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Mongolia

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

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.

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.

INTERNET FREEDOM

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.

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.

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