Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
There were no reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The law prohibits such practices. Nevertheless, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported the use of unnecessary force and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of some prisoners and detainees, particularly to obtain confessions, were problems.
Local police are responsible for investigating allegations of abuse and torture. The Independent Authority Against Corruption (IAAC) investigates officials accused of torture. According to the IAAC, as of September it received 43 complaints of alleged torture. Of these, 24 cases were opened, 18 were dismissed, and one case remained under investigation. The IAAC also received 54 complaints of the use of force against the health or body of an individual by a public official, police officer, or investigator. Of these, 30 cases were opened, 21 were dismissed, and two remained under investigation as of September. The Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs reported that prisoners and detainees submitted five complaints of abuse as of September.
The NHRC, NGOs, and defense attorneys reported that, in an attempt to coerce or intimidate detainees, authorities sometimes threatened detainees’ families, transferred detainees repeatedly, or placed them in detention centers distant from their homes and families, making access to legal counsel and visits by family members difficult. Human rights NGOs reported obstacles to gathering evidence of torture or abuse. For example, although many prisons and detention facilities had cameras for monitoring prisoner interrogations, authorities often reported the equipment was inoperable at the time of reported abuses.
Under the criminal code, which came into effect in July 2017, all public officials are subject to prosecution for official abuse or torture. This code covers both physical and psychological abuse; however, the maximum punishment for torture is a prison sentence of five years. Although officials are liable for intentional infliction of severe bodily injury, prosecutions of this crime were rare. The law states prohibited acts do not constitute a crime when committed in accordance with an order by a superior in the course of duty. The law provides that the person who gave an illegal order is criminally liable for the harm caused, but prosecutions were rare. According to the NHRC, prosecutors, and judges, the law effectively provides immunity to officials allegedly engaged in coercing confessions at the behest of investigators or prosecutors. The NHRC also indicated authorities sometimes abandoned complaints of alleged psychological torture either for lack of evidence or because the degree of injury could not be determined. Moreover, witnesses were generally themselves detainees or prisoners and were under great pressure not to testify, including by threats against family or of additional charges with potentially longer sentences.
As of September the IAAC received four complaints of rape by police or correctional officials. All four cases remained under investigation.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
According to the NHRC chief commissioner, conditions in most of the 23 prisons in the country had improved because most prisons had moved to new facilities; however, conditions remained poor and sometimes harsh in the five (of 26) pretrial detention centers that still operated in old facilities.
Physical Conditions: Authorities assigned male prisoners a security level based on the severity of their crimes and held them in a prison of the corresponding security level. There was only one prison for women, with separate facilities for different security levels, as well as a facility for female prisoners with infant children. Authorities held pretrial detainees in separate facilities from convicted prisoners.
The 23 prisons and 26 pretrial detention centers the General Executive Agency of Court Decisions (GEACD) administered were generally not overcrowded. Nonetheless, NGOs and government officials reported that in the five older pretrial detention centers in rural areas, insufficient medical care, clothing, bedding, food, potable water, heating, lighting, ventilation, sanitary facilities, and accommodations for persons with disabilities were often problems. Conditions in some police-operated alcohol detoxification centers were poor.
The GEACD reported no deaths in prisons and one death in pretrial detention facilities as of September. According to the GEACD, 39 prisoners contracted tuberculosis as of September. According to the GEACD, it provided funding for a new facility to treat prisoners with tuberculosis. Correctional officials routinely released terminally ill patients shortly before death, which NGOs alleged led to misleadingly low prisoner death statistics.
Administration: The Prosecutor General’s Office monitors prison and detention center conditions. The Prosecutor General’s Office and the NHRC conducted multiple scheduled, unplanned, and complaint-based inspections of prisons, pretrial detention centers, and police detention centers.
Independent Monitoring: The government allowed access by independent nongovernmental observers and the NHRC, but authorities sometimes limited the areas observers could visit.
The law provides that no person shall be arrested, detained, or deprived of liberty except by specified procedures and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, and government agencies generally observed these prohibitions. The General Intelligence Agency (GIA) sometimes detained suspects for questioning without charge, but the criminal code requires that a prosecutor supervise all detention.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
The National Police Agency (NPA) and the General Authority for Border Protection, which operate under the Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs, are primarily responsible for internal security. The GIA, whose director reports to the prime minister, assists these two forces with internal security, in addition to foreign intelligence collection and operations.
