-interest law forbids government officials from maintaining any pecuniary interest in matters over which they exercise authority.

Public Access to Information: There is no legal framework stipulating how citizens can access government information. The government generally was not responsive to requests for documents regarding government activities and did not provide reasons for its lack of responsiveness.

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

The government continued to exhibit an uncooperative and suspicious approach to international and local human rights organizations. Government officials publicly asserted they shared the civil society organizations’ goals, but they rarely cooperated with or responded to the organizations’ inquiries. Domestic civil society organizations criticized the government’s consultations with civil society as insufficient. Provisions in the NGO law and penal code for penalties of up to life imprisonment for requesting or accepting foreign funding to undermine state security continued to have a chilling effect on NGO operations (see section 2.b.).

Extended delays in gaining government approvals and an unclear legal environment continued to limit the ability of domestic and international NGOs to operate. State-owned and independent media frequently depicted NGOs, particularly international NGOs and domestic NGOs that received funding from international sources, as undertaking subversive activities. Some NGOs reported receiving visits or calls, to staff both at work and at home, from security service officers and tax officials monitoring their activities, as well as societal harassment.

Human rights defenders and political activists were also subjected to governmental and societal harassment and intimidation, for example, through travel bans (see section 2.d.). Print and television media published articles that included the names, photographs, business addresses, and alleged meetings held by activists, including meetings held with foreign diplomatic representatives.

Well-established, independent domestic human rights NGOs operated throughout the country. Internet activists and bloggers continued to play a significant role in publicizing information about human rights abuses. Authorities generally allowed civil society organizations not registered as NGOs to operate, but such organizations sometimes reported harassment, along with threats of government interference, investigation, asset freezes, or closure.

The government reopened investigations into the receipt of foreign funding by several human rights organizations (see section 1.b.).

Major international human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) and AI, did not have offices in the country after closing them in 2014 due to “concerns about the deteriorating security and political environment in the country.”

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government did not respond to the visit requests from eight UN special rapporteurs charged with investigation or monitoring of alleged human rights abuses, including the special rapporteurs for the independence of judges and lawyers; human rights defenders; freedom of religion; torture; arbitrary detention; extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary execution; human rights and counterterrorism; and the freedom of association and assembly; as well as the UN Human Rights Council Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. The oldest pending request was from the special rapporteur on torture in 1996. The most recent pending request was from the special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers in 2014. The government had agreed to but not yet scheduled dates for the visits of four special rapporteurs, including those responsible for the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography; violence against women; promotion of truth, justice, reparation, and provision for their nonrecurrence; and foreign debt. All four requests had been outstanding for more than two years. Authorities did not allow the ICRC access to prisoners and detainees. The Interior Ministry provided some international organizations informal access to some detention centers where authorities detained asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants to provide humanitarian assistance (see section 2.d.).

Government Human Rights Bodies: The NCHR monitored government abuses of human rights and submitted citizen complaints to the government. A number of well-known human rights activists served on the organization’s board, although some observers alleged the board’s effectiveness was sometimes limited because it lacked sufficient resources and the government rarely acted on its findings. The council at times challenged and criticized government policies and practices, calling for steps to improve its human rights record. For example, the NCHR called for improved prison conditions and for repeal of the protest law.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, although the legal definition of rape covers only forced penetration of the female sexual organ by the male sexual organ, prescribing criminal penalties of 15 to 25 years’ imprisonment or life imprisonment for cases of rape involving armed abduction. Spousal rape is not illegal. The government did not effectively enforce the law. Civil society organizations reported police pressure not to pursue charges and fear of societal reprisal actively discouraged women from going to police stations to report crimes, resulting in a very small number of cases being investigated or effectively prosecuted. NGOs estimated the prevalence of rape was several times higher than the rate reported by the government.

Domestic violence continued to be a significant problem. According to the Egypt Economic Cost of Gender-Based Violence Survey (ECGBVS), published by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), UN Fund Population (UNFPA), and National Council for Women (NCW), approximately 5.6 million women were exposed to violence perpetrated by a husband or fiance annually. The law does not prohibit domestic violence or spousal abuse, but authorities may apply provisions relating to assault with accompanying penalties. The law requires that an assault victim produce multiple eyewitnesses, a difficult condition for domestic abuse victims, making prosecutions extremely rare. NGOs reported police often treated domestic violence as a social rather than criminal matter.

Several NGOs offered counseling, legal aid, and other services to women who were victims of rape and domestic violence but operated under strained resources. The Ministry of Social Solidarity supported nine women’s shelters. The Interior Ministry includes a unit responsible for combating sexual and gender-based violence. The NCW, a quasi-governmental body, was responsible for coordinating government and civil society efforts to empower women. In April 2015 the NCW launched a five-year National Strategy to Combat Violence Against Women with four strategic objectives: prevention, protection, intervention, and prosecution. As part of the strategy’s implementation during the year, several ministries, in cooperation with UNFPA, developed a medical protocol for assisting survivors of violence and trained doctors in 172 hospitals as of May regarding how to implement the protocol. Additionally, authorities created a new forensic unit for violence against women and children. On June 26, the Ministry of Justice announced it had merged two assistant minister portfolios, creating an assistant minister of justice for human rights and the rights of the woman and child. The government assigned a female judge, who previously held the position of assistant minister of justice for the rights of the woman and child, as assistant minister of the combined portfolios.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is illegal, but it remained a serious problem. According to the 2015 Egypt Health Issues Survey (EHIS), published during the year by the Ministry of Health and Population, 70 percent of girls between 15 and 19 years old had undergone FGM/C, a decrease from 81 percent in 2008. According to the same survey, 93 percent of ever-married women between 15 and 49 years old had undergone FGM/C. The survey showed that 54 percent of mothers supported FGM/C, a decrease from 75 percent in 2000. The Ministry of Health and Population prepared the EHIS in partnership with UNFPA, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and other international partners. In June 2015 the government launched its National Strategy for the Abandonment of FGM/C, led by the Population Ministry in partnership with the United Nations and other international partners.

An amendment to the FGM/C law, issued on September 28, designates the practice a felony, as opposed to a misdemeanor as it was previously, and assigns penalties of five to seven years in prison for practitioners who perform the procedure, or 15 years if the practice led to death or “permanent deformity.” Those who “accompany” the girl or woman to the FGM/C procedure are subject to one to three years in prison according to the amendment. The law continued to grant exceptions in cases of “medical necessity,” which rights groups identified as a problematic loophole that allowed the practice to continue. According to international and local observers, the government did not effectively enforce the FGM/C law and did not make adequate budget allocations to raise awareness. On May 28, 17-year-old Mayar Moussa died after undergoing an illegal FGM/C procedure at a hospital in Suez Governorate, prompting a critical public reaction. The Office of the Prosecutor General issued arrest warrants for seven suspects involved in the case, and in June authorities referred four of the seven to criminal court. On December 20, a Suez criminal court sentenced the doctor who performed the procedure to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of LE 50,000 ($2,750) and sentenced three others, including Moussa’s mother, to a one-year suspended sentence and a fine of LE 5,000 ($275).

In July authorities arrested the doctor convicted of manslaughter in January 2015 after performing an illegal FGM/C procedure on 13-year-old Sohair el-Batea, who died as a result. He had initially avoided arrest and continued practicing medicine intermittently, despite his conviction and a court order that his clinic be closed. In November authorities announced they would charge the clinic with violating the closure order. The doctor and the girl’s father were the first individuals brought to trial since the 2008 law banned FGM/C.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The law does not specifically address “honor” crimes, which are treated as any other crime. There were no reliable statistics regarding the incidence of killings and assaults motivated by “honor,” but observers stated such killings occurred, particularly in rural areas. On June 16, police arrested one suspect related to an “honor” crime in Minoufia Governorate after a brother killed his sister for allegedly practicing prostitution.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment remained a serious problem. According to a study published in 2013 by the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, known as UN Women, 99 percent of women and girls in the country’s sample reported they had experienced some form of sexual harassment. According to the ECGBVS, more than 1.7 million women suffered from sexual harassment on public transportation. NGOs reported the overall incidence of sexual harassment increased during times of large public gatherings, such as during holidays.

The government prioritized efforts to address sexual harassment. Since 2014 the penal code has defined sexual harassment as a crime, with penalties including fines and sentences of six months to five years in prison. Media and NGOs reported that sexual harassment by police was also a problem, and the potential for further harassment further discouraged women from filing complaints. There were no reported convictions under the antiharassment law, although media reported many arrests. The NCW reported 91 official complaints of sexual harassment during Eid al-Fitr celebrations in July, while some local media reports cited higher numbers. The outcome of these cases was unclear.

In March 2015 a video circulated on social media of five police officers sexually assaulting and beating two women during a security raid in Daqahliya Governorate. The Ministry of Interior announced it would open an investigation, but it had not announced the results of the investigation by year’s end.

Reproductive Rights: The law recognizes the basic right of married couples to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Social, cultural, and religious barriers, however, restricted women’s rights to make reproductive decisions and to attain the highest standard of reproductive health. Although the government did not restrict citizens’ family-planning decisions, men and women did not always have the information and means to make decisions free from discrimination and coercion. The ECGBVS found that 87 percent of ever-married urban women and 85 percent of ever-married rural women used some form of family planning. According to 2015 estimates by UNFPA, 58 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 were using a modern method of contraceptives, and 12 percent of women have an unmet need for family planning.

The Ministry of Health and Population distributed contraceptive materials and provided personnel to attend births, postpartum care to mothers and children, and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases at no cost. According to the 2014 Egyptian Demographic Health Survey (EDHS), published in 2015 by the ministry, 90 percent of mothers received at least some antenatal care from a trained provider, and 83 percent of mothers had at least four antenatal visits. A doctor or trained nurse/midwife assisted at the delivery of 92 percent of all births with 87 percent occurring in a health facility. Some NGOs reported government family planning information and services were not adequate to meet the needs of the population, particularly outside urban areas.

Discrimination: The constitution provides for equal rights for male and female citizens. Women did not effectively enjoy the same legal rights and opportunities as men, and discrimination continued to be widespread. Aspects of the law and traditional practices continued to disadvantage women in family, social, and economic life.

Women continued to face widespread societal discrimination, threats to their physical security, and workplace bias in favor of men that hindered their social and economic advancement. The NCW, members of which the government appointed, led efforts to combat discrimination.

In August, Safaa Hegazy, the director of state-run Egyptian radio and television, barred eight anchorwomen from appearing on the air for a month, saying they were overweight. Hegazy reportedly ordered the women to go on a diet during their suspensions and that unspecified action be taken against them if they were unsuccessful.

Laws affecting marriage and personal status generally corresponded to an individual’s religious group. For example, a female Muslim citizen cannot legally marry a non-Muslim man. If she were to do so unofficially, she would face significant societal harassment. Under the government’s interpretation of Islamic law, any children from such a marriage could be placed in the custody of a male Muslim guardian. “Khula” divorce allows a Muslim woman to obtain a divorce without her husband’s consent, provided she forgoes all her financial rights, including alimony, dowry, and other benefits. The Coptic Orthodox Church permits divorce only in rare circumstances, such as adultery or conversion of one spouse to another religious group. Other Christian churches permitted divorce.

A Muslim female heir receives half the amount of a male heir’s inheritance, and Christian widows of Muslims have no inheritance rights. A sole Muslim female heir receives half her parents’ estate, and the balance goes to the siblings of the parents or the children of the siblings if the siblings are deceased. A sole male heir, who is expected to provide for relatives, inherits his parents’ entire estate.

A woman’s testimony is equal to that of a man in courts dealing with all matters except for personal status, such as marriage and divorce. In marriage and divorce cases, a woman’s testimony must be judged credible to be admissible. Usually the woman accomplishes this credibility by conveying her testimony through an adult male relative or representative. The law assumes a man’s testimony is credible unless proven otherwise.

The law makes it difficult for women to access formal credit. While the law allows women to own property, social and religious barriers strongly discouraged women’s ownership of land, a primary source of collateral in the banking system. The threat of criminal bankruptcy and fear of prison conditions contributed to extremely low rates of women accessing commercial credit.

Women faced extensive discrimination in the labor force. Labor laws provide for equal rates of pay for equal work for men and women in the public but not the private sector. In 2014 the World Economic Forum found that women received 78 percent of the income of their male counterparts–not of men in general. Educated women had employment opportunities, but social pressure against women pursuing a career was strong. Women’s rights advocates claimed religious influence as well as traditional and cultural attitudes and practices inhibited further gains. Large sectors of the economy controlled by the military excluded women from high-level positions, since women do not serve in the military except in limited specific capacities, and thus did not have access to these jobs. According to the UN Development Program, women represented 23 percent of the labor force. According to the governmental CAPMAS, the female unemployment rate was more than 24 percent, compared with 9.8 percent for men. The Ministry of Social Solidarity operated more than 150 family counseling bureaus nationwide to provide legal and medical services to unemployed women who were unmarried or did not reside with family.

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship through the citizenship of their parents. The mother or the father transmits citizenship and nationality. The government attempted to register all births soon after birth but some citizens in remote and tribal areas, such as the Sinai Peninsula, resisted registration or could not document their citizenship, thus rendering it difficult to register births. The government cooperated with NGOs in addressing this problem. In some cases failure to register resulted in denial of public services, particularly in urban areas where most services required presentation of a national identification card.

Education: Education is compulsory, free, and universal until the ninth grade. The law provides this benefit to stateless persons and refugees. Some public schools enrolled Syrian refugees, but they largely excluded other nationalities. Other refugee children attended private and community-based schools, if they had the resources or assistance, or were home schooled.

Child Abuse: The constitution defines a child as anyone under the age of 18. It stipulates the government shall protect children from all forms of violence, abuse, mistreatment, and commercial and sexual exploitation. There were widespread reports of child abuse, according to local and international rights groups. According to a local rights group, hundreds of cases were recorded each month, and many cases went unreported. According to UNICEF, at least 80 percent of children between 13 and 17 years old were exposed to some form of violence (physical, emotional, or sexual). No effective government institutions were dedicated to addressing child abuse, although several civil society organizations assisted runaway and abandoned children.

In April a security guard at a private school in Nasr City allegedly raped a three-year-old boy. Family members of the victim claimed that authorities failed to arrest the security guard despite other students identifying him as the attacker and claimed that the forensic report could take up to four months, rather than the 15 days that media reports claimed was average. The Egyptian Coalition for Children’s Rights claimed this case highlighted the lack of enforcement of child protection laws.

Rights organizations reported children faced mistreatment in detention, including torture, sharing cells with adults, denial of their right to counsel, and authorities’ failure to notify their families. For example, HRW reported that security forces allegedly tortured a group of 20 individuals, eight of them children, in February after arrests in Alexandria. According to HRW, relatives and lawyers said authorities refused to acknowledge holding them or to tell their families their whereabouts for more than a week and tortured them to obtain confessions to crimes or provide the names of other suspects.

In December 2015 AI reported that security forces detained 14-year-old Mazen Mohamed Abdallah in September 2015 and initially held him for seven days without contacting his family. Authorities later charged Abdallah with belonging to a banned group, protesting without authorization, and printing flyers inciting protests. AI reported that authorities tortured Abdallah, including by repeatedly raping him with a wooden stick and subjecting him to electric shocks, while in custody in adult detention facilities in the First Nasr City and the Second Nasr City. The Interior Ministry denied these claims. On January 31, authorities released Abdallah pending investigation.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage is 18. According to the ECGBVS, 27 percent of girls married before age 18. Among ever-married women between the ages of 18 to 64, 11 percent reported that their consent to marry was never sought. A few women reported that their consent had been sought; they had refused, but the marriage had taken place anyway. As many as 15 percent of all marriages in the country were child marriages (of an unspecified age), according to remarks made by the minister of population to media in August 2015. Media reported some child marriages were temporary marriages intended to mask child prostitution. Families sometimes forced adolescent girls to marry wealthy foreign men in what were known locally as “tourism” or “summer” marriages for the purpose of sexual exploitation, prostitution, or forced labor. According to the law, a foreign man who wants to marry an Egyptian woman more than 25 years younger than he is must pay a fine of LE 50,000 ($2,750). Women’s rights organizations argued that allowing foreign men to pay a fine to marry much younger women represented a form of trafficking and encouraged child marriage. They called on the government to eliminate the system altogether. The Antitrafficking Unit at the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM), a governmental body, is responsible for raising awareness of the problem.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: See information provided in women’s section above.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides for sentences of not less than five years in prison and fines of up to LE 200,000 ($11,000) for commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. The government did not adequately enforce the law. The minimum age for consensual sex is 18. NGOs and local media reported sex tourism and the number of street children in Cairo and other metropolitan areas (where criminals sometimes sexually exploited children) remained high due to economic hardship. Temporary marriages were also sometimes used to mask sexual exploitation of children and child prostitution.

Displaced Children: Experts who worked with street children struggled to define exactly to whom the term “displaced children” applied, and consequently estimates of the number of children on the streets varied. The Ministry of Social Solidarity estimated the number of street children to be 20,000, while civil society organizations estimated the number to be in the millions. Many were victims of violence and sexual abuse, including forced prostitution. The ministry offered shelters to street children, but many chose not to use them because they closed at night, forcing the children onto the streets. Religious institutions and NGOs provided services for street children, including meals, clothing, and literacy classes. The Ministry of Health and Population offered mobile health clinics staffed by nurses and social workers.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

The country’s Jewish community is tiny and dwindling. Criticism of Israel frequently reached the level of blatant anti-Semitism in public discourse. State-owned and private media used anti-Semitic rhetoric, including by academics, cultural figures, and clerics, with cartoons demonizing Jews. There were multiple reports of imams using anti-Semitic rhetoric in their sermons. Societal anti-Semitism was widespread.

In March Members of Parliament (MPs) used MP Tawfik Okasha’s meeting with the Israeli ambassador to vote to strip Okasha of his membership. MP Kamal Ahmed struck Okasha in the head with a shoe on the floor of parliament–an act that he said was a “message to Netanyahu and all Zionists.”

In May and June, the government-owned newspaper al-Ahram published a series of anti-Semitic articles, accusing Jews of “plotting to enslave the world,” “claiming that their religion is the only religion,” “inventing atheism,” “leading countries to religious and political extremism,” and staging an “economic takeover of the world.” Most of these allegations of “evil” referenced the long-debunked Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

In July professor and political activist Mamdouh Hamza posted a series of tweets in which he expressed his opposition to a rumored proposed law to sell Egyptian citizenship. Hamza said he feared Jews who had been forced out of the country in the 1950s and 1960s might return to “overturn Egyptian laws” and “confiscate” land. Media amplified Hamza’s statements.

For the sixth consecutive year, authorities cancelled the Abu Hassira celebrations scheduled for January, preventing an annual Jewish pilgrimage, which in previous years had included many Israelis, to the shrine of 19th-century scholar Rabbi Yaakov Abu Hassira. The cancellation followed a 2014 administrative court decision to ban the festival permanently, stating the festival was a “violation of public order and morals” and “incompatible with the solemnity and purity of religious sites.”

An appeal continued in the 2014 case of 37 Islamists sentenced to death and 492 others to life imprisonment whom a Minya criminal court described as “demons” who followed Jewish scripture. The court also described the men as “enemies of the nation” who used mosques to promote the teachings of “their holy book, the Talmud.” The court had sentenced them for involvement in acts of violence, breaking into and burning a police station, burning police vehicles, stealing weapons, killing one police officer, and attempting to kill another in Minya in 2013. Authorities scheduled the next hearing for January 4, 2017. As of September, 183 of the defendants were in custody pending appeal.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution states all citizens “are equal in rights, freedoms, and general duties without discrimination based on…disability” among other attributes, but it does not explicitly “prohibit” discrimination.

Although the constitution states persons with disabilities are equal without discrimination before the law, at year’s end no laws prohibited discrimination against persons with disabilities in education, air travel and other transportation, the judicial system, access to health care, or the provision of other state services. Nor did laws mandate access to buildings or transportation.

The law provides for persons with disabilities to gain access to vocational training and employment but does not outlaw discrimination altogether. Government policy for employing persons with disabilities is based on a quota (5 percent of workers with disabilities) for companies with more than 50 employees. According to most sources, authorities did not enforce this quota, and companies often had persons with disabilities on their payroll to meet the quota without actually employing them. Widespread discrimination continued against persons with disabilities, particularly persons with mental disabilities, resulting in a lack of acceptance into mainstream society. Government-operated treatment centers for persons with disabilities, especially children, were of poor quality.

The Ministries of Education and Social Solidarity share responsibility for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities rode government-owned mass transit buses without charge, but the buses were not wheelchair-accessible, and access required assistance from others. Persons with disabilities received special subsidies to purchase household products, wheelchairs, and prosthetic devices. Persons with disabilities also received expeditious approval for the installation of new telephone lines and received reductions on customs duties for specially equipped private vehicles.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The law prohibits discrimination on any grounds. Nevertheless, dark-skinned Egyptians and sub-Saharan Africans faced discrimination and harassment. In particular Nubians from Upper Egypt experienced discrimination because of their skin color or because the public perceived them to be sub-Saharan African migrants or refugees.

According to the constitution, the state should make efforts to return Nubians to their original territories and develop such territories within 10 years of the constitution’s 2014 ratification.

In August, President Sisi issued a decree assigning 922 feddans (957 acres) of state-owned land to a new agricultural development project. Nubian rights organizations claimed this would deprive the Nubian community of access to ancestral homelands. In protest of this action, hundreds of Nubians formed a convoy to attempt to access a historical Nubian village incorporated into the state project. On November 19, when security forces blocked the convoy on a highway between the city of Aswan and Abu Simbel, the Nubians began a protest. Related clashes subsequently erupted in Aswan between security forces and protesters, with security forces reportedly firing rubber bullets and live rounds at protesters after they blocked roads and burned tires. Security forces surrounded the protesters’ encampment and prevented them from receiving food and water. Senior government officials including the prime minister and members of parliament attempted to negotiate an end to the protests, and the prime minister reportedly promised that Nubians would have priority rights to some of the land in the development project. On November 23, protesters dispersed and begin seeking a resolution with the government through negotiations, according to a Nubian rights lawyer’s comments to the press.

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

While the law does not explicitly criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity, it allows police to arrest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons on charges such as “debauchery,” “prostitution,” and “violating the teachings of religion” and provides for prison sentences of up to 10 years. According to a local rights group, there were at least 250 reports of such arrests since 2013. Authorities did not use antidiscrimination laws to protect LGBTI individuals. Gay men, lesbians, and transgender persons faced significant social stigma and discrimination, impeding their ability to organize or publicly advocate on behalf of LGBTI persons. Information was not available on official or private discrimination in employment, occupation, housing, statelessness, or access to education or health care based on sexual orientation and gender identity. There were no government efforts to address potential discrimination.

There were few reported incidents of violence against LGBTI individuals, although intimidation and the risk of arrest greatly restricted open reporting and contributed to self-censorship. Rights groups and activists reported harassment by police, including physical assault and forced payment of bribes to provide information about other LGBTI individuals or to avoid arrest. The government has the authority to deport or bar entry to gay foreigners.

There were reports that authorities used social media, dating websites, and cell phone apps to entrap persons they suspected of being gay or transgender, a tool that LGBTI advocates described as especially effective as LGBTI-friendly public spaces had largely closed over the past two years.

On April 24, an Agouza misdemeanor court convicted 11 men of debauchery, incitement to debauchery, and other charges, sentencing three of the 11 to 12 years in prison, three to nine years, one to six years, and four to three years. A local rights group condemned the verdict as part of an orchestrated police campaign against LGBTI individuals. On May 29, an appeals court acquitted one of the defendants and reduced the others’ sentences to one-year’s imprisonment.

In January the court acquitted television host Mona Iraqi of defaming the 26 arrested men charged with “practicing debauchery” and “indecent public acts.” Police had raided a traditional bathhouse known as a hammam in Cairo in 2014 and arrested them, but a misdemeanor court acquitted all 26 in January 2015. Iraqi had posted photographs of the men being dragged out of the hammam on Facebook and had been convicted of publishing false news in November 2015. Her acquittal came after a Cairo court accepted her appeal.

