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Algeria

Executive Summary

Algeria is a multiparty republic whose president, the head of state, is elected by popular vote for a five-year term. The president has the constitutional authority to appoint and dismiss cabinet members and the prime minister, who is the head of government. A 2016 constitutional revision requires the president to consult with the parliamentary majority before appointing the prime minister. Presidential elections took place in 2014, and voters re-elected President Abdelaziz Bouteflika for a fourth term. Presidential term limits, which were eliminated in 2008, were reintroduced in the 2016 revision of the constitution and limit the president to two five-year terms. Elections for the lower chamber of parliament were held in May and did not result in significant changes in the composition of the government. Foreign observers characterized the 2017 legislative elections as largely well organized and conducted without significant problems on election day, but noted a lack of transparency in vote-counting procedures.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included unlawful interference with privacy; laws prohibiting certain forms of expression, which were often vague, as well as criminal defamation laws; limits on freedom of the press; restrictions on the freedom of assembly and association; official corruption, including perceptions of lack of judicial independence and impartiality; lethal domestic violence against women; criminalization of same sex activity and security force sexual abuse of LGBTI persons; and trafficking in persons.

The government took steps to investigate, prosecute, or punish public officials who committed violations. Impunity for police and security officials remained a problem, but the government provided information on actions taken against officials accused of wrongdoing.

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.

Some terrorist groups remained active in the country, including al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and an ISIS affiliate, Jund al-Khilafah. These groups targeted security services personnel. On February 26, police shot an attempted suicide bomber as he approached a police station in Constantine. The bomb detonated, killing only the attacker. On August 31, a suicide bomber killed two police officers in a police station in Tiaret. AQIM and ISIS both claimed responsibility for the attack.

b. Disappearance

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

The government continued to negotiate the terms of a visit by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to address cases of enforced or involuntary disappearances from the 1990s that the working group submitted to it in 2014.

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

The law prohibits torture and prescribes prison sentences of between 10 and 20 years for government agents found guilty of torture. The government reported 28 prosecutions and two convictions on allegations of abusive treatment by police officers in 2016. There was no information on torture convictions or prosecutions in 2017.

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and local human rights activists alleged that government officials sometimes employed degrading treatment to obtain confessions. Human rights activists said police sometimes used excessive force against suspects, including protestors.

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

Local and international NGOs asserted that impunity was a problem.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

The penal code prohibits the detention of suspects in any facilities not designated for that purpose and declared to the local prosecutor, who has the right to visit such facilities at any time.

Physical Conditions: There were no major concerns regarding physical conditions in prisons and detention centers. According to statistics provided in September, the Ministry of Justice’s General Directorate for Prison Administration and Resettlement (DGAPR) had responsibility for approximately 60,000 prisoners. Convicted terrorists had the same rights as other inmates but were held in prisons of varying degrees of security, determined by the danger posed by the prisoners.

The government used specific facilities for prisoners age 27 and younger. The DGAPR maintained different categories of prisons that separated prisoners according to the lengths of their sentences. The government acknowledged that some detention facilities were overcrowded but said it used prisoner transfers and, increasingly, alternatives to incarceration to reduce overcrowding. The Ministry of Justice said cell sizes exceeded international standards set by the United Nations’ Nelson Mandela Rules. Some observers, including government-appointed human rights officials, attributed overcrowding in pretrial detention facilities to continued overuse of pretrial detention, despite reforms in 2015 that sought to reduce the practice.

Authorities generally transferred pretrial detainees, after presenting them before the prosecutor, to prisons rather than holding them in separate detention facilities. The government said pretrial detainees were normally held in cellblocks separate from those that housed the general prison population.

Independent Monitoring: The government allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and local human rights observers to visit prisons and detention centers. ICRC staff visited prisons, police and gendarme stations under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice, and an administrative detention center operated by the Ministry of Interior. During the year the ICRC hosted training sessions on human rights standards related to arrest, detention, and interrogation procedures for judicial police from the DGSN and National Gendarmerie, as well as for judges.

