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China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau) – Tibet

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

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

There were no reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. There were no reports officials investigated or punished those responsible for such killings that had previously taken place.

b. Disappearance

Authorities in Tibetan areas continued to detain Tibetans arbitrarily for indefinite periods.

The whereabouts of the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the second-most prominent figure after the Dalai Lama in Tibetan Buddhism’s Gelug school, remained unknown. Neither he nor his parents have been seen since Chinese authorities took them away in 1995, when he was six years old.

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

According to credible sources, police and prison authorities employed torture and degrading treatment in dealing with some detainees and prisoners. There were reports during the year Chinese officials severely beat some Tibetans who were incarcerated or otherwise in custody. In the past, such beatings have led to death.

On August 13, Chinese authorities released Gonpo Tseten, a Tibetan from Machu (Chinese: Maqu) county of Ganlho (Chinese: Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (TAP) in Gansu province who had served 10 years of a 12-year prison sentence for “inciting separatism.” On August 17, overseas website Free Tibet reported the authorities had severely tortured and subjected him to forced labor while he was in detention. According to media reports, Gonpo had spearheaded Tibetan protests against the Chinese government in 2008.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were harsh and potentially life threatening due to physical abuse and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care.

There were reports of recently released prisoners permanently disabled or in extremely poor health because of the harsh treatment they endured in prison (see Political Prisoners and Detainees subsection below). Former prisoners reported being isolated in small cells for months at a time and deprived of sleep, sunlight, and adequate food. According to individuals who completed their prison terms during the year, prisoners rarely received medical care except in cases of serious illness. There were many cases in which officials denied visitors access to detained and imprisoned persons.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

Arbitrary arrest and detention remained serious problems. Public security agencies are required by law to notify the relatives or employer of a detained person within 24 hours of their detention, but they often failed to do so when Tibetans and others were detained for political reasons. Public security officers may legally detain persons throughout the PRC for up to 37 days without formally arresting or charging them. Criminal detention beyond 37 days requires approval of a formal arrest by the procuratorate, but in cases pertaining to “national security, terrorism, and major bribery,” the law permits up to six months of incommunicado detention without formal arrest. After formally arresting a suspect, public security authorities are authorized to detain a suspect for up to an additional seven months while the case is investigated. After the completion of an investigation, the procuratorate can detain a suspect an additional 45 days while determining whether to file criminal charges. If charges are filed, authorities can detain a suspect for an additional 45 days before beginning judicial proceedings. Public security sometimes detained persons beyond the period allowed by law, and pretrial detention periods of a year or longer were common.

Security officials frequently violated these legal requirements. It was unclear how many Tibetan detainees the authorities held under forms of detention not subject to judicial review.

According to the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), on January 28, authorities arrested and detained Lodoe Gyatso from Nagchu (Chinese: Naqu) prefecture of the TAR after he staged a peaceful protest in front of the Potala Palace in Lhasa. Prior to the protest, Lodoe Gyatso published a video announcing his plans to organize a peaceful demonstration in support of the Tibetan people’s commitment to world peace and nonviolence under the guidance of the Dalai Lama.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Legal safeguards for detained or imprisoned Tibetans were inadequate in both design and implementation. Prisoners in China have the right to request a meeting with a government-appointed attorney, but many Tibetan defendants, particularly those facing politically motivated charges, did not have access to legal representation. In cases which authorities claimed involved “endangering state security” or “separatism,” trials often were cursory and closed. Local sources noted trials were predominantly conducted in Mandarin, with government interpreters provided for Tibetan defendants who did not speak Mandarin. Court decisions, proclamations, and other judicial documents, however, generally were not published in Tibetan.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

In its annual work report, the TAR High People’s Court stated its top political tasks as fighting separatism, criticizing “the 14th Dalai (Lama) clique,” cracking down on the clique’s followers, and maintaining social stability, including by sentencing those who they claimed instigated protests and promoted separatism. The report also stated the court prioritized “political direction,” which included absolute loyalty to the Party.

In June the TAR High People’s Court hired 16 court clerks. Among the requirements for new employees were loyalty to the CCP leadership and having immediate family members with a “good record on combatting separatism” in the Tibet region.

Security forces routinely subjected political prisoners and detainees known as “special criminal detainees” to “political re-education” sessions.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

An unknown number of Tibetans were detained, arrested, and sentenced because of their political or religious activity. Authorities held many prisoners in extrajudicial detention centers and never allowed them to appear in public court.

Based on information available from the Political Prisoner Database (PPD) of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, as of November 27, there were 303 Tibetan political prisoners known to be detained or imprisoned, most of them in Tibetan areas. Of those 303 cases, 132 were reported to be monks (current and former), nuns, or reincarnate teachers. Of the 123 cases for which there was available information on sentencing, punishment ranged from three years to life imprisonment. Observers believed the actual number of Tibetan political prisoners and detainees to be much higher, but the lack of access to prisoners and prisons, as well as the dearth of reliable official statistics, made a precise determination difficult. Authorities continued to hold an unknown number of people in detention centers rather than prisons.

Tibetan Self-Immolations

There were three known cases of Tibetans self-immolating during the year. There have been 155 known immolations since 2009, more than half of which took place in 2012. Local contacts reported the decline in reported self-immolations was due to tightened security by authorities, the collective punishment of self-immolators’ relatives and associates, and the Dalai Lama’s public plea to his followers to find other ways to protest Chinese government repression. Chinese officials in some Tibetan areas withheld public benefits from the family members of self-immolators and ordered friends and monastic personnel to refrain from participating in religious burial rites or mourning activities for self-immolators. According to many contacts in Ngaba county, Sichuan province, officials place family members, relatives, and close friends of self-immolators on a security watch list to prevent them from meeting and communicating with international visitors and, in some cases, deprive them from receiving public benefits.

Self-immolators reportedly viewed their acts as protests against the government’s political and religious oppression. According to multiple contacts, the law criminalizes various activities associated with self-immolation, including “organizing, plotting, inciting, compelling, luring, instigating, or helping others to commit self-immolation,” each of which may be prosecuted as “intentional homicide.”

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

The TAR regional government punished CCP members who followed the Dalai Lama, secretly harbored religious beliefs, made pilgrimages to India, or sent their children to study with exiled Tibetans. Authorities continued to electronically and manually monitor private correspondence and search private homes and businesses for photographs of the Dalai Lama and other politically forbidden items. Police examined the cell phones of TAR residents to search for “reactionary music” from India and photographs of the Dalai Lama. Authorities also questioned and detained some individuals who disseminated writings and photographs over the internet.

The TAR CCP has also launched specialized propaganda campaigns to counter “Tibetan independence” including promoting the proliferation of party media into every household to undermine popular support for the Dalai Lama.

The “grid system” (also known as the “double-linked household system”) continued. The grid system involves grouping households and establishments and encouraging them to report problems in other households, including monetary problems and transgressions, to the government. Authorities reportedly reward individuals with money and other forms of compensation for reporting. While this allows for greater provision of social services to those who need them, it also allows authorities to more easily control those it considers “extremists” and “splittists.”

According to contacts in the TAR, Tibetans frequently received phone calls from security officials ordering them to remove from their mobile phones photos, articles, and contact information for international contacts the government deemed sensitive. Security officials visited the residences of those who did not comply with such orders.

In June news portal Phayul reported local officials arrested two Tibetans from Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi) of Sichuan province for possessing photos of the Dalai Lama after they raided the two men’s residences.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press

Freedom of Expression: Tibetans who spoke to foreigners or foreign reporters, attempted to provide information to persons outside the country, or communicated information regarding protests or other expressions of discontent including via mobile phones, and internet-based communications, were subject to harassment or detention under “crimes of undermining social stability and inciting separatism.” During the year authorities in the TAR and other Tibetan areas sought to strengthen control over electronic media and to punish individuals for the poorly defined crime of “creating and spreading of rumors.” Supporting the CCP, criticizing the Dalai Lama, and “not creating and spreading rumors” were some of the major requirements Tibetans had to fulfill to apply for jobs and receive access to government benefits during the year.

On May 22, the government sentenced Tibetan language rights advocate Tashi Wangchuk to five years of imprisonment on the charge of “inciting separatism” for his 2015 video-recorded interview with The New York Times. On August 13, the Yulshul (Chinese: Yushu) Intermediate People’s Court rejected Tashi Wangchuk’s appeal. In a September 7 statement, the Foreign Correspondents Club of China (FCCC) stated the decision “not only violates Tashi’s right to free speech as stipulated in China’s constitution, but sends a message to sources they could be severely punished for accepting interviews with international media.”

Press and Media Freedom: Foreign journalists may visit the TAR only after obtaining a special travel permit from the government, and the authorities almost never granted this permission.

Authorities tightly controlled journalists who worked for the domestic press and could hire and fire them based on assessments of their political reliability. In May the TAR Press, Television, and Radio Bureau hired 26 individuals to fill positions for which one of the listed job requirements was to “resolutely implement the Party’s line, principles, policies, and political stance, fight against separatism, and safeguard the motherland’s unity and ethnic unity.” CCP propaganda authorities remained in charge of journalist accreditation in the TAR and required journalists working in the TAR to display “loyalty to the Party and motherland.” The deputy head of the TAR Propaganda Department simultaneously holds a prominent position in the TAR Journalist Association, a state-controlled professional association to which local journalists must belong.

Violence and Harassment: Chinese authorities arrested and sentenced many Tibetan writers, intellectuals, and singers for “inciting separatism.” Numerous prominent Tibetan political writers, including Jangtse Donkho, Kelsang Jinpa, Buddha, Tashi Rabten, Arik Dolma Kyab, Gangkye Drupa Kyab, and Shojkhang (also known as Druklo), reported security officers closely monitored them following their releases from prison between 2013 and 2018 and often ordered them to return to police stations for further interrogation. In addition, the authorities banned the writers from publishing and prohibited them from receiving services and benefits such as government jobs, bank loans, passports, and membership in formal organizations.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The authorities prohibited domestic journalists from reporting on repression in Tibetan areas. Authorities promptly censored the postings of bloggers who did so, and the authors sometimes faced punishment.

The TAR Party Committee Information Office maintained tight control of a full range of social media platforms. According to multiple contacts, security officials often cancelled WeChat accounts carrying “sensitive information,” such as discussions about Tibetan language education, and interrogated the account owners. Many sources also reported it was almost impossible to register websites promoting Tibetan culture and language in the TAR with the government, as required by law.

The Chinese government continued to disrupt radio broadcasts of Radio Free Asia’s Tibetan and Mandarin-language services in Tibetan areas, as well as those of the Voice of Tibet, an independent radio station based in Norway.

In addition to maintaining strict censorship of print and online content in Tibetan areas, Chinese authorities sought to censor the expression of views or distribution of information related to Tibet in countries and regions outside of mainland China.

INTERNET FREEDOM

As in the past year, authorities curtailed cell phone and internet service in the TAR and other Tibetan areas, sometimes for weeks or even months at a time, during periods of unrest and political sensitivity, such as the March anniversaries of the 1959 and 2008 protests, “Serf Emancipation Day,” and around the Dalai Lama’s birthday in July. In addition, local observers reported authorities disrupted internet service in areas where self-immolations occurred (see section Tibetan Self-Immolations). Observers also claimed authorities threatened community members with sentences of up to 15 years for those who shared images, videos, and information of the self-immolations with people outside Tibetan areas. When the authorities restored internet service, they closely monitored its usage. There were widespread reports of authorities searching cell phones they suspected of containing suspicious content. Many individuals in the TAR and other Tibetan areas reported receiving official warnings and being briefly detained and interrogated after using their cell phones to exchange what the government deemed to be sensitive information. In July, in advance of the Dalai Lama’s birthday, Radio Free Asia reported authorities warned Tibetans from using social media chat groups to organize gatherings or celebrations of the spiritual leader’s birthday. The TAR Internet and Information Office is continuing a research project known as “Countermeasures to Internet-based Reactionary Infiltration by the Dalai Lama Clique.”

In July, TAR Party Secretary Wu Yingjie urged the region to “resolutely manage the internet, maintain the correct cybersecurity view, and keep in mind Tibet serves as the frontline in the fight against separatism.”

Throughout the year authorities blocked users in China from accessing foreign-based, Tibet-related websites critical of official government policy in Tibetan areas. Technically sophisticated hacking attempts originating from China also targeted Tibetan activists and organizations outside mainland China.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

As in recent years, authorities in many Tibetan areas required professors and students at institutions of higher education to attend regular political education sessions, particularly during politically sensitive months, in an effort to prevent “separatist” political and religious activities on campus. Authorities frequently encouraged Tibetan academics to participate in government propaganda efforts, both domestically and overseas, such as making public speeches supporting government policies. Academics who refused to cooperate with such efforts faced diminished prospects for promotion and research grants.

Academics in the PRC who publicly criticized CCP policies on Tibetan affairs faced official reprisal. The government controlled curricula, texts, and other course materials as well as the publication of historically or politically sensitive academic books. Authorities frequently denied Tibetan academics permission to travel overseas for conferences and academic or cultural exchanges the Party had not organized or approved. Authorities in Tibetan areas regularly banned the sale and distribution of music they deemed to have sensitive political content.

The state-run TAR Academy of Social Science continued to encourage scholars to maintain “a correct political and academic direction” in its annual July conference to “improve scholars’ political ideology” and “fight against separatists” under the guidance of Xi Jinping.

In May the TAR Academy of Social Sciences hired five young scholars. One of the requirements listed for these positions was “to demonstrate loyalty to the Party and to criticize the Dalai Lama in both words and deeds.”

In accordance with government guidance on ethnic assimilation, state policies continued to disrupt traditional Tibetan living patterns and customs and accelerated forced assimilation through promoting the influx of non-Tibetans to traditionally Tibetan areas, expanding the domestic tourism industry, forcibly resettling and urbanizing nomads and farmers, and weakening Tibetan-language education in public schools and religious education in monasteries.

Tibetan and Mandarin Chinese are the official languages of the TAR, and both languages appeared on some, but not all, public and commercial signs. Inside official buildings and businesses, including banks, post offices, and hospitals, signage in Tibetan was frequently lacking, and, in many instances, forms and documents were available only in Mandarin. Mandarin was used for most official communications and was the predominant language of instruction in public schools in many Tibetan areas. To print in the Tibetan language, private printing businesses in Chengdu needed special government approval, which was often difficult to obtain.

During the year the Communist Party continued to bring Larung Gar and Yachen Gar, two prominent Tibetan Buddhist educational centers, under tighter Communist Party control, giving Communist Party cadres authority over the institutions’ management, finances, security, and admissions. This was part of an ongoing effort, started in 2016, to reduce the population of these institutes by evicting around 5,000 monks and nuns and destroying as many as 1,500 homes.

The law states, “schools (classes and grades) and other institutions of education where most of the students come from minority nationalities shall, whenever possible, use textbooks in their own languages and use their languages as the media of instruction.” Despite guarantees of cultural and linguistic rights, many primary, middle, high school, and college students had limited access to officially approved Tibetan language instruction and textbooks, particularly in the areas of “modern-day education,” which refers to nontraditional, nonreligious education, particularly computer, physical education, arts, and other “modern” subjects.

The country’s most prestigious universities provided no instruction in Tibetan or other ethnic minority languages, although classes teaching the Tibetan language were available at a small number of universities. “Nationalities” universities, established to serve ethnic minority students and ethnic Chinese students interested in ethnic minority subjects, offered Tibetan language instruction only in courses focused on the study of the Tibetan language or culture. Mandarin was used in courses for jobs that required technical skills and qualifications.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Even in areas officially designated as “autonomous,” Tibetans generally lacked the right to organize and play a meaningful role in the protection of their cultural heritage and unique natural environment. Tibetans often faced government intimidation and arrest if they protested official policies or practices.

In February the TAR Public Security Office announced it would consider as criminals those who promote “economic, people’s livelihood, environmental, traditional, and cultural development in Tibetan areas” on behalf of the “Dalai clique” and “foreign hostile forces,” and would label these “spokespersons” as criminals.

In July local contacts reported that many monasteries and rural villages in the TAR and Tibetan areas in Sichuan and Qinghai provinces received official warnings not to organize certain gatherings, including the celebration of the Dalai Lama’s birthday. In one instance, Radio Free Asia reported authorities from Malho (Chinese: Huangnan) TAP of Qinghai province deployed large numbers of armed police to Tibetan villages and towns to discourage such celebrations. According to these contacts, many Tibetan students at various nationality universities were instructed not to organize gatherings and parties in March (Tibet Uprising Day) or July (the Dalai Lama’s birthday).

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

Chinese law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation; however, the government severely restricted travel and freedom of movement for Tibetans, particularly Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns as well as lay persons whom the government considered to have “poor political records.”

In-country Movement: The People’s Armed Police (PAP) and local public security bureaus set up roadblocks and checkpoints in Tibetan areas on major roads, in cities, and on the outskirts of cities and monasteries, particularly around sensitive dates. Tibetans traveling in monastic attire were subject to extra scrutiny by police at roadside checkpoints and at airports.

Authorities sometimes banned Tibetans, particularly monks and nuns, from going outside the TAR and from traveling to the TAR without first obtaining special permission from multiple government offices. Many Tibetans reported encountering difficulties in obtaining the required permissions. This not only made it difficult for Tibetans to make pilgrimages to sacred religious sites in the TAR. Tibetans from outside the TAR who traveled to Lhasa also reported that authorities there required them to surrender their national identification cards and notify authorities of their plans in detail on a daily basis. These requirements were not applied to ethnic Chinese visitors to the TAR.

Even outside the TAR, many Tibetan monks and nuns reported it remained difficult to travel beyond their home monasteries for religious and traditional Tibetan education, with officials frequently denying permission for visiting monks to stay at a monastery for religious education. Implementation of this restriction was especially rigorous in the TAR, and it undermined the traditional Tibetan Buddhist practice of seeking advanced teachings from a select number of senior teachers based at major monasteries scattered across the Tibetan Plateau.

Foreign Travel: Many Tibetans continued to report difficulties in obtaining new or renewing existing passports. Sources reported that Tibetans and certain other ethnic minorities had to provide far more extensive documentation than other citizens when applying for a Chinese passport. For Tibetans, the passport application process sometimes required years and frequently ended in rejection. Some Tibetans reported they were able to obtain passports only after paying substantial bribes and offering written promises to conduct only apolitical or nonsensitive international travel.

Tibetans continued to encounter significant obstacles in traveling to India for religious, educational, and other purposes. Tibetans who had traveled to Nepal and planned to continue to India reported that Chinese officials visited their homes in Tibet and threatened their relatives if they did not return immediately. Sources reported that explicit punishments included placing family members on a blacklist which could lead to the loss of a government job or difficulty in finding employment; expulsion of children from the public education system; and revocation of national identification cards, thereby preventing access to other social services, such as health care and government aid.

According to local contacts, very few Tibetans from China were able to attend teaching sessions held by the Dalai Lama throughout the year in many parts of India, as local Chinese officials refused to issue passports. Many Tibetans who possessed passports were concerned the authorities would place them on the government’s blacklist, and therefore did not travel. In January the Tibetan Journalreported the Chinese government issued orders for the immediate return of Tibetans on pilgrimage in India and Nepal or attending the Dalai Lama’s teachings, with serious consequences for those who refused.

Tightened border controls sharply limited the number of Tibetans crossing the border into Nepal and India. Between January and July, 23 Tibetan refugees transited Nepal through the Tibetan Reception Center, run by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Kathmandu, en route to permanent settlement in India. This reflected a decrease for two straight years.

The government restricted the movement of Tibetans in the period before and during sensitive anniversaries and events and increased controls over border areas at these times. According to local contacts, travel agents in the cities of Chengdu, Xining, and Kunming were forbidden to sell overseas package tours to Tibetans for the months of March and July, the periods around Tibet Uprising Day (March 10) and the Dalai Lama’s birthday (July 6).

In February, shortly after the Tibetan New Year and in advance of Tibet Uprising Day and the convening of China’s national legislature, Radio Free Asia reported that immigration authorities at Chengdu international airport detained three ethnic Tibetans holding non-Chinese passports and valid Chinese visas for eight hours before denying them entry to China and requiring they depart on the next international flight. During their detention, immigration officials and police officers interrogated and searched their web chats and notebooks as well as made copies of their telephone contacts.

The government strictly regulated travel of international visitors to the TAR, a restriction not applied to any other provincial-level entity of the PRC. In accordance with a 1989 regulation, international visitors had to obtain an official confirmation letter issued by the TAR government before entering the TAR. Most foreign tourists obtained such letters by booking tours through officially registered travel agencies. In the TAR, a government-designated tour guide had to accompany international tourists at all times. It was rare for foreigners to obtain permission to enter the TAR by road. As with prior years, authorities banned many international tourists from the TAR in the period before and during the March anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising as well as other periods in which the Chinese government deemed politically sensitive. International tourists sometimes also faced restrictions traveling to Tibetan areas outside the TAR during such times.

The TAR government routinely denied foreign diplomats’ requests for official travel. When foreign officials were allowed to travel to the TAR, the Foreign Affairs Office only allowed closely chaperoned trips. Authorities repeatedly denied requests for international journalists to visit the TAR and other Tibetan areas (see Freedom of Expression section).

Although foreign officials were able to travel more freely in Tibetan areas outside of the TAR, the PAP and local public security bureaus often subjected them to multiple checkpoints.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

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

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

There were numerous reports the government committed arbitrary and unlawful killings.

Defector reports noted instances in which the government executed political prisoners, opponents of the government, forcibly returned asylum seekers, government officials, and others accused of crimes. The law prescribes the death penalty for the most “serious” or “grave” cases of “antistate” or “antination” crimes, which include: participation in a coup or plotting to overthrow the state; acts of terrorism for an antistate purpose; treason, which includes defection or handing over of state secrets, broadly interpreted to include providing information about economic, social, and political developments routinely published elsewhere; suppression of the people’s movement for national liberation; and “treacherous destruction.” Additionally, the law allows for capital punishment in less serious crimes such as theft, destruction of military facilities and national assets, fraud, kidnapping, distribution of pornography, and trafficking in persons. Defectors also reported that the government carried out infanticide, or required mothers to commit infanticide in cases of political prisoners, persons with disabilities, women who were raped by government officials or prison guards, and mothers repatriated from China.

NGOs and press reports indicated that border guards had orders to shoot to kill individuals leaving the country without permission, and prison guards were under orders to shoot to kill those attempting to escape from political prison camps.

On June 22, a firing squad reportedly executed army lieutenant general Hyon Ju Song for abusing authority, profiting the enemy, and engaging in antiparty acts. Hyon had reportedly ordered the distribution of extra food and fuel to his troops, claiming “we no longer have to suffer and tighten our belts to make rockets and nuclear weapons.”

The trial of two women accused of assassinating Kim Jong Nam, Kim Jong Un’s half-brother, continued in Kuala Lumpur. The women claimed to have been tricked by four agents working on behalf of the North Korean government into fatally poisoning Kim at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in February 2017. The four agents, including Ri Ji U and Hong Song Hac, were able to return to North Korea from Malaysia.

The state also subjected private citizens to public executions. According to the Institute for National Security Strategy, the state held 340 public executions from 2012 to 2016, including executions of 140 government officials between 2013 and 2016. A 2016 survey found that 64 percent of defectors had witnessed public executions. Defectors reported going to public executions on school field trips. One defector claimed to have witnessed the public execution of a man who stole copper from a factory and a woman who had come into contact with a missionary while in China.

b. Disappearance

NGO, think tank, and press reports indicated the government was responsible for disappearances.

During the year there was no progress in the investigation into the whereabouts of 12 Japanese citizens believed to have been abducted by the DPRK.

The Republic of Korea (ROK) government and media reports noted the DPRK also kidnapped other foreign nationals from locations abroad in the 1970s and 1980s. The DPRK continued to deny its involvement in the kidnappings. The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK reported that 516 South Korean civilians, abducted or detained by DPRK authorities since the end of the Korean War, remained in the DPRK. South Korean NGOs estimated that during the Korean War the DPRK abducted 20,000 civilians who remained in the North or who had died.

During the year South Korean media reported that DPRK Ministry of State Security agents were dispatched to cities near the DPRK border in China to kidnap and forcibly return refugees. According to international press reports, North Korea may have also kidnapped defectors who relocated to South Korea and then were on travel in China. In some cases North Korea reportedly forced these defectors’ family members to encourage the defectors to return to China in order to capture them.

Defectors alleged that the Ministry of State Security (MSS) did not always notify families when a relative was arrested and sentenced to detention in a political prison camp.

According to The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK), the state closed Hoeryong kwanliso (Camp 22) in late 2012 and demolished the Sirmchon/Kumchon-ri zone with Yodok kwanliso (Camp 15) in late 2014. The whereabouts of the former prisoners of these facilities remained unknown.

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

The penal code prohibits torture or inhuman treatment, but many sources reported these practices continued. Numerous defector accounts and NGO reports described the use of torture by authorities in several detention facilities. Methods of torture and other abuse reportedly included severe beatings; electric shock; prolonged periods of exposure to the elements; humiliations such as public nakedness; confinement for up to several weeks in small “punishment cells” in which prisoners were unable to stand upright or lie down; being forced to kneel or sit immobilized for long periods; being hung by the wrists; water torture; and being forced to stand up and sit down to the point of collapse, including “pumps,” or being forced to repeatedly squat and stand with the person’s hands behind their back. Mothers were in some cases reportedly forced to watch or to commit the infanticide of their newborn infants. Defectors continued to report many prisoners died from torture, disease, starvation, exposure to the elements, or a combination of these causes.

The December 2017 International Bar Association (IBA) Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity in North Korean Political Prisons alleged that torture with water or electricity was standard practice by the MSS. Other allegations include being stripped, hung inverted, and beaten as well as the sticking of needles under a detainee’s fingernails, among other forms of torture.

The White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea, published by the Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU), a South Korean government-affiliated think tank, and the 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) report stated that officials had in some cases prohibited live births in prison and ordered forced abortions as recently as 2013. Detainees in re-education through labor camps reported the state forced them to perform difficult physical labor under harsh conditions (see section 7.b.).

The KINU white paper found that, in some cases of live birth, the prison guards killed the infant or left the baby to die, and it reported cases of guards sexually abusing or exploiting female prisoners.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

NGO, defector, and press reports noted there were several types of prisons, detention centers, and camps, including forced labor camps and separate camps for political prisoners. NGO reports documented six types of detention facilities: kwanliso (political penal-labor camps), kyohwaso (correctional or re-education centers), kyoyangso (labor-reform centers), jipkyulso (collection centers for low-level criminals), rodong danryeondae (labor-training centers), and kuryujang or kamok (interrogation facilities or jails). According to the 2017 KINU white paper, the Ministry of State Security administered kwanliso camps and either it or the Ministry of People’s Security administered the other detention centers.

There were reportedly between 5,000 and 50,000 prisoners per kwanliso. Defectors claimed the kwanliso camps contained unmarked graves, barracks, worksites, and other prison facilities. NGOs reported the existence of between four and six kwanliso facilities, including Gaecheon (Camp 14), Yodok (Camp 15), Hwaseong/Myeonggan (Camp 16), Pukchang (Camp 18), Cheongjin (Camp 25), and the Choma-bong Restricted Area. HRNK reported that the Choma-bong Restricted Area, constructed between 2013 and 2014, had not been confirmed by eyewitness reports, but it appeared to be operational and bore all the characteristics of a kwanliso.

Kwanliso camps consist of total control zones, where incarceration is for life, and “rerevolutionizing zones,” from which prisoners may be released. Reports indicated the state typically sent those sentenced to prison for nonpolitical crimes to re-education prisons where authorities subjected prisoners to intense forced labor. Those the state considered hostile to the government or who committed political crimes reportedly received indefinite sentencing terms in political prison camps. In many cases the state also detained all family members if one member was accused or arrested. The government continued to deny the existence of political prison camps.

Reports indicated conditions in the prison camp and detention system were harsh and life threatening and that systematic and severe human rights abuse occurred. Defectors noted they did not expect many prisoners in political prison camps and the detention system to survive. Detainees and prisoners consistently reported violence and torture. Defectors described witnessing public executions in political prison camps. According to defectors, prisoners received little to no food or medical care in some places of detention. Sanitation was poor, and former labor camp inmates reported they had no changes of clothing during their incarceration and were rarely able to bathe or wash their clothing. The South Korean and international press reported that the kyohwaso held populations of up to thousands of political prisoners, economic criminals, and ordinary criminals.

Both the kyohwaso re-education camps and kwanliso prison camps host extremely brutal conditions, according to HRNK’s 2016 report North Korea: Kyohwaso No. 12, Jongori. The report noted, “The brutality affects both those convicted of actual offenses and those sentenced for essentially political offenses.”

According to the Hidden Gulag IV report, since late 2008 Jongori (formerly referred to as Camp 12) in North Hamkyung Province was expanded to include a women’s annex that held approximately 1,000 women, most of whom the state imprisoned after forcibly returning them from China. Satellite imagery and defector testimony corroborated the existence of this women’s annex. Defector testimony also cited food rations below subsistence levels, forced labor, and high rates of death due to starvation at Jongori.

Physical Conditions: Estimates of the total number of prisoners and detainees in the prison and detention system ranged between 80,000 and 120,000. Physical abuse by prison guards was systematic. Anecdotal reports from the NGO Database Center for North Korean Human Rights and the 2014 COI report stated that in some prisons authorities held women in separate units from men and often subjected the women to sexual abuse. The COI report added, “Cases of rape are a direct consequence of the impunity and unchecked power that prison guards and other officials enjoy.” In November, Human Rights Watch released a report providing defector accounts of sexual abuse at detention centers between 2009 and 2013. Victims alleged widespread sexual abuse at holding centers (jipkyulso) and pretrial detention and interrogation centers (kuryujang) by secret police (bowiseong) or police interrogators, as well as while being transferred between facilities.

There were no statistics available regarding deaths in custody, but defectors reported deaths were commonplace as the result of summary executions, torture, lack of adequate medical care, and starvation. The COI report cited “extremely high rate of deaths in custody,” due to starvation and neglect, arduous forced labor, disease, and executions.

Defectors also reported that in Camp 14, prisoners worked 12 hours a day during the summer and 10 hours a day during the winter, with one day off a month. The camps observed New Year’s Day and the birthdays of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. Children age 12 or older worked, and guards gave light duty to prisoners older than 65 years of age. According to HRNK report Gulag, Inc., three political prison camps and four re-education camps contained mines where prisoners worked long hours with frequent deadly accidents. One prisoner reported suffering an open foot fracture and being forced to return to the mine the same day. Prisoners provided supervision over other prisoners and worked even when they were sick. Prisoners who failed to meet work quotas reportedly faced reduced meals and violence. Those caught stealing faced arbitrary and serious violence.

NGO and press reports estimated there were between 182 and 490 detention facilities in the country.

By law the state dismisses criminal cases against a person younger than age 14. The state applies public education in case of a crime committed by a person older than age 14 and younger than age 17, but little information was available regarding how the law was actually applied. Authorities often detained juveniles along with their families and reportedly subjected them to torture and abuse in detention facilities.

Administration: There was little evidence to suggest prisoners and detainees had reasonable access to visitors. In past years refugees reported authorities subjected Christian inmates to harsher punishment if they made their faith public. No information was available regarding religious observance nor on whether authorities conducted proper investigations of credible allegations of abuse.

Independent Monitoring: There was no publicly available information on whether the government investigated or monitored prison and detention conditions. The 2015 HRNK Imagery Analysis of Camp 15 noted officials, especially those within the Korean People’s Army and the internal security organizations, clearly understand the importance of implementing camouflage, concealment, and deception procedures to mask their operations and intentions. The government did not allow the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the DPRK into the country to assess prison conditions. The government did not permit other human rights monitors to inspect prisons and detention facilities.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but reports pointed out that the government did not observe these prohibitions.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The internal security apparatus includes the Ministries of People’s Security and State Security and the Military Security Command. Impunity was pervasive. The security forces did not investigate possible security force abuses. The government did not take action to reform the security forces. These organizations all played a role in the surveillance of citizens, maintaining arresting power, and conducting special purpose nonmilitary investigations. A systematic and intentional overlap of powers and responsibilities existed between these organizations. Kim Jong Un continued to enforce this overlap to prevent any potential subordinate consolidation of power and assure that each unit provides a check and balance on the other.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Revisions to the criminal code and the criminal procedure code in 2004, 2005, and 2009 added shortened periods of detention during prosecution and trial, arrest by warrant, and prohibition of collecting evidence by forced confessions. Confirmation that the state applied these changes has not been verified.

Members of the security forces arrested and reportedly transported citizens suspected of committing political crimes to prison camps without trial. According to a South Korean NGO, beginning in 2008, the Ministry of People’s Security received authorization to handle criminal cases directly without the approval of prosecutors. Prosecutorial corruption reportedly necessitated the change. An NGO reported that investigators could detain an individual for the purpose of investigation for up to two months. HRNK reported that, for critical political crimes in North Hamgyong Province, MSS units interrogated suspects for periods of six to 12 months. No functioning bail system or other alternatives for considering release pending trial exists.

There were no restrictions on the government’s ability to detain and imprison persons at will or to hold them incommunicado. Family members and other concerned persons reportedly found it virtually impossible to obtain information on charges against detained persons or the lengths of their sentences. Judicial review or appeals of detentions did not exist in law or practice. According to an opinion adopted in 2015 by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, family members have no recourse to petition for the release of detainees accused of political crimes, as the state may deem any such advocacy for political prisoners an act of treason against the state. No known information on a bail system or on detainees receiving a lawyer was available.

Arbitrary Arrest: Arbitrary arrests reportedly occurred.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: According to defectors there was no mechanism for persons to challenge the lawfulness of detention before a court. Defectors reported that inquiries into a family member’s detention status could result in the detention of additional family members.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution states courts are independent and that courts will carry out judicial proceedings in strict accordance with the law; however, an independent judiciary does not exist. According to the 2018 KINU white paper, there were many reports of bribery and corruption in the investigations or preliminary examination process and in detention facilities, as well as by judges and prosecutors in the trial stage.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

Little information was available on formal criminal justice procedures and practices, and outside access to the legal system was limited to trials for traffic violations and other minor offenses.

The constitution contains elaborate procedural protections, providing that cases should be public, except under circumstances stipulated by law. The constitution also states that the accused has the right to a defense, and when the government held trials, they reportedly assigned lawyers. Some reports noted a distinction between those accused of political, as opposed to nonpolitical, crimes and claimed that the government offered trials and lawyers only to the latter. MSS conducted “pretrials” or preliminary examinations in all political cases, but the court system conducted the trial. Some defectors testified that the MSS also conducted trials. There was no indication that independent, nongovernmental defense lawyers existed. According to the 2013 Hidden Gulag report, most inmates were sent to prison camps without trial, without knowing the charges against them, and without having legal counsel. There were no indications authorities respected the presumption of innocence. According to the UN COI report, “the vast majority of inmates are victims of arbitrary detention, since they are imprisoned without trial or on the basis of a trial that fails to respect the due process and fair trial guarantees set out in international law.”

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

While the total number of political prisoners and detainees remained unknown, the 2018 KINU white paper reported the state detained between 80,000 and 120,000 in the kwanliso. Guards held political prisoners separately from other detainees. NGOs and media reported political prisoners were subject to harsher punishments and fewer protections than other prisoners and detainees. The government considered critics of the regime to be political criminals. The government did not permit access to persons by international humanitarian organizations or religious organizations resident in China. Reports from past years described political offenses as including attempting to defect to South Korea or contacting family members who have defected to South Korea, sitting on newspapers bearing Kim Il Sung’s or Kim Jong Il’s picture, mentioning Kim Il Sung’s limited formal education, or defacing photographs of the Kims. The UN COI report noted that many “ordinary” prisoners were, in fact, political prisoners, “detained without a substantive reason compatible with international law.”

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

According to the constitution, “citizens are entitled to submit complaints and petitions. The state shall fairly investigate and deal with complaints and petitions as fixed by law.” Under the Law on Complaint and Petition, citizens are entitled to submit complaints to stop encroachment upon their rights and interests or seek compensation for the encroached rights and interests. Reports noted government officials did not respect these rights. Individuals and organizations do not have the ability to appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies.

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

The constitution provides for the inviolability of person and residence and the privacy of correspondence; however, the government did not respect these provisions. The regime subjected its citizens to rigid controls. The regime reportedly relied upon a massive, multilevel system of informants to identify those it sees as critics. Authorities sometimes subjected entire communities to security checks, entering homes without judicial authorization.

The government appeared to monitor correspondence, telephone conversations, emails, text messages, and other digital communications. Private telephone lines operated on a system that precluded making or receiving international calls; international telephone lines were available only under restricted circumstances.

A 2015 survey conducted by InterMedia found that 28 percent of respondents (recent defectors and North Korean businesspersons in China) had owned a domestic cell phone in North Korea. Citizens must go through a lengthy bureaucratic process to obtain a mobile phone legally, and authorities strictly monitored mobile phone use. Additionally, 14 percent of defectors reported owning a Chinese mobile phone. DPRK authorities frequently jammed cellular phone signals along the China-DPRK border to block the use of the Chinese cell network to make international phone calls. The MSS reportedly engaged in real-time surveillance of mobile phone communications. Authorities arrested those caught using such cell phones with Chinese SIM cards and required violators to pay a fine or face charges of espionage or other crimes with harsh punishments, including lengthy prison terms. Testimonies recorded by NGOs indicated prisoners could avoid punishment through bribery of DPRK officials.

In December 2017 the government reportedly temporarily shut down landline telephone services nationwide in order to change its phone number system. The move was allegedly made after an internal telephone directory, containing both government and private numbers, was smuggled out of North Korea.

The government divided citizens into strict loyalty-based classes known as “songbun,” which determined access to employment, higher education, place of residence, medical facilities, certain stores, marriage prospects, and food rations.

Numerous reports noted authorities practiced collective punishment. The state imprisoned entire families, including children, when one member of the family was accused of a crime. Collective punishment reportedly can extend to three generations.

NGOs reported the eviction of families from their places of residence without due process.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, but the government prohibited the exercise of these rights.

Freedom of Expression: There were numerous instances of persons interrogated or arrested for saying something construed as negative towards the government.

The constitution provides for the right to petition, but the government did not respect this right. For example, when individuals submitted anonymous petitions or complaints about state administration, the Ministries of People’s Security and State Security sought to identify the authors and subject them to investigation and punishment.

Press and Media Freedom: The government sought to control virtually all information; independent media does not exist. The government tightly controlled print media, broadcast media, book publishing, and online media through the Propaganda and Agitation Department. Within the department, the Publication and Broadcasting Department controls all media content, including content used on television, in newspapers, and on the radio. The government carefully managed visits by foreigners, especially journalists. More than 100 foreign journalists visited the DPRK in September to report on celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the DPRK, but the government strictly limited their access. Media reported that the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Unification, under pressure from North Korea, prevented a North Korean defector journalist from covering high-level inter-Korean talks at Panmunjon in October.

Violence and Harassment: Domestic journalists had no freedom to investigate stories or report freely. During visits by foreign leaders, authorities permitted groups of foreign journalists to accompany official delegations and file reports. In all cases, the state strictly monitored journalists. Government officials generally prevented journalists from talking to officials or to persons on the street. Dozens of foreign journalists attended the DPRK’s 70th anniversary celebrations. DPRK officials reportedly provided them with a document warning against “distorting the realities” of the country or reporting falsely out of hostile intentions. The penalty for infractions was five to 10 years of “reform through labor.” In September 2017 North Korea’s central court sentenced four South Korean journalists to death for giving positive reviews to a book that the court considered insulting to North Korea.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Strict enforcement of domestic media censorship continued, with no toleration for deviation from the official government line. The government prohibited listening to foreign media broadcasts except by the political elite, and violators were subjected to severe punishment. Radios and television sets, unless altered, are set to receive only domestic programming; officials similarly altered radios obtained from abroad. Elite citizens and facilities for foreigners, such as hotels, had access to international television broadcasts via satellite. The government continued attempts to jam all foreign radio broadcasts. Officials imprisoned and punished citizens for listening to foreign radio or watching foreign television broadcasts and, in some cases, for simply owning radio or television sets able to receive nongovernment broadcasts.

INTERNET FREEDOM

Internet access for citizens was limited to high-ranking officials and other designated elites, including selected university students. The Korea Computer Center, which acts as the North Korean gatekeeper to the internet, granted access only to information it deemed acceptable, and employees constantly monitored users’ screens.

According to media reports, in July 2018 satellite imagery showed the completion of a new Internet Communication Bureau headquarters in Pyongyang. Media speculated that the bureau would be responsible for managing internet traffic between North Korea and the global internet.

A tightly controlled and regulated “intranet” was reportedly available to a slightly larger group of users, including an elite grade school; selected research institutions, universities, and factories; and a few individuals. The NGO Reporters Without Borders reported some email access existed through this internal network. Government employees sometimes had closely monitored access to the internet and had limited, closely monitored access to email accounts. While the North Korean cell phone network is 3G-capable, most users’ data access is limited to a few state sanctioned functions through North Korea’s intranet, such as reading the government newspaper.

Media and civil society continued to report extensive cyber hacking by North Korea, particularly by North Koreans overseas.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

The government restricted academic freedom and controlled artistic works. Curriculum was highly controlled by the state. The government severely restricted academic travel. The primary function of plays, movies, operas, children’s performances, and books was to buttress the cult of personality surrounding the Kim family and support the regime.

Foreign government and NGO workers in the DPRK reported the reintroduction of the Mass Games and preparation for the 70th Anniversary of DPRK’s founding celebrations had resulted in large numbers of youth preparing for long hours, under heightened incidents of personal injury and exhaustion, with no medical attention.

The state carried out systematic indoctrination through the mass media, schools, and worker and neighborhood associations. Indoctrination continued to involve mass marches, rallies, and staged performances, sometimes including hundreds of thousands of persons.

The government continued its attempt to limit foreign influence on its citizens. Listening to foreign radio and watching foreign films are illegal. Individuals accused of viewing or possessing foreign films were reportedly subjected to imprisonment and possibly execution. According to the 2016 KINU white paper, a 2015 survey revealed that defectors witnessed proclamations posted indicating that that those caught watching South Korean movies or listening to South Korean music would be sentenced to death, in accordance with instructions announced by the regime in 2013. According to the 2017 KINU white paper, the number of people executed for watching or distributing South Korean video content increased during the last few years.

Based on defector interviews conducted in 2015, InterMedia estimated as many as 29 percent of defectors listened to foreign radio broadcasts while inside North Korea and that approximately 92 percent of defectors interviewed had seen foreign DVDs in North Korea.

The government intensified its focus on preventing the import of South Korean popular culture, especially television dramas. According to media and NGO reports, in enforcing restrictions on foreign films, authorities authorized police to search homes for contraband DVDs. According to InterMedia, the government added a software-based censorship program known as the “signature system” to all domestic mobile phones. This system makes it impossible to view foreign media on the phones. Mobile phones are randomly inspected physically for illegal media, and a history of all activity on the device is available for export upon inspection through monitoring software called “TraceViewer.” Daily NK reported that Kim Jong Un created a special police unit to restrict and control the flow of outside information into the country.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

While the constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly, the government did not respect this provision and continued to prohibit public meetings not previously authorized and not under government control.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for freedom of association, but the government failed to respect this provision. There were no known organizations other than those created by the government. Professional associations existed primarily to facilitate government monitoring and control over organization members.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

The law provides for the “freedom to reside in or travel to any place”; however, the government did not respect this right. The government continued to control internal travel carefully. The government did not cooperate with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees or other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, forcibly returned refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons.

In-country Movement: The government continued to restrict freedom of movement for those lawfully within the state. Under the law, individuals who violate travel regulations were subject to warnings, fines, or forced labor. Only members of a very small elite class and those with access to remittances from overseas reportedly had access to personal vehicles. A lack of infrastructure hampered movement, as did security checkpoints on main roads at entry and exit points from every town. The 2018 KINU White Paper reported that individuals were able to move more freely within their own province as the use of bribery as a means to avoid punishment became more widespread.

The government strictly controlled permission to reside in, or even to enter, Pyongyang, where food availability, housing, health, and general living conditions were much better than in the rest of the country. Foreign officials visiting the country observed checkpoints on the highway leading into Pyongyang.

Foreign Travel: The government also restricted foreign travel. The government limited issuance of exit visas for foreign travel to officials and trusted businesspersons, artists, athletes, academics, and workers. Short-term exit papers were available on a very limited basis for some residents to visit with relatives, undertake short-term work opportunities, or to engage in small-scale trade.

Exile: The government reportedly forced the internal exile of some citizens. In the past, it forcibly resettled tens of thousands of persons from Pyongyang to the countryside. Sometimes this occurred as punishment for offenses and included those judged to be politically unreliable based on the social status of their family members.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Refoulement: The government did not allow emigration, and reports stated that it continued to increase its severe, tight security on the border, dramatically limiting the flow of persons crossing into China without required permits. NGOs reported strict patrols and surveillance of residents of border areas and a crackdown on border guards who may have been aiding border crossers in return for bribes.

The government maintained orders to shoot to kill those attempting to leave without official permission. The law criminalizes defection and attempted defection. Individuals, including children, who cross the border with the purpose of defecting or seeking asylum in a third country are subject to a minimum of five years of “labor correction.” In “serious” cases, the state subjects asylum seekers to indefinite terms of imprisonment and forced labor, confiscation of property, or death. Many would-be refugees returned involuntarily from foreign states received imprisonment under harsh conditions. Some sources indicated authorities reserved particularly harsh treatment for those who had extensive contact with foreigners, including those with family members resettled in South Korea.

On November 13, 2017, a North Korean soldier was shot five times by North Korean border guards as he crossed over the DMZ and defected to South Korea.

Media reported in April that Kim Jong Un ordered government agencies to exert greater pressure on family members of defectors in order to encourage them to return home. Defectors reported family members back in North Korea contacting them and urging their return, apparently under pressure from North Korean officials. According to the Ministry of Unification, 1,127 North Koreans defected to South Korea in 2017. Through the end of July 2018, 703 North Korean defectors entered South Korea, a 9.7 percent drop from the same period the previous year.

Past reports from refugees noted the government differentiated between persons who crossed the border in search of food (who may be sentenced only to a few months of forced labor or in some cases merely issued a warning), and persons who crossed repeatedly for “political” purposes (who were sometimes sentenced to harsher punishment, including death), including those who had alleged contact with religious organizations based near the Chinese border. The law stipulates a sentence of up to two years of “labor correction” for the crime of illegally crossing the border.

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for granting asylum or refugee status, and the government has not established a system for providing protection for refugees. The government did not grant refugee status or asylum. The government had no known policy or provision for refugees or asylees and did not participate in international refugee fora.

Namibia

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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 constitution and law prohibit such practices, but the law does not define “torture” or separately classify it as a crime. Torture is prosecuted under criminal legal provisions such as assault or homicide. Although the Ombudsman’s Office stated it received some reports of police mistreatment of detainees, there were no reports of torture. The police Internal Affairs Division took allegations of mistreatment seriously. For example, in four cases reported by the press in October, including an allegation a police officer raped a teenager with mental disabilities, the alleged perpetrators had already been arrested and charged or were under investigation at the time of the reports.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Although detention center conditions were poor, there were no significant reports regarding prison conditions that raised human rights concerns.

Physical Conditions: Conditions in detention centers and police holding cells remained poor. Conditions were often worse in pretrial holding cells than in prisons. Human rights bodies and government officials reported overcrowding in holding cells. Most prisons, however, were not overcrowded.

In pretrial holding cells, sanitation remained insufficient, tuberculosis was prevalent, and on-site medical assistance was inadequate.

Prison and holding cell conditions for women were generally better than for men. Authorities permitted female prisoners keep their infants with them until age two and provided them with food and clothing.

There were limited programs to prevent HIV transmission in prisons.

The law does not permit holding juvenile offenders with adults. Prison authorities reported they generally confined juvenile offenders separately, but police occasionally held juveniles with adults in rural detention facilities due to a lack of pretrial detention facilities for juveniles.

Administration: The Office of the Ombudsman, an independent authority, investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions, and the office reported close cooperation with police in resolving complaints and responding promptly to inquiries.

Independent Monitoring: The government granted local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and members of family and the clergy access to prisons and prisoners, but the commissioner general of prisons required them first to obtain permission. Representatives from the Ombudsman’s Office visited prisons and pretrial detention facilities.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Namibian Police Force (NamPol) operates under the Ministry of Safety and Security. The Namibian Defense Force is part of the Ministry of Defense. NamPol is responsible for internal security, while the defense force provides supplemental assistance in response to some natural disasters.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over NamPol, and the government had effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Arrest warrants are not required in all cases, including when authorities apprehend a suspect in the course of committing a crime. Authorities must inform persons detained of the reason for their arrest, and police generally informed detainees promptly of the charges against them. Authorities must arraign arrested persons within 48 hours of their detention. The government did not always meet this requirement, especially in rural areas far from courts. The constitution stipulates the accused are entitled to defense by legal counsel of their choice, and authorities respected this right.

The state-funded Legal Aid Directorate (LAD) provided free legal assistance for indigent defendants in criminal cases and, depending on resource availability, in civil matters.

There was a functioning bail system. Officials generally allowed detainees prompt access to family members. The constitution permits detention without trial during a state of emergency but requires publication of the names of detainees in the government’s gazette within 14 days of their apprehension. An advisory board appointed by the president on the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission (the constitutional body that recommends judges to the president for appointment) must review their cases within one month of detention and every three months thereafter. The constitution requires such advisory boards to have no more than five members, at least three of whom must be “judges of the Supreme Court or the High Court or qualified to be such.” The advisory board has the power to order the release of anyone detained without trial during an emergency.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention remained a significant problem. A shortage of qualified magistrates and other court officials, the inability of many defendants to afford bail, the lack of a plea-bargaining system, slow or incomplete police investigations, the frequency of appeals, and procedural postponements resulted in a large backlog in the prosecution of criminal cases. Delays between arrest and trial could last for years. There were lengthy delays in criminal appeals as well. According to the Office of the Prosecutor General, however, pretrial detention did not exceed the maximum sentence for conviction of an alleged crime.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the courts acted independently at times, making judgments and rulings critical of the government. Inefficiency and lack of resources, however, hampered the judicial system.