Authorities continued to subject individuals detained on suspicion of debauchery to forced anal examinations, according to a local rights group.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

HIV-positive individuals faced significant social stigma and discrimination in society and the workplace. According to the EDHS, fewer than 1 percent of men and women between the ages of 15 and 49 expressed accepting attitudes towards those with HIV/AIDS. The health-care system provided anonymous counseling and testing for HIV, free adult and pediatric antiretroviral therapy, and support groups. Authorities paid insufficient attention to the specific needs of women and children, particularly in the areas of medical treatment, psychosocial support, and the prevention of mother-to-child transmission.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

There were incidents of mob violence and vigilantism, particularly sectarian violence against Coptic Egyptians. On May 20, a mob of approximately 300 armed Muslim residents of Minya’s el-Karm village attacked seven Christian households after rumors spread of an affair between a Christian man and Muslim woman, according to media reports. The mob burned several Christian-owned homes and stripped naked an elderly Christian woman whom they paraded through the streets. In comments to media, the president promised to hold perpetrators of the violence accountable and repair damaged property at government expense. The armed forces rebuilt damaged property. On October 6, the prosecutor general referred 25 suspects to trial on charges of illegal assembly, arson, vandalism, and illegal possession of firearms. As of year’s end, the date for a hearing had yet to be set.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the rights of workers to form and join independent unions, to bargain collectively, and to strike, with significant restrictions. The constitution provides for freedom of association, but authorities had not drafted implementing legislation. Older labor laws still on the books contradict this right, and in March the Interior Ministry issued a directive instructing government offices not to accept documents stamped by independent trade unions as legal documents, calling such unions “illegitimate entities.”

The law provides for collective bargaining but imposes significant restrictions. For example, the government sets wages and benefits for all public-sector employees. The law does not provide for enterprise-level collective bargaining in the private sector but requires centralized tripartite negotiations with workers represented by a union affiliated with the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) and the Ministry of Manpower overseeing and monitoring collective negotiations and agreements.

The constitution provides for the right to “peaceful” strikes. The Unified Labor Law permits peaceful strikes but imposes significant restrictions for strikes to be considered legal, including prior approval by a general trade union affiliated with the ETUF.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides for the reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. Labor laws do not cover several categories of workers, including agricultural and domestic workers, among other sectors of the informal economy.

Government enforcement of applicable laws was inconsistent. On April 30, HRW reported that no new unions had been able to register since September 2015. The government also occasionally used its powers to arrest striking workers and rarely reversed arbitrary dismissals. The government seldom followed the requirement for tripartite negotiations in collective disputes, and workers negotiated directly with employers, usually after resorting to a strike. When the government became involved, it most often was for dispute resolution rather than for genuine collective bargaining.

On March 20, hundreds of public-sector employees organized a demonstration against the civil service law adopted by presidential decree in July 2015. Workers criticized the law for decreasing benefits, which the government stated was necessary for budgetary reform. Parliament rejected the law in January as part of its review of presidential decrees issued in the absence of a legislative body. On October 3, it approved a revised version, and the government issued the law on November 2. Separately, textile workers ended their strike after receiving a written assurance from the president that they would receive the 10 percent “social allowance” promised under the civil service law, according to media reports.

Unions, which had proliferated in recent years, continued to face pressure to dissolve. On June 26, an administrative court referred a lawsuit calling for the dissolution of independent trade unions to the Supreme Constitutional Court. ETUF affiliates filed the lawsuit.

Two main independent trade union federations, the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions and the Egyptian Democratic Labor Congress, continued to operate. The National Federation of Egyptian Trade Unions, a coalition of 140 independent trade unions from the public and private sector whose leadership stated it focused on negotiations with the government rather than strikes or protests, had not been reported to have engaged in any activities since its founding in October 2015.

While it was no longer directly controlled by the state, observers still saw the ETUF as subordinate to the state, and authorities repeatedly postponed elections for new leadership. Government-appointed ETUF board members remained in place, despite the May 2015 expiration of former prime minister Mehlab’s 2014 decree to extend the government-appointed board. The ETUF received some advantages from the state. In June the government did not include independent trade unions in its official delegation to the International Labor Conference in Geneva; however, several independent trade unions participated in the conference at the invitation of the International Labor Organization.

Authorities arrested or subjected to other legal sanctions several labor organizers, often following the dispersal or end of a labor strike. Authorities arrested 27 shipyard workers in Alexandria after a May 22-23 sit-in to protest delayed bonuses and other work-related grievances. Authorities charged the workers with instigating unlawful strikes and obstructing company operation. They were being tried by a military court on the grounds that the shipyard, a former state-owned enterprise, remains under Ministry of Defense administration. In November authorities ordered the workers released on bail after they resigned from the shipyard. The next hearing was scheduled for January 24, 2017.

Workers sometimes staged sit-ins on government and private property, often without obtaining the necessary permits. In June workers from the Nile Cotton Ginning Company staged a sit-in in front of parliament to protest delayed enforcement of a court order to return the company to state ownership after authorities sold it to a private company.

Police, and the military to a lesser extent, engaged in the forceful dispersal of labor actions in isolated cases.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The constitution states no work may be compulsory except by virtue of a law. Government did not effectively enforce the prohibition. Employers subjected male and female persons (including citizens) from South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Africa to forced labor in domestic service, construction, cleaning, begging, and other sectors. The government worked with NGOs to provide some assistance to victims of human trafficking, including forced labor.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The Child Law sets the minimum age for regular employment at age 15 and at 13 for seasonal employment. The constitution defines a child as anyone under the age of 18. A Ministry of Manpower decree bars children under age 18 from 44 specific hazardous occupations, while the Child Law prohibits employment of children under 18 from work that “puts the health, safety, or morals of the child into danger.” Provincial governors, with the approval of the minister of education, may authorize seasonal work (often agricultural) for children age 12 or older, provided duties are not hazardous and do not interfere with schooling. The labor code and Child Law limit children’s work hours and mandate breaks. The labor code explicitly excludes domestic work, work in family businesses, and work in noncommercial agriculture from minimum age and other restrictions.

Overall, authorities did not enforce child labor laws effectively. The Ministry of Manpower, in coordination with the NCCM and the Ministry of Interior, enforced child labor laws in state-owned enterprises and private-sector establishments through inspections and supervision of factory management. Labor inspectors generally operated without adequate training on child labor issues, although the Ministry of Manpower continued to offer some child-labor-specific training. The government did not inspect noncommercial farms for child labor, and there were very limited monitoring and enforcement mechanisms for children in domestic service. When authorities prosecuted offenders, the fines imposed were often as low as LE 500 ($28), insufficient to deter violations. The government did not enforce child labor laws in the informal sector.

Data was not available on Ministry of Manpower inspections for the use of child labor. Where child labor was found, the ministry issued warnings fines, or it referred the offending companies to the Office of the Prosecutor General.

Although the government often did not effectively enforce relevant laws, authorities continued to implement a number of social, educational, and poverty reduction programs to reduce children’s vulnerability to exploitive labor. The NCCM, working with the Ministries of Education and Social Solidarity, sought to provide working children with social security safeguards and to reduce school dropout rates by providing families with alternative sources of income.

Child labor occurred, although estimates on the number of child laborers varied. According to a 2010 report by CAPMAS, the most recent available, 1.594 million children worked, primarily in the agricultural sector in rural areas but also in domestic work and factories in urban areas, often under hazardous conditions. Children also worked in light industry, the aluminum industry, construction sites, and service businesses such as auto repair. According to government, NGO, and media reports, the number of street children in Cairo continued to increase in the face of deteriorating economic conditions. Such children were at greater risk of sexual exploitation or forced begging. In some cases employers abused or overworked children.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/ .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The constitution states all citizens “are equal in rights, freedoms, and general duties without discrimination based on religion, belief, gender, origin, race, color, language, disability, social class, political or geographic affiliation, or any other reason.” It does not specify age, citizenship, sexual orientation or gender identity, or HIV-positive status or other communicable diseases. The law provides for persons with disabilities to gain access to vocational training and employment but does not completely outlaw discrimination. The government did not effectively enforce prohibitions against such discrimination. Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to women and persons with disabilities (see section 6). Discrimination against migrant workers occurred (see section 2.d.).

An employee facing discrimination can file a report before the local government labor office. If the employee and the employer are unable to reach an amicable settlement, they take the claim to administrative court, which may order the employer to redress the complaint or to pay damages or legal fees. According to local rights groups, implementation of the law was inadequate. Additionally, the lengthy and expensive litigation process could deter employees from filing claims.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The government introduced a monthly minimum wage of LE 1,200 ($66) for government employees and public-sector workers. According to labor rights organizations, the government implemented the minimum wage for public-sector workers but applied it only to direct government employees and included benefits and bonuses in calculating total salaries. Most government workers already earned income equal to or more than the announced minimum wage. For government employees and public-business-sector workers, the government also set a maximum wage limit at 35 times the minimum wage of LE 42,000 ($2,310) per month. There was no private-sector minimum wage. In July CAPMAS estimated the poverty rate in the country to be 28 percent, an increase from its 2013 estimate of 26 percent. The law does not require equal pay for equal work.

The law stipulates a maximum 48-hour workweek for the public and private sectors and provides for premium pay for overtime and work on rest days and national holidays. The labor law prohibits excessive compulsory overtime. The government sets worker health and safety standards, for example prohibiting employers from maintaining hazardous working conditions. The law excludes agricultural, fisheries, and domestic workers from regulations concerning wages, hours, and working conditions.

The Ministry of Manpower is responsible for enforcement of labor laws and standards for working conditions. Due in part to insufficient resources, labor law enforcement and inspections were inadequate. The ministry did not attempt to apply labor standards to the informal sector. Penalties, especially as they were often unenforced, did not appear sufficient to deter violations. By law workers are allowed to remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to employment, although authorities did not reliably enforce this right.

The government provided services, such as free health care, to all citizens, but the quality of services was often poor. Other benefits, such as social insurance, were available only to employees in the formal sector.

Many persons throughout the country faced poor working conditions, especially in the informal economy, which employed up to 40 percent of workers, according to some estimates. Domestic workers, agricultural workers, workers in rock quarries, and other parts of the informal sector were most likely to be subjected to hazardous or exploitive conditions. There were reports of employer abuse of citizen and undocumented foreign workers, especially domestic workers. Little information was available on workplace fatalities and accidents.

Libya

Executive Summary

Libya is a parliamentary democracy with a temporary Constitutional Declaration, which allows for the exercise of a full range of political, civil, and judicial rights. Citizens elected the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) in free and fair elections in June 2014. The Libyan Political Agreement, which members of the UN-facilitated Libyan political dialogue signed in December 2015 and the HoR approved in January, created the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) Presidency Council (PC), headed by Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj. The GNA PC took its seat in Tripoli on March 30. A minority bloc of HoR members prevented a vote on the PC’s proposed GNA Cabinet in February, and a quorum of members voted against the proposed cabinet in August, limiting the government’s effectiveness. The proposed ministers, however, led their ministries in an acting capacity. The elected Constitutional Drafting Assembly’s work has stalled due to infighting and boycotts by some members.

The government did not maintain civilian control over the “Libyan National Army” (LNA) despite efforts to persuade LNA Commander Khalifa Haftar to integrate into civilian-led governmental security forces. Some Libyan forces outside Haftar’s command aligned with the government and joined a successful campaign against Da’esh in and around the city of Sirte. During the year the LNA, backed by the HoR, continued its military campaign against violent extremist organizations in the east, occupying cities and replacing elected municipal leaders with military appointees. Other extralegal armed groups continued to fill security vacuums in other places across the country. Neither the GNA nor the HoR had control over these groups. Da’esh maintained presence in the areas around Benghazi and Derna. Sirte was Da’esh’s stronghold for most of the year, but a government-aligned Libyan military operation that started in May regained the city in December.

The most serious human rights problems during the year resulted from the absence of effective governance, justice, and security institutions, and abuses and violations committed by armed groups affiliated with the government, its opponents, terrorists, and criminal groups. Consequences of the failure of the rule of law included arbitrary and unlawful killings and impunity for these crimes; civilian casualties in armed conflicts; killings of politicians and human rights defenders; torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; and harsh and life-threatening conditions in detention and prison facilities.

Other human rights abuses included arbitrary arrest and detention; lengthy pretrial detention; denial of fair public trial; an ineffective judicial system staffed by officials subject to intimidation; arbitrary interference with privacy and home; use of excessive force and other abuses in internal conflicts; limits on the freedoms of speech and press, including violence against and harassment of journalists; restrictions on freedom of religion; abuses of internally displaced persons, refugees, and migrants; corruption and lack of transparency in government; violence and social discrimination against women and ethnic and racial minorities, including foreign workers; trafficking in persons, including forced labor; legal and social discrimination based on sexual orientation; and violations of labor rights.

Impunity was a severe and pervasive problem. The government had limited reach and resources, and did not take steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish those who committed abuses and violations. Intimidation by armed actors resulted in paralysis of the judicial system, impeding the investigation and prosecution of those believed to have committed human rights abuses, including against public figures and human rights defenders.

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

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

There were numerous reports that pro-GNA militias, anti-GNA militias, LNA units, Da’esh fighters, and other extremist groups committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Alliances, sometimes temporary, between the government, nonstate militias, and former or current officers in the armed forces participating in extralegal campaigns made it difficult to ascertain the role of the government in attacks by armed groups. In the absence of an effective judicial and security apparatus, perpetrators remained unidentified, and most of these crimes remained unpunished.

Reports indicated extremist and terrorist organizations played a prominent role in targeted killings, kidnappings, and suicide bombings perpetrated against both government officials and civilians. Although many incidents saw no claims of responsibility, observers attributed many to terrorist groups such as Da’esh, Ansar al-Sharia, and their affiliates. Criminal groups or armed elements affiliated with both the government and its opponents may have carried out others. Extremist groups using vehicles carrying explosive devices typically targeted military officials and killed scores of persons during the year.

The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) documented 440 civilian casualties, including 204 killed and 236 injured from LNA military operations. Airstrikes caused the largest number of deaths, while shelling injured the most victims. On March 16, prominent civil society activist, Abdul Basit Abu-Dahab, was killed in Derna by a bomb placed in his vehicle. On July 21, UNSMIL reported that authorities found 14 bodies with signs of torture and gunshot injuries to the heads in a dumpster in Benghazi.

Da’esh fighters also committed numerous extrajudicial killings in areas where the group maintained presence. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that Da’esh unlawfully killed at least 49 persons in its stronghold of Sirte between February 2015 and May.

Da’esh fighters were driven from Sirte by the Libyan government’s military operation al-Bunyan al-Marsous (ABAM). According to UNSMIL officials, ABAM fighters in Sirte allegedly tortured and executed Da’esh prisoners of war and possibly their family members.

Civil society and media reports claimed both pro-GNA and anti-GNA militia groups in Tripoli committed human rights abuses, including indiscriminate attacks on civilians, kidnapping, torture, burning houses, and forced expulsions based on political belief or tribal affiliation. In a series of incidents in Bani Walid on April 26 and 27, UNSMIL reported three Libyan and 12 Egyptian nationals were killed. On June 9, 12 former regime officials were shot and killed in Tripoli within hours after the Libyan Supreme Court ordered their release from the Ministry of Justice-operated al-Baraka prison.

Impunity was a serious problem. The government’s lack of control led to impunity for armed groups on all sides of the conflict across the country. In 2015 human rights activist Entissar al-Hassaeri and her aunt were killed in Tripoli, and an investigator involved in the case disappeared. In the summer of 2015, judge Mohamed al-Nemli was tortured and killed near Misrata. The cases of Sheikh Mansour Abdelkarim al-Barassi; International Committee of the Red Cross staff member, Michael Greub; and human rights activist, Salwa Bughaighis, all of whom unknown assailants killed during 2014, remained unresolved. At year’s end authorities had not investigated these attacks, and there had been no arrests, prosecutions, or trials of any alleged perpetrators of these killings.

b. Disappearance

As in 2015 government forces and armed groups acting outside government control committed an unknown number of forced disappearances. The government made few efforts to prevent, investigate, or penalize, forced disappearances.

Kidnappings were common throughout the year. On January 27, HoR member of parliament for Misrata, Mohammed al-Ra’id, was kidnapped for ransom in Tobruk. On February 24, authorities found an 11-year-old child dead in Tripoli after his family failed to pay the ransom. On March 27, anti-LNA activist, Ali al-Absilly, was kidnapped in front of his house at al-Marj.

Many disappearances that occurred under the Qadhafi regime, as well as many related to the 2011 revolution, remained unresolved. Due to the continuing conflict, weak judicial system, legal ambiguity regarding amnesty for revolutionary forces, and the slow progress of the National Fact-Finding and Reconciliation Commission, law enforcement authorities and the judiciary made no appreciable progress in resolving high-profile cases reported in 2013, 2014, and 2015.

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

While the constitutional declaration and post-revolutionary legislation prohibit such practices, according to credible accounts, personnel operating both government and extralegal detention centers tortured prisoners. At times during the year, due to its lack of resources and capability, the government continued to rely on militias to manage its incarceration facilities. Furthermore, militias, not police, initiated arrests in most instances. Militias, at their discretion, held detainees prior to placing them in official detention facilities. Armed groups also managed their own detention facilities outside government control.

Treatment varied from facility to facility and typically was worst at the time of arrest. Reported abuses included beatings with belts, sticks, hoses, and rifles; administration of electric shocks; burns inflicted by boiling water, heated metal, or cigarettes; mock executions; suspension from metal bars; and rape. The full extent of abuse at the hands of extremist or militia (government-allied and not) remained unknown.

UNSMIL documented cases involving deprivation of liberty and torture across the country, including in sections of the Mitiga detention facility in Tripoli, under the control of the Special Deterrence Force; in the Abu Salim detention facility; and in detention facilities under the control of other armed groups in Tripoli. Observers also reported similar violations and abuses in detention facilities in al-Bayda, Bani Walid, Benghazi, Khoms, al-Marj, Warshafanah, and Zintan.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Overcrowded, harsh, and life threatening prisons and detention facilities fell well short of international standards and were a significant threat to the well-being of detainees and prisoners. Many prisons and detention centers were outside government control.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), migrant detention centers, operated by the Ministry of Interior’s Department to Combat Irregular Migration (DCIM), also suffered from massive overcrowding, dire sanitation conditions, lack of access to medical care, and significant disregard for the protection of the detainees. Additionally, many of these detention centers held minors with adults, and had no female guards for female prisoners. UNHCR reported an estimated 8,500 migrant detainees in the country as of March, although another humanitarian organization stated the actual number could be much higher.

Physical Conditions: In the absence of an effective judicial system or release of prisoners, overcrowding reportedly continued during the year. Accurate numbers of those incarcerated, including a breakdown by holding agency, were not available. A large number of detainees were foreigners, of whom migrants reportedly comprised the majority. Facilities that held irregular migrants generally were of poorer quality than other facilities.

The government urged military councils and militia groups to transfer detainees held since the 2011 revolution to authorized judicial authorities. Observers believed the greatest concentrations of such detainees were in greater Tripoli, Misrata, and Benghazi. Many facilities continued day-to-day operation under militia control.

Makeshift detention facilities existed throughout the country. Conditions at these facilities varied widely, but consistent problems included overcrowding, poor ventilation, the lack of necessities such as mattresses, and lack of hygiene and health care. Militias reportedly held detainees at schools, former government military sites, and other informal venues, including private homes. As violence escalated, the disruption of goods and services affected prisons, worsening the scarcity of medical supplies and certain food items.

There were reportedly separate facilities for men and women. In prior years in some instances, government-operated prisons and militias held minors with adults, according to human rights organizations. This practice continued in migrant detention centers and may have continued in prisons, due to the deterioration of conditions throughout the year.

These problems also existed in several migrant detention centers. Officials, local militias, and criminal gangs moved migrants through a network of detention centers. Reports indicated the conditions in most of these detention facilities were below international standards.

Administration: The Judicial Police, tasked by the Ministry of Justice to run the prison system, operates from its headquarters in Tripoli, but also opened a second headquarters in al-Bayda near the HoR. Additionally, many armed groups ran their own facilities outside the criminal justice system. The DCIM also operated its own detention facilities for migrants and refugees detained in the country.

There were multiple reports that recordkeeping on prisoners was not adequate and there was no known prison ombudsperson or comparable authority available to respond to complaints. It was unclear whether authorities allowed prisoners and detainees access to visitors and religious observance. Because there was no effectively functional judicial system during the year, oversight was problematic. Whether authorities censored prisoners’ complaints submitted to judicial authorities was unclear.

Administration of prisons and detention centers continued to fall under the authority of judicial police. During the year the ratio of detainees and prisoners to the generally poorly trained guards varied significantly. International organizations involved in monitoring and training prison staff continued suspension of their activities amid continuing violence.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted some independent monitoring, but the lack of clarity over who ran each facility and the sheer number of facilities made it impossible to gain a comprehensive view of the system. Reports also raised questions about the capability and professional training of local human rights organizations charged with overseeing prisons and detention centers.

Due to the volatile security situation, few international organizations were present in the country monitoring human rights. While UNSMIL continued to monitor the situation through local human rights defenders, members of the judiciary, and judicial police, the absence of an international presence on the ground made oversight problematic.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

Following the 2011 revolution and attendant breakdown of judicial institutions and process, the government and nonstate militia forces continued to detain and hold persons arbitrarily in authorized and unauthorized facilities, including unknown locations, for extended periods without legal charges or legal authority.

The prerevolutionary criminal code remains in effect. It establishes procedures for pretrial detention and prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but both government and nonstate forces often disregarded these provisions. Throughout the year the government had little control over police and regional militias providing internal security, and armed groups carried out illegal and arbitrary detentions unimpededly. The lack of international monitoring meant that there were no reliable statistics on the number of arbitrary detainees.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

National police and other elements of the security apparatus operated ineffectively. The national police force, which reports to the Ministry of Interior, has official responsibility for internal security. The military under the Ministry of Defense has as its primary mission the defense of the country from external threats, but it primarily supported Ministry of Interior forces on internal security matters. The situation varied widely from municipality to municipality contingent upon whether police organizational structures remained intact. In some areas, such as Tobruk, police continued to function, but in others, such as Sebha, they existed in name only. Civilian authorities had nominal control of police and security apparatus, and security-related police work generally fell to self-constituted, disparate militias exercising police power without training or supervision and with varying degrees of accountability.

There were no known mechanisms to investigate effectively and punish abuses of authority, abuses of human rights, and corruption by police and security forces. In the militia-dominated security environment, a blurred chain of command led to confusion about responsibility for the actions of armed groups, including those nominally under government control. In these circumstances police and other security forces were usually ineffective in preventing or responding to violence incited by militias. Amid the confusion over chain of command and absent effective legal institutions, a culture of impunity prevailed.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law stipulates an arrest warrant is required, but authorities can detain persons without charge for as long as six days and can renew detention for up to three months, provided there is “reasonable evidence.” The law also specifies authorities must inform detainees of the charges against them, and to renew a detention order, detainees must appear before a judicial authority at regular intervals of 30 days. The law gives the government power to detain persons for up to two months if considered a “threat to public security or stability” based on their “previous actions or affiliation with an official or unofficial apparatus or tool of the former regime.” Affected individuals may challenge the measures before a judge.

Although the Constitutional Declaration recognizes the right to counsel, the vast majority of detainees did not have access to bail or a lawyer. Government authorities and militias held detainees incommunicado for unlimited periods in official and unofficial detention centers.

Arbitrary Arrest: Authorities frequently ignored the provisions of the criminal code prohibiting arbitrary arrest and detention. Quasi-state or nonstate militias arbitrarily arrested and detained persons throughout the year.

The government and militias continued to hold many prisoners without charge. A specific number was unknown, but observers estimated it to be several thousand. The government took no concrete action to reform the justice system. Gaps in existing legislation and the unclear separation of powers among the executive, judicial, and legislative branches contributed to a weak judicial system. Few detainees had access to counsel, faced formal charges, or had the opportunity to challenge their detention before a judicial authority.

Pretrial Detention: According to international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), there were numerous inmates held in government-controlled prisons in pretrial detention for periods longer than the sentences for the minor crimes they allegedly committed.

While authorities must order detention for a specific period not exceeding 90 days, the law in practice results in extended pretrial detention. An ambiguity in the language of the law allows judges to renew the detention period if the suspect is of “interest to the investigation.”

After the pretrial detention is ordered by an authorized judge, no appeal is allowed. This also applies to migrants charged with illegal border crossing.

Militias held most of those they detained without charge and frequently outside the government’s authority. With control of the security environment diffused among various militia groups and a largely nonfunctioning judiciary, circumstances prevented most detainees from accessing a review process.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law allows a detained suspect to challenge pretrial detention before the prosecutor and a magistrate judge. If the prosecutor does not order release, the detained can appeal to the magistrate judge. If the magistrate judge orders detention following review of the prosecutor’s request, and despite the detainee’s challenge, there is no further right to appeal the assigned detention order.