Improvements: Authorities improved prison conditions to meet international standards. The Ministry of Justice’s Directorate of Penal Affairs and Pardons said that the government alleviated overcrowding by opening new detention centers during the year, including minimum-security centers that permitted prisoners to work. The DGSN announced the creation of a new human rights office in July; one of its functions is to ensure implementation of measures to improve detention conditions.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

Security forces routinely detained individuals who participated in prohibited strikes or protests. Arrested individuals reported that authorities held them for four to eight hours before releasing them without charges. Overuse of pretrial detention remained a problem. A detainee has the right to appeal a court’s order of pretrial detention, and if released, seek compensation from the government.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The 130,000-member National Gendarmerie, which performs police functions outside of urban areas under the auspices of the Ministry of National Defense, and the approximately 210,000-member DGSN or national police, organized under the Ministry of Interior, share responsibility for maintaining law and order. Intelligence activities fall under three intelligence directorates reporting to a presidential national security counselor and performing functions related specifically to internal, external, and technical security.

The law provides mechanisms to investigate abuses and corruption, but the government did not always provide public information on disciplinary or legal action against police, military, or other security force personnel. The DGSN conducted regular training sessions on human rights, including for all new cadets. Its new human rights office is responsible for organizing human rights training for police officers.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

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

If authorities need more than 48 hours to gather additional evidence, they may extend a suspect’s authorized time in police detention with the prosecutor’s authorization in the following cases: if charges pertain to an attack on data processing systems, they may extend the time in detention once; if charges relate to state security, they may do so twice; for charges concerning drug trafficking, organized and transnational crime, money laundering, and other currency-related crimes, they may do so three times; and for charges related to terrorism and other subversive activities, they may do so five times for a maximum of 12 days. The law stipulates that detainees should immediately be able to contact a family member and receive a visit, or to contact an attorney.

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

In nonfelony cases and in cases of individuals held on charges of terrorism and other subversive activities that exceed a 12-day period plus any authorized extension, the law calls for the release of suspects on provisional liberty, referred to as “judicial control,” while awaiting trial. Under provisional liberty status, authorities subjected suspects to requirements such as reporting periodically to the police station in their district, stopping professional activities related to the alleged offense committed, surrendering all travel documents, and, in some terrorism-related cases, residing at an agreed-upon address. The law provides that foreigners may be required to furnish bail as a condition of release on provisional liberty status, while Algerian citizens may be released on provisional liberty without posting bail.

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

The government took action in the 2015 case of a Cameroonian female migrant who was assaulted and raped by a group of Algerian men. The victim reported that several hospitals refused to provide her treatment and to issue her a certificate documenting her sexual assault. After social media and local civil society organizations drew attention to the issue, authorities accepted her complaint and initiated prosecutions against seven of the perpetrators. As of September, three of the perpetrators were serving sentences of 15 years in prison, while four remained at large and were convicted in absentia to 20 years imprisonment.

Arbitrary Arrest: Although the law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, authorities sometimes used vaguely worded provisions, such as “inciting an unarmed gathering” and “insulting a government body,” to arrest and detain individuals considered to be disturbing public order or criticizing the government. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations criticized the law prohibiting unauthorized gatherings and called for its amendment to require only notification as opposed to application for authorization. These observers, among others, pointed to the law as a significant source of arbitrary arrests intended to suppress political activism. Police arrested protesters throughout the year for violating the law against unregistered public gatherings. On June 21, attorney and human rights activist Salah Debouz was summoned and questioned by police in the city of Batna and released the same day. Debouz was in Batna to defend Ahmadi Muslims who were on trial for engaging in religious activities without government authorization. Debouz had previously been briefly detained and released on two occasions in 2016.

Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention remained a problem. Nongovernmental observers believed pretrial detainees comprised a significant portion of the total detainee and prisoner population but did not have specific statistics. The Ministry of Justice said the proportion of detainees in pretrial detention decreased relative to previous years, but statistics were not available at year’s end.

The law limits the grounds for pretrial detention and stipulates that before it can be imposed, a judge must assess the gravity of a crime and whether the accused is a threat to society or a flight risk. Judges rarely refused prosecutorial requests to extend pretrial detention. Most detainees had prompt access to a lawyer of their choice as accorded by law, and the government provided legal counsel to indigent detainees. Human rights activists and attorneys, however, asserted that some detainees were held without access to lawyers.

