Executive Summary

Angola is a constitutional republic. The ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) has been in power since independence in 1975. In August 2012, the government held the first presidential and legislative elections following the promulgation of the 2010 constitution. The MPLA received 71.8 percent of the vote, and in September 2012, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos began a five-year term as president under the new constitution.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces.

The three most important human rights abuses were cruel, excessive, and degrading punishment, including reported cases of torture and beatings; limits on freedoms of assembly, association, speech, and press; and official corruption and impunity.

Other human rights abuses included arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life; harsh and potentially life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; lengthy pretrial detention; impunity for human rights abusers; lack of due process and judicial inefficiency; forced evictions without compensation; restrictions on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); harassment of and violence against women and children; child labor; trafficking in persons; limits on workers’ rights; and forced labor.

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

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

In carrying out law enforcement activities, the government or its agents used excessive and sometimes deadly force.

For example, on August 6, security force members reportedly shot and killed a 14-year-old boy, Rufino Antonio, after they demolished his family’s and other allegedly illegally built homes in a suburban Luanda zone, according to media sources and several NGOs (see section 1.e.). The government and the national ombudsman launched separate investigations into the shooting death, both of which remained ongoing at year’s end.

On April 5, the Huambo provincial court sentenced Jose Kalupeteka, the leader of the Light of the World religious sect, to 28 years in prison for the 2015 clashes between members of his group and police that left 13 civilians and nine police officers dead, according to official figures, although opposition parties continued to allege a higher casualty rate. On August 9, new clashes between police and Light of the World followers in Kwanza Sul Province reportedly resulted in the deaths of five church members and three police officers, and a similar confrontation on August 13 resulted in an unknown number of casualties. The government stated the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) was investigating.

On August 21, media reported that an officer of Alfa 5 Security Services, a private security company affiliated with the government’s diamond enterprise, Endiama, allegedly killed 17-year-old Gabriel Mufugueno, in Lucapa, Lunda Norte Province. According to a relative of the victim, police detained the Alfa 5 officer allegedly responsible for the shooting. The incident elicited protests from artisanal miners in the area.

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

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

On September 1, Jose Padrao Loureiro, suspected of belonging to a gang, was beaten and killed by police inside Rangel Police Station, following his arrest on August 31, according to press reports. During the one-day detention, Loureiro was allegedly tortured and killed. National Police Spokesperson Mateus Rodrigues said an autopsy revealed the victim was severely beaten. Authorities opened an investigation on September 5 and detained five police officers.

Security forces reacted harshly and sometimes violently to public demonstrations against the government. Several media and NGO accounts reported police around the country, in particular in the provinces of Luanda, Malanje, Benguela, and the city of Lobito, beat protesters. The visible presence of security forces was enough to deter significantly what were deemed by the government to be unlawful demonstrations. Authorities claimed known agitators who sought only to create social instability organized many of the public demonstrations.

The media reported that, on August 20, during a protest in Luanda calling for the resignation of President dos Santos and for the release of activist Dago Nivel, police allegedly beat several protesters and used the police canine brigade to disrupt the protest; dogs wounded three protesters. The media provided photographs of the incident, including of men with visible bite wounds. Police reportedly later drove a group of protesters, including the men wounded by the canine brigade, to the outskirts of the city and left them there. The General Command of the National Police denied any knowledge of the case.

There were reports of abuses by private security companies in diamond producing regions.

For example, on April 21, in the Cafunfo diamond area, in Lunda-Norte province, private security guards working for a private company allegedly severely beat 10 artisanal miners with machetes, according to a media report that included a video of the incident.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

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

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

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

In April, Fortunato acknowledged that Viana Jail (on the outskirts of Luanda) lacked adequate potable water and food for inmates. On September 14, activist Nuno Dala published photos allegedly taken inside Viana Jail depicting severely overcrowded conditions and several inmates suffering from malnutrition and tuberculosis due to a lack of food and potable water. On September 16, the newspaper Novo Jornal published a report on the allegedly deplorable conditions; the report included photographs of prisoners who appeared to be malnourished. Novo Jornal also reported that the Rapid Intervention Police (PIR) and the Special Prison Services Detachment (DESP) tortured one of the prisoners allegedly for his role in sharing photos with persons outside the jail. Observers generally regard the newspaper as credible; however, its reporting on conditions inside Viana Jail could not be independently verified.

According to a press report, female inmates accused two officials from the Human Resources and Penal Control Units of the Kwanza Sul Jail of coercing them to have sex in order to be released from prison under the new Amnesty Law. Authorities launched an investigation, and on September 26, the PGR announced the investigation concluded the claims of sexual abuse were false and there were no irregularities in the prison’s inmate release procedures.

Administration: The Ministry of Interior claimed that adequate statistics were available in each facility and that authorities were able to locate every prisoner.

The government investigated and monitored prison and detention center conditions. There was no prison ombudsperson.

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

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits to prisons by independent local and international human rights observers and foreign diplomats. For example, the government permitted foreign diplomats to visit the “15 + 2” activists during their imprisonment (section 1.d.). Nevertheless, civil society organizations faced difficulties in contacting detainees, and prison authorities undermined civil society work in the prisons.

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

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, security forces did not always respect these prohibitions.

According to several NGO and civil society sources, police arbitrarily arrested individuals without due process and routinely detained persons who participated, or were about to participate, in antigovernment protests, despite this right being protected by the constitution. They often released the detainees after a few hours. For example, on August 21, in Lobito, police beat and arrested activists Paulo Vinte-Cinco and Francisco Catraio of the Revolutionary Movement while they participated in a weekly meeting with other youth to discuss politics. More than 20 police officers broke up the meeting and dispersed the participants. Police released the two activists the next day.


The national police, controlled by the Ministry of Interior, are responsible for internal security and law enforcement. The Expatriate and Migration Services (SME), also in the Ministry of Interior, is responsible for migration law enforcement. The state intelligence and security service reports to the presidency and investigates sensitive state security matters. The Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) are responsible for external security but also had domestic security responsibilities, including border security, expulsion of irregular migrants, and small-scale actions against Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda separatists in Cabinda.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the FAA and the national police, and the government has mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. The security forces generally were effective, although sometimes brutal, at maintaining stability. The national police and FAA have internal mechanisms to investigate security force abuses, and the government provided some training to reform the security forces. Impunity for security force abuses remained a problem, however.

Local population generally welcomed police presence in neighborhoods and on streets as enhancing general safety and security. Police officers, however, were believed routinely to extort civilians to supplement their income. Corruption and impunity remained serious problems. The national police handled most complaints internally through opaque disciplinary procedures, which sometimes led to formal punishment including dismissal. The national police participated in a television series designed to show a gamut of interactions between police and civilians. The goal of the show was to encourage the population to collaborate with police while discouraging security force members’ procurement of bribes or their payment. The PGR has an anticorruption unit, charged with oversight of police wrongdoing. The government disclosed publicly the results of some investigations that led to disciplinary action. On September 17, authorities terminated two police officers for extorting money from drivers during traffic stops, according to a press report. On September 13, the government announced the deployment of 400 newly trained police officers as part of an effort to eliminate corruption from the police force.

Police participated in professional training with law enforcement officials from several countries in the region.


In December 2015 a new law on pretrial procedures (Law 25/15) entered into force.

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

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

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

The law states that all detainees have the right to a lawyer, either chosen by them or appointed by the government on a pro-bono basis. The lack of lawyers in certain provinces at times impeded this right. On September 24, the head of the Angolan Bar Association (ABA) stated there were 1,700 lawyers in the country, an insufficient number to handle the volume of criminal cases, and the geographical distribution of lawyers throughout the country was a problem, as most lawyers were concentrated in Luanda. In 2015 the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights reported that all municipal courts were staffed with licensed lawyers, but at the same time recognized access to a lawyer, especially in the provinces and in rural areas, remained a problem. Several lawyers and NGOs noted that even in Luanda most poor defendants do not have access to lawyers during their first appearance before a judicial authority or during their trial.

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

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

Arbitrary Arrest: Unlawful arrest and detention remained serious problems. According to the PGR, allegations of government wrongdoing on arrest practices made by local and international NGOs were due to a lack of understanding of national laws.

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

Detainees’ Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The constitution provides the right of habeas corpus to citizens to challenge their detention before a court. On June 29, the Supreme Court granted the group of activists known as the “15+2” a writ of habeas corpus, ruling that following their March conviction and sentencing to between two and eight years in prison by the Luanda Provincial Court the appeal lodged by their lawyers had a suspensive effect and required their release pending the outcome of their appeal. Judge Domingos Januario, the judge of first instance for the Luanda Provincial Court, was later accused of concealing the activists’ petition for habeas corpus from the Supreme Court. The attorney general launched an investigation of the judge’s handling of the case, which remained ongoing as of September.

The case against the “15+2” began in June 2015 in Luanda, when 15 activists were arrested by security forces during a book discussion. In September 2015, after 102 days of pretrial detention, they and two other individuals were charged with engaging in “preparatory acts to incite rebellion and for planning the overthrow of the president and other institutions of the state.” The activists are collectively referred to as the “15+2.” The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights and the PGR claimed the legal process to detain and charge the activists had been conducted within the law.

Amnesty: On July 20, the National Assembly passed the Amnesty Law (11/16), providing a general amnesty to criminals convicted prior to November 11, 2015, of nonviolent crimes whose sentences were 12 or fewer years in prison. Government representatives stated that the law, proposed by the president in honor of the country’s fortieth anniversary of independence in 2015, was also intended to ease overcrowding in prisons. As of September 23, more than 2,500 prisoners were released under the new law.

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

There were long trial delays at the Supreme Court. Criminal courts also had a large backlog of cases, which resulted in major delays in hearings. There were only 22 municipal courts for 163 municipalities. To increase access to justice, the PGR in 2014 established offices of legal counsel in most municipalities.

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

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

In November 2015 the judge presiding over the case of the “15+2” activists charged with “preparatory acts to incite rebellion and for planning the overthrow of the president and other institutions of the state” ordered closure of the public trial to independent observers such as members of the diplomatic corps and local NGOs due to the high level of interest in the proceedings and space constraints. Attendance by the public was limited to two family members per defendant. He made special accommodations for reporters to follow the trial in a separate room via closed circuit television. Independent observers were present in other high-profile and sensitive trials such as the 2015 libel and defamation case of Rafael Marques and the 2015 rebellion case against Marcos Mavungo.


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

Defendants and their attorneys have the right to access government-held evidence relevant to their cases, but authorities did not always uphold this right. For example, in March 2015 political activist Marcos Mavungo was arrested on suspicion of plotting an act of violence against the provincial government of Cabinda. In September 2015, more than 200 days after his arrest, Mavungo was convicted of charges of rebellion against the state and sentenced to six years in prison. His lawyers complained publicly they did not have access to the evidence the government claimed it had to prove guilt; however, the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights and the PGR stated that Mavungo’s case was conducted within appropriate parameters for a case involving national security and that the sentence reflected the seriousness of the crime. Mavungo appealed his sentence. On May 20, the Supreme Court ruled in his favor, acquitting the activist of the charge of rebellion against the state. The Supreme Court cited in its ruling a lack of sufficient evidence to uphold the charge.

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

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


The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights denied there were political prisoners in the country. Opposition political parties, however, often claimed their members were detained because of their political affiliations. Media reports of opposition parties’ members being harassed and detained for up to 48 hours were common but difficult to confirm.


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


The constitution recognizes the right to housing and quality of life, and the law states that persons relocated should receive fair compensation. Under the constitution all untitled land belongs to the state. Throughout the year the government used eminent domain laws to raze housing settlements and other buildings to carry out urban redevelopment projects. According to NGO sources and multiple press reports, security forces demolished hundreds of allegedly illegal, privately built homes in Zango, a suburban Luanda zone that falls within the restrictive perimeter of the Luanda-Bengo Economic zone. These demolitions reportedly displaced thousands of persons and resulted in several deaths during the year. In addition to the shooting death of a 14-year-old boy in August (section 1.a.), the demolitions resulted in the accidental decapitation of an infant in April and the deaths of two individuals with medical conditions in August. Some persons forced to move did not receive fair compensation, at times due to lack of clear title or permits for the destroyed property. Relocated persons who received new housing units often complained their units were located far from their jobs or places of business, or were of substandard quality. There was no new information on the status of a 2015 investigation into reports security forces harassed activists working for SOS Habitat, an NGO dealing with land rights.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but the government did not always respect these prohibitions. Civil organizations and politically active individuals, including government critics, members of opposition parties, and journalists, complained the government maintained surveillance of their activities and membership. These groups also frequently complained of threats and harassment based on their affiliations with groups that were purportedly or explicitly antigovernment. On July 29, Monica Almeida, the wife of “15+2” activist Luaty Beirao, was stopped by two police vehicles while driving in Luanda. Almeida alleged that police blocked her cell phone to prevent her from calling for help and ordered her to drive with the police vehicles for three hours as they proceeded aimlessly around the city, according to press reports. The police responsible later claimed they had mistaken Almeida for a suspected criminal and announced an investigation into the incident.


Executive Summary

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

Civilian authorities at times did not maintain control over the security forces. Observers considered the military generally professional and apolitical, but the National Intelligence Service (SNR) and police tended to be influenced directly by, and responsive to, the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) party. Members of the CNDD-FDD’s youth group, the Imbonerakure, sometimes operated in cooperation with police, but often acted independently of any identifiable oversight. Imbonerakure members arrested persons with impunity, despite having no legal powers of arrest.

The most important human rights abuses in the country were extrajudicial killings, including reports of mass graves; arbitrary and politicized detention; and widespread government infringement of the freedoms of speech, press and media, assembly, and association.

Other human rights abuses included disappearances; harsh and sometimes life-threatening prison conditions; a highly politicized judicial system that lacked independence from the executive branch; and prolonged pretrial detention, often without formal charges. Authorities harassed and intimidated journalists and ordered the closure of civil society and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that criticized the government and the CNDD-FDD. Government corruption was a serious problem. Security forces reportedly raped women and girls, and widespread sexual and gender-based violence and discrimination against women and girls were serious problems. Human trafficking occurred. Discrimination occurred against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community, persons with disabilities, and persons with albinism. Authorities did not respect labor rights, and forced child labor existed.

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

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

There were numerous reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, although the number declined from 2015. As of October 5, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) documented more than 150 killings of individuals, many of them extrajudicial killings committed by police, the SNR, or military personnel, sometimes with involvement of local government officials. By comparison, the OHCHR documented more than 400 cases of arbitrary or unlawful killings in 2015.

In December 2015 police responded to an armed attack on three military installations by conducting house-to-house searches in several neighborhoods of Bujumbura perceived as opposed to the president serving a third term. Numerous civilian victims were found dead with their hands bound behind their back and shot in the head. The official death toll from the fighting was 87, but the nongovernmental organizations SOS-Torture Burundi and Ligue Iteka estimated that between 150 and 200 persons died in the fighting and subsequent searches. On January 15, the OHCHR released a statement calling for an immediate investigation into the events of December 2015, citing reports, including eyewitness accounts, of mass graves containing the bodies of those killed. The high commissioner stated, “We’ve received numerous allegations that during the initial search operations on 11 and 12 December in the Musaga, Nyakabiga, Ngagara, Cibitoke, and Mutakura neighborhoods of Bujumbura, police and army forces arrested considerable numbers of young men, many of whom were later tortured, killed, or taken to unknown destinations.” On January 28, Amnesty International (AI) released a report citing satellite imagery and eyewitness accounts indicating that victims from the fighting were buried in mass graves. On March 10, an investigation commissioned by the prosecutor general asserted that “no mass graves had been found in the locations cited by certain NGOs” and added that, on February 29, it had discovered a common grave dug for the victims of insurgents that had not been included in previous reports.

There were also reports of killings targeting security force personnel and individuals associated with the CNDD-FDD. Unidentified gunmen killed a senior CNDD-FDD member, Darius Ikurakure, on March 22; army General Athanase Kararuza on April 25; and an East African Legislative Assembly member, Hafsa Mossi, on July 13. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), a high-ranking Imbonerakure member reported the killings of more than 50 Imbonerakure since April 2015, including at least four killed in grenade attacks in Bujumbura in May.

According to a UN Independent Investigation on Burundi (UNIIB) report published in September, armed opposition groups were believed to be behind grenade attacks that killed civilians. The Republican Forces of Burundi and Resistance for a State of Law in Burundi (RED-Tabara) claimed responsibility for two attacks in Cibitoke and Musaga neighborhoods on February 6. Medecins Sans Frontieres reported that its trauma center in Bujumbura treated 55 persons injured in a grenade attack on February 11 and another 61 injured in an attack on February 15. The frequency of grenade attacks in Bujumbura declined in the second half of the year.

There were reports that individuals were victims of politically motivated disappearances after they had been detained by elements of the security forces. As of October 5, the OHCHR documented at least 30 cases of enforced disappearances. Ligue Iteka, a local human rights NGO, alleged 331 disappearances during the period between December 2015 and November. After meeting with the relatives of many individuals who had disappeared, UNIIB concluded that agents affiliated with the SNR, police, and the military were responsible for many disappearances. The OHCHR documented either members of police, the SNR, the Burundian National Defense Forces (BNDF), or Imbonerakure as the presumed perpetrators of 96 percent of enforced disappearances it recorded.

Ligue Iteka documented at least 15 alleged disappearances during the year in which the missing individual was a member of the security forces, specifically a member of the preintegration, Tutsi-dominated army. HRW released a report in February that alleged “an alarming new pattern of abductions and possible disappearances” that began after the December 2015 attacks on three government military facilities. According to the report, abductions sometimes targeted security forces suspected of involvement in the attacks.

Jean Bigirimana, a journalist for independent newspaper Iwacu, was abducted from his car on July 22. Bigirimana’s spouse was present at the abduction and stated publicly that SNR officers were responsible. Despite cooperation from the Independent National Commission for Human Rights (CNIDH) in searching for the journalist, his whereabouts remained unknown at year’s end.

The constitution and penal code prohibit cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, but there were reports government officials employed them. As of October 5, the OHCHR documented 558 cases of torture and mistreatment of persons that the government accused as participating in the failed 2015 coup attempt or subsequent efforts to remove it from power. UNIIB cited the SNR, Imbonerakure, and to a lesser extent the BNDF as being “consistently identified as the perpetrators.”

In a July 13 report, HRW stated that members of the security services or the intelligence services “had hit people repeatedly and slammed gun butts into detainees’ faces or limbs, in some cases breaking their bones or smashing their jaws until their teeth fell out. SNR agents beat detainees with steel construction bars, drove sharpened steel rods into their legs, tied cords to detainees’ genitals and pulled, used electric shock, and poured liquid on detainees, which burned them.” Both HRW and UNIIB cited information that senior figures in the security apparatus were aware of, or were personally involved in, torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. In June Minister of Public Security Alain Guillaume Bunyoni wrote to HRW that police could not have tortured or mistreated detainees and denied that police collaborated with the Imbonerakure.

In response to observations by the UN Committee against Torture adopted in August, the government asserted that all agents of the National Police as well as the SNR are subject to the penal code and that, “in cases [of alleged torture or mistreatment] known by the competent authorities, criminal and administrative cases are regularly opened to charge police officers involved.” The director of penitentiary administration stated that during the year no police officer was arrested for torture or abuse of prisoners or suspects in their custody and no officer was prosecuted for abusing detainees. Many police officers, however, were jailed for other crimes, including banditry, stealing, rape, unlawful use of a weapon, or losing a weapon.

On July 27, HRW released a report based on testimony from more than 70 rape victims who had fled to the Nduta refugee camp in western Tanzania. According to the report, “(members of) Imbonerakure known to victims, men in police uniforms, and unidentified armed men, some of whom accused the victims of supporting an opposition party or being married to an opposition supporter, were among those responsible for rapes or gang-rapes of 38 women interviewed by HRW.” The report suggested the more than 170 rape cases reported to UNHCR might have been only a fraction of the total, as medical staff of aid organizations believed many women did not report rape unless they sought treatment for medical problems related to their assault.

The government, in response to similar statements in the UNIIB report in September, denied any of the rape cases pending before courts were related to political dissent. It claimed that neither the Humura Center nor the Seruka Center, two centers that treat victims of sexual violence, had reported rape cases linked to political repression.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prisons were overcrowded, and conditions remained harsh and sometimes life threatening. Conditions in detention centers managed by the SNR and in local “lock-ups” managed by police generally were worse than in prisons. There were reports of physical abuse, lack of adequate medical treatment, and prolonged solitary confinement. Prisons did not have adequate sanitation systems (toilets, bathing facilities), drinking water, ventilation, and lighting. Prisons and detention centers did not have special facilities for persons with disabilities. Prisons did not meet the standards established by the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela rules).

Physical Conditions: The Office of Penitentiary Affairs reported that, at year’s end, there were 10,049 inmates, including 5,065 pretrial detainees, in 11 prisons, the majority of which were built before 1965, to accommodate 4,194 inmates in all. Of the 10,049 inmates, 457 were women and 106 were juveniles. Authorities held 129 juveniles in two juvenile detention facilities that opened in November 2015. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) stated that fully implementing an ordinance that no children were to be held in adult prisons “remained challenging.” In addition, there were 78 children living with their incarcerated mothers. The most crowded prisons were Muramvya (30 miles from Bujumbura), where the inmate population was at 533 percent of capacity, and Mpimba (in Bujumbura) which was at 409 percent of capacity. No information was available on the number of persons held in detention centers managed by the SNR or in communal jails operated by police. There was a prison for women in Kayanza. Authorities commonly held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners. No data were available on the number of deaths in detention, reports of abuse by guards, or prisoner-on-prisoner violence.