Customary courts hear many civil and petty criminal cases in rural areas. The law delineates the offenses the customary system may handle. Customary courts deal with infractions of local customary law among members of the same ethnic group. The law defines the role, duties, and powers of traditional leaders and states customary law inconsistent with the constitution is invalid. Cases resolved in customary courts were sometimes tried a second time in civil courts.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair public trial, but long delays in courts hearing cases and the uneven application of constitutional protections in the customary system compromised this right. Defendants are presumed innocent. The law provides for defendants to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, in a language they understand, and of their right to a public trial.

All defendants have the right to be present at trial and to consult with an attorney of their choice in a timely manner. Defendants receive free interpretation as necessary from their first court appearance through all appeals. Although indigent defendants are entitled to a lawyer provided by the state in criminal and civil cases, this sometimes did not occur due to an insufficient number of public defenders, insufficient state funds to pay private lawyers to represent indigent defendants, or because the LAD did not accept the application for representation from an accused.

Defendants may confront witnesses, present witnesses and evidence on their behalf, and have the right of appeal. The law extends these rights to all citizens. The courts provided defendants adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense. Defendants have the right not to testify against themselves or confess guilt.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The law provides for access to a court to file lawsuits seeking damages for or cessation of human rights violations. The constitution provides for administrative procedures to correct, as well as judicial remedies to redress, wrongs. Civil court orders were mostly well enforced.

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

The constitution prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected these rights. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.

Press and Media Freedom: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: There were reports journalists working for state-owned media practiced self-censorship in favor of the government and Swapo.

National Security: There was one instance of national security concerns invoked to restrict press freedom. Namibia’s Central Intelligence Services filed for an injunction on national security grounds against the publication of an article, but the Windhoek High Court did not grant the injunction, and the press published the article.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communication without appropriate legal authority.

According to the International Telecommunication Union, 36.8 percent of individuals used the internet in 2017.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Nauru

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

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

There were no significant reports of prison conditions that raised human rights concerns. International human rights organizations criticized conditions for asylum seekers, especially for women and children refugees, at Australia’s Regional Processing Center operated by Australian contractors (see section 2.d.).

Physical Conditions: There were no major concerns in prisons and detention centers regarding physical conditions or prisoner abuse.

Administration: There were no reports that authorities failed to conduct proper investigations of credible allegations of mistreatment.

Independent Monitoring: The government permits prison and detention center monitoring visits by independent human rights observers, and several such visits occurred.

The Regional Processing Center continued to attract substantial regional and international attention. International human rights nongovernmental organizations visited the center frequently to conduct inspections. There were no reports of journalists from foreign media visiting or receiving permission to visit the center during the year.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The police force, under the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, maintains internal security and, as necessary, external security. The country has no military force. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the police force, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Authorities made arrests based either on warrants issued by authorized officials or for proximate cause by a police officer witnessing a crime. Police may hold a person for a maximum of 24 hours without a hearing before a magistrate. Authorities informed detainees promptly of the charges against them. The bail system functioned properly. The law provides for accused persons to have access to legal assistance, but qualified assistance was not always readily available.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

In March the government terminated a bilateral agreement to use Australia’s Court of Appeal as the top appellate court for the country. A new domestic Court of Appeal, staffed by non-Nauruan judges, was fully functional by October. Some human rights groups claimed this move would allow the government to exert more control over the court’s conduct of cases, specifically the cases related to the violent protest (see below).

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

English common law provides the basis for procedural safeguards, including the presumption of innocence, the right to be present at one’s own trial, adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, the right to free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals, and prohibitions on double jeopardy and forced self-incrimination. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly of charges and consult with an attorney or have one provided at public expense as necessary “in the interest of justice.” Defendants also have the right to confront witnesses, present evidence, not be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and appeal convictions. There was no legal provision for traditional reconciliation mechanisms; however, as a mitigating factor in sentencing, apologies and reconciliation frequently played an informal role in criminal proceedings. This was sometimes due to communal pressure. The law extends these rights to all suspects.

Criticism continued that government officials pressured the judiciary in cases related to a 2015 protest involving 19 persons that turned violent, although Attorney General David Adeang denied the claims and argued that the decision to recruit a non-Nauruan judge belied accusations of political interference.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The judiciary generally functioned in an independent and impartial manner in civil matters. Individuals or organizations have access to the court to bring lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations.

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

The constitution and laws prohibit 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 constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press; however, the government owned all media and exercised editorial control over content.

Press and Media Freedom: In May the government waived the 8,000 Australian dollars (AUD) ($5,780) journalist visa fee for 30 foreign journalists covering the September summit of Pacific Islands Forum leaders. The government, however, banned journalists from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation from entering the country for the summit, claiming the network published biased and false reporting about the country.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The government owned all media, giving the government significant control over published and broadcast content.

Libel/Slander Laws: By law “unlawful vilification” and “criminal defamation” are punishable by a maximum three years’ imprisonment. There were no reports of arrests for breach of the law, although critics contended the new offenses could inhibit free speech.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

The law makes online child pornography illegal and defines illegal access to computers or program data. The law also applies to information related to national security, enforcement of criminal law, provision of services related to public infrastructure, and the protection of public safety. In January, President Baron Waqa announced the government lifted restrictions, pursuant to the 2015 law, that it had cited previously to block Facebook.

According to the International Telecommunication Union, approximately 54 percent of the population had access to the internet, and it was widely used.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

 

INT

Neither the constitution nor law specifically provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, but the government generally respected these rights for its citizens. The government cooperated with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: On October 13, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees called for the government and the Australian government to end offshore detention and for the immediate evacuation of the remaining refugees and asylum seekers, citing a deteriorating health situation in the refugee facilities. The call came after the government expelled global medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres from the country, calling its members “political activists for refugees.”

According to media reports, children at the Refugee Processing Center indicated growing risks of self-harm, suicide attempts, or refusing all food and fluids. In August a 14-year-old male refugee who went on a hunger strike for more than 14 days was flown to Australia for treatment after he became critically ill. A 12-year-old female refugee was reportedly hospitalized in the country for injuries sustained after she attempted to set herself on fire.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for granting asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The law includes a provision for nonrefoulement.

Durable Solutions: The government grants five-year visas to asylum seekers after they receive refugee determination.

Nepal

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

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

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

On August 5, two Nepal Police officers shot and killed two men who had allegedly kidnapped and killed an 11-year-old boy in Bhaktapur, near Kathmandu. The police involved asserted that they encountered the suspects in a forested area, the suspects fired upon police officers first, and the officers responded with deadly force. Human rights activists and local media said the suspects were already in custody and that police staged the encounter. The families of the alleged abductors filed a complaint with the quasi-governmental National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). On August 24, the Armed Police Force (APF) opened fire on a crowd in Kanchanpur that had gathered to demand justice after 13-year-old girl Nirmala Panta was raped and killed. A 14-year-old boy was killed and 24 individuals were injured at the hands of police during the protest. The Ministry of Home Affairs announced it would investigate police handling of the incident. As of October, eight police officers were suspended based on the Home Ministry’s probe committee recommendation, and police had no suspect in custody for the rape and murder. On September 1, Ram Manohar Yadav of the Free Madhesh movement died while undergoing medical treatment after remaining in police custody following his arrest August 23. Rights activists claimed police tortured Yadav and failed to provide adequate medical attention after he fell ill while in custody. The Ministry of Home Affairs denied the claims but admitted Yadav was taken to four different hospitals in search of an intensive care unit. The NHRC instructed its regional office to investigate Yadav’s death.

In August the federal government released its report on the March 2017 Saptari incident in which APF officers killed five protesters. As of October no charges had been filed, and the provincial government formed another investigative committee.

The High Level Enquiry Commission (HLEC) formed to investigate allegations of excessive use of force by the Nepal Police and APF completed its investigation of more than 3,000 complaints received in 2017 related to protests over the promulgation of the constitution in 2015. The 2015 protests left 45 individuals dead, including nine police officers. The HLEC disbanded after it completed its report, but by year’s end the government had not made the report public.

In May, President Bhandari pardoned Bal Krishna Dhungel, a Maoist politician convicted of killing Ujjan Kumar Shrestha in 1998.

b. Disappearance

The new criminal code, which came into effect in August, formally criminalized disappearance. There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities during the year. There was no update on police investigation into the 2016 disappearance, allegedly with government involvement, of Kumar Tamang.

The fate of most of those who disappeared during the 1996-2006 civil conflict remained unknown. According to the NHRC, 846 cases of disappearances remain unresolved, 612 of which may have involved state actors. As of September the government did not prosecute any government officials, current or former, for involvement in conflict-era disappearances, nor had it released information on the whereabouts of the 606 persons the NHRC identified as having been disappeared by state actors. The NHRC reported that Maoists were believed to be involved in 149 unresolved disappearances during the conflict. As of September the government had not prosecuted any Maoists or state actors for involvement in disappearances.

In June 2017 the Commission for the Investigation of Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) formed five teams to begin investigating complaints of disappearances filed by conflict-era victims. The commission had before it 3,197 registered cases and ultimately pursued 2,512 cases. Of these, 1,686 investigations were near completion.

Human rights organizations continued to express concern over flaws related to the CIEDP. According to the International Commission of Jurists, CIEDP investigations suffered from inadequate human and financial resources to handle the large number of cases, opaque appointment processes of investigators, and a lack of measures to ensure confidentiality and security of victims and witnesses. Victims also have expressed concern that investigators in many districts have asked about their interest in reconciliation.

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

The constitution prohibits torture and the newly enacted criminal code criminalizes torture and enumerates punishment for torture. The Torture Compensation Act provides for compensation for victims of torture.

According to human rights activists and legal experts, police resorted to severe abuse, primarily beatings, to force confessions. Local human rights NGO Advocacy Forum (AF) reported no evidence of major changes in police abuse trends across the country, but AF stated that police increasingly complied with the courts’ demand for preliminary medical checks of detainees.

The Terai Human Rights Defenders Alliance (THRDA), another local NGO, stated that torture victims often were hesitant to file complaints due to police or other official intimidation and fear of retribution. In some cases victims settled out of court under pressure from the perpetrators. According to THRDA the courts ultimately dismissed many cases of alleged torture due to a lack of credible supporting evidence, especially medical documentation. In cases where courts awarded compensation or ordered disciplinary action against police, the decisions were rarely implemented, according to THRDA and other NGOs.

THRDA reported that 34 percent of detainees in police detention centers in the country’s southern Terai belt had been subjected to some form of physical and/or mental abuse. According to the Nepal Police Human Rights Section, many alleged incidents were not formally reported or investigated by any police authorities.

There have been no cases brought to the criminal justice system of torture committed during the civil conflict.

The United Nations reported that during the year, it had received one allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse against peacekeepers from Nepal deployed in United Nations Mission in South Sudan. The case alleged sexual abuse (sexual assault and attempted sexual assault, involving minors). Investigations both by the United Nations and by Nepal were pending.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions, especially those in pretrial detention centers, were poor and did not meet international standards, according to human rights groups.

Physical Conditions: There was overcrowding in the prison system. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) reported that in its survey of 31 prisons, facilities designed to hold 4,308 inmates held 7,909 convicted prisoners. THRDA stated that overcrowding also remained a serious problem in detention centers. According to the OAG report, most prisons and detention centers had sufficient windows, daylight, and air, with a few exceptions.

Some facilities held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners. Due to a lack of adequate juvenile detention facilities, authorities sometimes incarcerated pretrial detainee children with adults or allowed children to remain in jails with their incarcerated parents.

The OAG reported that prisoners and detainees in the 31 detention centers it monitored had been deprived of regular medical check-up and treatment. According to THRDA most prisons lacked separate facilities for women, children, and persons with disabilities.

According to AF, medical examinations for detainees generally were perfunctory and reported medical care was poor for detainees with serious conditions. According to the OAG, the government increased each prisoner’s daily allowance from 45 Nepalese Rupees (NRs) ($.45) to NRs 60 ($.60). AF reported that some detainees slept on the floor due to lack of beds and had access only to unfiltered and dirty water and inadequate food, and many detention centers had poor ventilation, lighting, heating, and bedding.

Administration: There were no alternatives to imprisonment or fines, or both, for nonviolent offenders.

Independent Monitoring: The government generally allowed prison and pretrial detention center visits by the OAG, NHRC, the National Women’s Commission, and the National Dalit Commission as well as by lawyers of the accused. THRDA and AF reported that they and some other NGOs often were prevented from meeting with detainees or accessing detention facilities, although some independent human rights observers, including the United Nations and international organizations, were given such access. Media had no access to prisons or detention centers. The NHRC could request government action, but authorities often denied such requests.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but security forces reportedly conducted arbitrary arrests during the year. The law gives chief district officers wide latitude to make arrests, and human rights groups contended that police abused their 24-hour detention authority by holding persons unlawfully, in some cases without proper access to counsel, food, and medicine, or in inadequate facilities.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Nepal Police is responsible for enforcing law and order across the country. The APF is responsible for combating terrorism, providing security during riots and public disturbances, assisting in natural disasters, and protecting vital infrastructure, public officials, and the borders. The Nepal Police and APF report to the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Nepali Army (NA) is responsible for external security and international peacekeeping, but also has some domestic security responsibilities such as disaster relief operations and nature conservation efforts. The NA reports to the Ministry of Defense. Civilian authorities maintained authority over the Nepal Police, APF, and Army.

The Nepal Police and APF each have a human rights section (HRS) and the NA has a human rights directorate (HRD). The NA HRD and Nepal Police HRS have independent investigative powers. The NA’s investigations were not fully transparent according to human rights NGOs.

In the local fiscal year 2017 to 2018, the Nepal Police HRS received 144 human rights violation complaints, for which 67 police personnel were punished. The Nepal Army HRD stated it received no complaints of human rights violations during the year. All security forces received human rights training prior to deployments on UN peacekeeping operations. The NA incorporated human rights training into professional military education, and conducted ongoing training in all units. Each brigade has a designated human rights officer, and divisions have larger human rights staff. At the Army headquarters, a brigadier general, who reports directly to the chief of staff, heads the HRD. Similarly, the Nepal Police and APF incorporated training on human rights into their overall training curricula for security forces. The APF and Nepal Police HRSs issued booklets outlining human rights best practices to most police officers, and mobile training teams reached remote areas of the country to instruct officers on human rights and democratic policing principles. The head of the Nepal Police Human Rights Cell credited this training with eliminating many of the minor human rights violations committed by untrained police personnel, including physical and verbal abuses, allowing her office to focus on serious cases when they arise. Nepal Police incorporated human rights into all levels of training, covering nearly 15,000 personnel during the year.

Lack of punishment or accountability for police abuses remained problems.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law stipulates that, except in cases involving suspected security and narcotics violations, or when the crime’s punishment would be more than three years’ imprisonment, authorities must obtain an arrest warrant and present the suspect to a court within 24 hours of arrest (not including travel time).

If the court upholds a detention, the law generally authorizes police to hold the suspect for up to 25 days to complete an investigation. In special cases (such as for suspected acts of corruption), a suspect can be held for up to six months. The constitution provides for access to a state-appointed lawyer or one of the detainee’s choice, even if charges have not been filed. Few detainees could afford their own lawyer, and the justice system does not receive sufficient funding to provide free and competent counsel to indigent defendants.

Detainees have the legal right to receive visits by family members, but family access to prisoners varied from prison to prison. Authorities routinely denied defense attorneys access to defendants in custody. While a system of bail exists, bonds are too expensive for most citizens. The accused have the option of posting bail in cash or mortgaging their property to the court. Unless prisoners are released on recognizance (no bail), no alternatives to the bail system exist to assure a defendant’s appearance in court.

Arbitrary Arrest: Human rights organization Informal Sector Service Center documented 84 incidents of arbitrary arrest as of June.

Pretrial Detention: Time served is credited to a prisoner’s sentence, but pretrial detention occasionally exceeded the length of the ultimate sentence following trial and conviction.

Under the Public Security Act, security forces may detain persons who allegedly threaten domestic security and tranquility, amicable relations with other countries, or relations between citizens of different castes or religious groups. The government may detain persons in preventive detention for as long as 12 months without charging them with a crime as long as the detention complies with the act’s requirements. The court does not have any substantive legal role in preventive detentions under the act.

Other laws, including the Public Offenses Act, permit detention without charge for as long as 25 days with extensions. This act covers crimes such as disturbing the peace, vandalism, rioting, and fighting. Human rights monitors expressed concern that the act vests too much discretionary power in local authorities.

According to human rights groups, in some cases detainees appeared before judicial authorities well after the legally mandated 24-hour limit, allegedly to allow injuries from police mistreatment to heal. AF estimated in a 2015 report–the most recent available–that 41 percent of detainees did not appear before judicial authorities within 24 hours of their arrests. THRDA stated police frequently circumvented the 24-hour requirement by registering the detainee’s name only when they were ready to produce the detainee before the court.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but courts remained vulnerable to political pressure, bribery, and intimidation.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to counsel, equal protection under the law, protection from double jeopardy, protection from retroactive application of the law, public trials, and the right to be present at one’s own trial, but these rights were not always applied. Defendants enjoy the presumption of innocence, except in some cases, such as human trafficking and drug trafficking, where the burden of proof is on the defendant. The law provides detainees the right to legal representation and a court-appointed lawyer, a government lawyer, or access to private attorneys. The government provided legal counsel to indigent detainees only upon request. Persons who are unaware of their rights, in particular lower-caste individuals and members of some ethnic groups, are thus at risk of being deprived of legal representation. Defense lawyers reported having insufficient time to prepare their defense. A 2016 Supreme Court directive ordered that the courts must provide free interpretation services to those who do not speak Nepali, and interpreters were made available to interpret a variety of languages. Defense lawyers may cross-examine accusers. All lower-court decisions, including acquittals, are subject to appeal. The Supreme Court is the court of last resort.

Military courts adjudicate cases concerning military personnel under the military code, which provides military personnel the same basic rights as civilians. The Army Act requires that soldiers accused of rape or homicide be transferred to civilian authorities for prosecution. Under normal circumstances the army prosecutes all other criminal cases raised against soldiers under the military justice system. Nevertheless, the NA has told the government it is willing to cooperate with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and CIEDP and will not “hide” behind the Army Act. Military courts cannot try civilians for crimes, even if the crimes involve the military services; civilian courts handle these cases.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals or organizations could seek remedies for human rights violations in national courts.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The Maoists and their affiliate organizations have returned some previously seized property as required by the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Accord that ended the civil conflict, but they kept other illegally seized lands and properties. According to the Asia Foundation, a significant number of conflict-era land disputes remained outstanding.

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

The law prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, and correspondence and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these provisions.

The law allows police to conduct searches and seizures without a warrant if there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed, in which case a search may be conducted as long as two or more persons of “good character” are present. If a police officer has reasonable cause to believe that a suspect may possess material evidence, the officer must submit a written request to another officer to conduct a search, and there must be another official present who holds at least the rank of assistant subinspector. Some legal experts claimed that by excluding prosecutors and judges from the warrant procedure, there are relatively few checks against police discretion.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution and the law provide for freedom of speech and press, and the government generally respected these rights, although journalists, NGOs, and political activists said the government restricted media freedom by threatening journalists and news organizations that criticized the government. Journalists and NGOs said the new criminal and civil codes and Privacy Act criminalized normal media activity, like reporting on public figures and triggered a significant increase in self-censorship by the media. Human rights lawyers and some journalists stated that both the constitution and civil code enable the government to restrict freedom of speech and press in ways they considered vague and open to abuse. For example, the constitution lists a number of circumstances under which laws curtailing freedom of speech and press may be formulated. These include acts that “jeopardize harmonious relations between federal units” and acts that assist a foreign state or organization to jeopardize national security. The constitution prohibits any acts “contrary to public health, decency, and morality” or that “disturb the public law and order situation.” The same provision of the constitution also prohibits persons from converting other persons from one religion to another or “disturbing the religion” of others.

Freedom of Expression: Citizens generally believed they could voice their opinions freely and often expressed critical opinions in print and electronic media without restriction. In July the government attempted to limit freedom of expression for the members of Kathmandu’s Tibetan community by initially rejecting requests from the Tibetan Buddhist community to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s birthday publicly. Tibetan Buddhists eventually were allowed to hold an event in the largest settlement in Kathmandu.

Press and Media Freedom: The independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction, with a few exceptions. Several editors and journalists reported they faced intimidation by police and government officials and that vague provisions in new laws and regulations prompted an increase in self-censorship by journalists. In January authorities from the president’s office barred accredited private media journalists from covering the swearing-in ceremony for newly appointed governors of the seven provinces. Only journalists affiliated with the government were permitted to cover the ceremony.

In June Minister of Communications and Information Technology Gokul Baskota arranged for the firing of a talk show host who in May had asked the minister pointed questions on live television about the source of his wealth and how it was reported to the public.

Violence and Harassment: According to the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), the government did not make sufficient efforts to preserve the safety and independence of the media and rarely prosecuted individuals who attacked journalists.

Journalists stated that they continued to receive vague threats from officials in response to their investigative reporting on corruption. For example, in January, five men who were allegedly colluding with local police in an illegal sand extraction enterprise physically assaulted a Kathmandu Post investigative correspondent.

On February 25, the Supreme Court ordered the Press Council of Nepal to ban news criticizing then-Chief Justice Gopal Parajuli. Kantipur Daily had published a series of articles reporting discrepancies in Parajuli’s date of birth. Although the issue directly concerned the chief justice, Parajuli heard the case as a one-member bench and ruled in his own favor, entering an interim order calling for a probe of news reports.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The constitution prohibits prior censorship of material for printing, publication or broadcasting, including electronically. The constitution also provides that the government cannot revoke media licenses, close media houses, or seize material based on the content of what is printed, published, or broadcast. The constitution, however, also provides for “reasonable restrictions” of these rights for acts or incitement that “may undermine the sovereignty, territorial integrity, nationality of Nepal, or harmonious relations between the federal units or harmonious relations between the various castes, tribes, religions, or communities.” Speech amounting to treason, defamation, or contempt of court is also prohibited.

Media professionals expressed concern regarding an additional provision in the constitution that allows the government to formulate laws to regulate media. The 2017 Criminal Code Act, for example, has extended the scope of limitation on freedom of expression compared to the language in the Constitution for national security and for maintaining public order, and defines defamation as a criminal offense. The FNJ argued that such laws could be used to close media houses or cancel their registration. The constitution also includes publication and dissemination of false materials as grounds for imposing legal restrictions on press freedom. Media experts reported, however, that these provisions have not been enforced against any media houses.

Although by law all media outlets, including government-owned stations, operate independently from direct government control, indirect political influence sometimes led to self-censorship.

INTERNET FREEDOM

On September 21, the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology announced it would block access to pornography on the internet, and enacted the controls shortly thereafter.

There were several incidents in which authorities took action under the Electronic Transaction Act (ETA) in response to material posted on social media. The ETA prohibits publication in electronic form of material that may be “contrary to the public morality or decent behavior,” may “spread hate or jealousy,” or may “jeopardize harmonious relations.” On June 27, the Metropolitan Crime Division of Nepal Police publicly warned those who misuse social media accounts to defame others could be punished or jailed. On August 21, police arrested Homnath Sigdel for allegedly sharing a digitally altered image on Facebook showing Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s head superimposed on a monkey’s head. In March 2017 the government issued an amended Online Media Operation Directive, which requires all country-based online news and opinion websites to be registered. The directive gives the government the authority to block websites based on content if it lacks an “authoritative source,” creates “a misconception,” or negatively affects international relationships. The government also has the authority to block content that threatens the country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, nationality, or harmonious relations. Online sedition, defamation, contempt of court, or indecent and immoral content may also be blocked. The new version makes the registration, license renewal, and content production provisions for online platforms more complicated, including by requiring a copy of a site’s Value Added Tax or Permanent Account Number registration certificate. Renewals now require online platforms to provide updated human resource and payroll records annually. The FNJ expressed concern that the directive’s vague language gives the government power to censor online content.

According to the International Telecommunications Union’s latest data, in 2016 only 20 percent of residents in the country accessed the internet. By contrast the Nepal Telecommunications Authority reported that 63 percent of citizens accessed the internet in 2018.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

The law provides for the freedom to hold cultural events. Government permits are required to hold large public events. There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events, with the exception of events in the Tibetan community, which faced restrictions (see section 2.b.).

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the freedoms of assembly and association; however, the government sometimes restricted freedom of assembly.

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

Freedom of assembly generally was respected for citizens and legal residents, but there were some restrictions. The government continued its attempts to stop Tibetans from celebrating culturally important events, such as Tibetan New Year (Losar), World Peace Day (the anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize), and the Dalai Lama’s birthday. The law authorizes chief district officers to impose curfews when there is a possibility that demonstrations or riots could disturb the peace.

In early July the government restricted demonstrations at the Maitighar Mandala, a historical public space. Opposition leaders, media, and civil society members said the government’s decision violated citizens’ right to peaceful assembly. The Supreme Court issued an interim order to the government not to implement the decision.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right. NGOs, however, stated the existing legal framework does not adequately recognize the independence of civil society and opens the door to the exercise of excessive discretion by the government. They added that the registration process for civil society organizations (CSOs) is restrictive and cumbersome, the government has wide discretion to deny registration, and requirements vary among various registration authorities, with some entities requiring documents not mentioned in existing laws on an ad hoc basis. Additionally, the Association Registration Act empowers the government to give directions to associations and to terminate associations if they refuse to follow directions. To receive foreign or government resources, CSOs must seek separate and additional approval from the Social Welfare Council (SWC), the government entity responsible for overseeing CSOs. The SWC requires that CSOs allocate at least 80 percent of their budgets for hardware or tangible development outputs, which places undue restrictions on CSOs that focus on advocacy issues.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, except for most refugees, whose freedom of movement within the country is limited by law. Constraints on refugee movements were enforced unevenly. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees and asylum seekers.

In-country Movement: The government has not issued personal identification documents to Tibetan refugees in more than 20 years, leaving the majority of this refugee population without recourse to present required documents at police checkpoints or during police stops. Some refugees reported being harassed or turned back by police at checkpoints.

Foreign Travel: In an attempt to protect women from being trafficked or abused, the government maintained a minimum age of 24 for women traveling overseas for domestic employment. NGOs and human rights activists viewed the age ban as discriminatory and counterproductive because it impelled some women to migrate through informal channels across the Indian border rendering them more vulnerable to being trafficked.

On August 24, immigration officers at Tribhuvan International Airport detained and prevented from traveling Lenin Bista, a former Maoist child combatant who had been invited to a conference in Thailand on youth in conflict. Immigration authorities told Bista he could not travel because he had not received government permission, although they reportedly were unable to explain why such permission would be necessary.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPS)

The 2015 earthquake and its aftershocks displaced millions of individuals. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, natural disasters in 2017 led to 384,000 displacements.

Many earthquake-affected IDPs remained in camps or informal settlements because they did not hold a title to land and were occupying it illegally when the earthquake occurred. Others stayed because their homes remained vulnerable to or were destroyed by subsequent landslides. The government promoted their safe, voluntary return and had policies in place to help them.

Although the government and the Maoists agreed to support the voluntary return in safety and dignity of conflict-displaced IDPs to their homes following the 10-year civil war, the agreement has not been fully implemented. The Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction estimated that 78,700 persons were displaced from 1996 to 2006, but an estimated 50,000 remained unwilling or unable to return home. The reasons included unresolved land and property issues, lack of citizenship or ownership documentation, and security concerns since the land taken from IDPs by Maoists during the conflict was often sold or given to landless or tenant farmers.

The government provided relief packages for the rehabilitation and voluntary return of conflict-era IDPs. Many of those still displaced preferred to integrate locally and live in urban areas, mostly as illegal occupants of government land along riversides or together with the landless population. The absence of public services and lack of livelihood assistance also impeded the return of IDPs.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for the determination of individual refugee or asylum claims or a comprehensive legal framework for refugee protection. The government recognized large numbers of Tibetans as refugees and supported resettlement to foreign countries of certain refugees claiming Bhutanese citizenship. The government does not recognize Tibetans who arrived in the country after 1990 as refugees. Most Tibetans who arrived since then transited to India, although an unknown number remained in the country. The government has not issued refugee cards to Tibetan refugees since 1995. UNHCR estimated three-quarters of the roughly 12,000 resident Tibetan refugees remained undocumented, including all of whom were younger than the age of 16 in 1995 or had been born since. More than 500 refugees and asylum seekers from other countries, including Pakistan, Burma, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Somalia, Iran, Iraq, and Democratic Republic of the Congo, lived in the country. The government continued to deny these groups recognition as refugees, even when recognized as such by UNHCR.

Freedom of Movement: The government officially restricted freedom of movement and work for the approximately 6,500 refugees asserting claims to Bhutanese citizenship residing in the two remaining refugee camps in the eastern part of the country, but those restrictions were largely unenforced for this population. After China heightened security in 2008 along its border and increased restrictions on internal freedom of movement for ethnic Tibetans, the number of Tibetans who transited through the country dropped significantly. UNHCR reported that 53 Tibetans transited the country in 2017, and 31 from January through September. The government issued UNHCR-facilitated exit permits for recent arrivals from Tibet who were transiting while traveling to India. While Nepal-based Tibetans with refugee certificates were eligible to apply for travel documents to leave the country, the legal process was often arduous, expensive, and opaque and travel documents were typically valid for one year and one single trip. A 2016 government directive authorized chief district officers to skip the verification step, which required witnesses and a police letter, for Tibetans who had previously been issued a travel document. For individuals whom the government did not recognize as refugees, even when recognized by UNHCR, the government levied NRs 563 (approximately $5) fines per day out of status–and a discretionary penalty of up to NRs 50,000 (approximately $500) to obtain an exit permit. The government maintained its policy enabling Nepali government-registered refugees destined for resettlement or repatriation to obtain exit permits without paying these fines.

Access to Basic Services: Most Tibetan refugees who lived in the country, particularly those who arrived after 1990 or turned 16 after 1995, did not have documentation, nor did their locally born children. Even those with acknowledged refugee status had no legal rights beyond the ability to remain in the country. The Nepal-born children of Tibetans with legal status often lacked documentation. The government allowed NGOs to provide primary- and secondary-level schooling to Tibetans living in the country. Tibetan refugees had no entitlement to higher education in public or private institutions and were denied the right to work officially. They were unable legally to obtain business licenses, driver’s licenses, bank accounts, or to own property, or consistently document births, marriages, and deaths. Some in the Tibetan community resorted to bribery to obtain these services.

The government allowed UNHCR to provide some education, health, and livelihood services to these refugees, but the refugees lacked legal access to public education and the right to work.

Durable Solutions: The government does not provide for local integration as a durable solution. The government officially does not allow the approximately 6,500 refugees asserting claims to Bhutanese citizenship to work or have access to public education or public health clinics, but it allows UNHCR to provide parallel free education and health services to refugees in the camps. Since 2007 the government permitted third-country resettlement for more than 109,000 refugees claiming Bhutanese citizenship.

STATELESS PERSONS

An estimated 5.4 million individuals (24 percent of the population age 16 and over) lacked citizenship documentation. Citizenship documents, which are issued at age 16, are required to register to vote, register marriages or births, buy or sell land, appear for professional exams, open bank accounts, or gain access to credit and receive state social benefits.

Constitutional provisions, laws, and regulations governing citizenship discriminated by the gender of the registering parent, which contributed to statelessness. The constitution states that citizenship derives from one Nepali parent, but it also stipulates that a child born to a Nepali mother and a non-Nepali father may obtain citizenship only through naturalization. In some cases, mothers faced extreme difficulties in securing citizenship papers for children of Nepali parents, even when the mother possessed Nepali citizenship documents, except in cases in which the child’s father supported the application. These difficulties persisted despite a 2011 Supreme Court decision granting a child Nepali citizenship through the mother if the father was unknown or absent.

The constitution states that the children of unidentified fathers may obtain citizenship through their mothers, but if it is later determined that the father is a foreign citizen, the child will lose citizenship by descent and be eligible for naturalization. In practice many single women face difficulties registering their children as citizens by descent. The Supreme Court ruled in May 2017 that government authorities must not deny the registration of birth and citizenship of children of Nepali mothers and fathers who cannot be traced. According to human rights lawyers, although this provision applies to the children of single mothers, including rape and trafficking victims, it does not address situations in which the identity of a child’s father is known but refuses to acknowledge paternity. The legal and practical restrictions on transferring citizenship imposed particular hardships on children whose fathers were deceased, had abandoned the family, or (as was increasingly common) departed the country to work abroad.

Since naturalization is not a fundamental right under the constitution, although it could be an option for those not eligible for citizenship by descent, it is subject to state discretion. Although they lack specific data, human rights lawyers reported that the government has processed few applications for naturalization of children in recent years.

For women and girls to obtain citizenship by descent for themselves, regulations require a married woman to submit a formal attestation from her husband, father, or husband’s family (if widowed) that she qualifies for citizenship and has his or their permission to receive it. This requirement makes a woman’s right to citizenship contingent on her father’s or husband’s cooperation. In many cases husbands refused to provide their wives this attestation. Preventing women from obtaining citizenship documentation precludes their access to the courts and thus their ability to make legal claims to land and other property, which permits the husband or male relatives free to stake their own claims.

Stateless persons experienced discrimination in employment, education, housing, health services, marriage, birth registration, identity documentation, access to courts and judicial procedures, migration opportunities, land and property ownership, and access to earthquake relief and reconstruction programs.

Netherlands

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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, and there were no reports that government officials employed them.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

There were no reports regarding prison or detention center conditions in the Netherlands that raised human rights concerns. Authorities in Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten took steps to improve prison conditions in response to a 2015 report by the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT).

In September Amnesty International reported that Venezuelan migrants detained in Curacao faced physical and psychological mistreatment, including threats and in some cases excessive use of force at the hands of immigration authorities and prison personnel.

In March 2017 in Sint Maaten, the Sint Maarten Inmates Association won a court case against the government that the lack of educational opportunities, rehabilitation, or recreational programs, poor health care, and poor living conditions were a violation of their human rights.

Administration: Agencies that make up the national preventive mechanism in the entire kingdom conducted proper investigations of credible allegations of mistreatment.

Independent Monitoring: The kingdom’s governments permitted monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers such as human rights groups, the media, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as by international bodies such as the CPT, the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, and the UN Working Group for People of African Descent.

Improvements: In response to the CPT report, authorities on Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten implemented improvements. Aruba renovated prison cells. Sint Maarten renovated facilities, put more guards on duty, and introduced several training programs for prison guards, educational programs for inmates, regular visits to doctors and dentists, better healthcare coverage, and more access time for lawyers.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, and the governments generally observed these requirements.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

In the Netherlands the Ministry of Justice and Security oversees law enforcement organizations, as do the justice ministries in Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten. The military police (Marechaussee) are responsible for border control in the Netherlands. The Border Protection Service (immigration), police, and the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard share the responsibility for border control in Sint Maarten, Aruba, and Curacao.

Civilian authorities in the entire kingdom maintained effective control over the security forces, and the government had effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

A prosecutor or senior police officer must order the arrest of any person, other than one apprehended at the site of an alleged crime. Arrested persons have the right to appear, usually within a day, before a judge, and authorities generally respected this right. Authorities informed detainees promptly of charges against them. The kingdom’s laws also allow persons to be detained on court order pending investigation.

In the Netherlands in terrorism-related cases, the examining magistrate may initially order detention for 14 days on the lesser charge of “reasonable suspicion” rather than “serious suspicion” required for other crimes.

There is no bail system. Detainees can request to be released claiming there are no grounds to detain them. Authorities frequently grant such requests. In all parts of the kingdom, the law provides suspects the right to consult an attorney. In March 2017 an EU directive on the right to access a lawyer became part of national law in the Netherlands. It grants all criminal suspects the right to have their lawyers present at police interrogation. In Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten a criminal suspect is entitled to consult his or her lawyer only prior to the first interview on the substance of the case. In the case of a minor, the lawyer can be present during interviews but cannot actively participate.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the governments generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence, and the right to be informed promptly of the charges. Trials take place without undue delay in the presence of the accused. The law provides for prompt access of defendants to attorneys of their choice, including at public expense if the defendant is unable to pay. Defendants generally have adequate time and facilities to prepare for a defense. If required, the court provides interpreters throughout the judicial process free of charge. The defendant is not present when the examining magistrate examines witnesses, but an attorney for the accused has the right to question them. In most instances defendants and their attorneys may present witnesses and evidence for the defense. In certain cases involving national security, the defense has the right to submit written questions to witnesses whose identity is kept confidential. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt and have the right to appeal.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals may bring lawsuits for damages for human rights violations in the regular court system or specific appeal boards. If all domestic means of redress are exhausted, individuals may appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. Citizens of Sint Maarten and Curacao may also seek redress from the government through the office of the ombudsperson.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The Netherlands has laws and/or mechanisms in place, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and advocacy groups reported that the government has made significant progress on resolution of Holocaust-era claims, including for foreign citizens. The Dutch comply with the goals of the Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues. A legal process exists for claimants to request the return of property looted during the Holocaust, although some advocates say that bureaucratic procedures and poor record keeping have been barriers to restitution efforts.

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

The law prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that 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. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.

Freedom of Expression: It is a crime “verbally or in writing or image deliberately to offend a group of people because of their race, their religion or beliefs, their sexual orientation, or their physical, psychological, or mental disability.” The statute does not consider statements that target a philosophy or religion, as opposed to a group of persons, as criminal hate speech. The penalties for violating the law include imprisonment for a maximum of two years, a fine of up to 8,100 euros ($9,300), or both. In Aruba the penalties for this offense are imprisonment for a maximum of one year or a fine of 10,000 Aruban florins ($5,600). In the Netherlands there are restrictions on the sale of the book Mein Kampf and the display of the swastika symbol with the intent of referring to Nazism. The appeals process in the case of Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders, who was convicted of inciting discrimination in 2016 for leading an anti-Moroccan chant, continued at year’s end.

Press and Media Freedom: Independent media in the kingdom were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction. The restrictions on “hate speech” applied to the media but were only occasionally enforced. Disputes occasionally arose over journalists’ right to protect their sources.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The governments did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the governments monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. The internet was widely available in the kingdom and used by citizens. According to the International Telecommunication Union, in 2017 just over 90 percent of the population used the internet in the Netherlands, 94 percent in Aruba, and 87 percent in Curacao. No complete data for Sint Maarten were available.

Authorities continued to pursue policies to prevent what they considered incitement to discrimination on the internet. They operated a hotline for persons to report discriminatory phrases and hate speech with the principal aim of having them removed. On May 18, the Amsterdam District Court convicted 20 persons for using inflammatory, threatening, and offensive language against a black politician on social media. The court sentenced four of them to community service and fined 16 others.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the freedoms of assembly and association, and the governments generally respected these rights.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

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

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

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Refoulement: Ten human rights organizations including Amnesty International and Defense for Children International campaigned against the repatriation of screened-out asylum seekers (those whose asylum claims have received final denial) to Afghanistan because they regard the security situation there as too unsafe. The courts, however, backed the government’s position that it is safe enough to repatriate persons to certain parts of Afghanistan.

Access to Asylum: The laws on asylum vary in different parts of the kingdom. In general the law in the Netherlands provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has an established system for providing protection to refugees.

Sint Maarten is not a party to the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees or its 1967 Protocol but is required to follow the European Convention on Human Rights. The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status. Foreigners requesting asylum are processed as foreigners requesting a humanitarian residence permit. UNHCR aided authorities in asylum cases and determined whether the asylum case was justified and whether the government needed to provide protection. If so, the asylum seekers received a humanitarian residence permit; if not, authorities deported them to their country of origin or a country that agreed to accept them.

Curacao is not a party to the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees or its 1967 Protocol but is required to follow the European Convention on Human Rights. In July 2017 the Curacao government took over the responsibility from UNHCR for registering asylum seekers and issuing humanitarian permits. The Curacao government reported that it had received fewer than 10 requests for asylum and was processing them in accordance with their procedures, although it had yet to issue a permit. Curacao requested and received guidance and training from the Netherlands on asylum processing procedures.

Aruba is a party to the 1967 Protocol to the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees.

The vast majority of asylum seekers in the Dutch Caribbean were from Venezuela. In general, Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten considered the majority of Venezuelan asylum seekers to be economic migrants ineligible for protection.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: Authorities in the Netherlands denied asylum to persons who came from so-called safe countries of origin or who had resided for some time in safe countries of transit. They used EU guidelines to define such countries. Applicants had the right to appeal all denials.

Following the European Commission’s positive reassessment of the asylum situation in Greece in the spring, the Netherlands started sending third country asylum seekers back to Greece, despite protests by human rights organizations.

Freedom of Movement: Government guidelines require that authorities not detain denied asylum seekers longer than three months, but they exceeded this term in several cases. In the Netherlands the national ombudsperson, Amnesty International, and other NGOs asserted that persons denied asylum and irregular migrants were regularly subjected to lengthy detention before deportation even when no clear prospect of actual deportation existed.

Durable Solutions: In the Netherlands the government accepted up to 500 refugees per year for resettlement through UNHCR, and the governments of the Dutch Caribbean accepted up to 250. These refugees came mainly from UN refugee camps, and many were Syrians arriving from camps in Lebanon and Jordan. The government also relocated several hundred Syrians from refugee camps in Turkey under the terms of the EU agreement with Turkey. It provided financial and in-kind assistance to refugees who sought to return to their home country voluntarily. Most of the migrants granted residency permits on Curacao and Aruba are from Venezuela. The laws in all parts of the kingdom provide the opportunity for non-Dutch persons to gain citizenship.

Temporary Protection: The government of the Netherlands provided temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees. According to Eurostat data, in 2017 it provided subsidiary protection to 4,135 persons and humanitarian status to 365 others. In the Dutch Caribbean, individuals deemed to be economic migrants were returned to their country of origin.

STATELESS PERSONS

According to the most recent available UNHCR statistics (2017), 1,951 persons in the Netherlands fell under UNHCR’s statelessness mandate. Stateless persons in the Netherlands included Palestinians from Syria, Romani immigrants, and some Moluccans, who declined both Dutch and Indonesian citizenship.

The laws in all parts of the kingdom provide the opportunity for stateless persons to gain citizenship.

New Zealand

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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, and there were no reports government officials employed them.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Watchdog groups highlighted overcrowding, inadequate mental health treatment and treatment of prisoners who risked self-harm, excessive restraint, and prisoner-on-prisoner violence. Both the government and civil society groups highlighted the disproportionate rates of incarceration of indigenous peoples (see section 6, Indigenous People).

Physical Conditions: Persons accused of a crime who are 17 years or older are tried as adults and, if convicted, sent to adult prisons. Authorities held male prisoners younger than 17 in four separate detention facilities operated by the national Child and Youth Welfare Agency. There was no separate facility for juvenile female prisoners because there were very few such prisoners. In early 2017 the independent Office of the Ombudsman reported that the Department of Corrections had breached national legislation and the Convention Against Torture in restraining at risk prisoners by excessive use of tie-down beds and waist cuffs. The Department of Corrections received additional funding in late 2017 to implement a new Transforming the Management of At Risk Prisoners program.

Suicide rates in prisons were higher than in the general population and were increasing, according to the latest statistics available. In August, three prison staff went on trial for assaulting an inmate, with one accused of attempting to pervert the course of justice by turning away a camera recording the incident. The trial continued at year’s end.

Transgender prisoners who had the gender on their birth certificates changed were generally housed in accordance with their preferences and may undergo sex reassignment treatment or surgery while incarcerated.

Administration: Inmates could make uncensored complaints to statutory inspectors, an ombudsperson, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The Ombudsman’s Office reports to parliament annually on its findings about prison conditions.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted prison-monitoring visits by independent human rights observers. The law provides for specified rights of inspection, including by members of parliament and justices of the peace, and information was publicly available on complaints and investigations, subject to the provisions of privacy legislation. The Office of the Ombudsman also inspects prisons and mental health facilities to prevent cruel and inhuman treatment, in line with national standards and the country’s international obligations.

In April the Human Rights Commission (HRC) published a report on the legal and human rights safeguards for an estimated 5,000 elderly residents in secure dementia units and psychogeriatric facilities. This followed local media reports criticizing the government’s monitoring of locked aged-care and disability facilities where physical restraints were used to restrict patients’ movements. The report recommended changes to current legislation, policy, and practice.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The New Zealand Police, under the Ministry of Police, is responsible for internal security, and the armed forces, under the Ministry of Defense, are responsible for external security. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over police and the armed forces, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Police may arrest a suspect without a warrant if there is reasonable cause; however, a court-issued warrant is usually required. Police officers may enter premises without a warrant to arrest a person if they reasonably suspect the person committed a crime on the premises or found the person committing an offense and are in pursuit. Police must inform arrested persons immediately of their legal rights and the grounds for their arrest.

After arresting and charging a suspect, police may release the person on bail until the first court appearance. Except for more serious offenses, such as assault or burglary, bail is normally granted and frequently does not require a deposit of money. Suspects have the right to appear promptly before a judge for a determination of the legality of the arrest and detention. After the first court appearance, the judge typically grants bail unless there is a significant risk the suspect would flee, tamper with witnesses or evidence, or commit a crime while on bail. Authorities granted family members timely access to detainees and allowed detainees prompt access to a lawyer of their choice and, if indigent, to a lawyer provided by the government. The government did not detain suspects incommunicado.

Pretrial Detention: Approximately 31 percent of prisoners were held in custody on remand, while they await trial or sentencing. The number of prisoners held on remand has increased more than threefold in the past 20 years, primarily due to increased time required to complete cases, and stricter bail restrictions. The median duration of prisoners’ time held in remand was approximately two months.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and the right to counsel. By law authorities must inform defendants promptly and in detail of the charges, and provide adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt, but they have the right to be present at their trial. Defendants also have the right to present witnesses and evidence, confront witnesses against them, appeal convictions, and receive free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. The government provides a lawyer at public expense if the defendant cannot afford counsel. The law extends these rights to all defendants.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals and organizations may seek civil judicial remedies for human rights violations, including access to the Human Rights Review Tribunal. There are also administrative remedies for alleged wrongs through the HRC and the Office of Human Rights Proceedings.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

 

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

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 these rights. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. The internet was widely available and used by approximately 90 percent of the population.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. The government cooperated with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees.

Durable Solutions: The country’s refugee policy commits the government to resettling 1,000 refugees annually under the Refugee Quota Program, commencing in 2018. The government consistently met or exceeded its previous target of admitting 750 refugees annually.

Temporary Protection: The government also provided temporary protection to persons who may not qualify as refugees under the country’s UN quota commitment. Advocacy groups reported concern that approximately 100 annual asylum seekers did not receive the same level of governmental support as quota refugees, specifically with access to employment.

North Macedonia

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

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

The constitution and laws prohibit such practices, but there were some reports that police abused detainees and prisoners and used excessive force. The government acted to investigate and prosecute legitimate claims. The Ministry of Interior Professional Standards Unit (PSU) reported that during the first six months of the year, it acted upon 23 complaints referring to use of excessive force by police officers. Seven of these complaints were deemed unfounded, while two complaints were upheld. In one case, criminal charges were filed against a police officer for excessive use of force, and disciplinary action was initiated to remove the individual from the position until the disciplinary procedure was completed. The disciplinary procedure continued at year’s end. In another case the Interior Ministry notified the Public Prosecutors Office and initiated disciplinary procedures against four police officers. The Interior Ministry stated there was no evidence for the other 14 complaints. In the same period, the PSU received four complaints on the use of excessive force against interrogated persons and detainees. The PSU investigations resulted in one criminal charge against a police officer for inappropriate treatment. The PSU determined there was insufficient evidence to proceed in the other three cases.

The PSU acted on a complaint from the Helsinki Committee on Human Rights for excessive use of chemicals and physical force and unlawful detention and deprivation of liberty of one journalist during a June 17 public protest in front of the parliament. The investigation found police officers followed Ministry of Interior procedures. The journalist was detained purportedly because he refused to identify himself. The investigation concluded no excessive force was used in this case.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

The country’s prisons and detention centers failed to meet international standards and in some cases, according to the October 2017 Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) report based on a 2016 visit, conditions could be described as amounting to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Corruption, mistreatment by prison guards, interprisoner violence, unsafe and unhygienic conditions, insufficient staffing, and inadequate training of guards and personnel remained serious problems, particularly at Idrizovo Prison, which held more than three-fifths of the country’s prison population.

Physical Conditions: The country had 11 prisons and three juvenile correctional facilities; seven prisons also held pretrial detainees.

The prison system continued to suffer from lack of funding, inadequate training of officers, and corruption. A few recently released prisoners from high profile cases claimed they were abused while being held. On April 17, the European Commission (EC) released its 2018 report on North Macedonia, which noted that the low number of complaints regarding mistreatment received by the Directorate for Execution of Sanctions did not represent the true situation and demonstrated a lack of trust in the complaints procedures. In addition it called the situation in the prison system “critical” with underfunding, understaffing, mismanagement, and overcrowding.

According to the ombudsman, overcrowding had declined due to improvements to Idrizovo prison and an amnesty law implemented in January that alleviated overcrowding by releasing 800 prisoners with sentences of less than six months. It also gave a 30 percent sentence reduction to another 3,000 inmates. The law does not apply to persons convicted of more serious crimes including murder, rape, child sex crimes, or terrorism. As of September 19, the ombudsman believed significant improvement in prison conditions was still needed.

The ombudsman prepares an annual report that includes information on prison conditions. The most recent report was released March 29 and stated: “overcrowding and poor conditions in the punitive correctional institutions remained a burning problem. It violated the human dignity of persons deprived of their freedom. The prison health-care system remained dysfunctional and to the detriment of convicts and detainees who did not even have health insurance. This situation affected the dissatisfaction of convicted and detained persons, but it also gave rise to doubts regarding the effective treatment and other health services in the punitive institutions. The security sector, the Department for Resocialization, as well as the health service were neither staffed nor professionally equipped.”