The law prohibits pretrial detention for crimes with maximum punishments of less than three years imprisonment, except for infractions that resulted in deaths or to persons considered a “threat to public order.” In these cases, the law limits pretrial detention to one month. In all other criminal cases, pretrial detention may not exceed four months. Amnesty International alleged that authorities sometimes detained individuals on security-related charges for longer than the 12-day prescribed period.

Authorities held two leaders of the unregistered Ahmadi Muslim community in pretrial detention from February until May on charges related to their unauthorized religious activities. Throughout the year, police arrested approximately 26 members of the Ahmadi community. As of November community leaders said no Ahmadis were in pretrial detention.

In 2015 police arrested Nacer Eddine Hadjadj, former mayor of Beriane municipality and member of the Rally for Culture and Democracy party, reportedly for questioning regarding intercommunal violence in Ghardaia that year. In 2015 a judge denied Hadjadj’s request for provisional release. On June 11, Hadjadj was convicted to three years in prison, reportedly on charges of possession of firearms and holding an armed assembly. Hadjadj was released immediately after his conviction for the approximately 22 months he spent in detention, after the judge suspended the rest of his prison sentence.

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

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

TRIAL PROCEDURES

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

Defendants may confront or question witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence on their behalf. Defendants have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and they have the right to appeal. The testimony of men and women has equal weight under the law.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

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

The government continued to deny that 160 persons who remained incarcerated since the 1990s were political prisoners, and stated they were ineligible for pardons under the National Charter for Peace and Reconciliation because they committed violent crimes during the internal conflict. The government permitted the ICRC to visit these and other detainees held for “security reasons.”

In 2016 a Tamanrasset court convicted Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Unemployed Workers activist Abdelali Ghellam to a year in prison following his 2015 arrest on charges of taking part in an unauthorized gathering and obstructing traffic. Amnesty International reported that seven other men were arrested in connection with the same protest and received one-year sentences and DZD 50,000 ($438) fines. As of January all eight had been released.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The judiciary was not always independent or impartial in civil matters and lacked independence in some human rights cases. Family connections and status of the parties involved influenced decisions. Individuals may bring lawsuits, and administrative processes related to amnesty may provide damages to the victims or their families for human rights violations and compensation for alleged wrongs. Individuals may appeal adverse decisions to international human rights bodies, but their decisions would not have the force of law.

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

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

In 2016 the government established an anticybercrime agency charged with coordinating anticybercrime efforts and engaging in preventive surveillance of electronic communications in the interests of national security. Falling under the purview of the Ministry of Justice, the agency has exclusive authority for monitoring all electronic surveillance activities, but the decree did not provide details regarding the limits of surveillance authority or corresponding protections for persons subject to surveillance. The Ministry of Justice said the agency was subject to all existing judicial controls that apply to law enforcement agencies.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

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

Freedom of Expression: While public debate and criticism of the government were widespread, journalists and activists believed they were limited in their ability to criticize the government publicly on topics crossing unwritten “red lines.” Authorities arrested and detained citizens for expressing views deemed damaging to state officials and institutions, and citizens practiced self-restraint in expressing public criticism. The law criminalizing speech about security force conduct during the internal conflict of the 1990s remained in place, although the government said there had never been an arrest or prosecution under the law. A separate law provides for up to three years’ imprisonment for publications that “may harm the national interest” or up to one year for defaming or insulting the president, parliament, army, or state institutions. Government officials monitored political meetings.

Press and Media Freedom: The National Agency for Publishing and Advertising (ANEP) controls public advertising for print media. According to the NGO Reporters without Borders (RSF), private advertising existed but frequently came from businesses with close links to the ruling political party. Although ANEP said in September that it represented only 15 percent of the total advertising market, nongovernmental sources assessed the majority of daily newspapers depended on ANEP-authorized advertising to finance their operations. The government’s lack of transparency over its use of state-funded advertising permitted it to exert undue influence over print media. On November 14, Hadda Hazem, the editor of the El Fadjr newspaper, began a hunger strike to protest what she described as government pressure on public and private advertisers to deprive El Fadjr of advertising revenue in retaliation for its criticisms of the government.