The armed forces report to the Ministry of Defense and are responsible for national defense. The armed forces assist internal security forces in providing domestic emergency assistance and disaster relief.
Civilian authorities maintained control over both internal and external security forces, but mechanisms to investigate allegations of police abuses remained inadequate. There were reports police sometimes abused suspects.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
An evidence-based, prosecutor-approved warrant is generally required to arrest a suspect on criminal grounds. Within 24 hours of an arrest, a prosecutor must present a request stating the grounds and reasons for the arrest to a judge, who must decide within 48 hours whether to prolong the detention or release the suspect. The arresting authority must notify a suspect’s family within six hours of an arrest. A “pressing circumstances” exception in the law allows police to arrest suspects without a warrant. Examples of exceptions include murder or grave bodily injury, serious property damage, hot pursuit of a fleeing suspect, and suspicion that destruction of evidence would occur. In such cases a prosecutor must approve the arrest within 24 hours, and a judge must approve the arrest within the normal 48-hour period. If 72 hours pass after an arrest and a judge has not made a decision, police must release the suspect. Upon release, authorities must inform the suspect of the reasons for the arrest and detention.
The NHRC received 54 complaints of illegal arrest, arbitrary detention, and extended imprisonment as of October. It reported that investigative agencies occasionally detained suspects without judicial authorization and sometimes secretly when conducting investigations, and police employed such practices despite the availability of other methods of restraint, including bail (with the approval of a prosecutor), another person’s personal guarantee (a signed note in which the suspect pledges not to depart), and military surveillance. The personal guarantee system allows relatives to vouch for an accused family member. Unlike bail, the system does not involve pledged security in exchange for release. This system is available for all crimes, although authorities usually applied it to those accused of less serious offenses.
Despite these problems, authorities generally charged and informed detainees of the charges promptly and advised them of their right to counsel. Maximum pretrial detention with a court order is 18 months. Detainees generally had prompt access to family members, although repeated transfers or detention in remote locations undermined this right.
A detainee has the right to an attorney during pretrial detention and all subsequent stages of the legal process, including after sentencing. If a defendant does not engage an attorney, the government must appoint one if the defendant has a physical or mental disability that would hinder self-defense, is a minor, is not proficient in the Mongolian language, or has a conflict of interest with the defense counsel or other defendants. The law does not provide for the indigent status of a defendant. Detainees were generally aware of their right to legal counsel, but misperceptions limited their use of this right. For example, detainees were frequently unaware they could exercise this right from the start of the legal process and frequently did not assert it unless and until their cases reached trial.
The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but NGOs and private businesses reported that judicial corruption and third-party influence continued. Courts rarely entered not guilty verdicts or dismissed criminal charges over the objection of prosecutors, even when full trials had produced no substantial evidence of guilt. Courts often returned criminal cases to prosecutors when acquittal appeared more appropriate. Consequently, some serious criminal cases cycled for years between prosecutors and the courts without resolution.
The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial without undue delay, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants are presumed innocent and have the right to be informed of the charges against them. Courts provide free interpretation services as needed, including sign language interpretation, unless a court decides to recover procedural expenses from a defendant found guilty. The law also extends to all defendants the right to be present at their own trial in the court of first instance (but not during appeals); to communicate with an attorney of their choice (or one provided at public expense); to receive adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense; to confront witnesses; to present one’s own witnesses and evidence; to not be compelled to testify or confess guilt; and to appeal. NGOs and observers reported that authorities sometimes did not observe these rights and that bribery of judges, prosecutors, and expert witnesses sometimes contributed to unwarranted convictions, dismissals, or reductions of sentences.
Procedural due process errors and inconsistencies often plagued trials. Although the number of government-provided defense lawyers was adequate, their quality and experience were inconsistent and many defendants lacked adequate legal representation. Judges often relied on confessions with little corroborating evidence. Furthermore, NGOs reported witness intimidation by government authorities and police, limited public access to trials (often due to lack of space), a lack of transparency in courts’ decision-making processes, and a low level of awareness regarding new criminal and procedural laws.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
Administrative and judicial remedies are available for alleged human rights violations. The government sometimes failed to enforce court orders pertaining to human rights.