In its 2016 assessment, the CPT observed sanitary annexes were in an “appalling state (filthy, foul-smelling, damaged, and leaking), many of the showers did not work and there was hardly any provision of hot water.” The CPT observed that heating was working only a few hours a day and that provision of health care at Idrizovo and Skopje Prisons was inadequate, with many prisoners suffering from insect bites and infections such as scabies.

Insufficient staffing and inadequate training of prison guards and other personnel continued to be problems at all facilities.

Administration: The ombudsman found that correctional authorities’ investigations into allegations of mistreatment and abuse of prisoners were generally ineffective.

The number of inmates without valid identification had decreased.

Independent Monitoring: The law allows physicians, diplomatic representatives, and representatives from the CPT and the International Committee of the Red Cross access to pretrial detainees with the approval of the investigative judge. The government previously granted independent humanitarian organizations, such as the country’s Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, access to convicted prisoners only upon the prisoners’ requests, but in November the committee signed a memorandum of understanding with the government to allow it unrestricted access.

The ombudsman regularly visited (once per month) the country’s prisons and investigated credible allegations of problematic conditions.

Improvements: The Ministry of Justice stated that the first phase of improvements to the Idrizovo Prison were finished in August, increasing the prison’s capacity by an additional 546 inmates, for a total of 1,346. The improvements included construction of three buildings, one with capacity for 294 inmates and two housing 252 inmates in semi-open detainment. Furniture, tea kitchens, laundry rooms, fitness equipment, as well as mattresses, linen, and security equipment were procured.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The army is responsible for external security, and the president is the supreme commander of the army. The national police maintain internal security, including migration and border enforcement, and report to the Ministry of the Interior. Although still hampered by instances of corruption and political pressure, the Ministry of Interior made some progress in increasing its transparency and accountability.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the army and the Ministry of Interior, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. The ombudsman believed police impunity continued to be a problem, however.

As of August 28, the Ombudsman’s Office received 11 complaints against police for unlawful or excessive use of force, compared with nine complaints in 2017. In one case, the office could not determine the facts, given the passage of time between when the incident occurred and when it was reported. In the second case, the office determined there was use of force not in line with the institution’s rulebook.

As of August 28, the ombudsman’s office reported having received a total of 163 complaints from prison inmates. In three complaints the inmates alleged torture by prison guards. One inquiry was pending; the other two did not result in concrete findings based on the evidence available to the ombudsman.

As of August 28, the Department for Enforcement of Sanctions received two notifications of the use of force against inmates by prison police, versus 14 in 2017.

On April 12, parliament adopted three laws: the Witness Protection Law, the law establishing the Operational Technical Agency (OTA) to be responsible for lawful intercepts in the country, and the Interception of Communications Law. The OTA is expected to be the technical facilitator of legal communications interception operations, operating with its own budget separately from the Ministry of Interior’s Department of Security and Counterintelligence Services (UBK). The OTA became operational in November.

On November 20, the Prime Minister’s Cabinet adopted the Proposed Model and Implementation Plan for Security-Intelligence System Reform. The Cabinet tasked the Ministry of Interior, in collaboration with the stakeholder institutions, to coordinate the implementation of the reform.

In addition to investigating any allegations of police mistreatment, the Ministry of Interior’s Professional Standards Unit (PSU) conducted all internal investigations into allegations of other forms of police misconduct. The unit has authority to impose administrative sanctions, such as temporary suspension from work, during its investigations. The unit may not take disciplinary measures, which require a ruling from a disciplinary commission, nor may it impose more serious criminal sanctions, which require court action.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires that a judge issue warrants for arrest and detention of suspects based on evidence, and police generally followed this requirement. The law states that prosecutors must arraign a detainee within 24 hours of arrest. A pretrial procedure judge, at the request of a prosecutor, may order detention of suspects for up to 72 hours before arraignment. Police generally adhered to these procedures. Authorities generally informed detainees promptly of the charges against them. Detention prior to indictment may last a maximum of 180 days. Following indictment, pretrial detention may last a maximum of two years.

During the first six months of the year, the Ministry of Interior PSU received four complaints alleging excessive use of force in interrogations of suspects and detainees. The PSU filed criminal charges against one police officer for inappropriate police treatment and dismissed the other three for lack of evidence.

There is an operating bail system. The law allows defendants to communicate with an attorney of their choice, but authorities did not always inform detainees properly of this right and did not always allow them to consult with an attorney prior to arraignment. Indigent detainees have the right to a state-provided attorney, and authorities generally respected this right. Judges usually granted permission for attorneys to visit their clients in detention. Authorities did not practice incommunicado detention.

Pretrial Detention: In the majority of cases, the courts adhered to the law for pretrial detention procedures. During the year, the number of court detention orders dropped significantly compared with previous years. In most cases both the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Special Prosecutor’s Office requested, and the court issued, preventive measures instead of detention orders for suspects and defendants to prevent flight risk of witnesses, evidence tampering, and repeating or committing new crimes.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for “autonomous and independent” courts, supported by an independent and autonomous Judicial Council. The government demonstrated greater respect for judicial independence and impartiality compared to previous years. Limited judicial independence, politicization of the judicial oversight body, and inadequate funding of the judiciary, however, continued to hamper court operations and effectiveness.

According to the EC’s April 17 report, the country’s judicial system made some progress in improving judicial independence. The country adopted a credible new judicial reform strategy, and key pieces of legislation were amended in line with recommendations from the Venice Commission and the EU’s “Urgent Reform Priorities.” The Special Prosecutor’s Office faced less obstruction from the courts. The EC report also concluded that sustained efforts would be required in order to address outstanding recommendations and to ensure the judiciary could function without undue influence.

On March 28, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev launched a new Judicial Reform Implementation Monitoring Council, which included the minister of justice, the chief public prosecutor, the special prosecutor, and other judges, government officials, private attorneys, and academics. The purpose of the Council is to monitor implementation of judicial reforms under the government reform plan.

According to the ombudsman’s annual report for 2017, the greatest number of citizen complaints (576 or 17 percent) concerned the judicial system. Almost half of the complaints related to the rights of citizens in enforcement procedures. Between January and August, the greatest number of complaints (432 or 19 percent) related to the judiciary. The report stated citizens complained about long trials, bias, selective justice, and undue pressure on judges. The report indicated court decisions were sometimes considerably delayed due to administrative deficiencies or judges exceeding the legally prescribed deadlines for issuing written judgments.

While there were strict rules regulating the assignment of cases to judges that were implemented through an electronic case management system, in September the Skopje Public Prosecution Office summoned several persons for interviews after a 2017 audit revealed that the system to assign judges to handle specific cases had been manipulated. Media outlets reported that prosecutors summoned former “presiding judge” of the Skopje Criminal Court, Vladimir Pancevski, and Supreme Court Chief Justice Jovo Vangelovski. On September 14, the Special Prosecutor’s Office submitted a Special Report on Judges Implicated in the 2008-2015 Unlawful Wiretaps. The report stated that, between 2011 and 2015, four judges were involved in “flagrant violation of integrity, independence, competence, and malpractice.” The report detailed alleged actions in 2011 and 2012 under the former government, specifically that Supreme Court Chief Justice Jovo Vangelovski shared key information regarding active cases with politicians and pressured peers during adjudication. In addition it stated that former Judicial Council president Aleksandra Zafirovska consulted senior government officials to select politically loyal or “favorable” judges, that criminal trial judge Sofija Lalichich followed senior UBK orders and severely violated the judges’ ethical code, and that administrative judge Svetlana Kostova simultaneously worked as a judge and as a UBK staffer.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair trial, and the judiciary generally enforced this right.

The law presumes defendants innocent until proven guilty. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges (with free interpretation as necessary). Trials were generally open to the public. The ombudsman’s 2017 annual report noted continuing problems regarding the right to trial in a reasonable time. According to the report, protracted civil and administrative court cases, as well as insufficient civil enforcement practices, resulted in violations of citizens’ rights. In high-profile cases, it was common for defense attorneys to request a “strategic delay” to proceedings.

For certain criminal and civil cases, judicial panels of three to five individuals, led by a professional judge, are used. Authorities did not always grant defendants adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. In particular, Special Prosecution Office (SPO) defendants have complained that the court did not always grant adequate time to prepare a sufficient defense. Free assistance of an interpreter is provided. Defendants may communicate with an attorney of their choice or have one provided at public expense for those who are indigent. Defendants may question witnesses and present evidence on their own behalf. Authorities may not compel defendants to testify or confess guilt. Both the prosecution and defendants have the right to appeal verdicts.

On August 22, The Skopje Criminal Court began the trial of 33 persons charged with “terrorist endangerment of the constitutional order” for their actions in the April 2017 violent attacks in parliament. Four opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) party members of parliament, one Socialist Party member, and the former interior minister were among those charged. In opening arguments the prosecution stated the criminal attacks were well organized and that one of the defendants was tasked with assassinating Zoran Zaev, who became prime minister a month after the attacks. The trial continued at year’s end. On December 18, parliament adopted an Amnesty Law that provides amnesty for some participants in the attacks but not for those who committed violence, carried weapons, or organized the incident.

On November 16, the Constitutional Court declared a 2015 law on sentencing guidelines designed to address inconsistent sentencing among different courts unconstitutional. Legal analysts had expressed concern the law seriously hampered judicial discretion to decide sentences according to the facts in individual cases and provided too much power to prosecutors to influence sentences.

On January 11, parliament abolished the Council for Determining Facts and amended the Law on Judicial Council to restore the Judicial Council’s responsibilities regarding discipline and dismissal of judges, in line with the 2015 Venice Commission opinion. On May 2, parliament amended the Law on Courts and the Law on the Judicial Council to introduce harsher disciplinary grounds, limit Judicial Council members’ eligibility for more senior judicial positions while serving on the Council, and allow for the removal of a Judicial Council member indicted for a crime. On May 15, the Judges’ Association stated that the amendments to the Laws on Courts and the Judicial Council failed to meet judges’ expectations for effective reform, including disciplinary liability and removal grounds. The association’s board concluded the amendments were not in line with the government’s 2017-22 Judicial Reform Strategy and called on the government and opposition to make changes that would provide judicial independence.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There was one report of political detainees. The opposition party VMRO-DPMNE claimed that the charges brought against 33 defendants, including five members of parliament, in the April 2017 parliamentary violence case were politically motivated and inflated (see Trial Procedures, above). There was no evidence the government denied access to these detainees by human rights or humanitarian organizations. The trial continued as of November 21.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Citizens had access to courts to submit lawsuits seeking damages for human rights violations. Individuals may file human rights cases in the criminal, civil, or administrative courts, and the Constitutional Court, depending upon the type of human rights violation in question and its alleged perpetrator. Individuals also may appeal adverse decisions. The law provides the right to timely adjudication of cases and a legal basis for appealing excessive judicial delays to the Supreme Court. The government generally complied with civil decisions of domestic courts. Individuals may appeal cases involving alleged state violations of the European Convention on Human Rights to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) after exhausting all domestic legal options.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The government has laws and mechanisms in place, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and advocacy groups reported that the government made significant progress on resolution of Holocaust-era claims, for citizens of the country. The government has no laws or mechanisms in place related to the resolution of Holocaust-era claims by foreign citizens. Holocaust-era restitution is no longer a significant issue in the country, particularly after the 2000 Denationalization Law and 2007 compensation agreement.

The 2000 Denationalization Law accorded the right to denationalization of property seized after August 1944 to former owners and their successors, in accordance with the provisions related to the right to inherit. It required claimants to have citizenship of the country at the time of the law entering force.

The 2007 Compensation Agreement among the government, the Holocaust Fund, and the Jewish Community allowed for the payment of 21.1 million euros ($24.2 million) between June 2009 and June. One of the agreement’s major results was the construction of the Holocaust Memorial Center of the Jews from Macedonia, which officially opened in 2011. In June the government paid the last installment of 5.6 million euros ($6.4 million) to the fund, completing the process of denationalizing of Jewish properties.

Advocacy groups reported that some foreign citizens, not covered by the 2000 law, still sought restitution. Foreign citizens may apply for restitution in civil proceedings. The country is party to the 2009 Terezin Declaration.

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

The law prohibits such actions, and there were no reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions during the year. On April 12, parliament established the Operational Technical Agency (OTA) to be responsible for lawful intercepts in the country (see section 1.d., Role of the Police and Security Apparatus).

During the year the government continued to deal with the repercussions of revelations of a widespread, illegal wiretapping campaign, allegedly carried out during multiple years inside the UBK headquarters under the previous VMRO-DPMNE-led government. The campaign was first reported by the then opposition SDSM party in 2015.

In late 2016 the Directorate for Personal Data Protection, the agency responsible for overseeing the government’s handling of personal information, performed four inspections of the UBK and initiated a control inspection in July 2017 to measure implementation of the 11 recommendations it made during 2016 inspections. A compliance report published by the directorate in November 2017 stated that the Ministry of Interior fully complied with the recommendations.

In 2016 parliament amended the Law on the Protection of Privacy to prohibit the possession, processing, and publishing of any content, including wiretapped conversations, which violate the right to privacy with regard to personal or family life. The amendments, which entered into force in July, also prohibit the use of such materials in election campaigns or for other political purposes.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press. The government made progress respecting media freedom and freedom of expression, but problems remained, including weak media independence, and violence and intimidation of journalists.

The April 17 EC report on the country noted that the “climate for media freedom and freedom of expression has improved, with more open political debate and critical media reporting,” and that there was a “decrease in pressure on journalists.” Freedom House’s Nations in Transit 2018 report, released on April 11, characterized the media landscape as, “improved slightly, reflecting positive developments in the credibility of media reporting as a result of the change in power at the central level.” The report noted that media outlets remained largely polarized along political, ethnic, and linguistic lines and that they “are still far from acting independently from political influence.”

In an open letter dated July 27, the heads of the Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM), the Independent Union of Journalists and Media Workers (IUJMW), and the Media Ethics Council criticized July 25 amendments to the electoral code, alleging they allowed political advertising to be paid out of the state budget. The letter asserted the amendments disregarded independent media outlet’s opposition to using taxpayer money for political advertising in the commercial media, a practice that was supposed to have ended in 2017. The Agency for Audio-Visual Media Services (AAVMS) and the Council of Europe’s platform for the protection of journalism released their own statements echoing these concerns.

In August a Judicial-Media Council was established to improve cooperation between the judiciary and journalists through increased transparency of courts and objective reporting.

Freedom of Expression: The law prohibits speech that incites national, religious, or ethnic hatred and provides penalties for violations. Individuals may criticize the government publicly or privately.

Press and Media Freedom: While outlets and reporting continued to be largely divided along political lines, the number of independent media voices actively expressing a variety of views without overt restriction increased. Laws that restrict speech inciting national, religious, or ethnic hatred also cover print and broadcast media, publication of books, and online newspapers and journals.

Prepared by Metamorphosis Foundation, Agora, and the Platform for Investigative Journalism and Analysis (PINA), a periodic report on the status of media reforms published on March 6 found that media reforms progressed with differing paces and quality, and most were only partially fulfilled. In its April 17 report on the country, the EC stated: “The new government put an end to government advertising in the form of commercial advertisements on commercial broadcasters (except on social media and at the local level) in August 2017, following the previous moratorium in place since 2015. To achieve one of the “Urgent Reform Priorities,” the new government also published figures on government advertising expenditures from 2008-2015, albeit with some data missing. The extent to which government advertising had been a tool to exercise influence on broadcasters, and to which the previous system had been distorting the market, was reflected in the market’s reaction to the loss of this revenue source, which had already had a financial impact in the broadcasting sector and led private media to seek to measure viewership due to the need to compete for listeners and advertising.”

The EC report also noted “the quality of reporting by some private television stations improved; however, low professional standards persisted at some media outlets, undermining objective reporting. The monitoring by the council of media ethics shows that further work was needed to improve respect for ethical standards. Investigative reporting remained limited.”

On September 25, the AAVMS released its first report on media coverage of the 2018 referendum (on the country’s change of name), asserting that the citizens did not receive balanced coverage of all different views on the referendum. In addition the agency filed misdemeanor charges against ITV for exceeding the maximum allowed 4.5 minutes per hour of advertising for ‘parliament’s “For” referendum campaign and TV Sonce for exceeding the allowed 4.5 minutes per hour of advertising for supporters of the “Boycott” campaign. The AAVMS stated it reprimanded several other broadcasters for violating referendum ad time limits, warning that unless the outlets fixed the problem they would also be subject to misdemeanor charges. The OSCE/ODIHR reported that “media generally provided fair coverage” with the lack of an “Against” or “Boycott” campaign in traditional media complicating the media’s ability to provide equitable coverage. In addition the OSCE/ODIHR noted that media outlets did not always respect AAVMS regulations for equal division of publically funded airtime with a larger share going to the “for” campaign.

Violence and Harassment: There were several cases of alleged threats, violence, and police harassment against journalists during the year.

On March 8, the Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM) president Naser Selmani complained publicly he received threats against his and his family’s lives from an individual affiliated with the Democratic Union for Integration party. On March 19, the Skopje Basic Prosecution Office opened a preliminary investigation.

On September 8, the Skopje Criminal Court sentenced Matija Kanikov to six months in prison for assaulting an A1On reporter during the 2017 “United for Macedonia” protests. Journalists’ associations welcomed the verdict for sending a clear message that the system would not tolerate violence against journalists, improving journalists’ safety.

In a statement following a meeting with OSCE freedom of the media representative Harlem Desir on September 17, AJM president Naser Selmani, emphasized that security of journalists had improved as acts of violence and harassment against journalists were “drastically reduced.” He also noted that, “for the first time ever,” a court had in 2017 convicted and sentenced a person to prison for physically attacking a journalist. Selmani added the environment of impunity in the country remained a problem, however.

On May 29, Minister of Interior Oliver Spasovski told a news conference that, according to a report prepared by the Ministry, authorities had filed 12 charges against individuals for attacks against journalists between June 2017 and May 29. “We addressed all cases. We filed criminal charges against two individuals for violence and threats to security, three misdemeanor charges against six individuals. In one case, we notified the respective prosecution office of threats to security; in one case, we determined a civil lawsuit should be initiated; and only one case remained unresolved,” he said.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: There were some reports that the government pressured journalists into self-censorship. In its April 17 report on the country, the EC noted, “There was no improvement in the union protection or labor conditions of journalists. As a result, journalists still practice self-censorship.”

The AJM reported that, as of August 27, two television reporters complained of censorship. Snezana Lupevska, author of the Kod investigative program, claimed that Telma TV management censored her show. In response to public reactions, Telma TV broadcast the original program without edits. Kristina Atovska, a former employee of 24 Vesti TV, complained that two editors regularly censored her pieces.

Libel/Slander Laws: Persons found guilty of defamation, libel, and slander were subject to fines according to a schedule based on nonmaterial damage. The EC noted that there was a decreasing trend in defamation cases.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content. There were no reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. The State Statistical Office estimated that 75 percent of households had access to the internet in the first quarter of the year, up from 69 percent in 2016.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association and the government generally respected these rights.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

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

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

During the year the government increased efforts to deal with migration challenges in cooperation with the EU commissioner for migration and home affairs and announced the signing of an agreement to allow teams from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX) to be deployed in the country.

A “state of crisis” has been in force for border areas with Greece and Serbia since August 2015. It has been extended by the government every six months through year’s end. The state of crisis allows government authorities to regulate the entry and transit of migrants through the country. Migrants apprehended in these areas were regularly placed in contained temporary transit centers, near the border, and pushed back to the prior transit country within days.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, as of September, 2,104 migrants were temporarily sheltered in transit centers located at the northern and southern border crossings with Serbia and Greece, respectively. In an April report, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights estimated there were 200 migrants in the country held in government-run transit centers.

In-Country Movement: UNHCR estimated that some 17,000 persons transited the country from January 1 to August 15 but did not register any hate crimes against them. UNHCR did not note any in-country movement restrictions for IDPs, refugees, or stateless persons.

Foreign Travel: The constitution provides for freedom of movement, including the right to leave the country without arbitrary restrictions, and the government may only restrict it when necessary to protect national security, criminal investigations, or public health.

On July 9, police reportedly seized Orthodox Archbishopric of Ohrid bishop Jovan Vraniskovski’s passport without explanation while he was trying to cross the border into Greece. The archbishopric claimed “discrimination characteristic for countries without rule of law.” In September authorities returned his passport, again without explanation. There were no records of revocations of citizenship during the year.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPS)

According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, 111 persons (27 families) remained displaced from the 2001 internal armed conflict, eight (four families) lived in collective housing centers, and 103 persons (23 families) were in private accommodation or with host families. The government provided protection and assistance, and supported safe and voluntary returns, as well as resettlement and local integration of IDPs. There were no reports of IDPs suffering abuses.

Despite having no national policy document, the government generally observed the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Refoulement: UNHCR assessed that access to asylum practices significantly improved since 2016, and that previous concerns regarding the arbitrary practice of denying access to asylum had been addressed. A case of the violation of the principle of nonrefoulement occurred, however, in October when five individuals were denied access to asylum.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for granting asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. UNHCR reported, however, that the mechanism for adjudicating refugee status failed to provide basic procedural guarantees and proper determinations as prescribed in the law. It reported that 184 migrants applied for asylum in the first eight months of the year. No person was granted refugee status.

The legal framework provides for procedural safeguards and review. There were a number of disputes regarding the application of some safeguards, including at the judicial review level. For example, although it is possible by law, in practice the courts refused any request to hear an unsatisfied asylum applicant during the appeals procedure.

In April parliament adopted a new Law on International and Temporary Protection. The Macedonian Young Lawyers Association (MYLA) stated that the new law addressed some of the shortcomings of the old law pertaining to the right to family reunification and access to asylum, but it unduly limited asylum seekers’ freedom of movement. In May MYLA filed an appeal with the Constitutional Court challenging articles 63 and 65 of the new law. The IOM expressed similar concerns regarding the new law.

The government issued identity documents to recognized refugees and persons under subsidiary protection, but authorities frequently delayed or failed to issue identification documents to new asylum seekers.

Migrant populations detained in the Transit Center for Foreigners were impeded from accessing asylum. An asylum application by a person held in the Reception Center for Foreigners (i.e. a closed-type facility in Gazi Baba) would only be possible after the person gave a statement before the court, in criminal proceedings, against their smugglers. During the year, 55 percent of all asylum requests registered in the country were processed through the Reception Center for Foreigners.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The law contains a broad definition of “safe third country” that includes any member state of the EU, NATO, or the European Free Trade Area, effectively precluding any migrant entering the country by land from countries other than Kosovo and Serbia from seeking asylum.

Freedom of Movement: According to UNHCR, authorities detained some individuals intercepted while being smuggled. The grounds for detention decisions are arbitrary. As a rule persons are supposed to be detained until their identity can be established. They were routinely detained after identification, however, to prevent them from escaping the country prior to providing testimony in court against smugglers. In addition the majority of asylum seekers who were previously detained reported that they were not issued detention decisions, or if they did receive such decisions it was in a language they could not understand, impeding them from exercising their right to judicial review.

The average detention period in 2018 was 15 days, with the longest period being 45 days and the shortest period being one day.

Some improvement has been noted compared to previous years, as women, children or families are generally not detained; alternatives to detention were employed instead. A Safe House was rented for these individuals, with Ministry of Labor and Social Policy and international donor funding, so they were not placed in prison or in detention facilities. The individuals were under monitoring, however, and needed to report to authorities on a weekly basis. In the first half of the year, UNHCR recorded 71 persons held in immigration detention. With the exception of one unaccompanied child and three women, all detainees were adult men.

Employment: There are no restrictions on refugees’ ability to work, and the law allows asylum seekers whose asylum procedure is not completed within nine months to apply for a working permit.

Recognized refugees and persons under subsidiary protection with work permits were able to access the active labor market. Nevertheless, asylum seekers faced restrictions because of conflicting laws. By law, a foreigner needs to have a unique identification number assigned in order to be issued a work permit. Although an asylum seeker has the legal right to apply for a work permit after nine months in procedure, s/he has no right to be assigned a unique identification number, which by the same law is issued only upon the granting of a positive decision on their application. Consequently, an asylum seeker is granted the right to work but is unable to exercise it, a serious gap considering some procedures last for two to three years, including judicial review instances.

Access to Basic Services: Asylum seekers, prior to a final decision on their asylum applications, had the right to basic health services, in accordance with the regulations on health insurance. The same applied to the right to education. However, to date, there were no cases of children coming from outside the region enrolled in state run educational facilities.

Durable Solutions: According to UNHCR, none of the 394 individuals from the 1999 conflict in Kosovo who remained in the country had returned to Kosovo during the year. The Ministry of Labor and Social Policy reported that 274 of the individuals had expressed interest in remaining. No cases of resettlement were registered.

The law provides the opportunity for naturalization to refugees residing in the country under preferred conditions, while persons under subsidiary protection may naturalize as any other foreigners who stay legally in the country for a minimum of eight years. No refugees or persons under subsidiary protection were naturalized during the year.

Under the law the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, in cooperation with the Interior Ministry and UNHCR should enable the voluntary return of asylum seekers to their homes. There were no cases of assisted voluntary repatriation during the year.

UNHCR continued to assist rejected asylum seekers from Kosovo, whom the government allowed to stay in the country. The government issued them provisional identification documents to secure their access to services. The Ministry of Labor and Social Policy provided integrated, durable solutions with the support of UNHCR for approximately 274 refugees who had applied for integration into the country. The ministry provided social assistance, housing assistance and access to education, health and the labor market.

Temporary Protection: The government provided subsidiary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees. Two persons were granted subsidiary protection in 2018.

STATELESS PERSONS

Some habitual residents were legally stateless, in spite of fulfilling one or more criteria for citizenship. According to consolidated statistics of the government, UNHCR, and NGOs, there were 650 stateless persons registered in the country at the end of the year. They were primarily Roma who lacked civil registration and documentation. Children born in the country to stateless persons are considered nationals and have access to birth registration and certification.

Some 310 persons have been recorded as habitual residents with undetermined nationality and at risk of statelessness since the dissolution of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1991. The Ministry of Labor and Social Policy estimated that some 500 children lacked birth certificates or personal name registration in the country. Early in the year, the government initiated a program for registration of persons lacking documents. It issued a public call for persons without birth certificates and personal name registration to apply for birth registry by the end of September.

The law provides for preferred conditions to grant nationality to stateless persons. Due to the lack of a formal statelessness determination procedure, however, individuals may not benefit from these provisions. Requirements are cumbersome and procedures vary from one local civil registry office to another and do not contribute to facilitating the process of acquiring nationality, registering civil status, or providing access to rights.

Norway

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

There were no significant reports regarding prison or detention center conditions that raised human rights concerns.

Physical Conditions: Prisons and detention centers generally met international standards, and there were no major concerns regarding physical conditions or inmate abuse.

Administration: Procedures are in place to report abuse or mistreatment of prisoners or other detainees. Authorities conducted proper investigations of credible allegations of mistreatment.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits, including unannounced visits, by independent human rights observers.

Improvements: In response to concerns raised in 2016 and 2017 by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including Amnesty International Norway and the Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers (NOAS) as well as the parliamentary civilian ombudsman, the government remodeled the Trandum detention center, where rejected asylum applicants are held before deportation. The facility was upgraded to include single rooms with separate bathrooms. Because Trandum is not a criminal detention facility, internal security practices were relaxed, and guards no longer wear uniforms. The government also established a separate facility in Hurdal, north of Oslo, that is better equipped than Trandum to accommodate families with young children whose asylum applications were rejected.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The national police have primary responsibility for internal security. Police may call on the armed forces for assistance in crises. In such circumstances, the armed forces operate under police authority. The National Police Directorate oversees the police force.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the national police, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires warrants authorized by a prosecutor for arrests. The police may make an arrest without a warrant if any delay would entail risk of injury to the police or civilians or damage to property. If police arrest a person without a warrant, a prosecutor must consider as soon as possible whether to uphold the arrest. Detainees must be informed of the charges against them immediately after an arrest, and, if the prosecutor wishes to detain suspects, he or she must arraign them no later than three days after arrest. The arraigning judge determines whether the accused should be held in custody or released pending trial. There is a bail system, but it was rarely utilized. Officials routinely released defendants accused of minor crimes pending trial, including nonresident foreigners. Defendants accused of serious or violent crimes usually remained in custody until trial. Before interrogation, authorities allowed detainees access to a lawyer of their choice or, if the requested lawyer was unavailable, to an attorney appointed by the government. The government pays the attorney fees in all cases. Authorities usually allowed arrested persons access to family members.

The law mandates that detainees be transferred from a temporary police holding cell to a regular prison cell within 48 hours.

The law provides that a court must supervise whether and how long a detainee may be held in solitary confinement during pretrial detention. Spot counts by prison authorities revealed an average of almost 100 prisoners in solitary confinement (among an average prison population of 3,800). In 2017, the latest year for which data was available, the Correctional Services Directorate received six reports of cases where the total period of solitary confinement of a prisoner exceeded 42 days (after which authorities must evaluate the status every 14 days).

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and the law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and the right to be informed promptly of the charges against them. Trials were held without undue delay. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials. Defendants also have the right to counsel of their choice at public expense, to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, to free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals, to confront and question adverse witnesses, to present their own evidence and witnesses, and to appeal. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or to confess guilt.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts. They may appeal cases alleging violations of the European Convention on Human Rights by the government to the European Court of Human Rights after exhausting all avenues of appeal in domestic courts.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The government and the Jewish Community reported that Holocaust-era restitution was not an issue and that no litigation or restitution claims regarding real or immovable property covered by the Terezin Declaration, which the government endorsed, were pending before authorities.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.

Freedom of Expression: The law prohibits “threatening or insulting anyone, or inciting hatred or repression of or contempt for anyone because of his or her (a) skin color or national or ethnic origin, (b) religion or life stance, (c) sexual orientation or lifestyle, or (d) disability.” Violators are subject to a fine or imprisonment for not more than three years. According to the government ombudsman for equality and discrimination (LDO), hate speech on the internet against ethnic minorities; religious groups; women; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons continued to be a problem.

Press and Media Freedom: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction. The prohibitions against hate speech applied also to the print and broadcast media, the publication of books, and online newspapers and journals.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 97 percent of the population used the internet in 2017.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

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

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons in other countries, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The government made permanent the majority of the temporary restrictions implemented in 2015 and 2016. NGOs continued to criticize the government for rejecting a high percentage of the asylum claims from Afghans. As of June authorities deported 321 persons who had arrived in the country as asylum seekers, of whom 124 were Afghans.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The country is party to the EU’s Dublin III regulation, which allows the government to transfer asylum seekers to the European country determined to be responsible under the regulation for adjudicating the case.

Freedom of Movement: The law permits detention of migrants to establish their identity or to deport them if authorities deem it likely the persons would evade an order to leave. The detention is limited and subject to judicial review.

Employment: Regulations allow asylum seekers who reside in integration facilities to obtain employment while their applications are under review. Eligible asylum seekers must fulfill certain criteria, including: possession of valid documentation proving identity, a finding following an asylum interview that the individual will likely receive asylum, and participation in government-defined “integration” programs that assist asylum seekers in adapting to Norwegian society by the use of educational resources such as language or job training.

Durable Solutions: The government offered resettlement for refugees in cooperation with UNHCR. The government’s Directorate of Immigration (UDI) had several programs to settle refugees permanently in the country. According to the UDI, as of July the country accepted 1,326 refugees for resettlement.

Through the International Organization for Migration and other government partners, the government assisted the return of unsuccessful asylum seekers to their countries of origin through voluntary programs that offered financial and logistical support for repatriation. Identity documents issued by either the Norwegian or the returnee’s government are required in order to use this program. The government continued routinely to offer migrants cash support in addition to airfare to encourage persons with weak or rejected asylum claims to leave the country voluntarily.

Individuals granted refugee status may apply for citizenship when they meet the legal requirements, which include a minimum length of residence of seven out of the previous 10 years, completion of language training, and successful completion of a Norwegian language test and a course on Norwegian society.

On January 18, the government transferred responsibility for integrating immigrants from the Ministry of Justice and Public Security to the Ministry of Education and Research.

Temporary Protection: The government provided temporary humanitarian protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees and provided it to 49 individuals through the end of August. The permits for temporary protection may be renewed and can become permanent. The government also provided temporary protection to six unaccompanied minors, who were granted residence permits in the country until the age of 18.

STATELESS PERSONS

According to UNCHR, 3,282 stateless persons lived in the country at the end of 2017; they were not counted as refugees. According to the UDI, at the end of August, an additional 164 stateless asylum seekers lived in reception centers, a decrease of 53 percent from the same period in 2017. Of these, 31 persons had permission to stay, and 15 were under orders to leave the country. The remainder continued the asylum application process.

The government effectively implemented laws and policies to provide stateless persons the opportunity to gain nationality on a nondiscriminatory basis.

Oman

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

There were no 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. In an open April letter to the sultan, however, French activist Theirry Danaudet, who spent approximately six months in prison in 2017 for violating Omani customs laws pertaining to prescription medication, cited reports from fellow prisoners, most of whom were of South or Southeast Asian origin, that they suffered systematic beatings and exposure to extreme temperatures.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

While prison and detention center conditions generally met international standards there were some allegations of abuse and life-threatening conditions.

Physical Conditions: Danaudet’s letter alleged that prison guards abused some prisoners. Human rights organizations reported that activist Hassan al-Basham died on April 28 while in detention at Samail Central Prison.

Human rights groups further alleged that courts ignored requests from al-Basham’s lawyers for a medical examination, despite his deteriorating health. Al-Basham had been detained since 2015 after he was convicted on charges including insulting Oman’s ruler and using the internet to prejudice religious values.

Administration: There was no established prison authority to which prisoners could bring grievances concerning prison conditions. There is no ombudsman to serve on behalf of prisoners and detainees; this responsibility falls under the public prosecutor’s jurisdiction. Prisoners and detainees did not always have regular access to visitors.

Independent Monitoring: The Oman Human Rights Commission (OHRC), a quasi-independent government-sanctioned body, investigated and monitored prison and detention center conditions through site visits. OHRC authorities investigated claims of abuse but did not publish the results of their investigations, purportedly to protect the privacy of the individuals involved. The law permitted visits by independent human rights observer groups, yet none existed in the country, and there were no reports of independent, nongovernmental observers from abroad requesting to visit the country. Consular officers from some embassies reported difficulties in meeting with prisoners or delayed notification about detained citizens.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but the law permits the government to detain suspects for up to 30 days without charge. Persons arrested or detained are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis of their detention.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Ministry of the Royal Office controls internal and external security and coordinates all intelligence and security policies. Under the Royal Office, the Internal Security Service (ISS) investigates all matters related to domestic security. The Royal Oman Police (ROP), including the ROP Coast Guard, is also subordinate to the Royal Office and performs regular police duties, provides security at points of entry, and serves as the country’s immigration and customs agency. The Ministry of Defense, particularly the Royal Army of Oman (RAO), is responsible for securing the borders and has limited domestic security responsibilities. The Sultan’s Special Force (SSF) facilitates land and maritime border security in conjunction with the ROP, including rapid reaction antismuggling and antipiracy capabilities. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the ISS, the SSF, the RAO, and the ROP. There were no reports of judicial impunity involving the security forces during the year.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law does not require the ROP to obtain a warrant before making an arrest, but it stipulates that police must either release the person or refer the matter to the public prosecution within specified timeframes. For most crimes the public prosecutor must formally arrest or release the person within 48 hours of detention; however, in cases related to security, which is broadly defined, authorities can hold individuals for up to 30 days without charge. The law requires those arrested be informed immediately of the charges against them. There was a functioning bail system. Detainees generally had prompt access to a lawyer of their choice. The state provided public attorneys to indigent detainees, as required by law. Authorities generally allowed detainees prompt access to family members. In cases involving foreign citizens, police sometimes failed to notify the detainee’s local sponsor or the citizen’s embassy.

Arbitrary Arrest: The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, individuals can be held for up to 30 days without charge.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the law provides for an independent judiciary, the sultan may act as a Court of Final Appeal and exercise his power of pardon as chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council, the country’s highest legal body, which is empowered to review all judicial decisions. Principles of sharia (Islamic law) inform the civil, commercial, and criminal codes. The law allows women to serve as judges. Civilian or military courts try all cases. There were no reports judicial officials, prosecutors, and defense attorneys faced intimidation or engaged in corruption.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair trial and stipulates the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Citizens and legally resident noncitizens have the right to a public trial, except when the court decides to hold a session in private in the interest of public order or morals; the judiciary generally enforced this right. The government reserved the right to close sensitive cases to the public. The government did not uniformly provide language interpretation for non-Arabic speakers.

Defendants have the right to consult with an attorney. The law guarantees defendants the right to be informed promptly of charges. There is no guarantee for adequate time for defense attorneys to prepare, but in practice most court dates provide ample time. There is no guarantee for free interpretation. Courts provide public attorneys to indigent detainees and offer legal defense for defendants facing prison terms of three years or more. The prosecution and defense counsel direct questions to witnesses through the judge. Defendants have the right to be present, submit evidence, and confront witnesses at their trials. There is no known systemic use of forced confession or compulsion to self-incriminate during trial proceedings in the country. Those convicted in any court have one opportunity to appeal a jail sentence longer than three months and fines of more than 480 rials ($1,250) to the appellate courts. The judiciary enforced these rights for all citizens; some foreign embassies claimed these rights were not always uniformly enforced for noncitizens, particularly migrant workers.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

The number of political prisoners was unknown. Previously, the government has publicly acknowledged that it holds a “small number” of political prisoners, and human rights organizations reported that several individuals were detained during the year for their use of social media. Political prisoners were usually detained for short periods of time and without being formally charged with a crime. Political prisoners were afforded the same rights as other prisoners, and could ask to speak with representatives from the Oman Human Rights Commission or the ICRC.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Civil laws govern civil cases. Citizens and foreign residents could file cases, including lawsuits seeking damages for human rights violations, but no known filings occurred during the year. The Administrative Court reviews complaints about the misuse of governmental authority. It has the power to reverse decisions by government bodies and to award compensation.

Appointments to this court are subject to the approval of the Administrative Affairs Council. The court’s president and deputy president are appointed by royal decree based on the council’s nomination. Citizens and foreign workers may file complaints regarding working conditions with the Ministry of Manpower for alternative dispute resolution. The ministry may refer cases to the courts if it is unable to negotiate a solution.

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

The 2018 penal code does not allow public officials to enter a private home without first obtaining a warrant from the Public Prosecutor’s Office. The government monitored private communications, including cell phone, email, and internet chat room exchanges. The government blocked most voice over internet protocol sites, such as Skype and FaceTime. Authorities blocked the import of certain publications, e.g., pornography and religious texts without the necessary permit. Shipping companies claimed customs officials sometimes confiscated these materials.

The Ministry of Interior requires citizens to obtain permission to marry foreigners, except nationals of Gulf Cooperation Council countries, whom citizens may marry without restriction; authorities do not automatically grant permission, which is particularly difficult for Omani women to obtain. Citizen marriage to a foreigner abroad without ministry approval may result in denial of entry for the foreign spouse at the border and preclude children from claiming citizenship and residency rights. It also may result in a bar from government employment and a fine of 2,000 rials ($5,200).

Despite legal protections for women from forced marriage, deeply embedded tribal practices ultimately compel most citizen women towards or away from a choice of spouse.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The law provides for limited freedom of speech and press, but authorities did not always respect these rights. Journalists and writers exercised self-censorship.

Freedom of Expression: The law prohibits criticism of the sultan in any form or medium, as well as any “provocative propaganda to undermine the prestige of the state,” electronic communication that “might prejudice the public order or religious values,” and “defamation of character.” Therefore, it is illegal to insult any public official or private citizen. Authorities have prosecuted individuals for writing about the sultan in a way the government perceived to be negative. In January the government issued a new penal code that generally increased maximum penalties for crimes related to “undermining the state.” International human rights organizations have expressed concern that the new 2018 penal code contains vaguely defined articles that the security services could use to target activists and further restrict freedom of expression, including online.

Press and Media Freedom: Media did not operate freely. Authorities tolerated limited criticism in privately owned newspapers and magazines; however, editorials generally were consistent with the government’s views. Although mainstream social debate occurred in media, the government and privately owned radio and television stations did not generally broadcast political material criticizing the government.

In October 2017 the Supreme Court upheld previous court rulings and permanently shut down al-Zaman, an independent newspaper. Several editors of the paper served prison sentences and were released in 2017. Human rights organizations claimed the closure of al-Zaman had a chilling effect upon freedom of expression in the country.

Authorities required journalists to obtain a license to work; freelance journalists were ineligible for a license.

Violence and Harassment: Some journalists reported nearly daily harassment by high-level government officials for printing stories perceived as critical of their particular ministries.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Headlines in both public and private media print outlets were subject to an official nontransparent review and approval process before publication. Journalists and writers exercised self-censorship. The law permits the Ministry of Information to review all media products including books produced within or imported into the country. The ministry occasionally prohibited or censored material from domestic and imported publications viewed as politically, culturally, or sexually offensive. Some books were not permitted in the country. There is only one major publishing house in the country, and publication of books remained limited. The government required religious groups to notify the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs before importing any religious materials.

In March 2017 authorities confiscated a “large number” of books during the annual Muscat International Book Fair, according to NGO reporting.

Libel/Slander Laws: The government used libel laws and national security concerns as grounds to suppress criticism of government figures and politically objectionable views. Libel is a criminal offense, which allows for a heavy fine and prison sentence.

National Security: The government prohibited publication of any material that “undermines the prestige of the state.”

INTERNET FREEDOM

The law restricts free speech exercised via the internet, and the government enforces the restrictions. The government’s national telecommunications company and private service providers make internet access available for a fee to citizens and foreign residents. Internet access is available via schools, workplaces, wireless networks at coffee shops, and other venues, especially in urban areas.

Authorities monitored the activities of telecommunications service providers and obliged them to block access to numerous websites considered pornographic, or culturally or politically sensitive. The criteria for blocking access to internet sites were not transparent or consistent. Authorities sometimes blocked blogs as well as most video and audio chat technologies, such as Skype.

The law allows authorities to prosecute individuals for any message sent via any medium that “violates public order and morals.” The law details crimes that take place on the internet that “might prejudice public order or religious values” and specifies a penalty of between one month and a year in prison and fines of not less than 1,000 rials ($2,600). Authorities also applied the law against bloggers and social media users who insult the sultan.

The government placed warnings on websites informing users that criticism of the sultan or personal criticism of government officials would be censored and could lead to police questioning, effectively increasing self-censorship.

Website administrators or moderators were cautious concerning content and were reportedly quick to delete potentially offensive material in chat rooms, on social networking fora, and on blog postings. Some website administrators posted warnings exhorting users to follow local laws and regulations.

According to the International Telecommunication Union, 70 percent of Omani residents used the internet in 2016.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

The government restricted academic freedom and cultural events. Academics largely practiced self-censorship. Colleges and universities were required to have permission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Higher Education before meeting with foreign diplomatic missions or accepting money for programs or speakers. In October the ministry allowed foreign diplomatic missions to participate in a government-hosted college fair.

The government censored publicly shown films, primarily for sexual content and nudity, and placed restrictions on performances in public venues. The law also forbids dancing in restaurants and entertainment venues without a permit.

In 2016 the government closed the AMIDEAST Muscat office, which had prepared local students for education abroad. The office had also facilitated cultural exchange.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The government restricted freedoms of peaceful assembly and association. Human rights organizations expressed concern that overly broad provisions in the 2018 penal code could further restrict the work of human rights activists and limit freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

The law provides for limited freedom of assembly, but the government restricted this right. Under the 2018 penal code, gatherings of more than 10 persons in a public place are unlawful if they “endangered the public security or order” or “influenced the function of authorities.” A 2014 report from the UN special rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly expressed concern with government attempts to limit assembly and association rights and stated individuals seeking reform were “afraid to speak their minds, afraid to speak on the telephone, afraid to meet.”

Private sector employees in the energy and industrial manufacturing sectors threatened strikes in isolated cases; however, company leadership used incentives like promises of job security and other material benefits to persuade organizers to call off strikes (see section 7.a.).

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for freedom of association for undefined “legitimate objectives and in a proper manner.” Examples of such associations include registered labor unions and social groups for foreign nationalities, such as the Indian Social Group.

The government limited freedom of association in practice by prohibiting associations whose activities it deemed “inimical to the social order” or otherwise inappropriate. A 2014 royal decree stipulates citizens joining groups deemed harmful to national interests could be subject to revocation of citizenship.

Associations must register with their corresponding ministries, which approve all associations’ bylaws and determine whether a group serves the interest of the country. The time required to register an association ranged from two months to two years. Approval time varied based on the level of preparedness of the applying organization, the subject matter of the organization, its leadership, and the organization’s mission. The law limits formal registration of nationality-based associations to one association for each nationality and restricts activities of such associations. The government sometimes denied permission for associations to form.

Under the 2018 penal code, associations are forbidden from conducting any kind of fundraising without government approval, including for charitable causes. Individuals convicted of accepting unlawful funding for an association may receive up to one year in jail and a fine of 2,000 rials ($5,200). Foreign diplomatic missions are required to request meetings with nongovernmental associations through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by diplomatic note. Associations may not meet with foreign diplomatic missions and foreign organizations without prior approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The government enforced this law, and all foreign-funded educational and public diplomacy programs required prior government review.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

The law provides for freedom of internal movement and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. Citizens could generally travel freely outside the country, although that right is not codified. Citizens related to citizens living abroad who criticized the government reportedly were told not to leave the country. Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees personnel occasionally visited the country but did not maintain an office or personnel locally.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: The country has a large number of female migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, many of whom are employed as domestic workers. NGOs based outside the country, such as Human Rights Watch, and embassies of labor-sending countries alleged that domestic workers faced discrimination, to include physical, sexual, and psychological abuse. The country criminalizes slavery and trafficking, but enforcement was weak. Although forced labor is punished under the labor law, domestic workers are excluded from that law’s protections. Authorities prosecuted nine individuals for forced labor during the year, but it was unclear whether any of those cases involved domestic workers.

The government did not allow refugees to remain in the country. Refugees escaping conflict areas, such as Yemen, were allowed to remain in a border camp for a few days and then returned to their country of citizenship, where they could face persecution or torture, or moved onward to a third destination. In the case of Syrians fleeing conflict in Yemen, the government allowed them to choose a third country as a destination.

In-country Movement: There are no official government restrictions on internal travel for any citizen. The government must approve official travel by foreign diplomats to the Dhofar and Musandam regions. There were reports many foreign domestic employees had their passports confiscated by employers, who sponsor the foreign workers.

Employers have a great amount of control over these workers. The country’s visa-sponsorship system (kafala) ties migrant workers to their employers and prevents them from changing jobs without their sponsor’s consent. Migrant workers cannot work for a new employer in the country within a two-year period without the permission of their current employer, even if they complete their contract and the current employer is abusive. Employers can have a worker’s visa canceled arbitrarily. Workers who leave their jobs without the consent of their employer can be punished with fines, deportation, and/or reentry bans.

Foreign Travel: Some foreigners must obtain an exit visa from their employer prior to leaving the country. Exit visas may be denied when there is a dispute over payment or work remaining, leaving the foreign citizen in country with recourse only through local courts. Courts provided recourse to workers denied exit visas, but the process was opaque. In the past, travel bans–through confiscation of passports–were imposed on citizens involved in political activism. While no new cases were reported during the year, previously imposed travel bans on activists were likely still in effect.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Refoulement: The government did not provide protection to refugees from involuntary returns to countries where their lives or freedom could be threatened. Tight control over the entry of foreigners effectively limited access to protection for refugees and asylum seekers. Authorities apprehended and deported presumed economic migrants from Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea who sought to enter the country illegally by land and sea from the south. Afghans and Pakistanis travelling irregularly to escape violence generally came to the country by boat via Iran. Authorities generally detained these persons in centers in Salalah or the northern port city of Sohar, where they were held an average of one month before deportation to their countries of origin.

Access to Asylum: The laws provide for the granting of asylum or refuge for internally displaced persons, and the government has established a system for providing protection. The ROP’s system for granting asylum and resettlement is not transparent, and the law does not specify a timeframe in which the ROP must adjudicate an asylum application. It is current policy not to recognize refugees from conflict zones, such as Yemen, although the government provided temporary medical care to certain Yemeni citizens.

Durable Solutions: When third-country nationals presented themselves on the Oman-Yemen border, the government worked with local embassies to facilitate a return to these individuals’ home countries. In cases where individuals could not return to their home country, like Syrians, the government would facilitate travel to a third country of their choice.

Temporary Protection: The government provided emergency medical care to certain Yemeni citizens who demonstrated they could not receive adequate care in Yemen. These Yemenis and one accompanying family member per patient were offered status in Oman during the treatment period.

STATELESS PERSONS

Under the law citizenship is passed through the father. Therefore, children born to foreign fathers and Omani citizen mothers in Oman risk statelessness.

Palau

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

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

The constitution prohibits such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions did not meet international standards.

Physical Conditions: The country’s only jail, in Koror, with a capacity of 58, housed 76 inmates, all male as of December.

There was one report of a death (suicide by hanging) in prison.

Administration: Authorities investigated allegations of mistreatment.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits by independent human rights observers.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Ministry of Justice maintained effective control over the national police and marine police, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving security forces.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires warrants for arrests, and officials observed the law. The Office of the Attorney General prepares warrants and a judge signs them. The law provides for a prompt judicial determination of the legality of detention, a requirement authorities observed. Authorities informed detainees promptly of charges against them and provided prompt access to family members and lawyers. If a detainee could not afford a lawyer, the public defender or a court-appointed lawyer was available. There is a functioning system of bail.

An arrested person has the right to remain silent and to speak to and receive visits from counsel, a family member, or employer. Authorities must release or charge those arrested within 24 hours, and authorities must inform detainees of these rights.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Judges conduct trials and render verdicts. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence, the right to be informed promptly and in detail of charges, to a fair and public trial without undue delay, to be present at their trial, to consult with an attorney of choice (or have one provided at public expense), and to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants are entitled to free interpretation services as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. Defendants may question witnesses and present evidence on their own behalf. They cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and they have the right to appeal. The law extends these rights to all defendants.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts.