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

Radio Bonesha reported that in November Jean Claude Nduwayezu, an imprisoned member of the opposition Democratic Solidarity Movement (MSD) party, died after the director of the Mpimba prison did not give timely authorization for him to receive medical treatment. According to Nduwayezu’s family, the director allowed him to go to the hospital only after two previous requests were refused.

Conditions for political prisoners were sometimes worse than for ordinary prisoners. In September 2015 officials transported 28 high-profile prisoners accused of participating in the failed May 2015 coup attempt to the Central Prison in Gitega. They reportedly were incarcerated four to a cell in isolation cells intended to hold one person. Independent human rights observers noted the cells did not have windows or toilet facilities. According to one of the detainees’ lawyers, as of October, conditions of detention remained the same.

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

Independent Monitoring: Until October 10, the government permitted all visits requested by international and local human rights monitors, including monitors from the OHCHR and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Monitors visited all prisons, communal jails, and SNR detention centers regularly. Monitoring groups had complete and unhindered access to those prisoners held in known detention facilities. On October 10, however, the government suspended official cooperation with the OHCHR in the wake of the UNIIB report, although the government continued to allow some access to and monitoring of prisoners. As of October, the ICRC still had unhampered monitoring access to known detention facilities.

On April 18, UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein expressed deep concern over emerging reports of “secret detention facilities across the country.” The September UNIIB report concluded there were “reasonable grounds to believe” security forces and Imbonerakure had established 13 places of detention unacknowledged by the prosecutor general, according to alleged victims the UNIIB had interviewed.

In its response to the UNIIB report, the government challenged UNIIB’s “reasonable grounds to believe” there were unacknowledged detention centers by asserting there was no tangible evidence to support the allegations.

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but the government often did not observe these prohibitions. The law provides for a fine of 10,000 Burundian francs ($6) and imprisonment of 15 days to one year for any member of the security forces implicated in arbitrary arrest. Police arrested persons on accusations of “undermining state security, participation in armed banditry, holding illegal meetings, illegal detention of weapons, or simply because they were traveling to or from other provinces or neighboring countries,” according to the OHCHR. As of October 5, the OHCHR documented 5,209 arrests it deemed arbitrary, since the individuals involved were arrested without charge, without arrest warrants, or for “investigation purposes.” Of the arrests, 2,467 eventually resulted in subsequent release for lack of evidence.

As of October, UNICEF documented more than 100 cases of children who had been detained for “participation in armed groups, participation in an insurrectional movement, or illegal possession of arms.” UNICEF stated these children were not recruited or used in armed groups, nor had they been in possession of arms. The children told UNICEF personnel they were arrested while traveling, walking in neighborhoods, or during searches and arrest operations by police, the military, or the SNR.

In May, June, and July, 440 students were suspended and 73 detained for defacing pictures of the president in school textbooks. The 73 detainees were charged with contempt for the head of state, a charge that normally carries a penalty of six months to five years in prison. Following advocacy by the OHCHR, UNICEF, and other international actors, the minister of education pardoned and released the detainees and lifted the suspensions of the other students. UNICEF reported a new case of a student detained for “scribbling” in October.

SOS-Torture Burundi alleged numerous instances of police arresting large groups of persons in raids; those arrested allegedly had to pay bribes to be released. The September UNIIB report stated that persons arrested by security forces were often subject to extortion and asked to pay “ransoms” of four to five million francs ($2,400 to $3,000) to middlemen to secure their release.

Minister of Public Security Alain Guillaume Bunyoni, in a June letter to HRW, wrote that allegations of police demanding money from detainees or their families in exchange for their release were “a lie” and that any police involved in extortion would face “severe administrative sanctions and penalties.”


The National Police, which is under the Ministry of Public Security’s authority, is responsible for law enforcement and maintenance of order. The armed forces, which are under the Ministry of Defense’s authority, are responsible for external security but also have some domestic security responsibilities. The SNR, which reports directly to the president, has arrest and detention authority. Members of the Imbonerakure were involved in numerous arrests, according to the OHCHR, although they have no arrest authority. Police, the SNR, the armed forces, and local officials committed human rights abuses, usually with impunity.

The constitution provides for equal numbers of Hutu and Tutsi in the military, police, and the SNR to prevent either of these ethnic groups from having disproportionate power that might be used against the other. The integration of police and the SNR did not achieve equilibrium between Hutu and Tutsi members, as a large majority remained Hutu.

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

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

Police were heavily politicized and responsive to the CNDD-FDD. Police officials complained that militant youth loyal to the CNDD-FDD and President Nkurunziza infiltrated their ranks. Civil society organizations (CSOs) claimed the weaponry carried by some supposed police officers was not in the official arsenal. Some police officers prevented citizens from exercising their civil rights and were implicated in torture, killing, and extrajudicial execution. The government was slow to investigate and prosecute these cases, which resulted in a widespread perception of police impunity and politicization.

AI cited the case of a police officer, Desire Uwamahoro, as “an emblematic example” of the ineffective criminal investigations and prosecutions that had allowed impunity to flourish. According to AI’s 2016 submission to the UN Committee against Torture, Uwamahoro was convicted of torture in 2010 and sentenced to five years in prison and a fine of 10 million francs ($6,000), but the sentence was never carried out, and he remained a police force member. In October 2015 he was appointed head of a new police unit, the Antiriot Brigade. In October the SNR arrested him on charges related to gold smuggling, and the government replaced him as head of the Antiriot Brigade. The Appeals Court of Bujumbura sentenced him to three months in prison.

On March 22, Human Rights Minister Nivyabandi told the Human Rights Council that “today’s Burundi is not a land where impunity exists.” He cited the incarceration as of that date of 139 police officers and 84 members of the military convicted of various crimes, including assassination, assault, rape, and torture. In August, Minister of Security Alain Guillaume Bunyoni announced the dismissal of 20 police officers for improper conduct.

The international community provided instruction at the police academy on human rights, the code of conduct, and community-oriented policing. Due to suspension of cooperation by international donors and the government’s suspension of the OHCHR’s activities, many, but not all, of these programs were suspended or canceled.

Mixed security committees, whose members came from local government, regular security services, and the citizenry, operated in towns and villages throughout the country. Local government authorities designed the committees to play an advisory role for local policymakers and to flag new threats and incidents of criminality for local administration. SOS-Torture and Ligue Iteka alleged the committees allowed the Imbonerakure a strong role in local policing, which permitted the ruling party to harass and intimidate opposition members on the local level. The mixed security committees remained controversial because lines increasingly blurred between Imbonerakure members and police. Imbonerakure members reportedly detained individuals for political or personal reasons.

Independent observers generally regarded the BNDF as professional and politically neutral. The BNDF’s Office of the Inspector General investigates allegations of military abuse.

The country has contributed peacekeepers to the AU Mission in Somalia since 2008 and to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSCA) in the Central African Republic since 2014. On March 28, the United Nations stated that it had received allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation against MINUSCA peacekeepers from Burundi. On June 3, the United Nations announced that the Burundi police units serving in the Central African Republic would not be replaced at the end of their tour, which ended in July. As of October, 850 BNDF soldiers remained in MINUSCA.

The SNR’s mandate is to provide both external and internal security. Independent observers asserted that the SNR’s ranks grew during the year with the inclusion of youth loyal to the CNDD-FDD. It investigated certain opposition political party leaders and their supporters. Many citizens perceived the SNR as heavily politicized and responsive to the CNDD-FDD. NGOs, including AI and HRW, asserted SNR officials colluded with the Imbonerakure in torture and extrajudicial killings.


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

A magistrate must either order the release of suspects or confirm the charges and continue detention, initially for 14 days, and for an additional seven days if necessary to prepare the case for trial. Magistrates routinely failed to convene preliminary hearings, often citing their heavy case backlog or improper documentation by police. A UN human rights team that visited SNR facilities in Bujumbura in April reported that 25 of the 67 detainees they saw had been kept in custody beyond the prescribed maximum.

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

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

The law provides for prisoners access to medical care and legal assistance. The SNR denied lawyers access to detainees held at its headquarters in Bujumbura. The ICRC stated that it had “full access” to prisons and detention centers. Several credible organizations, however, concluded that the SNR maintained clandestine holding cells unknown to the ICRC or human rights organizations. The UN Committee against Torture alleged that cases of torture and mistreatment occurred in unofficial detention centers where national and international observers had no access.

Arbitrary Arrest: The law provides for a fine of 10,000 francs ($6) and imprisonment of 15 days to one year for arbitrary arrest by security forces. There was no evidence that this law has ever been applied. According to the OHCHR, police, the SNR, and local administrative authorities had arrested 5,209 persons as of October 5; of whom 2,467 were released without charge. Authorities released many within a day or two of their detention.

Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention remained a serious problem. The law specifies authorities may not hold a person longer than 14 days without charge. As of October, according to the director of prison administration, 50.4 percent of inmates in prisons and detention centers were pretrial detainees. The average time in pretrial detention was one year, according to the Office of Penitentiary Affairs, and authorities held some without charge. Some persons reportedly remained in pretrial detention for nearly five years. In some cases the length of detention equaled or exceeded the sentence for the alleged crime. Inefficiency and corruption among police, prosecutors, and judicial officials contributed to the problem. For example, authorities deprived many persons of their legal right to be released on their personal recognizance, because public prosecutors failed to open case files or files were lost. Others remained incarcerated without proper arrest warrants, either because police failed to complete the initial investigation and transfer the case to the appropriate magistrate or because the magistrate failed to convene the required hearing to rule on the charges.

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

Amnesty: During the February visit of the UN Secretary-General, the president reportedly agreed to release up to 2,000 detainees. On February 23, the government granted an amnesty to some prisoners by presidential decree, freeing some who were serving sentences of less than five years and halving the sentences of others. The decree specifically excluded those imprisoned for the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, armed robbery, illegal possession of firearms, threatening the internal and external security of the state, voluntary homicide, being a mercenary, cannibalism, and all other crimes committed in association with organized gangs. As a result of a presidential decree, 1,370 prisoners were released from prisons. According to Human Rights Minister Martin Nivyabandi during his remarks to the Human Rights Council on March 22, the amnesty reduced the incarcerated population by one quarter.

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

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


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

The right to a fair trial was often violated, especially in cases related to the May 2015 failed coup attempt. For example, persons convicted of participating in the failed coup were sentenced by the Supreme Court on January 15. Defense lawyers stated they were not allowed to speak to their clients during the trial or have access to case files before the hearing in eight cases. Seven lawyers were suspended for complaining about the inaccessibility of case files, and the court refused to hear certain witnesses presented by the defendants. The prosecution objected to the perceived leniency of the sentences and appealed the case. On May 9, an appeals court handed down tougher sentences to the defendants. During the appeal, the OHCHR reported that two defendants were denied the assistance of a lawyer, that some witnesses for the defense were not heard by the court, and that the court did not disclose the motivation for its judgment.

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

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

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


The OHCHR estimated there were more than 500 political prisoners or detainees as of year’s end. The government denied it held persons for political reasons, citing instead threats made against the state, participation in a rebellion, or inciting insurrection.

The director of prison affairs said he could not identify political prisoners, as they were incarcerated on charges just like ordinary criminals. In some cases, however, political prisoners were housed in separate cells. In its September submission to the UN Human Rights Council, AI also reported instances in which political prisoners did not receive access to adequate, timely, medical care.


Individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations and may appeal decisions to an international or regional court. In May 2015, for example, independent journalists contested the 2013 media law in the East African Court of Justice and won their appeal. The decision obliged Burundi’s parliament to review the law and make changes to it, which it did. These changes, adopted in May 2015, effectively repealed parts of the 2013 law that provided for specific punishments for journalistic crimes and required journalists to reveal their sources to the government.


In the wake of fears and severe economic hardship following the 2015 political crisis, more than 300,000 Burundians fled to neighboring states, primarily Tanzania. Radio Bonesha reported in February that government agents and private citizens seized land that had been owned or otherwise legally occupied by these refugees.

The National Commission for the Land and Other Properties (CNTB) was established in 2006 to resolve land ownership conflicts. In March 2015 the president suspended the implementation of all decisions to expropriate taken by the CNTB due to violence associated with land disputes in Makamba Province. He lifted the suspension in January, and the CNTB continued its work to resolve land ownership conflicts.

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

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

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

In 2015 protesters opposed to a third term for the president, led by civil society groups and opposition parties, engaged in peaceful protests allegedly infiltrated by armed opposition elements. Police, the SNR, and members of the irregular security forces, including Imbonerakure members, responded with live bullets, water cannons, and tear gas. The use of violence escalated on both sides in 2015 and continued through the year with targeted killings and grenade attacks. The government accused opposition supporters of targeted killings of several senior government officials during the year, including Colonel Darius Ikurakure on March 22, Brigadier General Athanase Kararuza with his wife and daughter on April 25, and East African Community Legislative Assembly member Hafsa Mossi, on July 13. Security forces accused residents in neighborhoods viewed as pro-opposition of throwing grenades at them. In at least two cases, opposition organizations claimed responsibility for grenade attacks against government forces. The population generally feared police, the SNR, and irregular security forces. By year’s end, more than 100,000 persons had fled the instability in the country, joining the 230,000 refugees that had fled the country in 2015 in refugee camps or settling elsewhere in Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Killings: As of October 5, the OHCHR had documented 157 killings associated with the political unrest during the year.

Abductions: Security forces abducted individuals, particularly young men, from neighborhoods perceived as supportive of the opposition. The OHCHR observed that local human rights defenders labeled many arbitrary detentions as abductions. Some abductions, particularly those for which the SNR was responsible, resulted in the death of the person detained. The OHCHR did not have an estimate of the number of persons authorities had abducted.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Detained individuals reported mistreatment by police and the SNR after their detention. HRW issued several reports citing hundreds of cases of torture, rape, abductions, and incarceration without charge, in which the victims were noncombatants whom the SNR, police, and Imbonerakure perceived to be disloyal to the Nkurunziza administration.

Child Soldiers: According to the OHCHR, the structure of the BNDF prevents the widespread use of child soldiers. Two isolated cases of recruitment by the armed opposition force RED-Tabara were documented.

Other Conflict-related Abuses: Some detainees were denied health care or had treatment for injuries and illnesses interrupted.

Central African Republic

Executive Summary

The Central African Republic is a presidential republic. After a three-year transitional government, most recently led by Catherine Samba Panza from January 2014 to March 2016, voters elected President Faustin-Archange Touadera in a February run-off. A new constitution came into effect on March 30, approved by 93 percent of voters in a December 2015 referendum; voter turnout was 38 percent. International observers reported both the presidential elections and constitutional referendum were free and fair, despite reports of irregularities. The constitution established a bicameral parliament, with a directly elected National Assembly and an indirectly elected Senate. On January 25, the Transitional Constitutional Court annulled the December 30 National Assembly elections due to widespread irregularities, voter intimidation, and fraud and ordered new elections. On May 3, the National Assembly was seated following several rounds of new elections; elections for the Senate were not held, and no date had been announced.

Civilian authorities did not maintain effective control over the security forces, and state authority barely extended beyond the capital, Bangui. Armed groups controlled significant swaths of territory throughout the country and acted as de facto governing institutions, taxing local populations, providing security services, and appointing armed group members to leadership roles.

The most serious human rights problems included arbitrary and unlawful killings, especially those perpetrated by the ex-Seleka and groups known as the anti-Balaka. (Note: This report refers to the “ex-Seleka” for all abuses attributed to the armed factions associated with Seleka, including the Popular Front for the Renaissance in the Central African Republic or FPRC, Union for Peace (UPC), and Patriotic Movement for Central African Republic or MPC, which occurred after the Seleka was dissolved in September 2013). Beginning in 2012 the violence claimed thousands of lives. More than 800,000 persons remained internally displaced or had fled to neighboring countries. Enforced disappearances, torture, and sexual violence, including rape, continued.

Other human rights problems included harsh and life-threatening conditions in prisons and illegal detention facilities; arbitrary arrest and detention; delays in re-establishing a functional judicial system, resulting in prolonged pretrial detention; seizure and destruction of property without due process; and the use of excessive and indiscriminate force in internal conflict. There were restrictions on freedom of movement. Many internally displaced persons lacked protection and access to basic services, especially outside Bangui. Corruption was widespread. Domestic and international human rights groups faced harassment and threats. Discrimination and violence were experienced by women; children; persons with disabilities; ethnic minorities; indigenous people; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons; individuals with HIV/AIDS; Christians; and Muslims. Forced labor and child labor, including forced child labor, and use of child soldiers were also problems.

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

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

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

Members of the Central Office for the Repression of Banditry (OCRB), a police anticrime unit, conducted extrajudicial killings near Bangui. International nongovernmental organization (NGO) Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported 18 extrajudicial killings allegedly committed by the OCRB between April 2015 and March. For example, on January 27, witnesses told HRW that OCRB members apprehended and unlawfully killed a market vendor. Led by Colonel Robert Yekoua-Kette, the OCRB was largely composed of soldiers of the Central African Armed Forces (FACA) who operated as police officers. In June the government removed Colonel Yekoua-Kette as commander of the OCRB but failed to investigate or punish suspected OCRB perpetrators.

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

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

Ethnic killings related to cattle theft occurred (see section 6).

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

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

In June 2015 the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) issued a statement regretting the lack of progress by the Republic of the Congo government in the investigation of the disappearances following the arrest of persons from a private home in Boali in 2014. In June, HRW reported the discovery of a mass grave near a peacekeeping base in Boali, exhumed on February 16. The grave contained the remains of 12 persons identified as those detained by the Republic of the Congo peacekeepers. The Congolese government conducted no known investigations.

Although the law prohibits torture and specifies punishment for those found guilty of physical abuse, there were several reports government officials employed them.

The UN independent expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic and HRW reported allegations that security forces, particularly members of the OCRB, mistreated individuals in pretrial detention and during the arrest of suspected criminals. For example, on April 28, the OCRB arrested a former anti-Balaka fighter accused of armed robbery. Former OCRB commander Yekoua-Kette ordered his men to beat the arrestee in public.

In February the government arrested a member of the FACA guarding Bimbo Women’s Prison, near Bangui, for the alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl in the prison. On March 3, the suspect was remanded into custody and placed in Ngaragba Prison; he had not been brought before a judicial authority by year’s end. In March the UN independent expert expressed concern over allegations of rape of detainees at Bimbo Women’s Prison and raised the issue with the public prosecutor. MINUSCA subsequently took charge of national prison staffing in Bangui and Bouar and trained female prison officers to manage Bimbo Women’s Prison.

Forces from the ex-Seleka, anti-Balaka, LRA, and other armed groups abused, raped, and tortured civilians with impunity. Deaths due to torture occurred (see section 1.g.).

The United Nations reported it had received 50 allegations during the year (as of December 20) of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) by UN peacekeepers deployed to MINUSCA, with 16 alleged incidents occurring in 2016, 31 in 2015, one in 2014, and two for which the dates of the alleged incidents were unknown. These allegations involved peacekeepers from Burundi, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, the Republic of the Congo, and Zambia. Of the 50 allegations, 34 involved minors, 43 remained pending investigation by the United Nations or the troop or police contributing country at year’s end, and four allegations were found to be unsubstantiated. Three investigations substantiated the allegations and resulted in a one-year sentence for a peacekeeper from Bangladesh for sexually abusing a minor, a court-martial and five-year sentence for an Egyptian peacekeeper for sexually assaulting an adult, and 45 days’ imprisonment for a Gabonese peacekeeper for sexual activity with a minor.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on all countries that contribute peacekeepers to increase predeployment education and human rights training, enhance vetting procedures, conduct rapid and effective investigations, ensure consistent penalties for offenders, increase assistance to victims, and strengthen reporting of cases of sexual exploitation and abuse.

On December 5, the United Nations announced that its Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) had completed an internal investigation into more than 100 allegations of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers deployed in Dekoa, Kemo Prefecture, in 2014-15. During the investigation, which began in April, OIOS interviewed 139 persons and found that 45 were able to identify, via photographs and other corroborating evidence, 41 alleged perpetrators–16 of whom were from Gabon and 25 from Burundi. Of the 45 alleged victims, 25 were minors. Eight alleged victims, including six minors, made paternity claims. The United Nations announced it had shared the OIOS report with Gabon and Burundi, including the names of the identified alleged perpetrators, and requested appropriate judicial actions to ensure criminal accountability. The United Nations reported the alleged perpetrators had all been rotated out of the Central African Republic before the allegations surfaced. The United Nations requested a copy of the final national investigation reports to be transmitted urgently.

During the year MINUSCA continued to strengthen its prevention measures and reinforce its outreach among communities and peacekeepers across the country, especially in high-risk areas, to improve awareness and reporting on sexual exploitation and abuse and other forms of misconduct. MINUSCA also regularly monitored conditions and behavior of peacekeeping personnel and partnered with UN agencies and implementing partners in the country that provide psychosocial, medical, and legal assistance to victims of sexual exploitation and abuse.

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

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

According to the UN independent expert, detention conditions in the country’s prisons did not generally meet international norms and were often inhuman. The government operated two prisons in or near Bangui: Ngaragba Central Prison for men (with an estimated 500 inmates) and Bimbo Women’s Prison (with an estimated 300 inmates). A combination of international peacekeepers, FACA troops, and judicial police guarded the men’s prison and its perimeter, while female prison officers, trained by MINUSCA and the Ministry of Justice, guarded the women’s prison. There were also staffed prisons in 10 other towns. Conditions in other prisons not emptied or destroyed by recent conflict were life threatening and substantially below international standards. Basic necessities, including food, clothing, and medicine, were inadequate and often confiscated by prison officials.