According to Amnesty International, seminomadic herders reported some private and government-owned mining interests interfered with their access to traditional pasturelands. Some herders reported they were forced to relocate after their pastureland was sold and mining companies denied them access to water wells.
The law prohibits such actions, and there were no reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The law provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right, although it imposed some content restrictions, licensing could be problematic, and there was reported harassment of journalists. These problems contributed to occasional self-censorship.
Press and Media Freedom: Globe International, a local NGO specializing in freedom of the press and media, reported continued pressure from police, politicians, and large business entities on local media and press outlets.
The ownership and political affiliations of the media often were not disclosed to the public, and a Globe International survey found that 23.3 percent of journalists reported they did not cover some stories due to their media outlet’s financial and personal relationships with political officials and business elites. The Mongolian Center for Investigative Journalism also reported that journalists sometimes practiced self-censorship for the same reasons.
Violence and Harassment: Some journalists reported they faced violence, harassment, or intimidation by police. For example, according to the Federation of Mongolian Journalists, a police officer punched a television reporter in July.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: Communications Regulatory Commission (CRC) regulations on digital content and television and radio service impose content restrictions in broad terms, for example on pornography or extreme violence. The government appoints members of the CRC, which grants television and radio broadcast licenses without public consultation. This process, together with a lack of transparency during the license-tendering process, inhibited fair access to broadcast frequencies and benefited those with political connections.
Libel/Slander Laws: Press representatives faced libel complaints by government authorities and private persons or organizations. The courts prosecuted the majority of libel and slander cases as petty offenses punishable by fines ranging from two million to 20 million tugriks ($770 to $7,700).
The law provides an exception during election campaign season, when fines of 450,000 to 5.4 million tugriks ($175 to $2,100) or imprisonment from one month to one year apply for spreading false information that defames political parties, coalitions, or candidates running for office. The law imposes additional restrictions against media during campaign periods; penalties include suspending a media organization’s license for six months for defamation and dissemination of false information.
Globe International expressed concern about some legislators who continually publicly espoused making libel and slander criminal offenses. In January, Speaker M. Enkhbold sued a journalist for defamation, claiming the journalist spread false information about him in an article published during the 2017 presidential campaign. Speaker Enkhbold did not appeal the first instance court’s dismissal of the case.
The law provides media an option to seek redress against a person who, by threats of violence, attempted bribery, or other means of intimidation, seeks to compel a media outlet (or other entity) to withhold critical information about that person. In such cases the media outlet may seek a criminal complaint or file a civil complaint against the threatening person. If convicted, that person is subject to a fine of from 450,000 to 2.7 million tugriks ($175 to $1,050), revocation of the right to travel from one to six months, one to six months’ imprisonment, or both.
By law individuals and groups may engage in the peaceful expression of views on the internet. The government restricted internet content deemed pornographic or presenting extreme violence. It maintained a list of blocked websites and added sites to the list for alleged violations of relevant laws and regulations, including those relating to intellectual property. At the end of September, the government had blocked 596 websites.
A CRC regulation places broad restrictions on obscenities and inappropriate content without defining objectionable content explicitly. The regulation requires websites with heavy traffic to use filtering software that makes publicly visible the internet protocol addresses of those commenting or sharing content.
There were reports police interviewed individuals following complaints they made derogatory online posts and comments. Such cases were routinely resolved outside the formal court process. For example, the parties might agree on the removal of the content, the issuance of an apology, or payment of a fine.
Internet access was widely available to the country’s urban population and was increasingly more available in rural areas. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 24 percent of the population had access to the internet in 2017.
ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. The government generally cooperated with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to UNHCR-recognized refugees, asylum seekers, and other persons of concern.
In-Country Movement: An order aimed at curbing air and environmental pollution and traffic jams, effective until January 1, 2020, suspends migration from the countryside to Ulaanbaatar. The law exempts persons traveling to Ulaanbaatar for medical treatment or for work for longer than six months.
Foreign Travel: Under the criminal code, at the request of the Prosecutor General’s Office, courts can ban the departure of persons who are plotting criminal activity. The law requires that those subject to an exit ban receive timely notification. Authorities did not allow persons under exit bans to leave until the disputes leading to the bans were resolved administratively or by court decision, and bans may remain in place for years. According to reports 500 persons, including several foreign residents, remained banned from leaving the country.