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

The law prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that 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. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. The government cooperated with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for granting asylum or refugee status, and the government has no established system for providing protection to refugees. The government provided some protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Panama

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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 constitution prohibits such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them.

In 2017 civilian correctional officers used batons and tear gas to control inmates who refused to be transported. Penitentiary System authorities investigated the incident and dismissed the case, citing evidence that showed standard procedures were enforced due to serious misconduct by the inmates. In May the Ombudsman’s Office decried the possible use of excessive force and the conclusion of the penitentiary authorities.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions remained harsh, due primarily to overcrowding, a shortage of prison guards, and inadequate medical services and sanitary conditions.

Physical Conditions: As of August the prison system, with an intended capacity of 14,842 inmates, held 16,069 prisoners. Pretrial detainees shared cells with convicted prisoners due to space constraints. Prison conditions for women were generally better than for men, but conditions for both populations remained poor, with some overcrowded facilities, poor inmate security and medical care, and a lack of basic supplies for personal hygiene. Female inmates had access to more rehabilitation programs than male inmates.

There were 1,170 prison guards nationwide, including 60 new guards hired during the year. Officials estimated, however, the system required 2,870 guards to staff the prisons adequately, according to international standards. Authorities acknowledged that staff shortages limited exercise time for inmates on certain days. Juvenile pretrial and custodial detention centers also suffered from a lack of prison officials. Authorities acknowledged that staff shortages limited exercise time for inmates on certain days. Juvenile pretrial and custodial detention centers also suffered from an insufficient number of prison officials.

One prison, Punta Coco, falls under the control of the Ministry of Public Security rather than the Ministry of Government’s National Directorate of the Penitentiary System (DGSP). In March the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reiterated its request to close Punta Coco due to the lack of appropriate medical attention for inmates. Lawyers and relatives of the inmates had to travel 66 miles by boat to reach the prison, located on an island. In August authorities transferred 12 inmates temporarily from the Punta Coco facility to a Panama City prison while they upgraded it to international prison standards by orders of the Supreme Court of Justice. It was reopened on December 6, and the 12 prisoners were transferred back to the facility.

The Ministry of Health conducted fewer vaccination campaigns in prisons, compared with previous years. HIV/AIDS treatment was available, but insulin was scarce throughout the country, which affected provisions for inmates.

Prison medical care overall was inadequate due to the lack of personnel, transportation, and medical resources. Sixty percent of complaints received by the Ombudsman’s Office from January through August related to the lack of access to medical attention and medications. Authorities permitted relatives of inmates to bring medicine, although there were reports that some relatives paid bribes to prison personnel, including police agents, to bypass the required clearances. Authorities transferred patients with serious illnesses to public clinics, but there were constant difficulties arranging inmate transportation. Inmates often missed medical appointments with specialized physicians. Because the DGSP did not have ambulances, inmates were transported in police vehicles or in emergency services ambulances when available. Emergency services ambulances staff were reluctant to service the prisons. Lack of prison guards also affected the transfers.

As of August, 17 male inmates had died in custody, most from natural causes or disease. One inmate died due to inmate-on-inmate violence.

Administration: Authorities conducted proper investigations of credible allegations of mistreatment.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted prison monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers. The Ombudsman’s Office conducted unannounced visits to the prisons without restrictions. Human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) seeking access to prisons during visiting hours were required to send a written request to the DGSP 15 days in advance.

Improvements: During the year a new centrally based system for better tracking of prisoners and statistics was implemented, and the data was published on a public website.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The country has no military forces. The Panama National Police (PNP) is principally responsible for internal law enforcement and public order. Civilian authorities in the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of the Presidency maintained effective control over all police, investigative, border, air, maritime, and migration services in the country. The government has mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption, but information on the process and results of investigations were rarely made public. Penitentiary authorities remained concerned over internal corruption, since unannounced inspections during the year resulted in findings of larger than usual amounts of drugs and illegal items in inmates’ possession. Due to the insufficient number of prison guards, the PNP was sometimes responsible for security both outside and inside the prisons. PNP leadership expressed concern over insufficient training and equipment.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires arresting officers to inform detainees immediately of the reasons for arrest or detention and of the right to immediate legal counsel. Detainees gained prompt access to legal counsel and family members, and the government provided indigent defendants with a lawyer.

The country completed its transition to an accusatory justice system in 2016, but cases opened prior to the transition continued to be processed under the previous inquisitorial system, known for its vulnerability to corruption, inefficiencies, and bureaucratic hurdles.

Under the accusatorial system, bail exists but was rarely granted because of the implementation of a less costly provisional release system. Under the inquisitorial system, a functioning bail procedure existed for a limited number of crimes but was largely unused. Most bail proceedings were at the discretion of the Prosecutor’s Office and could not be independently initiated by detainees or their legal counsel. Bail was granted in high-profile corruption cases, which prompted complaints by civil society about the Public Ministry’s administering “selective” justice.

The law prohibits police from detaining adult suspects for more than 48 hours but allows authorities to detain minor suspects for 72 hours. In the accusatorial system, arrests and detention decisions were made on a probable cause basis.

Pretrial Detention: Under the inquisitorial system, the government regularly imprisoned inmates for more than one year before a pretrial hearing, and in some cases pretrial detention exceeded the minimum sentence for the alleged crime. According to the DGSP director, 52 percent of inmates were pretrial detainees as of July.

Some observers criticized the judiciary for applying unequal pretrial restrictive measures for individuals facing substantially similar charges. Prosecutors also reported internal pressure from the Public Ministry to prevent release of those accused of crimes pending trial.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

While the law provides for an independent judiciary, the judicial system was inefficient and susceptible to corruption as well as internal and external influence, and it faced allegations of manipulation by the executive branch. In August a judge dismissed corruption charges against 22 government officials. Among the accused were individuals who had considerable influence in the community.

Court proceedings for cases in process under the inquisitorial system were not publicly available, while accusatory system cases were. As a result nonparties to the inquisitorial case proceedings did not have access to these proceedings until a verdict was reached. Under the inquisitorial system, judges could decide to hold private hearings and did so in high-profile cases. Consequently the judiciary sometimes faced accusations, particularly in high-profile cases, of procedural irregularities. Since most of these cases had not reached conclusion, however, the records remained under seal. Interested parties generally did not face gag orders, but because of this mechanism, it was difficult to verify facts.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and the judiciary generally enforced this right. The law provides that all citizens charged with crimes enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence. They have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges (with free interpretation as necessary for non-Spanish speaking inmates), to have a trial without undue delay, to have counsel of their choice and adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, to refrain from incriminating themselves or close relatives, and to be tried only once for a given offense. The accused may be present with counsel during the investigative phase of proceedings.

During the year new criminal cases were tried under the accusatory system. Under this system, trials were open to the public. All trials must be completed in less than 18 months. Judges may order the presence of pretrial detainees for providing or expanding upon statements or for confronting witnesses. Trials are conducted based on evidence presented by the public prosecutor. Defendants have the right to be present at trial and to consult with an attorney in a timely manner, along with the right to enter into a plea deal. Defendants may confront or question adverse witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence. Defendants have a right of appeal. The judiciary generally enforced these rights.

The judiciary complained that many hearings were canceled due to inmates’ failure to appear, especially those involving inmates processed under the old inquisitorial system. This was usually due to administrative shortcomings, such as a dearth of PNP agents to transfer the inmates to the courts. Authorities were also aware that available correctional officers and PNP agents focused more on inmates tried under the new accusatory system because the law fines police and correctional officers 100 balboas (one balboa is equal to one U.S. dollar) for failing to deliver an inmate to a hearing.

The judiciary continued to promote videoconference hearings. Judges were receptive to using this tool, and during the year the government continued to add video conference and hearing rooms to prison facilities.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no credible reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Citizens have access to the courts to bring lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations, although most do not pursue such lawsuits due to the length of the process. There are administrative and judicial remedies for alleged wrongs, and authorities often granted them to citizens who followed through with the process. The court can order civil remedies, including fair compensation to the individual injured. Individuals or organizations may initiate cases involving violations of an individual’s human rights by submitting petitions to the IACHR.

The 2016 Community Justice System, which provides another path for citizens to seek redress for human rights violations, entered into effect in January. Although peace judges were appointed, lack of municipal funds throughout the country prevented the assignment of professional-level salaries for the judges as well as the relocation of the facilities for administrative or community justice to be served. The peace judges replaced the 679 corregidores under the 77 mayors nationwide. The corregidor system, a leftover of the military regime, was considered for years an unfair process that violated human rights through unjustified imprisonment imposed by unqualified, politically influenced “judges.” Training for National Police agents and Judicial Investigative agents on the new system was also insufficient.

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

The law prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence, and the government generally respected these prohibitions. The law also sets forth requirements for conducting wiretap surveillance. It denies prosecutors authority to order wiretaps on their own and requires judicial oversight.

The investigation of the 2015 illegal wiretapping case against former president Ricardo Martinelli as well as against Alejandro Garuz and Gustavo Perez, two former intelligence directors in his administration, continued during the year. Hearings under the accusatorial system against Martinelli began in June upon his extradition from the United States. Hearings under the inquisitorial system against Garuz and Perez took place on September 3-14.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. Nevertheless, journalists and media outlets noted an increase in criminal and civil libel/slander lawsuits, which they considered a threat to freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

Libel/Slander Laws: Former and sitting government public figures increased the use of libel/slander lawsuits against journalists and media. According to local media contacts, both criminal and civil lawsuits were filed. The amount of lawsuits and the figures of financial compensation by plaintiffs increased substantially during the year, according to media groups. In September the daily newspaper La Estrella de Panama reported that lawsuits against journalists and media outlets for libel/slander reparations reached $12 million. The major media corporation Corprensa reported lawsuits against its two daily publications, La Prensa and Mi Diario, totaled $61.7 million. Corprensa representatives added they had been sued 15 times for libel/slander since 2017, once more than the previous 10 years combined (14 lawsuits filed in 2006-16).

On August 21, five journalists from La Prensa appeared at a family court hearing in response to former first lady Marta de Martinelli’s lawsuit seeking “protection” for “family image.” She sought a court order for “media, print, television, radio and social media, and especially the newspaper La Prensa,” to stop publishing the names and surnames of her family, who were under investigation for alleged corruption.

On August 25, former president Martinelli, in prison and on trial for illegal wiretapping, filed a slander lawsuit for two million dollars against political opinion radio-show hostesses Annette Planells and Mariela Ledezma.

On September 5, journalists, journalism organizations, and students demonstrated against the lawsuits, claiming such lawsuits were attacks against freedom of speech and the press.

Violence and Harassment: In August and September, National Assembly Deputy Sergio Galvez verbally harassed television journalists Alvaro Alvarado, Castalia Pascual, and Icard Reyes, and National Assembly Deputy Carlos Afu publicly threatened to sue La Prensa for $20 million. Both deputies made their statements on the National Assembly floor; according to the constitution, deputies may not held liable for these actions.

Press and Media Freedom: With the enactment of the 2017 electoral reforms regulating the 2019 general elections, there was to be a blackout period for the publication of voter polling 20 days before the national elections, scheduled for May 2019. TVN Media, one of the country’s largest media groups, challenged the law in the Supreme Court, arguing the blackout would hinder the public’s access to information because political parties would continue to carry out private surveys.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

According to the International Telecommunication Union, 58 percent of the population used the internet in 2017.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights. The government provided permits for organized groups to conduct peaceful marches. Police at times used force to disperse demonstrators, especially when highways or streets were blocked. The law provides for six to 24 months’ imprisonment for anyone who, through use of violence, impedes the transit of vehicles on public roads or causes damage to public or private property.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation and the government generally respected these rights. The government generally cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, persons under temporary humanitarian protection, asylum seekers, and other persons of concern.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. In January the Ministry of Government issued an executive decree to regulate the protection of refugees, abolishing the previous decree from 1998. The National Office for the Attention of Refugees (ONPAR) declared the reforms were positive and necessary. The decree increases the frequency of the approval board meetings and reduces wait times for final decisions through improved processing and the implementation of a computerized application process. International organizations and NGOs criticized the new decree because it did not include the Cartagena Declaration definition of refugee, nor did it provide applicants with work permits. The new decree also stipulates a six-month waiting period after entering the country before applying for refugee status, and it establishes a summary proceeding to deny refugees who have “manifestly unfounded claims” as determined by ONPAR. In August the government issued a resolution detailing which claims will be considered “manifestly unfounded.” NGOs believed this would further limit access to refugee status and leave more persons in need of international protection. The process of obtaining refugee status generally took one to two years, during which asylum seekers did not have the right to work and encountered difficulties accessing basic services.

In March the government and UNHCR signed a cooperation agreement to train border personnel in identification and referral of persons needing international protection. The government also signed two protocols for the protection of children who migrate: a protocol for identification, referral, and attention for minors requiring international protection, and an institutional protocol for protecting minors who migrate.

In June the government announced it would deport 70 Cuban migrants sheltered in Darien, on the border with Colombia, and in July the government reported that 37 Cubans were placed in the shelter located on the border with Costa Rica. The government continued to manage camps in the Darien region to provide food, shelter, and medical assistance to the migrants. The government reported continued migrations of persons from South Asia, India, and Africa.

According to UNHCR and its NGO implementing partners, thousands of persons living in the country might be in need of international protection. These included persons in the refugee process, persons denied refugee status, and persons who did not apply for refugee status due to lack of knowledge or fear of deportation.

Employment: Refugees recognized by authorities have the right to work, but recognized refugees complained that they faced discriminatory hiring practices. In an effort to prevent this discriminatory practice, ONPAR removed the word “refugee” from recognized refugees’ identification cards. By law individuals in the process of applying for asylum do not have the right to work.

All foreigners seeking a work contract must initiate the process through a lawyer and pay a government fee of 700 balboas to obtain a work permit that expires upon termination of the labor contract or after one year, whichever comes first.

Access to Basic Services: Education authorities sometimes denied refugees access to education and refused to issue diplomas to others if they could not present school records from their country of origin. The Ministry of Education continued to enforce the government’s 2015 decree requiring schools to accept students in the asylum process at the grade level commensurate with the applicants’ prior studies.

Durable Solutions: The law allows persons legally recognized as refugees or with asylum status who have lived in the country for more than three years to seek permanent residency.

STATELESS PERSONS

The government continued to work with Colombia to recognize approximately 200 stateless persons on the border. The governments of Panama and Costa Rica, with the cooperation of UNHCR, continued to use a mobile registry office on the border with Costa Rica to register indigenous Ngabe and Bugle seasonal workers who travel between Costa Rica and Panama and who had not registered their births in either country.

Papua New Guinea

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

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

During the year there were numerous reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. In January police officers shot and killed a man near his home in East New Britain Province. The officers involved claimed police acted on a tipoff from locals that the man, who allegedly had a criminal history, was part of a group of prison escapees. The victim’s family rejected these allegations.

Public concern about police and military violence against civilians and about security forces’ impunity persisted.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

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

Although the constitution prohibits torture, individual police and correctional services officers frequently beat and otherwise abused citizens or suspects before or during arrests, during interrogations, and in pretrial detention. There were numerous press accounts of such abuses, particularly against young detainees. In July, two police officers from the Airborne Tactical Unit in Port Moresby assaulted a 15-year-old boy in Kimbe, West New Britain Province. The officers claimed the victim had stolen from a woman at the market. A video of the assault circulated on social media. In August the West New Britain Provincial Commander suspended the officers, charged them with assault, and referred them to the Police Internal Affairs Unit for investigation.

There were reports police raped and sexually abused women while in detention.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were poor overall, but prison conditions improved in the country’s largest prison, Bomana. The prison system continued to suffer from serious underfunding, food shortages, inadequate medical facilities, and overcrowding in some facilities.

Physical Conditions: The country’s prisons were overcrowded. Infrequent court sessions, slow police investigations, and bail restrictions for certain crimes exacerbated overcrowding. One prison commander also suggested that the closure of prisons in some provinces led to overcrowding and health issues in neighboring prisons. The prison in Wabag, Enga Province, remained closed due to unresolved land disputes, while the prison in Tari, Hela Province, reopened in September.

Authorities held pretrial detainees in the same prisons with convicted prisoners but in separate cells. Pretrial detainees, frustrated by the slow processing of their cases, were the leaders of prison breaks, which were common. In five prison breaks during the year, 120 persons escaped, and prison guards shot and killed nine of the escapees. The largest breakout was from Lakiemata Prison in Kimbe, where 39 persons escaped and prison guards shot and killed three of the escapees. Four persons were killed trying to escape from Buimo Prison in Lae. Correctional Services has not reported on the incidents nor suggested disciplinary action against the officers. A national court judge suggested that the national court needed more resources to reduce the number of pretrial detainees overcrowding prisons.

All prison facilities had separate accommodations for juvenile offenders. The Department of Justice and attorney general operated four juvenile facilities, and the Roman Catholic Church operated three juvenile reception centers to hold minors awaiting arraignment prior to posting of bail. Human Rights Watch reported authorities routinely held juveniles with adults in police detention cells, where older detainees often assaulted the younger detainees. Police sometimes denied access by juvenile court officers to detainees. Authorities usually held male and female inmates separately, but some rural prisons lacked separate facilities.

Sanitation was poor, and prisoners complained that rations were insufficient. In May a magistrate ordered the immediate transfer of 97 detainees from the Jomba police station holding cells after the provincial police commander reported they had run out of funds to buy food rations. A number of prisons experienced problems with inadequate ventilation and lighting.

The Manus Island Regional Processing Centre (RPC), paid for by the Australian government, officially closed in 2017. As of September 403 refugees and 124 non-refugees were still being held on Manus Island in facilities operated by the government’s Immigration and Citizenship Authority. The government continued to encourage non-refugees to return to their country of origin, although many refused or could not obtain travel documents from their country of origin.

There were reports local security forces on Manus physically abused refugees. Refugees also reported that facilities were overcrowded and there was an irregular supply of clean water and electricity. Detainees continued to have inadequate access to basic health services, including mental health care.

Notably, the conditions in the largest prison, Bomana, improved from the previous year. Under new management, there have been no major incidents between prisoners and prison guards, sanitation has improved, and rehabilitation programs have been developed for prisoners.

Administration: The government mandated the Ombudsman Commission to visit prisons, but the commission lacked adequate resources to effectively monitor and investigate prison conditions. The team visited two prisons during the year. Authorities generally allowed family visits, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) assisted family visits to Bougainville prisoners held in Kerevat Correctional Institution in East New Britain Province and Bekut Correctional Institution on Buka Island.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring visits by independent observers. During the year the ICRC and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) visited facilities in the country.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but police frequently detained citizens arbitrarily without evidence. In some cases police detained family members of suspects to force their surrender. In May, six police officers assaulted and detained a former deputy police commissioner for five hours without any charges before releasing him. The Police Internal Affairs Unit reported that the officers were suspended and would be charged once the investigation was complete. Persons have the right to challenge the lawfulness of their arrest or detention in court, but the government did not always respect this right.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) is responsible for maintaining internal security in all regions of the country. The RPNGC commissioner reports to the minister of police. The Autonomous Region of Bougainville maintains its own police force and minister of police with authority to enforce local law, but the RPNGC retains authority over the Bougainville police in enforcement of national law. The Papua New Guinea Defense Force (PNGDF) is responsible for maintaining external security but also has some domestic security responsibilities. Clan rivalries and a serious lack of resources and discipline diminished police effectiveness and hampered internal security activities throughout the country. Societal violence, particularly among tribes, was common, and in many cases police lacked sufficient personnel or resources to prevent attacks or respond effectively to them. Warring tribal factions in rural areas often were better armed than local police, and authorities often tolerated intertribal violence in isolated rural areas until the tribes themselves agreed to a negotiated settlement. Police are responsible for security during national elections, although additional funding and manpower was generally limited.

Civilian authorities maintained control over the RPNGC and PNGDF, although impunity was a serious problem. In December 2017 men in police uniform reportedly shot and killed a 15-year-old who was waiting to shower at a water pump in Port Moresby. In June police said two officers had been identified for further questioning, but as of November no formal charges had been brought.

The RPNGC Internal Affairs Unit investigates, and a coroner’s court reviews, police shootings of suspects and bystanders. If the court finds the shooting was unjustifiable or otherwise due to negligence, authorities may try the officers involved. Families of persons killed or injured by police may challenge the coroner’s finding in the National Court, with the assistance of the Office of the Public Solicitor. Investigations remained unresolved in many cases, largely due to a lack of funding and resources to complete investigations, especially in rural areas where such shootings often occurred. Additionally, police officers’ reluctance to give evidence against one another and witnesses’ fear of police retribution undermined investigations.

The Ombudsman Commission deals with public complaints and concerns regarding police officers. In June police reported that from 2015 to 2017, more than 250 police officers were dismissed through the police disciplinary process due to lack of discipline, disgraceful conduct, and corruption.

To improve the RPNGC’s professional capacity, it accepted training, including on human rights, from a number of foreign governments and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). As part of the Papua New Guinea-Australia Policing Partnership (PNG-APP), Australian Federal Police officers provided advisory support and mentoring to a number of directorates and work areas within the RPNGC, including Family and Sexual Violence Units, Juvenile Justice Units, the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Unit, the Internal Affairs Unit, and national police training at the Bomana Police College. Much of the training provided under the partnership included instruction on human rights principles and gender awareness with a focus on empowering female members of the RPNGC. Although the majority of the PNG-APP effort was concentrated within Port Moresby, advisors also trained police from many major provincial areas throughout the country.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) had an agreement to provide training for new police recruits on human rights, human trafficking, and exploitation. The ICRC facilitated workshops on international human rights law and policing standards for officers from the RPNGC in Port Moresby, Mount Hagen, and Bougainville. The OHCHR developed human rights modules and used them to instruct police mobile response units in seven provinces.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

By law police must have reason to believe that a crime was, is being, or is expected to be committed before making an arrest. A warrant is not required, but police, prosecutors, and citizens may apply to a court for a warrant. Police normally do so only if they believe it would assist them in carrying out an arrest. Judicial authorization is usually provided promptly but is not requested in the majority of cases. There were numerous reports of persons detained for weeks without charges or judicial authorization. These suspects may be charged with minor offenses and released after bail is paid. Only national or Supreme Court judges may grant bail to persons charged with murder or aggravated robbery. In all other cases, police or magistrates may grant bail. If bail is denied or not granted promptly, suspects are transferred to prisons and can wait for years before they appear before a judge. Arrested suspects have the right to legal counsel and to be informed of the charges against them; however, the government did not always respect these rights. Detainees may have access to counsel, and family members may have access to detainees.

Pretrial Detention: Pretrial detainees comprised approximately 40 percent of the prison population. Due to very limited police and judicial resources and a high crime rate, authorities often held suspects in pretrial detention for lengthy periods. According to correctional services data, detainees could wait for as long as three years before trial, sentencing, or release, but there were media reports of detainees who waited for as long as nine years. Although pretrial detention is subject to strict judicial review through continuing pretrial consultations, the slow pace of police investigations, particularly in locating witnesses, and occasional political interference or police corruption, frequently delayed cases for years. In addition, there were delays due to infrequent circuit court sittings because of shortages of judges and travel funds.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for a presumption of innocence and due process, including a public trial, and the court system generally enforced these provisions. Judges conduct trials and render verdicts. Defendants have the right to an attorney, to be informed promptly and in detail of charges against them, to be present at their trial, to free interpretation services if desired, and to not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. The Public Solicitor’s Office provides legal counsel for those accused of “serious offenses” (charges for which a sentence of two years or more is the norm) who are unable to afford counsel. Defendants and their attorneys may confront witnesses, present evidence, plead cases, and appeal convictions. The shortage of judges created delays in both the trial process and the rendering of decisions.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is an independent and impartial judiciary for individuals and organizations to seek civil remedies for human rights violations. The national court established a mechanism to fast-track cases of alleged human rights abuses. Through this process the national court may award civil remedies in cases of human rights abuses. District courts may order “good behavior bonds,” commonly called “protection orders,” in addition to ordering that compensation be paid for violations of human rights. Courts had difficulty enforcing judgments. In addition, largely unregulated village courts adjudicated many human rights matters. Village and district courts often hesitated to interfere directly in domestic matters. Village courts regularly ordered payment of compensation to an abused spouse’s family in cases of domestic abuse rather than issuing an order to detain and potentially charge the alleged offender.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

 

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

Although the constitution prohibits such actions, there were instances of abuse. Police raids, searches, and forced evictions of illegal squatter settlements and suspected criminals often were marked by a high level of violence and property destruction. In June police officers raided a compound in Hobu, Morobe Province, in search of a suspected killer. According to media reports, armed officers burned down 27 homes, leaving more than 100 persons homeless, assaulted residents, and destroyed food gardens, in retaliation for the killing of a senior police officer. As of September no charges were laid against the officers. Their provincial commander said the officers acted in anger after one of their own was killed.

Police units operating in highland regions sometimes used intimidation and destruction of property to suppress tribal fighting. Police threatened and at times harmed family members of alleged offenders.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected these rights. Newspapers sometimes reported on controversial topics, although many journalists complained of intimidation aimed at influencing coverage by agents of members of parliament and other government figures. Self-censorship by journalists was common, especially when reporting on contentious political events.

Freedom of Expression: The government generally respected freedom of speech, although some activists reported the intimidating presence of unmarked vehicles outside of their homes. Government critics on social media reported intimidation and threats. In 2016 the government amended the penal code to apply the provisions of a new cybercrime law (see section 2.a., Internet Freedom). Members of parliament applauded passage of the bill and stated it would allow the government to punish those who used social media to incite violence or break the law. Many civil society groups alleged the law was an attempt to curb criticism of the government. In March, acting on a complaint from a member of parliament, police arrested a man for alleging on social media that the parliamentarian paid bribes to voters during the 2017 election. The same parliamentarian supported a government proposal to ban Facebook for one month to allow the government time to investigate fake accounts. The government dropped the proposal after civil society protested.

Press and Media Freedom: Media members alleged substantial bribes often were offered to journalists and editors with the intent of buying favorable coverage. Multiple media outlets asserted their journalists, photographers, and videographers experienced intimidation or bribery attempts from some parliamentarians and their associates during the year. In November a government-owned television station (EMTV) suspended senior journalist Scott Waide for publishing reports that were “not favorable” to the station. EMTV claimed the decision to suspend Waide was taken by Kumul Telikom Holdings Board, which controls EMTV. After two days of national and international outcry, including from the Media Council of PNG, Waide was reinstated. However, the Minister for Public Enterprise & State Investments William Marra Duma, said that an inquiry into the suspension would be launched and that Waide would be investigated for “displaying lack of news judgement.”

Violence and Harassment: Journalists were subject to harassment, intimidation, and in some cases violence by police and supporters of parliamentarians for their reporting. In February officials working for the Morobe provincial governor assaulted a journalist after they alleged that his reporting about the governor was too negative. Police arrested four of the six perpetrators, but quickly released them after they paid a fine of Papua New Guinea kina (PGK) 300 ($90).

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. Internet access remained limited but continued to grow through the increasing use of mobile phones. The growth of internet access resulted in increased use of social media and blogs to discuss and develop evidence of abuse of power and corruption in government, especially ahead of the national election.

The law on cybercrime allows for investigation and/or prosecution of offenses including defamatory publication of material concerning another person, unlawful disclosure of classified information, and using electronic systems to incite any form of unrest (called cyber-unrest). Responsibility for enforcing the law lies with police. The law calls for a maximum 25 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of PGK 50,000 ($15,000) for violations.

Media reported five cases of persons charged under the law but who were not convicted because the courts, police, and relevant government agencies lacked guidance on how to implement the new law. The charges related to character defamation on social media. Three of the cases were dismissed while two were free on bail pending court interpretation. The Department of Information and Communication and the National Information and Communication Regulation Authority conducted workshops with police and courts during the year to clarify how to implement the law. According to the ITU, 11 percent of the population uses the Internet.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association and the government generally respected these rights.

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

Public demonstrations require police approval and 14 days’ advance notice. If public demonstrations occurred without official approval, police normally requested crowds to disperse. If that failed, and if violence or public disturbances ensued, police used tear gas and fired shots in the air to disperse crowds.

In April police shot and killed four demonstrators in Madang who were participating in a protest march. As of November no officers had been charged in the killings and police said a lack of cooperation from those at the scene hampered their investigation.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. The government cooperated with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the IOM, and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Asylum seekers and refugees were sometimes subjected to abuse by security forces and the local population. In 2017 Australia’s Senate Standing Committees released findings from a seven-month inquiry into allegations of serious abuse in the detention center on Manus Island. The inquiry documented evidence that asylum seekers were exposed to physical violence, sexual assault, and medical neglect leading to death, and collected “indisputable” evidence of correspondingly widespread mental health problems that led to self-harm.

In May Rohingya refugee Salim Kyawning died in an apparent suicide after he jumped from a moving bus in Lorengau on Manus Island. Two refugee men also died from suspected suicides in 2017. Human rights groups alleged that these men all suffered from mental illness, exacerbated by frequent clashes with local police, and that their lives could have been saved had they received proper mental health services. In June a fact-finding mission from the UNHCR observed high levels of anxiety and depression among the refugees, and a lack of psychiatric support.

In February PNGDF personnel assaulted three asylum seekers, injuring all three. Tensions between detainees and local police, soldiers, and residents remained high.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPS)

Natural disasters, including a 7.5 magnitude earthquake in February and volcanic eruptions, caused most displacements, while tribal violence, ethnic clashes, and land disputes were responsible for approximately one-third. Displacement was generally protracted, with families living in temporary situations for more than one year on average. These populations were vulnerable because they lacked access to land, basic services, and protection. Women and children were especially susceptible to abuse. The government had no policy or legislation to address the needs of IDPs, and host communities often reacted with violence to displaced populations.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: While the law does not formally provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, legislation provides a refugee status determination process. The law allowed persons from the Indonesian’s Papua Province (formerly Irian Jaya) to apply for Papua New Guinea citizenship without having to pay the usual fee.

The government maintains two agreements with Australia on refugees. The first allows Australia to send asylum seekers to Manus Island (see sections 1.d. and 2.d., Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons) for processing only. The second allows asylum seekers to resettle in Papua New Guinea. International organizations, NGOs, and civil society groups in the country raised questions about the constitutionality of the latter agreement.

In 2017 Australian authorities closed the Manus Island RPC and moved refugees to the East Lorengau Refugee Transit Center. As of October the transit center held approximately 400 refugees.

Australian Immigration and Border Protection and UNHCR trained the Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority (ICSA) on how to make refugee status determinations. ICSA officers are responsible for processing refugee claims by those on Manus Island. As of October, 403 persons were determined to be genuine refugees, 124 had their claims denied, and another 598 had accepted the voluntary departure package, which in some cases included as much as $25,000 in cash offered by Australian and Papua New Guinea authorities. The remainder were either deported, sent to Australia for medical treatment, settled in Papua New Guinea or the United States, or had died.

ICSA worked with the support of international organizations and NGOs to provide training, job matching, and temporary financial support to help refugees establish themselves in the country. Resettlement efforts were problematic, however, because several refugees who tried to resettle in the country became victims of crime.

Durable Solutions: The national refugee policy provides a way for Indonesian Papuans to apply for Papua New Guinean citizenship without having to pay the PGK 10,000 ($3,000) citizenship fee. ICSA estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 Indonesian Papuans lived in Papua New Guinea. Under the policy 1,259 Indonesian Papuans received citizenship certificates in 2017, and during the year through October, another 115 received citizenship.

Temporary Protection: The government provided temporary protection to persons from Papua who may not qualify as refugees. Approximately 3,000 persons, classified by the government as “border crossers,” lived in villages adjacent to the border with Indonesia, and approximately 2,400 lived in urban areas, including Port Moresby.

Paraguay

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

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

In contrast with the previous year, as of October 1, there were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

On July 2, a court convicted police officer Gustavo Florentin of homicide for the March 2017 shooting of Liberal Party official Rodrigo Quintana following protests that resulted in the partial burning of the congressional building. The judge sentenced Florentin to 12 years in prison.

On July 26, the Supreme Court annulled the convictions of all 11 defendants found responsible for the 2012 Marina Cue confrontation near Curuguaty that resulted in the deaths of 11 farmers and six police officers. Senate President Fernando Lugo did not follow up on the Senate-appointed independent commission report on the role of the police in the Marina Cue events during his tenure as senate president, which ended on July 1. As of August 24, Senate President Silvio Ovelar, who began his term on July 1, had not followed up on the report. Authorities had not prosecuted any members of the police involved in the incident.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

The Special Human Rights Unit in the Attorney General’s Office investigated cases of forced disappearance and kidnapping.

On February 5, the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP), a rebel guerilla group, released hostages Franz Hiebert Wieler and Bernhard Blatz Friessen, kidnapped in August and September 2017, respectively. The EPP released the two farmers after their families paid a ransom of $500,000 for Hiebert Wieler and $750,000 for Blatz Friessen.

On January 11, the government found the remains of Abraham Fehr, a Paraguayan-Mexican farmer kidnapped by the EPP in 2015. The EPP had previously communicated to Fehr’s family the location of the remains. An autopsy confirmed Fehr’s identity and determined he died soon after his abduction.

On April 11, authorities informed the family of Eladio Edelio Morinigo, a police officer kidnapped by the EPP in 2014, that they believed Morinigo was deceased. Authorities relied on a note found in an alleged EPP camp with instructions on how to dispose of Morinigo’s corpse. It was the first time the government provided this type of information without having located the victim’s remains. Morinigo’s death was not definitively confirmed.

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

The law prohibits such practices, and the government generally respected these provisions, but there were credible reports that some government officials employed such practices. The Attorney General Office’s Special Human Rights Unit opened 18 torture investigation cases during the year, but there were no convictions, and all investigations were pending as of September 5. Unlike other criminal cases, torture charges do not have a statute of limitations or a defined period within which charges, an investigation, or the oral trial must be completed. The unit was investigating more than 100 open cases as of September 5, including many from the 1954-89 Stroessner dictatorship.

In October 2017 the government’s quasi-independent watchdog agency, the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture (NMPT), filed a report alleging that officials at the Villarica penitentiary tortured inmates Esteban Villasanti, Fidel Villasanti, and Alicio Caceres. The Attorney General’s Human Rights Unit continued to take witnesses’ sworn statements throughout the year.

Several civil society groups publicly criticized, and called for, the disbandment of the Joint Task Force (FTC) for human rights violations and corruption in the northeastern region of the country. The FTC operated in the region with the principal goal of eliminating the EPP and included personnel from the armed forces, National Police, and National Anti-Narcotics Secretariat (SENAD).

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions were harsh and, at times, life threatening due to inmate violence, mistreatment, overcrowding, poorly trained staff, deteriorating infrastructure, and unsanitary living conditions.

Physical Conditions: According to the NMPT, prisons were overcrowded, with inmates at some facilities forced to share bunks, sleep on floors, and sleep in shifts. As of August 13, the Ministry of Justice reported the country’s 18 penitentiaries held 52 percent more inmates than their design capacity allowed. The NMPT also reported that four of the eight facilities for juveniles had exceeded their design capacity. Penitentiaries did not have adequate accommodations for inmates with physical disabilities. The Justice Ministry’s Directorate for the Care of Convicted Juveniles assigned minors convicted of juvenile crimes to one of eight youth correctional facilities, one of which was dedicated to young women.

Prisons and juvenile facilities generally lacked adequate temperature control systems, of particular concern during hot summer months. Some prisons had cells with inadequate lighting, in which prisoners were confined for long periods without an opportunity for exercise. Although sanitation and medical care were generally considered adequate, some prisons lacked sufficient medical personnel. Adherence to fire prevention norms was lacking.

Government authorities in the northeastern region of the country along the border with Brazil continued to report inmate recruitment within the prisons by members of the Brazilian First Capital Command gang.

Administration: Authorities conducted some investigations of credible allegations of mistreatment, but the NMPT stated authorities failed to conduct sufficient investigations, particularly into prison directors with previous accusations of mistreatment. During the year the Justice Ministry’s Internal Affairs Office continued random, unannounced visits to several prisons. Visitors reportedly needed to offer bribes frequently to visit prisoners, hindering effective representation of inmates by public defenders. Although married and unmarried heterosexual inmates were permitted conjugal visits, the ministry prohibited such visits for homosexual inmates.

Independent Monitoring: The government granted the media, independent civil society groups, and diplomatic representatives access to prisons with prior coordination. Representatives of the media and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) conducted regular prison visits. Government agencies, such as the NMPT, the Public Defender’s Office, and representatives of the judicial branch, also conducted independent visits.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, but the government did not always observe these requirements. In some cases police ignored requirements for a warrant by citing obsolete provisions that allow detention if individuals are unable to present personal identification upon demand (although the law does not obligate citizens to carry or show identity documentation).

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The National Police, under the authority of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, are responsible for preserving public order, protecting the rights and safety of persons and entities and their property, preventing and investigating crimes, and implementing orders given by the judiciary and public officials. The constitution charges military forces with guarding the country’s territory and borders. By law civilian authorities are in charge of the security forces.

The law authorizes the president to mobilize military forces domestically against any “internal aggression” endangering the country’s sovereignty, independence, or the integrity of its democratic constitutional order. The law requires the president to notify congress within 48 hours of a decision to deploy troops. By law the president’s deployment order must define a geographic location, be subject to congressional scrutiny, and have a set time limit. As of August 24, the government continued to maintain a deployment of more than 1,200 personnel from the FTC, of whom approximately 1,000 were military, to the departments of Concepcion, San Pedro, and Amambay.

The Ministry of National Defense, also under the president’s authority but outside the military’s chain of command, handles some defense matters. The ministry is responsible for the logistical and administrative aspects of the armed forces, especially the development of defense policy.

The law authorizes SENAD and units within the National Police, all under the president’s authority, to enforce the law in matters related to narcotics trafficking and terrorism. The law provides for SENAD to lead operations in coordination with the Attorney General’s Office and the judiciary. To arrest individuals or use force, SENAD must involve members of the National Police in its operations, but reportedly it often did not do so.

The Special Human Rights Unit of the Attorney General’s Office and the Disciplinary Review Board of the National Police are responsible for determining whether police killings legitimately occurred in the line of duty. The military justice system has jurisdiction over active military personnel.

Several human rights NGOs and media reported incidents of police involvement in homicides, rape, arms and narcotics trafficking, soliciting bribes, robbery, extortion, and kidnapping, with reported abuses particularly widespread in Ciudad del Este, Pedro Juan Caballero, and other locations on the border with Brazil.

Hundreds of cases of excessive use of force, torture, and other abuses by security forces remained unresolved and open with the Special Human Rights Unit in the Attorney General’s Office. No information was available whether any of these cases resulted in convictions or penalties during the year.

Although the National Police reportedly struggled with inadequate training, funding, and widespread corruption, it continued to investigate and punish members involved in crimes and administrative violations.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Police may arrest individuals with a warrant or with reasonable cause. The law provides that after making an arrest, police have up to six hours to notify the Attorney General’s Office, at which time that office has up to 24 hours to notify a judge if it intends to prosecute. The law allows judges to use measures such as house arrest and bail in felony cases. According to civil society representatives and legal experts, in misdemeanor cases judges frequently set bail too high for many poor defendants to post bond, while politically connected or wealthy defendants pay minimal or no bail or receive other concessions, including house arrest.

The law grants defendants the right to hire counsel, and the government provides public defenders for those who cannot afford counsel. According to the NGO Paraguayan Human Rights Coordinator (CODEHUPY) and the NMPT, heavy caseloads adversely affected the quality of representation by public defenders. Detainees had access to family members.

Arbitrary Arrest: The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention. During the year NGOs reported several cases of arbitrary arrest and detention of persons without a warrant.

Pretrial Detention: The law permits detention without trial for a period equivalent to the minimum sentence associated with the alleged crime, a period that could range from six months to five years. Some detainees were held in pretrial detention beyond the maximum allowed time. According to the NMPT, 76 percent of male prisoners and 69 percent of female prisoners awaited trial and sentencing as of August 13.

The NMPT alleged the high number of prisoners in pretrial detention was principally a result of legislation that disproportionately affects low-level drug offenders. Specifically, it claimed the legislation prohibits judges from applying alternative measures to pretrial detentions for crimes with a potential sentence of five or more years. It also said the legislation sets overly strict guidelines on preventive detention for suspects in drug cases. As of July 13, 63 percent of all female detainees were low-level drug offenders.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary. Undue external influence, however, often compromised the judiciary’s independence. Interested parties, including politicians, routinely attempted to influence investigations and pressure judges and prosecutors. Judicial selection and disciplinary review board processes were often politicized. The law requires that specific seats on the board be allocated to congressional representatives, who were reportedly the greatest source of corrupt pressure and influence.

Courts were inefficient and subject to corruption, and NGOs and government officials alleged that some judges and prosecutors solicited or received bribes to drop or modify charges against defendants. Authorities generally respected court orders.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, which the judiciary nominally provided, albeit through a lengthy trial process exacerbated by legal defense tactics that remove or suspend judges and prosecutors working on cases. Impunity was common due to politicization of and corruption within the judiciary and regular manipulation of the judicial process by defense attorneys who pushed statutes of limitations to expire before trials reached conclusion.

Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and a right of appeal. Both defendants and prosecutors may present written testimony from witnesses and other evidence. Defendants may confront adverse witnesses, except in cases involving domestic or international trafficking in persons, in which case victims may testify remotely or in the presence of the defendant’s lawyers, in lieu of the defendant. Defendants have the right to prompt information and detail of the indictments and charges they face, but some defendants received notification only when they faced arrest charges or seizure of their property.

Defendants have the right to access free interpretation services as necessary, including translation to Guarani–the country’s second official language. Defendants have the right to a trial without undue delay, although trials were often protracted, as well as the right to be present at the trial. Defendants have the right to communicate with an attorney of their choice or one provided at public expense. Defendants have the right to a reasonable amount of time to prepare their defense and to access their legal files. Defendants may confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence. Defendants are not compelled to testify or confess guilt and may choose to remain silent.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Citizens have access to the courts to file lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations. There are administrative and judicial remedies for alleged wrongs, and authorities generally granted them to citizens. The court may order civil remedies, including fair compensation to the injured party; however, the government experienced problems enforcing court orders in such cases. Individuals and organizations may appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The government generally enforced court orders with respect to seizure, restitution, or compensation for taking private property. Systemic inadequacies within the land registry system, however, prevented the government from compiling a reliable inventory of its landholdings. Registered land far exceeded the size of the country, and there were allegations of corruption within local government and the National Institute for Rural Development and Land, the government agency charged with implementing land reform, and reports of forced evictions.

The dispute between Brazilian-Paraguayan families claiming title to 555,436 acres of land and farming families occupying 222,965 acres of the disputed land in Colonia Guahory, Caaguazu Department, continued throughout the year. Police attempted to conduct several eviction operations, but the farming families remained in place. Legal counsel for the small-scale farming families alleged the Brazilian-Paraguayan families illegally purchased titles to the land. The case was pending as of October 15.

Despite the government’s acceptance of the donation of the disputed land on which the 2012 Curuguaty/Marina Cue confrontation occurred, the Public Registry refused to register the property. Officials explained they could not act until lawsuits establishing previous ownership were resolved.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions, but there were reports that members of the security forces failed to respect the law in certain instances. NGOs, local Roman Catholic Church organizations, and some national legislators alleged FTC personnel in the departments of Concepcion, San Pedro, and Amambay searched homes and schools without warrants. Catholic priests accused FTC personnel of sexual harassment against women living in the area of FTC operations. The Special Human Rights Unit in the Attorney General’s Office did not receive reports of any new cases of unlawful interference with private correspondence during the year, but it continued to investigate cases from previous years.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The law and constitution provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected these rights. An independent press and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of speech and press for the most part, although widespread corruption in the judiciary hindered protections in court.

Violence and Harassment: Journalists occasionally suffered harassment, intimidation, and violence, primarily from drug-trafficking gangs and criminal groups, but also from politicians and police. Media and international NGOs reported several such incidents against journalists.

On March 22, a prosecutor with the Attorney General’s Office summoned ABC Color journalist Mabel Rehnfeldt to testify regarding a case of corruption, seeking to compel her to reveal the identity of the source who had secretly recorded a number of audiotapes relevant to the case. The audiotapes, which Rehnfeldt made public, exposed massive political interference and corruption in the Justice Tribunal, which ostensibly provides disciplinary oversight for judges and prosecutors. Journalist associations protested the prosecutor’s decision, claiming it constituted an affront to a journalist’s right to protect her sources, a right safeguarded by the constitution.

Brazilian drug trafficker Felipe “Baron” Escurra Rodriguez, who had reportedly planned to kill well known journalist Candido Figueredo Ruiz, remained at large despite Paraguayan police efforts to recapture him. In 2012 Brazilian police intercepted a call involving Escurra in which he discussed killing Figueredo for reporting on Escurra’s illicit activities along the Paraguay-Brazil border. Escurra had been in custody since his arrest after a shootout with SENAD agents in 2016. In September 2017 Judge Leonjino Benitez released Escurra, but the order was subsequently revoked.

Authorities continued to search for Wilson Acosta Marques, whom they accused of participating in the 2014 assassination of ABC Colorjournalist Pablo Medina and his assistant Antonia Chaparro. Flavio Acosta Riveros, the alleged assassin (and Wilson’s nephew), remained in a Brazilian prison awaiting extradition.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

The International Telecommunication Union reported 68 percent of inhabitants used the internet in 2017.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the freedoms of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation and the government generally respected these rights. The government’s National Commission of Refugees cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern. The NGO Committee of Churches for Emergency Aid acted as the local legal representative of UNHCR.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees.

Durable Solutions: Authorities permitted persons whose asylum or refugee status cases were refused to seek other migration options, including obtaining legal permanent residency in the country or returning to the most recent point of embarkation. The government did not assist in the safe, voluntary return of refugees to their homes but rather relied on UNHCR assistance to facilitate such returns.

Philippines

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

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

There were numerous reports that government security agencies and their informal allies committed arbitrary or unlawful killings in connection with the government-directed campaign against illegal drugs. Killings of activists, judicial officials, local government leaders, and journalists by antigovernment insurgents and unknown assailants also continued.

From July 2016 to July 2018, law enforcement agencies reported that an average of six persons died daily in antidrug operations. The 105,658 antidrug operations conducted from July 2016 to September 2018 led to the deaths of 4,854 civilians and 87 members of the security forces. Government data on the antidrug campaign were provided through #RealNumbersPH, operated by the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs. In an illustrative case, an unknown gunman shot and killed Tanauan City Mayor Antonio Halili during a flag ceremony at city hall on July 2. Mayor Halili was on the president’s “narco list” and known for his “Walk of Shame” parade for drug suspects. Three other mayors and two vice-mayors were killed in similar incidents.

The reported number of alleged extrajudicial killings varied widely, since government and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) used different definitions. The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), an independent government agency responsible for investigating alleged human rights violations, investigated 301 new complaints of alleged extrajudicial or politically motivated killings involving 387 victims as of August, including 70 cases of drug-related extrajudicial killings involving 90 victims. The CHR suspected PNP or Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) involvement in 208 of these new complaints and the armed forces (AFP) or paramilitary personnel in 19 cases. The CHR attributed the higher number of investigations of extrajudicial killings to an increase in investigations initiated on its own authority based on monitoring news reports, reports to the CHR in social media, or information received following CHR outreach efforts.

The PNP’s Task Force Usig, responsible for investigating and monitoring killings of members of the press, labor activists, and foreigners, opened no new cases from January to July.

The NGO Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), which documented cases of alleged state perpetrated, politically motivated killings carried out by unspecified security forces, was unable to provide data for the reporting year. The TFDP covered such cases separately from killings in the antidrug campaign.

President Duterte continued his anticrime campaign, specifically targeting the widespread trafficking and abuse of illegal narcotics. Fatalities fell dramatically following the PNP’s suspension of the counternarcotics campaign in accordance with a presidential memorandum in October 2017. The president reversed the suspension in December 2017 and reported extrajudicial killings increased, but to a lower level than prior to the suspension. On July 23, in his State of the Nation Address, the president reiterated that the drug war was “far from over” and would continue to be “relentless and chilling.” In specific cases President Duterte commented that if police were found to be corrupt, they should go to jail, or that he would deploy a “special unit” of officers to hunt and kill them.

Civil society organizations accused police of planting evidence, tampering with crime scenes, unlawfully disposing of the bodies of drug suspects, and other actions to cover up extrajudicial killings. The CHR reported that the PNP refused to share information on investigations into police and vigilante killings, as required by the constitution. The Supreme Court ruled that the PNP must turn over documents. The PNP indicated in May that it had turned over 95 percent of the required records to the solicitor general, although it was not clear whether these records were subsequently turned over to the Supreme Court.

President Duterte continued to maintain lists of suspected drug criminals, including government, police, military officials, and members of the judiciary. Many viewed the list as an implied threat. The list now includes 96 politicians. PDEA Chief Aaron Aquino reported in July that the president would no longer publicly announce the names on the list because of “complications” that followed doing so.

b. Disappearance

The AFP Human Rights Office reported no cases of forced disappearance attributed to or implicating government authorities from January to August. Separately, the CHR reported five cases of abduction and forced disappearance from January to August.

The law allows family members of alleged victims of disappearances to compel government agencies to provide statements in court about what they know regarding the circumstances surrounding a disappearance (or extrajudicial killing) and the victim’s status. Evidence of a kidnapping or killing requires the filing of charges, but in many past cases, evidence and documentation were unavailable or not collected. Investigative and judicial action on disappearance cases was insufficient; a small number of previously reported cases were prosecuted.

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

The constitution and law prohibit torture, and evidence obtained through its use is inadmissible in court. According to the CHR, however, members of the security forces and police allegedly routinely abused and sometimes tortured suspects and detainees. Common forms of abuse during arrest and interrogation reportedly included electric shock, cigarette burns, and suffocation.