Amnesty: The government did not clarify whether it believed there was a blanket legal amnesty for revolutionaries’ actions performed to promote or protect the revolution. It took no action to address violations committed during the revolution by anti-Qadhafi forces, resulting in a tacit amnesty.

During the year Misratans staged a series of high-profile releases of detainees in conjunction with the UN-led Libya Political Dialogue, as a confidence-building measure. The detainees included 300 former regime figures, including former head of State Security Mohamed Ben Nayil and Tuerga tribe members who had worked for the Qadhafi regime.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitutional Declaration provides for an independent judiciary and stipulates every person has a right of recourse to the judicial system. Nonetheless, thousands of detainees lacked access to a lawyer and information about the charges against them. Judges and prosecutors contended with threats, intimidation, violence, as well as under resourced courts, and struggled to deal with complex cases. Additionally judges and prosecutors cited concerns about the overall lack of security in and around the courts, further hindering the re-establishment of the rule of law. Courts in Tripoli continued to operate during the year. Throughout the rest of the country, however, courts operated sporadically depending on local security conditions.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The Constitutional Declaration provides for the presumption of innocence and the right to legal counsel, provided at public expense for the indigent. During the year state-affiliated and nonstate actors did not respect these standards. There were multiple reports of individuals denied fair and public trials, choice of attorney, language interpretation, the ability to confront plaintiff witnesses; protection against forced testimony or confession to crimes; and the right to appeal. According to reports from international NGOs, arbitrary detention and torture by militias, including those operating nominally under government oversight, continued to contribute to a climate of lawlessness that made fair trials elusive. Armed groups, families of the victims or the accused, and the public regularly threatened lawyers, judges, and prosecutors.

Amid threats, intimidation, and violence against the judiciary, the government did not take steps to screen detainees systematically for prosecution or release. The judiciary initiated very few criminal trials, largely because prosecutors and judges feared retaliation. The courts were more prone to process civil cases, which were less likely to invite retaliation, although capacity was limited due to a lack of judges and administrators.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

Both government and militia forces, some of which were nominally under government authority, held persons, particularly former Qadhafi regime officials, internal security organization members, and others accused of subverting the 2011 revolution, in a variety of temporary facilities on political grounds.

The lack of international monitoring meant that there were no reliable statistics on the number of political prisoners.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The Constitutional Declaration provides for the right of citizens to have recourse to the judiciary. The judicial system did not have the capacity to provide citizens with access to civil remedies for human rights violations until the 2013 Law of Transitional Justice provided for fact-finding, accountability, and reparations for victims. Civil proceedings were difficult, with no courts functioning in Benghazi, Derna, and Sirte. Courts processed only a minimal number of cases in Tripoli, and there were continuous threats to justices and judicial police in all areas.

Impunity for the state and for militias also exists in law. Even if a court acquits a person detained by a militia, that person has no right to initiate a criminal or civil complaint against the state or the militia unless “fabricated or mendacious” allegations caused the detention.

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

The Constitutional Declaration considers correspondence, telephone conversations, and other forms of communication as inviolable unless authorized by a court order. Reports in the news and on social media indicated militias, gangs, extremist groups, and government-affiliated actors violated these prohibitions through the entry of homes without judicial authorization, the monitoring of communications and private movements, and the use of informants. Invasion of privacy left citizens vulnerable to targeted attacks based on political affiliation, ideology, and identity. Extrajudicial punishment extended to targets’ family members and tribes. Armed groups arbitrarily entered, seized, or destroyed private property with impunity.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitutional Declaration provides for freedom of opinion, expression, and press, but various militias, including those aligned with the GNA, exerted significant control over media content, and censorship was pervasive. Unidentified assailants targeted journalists and reporters for political views.

Freedom of Speech and Expression: Freedom of speech was limited in law and practice. The law criminalizes acts that “harm the February 17 revolution of 2011.” The HoR, since its election in 2014 and the GNA since taking seat in Tripoli in March, did little to change restrictions on freedom of speech. Observers noted civil society practiced self-censorship because armed groups threatened and killed activists. Widespread conflict in major urban areas deepened the climate of fear and provided cover for armed groups to target vocal opponents with impunity.

Observers reported that individuals censored themselves in everyday speech, particularly in locations such as Tripoli.

Press and Media Freedoms: Press freedoms were limited in practice because increased threats, including abductions and killings by a range of assailants, including militias and violent extremists forced many journalists to practice self-censorship. These limits were present in print media, broadcast media, and book publication.

There were few reports of the closing of media outlets, but there were some reports of raids by unidentified actors on organizations working on press freedom. Indirect restrictions on press freedom imposed by both foreign and domestic actors further polarized the media environment.

Violence and Harassment: Reportedly, attacks on the media, including harassment and killings of; and threats, abductions, and violence against media personnel continued to the point where it was nearly impossible for media to operate in any meaningful capacity in areas of conflict.

Impunity for attacks on media exacerbated the problem, with no monitoring organizations, security forces, or a functioning judicial system to constrain or record these attacks.

While harassment of journalists was commonplace during the year, more serious crimes against journalists were widespread. There were reports of the arbitrary detention and torture of journalists. On July 29, authorities detained Libyan photojournalist, Selim al-Shebl, while he covered antigovernment protests in Tripoli, but authorities released him without any charges after a few days of detention at the Ain Zara district.

In August, Misratan forces arbitrarily detained two journalists who worked for a major foreign newspaper and tortured one before releasing them without charge.

Unknown assailants killed several journalists.

On June 24, photojournalist Khaled al-Zintani was shot in Benghazi, and on July 21, photojournalist Abdelqadir Fassouk was killed while covering clashes between pro-GNA forces and Da’esh in Sirte.

On October 2, Dutch photojournalist Jeroen Oerlemans was killed in Sirte.

Kidnapping of journalists was also widespread throughout the year. In January media worker Abdelsalam al-Shahoumi was kidnapped from his workplace in Tripoli.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The international NGO Reporters Without Borders reported that all sides used threats and violence to intimidate journalists to prevent publication of information. The unstable security situation and militia fighting created areas of hostility towards civilians and journalists associated with opposing sides. Additionally journalists practiced self-censorship due to lack of security and intimidation.

Libel/Slander Laws: The penal code criminalized a variety of political speech, including speech considered to “insult constitutional and popular authorities” and “publicly insulting the Libyan Arab people.” It and other laws also provide criminal penalties for defamation and insults to religion. Most reports attributed infringement of free speech to intimidation, harassment, and violence.

National Security: The penal code criminalized speech considered to “tarnish the [country’s] reputation or undermine confidence in it abroad.” In view of the prevalence of self-censorship and the pressure and intimidation of nonstate actors, the government did not resort to its use during the year.

Nongovernmental Impact: The control of Derna, Sirte, and parts of Benghazi by violent extremist organizations restricted freedom of expression. Militias, terrorist and extremist groups, and individual civilians regularly harassed, intimidated, or assaulted journalists. While media coverage focused on the actions of Islamist-affiliated violent extremists, other armed actors also limited freedom of expression.

Reports from NGOs indicated various parties, including civilians, attacked journalists and media outlets, noting that lack of professionalism in the media sector exacerbated violence from those who disagreed with what media reported.

INTERNET FREEDOM

There were no credible reports that the government restricted or disrupted internet access or monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority during the year. Nor were there credible reports that the government censored online content.

Internet penetration outside urban centers remained low, and frequent electrical outages resulted in limited internet availability in the capital and elsewhere. According to a World Bank study, 19 percent of the population used the internet in 2015.

The government did not exercise effective control over civilian infrastructure for most of the year. Social media, such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, played a critical role in official and unofficial communications. A large number of bloggers, online journalists, and citizens reported practicing self-censorship due to instability, militia intimidation, and the uncertain political situation. Some activists reported finding what appeared to be “kill lists” targeting civilian dissenters on social media websites affiliated with certain Islamist militias.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no reported government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events. Security conditions in the country, however, restricted the ability to practice academic freedom and made cultural events rare.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The Constitutional Declaration provides for a general right to peaceful assembly; however, the government failed to provide for these rights. The law on guidelines for peaceful demonstrations fails to include relevant assurances and severely restricts the exercise of the right of assembly. The law mandates protesters must inform the government of any planned protest at least 48 hours in advance and provides that the government may notify the organizers that a protest is banned as little as 12 hours before the event.

Absent an effective security and judicial apparatus, the government lacked the ability to provide for freedom of assembly. The government failed to protect protesters and, conversely, to manage protester violence during the year. On May 5, according to the government, the LNA indiscriminately shelled peaceful demonstrators in the al-Kisk square in Benghazi.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The Constitutional Declaration includes freedom of association for political and civil society groups. In practice, however, the government could not enforce freedom of association, and the proliferation of targeted attacks on journalists, activists, and religious figures severely undermined freedom of association.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The Constitutional Declaration recognizes freedom of movement, including foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, although the government has the ability to restrict freedom of movement. The law provides the government with the power to restrict a person’s movement if it views that person as a “threat to public security or stability” based on the person’s “previous actions or affiliation with an official or unofficial apparatus or tool of the former regime.”

The country continued to serve as the primary departure point for migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa, with more than 90 percent of those crossing the Mediterranean irregularly leaving from Libya. As of November 22, more than 168,000 migrants arrived in Italy per UNSMIL, with 4,164 migrants dying at sea. Boats were heavily overloaded, and there was a high risk of being lost or capsizing. For example, on October 5, 28 migrants suffocated on a boat off the Libyan coast that was carrying more than 1,000 migrants.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Some refugees and migrants faced abuse, principally arbitrary detention, but also killings and gender-based violence. Instability in the country and lack of government oversight made human trafficking profitable. Conditions on boats departing for Europe were poor, and human smugglers abandoned many migrants in international waters with insufficient food and water. Migrants reported some human smugglers were Libyan nationals, but officials did little to curb the departures or hold smugglers accountable for crimes against migrants.

In-country Movement: The government did not exercise control over in-country movement, although the LNA established checkpoints targeting extremist movements around Benghazi and Derna.

Militias effectively controlled regional movements through armed checkpoints. Militia checkpoints and those imposed by Da’esh, Ansar al-Sharia, and other extremist organizations impeded movement within the country and, in some areas, prohibited women from moving freely without a male escort.

There were also multiple reports of women who could not depart from western Libyan airports controlled by pro-GNA militias due to a lack of a “male guardian,” which is not a legal requirement in the country.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS

In August the IOM estimated there were 348,372 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country. Most of the Libyans displaced were from Sirte or Benghazi.

Limited access to towns affected by fighting between rival armed groups hampered efforts to account for and assist the displaced.

Approximately 40,000 members of the Tawarghan community remained displaced, the largest single IDP population. Because Tawargha served as a base for Qadhafi forces during the revolution, Misratan militias attacked the town following the fall of the regime in 2011, compelling all inhabitants, largely descendants of former slaves of sub-Saharan African origins, to leave their homes. During the year UNSMIL, with the help of the EU, sponsored talks between Misratans and Tawarghans to facilitate the return of Tawarghans to their homes. At year’s end there was no resolution on their return to Tawargha.

On January 9, unidentified forces fired at least four rockets at two IDP camps in Benghazi, according to HRW.

IDPs continued to be vulnerable to abuses. The government was unable to promote adequately the safe, voluntary return or resettlement of IDPs. Due to the lack of adequate laws, policies, or government programs, international organizations and NGOs assisted them to the extent possible in view of the security environment.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

The IOM estimated that approximately 277,000 migrants and refugees traversed the country throughout the year, with the majority of migrants originating from Niger, Egypt, Chad, Ghana, and Sudan. UNHCR has registered approximately 38,000 refugees and asylum seekers in the country.

During the year UNHCR, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the IOM provided basic services through local NGO implementing partners to refugees and asylum seekers. Despite safety and security vulnerabilities, humanitarian organizations enjoyed relatively good access, with the exception of Derna and Sirte.

There were reports that hundreds to thousands of sub-Saharan Africans entered the country illegally through the porous southern borders. Treatment of detained migrants depended upon their country of origin and the offense for which authorities held them (authorities held some for having improper documents and others for having committed crimes). Migrants and refugees faced abduction, extortion, violent crime, and other abuses, exacerbated by entrenched racism and xenophobia. Government-affiliated and nongovernment militias regularly held refugees and asylum seekers in detention centers alongside criminals or in separate detention centers under conditions that did not meet international standards.

On July 1, an AI report documented rampant sexual violence, abuse, and exploitation of migrants and refugees by traffickers, and criminal gangs. These human rights abuses occurred at unofficial and official detention centers and at the hands of Libyan coast guard and immigration officers.

Access to Asylum: Libya is not party to the 1951 refugee convention or the 1967 protocol, although the Constitutional Declaration recognizes the right of asylum and forbids forcible repatriation of asylum seekers. The government did not establish a system for providing protection to refugees or asylum seekers. Absent an asylum system, authorities could detain and deport asylum seekers without their having the opportunity to request refugee status. The government allows only seven nationalities to register as refugees with UNHCR: Syrians, Palestinians, Iraqis, Somalis, Sudanese (Darfuris), Ethiopians (Oromo), and Eritreans. The government did not legally recognize asylum seekers without documentation as a class distinct from migrants without residency permits.

Access to Basic Services: Refugees registered with UNHCR can access basic protection and assistance from UNHCR and its partners; however, during the year the government apparatus, whose health and education infrastructure is limited, did not grant refugees universal access to healthcare, education, or other services.

STATELESS PERSONS

By law children derive citizenship only from a citizen father. Citizen mothers alone were unable to transmit citizenship to their children, but there are naturalization provisions for noncitizens. The law permits female nationals to confer nationality to their children in certain circumstances, such as when fathers are unknown, stateless, of unknown nationality, or do not establish filiation.

The Qadhafi regime revoked the citizenship of some inhabitants of the Saharan interior of the country, including many Tebu and some Tuareg, after the regime returned the Aouzou strip to Chad. As a result many nomadic and settled stateless persons lived in the country. Due to the lack of international monitoring, observers could not verify the current number of stateless persons.

Without citizenship stateless persons are unable to obtain legal employment. The government did not take action to alleviate the difficulties of stateless persons.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The temporary Constitutional Declaration provides citizens the ability to change their government in free and fair periodic elections based on universal and equal suffrage and conducted by secret ballot to assure the free expression of the will of the people, and citizens exercised that ability.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In June 2014 the High National Elections Commission successfully administered the election of members to the HoR, an interim parliament to replace the GNC, whose mandate expired in February. An estimated 42 percent of registered voters went to the polls to choose 200 members from among 1,714 candidates. International and domestic observers, representatives of the media, and accredited guests mostly commended the performance of the electoral authorities. The Libyan Association for Democracy, the largest national observation umbrella group, cited minor technical issues and inconsistencies but stated polling was generally well organized. Violence and widespread threats to candidates, voters, and electoral officials on election day affected 24 polling centers, most notably in Sabha, Zawiya, Awbari, Sirte, Benghazi, and Derna. Eleven seats remained vacant due to a boycott of candidate registration and voting by the Amazigh community and violence at a number of polling centers that precluded a final vote.

During the year authorities held two municipal council elections, in the Yefran and Amazigha municipalities. As of June the LNA started a trend of replacing elected municipal mayors with military appointees. Ten municipalities in the eastern part of the country were affected as of October.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Political parties proliferated following the revolution, although fractious political infighting among party leaders impeded the government’s progress on legislative and electoral priorities. Amid rising insecurity, public ire fell on certain political parties perceived to contribute to instability. In 2013 under pressure from militias, the government passed a purge or “lustration” law, the Political Isolation Law (PIL), prohibiting those who held certain positions under Qadhafi between 1969 and 2011 from holding government office. Observers widely criticized the law for its overly broad scope and the wide discretion given to the PIL Committee to determine whom to exclude from office.

Multiple members of the government claimed that it abolished the PIL during the year, but it published no legislation to that effect nor was it clear that the HoR had a quorum, which is necessary to pass any legislation.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limited the participation of women and members of minorities in the political process, and women and minorities did participate. The Constitutional Declaration allows for full participation of women and minorities in elections and the political process, but significant social and cultural barriers–in addition to significant security challenges–prevented their proportionate political participation.

The election law provides for representation of women within the HoR; of the 200 seats in parliament, the law reserves 32 for women.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials. The government did not implement the law effectively, and officials reportedly engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year but, as in 2015, no significant investigations or prosecutions occurred.

The Constitutional Declaration states that the government shall provide for the fair distribution of national wealth among citizens, cities, and regions. The government struggled to decentralize distribution of oil wealth and delivery of services through regional and local governance structures. There were many reports and accusations of government corruption due to lack of transparency in the government’s management of security forces, oil revenues, and the national economy. There were allegations that officials in the interim government submitted fraudulent letters of credit to gain access to government funds.

Corruption: Slow progress in implementing decentralization legislation, particularly with regard to management of natural resources and distribution of government funds, led to accusations of corruption and calls for greater transparency. There were no reports of meetings of or actions taken by the Oil Corruption Committee, formed in 2014 to investigate both financial and administrative means of corruption in the oil industry.

Financial Disclosure: No financial disclosure laws, regulations, or codes of conduct require income and asset disclosure by appointed or elected officials.

Public Access to Information: No laws provide for public access to government information, and there was no available information whether the government granted requests for such access.

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

While the government did not restrict human rights organizations from operating, it was unable to protect organizations from violence that often specifically targeted activists. Due to the government’s inability to secure control of territory and the absence of an effective security apparatus, human rights organizations struggled to operate.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: Government policy and practices were generally willing to cooperate with UN bodies, including human rights components of UNSMIL. Nonetheless, the government did not carry out UN-recommended actions to combat militias’ impunity for human rights abuses. There were no prosecutions of revolutionary forces for war crimes during the year, despite official statements that it would not use the law granting amnesty for any “acts made necessary by the 17 February revolution” for the revolution’s “success or protection.”

The government also did not comply with injunctions by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to transfer suspected war criminal Saif al-Islam Qadhafi to ICC jurisdiction for trial. The government claimed that it was unable to obtain custody of Qadhafi from Zintani militia forces; to obtain evidence, in particular from witnesses who had been tortured during detention by militias; or to appoint defense counsel. In 2014 the ICC announced it had referred the country to the UN Security Council for violating an obligation to transfer Saif al-Islam Qadhafi for trial. In July 2015 a Tripoli court sentenced Saif al-Islam to death, but in the summer, authorities reportedly released him from house arrest.

Government Human Rights Bodies: Human rights defenders faced continuing threats and danger. The National Council for Civil Liberties and Human Rights, the UN-recognized national human rights institution, ceased its activity in the country due to intimidation in 2014 after armed men apparently associated with Libya Dawn militia forcibly closed its offices. The council maintained limited international activity with other human rights organizations in Tunis and the UN Human Rights Council. It had a minimal presence in Tripoli. Its ability to advocate for human rights and investigate alleged abuses during the reporting period was unclear.

The former government passed the Transitional Justice Law in 2013 (see section 1.e.), establishing a legal framework to promote civil peace, implement justice, compensate victims, and facilitate national reconciliation. The law further establishes a Fact-Finding and Reconciliation Commission charged with investigating and reporting on alleged human rights abuses, whether suffered under the Qadhafi regime or during the revolution. There was no known activity by the commission during the year.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape but does not address spousal rape. There were no known reports of a woman accusing her husband of rape during the year. The Constitutional Declaration prohibits domestic violence, but it did not contain reference to penalties for violence against women.

By law a convicted rapist has the option to avoid a 25-year prison sentence by marrying the survivor, regardless of her wishes–provided her family consents. According to UNSMIL the forced marriage of rape survivors to their perpetrators as a way to avoid criminal proceedings remained rare. In previous years rape survivors who could not meet high evidentiary standards could face charges of adultery.

In early December a pro-GNA militia released a social media post that received widespread attention depicting a Libyan woman being sexually assaulted, allegedly by an anti-GNA militia in Tripoli.

There were no reliable statistics on the extent of domestic violence during the year. A 2013 report from the International Federation of Electoral Systems cited high levels of acceptance and justification of domestic violence in the society. Social and cultural barriers–including police and judicial reluctance to act and family reluctance to publicize an assault–contributed to lack of effective government enforcement. In the past municipalities and local organizations maintained women’s shelters in most major cities, but it was difficult to confirm whether shelters continued to operate or were accessible to victims of domestic violence.

There was no mechanism to monitor violence against women and, in the absence of monitoring, violence, and intimidation against women largely went unreported.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): There were no known reports of FGM/C by international organizations. There was no available information about legislation on FGM/C.

Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes sexual harassment, but there were no reports on how or whether it was enforced. According to civil society organizations, there was widespread harassment and intimidation of women by militias and extremists, including accusations of “un-Islamic” behavior. Multiple local contacts reported harassment of women attempting to travel alone internationally at airports and in certain militia-controlled areas.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and obtain information to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Access to information on reproductive health and contraception, however, was difficult for women to obtain due to social norms surrounding sexuality. Continuing instability decreased available skilled medical personnel because many foreign health workers fled the country, which affected women’s access to maternal health-care services and contraceptive supplies. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that the large number of IDPs and access restrictions in conflict zones significantly affected the provision of reproductive health services. WHO also reported lack of access to basic comprehensive obstetric care (including emergency obstetric care and family planning) and treatment of sexually transmitted infections. According to current estimates by the UN Population Fund, only 29 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 used a modern method of contraception, and 19 percent of women had an unmet need for family planning.

Discrimination: The Constitutional Declaration states citizens are equal under the law with equal civil and political rights and the same opportunities in all areas without distinction on the grounds of gender. Absent implementing legislation, and operating with limited capacity, the government did not effectively enforce these declarations.

Women faced social forms of discrimination, which affected their ability to access employment, their presence in the workplace, and their mobility and personal freedom. Although the law prohibits discrimination based on gender, widespread cultural, economic, and societal discrimination against women continued. Sharia governs family matters, including inheritance, divorce, and the right to own property. While civil law mandates equal rights in inheritance, women often received less due to interpretations of sharia that favor men. Women may seek divorce for a range of reasons under the law, but they often forfeited financial rights in order to obtain a divorce. While the law demands men provide alimony for a fixed duration, according to the individual marriage contract, authorities did not uniformly enforce the law in instances when men failed to provide alimony. Women must obtain government permission to marry noncitizen men and often faced difficulties, including harassment, in attempting to do so while men did not face similar restrictions.

Children

Birth Registration: By law children derive citizenship only from a citizen father. Citizen women alone were unable to transmit citizenship to offspring. The country’s nationality laws do not allow female nationals married to foreign nationals to transmit their nationality to their children. They permit, however, female nationals to transmit their nationality to their children in certain circumstances, such as when fathers are unknown, stateless, of unknown nationality, or do not establish filiation. There are also naturalization provisions for noncitizens.

Education: The conflict disrupted the school year for thousands of students across the country; many schools remained empty due to lack of materials, damage, or security concerns.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 18 years old for both men and women, although judges can provide permission for those under 18 to marry. There were no available statistics on the rate of early and forced marriage during the year.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): See information provided in women’s section above.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: There was no information available on laws prohibiting or penalties for the commercial sexual exploitation of children or prohibiting child pornography. Nor was there any information regarding laws regulating the minimum age of consensual sex.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. For information see the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

Most of the Jewish population left the country between 1948 and 1967. Some Jewish families reportedly remained, but no estimate of the population was available. There were no known reports of anti-Semitic acts during the year.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The Constitutional Declaration addresses the rights of persons with disabilities by providing for monetary and other types of social assistance for the “protection” of persons with “special needs” with respect to employment, education, access to health care, and the provision of other government services, but it does not explicitly prohibit discrimination. The government did not effectively enforce these provisions.

The government did not enact or effectively implement laws and programs to provide access to buildings, information, and communications, but a number of organizations provided services to persons with disabilities. Few public facilities had adequate access for persons with physical disabilities, resulting in restricted access to employment, education, and health care. New sidewalks did not have curb cuts for wheelchair users, and new construction often did not have accessible entrances. There was limited access to information or communications.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Arabic-speaking Muslims of mixed Arab-Amazigh ancestry are 97 percent of the citizenry. The principal linguistic-based minorities are the Amazigh, Tuareg, and Tebu. These minority groups are predominantly Sunni Muslim but identified with their respective cultural and linguistic heritages rather than with Arab traditions.

The government officially recognizes the Amazigh, Tuareg, and Tebu languages and provides for their teaching in schools. Language remained a point of contention, however, and the extent to which the government enforced this provision was unclear.