MINUSCA’s contribution to prison administration resulted in a gradual demilitarization of facilities and a reduction in escapes.

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

Physical Conditions: Authorities sometimes held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners and juveniles with adults. In prisons outside Bangui, it was common practice to hold men and women together.

Official prisons lacked basic sanitation and ventilation, electric lighting, basic and emergency medical care, and sufficient access to potable water. Prisoners seldom had access to health care, and disease was pervasive. In the women’s prison, authorities divided inmates into three large rooms with no ventilation or electric lighting, and all, including pregnant women, slept on thin straw mats on concrete floors.

Administration: There was no centralized recordkeeping system to track the number of prisoners. There was no ombudsman system. Prison detainees have the right to submit complaints of mistreatment, but victims rarely did so, due to lack of a functioning formal complaint mechanism and fear of retaliation by prison officials. Authorities seldom initiated investigations of abuse in the prisons.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring by independent observers, including the UN independent expert in March.

The law provides protection against arbitrary arrest and detention and accords detainees the right to a judicial determination of the legality of their detention, but the government did not always observe these prohibitions. In the territories they controlled, the ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka also ignored such provisions, and arbitrary arrest and detention remained serious problems throughout the country.


The police and gendarmerie have responsibility for enforcing law and maintaining order; however, both largely were withdrawn from the interior of the country during the violence in 2013 and had limited or no presence in many areas. While the police and gendarmerie increased the number of towns in which they were present during the year, they remained poorly trained and had few functioning arms and little ammunition.

Impunity was a problem. Contributing factors included insufficient staffing and resources; corruption; unpaid salaries for the police, gendarmerie, and judiciary; and too few prisons.

In April and May, 320 police officers and agents were trained by MINUSCA’s police component on community policing, human rights, and gender-based violence (GBV). MINUSCA also trained 77 police and gendarmes, including 18 women, on human rights and the use of force.

MINUSCA had a military police force of 11,820, including 1,820 police officers. The role of MINUSCA’s police force was to protect the civilian population from physical violence within its capabilities and areas of deployment. MINUSCA police had the authority to make arrests and transfer persons to national authorities but not to investigate cases.

On July 16, the EU launched its military training mission in the country. The mission contributed to defining the overall approach of the EU to security-sector reform.


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

The bail system did not function. Authorities sometimes followed legal procedures in cases managed by gendarmes or local police. Lawyers continued to work and were sometimes accessible. For individuals detained by ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka and placed in illegal detention centers, legal procedures were not followed, and access to lawyers was not provided.

The prosecution of persons subject to sanctions was minimal, although arrest warrants reportedly were issued for several sanctioned individuals.

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

Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention was a serious problem.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: No information was available on this subject.

The constitution provides for a judiciary, whose independence is guaranteed by the president. By year’s end no judges had been appointed to the Constitutional Court established by the new constitution. In 2013 the Seleka plundered the courts and destroyed records throughout the country, leaving the courts barely able to operate. Many magistrates and government workers who fled the violence in 2013 did not return to their homes during the year, especially outside the capital, due to fear for their safety. Corruption was a serious problem. Courts suffered from inefficient administration, a shortage of trained personnel, salary arrears, and a lack of resources. Authorities, particularly those of high rank, did not always respect court orders.


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

The government reiterated its desire to establish the Special Criminal Court. The selection committee for national magistrates was established and the operating budget for the first 18 months was approved.

In June the International Criminal Court sentenced the former leader of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, Jean-Pierre Bemba, to 18 years’ imprisonment for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by his troops in the country in 2002-03.


There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.


The constitution provides for an independent judiciary in civil matters, but citizens had limited access to courts to bring lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, a human rights violation. There is no system for the protection of victims and witnesses, who faced intimidation and insecurity. Civil society organizations claimed victims, who often lived side-by-side with perpetrators, were unable to testify against perpetrators, especially since there was no guarantee of a credible judicial process.

The Criminal Court held its annual session in August and September. Some 55 cases were on the docket, many with multiple defendants, including trials for murder, criminal conspiracy, illegal retention of weapons of war, misappropriation of public funds, rape, and witchcraft.

For example, the court sentenced Honniset Sabin, Olivier Ngala, and Ghislain Kolet in absentia to 20 years’ imprisonment for conspiracy and armed robbery. A warrant was issued for their arrest.

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

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

The country’s administrative and commercial infrastructure remained significantly damaged or destroyed due to widespread looting and pillaging in 2013.

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

In February armed Fulani (Peulh) herders, at times supported by ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka fighters, attacked civilians along a corridor used for the seasonal movement of livestock in the central regions, leading to temporary mass displacement of populations in the towns of Kouango, Kaga Bandoro, and Batangafo.

Killings: Attacks by armed groups resulted in numerous civilian casualties. For example, on January 5, outside the village of Pakam, in Nana Mambere Prefecture, armed Peulh affiliated with the 3R group led by self-proclaimed Colonel Siddiki reportedly shot and killed a civilian before burning the body. The same group allegedly was responsible for the death of two men on March 21 during an attack on the village of Ngouvota, near Kaga Bandoro. On March 4, members of the ex-Seleka UPC allegedly killed three women from the same family who were returning from their fields five miles from Bambari; the killings were in retaliation for the deaths of two UPC members.

Beginning in May localized communal violence increased in the North. The movement of nomadic herders in the Northwest sparked tensions, including in Ngaoundaye, in Pende, Ouham Prefecture, after a refusal by residents to allow herders to cross their land. Violence in Ngaoundaye on June 15 resulted in at least 10 deaths, destroyed houses, and the displacement of thousands of persons to surrounding towns, as well as to neighboring Cameroon and Chad, according to the United Nations.

In June and July, a series of attacks by armed groups occurred in and outside of Bangui. On June 20, for example, armed fighters clashed with MINUSCA soldiers in Bangui’s PK-5 area, which resulted in the deaths of six armed men and 15 civilians. On June 24, unidentified assailants killed a Senegalese peacekeeper. In early July clashes between the different ex-Seleka factions in Kaga Bandoro forced civilians to seek protection in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) protected by international forces. Since mid-June the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) registered more than 6,000 new refugees from the Central African Republic in Chad and Cameroon.

On September 16, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported attacks in Kouango that resulted in 19 deaths, 380 houses burned, and populations from 11 villages fleeing.

The LRA also killed civilians during the year, targeting in particular the Haute-Kotto and Mbomou prefectures. Attacks against civilians since the beginning of the year included killings, abductions, and GBV. Between January and April, the LRA abducted more than 290 persons, including 60 children. Thousands of civilians were displaced.

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

On June 19, the armed group in Bangui’s PK-5 area led by Abdoulaye Issene held six police officers hostage for five days. Earlier security force members arrested armed Fulani (Peulh) herders who were bringing their cattle into Bangui, which spiraled into reprisal attacks against the police. After several days of government negotiations, the hostages were released unharmed, with MINUSCA facilitating their handover.

Kidnappings by the LRA reportedly increased. The LRA significantly stepped up its activity in the eastern region, especially in the mining areas east of Bria, in the Haute-Kotto Prefecture, and along the Mbomou River between the towns of Rafai and Obo. According to an international NGO, the LRA was responsible for 42 incidents, six civilian fatalities, and 252 civilian abductions in the country in the first quarter.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: The ex-Seleka and forces associated with anti-Balaka groups reportedly tortured, beat, and raped civilians in the course of the conflict.

Members of armed groups reportedly continued to rape girls and women with impunity. For example, on February 23, four armed men affiliated with the RJ movement gang-raped a 14-year-old girl who was returning home on foot in the village of Pende, Ouham and afterward attacked her with machetes. On February 26, an anti-Balaka leader raped a pregnant 25-year-old woman in the Batangafo, Ouham IDP camp before beating her husband and two other persons who were trying to protect her. MINUSCA arrested the attacker.

Between January and August, at least 110 persons were accused of witchcraft or quackery. Suspected individuals were often subject to arbitrary arrests and executions by members of armed groups, lynching by a mob, or expulsion from their communities.

There were reports peacekeeping forces, including MINUSCA and international contingents, exploited women and children, although some of the reports referred to cases that occurred prior to 2016 (see section 1.c.).

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

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

Also see the Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report at

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Executive Summary

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a nominally centralized constitutional republic. Voters popularly elect the president and the lower house of parliament (National Assembly). Under the constitution the president’s second and final term in office expired on December 19. The government, however, failed to organize elections by year’s end in accordance with constitutional deadlines. On December 31, the government and opposition parties agreed to a power-sharing arrangement and holding elections by the end of December 2017. The country’s most recent presidential and National Assembly elections, which many local and international observers characterized as lacking in credibility and seriously flawed, were held in 2011.

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

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

The most significant human rights problems included unlawful killings; torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and punishment; and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), including rapes and abductions.

Other major human rights problems included disappearances; life-threatening conditions in prisons and detention facilities; arbitrary arrests and prolonged pretrial detention; arbitrary interference with privacy, family, and home; abuse of internally displaced persons (IDPs); arbitrary arrests and prolonged detention; harassment of civil society and opposition leaders and the inability of citizens to change their government; corruption at all levels of government; and restrictions on freedom of speech and press. Societal discrimination and abuse–particularly against women, children, persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities, and indigenous persons; the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community, and persons with albinism–were problems. Trafficking in persons and forced labor, including of children, occurred, as did violations of worker rights.

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

Rebel and militia groups (RMGs) continued to commit abuses, primarily in the east, but also in Katanga and Orientale provinces. These abuses included unlawful killings, disappearances, torture, and SGBV. RMGs also recruited, abducted, and retained child soldiers and compelled forced labor. The government took military action against some RMGs but had limited ability to investigate abuses and bring the accused to trial (see section 1.g.).

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

Security forces committed arbitrary or unlawful killings in operations against RMGs in the east (see section 1.g.).

There were numerous reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. According to the UN Joint Office of Human Rights (UNJHRO), under the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), security forces were responsible for at least 298 extrajudicial killings as of November 30. Victims included 48 demonstrators during September protests in Kinshasa and civilians killed during military operations in the east.

In July, six bodies, some bearing signs of torture, were discovered in Kinshasa’s Ndjili River. The government impeded UNJHRO efforts to identify the bodies or conduct an investigation, and no action had been taken against alleged perpetrators by year’s end.

According to UNJHRO, seven civilians died on September 20, when security forces attacked and burned the Kinshasa headquarters of the opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress (see section 3).

In August a captain and lieutenant in the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) were sentenced to life imprisonment for murders committed in Irumu Territory.

RMGs committed arbitrary and unlawful killings throughout the year (see section 1.g.). The United Nations estimated the RMG Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) killed 206 persons near the town of Beni from January through November (see section 1.d.).

There were reports of disappearances attributable to state security forces (SSF) during the year and following protests in September and December in Kinshasa. Authorities often refused to acknowledge the detention of suspects and in some cases detained suspects in unofficial facilities. The whereabouts of some civil society activists arrested by SSF remained unknown for long periods. For instance, civil society activist Jean Marie Kalonji’s whereabouts were unknown from his arrest by SSF in December 2015 until his transfer to an official prison in April. The National Intelligence Agency (ANR) held another civil society activist, Jean de Dieu Kilima, incommunicado in Kisangani for approximately 10 days following his arrest on July 8 (see section 1.d.). On December 13, SSF arrested civil society activists Carbone Beni wa Beya, Chris Shematsi, Samuel Bosassile, and John Ngandu during a peaceful protest in Kinshasa , and their whereabouts remained unknown until family members located them at an ANR detention facility on December 27. The activists remained in ANR custody, without charge, at year’s end.

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

The law criminalizes torture, but several human rights organizations and activists reported the SSF continued to torture civilians, particularly detainees and prisoners. For example, civil society activist Jean Marie Kalonji was reportedly held in an underground Republican Guard (RG) cell and tortured from December 2015 until his transfer to a regular prison in April. In March the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment found the government tortured civil society activist Fred Bauma after arbitrarily arresting him in March 2015. The government held Bauma incommunicado and subjected him to mistreatment and poor detention conditions, including insufficient food, poor hygiene conditions, and lack of access to medical care. In May the military garrison tribunal of Haut-Uele convicted a FARDC captain of torture, arbitrary arrest, illegal detention, and violation of orders. He was sentenced to a 10-year prison term and ordered to pay 17.6 million Congolese francs ($15,000) in damages to four victims of torture and 23.5 million Congolese francs ($20,000) to three other victims of torture.

The SSF utilized cruel, inhuman, or degrading methods of punishment. For instance, on October 24 in Goma, police caned six arrested civil society activists, giving each 50 lashes to the feet. At year’s end the government had taken no disciplinary actions against police officials responsible for this beating.

There were reports that DRC troops operating with multinational forces in the Central African Republic (CAR) sexually exploited and abused members of the local population in 2014 and 2015. During the year the government initiated legal proceedings against 19 troops accused of rape. Legal proceedings were suspended, however, to allow for continued joint DRC-CAR investigations.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

Physical Conditions: Serious threats to life and health were widespread and included violence (particularly rape); food shortages; and inadequate potable water, sanitation, ventilation, temperature control, lighting, and medical care. Because inmates had inadequate supplies of food and little access to water, many relied exclusively on relatives, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and church groups to bring them sustenance. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) assisted more than 7,900 detainees who were severely malnourished. Authorities generally confined men and women in separate areas but often held juveniles with adults. They rarely separated pretrial detainees from convicted prisoners. Central prison facilities were severely overcrowded, with an estimated occupancy rate of 200 percent of capacity; they also had little ventilation or light, subjecting detainees to extreme heat. For example, Makala Central Prison, constructed in 1958 to house 1,500 prisoners, regularly held as many as 8,000 inmates during the year. The United Nations reported 59 individuals died in detention from starvation or illness nationwide between January and June.

Most prisons were understaffed, undersupplied, and poorly maintained, often allowing escapes. From January to July, the United Nations documented 519 prison escapes. In February alone the United Nations documented 113 cases of prison escapes, mostly in two mass escapes from prisons in Fizi (43 escapees) and Uvira (31 escapees) in South Kivu.

Authorities often arbitrarily beat or tortured detainees.

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

Administration: Recordkeeping on detainees was inadequate and irregular. Some prison directors could only estimate the numbers of detainees in their facilities. There were no ombudsmen available to respond to complaints. Authorities denied access to visitors for some inmates and often did not permit inmates to contact or submit complaints to judicial authorities. Directors and staff generally ran prisons for profit, selling sleeping arrangements to the highest bidders and requiring payment for family visits.

Independent Monitoring: The government regularly allowed the ICRC, MONUSCO, and NGOs access to official detention facilities maintained by the Ministry of Interior but consistently denied access to facilities run by the ANR and the RG. The ICRC visited at least 22,600 detainees over the course of the year and provided support for health care, water, sanitation, and nutrition in 10 prisons.

Improvements: Authorities made efforts to improve prison conditions and reduce overcrowding. For example, the government issued collective presidential pardons that would apply to all women, youth, and young adults under 30 years of age and individuals older than 65 who had not committed violent crimes. As of September the minister of justice reported more than 1,800 persons had been released under these measures; however, NGOs and international organizations observed the pardons were rarely and irregularly applied. The ICRC worked with the Ministry of Justice to correct 937 cases with severe judicial irregularities, resulting in the release of 443 prisoners. At the end of 2015, the Ministries of Justice and Health issued a decree that local health zones would assume responsibility for the medical needs of detainees, and ministries made some effort to standardize procedures for this; however, only limited implementation was achieved during the year.

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


The Congolese National Police (PNC) operates under the Ministry of Interior and has primary responsibility for law enforcement and public order. The PNC includes the Rapid Intervention Police and the Integrated Police Unit. The ANR, overseen by the president’s national security adviser, is responsible for internal and external intelligence. The FARDC and the military intelligence service operate under the control of the Ministry of Defense and are primarily responsible for external security but also fulfill an internal security role. The presidency oversees the RG, and the minister of interior oversees the Directorate General for Migration, which is responsible for border control. Military magistrates are responsible for the investigation and prosecution of all crimes allegedly committed by SSF members, whether or not committed in the line of duty.

Elements of the SSF were undisciplined and corrupt. PNC and FARDC units regularly engaged in illegal taxation and extortion of civilians. They set up checkpoints to collect “taxes,” often stealing food and money and arresting individuals who could not pay bribes. The FARDC suffered from weak leadership, poor operational planning, low administrative and logistical capacity, lack of training, and questionable loyalty of some of its soldiers, particularly in the east. In October a military court in Kongo Central Province sentenced five FARDC officers and their subordinates to prison terms ranging from one to 15 years for violating orders and attempted corruption in facilitating fraudulent border crossings.

Although the military justice system convicted some SSF agents of human rights abuses, impunity remained a serious problem. For example, during the year the government’s inquiry into 2013’s Operation Likofi failed to attribute responsibility for extrajudicial killings and disappearances perpetrated by SSF, and no SSF members were prosecuted or held accountable by year’s end. The government maintained joint human rights committees with MONUSCO and used available international resources, such as the UN-implemented technical and logistical support program for military prosecutors as well as international NGO-supported mobile hearings.

Military courts convicted some SSF agents of human rights abuses. The United Nations reported the government convicted at least 79 FARDC soldiers and 35 PNC agents for crimes constituting human rights violations from January to June. On March 4, the military court of Equateur Province convicted a FARDC corporal and sentenced him to seven years’ imprisonment, a fine of 400,000 Congolese francs ($340), and 120,000 Congolese francs ($100) as court fees for the rape of a girl. Also in March the same court sentenced a PNC agent to 12 years in prison for murder. In June a military court also arrested and began legal proceedings against a provincial member of parliament accused of abduction, rape, and genital mutilation of dozens of children in Kavumu, South Kivu Province, since 2013.

Civilians can be tried in military tribunals if charged with offenses involving firearms. For example, Huit Mulongo, former chief of staff to former governor of Katanga, Moise Katumbi, was arrested on April 22 and tried by a military court for illegal possession of a firearm. On August 30, he was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison. The military justice system often succumbed to political and command interference, and security arrangements for magistrates in areas affected by conflict were inadequate. Justice mechanisms were particularly ineffective for addressing misconduct by mid- and high-ranking officials due to a requirement the judge of a military court must outrank the defendant.


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

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

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

Following visits by the vice minister of justice to detention centers, the PNC issued a decree in 2014 reforming arrest and detention procedures. The decree requires the PNC to verify facts before arresting individuals, separate men from women, and ensure the detention centers are sanitary. Authorities did not consistently implement the decree.

Arbitrary Arrest: Security personnel sometimes arrested and detained perceived opponents and critics of the government, occasionally under the pretext of state security, and often denied them due process, such as access to an attorney (see sections 1.a., 2.a., and 5). For example, on July 8, state agents arrested Jean de Dieu Kilima in Kisangani, and the ANR held him incommunicado for approximately 10 days. The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights filed charges against Kilima upon his transfer from ANR detention. Kilima was provisionally released on September 5 as part of a government effort to reduce political tensions, but charges against him were still pending at year’s end. The SSF also arbitrarily arrested numerous civil society activists and civilians following protests in Kinshasa in September and December, often holding them incommunicado and without charge for extended periods.

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

Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention, ranging from months to years, remained a problem. Lawyers Without Borders reported between 75 and 82 percent of the prison population was in pretrial detention. In August officials released several dozen youth from pretrial detention in Makala Prison in Kinshasa after a review found they had been in detention longer than the maximum sentences if convicted. Judicial inefficiency, administrative obstacles, corruption, financial constraints, and staff shortages also caused trial delays.

In April Human Rights Watch reported that many prisoners, including at least 29 children, had been detained at Angenga Prison since the first half of 2015 without formally being charged with crimes or having access to lawyers or their families. During that time four of these prisoners died of illness, and, in February, two were shot and killed, allegedly during an escape attempt.

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

Amnesty: Following the defeat of the March 23 Movement (M23) in 2013, the National Assembly enacted a law in 2014 that provides amnesty for acts of insurgency, acts of war, and political offenses.

Although the law provides for an independent judiciary, the judiciary was corrupt and subject to influence. Officials and other influential individuals often subjected judges to coercion. For instance, on June 27, the senior judge presiding over the trial of opposition party leader Moise Katumbi–who was convicted in absentia on June 22 for the fraudulent sale of property, sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay 852 million Congolese francs ($722,000) in damages–wrote a public letter accusing ANR of placing her under “physical and moral” pressure to convict Katumbi. The judge and two of the court reporters involved in the case subsequently went into hiding. In an interview broadcast by international media on December 14, the judge publicly renounced her conviction of Katumbi, which she said was government-ordered. The judge claimed she experienced threats and pressure from the government to convict Katumbi before, during, and after the trial.

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


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


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

On February 16, SSF arrested Bienvenu Matumo, Marcel Heritier Kapitene, and Victor Tesongo of the civil society organization Struggle for Change (LUCHA) in Kinshasa ahead of a general strike planned by opposition and civil society. They were held at an ANR detention center until February 19, when they were transferred to prison. On May 20, they were convicted of inciting civil disobedience and spreading false rumors and sentenced to 12 months in prison. On August 19 and 26, the government released several jailed activists, including Matumo, Kapitene, Tesongo, Fred Bauma, Yves Makwambala, Christopher Ngoy, Jean de Dieu Kilima, and Jean-Marie Kalonji as part of an effort to reduce political tensions. Individuals with pending charges, such as Bauma and Makwambala, who were accused of an attempted attack on the head of state’s life, attempted coup, and treason, received a provisional release, meaning their cases could resume at any time. Individuals already convicted, such as Matumo, Kapitene, and Tesongo, received a conditional release. The provisional and conditional nature of these releases curtailed these individuals’ right to freedom of expression, assembly, and association.