As of August the CHR had investigated 30 cases of alleged torture involving 36 victims; it suspected police involvement in eight of the cases. In March, several farmers and miners from the Compostela Valley in Mindanao filed a complaint with the CHR alleging that AFP soldiers beat and burned them in November 2017 because the soldiers suspected the miners and farmers were members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

There were no convictions specifically for torture during the year, but a few cases continued under the antitorture law.

According to NGOs and press reports, mental abuse, including shaming–illegal under the Anti-Torture Act–reportedly occurred, especially in drug cases. In July local media reported on strip searches of drug suspects, including women, conducted in March by Makati City police officers. Videos of the incident showed police officers laughing during the searches, including that of a naked woman.

As part of the antidrug campaign, authorities called on drug criminals to turn themselves in to police to avoid more severe consequences. As of June the PNP reported 1,274,148 surrenders facilitated since July 2016, although civil society actors questioned the official figures. Civil society and other observers claimed a climate of fear led many persons associated with drugs to surrender.

Reports of rape and sexual abuse of women in police or protective custody continued. The Center for Women’s Resources reported eight cases of rape involving 16 police officers from January 2017 to July 2018. The Center noted that many of the rapes occurred in connection with police antidrug operations.

The United Nations reported receiving one allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse against a Filipino peacekeeper deployed to the UN Mission in Liberia. The case, which alleged the rape of a minor, was reported in 2017. An investigation by both the United Nations and the Philippine government was pending.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were often harsh and potentially life threatening and, in most cases, included gross overcrowding, inadequate sanitary conditions, physical abuse, and constant lack of resources including medical care and food.

NGOs reported that abuses by prison guards and other inmates were common, but they stated that prisoners, fearing retaliation, declined to lodge formal complaints.

The juvenile justice law exempts minors from criminal liability. Drug syndicates often used minors as runners, traffickers, cultivators, or drug den employees. Rescued minors are turned over to the custody of Department of Social Welfare and Development. In accordance with the juvenile justice law, police stations had youth relations officers to ensure that authorities treated minor suspects appropriately, but in some cases they ignored procedural safeguards and facilities were not child friendly. The law mandates that the Social Welfare Department provide shelter, treatment, and rehabilitation services to these children. From January to June, the department assisted 1,650 children in conflict with the law (that is, alleged as, accused of, or judged as having committed an offense) in 16 rehabilitation centers nationwide. Additionally, several local governments established and managed youth centers that provided protection, care, training, and rehabilitation for these children and other at-risk youth.

Physical Conditions: The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), under the Department of Justice, administered seven prisons and penal farms nationwide for individuals sentenced to prison terms exceeding three years. BuCor facilities operated at more than 2.5 times the official capacity of 16,010, holding 43,978 prisoners. The capacity remained the same as in 2017, but the number of prisoners grew by 2,000.

The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), under the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the PNP, controlled 926 city, district, municipal, and provincial jails that held pretrial detainees, persons awaiting final judgment, and convicts serving sentences of three years or less. The BJMP reported its jails operated at an average of more than four times their designated capacity; the CHR reported BJMP jails were at 612 percent of capacity. Overcrowding led to a staff-to-detainee ratio of approximately 1:74. The Navotas City Jail, in one of the poorest areas in Metro Manila, had an official capacity of 23 inmates, yet as of July held 937 prisoners. Several NGOs observed that overcrowding was more severe in smaller cities, a condition that reportedly triggered violence among inmates and promoted gang rivalries.

The CHR confirmed that overcrowding had worsened because of the antidrug campaign, and that this was compounded by the June order to arrest loiterers (see “Arbitrary Arrest or Detention” below). According to Manila Police District statistics, 55 inmates died due to overcrowding in detention facilities between July 2016 and June 2018.

Juveniles younger than 18 years were typically released by court order or following a petition by the Public Attorney’s Office, the inmate’s private lawyer, or through NGO-led appeals. As of July juveniles made up less than 1 percent of the prison population.

Prison authorities did not uniformly enforce BJMP and BuCor regulations that require holding male and female inmates in separate facilities, and, in national prisons, overseeing them with guards of the same sex. In some facilities, authorities did not fully segregate juveniles from adults. BJMP and BuCor reported insufficient custodial and escort personnel, especially in large jails, with about 70 prisoners assigned to each custodial staff member. In larger prisons, for example, such as the New Bilibid Prison, one prison guard oversaw 100 to 150 prisoners.

Reports indicated that poor sanitation, inadequate ventilation, poor access to natural lighting, and a lack of potable water were chronic problems in correctional facilities and contributed to health problems. From January to July, BuCor and the BJMP reported 766 inmate deaths, a death rate of 0.42 percent. Prison authorities report that most deaths were the result of illness. Authorities provided BuCor inmates with medical care; however, some medical services and treatments were not available. In such cases, authorities referred inmates to an outside hospital. Inmates received a medicine allowance of 10 Philippine pesos ($0.19) per day. For example, congestion at the Manila Police District 9, Binan Police Station Custodial Facility, a BJMP Facility in San Pedro City, led some detainees to suffer from an apparently bacterial infection that, in one case, led to death.

Opportunities for prisoner recreation, learning, and self-improvement remained scarce.

Administration: The BJMP helped expedite court cases to promote speedy disposition of inmates’ cases. Through this program, authorities released 53,751 inmates from BJMP jails from January to July.

Prisoners, their families, and lawyers may submit complaints to constitutionally established independent government agencies, and the CHR referred complaints it received to the appropriate agency.

Authorities generally allowed prisoners and detainees to receive visitors, but local NGOs reported that authorities periodically restricted family visits for some detainees accused of insurgency-related crimes. Prison officials noted that security concerns and space limitations at times also restricted prisoner access to visitors.

Muslim officials reported that, while Muslim detainees were allowed to observe their religion, Roman Catholic mass was often broadcast by loudspeaker to prison populations of both Roman Catholic and non-Roman Catholic prisoners and detainees. BuCor has a rehabilitation program that focuses on inmates’ moral and spiritual concerns.

Independent Monitoring: Authorities permitted international monitoring groups, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, free and timely access to jails and prisons. The constitution grants the CHR authority to visit jails, prisons, or detention facilities to monitor the government’s compliance with international treaty obligations. The CHR reported some detention facilities still lacked an understanding of the CHR’s mandate and continued to deny CHR representatives access to detention facilities. For example, the Caloocan Yakap Center, a youth detention home in Metro Manila, required a CHR team to ask the head of the facility for permission to monitor compliance by submitting a letter prior to the visit.

Improvements: To reduce overcrowding, the government began to encourage plea bargaining in drug offense cases.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of persons to challenge the lawfulness of their arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements. As of July the Office of the Ombudsman, an independent agency responsible for investigating and prosecuting charges of public abuse and impropriety, reported 16 arbitrary detention violations committed by law enforcement agencies or the AFP.

In September, President Duterte declared void on procedural grounds the 2011 amnesty that opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV received for his leadership roles in a 2003 coup attempt and 2007 rebellion. President Duterte’s Presidential Proclamation declared Trillanes’ amnesty void because he did not follow correct procedures when applying for it.

During a June speech to newly promoted officers, President Duterte told police to arrest loiterers as an additional element of the antidrug campaign. While the PNP generally interpreted the remarks as a verbal directive to intensify enforcement of existing local ordinances, such as those against public urination or intoxication, there were also reports of forced confessions of drug use and of deaths in detention among those arrested for loitering. For example, after his arrest in June for loitering, 25-year-old Genesis “Tisoy” Argoncillo was held along with murder suspects despite the minor charges against him. Argoncillo died after cellmates allegedly beat him to death.

On August 16, police detained three lawyers during a drug operation at a bar in Manila. Police asserted that the three harassed them by demanding to see the search warrant, blocking their access to parts of the building, and taking photographs. The lawyers, representing one of the bar’s owners, claimed they were present to take notes and observe the operation. Police charged the three with obstruction of justice.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The 180,000 member PNP is charged with maintaining internal security in most of the country and reports to the Department of the Interior and Local Government. The AFP, which reports to the Department of National Defense, is responsible for external security but also carries out domestic security functions in regions with a high incidence of conflict, particularly in areas of Mindanao. The two agencies share responsibility for counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations. The PNP Special Action Force is responsible, in particular, for urban counterterrorism operations. President Duterte’s May 2017 declaration of martial law for the entire region of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago was extended to the end of December 2018, giving the military expanded powers. Human rights groups continued to express concern about the potential for human rights abuses.

Governors, mayors, and other local officials have considerable influence over local police units, including appointment of top departmental and municipal police officers and the provision of resources, an arrangement that often resulted in graft and corruption.

The PNP’s institutional deficiencies and the public perception that corruption was endemic within the force continued.

PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde, appointed in April, publicly reiterated his desire to cleanse the PNP ranks of corruption. This included reporting to the IAS more than 600 officers who allegedly committed human rights violations during antidrug operations since July 2016, and having the PNP’s Counter-Intelligence Task Force monitor police personnel suspected of illegal activities. From January to July, the PNP reported that 441 of its personnel were accused of committing human rights violations. Of these, it claimed, court charges were pending in 375 cases, 50 personnel were exonerated; 10 cases were dismissed; four persons were dismissed from service, one suspended, and one demoted. An additional 21 PNP personnel were dismissed from service for actions taken in antidrug operations. The IAS, mandated to ensure police operate within the law, remained largely ineffective. In April the IAS reported that from 2015 to 2017, final reports with a recommendation for action had been submitted to PNP leadership in only 721 out of 2,431 cases. The IAS reported that manpower and resource limitations hampered the legally required investigations into deaths resulting from police operations, but asserted nonetheless that 100 percent of the deaths in police shootings resulted from legitimate, lawful police actions.

Other government mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption in the security forces were poorly resourced and remained largely ineffective.

In the 2017 killing of juvenile Kian delos Santos, however, prosecutors and the courts moved swiftly to hold the officers directly responsible to account. On November 29, the Caloocan City Regional Trial Court found three police officers guilty of the killing, sentencing each to 40 years’ imprisonment and ordering them to pay the victim’s family 345,000 pesos ($6,450). Previously, President Duterte had said of the killing, which sparked a public backlash against the antidrug campaign, “this is not performance of duty.” The presidential spokesperson hailed the verdict. Human rights activists welcomed the convictions, but also called on the government to take far more action to bring perpetrators of killings to justice.

President Duterte publicly condemned corruption in government and the security forces. From January to August, complainants reported 114 cases of alleged military and law enforcement involvement in human rights abuses to the Office of the Ombudsman, including killings, injuries, unlawful arrest, and torture. A majority of the cases were against low-ranking officials. As of August all cases, except one dismissed case, remained open pending additional investigation.

Many cases from previous years were still open. Of the police officers involved cases of killings in 2017 of minors allegedly involved in the drug trade, only five were jailed and indicted; four of their superiors were cleared of command responsibility and promoted.

Efforts continued to reform and professionalize the PNP through improved training, expanded community outreach, and salary increases. Human rights modules were included in all PNP career courses, and the PNP Human Rights Affairs Office conducted routine training nationwide on human rights responsibilities in policing. Several NGOs suggested that PNP training courses should have a follow up mechanism to determine the effectiveness of each session.

The AFP Human Rights Office monitored and reviewed alleged human rights abuses involving members of the military. From January through July, the office identified and investigated five reported incidents, including a forced disappearance, two extrajudicial killings, and an alleged murder.

The military routinely provided human rights training to its members, augmented by training from the CHR. The AFP used its revised Graduated Curricula on Human Rights/International Humanitarian Law for the Military to provide a uniform standard of training across service branches. The AFP adhered to a 2005 Presidential Memorandum requiring the incorporation of human rights and international humanitarian law into all AFP education and training courses. Successful completion of these courses is required to complete basic training and for induction, promotion, reassignment, and selection for foreign schooling opportunities. From January to August, various AFP service units conducted a total of 59 human rights-related training programs, seminars, or workshops. CHR representatives noted that participants were highly engaged.

The Congressional Commission on Appointments determines whether senior military officers selected for promotion have a history of human rights violations and solicits input from the CHR and other agencies through background investigations. The commission may withhold a promotion indefinitely if it uncovers a record of abuses. Violations, however, do not preclude promotion.

Human rights groups noted little progress in implementing and enforcing reforms aimed at improving investigations and prosecutions of suspected human rights violations. Potential witnesses often were unable to obtain protection through the witness protection program managed by the Department of Justice due to inadequate funding or procedural delays or failure to step forward because of doubts about the program’s effectiveness. The CHR operated a smaller witness protection program that was overburdened by witnesses to killings in the antidrug campaign. The loss of family income due to the relocation of a family member was also, in some cases, a barrier to witnesses’ testimony. The Office of the Ombudsman also reported that witnesses often failed to come forward, or failed to cooperate, in police abuse or corruption cases. This problem sometimes followed pressure on witnesses and their families or arose from an expectation of compensation for their cooperation.

The government continued to support and arm civilian militias. The AFP controlled Civilian Armed Force Geographical Units (CAFGUs), while Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVOs) fell under PNP command. These paramilitary units often received minimal training and were poorly monitored and regulated. Some political families and clan leaders, particularly in Mindanao, maintained private armies and, at times, recruited CVO and CAFGU members into those armies.

Prolonged delays in the justice system reinforced the perception of impunity for national, provincial, and local government actors accused of human rights abuses.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Warrants based on sufficient evidence and issued by an authorized official are required for an arrest unless 1) the suspect is observed attempting to commit, in the act of committing, or just after committing an offense; 2) there is probable cause based on personal knowledge that the suspect just committed an offense; or 3) the suspect is an escaped prisoner. Authorities are required to file charges within 12 to 36 hours for arrests made without warrants, depending on the seriousness of the crime. In terrorism cases, the law permits warrantless arrests and detention without charges for up to three days.

Detainees have the right to bail, except when held for capital offenses or those punishable by a life sentence. The bail system largely functioned as intended, and suspects were allowed to appeal a judge’s decision to deny bail. The law provides an accused or detained person the right to choose a lawyer and, if the suspect cannot afford one, to have the state provide one. Due to an underresourced Public Attorney’s Office, however, indigent persons had limited access to public defenders.

Arbitrary Arrest: Security forces continued to detain individuals, including juveniles, arbitrarily and without warrants on charges other than terrorism, especially in areas of armed conflict.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem due largely to the slow and ineffectual justice system. According to the Supreme Court, there were more than 780,000 pending cases before 2,617 first and second level courts nationwide, 78 percent of which were pending before 1,054 regional trial courts. Pending cases were not evenly distributed among the courts, which resulted in some severely overburdened courts. Large jails employed paralegals to monitor inmates’ cases, prevent detention beyond the maximum sentence, and assist with decongestion efforts.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. Corruption through nepotism, personal connections, and sometimes bribery continued to result in relative impunity for wealthy or influential offenders. Insufficient personnel, inefficient processes, and long procedural delays also hindered the judicial system. These factors contributed to widespread skepticism that the criminal justice system delivered due process and equal justice.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno was removed from office in June due to her alleged failure to submit all wealth declaration documents when she applied for the position in 2012. Human rights groups alleged Sereno’s vocal opposition to the conduct of the drug war played a significant role in the decision.

Trials took place as a series of separate hearings, often months apart, as witnesses and court time became available, contributing to lengthy delays. There was a widely recognized need for more prosecutors, judges, and courtrooms. As of June 30, approximately one-third of authorized prosecutor positions (1,060 positions) were unfilled. Sharia (Islamic law) court positions continued to be particularly difficult to fill because of the requirement that applicants be members of both the Sharia Bar and the Integrated Bar. Sharia courts do not have criminal jurisdiction. Although the Prosecutor General received authority to hire hundreds of new prosecutors for sharia courts, training for them was of short duration and considered inadequate.

The Supreme Court continued efforts to provide speedier trials, reduce judicial malfeasance, increase judicial branch efficiency, and raise public confidence in the judiciary. It continued to implement guidelines to accelerate resolution of cases in which the maximum penalty would not exceed six years in prison. In 2016 the judiciary instituted new court rules and procedures for case processing that limited the postponement of hearings and made other procedural changes to expedite case processing. Implementation of the most significant part of the reform, e‑Courts and the Revised Guidelines for Continuous Trial of Criminal Cases in Pilot Courts, began in 2017.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a speedy, impartial, and public trial. An independent judiciary generally enforced this right, although not in a timely manner. The law requires that all persons accused of crimes be informed of the charges against them and grants rights to counsel, adequate time to prepare a defense, and a speedy and public trial before a judge. No criminal proceeding goes forward against a defendant without the presence of a lawyer. The law presumes defendants are innocent. They have the right to confront witnesses against them, be present at their trial, present evidence in their favor, appeal convictions, and not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. The court may appoint an interpreter if necessary. If the court’s interpreter makes serious mistakes, a party can challenge the interpretation. The government generally implemented these requirements, except for the right to a speedy trial.

Although the law provides that cases should be resolved within three months to two years, depending on the court, trials effectively had no time limits. Government officials estimated it took an average of five to six years to obtain a decision. In September a court convicted retired general Jovito Palparan and two subordinates of kidnapping and illegal detention after a four-year-long trial. The incident, in 2006, involved the disappearance of two university students. Palparan, who was allegedly also deeply involved in extrajudicial killings and torture, was sentenced to life imprisonment. His conviction was a positive example of the courts’ ability to hold security force leaders accountable for their actions.

Authorities respected a defendant’s right to representation by a lawyer, but poverty often inhibited access to effective legal counsel. The Public Attorney’s Office, which reports to the Department of Justice, did not have the necessary resources to fulfill its constitutional mandate and used its limited resources to represent indigent defendants at trial rather than during arraignments or pretrial hearings. During pretrial hearings courts may appoint any lawyer present in the courtroom to provide on-the-spot counsel to the accused.

Sentencing decisions were not always consistent with legal guidelines, and judicial decisions sometimes appeared arbitrary.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

Under a 1945 law, the government defines political prisoners as those who may be accused of any crime against national security. Using this definition, BuCor reported 185 political prisoners in its facilities as of August. The BJMP does not track political prisoners and defines prisoners based only on security risk.

Various human rights NGOs maintained lists of incarcerated persons they considered political prisoners. The TFDP tracked political detainees, most of whom were in pretrial detention. The TFDP noted that, in the majority of cases, authorities mixed political prisoners with the general inmate population, except in the National Bilibid Prison, where they held most political prisoners in maximum-security facilities.

Two years after her arrest, during which prosecutors used a variety of legal tactics to delay arraignment, including filing new and amending previous charges, Senator Leila de Lima was arraigned in August on a charge of conspiracy to commit drug trading. An arraignment scheduled for May was postponed when prosecutors sought another opportunity to revise the charges. The opening of the trial in September was postponed when a prosecution witness recanted his testimony. De Lima’s case began in 2016 after she opened hearings into killings related to the antidrug campaign. Although in detention, de Lima had access to the media and some visitors. Her case attracted widespread domestic and international attention, with many observers denouncing the charges as politically motivated.

The government permitted regular access to political prisoners by international humanitarian organizations.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Most analysts regarded the judiciary as independent and impartial in civil matters. Complainants have access to local trial courts to seek civil damages for, or cessation of, human rights abuses. There are administrative as well as judicial remedies for civil complaints, although overburdened local courts often dismissed these cases. There were no regional human rights tribunals that could hear an appeal from the country.

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

The government generally respected citizens’ privacy, although leaders of communist and leftist organizations and rural-based NGOs alleged routine surveillance and harassment. Authorities routinely relied on informant systems to obtain information on terrorist suspects and for the antidrug campaign. Although the government generally respected restrictions on search and seizure within private homes, searches without warrants continued to occur. Judges generally declared evidence obtained illegally to be inadmissible.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution provides for freedom of speech, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.

Freedom of Expression: Individuals reported they could criticize the government publicly or privately or discuss matters of general public interest. Civil society organizations reported, however, that President Duterte’s public attacks on individuals and international bodies who criticized his policies had a chilling effect on free speech and expression.

Press and Media Freedom: The media remained active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction, including criticism of the government, despite critical and threatening comments from political leadership, including the president. Some media commentators criticized media outlets for lacking rigorous journalistic standards or for reflecting the political orientations or economic interests of owners or boards of directors. Broadcast media contacts reported pressure from their boards of directors to report positively on the government for fear of economic retaliation on their business interests.

Online news company Rappler was the target of substantial government pressure due to its critical coverage of the government. In January the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revoked Rappler’s operating license on the grounds that its agreement with the U.S.-based Omidyar Network violated constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership of media. In July the Court of Appeals upheld the SEC ruling but asked the SEC to re-evaluate the case while noting that the SEC should have given Rappler “reasonable time” to correct its relationship with Omidyar. Rappler continued to operate as of November. The government also filed tax fraud and other (see below) criminal complaints against Rappler. The Department of Justice indicted Rappler Holdings, its president, Maria Ressa, and Rappler accountant Noel Baladiang for tax evasion in November, allegations Rappler Holdings’ legal counsel denies.

Journalists noted that President Duterte’s tendency to single out reporters who asked tough questions had a chilling effect on their willingness to engage, in large part due to a fear of losing access. In the year to July, four government offices restricted journalist access to events and press briefings.

Violence and Harassment: Journalists continued to face harassment and threats of violence, including from politicians and government authorities critical of their reporting. Human rights NGOs frequently criticized the government for failing to protect journalists. The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) reported that, in July, three journalists and an intern covering a picket line in Central Luzon were attacked, threatened, arrested, and unjustly accused of possessing illegal drugs and firearms by the police, who claimed they recovered drugs and guns from the news correspondents. The journalists and intern were released in August, but police alleged they were spreading alarm and scandal, and constituted an illegal assembly.

The CMFR reported the deaths of seven journalists or media workers through July, but has not yet determined whether the killings were related to their work. As of July murder charges were filed against suspects in one case; the others were under investigation.

Journalists and media personalities reported an increase in online threats, including of violence and harassment, in response to articles and comments critical of the government. The NGO Freedom House reported in late 2017 that the Duterte administration hired workers, a “keyboard army,” to participate in online attacks against critics, especially journalists, whom they viewed as critical of the administration and to support the antidrug campaign.

In April, after Facebook selected Rappler and Vera Files as third-party fact checkers for the country, the Presidential Communications Operations Office publicly criticized the selection, calling the outlets “partisan” for not supporting the president.

In July Senate President Vicente Sotto III requested the online news website Inquirer.net take down three opinion pieces (two from 2014 and one from 2016) alleging his involvement in a 1982 rape case. The news website temporarily removed the articles pending an internal investigation. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines called Sotto’s request an affront to press freedom. In August the National Union of Journalists and the CMFR criticized the Presidential Task Force on Media Security and an administration media official for pressuring a community newspaper to take down a story quoting the head of the task force.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: President Duterte repeatedly criticized ABS-CBN, the nation’s most influential network, for the station’s failure to air his political advertisements during the 2016 election campaign. He publicly threatened to block renewal of the network’s franchise, which expires in 2020, but later backtracked and claimed he would not intervene. The law requires broadcast stations to secure a franchise from Congress, the current majority of which is aligned with the president.

During the November ASEAN Summit in Singapore, administration officials barred some foreign media outlets from covering Philippine press briefings; the journalists were later granted access but were not allowed to ask questions.

Libel/Slander Laws: The law contains criminal penalties for libel. Authorities used criminal defamation charges, which carry the possibility of imprisonment and fines, to harass, intimidate, and retaliate against journalists. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed a cyberlibel complaint against Rappler in March, after a prominent businessman had brought to the bureau’s attention a 2012 article linking him to human trafficking and drug smuggling. The NBI initially rejected the case as lacking any legal basis, but subsequently recommended the Department of Justice pursue charges against Rappler. Formal charges were still pending as of November. The CMFR received one additional report of a journalist accused of libel in the year to August.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communication without appropriate legal authority. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 60 percent of the population used the internet in 2017.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for the right to peaceful assembly, and police generally exhibited professionalism and restraint in dealing with demonstrators. Presidential spokesman Harry Roque stated in January that authorities would “observe maximum tolerance” and “respect the protesters’ right to peaceful assembly.” There was no reported progress in the PNP’s investigation of the forcible dispersal of farmers and protesters in Kidapawan City in 2016 that left two protesters dead and many others injured. A CHR investigation found that the PNP used unnecessary force to disperse the protest. No disciplinary action was taken, and no charges were filed as of August.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. The government cooperated with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern. There were no reports the government exerted pressure or threatened refugees to return to the country from which they had fled.

Foreign Travel: Government limits on foreign travel were generally based on security or personal safety factors, such as when a citizen had a pending court case, or to discourage travel by vulnerable workers to countries where they could face personal security risks, including trafficking or other exploitation. The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration manages departures for work abroad. It requires overseas workers to register and receive predeparture screening, training, and certification before traveling, and is intended to ensure that future overseas workers deal with legitimate, licensed recruitment agencies.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPS)

Decades of sectarian and political insurgency, sporadic interclan fighting, and natural disasters have generated significant internal displacement. The number of IDPs was uncertain and fluctuated widely. Counterinsurgency campaigns against the ASG, primarily in Sulu and Basilan Provinces, and clashes with the NPA, concentrated in the most geographically remote provinces, caused sporadic and small-scale displacement. Most IDPs were women and children.

In Mindanao, UNHCR reported that as of June an estimated 143,033 persons were displaced and in need of durable solutions. Of those, an estimated 98,433 were displaced by crime or violence, 36,617 by armed conflict, and 7,983 by natural disasters.

Government agencies, often with support from UN agencies and other international donors, provided food (although NGOs noted that food aid was sometimes delayed); constructed shelters and public infrastructure; repaired schools; built sanitation facilities; offered immunization, health, and social services; and provided cash assistance and skills training for IDPs. The government permitted humanitarian organizations access to IDP sites. Security forces sometimes carried out military operations near IDP sites, increasing the risk of casualties and damage, and restricting freedom of movement. Impoverished IDPs were highly susceptible to human trafficking networks. Additionally, despite a government policy of free public education, significant numbers of children in displaced families were unable to attend school because of unofficial school fees and transportation expenses.

At times the government encouraged IDPs to return home, but they were often reluctant to do so for security or welfare reasons.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: No comprehensive legislation provides for granting refugee status or asylum. The Department of Justice’s Refugee and Stateless Persons Protections Unit (RSPPU) determines which applicants qualify as refugees in accordance with an established, accessible system that appeared to provide basic due process. From January to July, the RSPPU received 129 asylum applications, and granted 20. The RSPPU reported 493 refugees in the country as of July 31; 11 refugees transited under the Emergency Transit Mechanism according to UNHCR.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The government cooperated with UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations to assist refugee transit through the country pursuant to a Department of Foreign Affairs-UNHCR memorandum of agreement.

Employment: The government allowed refugees to work (see section 7.d.).

Access to Basic Services: In 2017, 16 agencies signed the Inter-Agency Agreement on the Protection of Asylum Seekers, Refugees, and Stateless Persons, which commits them to provide government services, including education and health care, to affected persons.

STATELESS PERSONS

The Department of Justice is responsible for statelessness determinations of persons born in the country and of newly arrived persons. According to revised rules, after an applicant files for a determination of statelessness, deportation or exclusion proceedings against the applicant and dependents are suspended, and the applicant may be released from detention. As of July, five stateless persons were in the country. None were classified as refugees.

Stateless persons may be naturalized. As of August there were no known cases of social discrimination against stateless persons or limits on their access to public services.

As of August under a 2014 initiative to register persons of Indonesian descent at risk of statelessness in Southern Mindanao, the Philippine and Indonesian governments collectively registered 8,745 persons, of whom 6,744 had their citizenship confirmed. The Philippine and Indonesian governments jointly reaffirmed the provision of consular assistance to both documented and undocumented migrants of Indonesian descent.

Poland

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices. There were reports of problems, however, with police misconduct and corrections officers’ abuse of prisoners. The law lacks a clear legal definition of torture, but all actions that could be considered “torture” are prohibited and penalized in criminal proceedings under other provisions of the law that directly apply the country’s obligations under international treaties and conventions prohibiting torture. The law outlines disciplinary actions for police, including reprimand, demotion in rank, and dismissal. Civil society groups noted cases of police misconduct against persons in custody.

On January 30, the Lublin local court sentenced three former police officers to three- and one-year prison terms for using an electroshock weapon against two intoxicated men they detained in June 2017. The judge determined that this action met the definition of torture.

On July 12, the Wroclaw district court began a trial against four former police officers charged with abuse of power and physical and psychological violence against a 25-year-old man who died in police custody in Wroclaw in 2016. Video footage showed police beating and using an electroshock weapon on the man, who was handcuffed in a jail cell. In May 2017, the interior and administration minister had dismissed the Lower Silesia regional police commander, deputy commander, and the Wroclaw city police chief in response to the incident.

On July 25, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) published a report on its May 2017 visit to detention facilities in the country. The report cited a number of allegations of excessive force used at the time of apprehension against persons who did not resist arrest and a few allegations of punches and kicks in the course of questioning. The CPT concluded that persons taken into police custody in the country continued to run an appreciable risk of mistreatment.

On August 27, the human rights defender notified the prosecutor’s office that police beat a 70-year-old man in their custody in Ryki on August 22 over suspicions he had vandalized the grave of a police officer.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions were adequate. There were no significant reports regarding prison or detention center conditions that raised human rights concerns. Nonetheless, insufficient prison medical staff and limited prisoner access to specialized medical treatment continued to be problems.

Physical Conditions: While authorities generally separated juveniles from adults, the law allows shared housing in prisons and detention centers in exceptional cases. Juveniles were at times held together with adult prisoners. Authorities usually sent juveniles between the ages of 17 and 21 accused of serious crimes to pretrial detention.

The law permits authorities to commit prisoners to the National Center for the Prevention of Dissocial Behaviors when they have served their prison sentences and have undergone a custodial therapy program, but have mental disabilities believed to create a high probability they would commit another serious crime against a person.

Administration: Authorities investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions and made their findings publicly accessible. The human rights defender may join proceedings in civil and administrative courts on behalf of prisoners and detainees, either when these file a complaint or when information otherwise leads to an allegation of inhuman conditions. The human rights defender administers the national preventive mechanism, an independent program responsible for monitoring conditions and treatment of detainees in prisons and detention facilities.

Independent Monitoring: The government allowed independent monitoring of prison conditions and detention centers on a regular basis by local human rights groups as well as by the CPT. The Helsinki Human Rights Foundation and other local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) made occasional visits to prisons.

Improvements: In response to reports of police mistreatment, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration announced police officers would receive cameras to record all interventions. During the year police received more than 2,000 such cameras.

During the year the government continued implementation of a four-year, two billion zloty ($450 million) prison administration modernization plan to improve the security of detention facilities, prison infrastructure and working conditions for prison guards from 2017 to 2020.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and the law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The police force is a national law enforcement body with regional and municipal units overseen by the Ministry of the Interior and Administration. The border guard is responsible for border security and combating irregular migration; it reports to the Ministry of the Interior and Administration. The Internal Security Agency (ABW) has responsibility for investigating and combating organized crime, terrorist threats, and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The Central Anticorruption Bureau (CBA) is responsible for combating government, business, and financial corruption. The prime minister appoints the head and deputy heads of the CBA and supervises the bureau, which may investigate any matter involving public funds. The prime minister supervises the heads of both ABW and CBA, which also report to parliament.

The 2016 counterterrorism law designates the ABW as the primary authority for combatting terrorism and increased its law-enforcement powers. The human rights defender withdrew its 2017 referral of the law to the Constitutional Court, stating that the judges selected to hear the case were not legally appointed to the Constitutional Court.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the police force, the border guard, the ABW, and the CBA, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The constitution and the law require authorities to obtain a court warrant based on evidence to make an arrest, and authorities generally complied with the law. The constitution and the law allow detention of a person for 48 hours before authorities must file charges and an additional 24 hours for the court to decide whether to order pretrial detention. The law allows authorities to hold terrorism suspects without charges for up to 14 days. The law sets a five-day limit for holding a juvenile in a police establishment for children if the juvenile escaped from a shelter or an educational or correctional facility. It allows police to hold for up to 24 hours in a police establishment for children a juvenile who is being transferred to a shelter or an educational or correctional facility, in case of a “justified interruption of convoy.” The law provides that police should immediately notify a detained person of the reasons for his or her detention and of his or her rights. Usually this information is initially delivered orally; later, at the police station, the detainee signs a statement that he or she has been advised of his rights and duties. Police give the detained person a copy of the report on his detention. Authorities generally respected these rights. Only a court may order pretrial detention.

There was a functioning bail system, and authorities released most detainees on bail. Defendants and detainees have the right to consult an attorney at any time. The government provided free counsel to indigent defendants. The July 25 CPT report stated that access to a lawyer while in police custody was problematic in practice. On July 30, the president signed an amendment to the law on free legal counsel to facilitate access to free legal services to all citizens unable to afford legal fees. Under the previous law, free legal counsel, including at the pretrial stage, was restricted to poor, young, and senior citizens, veterans, members of multichild families, and victims of natural disasters. Authorities did not hold suspects incommunicado or under house arrest.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

While the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, the government adopted measures during the year that some claim limited the scope of judicial independence. During the year the government continued to implement and introduce new measures related to the judiciary that drew strong criticism from some legal experts, NGOs, and international organizations. In April and May, the president signed into law amendments to the common courts law, the National Judiciary Council law, and the 2017 amendments to the Supreme Court law in response to the December 2017 European Commission rule of law recommendation and infringement procedure.

On July 2, the European Commission launched an infringement procedure against the country two days before provisions of the revised Supreme Court law lowering the mandatory retirement age for judges went into effect, affecting 27 of the 74 Supreme Court justices at that time. The chief justice of the Supreme Court refused to recognize the president’s authority to force her retirement, arguing her constitutionally established length of term takes precedence over legislation lowering the mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court judges.

On August 2, the Supreme Court ruled to suspend further implementation of the mandatory retirement age provisions of the amended Supreme Court law, and requested that the European Court of Justice rule on whether these provisions comply with EU law. The president refused to acknowledge the Supreme Court’s suspension of the mandatory retirement provisions. On September 24, the European Commission referred the country’s amended Supreme Court law to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), stating “the Polish law on the Supreme Court is incompatible with EU law as it undermines the principle of judicial independence, including the irremovability of judges.” The European Commission asked the ECJ to review the law and order interim measures to restore the Supreme Court to its composition before the revised law was implemented. In September and October, the president continued to implement the amended Supreme Court law by appointing judges to the newly created disciplinary and extraordinary appeals chambers and to positions vacated by voluntarily retired judges. Some judicial experts, NGOs, and international organizations saw the president’s appointments as an attempt to preempt any adverse ruling by the ECJ. On October 19, the ECJ issued an interim injunction requiring the government to reinstate those judges who had been retired under the amended law. On November 19, the government submitted legislation to automatically reappoint all justices retired under the Supreme Court law to fulfill the ECJ’s interim measures, and President Duda signed the legislation into law on December 17. At the end of the year, the ECJ had not announced a date for considering the European Commission’s case against Poland’s Supreme Court law.

An increase in the average duration of judicial proceedings made the judiciary less effective. According to Justice Ministry statistics, the average trial lasted approximately 5.5 months in 2017, compared with 4.7 months in 2016 and 4.2 months in 2015. While the government claimed its judicial reforms were motivated at least in part to promote judicial efficiency, some legal experts asserted that the government’s judicial reforms had the opposite effect.

The trial continued of a former chief judge of the Krakow Appellate Court accused of abuse of powers, participating in an organized criminal group, and accepting bribes. The case is part of a wider anticorruption investigation into the Krakow Appellate Court in which 26 persons were charged, 13 of whom remained in pretrial detention.

The trial also continued of the former head of the appeals prosecutor’s office and Rzeszow regional prosecutor on charges of accepting bribes and abuse of power.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a fair public trial, and the judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and the right to prompt and detailed notification of the charges against them, with free interpretation for defendants who do not speak Polish from the moment charged through all appeals. They have the right to a fair and public trial without undue delay and the right to be present at their trial. Trials are usually public, although the courts reserve the right to close a trial in some circumstances, including divorce proceedings, cases involving state secrets, and cases whose content may offend public morality.

Defendants have the right to legal representation, and indigent defendants may consult an attorney provided without cost. The government must provide defendants and their attorneys adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants may confront and question witnesses and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Prosecutors may grant witnesses anonymity if they express fear of retribution from defendants. The prosecutor general may release to media information concerning any investigation, except if such information is classified, with due consideration to important public interests. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt.

After a court issues a verdict, a defendant has seven days to request a written statement of the judgment; courts must provide a response within 14 days. A defendant has the right to appeal a verdict within 14 days of the response. A two-level appeal process is available in most civil and criminal matters.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations. The government’s implementation of court orders, particularly for payment of damages, remained slow, and cumbersome.

After they exhaust remedies available in the domestic courts, persons have the right to appeal court decisions involving alleged government violations of the European Convention on Human Rights to the European Court for Human Rights.

The dispute regarding judicial appointments to the Constitutional Court in 2015 and 2016 was not resolved by the end of the year.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The law provides for restitution of communal property, such as synagogues and cemeteries, seized during the Communist era or under Nazi occupation, but the process proceeded slowly during the year. By the end of September the property commissions had resolved 7,000 of slightly more than 10,500 communal property claims.

The government has put in place legal and administrative procedures for private property restitution, but NGOs and advocacy groups reported it did not make significant progress on resolution of Holocaust-era claims, including for foreign citizens. No comprehensive law addresses the return of or compensation for private property, but individuals may seek the return of confiscated private property through administrative proceedings and the courts. NGOs and advocacy groups described the current process as cumbersome and ineffective.

During the year Warsaw city authorities continued publishing lists of properties under a 2016 law barring Warsaw public properties from being returned to their precommunist-era owners and extinguishing long-dormant claims after a six-month notice period if no claimant stepped forward to pursue a restitution case. The 2016 legislation was intended to end abusive practices in the trading of former property owners’ claims. Nonetheless, NGOs and advocacy groups expressed serious concerns that it fell short of providing just compensation to former owners who lost property as a result of nationalization of properties by the communist-era government and also properties taken during the Holocaust era. The Constitutional Court upheld the legislation, and the law entered into force in 2016. By June 21, the city authorities published notifications for 206 properties, and issued 39 decisions, 33 of which denied the return of properties currently used for public purposes, including schools, preschools, a park, and a police command unit. The World Jewish Restitution Organization asserted that Warsaw City’s administration of the law unjustly denied the time necessary for potential claimants, particularly Holocaust survivors and their heirs, to meet difficult documentary requirements for providing proof of ownership or inheritance.

On February 12, the head of the Council of Minister’s committee that coordinates legislation announced that the comprehensive private property restitution draft legislation, announced by the Justice Ministry in October 2017 needed further amendments and analysis, including questions about its potential cost and compliance with national and international law. The proposed law would block any physical return of former properties, provide compensation of 20-25 percent of the property’s value at the time of taking in cash or government bonds, and set a one-year claims-filing period. Critics have argued the legislation would exclude potential foreign citizen claimants, many of whom were Holocaust survivors or their heirs, and allow only direct heirs to file claims, a provision that in effect would exclude many heirs of survivors. As of early November the government had not announced any updates on the status of the draft law.

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

The law prohibits such actions but allows electronic surveillance with judicial review for crime prevention and investigation.

On March 14, the human rights defender withdrew his referral from the Constitutional Court of a 2016 law regulating police and security services surveillance, stating that there is no expectation of an unbiased and substantial review of the law in question by the Constitutional Court. The human rights defender referred the law to the Constitutional Court in 2017, arguing it infringes on privacy rights and EU data privacy norms and does not provide sufficient protections for privileged communications (e.g., attorney-client, priest-penitent).

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

While the constitution provides for freedom of speech and press, laws restrict these freedoms.

Freedom of Expression: The law prohibits hate speech, including the dissemination of anti-Semitic literature and the public promotion of fascist, communist, or other totalitarian systems.

Violence and Harassment: In January an Associated Press journalist in Warsaw was subjected to threats and harassment after the editor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs internet news portal polska.pl published an article accusing the journalist and the Associated Press of reporting “fake news” and harming the country’s image internationally. In February the ministry terminated the employment of its news portal editor.

On November 23, Internal Security Agency officers visited the home of a cameraman for private television news channel TVN to deliver a summons for questioning by prosecutors on suspicion of propagating fascism related to an investigative television report that showed members of the Pride and Modernity Association dressed in Nazi military uniforms and celebrating Hitler’s birthday in April 2017. TVN issued a statement describing the summons as an attempt to intimidate journalists. At year’s end the case was still in process.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The constitution prohibits censorship of the press or social communication. At the same time, laws regulating broadcasting and media prohibit, under penalty of fines, license revocation, or other authorized sanctions, the promotion of activities endangering health or safety, or the promotion of views contrary to law, morality, or the common good. The law also requires that all broadcasts “respect the religious feelings of the audiences and, in particular, respect the Christian system of values.” Laws also specify that journalists must be unbiased and balanced in their coverage and verify quotations and statements with the person who made them before publication.

The National Radio and Television Broadcasting Council, a five-member body appointed by the Sejm (two members), the Senate (one member), and the president (two members), is constitutionally responsible for protecting freedom of speech and has broad power to monitor and regulate programming, allocate broadcasting frequencies and licenses, apportion subscription revenues to public media, and impose fines or other sanctions on all public and private broadcasters that violate the terms of their licenses or laws regulating broadcasting and media. Council members are required to suspend their membership in political parties and public associations, but critics asserted that the council remained politicized.

Critics also alleged persistent progovernment bias in state television news broadcasts.

On January 10, the National Radio and Television Broadcasting Council announced it had cancelled a 1.48 million zloty ($420,000) fine against private broadcaster TVN. The broadcasting council issued the fine in December 2017, after finding TVN had violated the broadcasting law, which prohibits programs or other content that would promote actions which violate the law, Polish national interest, morality and social good, incite hatred, or pose a threat to life, health or the natural environment. The fine was in response to a complaint about TVN’s news coverage of 2016 protests in front of the national parliament building and a sit-in by opposition members of parliament in the main chamber, which the Council had concluded was biased and threatened public safety by encouraging public participation in a demonstration the police had ruled illegal.

Libel/Slander Laws: Defamation is a criminal offense and includes publicly insulting or slandering members of parliament, government ministers, or other public officials, as well as private entities and persons. Defamation outside the media is punishable by a fine and community service. The courts rarely applied maximum penalties, and persons convicted of defamation generally faced only fines or imprisonment for up to one year. The maximum sentence for insulting the president or the nation is three years’ imprisonment. Journalists have never received the maximum penalty in defamation cases, according to the Helsinki Human Rights Foundation. Media owners, particularly of small local independent newspapers, were aware that potentially large fines could threaten the financial survival of their publications. According to Ministry of Justice statistics for 2017, the most recent data available, courts convicted one person of insulting the president and two persons for insulting constitutional organs of the government. In 2017 the courts fined two persons for public defamation. During the reporting period, one person was fined for public defamation of the nation or the Republic of Poland.

On February 6, the president signed into law amendments to the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) law, which states that anyone who publicly assigns the “Polish state or nation” responsibility or joint responsibility for crimes committed by the Nazi Third Reich during World War II can be fined or imprisoned for up to three years. After signing the law, the president referred it to the Constitutional Court over concerns it violated free speech protections. On June 26, following significant international criticism of the law, the parliament voted to remove the provisions criminalizing attribution of Nazi crimes to the Polish state or nation, and the president signed the legislation the same day. The civil penalties in the law remained unchanged, as did the provisions criminalizing denial of purported Ukrainian World War II-era collaboration and war crimes.

The prosecutorial investigation into remarks alleging that Poles had killed more Jews than Nazis during the World War II occupation, published in a 2015 German newspaper interview with Polish-American Princeton University historian Jan Gross remained open at year’s end.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications or email without appropriate legal authority. The 2016 antiterrorism law authorizes the ABW to block websites without a prior court order in cases relating to combating, preventing, and prosecuting terrorist crimes, shut down telecommunications networks when there is a terrorist threat, and conduct surveillance of foreign nationals for up to three months without a court order. During the year there were no reports by media or NGO sources of the blocking of websites by the ABW.

The law against defamation applies to the internet as well. In 2017, the latest year for which statistics were available, prosecutors investigated 489 hate speech cases involving the internet, compared with 701 cases in 2016.

In 2017, according to data from the International Telecommunication Union, 18.48 percent of the population had a fixed broadband subscription, and 75.99 percent of the population used the internet.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no reports of government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights. The 2015 antiterrorism law permits restrictions on public assemblies in situations of elevated terrorist threats. During the year there were no cases of the prohibition of a public assembly due to an elevated terrorist threat.

In September the human rights defender published a report recommending the repeal of the 2017 amendments to the law on public assemblies that established special protections for “cyclical” or recurring assemblies. The defender asserted the amendments significantly limit the right of assembly by creating a hierarchy of assemblies entitled to greater and less protection. He also noted that, during 2016-2018, public institutions frequently violated the right to freedom of assembly by penalizing assembly participants.

On September 12, the Warsaw prosecutor’s office discontinued its investigation into an attack on counterdemonstrators during the November 2017 Independence March. Prosecutors asserted the attackers’ intention was to show dissatisfaction and not to physically harm the 14 counterdemonstrators they confronted. The prosecutors also explained that “the position of injuries indicate that violence was targeted at the less sensitive body parts,” concluding that the attackers’ intention was not to “endanger the victims.” On September 27, the Warsaw local court fined nine of the counterdemonstrators 200 zlotys ($50) each for blocking a legal demonstration.

On October 13, police used tear gas, water cannons, and clubs to disperse roughly 200 counterdemonstrators trying to disrupt the Lublin Equality Parade. According to witnesses, the counterdemonstrators threw tomatoes, rocks, bottles, and firecrackers at marchers and police. No marchers were injured, but eight police were treated for injuries, and 21 counterdemonstrators were detained.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

The constitution and the law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

Authorities placed some asylum seekers in guarded centers for foreigners while they awaited deportation or decisions on their asylum applications. Border guards may place an individual in a guarded center only by court order. The law prohibits the placement of unaccompanied minors younger than age 15 in guarded centers. Border guards typically sought in this way to confine foreigners who attempted to cross the border illegally, lacked identity documents, or committed a crime during their stay in the country.

On April 10, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled the country violated the European Convention on Human Rights by placing a Chechen family with small children in a guarded detention center for six months. The ECHR also ruled that the country unnecessarily violated without sufficient justification the family’s right to respect of private and family life.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: In addition to the guarded centers for foreigners, the government operated 11 open centers for asylum seekers with an aggregate capacity of approximately 2,000 persons in the Warsaw, Bialystok, and Lublin areas. Some incidents of gender-based violence occurred, but UNHCR reported that local response teams involving doctors, psychologists, police, and social workers addressed these cases. UNHCR reported no major or persistent problems with abuse in the centers.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Refoulement: On September 3, Amnesty International (AI) published a statement asserting that, on August 31, the Polish government unlawfully deported Azamat Baduyev, a Russian national granted asylum in Poland in 2007, to Russia. Baduyev had spent several years in Belgium before his deportation from there to Poland in 2017. After his deportation from Poland to Russia, AI reported that, according to eyewitnesses, on September 1, several dozen armed men wearing FSB and Ministry of Interior insignia took Baduyev from the house in Chechnya where he was staying to an unknown location with no explanation. In the statement, AI claimed that “by returning Azamat Baduyev to a country where his life and safety is at risk, the Polish government was clearly in breach of its international obligations.”

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The EU’s Dublin III Regulation, to which the country is subject, recognizes all EU countries as safe countries of origin and transit. The regulation also authorizes the governments of EU member states to return asylum seekers to the countries where they first entered the EU. The law permits denial of refugee status based on safe country of origin or safe country of transit but includes provisions that allow authorities to consider the protection needs of individuals in exceptional cases.

Employment: Asylum seekers are not allowed to work during the first six months of the asylum procedure. If the asylum procedure lasts longer than six months, they gain the right to work until the asylum decision is final.

Access to Basic Services: Asylum seekers faced language and cultural barriers, and had limited access to higher education. Children in centers for asylum seekers had free access to public education, but those placed with relatives in guarded centers for foreigners did not.

Temporary Protection: The government also provided temporary protection to 241 individuals who may not qualify as refugees during the first 10 months of the year.

STATELESS PERSONS

According to UNHCR, there were 10,825 stateless persons in the country at the end of 2014, the most recent figures available.

The law affords the opportunity to gain nationality. The Halina Niec Legal Aid Center observed in its 2016 report on statelessness, however, that the government did not implement a formal procedure of identifying stateless persons, leading to protection gaps and exposing stateless persons to many negative consequences, including detention. In June a Helsinki Human Rights Foundation lawyer reported that the government had not implemented any specific procedures to facilitate the legalization of stateless persons in the country, resulting in difficulties in travel and personal transactions requiring identity documents.

UNHCR occasionally received complaints from stateless persons regarding problems with employment, mainly involving the lack of identity documents, which discouraged employers from offering employment to stateless persons.

Portugal

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

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

While the constitution and law prohibit such practices, there were credible reports of excessive use of force by police and of mistreatment and other forms of abuse of prisoners by prison guards.

In 2017 the government-run Inspectorate General of Internal Administration (IGAI) received 772 reports of mistreatment and abuse by police and prison guards. Complaints of physical abuse consisted primarily of slaps, punches, and kicks to the body and head, as well as beatings with batons. The complaints were against the Public Security Police (PSP), the Republican National Guard (GNR), and the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF), with 406, 288, and 22 complaints, respectively. The IGAI investigated each complaint. In 2017 the government conducted 102 investigations of members of the security forces. Punishment ranged from letters of reprimand, temporary suspension from duty, mandatory retirement with pension cuts, discharge from duty, and prison sentences.

In June media reported extensively that a Colombian woman reported being attacked in Porto by a security guard working for the local public transit company. The woman accused the perpetrator of aggression and racism and said that PSP officers at the site of the incident did not assist her. The Commission for Equality and Against Discrimination referred the case to the attorney general, who opened an investigation. At the request of the IGAI, the PSP did the same to determine whether PSP officers had acted properly in the case.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Media and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) cited reports of mistreatment of prisoners by guards in some prisons. Other reported issues included general overcrowding, inadequate facilities, poor health conditions, and violence among inmates.