Police arrested blogger Merzoug Touati on January 25 on charges stemming from his publication of an interview with a former Israeli diplomat. On September 13, Touati began a hunger strike. He remained in detention at year’s end.

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

Organizations wishing to initiate regular publications must obtain authorization from the government. The law requires the director of the publication to hold Algerian citizenship. The law additionally prohibits local periodicals from receiving direct or indirect material support from foreign sources.

In September the Ministry of Communication stated there were 249 accredited written publications, down from 332 last year. Of the daily printed publications, the ministry stated six were state-operated. The ministry said the decline in accredited publications was due to a reduction in advertising revenue.

The ministry’s Media Directorate is responsible for issuing and renewing accreditations to foreign media outlets operating in the country. Although this accreditation is required to operate legally, the vast majority of foreign media were not accredited. While the government tolerated their operations in the past, the Ministry of Communication said in 2016 it would limit the number of private satellite channels to 13 and foreign-based unaccredited television outlets would be shut down. At year’s end, however, the government had not shut down any such outlets. Regulations require the shareholders and managers of any radio or television channel to be Algerian citizens and prohibit them from broadcasting content that offends “values anchored in Algerian society.”

The ministry also issues and renews accreditation of foreign correspondents reporting in the country. According to the ministry, 14 accredited foreign press agencies reported during the year. In addition, six private domestic television channels, 12 foreign broadcasting channels, and two foreign radio stations operated throughout the year.

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

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

From October 5-November 28, Tout sur l’Algerie (TSA), an online news website, was inaccessible via Algerie Telecom, the state-owned traditional internet service provider (ISP), and via Mobilis, the state-owned mobile ISP. Algerie Telecom did not provide TSA the reasons for the blockage. In October the Ministry of Communication denied any involvement, saying the issue rested with Algerie Telecom. TSA director Hamid Guemache told RSF that the explanations provided by the authorities “are not convincing” and that he suspected a “political blockage.”

Libel/Slander Laws: NGOs and observers criticized the law on defamation as vaguely drafted and said the definitions used as failed to comport with internationally recognized norms. The law defines defamation as “any allegation or imputation of a fact offending the honor or consideration of a person, or of the body to which the fact is imputed.” The law does not require that the fact alleged or imputed be false or that the statement be made with malicious intent to damage another individual’s reputation. Defamation is not a crime but carries a fine ranging from DZD 100,000 to DZD 500,000 ($877 to $4,385). The Ministry of Justice did not provide information on the percentage of defamation claims that originated from private citizens, as opposed to government officials. Defamation laws specify that former members of the military who make statements deemed to have damaged the image of the military or to have “harmed the honor and respect due to state institutions” may face prosecution.

The Ministry of Communication prohibited the sale of the August issue of Le Monde Diplomatique, a French monthly publication, that contained an article titled “Forbidden Memory in Algeria” about the aftermath of the internal conflict in the 1990s. The ministry said the article’s discussion of President Bouteflika’s health was injurious to the president and stated the publication did not appeal the decision.

The law criminalizes statements denigrating Islam or insulting the Prophet Muhammed or “messengers of God.” In 2016 police in Setif arrested Slimane Bouhafs, a Christian convert, for posting statements on his Facebook page questioning the morals of the Prophet Muhammed. A court sentenced him to five years in prison, plus a DZD 100,000 ($877) fine. His sentence was subsequently reduced to three years in prison and then commuted in July as part of a broad presidential amnesty. He was scheduled for release in March 2018 as a result of the commutation.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government monitored certain email and social media sites.

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

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

By law, ISPs face criminal penalties for the material and websites they host, especially if subject matters are “incompatible with morality or public opinion.” The Ministries of Justice, Interior, and Post, Information Technology, and Communication have oversight responsibilities. The law provides sentences of six months to five years in prison and fines between DZD 50,000 and DZD 500,000 ($438 and $4,385) for users who do not comply with the law, including the obligation to cooperate with law enforcement authorities against cybercrime.