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

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

Although the law prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence, SSF routinely ignored these provisions. The SSF harassed and robbed civilians, entered and searched homes and vehicles without warrants, and looted homes, businesses, and schools. In February, PNC officers invaded the house of and ultimately arrested six LUCHA members in Goma. The activists were preparing posters for a demonstration planned for later that day. The SSF also conducted house-to-house searches and arrests in Kinshasa following the September 19-20 protests. Local human rights NGOs reported that between December 16 and 21, SSF conducted house-to-house searches in certain Kinshasa neighborhoods and arrested youth with suspected links to protests.

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

There were credible reports the government provided support to at least two local militias fighting the FDLR. By impeding humanitarian aid and development assistance in some areas, the fighting in the east exacerbated an already severe humanitarian crisis.

There were credible reports that SSF and RMGs perpetrated serious human rights abuses. These RMGs included the Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS), the ADF, Bakata Katanga, the FDLR, FNL, Forces of the Patriotic Resistance of Ituri (FRPI), the LRA, various Nyatura factions, Raia Mutomboki, and the following Mai-Mai groups: Mazembe, Charles Shetani, Yakutumba, and several others.

The government took military action against several major RMGs. Operational cooperation between MONUSCO and the government resumed after a one-year hiatus after UNJHRO discovered two generals appointed in January 2015 to lead counter-FDLR efforts had records of violating human rights. Disagreements between the two sides on the appropriate troop-level reductions stalled efforts to restart cooperation during 2015. The two forces were able to strengthen their cooperation against the FDLR, ADF, FRPI, and FNL during 2016.

There was widespread killing, rape, and displacement of civilians by ethnic militia in Tanganyika Province in clashes between ethnic Luba and ethnic Batwa communities. The conflict erupted in mid-2013 and continued intermittently through the year. In August 2015, 10 Batwa and 27 Lubas were charged with crimes against humanity and crimes of genocide. Their trial was underway at year’s end.

In March the UN Security Council extended MONUSCO’s mandate for 12 months and renewed the intervention brigade to neutralize armed groups. At year’s end MONUSCO consisted of approximately 17,500 peacekeepers, military observers, and police.

Killings: According to reports by UN agencies and NGOs, the SSF and RMGs summarily executed or otherwise killed 315 civilians from January to June. On August 13, alleged ADF combatants killed 50 persons with machetes and axes near the town of Beni.

Abductions: UN agencies and NGOs reported RMGs abducted individuals, generally to serve as porters or guides, or to demand ransom. In August the NGO Caritas accused the FDLR of kidnapping three of its Congolese workers in an area approximately 75 miles northwest of Goma. The three were released a few days later.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: UN agencies and NGOs reported the SSF arrested, illegally detained, raped, and tortured civilians. The United Nations reported that on July 3-4, FARDC soldiers raped 10 women who had been gathering firewood in Virunga National Park. The PNC opened an investigation into the case.

RMGs committed abuses in rural areas of North Kivu, South Kivu, Katanga, and Orientale, including killing, raping, and torturing civilians. Many of the victims of the August 13 massacre by suspected ADF members outside Beni town were bound and possibly tortured before they were killed. In certain areas in the east, RMGs looted, extorted, illegally taxed, and kidnapped civilians, often for ransom.

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

The ADF continued using crude improvised explosive devices that resulted in FARDC casualties. For example, on November 8, one of the devices exploded in Goma, killing a child and injuring 32 UN peacekeepers. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, and the perpetrators remained unknown at year’s end.

Child Soldiers: From January through November, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported 1,196 children were separated from RMGs; UNICEF assisted the children through a number of NGOs. These children were separated from the FDLR (379), Nyatura (201), FRPI (105), other Mai-Mai groups (77), Raia Mutomboki (72), FPD/Shetani (67), UPDI/Mai-Mai Mazembe(56), FDLR/RUD (50), NDC/Renove/Guidon (33), UPCP (31), APCLS (24), ADF (17), NDC/Cheka (18), GA Burundais (14), Mai-Mai Yira (13), LRA (11), Mai-Mai Kata Katanga, (eight) Mai-Mai Simba (seven), MAC (four), Mai-Mai Kifuafua (three), FARDC (two), FRF (two), FPP (one), and M23 (one). Most of the children were separated in North Kivu (81 percent), followed by Ituri (9 percent), South Kivu (8 percent) and Haut Ulele (2 percent). Twelve children were separated from FARDC during the year. Eleven of these children had been recruited in previous years, and one was recruited during the year.

Of the 3,338 children associated with armed forces and groups assisted by UNICEF via partners during the year, the majority–886–declared they were used as combatants; 744 were used for domestic work; 200 to fetch water, wood, and food; 391 as escorts; 147 to bear “fetishes” or transport weapons; and 148 as wives and/or for sexual exploitation. Other forms of use included working as spies, bodyguards, recruiters, camp guards, animal guards, or healers.

The SSF continued to arrest and detain children for their association with armed groups. The United Nations secured the release of nearly 200 children, mostly boys, from FARDC, police, and military prosecutor detention centers.

The president appointed an advisor on sexual violence and child recruitment in 2014. She raised awareness of the problems of sexual violence throughout the country and encouraged efforts to remove child soldiers from the SSF and provide services to victims. The government cooperated with international organizations to eliminate recruitment and remove children from SSF and RMGs.

See also the Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report at

Other Conflict-related Abuse: Fighting between the FARDC and RMGs continued to displace populations and limit humanitarian access, particularly in Rutshuru, Walikale, Lubero, Beni, and Nyiragongo territories in North Kivu Province. During the year, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, humanitarian agency personnel were involved in 152 security incidents in North and South Kivu. This total included all incidents affecting national and international NGOs (humanitarian and postconflict/development combined), as well as the ICRC, but excluded all incidents against UN organizations or other international organizations (such as donors). There was a 22 percent reduction in incidents during the year, but the number of humanitarian workers killed in such incidents increased from one to four.

RMGs and SSF destroyed and looted towns and homes as a tactic in conflicts. For example, FARDC Sokola II forces targeted and emptied some of the Hutu IDP camps in North Kivu and burned several villages in an effort to disperse local civilian Hutu populations during their counter-FDLR operations. The FARDC alleged these communities held many FDLR “reservists” and dependents, and it took the actions to reduce the ability of Hutu communities to provide support for the FDLR.

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

According to media and civil society, the LRA trafficked in elephant ivory from Garamba National Park to finance its operations, likely by smuggling ivory through the CAR, South Sudan, and the disputed Kafia Kingi region controlled by Sudan to link with illicit networks transferring these goods to China. The final report of the UN Group of Experts (UNGOE) in May 2015 indicated FARDC elements, local poachers, and armed groups were involved in the illegal exploitation of and trade in wildlife products, including ivory.

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

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

The UNGOE reported several RMGs and elements of the FARDC profited from illegal trade and exploitation in the minerals sector (see section 7.b.). The UNGOE also reported that smuggling of minerals continued in the east and from there to Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi.

Republic of the Congo

Executive Summary

The Republic of the Congo is a parliamentary republic in which the constitution, promulgated in November 2015, vests most decision-making authority and political power in the president and prime minister. In October 2015 citizens adopted the new constitution by a 94 percent vote, but the opposition and international community questioned the credibility of the referendum process and results. The new constitution changed previous maximum presidential term limits from two terms of seven years to three terms of five years and provided complete immunity to former presidents. On April 4, the Constitutional Court proclaimed the incumbent, Denis Sassou N’Guesso, winner of the March 20 presidential election with 60 percent of the vote and almost 69 percent voter turnout. Domestic nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), opposition candidates, foreign governments, and international organizations questioned the validity of the results and cited electoral irregularities. The government held the most recent legislative elections in 2012 for 137 of the national assembly’s 139 seats. The African Union declared those elections free, fair, and credible, despite numerous irregularities. While the country has a multiparty political system, members of the president’s Congolese Labor Party (PCT) and its allies held almost 90 percent of legislative seats, and PCT members occupied almost all senior government positions.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces.

On April 4, gunfire and explosions in Brazzaville killed 17 persons, including three police officers, two civilians, and 12 attackers, according to the government. The violence displaced more than 17,000 persons, who fled their southern Brazzaville neighborhoods for safer parts of the city. The government blamed the Ninja/Nsiloulou, a former rebel group from the 1997-2003 civil war. Frederic Bintsamou, also known as Pastor Ntumi, the group’s leader, denied responsibility. Many observers suggested the government coordinated the entire operation as a political distraction from the Constitutional Court’s impending declaration of the presidential election results and to instill a climate of fear and intimidation. On April 5, the government launched security operations in the Pool region outside of Brazzaville to locate the Ninja/Nsiloulou and Pastor Ntumi. During the operation, thousands more in the Pool region were displaced from their homes. According to a June joint UN-Ministry of Social Affairs and Humanitarian Action humanitarian assessment report, hundreds of civilian homes were burned, with one documented death. The government initially denied access to the region to several international and local humanitarian assessment teams but later granted access with government escorts. A UN-led humanitarian assessment reported in June that more than 1,200 persons remained displaced in the Pool region, including 598 children. According to a December 9 statement by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), at least 13,000 persons, including thousands of children, remained internally displaced. Periodic violent roadside attacks persisted in the Pool region following the initial operation, during which time rape and physical assaults were committed. The national government-affiliated newspaper reported approximately 100 deaths in the affected area since April 1. While the government blamed Ninja/Nsiloulou for these attacks, the identity and affiliation of the perpetrators were unconfirmed.

The most significant human rights problems included arbitrary or unlawful killings by security forces, arbitrary arrests and the holding of political prisoners, and torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of detainees by police.

Other major human rights abuses included: politically motivated disappearances; harsh detention conditions; lack of due judicial process; infringement of citizens’ privacy rights; restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association; harsh treatment of undocumented immigrants; restrictions on the ability of citizens to change their government peacefully; restrictions on the activities of opposition political groups; corruption on the part of officials and lack of transparency; discrimination against women; sexual and gender-based violence, including domestic violence, child abuse, and early marriage; trafficking in persons; lack of access for persons with disabilities; societal discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, particularly toward indigenous persons; discrimination based on nationality, particularly toward individuals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Central African Republic (CAR), and Rwanda; discrimination based on sexual orientation and HIV/AIDS status; and child labor.

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

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

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

Journalists and local human rights activists presented evidence of four deaths resulting from torture. According to a joint report from three local human rights organizations, on February 26, police arrested Olgane Nioko Ngambou for an alleged robbery in Owando, in the central Cuvette region. Sergeant Cedric Akoul severely beat Ngambou while in custody at the Owando Police Station, and he died from internal hemorrhaging of the liver and kidneys on February 27 after officials transferred him to the Central Hospital in Brazzaville for urgent medical treatment. Other deaths reported included Steve Malonga, arrested March 25 and detained at the Chacona Police Station; Yeutcheu Faustin Aime, a Cameroonian citizen arrested in June in Pointe-Noire and detained at the Tie Tie Police Station; and Fabrice Oyakou, arrested June 15 and detained at the Poto Poto Police Station in Brazzaville.

According to multiple NGO reports, on July 21, police shot and killed Mankou Albert, Aikon Apollinaire, and Nsihou Paul, civilians belonging to a community night watch patrol in the Raffinerie neighborhood of Pointe-Noire. Police intercepted the men, who were armed with machetes and whistles, and according to eyewitnesses, questioned the men at gunpoint about their activities and moments later shot and killed them. On July 21, Itoua Poto, police chief of Pointe-Noire, stated the victims belonged to a militia and that police who shot them had committed no error.

Vigilante justice and abuse of power by police were problems. For example, on April 26, Police Brigadier General Mba Ferdinand, in the southern town of Madingou, shot Ngembo Olombi Mignon, age 15, at his house, after learning that Mignon had harmed a young neighbor girl. Mignon died later that night in a hospital. In response to his death, youth set fire to the police station in Madingou.

Human rights NGOs reported at least seven deaths resulting from abuse in prisons and pretrial detention centers (see sections 1.c. and 1.g.).

There were numerous credible reports of politically motivated disappearances. For example, independent media and local human rights NGOs reported the disappearance of political opposition members Marien Michel Ehouango Madzimba, arrested on April 30, and Rodiguez Bazembe, arrested on June 17. Additionally, there were several reports of night raids and daytime state-sponsored kidnappings of opposition supporters, after which family members were unable to find any information about the victims’ welfare and whereabouts.

Police detained minor children, who subsequently disappeared (see section 1.c.).

The constitution prohibits torture, and the law contains a general prohibition against assault and battery, but there is no legal framework specifically banning torture under the criminal code. There were widespread reports of cases of government-led torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.

A human rights NGO reported that in December 2015 sergeants Sabin Assima Atsouama and Morgan Atsouama allegedly tortured Rigobert Okuya. According to Okuya, he was strapped down on a table for hours, severely beaten, temporarily paralyzed by a stun gun, and sodomized with a metal rod.

In September, NGOs and media reported the arrest and torture of Augustin Kala Kala, a campaign official belonging to the Convention for Action, Democracy, and Development, an opposition political group. According to Kala Kala’s wife, more than a dozen armed and hooded men belonging to government security forces arrested Kala Kala at his residence in Brazzaville during the middle of the night on September 28. Police took him to a local intelligence police station where intelligence police subjected him to electric shock and beatings over a period of two weeks. On October 15, Kala Kala was found barely conscious in front of a morgue in Brazzaville and given medical attention.

According to human rights NGOs and social media reports, on November 12, armed and hooded men belonging to government security forces abducted Jugal Mayangui, a sergeant in the military, from his home in Brazzaville. According to Mayangui, he was muzzled, burned, molested, and subjected to severe beatings and accused of being an accomplice to Pastor Ntumi. The abductors released him on November 20, and he was taken to a hospital for treatment.

On December 21, prison authorities brought Roland Gambou, the younger brother of opposition candidate Okombi Salissa, to the hospital where he died of unspecified causes after more than four months of detention.

Other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment regularly took place. Human rights NGOs reported authorities regularly beat numerous detainees while in custody. On July 28, Jean Ngouabi, detained in the Brazzaville Prison, reported to a human rights NGO that police arrested him on March 25 and subsequently subjected him to severe beatings over the next 27 days. Because of the blows to his head, he developed blood clots, and according to medical records provided by his lawyer, lost all vision in his right eye and some vision in his left eye. The government denied responsibility, claiming a pre-existing health condition caused his vision loss. According to human rights NGOs, many detainees developed chronic medical problems such as organ damage and paralysis due to lack of proper medical care.

Police frequently required detainees to pay for protection or risk beatings. NGOs reported authorities generally ignored allegations of prisoner mistreatment.

Rape and sexual abuse by government agents occurred. In June a joint UN-Congolese government report cited indications that sexual violence toward women and teenage girls corresponded to the timing of security operations in the southern Pool region. Human rights NGOs reported multiple instances of rape and sexual abuse by police, particularly of prostitutes and gay men.

Although prostitution is legal, there were reports of police arresting prostitutes, including gay men, for alleged illegal activity; police then threatened or committed rape if the detainees did not pay a bribe for release.

The United Nations reported that during the year (through December 20), it received nine allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against Republic of the Congo peacekeepers deployed to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the CAR. These include three alleged incidents occurring in 2016, five in 2015, and one for which the date of the alleged incident was unknown. Investigations into these nine allegations by the United Nations and the Government of the Republic of the Congo were pending at year’s end.

Conflict abuses during international peacekeeping missions allegedly took place. On June 7, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that Congolese peacekeepers in Boali, CAR, killed 18 civilians between December 2013 and June 2015. HRW made these allegations based on a grave exhumed near a peacekeeping base on February 16, in which the remains of 12 bodies matched the identities of missing persons from March 2014. On June 8, Minister of Justice Pierre Mabiala, responded that the soldiers in question would face justice by the end of the year. At year’s end the investigation was still pending.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions were harsh and life threatening due to inadequate sanitary conditions, gross overcrowding, and a severe deficit of medical and psychological care.

Authorities generally maintained separate areas within facilities for minors, women, and men in Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire, however, there were times when 16-17-year-old males were held in the same area as women in Pointe Noire. In Brazzaville, while these areas were separate, they were sometimes easily accessible with no locked entryways. In the other 10 prisons, authorities sometimes held juvenile detainees with adult prisoners.

Physical Conditions: As of September 8, there were approximately 1,200 inmates in the country’s two largest prisons–Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire prisons. A government source estimated 60 percent of inmates awaited trial, but according to an NGO, that total was closer to 75 percent. As of November 30, the Brazzaville Prison, built in 1943 to accommodate 150 prisoners, held more than 800 inmates, including women and minors. It had only 110 beds and 24 showers and toilets. The Pointe-Noire Prison, built in 1934 to hold up to 75 inmates, held an estimated 400, including 60 foreign nationals, more than half of whom were from the DRC. Police stations regularly housed individuals in their limited incarceration facilities beyond the maximum statutory holding period of 72 hours. In addition to these official prisons, the government’s intelligence and security services operated several secret detention centers and security prisons, which were inaccessible for inspection.

Prison conditions for women were better than those for men in all 12 prisons. There was less crowding in the women’s cells than in those for men. Authorities held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners. In Brazzaville authorities housed and treated prisoners with illnesses in one area but allowed them to interact with other inmates.

In Brazzaville prison conditions for wealthy or well connected prisoners generally were better than conditions for others.

There were several reported deaths resulting from abuse, neglect, and overcrowding in prisons and pretrial detention centers (see section 1.a.). For example, an NGO reported that in February Michel Nganda Manenga, incarcerated since 2013, died from malnutrition in the Ouesso Jail in Sangha Department. According to the same NGO, six inmates died in the Brazzaville Prison in July for reasons prison administrators did not disclose.

On June 11, NGOs reported the forced disappearance of Mayama Saint Etude, age 11. Police arrested Etude for alleged theft and detained him in a special unit called the Banditry Repression Group at the Ouenze Mandzandza Police Station in Brazzaville. They denied his parents’ repeated requests for access to visit him in detention. On June 29, the parents received an anonymous tip that their son had died in detention shortly after his arrest. On July 4, Etude’s parents met with the police commissioner of the police station, who denied Etude had ever been arrested or detained.

On December 29, an attempted prison break in Brazzaville led to the death of three individuals–a gendarme, a prisoner, and a passerby, according to the government.

In Brazzaville most inmates slept on the floor on cardboard or thin mattresses in small, overcrowded cells that exposed them to disease. The prisons lacked ventilation and had poorly maintained lighting with wiring protruding from the walls. In Brazzaville stagnant water with trash lined the interior space of one holding area. In Pointe-Noire water regularly backed into prisoners’ cells. Basic and emergency medical care was limited. Medical personnel at a Brazzaville prison cited tuberculosis, dysentery, malaria, and HIV as the most common maladies affecting prisoners. Authorities did not provide prisoners with HIV/AIDS with specialized medical care, nor were HIV tests available in prisons. Authorities took pregnant women to hospitals to give birth, and authorities sometimes allowed them to breastfeed their infants in prison. Access to social services personnel was severely limited due to insufficient staffing, overcrowding, and stigmatization of mental health issues.

Prison inmates reportedly received, on average, two daily meals consisting of rice, bread, and fish or meat. Authorities permitted women to cook over small fires built on the ground in a shared recreational space. The Pointe-Noire Prison occasionally had running water. All of the prisons supplied potable water to inmates in buckets.

Administration: Recordkeeping in the penitentiary system was inadequate. Despite having the necessary computer equipment in Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire, prison officials continued to rely mostly on a noncomputerized system, citing a lack of internet access, resources, and training.

Access to prisoners generally required a communication permit from a judge. The permit allowed visitors to spend five to 15 minutes with a prisoner, although authorities usually did not strictly enforce this limit. In most cases visits took place either in a crowded open area or in a small room with one extended table where approximately 10 detainees sat at a time. A new permit is technically required for each visit, but families were often able to return for multiple visits on one permit. Since many prisoners’ families lived far away, visits often were infrequent because of the financial hardship of travel.

Prison rules provide for prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship, but officials did not respect this right. Authorities did not investigate credible allegations of inhuman conditions brought to them by NGOs and detainees’ families.

Independent Monitoring: The government provided domestic and international human rights groups with limited access to prisons and detention centers. Observers generally considered the primary local NGO focused on prison conditions independent; authorities, however, denied it access to the interior of several different prisons on multiple occasions throughout the year.

Throughout the year human rights NGOs that monitored detention conditions requested letters of permission from the Ministry of Justice to visit prisons. Their repeated requests went unanswered, so prisons in Djambala and Brazzaville, and police detention stations in Sembe and Sangha, continued to refuse these NGOs access.

Representatives of religiously affiliated charitable organizations visited prisons and detention centers for charitable work and religious counseling. Authorities granted diplomatic missions access to both prisons and police jails to provide consular assistance to their citizens and for general inspection.

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention. Nevertheless, arbitrary arrest continued to be a widespread problem. Local NGOs reported hundreds of arbitrary detentions in the period leading up to and after the March 20 presidential election, although more-definitive evidence was available for only 88 cases during the year.