Ethnic minorities faced instances of societal discrimination and violence. Racial discrimination existed against dark-skinned citizens, including those of sub-Saharan heritage. Government officials and journalists often distinguished between “loyal” and “foreign” populations of Tebu and Tuareg in the south and advocated expulsion of minority groups affiliated with political rivals on the basis they were not truly “Libyan.” A number of Tebu and Tuareg communities received substandard or no services from municipalities, lacked national identity numbers (and thus access to employment), and faced widespread social discrimination.

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

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) orientations remained illegal, and official and societal discrimination against LGBTI persons persisted. The penal code punishes consensual same-sex sexual activity by three to five years in prison. The law provides for punishment of both parties.

There was scant information on discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, access to education, or health care. Observers noted that the threat of possible violence or abuse could intimidate persons who reported such discrimination. There was no information on whether there were hate crime laws or other judicial mechanisms to aid in prosecuting bias-motivated crimes against members of the LGBTI community.

Citizens tended to hold negative views of LGBTI persons and stigmatize homosexuality. There were reports of physical violence, harassment, and blackmail based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Militias often policed communities to enforce compliance with militia commanders’ understanding of “Islamic” behavior, and harassed and threatened with impunity individuals believed to have LGBTI orientations and their families.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There was no available information on societal violence toward persons with HIV/AIDS. There were reports the government denied persons with HIV/AIDS permission to marry. There were reports the government segregated detainees suspected of having HIV/AIDS from the rest of the detainee population, often in overcrowded spaces, and they received medical treatment last. In previous years there were reports of societal stigmatization of persons with HIV/AIDS due to an association of the disease with drug use, sex outside marriage, and homosexuality.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law does not provide for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, but it provides for the right of workers to bargain collectively and conduct legal strikes, with significant restrictions. The law neither prohibits antiunion discrimination nor requires the reinstatement of workers for union activity. By law workers in the formal sector are automatically members of the General Trade Union Federation of Workers, although they may elect to withdraw from the union. Only citizens may be union members, and regulations do not permit foreign workers to organize. According to a World Bank study in June 2015, efforts to reform labor legislation remained stalled due to the continuing political conflict.

The absence of an effective central government restricted the ability of the government to enforce applicable labor laws. The requirement that all collective agreements conform to the “national economic interest” restricted collective bargaining. Workers may call strikes only after exhausting all conciliation and arbitration procedures. The government or one of the parties may demand compulsory arbitration, thus severely restricting strikes. The government has the right to set and cut salaries without consulting workers. According to the June 2015 World Bank report, the public sector employed 85 percent of the country’s active labor force.

Employees organized spontaneous strikes, boycotts, and sit-ins in a number of workplaces. No government action prevented or hindered labor strikes, and government payments to leaders of the strike actions customarily ended these actions.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government, however, did not fully enforce the applicable laws due to the absence of an effective central government. The resources, inspections, and penalties for violations were insufficient to deter violators. While many foreign workers fled the country due to the continuing conflict, there were reports of foreign workers, especially foreign migrants passing through the country to reach Europe, subjected to conditions indicative of forced labor. According to the IOM, militias and armed groups subjected migrants to forced labor and trafficking in IDP camps and transit centers that they controlled.

Armed groups prevented foreign health-care workers from departing conflict areas such as Benghazi and compelled these workers to perform unpaid work in dangerous conditions.

Private employers sometimes mobilized detained migrants from prisons and detention centers for forced labor on farms or construction sites; when the work was completed or the employers no longer required the migrants’ labor, employers returned them to detention.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits children younger than 18 years old from employment except in a form of apprenticeship. It was unclear whether child labor occurred, and no information was available concerning whether the law limits working hours or sets occupational health and safety restrictions for children. The government lacked the capacity to enforce these laws.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The Constitutional Declaration provides for a right of work to every citizen and prohibits any form of discrimination on religion, race, political opinion, language, wealth, kinship, social status, and tribal, regional, or familial loyalty. The law does not prohibit discrimination on age, gender, disability, sexual orientation and/or gender identity, social status, HIV-positive status, or having other communicable diseases. The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination concerning employment or occupation.

The absence of an effective central government also restricted the ability of the government to enforce applicable laws. Discrimination in all the above categories likely occurred.

Women faced discrimination in the workplace. Observers reported that authorities precluded hiring women for positions in the civil service and in specific professions that they occupied previously, such as school administration. They reported continued social pressure on women to leave the workplace, especially in high-profile professions such as journalism and law enforcement. In rural areas societal discrimination restricted women’s freedom of movement, including to local destinations, and impaired their ability to play an active role in the workplace.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The law stipulates a workweek of 40 hours, standard working hours, night shift regulations, dismissal procedures, and training requirements. The law does not specifically prohibit excessive compulsory overtime. The minimum wage was 450 dinars per month ($320 per the official exchange rate).

The law provides occupational health and safety standards, and the law grants workers the right to court hearings regarding violations of these standards. The absence of an effective central government restricted the ability of the government to enforce such health and safety standards.

Certain industries, such as the petroleum sector, attempted to maintain standards set by foreign companies. There was no information available on whether inspections continued during the year.

No accurate recent numbers of foreign workers were available. According to the World Bank, prior to 2011 the number of foreign workers was between 1.5 million and two million. The report estimated that (as of 2012) the informal sector employed 800,000 foreign workers (compared with 430,000 in the formal sector). Many foreign workers, especially in the health sector, departed the country due to the continuing conflict. Although foreign workers reportedly constituted more than 20 percent of the workforce, the labor law applies only to documented foreign workers with work contracts, who were a fraction of the total. While the law requires contracts for the hiring business to sponsor a worker for a visa, such contracts were rare.

The law permits foreign workers to reside in the country only for the duration of their work contracts, and authorities prohibited workers from sending more than half of their earnings to their home countries. Due to restrictions on converting Libyan currency into foreign currencies, it became difficult for foreign workers to send even half of their earnings to home countries.

Employers reportedly subjected foreign workers to coercive practices, such as changes in conditions of work and contracts, and such workers often had little choice other than to accept the changes or leave the country due to the lack of legal protections or avenues for remediation. Workers were not able to remove themselves from situations that endangered their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment.

Morocco

Executive Summary

Morocco is a constitutional monarchy under which ultimate authority rests with King Mohammed VI, who presides over the Council of Ministers. The king may dismiss ministers, dissolve parliament and call for new elections, or rule by decree. The king shares executive authority with the head of government (prime minister), whom he must appoint from the political party with the most seats in parliament, and approves members of the government nominated by the prime minister. International and domestic observers judged the October 7 parliamentary elections credible and relatively free from irregularities. The Islamist-leaning ruling party, Party of Justice and Development (PJD), again won a plurality of seats in the elections. As mandated by the constitution, immediately following the October 7 elections, the king chose the PJD to lead the governing coalition and nominated PJD Secretary General Abdelilah Benkirane to serve again as head of government. During the year the government continued to implement its “advanced regionalization” plan, allowing local bodies elected in 2015 to exercise increased budgetary and decision-making powers.

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

The most significant continuing human rights problems were corruption, discrimination against women, and disregard for the rule of law by security forces.

A variety of sources reported other human rights problems. These included Security forces occasionally committing human rights abuses, including reports of mistreatment in detention. While prison and detention center conditions improved during the year, in some instances, they still did not meet international standards. Pretrial detention conditions were especially a problem due to overcrowding, and detention periods were often prolonged. The judiciary lacked full independence, and sometimes denied defendants the right to a fair public trial. Domestic and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) asserted there were political prisoners, although the government asserted that these individuals were charged with criminal offenses. The government abridged civil liberties by infringing on freedom of speech and press, including by harassing and arresting print and internet journalists for reporting or commenting on issues sensitive to the government. The government also limited freedom of assembly and association and restricted the right to practice one’s religion. The power of the elected government was limited on certain national policy issues. The government placed restrictions on domestic and international human rights organizations, depending on its evaluation of the political orientation of the organization and the sensitivity of the issues. Trafficking in persons and child labor continued to occur, particularly in the informal sector.

There were few examples of investigations or prosecutions of abuse or corruption by officials, whether in the security services or elsewhere in the government, which contributed to the widespread perception of impunity.

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

There were no reported cases of politically motivated disappearance during the year.

Regarding unresolved cases of disappearance dating to the 1970s and 1980s, the National Council on Human Rights (CNDH), a publicly funded national human rights institution that operates independently, continued to investigate claims of enforced and involuntary disappearance from previous years. When warranted the CNDH recommended reparations in the form of money, health care, employment, or vocational training to victims (or victims’ families) of forced disappearance. In the last several years, the government shifted its focus from outstanding and new individual claims to community reparation projects. The CNDH continued to receive and investigate reparation claims throughout the year. According to the CNDH, there were six cases unresolved as of October and four cases presented by families before the courts. (For more information on reparation claims in Western Sahara, see the Department of State’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights for Western Sahara.)

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

The constitution and the law prohibit such practices, and the government denied it used torture. The law defines torture and stipulates that all government officials or members of security forces who “make use of violence against others without legitimate motive, or incite others to do the same, during the course of their duties shall be punished in accordance with the seriousness of the violence.” A 2006 amendment to the law provides a legal definition of torture in addition to setting punishments for instances of torture according to their severity. The government also enacted measures designed to eliminate torture. For example, in November 2014 the government deposited its ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture with the United Nations–with the CNDH filling the role of investigative organ for the prevention of torture. Reports of torture have declined over the last several years, although government institutions and NGOs such as Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) continued to receive reports about the mistreatment of individuals in official custody. The UN Human Rights Committee monitoring implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights final observations on the country’s sixth periodic report issued December 1 noted that the government has taken steps to combat torture and mistreatment and that there was a “marked reduction” in such practices since its 2004 report. The committee remained concerned by continued allegations of torture and mistreatment by government agents, in particular on persons suspected of terrorism or threats to national security or territorial integrity.

Reporting in previous years alleged more frequent use of torture. A May 2015 report by AI claimed that between 2010 and 2014, security forces routinely inflicted beatings, asphyxiation, stress positions, simulated drowning, and psychological and sexual violence to “extract confessions to crimes, silence activists, and crush dissent.” Since the AI interviews, the government has undertaken reform efforts, including widespread human rights training for security and justice sector officials. In June 2015 Minister of Justice Mustapha Ramid publicly announced that torture would not be tolerated, and that any public official implicated in torture would face imprisonment.

In the event of an accusation of torture, the law requires judges to refer a detainee to a forensic medical expert when the detainee or lawyer requests it or if judges notice suspicious physical marks on a detainee. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, human rights NGOs, and media documented cases of authorities’ failure to implement provisions of the antitorture law, including failure to conduct medical examinations when detainees allege torture. Following the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur for Torture’s 2013 report, the Ministries of Justice, Prison Administration, and National Police each issued notices to their officials to respect the prohibition against maltreatment and torture, reminding them of the obligation to conduct medical examinations in all cases where there are allegations or suspicions of torture. Since January 2015 the Ministry of Justice has organized a series of human rights trainings for judges, including on the prevention of torture. In June the Ministry of Justice issued a notice to courts instructing them to implement the recommendation from the Special Rapporteur to visit local jail and detention facilities at least twice per month.

During the year the CNDH reported that it received 34 complaints alleging torture in internationally recognized Morocco, a 56 percent decrease from the previous year. After investigating all 34 allegations, the CNDH substantiated four allegations, one instance each in Khouribga, Tetouan, Toulal 2, and Sale 1 prisons. The CNDH referred one case (Sale 1) to the public prosecutor’s office, while two other cases were opened by detainees’ lawyers (Khouribga and Tetouan). In the case of Toulal 2, the CNDH was unable to obtain sufficient evidence to refer the case to the prosecutor and, instead, submitted recommendations to the Prison Administration (DGAPR). Regarding the four cases referred by the CNDH to the public prosecutor in 2015, the cases remained in the judicial system at year’s end. The DGAPR indicated that it referred one prison official to the judicial system for causing injury to a detainee during the year.

In 2015 the government investigated 42 public officials for torture or abuse. Of those officials 19 remained under investigation, three cases before the courts, and 20 completed the judicial process at year’s end. For example, on June 7, courts sentenced five gendarmes to sentences between five and 10 years for murder and falsifying evidence in relation to the death of an individual in custody in September 2015. According to a Ministry of Interior statement regarding the death, which was shared with media, they abused the individual during his arrest, and he died during transfer to a hospital. Three prison officials who were referred to the courts in September 2015 for abuse of detainees received sentences of four months’ detention and fines of 500 dirhams ($50.20) in March. They have appealed the decision. The government prosecuted 14 police officers in relation to the death of a detainee in custody in August 2015. On November 30, eight of the officials were convicted of torture and “use of violence against a detainee in a fragile psychological state resulting in unintentional death,” while a ninth official was convicted of failure to report a felony. Five other officers were acquitted. The nine received sentences ranging from one to 10 years in addition to fines of 150,000 dirhams ($15,625) each.

During the year, according to United Nations data, there were six allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse made against Moroccan peacekeepers deployed to UN peacekeeping operations in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Three of the alleged incidents occurred during the year, one in 2015, and two in 2014. According to the United Nations, five of these allegations were being investigated jointly by the United Nations and the government, and one was pending investigation. Investigations were completed on four allegations reported in previous years. One claim of sexual abuse was substantiated, and three abuse and exploitation claims were determined to be unsubstantiated allegations after joint UN-government investigations.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions improved during the year, but in some cases did not meet international standards.

Physical Conditions: The Moroccan Observatory of Prisons continued to report that some prisons were overcrowded and failed to meet local and international standards. The DGAPR indicated that overcrowding had decreased with the opening of 26 new prisons in the past three years, including three during the year. DGAPR statistics indicate that the average space allocated per detainee increased from 18.8 square feet in 2015 to 20.3 square feet during the year, due to the opening of the new prisons. These 26 new prisons represent approximately 35 percent of the country’s prisons, and were built to international standards. In the new prisons, pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners were held separately. As construction on each new prison was completed, older prisons were closed, and inmates were moved to the new locations. Older prisons remained overcrowded, resulting in authorities frequently holding pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners together. According to government sources and NGOs, prison overcrowding was due in large part to an underutilized system of bail or provisional release, a severe backlog in cases, and lack of judicial discretion to reduce the length of prison sentences for specific crimes. Government sources stated that a further complication was that administrative requirements prevented prison authorities from transferring individuals in pretrial detention to facilities outside the jurisdiction where their trials were to take place. As of September authorities released 45,071 individuals on bail. In 2015 authorities released 65,065 individuals on bail.

The law provides for the separation of minors. In all prisons, officials identify youthful offenders into two categories, and they are held separately from other categories: minors under 18, and youthful offenders from 18 to 20 years old. Authorities held a number of minors with adults, particularly in pretrial detention in ordinary prisons and police stations, due to shortage of juvenile prison facilities. DGAPR has four dedicated juvenile “centers for reform and education,” but maintains separate, dedicated youth detention areas in all prisons for minors. As of September 30, minors under 18 years old represented 2.7 percent of the overall prison population (2,131 minors of a prison population of 78,875). The government reported that in cases where a juvenile court judge ruled that their detention was necessary, minors less than 14 years old were detained separately from minors 15 to 18 years old. HRW stated that in one case involving two minors arrested October 27 on suspicion of same-sex sexual conduct, authorities held the minors with adult prisoners, and the minors allegedly were subjected to threats and harassment.

While there was less overcrowding in the women’s sections of facilities, according to a CNDH study early this year, conditions in women’s sections often did not meet the 2010 United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Noncustodial Measures for Women Offenders. The study noted that health facilities were generally located in the men’s sections, restricting access for female prisoners, and that vocational training opportunities were limited for women. The study also noted that female prisoners faced discrimination from staff, including medical staff, on the basis of their gender. As of September 30, there were 1,815 female prisoners, in a total population of 78,875 (2.3 percent of prison population), according to DGAPR data.

Local NGOs asserted that prison facilities did not provide adequate access to health care and did not accommodate the needs of prisoners with disabilities, although government sources stated that each prisoner received an average of six consultations with a medical professional per year and that all care was provided free of charge. According to DGAPR 2015 statistics, there was one doctor for every 675 inmates and one nurse for every 135 inmates. The government reported that 129 inmates died during the year, 19 in the prisons and 110 in a hospital. Of these deaths, 124 were from natural causes or medical conditions, four were from suicide, and one from accidental electrocution. Local human rights NGOs could not confirm these numbers.

On April 15, activist Brahim Saika died days after reporting to the prosecutor’s office, and his family claimed that officers at the Guelmim police station had mistreated him following his April 1 arrest and that he had begun a hunger strike in protest. Saika reportedly was arrested as he sought to join a protest and was charged with insulting and assaulting police officers and insulting a public institution.

The prosecutor ordered an investigation by the judicial police to determine the conditions and circumstances of Saika’s death, in addition to an autopsy, which established the cause of death as natural and due to a microbial infection, noting that the hunger strike may have contributed to the death. The medical exam revealed no traces of torture or mistreatment on Saika’s body. The judicial police of the Royal Gendarmerie and the National Police conducted separate investigations before determining that there was no torture committed, and the death was a medical event unrelated to torture or abuse. CNDH was also notified of the complaint and conducted an investigation, and found the claims to be unsubstantiated. Following a request of the family lawyers, however, another autopsy took place on April 22, concluding that the death was “secondary to a septic infection in the context of hunger strike.” There was no independent autopsy completed despite the family’s request.

According to information provided by the CNDH, in response to domestic and international interest in the case, the prosecutor ordered an investigation by the judicial police to determine the conditions and circumstances of death, in addition to an autopsy, which established the cause of death as natural and due to a microbial infection.

DGAPR provides food to inmates at no cost, and since 2015 a private company provided higher quality options than were previously available. Prison commissaries stock fresh fruit and vegetables for purchase, and families were permitted to bring food baskets once per week. NGOs frequently cited cases where prisoners protested the conditions of their detention with hunger strikes, According to AI prisoners launched hunger strikes to protest harsh conditions, including poor hygiene and sanitation, inadequate nutrition and healthcare, severe overcrowding, and detention far from their families, as well as limited visiting rights and access to education.

Some human rights activists have asserted the prison administration reserved harsher treatment for Islamists who challenged the king’s religious authority and those accused of “questioning the territorial integrity of the country.” The UN special rapporteur’s 2013 report on torture, however, stated, “The majority of the victims examined in the prisons visited denied ever being subjected to any kind of torture or degrading treatment inside prison establishments. Also, the allegations received usually pointed to a small number of staff committing these violations–the majority of the penitentiary staff is not involved in such violations.” There have been no visits or reports from the rapporteur since 2013. DGAPR denied that any prisoners received differential treatment, and asserts that all prisoners were treated equally in accordance with the Prison Act.

Administration: Prison administration recordkeeping was adequate. Authorities did not implement alternatives to imprisonment for nonviolent offenders.

While authorities generally permitted relatives and friends to visit prisoners, there were reports that the authorities denied visiting privileges in some instances.

The CNDH and DGAPR investigated allegations of inhuman conditions. The CNDH and the DGAPR effectively served the function of an ombudsman, and a system of “letterboxes” continued to operate in prisons to facilitate prisoners’ right to submit complaints regarding their imprisonment. Detainees could submit complaints without censorship. Complaints were brought to the DGAPR Delegate General’s Office for processing, as well as to the CNDH.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted some NGOs with a human rights mandate to conduct unaccompanied monitoring visits. Government policy permitted NGOs that provided social, educational, or religious services to prisoners to enter prison facilities, and prison authorities reported that NGOs conducted 673 prison visits during the first nine months of the year, in addition to 127 regular prison monitoring visits conducted by the CNDH. According to DGAPR statistics, parliamentarians, media, and religious, judicial, and other government authorities conducted more than 3,000 prison visits during the year.

Improvements: To alleviate overcrowding government authorities reported opening three new detention facilities during the year. The government reported increasing the number of vocational and educational training programs it administers in prisons. The Mohammed VI Foundation for the Reinsertion of Prisoners provided educational and professional training to inmates on the verge of release, providing job-skills training, literacy, and education through university level.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention. Observers indicated that police did not always respect these provisions or consistently observe due process. According to local NGOs and associations, police sometimes arrested persons without warrants, held detainees beyond the statutory deadline to charge them, and failed to identify themselves when making arrests.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The security apparatus includes several police and paramilitary organizations with overlapping authority. The National Police (Direction Generale de la Surete Nationale–DGSN) manages internal law enforcement and reports to the Ministry of Interior. The Auxiliary Forces also report to the Ministry of Interior and support gendarmes and police. The Royal Gendarmerie, which reports to the Administration of National Defense, is responsible for law enforcement in rural regions and on national highways. The judicial police (investigative) branches of both the Royal Gendarmerie and the National Police report to the royal prosecutor and have the power to arrest individuals. The Department of Royal Security is a branch of the National Police that provides protection for the king and royal family members. The Directorate General of Territorial Surveillance (Direction Generale de la Surveillance Territoriale–DGST) has intelligence gathering responsibilities, without arrest powers, and reports to the Ministry of Interior.

Civilian authorities failed at times to maintain effective control over the security forces, and there were reports of abuses and impunity. Systemic and pervasive corruption undermined law enforcement and the effectiveness of the judicial system.

Impunity was widespread in the absence of effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. International and domestic human rights organizations claimed that authorities dismissed many complaints of abuse and relied only on police versions of events.

Authorities investigated some low-level incidents of alleged abuse and corruption. The judicial police investigate allegations, including those against security forces, and advise the court of their findings. While authorities suspended some individuals accused of human rights abuses, they did not systematically prosecute or sentence security personnel who committed human rights abuses. Cases often languished in the investigatory or trial phases. In 2015 courts investigated and found guilty of corruption 16 members of the Royal Gendarmerie who were sentenced to prison terms and fines, while 14 others were acquitted and returned to duty. As of October courts have investigated 21 members of the Gendarmerie for corruption, with one conviction resulting in a two-month prison sentence, two acquittals, and 18 were in the judicial process.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Police may arrest an individual after a general prosecutor issues an oral or written warrant. The law provides for access to a lawyer in the first 24 hours after arrest in ordinary criminal cases, but authorities did not consistently respect that provision. The law permits authorities to deny defendants’ access to counsel or family members during the initial 96 hours of detention under terrorism-related laws or during the initial 24 hours of detention for other charges, with an optional extension of 12 hours with the approval of the Prosecutor’s Office. Reports of abuse generally referred to these initial detention periods, when police interrogated detainees.

The law states “in the case of a flagrant offense, the Judicial Police Officer has the right to keep the suspect in detention for 48 hours. If strong and corroborated evidence is raised against this person, [the officer] can keep them in custody for a maximum of three days with the written authorization of the prosecutor.” For normal crimes authorities can extend this 48-hour period twice, for up to six days in detention. Under terrorism-related laws, a prosecutor may renew the initial detention by written authorization for a total detention time of 12 days. According to the Antiterrorism Act, there is no right to a lawyer during this time except for a half-hour monitored visit at the midpoint of the 12-day period. Observers widely perceived the 2015 law on counterterrorism as consistent with international standards.

NGO sources stated that some judges were reticent to use alternative sentences permitted under the law, such as provisional release. The law does not require written authorization for release from detention. In some instances judges released defendants on their own recognizance. A bail system exists; the deposit may be in the form of property or as a sum of money paid to court in an effort to persuade the judge to release a suspect. The amount of the deposit is left to the discretion of the judge, who decides the amount of the deposit depending on the offense. Bail may be requested at any time before the judgment. According to the law, all defendants have the right to attorneys; if a defendant cannot afford private counsel, authorities must provide a court-appointed attorney when the criminal penalty exceeds five years in prison. Authorities did not always provide effective counsel.

In ordinary criminal cases, the law requires police to notify a detainee’s next of kin of the arrest immediately after the above-mentioned period of incommunicado detention, unless arresting authorities applied for and received an extension from a magistrate. Police did not consistently abide by this provision. Because authorities sometimes delayed notifying the family, authorities did not inform lawyers promptly of the date of arrest, and they were not able to monitor compliance with detention limits and treatment of the detainee. Under a separate military code, military authorities may detain members of the military without a warrant or public trial.

Arbitrary Arrest: Security forces often arrested groups of individuals, took them to a police station, questioned them for several hours, and released them without charge. Under the penal code, any public official who orders an arbitrary detention is punishable by demotion and, if it is done in a private interest, by imprisonment of 10 years to life. An official who neglects to refer a claim or observation of arbitrary or illegal detention to his superiors is punishable by demotion. There was no available information that these provisions were applied this year.