Physical Conditions: Several of the country’s prisons were overcrowded. As of December 1, the Directorate-General of Prison Services reported that the prison system overall was at 98.9 percent of capacity. Authorities sometimes held juveniles in adult facilities, despite the existence of a youth prison in Leiria. The prison system held pretrial detainees with convicted criminals.

In February the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) published a report on its 2016 visit to the country. The report stated that during the visit the CPT delegation received “a considerable number of credible allegations” of mistreatment at the time of a suspect’s apprehension and during police custody. It reported that living conditions within parts of the Caxias, Lisbon Central, and Setubal prisons “may amount to inhuman and degrading treatment.” For instance, in the basement areas of Lisbon Central Prison, the cells were cold, dark, and damp, with crumbling plaster and rats entering the cells via the floor-level toilets. Prisoners at both Caxias and Setubal prisons were held in poor conditions with less than 32 square feet of living space each and confined to their cells for up to 23 hours a day. In response, government authorities provided detailed information on the steps being taken to reduce prison overcrowding and improve detention conditions, as well as numerous other actions designed to address the recommendations made by the CPT, particularly in the area of health-care provision. CPT made the report and response public at the request of the Portuguese authorities.

The Directorate-General of Reintegration and Prison Services reported 69 deaths in prisons in 2017 (15 suicides and 54 due to illness). Infectious diseases associated with drug abuse were the leading cause of death in prison.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits by independent human rights observers and the CPT. In 2017 the IGAI, university researchers, and news media visited prisons. Local human rights and media groups were fully independent bodies and had unrestricted access to prisons.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and federal law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention. 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 any delay in obtaining judicial rulings. If the court finds persons to have been detained unlawfully, they are entitled to prompt release and compensation. The government generally observed these practices.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Ministries of Internal Administration and Justice are primarily responsible for internal security. The Ministry of Internal Administration oversees the SEF, PSP, and GNR. The SEF has jurisdiction over immigration and border issues, the PSP has jurisdiction in cities, and the GNR has jurisdiction outside cities. The Judiciary Police is responsible for criminal investigations and reports to the Ministry of Justice. The IGAI, in the Ministry of Internal Administration, operates independently, investigates deaths caused by the security forces, and evaluates whether they occurred in the line of duty or were otherwise justifiable.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security agencies, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. An independent ombudsman chosen by parliament and the IGAI investigates complaints of abuse or mistreatment by police.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The constitution and law provide detailed guidelines covering all aspects of arrest and custody, and authorities generally followed the guidelines. Individuals are arrested only on a judicial warrant, but law enforcement officials and citizens may make warrantless arrests when there is probable cause that a crime has just been or is being committed, or that the person to be arrested is an escaped convict or a suspect who escaped from police custody.

Authorities must bring the suspect before an investigating judge within 48 hours after arrest. By law the investigating judge determines whether an arrested person should be detained, released on bail, or released outright. Authorities generally informed detainees promptly of charges against them.

Investigative detention for most crimes is limited to four months. If authorities do not file a formal charge within that period, they must release the detainee. In cases of serious crimes such as murder, armed robbery, terrorism, and violent or organized crime, and crimes involving more than one suspect, the investigating judge may decide to hold a suspect in detention while the investigation is underway for up to 18 months, and up to three years in extraordinary circumstances.

Bail exists, but authorities generally do not release detainees on their own recognizance. Depending on the severity of the crime, a detainee’s release may be subject to various legal conditions.

Detainees have the right to legal counsel from the time of arrest, but media reports cited instances when police, in particular the Judiciary Police, did not inform detainees of their rights. An attorney must accompany detainees appearing before a judge for the first hearing. If detained persons cannot afford a private lawyer, the government appoints one and assumes legal costs.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem. As of November 1, according to the Directorate-General of Prison Services, there were 2,218 individuals (17 percent of the prison population) in pretrial detention, approximately the same number as the previous year. The majority of pretrial detainees spent six months to a year in incarceration. Observers, including media, business corporations, and legal observers, estimated the backlog of cases awaiting trial to be at least a year. Lengthy pretrial detention was usually due to lengthy investigations and legal procedures, judicial inefficiency, or staff shortages. Pretrial detention applies toward a convicted detainee’s prison sentence. A detainee found not guilty has the right to compensation for this time.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. The law presumes all defendants innocent and provides the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges (with free interpretation when necessary from the moment charged through all appeals). Authorities must bring a suspect in investigative detention to trial within 14 months of a formal charge. If a suspect is not in detention, the law specifies no deadline for going to trial. When the crime is punishable by a prison sentence of eight years or longer, either the public prosecutor or the defendant may request a jury trial.

Defendants have the right to be present at their trials and to consult with an attorney, at government expense if necessary, from the time of arrest. Defendants have adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense. They may confront and question witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Those convicted have the right of appeal. The law extends these rights to all defendants.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters. Citizens, foreign residents, and organizations have access to a court to bring lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, a human rights violation, and they may appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies, such as the European Court of Human Rights. Besides judicial remedies, administrative recourse exists for alleged wrongs.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

Holocaust-era restitution is no longer a significant issue. The government has laws and mechanisms in place and is a signatory of the Terezin Declaration of 2009 and the Guidelines and Best Practices of 2010. The 1999 report commissioned by the government and chaired by the country’s former president and prime minister Mario Soares, at the time a member of the European Parliament, found there was “no basis for additional restitution” following the payment made by Portugal in 1960 for gold transactions carried out between Portuguese and German authorities between 1936 and 1945. NGOs and advocacy groups, including the local Jewish community, reported no significant outstanding Holocaust-era claims, including for foreign citizens. The government has not responded to the 2016 European Shoah Legacy Institute’s Immovable Property Restitution Study Questionnaire covering past and present restitution regimes.

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

The constitution and laws prohibit such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press. The law criminalizes the denigration of ethnic or religious minorities, as well as offensive practices such as Holocaust denial. Prison sentences for these crimes run between six months and eight years.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 74 percent of the population used the internet in 2017.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

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

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: According to NGOs and media reports, authorities kept in detention some asylum seekers who submitted their applications for international protection at border points. If asylum seekers appealed a negative decision, they could remain in detention for up to 60 days, and no alternatives existed. According to the Portuguese Refugee Council, the reception center for refugees in Lisbon remained overcrowded.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The government considers all other EU countries to be safe countries of origin or transit. It returned asylum seekers to their country of entry into the EU for adjudication of their applications.

Durable Solutions: The government fulfilled its commitment and received refugees under the EU’s relocation plan for refugees who entered the EU through Greece and Turkey. It offered naturalization to refugees residing on Portuguese territory.

Temporary Protection: The government also provided temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees and provided subsidiary protection to approximately 136 persons in 2017, according to the Portuguese Refugee Council.

Qatar

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

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

The constitution and law prohibit torture and other inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment.

The government interprets sharia as allowing corporal punishment for certain criminal offenses, including court-ordered flogging in cases of alcohol consumption and extramarital sex by Muslims. Courts typically reduced sentences to imprisonment or a fine.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Aside from the Deportation Detention Center (DDC), prison conditions generally met international standards. In its 2017 report the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC), an independent government-funded nongovernmental organization (NGO), investigated one case of an expatriate prisoner who complained about his conditions in the detention facility. The NHRC visited the facility, met with the prisoner and the detention center management, and submitted a list of recommendations to the management about this case. The NHRC recommended updating the official documents of the prisoner and discussed the possibility of lifting the ban on his bank account. The NHRC further recommended that the government publically declare the number of accusations of mistreatment of prisoners reported to it as well as any follow up actions taken. The committee made 177 visits to eight different detention and interrogation facilities across the country during the year and concluded that the facilities met international standards. The NHRC also conducted a training for Ministry of Interior officials on international obligations to refrain from torture of prisoners.

Physical Conditions: There were no major concerns in prisons and detention centers regarding physical conditions.

Administration: No statute allows ombudsmen to advocate for prisoners and detainees.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring visits by independent human rights observers and international bodies to all facilities except the state security prison. The government routinely provided foreign diplomats access to state security prisoners. Representatives from the NHRC conducted regular visits to all facilities.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government usually observed these requirements.

Authorities may detain individuals in the state security prison for indefinite periods under the Protection of Society Law and the Combating Terrorism Law. The government limited detention to two months for all DDC detainees, except those facing additional financial criminal charges. The processing time for deportations ranged from two days to 10 months. There were reports that authorities delayed deportations in cases where detainees had to resolve financial delinquencies before they departed the country.

The NHRC 2017 report stated that the committee investigated five cases of citizens and expatriates arrested arbitrarily by security forces and submitted recommendations to security forces in three cases to accelerate the process of referring the detainees to the prosecution.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The national police and state security forces maintain internal security. State security forces address internal threats such as terrorism, political disputes, cyberattacks, or espionage while the national police are the regular law enforcement body. The army is responsible for external security. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over police under the Ministry of Interior, state security forces, which report directly to the Amir, and military forces under the Ministry of Defense. The government employed effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption.

There were isolated reports of police aggressively turning away, through threats of physical force, foreign domestic workers seeking assistance with claims against their employers.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Criminal law requires that persons be apprehended with warrants based on sufficient evidence and issued by an authorized official, be charged within 24 hours, and be brought before a court without undue delay.

The law provides procedures that permit detention without charge for as long as 15 days, renewable for up to six months. The law permits an additional six months’ detention without charge with the approval of the prime minister, who may extend the detention indefinitely in cases of threats to national security. The law allows the Ministry of Interior to detain persons suspected of crimes related to national security, honor, or impudence; in these cases, persons detained are generally released within 24 hours or brought before a court within three days of detention. Decisions under this law are subject to appeal to the prime minister only. A provision of this law permits the prime minister to adjudicate complaints involving such detentions. The law permits a second six-month period of detention with approval from the criminal court, which may extend a detention indefinitely with review every six months. The state security service may arrest and detain suspects for up to 30 days without referring them to the public prosecutor.

In most cases a judge may order a suspect released, remanded to custody to await trial, held in pretrial detention pending investigation, or released on bail. Although suspects are entitled to bail (except in cases of violent crimes), bail was infrequent.

Authorities were more likely to grant bail to citizens than to noncitizens. Noncitizens charged with minor crimes may be released to their employer (or a family member for minors), although they may not leave the country until the case is resolved.

By law in nonsecurity-related cases, the accused is entitled to legal representation throughout the process and prompt access to family members. There are provisions for government-funded legal counsel for indigent prisoners in criminal cases, and authorities generally honored this requirement. There were no new reported cases invoking either the Protection of Society Law or the Combating Terrorism Law.

By law all suspects except those detained under the Protection of Society Law or the Combating Terrorism Law must be presented before the public prosecutor within 24 hours of arrest. If the public prosecutor finds sufficient evidence for further investigation, authorities may detain a suspect for up to 15 days with the approval of a judge, renewable for similar periods not to exceed 45 days, before charges must be filed in the courts. Judges may also extend pretrial detention for one month, renewable for one-month periods not to exceed half of the maximum punishment for the accused crime. Authorities typically followed these procedures differently for citizens than for noncitizens. The NHRC called on the government to amend the Criminal Procedures Code to set a maximum period for preventive detention, as the law does not specify a time limit for pretrial detention.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, the Amir, based on recommended selections from the Supreme Judicial Council, appoints all judges, who retain their positions at his discretion. Foreign detainees had access to the legal system, although some complained of opaque legal procedures and complications mostly stemming from language barriers. Foreign nationals did not uniformly receive translations of legal proceedings, although interpretation was generally provided within courtrooms. Worker Dispute Settlement Committees were established in March to increase the efficiency and speed of decision making in the overloaded labor courts and included court translators who were present throughout all hearings. Some employers filed successful deportation requests against employees who had pending lawsuits against them, thus denying those employees the right to a fair trial.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair public trial for all residents, and the judiciary generally enforced this right.

The law provides defendants the presumption of innocence, and authorities generally inform defendants promptly of the charges brought against them, except for suspects held under the Protection of Society Law and Combating Terrorism Law. The defendant may be present at his or her trial.

Defendants are entitled to choose their legal representation or accept it at public expense throughout the pretrial and trial process. In matters involving family law, Shia and Sunni judges may apply their interpretations of sharia for their religious groups. The law approves implementing the Shiite interpretation of sharia upon the agreement and request of the parties involved in the dispute. In family law matters, a woman’s testimony is deemed half that of a man’s.

Defendants usually have free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals, while court documents are provided only in Arabic. Defendants have access to government-held evidence, have the right to confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present one’s own witnesses and evidence, and have the opportunity to give a statement at the end of their trial. Defendants have the right to appeal a decision within 15 days; use of the appellate process was common.

The Court of Cassation requires a fee to initiate the appeals process. In some cases, courts waived fees if an appellant demonstrated financial hardship.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no substantiated reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Civil remedies are available for those seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations, but there were no cases reported during the year. The law specifies circumstances that necessitate a judge’s removal from a case for conflict of interest, and authorities generally observed these laws. Individuals and organizations may not appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies.

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

The constitution and the criminal procedures code prohibit such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions. Police and security forces, however, reportedly monitored telephone calls, emails, and social media posts.

Citizens must obtain government permission to marry foreigners, which is sometimes not granted for female citizens. Male citizens may apply for residency permits and citizenship for their foreign wives, but female citizens may apply only for residency for their foreign husbands and children, not citizenship.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution provides for freedom of speech and press in accordance with the law, but the government limited these rights. Self-censorship remained the primary obstacle to free speech and press.

Freedom of Expression: Citizens did not regularly discuss sensitive political and religious issues in public forums, but citizens discussed these issues in private and on social media. The law prohibits residents from criticizing the Amir. Members of the majority foreign population exercised self-censorship on sensitive topics. The law penalizes damaging, removing, or performing an action that expresses hate and contempt to the country’s flag, the Gulf Cooperation Council flag, or the flag of any international organization or authority by up to three years in prison. The use of the national flag without formal permission from authorities, displaying a damaged or discolored flag, or changing the flag by adding photographs, text, or designs to it are also criminalized.

Press and Media Freedom: The law includes restrictive procedures on the establishment of newspapers, their closure, and the confiscation of assets of a publication.

Members of the ruling family or proprietors who enjoyed close ties to government officials owned all print media. Both private and government-owned television and radio reflected government views although call-in shows allowed for some citizen criticism of government ministries and policies. While media generally did not criticize authorities or the country’s policies, specific ministries and even individual ministers were regular targets of criticism in print media. The government owned and partially funded the Doha-based al-Jazeera satellite television network, which carried regional, international, and theme-based programming. It also partially funded other media outlets operating in the country. Some observers and former al-Jazeera employees alleged that the government influenced the content produced by that news outlet.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The Qatar Media Corporation, the Ministry of Culture and Sports, and customs officials censored material. The government reviewed, censored, or banned foreign newspapers, magazines, films, and books for objectionable sexual, religious, and political content. In July international media reported that the local distributor of The New York Times censored a number of articles covering lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) issues. The Government Communication Office issued a statement in July explaining that “the government shall examine the issue of the removed articles with the local distributor and take corrective action if needed.” Journalists and publishers continued to self-censor due to political and economic pressures when reporting on government policies or material deemed denigrating to Islam, the ruling family, and relations with neighboring states.

Libel/Slander Laws: The law criminalizes libel and slander, including insult to dignity. A journalist may be fined up to 100,000 Qatari riyals (QAR) ($27,500) and imprisoned for a year for defamation and reporting of “false news.” Laws restrict the publication of information that slanders the Amir or heir apparent; defames the Abrahamic faiths or includes blasphemy; harms the national currency or the economic situation; violate the dignity of persons, the proceedings of investigations, and prosecutions in relation to family status; and punishes violators with up to seven years’ imprisonment.

National Security: Laws restrict the publication of information that could defame the state or endanger its safety; incite the overthrow of the regime or harm supreme state interests; report official secret agreements; or prejudice heads of state or disturb relations.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The maximum punishments for violations of the cybercrime law are up to three years in prison and a fine of 500,000 QAR ($137,500). The law prohibits any online activity that threatens the safety of the state, its general order, and its local or international peace. It also criminalizes the spread of “false news,” forces internet providers to block objectionable content, and bans the publication of personal or family information.

The law requires internet service providers to block objectionable content upon request from judicial authorities. Internet providers also are obligated to maintain long-term electronic records and traffic data for the government. The government-controlled internet service provider Ooredoo restricted the expression of views via the internet and censored the internet for political, religious, and pornographic content through a proxy server, which monitored and blocked websites, email, and chat rooms. Users who believed authorities had mistakenly censored a site could request that the site be reviewed by the Ministry of Transportation and Communication for suitability; there were no reports that any websites were unblocked based on this procedure.

More than 99 percent of households were connected to the internet.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

The constitution provides for freedom of expression and scientific research. Instructors at Qatar University noted that they sometimes exercised self-censorship. Instructors at foreign-based universities operating in the country, however, reported they generally enjoyed academic freedom. There were occasional government restrictions on cultural events, and some groups organizing cultural events reported they exercised self-censorship. Authorities censored books, films, and internet sites for political, religious, and sexual content and for vulgar and obscene language.

In October the Doha branch of an American university faced backlash from Qatari social media users, including threats of violence against campus staff, following publicity of an advertisement for a discussion titled “This House Believes That Major Religions Should Portray God as a Woman.” The event was eventually cancelled by campus management who stated that the organizers had failed to follow standard operating procedures to obtain permission to hold the event.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for freedom of assembly, but this right is restricted by law, including the General Assembly and Demonstration Law and the Associations and Private Institutions Law. Noncitizens are exempt from the constitutional protections on freedom of assembly. Organizers of public meetings must meet a number of restrictions and conditions and obtain approval from the Ministry of Interior to acquire a permit.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for the right to form groups, defined by the law as professional associations and private institutions, but the government significantly limited this right. Noncitizens are exempt from the constitutional protections on freedom of association. There were no reports of attempts to organize politically. There were no organized political parties, and authorities prohibited politically oriented associations. The government prohibits professional associations and private institutions from engaging in political matters or affiliating internationally. Civil society organizations must obtain approval from the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor, and Social Affairs, which may deny their establishment if it deems them a threat to the public interest.

Informal organizations, such as community support groups and activity clubs, operated without registration, but they may not engage in activities deemed political.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

The constitution provides for freedom of movement within the country, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, but the government did not fully respect these rights. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to assist internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

In-country Movement: Restrictions on in-country movement for citizens concerned sensitive military, oil, and industrial installations. Although there was less emphasis on setting and enforcing “family-only” times at entertainment areas in Doha, several local malls and markets continued to restrict access to certain areas to foreign workers on weekends and those dressed “immodestly.”

Foreign Travel: The government prevented the travel of its citizens only when they were involved in court cases in progress. In September new legislation abolished the exit requirements for 95 percent of the workforce in the private sector, with some exceptions including domestic workers. Government employees are also not exempted. Employers may still request exit permits for up to 5 percent of their workforce but must provide an explanation to the government for why they believe any employee should retain an exit permit restriction, such as access to sensitive information.

The law prohibits the practice of employers withholding workers’ passports and increases penalties for employers who continue to do so, but noncitizen community leaders and officials from labor-exporting countries confirmed it remained a common problem with insufficient enforcement.

Citizenship: The law allows for the revocation of citizenship. In September representatives from the Al-Ghufran tribe submitted a complaint to the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, accusing the government of arbitrarily revoking the citizenship of 6,000 members of the tribe. Representatives from the government and the NHRC acknowledged that the citizenship of some of the tribe’s members was previously revoked but stated that revocations were only for dual-citizens, which the country does not recognize, and denied any new revocations during the year.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: In September the government passed legislation to grant political asylum status to asylum seekers. The new law stipulates the creation of a specialized committee within the Ministry of Interior to handle requests from asylum seekers. Once granted political asylum, the individual and his or her family have access to a range of free services provided by the government, including travel documents, jobs, monthly allowances, medical and educational services, and housing. Previously, the government accepted such individuals as “guests” on a temporary basis. The government legally classified the small number of persons granted residence on humanitarian grounds as visitors. The government provided housing and education to these de facto refugees. The Syrian Opposition Coalition office in Doha reported approximately 60,000 Syrians were living in Doha of which roughly 20,000 came to Doha after the start of the civil war and have been granted repeated extensions to their residency status to allow them to remain in country.

STATELESS PERSONS

Citizenship derives solely from the father, and women cannot transmit citizenship to their noncitizen spouse or children. A woman must obtain permission from authorities before marrying a foreign national but does not lose citizenship upon marriage.

The law allows long-term residents to apply for citizenship after living in the country for 25 consecutive years, but the government rarely approved citizenship applications, which were by law capped at 50 per year. Restrictions and inconsistent application of the law prevented stateless persons from acquiring citizenship. In September the government passed a new law to regulate granting permanent residencies to some categories of non-Qataris. The law caps the number of new permanent residents to 100 per year. The intended beneficiaries of the new law are the children of Qatari women with non-Qatari fathers, husbands of Qatari women, and individuals with special skills or who offered remarkable services to the country.

The NHRC estimated that during the year there remained between 1,000 and 2,000 Bidoon, stateless residents in the country, and that they suffered some social discrimination. The Bidoon, who are afforded residency with the sponsorship of a Qatari resident, were able to register for public services such as education and health care. Bidoon, however, are unable to own property in the country and cannot travel freely to other Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

Permanent residents have the right to own property, open businesses without Qatari partners, and receive free education and health services.

Saint Kitts and Nevis

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

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

The constitution prohibits such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them. A court may order that an accused person receive lashes if found guilty.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

The St. Kitts prison remained overcrowded, and facilities were austere.

Physical Conditions: The country had two prisons. The prison on St. Kitts had an intended capacity of 160 prisoners but held 185 as of October. Most prisoners had beds, although some slept on blankets on the floor. In St. Kitts and Nevis, authorities occasionally held pretrial detainees together with convicted prisoners.

Administration: Authorities investigated credible allegations of mistreatment.

Independent Monitoring: Authorities generally permitted prison visits by independent human rights observers, although there were no known visits during the year.

Improvements: Cells for male inmates were plastered and painted during the year, and cells for female inmates were also renovated.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The security forces consist of a police force, which includes a paramilitary Special Services Unit, a drug unit, a Special Victims Unit, the Office of Professional Standards, and a white-collar crimes unit. These forces are responsible for internal security, including migration and border enforcement. In addition, there is a coast guard and a small defense force. On August 24, Governor General Sir S.W. Tapley Seaton extended police powers to defense forces for a period of six months, the maximum period allowed. The military and police report to the Ministry of National Security, which is under the prime minister’s jurisdiction.

The police Criminal Investigation Department is responsible for investigating killings by police and works with the Violent Crime Unit and the Office of Professional Standards. Corruption and unprofessional behavior by police is investigated by the Office of Professional Standards. Senior police officers investigated complaints against members of the police force and, when warranted, referred complaints to an internal disciplinary tribunal for adjudication. Penalties included dismissal, warnings, or other administrative action.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the police, coast guard, and defense force, and the government had effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Police may arrest a person based on the suspicion of criminal activity without a warrant. The law requires that persons detained be charged within 72 hours or be released. If detainees are charged, authorities must bring them before a court within 72 hours of the detention. There is a functioning system of bail. Detainees were allowed prompt access to a lawyer of their choice or one provided by the state. Free legal assistance was available for indigent defendants in capital cases only. Authorities permitted family members, attorneys, and clergy to visit convicted detainees once per month and those in pretrial confinement once per week.

Authorities remand those accused of serious offenses to custody to await trial and release those accused of minor infractions on their own recognizance or on bail with sureties.

Pretrial Detention: Extended pretrial detention was a problem, with some detainees waiting two years or more for their trial only to see charges dropped due to lack of evidence. The government reviewed its procedures for arrest, treatment, and documentation of detainees and was in the process of digitizing prison records.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants have the right to be present and to consult with counsel in a timely manner. There is a presumption of innocence, and defendants may question or confront witnesses and communicate with an attorney of choice. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants also have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges, to have a trial without undue delay, and to appeal. Defendants had free access to an interpreter.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is an independent and impartial judiciary for civil matters, including lawsuits regarding alleged civil rights violations. Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts.

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

The constitution prohibits such actions, and there were no reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions. The defense force may carry out stop-and-search operations without a warrant.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, the judicial system, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.

Press and Media Freedom: Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and media reported the media climate was sensitive. Media outlets reported self-censoring to avoid problems with the government.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communication without appropriate legal authority.

According to the International Telecommunication Union, approximately 81 percent of citizens used the internet in 2017.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights. Opposition parties and media, however, reported incidents in which the exercise of these rights was restricted. For example, in February the government banned the opposition St. Kitts and Nevis Labour Party from using public facilities.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

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

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and was prepared to cooperate with other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: While the law provides for the granting of asylum and refugee status, the government has not established a system for providing protection to refugees. There were no reported requests for asylum during the year.

Saint Lucia

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

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

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

In March police officer Gilroy Gaston was indicted for the January 2017 killing of Yves Rene during a police operation. Gaston was charged with “death caused by gross negligence or recklessness.” As of October the case awaited a hearing.

b. Disappearance

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 constitution prohibits such practices, but prisoners and suspects continued to complain of physical abuse by police and prison officers. Civil society groups reported police assaulted persons under arrest.

Limited information was available regarding official investigations of complaints from the year, as well as those from earlier years that remained pending. Although the government sometimes asserted it would launch independent inquiries into allegations of abuse, the lack of information created a perception among civil society and government officials of impunity for the accused officers.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

There were no significant reports regarding prison or detention center conditions that raised human rights concerns.

Physical Conditions: Prisoners reportedly lacked free access to clean drinking water.

Administration: Authorities conducted proper investigations of credible allegations of mistreatment.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers. The last visit by an outside human rights group was in July 2017.

Improvements: During the year the prison expanded its education department, which is part of the rehabilitation program.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Royal St. Lucia Police Force has responsibility for law enforcement and maintenance of order within the country and reports to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Justice, and National Security. The Criminal Investigations Division investigates internal affairs and allegations against officers and refers cases to the director of public prosecutions for review and, if authorities file charges, prosecution.

The Internal Police Complaints Unit and a Police Complaints Commission take complaints from members of the public. The Internal Police Complaints Unit is required by law to record complaints on all cases, and the officer in charge of discipline forwards a status report, which is published in the force orders for the information of all police officers.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the police, but there were continued reports of impunity. Although there were government mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption, the mechanisms were not effective. For instance, authorities referred many cases for investigation and inquests, but prosecutions rarely ensued, and cases remained nominally under investigation for years. Lack of adequate staffing in the criminal justice system (prosecutors and judges), significant delays in the judicial system, the reluctance of witnesses to testify, lack of a witness or victim protection program, and strong public and political support for police contributed to the ineffectiveness of the government in addressing allegations in a timely manner.

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions continued its investigations into 12 killings allegedly committed by police during Operation Restore Confidence in 2010-11.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The constitution stipulates that authorities must apprehend persons openly with warrants issued by a judicial authority and requires a court hearing within 72 hours of detention. Authorities allowed detainees prompt access to counsel and family. There was a functioning bail system.

Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention continued to be a problem. Those charged with serious crimes often spent from six months to six years in pretrial detention. As of October the High Court remained closed pending infrastructure upgrades, adding to the backlog of cases.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

Defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence, prompt and detailed information about charges, and a fair and public trial without undue delay. They have the right to be present at their own trial; communicate with an attorney of their choice; have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense; receive free assistance of an interpreter as needed; challenge prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence; not be compelled to testify or confess guilt; and appeal. Attorneys are not provided at public expense to defendants who cannot pay unless the charge is murder.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is an independent, impartial judiciary in civil matters where one can bring lawsuits seeking damages for a human rights violation. Individuals and organizations cannot appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights courts for a binding decision. Individuals and organizations may present petitions to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

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

The constitution prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 51 percent of the population used the internet in 2017.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

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

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status. Refugees had access to medical care and uneven access to education. Individuals claiming refugee status had access to the courts and protection by law enforcement. The government assisted the safe, voluntary return of refugees to their home countries.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

There were no 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, and there were no generalized reports the government employed them. In a high-profile case, however, a woman was committed to the Mental Health Center for two weeks of observation after pleading not guilty to a charge of abusive language. The abusive language was against the wife of a senior government minister. Following a mental health evaluation, she was granted bail and released, and the case was adjourned until December 17. Legal experts in the country cited this incident as an example of a misuse of the judicial system.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were generally adequate, although they varied depending on the facility.

Physical Conditions: The government continued to use Her Majesty’s Prison, an old building in the center of Kingstown, the capital city, to hold both male and female inmates. Men and women were held separately. Key problems included the inability to segregate prisoners who misbehaved, gang activity, and contraband, including the smuggling of cell phones and drugs. In contrast with Her Majesty’s Prison, there were no reports of inadequate living conditions in the newer Belle Isle facility.

Conditions were inadequate for juvenile offenders. Authorities held offenders between the ages of 16 and 21 years of age with convicted adult prisoners.

Administration: Authorities conducted proper investigations of credible allegations of mistreatment.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted prison visits by independent human rights observers.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Royal Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Police is the only security force in the country and is responsible for maintaining national security. Its forces include the Coast Guard, Special Services Unit, Rapid Response Unit, Drug Squad, and Anti-Trafficking Unit. The police force reports to the minister of national security, a portfolio held by the prime minister. The Criminal Investigations Department investigated all police killings and referred them to coroner’s inquests.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the police, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. Citizens alleging police abuse could file complaints with the Complaint Department within the police force or an independent, government-operated oversight committee tasked with monitoring police activity and hearing public complaints against police misconduct. If a complaint is deemed to have merit, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions files charges. Authorities indicated there were 74 investigations into police misconduct during the year, one of which resulted in a police officer being sanctioned. There were no verified reports of impunity involving security forces during the year.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires judicial authority to issue arrest warrants. Detainees may seek judicial determinations of their status after 48 hours if not already provided. The bail system was generally effective. Authorities generally allowed detainees prompt access to a lawyer. For indigent detainees accused of a capital offense, the state provides a lawyer. For other crimes, the state does not provide a lawyer, and defendants represent themselves in court.

Although lengthy delays were reported prior to preliminary inquiries, government sources reported compliance with Court of Appeal guidelines, which require a preliminary hearing to be held within nine months of detention. In 2017 there were approximately 20 detained defendants who had awaited trial for more than two years. More than half of the cases were delayed pending psychiatric evaluations.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. The court appoints attorneys only for indigent defendants charged with a capital offense. Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty, may be present at the trial, are informed promptly and in detail of the charges, and may confront and question witnesses. Defendants had access to free assistance of an interpreter as necessary and adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants may present their own witnesses and evidence and cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Witnesses and victims sometimes refused to testify because they feared retaliation. Defendants may appeal verdicts and penalties.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is an independent, impartial judiciary in civil matters, where one may bring lawsuits seeking damages for a human rights violation. Individuals may appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies.

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

The law prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that 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. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Civil society observers continued to report concerns about expressing criticism of the government, primarily due to fear of facing libel charges, including under the 2016 Cybercrime Act. Civil society indicated these fears resulted in media outlets practicing self-censorship.

Libel/Slander Laws: The 2016 Cybercrime Act establishes criminal penalties, including imprisonment, for various offenses, including libel by electronic communication, cyberbullying, and illegal acquisition of data. Freedom of speech organizations harshly criticized the law as being inconsistent with international freedom of speech norms. Civil society also expressed concerns that the prohibition on libel by electronic means would give rise to government efforts to silence its critics. The government did not charge anyone with libel or defamation during the year.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

According to the International Telecommunication Union, 66 percent of citizens used the internet in 2017.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights. Various civil society organizations, however, reported citizens were hesitant to participate in antigovernment protests due to fear of retaliation.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

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

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status; each case is addressed on an individual basis. The government has not established a system for providing protection to refugees.

Samoa

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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 constitution prohibits such practices, and there were no reports government officials normally employed them. There were allegations of abuses by some police officials, such as the use of physical violence against detainees.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were harsh due to inadequate food, potable water, overcrowding, physical abuse, and inadequate sanitary conditions.

Physical Conditions: The Tafaigata men’s prison was overcrowded with more than 300 inmates in a facility with an official capacity of 260. Pretrial detainees were held together with convicts. Authorities made only basic provision for food, water (including potable water), and sanitation. Ventilation and cell lighting remained poor, and lights remained on all night.

Physical conditions in the separate Tafaigata women’s prison, including ventilation and sanitation, generally were better than in the men’s prison.

Authorities housed juveniles (prisoners younger than age 26) at the Olomanu Juvenile Center, where physical conditions generally were better than in adult facilities.

Police held overnight detainees in two cells at police headquarters in Apia and one cell at Tuasivi.

An inquest into the August 2017 death of a male prisoner continued as of November 2018. Prison officials ruled the death a suicide by hanging, a claim the family disputed.

Administration: The prison system could not account for or effectively supervise all inmates. This was evident in the recurring prison escapes and delays in recapturing escapees.

Authorities permitted prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities and request investigation of alleged problematic conditions. Authorities investigated such allegations, documented them, and made the results publicly accessible. The government generally investigated and monitored prison and detention center conditions.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring visits by independent human rights observers, including UN organizations and diplomatic missions.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Samoa Police Department, under the Ministry of Police and Prison Services, maintains internal security. Local councils enforce rules and security within each village. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over police, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving police. Insufficient capacity limited police effectiveness.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The Supreme Court issues arrest warrants based on compelling evidence. The law provides for the right to a prompt judicial determination of the legality of detention, and authorities generally respected this right. Officials informed detainees within 24 hours of the charges against them or else released them. There was a functioning bail system. The government allowed detainees prompt access to a lawyer of their choice. The government provided indigent detainees with a lawyer upon request. The government did not hold suspects incommunicado or under house arrest.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a fair public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. A trial judge examines evidence and determines if there are grounds to proceed. Under the law defendants are presumed innocent and may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Trials are public except for trials of juveniles, which only immediate family members may attend. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial; have timely consultation with an attorney; receive prompt and detailed information of the charges, including interpretation services as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals; and to have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants may confront witnesses, present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf, access government-held evidence, and appeal a verdict. The law extends these rights to all defendants.

Village councils handled many civil and criminal matters, but the councils varied considerably in decision-making styles and the number of matai involved in decisions. The law recognizes the decisions of the local council and provides for limited appeal to the Lands and Titles Court and the Supreme Court. The nature and severity of a dispute determines which court receives an appeal. Defendants may make a further appeal to the Court of Appeal. A Supreme Court ruling stipulates that local councils may not infringe upon villagers’ freedom of religion, speech, assembly, or association. Village councils, however, consistently ignored this ruling.

A January 2017 amendment to the law on village councils sought to ensure that the powers exercised by the village council comply with the constitution. The amendment provides more detail on what is a punishable offense and steps to be taken to carry out a punishment. Because of a strong cultural focus on village authority, the effect of the amendment remains uncertain.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through the courts.

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

The laws prohibit such actions, and there were no reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions. There was little privacy in villages, where there could be substantial societal pressure on residents to grant village officials access to their homes without a warrant. There were reports some village councils banished individuals or families from villages.

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. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of speech and press. The law stipulates imprisonment for any journalist who, despite a court order, refuses to reveal a confidential source upon request from a member of the public.

After abolishing it in 2013, parliament reinstated the Criminal Libel Act in December 2017, making defamation a criminal offense. The bill was rushed through parliament, passing its first, second, and third readings in less than one hour, and there was no public consultation on the bill. This move was largely in response to an increase in social media bloggers posting defamatory allegations, often about government leaders. Local media protested the law, calling it an obstacle to press freedom and questioned the need for it, since libel is already handled as a civil matter.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The law authorizes the Samoa Tourism Authority (STA) to file suit against any person who publishes information about the tourism industry that it deems prejudicial to the public perception of the country. Violators are subject to a fine or maximum imprisonment of three months if they fail to retract the information or to publish a correction when ordered to do so by the STA. The STA did not exercise this authority in the year to October.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. Internet access was widely available in most of the country via cellular technology, but the high cost limited internet access for much of the population outside the capital. According to the International Telecommunication Union, approximately 30 percent of the population had access to the internet.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution provides for the freedoms of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

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

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for granting refugee status, but the government has not yet established a system for providing protection to refugees. There were no requests for asylum or refugee status.

San Marino

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

There were no 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, and there were no reports that government officials employed them.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

There were no significant reports regarding prison or detention center conditions that raised human rights concerns.

Physical Conditions: There were no major concerns in prisons and detention centers regarding physical conditions.

Administration: No allegations of mistreatment were reported to the authorities.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits by independent nongovernmental observers and international bodies.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Civil Police operate under the authority of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The captains regent control the Gendarmerie (national police force) and National Guard (military) when they are performing duties related to public order and security. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs exercises control over such administrative functions as personnel and equipment, and the courts exercise control over the Gendarmerie when it acts as judicial police. The Military Congress enforces the military code of conduct.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the Civil Police, the Gendarmerie, and the National Guard, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. The commissioner of the law investigated and prosecuted criminal activity in the country. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Warrants based on sufficient evidence and issued by a duly authorized official are required for authorities to apprehend persons other than those who are caught and arrested during the commission of an alleged crime. Authorities did not detain individuals without judicial authorization or in secret. Police promptly informed detainees of charges against them. There was a well-functioning bail system. Authorities provided detainees prompt access to a lawyer of their choice and to family members. The state provided legal assistance to indigent persons, and there were no reports of limitations to this provision. The law provides for an apprehended person to be detained in prison, in a treatment facility, or under house arrest. The person may be ordered also to remain in the country while their case is pending trial. There were no reports that authorities detained or held persons incommunicado.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. The law provides for the presumption of innocence and requires authorities to inform defendants promptly and in detail of the charges against them. Defendants have the right to a fair, public trial without undue delay. Defendants have the right to be present and to consult with an attorney during every stage of the investigation. Indigent defendants have the right to an attorney provided at public expense. A single judge presides over trials. Defendants have the right to adequate time to prepare a defense. Free language interpretation is provided throughout the legal process. Defendants may question witnesses against them, and present witnesses and evidence on their behalf. Authorities may not compel defendants to testify or to confess guilt. Defendants have the right to two levels of appeal. The law extends these rights to all persons, and no groups were denied these rights.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts. Administrative as well as judicial remedies exist for alleged wrongdoings, including human rights violations. Citizens may appeal cases involving alleged violations by the government of the European Convention on Human Rights to the European Court of Human Rights after they have exhausted all routes for appeal in the domestic courts.

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

The law prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that 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. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.

Freedom of Expression: The country’s laws prohibit persons from disseminating, by any means, ideas based on racial superiority or on racial or ethnic hatred, or from committing or encouraging others to commit discriminatory acts on the grounds of race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, or sexual orientation. There were no reports of violations of or prosecutions based on these laws.

Press and Media Freedom: The law regulating media and the work of media professionals provides for an authority for information, which may impose sanctions (including fines) on journalists and media who violate a national media code of conduct. Online publications, such as blogs or messages on social media operated or written by individuals, associations, or parties were not considered as being part of the press and are therefore not covered by this legislation.

The Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance noted the absence of journalist representatives within the Office of the Press Ombudsman, which is in charge of ensuring compliance with the code of ethics.

One journalist, sentenced to one month in prison on charges of revealing private correspondence, lodged an appeal at the European Court for Human Rights, claiming he was not allowed to confront his accuser. The court accepted the case for review.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. Reliable information on internet use in the country was not available.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

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

Although the country is not a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees, the government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern. Only one family (from Syria) was granted asylum in the country during the year.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The government may grant refugee status or asylum by an act of the cabinet.

Sao Tome and Principe

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

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

There was a report the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. On October 4, a man arrested by police was beaten to death at the police station in Trindade. The police officers involved were arrested and charged with homicide and were awaiting trial as of October.

b. Disappearance

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 constitution and law prohibit such practices. There were reports, however, of police using physical force, including beatings, of persons who resisted arrest.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Although not life threatening, prison conditions were harsh due to overcrowding, inadequate medical care, and failing infrastructure.

Physical Conditions: There was one prison and no separate jails or detention centers. Authorities held pretrial and convicted prisoners together. Minors were held together with adults. There were 10 female prisoners, held in a separate part of the prison. Needs of prisoners with disabilities went unmet. Police stations had a small room or space to incarcerate detainees for periods under 48 hours.

As of October 5, there were 253 prison inmates; 83 were pretrial detainees, 10 were women, and 170 were sentenced prisoners. In addition, 56 individuals under house arrest were under the supervision of the prison administration. There were no reported prisoner deaths. The prison was originally built for 200 inmates but held 253.

Medical care was poor, and the prison lacked basic medicines. A doctor visited once a week, and there were three nurses. Prison authorities allowed inmates to see a doctor once a week and took prisoners with medical emergencies to the national hospital. Food and sanitation often were inadequate. Some rooms were unusable due to disrepair. High temperatures within the facility were typical and ventilation was insufficient.

Administration: Prisoners and detainees may submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and request investigation of allegations of inhuman conditions. No investigations occurred during the year. The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights monitored prison conditions.

Legal representatives from the prosecutor’s staff and court personnel were available to address prisoner grievances.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted human rights monitors to visit the prison; two international entities and at least three local human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) requested such visits during the year. Prison authorities allowed domestic charitable groups, family members, and churches to visit the prison to offer food, soap, and other necessities to prisoners.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention. They provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court and obtain prompt release and compensation if unlawfully detained, and the government generally observed these requirements.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Ministry of Defense and Internal Affairs has responsibility for the military, which is composed of the army and coast guard. The Internal Affairs side is responsible for the national police, immigration service, and customs police. The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights has responsibility for the judiciary police, which does criminal investigations. Many citizens viewed police as ineffective and corrupt.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over national police, customs and immigration authorities, and the military. While the government has mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption, abuses committed with impunity remained a problem. There were reports of police mistreatment of persons upon arrest, although no reliable statistics were available.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires police to have arrest warrants issued by a judge to apprehend suspects, unless the suspect is caught committing a crime. The law also requires a legal determination within 48 hours of detention, and authorities generally respected this requirement. Authorities informed detainees promptly of charges against them and allowed them access to family members. Authorities allowed detainees prompt access to a lawyer and, if they could not afford one, the state provided one. During the year an NGO reported that authorities asked detainees whether they paid taxes, and if they answered no, denied them access to a lawyer. The Human Rights Committee denied there were any restrictions on a detainee’s right to a state-provided lawyer if he/she was unable to afford one. The bar association provided services, and the government paid lawyers a symbolic fee. There is a functioning bail system.

Pretrial Detention: According to the director of the prison, approximately 27 percent of inmates were pretrial detainees. Lengthy pretrial detention continued to be a problem in some criminal cases. Due to overcrowding the prison held pretrial detainees together with convicted criminals. The understaffed and inefficient judicial system added to the delay.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, the judicial system in some cases appeared subject to political influence or manipulation. Prosecutors appeared not to pursue cases against politically well-connected individuals.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial. Under a judicial system based on the Portuguese model, a judge rather than a jury tries the accused. The constitution provides for the right of appeal, the right to legal representation, and, if a person is indigent, the right to an attorney provided by the state. The law presumes defendants to be innocent. They have the right to be present at their trial, confront their accusers, confront witnesses, and present evidence and witnesses on their own behalf. Defendants received adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. They were not compelled to testify or confess guilt. Authorities must inform defendants in detail of the charges against them within 48 hours of arrest and provide them with free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals.

The law extends these rights to all citizens, and authorities generally respected these rights.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The same court considers both criminal and civil cases but uses different procedures depending on the type of case. Plaintiffs may file lawsuits seeking damages for human rights violations; there are also administrative remedies for alleged wrongs. There is no regional body, however, to which individuals and organizations may appeal adverse court rulings.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected these rights. A somewhat independent press and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, although the press sometimes was susceptible to political influence and manipulation. The law grants all opposition parties access to state-run media, including a minimum of three minutes for each party per month on television. Some opposition leaders claimed newscasters did not always respect the minimum time, or the government edited content during that time.

Freedom of Expression: Political and human rights groups expressed concern over individuals’ reduced ability in general to criticize the government openly. On one occasion riot police and regular police entered parliament and expelled opposition members after a heated argument during which an opposition member broke the parliamentary ballot box. In August 2017 participants in a supposed military training exercise harassed opposition party members who attempted to gather for a meeting at the National Assembly.

Press and Media Freedom: Independent media remained underdeveloped and subject to pressure and manipulation to avoid criticizing the government. Privately owned as well as government-owned radio and television stations broadcast throughout the country.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Journalists claimed to have practiced self-censorship, particularly at government-owned media entities, which were the country’s most significant sources of news. Private news sources have also censored their own reporting. Critics claimed government-owned media intentionally interrupted the broadcast of speeches by opposition members in parliament.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal oversight. In June 2017 the online news source was inaccessible for approximately three weeks; no information was available as to the reason. Internet access was widely available through computer centers and chat rooms in most urban areas, including Sao Tome city, Trindade, Neves, Santana, and Angolares. It was not available in rural and remote areas. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 30 percent of individuals in the country used the internet during 2017.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

The law provides for this right, and the government generally respected it. On October 11, presumably to maintain order, police restricted freedom of peaceful assembly, forbidding public gatherings until after the announcement of election results on October 19. The restriction was prompted by a protest on October 8, when a crowd of several hundred overturned an official’s car and burned it. Several groups objected to the restriction but respected the ban.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Saudi Arabia

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

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

The government or its agents engaged in arbitrary or unlawful killings. On October 2, Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist who lived abroad in “self-exile,” was killed by government agents during a visit to the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. The government initially claimed he had left the consulate in good health but changed its story as facts came to light. On November 15, the PPO announced the indictment of 11 suspects in Khashoggi’s killing and that it would seek the death penalty for five of them charged with murder. The PPO added that an additional 10 suspects were under investigation in connection with the case. The PPO did not name the suspects. Previously, on October 19, the government announced the dismissal of five senior officials, including Royal Court advisor Saud al-Qahtani and Deputy Chief of the General Intelligence Presidency Ahmad al-Asiri, in connection with Khashoggi’s killing. In 2016 authorities reportedly banned Khashoggi from writing, appearing on television, and attending conferences due to remarks he made that were interpreted as critical of foreign and Saudi government officials, according to multiple media sources.

On March 12, the New York Times reported that unnamed sources said 17 detainees–among them princes, businessmen, and former and current government officials–held at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Riyadh in November 2017 had required hospitalization for physical abuse and that one had died in custody.

Under the country’s interpretation and practice of sharia (Islamic law), capital punishment may be imposed for a range of nonviolent offenses, including apostasy, sorcery, and adultery, although in practice death sentences for such offenses were rare and often reduced on appeal. The government, however, frequently implemented capital punishment for nonviolent drug trafficking offenses. According to the governmental Saudi Press Agency, the country carried out 145 executions as of December 19, 57 of which were for drug-related offenses. Three of those executions were carried out in public.

Since the country lacks a comprehensive written penal code listing criminal offenses and the associated penalties for them (see section 1.e.), punishment–including the imposition of capital punishment–is subject to considerable judicial discretion. Defendants are able to appeal their sentences. The law requires a five-judge appellate court to affirm a death sentence, which a five-judge panel of the Supreme Court must unanimously affirm. Appellate courts may recommend changes to a sentence, including increasing a lesser sentence to the death penalty.

Defendants possess the right under the law to seek commutation of a death sentence for some crimes and may receive a royal pardon under specific circumstances (see section 1.d.).

Many of those executed during the year had been convicted in trials that did not meet international minimum fair trial standards, according to NGOs such as Amnesty International. Amnesty noted that “those sentenced to death are often convicted solely on the basis of ‘confessions’ obtained under torture and other mistreatment, denied legal representation in trials which are held in secret, and are not kept informed of the progress of the legal proceedings in their case.”

In August the public prosecutor charged six Eastern Province activists with offenses that potentially could lead to death sentences based on the sharia principle of ta’zir, or “discretionary” punishments, according to HRW. The judge has discretion over the definition of what constitutes a crime and the sentence. The activists had initial hearings before the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC), set up in 2008 to try terrorism cases, on charges including “participating in violent protests” in the Qatif area of Eastern Province. Local and international human rights organizations noted the hearings before the SCC lacked transparency and did not adhere to minimum fair trial standards.

On March 15, seven UN experts issued a statement expressing concern over the pending death sentence of Abbas Haiji al-Hassan and 14 others, whom the SCC convicted of spying for Iran, financing terrorism, and illegally proselytizing in 2016. The experts called on the government to annul the death sentences, which had been upheld by further court rulings in July and December 2017. Al-Hassan was later transferred to the State Security Presidency (SSP), and his sentence was, at year’s end, subject to ratification by the king. The UN report commented: “We are concerned that these individuals were subjected to torture during their interrogation to obtain confessions and that the death sentences may be based on evidence obtained under these conditions.”

The government also imposed death sentences for crimes committed by minors. According to the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR), at year’s end eight individuals on death row were minors when detained, or at the time they committed offenses. The new Juvenile Law (approved by Royal Decree No. M/113, dated August 1, 2018), however, sets the legal age at 18 based on the Hijri calendar and in some cases permits detention of minors in a juvenile facility for up to 15 years if the crime is otherwise punishable by death.

At year’s end the government had not carried out the execution of Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr, sentenced to death in 2014 for crimes he allegedly committed when he was 17. Al-Nimr was charged with protesting, aiding and abetting fugitives, attacking security vehicles, and various violent crimes. Human rights organizations reported due process concerns relating to minimum fair trial standards for his case. Al-Nimr was the nephew of Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, executed in 2016.

There were terrorist attacks in the country during the year. A police officer, a Bangladeshi national, and two attackers were killed in a terrorist attack claimed by ISIS that targeted a security checkpoint in Buraidah, Qassim Province, on July 8.

b. Disappearance

There were reports of disappearances carried out by or on behalf of government authorities.