On April 4, seven administrators of a Facebook page called “Granada City” appeared in court in Bouira on charges stemming from a post in January calling for a general strike. The charges against them were dropped in May.

For a second year, the government blocked access to social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter, for several days during nationwide high school exams. The decision was in response to previous leaks of exam results, which were posted on social media.

According to the International Telecommunication Union, 43 percent of the population used the internet in 2016.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

Academic seminars generally occurred with limited governmental interference. The Ministry of Culture reviewed the content of films before they could be shown, as well as books before publication or importation. The Ministry of Religious Affairs did the same for religious publications. The law gives the authorities broad power to ban books that run counter to the constitution, “the Muslim religion and other religions, national sovereignty and unity, the national identity and cultural values of society, national security and defense concerns, public order concerns, and the dignity of the human being and individual and collective rights.” It further prohibits books that “make apology for colonialism, terrorism, crime, and racism.”

A January 17 decree by the prime minister clarified the process for the Ministry of Culture’s review of imported books, both in print and electronic form. According to the decree, importers must submit to the ministry the title, author’s name, editor’s name, edition, year, International Standard Book Number, and number of copies to be imported. Importers of books covering the “national movement and the Algerian Revolution” must submit the entire text of the books for review, including a secondary review by the Ministry of the Moudjahidine (veterans of the Revolution). The Ministry of Culture can also require a full content review of books on other topics if it chooses. The ministry has 30 days to review the importation application; in the absence of a response after 30 days, the importer may proceed with distribution of the publication. After making a determination, the ministry notifies the customs service of the decision to allow or ban the importation of the publication. Appeals may be made to the ministry, with no independent or judicial review provided for in the decree.

A government official said that rejected book importation requests were almost always for religious books that promote extremist ideas. A January 4 decree established a commission within the Ministry of Religious Affairs to review imports of the Quran. This decree requires all applications to include a full copy of the text and other detailed information. The ministry has three to six months to review the text, with the absence of a response after that time constituting a rejection of the application. A separate January 4 decree covering religious texts other than the Quran stated, “The content of religious books for import, regardless of format, must not undermine the religious unity of society, the national religious reference, public order, good morals, fundamental rights and liberties, or the law.” The importer must submit the text and other information, and the ministry must respond within 30 days. A nonresponse after this period of time is considered a rejection. Religious texts distributed without authorization may be seized and destroyed.

On March 4, police in the city of Aokas in Bejaia province reportedly prevented a local NGO from holding a conference featuring professor Younes Adli on “Kabyle [Berber] thought in the 18th and 19th centuries.”

In September press outlets reported Algiers International Book Fair Commissioner Hamidou Messaoudi announced that of the 120,000 books proposed for inclusion in the annual fair by 920 publishers representing 51 countries, the Book Fair Commission prohibited the inclusion of 130. Messaoudi said the action was taken pursuant to Algerian law prohibiting the exhibition of books that glorify terrorism, encourage radicalization, or incite racism.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

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

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

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

On July 22, police in Aokas prevented organizers from holding a “Literary Cafe” featuring Berber-language books. After a crowd gathered at the cultural center where the conference was supposed to be held and forced the doors open, police removed them from the building and reportedly fired rubber bullets into the crowd as an impromptu protest formed. On July 29, another march was held to protest the government’s actions, and residents reported that this protest unfolded peacefully.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

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

The law’s extensive requirements and uneven enforcement served as major impediments to the development of civil society. The law grants the government wide-ranging oversight of and influence in the day-to-day activities of civil society organizations. It requires national-level civil organizations to apply to the Ministry of Interior for permission to operate. Once registered, organizations must inform the government of their activities, funding sources, and personnel, including notification of personnel changes. The law imposes an additional requirement that associations obtain government preapproval before accepting foreign funds. If organizations fail to provide required information to the government or attempt to operate with or accept foreign funds without authorization, they are subject to fines between DZD 2,000 and DZD 5,000 ($17 and $43) and up to six months’ imprisonment.