While in previous years, authorities have been accused of arresting undocumented migrants, detaining them, and escorting them to the borders or otherwise expelling them without an opportunity to exercise their legal rights, UNCHR and NGOs noted that there were no such reports this year.

Pretrial Detention: Although the government claimed that authorities generally brought accused persons to trial within two months, prosecutors may request as many as five additional two-month extensions of pretrial detention. Pretrial detentions can last as long as one year, and there were reports that authorities routinely held detainees beyond the one-year limit. Government officials attributed these delays to the large backlog of cases in the justice system. The Foreign Ministry stated that a variety of factors contributed to this backlog: a lack of resources devoted to the justice system, both human and infrastructure; the lack of plea bargaining as an option for prosecutors, lengthening the amount of time to process cases on average; and the scant use of mediation and other out-of-court settlement mechanisms allowed by law. The government reported that as of September 30, 43.1 percent of detainees were in pretrial detention. In some cases detainees received a sentence shorter than the time they spent in pretrial detention.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The constitution states that “No one may be detained, arrested, prosecuted, or sentenced outside of the cases and forms prescribed by the law,” and gives the right to compensation in cases of judicial error. Individuals have the right to challenge the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention and request compensation by submitting a complaint to the court. If the complaint is unsubstantiated, the accused has the right to file for damages against the accuser.

Amnesty: The king continued to exercise his ability to grant pardons to those convicted of crimes. The decision-making process for granting royal pardons was not publicly available; however, the committee took into account health, social situation, participation in rehabilitation and reintegration programs, and degree of behavioral improvement when making its decisions. Certain individuals were not eligible for pardons, including those who had previously benefitted from a pardon and those convicted of certain serious crimes. Individuals who benefitted from pardons were not subject to arbitrary re-arrest during the year.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and, in previous years, government officials, NGOs, and lawyers widely acknowledged that corruption and extrajudicial influence weakened judicial independence. During the year the government established the Supreme Judicial Council, a new government body that provides authority for judges to manage the courts and judicial affairs, designed to supplant management by the Ministry of Justice. While the government stated its aim of creating the council was to improve judicial independence, the council was not fully functional at year’s end, and its effect on judicial independence was not clear. The outcomes of trials in which the government had a strong political stake, such as those touching on Islam as it related to political life and national security, the monarchy, and the Western Sahara, appeared predetermined.

In February a disciplinary panel of the Higher Judicial Council dismissed Judge Mohamed El-Haini, following allegations referred by the Ministry of Justice that he had “violated the duty of discretion” and “expressed opinions of a political nature.” The allegations stemmed from his criticisms on social media of the draft laws on the Higher Judicial Council and on the Statute for Judges. The Higher Judicial Council’s decision is not subject to appeal. A panel suspended another judge, Amal Homani, for six months on similar grounds.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair public trial with the right of appeal, but this did not always occur, especially for those protesting the incorporation of Western Sahara into the country. The law presumes that defendants are innocent. After an initial investigation period in which the order of a prosecutor can detain individuals, defendants are informed promptly of their charges before their trial. Trials are conducted in Arabic, and foreigners have the right to request interpretation if they do not speak Arabic.

Defendants have the right to be present at their trial and to timely consultation with an attorney. In practical terms authorities often denied lawyers timely access to their clients and, in the majority of cases, lawyers met their clients only at the first hearing before the judge. Authorities are required to provide attorneys in cases where the potential sentence is greater than five years, if the defendant is unable to afford one. Publicly provided defense attorneys were often poorly paid and often were neither properly trained in matters pertaining to juveniles nor provided to defendants in a timely fashion. This practice often resulted in inadequate representation. Many NGOs provided attorneys for minors, who frequently did not have the means to pay. Such resources were limited and specific to larger cities. By law defendants in criminal and human rights cases have access to government evidence against them, but judges sometimes prevented or delayed access. The law permits defense attorneys to question witnesses. Despite the provisions of the law, some judges reportedly denied defense requests to question witnesses or to present mitigating witnesses or evidence.

The law forbids judges from admitting confessions made under duress. NGOs reported that the judicial system often relied on confessions for the prosecution of criminal cases, and authorities pressured investigators to obtain a confession from a suspect in order for prosecution to proceed. HRW and local NGOs charged that judges, at their discretion, decided cases based on forced confessions. NGOs alleged this occurred frequently in cases against Sahrawis or individuals accused of terrorism. According to the authorities, police sometimes used claims regarding detainees’ statements in place of defendants’ confessions when there was a possible question of duress. The country is moving away from a confession-based system to an evidenced-based system. In August the government opened 18 evidence preservation centers throughout the country to preserve the chain of custody of evidence, supporting its change to evidenced-based prosecutions. More than 18,000 police have been trained in recently established evidence collection and preservation procedures to maintain proper chain of custody of evidence in support of evidence-based prosecutions. Police are working with the courts to demonstrate the new evidence preservation rooms to judges to increase their confidence in evidence presented at trials.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

The law does not define or recognize the concept of a political prisoner. The government did not consider any of its prisoners to be political prisoners and stated that it had charged or convicted all individuals in prison under criminal law. Human rights groups, however, refuted this allegation, especially concerning activists advocating Western Sahara’s independence.

On July 27, the Court of Cassation granted a new trial before civilian courts for the 22 Gdeim Izik prisoners arrested during the 2010 dismantling of the Gdeim Izik Camp and subsequent violence in Laayoune. Previously convicted in military courts, many NGOs considered the group to be political prisoners. The protesters, 21 of whom remain imprisoned, had been convicted largely on the basis of “confessions” which they alleged had been extracted under torture. Their allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in custody were not investigated. The trial began on December 26; but it was adjourned to January 23, 2017.

Criminal law covers nonviolent advocacy and dissent, such as insulting police in songs or “defaming Morocco’s sacred values” by denouncing the king and regime during a public demonstration. Additionally, NGOs, including the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH), and Sahrawi organizations asserted that the government imprisoned persons for political activities or beliefs under the cover of criminal charges.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Although individuals have access to civil courts for lawsuits relating to human rights violations and filed lawsuits, such lawsuits were frequently unsuccessful due to the courts’ lack of independence on politically sensitive cases, or lack of impartiality stemming from extrajudicial influence and corruption. There are administrative as well as judicial remedies for alleged wrongs. Authorities sometimes failed to respect court orders.

A National Ombudsman’s Office (Mediator Institution) helped to resolve civil matters that did not clear the threshold to merit involvement of the judiciary; it gradually expanded the scope of its activities and subjected complaints to in-depth investigation. Authorities retransmitted to the CNDH for resolution cases specifically related to allegations of human rights abuses against authorities. The CNDH continued to be a conduit through which citizens expressed complaints regarding human rights abuses and violations.

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

The constitution states an individual’s home is inviolable and that a search may take place only with a search warrant; however, authorities at times entered homes without judicial authorization, monitored without legal process personal movement and private communications–including e-mail, text messaging, or other digital communications intended to remain private–and employed informers.

An April 2015 report by Privacy International, based on interviews in 2014 with citizen journalists who covered topics sensitive to the government, recounted incidents of alleged harassment, such as unannounced visits by state officials to the families of the individuals and allegations that their personal computers, websites, and work locations were hacked or tapped.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution and law generally provide for freedom of speech and press, although they criminalize and restrict some freedom of expression in the press and social media–specifically criticism of Islam, the institution of the monarchy, and the government’s official position regarding territorial integrity and claim to Western Sahara. Such criticism can result in prosecution under the penal code, with punishments ranging from fines to jail time, despite the freedom of expression provided for in the new press code passed in July. There have been no reports of prosecution, however, since the passage of the new press code.

Government-provided figures for the year showed that six journalists or media outlets faced charges for breaches of the national press code, and no journalists are facing charges under the penal code. Seven other journalists or media outlets are facing charges under laws other than the press or penal code. Of the 13 current cases, one was initiated by the government, with the remainder initiated by private citizens, including libel complaints. International and domestic human rights groups criticized criminal prosecutions of journalists and publishers as well as of libel suits, claiming that the government principally used these laws to restrict independent human rights groups and the press and social media.

Freedom of Speech and Expression: The law criminalizes the criticism of Islam, the institution of the monarchy, state institutions, officials such as those in the military, and the government’s official position regarding territorial integrity and claim to Western Sahara, and the government actively prosecuted persons who did so.

On January 21, authorities charged journalist and human rights activist, Ali Anouzla, with “undermining national territorial integrity” as a result of comments he made in November 2015 to a German newspaper, which quoted him referring to the “occupied territories” of Western Sahara. Anouzla maintained that he referred to the territory only as “Sahara” and that the paper misquoted him. Several weeks later the paper corrected its translation to use only “Sahara.” Subsequently, on May 24, the authorities dropped these charges against Anouzla. At year’s end, however, there was no information to confirm charges had been dropped against Anouzla for “supporting,” “inciting,” and “advocating” terrorism in relation to a 2013 article that linked to a video critical of the king. Trial dates in previous years on these charges were repeatedly postponed.

Press and Media Freedoms: In July parliament passed a new press code that limits punishments for journalistic infractions to fines. The antiterrorism law and the penal code, however, include provisions that permit the government to jail and impose financial penalties on journalists and publishers who violate restrictions related to defamation, libel, and insults. Authorities may impose prison sentences on those convicted of libel. Consequently, self-censorship remained prevalent. Authorities filed charges of libel and other violations of the criminal code against specific journalists, with prosecution of these charges indefinitely delayed.

The government also enforced strict procedures governing NGO representatives and political activists meeting with journalists. Foreign journalists needed, but did not always receive, approval from the Ministry of Communication before meeting with political activists.

In 2015 officials targeted members of the Moroccan Association for Investigative Journalism (AMJI). Authorities detained and questioned several members, including Hicham Mansouri, Maati Monjib, and Hisham Almiraat. On October 26, the trial of the seven AMJI members was postponed to January 2017. At year’s end, the individuals remained at liberty but still under investigation although not yet charged.

On June 20, the court of first instance in Casablanca sentenced Hamid El Mahdaoui, editor of a news website, to a four-month suspended prison sentence and 10,000 dirham ($1,000) fine for defamation over a report on the minister of justice’s travel expenses.

Violence and Harassment: Authorities subjected some journalists to harassment and intimidation, including attempts to discredit them through harmful rumors about their personal lives. Journalists reported that selective prosecutions served as a mechanism for intimidation.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Self-censorship and government restrictions on sensitive topics remained serious hurdles to the development of a free, independent, and investigative press. While the government rarely censored the domestic press, it exerted pressure by pursuing legal cases that resulted in heavy fines and suspended publication. Such cases encouraged editors and journalists to self-censor. A Freedom House report this year noted that there is an “atmosphere of fear among journalists” that has led to increased self-censorship. The press code lists threats to public order as one of the criteria for censorship. Publications and broadcast media must also obtain government accreditation. The government may deny and revoke accreditation as well as suspend or confiscate publications. The government claimed that it did not censure, suspend, revoke, or confiscate any registered print, online, television, or radio media outlets from January 2015 to September.

On April 3, a foreign television crew was arrested while filming a report for French station “Canal+” on homosexual activity in the country. Authorities expelled the journalists for working without authorization; the journalists stated that they did not ask for authorization because the subject of their reporting was too sensitive and would not have been approved.

Libel/Slander Laws: Authorities filed charges of libel and other violations of the criminal code against journalists. The new press code includes provisions that permit the government to impose financial penalties on journalists and publishers who violate restrictions related to defamation, libel, and insults. Government statistics indicated 47 cases of defamation, libel, or blasphemy during the year. A court may impose a prison sentence if an individual is unable or unwilling to pay the fine.

National Security: The antiterrorism law provides for the arrest of journalists and filtering websites deemed to “disrupt public order by intimidation, terror, or violence”; however, there were no examples of authorities’ use of this provision of the law during the year.

Actions to Expand Press Freedom: In February and July, parliament approved a new press code that provides for freedom of the press and electronic media. The new press code, updated from the 2003 version, replaces prison sentences with fines for violations and provides legal protection for the confidentiality of sources. The press code, however, does not prevent journalists from being charged under the penal code or criminal law if their reporting criticizes Islam, the institution of the monarchy, or the government’s official position regarding territorial integrity and claim to Western Sahara.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet, but it did apply laws governing and restricting public speech and the press to the internet. The new press code stipulates that online journalism is equivalent to print journalism. According to Freedom House’s current Freedom on the Net report, the government did not block or filter any websites during the year, although laws on combatting terrorism permit filtering websites.

In January the government announced the blockage of voice over internet protocol technology, such as Skype, FaceTime, and Google Voice; however, the government did not block the associated messaging capabilities and the voice services remained available via VPNs. The government indicated that it blocked the services because they did not have proper operating licenses for the country. There was widespread belief among the public and domestic NGOs that blocking these services was not an attempt to limit freedom of speech, but in response to complaints from telecommunications companies that the services were reducing their profits. Shortly following the publication of a Brookings report, citing economic losses of $320 million due to the ban, the government dismissed the head of the National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency, and the ban was lifted in November.

According to a 2015 World Bank estimate, 57 percent of the population used the internet.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

By law the government has the right to criminalize presentations or debate questioning the legitimacy of Islam, the monarchy, state institutions, or the status of Western Sahara. The law restricts cultural events and academic activities, although the government generally provided more latitude to political and religious activism confined to university campuses. The Ministry of Interior approved appointments of university rectors.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

Legally, groups of more than three persons require authorization from the Ministry of Interior to assemble publicly. Some NGOs complained that authorities did not apply the approval process consistently and have claimed that the government used administrative delays and other methods to suppress or discourage unwanted peaceful assembly. In the absence of authorization, authorities disbanded meetings organized by groups ranging from reformers to student teachers, sometimes with excessive force.

According to HRW’s, World Report 2016, police allowed many protests demanding political reform and protesting government actions, but on some occasions, they dispersed protestors or prevented demonstrations from occurring.

On January 7, police responded violently to teacher trainees demonstrating peacefully in Inezgane and other cities against new decrees to reduce their stipends and access to employment. According to witnesses police used rubber batons and shields to beat protesters without prior warning to protesters to disperse. Over 150 protesters were injured, including 100 in Inezgane, some with fractures and injuries to the face and head, according to AMDH.

In February, as a result of public outcry against police actions in the January student-teacher protests, the Ministry of Interior launched a training program on nonviolent dispersal of demonstrations and management of peaceful protests in response to complaints about police brutality. Although protests by student teachers continued sporadically into September, police intervention was infrequent after January.

Authorities authorized small public protests on politically sensitive subjects occasionally during the year. For example, in June the Ministry of Interior granted permission for a group of atheist and non-Muslim citizens to protest in front of parliament against an article in the penal code relating to fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The protest proceeded and was not dispersed.

A number of civil society contacts reported instances when private event spaces abruptly cancelled bookings, citing official pressure not to allow “controversial” activities on their premises.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and the law provide for freedom of association, although the government sometimes restricted this freedom. The government prohibited or failed to recognize some political opposition groups by deeming them unqualified for NGO status. The government denied official recognition to NGOs that it considered advocates against Islam as the state religion, the monarchy, or territorial integrity.

Authorities obstructed the registration of a number of associations perceived to be critical of the authorities by refusing to accept registration applications or to deliver receipts confirming the lodging of applications.

In June the Spanish NGO International Institute for Non-Violent Action (NOVACT) decided to close its office after the government denied entry to two members of its staff. In May 2015 the government expelled a representative of NOVACT. NOVACT had operated in the country since 2012 (see section 5).

In September 2015 the government requested that HRW suspend its activities in the country. The suspension remained in effect at year’s end.

In June 2015 authorities detained and expelled AI research staff. AI engaged in a dialogue with the authorities to resolve obstacles to access; however, some restrictions remained on research as of the end of October.

The Ministry of the Interior required NGOs to register in order to be recognized as a legal entity, but there was no comprehensive national register publicly available. A prospective organization must submit its objectives, bylaws, address, and photocopies of members’ identification cards to the ministry. The ministry issues a receipt to the organization that signifies formal approval. If the organization does not receive a receipt within 60 days, it is not formally registered. Unregistered organizations could not access government funds or legally accept contributions.

Several organizations the government chose not to recognize functioned without the receipts, and the government tolerated their activities. The National Federation of Amazigh Associations, an organization supporting the inclusion of the Amazigh population in public life, reported that two Amazigh organizations were denied registration this year. Despite a December 2015 court ruling that the Ministry of Interior had acted inappropriately in refusing to receive a petition by the Moroccan AMDH to renew their permit to operate a local branch in Temara, the organization continued to report difficulties in renewing registrations in multiple locations in the country even after court decisions in their favor.

On November 7, authorities informed historian Maati Monjib that the administrative court in Rabat ruled that the Ministry of Interior had acted inappropriately in refusing to register his NGO Freedom Now. The court ordered the ministry to pay a fine and grant Freedom Now’s registration request.

Authorities continued to monitor Justice and Charity Organization activities.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

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

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Refugees and asylum seekers, as well as migrants, were particularly vulnerable to abuse; however, in contrast to previous years, following the 2014 migrant regularization program, there were fewer reports of mass arrests and brutalization by security forces of sub-Saharan migrants and of abuse by criminal gangs involved in human trafficking. There were reports of government authorities arresting or detaining migrants, particularly around the Spanish enclave cities of Melilla and Ceuta, and forcibly relocating them to other cities in the country (see section 1.d.).

In-country Movement: The law provides for freedom of internal movement. Authorities generally respected this right.

Exile: While the law provides for forced exile, there were no instances of forced exile during the year.

Emigration and Repatriation: The government encouraged the return of Sahrawi refugees from Algeria and elsewhere if they acknowledged the government’s authority over Western Sahara. The government continued to make travel documents available to Sahrawis, and there were no reported cases of authorities preventing Sahrawis from traveling out of the country. On August 22, media reported that authorities prevented Salem Bachir, also known as Salem Hamda or M’Hamed Salem Hamda Birouk, the POLISARIO “Ambassador” to Argentina, from entering the territory at the airport in Laayoune. According to authorities, they prevented Bachir’s entry in the interest of public security.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, and other persons of concern. The government also provided funding to humanitarian organizations to provide social services to migrants, including refugees. As of October 31, UNHCR registered 1,151 Syrians. UNHCR referred cases meeting the criteria for refugee recognition to the government’s interministerial Commission in Charge of Hearings for Asylum Seekers within the Bureau of Refugees and Stateless Persons, and 70 non-Syrian individuals were granted status as of the end of November. The government continued to grant status to UNHCR-recognized refugees and temporary status to registered Syrians. According to UNHCR statistics, since 2013 the Commission in Charge of Hearings for Asylum Seekers has recognized as refugees 696 non-Syrians referred by UNHCR.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of refugee status. The government has historically deferred to UNHCR as the sole agency in the country entitled to perform refugee status determinations and verify asylum cases. The government recognizes two types of asylum status: refugees designated according to the UNHCR statute and the “exceptional regularization of persons in irregular situation.” In 2015 the government continued to provide “exceptional regularization” to Syrians seeking international protection.

On December 15, the government launched the second phase of its migrant regularization program to provide legal status to migrants in exceptional circumstances. This program, similar to the 2014 campaign, will grant legal status to foreign spouses and children of citizens and other legal residents of the country, as well as individuals with at least five years of residence in the country, a valid work contract, or chronic illness.

Access to Basic Services: Recognized refugees were able to gain access to health care and education services. Asylum seekers were, however, often unable to access the national health care system and continued to have little access to the judicial system until recognized as refugees. Registered refugees and regularized migrants have the right to work.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The law provides for, and citizens participated in, regular, free elections based on universal suffrage and conducted by secret ballot providing for the free expression of the will of the people for parliament’s Chamber of Representatives and municipal and regional councils. Regional and professional bodies indirectly elected members of parliament’s less powerful Chamber of Counselors.

The king may dissolve parliament in consultation with the head of government (prime minister) and can rule by decree. The king presides over the Council of Ministers, the supreme decision-making body, except in cases when he delegates that authority to the head of government. The king presides over the Supreme Security Council and the Ulema Council (Council of Senior Religious Scholars).

As head of state, the king appoints the head of government. The constitution obliges the king to choose the head of government from the party with the most elected seats in the Chamber of Representatives. The constitution authorizes the head of government to nominate all government ministers, although the king must approve these nominations. Royal advisors work in coordinating roles with respective government ministries.

A national referendum, the results of which require the king’s approval, or a bill submitted by the king that receives two-thirds majority approval from both legislative chambers can amend the constitution.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: On October 7, the country held direct elections for the Chamber of Representatives (lower house of parliament), during which the Party of Justice and Development (PJD) won the most seats. As stipulated by the constitution, the King tasked PJD, as the party with the most seats in the newly elected chamber, to form a governing coalition and nominate new ministers.

The CNDH was the leading institution monitoring the election. The Electoral Accreditation Commission, presided over by the CNDH with the participation of the Interministerial Delegation for Human Rights (DIDH), the Central Authority for the Prevention of Corruption (ICPC), and 32 domestic associations accredited 4,365 domestic observers. An additional 316 international observers took part in election monitoring. The major political parties and the vast majority of the domestic observers considered the elections free, fair, and transparent. Most international observers considered them credible elections in which voters were able to choose freely and deemed the process free of systemic irregularities.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Political parties faced fewer government-imposed restrictions under the 2011 Constitution. The Ministry of Interior applied laws that made it easier for political parties to register. A political party may not legally challenge Islam as the state religion, the institution of the monarchy, or the country’s territorial integrity. The law prohibits basing a party on a religious, ethnic, or regional identity.

Participation of Women and Minorities: Female politicians featured prominently in media on a variety of matters, but authorities largely excluded them from senior decision-making positions. The elections increased participation of women in the Chamber of Representatives from 17 percent to 21 percent. Voters elected a record number of women in the October 7 elections, although very few subsequently won leadership positions as ministers or parliamentary committee presidents.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government generally did not implement the law effectively. Officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Corruption was a serious problem in the executive branch, including police, as well as in the legislative and judicial branches.

Corruption: There were reports of mostly petty government corruption, but authorities investigated few cases and successfully prosecuted at least nine during the last two years. There was a widespread perception of serious government corruption, but there were few reports of mid- or high-level corruption. Generally, observers considered corruption a serious problem, with insufficient governmental checks and balances to reduce its occurrence. According to government statistics, the Gendarmerie Royale questioned 41,848 public officials in 2015 for corruption offenses. As of October 12, an additional 16,572 officials had been questioned. Information on the results of the interrogations was not available.

The king, who has made statements calling for judicial system reform since 2009, acknowledged the judiciary’s lack of independence and susceptibility to influence. Many members of the well-entrenched and conservative judicial community were loath to adopt new procedures. In some cases judges received disciplinary sanctions for corruption, but were not prosecuted.

Observers noted widespread corruption among police. The government claimed to investigate corruption and other instances of police malfeasance through an internal mechanism (see section 1.d.).

The ICPC is responsible for combating corruption. In May 2015 parliament adopted a constitutionally mandated law providing the ICPC with the authority to compel government institutions to comply with anticorruption investigations. According to government figures, the ICPC received 398 formal complaints or denunciations through October (compared to 400 in all of 2014). The ICPC forwarded to the general prosecutor 55 cases of corruption during the year. Legal penalties for corruption were rare, with the government reporting that as of October, 334 public officials were prosecuted for corruption. Conviction and sentencing information was unavailable.

In addition to the ICPC, the Ministry of Justice and the High Audit Institution (government accountability court) had jurisdiction over corruption issues, but they did not pursue any high-profile cases during the year. The Ministry of Justice ran a hotline for the public to report instances of corruption. According to Ministry of Justice statistics, the hotline received an average of 2,000 calls per day during the first half of the year. As a result of calls, 12 cases were opened, resulting in nine sentences of prison time and fines, two closed for lack of evidence, and one that remains under investigation.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires judges, ministers, and members of parliament to submit financial disclosure statements to the High Audit Institution, which is responsible for monitoring and verifying disclosure compliance. According to allegations from government transparency groups, however, many officials did not file disclosures. There are no effective criminal or administrative sanctions for noncompliance.

Public Access to Information: There is no freedom of information law, although a draft law on public access to information law was passed by the lower house of parliament on July 20. At year’s end, the law is pending a vote in the upper house, before it can be sent to the Council of Ministers and king for approval. The constitution provides for citizen access to information held by public institutions, but authorities did not provide a dedicated access mechanism. The government rarely granted access to official information to citizens and noncitizens, including foreign media. Public officials received no training on access to information. There were no public outreach activities regarding public access to information.