On May 29 and June 13, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesperson Liz Throssell and HRW, respectively, urged authorities to disclose the whereabouts of Nawaf al-Rasheed, a citizen with dual Qatari nationality, whom Kuwait authorities stated had been deported to Saudi Arabia on May 12 at the kingdom’s request.

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

The law prohibits torture and makes officers, who are responsible for criminal investigations, liable for any abuse of authority. Sharia, as interpreted in the country, prohibits judges from accepting confessions obtained under duress. Statutory law provides that public investigators shall not subject accused persons to coercive measures to influence their testimony.

Multiple human rights organizations, the United Nations, and independent third parties noted numerous reports of torture and mistreatment of detainees by law enforcement officers. In November HRW and Amnesty International reported that some female right-to-drive activists arrested in May and June were subjected to torture and sexual harassment while in detention at Dhahban Prison near Jeddah. Human rights organizations and Western media outlets reported the women had been subjected to electric shocks, whipping, and forced kissing.

In a September SCC hearing attended by diplomatic representatives, three defendants reported their confessions had been forced after they were subject to abuse including beatings, sleep deprivation, being forced to stand for long periods, and food deprivation. In a June report, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-terrorism Ben Emmerson called on authorities to investigate allegations of the torture of detainees. While noting the country had “suffered numerous terrorist acts” and had a duty to protect its citizens, Emmerson said he had “well-documented reports” of torture and mistreatment by law enforcement officials against individuals accused of terrorism, as well as the use of coerced confessions. Emmerson also said authorities had widened their use of the broad antiterrorism law since his visit in April-May 2017. Authorities denied officials committed torture and stated they afforded all detainees due process and properly investigated credible complaints of mistreatment or torture.

On March 11, The New York Times reported that businessmen and princes arrested and detained during the government’s November 2017 anticorruption campaign were required to wear ankle bracelets that tracked their movements after their release. It added that at least 17 detainees were hospitalized for physical abuse, and one later died in custody with his body bearing signs of torture.

Amnesty, HRW, and other organizations also reported cases in which the SCC based its decisions on confessions allegedly obtained through torture and then admitted as evidence.

Former detainees in facilities run by the General Investigations Directorate (the country’s internal security forces, also known as Mabahith) alleged that abuse included beatings, sleep deprivation, and long periods of solitary confinement for nonviolent detainees.

Officials from the Ministry of Interior, PPO, and Human Rights Commission (HRC) claimed that rules prohibiting torture prevented such practices from occurring in the penal system. The ministry said it installed surveillance cameras to record interrogations of suspects in some criminal investigation offices, police stations, and prisons where such interrogations regularly occurred, such as the General Investigations Directorate/Mabahith prison facilities. There were reports that defendants who requested copies of video footage from the ministry’s surveillance system to provide as evidence of torture did not receive it.

Courts continued to sentence individuals to corporal punishment, usually in the form of floggings, whippings, or lashings, a common punishment that government officials defended as punishment dictated by sharia. According to human rights activists, police conducted the floggings according to a set of guidelines determined by local interpretation of sharia. The police official administering the punishment must place a copy of the Quran under his arm that prevents raising the hand above the head, limiting the ability to inflict pain or injury on the person subjected to the punishment, and instructions forbid police from breaking the skin or causing scarring when administering the lashes. Human rights organizations disputed that officials implemented floggings according to these guidelines for all prisoners and characterized flogging as a form of cruel and unusual punishment.

There were no reported cases of judicially administered amputation during the year.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions varied, and some did not meet international standards; reported problems included overcrowding and inadequate conditions.

Physical Conditions: In May the HRC reported that the most common problems observed during prison visits conducted in 2017 included overcrowding as well as insufficient facilities for inmates with disabilities.

Juveniles constituted less than 1 percent of detainees and were held in separate facilities from adults, according to available information.

Violations listed in National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) reports following prison visits documented shortages of properly trained wardens and lack of prompt access to medical treatment and services, including medication, when requested. Some prisoners alleged prison authorities maintained cold temperatures in prison facilities and deliberately kept lights on 24 hours a day to make prisoners uncomfortable.

Human rights activists reported that deaths in prisons, jails, or pretrial detention centers were infrequent (see section 1.a.).

Authorities held pretrial detainees together with convicted prisoners. They separated persons suspected or convicted of terrorism offenses from the general population but held them in similar facilities. Activists alleged that authorities sometimes detained individuals in the same cells as individuals with mental disabilities as a form of punishment and indicated that authorities mistreated persons with disabilities.

Administration: There were multiple legal authorities for prisons and detention centers. The General Directorate of Prisons administered approximately 91 detention centers, prisons, and jails, while the General Investigations Directorate/Mabahith administered approximately 20 regional prisons and detention centers for security prisoners. Article 37 of the law of criminal procedure gives members of the PPO the authority to conduct official visits of prisons and detention facilities “within their jurisdictional areas to ensure that no person is unlawfully imprisoned or detained” (see section 1.d., Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees).

No ombudsmen were available to register or investigate complaints made by prisoners, although prisoners could and did submit complaints to the HRC and the NSHR for follow up. Article 38 of the law of criminal procedure provides that “any prisoner or detainee shall have the right to submit, at any time, a written or verbal complaint to the prison or detention center officer and request that he communicate it to a member of the [former] Bureau of Investigations and Public Prosecution [renamed the PPO].” Under the law there is no right to submit complaints directly to judicial authorities or to challenge the legality of an individual’s detention before a court of law (habeas corpus). There was no information available on whether prisoners were able to submit complaints to prison or prosecutorial authorities without censorship, or whether authorities responded or acted upon complaints.

On December 17, the Wall Street Journal reported the HRC was investigating alleged abused of detained women’s rights activists.

On July 6, security authorities arrested human rights defender Khaled al-Omair after he had filed a complaint with the Royal Court against an officer of the General Directorate of Investigation who allegedly tortured him during a prior imprisonment, according to the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR). Al-Omair was previously released in April 2017 after serving an eight-year sentence for inciting demonstrations and calling for them via the internet, according to the GCHR.

Recordkeeping on prisoners was inadequate; there were reports authorities held prisoners after they had completed their sentences.

A Ministry of Interior-run website (Nafetha) provided detainees and their relatives access to a database containing information about the legal status of the detainee, including any scheduled trial dates. Activists said the website did not provide information about all detainees.

Authorities differentiated between violent and nonviolent prisoners, sometimes pardoning nonviolent prisoners to reduce the prison population. Certain prisoners convicted on terrorism-related charges were required to participate in government-sponsored rehabilitation programs before consideration of their release.

Authorities generally permitted relatives and friends to visit prisoners twice a week, although certain prisons limited visitation to once every 15 days. There were reports that prison, security, or law enforcement officials denied this privilege in some instances, often during investigations. The families of detainees could access the Nafetha website for applications for prison visits, temporary leave from prison (generally approved around post-Ramadan Eid holidays), and release on bail (for pretrial detainees). Some family members of detained persons under investigation said family visits were typically not allowed, while others said allowed visits or calls were extremely brief (less than five minutes). Some family members of prisoners complained authorities canceled scheduled visits with relatives without reason.

Authorities generally permitted Muslim detainees and prisoners to perform religious observances such as prayers.

Independent Monitoring: Independent institutions were not permitted to conduct regular, unannounced visits to places of detention, according to the UN Committee against Torture. During the year the government permitted some foreign diplomats to visit some prison facilities to view general conditions in nonconsular cases. In a limited number of cases, foreign diplomats visited individuals in detention, but the visits took place in a separate visitors’ center where conditions may have differed from those in the detention facilities holding the prisoners.

The government permitted the HRC and domestic quasi-governmental organizations, such as the NSHR, to monitor prison conditions. The organizations stated they visited prisons throughout the country and reported on prison conditions. In December the HRC reported it had conducted more than 1,200 prison visits in 2017, including visits to Mabahith prisons, criminal investigation prisons, and some military prisons, as well as “social surveillance centers” and girls’ welfare institutions. The NSHR reportedly monitored health care in prisons and brought deficiencies to the attention of the PPO.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law provides that no entity may restrict a person’s actions or imprison a person, except under the provisions of the law. The law of criminal procedure provides that authorities may not detain a person for more than 24 hours, except pursuant to a written order from a public investigator. Authorities must inform the detained person of the reasons for detention. Regardless, the Ministry of Interior and the SSP, to which the majority of forces with arrest powers reported, maintained broad authority to arrest and detain persons indefinitely without judicial oversight, notification of charges, or effective access to legal counsel or family. Authorities held persons for months and sometimes years without charge or trial and reportedly failed to advise them promptly of their rights, including their legal right to be represented by an attorney. Under the law of criminal procedure, detentions can be extended administratively for up to six months at the discretion of the PPO.

The Supreme Anti-Corruption Committee, formed by Royal Order No. (A/38) in November 2017, was granted broad powers, including the authority to issue arrest warrants and travel bans, freeze accounts and portfolios, and take whatever measures deemed necessary to deal with those involved in public corruption cases.

In January the public prosecutor stated the committee summoned 381 persons for questioning, of whom 56 suspects were still held on graft charges. On April 8, the public prosecutor began investigations and opening arguments for the remaining 56 suspects. In an October 5 interview with Bloomberg News, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman declared only eight suspects remained.

The PPO may order the detention of any person accused of a crime under the 2017 counterterrorism law for up to 30 days, or successive periods not exceeding 30 days each, and in total not more than 12 months. The SCC must authorize periods of detention of more than 12 months. In practice the United Nations and international human rights organizations documented numerous cases of detention that reportedly exceeded the maximum allowable period under the law.

By law defendants accused of any crime cited in the law are entitled to hire a practicing lawyer to defend themselves before the court “within an adequate period of time to be decided by the investigatory body.”

Since May 15, authorities arrested at least 30 prominent activists, and imposed travel bans on others, in connection with these activists’ advocacy for the right of women to drive. On June 1, Public Prosecutor Sheikh Saud al-Mu’jab stated authorities temporarily released eight of the detainees (five women and three men). An additional activist was released in December.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

In July 2017 King Salman issued a royal decree that established the State Security Presidency (SSP), a new entity reporting directly to the king, to consolidate “the counterterrorism and domestic intelligence services” and “all matters related to state security, … combatting terrorism, and financial investigations,” according to the official Saudi Press Agency. The royal decree moved the General Directorate of Investigation (Mabahith), Special Security Forces, Special Emergency Forces, General Security Aviation Command, General Directorate of Technical Affairs, and the National Information Center from the Ministry of Interior to the SSP. Police, traffic authorities, and the General Directorate of Passports remained under the Ministry of Interior, according to the Ministry of Information’s website.

The king, SSP, and Ministries of Defense, Interior, and National Guard are responsible for law enforcement and maintenance of order. The SSP and Ministry of Interior exercise primary control over internal security and police forces. The civil police and the internal security police have authority to arrest and detain individuals. Ministry of Interior and SSP police and security forces were generally able to maintain order.

The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV), which monitors public behavior to enforce strict adherence to official interpretation of Islamic norms, reports to the king via the Royal Diwan (royal court) and to the Ministry of Interior. In 2016 the cabinet issued regulations severely curtailing the CPVPV’s enforcement powers. The new regulations prohibit CPVPV officers from investigating, detaining or arresting, or requesting the identification of any individual. The regulations also limit their activities to providing counseling and reporting individuals suspected of violating the law to police or other authorities. Evidence available since the end of 2017 indicated that CPVPV officers were less visibly present and active after implementation of the new strictures. Mabahith officers also have broad authorities to investigate, detain, and forward “national security” cases to judicial authorities–which ranged from terrorism cases to dissident and human rights activist cases–separate from the PPO.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over security forces, and the government had mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. Military and security courts investigated abuses of authority and security force killings. The Board of Grievances (“Diwan al-Mazalim”), a high-level administrative judicial body that hears cases against government entities and reports directly to the king, is the primary mechanism to seek redress for claims of abuse. Citizens may report abuses by security forces at any police station or to the HRC or NSHR. The HRC and NSHR maintained records of complaints and outcomes, but privacy laws protected information about individual cases, and information was not publicly available. The HRC said in February that it received 2,646 human rights-related complaints during fiscal year 2016-17. During the year the Board of Grievances held hearings and adjudicated claims of wrongdoing, but there were no reported prosecutions of security force members for human rights violations.

The HRC, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, provided materials and training to police, other security forces, the Ministry of Defense, and the CPVPV on protecting human rights.

The Supreme Anti-Corruption Committee, established in November 2017, the National Anticorruption Commission (Nazaha), the PPO, and the Control and Investigation Board are units of the government with authority to investigate reports of criminal activity, corruption, and “disciplinary cases” involving government employees. These bodies are responsible for investigating potential cases and referring them to the administrative courts. Legal authorities for investigation and public prosecution of criminal offenses are consolidated within the PPO; the Control and Investigation Board is responsible for investigation and prosecution of noncriminal cases. Financial audit and control functions are vested in the General Auditing Board.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

In June 2017 King Salman issued two royal decrees that created the Public Prosecutor’s Office, (formerly the Bureau of Investigations and Public Prosecution or BIPP), establishing Saud bin Abdullah bin Mubarak al-Mu’jab as its head attorney general. The decrees directed the newly named agency to report directly to the king (rather than the Ministry of Interior, to which the BIPP had reported). Officials stated these changes would increase the independence and effectiveness of the lead prosecutorial office.

According to the law of criminal procedure, “no person shall be arrested, searched, detained, or imprisoned except in cases provided by law, and any accused person shall have the right to seek the assistance of a lawyer or a representative to defend him during the investigation and trial stages.” By law authorities may summon any person for investigation and may issue an arrest warrant based on evidence. In practice authorities frequently did not use warrants, and warrants were not required under the law in all cases.

The law requires authorities to file charges within 72 hours of arrest and hold a trial within six months, subject to exceptions specified by amendments to the law of criminal procedure and the counterterrorism law (see section 2.a.). Authorities may not legally detain a person under arrest for more than 24 hours, except pursuant to a written order from a public investigator. Authorities reportedly often failed to observe these legal protections, and there was no requirement to advise suspects of their rights. There were also reports that authorities did not allow legal counsel access to detainees who were under investigation in pretrial detention. Judicial proceedings begin after authorities complete a full investigation, which in some cases took years.

The law of criminal procedure specifies procedures required for extending the detention period of an accused person beyond the initial five days. Authorities may approve official detentions in excess of six months in “exceptional circumstances,” effectively allowing individuals to be held in pretrial detention indefinitely. Authorities may also extend from three months to six months the deadline for the PPO to gather evidence against the accused and issue a warrant for the defendant’s arrest, summons, or detention.

There is a functioning bail system for less serious criminal charges. Detainees generally did not have the right to obtain a lawyer of their choice. The government provided lawyers to defendants who made a formal application to the Ministry of Justice to receive a court-appointed lawyer and prove their inability to pay for their legal representation. The law contains no provision regarding the right to be informed of the protections guaranteed under the law.

Incommunicado detention was a problem. Authorities reportedly did not always respect a detainees’ right to contact family members following detention, and the counterterrorism law allows the investigatory body to hold a defendant for up to 90 days in detention without access to family members or legal counsel (and the SCC may extend such restrictions beyond this period). Security and some other types of prisoners sometimes remained in prolonged solitary detention before family members or associates received information of their whereabouts, particularly for detainees in Mabahith-run facilities.

Arbitrary Arrest: There were reports of arbitrary arrest and detention. During the year authorities detained security suspects, persons who publicly criticized the government, Shia religious leaders, and persons who violated religious standards, without charge.

On January 2, a group of UN human rights experts deplored what they said was “a worrying pattern of widespread and systematic arbitrary arrests and detention” following the arrests of religious figures, writers, journalists, academics, and civic activists, along with members of the banned Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) since September 2017. The experts denounced the use of the 2014 Counterterrorism Law (as amended in 2017) and other security-related laws against human rights defenders, urging the government to end repression and release those detained for peacefully exercising their rights. In September the SCC opened trials against some of the clerics, academics, and media figures arrested in September 2017. The SCC saw a significant increase in the number of cases and judicial rulings between September 2017 and March 2018, compared with the same period in the previous 12-month period. On April 22, local media reported an increase of 132 percent in the number of cases referred to the SCC and a 182 percent increase in the number of defendants.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was a problem.

In August 2017 the PPO found during inspections of prisons and detention centers across the country that more than 2,000 individuals remained in detention without charge or trial since 2014. The attorney general ordered the cases immediately examined, and the majority of detainees were reportedly released on bail. The attorney general also asked the courts to find an appropriate legal remedy for the affected individuals.

Nonetheless, in a May 6 statement, HRW noted that authorities had detained thousands of persons for more than six months, in some cases for more than a decade, without referring them to courts for criminal proceedings, and that the number held for excessively long periods had apparently increased dramatically in recent years.

There was no current information available on the percentage of the prison population in pretrial detention or the average length of time held. Local human rights activists and diplomatic representatives reportedly received regular reports from families claiming authorities held their relatives arbitrarily or without notification of charges.

During the year the SSP stated it had detained numerous individuals for terrorist acts. On May 9, local media reported there were 5,342 detainees in five intelligence prisons across the country, of whom 83 percent were Saudis.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Under the law detainees are not entitled to challenge the lawfulness of their detention before a court. In the case of wrongful detention, the law of criminal procedure, as well as provisions of the counterterrorism law, provide for the right to compensation if detainees are found to have been held unlawfully.

Amnesty: The law of criminal procedure stipulates that the king may issue a pardon “on pardonable matters” for public crimes only. The law of criminal procedure also states that a victim’s heirs may grant a pardon for private crimes. The Ministry of Interior publishes the conditions for royal pardons annually, and these generally exclude specific crime categories such as murder or drug smuggling, or those convicted of crimes involving state security. Under the country’s interpretation of sharia, there are three broad categories of offenses: (1) huddud or “boundary” crimes, which are explicitly enumerated in the Quran and whose corresponding punishments are also prescribed; these are considered crimes against God and thus not pardonable; (2) qisas or “legal retribution crimes,” which involve murder or intentional bodily harm and give the victim’s family or legal heirs the private right to legal retribution; the victim’s family or legal heirs may grant a pardon in exchange for financial compensation (diya or “blood money,); and (3) crimes that do not reach the level of huddud or qisas and which are left to the discretion of the state (judge). Ta’zir or “discretionary” punishments are issued for crimes against public rights; this is the most frequently used basis for conviction.

The king continued the tradition of commuting some judicial punishments. Royal pardons sometimes set aside a conviction and sometimes reduced or eliminated corporal punishment. The remaining sentence could be added to a new sentence if the pardoned prisoner committed a crime subsequent to release.

Authorities did not detain some individuals who had received prison sentences. The counterterrorism law allows the PPO to stop proceedings against an individual who cooperates with investigations or helps thwart a planned terrorist attack. The law authorizes the SSP to release individuals already convicted.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides that judges are independent and not subject to any authority other than the provisions of sharia and the laws in force. Nevertheless, the judiciary, PPO, and SSP were not independent entities, as they were required to coordinate their decisions with executive authorities, with the king and crown prince as arbiters. Although public allegations of interference with judicial independence were rare, the judiciary reportedly was subject to influence, particularly in the case of legal decisions rendered by specialized judicial bodies, such as the SCC, which rarely acquitted suspects. Human rights activists reported that SCC judges received implicit instructions to issue harsh sentences against human rights activists, reformers, journalists, and dissidents not engaged in violent activities. Activists also reported that judicial and prosecutorial authorities ignored due process-related complaints, including lack of access by lawyers to their clients at critical stages of the judicial process, particularly during the pretrial/investigation phase.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

In the judicial system, there traditionally was no published case law on criminal matters, no uniform criminal code, no presumption of innocence, and no doctrine of stare decisis that binds judges to follow legal precedent. The Justice Ministry is expanding a project first started in 2007 to encapsulate and distribute model judicial decisions to ensure more uniformity of legal application. The law states that defendants should be treated equally in accordance with sharia. The Council of Senior Scholars (CSS), or the ulema, an autonomous advisory body, issues religious opinions (fatwas) that guide how judges interpret sharia.

In the absence of a formalized penal code that details all criminal offenses and punishments, judges in the courts determine many of these penalties through their interpretations of sharia, which varied according to the judge and the circumstances of the case. Because judges have considerable discretion in decision making, rulings and sentences diverged widely from case to case.

Several laws, however, provide sentencing requirements for crimes including terrorism, cybercrimes, trafficking in persons, and domestic abuse. In 2016 the Ministry of Justice issued its first compilation of previous decisions that judges could refer to as a point of reference in making rulings and assigning sentences.

Appeals courts cannot independently reverse lower court judgments; they are limited to affirming judgments or returning them to a lower court for modification. Even when judges did not affirm judgments, appeals judges in some cases remanded the judgment to the judge who originally authored the opinion. This procedure sometimes made it difficult for parties to receive a ruling that differed from the original judgment in cases where judges hesitated to admit error. While judges may base their decisions on any of the four Sunni schools of jurisprudence, all of which are represented in the CSS, the Hanbali school predominates and forms the basis for the country’s law and legal interpretations of sharia. Shia citizens use their legal traditions to adjudicate family law cases between Shia parties, although either party can decide to adjudicate a case in state courts, which apply Sunni legal traditions.

While the law states that court hearings shall be public, courts may be closed at the judge’s discretion. As a result, many trials during the year were closed. Through mid-October foreign diplomatic missions were able to obtain permission to attend some nonconsular court proceedings (cases to which neither the host country nor any of its nationals were a party; diplomatic missions are generally allowed to attend consular proceedings of their own nationals). To attend, authorities required diplomats to obtain advance written approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In October, however, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs suspended diplomatic access to court proceedings. Authorities sometimes did not permit entry to such trials to individuals other than diplomats who were not the legal agents or family members of the accused. SCC officials sometimes banned female relatives or diplomats from attending due to the absence of women officers to conduct security inspections of the women upon entry to the courtroom. According to the Ministry of Justice, authorities may close a trial depending on the sensitivity of the case to national security, the reputation of the defendant, or the safety of witnesses. Representatives of the HRC sometimes attended trials at the SCC.

Amendments to the law of criminal procedure in 2013 strengthened provisions stating that authorities will offer defendants a lawyer at government expense. In August 2017 the Ministry of Justice stated that defendants “enjoy all judicial guarantees they are entitled to, including the right to seek the assistance of lawyers of their choosing to defend them, while the ministry pays the lawyer’s fees when the accused is not able to settle them.” Activists, however, reported the process for applying for a court-appointed lawyer was difficult and cumbersome. Many said they were not able or allowed to retain an attorney or consult with their attorneys during critical stages of the investigatory and trial proceedings. Detained human rights activists often did not trust the courts to appoint lawyers for them due to concerns of lawyer bias.

The law provides defendants the right to be present at trial and to consult with an attorney during the trial. The counterterrorism law, however, authorizes the attorney general to limit the right of defendants accused of terrorism to access legal representation while under investigation “whenever the interests of the investigation so require.” There is no right to discovery, nor can defendants view their own file or the minutes from their interrogation. Defendants have the right to call and cross-examine witnesses under the law; however, activists reported SCC judges could decide to restrict this right in “the interests of the case.” The law provides that a PPO-appointed investigator questions the witnesses called by the defendant during the investigation phase before the initiation of a trial. The investigator may also hear testimony of additional witnesses he deems necessary to determine the facts. Authorities may not subject a defendant to any coercive measures or compel the taking of an oath. The court must inform convicted persons of their right to appeal rulings.

The law does not provide for a right against self-incrimination.

The law does not provide free interpretation services, although services were often provided in practice. The law of criminal procedure provides that “the court should seek the assistance of interpreters,” but it does not obligate the court to do so from the moment the defendant is charged, nor does the law specify that the state will bear the costs of such services.

While sharia as interpreted by the government applies to all citizens and noncitizens, the law in practice discriminates against women, noncitizens, nonpracticing Sunni, Shia, and persons of other religions. Although exceptions exist, a woman’s testimony before a court counts as only half that of a man’s. Judges may discount the testimony of nonpracticing Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, or persons of other religions; sources reported judges sometimes completely disregarded or refused to hear testimony by Shia.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

The government maintained there were no political prisoners, including detainees who reportedly remained in prolonged detention without charge, while local activists and human rights organizations claimed there were “hundreds” or “thousands.” Credible reporting by advocacy groups and press suggested that authorities detained persons for peaceful activism or political opposition, including nonviolent religious figures, imams deemed to have strayed from the official religious line, Shia activists, women’s rights defenders, other activists, and bloggers who the government claimed posted offensive or antigovernment comments on websites.

In many cases it was impossible to determine the legal basis for incarceration and whether the detention complied with international norms and standards. Those who remained imprisoned after trial, including persons who were political activists openly critical of the government, were often convicted of terrorism-related crimes. During the year the SCC tried political and human rights activists for nonviolent actions unrelated to terrorism, violence, or espionage against the state.

International NGOs, the United Nations, and others criticized the government for abusing its antiterrorism prerogatives to detain or arrest some dissidents or critics of the government or royal family on security-related grounds who had not espoused or committed violence. Authorities restricted attorneys’ access to all detainees, and no international humanitarian organizations had access to them.

On May 25, authorities arrested ACPRA founding member Mohammed al-Bajadi, along with almost a dozen women rights defenders, some of whom were later released. Al-Bajadi was previously released from prison in 2016 after serving a four-year prison sentence on charges stemming from his work with ACPRA. Among other rights defenders arrested in May was lawyer Ibrahim al-Mudaimeegh, who previously represented activists including Waleed Abu al-Khair and Lujain al-Hathloul. Al-Mudaimeegh was reportedly released on December 21.

At least 120 persons remained in detention for activism, criticism of government leaders, impugning Islam or religious leaders, or “offensive” internet postings, including prominent activists such as Aziza al-Yousef, Eman al-Nafjan, Hatoon al-Fassi, Raif Badawi, Mohammed al-Qahtani, Loujain al-Hathloul, and Samar Badawi, and clerics including former Grand Mosque Imam Salih al-Talib, Sahwa movement figures Safar al-Hawali, Nasser al-Omar, and others.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Complainants claiming human rights violations generally sought assistance from the HRC or the NSHR, which either advocated on their behalf or provided courts with opinions on their cases. The HRC generally responded to complaints and could refer cases to the PPO; domestic violence cases were the most common. Individuals or organizations may petition directly for damages or government action to end human rights violations before the Board of Grievances, except in compensation cases related to state security, where the SCC handles remediation. The counterterrorism law contains a provision allowing detainees in Mabahith-run prisons to request financial compensation from the Ministry of Interior/SSP for wrongful detention beyond their prison terms. In some cases the government did not carry out judicially ordered compensation for unlawful detentions in a timely manner.

In August 2017 the Ministry of Justice issued a press release stating that “…the accused enjoy all judicial guarantees they are entitled to, including the right to seek the assistance of lawyers of their choosing to defend them, while the Ministry [of Justice] pays the lawyer’s fees when the accused is not able to settle them.” Security detainees held in accordance with the 2017 Counterterrorism Law are entitled “to seek the assistance of a lawyer or legal agent,” but the Public Prosecutor may restrict this right during the investigation “whenever the interests of the investigation so require.” The United Nations and international NGOs reported security detainees were denied access to legal counsel during pretrial detention during the year.

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

The law prohibits unlawful intrusions into the privacy of persons, their homes, places of work, and vehicles. Criminal investigation officers are required to maintain records of all searches conducted; these records should contain the name of the officer conducting the search, the text of the search warrant (or an explanation of the urgency that necessitated the search without a warrant), and the names and signatures of the persons who were present at the time of search. While the law also provides for the privacy of all mail, telegrams, telephone conversations, and other means of communication, the government did not respect the privacy of correspondence or communications and used the considerable latitude provided by law to monitor activities legally and intervene where it deemed necessary.

There were reports from human rights activists of governmental monitoring or blocking of mobile telephone or internet usage. The government strictly monitored politically related activities and took punitive actions, including arrest and detention, against persons engaged in certain political activities, such as calling for a constitutional monarchy, publicly criticizing senior members of the royal family by name, forming a political party, or organizing a demonstration (see section 2.a.). Customs officials reportedly routinely opened mail and shipments to search for contraband. In some areas Ministry of Interior/SSP informants allegedly reported “seditious ideas,” “antigovernment activity,” or “behavior contrary to Islam” in their neighborhoods.

The 2017 Counterterrorism Law allows the Ministry of Interior/SSP to access a terrorism suspect’s private communications as well as banking information in a manner inconsistent with the legal protections provided by the law of criminal procedure.

The CPVPV monitored and regulated public interaction between members of the opposite sex, though in practice CPVPV authorities were greatly curtailed and mixed-gender events this year.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The law does not provide for freedom of expression, including for the press. The Basic Law specifies, “Mass media and all other vehicles of expression shall employ civil and polite language, contribute towards the education of the nation, and strengthen unity. The media are prohibited from committing acts that lead to disorder and division, affect the security of the state or its public relations, or undermine human dignity and rights.” Authorities are responsible for regulating and determining which speech or expression undermines internal security. The government can ban or suspend media outlets if it concludes they violated the press and publications law, and it monitored and blocked hundreds of thousands of internet sites. There were frequent reports of restrictions on free speech.

The legal definition of terrorism, according to the 2017 counterterrorism law, includes “any conduct…intended to disturb public order…or destabilize the state or endanger its national unity.” The law also penalizes “anyone who challenges, either directly or indirectly, the religion or justice of the King or Crown Prince…or anyone who establishes or uses a website or computer program…to commit any of the offenses set out in the law.” Local human rights activists, international human rights organizations, and the UN special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism criticized the counterterrorism law for its overly broad and vague definitions of terrorism and complained the government used it to prosecute peaceful expression and dissent.

Freedom of Expression: The government monitored public expressions of opinion and took advantage of legal controls to impede the free expression of opinion and restrict individuals from engaging in public criticism of the political sphere. The law forbids apostasy and blasphemy, which can carry the death penalty, although there were no recent instances of death sentences being carried out for these crimes (see section 1.a.). Statements that authorities construed as constituting defamation of the king, monarchy, governing system, or Al Saud family resulted in criminal charges for citizens advocating government reform. The government prohibits public employees from directly or indirectly engaging in dialogue with local or foreign media or participating in any meetings intended to oppose state policies.

Some human rights activists were detained and then released on the condition that they refrain from using social media for activism, communicating with foreign diplomats and international human rights organizations, and traveling outside the country, according to human rights organizations.

The government charged a number of individuals with crimes related to their exercise of free speech during the year.

From May 15 to year’s end, authorities arrested at least 30 prominent women activists and their male supporters and imposed travel bans on others, in connection with their advocacy for lifting the ban on women driving. Those arrested included some of the women who first defied the driving ban in 1990, as well as others who expressed solidarity with detained activists. At least 12 persons remained in detention “after sufficient evidence was made available and for their confessions of charges attributed to them.” In a June 2 statement, the public prosecutor stated the detainees had admitted to communicating and cooperating with individuals and organizations opposed to the kingdom, recruiting persons to get secret information to hurt the country’s interests, and offering material and emotional support to hostile elements abroad. State-linked media labelled those arrested as traitors and “agents of embassies.” The detained included Aziza al-Yousef, Eman al-Nafjan, Hatoon al-Fassi, Loujain al-Hathloul, Hatoon al-Fassi, Samar Badawi, and Nouf Abdulaziz al-Jerawi, among others.

In August authorities arrested Mecca Grand Mosque Imam Sheikh Salih al-Talib. In his last Friday sermon on July 13, Al-Talib discussed the duty in Islam to speak out against evil in public. Al-Talib was the first imam of the Two Holy Mosques in Mecca and Medina to be detained.

In September the SCC opened trials against clerics, academics, and media persons for alleged association with the Muslim Brotherhood, including prominent Muslim scholars Salman al-Odah, Awad al-Qarni, and Ali al-Omari. The three were arrested in September 2017, and the public prosecutor was reportedly seeking the death penalty against them. The public prosecutor brought 37 charges against al-Odah, the vast majority of which alleged ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatari government, in addition to his public support for imprisoned dissidents. None referred to specific acts of violence or incitement to acts of violence, according to a HRW statement on September 12. The 30 charges against al-Omari included “forming a youth organization to carry out the objectives of a terrorist group inside the Kingdom.”

Press and Media Freedom: The Press and Publications Law governs printed materials; printing presses; bookstores; the import, rental, and sale of films; television and radio; foreign media offices and their correspondents; and online newspapers and journals. Media fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Information. The ministry may permanently close “whenever necessary” any means of communication–defined as any means of expressing a viewpoint that is meant for circulation–that it deems is engaged in a prohibited activity, as set forth in the law.

Media policy statements urged journalists to uphold Islam, oppose atheism, promote Arab interests, and preserve cultural heritage. In 2011 a royal decree amended the press law to strengthen penalties, create a special commission to judge violations, and require all online newspapers and bloggers to obtain a license from the ministry. The decree bans publishing anything “contradicting sharia, inciting disruption, serving foreign interests that contradict national interests, and damaging the reputation of the grand mufti, members of the Council of Senior Religious Scholars, or senior government officials.”

The law states that violators can face fines up to 50,000 riyals ($13,300) for each violation of the law, which doubles if the violation is repeated. Other penalties include banning individuals from writing. While the Violations Considerations Committee in the Ministry of Information has formal responsibility for implementing the law, the Ministry of Interior, the CPVPV, and sharia court judges considered these issues regularly and exercised wide discretion in interpreting the law. It was unclear which process accords with the law.

On July 12, authorities arrested influential religious scholar and Sahwa (Awakening) movement figure Safar al-Hawali, four of his sons, and his brother after al-Hawali reportedly published a book criticizing the Saudi royal family and the country’s foreign policy.

Although unlicensed satellite dishes were illegal, the government did not enforce restrictions on them, and their use was widespread. Many foreign satellite stations broadcast a wide range of programs into the country in Arabic and other languages, including foreign news channels. Access to foreign sources of information, including via satellite dishes and the internet, was common. Foreign media were subject to licensing requirements from the Ministry of Information and could not operate freely. Privately owned satellite television networks, headquartered outside the country, maintained local offices and operated under a system of self-censorship.

On February 19, the Ministry of Culture and Information banned writer Muhammad al-Suhaimi from writing and taking part in any media activity, and referred him to an investigation committee for criticizing the Muslim call to prayer (adhan) and calling for reducing the number of mosques. Speaking to the MBC TV channel, al-Suhaimi had criticized the volume of the call to prayer, calling it a nuisance.

Violence and Harassment: Authorities subjected journalists, writers, and bloggers to arrest, imprisonment, and harassment during the year.

Throughout the year NGOs, academics, and the press reported on the government’s targeting of dissidents using automated social media accounts to ensure that progovernment messages dominate social media trend lists and effectively silence dissenting voices. Automated account activity was reportedly accompanied by online harassment by progovernment accounts in some instances. Dissidents with large social media followings were targeted for offline harassment and surveillance as well.

On February 8, the SCC sentenced prominent newspaper columnist Saleh al-Shehi to five years in prison, followed by a five-year travel ban, for insulting the royal court and its employees. Al-Shehi was reportedly arrested on January 3 after a televised appearance on the privately owned Rotana Khalejia channel in which he accused the royal court of being “one of the institutions that reinforced corruption” in the country, citing examples such as granting plots of land to citizens based on personal connections.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The government reportedly penalized those who published items counter to government guidelines and directly or indirectly censored the media by licensing domestic media and by controlling importation of foreign printed material.

All newspapers, blogs, and websites in the country must be government-licensed. The Ministry of Information must approve the appointment of all senior editors and has authority to remove them. The government provided guidelines to newspapers regarding controversial issues. The Saudi Press Agency reported official government news. The government owned most print and broadcast media and book publication facilities in the country, and members of the royal family owned or influenced privately owned and nominally independent operations, including various media outlets and widely circulated pan-Arab newspapers published outside the country. Authorities prevented or delayed the distribution of foreign print media covering issues considered sensitive, effectively censoring these publications.

The government censored published material it considered blasphemous, extremist, racist, or offensive, or as inciting chaos, violence, sectarianism, or harm to the public order. In June 2017 the PPO stated that producing and promoting “rumors that affect the public order” was a crime under the anti-cybercrimes law and punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of three million riyals ($800,000), or both. On June 13, 2018, the PPO warned against sending, producing, or storing any material that stirs up tribalism and fanaticism, and harms public order, which is also punishable by the above penalties.

In some cases, however, individuals criticized specific government bodies or actions publicly without repercussions. The Consultative Council (Majlis ash-Shura), an advisory body, frequently allowed print and broadcast media to observe its proceedings and meetings, but the council closed some high-profile or controversial sessions to the media.

Libel/Slander Laws: There were numerous reports during the year of the government using libel laws to suppress publication of material that criticized policies or public officials.

The anti-cybercrimes law provides for a maximum penalty of one year’s imprisonment for “defamation and infliction of damage upon others through the use of various information technology devices.” In 2014 the law was amended to include social media and social networks.

On May 30, the SCC in Riyadh sentenced academic and media professional Mohammed al-Hudaif to five years in prison, followed by a five-year travel and social media ban, and ordered his Twitter account shut down. Al-Hudaif was convicted of “insulting neighboring states” following a comment he wrote about the visit of the former Egyptian justice minister, Ahmed al-Zind, to the UAE. The government deemed Hudaif’s tweet insulting to both the Egyptian and Emirati authorities. He was convicted of destroying national cohesion, publishing writings hostile to state policy, and communicating with members of bodies hostile to the state (the Muslim Brotherhood), according to Al-Qst rights group.

On September 3, the public prosecutor warned that producing and distributing content that ridicules, mocks, provokes, and disrupts public order, religious values and public morals through social media would be considered a cybercrime punishable by a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of three million riyals ($800,000).

National Security: Authorities used the anti-cybercrimes law and the counterterrorism law to restrict freedom of expression, including by prosecuting numerous individuals under these laws on charges related to statements made on social media.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The Ministry of Information or its agencies must authorize all websites registered and hosted in the country. The General Commission for Audiovisual Media has responsibility for regulating all audio and video content in the country, including satellite channels, film, music, internet, and mobile applications, independent from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Internet access was widely available, and 82 percent of the population used the internet in 2017, according to International Telecommunication Union data.

The press and publications law implicitly covers electronic media, since it extends to any means of expression of a viewpoint meant for circulation, ranging from words to cartoons, photographs, and sounds. In 2011 the government issued implementing regulations for electronic publishing that set rules for internet-based and other electronic media, including chat rooms, personal blogs, and text messages. On May 27, then information minister Awwad bin Saleh al-Awwad approved the executive regulations for types and forms of electronic publishing activities. The list consists of 17 items defining the mechanisms of dealing with electronic publishing activities, classifications, and ways of obtaining the appropriate regulatory licenses to carry out the required activities. Laws, including the anti-cybercrimes law, criminalize defamation on the internet, hacking, unauthorized access to government websites, and stealing information related to national security, as well as the creation or dissemination of a website for a terrorist organization. Security authorities actively monitored internet activity, both to enforce laws, regulations, and societal norms and to monitor recruitment efforts by extremist organizations such as ISIS. Activists complained of monitoring or attempted monitoring of their communications on web-based communications applications.

Access to the internet is legally available only through government-authorized internet service providers. The government required internet service providers to monitor customers and required internet cafes to install hidden cameras and provide identity records of customers. Although authorities blocked websites offering proxies, persistent internet users accessed the unfiltered internet via other means.

On a number of occasions, government officials and senior clerics publicly warned against inaccurate reports on the internet and reminded the public that criticism of the government and its officials should be done through available private channels. The government charged those using the internet to express dissent against officials or religious authorities with terrorism, blasphemy, and apostasy.

On February 12, the SCC in the western city of Tabuk held the first hearing for student and activist Noha al-Balawi. Al-Balawi was detained on January 23 after posting a video online in which she criticized the country’s potential normalization of ties with Israel. According to the United Kingdom-based Saudi rights group Al-Qst, Balawi was charged under anti-cybercrime laws and faced up to five years in prison and a fine of up to three million riyals ($800,000). On February 22, authorities reportedly released al-Balawi, according to online activists and media sources.

On February 27, the SCC convicted computer engineer Essam Koshak of posting tweets that “infringe on public order and religious values” and sentenced him to four years in prison followed by a four-year ban on travel and social media usage. According to multiple NGOs, Koshak tweeted in support of the 2017 social media campaign #EndMaleGuardianship, organized by HRW. According to court documents and trial observations, the prosecution charged Koshak with creating the #EndMaleGuardianship social media campaign and, in so doing, undermining public order and “violating freedom of expression.”

The press and publications law criminalizes the publication or downloading of offensive sites, and authorities routinely blocked sites containing material perceived as harmful, illegal, offensive, or anti-Islamic. The governmental Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) filtered and blocked access to websites it deemed offensive, including adult content, as well as pages calling for domestic political, social, or economic reforms or supporting human rights, including websites of expatriate Saudi dissidents.

The CITC coordinated decisions with the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency on blocking phishing sites seeking to obtain confidential personal or financial information. Authorities submitted all other requests to block sites to an interagency committee, chaired by the Ministry of Interior, for decision. Under the Telecommunication Act, failure by service providers to block banned sites can result in a fine of five million riyals ($1.33 million).

The CITC claimed that Facebook removed materials that the CITC deemed offensive but that Twitter ignored all CITC requests. In 2016 the CITC announced it was no longer blocking any free voice, video, or messaging services after criticisms on social media that these services had been blocked. In September 2017 the CITC announced the unblocking of calling features for private messenger apps that met regulatory requirements in the country, such as Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, Snapchat, Skype, Line, Telegram, and Tango. Other video-calling apps, including WhatsApp and Viber, however, reported services were still blocked.

The government continued blocking Qatari websites such as al-Jazeera, an action it began in May 2017, due to a dispute between Qatar and a group of countries that included Saudi Arabia.

In June 2017 Ministry of Information spokesperson Hani al-Ghofaily stated that writing for blocked websites, providing them with materials to publish, or promoting alternative addresses to access them is a crime under the anti-cybercrimes law.

The government reportedly collected information concerning the identity of persons peacefully expressing political, religious, or ideological opinions or beliefs online.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

The government restricted some public artistic expression but opened up cultural expression in a number of areas. Academics reportedly practiced self-censorship, and authorities prohibited professors and administrators at public universities from hosting meetings at their universities with foreign academics or diplomats without prior government permission. In 2016 King Salman issued royal decrees creating the General Authority for Entertainment (GEA) and the General Authority for Culture, with a mandate to expand the country’s entertainment and cultural offerings in line with its social and economic reform plan, known as Vision 2030. During the year the GEA sponsored events dedicated to film, comics, music, and dance. On June 2, King Salman issued a royal order creating the Ministry of Culture, separating it from the Information Ministry, and appointed Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan Al Saud as its minister. On April 18, the country’s first cinema in more than 35 years opened after a ban was lifted in 2017. AMC Entertainment was granted the first license to operate cinemas in the country and was expected to open more theaters over the next five years, according to state media.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law does not provide for freedom of assembly and association, which the government severely limited.

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

The law requires a government permit for an organized public assembly of any type. The government categorically forbids participation in political protests or unauthorized public assemblies, and security forces reportedly arrested demonstrators and detained them for brief periods. Security forces at times allowed a small number of unauthorized demonstrations throughout the country.

On March 27, security forces arrested 32 citizens and referred them to the public prosecutor for illegally gathering in front of Taif governorate headquarters to protest the removal of unlicensed housing structures built on government land, according to the Ministry of Interior.

CPVPV and other security officers also restricted mixed gender gatherings of unrelated men and women in public and private spaces (see section 1.f.).

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provided for limited freedom of association, however, the government strictly limited this right. In 2016 a law came into effect known as the Law on Associations and Foundations (Civil Society Organizations Law), which for the first time provided a comprehensive legal framework to govern the establishment, operation, and supervision of associations and foundations. The government, however, prohibited the establishment of political parties or any group it considered as opposing or challenging the regime. All associations must be licensed by the Ministry of Labor and Social Development and comply with its regulations. Some groups that advocated changing elements of the social or political order reported their licensing requests went unanswered for years, despite repeated inquiries. The ministry reportedly used arbitrary means, such as requiring unreasonable types and quantities of information, to delay and effectively deny licenses to associations.

On January 25, the SCC sentenced Mohammad al-Otaiby and Abdullah al-Attawi, founding members of the Union for Human Rights (known in Arabic as “al-Ittihad”) to 14 and seven years in prison, respectively, for “participating in setting up an organization and announcing it before getting an authorization,” “spreading chaos, inciting public opinion and publishing statements harmful to the kingdom and its institutions,” and “publishing information about their interrogations despite signing pledges to refrain from doing so,” according to media and NGO reporting.

In 2013 and 2014, the few local NGOs that had operated without a license ceased operating after authorities ordered them disbanded. While ACPRA maintained a presence on social media networks such as Twitter, the government severely curtailed its operations and closed down its website. On February 28, the SCC sentenced lawyer and ACPRA member Issa al-Nukheifi to six years in prison (three years under the anti-cybercrimes law and three years under ta’zir, or “discretionary” sentencing), followed by a six-year ban on social media and travel outside of the country, based on charges of “infringing on the public order and religious values,” “communicating with members of ACPRA,” “opposing Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen,” and related charges. Al-Nukheifi was detained in 2016 and charged in August 2017 under provisions of both the 2014 Counterterrorism Law and the 2008 Anti-Cybercrimes Law.

Government-chartered associations limited membership only to citizens.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

The law does not contain provisions for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation.

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

In-country Movement: The government generally did not restrict the free movement of male citizens within the country, but it severely restricted the movement of female citizens. While the guardianship system does not require a woman to have the permission of her male guardian (normally a father, husband, son, brother, grandfather, uncle, or other male relative) to move freely within the country, courts sometimes ruled that women should abide by a male guardian’s request to stay at home by “occasionally upholding a guardian’s right to obedience from his female dependents,” according to a HRW report.

In April 2017 King Salman issued a royal decree ordering all government agencies to review their guardianship laws and to provide, within three months, their understanding of the legal basis for withholding services to women. The stated goal was to avoid denying government services to women who do not present a male guardian’s consent except when law or regulations explicitly require it. At year’s end the results of the government’s review of its guardianship laws had not been announced.

Authorities respected the right of citizens to change residence or workplace, provided they held a national identification card (NIC). The law requires all male citizens who are 15 or older to possess a NIC. In 2012 the Ministry of Interior announced it would start issuing NICs to all female citizens at the age of 15, phasing in the requirement over a seven-year period. There was minimal information available regarding whether this initiative was successfully implemented.

On June 24, the country lifted its longstanding ban on women driving. The process of issuing licenses, however, was slowed by the small number of training schools available to women and the high cost of driver’s education for women, which was four to five times as expensive as men’s fees. As a result, there were waiting lists for driving classes.

Foreign Travel: There are severe restrictions on foreign travel, including for women and members of minority groups. No one may leave the country without an exit visa and a passport. Females of any age, males younger than 21, and other dependents or foreign citizen workers under sponsorship require a male guardian’s consent to travel abroad. According to Ministry of Interior regulations, a male guardian must apply for and collect a passport for women and minors. A noncitizen wife needs permission from her husband to travel, unless both partners sign a prenuptial agreement permitting the noncitizen wife to travel without the husband’s permission. If a wife’s guardian is deceased, a court may grant the permission. Government entities can ban the travel of citizens and noncitizens without trial, and male family members can “blacklist” women and minor children, prohibiting their travel. In December the General Directorate of Passports announced that divorced Saudi women older than 21 who possess a NIC with at least three months’ validity may travel to other Gulf Cooperation Council member states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates) without the consent of a male guardian.

Employers or sponsors controlled the departure of foreign workers and residents from the country; employers or sponsors were responsible for processing residence permits and exit visas on their behalf. Sponsors frequently held their employees’ passports against the desires of the employees, despite a law specifically prohibiting this practice. Foreign workers typically provided sponsors with their residence permit before traveling in exchange for their passport to ensure the worker’s return to their employer after their travel.

The government reportedly confiscated passports for political reasons and revoked the rights of some citizens to travel, often without providing them notification or opportunity to contest the restriction. Most travel bans reportedly involved individuals in court cases relating to corruption; state security concerns; or labor, financial, and real estate disputes. Many relatives of citizens detained in relation to the government’s anticorruption campaign, as well as relatives of detained clerics and human rights activists, were also reportedly under travel bans.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

The law does not contain provisions for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation.

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

In-country Movement: The government generally did not restrict the free movement of male citizens within the country, but it severely restricted the movement of female citizens. While the guardianship system does not require a woman to have the permission of her male guardian (normally a father, husband, son, brother, grandfather, uncle, or other male relative) to move freely within the country, courts sometimes ruled that women should abide by a male guardian’s request to stay at home by “occasionally upholding a guardian’s right to obedience from his female dependents,” according to a HRW report.

In April 2017 King Salman issued a royal decree ordering all government agencies to review their guardianship laws and to provide, within three months, their understanding of the legal basis for withholding services to women. The stated goal was to avoid denying government services to women who do not present a male guardian’s consent except when law or regulations explicitly require it. At year’s end the results of the government’s review of its guardianship laws had not been announced.

Authorities respected the right of citizens to change residence or workplace, provided they held a national identification card (NIC). The law requires all male citizens who are 15 or older to possess a NIC. In 2012 the Ministry of Interior announced it would start issuing NICs to all female citizens at the age of 15, phasing in the requirement over a seven-year period. There was minimal information available regarding whether this initiative was successfully implemented.

On June 24, the country lifted its longstanding ban on women driving. The process of issuing licenses, however, was slowed by the small number of training schools available to women and the high cost of driver’s education for women, which was four to five times as expensive as men’s fees. As a result, there were waiting lists for driving classes.

Foreign Travel: There are severe restrictions on foreign travel, including for women and members of minority groups. No one may leave the country without an exit visa and a passport. Females of any age, males younger than 21, and other dependents or foreign citizen workers under sponsorship require a male guardian’s consent to travel abroad. According to Ministry of Interior regulations, a male guardian must apply for and collect a passport for women and minors. A noncitizen wife needs permission from her husband to travel, unless both partners sign a prenuptial agreement permitting the noncitizen wife to travel without the husband’s permission. If a wife’s guardian is deceased, a court may grant the permission. Government entities can ban the travel of citizens and noncitizens without trial, and male family members can “blacklist” women and minor children, prohibiting their travel. In December the General Directorate of Passports announced that divorced Saudi women older than 21 who possess a NIC with at least three months’ validity may travel to other Gulf Cooperation Council member states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates) without the consent of a male guardian.