Security forces consist of the police, gendarmerie, and military. Police and the gendarmerie are responsible for maintaining internal order, with police primarily operating in cities and the gendarmerie mainly in other areas. Military forces are responsible for territorial security, but some units also have domestic security responsibilities. For example, the specialized Republican Guard battalion is charged with the protection of the president, government buildings, and diplomatic missions. The Ministry of Defense oversees the military and gendarmerie, and the Ministry of the Interior and Decentralization oversees the police.

A civilian police unit under the Ministry of Interior and Decentralization is responsible for patrolling the borders. Separately, a military police unit reports to the Ministry of Defense and is composed of military and police officers responsible for investigating professional misconduct by members of any of the security forces.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces; however, there were members of the security forces who acted independently of civilian authority, committed abuses, and engaged in malfeasance. The law charges both the military police and the Office of the Inspector General of Police with investigating reports of misconduct by security forces.

In March a Brazzaville court sentenced police officer Dany Mayala to five years in prison for committing “intentional injury” to a detainee at the Diata Police Station in 2013.

The government-established Human Rights Commission (HRC) receives reports from the public of security force abuses, but it was ineffective and did not meet during the year.

Impunity for members of the security forces remained widespread. On April 4, security forces were mostly professional and restrained during the aftermath of gunfire in Brazzaville that displaced thousands of persons. There were, however, several reports of security force members robbing displaced persons of their valuable possessions, such as cell phones, and demanding bribes at checkpoints within the city. Additionally, their commanders and other government officials often ordered them to commit human rights abuses, such as preventing freedom of movement throughout the country during the presidential campaign period in March.


The constitution and law require that a duly authorized official issue warrants before making arrests, a person be apprehended openly, a lawyer be present during initial questioning, and detainees be brought before a judge within three days and either charged or released within four months. The government habitually violated these provisions. There is a bail system, but with 70 percent of the population living in poverty, most detainees could not afford to post bail. There is an option for provisional release, but officials usually denied these requests, even for detainees with serious medical conditions. Authorities sometimes informed detainees of charges against them at the time of arrest, but filing of formal charges often took at least one week. Authorities often arrested detainees secretly and without judicial authorization and sometimes detained suspects incommunicado or put them under de facto house arrest. Police at times held persons for six months or longer before filing charges due to the political nature of the cases or administrative errors. Observers attributed most administrative delays to lack of staff in the Ministry of Justice and the court system. Family members sometimes received prompt access to detainees but often only after payment of bribes. The law requires authorities to provide lawyers to indigent detainees facing criminal charges at government expense, but this usually did not occur.

The penal code states authorities may hold a detainee for a maximum of 48 to 72 hours in a police jail before an attorney general reviews the case. Thereafter, a decision must be made either to release or to transfer the individual to a prison for pretrial detention. Authorities generally did not observe the 72-hour maximum and frequently held detainees for several weeks before an attorney general freed or transferred them to a prison to await trial. The criminal code states that a defendant or accused person may apply for provisional release at any point during his or her detention, from either an investigating judge or a trial court, depending on the type of case. The law states that provisional release should generally be granted, provided that the judicial investigation is sufficiently advanced, that the accused does not pose a risk of subornation of witnesses, and does not pose a threat of disturbance to public order caused by the offense initially alleged; however, this law was not respected in practice.

Arbitrary Arrest: Arbitrary and false arrests continued to occur. Authorities arrested more than eight persons belonging to opposition political parties or suspected of supporting the opposition. According to eyewitnesses and local human rights NGOs, police conducted secret arrests, often at night, at the homes of opposition supporters. Independent media and local NGOS published lists of hundreds of names of individuals arrested between January and July.

Pretrial Detention: The penal code sets a maximum of four months in pretrial detention, which may be extended an additional two months with judicial approval; thereafter detainees must be released pending their court hearings. Authorities did not respect this limit, arguing that the two-month extension is renewable. Between 60 and 75 percent of detainees in the prisons were pretrial detainees. Prison authorities stated the average provisional detention for noncriminal cases lasted one to three months and for criminal cases at least 12 months. Human rights activists, however, stated the average was much longer, commonly exceeding a year, and sometimes exceeding the maximum sentence for the alleged crime.

For example, in November 2015 authorities arrested Paulin Makaya, president of the opposition United for Congo Party for “incitement to public disorder” for organizing and participating in an unauthorized demonstration in October 2015 against the constitutional referendum. Makaya remained in pretrial detention for six months before his trial began on June 13.

Lengthy pretrial detentions were primarily due to the judicial system’s lack of capacity and political will. The penal code defines three levels of crime: the misdemeanor (punishable by less than one year in jail), the delict (punishable by one to five years in jail), and the felony (punishable by more than five years in jail). Criminal courts try misdemeanor and delict cases regularly. The judicial system, however, suffered from a serious backlog of felony cases. By law criminal courts must hear felony cases four times per year. This was not possible because the ministry received funding irregularly for processing the more expensive and legally complex felony cases.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest, arbitrary detention, and false arrest, and provide detainees the right to challenge the legal basis of their detention before a competent judge or authority. If an investigating judge determines a detainee to be innocent, his or her release is promptly ordered, and he or she is entitled to file suit against the government for miscarriage of justice with the Administrative Court. The government generally did not observe the law. Local human rights NGOs reported numerous occasions when officials denied detainees in Brazzaville the right to challenge their detention.

Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, the judiciary continued to be overburdened, underfunded, and subject to political influence and corruption. Authorities generally abided by court orders; however, judges did not always issue direct court orders against accused authorities.

In rural areas traditional courts continued to handle many local disputes, particularly property, inheritance, and witchcraft cases, and domestic conflicts that could not be resolved within the family.


The constitution provides for the right to a fair trial presided over by an independent judiciary, but authorities did not always respect this right. In 2011 the Ministry of Justice began to decentralize the trial process. Appeals courts existed in five departments–Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire, Dolisie, Owando, and Ouesso–and each had authority to try felony cases brought within its jurisdiction.

Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges, with free interpretation as necessary. Defendants have a right to a fair and public trial in all criminal cases and felony cases. Defendants in all criminal trials have the right to be present at their trials and to consult with an attorney in a timely manner, although this did not always occur. The law obligates the government to provide legal assistance to any indigent defendant facing serious criminal charges, but such legal assistance was not always available because the government did not generally pay for public defenders.

Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. The defense has the right to access government-held evidence. Defendants also have the right to confront or question accusers and witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt and have the right to appeal. The law extends these rights to all citizens, and the government generally abided by these provisions, except in highly politicized cases.


During the year NGOs reported authorities held 131 political prisoners, who had publicly opposed another term for the incumbent president; some cases dated back to August 2015. A total of 88 others were detained since January. For example, authorities arrested senior campaign officials of opposition presidential candidates the week following the March 20 presidential election, including Jean Ngouabi, Jacques Banagandzala, Anatole Limbongo Ngoka, Christine Moyen, Dieudonne Dhird, Raymond Ebonga, and Serge Blanchard Oba. In addition, the government put several opposition figures under house arrest or had their houses surrounded by security forces. On April 6, Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas, the declared runner-up in the presidential election, reported his house was under police surveillance for several weeks. Security forces reportedly surrounded the house of opposition candidate Okombi Salissa; the candidate’s actual whereabouts were unknown. From April 13 until April 20, security forces surrounded the private residence of candidate Claudine Munari. Security forces also surrounded the residence of retired general Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko, the candidate who came in third officially with 14 percent of vote. On June 14, authorities arrested Mokoko on charges of posing a threat to national security and possession of weapons of war. He faced an additional charge on August 17 of disturbing public order. On August 18, authorities denied him provisional release and as of year’s end, he remained in detention in Brazzaville.

The government permitted limited access to political prisoners by international human rights and humanitarian organizations, and diplomatic missions.


In contrast to felony courts, civil courts reviewed cases on a regular basis throughout the year. Civil courts experienced long delays–although shorter than felony courts–but were considered functional. Individuals may file a lawsuit in court on civil matters related to human rights, including seeking damages for or cessation of a human rights violation. The public, however, generally lacked confidence in the judicial system’s ability to address human rights problems.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions; the government, however, did not always respect these prohibitions.

There were reports government authorities entered homes without judicial or other appropriate authorization; monitored private communications without appropriate legal authority, including e-mail, text messaging, or other digital communications intended to remain private; monitored private movements; accessed personal data and employed informer systems.

For example, on March 31, police issued fines of 500,000 CFA francs, ($856) under threat of permanent closure to shop owners who had closed during a March 29 general stay-at-home strike called by the opposition to protest the provisional results of the presidential election, announced on March 22.

Between January and June, there were dozens of reports police entered homes without judicial authorization, often in the middle of the night, to conduct searches and arrests.

Killings: Multiple sources reported at least one death resulting from violence on April 4 in Brazzaville; in October the government asserted that militiamen called Ninja/Nsiloulou killed 17 persons. A UN report cited one civilian death resulting from a security force operation launched on April 5 in the southern Pool region as well as multiple injuries to civilians fleeing their homes. The government reported that 14 persons, including 11 civilians, died during a September 30 attack on a freight train by Ninja militia in the southern Pool region.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: A joint UN-Congolese government report cited an increase in indicators of sexual violence toward women and teenage girls corresponding to security operations in the southern Pool region.

Other Conflict-related Abuse: From April 5 to May 6, the government deliberately restricted the passage of relief supplies, food, drinking water, and medical aid by impartial international humanitarian organizations like the United Nations. On April 6, a government helicopter strafed an empty elementary school in the village of Vindza and medical centers in Mayama in the southern Pool region. The government-led security operation forcibly displaced thousands of civilians for reasons other than military necessity. A UN humanitarian report said the government systematically burned and destroyed approximately half of homes in some villages in the region. According to NGOs, authorities ordered villagers in the region to flee the area, obligating them to walk many miles to larger urban areas. NGOs also reported a series of lootings by security forces in the region.


Executive Summary

Rwanda is a constitutional republic dominated by a strong presidency. The ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) led a governing coalition that included four smaller parties. In 2010 voters elected President Paul Kagame to a second seven-year term with 93 percent of the vote. Three other registered political parties participated in the presidential election. In 2013 elections were conducted for parliament’s lower house, the Chamber of Deputies. Candidates from the RPF and two other parties that supported RPF policies won all of the open seats, and election observers reported numerous flaws, including possible irregularities in the vote tabulation process. In 2015 the country held a constitutional referendum; the National Electoral Commission reported 98 percent of registered voters participated, and 98 percent endorsed a set of amendments that included provisions that would allow the president to run for up to three additional terms in office.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over state security forces (SSF).

The most important human rights problems were government harassment, arrest, and abuse of political opponents, human rights advocates, and individuals perceived to pose a threat to government control and social order; security forces’ disregard for the rule of law; and restrictions on media freedom and civil liberties. Due to restrictions on the registration and operation of opposition parties, citizens did not have the ability to change their government through free and fair elections.

Other major human rights problems included arbitrary or unlawful killings; torture and harsh conditions in prisons and detention centers; arbitrary arrest; prolonged pretrial detention; government infringement on citizens’ privacy rights and on freedoms of speech, assembly, and association; government restrictions on and harassment of some local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), particularly organizations that monitored and reported on human rights and media freedoms; some reports of trafficking in persons; and government restrictions on labor rights; and child labor.

The government in many cases took steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses, including within the security services, but impunity involving civilian officials and the SSF was a problem.

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

There were several reports the government committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, representing a slight increase compared with the previous year.

Local human rights observers and Muslim community members expressed concern regarding police killings of Muslims under questionable circumstances. For example, on January 23, the Rwanda National Police (RNP) shot and killed Muslim Imam Mohamed Mugemangango while he was in custody. The RNP reported Mugemangango was trying to escape while in transit from his residence to the Kanombe police station. On August 19, RNP officers shot and killed three other Muslim community members in Bugarama. The RNP reported the three were trying to escape after resisting arrest. This incident came two days after the RNP in Kigali shot and killed another Muslim, Channy Mbonigaba. The RNP reported Mbonigaba exchanged gunfire with police, injuring one officer. In all three cases, the RNP issued statements indicating they suspected the individuals of having links to foreign terrorist organizations.

On July 21, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported it received information regarding several persons who died during or just after their detention in the Mudende detention center, reportedly due to a combination of injuries from beatings, poor conditions, and lack of medical care.

The African Union (AU) pressed the governments of Rwanda and Burundi to follow through on their publicly stated support for an AU-led investigation into the 2014 discovery of corpses in Lake Rweru, which spans the border between the two countries, but no investigation commenced by year’s end. The government maintained the bodies appeared on the Burundi side of the border and insisted that any investigation of the incident must commence in Burundi.

In contrast with the previous year, there were several reports of politically motivated disappearances during the year.

On March 26, Illuminee Iragena, a member of the unregistered United Democratic Forces (FDU)-Inkingi party, disappeared, and there were unconfirmed reports she was killed while in SSF detention. The government had not initiated an investigation into her disappearance by year’s end.

On August 7, journalist John Ndabarasa disappeared. Ndabarasa is the brother-in-law of Joel Mutabazi, a former bodyguard to the president, who was convicted of eight charges, including terrorism and treason, and sentenced to life in prison in 2014 after being deported from Uganda, a move condemned by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), HRW, and Amnesty International as a violation of the principle of nonrefoulement. The RNP opened an investigation into Ndabarasa’s disappearance and immediately issued a statement suggesting he had departed the country. Ndabarasa’s family members and domestic human rights groups disputed this claim.

Domestic organizations critical of the SSF reported interference in their operations by the government and cited a lack of capacity and independence to investigate security-sector abuses.

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but there were numerous reports of abuse of detainees and prisoners by police, military, and National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) officials.

In 2012 the government signed into law a penal code that upgrades torture from an aggravating circumstance to a crime in itself. The law mandates the maximum penalty, defined by the extent of injury, for SSF and other government perpetrators. In 2014 the government ratified and indigenized the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture.

There were reports military intelligence personnel and the SSF employed torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment to obtain confessions in military detention centers. There were no reported prosecutions of SSF personnel for torture.

There were numerous reports police at times beat newly arrested suspects to obtain confessions. Allegations of abuse were particularly frequent at the police station in Gisenyi, located across the border from Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Official reports of sexual abuse were rare, but according to former detainees, transactional sex in prisons and detention centers occurred regularly.

In 2015 HRW and domestic observers reported the abuse of detained street vendors, persons in prostitution, and beggars at the Gikondo Transit Center, a detention facility in Kigali (locally known as “Kwa Kabuga”), by police and other detainees. The government disputed HRW’s findings, denying the existence of undeclared detention centers and referring to Gikondo as a rehabilitation facility designed to provide “social emergency assistance” in lieu of incarceration. In November 2015 the Kigali City Council published guidelines for improving conditions at Gikondo, but the directives were vague and permitted arbitrary and lengthy detention. A July 21 follow-up report by HRW noted conditions at Gikondo improved only marginally and documented abuses at so-called transit centers in Muhanga, Mbazi, and Mudende. Former detainees reported routine and arbitrary beatings by police and other detainees, often with sticks. HRW interviews with prisoners and former detainees indicated inmates, acting under direction of detention center authorities, carried out a majority of beatings. According to HRW, several persons died during or just after their detention in Mudende.

Three RNP officers serving in the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti were cited in a February 16 report by the UN secretary-general on sexual exploitation and abuse of civilians by international peacekeepers. All three were paternity cases arising from inappropriate relationships with adult victims. On March 4, the same day the United Nations released its report publicly, the government suspended the officers and opened investigations into their conduct, promising appropriate disciplinary action. The investigations had not concluded by year’s end.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions ranged from harsh and life threatening to meeting international standards. The government took steps to improve conditions in some prisons and constructed additional facilities to relieve overcrowding, but conditions varied widely among prisons.

Domestic civil society organizations reported impediments for persons with disabilities, including lack of sign language interpreters at police stations and detention centers.

Physical Conditions: According to the Rwanda Correctional Service (RCS), the prison population steadily declined from 58,515 in 2011 to 53,600 in 2014. It was expected to decline further in the coming years as convicted persons sentenced to 20-25 years’ imprisonment for crimes related to the 1994 genocide, who comprised approximately 60 percent of the prison population, finished serving their sentences.

Conditions were generally worse and often harsh and life threatening in detention and transit centers. In July, HRW reported that, according to former detainees, upwards of 200-400 men, women, and children were detained at any one time in each of the Mbazi, Muhanga, and Mudende transit centers, while the number of detainees in Gikondo ranged from 200 to 800 persons, who were held in several large rooms. HRW reports suggested similar conditions prevailed in other transit and detention centers, of which there were at least 28 across the country.

Authorities held men and women separately in similar conditions, although overcrowding was more prevalent in men’s wards.

Detention centers in general lacked separate facilities for children. According to HRW, officials held children together with adults in Muhanga, Mudende, and Gikondo. They sometimes held minors in separate facilities, as in Mbazi, that had marginally better conditions than the facilities for adults. There was also a minors-only facility in Nyagatare; observers reported Nyagatare came close to meeting international norms and noted authorities provided children detained there with formal education opportunities.

According to the Ministry of Justice, 152 children under age three lived with their mothers in prison. The law does not allow children over the age of three to remain with their incarcerated mothers.

Authorities generally separated pretrial detainees from convicted prisoners, although there were numerous exceptions due to the large number of detainees awaiting trial.

The government held six prisoners of the Special Court for Sierra Leone in a purpose-built detention center that the United Nations deemed met international standards for incarceration of prisoners convicted by international criminal tribunals. The government held international transfers and some high-profile “security” prisoners in similarly upgraded maximum-security wings of Kigali Central “1930” Prison.

Prisoner deaths resulted from anemia, HIV/AIDS, respiratory diseases, malaria, and other diseases at rates similar to those found in the general population. Medical care in prisons was commensurate with care for the public at large, because the government enrolled all prisoners in the national health insurance plan. Prisoners were fed once per day, but there were no provisions for feeding those in pretrial detention, who relied on family members for food. Authorities permitted family members to supplement the diets of vulnerable prisoners with health problems. HRW stated several detainees shared mattresses that were often infested with lice and fleas. According to HRW, the government upgraded the Gikondo Transit Center, including improvements to toilets and other sanitation facilities, but conditions still fell short of international standards. There were reports of improvements to heating, ventilation, and lighting in prisons in the local media; however, the reports did not mention specific details of upgrades or measures implemented by the government.

Conditions in police and military detention centers varied. Overcrowding was common in police stations and detention centers, and poor ventilation often led to high temperatures. Provision of adequate food and medical care was inconsistent.

Authorities transferred transit center male detainees and at-risk adults ages 18 to 35 to the Iwawa Rehabilitation and Vocational Development Center on Iwawa Island in Lake Kivu. Sanitation, nutrition, and health services at the center generally met international standards.

Administration: Recordkeeping on prisoners and detainees remained inadequate. Domestic and international human rights organizations reported instances of long delays and failures to locate prisoners and detainees. In January authorities implemented a pilot integrated electronic case management system (IECMS); domestic observers praised IECMS’s potential to improve accountability and transparency in record keeping, but they noted it also created substantial barriers in access to justice in rural areas where lack of computers, internet, electricity, and technological knowledge prevented many from accessing IECMS.

In January the Ministry of Justice announced the completion of its investigation into the cases of 7,099 prisoners convicted of genocide and related crimes by traditional gacaca (community-based) courts who claimed they were kept in prison beyond their sentences. The Justice Ministry-led commission, which included the RCS, Ministry of Internal Security, and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), stated it found no basis for the prisoners’ claims but noted shoddy record keeping and corruption among RCS personnel led to an increasing number of incomplete prisoner files. A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said most of the concerned prisoners appeared to have bribed RCS officials to remove their sentencing decrees from their prison files, thereby creating confusion regarding the lengths of their sentences. Although the commission found that none of the prisoners merited release, it instructed the RCS to respect fully the prisoners’ rights. The commission did not make its final report public, and prisoners continued making appeals to the NHRC to have their cases reviewed.

In 2013 the government disarmed approximately 770 March 23 Movement Congolese rebel combatants who crossed into the country from the DRC and detained them in a converted police training facility in Ngoma. As in previous years, detainees left or escaped the Ngoma internment center, and the government was unable to account for their whereabouts. In September observers reported there were approximately 100 detainees in the internment center, a substantial decrease from the nearly 400 individuals interned in the center at the end of 2015; 29 of the former combatants were positively identified among the refugee population in the country’s five Congolese camps.

The RCS investigated reported abuses by corrections officers, and the same hierarchical structure existed in police and security forces; there was no independent institution charged with investigating abuses or punishing perpetrators.

Detainees held at the Iwawa Rehabilitation and Vocational Development Center did not have the right to appeal their detentions to judicial authorities.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions on a limited basis by diplomats and the International Committee of the Red Cross. At times, however, it restricted access to specific prisoners and did not permit monitors to visit undeclared detention centers and certain military intelligence facilities. The government effectively barred HRW from conducting research inside the country after the publication of HRW’s 2015 and 2016 reports on the Gikondo Transit Center. A limited number of local NGOs were supposedly permitted to monitor prison conditions but did not do so, citing intimidation by the government.

Journalists could access prisons with a valid press card but required permission from the RCS commissioner to take photographs or interview prisoners or guards.

Improvements: According to the Legal Aid Forum, which provided legal assistance to inmates, there were improvements in the treatment of the general prison population, including the organization of “legal aid week” events, the appointment of legal officers in every prison, and the dedication of the Ngoma prison exclusively for women. Under its strategic plan for 2013-18, the RCS built a prison in the Mageragere suburb of Kigali to relieve overcrowding in the Kigali Central “1930” and Kimironko prisons.