PROTECTION OF REFUGEES
Access to Asylum: The constitution provides for granting asylum, and the government provided limited protections to foreign residents in the country while UNHCR adjudicated their refugee claims. The law establishes deportation criteria and permits the Agency for Foreign Citizens and Naturalization (the country’s immigration agency) to deport asylum seekers who it deems do not qualify.
Employment: The law does not afford a specific legal status to refugees and asylum seekers; by default, therefore, authorities usually treated them as irregular migrants and did not issued them work permits.
Access to Basic Services: Because the law does not provide for refugee status, asylum seekers generally did not have access to government-provided basic services such as health care and education. Refugees and asylum seekers could access private medical facilities with UNHCR support.
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not always implement the law effectively, and corruption continued at all levels. Some officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. The government implemented the second year of a three-year action plan, the National Program Combatting Corruption, adopted in 2016. The criminal code contains strict liability provisions for corruption and corruption-related offenses for public servants and government officials. For example, the code dictates that those sentenced for corruption may not work in public service.
The criminal code offers immunity from punishment to any persons who reported they bribed an official at the official’s request. In addition, an amendment criminalizes the misuse of an official position to offer or give preference to close associates or family members when awarding contracts. Nonetheless, private enterprises reported instances in which government employees pressured them to pay bribes to act on applications, obtain permits, and complete registrations.
Members of parliament are immune from prosecution during their tenure in all cases unless they are caught at the scene of a crime with damaging evidence against them.
Factors contributing to corruption included conflicts of interest, lack of transparency, lack of access to information, an inadequate civil service system, and weak government control of key institutions.
The IAAC is the principal agency responsible for investigating corruption, assisted at times by the NPA’s Organized Crime Division. Although questions about the IAAC’s political impartiality persisted, the public viewed the agency as effective. It utilized a standard operating procedure to guide the correct handling of investigations of corruption allegations. It permitted only electronic tender submissions and maintained a black list of companies that violated rules on government procurement. The IAAC conducted training for 6,000 public officials. It also sponsored several public awareness campaigns on television, in social media, and in press conferences that highlighted its work.
The IAAC gained investigatory responsibility for crimes committed by police and military personnel. Consequently, its workload increased fourfold over 2017; however, there were no plans to increase IAAC staffing. The IAAC also established a citizen’s oversight committee that consisted of 153 members from the public at the local level who monitor whether elected officials follow the anticorruption law.
Corruption: Corruption at all levels of government remained widespread. The politicization of anticorruption efforts presented an obstacle to effectively addressing corruption. Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party’s presidential candidate S. Ganbaatar was fined 1.44 million tugriks ($550) for violating the election law by accepting a donation of 50 million Korean won ($44,500) during the 2017 presidential election campaign.
A court convicted former minister of construction and urban development Z. Bayanselenge of abuse of power, ordered him to pay a fine of 19.2 million tugriks ($7,400), and banned him from holding state office for three years.
Financial Disclosure: The law requires civil servants to report holdings and outside sources of income for themselves, their spouses, parents, children, and live-in siblings. It also aims to prevent conflicts of interest between official duties and the private interests of those in public service roles, and to regulate and monitor conflicts of interest to specify that officials act in the public interest. The law requires candidates for public office to submit financial statements and questionnaires on personal business interests to be eligible to run.
Public officials must electronically file a private interest declaration with the IAAC within 30 days of appointment or election and annually thereafter during their terms of public service. The law provides that such declarations be accessible to the public and prescribes a range of administrative sanctions and disciplinary actions. Violators may receive formal warnings, face salary reductions, or be dismissed from their positions. The IAAC is required to review the asset declarations of public servants, including police officers and members of the military. According to the IAAC, all public officials filed the required documentation in a timely manner. The IAAC made public for the first time the financial disclosure short forms for approximately 40,000 of the country’s 170,000 public officials. The IAAC received a 2.5 percent increase in complaints related to alleged conflicts of interest.
Officials with authority to spend government funds are required to report expenditures and audit results on their ministry and agency websites. All transactions above one million tugriks ($385) are subject to reporting. Plans for budgets, loans, or bonds must be registered with the Ministry of Finance for monitoring and tracking, even after the originating officials have left their positions.