Employers or sponsors controlled the departure of foreign workers and residents from the country; employers or sponsors were responsible for processing residence permits and exit visas on their behalf. Sponsors frequently held their employees’ passports against the desires of the employees, despite a law specifically prohibiting this practice. Foreign workers typically provided sponsors with their residence permit before traveling in exchange for their passport to ensure the worker’s return to their employer after their travel.

The government reportedly confiscated passports for political reasons and revoked the rights of some citizens to travel, often without providing them notification or opportunity to contest the restriction. Most travel bans reportedly involved individuals in court cases relating to corruption; state security concerns; or labor, financial, and real estate disputes. Many relatives of citizens detained in relation to the government’s anticorruption campaign, as well as relatives of detained clerics and human rights activists, were also reportedly under travel bans.

STATELESS PERSONS

The country had a number of habitual residents who were legally stateless, but data on the stateless population were incomplete and scarce.

Citizenship is legally derived only from the father. Children born to an unmarried citizen mother who is not legally affiliated with the citizen father may be considered stateless, even if the father recognized the child as his, or if the government did not authorize the marriage of a citizen father and a noncitizen mother prior to birth of the children. The nationality laws do not allow Saudi women married to foreign nationals to pass their nationality to their children, except in certain circumstances such as fathers who are unknown, stateless, of unknown nationality, or do not establish filiation. Sons of citizen mothers and noncitizen fathers may apply for citizenship once they turn 18 (if not already granted citizenship at birth under certain circumstances); daughters in such cases can obtain citizenship only through marriage to a Saudi man. A child may lose legal identification and accompanying rights if authorities withdraw identification documents from a parent (possible when a naturalized parent denaturalizes voluntarily or loses citizenship through other acts). Since there is no codified personal status law, judges make decisions regarding family matters based on their own interpretations of Islamic law.

Foreign male spouses of female citizens are entitled to permanent residency in the country without needing a sponsor, and they receive free government education and medical benefits. These spouses are also included in the quota of Saudis employed in private companies under the nitaqaat, or labor quota system, which improves their employment prospects. Female citizens must be between the ages of 30 and 50 in order to marry a non-Saudi man. Non-Saudi wives of Saudi men receive more rights if they have children resulting from their marriage with a Saudi man. Male citizens must be between the ages of 40 and 65 in order to marry a non-Saudi woman. The extent to which those strictures were enforced was unclear; there was anecdotal evidence that they were not uniformly enforced. Children of Saudi women who are married to foreign spouses receive permanent residency, but their residency status is revocable in the event of the death of the Saudi mother.

In past years UNHCR unofficially estimated there were 70,000 stateless persons in the country, almost all of whom were native-born residents known locally as Bidoon (an Arabic word that means “without” [citizenship]). Updated information on stateless persons was not available. Bidoon are persons whose ancestors failed to obtain nationality, such as descendants of nomadic tribes not counted among the native tribes during the reign of the country’s founder, King Abdulaziz; descendants of foreign-born fathers who arrived before there were laws regulating citizenship; and rural migrants whose parents failed to register their births. As noncitizens, Bidoon are unable to obtain passports. The government sometimes denied them employment and educational opportunities, and their marginalized status made them among the poorest residents of the country. In recent years the Ministry of Education encouraged them to attend school. The government issues Bidoon five-year residency permits to facilitate their social integration in government-provided health-care and other services, putting them on similar footing with sponsored foreign workers. The General Directorate of Passports issued special identification cards to Bidoon similar to residency permits issued to foreigners in the country, but with features entitling their holders to additional government services similar to those available to citizens.

There were also some Baloch, West Africans, and Rohingya Muslims from Burma, but only a small portion of these communities was stateless. Many Rohingya had expired passports that their home government refused to renew, or had entered the country with fraudulent travel documents. UNHCR estimated there were between 250,000 and 500,000 Rohingya in the country. Some of these individuals benefited from a prior program to correct their residency status; in 2014 the government issued nearly 200,000 four-year residency permits to Rohingya who entered the country prior to 2008. Rohingya who arrived in the country after 2008 were not eligible for residency permits, although NGOs reported that Rohingya, including those without legal residency, were generally not subject to deportation prior to 2018. Upon the expiration of Rohingya residency permits in 2018, media reported more than 100 Rohingya faced deportation to Bangladesh at year’s end and hundreds more were in detention at Shumaisi Detention Center near Mecca. Only an estimated 2,000 individuals of Rohingya origin had Saudi citizenship. There also were between 300,000 and 400,000 Palestinian residents not registered as refugees.

Serbia

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

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

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

Throughout the year the government continued to discuss publicly the 1999 disappearance and presumed killing of Ylli, Agron, and Mehmet Bytyqi, three Kosovar-American brothers taken into custody by Serb paramilitary groups. While authorities stated they were investigating the case, the government made no significant progress toward providing justice for the victims.

With regard to the ongoing criminal proceeding on the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Srebrenica-Kravica case), in October 2017 the Appellate Court in Belgrade ruled that conditions were met to continue criminal proceedings. The indictment in this case was against eight former members of the Ministry of Interior of Republika Srpska for the alleged murder of more than 1,000 Bosniak civilians in Kravica, Bosnia, in 1995. The defendants in this case were Bosnian Serbs who fled to Serbia at the end of the war in 1995, where they continued to reside. They eluded justice by ignoring legal proceedings against them in Bosnia and Herzegovina. A 2013 information-sharing protocol between Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina paved the way for their arrests in 2015; the trial continued throughout the year with the most recent hearing in October.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

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

Although the constitution prohibits such practices, police at times beat detainees and harassed suspects, usually during arrest or initial detention with a view towards obtaining a confession, notwithstanding that such evidence is not permissible in court.

The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) report on its ad hoc visit to Serbia (May-June 2017) stated that authorities needed to recognize that the abuse of criminal suspects as a means of coercion by police officers was a systemic problem in the country. The report emphasized that the mistreatment of detainees was not the work of a few rogue officers within the police. According to the report, detainee abuse was accepted practice within police culture, especially among crime inspectors. The report noted a significant number of allegations of physical abuse of detained persons by police officers. This abuse consisted of slaps, punches, kicks, truncheon blows, and strikes with nonstandard objects (such as baseball bats). The CPT also received several claims of law enforcement inflicting electrical shocks on criminal suspects. The report also stated that police inflicted the abuse at the time of apprehension or during questioning at a police station to coerce suspects to admit to certain offences or to exact extrajudicial punishment.

Impunity for perpetrators of abuse and alleged mistreatment of detainees during arrest or initial detention remained a problem. There were few prosecutions and even fewer convictions of officials for abuse or mistreatment of detainees. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported a lack of independent oversight of police work in detention, a failure of methodology in prosecution, and low capacity for internal investigations by the Sector of Internal Control of the Ministry of the Interior. Over half of the investigations into police abuse and torture took over a year from the date of the criminal complaint.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Many prisons and detention centers did not meet international standards.

Physical Conditions: Prison conditions were harsh due to overcrowding, physical abuse, unsanitary conditions, and inadequate medical care.

According to the Ministry of Justice, prison capacity increased to 9,800, while the inmate population during the year was 10,600. Although prisons remained overpopulated, construction of new prisons and wider use of alternative sanctions (for example, community service, house arrest, and other measures) reduced overcrowding.

Administration: Authorities conducted proper investigations of credible allegations of mistreatment.

Independent Monitoring: Independent monitoring of prison conditions was allowed under the law, and the government provided access to independent monitors.

Improvements: During the year part of the Belgrade District Prison was renovated and the Special Prison Hospital was fully renovated.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person 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, and the government generally observed these requirements.

A 2017 television documentary series, Dokaz (Proof), discussed concerns about the presumption of innocence, alleging that more than 20,000 days of unfounded detention were collectively imposed each year. The series was produced with the support of the EU and the Ministry of Culture and Information of Serbia.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The country’s approximately 28,000 police officers have responsibility for law enforcement and maintenance of order within the country and are under the authority of the Ministry of Interior. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the five main departments that supervise 27 regional police directorates reporting to the national government. The government does not have effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse, and there were reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year. Despite efforts by prosecutors and police to tackle corruption, abuse, and fraud, significant problems and abuses in these areas remained. The newly formed Anticorruption Department within the Ministry of Interior was created to investigate serious corruption. There was no specialized governmental body to examine killings at the hands of the security forces. The Police, the Security Information Agency (BIA), and the Directorate for the Enforcement of Penal Sanctions examined such cases through internal audits.

The composition of the police force varied. While most officers were ethnic Serbs, the force included Bosniaks (Slavic Muslims), ethnic Hungarians, ethnic Montenegrins, a small number of ethnic Albanians, and other minorities, including Roma.

Police corruption and impunity remained problems, despite some progress to hold corrupt police officials accountable. During the year experts from civil society noted that the quality of police internal investigations continued to improve, primarily because of the implementation of the new criminal procedure code. In the first eight months of the year, the Ministry of Interior’s Sector of Internal Control filed one criminal charge against a police officer due to reasonable suspicion that he had committed a crime of abuse and torture. During the same period, the ministry’s internal control office filed 155 criminal charges against 227 individuals for 1,004 crimes; 145 were police officers and 82 were civilians.

The government was less effective when high-level police officials were accused of criminal wrongdoing. In these cases criminal charges rarely reflected the seriousness of the offense and were often filed after lengthy delays. For example, in 2008 rioters attacked and set fire to a foreign diplomatic mission that supported Kosovo’s independence. Following a 10-year lapse, charges were finalized in February against five high-level police officials, three of whom have since retired, who were charged with failing to protect the mission, endangering public safety, and abusing their offices.

In another high profile case, masked men illegally bulldozed residential and commercial buildings in Belgrade’s Savamala neighborhood in 2016. The ombudsman at the time, Sasa Jankovic, released a report alleging that police deliberately did not respond to witness requests for assistance and alleged other police misconduct. In May, nearly two years after the crime, a police shift supervisor, Goran Stamenkovic, pled guilty to negligence in the discharge of his official duties and received a suspended sentence and probation. No high-level police officials have been held responsible.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Law enforcement authorities generally based arrests on warrants. The constitution states that police must inform arrested persons of their rights immediately at the time of arrest, and authorities generally respected this requirement. Police cannot question a suspect without informing the suspect of the right to remain silent and have counsel present. Detainees can obtain access to counsel at the government’s expense if they cannot afford counsel; however, free legal aid is only provided for serious offenses that carry a possible prison sentence of at least three years and, in some cases, where the law specifically requires it. The prosecutor can elect to question the suspect or be present during police questioning. The law requires a judge to approve any detention lasting longer than 48 hours, and authorities generally respected this requirement. The law provides the possibility of pretrial release for some detainees but pretrial release was rarely used as an alternative to detention. Authorities generally allowed family members to visit detainees.

The law prohibits excessive delays by authorities in filing formal charges against suspects and in conducting investigations. Authorities may hold suspects detained in connection with serious crimes for up to six months before indicting them. By law investigations should conclude within 12 months in cases of special jurisdiction (organized crime, high corruption, and war crimes). In practice, investigations often lasted longer because there was no clear consequence for failing to meet the prescribed deadline.

The law allows for indefinite detention of prisoners deemed a danger to the public because of a mental disability.

Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention has improved over the last decade but remained a problem. As of September approximately 15 percent of the country’s total prison population were persons in pretrial detention, down from 30 percent in 2010. The average length of detention was not reported and could not be reliably estimated. The court is generally obliged by law to act with urgency when deciding on pretrial detention. The constitution and laws limit the length of pretrial detention to six months, but there is no statutory limit to detention once a trial begins. There is also no statutory limit for detention during appellate proceedings. Due to inefficient court procedures, some of which are legally required, cases often took extended periods to come to trial. The government used house arrest in approximately 258 cases since the beginning of the year, which helped relieve overcrowding in pretrial detention centers. In 2017 the use of house arrest increased to 243 cases, up from 170 sentences in 2016.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but the courts remained susceptible to corruption and political influence.

The European Commission (EC) staff’s working document Serbia 2018 Report, released on April 17, stated that, even though there was some progress, the scope for political influence over the judiciary remained a concern. The report stated that the current constitutional and legislative framework still leaves room for undue political influence over the judiciary. This has been an ongoing concern in several EU progress reports.

Regional cooperation on war crimes prosecutions remained a problem for all the states involved in the conflicts of the 1990s. The country’s full cooperation with the current Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals is an issue of serious concern. The EC’s Serbia 2018 Report working document stated that, while the country’s technical cooperation on requests for assistance from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) remained satisfactory, cooperation on the lawful arrest of individuals indicted for contempt of court was unsatisfactory.

The implementation of the 2016 National Strategy for the Processing of War Crimes was delayed and had not been implemented expeditiously. The Humanitarian Law Center reported that there had been no tangible progress with respect to war crimes prosecutions since the adoption of the strategy. Of the 12 indictments issued since the adoption of the national strategy, only one was the result of an investigation conducted by the War Crimes Prosecutor’s Office (WCPO) in Serbia; the other 11 were transferred directly from the WCPO of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Trials within the Special Court that adjudicates war crime prosecutions continued to be unnecessarily protracted. The procedural rights of victims had not been strengthened, and the resolution of missing persons cases proceeded at a slower pace than predicted in the national strategy.

Another problem of serious concern was that the position of chief war crimes prosecutor was filled by a deputy war crimes prosecutor from January 2016 to May 2017. The deputy prosecutor lacked formal authorization to do the work, and the defense counsel used the prosecutor’s lack of authority to contest the validity of several prosecution and investigative acts taken during this period. In seven cases the indictments were dismissed, requiring that one indictment be resubmitted and the prosecution file a request to resume proceedings in the remaining six cases. Five of these resumption requests were granted. These issues further delayed already protracted war crimes trials.

The lack of appointments of war crimes prosecutors delayed court proceedings.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and laws provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

The constitution and laws grant defendants the presumption of innocence. Authorities must inform defendants promptly and in detail of the charges against them, with free translation throughout criminal proceedings if necessary. Defendants have a right to a fair and public trial without undue delay, although authorities may close a trial if the trial judge determines it is warranted for the protection of morals, public order, national security, the interests of a minor, the privacy of a participant, or during the testimony of a state-protected witness.

Lay judges sit on the trial benches in all cases except those handled by the organized crime and war crimes authorities. Defendants also have the right to have an attorney represent them, at public expense, when a defendant lacks resources to acquire representation and one of two conditions is met: either the crime is punishable for three or more years of imprisonment or a defense attorney is mandatory under the law. Defendants and attorneys are generally given ample time and sufficient facilities to prepare their defense. Defendants have the right to be present at their own trials, to access government evidence, to question witnesses, and not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Both the defense and the prosecution have the right to appeal a verdict.

The government generally respected these rights; some defendants complained about not being able to present evidence at court and not being able to depose their witnesses. Poorer defendants struggled to get legal representation, as the country does not have a functional system of free legal aid for all situations. Free legal aid was granted only in serious cases, where the law mandates representation.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The constitution grants individuals the right to appeal to the Constitutional Court regarding an alleged violation of human rights. In addition to ruling whether a violation occurred, the court can also issue a decision that can serve as grounds for seeking restitution. The government generally respected decisions rendered by the Constitutional Court. Once all avenues for remedy in the domestic courts are exhausted, citizens may appeal cases involving alleged violations of the European Convention on Human Rights to the European Court of Human Rights.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The government has laws and/or mechanisms in place, and NGOs and advocacy groups reported that the government made significant progress on resolution of Holocaust-era claims, including for foreign citizens.

In accordance with the country’s participation in the Terezin Declaration, in 2016 parliament adopted a law on the restitution of heirless and unclaimed Jewish property seized during the Holocaust. This law allows the Jewish community to file restitution claims based on these seizures, without restricting the rights of future claimants. The law defines “heirless property” as any property that was not the subject of a legitimate claim for restitution under the General Restitution Law. The community must prove the former owner of the property was a member of the Jewish community, and that the property was confiscated during the Holocaust. The law also stipulates financial support from the state budget for the Jewish community. This financial support is 950,000 euros ($1.1 million) per year for a 25-year period; the government made the second payment during the year.

The Serbian Agency for Restitution received 239 claims from the Jewish Communities of Serbia and returned nine heirless apartments, 29 commercial real estate parcels, 39 buildings, and 250 acres of agricultural land to the Jewish community from the beginning of the year through November.

The government appointed a new representative to the supervisory board, created under the 2016 Holocaust-era Heirless Property Restitution Law, designed to provide for accountability in the use of restituted property and financial compensation to Serbian Jewish communities.

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

While the constitution prohibits such actions, there were reports that the government failed to respect prohibitions on interfering with correspondence and communications. The law requires the Ministry of Interior to obtain a court order before monitoring potential criminal activity and police to obtain a warrant before entering property except to save persons or possessions. Police frequently failed to respect these laws.

In May the ombudsman ordered the BIA to respond as to whether it had released personal information of journalist Stefan Dojcinovic to the tabloid Informer in 2016. Dojcinovic filed a complaint in 2016.

According to SHARE Foundation research, state bodies monitored approximately 100,000 citizens annually. Data from the mobile telecommunications service provider Telenor indicated that the state accessed 70,000 telephones and other devices in 2016.

Human rights activists and NGOs reported a lack of effective parliamentary oversight of security agencies.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, but a lack of transparency of media ownership, continuing government involvement in media ownership, and threats and attacks on journalists undermined these freedoms. Independent observers claimed that 2017 was one of the worst years on record for press freedom in the country. The trend of decreased media freedom continued during the year.

Press and Media Freedom: Although independent media organizations continued to exist and express a wide range of views, press organizations and international monitors claimed government pressure on media was deepening. The government reportedly controlled media outlets through advertising revenue and the allocations of media grants. According to a 2017 study by Reporters without Borders, the government is the biggest advertiser in the country and uses its purchasing power to support progovernment editorial content and stifle critical viewpoints. A number of independent journalists and outlets claimed that they were being pressured by targeted tax investigations, smear campaigns, threats, and politically motivated attacks.

Violence and Harassment: The law prohibits threatening or otherwise putting pressure on public media and journalists or exerting any other kind of influence that might obstruct their work. The Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia reported at least 92 cases in which journalists had been attacked, threatened, or exposed to political pressure in 2017. These attacks included vandalism, intimidation, and physical attacks.

In May 2017 six journalists were attacked while reporting on the presidential inauguration by members of the security service of the SNS, which were securing the event. Despite photographs of the journalists’ being dragged and choked, state prosecutors dropped criminal charges because they claimed there were no elements of a criminal act. The journalists filed an objection to the high prosecutor’s office in late 2017; there were no developments on the case during the year.

N1 television was a frequent target of government criticism. Some observers blamed the criticism for a January attack against an N1 journalist, Nikola Radisic. Two unidentified men insulted, spat at, and threatened Radisic after recognizing him in the street.

According to Amnesty International’s 2017-18 report on the country, investigative journalists were subjected to smear campaigns by ministers and media close to the government. In particular, the report noted that journalists working for the Network for Investigating Crime and Corruption (KRIK) received death threats, and that the apartment of its investigative reporter Dragana Peco had been the subject of a home invasion. KRIK’s investigative reporting into the unexplained source of funding that allowed Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin to purchase property in Belgrade was also met with a smear campaign. The Movement of Socialists immediately responded to the story by publishing a statement accusing KRIK’s editor in chief, Stevan Dojcinovic, of being a drug addict and foreign agent.

Watchdog organizations also noted that past killings of several journalists have yet to be resolved, including the killings of journalists Slavko Curuvija (1999), Dada Vujasinovic (1994), and Milan Pantic (2001).

A study by the Slavko Curuvija Foundation, Media Freedoms and Control: Journalists’ Testimonies, found that 74 percent of Serbian journalists believed “there [were] serious obstacles to exercising media freedoms” or that they had no media freedom at all. Nearly two-thirds of journalists interviewed believed that the political establishment had the strongest influence over the media community.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: There were reports that the government actively sought to direct media reporting on a number of issues.

Economic pressure sometimes led media outlets to practice self-censorship, refraining from publishing content critical of the government, based on a fear of economic consequences. State-controlled funds were believed to contribute a significant percentage of overall advertising revenue, giving the state leverage over media outlets. According to the regional media advocacy group fairpress.eu, the government allocated more than two billion dinar ($19.2 million) each year for media support; the recipients of these funds were not publicly disclosed.

Watchdog organizations believed the media market was too saturated for outlets to be financially viable without government support or access to government advertising contracts.

According to a report from the Center of Investigative Journalism of Serbia, the progovernment tabloids Srpski Telegraf and Informerwere granted about 23.5 million dinars ($225,000) by the government, notwithstanding their frequent breach of the country’s Code of Journalism. Meanwhile the daily newspaper Danas, the weekly news agency Beta, the weekly Novi Magazin, and the Media Center of the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia–none of which had ever received even a sanction or warning from the press council–did not receive state funding. The report concluded: “The situation is completely clear: progovernment media obtain money at state-run contests.”

Between October 2017 and mid-January, research by the Center for Research Transparency and Accountability (CRTA) showed that government representatives received four times more coverage in the media than representatives of the opposition. After the research results were published, progovernment broadcaster TV Pink used its platform to discredit CRTA and journalist Tamara Skrozza, who is also a member of CRTA’s board of directors. The Center for Investigative Journalism Serbia reported that Pink International, TV Pink’s corporate parent, received loans in excess of 10 million euros ($11.5 million) from the Serbian Export Credit and Insurance Agency in 2014, plus assurances of another 2.5 million euros ($2.9 million). In 2017 it reportedly received another loan of 3.2 million euros ($3.7 million) from the same agency. The government did not provide information to explain why a governmental agency tasked with supporting exports had funded a private television company.

Nongovernmental Impact: During the year several media outlets published articles that accused numerous journalists, NGO activists, and independent institution representatives of being “traitors” to the country and attempting to overthrow the constitutional order.

Shortly after the Independent Journalists Union of Serbia (IJAS) objected to the slow progress in solving the January 16 killing of Oliver Ivanovic, a prominent politician in Kosovo’s Serb community, President Vucic denounced IJAS president Slavisa Lekic, IJAS vice president and Beta editor in chief Dragan Janjic, and others for suggesting that the killing may have been politically motivated. Janjic’s photograph and home address were posted on a website, together with the statement, “This is what a man who hates all things Serbian looks like.” Responses on Facebook included, “Put a bullet in his head,” and “Hang him in the public square.”

INTERNET FREEDOM

There were no reports that the government restricted or disrupted access to the internet, monitored private online communication without appropriate legal authority, or censored online content.

Although the internet remained unrestricted, the law obliges telecommunications operators to retain certain data for one year. This data included the source and destination of a communication; the beginning, duration, and end of a communication; the type of communication; terminal equipment identification; and the location of the customer’s mobile terminal equipment. While intelligence agencies can access this metadata without court permission, the law requires a court order to access the contents of these communications.

According to National Institute of Statistics’ most recent data, 68 percent of the country’s population had an internet connection.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, but the government limited these rights in some cases.

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for the freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected the right. The law obliges protesters to apply to the police for a permit, providing the exact date, time, and estimated number of demonstrators. Police generally issued a permit if a protest was not likely to disturb the public or public transportation; otherwise, police consulted with city authorities before issuing a permit. Higher-level government authorities decided whether to issue permits for gatherings assessed as posing high security risks.

EC staff noted in the Serbia 2018 Report working document that the country lacked secondary legislation to implement fully the law on freedom of assembly. Commission staff also noted numerous reports of excessive use of force by law enforcement and a lack of prosecution of violent counterprotestors.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for the freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right.

All companies continued to pay mandatory annual membership to the Serbian Chamber of Commerce. In March 2017 the Association for Protection of Constitutionality and Legality filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court, asserting that mandatory membership was against the constitution. The Constitutional Court has not issued a ruling on this case.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

The constitution provides for freedom of movement within the country, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

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

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPS)

The law provides protection to IDPs in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, but implementation fell short in some areas. According to official statistics of the Serbian Commissariat for Refugees and Migration (SCRM), approximately 200,000 displaced persons from Kosovo resided in the country, most of whom were Serbs, Montenegrins, Roma, Egyptians, Ashkali, Gorani, and Bosniaks who left Kosovo, then an autonomous province of Yugoslavia, because of the 1998-99 war. Approximately 80 percent resided in urban areas. According to recent research conducted by the SCRM, more than 68,000 of these persons were extremely vulnerable and in need of assistance. These displaced persons met one or more of UNHCR’s vulnerability criteria, such as households that had income below the poverty line; persons living in undignified conditions; persons with mental or physical disabilities; single parents; elderly persons and women, children, or adolescents at risk.

According to UNHCR research, displaced Roma were the most vulnerable and marginalized displaced population in the country, with 92 percent of the 20,000 internally displaced Roma living below the poverty threshold, and 98 percent of displaced Roma households unable to satisfy basic nutritional needs or afford to pay for utilities, health care, hygiene, education, and local transport. Displaced Roma had a 74 percent unemployment rate. According to UNHCR, almost 90 percent of displaced Roma lived in substandard housing, and the vast majority had not been able to integrate or return home. According to the SCRM, over the past 18 years, the government, supported by the international community, implemented measures and activities related to the reception and care of displaced persons from Kosovo to provide for adequate living conditions. Their recent research stated that more than 4,700 housing units, generally defined as living spaces for one family, were provided. It was not clear how many of these units were provided to Romani displaced persons, who often did not identify themselves as Roma.

While government officials continued to state publicly that displaced persons from Kosovo should return, senior government officials also claimed that it was unsafe for many to do so. To assist refugees from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as displaced persons from Kosovo, the government continued to implement its 2002 National Strategy on Refugees and Internally Displaced People. It was expanded and updated in 2015 and slated to continue until 2020. The strategy was not comprehensive and failed to provide the technical and financial capacity to ensure durable solutions for displaced persons. Some progress was made within the Skopje Process, which started in 2014 when the governments of Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Kosovo identified security, property, data management, documentation, and solutions planning as the issues to be resolved and agreed on actions that needed to be taken. The adoption and implementation of these actions, however, were still pending. UNHCR stated that the government continued to underreport the funding needed for the integration of displaced persons to avoid pressure from the EU to direct more funds to these programs.

During the year the government provided 173 housing units and 151 income-generation packages to displaced persons. Local NGOs and international organizations provided additional housing, financial assistance, and free legal assistance for civil registration, resolution of property claims, securing work rights, and obtaining personal documents.

The housing situation of many displaced persons remained a source of concern. Many of the more than 68,000 extremely vulnerable displaced persons from Kosovo lived in substandard private accommodation. The Commissariat for Refugees and Migration reported 68 displaced persons from Kosovo remained in three official collective centers in the country; 52 of the displaced persons from Kosovo were Roma accommodated in the so-called “Salvatore” collective center in Bujanovac, a minimally habitable facility originally constructed for only temporary accommodation. These individuals were particularly marginalized and, according to UNHCR, did not have access to social assistance or economic empowerment programs.

The most vulnerable displaced persons were Roma living in informal settlements without access to basic infrastructure, electricity, water, and sanitation, who were in constant fear of forced evictions. These Romani communities were mostly in urban areas; some of the most vulnerable were in the informal settlements Cukaricka Suma in Belgrade, Veliki Rit in Novi Sad, and in other urban areas.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Refoulement: Humanitarian organizations noted the government lacked the resources and expertise to provide sufficient protection against refoulement. Various press and humanitarian reports indicated that authorities pushed back irregular migrants without screening them to see if they were seeking asylum. There was also a credible report of a group of 25 Afghan nationals, who expressed their intent to claim asylum in the country in February 2017. The migrants were issued asylum intention certificates stating that they should proceed to Divljana Reception Center, in accordance with the country’s asylum law. The group’s arrival at the Divljana Reception Center could not be confirmed, and reports indicated that they were expelled into Bulgaria by Serbian security forces.

The government’s Mixed Migration Group was inactive during the year and did not deliberate on any of the issues in its portfolio or communicate the number of illegal entrances prevented since January 1. UNHCR estimated that some 5,267 individuals were prevented from illegally entering Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia from the country’s territory in the period through August.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has a system for giving protection to refugees. The asylum office within the Ministry of Interior is responsible for implementing the system but lacked the capacity, resources, and trained staff to do so effectively.

While the law was broadly in accordance with international standards, failures and delays in the implementation of its provisions denied asylum seekers access to a prompt and effective individual assessment of their protection needs. In the majority of cases, asylum applications were discontinued or suspended because the applicants left the country. According to UNHCR the primary reasons for asylum seekers leaving the country were their lack of interest in living in Serbia and a lengthy government procedure for adjudicating applications.

The Asylum Office granted subsidiary protection to 14 asylum seekers and refugee status to nine asylum seekers during the year. In March parliament adopted a new Law on Asylum and Temporary Protection, which came into effect in the beginning of June. In theory, it represented a step forward, bringing procedural guarantees to asylum seekers, and improving all steps of the procedures pertaining to refugee children. The law’s practical impact on the asylum system could not be evaluated due to the short time it had been in effect.

In 2017 the government expanded its network of five official asylum centers (Krnjaca, Sjenica, Tutin, Banja Koviljaca, and Bogovadja) by opening 13 additional centers (Subotica, Principovac, Sid, Adasevci, Bujanovac, Vranje, Presevo, Dimitrovgrad, Pirot, Divljana, Bosilegrad, Sombor, and Kikinda) with capacity to accommodate approximately 6,000 persons. In September the government closed the Divljana, Presevo, and Dimitrovgrad centers due to a lower migrant population. These reception centers could be reopened quickly in the event that migrant flows increased. The government also erected three large tents in Adasevci, near the border with Croatia, during the year to accommodate asylum seekers waiting to cross the border.

NGOs and UN agencies reported that the Hungarian government continued the practice of “pushing back” irregular migrants into the territory of Serbia, including individuals who had not been previously present in the country and who entered Hungary from another country.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: International humanitarian organizations raised concerns about the government’s interpretation and use of the concept of a safe country of origin/transit. It was government policy to issue blanket denials of asylum to applicants from a “safe country of origin.” Asylum authorities dismissed the asylum applications of almost all the persons who entered the country from one of the countries on the list of safe third countries and declined jurisdiction. Court rulings in extradition proceedings extradited asylum seekers without a final decision on their asylum applications and without examining potential risks of persecution in their countries of origin, rigorously abiding by the provisions of the law. Competent authorities in both asylum procedures and extradition proceedings did not examine the risks of persecution in the countries of origin (the grounds on which these persons had requested asylum); in two cases authorities extradited asylum seekers to their countries of origin. In one case the Asylum Office established the jurisdiction of Montenegro (from where the asylum seeker had entered Serbia) by examining the individual’s asylum application, but authorities in charge of extradition proceedings deported him to Turkey, his country of origin.

The UNHCR claimed this policy and the list of “safe third countries” were not valid, because the Ministry of Foreign Affairs determined them based solely on the country’s relations and affiliations with those countries and not on their actual safety with regard to humanitarian and human rights conditions. As a result all neighboring states recognized by the government were on its list of “safe third countries.” The new Law on Asylum and Temporary Protection introduced procedural guarantees to asylum seekers with the aim of limiting the application of the “safe third country” concept by obliging asylum authorities to examine its application in every individual case.

Employment: Asylum seekers do not have the right to employment until nine months after an asylum application is submitted if no decision has been taken on their case. Employment is also available once an applicant is recognized as a refugee at the end of the country’s refugee determination process.

Access to Basic Services: Asylum seekers, migrants, and refugees have the right to access health and education services, although barriers including language and cultural differences limited access.

Durable Solutions: The government provided support for the voluntary return and reintegration of refugees from other countries of the former Yugoslavia. Those who chose the option of integration in Serbia rather than return to their country of origin enjoyed the same rights as nationals, including access to basic services such as health and education, and had access to simplified naturalization in the country; they did not have the right to vote unless their naturalization process was complete. According to the Commissariat for Refugees and Migration’s official statistics, 26,502 refugees (18,232 refugees from Croatia and 8,270 from Bosnia and Herzegovina) resided in the country, while the government estimated that approximately 200,000 to 400,000 former refugees were naturalized but not socially or economically integrated into the country.

There are no remaining refugees displaced during the breakup of Yugoslavia in the country’s collective centers. The government directly funded 178 housing units for these refugees during the year.

Together with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Montenegro, Serbia participated in the Regional Housing Project (RHP) to provide housing for approximately 16,000 vulnerable refugee families who have decided to integrate into their countries of residence. Since inception RHP donors approved nine project proposals to provide housing to more than 7,000 refugee families living in the country. To date more than 2,000 housing units had been provided or were under construction. The total value of the nine projects was 152 million euros ($175 million), of which the government contributed 25.2 million euros ($29.0 million). During the year 772 housing units were provided in Serbia.

Temporary Protection: The government made no decisions on temporary protection during the year.

STATELESS PERSONS

Poverty, social marginalization, lack of information, cumbersome and lengthy bureaucratic procedures, difficulty in obtaining documents, the lack of an officially recognized residence, and the lack of birth registration limited the ability of those at risk of statelessness to gain nationality.

According to UNHCR an estimated 2,200 persons, primarily Roma, Balkan Egyptians, and Ashkali, were at risk of statelessness in the country; approximately 300 of these remained without birth registration. The country has laws and procedures that afford the opportunity for late birth registration and residence registration as well as the opportunity to gain nationality. Children whose parents lacked personal documents (identification cards) could not, however, be registered into birth registry books immediately after birth, creating new cases of persons at risk of statelessness.

One example was the case of R.A. and her family, members of the Romani minority in the country who fled Kosovo after the conflict in 1999. In 2000 R.A. gave birth in a hospital to a girl, whom she named N. When her daughter was born, R.A. did not have an identification card and a birth certificate to prove her identity. When she came to the hospital to give birth, she presented herself under the last name of her common-law husband, although they were never formally married. Under the operative rules and regulations, to register the birth and name of a child immediately upon birth, the mother needs to possess both her birth certificates and identification. Since R.A. had neither, her child remained unregistered. It subsequently took an NGO that provided free legal aid five years to reregister N in the birth registry, and an additional procedure was required for determination of citizenship. In 2015 R.A. obtained an identification card for the first time. After she obtained her card, she initiated the procedure for registration of her daughter N. In this procedure it was necessary to correct all the mistakes that resulted from the erroneously entered data in the hospital records when N. was born. After the attempts to register N. before an administrative body failed, a procedure for determination of date and place of birth before the court was initiated and was still pending.

Due to existing regulations, children of undocumented parents can be without birth registration for upwards of a year. Until they are registered, children remain legally invisible, at risk of statelessness, and deprived of access to numerous rights, such as health care and social protection.

Seychelles

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions worsened during the year with a high level of inmate indiscipline and life-threatening violence. Compared with previous years, the main prison at Montagne Posee was less crowded.

A high-level committee on prison reform and rehabilitation, formed in 2017 and chaired by the vice president and the speaker of the National Assembly, did not meet during the year.

Physical Conditions: Overcrowding in Montagne Posee Prison significantly lessened during the year. In 2016 amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act decriminalized possession of small amounts of cannabis, which reduced the prison’s population; the reduction continued during the year. A work release program that allowed prisoners to work during the day either with a stevedoring company at the port or landscaping in the streets of the capital, then return to prison at night, continued. Several therapy programs including the use of dogs and boxing classes were introduced during the year. On September 28, the Seychelles Nation newspaper reported on a meeting between prison authorities and religious groups for better engagement in prison by the groups.

There were reports that the level of inmate indiscipline worsened, with rampant use of heroin. Violence among inmates increased with two recorded cases of death from inmate fighting. For example, on August 21, Seychelles Nation reported that inmate Roy Philoe died from stabbing by another inmate at Montagne Posee Prison. There were four deaths in prison reported during the year, two from inmate on inmate violence and two from drug-related causes. Prisoners continued to extort money from family members of fellow inmates who pretended their lives were in danger. Inmate use of mobile phones was common despite authorities’ use of jammers at Montagne Posee Prison.

A separate holding facility for pretrial male detainees opened on Bois de Rose Avenue at the former Coast Guard base. Female pretrial detainees continued to be held at Montagne Posee Prison with convicted female prisoners. Juvenile pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners were held together with adult prisoners.

Administration: An ombudsman may make recommendations to the National Assembly and the president to improve conditions for prisoners and detainees but had no authority to enforce such recommendations. Although the ombudsman is required to issue an annual report on inmate complaints and on investigations into human rights abuses and corruption, the ombudsman did not do so during the year. National Human Rights Commission statistics on prisoner complaints to the commission were not available at year’s end.

Independent Monitoring: The government generally permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions by local and international human rights groups. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime and local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) visited Montagne Posee Prison during the year. Several religious groups also visited the prison and the pretrial facility; however, visits to the Coetivy Island prison remained difficult, due to distance and cost.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The president maintained effective control over the security apparatus. This includes the Seychelles People’s Defense Forces (SPDF), Presidential Protection Unit, Coast Guard, and police, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. The police commissioner, who reports directly to the minister for home affairs, commands the unarmed police, the armed paramilitary Police Special Support Wing, the Anti-Narcotics Bureau, and the Marine Police Unit, which together have primary responsibility for internal security. When necessary, the SPDF assisted police on matters of internal security.

Security forces were effective.

Authorities rarely used the enquiry board (a police complaint office) but instead established independent inquiry commissions to examine security force abuses. Private attorneys generally filed complaints with police or published them in the Today in Seychellesnewspaper or in opposition party newspapers, such as Seychelles Weekly and Le Seychellois Hebdo. For example, on August 27, Today in Seychelles reported that police launched an inquiry into the lack of action by two police officers who did nothing to prevent a man being assaulted and tased by private security officers in a break-in at a store in Mont Fleuri. Although respect for human rights was included as a core precept in police training, the course was skeletal and did not comprehensively cover human rights.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires warrants, except for persons arrested under the Misuse of Drugs Act, which allows police officers to arrest and detain persons without a warrant. The law provides for detention without criminal charge for up to 14 days if authorized by court order. Persons arrested must be brought before a magistrate within 24 hours, with allowance made for travel from distant islands. Police generally respected this requirement. Authorities generally notified detainees of the charges against them and generally granted family members prompt access to them. Detainees have the right to legal counsel, and indigents generally received free counsel on all cases, including felony. Courts allowed bail in most cases.

Pretrial Detention: The constitution provides that remand (pretrial) prisoners be released after six months of detention if their cases have not been heard, but prolonged pretrial detention was frequently a problem. Prisoners sometimes waited more than three years for trial or sentencing due to case backlogs. Pretrial detainees made up approximately 16 percent of the prison population.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence. There were reports of improved court processes with both civil and criminal cases expedited quicker than in previous years. Case backlogs also were reduced during the year.

Supreme Court, Appeals Court, and magistrate court justices were mostly Seychellois by birth, with a few either naturalized Seychellois or citizens of other Commonwealth countries. Judges were generally impartial. Special tribunals were investigating two Supreme Court justices, Chief Justice Mathilda Twomey, and Justice Durai Karunakaran. In October a tribunal of inquiry composed of three Commonwealth jurists exonerated Chief Justice Twomey. Complaints against the chief justice were brought by Judge Durai Karunakaran, a senior member of the bench in Seychelles, stemming from Karunakaran’s prior suspension. There were several unconfirmed reports that Chief Justice Twomey was selectively strict with certain attorneys and certain cases. At least two lawyers reported the chief justice to the Constitutional Appointments Authority, the authority that appoints judges. Results of a 2016 case, whereby Supreme Court Justice Karunakaran, a naturalized citizen, was reported to the Constitutional Appointments Authority at the request of the chief justice and investigated for malpractice, were made not made public at year’s end.

Authorities generally respected court orders.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

Both the constitution and law provide for the right of a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty and have the right to be present at their trials and to appeal. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, with free interpretation as necessary from the first court appearance through all appeals. Only cases involving charges of murder or treason use juries. The constitution makes provision for defendants to present evidence and witnesses and to cross-examine witnesses in court. The law provides the right of defendants to consult with an attorney of choice or to have one provided at public expense in a timely manner and to be provided adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants have the right not to confess guilt, not to testify, nor to enter a plea. The law extends these rights to all defendants.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts. A commission established in 2017 to investigate claims of forced land acquisitions since the 1977 military takeover and to settle all claims did not meet during the year. On March 29, the Seychelles News Agency reported that President Faure publicly apologized to the Jeannie family for the death of Berard Jeannie, a police officer killed on the day of the 1977 coup. Individuals may also appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and press, and the government generally respected this right.

Freedom of Expression: Compared with previous years, individuals were more willing to exercise freedom to criticize the government with less fear of reprisal, such as harassment by police or the loss of jobs or contracts, as was the case in the past. As a result public protests, both spontaneous and organized, increased. Campaigners against a proposed military base to be built and comanaged by India and Seychelles on Assomption Island organized several protests and petitions, forcing President Faure and the National Assembly to shelve plans to build a facility with India. The government announced plans to build its own military facility instead.

The government funded two of the four radio stations and the only television station. Telecommunications company Cable and Wireless runs a local news and entertainment channel on its Internet Protocol Television service. The law allows for independent radio and television but prohibits political parties and religious organizations from operating radio stations.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The law allows the minister of information technology to prohibit the broadcast of any material believed to be against the “national interest” or “objectionable.” The law also requires telecommunication companies to submit subscriber information to the government. Authorities did not enforce the law during the year, but journalists continued to practice self-censorship after more than 40 years of working in a very controlled press environment.

During the year President Faure opened live press conferences to all media outlets, contrary to previous years when some media were excluded from certain official events. The press conferences had been criticized as being a controlled exercise. During the elections of 2015 and 2016, the opposition accused the Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) of biased reporting and coverage. In 2017 the SBC Act was amended to create a larger corporate board and provide for members of the public to apply for the position of chief executive officer (CEO) and deputy CEO. For the first time the CEO and deputy CEO positions were advertised. The SBC transformed itself from a state broadcaster to a public service broadcaster operating independently of state control.

Libel/Slander Laws: The law provides restrictions “for protecting the reputation, rights, and freedoms of private lives of persons” and “in the interest of defense, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health.” As a result civil lawsuits may be filed against print and broadcast journalists for alleged libel and slander. Social media sites may also be subject to libel lawsuits under this law. On September 4, Today in Seychelles reported that the editor of Le Seychellois Hebdo was summoned to court for an article it published in 2016 regarding a Seychellois politician and businessman.

INTERNET FREEDOM

Unlike previous years there were no reports that the government or the ruling party monitored postings on social media and websites of political opponents. According to 2017 International Telecommunication Union, 59 percent of the population used the internet.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right. There were several public demonstrations and marches during the year.

The Public Assembly Act published in 2015 requires organizers of gatherings of 10 or more persons to inform the police commissioner five working days prior to the date proposed for the planned gathering. For example, a public protest against the building of a military facility on Assomption Island to coincide with National Day celebrations on June 29 was called off due to lack of the required notification time. Several other protests against the proposed facility, however, were allowed to continue. The police commissioner may impose conditions or deny the right to assemble on security, morality, and public safety grounds. Authorities did not restrict the holding of lawful public opposition gatherings.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

Singapore

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

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

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

In May Singapore Civil Defense Force (SCDF) national serviceman Corporal Kok Yuen Chin died as a result of drowning in a pump well at a fire station during hazing celebrations. Five SCDF officers were charged in relation to his death.

b. Disappearance

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, and the government generally respected these prohibitions.

The law mandates imprisonment and mandatory caning for approximately 30 offenses, such as certain cases of rape, robbery, and drug trafficking. Caning is discretionary for convictions on other charges involving the use of force, such as kidnapping or voluntarily causing grievous hurt. Caning also may be used as a punishment for misbehavior while in prison, if first approved by the commissioner of prisons and reviewed by the Institutional Discipline Advisory Committee. Women and girls, men older than 50 years and boys younger than 16, men sentenced to death whose sentences were not commuted, and persons determined medically unfit were exempt from punishment by caning.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

There were no reports regarding prison or detention center conditions that raised human rights concerns.

Physical Conditions: There were no major concerns about physical conditions or inmate abuse in prisons and detention centers.

Administration: Prisoners may file complaints alleging mistreatment or misconduct to judicial authorities without censorship and may request investigation of credible allegations of problematic conditions. When called upon, the Provost Unit, which is located in the prison headquarters, investigates complaints. Criminal charges may be brought against government officials.

The Board of Visiting Justices, consisting of justices of the peace appointed by the minister for home affairs, examines the prison system and has oversight of any investigations undertaken by the Provost Unit. The board conducts regular prison inspections to ensure prisoners’ basic welfare and adherence to prison regulations. It may also conduct random visits. All inmates have access to the visiting justices. Authorities documented the results of investigations in a publicly accessible manner.

The Institutional Discipline Advisory Committee renders an opinion to the commissioner of prisons on whether corporal punishment was excessive.

The status of the arrestee or convict determined the frequency and type of permitted visits. In general authorities allowed family members and close relatives to visit inmates. Prison authorities must approve visits of nonrelatives.

Independent Monitoring: Authorities also allowed members of the press to visit the prisons.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention. The law permits arrest without warrant and detention without trial in defined circumstances. Persons detained under these circumstances have a limited right to judicial review of their case. The government generally observed the laws.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Singapore Police Force (SPF), under the direction of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), maintains internal security. Since 2017, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), under the Ministry of Defense, have trained for deployment alongside MHA for certain homeland security operations, including joint deterrence patrols with SPF in instances of heightened terrorism alerts.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the SPF and SAF. The Ministry of Home Affairs and the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau had effective means and adequate resources to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

In most instances, the law requires the issuance of an authorized warrant for arrests, but some laws, such as the Internal Security Act (ISA), provide for arrest without a warrant if the government determines the suspect acted in a manner prejudicial to the security of the country. The law specifies that some offenses, such as robbery or rape, do not require an arrest warrant.

Those arrested according to regular criminal procedure must appear before a magistrate within 48 hours. The accused may not be held for more than 48 hours without a magistrate’s approval. Authorities expeditiously charged and brought to trial the majority of those arrested. A functioning bail system existed.

Persons who faced criminal charges were allowed access to counsel at the end of police questioning when investigations were complete or nearly so. Any person accused of a capital crime is eligible to free counsel assigned by the state. The government also funded a Criminal Legal Aid Scheme run by the Law Society that covers additional, but not all, criminal offenses.

Arbitrary Arrest: Some laws, such as the ISA and the Criminal Law (temporary provisions) Act (CLA), have provisions for arrest and detention without a warrant or full judicial due process. ISA cases are subject to review by the courts to provide for strict compliance with its procedural requirements. Authorities invoked the ISA primarily against persons suspected of posing a security threat and employed the CLA mostly against persons suspected of organized crime activity or drug trafficking.

Pretrial Detention: Pretrial detention was not excessively long. Some individuals, however, were in prolonged detention without trial and with minimal judicial due process under laws that allowed for such detention.

The ISA and the CLA permit preventive detention without trial for the protection of public security, safety, or the maintenance of public order. The ISA authorizes the minister for home affairs, with the consent of the cabinet and with formal endorsement from the president, to order detention without filing charges if the minister determines that a person poses a threat to national security. The initial detention may be for a maximum of two years, which the minister may renew for an unlimited number of additional periods of up to two years each. ISA detainees are permitted legal counsel. An independent advisory board consisting of a Supreme Court judge and two other presidential appointees reviews each detainee’s case within three months of initial detention and at intervals of not longer than 12 months thereafter. If the advisory board recommends that the detainee be released but the minister disagrees, the president has discretion over the detainee’s continued detention.

As of September, there were active ISA orders of detention (ODs) against 21 persons for involvement in terrorism-related activities.

In January a self-radicalized Malaysian man, Muhammad Nur Hanief Abdul Jalil, who worked in Singapore and had access to the country’s restricted Airfreight Center, was detained under the ISA and subsequently repatriated. Two self-radicalized citizens were detained under the ISA for intending to participate in armed violence overseas. Authorities detained parking warden Mohamed Faishal Mohamed Razali in April, and information technology engineer Ahmed Hussein Abdul Kadir Sheik Uduman in August under the ISA.

In addition to ODs, the ISA allows for issuance of restriction orders (ROs) that require an individual to seek official approval for a change of address or occupation, overseas travel, or participation in any public organization or activity. RO subjects could be required to report regularly to authorities. As of September, 21 persons were on ROs. This number included both released detainees and suspected terrorists who authorities never detained.

There is also a category of restriction called suspension direction (SD) that replaces an OD when suspended and may prohibit association with specified groups or individuals and overseas travel without prior written government approval. SDs also include reporting conditions. In July Munavar Baig Amina Begam was released from detention and issued an SD. Amina was detained in November 2017 for supporting the Islamic State and intending to join the group in Syria. As of September Amina was the only person subject to an SD.

The CLA, which must be renewed every five years, was amended and renewed in February. The amendments specified the criminal activities for which individuals can be detained without trial or placed under police supervision. According to the CLA, the minister for home affairs may order preventive detention, with the concurrence of the public prosecutor, for an initial period of one year; the president may extend detention for unlimited additional periods of up to one year at a time. The minister must provide a written statement of the grounds for detention to the Criminal Law Advisory Committee (CLAC) within 28 days of the order. The CLAC then reviews the case at a private hearing. Since March CLAC sessions have been chaired by sitting judges of the Supreme Court. CLAC rules require that authorities notify detainees of the grounds of their detention at least 10 days prior to this hearing, during which detainees may represent themselves or be represented by a lawyer. After the hearing, the committee makes a written recommendation to the president, who may cancel, confirm, or amend the detention order based on the advice of the cabinet. The government used the CLA almost exclusively against serious criminal activities involving narcotics, loan sharks, or criminal organizations and not for political purposes.

The CLA allows for supervision within the community through means such as curfews, residence limitations, requirements to report regularly to authorities, and limitations on travel.

The Misuse of Drugs Act permits detention without trial in an approved institution for the purpos