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but SSF personnel regularly arrested and detained persons arbitrarily and without due process.

Domestic observers reported the RNP systematically rounded up and arbitrarily detained street children, street vendors, suspected drug abusers, persons in prostitution, homeless persons, suspected petty criminals, and suspected serious offenders ahead of the AU Summit, held in Kigali July 10-18. As in previous years, they held detainees without charge at the Gikondo Transit Center before transferring them to the Iwawa Rehabilitation and Vocational Development Center without judicial review. The government maintained that individuals in transit and rehabilitation centers were not detainees, although they could not leave the centers.

Unregistered opposition political parties reported authorities frequently arrested their supporters and party officials but released most after detention of one week or less, although several, including FDU-Inkingi assistant secretary Leonille Gasengayire, completed longer detention. On August 23, police arrested Gasengayire for inciting the public against the public order, and he remained in detention at year’s end. The charge stemmed from meetings Gasengayire allegedly organized in which she urged residents of Rutsiro District in Western Province to resist forcible relocation after expropriation of their land holdings for the construction of government buildings. Domestic and international observers disputed the prosecution’s claim and argued political considerations motivated the charges.

In May authorities detained retired colonel Ben Karenzi, who served as director of the RDF’s Kanombe military hospital, for traveling outside the country without authorization. Authorities also detained several other high-ranking military officials for facilitating Kanombe’s trip to Nairobi in April but subsequently released them without filing charges. Karenzi remained in detention and had neither been charged with a crime nor appeared in civilian or military court by year’s end.


The RNP, moved to the Ministry of Justice after the dissolution of the Ministry of Internal Security in October, is responsible for internal security. The RDF, under the Ministry of Defense, is in charge of providing external security, although the RDF also works on internal security and intelligence matters alongside the RNP. In December the cabinet approved the creation of the Rwanda Investigation Bureau under the Ministry of Justice. The decision effectively removes responsibility for investigations and prosecutions from the RNP and vests it with the newly created bureau.

Civilian authorities generally maintained control over the RNP and the RDF, and the government had mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. The Inspectorate General of the RNP generally disciplined police for excessive use of force and prosecuted acts of corruption. Nevertheless, there were reports elements of the SSF at times acted independently of civilian control. For example, there were reports RDF J-2 (intelligence staff), NISS, and RNP intelligence personnel were responsible for disappearances, illegal detention, and torture in military and police detention centers, both declared and undeclared.

The RDF normally displayed a high level of military professionalism and discipline. In September, RDF Major Aimable Rugomwa shot and killed a young boy in Kanombe on suspicion of theft. Authorities immediately arrested Rugomwa and charged him with murder, and a military tribunal refused him bail. The RDF High Command visited the deceased boy’s family and issued a communique denouncing the officer.

Police at times lacked sufficient basic resources–such as handcuffs, radios, and patrol cars–but observers credited the RNP with generally strong discipline and effectiveness. The RNP institutionalized community relations training that included appropriate use of force and human rights, although arbitrary arrests and beatings remained problems.

There were reports of abuse of suspects by the District Administration Security Support Organ (DASSO), including the May 7 killing of a street vendor in Kigali during a DASSO patrol. Police arrested the perpetrator and charged him with murder, and the incident prompted authorities to organize human rights training for all DASSO personnel, who numbered approximately 2,600.


The law requires authorities to investigate and obtain a warrant before arresting a suspect. Police may detain suspects for up to 72 hours without an arrest warrant. Prosecutors must submit formal charges within five days of arrest. Police may detain minors a maximum of 15 days in pretrial detention, but only for crimes that carry a penalty for conviction of five years’ or more imprisonment. There were numerous reports police and prosecutors disregarded these provisions and held individuals, sometimes for months and often without charge, particularly in security-related cases. The SSF held some suspects incommunicado or under house arrest. At times police employed nonjudicial punishment when minor criminals confessed and the victims agreed to the police officer’s recommended penalty, such as a week of detention or restitution.

The law permits investigative detention if authorities believe public safety is threatened or the accused might flee, and judges interpreted these provisions broadly, as in the cases of 28 arrested Rwandan Muslims–17 in January, three in May, three in July, and five in August–accused of religious radicalism and suspected of collaboration with international terrorist groups whose trial had not commenced by year’s end. A judge must review such detention every 30 days, and it may not extend beyond one year, but the SSF held numerous suspects indefinitely after the first authorization of investigative detention and did not always seek reauthorization every 30 days.

After prosecutors formally file a charge, detention may be indefinite unless bail is granted. Bail exists only for crimes for which the maximum sentence if convicted is five years’ imprisonment, but authorities may release a suspect pending trial if satisfied the person would not flee or become a threat to public safety and order. Authorities generally allowed family members prompt access to detained relatives, unless the individuals were held on state security charges, at intelligence-related detention centers such as Camp Kami or Kwa Gacinya, or in undeclared detention facilities. The government at times violated the right to habeas corpus.

By law detainees are allowed access to lawyers, but the scarcity of lawyers and their reluctance to take on cases that were considered sensitive for political or state security reasons limited access to legal representation. Some lawyers working on politically sensitive cases reported harassment and threats by government officials and denial of access to the evidence against their clients.

During a 2014 RDF and RNP security operation in Musanze and Rubavu, the SSF detained persons incommunicado without access to legal representation for up to two months. The SSF released numerous individuals without charge; however, the government charged 77 persons with crimes against state security, including collaborating with the rebel group Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda. Judges ordered the release of 33 of the 77 in 2014, while upholding charges against 44 in pretrial hearing. In 2015, six defendants were convicted and sentenced to life in prison, five were sentenced to 10-year prison terms, and three were acquitted. Local human rights organizations reported the defendants did not have legal counsel. Trials of other defendants continued at year’s end.

Convicted persons sometimes remained in prison after completing their sentences while waiting for an appeal date or due to problems with prison records. The law provides that pretrial detention, illegal detention, and administrative sanctions be fully deducted from sentences imposed, but it does not provide for compensation to persons who are acquitted. The law allows judges to impose detention of equivalent duration and fines on SSF and other government officials who unlawfully detained individuals, but there were no reports that judges exercised this authority.

Arbitrary Arrest: Unregistered opposition parties claimed police at times arbitrarily arrested their members (see section 3).

Although there is no requirement for individuals to carry identification, police and the DASSO regularly detained street children, vendors, and beggars without identification and sometimes charged them with illegal street vending or vagrancy. Authorities released adults who could produce identification and transported street children to their home districts, to shelters, or for processing into vocational and educational programs.

There were numerous reports authorities detained family members of individuals suspected of committing crimes if the suspects themselves could not be located. Authorities advertised the detention of the suspects’ relatives but released them without charges if the suspects turned themselves in.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was a serious problem. The NHRC reported to parliament in 2013 that authorities often detained prisoners for extended periods without arraignment, and domestic and international human rights organizations reported the practice continued during the year. The law permits detention of genocide suspects until trial. Authorities permitted the majority of convicted prisoners (those who confessed their genocide crimes) to return to their families, with prison time to be served after the suspended and community service portions of their sentences.

The government made strides toward eliminating the case backlog and reducing the average length of pretrial detention. The government and the Legal Aid Forum trained paralegals and Mediation Committees (Abunzi) mediators to handle minor civil cases through alternate dispute mechanisms outside the court system. In 2015 the government promulgated national regulations on the organization, jurisdiction, competence, and functioning of cell- and sector-level mediation committees, whose members were elected locally, expanding their jurisdiction to include criminal cases. If one of the parties to a dispute rejected the sector-level mediation committee’s decision, they could appeal it to the local primary court.

The inspector general of the National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA) sanctioned government officials who abused regulations on pretrial detention with penalties, including fines and suspensions.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Although detainees have the right to challenge their detention in court, few tried and none were able to obtain prompt release or compensation for unlawful detention.

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the judiciary operated in most cases without government interference. As in previous years, there were no reports of direct government interference in the judiciary, and authorities generally respected court orders. Domestic observers noted, however, that outcomes in high-profile trials of genocide suspects and military leaders accused of inciting rebellion appeared predetermined.


The law provides for a presumption of innocence. The law requires defendants be informed promptly and in detail of the charges in a language they comprehend.

Defendants have the right to a fair trial without undue delay. In its 2015-16 activity report, the NPPA stated it had processed to conclusion 91 percent of the 18,484 cases it had received, just short of its 97 percent target. Despite the NPPA’s conclusion that its 181 prosecutors handled all cases without significant undue delay, defense lawyers reported there were an insufficient number of prosecutors, judges, and courtrooms to hold trials within a reasonable time.

Defendants have the right to communicate with an attorney of their choice, although many defendants could not afford private counsel. The law provides for legal representation of minors. The law does not provide for an attorney at state expense for indigent defendants. The Rwandan Bar Association and 36 other member organizations of the Legal Aid Forum provided legal assistance to some indigent defendants but lacked the resources to provide defense counsel to all in need. Legal aid organizations noted the requirement that defendants present a certificate of indigence signed by their village chief made it difficult to qualify for pro bono representation. Domestic organizations working to expand access to justice noted that a substantial increase in court fees implemented in conjunction with the IECMS rollout posed significant additional barriers for poor defendants.

The law requires that defendants have adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense, and judges routinely granted requests to extend preparation time. The law provides for a right to free interpretation, but domestic human rights organizations noted officials did not always enforce this right, particularly in cases of deaf and hard of hearing defendants requiring sign language interpreters. Defendants and their attorneys have the right to access government-held evidence relevant to their cases, but courts and prosecutors did not always respect this right. Defendants have the right to be present at trial, confront witnesses against them, and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. By law defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and judges generally respected the law during trial. The law provides for the right to appeal, and authorities respected this provision.

There were some reports the SSF coerced suspects into confessing guilt in security-related cases. Judges tended to accept confessions obtained through torture despite defendants’ protests and failed to order investigations when defendants alleged torture during their trial (see section on political prisoners below). There were fewer such cases during the year compared with previous years.

The RDF routinely tried military offenders and civilians who previously served in the RDF before military tribunals that rendered penalties of fines, imprisonment, or both. Military courts provided defendants with similar rights as civilian courts, including the right of appeal and access to government-held evidence relevant to their cases. Defendants often appeared before military tribunals without legal counsel due to the cost of hiring private attorneys and the unwillingness of some attorneys to defend individuals accused of crimes against state security. The law stipulates military courts may try civilian accomplices of soldiers accused of crimes. The government did not release figures on the number of civilians tried as coperpetrators or accomplices of military personnel.

In 2012 the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda transferred its remaining genocide cases to a Tanzania-based branch of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals. It continued to pursue genocide fugitives subject to Rwanda tribunal indictments, and in March the former mayor of Nyakizu, Ladislas Ntaganzwa, was extradited to Rwanda from the DRC. Ntaganzwa was one of nine major genocide suspects who had remained at large.


There were numerous reports local officials and the SSF briefly detained some individuals who disagreed publicly with government decisions or policies. Opposition leaders and government critics faced indictment under broadly applied charges of genocide incitement, genocide denial, divisionism, and incitement to rebel. Numerous individuals identified by international and domestic human rights groups as political prisoners remained in prison, including Victoire Ingabire, Deo Mushayidi, and Theoneste Niyitegeka.

President of the FDU-Inkingi and former 2010 presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment in 2012 in what was considered a flawed trial based on politically motivated charges. In February, ahead of Ingabire’s appeal before the African Court on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), her lawyer claimed officials denied him access to Ingabire and stated authorities had demanded to see all documents he intended to bring to prison to discuss with his client. In September a visiting delegation from the EU Parliament was denied access to Ingabire, who is a Dutch citizen; an RCS spokesperson claimed the government had not received an official request for the visit.

Convicted and sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment in 2008 for complicity in genocide, former 2003 presidential candidate Theoneste Niyitegeka remained in prison at year’s end. International and domestic human rights organizations claimed the charges against Niyitegeka were politically motivated and that there were serious irregularities in Niyitegeka’s appeal proceedings in sector-level courts.

On March 31, the Military High Court of Kanombe sentenced Colonel Tom Byabagamba and retired brigadier general Frank Rusagara to 21 and 20 years’ imprisonment, respectively, for inciting insurrection and tarnishing the government’s image. The court sentenced Rusagara’s driver, Francois Kabayiza, to five years’ imprisonment for concealing evidence. Kabayiza said in court military personnel tortured him in detention, but the judges in the case did not order an investigation into his allegations, stating he lacked proof he was tortured. HRW documented numerous irregularities in these two cases, including the fact judges allowed the defense to cross-examine only four of the 11 prosecution witnesses. One of these, retired captain David Kabuye, was arrested at approximately the same time; Kabuye stated during his own trial he was forced to testify against Rusagara and Byabagamba.


The judiciary was generally independent and impartial in civil matters. Mechanisms exist for citizens to file lawsuits in civil matters, including for violations of human rights. The Office of the Ombudsman processed claims of judicial wrongdoing on an administrative basis.

In March, days before the ACHPR was set to hear an appeal by Victoire Ingabire, the government withdrew from the additional ACHPR protocol that allows individuals and organizations to challenge adverse domestic decisions before the court. Individuals may still submit cases to the East African Court of Justice (EACJ).


Reports of expropriation of land for the construction of roads, government buildings, and other infrastructure projects were common, and complainants frequently cited government failure to provide adequate and timely compensation. The NCHR investigated these cases and advocated on citizens’ behalf with relevant local and national authorities but was unable to effect restitution in a majority of the cases.

In September the First Instance Division of the EACJ began hearings in the case of Tribert Rujugiro Ayabatwa, a Rwandan businessperson living in self-imposed exile in South Africa whose United Trade Center shopping mall in Kigali, valued at 16.2 billion Rwandan francs ($20 million), was seized by the government in 2013. In 2014 the EACJ appellate division ordered a rehearing of the case, citing irregularities in the original decision.

The government did not provide an update on the case of Assinapol Rwigara, whose family claimed the SSF killed Rwigara after an automobile accident in February 2015. Following Rwigara’s death, Kigali municipal authorities seized real estate owned by him, and in September 2015 demolished a hotel belonging to the Rwigara family. The authorities claimed the hotel was built without proper permits and was structurally unsound; the family disputed the claim and provided copies of building permits to the press. The family claimed the government and City of Kigali did not provide compensation for the loss of property and investment. During the year the family further claimed authorities threatened to close and repossess several factories belonging to the family.

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

Although the constitution and law prohibit such actions, there were numerous reports the government monitored homes, movements, telephone calls, e-mail, other private communications, and personal and institutional data. There were reports of government informants working within international and local NGOs, religious organizations, and other social institutions.

The law requires police to obtain authorization from a state prosecutor prior to entering and searching citizens’ homes. According to human rights organizations, the SSF at times entered homes without obtaining the required authorization.

The penal code provides legal protection against unauthorized use of personal data by private entities, although officials did not invoke these provisions during the year.

RPF members regularly visited citizens’ homes seeking contributions to the political party and the government’s Agaciro Development Fund, established by the government in 2012 to accelerate the country’s independence from international aid.


Executive Summary

The United Republic of Tanzania is a multiparty republic consisting of the mainland region and the semiautonomous Zanzibar archipelago, whose main islands are Unguja (Zanzibar Island) and Pemba. The union is headed by a president, who is also the head of government. Its unicameral legislative body is the National Assembly (parliament). Zanzibar, although part of the union, has its own government with a president, court system, and legislature and exercises considerable autonomy. In October 2015 the country held its fifth multiparty general election. Voting in the union and Zanzibari elections was judged to be largely free and fair, resulting in the election of a union president (John Magufuli). The chair of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission, however, declared the parallel election for Zanzibar’s president and legislature nullified after only part of the votes had been tabulated, precipitating a political crisis on the islands. New elections in Zanzibar in March were neither inclusive nor representative; the incumbent (Ali Mohamed Shein) was declared the winner with 91 percent of the vote.

Union security forces reported to civilian authorities, but civilian authorities at times did not maintain effective control over the security forces.

The most widespread human rights problems in the country were use of excessive force by security forces, resulting in death and injury; restrictions on assembly and political expression; and gender-based violence, including rape, domestic violence, and female genital mutilation/cutting.

Other major human rights problems included harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, lengthy pretrial detention, limits to freedom of expression on the internet, restrictions on religious freedom, restrictions on the movement of refugees, official corruption at many levels nationwide, child abuse, discrimination based on sexual orientation, mob killings and injuries, and societal violence against persons with albinism. Trafficking in persons, both internal and international, and child labor were also problems.

In some cases the government took steps to investigate and prosecute officials who committed abuses, but generally, impunity in the police and other security forces and civilian branches of government was widespread.

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

During the year there were several reports police committed unlawful killings. As of October media reported 10 cases of extrajudicial killings. Nine of these involved encounters between police and persons suspected of involvement with violent extremism, and one of which occurred during a confrontation between police and livestock keepers in Bagamoyo District.

The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Mining Watch Canada reported continuing violence at the North Mara gold mine owned by African Barrick Gold, where there were past reports of mine security personnel and police using lethal force. Since September 2014 local human rights sources recorded at least 22 cases of alleged unlawful killings by police or mine security personnel at the mine.

There were no confirmed reports of politically motivated disappearances.

The constitution prohibits such practices; however, the law does not reflect this constitutional restriction nor define torture. There were reports police officers, prison guards, and soldiers abused, threatened, and otherwise mistreated civilians, suspected criminals, and prisoners. In August an official of a political opposition party reported he had both of his legs broken during beatings while in police custody. Accountability for those who committed such abuses was limited. These abuses most commonly involved beatings.

During the year the United Nations reported allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by Tanzanian peacekeepers deployed to the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. One of the allegations involved one soldier for incidents alleged to have taken place in 2015; investigation by the government of Tanzania remained pending at year’s end. The other involved 12 military personnel concerning incidents alleged to have taken place between unspecified dates in 2014-15. UN and Tanzanian investigations substantiated allegations against two individuals and did not substantiate allegations against nine individuals; an allegation against one individual remained pending investigation.

The law allows caning. Local government officials and courts occasionally used caning as a punishment for both juvenile and adult offenders. Caning and other corporal punishment were also used routinely in schools.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions remained harsh and life threatening. Inadequate food, overcrowding, poor sanitation, and insufficient medical care were pervasive. According to the commissioner general of prisons, funding for prisons was less than half the level required to provide adequate care for prisoners. There were no private detention facilities.

Physical Conditions: As of December 2015, the prisons, whose total designed capacity was for 29,552 inmates, held 31,382, 6 percent above designed capacity. Pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners were held together. Authorities sometimes imprisoned irregular migrants before releasing them to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) if there was a pending asylum claim. Other irregular migrants were occasionally arrested if they bypassed refugee transportation services and attempted to work in Tanzanian border towns without permission.

Authorities held minors together with adults in several prisons due to lack of detention facilities. In 2013 the independent government department, the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG), visited selected prisons and detention facilities and found 452 minors detained in the adult prisons visited. Among these, 101 were convicts and 351 were pretrial detainees. In several adult prisons, minors were placed in a separate cell but mixed with adults during the day and while being transported to court. In other prisons children and adults mixed at all times.

Information on the prevalence of deaths in prisons, whether deliberate or unintended, was not available. According to government officials, there were deaths in prison due to HIV/AIDS.

Physical abuse of prisoners was common. Witnesses noted prisoners were routinely beaten.

Prison staff reported food and water shortages, a lack of electricity, inadequate lighting, and insufficient medical supplies. Prisons were unheated, but prisoners in cold regions of the country reportedly received blankets and sweaters. Sanitation was insufficient.

Medical care was inadequate. The most common health complaints by prisoners concerned malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and diseases related to poor sanitation. Prison dispensaries offered only limited treatment, and friends and family members of prisoners generally had to provide medications or the funds to purchase them. Limited transportation also affected the ability of prison staff to take prisoners to health centers and hospitals.

Administration: Judges and magistrates conducted regular visits to inspect prisons and hear concerns from convicts and detainees. In addition, relatives of inmates made complaints to the CHRAGG, which investigated reports of abuse, but the results of those investigations were not public. Recordkeeping in prisons was inadequate and resulted in discrepancies in reporting. Authorities did not take steps to improve record keeping.

On the mainland prisoners could submit complaints to judicial authorities. The CHRAGG also served as the official ombudsman. The union Ministry of Home Affairs’ Public Complaints Department and a prison services public relations unit responded to public complaints and inquiries sent to them directly or through the media about prison conditions.

Prisoners and detainees usually had reasonable access to visitors and could worship freely, with some exceptions. Seventh-day Adventists reported they had to work on Saturday. The mainland authorities often moved prisoners to different prisons without notifying their families.

Independent Monitoring: The law prohibits members of the press from visiting prisons. Generally, access to prisoners was difficult for outside organizations, and the process for obtaining access was cumbersome. The International Committee of the Red Cross conducted two prison visits in Zanzibar during the year. The Legal and Human Rights Center (LHRC) conducted a prison visit in July.

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.


Under the union’s Ministry of Home Affairs, the Tanzanian Police Force (TPF) has primary responsibility for maintaining law and order in the country. The Field Force Unit, a special division of the TPF, has primary responsibility for controlling unlawful demonstrations and riots. During the year there were reports of use of excessive force, police corruption, and impunity. Mainland police sometimes acted as prosecutors in lower courts. Although the TPF stated this practice was being phased out, the Ministry of Justice reported police continued to act as prosecutors in all districts except for Monduli and regional headquarters. Police reported to civilian authorities (regional commissioners, district commissioners, and police leadership) appointed by the president. The ruling party, therefore, maintained de facto control of police forces, which contributed to police abuses, particularly in opposition party strongholds.