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

Groups investigated and published findings on human rights cases; however, the government’s responsiveness to, cooperation with, and restrictions on domestic and international human rights organizations varied, depending on its evaluation of the political orientation of the organization and the sensitivity of the issues.

On January 26, according to reports, authorities expelled Andrea Nusse, the country director for Friedrich Naumann Foundation, a German NGO promoting human rights, rule of law, and democracy. Nusse had been country director for the foundation for the past three years. According to the organization, this action was taken because the organization awarded an international human rights award to government critic, Ali Anouzla. Authorities asserted that Nusse’s residency expired in August 2015, she left the country of her own accord in December 2015, and returned briefly in January to take care of her personal affairs. She was never the subject of an expulsion order.

On June 29, the International Institute for Nonviolent Action (NOVACT), a Spain-based NGO, decided to close its office citing government pressure since June 2015, including refusal to register the organization and expulsion or refusal of entry for its staff members. The organization claims that its difficulties were related to its support for rights for the LGBTI community. The government stated that the registration and entry refusals were due to improperly filed paperwork.

Following disputes between AI and governmental authorities in 2015, AI held a series of exchanges with the government during the year, but the issue of permitting international researchers to travel to the country remained unresolved by September. In late September, AI was prevented from holding its annual youth camp as scheduled. The Ministry of Interior claimed that it requested the postponement of the camp due to the electoral period. At the end of the year, AI had still not held the annual camp.

The government ordered HRW to suspend activities in 2015. In March, HRW met with the government but was informed that the suspension remained in place until further notice. Through September, HRW has been unable to conduct activities in the country. Nevertheless, HRW researchers have been able to engage with the government electronically and continue to publish limited information on the situation in the country.

The government recognized several domestic human rights NGOs with national coverage. The Moroccan Organization for Human Rights and the AMDH were the largest domestic human rights organizations.

During the year activists and NGOs reported continuing restrictions on their activities in the country. According to the AMDH, authorities prohibited 111 of its scheduled activities between June 2014 and June. Many activists reported that rather than banning activities outright, the government allegedly resorted to restricting the use of public spaces and conference rooms, as well as informing the proprietors of private spaces that certain activities should not be welcome. Organizations claimed that government officials told them their events were cancelled for failing to follow required procedures for public meetings, although the organizations say they submitted the necessary paperwork except in cases where they believed the law does not require it. Some unrecognized NGOs that did not cooperate officially with the government still shared information informally with both the government and government-affiliated organizations.

During the year the government occasionally met with and responded to inquiries and recommendations from NGOs.

Government Human Rights Bodies: There are three governmental human rights entities.

The CNDH is a national human rights institution established by the constitution that operates independently from the elected government. It is publicly funded and operates in conformity with the Principles of Paris according to the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, which recognized it in November 2015 as a “class A national human rights institution” within the UN framework. It served as the principal advisory body to the king and government on human rights. The council filled the role of a national human rights monitoring mechanism for preventing torture, in keeping with the government’s international obligations. Additionally, the CNDH produced reports during the year criticizing current and former government practices in the domains of freedom of expression and assembly as well as women’s rights and published guides on political rights for youth activists and journalists. In 2014 the CNDH established the National Human Rights Training Institute (INFDH), which partners with international organizations to provide training to civil society, media, law enforcement, medical personnel, educators, and legal practitioners. Between January and November, the INFDH provided 39 training sessions on election observation, discrimination, human rights in the workplace, and the investigation and prevention of torture.

The Mediator Institution acted as a more general ombudsman. It considered allegations of governmental injustices and had the power to carry out inquiries and investigations, propose disciplinary action, or refer cases to the public prosecutor.

The mission of the DIDH is to promote the protection of human rights across all ministries, serve as a government interlocutor with domestic and international NGOs, and interact with relevant UN bodies regarding international human rights obligations. The DIDH has the primary responsibility for coordinating government responses to UN bodies on adherence to treaty obligations.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law punishes men convicted of rape with prison terms of five to 10 years; when the conviction involves a minor, the prison sentence ranges from 10 to 20 years. Spousal rape is not a crime. A sexual assault conviction may result in a prison sentence of up to one year and a fine of 15,000 dirhams ($1,530). Police were slow to act in domestic violence cases, and the government generally did not enforce the law and sometimes returned women against their will to abusive homes. Victims did not report the vast majority of sexual assaults to police due to social pressure, which would most likely hold the victim responsible. Police selectively investigated cases; among the minority brought to trial, successful prosecutions were rare. In 2013 articles of the penal code that criminalized hiding or subverting the search for a married woman, which in effect made domestic violence shelters illegal, were repealed.

Domestic violence was widespread. Statistics on rape or sexual assault were unreliable due to underreporting; no survey on the subject has been conducted since 2009. A Bureau of Statistics 2013 planning publication, The Moroccan Woman, by the Numbers, revealed that 63 percent of women reported suffering an act of violence in the preceding year, although the study based these figures on the 2009 survey. Various domestic advocacy groups, such as the Democratic League for Women’s Rights, estimated that husbands perpetrated eight of 10 cases of violence against women.

Prior to 2014 rapists could avoid punishment by marrying the victim. A 2014 amendment to the penal code disallows rapists’ exoneration through marriage to their victims. Nonetheless, numerous articles of the penal code pertaining to rape perpetuate unequal treatment for women and provide insufficient protection, despite 2009 revisions to the family law.

The law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence against women, but the general prohibitions of the criminal code address such violence. Legally, high-level misdemeanors occur when a victim’s injuries result in 20 days of disability leave from work. Low-level misdemeanors occur when a victim’s disability lasts for less than 20 days. According to NGOs the courts rarely prosecuted perpetrators of low-level misdemeanors. Police generally treated domestic violence as a social rather than a criminal matter. Statistics provided by the government indicated that it provided direct support to 45 counseling centers for female victims of violence, and indirect support to 97 others, as part of a broader effort to support projects benefitting women in society.

Physical abuse was legal grounds for divorce, although few women reported such abuse to authorities. Domestic violence mediation generally occurred within the family. Women choosing legal action generally preferred pursuing divorce in family courts rather than criminal prosecutions.

A small number of groups, such as the Anaruz Network and the Democratic League for Women’s Rights, were available to provide assistance and guidance to victims. Counseling centers existed exclusively in urban areas. Services for victims of violence in rural areas were generally limited to those provided by local police.

The government funded a number of women’s shelters under the Ministry of Solidarity, Women, Family, and Social Development. A few NGOs made efforts to provide shelter for victims of domestic abuse. There were reports, however, that these shelters were not accessible to persons with disabilities. Courts had “victims of abuse cells” that brought together prosecutors, lawyers, judges, women’s NGO representatives, and hospital personnel to review domestic and child abuse cases to provide for the best interests of women or children according to proper procedure.

Many domestic NGOs worked to advance women’s rights and promote women’s issues. Among these were the Democratic Association of Moroccan Women, the Union for Women’s Action, the Democratic League for Women’s Rights, Mobilizing for Rights Associates, and the Moroccan Association for Women’s Rights. All advocated enhanced political and civil rights for women. NGOs also promoted literacy and taught women basic hygiene, family planning, and childcare.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment in the workplace is criminal only when it is an abuse of authority by a superior, as stipulated by the penal code. Violations are punishable by one to two years’ imprisonment and a fine of 5,000 to 50,000 dirhams ($511 to $5,108). Authorities did not effectively enforce laws against sexual harassment. According to the government, although the law allows victims to sue employers, only a few did so. The government reported that 36 cases of sexual harassment were filed during 2015. Most women feared losing their job as a result or worried about proving the charge. NGOs reported widespread sexual harassment contributed to the low rate of female participation in the labor force, although the total number of violent acts reported was extremely low and likely not representative of the real number of incidents in the country.

Reproductive Rights: Individuals and couples have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Authorities generally did not discriminate against women in accessing sexual and reproductive health care, including for sexually transmitted infections. Contraception is legal, and most forms were widely available. According to the Population Reference Bureau, the country has invested in increasing the availability of voluntary family planning services, expanding and improving maternal health care, and providing for access to obstetric care by eliminating fees.

The contraceptive pill is available over the counter, without a prescription. Skilled health attendance at delivery and postpartum care were available for women who could afford it, with approximately 74 percent of overall births attended by skilled health personnel. In June the government proposed a draft law authorizing abortion in cases of rape, incest, or severe deformation, expanding existing legislation that allowed abortion in case of danger to the life of the mother.

The most recent UN statistics showed there were approximately 121 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in the country in 2015 and that 57 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 years old used a modern method of contraception in 2011. The major factors influencing maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence rates were female illiteracy, lack of knowledge about availability of services, cost of services, social pressure against contraceptive use, and limited availability of transportation to health centers and hospitals for those in rural areas.

Discrimination: The constitution provides women equal rights in civil, political, economic, cultural, and environmental affairs. The law requires equal pay for equal work, although in practice this did not occur. Numerous problems related to discrimination against women remained, both with enforcement of equal rights provided for by the laws and constitution and in the reduced rights provided to women in inheritance. Implementation of laws and reforms met considerable resistance from men in certain areas of the country. Despite lobbying by women’s NGOs, enforcement of these property laws remained inconsistent.

According to the law, women are entitled to a share of inherited property, but a woman’s share of inheritance is less than that of a man. Generally, women are entitled to receive half the inheritance a man would receive in the same circumstances. A sole male heir would receive the entire estate, while a sole female heir would receive half the estate with the rest going to other relatives. The 2004 reform of the family code did not change inheritance laws, which the constitution does not specifically address.

The family code places the family under the joint responsibility of both spouses, makes divorce available by mutual consent, and places legal limits on polygamy. Implementation of family law reforms remained a problem. The judiciary lacked willingness to enforce them, as many judges did not agree with their provisions. Corruption among working-level court clerks and lack of knowledge about its provisions among lawyers were also obstacles to enforcement of the law. Widespread female illiteracy also limited women’s ability to navigate the legal system.

There were few legal obstacles to women’s participation in business and other economic activities. According to some entrepreneurs and NGOs, however, women had difficulty accessing credit and owning and managing businesses. Rural women faced restrictions on education and employment opportunities for social and cultural reasons. Trade unions did not have women represented in leadership positions.

The government led some efforts to improve the status of women in the workplace, most notably the constitutional mandate for the creation of an Authority for Gender Parity and Fighting All Forms of Discrimination, an institution that was being developed jointly between parliament and the CNDH, but remained unimplemented at year’s end. In October 2015 the CNDH issued a report citing continued widespread gender inequality and advocating reforms in line with the constitution, including creation of an independent and empowered Authority for Gender Parity and Fighting All Forms of Discrimination; changes to the family code; and reforms to the system of inheritance away from religious-based rules to one that ensures equality of men and women. Women’s rights NGOs continued to press the government to codify women’s rights in formal legislation.

Children

Birth Registration: The law permits both parents to pass nationality to their children. There were, nonetheless, cases in which authorities denied identification papers to children because they were born to unmarried parents. In cases of undocumented children, NGOs, magistrates, and attorneys advocated for the children. The process of obtaining necessary identification papers was lengthy and arduous if not completed within 30 days of a child’s birth. According to press reports and Amazigh NGOs, during the year representatives of the Ministry of Interior refused to register the births of some children whose parents sought to give them Amazigh names.

Education: Education is free and compulsory through age 15 years old. Girls’ representation in education in recent years improved significantly, especially in urban areas.

Child Abuse: NGOs, human rights groups, media outlets, and the UN Children’s Fund claimed child abuse was widespread, although the government noted that reports are decreasing. Government statistics showed 6,830 cases of child abuse investigated this year, and 7,526 cases investigated in 2015. Anecdotal evidence showed that abuse of child domestic servants was a problem. On July 26, parliament passed a law prohibiting children under the age of 16 years old from working as domestic servants and strictly limiting the work of children under the age of 18 (see section 7.c.). Prosecutions for child abuse were extremely rare.

The Ministry of Youth and Sports managed 18 child protection centers, with five reserved specifically for girls. The centers house delinquents, homeless children, victims of domestic violence, drug addicts, and other “children in distress” who have not committed a crime, as well as children who have committed crimes or minor infractions but whom a court determines should not be housed in a juvenile “reform and education center” run by the prison administration. This mingling of children in conflict with the law and children in distress also occurred during other stages of the process. The centers provided educational and professional training, with a goal of reintegrating the minors into the society. While the budgets of the centers were low, conditions varied because some centers received charitable gifts.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 18 years old, but parents, with the informed consent of the minor, may secure a waiver from a judge for underage marriage. The judiciary approved the vast majority of petitions for underage marriages. Child marriage remained a concern.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The age of consent is 18 years old. Penalties for sexual exploitation of children range from two years’ to life imprisonment and fines from 9,550 dirhams ($960) to 344,000 dirhams ($34,600). Convicted rapists and pedophiles are not eligible for pardons. Children engaged in prostitution, and the country was a destination for sex tourism. The penal code also provides punishment for child pornography.

During the year the government reported undertaking actions to implement its child protection policy adopted in 2014 and overseen by the Ministry of Solidarity, Women, Family, and Social Development. Actions included cooperating with internet providers to protect children from exploitation and provide safe internet access; developing a responsible tourism communication strategy, in cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism, to protect children; and raising awareness in the private tourism sector of children’s rights and preventing child sex tourism in accordance with the World Trade Organization’s global code of ethics.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings .

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

Community leaders estimated the size of the Jewish population at 4,000. Overall, there appeared to be little overt anti-Semitism. The government protects and supports the Jewish community. The government provided appropriate security and Jews generally lived in safety. The community noted that tensions escalated when there was rising hostility between Israel and the Palestinians, although reports of anti-Semitic acts were rare.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, and access to health care. The law also provides for regulations and building codes that provide for access for persons with disabilities. The government did not effectively enforce or implement these laws and regulations. While building codes enacted in 2003 require accessibility for all persons, the codes exempt most pre-2003 structures, and authorities rarely enforced them for new construction. Most public transportation was inaccessible to persons with disabilities, although the national rail system offered wheelchair ramps, handicap-accessible bathrooms, and special seating areas. Government policy provides that persons with disabilities should have equal access to information and communications. Special communication devices for persons with visual or audio disabilities were not widely available.

The Ministry of Social Development, Family, and Solidarity has responsibility for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and attempted to integrate persons with disabilities into society by implementing a quota of 7 percent for persons with disabilities in vocational training in the public sector and 5 percent in the private sector. Both sectors were far from achieving the quotas. The government maintained more than 400 integrated classes for children with learning disabilities, but private charities and civil society organizations were primarily responsible for integration. Families typically supported persons with disabilities, although some survived by begging.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Many of the poorest regions in the country, particularly the Middle Atlas region, were predominantly Amazigh and had illiteracy rates higher than the national average. Basic governmental services in this mountainous and underdeveloped region were not extensive. Official languages are Arabic and Amazigh, although Arabic predominates. Instruction in the Amazigh language is mandatory for students at the interior ministry’s School for Administrators in Kenitra. French and Amazigh materials were available in the news media and, to a much lesser extent, educational institutions. On September 26, the Council of Ministers approved and sent to parliament for debate a draft law to implement the constitutional provision making Amazigh an official language. Parliament, however, was out of session and had not debated the law by year’s end.

The majority of the population, including the royal family, claimed some Amazigh heritage. Amazigh cultural groups contended they were rapidly losing their traditions and language to Arabization. The government provided television programs in the three national Amazigh dialects of Tarifit, Tashelhit, and Tamazight. The government has previously reported that it offered Amazigh language classes in the curriculum of 30 percent of schools. A lack of qualified teachers hindered otherwise expanding Amazigh language education. The palace-funded Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture created a university-level teacher-training program to eliminate the shortage of qualified teachers.

For more information regarding the situation of Sahrawis in Moroccan-administered Western Sahara, see the Department of State’s 2016 annual Country Reports on Human Rights for Western Sahara.

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

The penal code criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity with a maximum sentence of three years in prison. Same-sex marriage is not legally possible. Media and the public addressed questions of sexuality, sexual orientation, and gender identity more openly than in previous years.

The law criminalizes homosexual acts or “acts against nature,” as well as all sexual activity outside of marriage regardless of sexual orientation. Antidiscrimination laws do not apply to LGBTI persons, and the penal code does not criminalize hate crimes. There was a stigma against LGBTI persons, but there were no reports of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, access to education, or health care. Authorities prosecuted individuals engaged in same-sex sexual activity at least once during the year.

In one widely publicized case, on October 27, authorities arrested two minors, 16 and 17 years old, in Marrakech for “homosexuality” after one of the girls’ relatives saw them kissing and reported them to police. Media and NGOs reported that after a week in pretrial detention, the girls were granted provisional release pending a trial. On December 9, the two were found innocent.

Sexual orientation and gender identity constituted a basis for societal violence, harassment, blackmail, or other actions, generally at a local level, although with reduced frequency. There were reports of societal discrimination, physical violence, or harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

For example, in March observers filmed a mob in Beni Mellal attacking two men presumed to be gay. The mob attacked the men in their home before making them undress and walk through the city’s streets to a police station, where the two were arrested and charged with homosexuality. Authorities later arrested several of the men involved in the attack. The court sentenced the attackers to between three and six months and gave suspended sentences to the two individuals accused of homosexual acts.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Persons with HIV/AIDS faced discrimination and had limited treatment options. A recent Afrobarometer poll reported that 60 percent of Moroccans would not welcome an HIV positive individual as their neighbor. The Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS reported that some health-care providers were reluctant to treat persons with HIV/AIDS due to fear of infection. There are currently 16 HIV/AIDS treatment centers countrywide. There were domestic NGOs focused on treating HIV/AIDS patients.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The constitution provides workers with the rights to form and join unions, strike, and bargain collectively, with some restrictions. The current law prohibits certain categories of government employees, including members of the armed forces, police, and some members of the judiciary from forming and joining unions and from conducting strikes. The law excludes migrant workers from assuming leadership positions in unions.

According to the labor code, employer and worker representatives should conduct discussions to agree on the wages and employment conditions of unionized workers. The law allows several independent unions to exist but requires 35 percent of the total employee base to be associated with a union for the union to be representative and engage in collective bargaining. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and prohibits companies from dismissing workers for participating in legitimate union-organizing activities. Courts have the authority to reinstate workers dismissed arbitrarily and may enforce rulings that compel employers to pay damages and back pay.

The law concerning strikes requires compulsory arbitration of disputes, prohibits sit-ins, and calls for a 10-day notice of a strike. The government may intervene in strikes. A strike may not take place over matters covered in a collective contract for one year after the contract comes into force. The government has the authority to disperse strikers in public areas not authorized for demonstrations and to prevent the unauthorized occupancy of private space. Unions may neither engage in sabotage nor prevent those individuals who were not on strike from working.

The government did not adequately enforce labor laws due to a lack of inspection personnel and resources. Inspectors do not have punitive power and cannot levy fines or other punishments. Upon action of the state prosecutor, the courts can force the employer to take remedial actions through a court decree. Penalties were not sufficient to deter violations. Regulations also required inspectors to serve as mediators in disputes, requiring them to spend a significant amount of time in their offices, not conducting inspections. Enforcement procedures were subjected to lengthy delays and appeals.

The government generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Employers limited the scope of collective bargaining, frequently setting wages unilaterally for the majority of unionized and nonunionized workers. Domestic NGOs reported that employers often used temporary contracts to discourage employees from affiliating with or organizing unions. Legally, unions can negotiate with the government on national-level labor issues. From April 12 to May 4, the government held its first formal traditional tripartite social dialogue session since 2012, largely to discuss a pending pension reform legislation that was later passed in parliament despite union protests. At the sectoral level, trade unions negotiated with private employers concerning minimum wage, compensation, and other concerns.

Labor disputes were common and, in some cases, the result of employers failing to implement collective bargaining agreements and withholding wages. Trade unions complained that the government at times used the penal code to prosecute workers for striking and to suppress strikes. Most union federations strongly allied with political parties, but unions were generally free from government interference.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The law penalizes forced adult labor by a fine for the first offense and a jail term of up to three months for subsequent offenses. Penalties for forced child labor under the law range from one to three years’ imprisonment. Authorities did not adequately enforce the legislation. Reports indicated that forced labor, especially of children, occurred (see section 7.c.).

On August 22, the government approved a law regulating the employment of domestic workers, who had previously been exempted from labor law. The new law includes provisions on the employment of minors as domestic servants (see section 7.c.). Penalties for violating this law start with a fine and, in cases of repeated offense, can include one to three months’ imprisonment.

Labor inspectors did not inspect small workshops and private homes where the majority of such practices occurred, as the law requires a warrant to search a private residence. The small number of inspectors, the scarce resources at their disposal, and the broad geographic dispersion of sites also limited effective enforcement of the law.

Local NGOs reported that an undetermined number of Filipina and Indonesian domestic workers filed suits against their former employers. These suits included significant indicators of potential trafficking abuses, such as withholding passports or wages. Information on disposition of these cases was not available. Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The minimum age for employment in most sectors is 15 years old. The law prohibits children younger than 16 years old from working in domestic work, and younger than 18 years old from working in 33 “hazardous” sectors (see section 7.e.). In all sectors children younger than 16 years old are prohibited from working more than 10 hours per day; employers must give them a break of at least one hour. The law does not permit children younger than 16 years old to work between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. in nonagricultural work or between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. in agriculture. The overwhelming majority of child laborers worked in rural areas, according to the government’s statistical agency, the High Planning Commission. The law excludes seasonal agricultural work and work in traditional artisanal or handicraft sectors of businesses with fewer than five employees. The law prohibits employment of children younger than 18 years old in stone quarries, mines, fishing, or any other positions the government considers hazardous. Some families from rural areas sent girls to work as domestics in urban areas. Boys experienced forced labor as apprentices in the artisan and construction industries and in mechanic shops.

The Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs is responsible for implementing and enforcing child labor laws and regulations. The law provides for legal sanctions against employers who recruit children under 15 years old, with fines ranging from 27,000 to 32,000 dirhams ($2,710 to $3,210). Punishment for violations of the child labor laws includes criminal penalties, civil fines, and withdrawal or suspension of one or more civil, national, or family rights, including denial of legal residence in the country for five to 10 years. Penalties were not sufficient to deter violations.

The ministry did not systematically inspect workplaces or enforce sanctions against child labor. During the year the 51 national labor inspectorates had 53 inspectors trained in child labor issues and designated as a “focal point.” According to various reports, police, prosecutors, and judges rarely enforced legal provisions on “forced labor in cases involving child domestics,” and few parents of children working as domestics were willing or able to pursue legal avenues likely to provide any direct benefit.

Authorities successfully prosecuted employers throughout the year for employing a child domestic worker, but labor inspectors responsible for enforcing the labor code do not have jurisdiction to inspect private residences, as inspection requires a warrant. Stakeholders reported limited government coordination on providing services to reintegrate children removed from child labor with many agencies performing overlapping roles with unclear responsibilities that led to gaps in child reintegration.

The government expanded coordination with local, national, and international NGOs on education and training programs to combat child labor during the year. The Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs, led by the Office of the Director of Work in conjunction with NGOs, oversaw programs dealing with child labor. The programs sought to decrease the incidence of child labor by raising awareness of the problem, providing financial assistance to needy families, and lowering obstacles for at-risk children to attend school. Additionally, public education was available to migrant children, lowering their vulnerability to child labor.

The Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs reported that in 2015 (the most recent annualized inspection information available) inspectors conducted 443 visits to different private sector enterprises. During these visits they made 2,214 official “observations.” Authorities removed 63 children younger than 15 years old from work and also removed 265 children between the ages of 15 and 18 years old from hazardous work. There was no detailed information available on the collection of fines or on assistance to children identified through inspections.

Observers reported noncompliance with child labor laws in agriculture and private urban residences.

Some children became apprentices before they were 12 years old, particularly in small family-run workshops in the handicraft industry. Children also worked in hazardous occupations as designated by law. These included fishing and, in the informal sector, in textiles, light manufacturing, and carpet weaving. Children’s safety, health conditions, and wages were often substandard.

In some cases employers subjected children to the worst forms of child labor, including commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as the result of human trafficking (see section 6, Children); forced domestic work, sometimes as the result of human trafficking; and forced labor in the production of artisan crafts and construction.

NGOs documented the physical and psychological abuse of children employed as domestic servants. Employers paid parents for their children’s work. Most child domestics received food, lodging, and clothing instead of monetary compensation, or employers paid them significantly below the minimum wage.

The High Planning Commission reported continued reduction in child labor, claiming that by the end of 2015 approximately 59,000 children between the ages of seven and 15 years old worked, compared with 68,870 in 2014 and 88, 570 in 2013.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The labor code prohibits discrimination with respect to employment and occupation on the basis of race, color, gender, disability, marital status, religion, political opinion, trade union affiliation, national ancestry, or social origin, resulting in a violation or alteration of the principle of equal opportunity or treatment on equal footing regarding employment or the practice of a profession. This was true in particular with regard to recruitment, conduct and labor distribution, vocational training, wages, advances, the granting of social benefits, disciplinary measures, and dismissal. The law does not address sexual orientation, gender identity, age, language, HIV-positive status, or other communicable diseases in this context. The law provides for equal pay for equal work. The law prohibits the employment of women and youths (between the ages of 15 and 17 years old) in certain occupations that authorities considered hazardous, such as mining.

Discrimination in all categories prohibited by law occurred, as the government lacked sufficient human and financial resources to enforce these laws effectively. Migrant worker organizations reported that some migrants experienced discrimination in hiring, wages, or conditions of employment.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The minimum wage was 108 dirhams ($11.13) per day in the industrialized sector, 70 dirhams ($7.22) per day for agricultural workers, and 65 dirhams ($6.70) per day for domestic workers. The World Bank established the absolute poverty level threshold wage as 70 dirhams ($7.22) per day. Including traditional holiday-related bonuses, workers generally received the equivalent of 13 to 16 months’ salary each year. Informal businesses employed approximately 60 percent of the labor force and often ignored minimum wage requirements. Under temporary contract programs (Contracts ANAPEC) designed to help new entrants into the job market, the government pays social security and medical insurance contributions for the employee, and employers are required to pay above the minimum wage and hire 60 percent of ANAPEC interns at the conclusion of the contract. Contracts ANAPEC, however, fell outside the jurisdiction of the labor code and thus could be abused.

The law provides for a 44- to 48-hour maximum workweek with no more than 10 hours in a single day, premium pay for overtime, paid public and annual holidays, and minimum conditions for health and safety, including a prohibition on night work for women and minors. The law prohibits excessive overtime.

Occupational health and safety standards, reviewed and enforced by the Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs, are rudimentary, except for a prohibition on the employment of women and children in certain dangerous occupations. The law prohibits persons under the age of 18 years old from hazardous work in 33 areas, including working in mines, handling dangerous materials, transporting explosives, and operating heavy machinery.

Many employers did not observe the legal provisions for conditions of work. The government did not effectively enforce basic provisions of the labor code, such as payment of the minimum wage and other basic benefits under the National Social Security Fund. The country’s 409 labor inspectors attempted to monitor working conditions and investigate accidents, but lack of resources prevented effective enforcement of labor laws. Penalties were generally not sufficient to deter violations. Labor inspectors are also tasked with mediation of disputes, which competed with proactive inspection of worksites for compliance with labor laws.

According to NGOs, no major workplace accidents occurred during the year. There were, however, numerous media reports of accidents, sometimes fatal, on construction sites that had substandard standards or lacked safety equipment. In the formal sector, workers can remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in this situation.

Tunisia

Executive Summary

Tunisia is a constitutional republic with a multiparty, unicameral parliamentary system and a president with powers specified in the constitution. In October 2014 the country held free and fair parliamentary elections that resulted in the Nida Tounes (Call of Tunisia) Party winning a plurality of the votes. Nida Tounes formed a coalition government with the Islamist party Nahda and several smaller parties. On July 30, parliament withdrew confidence from Prime Minister Habib Essid, and President Beji Caid Essebsi appointed Youssef Chahed prime minister on August 3. Parliament approved a new government on August 27 with 26 ministers and 14 state secretaries.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights problems included slow and opaque investigations and prosecutions of alleged security force human rights abuses; arbitrary arrests and detentions of suspects under antiterrorism laws; and the infringement of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) rights.

Other human rights problems included physical abuse of prisoners in detention centers and prisons, poor prison and detention center conditions, lack of judicial independence, lax prosecutorial environment with poor transparency, violence against journalists, corruption, gender-based violence, and societal obstacles to full economic and political participation of women.

The government took steps to investigate officials who committed abuses, but investigations into police, security force, and detention center abuses lacked transparency and frequently encountered long delays and procedural obstacles.

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

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

Security forces reportedly used excessive force that resulted in the killing of civilians. In its 2015 report, the Tunisian Organization Against Torture (OCTT) noted that cases of torture and mistreatment represented 90 percent of all reported abuses by security forces. Seven percent of the cases were suspicious death under detention, 2 percent were rape, and 1 percent was unlawful detention.

On August 20, 23-year-old Hamed Sassi was reported dead in Mornag prison. According to the Observatory of Rights and Freedoms in Tunisia, images of his body showed clear signs of torture. Sassi had been held in Mornag prison since November 2015. Sassi’s mother reported the family was prevented from visiting Sassi while in prison and they were not informed of his illness or hospital treatment prior to his death. The general prosecutor launched an investigation at the court of first instance of Ben Arous, which remained pending.

The army, police, and National Guard suffered 111 fatalities and more than 230 injuries in repeated attacks by terrorist groups since 2011. During the year terrorist groups killed 20 security force members, including 13 during an attack on Ben Guerdan on March 7, four in Tatouine on May 11, and three on August 31 in Kasserine.

Media and civil society organizations reported the deaths of several individuals in detention. In 2015 the family of Abderaouf Kridis accused the police station of al-Medina al-Jadida of refusal to implement the court order and neglecting Kridis’ psychological condition, as well as failing to inform them of his transfer to hospital and subsequent death in August. Kridis was in al-Mornaguia prison pending a court hearing after he stabbed his neighbor. The court had earlier granted his mother a judicial warrant to commit him to a psychiatric facility for treatment for psychological problems. A spokesperson for the General Directorate of Prison Services told media that the office launched an investigation into the case. Kridis’ lawyer confirmed that the investigation continued, and no results were available at year’s end.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

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

Although the law prohibits such practices, police reportedly subjected many detainees to harsh physical treatment, according to first-hand accounts provided to international organizations. Several prominent local human rights lawyers decried the practice of torture in police stations and detention centers. Human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) criticized the government for reluctance to investigate torture allegations. The French NGO Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture, in collaboration with three local human rights associations, detailed the dysfunctional mechanisms for complaining of torture during custody, detention, and imprisonment in a January 2015 report entitled Justice in Tunisia: Year Zero. In April the UN Committee Against Torture reviewed the country’s record on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. The committee noted progress in addressing issues of torture and abuse but cited concerns with the application of the antiterrorism law, the appearance of impunity for abusers, forensic evidence as proof of sexual acts, and reports of attacks against human rights defenders. The government stated it prepared a guidebook on the prevention of torture for prisons, detention centers, and the judicial system and provided training for judges and other law enforcement personnel on the content.

In July the OCTT reported that Aymen Rahani, imprisoned since 2014, was tortured and assaulted by prison guards, which led to his loss of sight in one eye. His family filed a suit at the general prosecutor’s office demanding investigation. Results of the investigations were pending. The same NGO reported in February that 18-year-old student Wael Boualagui, imprisoned since 2015, informed his family that prison guards had repeatedly assaulted him and that he was the victim of two attempted rapes. Boualagui reportedly did not identify the perpetrator of the assaults due to of fear of retribution. He also alleged that prison officials forced him to take medication against his will, which he claimed resulted in the loss of control of his hand.

According to an OCTT report released on May 10, an investigative judge issued an arrest warrant during the year against two police officers for verbally and physically abusing Ahmed ben Abdi when they stopped him in the street in 2013. Ben Abdi was physically assaulted in a police car when he was arrested. The two officers remained in pretrial detention at year’s end.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions were below international standards, principally due to overcrowding and poor infrastructure.

Physical Conditions: Prisons were understaffed and lacked adequate equipment to deal with the number of inmates. Overcrowding persisted, despite periodic amnesties since the 2011 revolution, due at least in part to the transfer of a large number of prisoners from 14 prisons damaged during prisoner uprisings in 2011.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a 2014 report, cited overcrowding and poor infrastructure as the biggest problems in prisons. The highest rates of overcrowding were found in four prisons: Kasserine (151 percent), Kairouan (138 percent), Mesadine Prison of Sousse (116 percent), and Jendouba (114 percent). The report concluded that conditions often forced inmates to share beds.

In May the Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH) published a report that criticized prison overcrowding and unsanitary conditions. It claimed space allotted for Tunisian inmates averages 22.6 square feet per person, well below the 43 square feet recommended by international norms. The report also noted that many detention centers were well over capacity, citing the center in Kairouan, which was at 300 percent of capacity.

As of September there were an estimated 21,350 prisoners and detainees, of whom 10,220 were convicted prisoners and 11,130 were in pretrial detention. The high percentage of pretrial detainees, which stemmed from case-flow problems, raised concerns about the capacity of the courts to dispense timely justice.

The law requires pretrial detainees to be held separately from convicted prisoners, but the Ministry of Justice reported that overcrowding forced it to hold pretrial detainees together with convicts. Overcrowded conditions were exacerbated by substandard lighting, ventilation, and heating in buildings not originally built to be prisons. Most prisons suffered from decaying infrastructure.

Of the country’s 27 prisons, one was designated solely for women, and eight prisons contained separate wings for women.

Detainees at El-Ouardiya, a holding center for migrants awaiting deportation, complained of a lack of legal assistance and medical care at the facility.

Health services available to inmates were inadequate. Very few prisons had an ambulance or medically equipped vehicle. Officials mentioned they lacked equipment necessary for security of guards, other personnel, and inmates. Additionally, there was a lack of adequate training for personnel in crisis management, use of force, and human rights awareness.

Administration: Recordkeeping was inadequate with data not always updated or accurate. During the year officials of the General Directorate of Prisons and Rehabilitation received training in methods to improve prisoner classification. The directorate developed a new classification system and began updating its database in 2014.

According to prison officials, other problems included lengthy criminal prosecution procedures that led to extended periods of pretrial detention, understaffing at prisons and detention centers, difficult work conditions, and low pay.

Authorities allowed prisoners to receive one family visit per week. Adult prisoners reportedly had some access to educational and vocational training programs, but only a minority had access, due to limited capacity.

Independent Monitoring: The government expanded access to prisons for independent nongovernmental observers, including local and international human rights groups, NGOs, and local media, as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the OCTT. In July 2015 the Ministry of Justice and the LTDH signed a memorandum of understanding allowing the league to conduct unannounced prison visits and to issue reports about conditions inside the prisons. After parliament elected members of the Independent National Authority for the Prevention of Torture (INPT) on May 19, the government granted it authority to conduct unannounced inspections of all prisons and detention facilities.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, although security forces did not always observe these provisions. Human rights organizations expressed concern that the government was using its powers under the state of emergency to place citizens under house arrest with limited evidence or foundation for suspicion.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Ministry of Interior holds legal authority and responsibility for law enforcement. The ministry oversees the National Police, who have primary responsibility for law enforcement in the major cities, and the National Guard (gendarmerie), which oversees border security and patrols smaller towns and rural areas. Investigations into prisoner abuse lacked transparency and often lasted several months and, in some cases, more than a year.

Civilian authorities maintained control over police, although international organizations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW), reported instances of detainees subjected to harsh physical treatment. The government lacked effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse, corruption, and impunity by police and prison officials, and there was little transparency in internal investigations. In May a video showing a police officer violently grabbing a young man and another police officer slapping and suffocating him while shouting, “Die, we do not care,” spread on social media outlets. Media reported that the young man in the video tried to film the police officers while they were accepting a bribe from a passing driver. The man and a companion were arrested and held in pretrial detention for three days before going to court, where they were accused of verbally abusing the police. The man was sentenced to three months in prison and a 127-dinar fine ($55), while the companion was released. The Tunisian Association Against Torture (TAAT) stated that police had a tendency to resort to violence, and there was a perception of impunity due to lack of adequate investigations and prosecutions. In this case the implicated officers conducted their own investigation, according to TAAT. Ministry of Justice officials acknowledged the need for closer coordination between ministries to address the issue of impunity and more training for security forces.

On August 14, local media reported that the National Guard arrested two police officers in the city of Medenine trying to smuggle tobacco from Libya. One of the police officers had his gun and badge on him; both admitted they had planned to sell the smuggled goods illegally. Both officers were in detention as of November.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires police to have a warrant to arrest a suspect, unless a crime is in progress or the arrest is for a felony offense. The counterterrorism law, adopted in July 2015, allows for five days of incommunicado prearraignment detention for detainees suspected of terrorism, which can be renewed for two five-day extensions with the court’s approval. Arresting officers must inform detainees of their rights, immediately inform detainees’ families of the arrest, and make a complete record of the times and dates of such notifications. Police failed at times to follow these regulations and on occasion detained persons arbitrarily. On February 2, parliament approved revisions to the code of criminal procedures in relation to detainee rights. The new law shortens the maximum time of precharge detention for crimes to 48 hours, renewable once by a prosecutor’s order, for a maximum of four days. For minor offenses the time limit is 24 hours, renewable once. The law also includes a provision giving the detainee or a family member the right to request the assistance of a lawyer or medical assistance during precharge detention. When police receive the request, they are required to inform the lawyer of the accusations against the client and the time of questioning. Police must notify the lawyer of all interrogations and interactions between the accused and witnesses or victims of the alleged offense and allow the lawyer to be present, unless the accused explicitly waives the right to a lawyer, or the lawyer does not arrive at the prearranged time of questioning.

Detainees have the right to know the grounds for their arrest before questioning and may request a medical examination. The law permits authorities to release accused persons on bail, and the bail system functioned. Detainees can exercise their right to representation by counsel immediately upon detention, and they have the right to counsel during police interrogation, with the exception of terrorism suspects. By law the government provides legal representation for those who cannot afford it, although it was unclear whether the government consistently provided this service. At arraignment the examining magistrate may decide to release the accused or remand the detainee to pretrial detention.

In cases involving crimes for which the sentence may exceed five years or that involve national security, pretrial detention may last six months and may be extended by court order for two additional four-month periods. In cases involving crimes for which the sentence may not exceed five years, the court may extend the initial six-month pretrial detention only by three months. During this stage the court conducts an investigation, hears arguments, and accepts evidence and motions from both parties.

Arbitrary Arrest: Security forces arrested and used force against peaceful demonstrators. Human rights organizations reported instances of arbitrary arrests during an unemployment protest in Tunis on January 22. Borhen Gasmi, a member of the Unemployed Graduates (UDC-Union des Diplomes Chomeurs) and the Popular Front Party, was arrested during the protest and sentenced to 13 months in prison in February. On March 8, the court reduced his sentence to one month, and Gasmi was released on time served. On April 3-4, Ministry of Interior security forces dispersed a sit-in organized by the UDC in Kerkennah in the governorate of Sfax. Police arrested four protesters. On April 12, the Tunisian General Trade Union (UGTT) organized a general strike calling for regional development and the release of the four protesters detained during the sit-in. The LTDH said that in addition to excessive use of tear gas, security forces chased protesters through the streets and in some cases into their homes. The LTDH added that injured protesters could not seek medical treatment due to fear of retribution and that one of the individuals detained by security forces reported and bore evidence of torture while in custody.

On October 24, HRW reported the use of house arrest for at least 139 persons, leaving many unable to pursue work and studies. HRW interviewed 13 persons, of whom three reported their orders were partially, lifted allowing them to go between home and place of work. Others remained under 24-hour house arrest. There were no clear criteria for partial or 24-hour arrest orders. According to the report, Mohammad Hanachi, unemployed, was summoned to the district police station in Tunis on August 16, where authorities informed him that he was being placed under house arrest and would face imprisonment if he violated the order. He believed the order stemmed from when he was arrested in 2014 and charged with membership in a terrorist organization. After 16 months in prison, a judge in the special terrorism court provisionally released him on February 2. His case was pending.

Pretrial Detention: Pretrial detention remained unpredictable and could last from one month to several years, principally due to judicial inefficiency and lack of capacity. As of early 2016, 58 percent of the 24,000 total inmates were in pretrial status. In a May report, the LTDH criticized the growing number of pretrial detainees, which it said violated human rights and led to overcrowding of prisons.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees are allowed to challenge the legal bases or arbitrary nature of their arrest. Persons whom the court finds to have been unlawfully arrested or detained will be immediately released upon the decision of the court. Individuals who have been unlawfully detained have the right to request compensation by submitting a request at the court of appeal; however, according to legal groups the procedures for obtaining compensation are complex, and most requests are rejected for failure to meet all required conditions.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary. While the government generally respected judicial independence, in one instance it failed to carry out an administrative court decision from 2013 to reinstate 30 of 75 judges dismissed in 2012. Beginning in 2013 a temporary commission began reviewing judicial promotions, transfers, and disciplinary actions. In May 2015 parliament approved a law creating a constitutionally mandated council to replace the temporary body. In June 2015 the constitutional review body ruled the law unconstitutional. In December 2015 a revised version of the bill was also ruled unconstitutional. In March parliament passed and the president signed a new version of the law. HRW and the Association of Tunisian Judges criticized the law for failing to ensure independence from the executive branch. Elections for members of the new judicial body took place on October 23, which civil society organizations generally praised as fair, transparent, and credible.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right, although defendants complained that authorities did not follow the law on trial procedures consistently. In civilian courts defendants have the right to a presumption of innocence and a public trial. They also have the right to consult with an attorney or to have one provided at public expense, to confront witnesses against them, to present witnesses and evidence, to access government-held evidence, and to appeal verdicts against them. The law stipulates defendants must be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, with free interpretation if necessary. They must also be given adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense and not be compelled to testify or confess guilt.

A counterterrorism law passed in July 2015 stipulates that in cases involving terrorism, judges may close hearings to the public. Judges may also keep information on witnesses, victims, and any other relevant persons confidential, including from the accused and his or her legal counsel. The counterterrorism law also extends the amount of time that a suspect may be held without access to legal counsel from five to 15 days, with a judicial review required after each five-day period. Human rights organizations objected to the law for its vague definition of terrorism and the broad leeway it gives to judges to admit testimony by anonymous witnesses.

Military courts fall under the Ministry of Defense. Military tribunals have authority to try cases involving military personnel and civilians accused of national security crimes. A defendant may appeal a military tribunal’s verdict and may resort to the civilian Supreme Court. Human rights advocates argued that national security crimes are too broadly defined but acknowledged that, following the 2011 reform of military courts, defendants in military courts have the same rights as those in civilian courts. These include the right to choose legal representation, access case files and evidence, conduct cross-examinations, call witnesses, and appeal court judgments. There is no specialized code for military courts. The law extends the rights related to a fair public trial to all citizens.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Citizens and organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts, except that military courts handled claims for civil remedies for alleged security force abuses during civil disturbances that occurred during the revolution. Civilian courts heard cases involving alleged abuse by security forces during the year. Some cases did not move forward because security force officials, and occasionally civilian judges, failed to cooperate in the investigations. According to HRW, the lack of provisions criminalizing command dereliction, which would hold senior officers liable for crimes committed by subordinates with explicit or tacit approval, contributed to military courts’ light sentences for security force members.

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

The constitution provides for the right to privacy. The International Commission of Jurists claimed the counterterrorism law extensively infringes on the right to privacy through the use of surveillance. The law allows interception of communications, including recording of telephone conversations, with advance judicial approval for a period not to exceed four months. State agents are subject to a one-year prison sentence if they conduct surveillance without judicial authorization. No complaints were filed against state agents for improper use of surveillance during the year.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and press, and the government mainly respected these rights, although there were constraints. An independent press and a functioning democratic political system contributed to an environment generally conducive to these freedoms. Watchdog groups expressed concerns over security forces and other actors committing violence against journalists but noted that the level of violence dropped from the previous year. Civil society expressed concerns over occasional government interference in media.

Freedom of Speech and Expression: Public speech considered offensive to “public morals” or “public decency,” terms undefined in the law, continued to be treated as criminal acts. Provisions of the penal and telecommunications codes, for example, criminalize speech that causes “harm to the public order or public morals” or intentionally disturbs persons “in a way that offends the sense of public decency.”

Press and Media Freedoms: The constitution provides for freedom of the press. In August, Tunisia signed the Declaration on Media Freedom in the Arab World, committing the country to principles of media freedom, independent journalism, and the right to information. Activists expressed concern, however, about government interference in media. A 2016 Reporters Without Borders report criticized President Beji Caid Essebsi’s speech on January 22, in which he denounced “certain journalists and media” for aggravating unrest during the nationwide employment protests that followed the death of unemployed protester Ridha Yahyaoui. Yahyaoui was electrocuted when he climbed a power pole near the governor’s office after the local government removed him from a list of potential candidates for public-sector jobs. The government ordered an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Yahyaoui’s death; the case was pending as of November.

On September 26, a military prosecutor charged journalist Jamel Arfaoui with impugning the reputation of the army after he wrote an article published in Tunisie Telegraph on July 14 criticizing as inadequate the army’s lack of investigation into a military plane crash. On November 16, prosecutors charged Rached Khiari with impugning the reputation of the army and undermining its morale after his participation in a popular talk show during which he claimed that authorities signed an agreement allowing the United States to establish a military base in Tunisia. Both men faced charges of up to three years in prison and were being tried in a military court, although both men were civilians. Khiari faced additional charges of defamation of a civil servant and damaging the morale of the army to harm national defense, which carries a possible death penalty.

Violence and Harassment: Security officials continued to harass and threaten journalists, although to a lesser extent than in 2015, according to human rights organizations. The NGO Tunis Center for Press Freedom (CTLP) reported a decrease in the number of attacks against journalists during the year, to six attacks per month, with the exception of May with 10 reported attacks, mostly by members of the security forces. Assaults on journalists were mainly reported during summer, when journalists were banned from covering certain festival events in Djerba and Bizerte, according to the CTLP, which called on the Ministry of Interior to open a formal investigation.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The government penalized individuals who published items counter to government guidelines. While online and print media frequently published articles critical of the government, journalists and activists at times practiced self-censorship to avoid violence targeting journalists, mainly from security forces or other anonymous attackers, according to the CTLP.

Libel/Slander Laws: In July 2015 counterterrorism police summoned Abdelfattah Said for questioning about a video he published on social media expressing his opinions on the cause of the Sousse terrorist attack. He was charged with complicity to facilitate terrorism, defaming a public servant, and knowingly broadcasting false news. Police transferred Said to al-Mornaguia prison in July 2015. In December 2015 the court sentenced Said to one year in prison and a fine of 2,000 dinars ($870). Said’s lawyers appealed the decision. According to Amnesty International, there were no further updates on the case during the year.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. There was no censorship of websites, including those with pornographic content, with the exception of websites linked to terrorist organizations. According to Internet World Stats, 52 percent of the population used the internet.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no reports of government restrictions on academic freedom. The CTLP reported that journalists were banned from some festivals in Bizerte and Djerba.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The Presidency of the Republic declared several extensions of a nationwide state of emergency, in effect since November 2015, when a suicide bomber attacked members of the Presidential Guard. The most recent extension was issued on October 18 for three months. The government previously ordered extensions of the state of emergency in January after widespread social unrest, in March following a terrorist attack in Ben Guerdan, and in June and July. Protests and clashes with security forces throughout the country started on January 16 in the governorate of Kasserine after the death of Yahyaoui. Local media reported that security forces used violence against protesters and arrested 1,105 persons, including 523 individuals accused of violating a nationwide curfew imposed on January 22.

On April 9, security forces violently dispersed a peaceful group of demonstrators of the General Union of Tunisian Students who were demanding jobs and prohibited them from demonstrating in front of the Prime Ministry.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for the right of freedom of association, but the government did not always respect it. A 2011 law on associations eliminated penalties in the previous law, as well as the prohibition on belonging to, or serving in, an unrecognized or dissolved association. The law eased the registration procedure, making it more difficult for government entities to hinder or delay registration. The International Observatory of Associations and International Development, an independent association that monitors the functioning of civil society, asserted the government was delaying registration of associations through unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles, at times for political reasons, a practice counter to the law on associations.

According to the 2011 law, only the judiciary has the authority to suspend or dissolve an association. According to the Prime Ministry, during the period 2011-16, the government sent warnings to 805 associations and requested the suspension of 234 for violations of the law of associations. Courts suspended 112 of these associations and in four cases ordered the dissolution of the organizations. The Prime Ministry claimed that proper procedure was followed in all cases.