Sungusungu, or citizens’ patrols, and traditional neighborhood anticrime groups existed throughout the mainland. The law grants them the power to make arrests. In general these groups provided neighborhood security at night. Sungusungu members are not permitted to carry firearms or machetes but may carry sticks or clubs. They coordinated with municipal governing authorities as well as police but operated independently from police. They formed or disbanded based on the perceived local need. In areas surrounding refugee camps, sungusungu members have authority to arrest refugees found outside the camps without permission. Within the camp, groups composed of refugees provided security, supplementing the police.

The Ministry of Defense is responsible for external security; it also has some limited domestic security responsibilities. The National Service is a branch of military service similar to a national guard; its service is primarily domestic.

Police and other security forces acted with impunity in many cases. While legal mechanisms exist for investigation and prosecution of security forces, authorities did not often use them. Police continued to hold educational seminars for officers to combat corruption and sometimes took disciplinary action against officers implicated in wrongdoing. In July a police officer from an antiriot unit was sentenced to 15 years in prison following his conviction for manslaughter in the 2012 killing of a journalist covering a political rally.

The mainland community policing initiative to improve community relations with police and enhance police effectiveness continued. Community police received standardized training, and police conducted awareness campaigns for citizens on how to assist community policing units. In Zanzibar the government continued similar training and awareness programs. Officials noted increases in assistance provided to police, leading to arrests and improved law enforcement.

A group of security units, referred to collectively as the “Zanzibar Special Forces,” was deployed at the district level for activities that would fall under police jurisdiction on the mainland. These forces report to the government of Zanzibar and are not affiliated with the TPF or the Tanzanian People’s Defense Forces. Recruitment, training, and actual command and control of the “special units” were opaque, although all units officially report to a top ruling party minister in Zanzibar. These units, including the fire brigade and prison guards, were often activated during political activities, such as voter registration or voting. Prior to the March rerun elections in Zanzibar, opposition parties and civil society organizations reported these units were involved in sporadic attacks on opposition supporters.


On the mainland the law requires that persons be apprehended openly with warrants based on sufficient evidence, although authorities did not always comply with the law. Police often detained persons without judicial authorization. The law also requires that a person arrested for a crime, other than a national security detainee, be charged before a magistrate within 24 hours of arrest, excluding weekends and holidays, but police failed to comply consistently with this requirement. For example, Isaack Habakuk Emily, arrested on March 22 for violation of the Cybercrime Act, was not arraigned in court until April 15. In general authorities promptly informed detainees of the charges against them. There were reports of police using a rolling process of releasing and immediately rearresting individuals so that they would remain in custody while police completed their investigation and developed the required information for the accused to be charged.

The law does not allow bail for suspects in cases involving charges of murder, treason, drugs, armed robbery, human trafficking, or other violent offenses where the accused might pose a public safety risk. In some cases courts imposed strict conditions on freedom of movement and association when they granted bail. In the primary and district courts, persons sometimes bribed officials to grant bail. The law gives accused persons the right to contact a lawyer or talk with family members, but police often failed to inform detainees of this right. The government provided legal representation for some indigent defendants and for all suspects charged with murder or treason. Prompt access to counsel was often limited by the lack of lawyers in rural areas, lack of communication systems and infrastructure, and accused persons’ ignorance of their rights.

Arbitrary Arrest: By law the president may order the arrest and indefinite detention without bail of any person considered dangerous to the public order or national security. The government must release such detainees within 15 days or inform them of the reason for their continued detention. The law also allows a detainee to challenge the grounds for detention at 90-day intervals. The mainland government has additional broad detention powers under the law, allowing regional and district commissioners to arrest and detain for 24 hours anyone who “disturb[s] public tranquility.” Press reports indicated district commissioners or members of regional security committees, which are part of regional governments, ordered the arrest of at least nine persons during the year. Most of those arrested were journalists working on sensitive stories.

Pretrial Detention: According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, approximately 50 percent of the prison population consisted of pretrial detainees in 2015 (the latest available data). Detainees charged with crimes generally waited three to four years for trial due to a lack of judges to hear cases, an inadequate judicial budget, and the lengthy time required to complete police investigations.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law allows persons arrested or detained, regardless of whether on criminal or other grounds, the right to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention and obtain prompt release and compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained. The law requires that a civil case must be brought in order to make such a challenge. In practice this was rarely done.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but many components of the judiciary remained underfunded, corrupt, inefficient (especially in the lower courts), and subject to executive influence. Judges and senior court officers are all political appointees of the president. The need to travel long distances to courts imposes logistical and financial constraints that limit access to justice for persons in rural areas. There were fewer than two judges per million persons. Court clerks reportedly continued to take bribes to open cases or hide or misdirect the files of those accused of crimes. According to news reports, magistrates of lower courts occasionally accepted bribes to determine the outcome of cases.


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

The law provides for the presumption of innocence. In most cases authorities informed detainees in detail of the charges against them once they had been brought to the police station. Charges were generally presented in Kiswahili or English with needed interpretation provided when possible. With some exceptions, criminal trials were open to the public and the press. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial. Courts that hold closed proceedings (for example, in drug trafficking cases and sexual offenses involving juveniles) generally are required to provide reasons for closing the proceedings. In cases involving terrorism, the law provides that everyone, except the interested parties, may be excluded from court proceedings and witnesses may be heard under special arrangements for their protection.

In Tanzania the law requires legal aid in serious criminal cases, although in practice only those accused of murder and treason were provided with free representation. Most other defendants could not afford legal representation and represented themselves in court. Defendants in criminal matters are entitled to legal representation of their choice. In practice legal representation was unavailable to defendants without the means to pay. NGOs represented some indigent defendants in large cities, such as Dar es Salaam and Arusha. In Zanzibar there were no public defenders. The law prohibits lawyers from appearing or defending clients in primary-level courts whose presiding officers are not degree-holding magistrates. Human rights groups criticized several reported cases where lawyers attempting to represent clients in sensitive cases were themselves arrested. In July a lawyer from the prominent Legal and Human Rights Center was arrested and detained for more than 24 hours while trying to meet with clients in a sensitive land rights case.

Authorities did not always allow detainees sufficient time to prepare their defense, and access to adequate facilities was limited. Defendants had the right to free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. Defendants or their lawyers had access to evidence held by the government, the right to confront prosecution witnesses, and the right to present evidence and witnesses on the defendant’s behalf. Defendants were not compelled to testify or confess guilt.

All defendants charged with civil or criminal matters, except parties appearing before Zanzibari qadi courts (traditional Muslim courts that settle issues of divorce and inheritance), could appeal decisions to the respective mainland and Zanzibari high courts. All defendants can appeal decisions to the union Court of Appeal.

Police acted in some cases as prosecutors in lower courts, but authorities stated this practice was being phased out. Judicial experts criticized the practice of police acting as prosecutors because of the risk police might manipulate evidence in criminal cases. The mainland Ministry of Justice continued hiring and training state prosecutors to handle the entire mainland caseload.


There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.


Persons may bring civil lawsuits seeking damages for or the cessation of human rights violations and can appeal those rulings to the Court of Appeal on the mainland and other regional courts. Civil judicial procedures, however, were often slow, inefficient, and corrupt. Individuals and organizations with observer status had the right to bring complaints to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

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

The law generally prohibits such actions without a search warrant, but the government did not consistently respect these prohibitions. While only courts may issue search warrants, the law also authorizes searches of persons and premises without a warrant if necessary to prevent the loss or destruction of evidence or if circumstances are serious and urgent. The law relating to terrorism permits police officers at or above the rank of assistant superintendent or in charge of a police station to conduct searches without a warrant in certain urgent cases, but there were no reports this occurred.

It was widely believed government agents monitored the telephones and correspondence of some citizens and foreign residents. The nature and extent of this practice were unknown.


Executive Summary

Uganda is a constitutional republic led since 1986 by President Yoweri Museveni of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party. On February 18, voters re-elected Museveni to a fifth five-year term and returned an NRM majority to the unicameral National Assembly. The elections fell short of international standards and were marred by allegations of disenfranchisement and voter intimidation, harassment of the opposition, closure of social media websites, and lack of transparency and independence in the Electoral Commission.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces.

The three most serious human rights problems in the country included lack of respect for individual integrity (unlawful killings, torture, arbitrary detention, and other abuse of suspects and detainees); restrictions on civil liberties (freedoms of press, expression, assembly, association, and political participation); and violence and discrimination against marginalized groups, such as women, children, persons with disabilities, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community.

Other human rights problems included harsh prison conditions, lengthy pretrial detention, official corruption, biased application of the law, societal violence, trafficking in persons, and child labor.

The government was reluctant to investigate, prosecute, or punish officials who committed human rights violations, whether in the security services or elsewhere in government, and impunity was a problem.

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

There were several reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, including as a result of torture.

Media outlets reported that, on November 26 and 27 in Kasese District, the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) and Uganda Police Force (UPF) killed between 60 and 250 persons, including unarmed civilians, during clashes with supporters of Charles Wesley Mumbere, the Rwenzururu king. According to the UPF, on November 26, the king’s royal guards attacked an unspecified number of police stations in Rwenzori Region, resulting in the deaths of 14 police officers; 41 royal guards also were killed. The following day security forces reportedly stormed the palace and arrested the king after he failed to comply with a UPDF order to surrender his royal guards to the military. According to unconfirmed reports, security forces killed women and children who were on the compound during the raid, and several bodies were found with bound hands, possibly indicating victims had submitted to arrest before being killed. Amnesty International reported that “many people appeared to have been summarily shot and their bodies dumped.” One international organization alleged security forces made no attempt to minimize civilian casualties, an assertion security forces did not dispute.

UPDF officers claimed soldiers fired in self-defense after royal guards attacked them with machetes, bows and arrows, and spears. Civil society and international organizations claimed the government’s disproportionate use of force was unjustified and that the Rwenzururu Kingdom presented no immediate security threat. The government claimed the kingdom had militant secessionist ambitions, which forced it to take immediate and definitive action.

In addition to the king, 139 royal guards were arrested and charged with murder, terrorism, and treason. On December 15, media published images of the guards at their initial hearing, where defense lawyers asserted their visible injuries resulted from torture. Media reported the president ordered a parliamentary committee tasked with investigating the raid to stop its investigation. The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) had not completed its investigation into the raid by year’s end. Trials of the king and his guards continued at year’s end.

On October 17, media reported game rangers attached to the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) killed seven unarmed, suspected poachers. Reports asserted the park rangers facilitated the poachers’ hunts in exchange for a portion of the revenue and then killed the seven for failing to pay the rangers their promised share. The UWA denied its staff was involved in the killings and said the UPF was investigating.

Local leaders and civil society organizations reported that police had yet to take action against officers who in September 2015 allegedly shot and killed five persons in Apaa Parish in the north. The killings occurred during a land dispute related to the government’s border demarcation.

There were no known developments in the investigation into the African Union’s August 2015 indictment of three UPDF soldiers for their alleged role in the July 2015 killing of seven civilians at a wedding party in Marka, Somalia. Media reported the killings occurred following a bomb attack on an African Union Mission in Somalia convoy.

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances during the year.

Following the December 2015 disappearance of Christopher Aine–campaign aide to Amama Mbabazi, a former prime minister and presidential candidate–police offered a reward of 20 million shillings ($5,700) for information on his whereabouts, ostensibly to question him about his involvement in a clash between President Museveni’s supporters and security team. On April 7, a local television station aired footage of Aine with General Caleb Akandwanaho (aka Salim Saleh), the president’s brother, and a senior advisor at a Kampala hotel. Aine said he had fled to Tanzania in December 2015 to escape harassment and intimidation by state security operatives.

The constitution and law prohibit such practices. The 2012 Antitorture Act stipulates that any person convicted of an act of torture may be subject to 15 years’ imprisonment, a fine of 7.2 million shillings ($2,050), or both. The penalty for conviction of aggravated torture is life imprisonment. Nevertheless, there were credible reports security forces tortured and beat suspects.

From January to June, the African Center for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV) registered 856 allegations of torture by police, the Flying Squad (a UPF unit assigned to violent crimes), special investigations units of police, and the UPDF. The ACTV provided legal advice to 142 torture victims and initiated three public litigation cases of torture against the government.

The ACTV reported that Twaha Kasaija, whom marine police arrested for theft on March 23, was tortured to death at Walukuba Police Station. According to the ACTV, Kasaija’s injuries suggested he was punched, kicked, and beaten with batons, wire cable, and sticks. Kasaija’s brother, Abdul Rahman Muyima, and neighbor, Mohammed Kitakule, also were arrested and appeared to have been beaten with batons, wire cable, and sticks. Police arrested officers Patrick Katete and Charles Okure (the officer in charge) but later released Okure on bond; Katete remained in jail awaiting trial on murder charges at year’s end.

The UHRC reported it awarded 36.6 million shillings ($10,450) in compensation to victims of torture and other abuses from January through June.


Prison conditions remained poor and, in some cases, life threatening. Serious problems included overcrowding, physical abuse of detainees by security staff and fellow inmates, inadequate food, and understaffing. Local human rights groups, including the ACTV, received reports of torture by security forces and prison personnel. Reports of forced labor continued. Most prisons did not have accommodations for persons with disabilities.

Physical Conditions: Gross overcrowding remained a problem. According to the Uganda Prisons Service (UPS), the prison system had a maximum inmate capacity of 22,000 but incarcerated 48,689. The Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), which had visited 13 police stations and 13 prisons by August, reported that four of the five prisons in the north were particularly overcrowded. Gulu Prison, for example, held 1,400 inmates in a facility designed for 400. Prison authorities blamed the overcrowding on the criminal justice system’s inability to process cases in a timely manner.

As of August, 233 babies stayed in prison with their mothers. Some women’s prisons also had day-care facilities. Authorities in Kampala separated pretrial detainees from convicted prisoners, but prisons in other areas did not.

The UPS reported 67 inmate deaths between January and August. Causes of death included malaria, cardiac arrest, anemia, pneumonia, and tuberculosis. Media reported deaths also occurred as a result of suicide and police abuse.

In interviews with prisoners, FHRI received reports of prison staff and fellow inmates beating and abusing prisoners, although there were fewer such reports than in previous years. In Koboko Prison, for example, guards reportedly assigned certain inmates leadership positions and gave them sticks, which they often used to beat fellow prisoners.

The UHRC inspected 106 of the country’s 247 prisons and four military detention facilities during the year. It found that prisons in Koboko and Nebbi districts did not have health centers, requiring inmates to walk long distances, under guard, to access medical care. Outside Kampala, some prisons lacked sufficient food, water, medical care, means to transport inmates to court, bedding, infrastructure, and sanitation facilities.

Provision of food and medical services in jails also was inadequate. According to detainees and guards at the 13 police stations FHRI had visited by August, detainees received only one meal per day. According to the UHRC, which inspected 183 of 300 police stations during the year, some stations did not provide meals to suspects and most lacked the means to transport suspects to court.

Administration: Recordkeeping remained a problem. The UPS claimed it was unable to manage information because it lacked computers.

The UPS reported that its assistant commissioner in charge of human rights investigated and mediated complaints between management and prisoners. The UPS added that each prison had a human rights committee responsible for addressing complaints and relaying them to the assistant commissioner. Prison authorities acknowledged a backlog in the investigation of complaints.

Independent Monitoring: Authorities allowed FHRI and the ACTV to conduct prison visits with advance notification. The International Committee of the Red Cross declined to comment on whether it conducted prison visits during the year.

Improvements: During the year prison authorities hired 1,548 new staff–mainly wardens, cadet principal officers, and cadet assistant superintendents of prisons–increasing the total number of UPS staff to 7,448. The UPS acknowledged, however, that it still had a staff shortage of 5,000. The UPS also installed flush toilets in 47 of the 58 prisons, constructed four new prisons, and renovated two others. Unlike in the previous year, women had separate facilities in all prisons. The UPS had a budget to accommodate pregnant women and mothers with infants, and pregnant mothers received antenatal care services and special diets.

Although the constitution and law prohibit such practices, security forces often arbitrarily arrested and detained persons, including opposition leaders, politicians, activists, demonstrators, and journalists.


Under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the UPF has primary responsibility for law enforcement. The UPDF, under the Ministry of Defense, is responsible for external security and may aid civil authorities when responding to riots or other disturbances of the peace. The Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence is legally under UPDF authority and may detain civilians suspected of rebel or terrorist activity. Other agencies with law enforcement powers include the Directorate of Counter Terrorism, Joint Intelligence Committee, and Special Forces Brigade, among others.

The UPF reported its ability to perform its law enforcement duties was constrained by limited resources, including low pay and lack of vehicles, equipment, and training. The UPF’s Professional Standards Unit investigated complaints of police abuse, including torture, assault, unlawful arrest and detention, death in custody, mismanagement of case documentation, and corrupt practices. Police continued to use excessive force, including torture, and impunity was a problem (see sections 1.a. and 1.c.).

Between January and August, police ignored the instruction of the director of public prosecution (DPP) to add Aaron Baguma, former commander of Kampala’s Central Police Station, to the list of suspected accomplices in the October 2015 killing of Donah Katusabe, a Kampala businessperson. On August 30, 12 days after the court issued an arrest warrant for Baguma, he turned himself in and was charged with murder, kidnapping with intent to murder, and robbery. The court, which remanded him to Kigo Prison, subsequently released him on bail. The case continued at year’s end.

Police and soldiers not only failed to prevent societal violence, they sometimes targeted opposition supporters. For example, on July 12 and 13, media broadcast videos of police, soldiers, and plainclothes officers using sticks to beat unarmed supporters of the main opposition leader, Kizza Besigye, as his car passed on a Kampala street; they also beat motorcycle taxi drivers who appeared uninvolved in Besigye’s procession. In one instance a police truck veered onto a sidewalk to hit from behind and knock over a man waving at Besigye’s passing vehicle. Police arrested Benon Matsiko, an officer, for allegedly driving the truck, noting he would face internal disciplinary measures; Matsiko denied he was the driver. Another man–who media members subsequently identified as Yusuf Lubowa, a member of a progovernment civilian group called Bodaboda 2010–then kicked the fallen man in the same knee struck by the vehicle. Although media reports showed that Lubowa had participated in multiple police operations against Besigye supporters, the UPF claimed it did not know him. Police initiated an internal disciplinary proceeding and charged five officers and four commanders with unlawful exercise of authority and discrediting the reputation of police. There was no known update on these cases by the end of the year.

Private lawyers separately filed a criminal case against Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kale Kayihura and seven senior commanders, accusing them of torture for their role in the July 12 and 13 beatings. On July 21, a magistrate’s court issued criminal summonses for IGP Kayihura and the seven senior police officers to appear on August 10 for arraignment on charges of torture. According to the private prosecution lawyers, the officers refused to receive the summonses, and none appeared in court. On August 26, Deputy Chief Justice Steven Kavuma halted the criminal case against Kayihura and the other officers, stating the case could not proceed until the court resolved NRM Youth League member Robert Rutaro’s petition that challenged the court’s authority to try the IGP as a private citizen for actions he took in his institutional role. By year’s end, the court had not resolved the petition.

The UHRC reported it provided human rights training to 232 security officials in police and district administrations of Fort Portal, Mbarara, and Arua districts.

The UPF reported that it opened an unspecified number of new community police stations to expand its community policing operations. In 2015 it authorized civilians to police their respective communities as “crime preventers.” Crime preventers, nominally under the authority of district police commanders, received one to two months of training and have arrest authority. While estimates of their number varied, the IGP claimed there were 11 million crime preventers nationwide, equating to approximately one-third of the country’s population. UPF officials stated they intended to place 30 crime preventers in each village in the country. Media and civil society reports accused crime preventers of human rights abuses. On April 18, for example, the chief administrative officer of Lira District said his office had received many reports of crime preventers involved in rape, arbitrary arrests, and torture.


The law requires that judges or prosecutors issue a warrant before an arrest is made, unless the arrest is made during commission of a crime or while in pursuit of a perpetrator. Nevertheless, authorities often arrested suspects without warrants. The law requires authorities to charge suspects within 48 hours of arrest, but they frequently held suspects longer without charge. Authorities must try suspects arrested under the Antiterrorism Law within 120 days (360 days if charged with a capital offense) or release them on bail; if the case is presented to the court before the expiration of this period, there is no limit on further pretrial detention. While the law requires authorities to inform detainees immediately of the reasons for detention, at times they did not do so. The law provides for bail at the discretion of the judge, but many suspects were unaware of the law. Judges generally granted requests for bail. The law provides detainees the right to legal representation and access to a lawyer; but this right often was not respected. The law requires the government to provide an attorney for indigent defendants charged with capital offenses. Citizens detained without charge may file civil suit against the Attorney General’s Office for compensation for unlawful detention. Security forces held suspects, particularly opposition leaders, incommunicado and under house arrest.

Arbitrary Arrest: Arbitrary arrests, particularly of opposition leaders, remained a problem. Police often carried out “preventative arrests” for alleged treason and incitement of violence.

On February 24, the day of local government elections, police detained opposition candidate Besigye at his home, effectively denying him the right to vote. Following the February elections, police intermittently placed Besigye under 10-day house arrests. Police reportedly confined him to his home for the entire month of March, releasing him on April 1, the day the Supreme Court validated the president’s electoral victory. Despite widespread media and nongovernmental organization (NGO) reporting, the UPF repeatedly denied Besigye was under house arrest, and the IGP claimed police were merely “closely monitoring Besigye’s movements.” Media reported that on May 5, police resumed Besigye’s house arrest and confined Kampala’s opposition-affiliated mayor, Erias Lukwago, and opposition chief whip Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda to their homes.