In November 2015 some members of parliament called for the dissolution of LGBTI-focused NGO Shams. On January 4, an administrative court suspended Shams’ activities pursuant to a government claim that the association had registered to advocate for the rights of “sexual minorities.” The government claimed that the Shams’ charter did not allow it to advocate explicitly for gay rights, since the charter only listed the purpose of the organization as advocating for the rights of “sexual minorities.” On February 24, an administrative court ruled in Shams’ favor, overturning the government’s complaint and allowing Shams to function legally; however, the government had not published the organization’s charter in the national gazette, leaving Shams unable to register for a bank account or conduct financial activities.

The government issued a ban of the annual conference of Islamist party Hizb Ettahrir scheduled for June 4, citing security reasons. An administrative court overturned the ban on June 3. On the morning of June 4, the governor of Tunis announced the closing of the venue until June 20, using powers granted to him under the state of emergency. The governor told media he took the decision “to avoid disturbing public order.” After several warnings to party leaders that the party violated Decree Law 88 of 2011 requiring that associations respect the rule of law and basic democratic principles and are prohibited from calling to violence, hatred, intolerance, or discrimination on a religious basis, the government suspended the activities of Hizb Ettahrir for 30 days beginning on August 15. On August 30, an administrative court overturned the suspension, citing “procedural problems” with the government’s case. On September 2, the government brought a criminal case against the party for inciting violence against the state, and the chief prosecutor referred the case to a military court. On September 20, members of Hizb Ettahrir refused to appear before the military court. The case remained pending as of December.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, vulnerable migrants, and other persons of concern.

Since 2014 more than 500 individuals complained to the Observatory of Rights and Freedoms of Tunis that the government prevented them from travelling over suspicions of extremism, in some cases apparently based on the travelers’ religious attire. The group added that some persons were prevented from travelling despite having a clean record, because they were related to a terrorist suspect. In other cases the observatory claimed that women were prevented from travelling if suspected of prostitution, often based on appearance alone.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The country does not have a law for granting asylum or refugee status. Pending the creation of a legal framework, UNHCR is the sole entity conducting refugee status determination. UNHCR provided assistance to registered refugees for primary medical care and in some cases for basic education. The government grants access to schooling and basic public health facilities for registered refugees. When UNHCR ceased providing assistance to the Shousha camp for refugees from Libya in 2013, the camp still housed more than 300 persons who had been denied refugee status. In 2014 the Tunisian Red Crescent counted 98 persons residing in the camp. Of these, 45 were registered refugees who had refused resettlement within the country. The remaining 53 were not granted asylum status and continued to appeal that decision. In October 2014 the government dismantled the Shousha camp; however, UNHCR still provided services to the refugees resettled in homes in Gabes and Medenine. According to press reports, there were approximately 50 refugees and economic migrants still occupying the Shousha camp as of November, the majority of whom were from sub-Saharan countries. UNHCR said that the individuals who chose to remain in the Shousha camp after its dismantlement failed to meet refugee status and fell under the responsibility of the government. According to the Red Crescent, most Shousha occupants turned down temporary housing offered by the government and refused to be regularized in the country. Aid organizations reported that some applied for working papers but had not received a response from the government.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

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

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Citizens exercised their ability to vote in free, fair, and transparent elections in October, November, and December 2014 for legislative and two rounds of presidential elections, respectively.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Of the approximately 170 registered parties, 70 ran electoral lists in the 2014 parliamentary elections. Authorities rejected parties that did not receive accreditation due to incomplete applications or because their programs were inconsistent with laws prohibiting discrimination and also parties based on religion.

Participation of Women and Minorities: Women continued to be politically active but faced societal barriers to their political participation. In a 2011 effort to include more women in the electoral process, the government adopted a candidate gender-parity law requiring political parties to list an equal number of male and female candidates on electoral lists. The law also stipulates male and female candidate names must alternate in order to increase the opportunities for female candidates to be selected.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption, and the government took some preliminary steps to implement these laws, although they were not always effective, according to transparency NGOs. In January lawyer and former head of the Tunisian Bar Association Chawki Tabib became the head of the National Commission to Combat Corruption (NCCC). The law tasks the NCCC with investigating and preventing corruption and drafting effective policies to combat corruption. Tabib publicly requested a budget increase to 6.5 million dinars ($2.8 million), claiming the budget was insufficient to address the NCCC’s 12,000 backlogged cases of corruption submitted since 2011. In May the government allocated an additional 1.4 million dinars ($608,000) for the NCCC.

Corruption: Anticorruption watchdog groups reported increasing government corruption during the year, especially petty corruption. According to the NCCC, from January to August, 106 cases were referred to the judicial system out of 2,000 received cases. The government referred more than 800 of these dossiers to the NCCC, while complainants themselves directly submitted the remainder of the cases to the NCCC. The main sectors affected by corruption included real estate, agricultural land, energy, mining, and public procurement.

Financial Disclosure: The constitution requires those holding high government offices to declare assets “as provided by law.” At the end of the year, there was no law that requires appointed or elected officials to disclose their income or assets.

Public Access to Information: To improve transparency and promote national reconciliation following the 2011 revolution, a new law granted journalists and civil society organizations access to the records of the previous regime. Bureaucratic hurdles, however, limited the law’s implementation. Information from the previous regime deemed sensitive remained inaccessible. The law on transitional justice grants access to this information for members of the Truth and Dignity Commission (TDC), a body established in 2014 and tasked with investigating gross violations of human rights from 1955 until passage of the transitional justice law in 2013.

On March 11, parliament approved a new access to information law that was highly praised by civil society organizations. The new law grants citizens access to documents from public institutions, government agencies, and certain publicly financed associations, and it requires public entities to make information about their offices, including budgets and contact information, publicly available online. The government had one year to implement the program.

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

A wide variety of domestic and international human rights groups investigated and published without government restriction their findings on human rights cases. Government officials generally were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The government’s primary agency to investigate human rights violations and combat threats to human rights is the Ministry of Justice. The High Committee for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms is a government-funded agency charged with monitoring human rights. The ministry failed to pursue or investigate adequately alleged human rights violations. The TDC, tasked with investigating human rights violations committed by the state or those who acted in its name, began hearing cases during the year. The deadline for submitting cases to the TDC was June 15, at which time the TDC had received more than 65,000 cases. The TDC held its first public hearings on November 17. Civil society organizations noted the TDC faced criticism and strong opposition from certain factions of the governing coalition, which could threaten the effectiveness of the commission’s work. Observers expressed concerns about the commission’s limited financial resources and inability to fill vacant positions.

The INPT was established in 2013 as an administratively independent body. In March parliament selected 16 members for the body. INPT members elected Hamida Dridi as its chair in May. Its members have the authority to visit any prison or detention center to document torture and mistreatment, to request criminal and administrative investigations, and to issue recommendations for measures to eradicate torture and mistreatment. INPT members reported the body faced material and logistical difficulties that prevented it from conducting its work effectively. Human rights organizations praised the election of the board members as a positive step forward. According to HRW, the creation of this new body was “an unprecedented opportunity to address Tunisia’s legacy of torture and mistreatment.”

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Although prohibited by law, rape, including spousal rape, remained a serious problem. The government generally enforced the law against rape. The penal code does not address spousal rape. There was no comprehensive database on the incidence of sexual violence, but NGO groups claimed rape continued to be underreported. Sexual intercourse outside of marriage is illegal, but consensual sex between adults was not prosecuted.

Rape accompanied by the use or threat of violence or threats with a weapon are punishable by death. For other cases of rape, the prescribed punishment is life imprisonment. If the victim is under the age of 20, penalties can be more severe (see section 6, Children). Nonconsensual sexual conduct not meeting the definition of rape, such as sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, and molestation, may be prosecuted as “indecent assault,” which is punishable by up to six years in prison or 12 years if the victim is under the age of 18. In cases of nonviolent sexual assault committed against a minor, charges against the accused will be dropped if the victim’s parents consent to marriage, provided the marriage lasts at least two years. Human rights organizations strongly objected to this practice. The punishment is extended to life imprisonment if committed with weapons, threats, or detention or in cases where the victim was mutilated, disfigured, or if the victim’s life was endangered. The sentence is five years in prison for “indecent assault” attempted or committed without violence or aggression against a child, which is extended to 10 years if the perpetrator is related to the victim or holds a position of authority over the victim.

Rape remained a taboo and underreported subject. Cultural pressures often dissuaded victims from reporting sexual assault. Convictions for sexual violence were far below the number of actual incidents. A March 2015 study by UGTT’s National Commission of Working Women indicated that 32 percent of all women experienced some kind of physical violence, 29 percent experienced psychological violence or harassment, 16 percent suffered sexual violence or exploitation, and 7 percent experienced economic violence, including financial exploitation, extortion, or deprivation of money or the necessities of life. A large portion of violence against women occurred within marriage, according to the study. A 2015 Amnesty International report cited several reasons for underreporting and lack of prosecution for rape and sexual assault, including evidentiary standards that place a high burden on the victim, lack of trust in police and the judicial system, and an inadequate legal definition of sexual assault.

Laws prohibiting domestic violence provide penalties for assault committed by a spouse or family member that are double those of an unrelated individual for the same crime, but enforcement was rare, and domestic violence remained a serious problem.

There were no government public education programs on domestic violence, including rape. Victims received services at two dozen social centers throughout the country. There was a growing demand for services, but social stigma kept many women from utilizing existing resources.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was a problem, although there was no data to measure its extent. The law requires victims of sexual harassment seeking redress to file a complaint in criminal court, where authorities then investigate the allegations. According to the criminal code, the penalty for sexual harassment is one year in prison and a fine of 3,000 dinars ($1,300). Civil society groups criticized the law on harassment as too vague and susceptible to abuse.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the means and information to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. According to a 2016 study by the Health and Human Rights Journal, the country made slow progress in incorporating reproductive rights into its national reproductive health policy. The study highlighted limited accessibility to reproductive health services, low quality maternal health-care services, and discriminatory practices in some regions of the country. The UN Population Fund reported in 2014 that only 10 percent of the primary health-care centers in the northwest, central west and southeast regions of the country provided basic reproductive health services. Family planning had been provided by mobile clinics due to limited infrastructure in rural areas, but recently there was a significant decrease in the number and coverage of these clinics. The World Health Organization reported that single women were discriminated against for treatment of sexually transmitted infections and accessing contraceptives.

Discrimination: The law and constitution explicitly prohibit discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status, and the government generally enforced these prohibitions. Women faced societal rather than statutory barriers to their economic and political participation. Codified civil law is based on the Napoleonic code, although on occasion judges drew upon interpretations of sharia (Islamic law) as a basis for customary law in family and inheritance disputes.

Newly married couples must state explicitly in the marriage contract whether they elect to combine their possessions or keep them separate. Customary law based on sharia prohibits Muslim women from marrying outside their religion. Sharia requires men, but not women, to provide for their families. Because of this expectation, in some instances sharia inheritance law provides men with a larger share of an inheritance. Some families avoided the application of sharia by executing sales contracts between parents and children to ensure that daughters received shares of property equal to those given sons. Non-Muslim women and their Muslim husbands may not inherit from each other. The government considers all children of those marriages to be Muslim and forbids those children from inheriting from their mothers. Spouses may, however, freely give up to a third of their estate to whomever they designate in their will.

Female citizens can transmit citizenship on an equal basis with male citizens. In November 2015 parliament amended a law that had previously prohibited a mother from traveling outside the country with minor children without written permission from the father. Under the new amendment, there is no discrimination between a mother and father regarding passport application and authorization to leave the country.

The law explicitly requires equal pay for equal work, and the government generally enforced it. The law allows female employees in the public sector to receive two-thirds of their full-time salary for half-time work, provided they have at least one child under 16 or a child with special needs, regardless of age. Qualifying women may apply for the benefit for a three-year period, renewable twice for a maximum of nine years. The government defended the law as allowing women to balance family and professional life, but some women’s rights advocates believed treating women and men differently under the law infringed women’s rights. Societal and cultural barriers significantly reduced women’s participation in the formal labor force, in particular in managerial positions. Women in the private sector earned on average one-quarter less than men for similar work.

Gender-biased Sex Selection: The ratio of boy-to-girl births was 107 to 100. There was no information on any government efforts to address this imbalance.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth from one’s parents, and the law provides for a period of 10 days to register a newborn. Thereafter, parents have 30 days to explain why they failed to register a newborn and complete the registration.

Child Abuse: A government report cited 601 reported cases of violence against children as of July, triple the number reported in 2013. The Ministry of Women, Family, and Childhood designated 21 psychologists to treat victims and announced its collaboration with civil society to provide increased services for child victims in shelters in Sousse, Sfax, and Tunis. According to the Minister of Women, Family, and Childhood, the rise in the number of reported cases was partially due to an increased willingness of victims to report abuse.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage for both sexes is 18, but the courts may, in certain situations, authorize the marriage of persons younger than 18 upon the request and approval of both parents.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits child pornography. Anyone who has sexual relations with a girl under age 10 is subject to the death penalty. Anyone who has sexual intercourse with a girl between the ages of 10 and 15 is subject to six years’ imprisonment. If the victim is over 15 and under 20, the penalty is five years’ imprisonment, unless the individuals are married. The penal code states that if a man has consensual sex with a female minor, he can avoid legal consequences by marrying the victim (see section 6, Women). The country was not a destination for child sex tourism; however, the International Organization for Migration reported some children were victims of sexual exploitation through prostitution, although the extent of the problem was not known.

In July the Ministry of Women, Family, and Children announced that cases involving child victims of violence, which includes sexual abuse, had tripled since 2013. According to data provided by local child protection agencies, instances of recorded abuse increased from 262 in 2013 to 601 as of November. Thirty-three percent of victims of sexual abuse reported direct sexual molestation, while 51 percent reported sexual harassment without direct sexual contact.

International Child Abductions: The country is not party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

An estimated 1,500 Jews lived in the country. In March 2015, vandals destroyed the grave of 18th-century Jewish sage Rabbi Masseoud Elfassi in Tunis. Media reported that motives for the vandalism were unknown but speculated it was the work of looters. After the incident President Caid Essebsi increased security around the cemetery and other Jewish sites and promised a European rabbinical body he would firmly protect the Jewish community and its institutions.

On May 25, an annual Jewish pilgrimage took place on the island of Djerba. Local media estimated participation at 2,000-3,000 persons. The event took place without incident and included the participation of several government ministers. Leaders in the Jewish community and government publicly praised the pilgrimage as a sign of the excellent relationship between the Jewish and Muslim communities.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical or mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, or the provision of other state services. It mandates that at least 1 percent of public- and private-sector jobs be reserved for persons with disabilities. NGOs reported authorities did not widely enforce this law, and many employers were not aware of it. There were no statistics on patterns of abuse in educational and mental health facilities, and individual cases of employment discrimination against persons with disabilities were rarely reported.

Since 1991, the law requires all new public buildings to be accessible to persons with physical disabilities, and the government generally enforced the law. Persons with physical disabilities did not have access to most buildings built before 1991, and most older buildings have still not been made accessible. The government did not ensure access to information and communications.

The Ministry of Social Affairs is charged with protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. The government issued cards to persons with disabilities for benefits such as unrestricted parking, free and priority medical services, free and preferential seating on public transportation, and consumer discounts. The government provided tax incentives to companies to encourage the hiring of persons with physical disabilities. There were approximately 300 government-administered schools for children with disabilities, five schools for blind students, one higher-education school, and one vocational training institution. The Ministry of Social Affairs managed centers in Tunis, Kairouan, Nabeul, and Sfax that provided short- and long-term accommodation and medical services to persons with disabilities who lacked other means of support.

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

The law criminalizes sodomy. Convictions carry up to a three-year prison sentence. According to NGOs, authorities occasionally use the law against sodomy to detain and question persons about their sexual activities and orientation, reportedly at times based on appearance alone. LGBTI-focused NGOs reported at least 36 known cases of arrests under the sodomy law as of September, although the government does not keep official statistics on arrests under the law. Human rights organizations and LGBTI-focused NGOs said that police and the courts often ordered men suspected of sodomy to take a rectal exam in order to collect evidence, a practice which human rights organizations and the UN Committee Against Torture strongly denounced.

In December 2015 six men from Rakkada were sentenced to three years each for sodomy, after being forced to undergo a rectal examination. One of the men was sentenced to an additional six months for an “attack on public morals” after police found a video clip on his computer. The court also banished the men from their town for five years following their release from prison. On March 3, a Sousse court of appeals upheld the men’s guilty verdict but reduced the sentences to one month and a fine of 400 dinars ($175) each. The judge eliminated the banishment provision. The men told media they had been exposed to sexual abuse and harassment by prisoners and prison guards during their detention.

Associations advocating for LGBTI rights organized campaigns against the criminalization of sodomy and forced medical examinations, which quickly gained popularity on social media and garnered international media attention.

Anecdotal evidence suggested LGBTI individuals faced increasing discrimination and violence, including death and rape threats, although societal stigma and fear of prosecution under sodomy laws discouraged individuals from reporting problems, according to a Euromed report released in September. Due to societal intolerance of same-sex sexual relationships, LGBTI individuals were discreet, and there was no information on official discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, access to education, or health care, although the Euromed report cited widespread anecdotal evidence of systemic denial of services to LGBTI individuals due to their sexual orientation. LGBTI advocacy work was conducted by several small organizations formed after 2011.

In May several LGBTI associations organized a small, discreet gay pride reception in Tunis. Associations also organized events and public demonstrations to mark the International Day against Homophobia in May.

On April 13, a well-known actor on a popular national television show declared that homosexuality was a “sickness” and said he “despised” gay individuals. Another celebrity repeated these comments publicly soon afterwards. A homophobic social media campaign followed, which included alleged members of security forces posting antigay messages on social media outlets. Several businesses placed signs on their windows refusing service to gay customers. During a Friday sermon on May 3, an imam in Sfax called for gay individuals to be put to death by “throwing them from a high place and stoning them.”

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides workers with the right to organize, form and join unions, and bargain collectively. The law allows workers to strike, provided they give 10 days’ advance notice to their federations and receive Ministry of Interior approval. The International Trade Union Confederation and the International Labor Organization characterized the requirement for strike notification as an impediment to freedom of association. The right to strike extends to civil servants, with the exception of workers in essential services “whose interruption would endanger the lives, safety, or health of all or a section of the population.” The government did not explicitly stipulate which services were “essential.” Authorities largely respected the right to strike in public enterprises and services. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination by employers and retribution against strikers. The government generally enforced applicable laws.

Conciliation panels with equal labor and management representation settled many labor disputes. Otherwise, representatives from the Ministry of Social Affairs, UGTT, and the Tunisian Union for Industry, Commerce, and Handicrafts (UTICA) formed tripartite regional commissions to arbitrate disputes. On January 19, tripartite negotiations led to an agreement on wages in the private sector, which included a 6 percent general wage increase, a 10-dinar increase ($4.50) in the travel allowance, and a three dinar ($1.30) increase for work attendance. Observers generally saw the tripartite commissions as effective, although details on resources available to the commission were unavailable.

Unions rarely sought advance approval to strike. Wildcat strikes (those not authorized by union management) occurred throughout the year but at a level reduced from previous years, according to labor rights organizations. Sector-based unions carried out some strikes and sit-ins, such as those in education and health services and in extractive industries. Even if not authorized, the Ministry of Interior tolerated many strikes if confined to a limited area.

UGTT alleged antiunion practices among private-sector employers, including firing union activists and using temporary workers to deter unionization. In certain industries, such as textiles, hotels, and construction, temporary workers continued to account for a significant majority of the workforce. UTICA, along with the government, maintained an exclusive relationship with UGTT in reaching collective bargaining agreements. The government held organized collective social negotiations only with UGTT. Representatives from the General Confederation of Tunisian Labor and the Union of Tunisian Labor complained their labor organizations had been ignored and excluded from tripartite negotiations. In June 2015 the administrative court ruled to allow the General Confederation of Tunisian Labor to deduct earnings from paychecks for dues, a right previously allowed only to UGTT. Observers saw the decision as an affirmation of union pluralism in the country.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced and compulsory labor and provides for penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment for capturing, detaining, or sequestering a person for forced labor.

The government effectively enforced most applicable codes dealing with forced labor. Some forced labor and forced child labor occurred in the form of domestic work in third-party households, begging, street vending, and seasonal agricultural work (see section 7.c.).

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law generally prohibits the employment of children younger than 16. Persons under 18 are prohibited from working in jobs that present serious threats to their health, security, or morality. The minimum age for light work in the nonindustrial and agricultural sectors during nonschool hours is 13. Workers between the ages of 14 and 18 must have 12 hours of rest per day, which must include the hours between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Children between the ages of 14 and 16 may work no more than two hours per day. The total time that children spend at school and work may not exceed seven hours per day. The penal code provides for penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment for capturing, detaining, or sequestering a person for forced labor and up to two years’ imprisonment for forced child begging.

Labor inspectors from the Ministry of Social Affairs monitored compliance with the minimum age law by examining the records of employees. The number of inspectors and resources at their disposal lagged behind economic growth. Additionally, according to ministry officials, the labor inspectorate did not have adequate resources to monitor the informal economy fully, officially estimated to constitute 38 percent of GDP. Occasionally, labor inspectors coordinated spot checks with UGTT and the Ministry of Education. According to a 2013 study, 2.6 percent of children under the age of 15 worked, but this figure did not include children who worked in the informal sector, whether as street vendors, beggars, handicraft workers, or seasonal agricultural labor.

Children were subjected to commercial sexual exploitation and used in illicit activities, including drug trafficking, which are worst forms of child labor (section 6, Children).

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/ .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law and regulations prohibit employment discrimination regarding race, sex, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation and gender identity, HIV-positive status or presence of other communicable diseases, or social status. The government did not always effectively enforce those laws and regulations due to lack of resources and difficulty in identifying when employers’ traditional attitudes toward gender identity or sexual orientation resulted in discriminatory employment practices (see also section 6).

The law allows female employees in the public sector to receive two-thirds of their full-time salary for half-time work, provided they have at least one child under 16 or a child with special needs, regardless of age. Qualifying women may apply for the benefit for a three-year period, renewable twice for a maximum of nine years.

Societal and cultural barriers significantly reduced women’s participation in the formal labor force, in particular in managerial positions. Women in the private sector earned on average one-quarter less than men for similar work.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The labor code provides for a range of administratively determined minimum wages. In November 2015 the government announced a new monthly minimum wage for a 40-hour workweek for nonagricultural workers of 290 dinars ($127), and a daily minimum wage for agricultural-sector workers of 13 dinars ($5.70). In October 2015 the Ministry of Social Affairs, UGTT, and the Tunisian Union of Agriculture and Fishing reached an agreement to improve labor conditions and salaries in agricultural work to match those in the industrial sector. The agreement allows for the protection of rural women against dangerous employment conditions, sets safety standards for handling of hazardous materials, and gives tax incentives for agricultural employers to provide training for workers.

The law sets a maximum standard 48-hour workweek for manual work in the industrial and agricultural sectors and requires one 24-hour rest period per week. For administrative jobs in the private- and public-sectors, the workweek is 40 hours with 125 percent premium pay for overtime. The law prohibits excessive compulsory overtime. Depending on years of service, employees are statutorily awarded 18 to 23 days of paid vacation annually. Although there is no standard practice for reporting labor code violations, workers have the right to report violations to regional labor inspectors.

Special government regulations control employment in hazardous occupations, such as mining, petroleum engineering, and construction. Workers were free to remove themselves from dangerous situations without jeopardizing their employment, and they could take legal action against employers who retaliated against them for exercising this right. The Ministry of Social Affairs is responsible for enforcing health and safety standards in the workplace. Under the law all workers, including those in the informal sector, are afforded the same occupational safety and health protections. Enforcement of these measures was inadequate, according to UGTT representatives. In addition to enforcing occupational safety and health regulations, regional labor inspectors enforced standards related to hourly wage regulations. The country had 347 labor inspectors who inspected most firms approximately once every two years. The government did not adequately enforce the minimum wage law, particularly in nonunionized sectors of the economy. The prohibition against excessive compulsory overtime was not always enforced.

Working conditions and standards generally were better in export-oriented firms, which were mostly foreign owned, than in those firms producing exclusively for the domestic market. According to World Bank statistics, the informal sector employed more than 54 percent of the total workforce, more than half of which was female. According to the government and NGOs, labor laws did not adequately cover the informal sector, where labor violations were reportedly more prevalent. Temporary contract laborers complained they were not afforded the same protections as permanent employees. There were no major industrial accidents during the year. Credible data on workplace accidents, injuries, and fatalities were not available.