On May 11, Besigye eluded police surveillance at his home and drove to Kampala’s city center, where he was filmed taking a mock presidential oath of office in front of a crowd of protesters. Police arrested Besigye and flew him to the remote Karamoja Region in the northeast, where they detained him at the Moroto Police Station. Two days later, Besigye was charged with treason and remanded to Moroto Prison. On May 16, he was transferred to Luzira Prison in Kampala after defense lawyers and his family asked for a transfer. He remained in detention until July 12, when the court released him on bail. Besigye’s treason case continued at year’s end.

Pretrial Detention: Case backlogs due to an inefficient judiciary that lacked adequate funding and staff, the absence of plea bargaining prior to 2015, and insufficient use of bail contributed to pretrial detentions as long as seven years. The UPS reported 55 percent of inmates were pretrial detainees. The judiciary introduced a plea bargaining mechanism at High Court circuits across the country in 2015 after a successful pilot program in 2014.

FHRI reported police arrested Moses Tumusime in 2008 on murder charges. He last appeared in court in 2008 and remained in custody in Kitalya Prison. In November the officer in charge of the prison reported Tumusime was still held on remand and that his file was sent to the High Court in 2012.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested have the right to file a legal challenge against their detention and obtain prompt release and compensation if a judge determines the detention to have been unlawful. This mechanism was seldom employed and rarely successful.

Amnesty: Since 2000 the government has offered blanket unconditional amnesty for all crimes committed by individuals who engaged in war or armed rebellion against the government, barring grave breaches of the Geneva Convention, genocide, willful killings of innocent civilians, and other serious crimes perpetrated against civilians or communities without military necessity.

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but the government did not always respect this provision. Corruption, understaffing, inefficiency, and executive branch interference with judicial rulings often undermined the courts’ independence.

The president appoints Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, and High Court judges and members of the Judicial Service Commission (which makes recommendations on appointments to the judiciary) with the approval of the National Assembly.

Due to vacancies on the Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, High Court, and the lower courts, the judiciary did not deliver justice in a timely manner. At times the lack of judicial quorum precluded cases from proceeding.

Judicial corruption was a problem. The Center for Public Interest Law (CEPIL) reported in August that judicial corruption mainly consisted of cash bribes to clerks and magistrates for favorable treatment. CEPIL noted that instances of corruption in the lower courts were more visible and egregious as magistrates openly contravened court rules to favor one party. In the higher courts (High Court, Court of Appeal, and Supreme Court), corruption was more discreet and nuanced. Media reported several incidents of police arresting lower court judicial officers for allegedly soliciting bribes, while there were no such arrests of higher court officials. CEPIL’s report noted that “systemic corruption within the justice system undermines human rights and public confidence.”


Although the law provides for a presumption of innocence, authorities did not always respect this right. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges and have free interpretation from the moment charged through all appeals, as necessary. An inadequate system of judicial administration resulted in a serious backlog of cases, undermining suspects’ right to a speedy trial. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial and to consult with an attorney of their choice. The law requires the government to provide an attorney for indigent defendants accused of capital offenses. Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense and appeal, with free interpretation as necessary. Defendants have the right to obtain evidence the state intends to use prior to their trial, although this right of disclosure is not absolute in sensitive cases, and authorities did not always respect this right. The law allows defendants to confront or question witnesses testifying against them and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf, but authorities did not always respect this right. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and they have the right to appeal. These rights extended to all groups.

All nonmilitary trials are public. A single judge decides cases in the High Court, while a panel of at least five judges decides cases in the constitutional and supreme courts. The law allows military courts to try civilians that assist members of the military in committing offenses or are found possessing arms, ammunition, or other equipment reserved for the armed forces. On September 16, the High Court ruled that member of parliament (MP) Michael Kabaziguruka, who was charged with treason along with 26 military officers, would be tried by a military court.


During the year authorities detained numerous opposition politicians and activists on politically motivated grounds. Authorities released many without charge but charged others with crimes including terrorism, treason, inciting violence, holding illegal meetings, and abuse of office. No statistics on the number of political detainees or prisoners were available.

There was no available information on whether the government permitted international human rights or humanitarian organizations access to political detainees.

On February 29, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) claimed security force personnel had arrested and detained approximately 300 of its supporters nationwide over the course of the election season. The UPF claimed it had arrested 132 persons from various political parties for illegal election-related activities.

On June 8 and 13, police arrested Michael Kabaziguruka, an MP and FDC deputy commissioner on the Electoral Commission, and released him within two days of each arrest. On June 26, police rearrested Kabaziguruka and subsequently transferred him to Kigo Prison, where he awaited trial at year’s end. On June 28, a military court charged Kabaziguruka and 26 others, predominantly military officers, with treason for allegedly plotting the violent overthrow of the government. According to Kabaziguruka’s lawyers, the government based its most recent charges on the same evidence as it used for its 2012 treason case against Kabaziguruka and three other individuals, a case the government dropped. On July 1, in a meeting with opposition politicians, the president accused Kabaziguruka of attempting to assassinate him. On September 16, the High Court ruled that Kabaziguruka be tried in a military court; Kabaziguruka appealed.


There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters. Victims may report cases of human rights violations through the regular court system or the UHRC, which has judicial powers under the constitution. These powers include the authority to order the release of detainees, pay compensation to victims, and pursue other legal and administrative remedies, such as mediation. Victims may appeal their cases to the Court of Appeal and thereafter to the Supreme Court but not to an international or regional court. Civil courts and the UHRC have no ability to hold perpetrators of human rights abuses criminally liable, and bureaucratic delays hampered enforcement of judgments that granted financial compensation.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but there were reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions. Police did not always obtain search warrants to enter private homes and offices.

The Antiterrorism Act and the Regulation of Interception of Communications Bill authorize government security agencies to tap private conversations to combat terrorism-related offenses. The government utilized both statutes to monitor telephone and internet communications.

The government encouraged university students and government officials, including members of the judiciary, to attend NRM political education and military science courses known as “chaka mchaka.” While the government claimed the courses were not compulsory, human rights activists and opposition politicians reported authorities pressured civil servants and students to attend.


Executive Summary

Zambia is a constitutional republic governed by a democratically elected president and a unicameral national assembly. On August 11, the country held elections under a new constitution for president, national assembly seats, and local government, as well as a referendum on an updated bill of rights. The incumbent, Patriotic Front (PF) President Edgar Chagwa Lungu, was re-elected by a tight margin. A contorted legal process saw the opposition candidate unsuccessfully challenge the election results. International and local observers deemed the election to have been conducted freely but cited a number of irregularities. The pre- and post-election periods were marred by limits on press freedom and political party intolerance resulting in sporadic violence across the country. Although the results were ultimately deemed a credible reflection of votes cast, media coverage, police actions, and legal restrictions heavily favored the ruling party and prevented the election from being genuinely fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights problems during the year were political violence; restrictions on freedoms of the press, assembly, association, and speech; and gender-based violence (GBV).

Other serious human rights problems included abuses by police; life-threatening prison conditions; politically motivated arbitrary arrest; prolonged pretrial detention; interference with privacy; government corruption; child abuse; trafficking in persons; discrimination against persons with disabilities and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community; and child labor.

The government took selective and halting steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses, targeting mostly those who opposed the ruling party. Impunity remained a problem, as ruling party supporters were either not prosecuted for serious crimes or, if prosecuted, released after serving small fractions of prison sentences.

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

There were several unconfirmed reports of extrajudicial killings by the government or its agents during the election period. The most prominent and widely reported incident occurred on July 9 when police allegedly shot and killed Mapenzi Chibulo, an opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) supporter, after security forces clashed with a group of opposition supporters protesting the cancellation of a planned UPND rally in Lusaka.

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

Although the constitution prohibits subjecting any person to torture or to inhuman or degrading punishment, no laws address torture specifically. There were reports police used excessive force, including torture, and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, when apprehending, interrogating, and detaining criminal suspects.

For example, on October 5, armed police officers assaulted Komboni Radio station director Lesa Kasoma Nyirenda as she attempted to enter the station, previously closed by the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) on August 22. The IBA subsequently lifted the closure. Kasoma Nyirenda was arrested for assault after biting an officer on the hand as police reportedly attempted to strip her naked. Her trial had yet to commence by year’s end. Vice President Inonge Wina issued a public apology to Kasoma Nyirenda in which she acknowledged police had acted inappropriately and used excessive force during the arrest.

The United Nations reported that as of December 20 it received one allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) against Zambian peacekeepers for an alleged incident occurring during the year. The allegation involved military personnel deployed to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic. In early December the Zambian Ministry of Defense sent a team of officers to the Central African Republic to investigate the allegation. On December 23, the ministry submitted a report containing the team’s findings to the United Nations. The report stated that the team found no credible evidence to corroborate any claims of sexual assault or SEA involving Zambian peacekeepers. The team found that the alleged victim of the crime denied ever having been assaulted and that both the medical doctor at the local hospital and the local gendarmerie commander stated they received no reports of SEA by Zambian peacekeepers during the period in question. The team of investigative officers recommended the case be closed.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were harsh and life threatening due to overcrowding, frequent outbreaks of disease, food and potable water shortages, and poor sanitation and medical care.

Additionally, criminal justice system centralization, delayed Justice Sector Reform Commission results, understaffing, poor diet among inmates, outdated laws, harsh bail conditions, and court delays were identified as problems.

Physical Conditions: According to NGO Prisons Care and Counseling Association (PRISCCA), there were 90 prisons, of which 54 were traditional institutions and the remainder were open-air prison farms.

An inefficient judiciary and a failure to process detainees eligible for release on bond or bail contributed significantly to overcrowding. According to the Human Rights Commission (HRC), more than 80 percent of accused persons at the pretrial stage who were eligible for bail or bond were not processed.

According to data supplied by both PRISCCA and the commissioner general of prisons, an average of 19,000 prisoners were incarcerated in prisons designed to hold 8,150. Overcrowding was slightly reduced during the year due to increased sleeping capacity in new prisons opened in 2015. PRISCCA noted overcrowding was compounded by a slow-moving judicial system, outdated laws, and increased incarceration due to higher numbers of persons driven to crime by poverty. Other factors included limitations on judges’ power to impose noncustodial sentencing, a retributive culture of police officers, and poor bail and bonding conditions. Indigent inmates lacked access to costly bail and legal representation through the Law Association of Zambia. Other organizations such as the Legal Aid Board and the National Prosecutions Authority were also difficult for inmates to access due to a lack of representation outside Lusaka.

The Prisons Act requires separation of different categories of prisoners, but only female prisoners were held separately; juveniles were often held together with adult inmates and pretrial detainees with convicted inmates. Prisons also held an undetermined number of “circumstantial children,” who were either born in prison or living in prisons while their mothers served out sentences. According to PRISCCA, the constitution does not take into account the biological and health needs of incarcerated women or their children. Although a law on the care of circumstantial children exists, there were no prison facilities for breastfeeding or pregnant women. Incarcerated women, who had no alternative for childcare, could choose to have their infants and children under the age of four with them in prison. Prisons provided no food or medical services to children, and mothers had to share meager rations with their children in an environment lacking appropriate medical care, which often exposed children to disease.

Prisons did not adequately address the needs of persons with disabilities. Prisons generally had inadequate ventilation, temperature control, lighting, and basic and emergency medical care.

Many prisons had deficient medical facilities and meager food supplies, and a lack of potable water resulted in serious outbreaks of water- and food-borne diseases, including dysentery and cholera. Inmates received breakfast, mostly a cup of simple meal or porridge for which inmates must secure their own sugar, and lunch served in double portions. Failure to provide lunch and supper separately was attributed to a lack of electric stoves and pots.

The prison system remained understaffed with only two doctors–one of whom also performed managerial duties–to attend to 21 prison-based clinics. The Ministry of Health provided mobile hospital facilities to prisons. The supply of tuberculosis (TB) medication and other essential drugs was erratic, which NGOs attributed to inadequate funding. A failure to remove or quarantine sick inmates resulted in the spread of TB and other illnesses and the deaths of several prisoners. The HRC and PRISCCA expressed concern at the lack of isolation facilities for the sick and for persons with psychiatric problems. The incidence of TB remained very high due to congestion, lack of compulsory testing, and prisoner transfers.

Access to health care services for inmates, including HIV/AIDS and TB diagnoses, antiretroviral therapy (ART) and other treatments, improved since the establishment in 2015 of the Zambia Correctional Service (ZCS) Health Directorate. For example, 90 percent of inmates reportedly received counselling and testing for HIV. Sixty-five percent of those diagnosed with HIV had access to ART. HIV prevalence in prisons, however, was 27 percent, compared to 13 percent in the general population. The HIV rate was worsened by prisoners’ inability to maintain the strict diet needed for effective treatment, overcrowding, and a lack of adequate prevention and treatment services.

Authorities denied prisoners access to condoms because the law criminalizes sodomy and prevailing public opinion weighed against providing condoms. Prison authorities, PRISCCA, and the Medical Association of Zambia advocated for prisoners’ conjugal rights as a way to reduce prison HIV rates. Discriminatory attitudes toward the most at-risk populations (persons in prostitution and men who have sex with men) stifled the development of outreach and prevention services for these groups.

According to the 2013 National Audit of Prisons, female inmates had limited access to health services. Gynecological care, cervical cancer screening, prenatal services, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission programs were nonexistent. Female inmates relied on donations of underwear, sanitary pads, diapers for infants and toddlers, and soap. Kabwe Female Prison was the sole prison built for female occupancy; other prisons improvised to accommodate female inmates.

Administration: Recordkeeping was inadequate. PRISCCA attributed delays in appeals for convicted offenders to the judiciary’s poor recordkeeping and misplaced and lost files. Although provided for by the penal code, alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders were applied sparingly, generally to juvenile offenders. There were no ombudsmen to promote the interests of inmates. Prisoners and detainees generally could not submit complaints to judicial authorities or request investigation of credible allegations of inhuman conditions.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted prison visits by both domestic and international NGOs, including religious institutions. Local NGOs visited prisons, advocated for better prison conditions, and published critical reports. The HRC campaigned to eradicate torture within the prison system.

Improvements: In November the ZCS incorporated new skills training programs for prisoners to prepare them for reintroduction into society.

Although the constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, the HRC reported authorities frequently violated these prohibitions. Immigration Department officers raided religious and other places of assembly and detained suspected undocumented migrants before thorough investigation. The HRC recorded some politically motivated arrests during and after the August 11 general elections. The UPND alleged 15 of its members were arrested under politically motivated pretences and charged with nonbailable offenses. The Zambian Police Service (ZPS) claimed these individuals were arrested while committing assault and theft. Many of them have yet to appear in court.


The ZPS reports to the Ministry of Home Affairs. Divided into regular and paramilitary units, the ZPS has primary responsibility for maintaining law and order. The Zambia Security and Intelligence Service (ZSIS), under the Office of the President, is responsible for external and internal intelligence. The Central Police Command in Lusaka oversees 10 provincial police divisions with jurisdiction over police stations in towns countrywide.

The army, air force, and national service are responsible for external security. The commander of each service reports to the minister of defense. By law defense forces have domestic security responsibilities only in cases of national emergency. In addition to security responsibilities, the Zambia National Service performs road maintenance and other public-works projects and runs state farms for displaced children.

Paramilitary units of the ZPS, customs officers, and border patrol personnel watch over lake, river, and other border areas. The Drug Enforcement Commission is responsible for enforcing the laws on illegal drugs, fraud, counterfeiting, and money laundering. The Drug Enforcement Commission, customs, and border patrol personnel operate under the Ministry of Home Affairs. Impunity was a problem. Senior police officials disciplined some officers for engaging in extortion of prisoners by suspending them or issuing written reprimands, but many abuses went unaddressed. Dismissals of officers for extortion were rare.


The constitution and law require authorities to obtain a warrant before arresting a person for most offenses. Police do not need a warrant, however, when they suspect a person has committed offenses such as treason, sedition, defamation of the president, or unlawful assembly. Police rarely obtained warrants before making arrests. For example, in September police entered the premises of MuviTV without a warrant to seize equipment and halt operations, following the Independent Broadcasting Authorities’ suspension of the station’s operating license.

Although the law requires that detainees appear before a court within 24 hours of arrest and be informed of the charges against them, authorities routinely held detainees for much longer periods while prosecutors and police collected evidence before presenting cases to a court. The HRC noted this abuse remained common, particularly in rural districts, where subordinate courts operated in circuits. Since by law magistrate courts have no jurisdiction over cases that occur outside the district, detainees could be tried only when a circuit court judge was in the district. Problems with inadequate transportation, investigatory inefficiency, and political interference also delayed detainees being promptly charged and judged.

The Criminal Procedure Code provides for bail in case of any detention. The accused can only be granted bail upon providing a sufficient surety or sureties. Bail is not authorized in cases of murder, aggravated robbery, and violations of narcotics laws. Any bail inquiry must be conducted impartially, judicially, and in accordance with the law. Despite this requirement more than 6,000 inmates remained incarcerated without trial, creating a massive administrative backlog in bail and bond cases. Courts often required at least one employed person, often a government employee, to vouch for the detainee, which many see as a particularly onerous requirement for government opponents and the poor. According to the HRC, this requirement posed a challenge in rural areas, where most are informally employed. Authorities frequently refused or delayed bail in politically sensitive cases. For instance, following the September 9 arrest of opposition leader Nevers Mumba after he publicly challenged the outcome of the presidential election, the accused was held for three days before being granted bail.

Detainees were not allowed prompt access to a lawyer in many cases. Although the law obligates the government to provide an attorney to indigent persons who face serious charges, many indigent defendants received no legal counsel. The government’s legal aid office and the Legal Resources Foundation provided some legal services to indigent arrestees.

Arbitrary Arrest: According to human rights groups, arbitrary or false arrest and detention remained problems. Police often arbitrarily summoned family members of criminal suspects for questioning, and authorities arrested criminal suspects based on uncorroborated accusations or as a pretext for extortion. Human rights groups reported police routinely detained citizens after midnight, a practice only legal during a state of emergency. For example, in several “compound” areas–urban settlements characterized by high population density–police arrested residents after dark to clear the streets. The HRC noted that in politically motivated arrests, police detained suspects on Fridays to keep them in custody over the weekend. Police arbitrarily arrested opposition leaders and journalists. Police detained and questioned opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilema and his Vice President, Godfrey Bwalya Mwamba, several times, as well as other UPND members and other opposition leaders who supported the UPND. On August 12, former Lusaka Province Minister Obvious Mwaliteta and UPND Copperbelt Provincial Chairperson Elias Matambo were arrested. The two were charged with aggravated robbery; the UPND claimed they were thwarting election rigging. In early December the director of public prosecution attempted to add previously undisclosed charges to the docket.

Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention continued to be a problem. Thirty-two percent of prison inmates were in pretrial detention. On average detainees spend an estimated two years in pretrial detention, which often exceeded the length of the prison sentence corresponding to the alleged crime. Contributing factors included inability to meet bail requirements, trial delays, and adjournments due to absent prosecutors and their witnesses.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees had the ability to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention, but police often prevented detainees from filing challenges to prolong detention. For example, UPND Vice President Mwamba was detained on numerous occasions during the election campaign and prevented from challenging the legality of his arrest in court until he had spent several days in jail.

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary; the government largely respected judicial independence. The ruling party intervened in criminal and civil cases in which it had an interest. For example, in late November Special Assistant to the President Amos Chanda criticized two High Court justices for overturning the election victories of PF parliamentary candidates.


The constitution provides for the right to a fair hearing, but the judicial system is open to influence by the ruling party in cases in which it has an interest. Defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence, but they were not always informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them. Trials were public but usually delayed. Defendants enjoy the right to consult with an attorney of their choice, to have adequate time to prepare a defense, to present their own witnesses, and to confront or question witnesses against them, although they had limited access to government-held evidence. Indigent defendants were rarely provided an attorney at state expense. Interpretation services in local languages were available in most cases. There were no reports defendants were compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants had the right to appeal.


There were some reports of political prisoners or detainees, particularly around the election period. Members of the opposition UPND party claimed 15 of their supporters were arrested for political purposes and later charged with nonbailable offenses. The ZPS claimed these individuals were arrested while committing assaults and robberies.


Complainants may seek redress for human rights abuses from the High Court. Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations and appeal court decisions to the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights. In May 2015 a group of Barotse activists appealed to the court, seeking to compel the government to respond to a legal argument for the region’s independence. The appeal was still pending.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but the government frequently did not respect these prohibitions. The law requires a search or arrest warrant before police may enter a home, except during a state of emergency or when police suspect a person has committed an offense such as treason, sedition, defamation of the president, or unlawful assembly. Police routinely entered homes without a warrant even when a warrant was legally required. Domestic human rights groups reported authorities routinely detained, interrogated, and physically abused family members or associates of criminal suspects to obtain their cooperation in identifying or locating the suspects. In one of the more prominent examples, police teargassed and raided the family house of the opposition UPND’s vice presidential candidate on July 20, ostensibly to search for illegal weapons.

The law grants the Drug Enforcement Commission, ZSIS, and police authority to monitor communications using wiretaps with a warrant based on probable cause, and authorities generally respected this requirement. The government required cell phone service providers to register all subscribers’ SIM cards. Critics contended the government’s Zambia Information and Communications Technology Agency monitored telecommunications.

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