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

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

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

The ministry did not renew the accreditations of the NGOs SOS Disparu (Missing), the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH), the National Association for the Fight Against Corruption, and the Youth Action Movement, all of which submitted their renewal applications in prior years.

The government issued licenses and subsidies to domestic associations, especially youth, medical, and neighborhood associations. According to the Ministry of Interior, there were 108,940 local and 1,293 national associations registered as of 2016. Unlicensed NGOs remained active, but rarely received government assistance, and citizens at times hesitated to associate with these organizations.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

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

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

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Civil society organizations reported that authorities prevented sub-Saharan African migrants in the areas around Tamanrasset from traveling north toward coastal population centers.

In-country Movement: The constitution provides citizens “the right to freely choose their place of residence and to move throughout the national territory.” The government maintained restrictions for security reasons on travel into the southern locales of El-Oued and Illizi, near hydrocarbon industry installations and the Libyan border, respectively. Citing the threat of terrorism, the government also prevented overland tourist travel between the southern cities of Tamanrasset, Djanet, and Illizi. Newspapers reported that the government restricted foreign tourists from traveling through trails in Tassili and Hoggar, as well as certain areas in and around Tamanrasset, due to security concerns.

Foreign Travel: The constitution states that the right to enter and exit the country is provided to citizens. The law does not permit those under age 18 to travel abroad without a guardian’s permission. Married women under 18 may not travel abroad without permission from their husbands, but married women over 18 may do so. The government did not permit young men eligible for the draft who had not completed their military service to leave the country without special authorization. The government granted such authorization to students and persons with special family circumstances.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

The government protected an estimated 90,000 to 165,000 Sahrawi refugees who departed Western Sahara after Morocco took control of the territory in the 1970s. UNHCR, the World Food Program (WFP), UNICEF, the Algerian Red Crescent, the Sahrawi Red Crescent, and other organizations assisted Sahrawi refugees. Neither the government nor the refugee leadership has allowed UNHCR to conduct registration or complete a census of the Sahrawi refugees. In the absence of formal registration, UNHCR and WFP based humanitarian assistance on a planning figure of 90,000 refugees. There is, however, a joint Sahrawi–UNHCR effort underway to capture more accurately the actual number of persons residing in the Sahrawi camps. The government said that a drop in aid from international donors led to worsening conditions for Sahrawi refugees, and that it had increased its own contributions as a result.

Refoulement: The government provided some protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Since the outbreak of violence in northern Mali in 2012, international observers reported an influx of individuals into Algeria across the Malian border inconsistent with traditional migratory movements. During the year, the government deported migrants to Mali.

The government said that more than 700 people, primarily Nigeriens, were repatriated during the year. The government, led by the Algerian Red Crescent, repatriated more than 17,000 Nigerien migrants to their country pursuant to a bilateral agreement at the request of the government of Niger since 2014, in several repatriation operations. Various international humanitarian organizations and observers criticized the operations, citing unacceptable conditions of transport, primarily on the Niger side of the border, and what they described as a lack of coordination among the Algerian Red Crescent, the government of Niger, and the Red Cross of Niger. In July the National Human Rights Committee (CNDH) said the Algerian government had dedicated an additional $3.8 million to ensuring the human rights of migrants during repatriation operations. The repatriations were conducted in coordination with consular officials from the countries of origin of the migrants, but the migrants were not permitted to challenge their removal. The government said that it maintained a policy of not removing migrants registered with UNHCR, and that in a few cases it worked with UNHCR to return registered refugees who were mistakenly removed.

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

As of June the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that since the start of the conflict in Syria, it accepted more than 40,000 Syrian refugees. Between 2012 and 2017, UNHCR registered more than 10,000 Syrians, but fewer than 6,000 remained registered with UNHCR as of September. The Algerian Red Crescent, which is subordinate to the Ministry of Solidarity, maintained “welcome facilities” that provided food and shelter for those Syrians without means to support themselves. The facilities were located in Sidi Fredj. The government did not grant UNHCR access to these reception centers but reported that by 2016 most Syrians no longer used the centers.

A group of Syrian refugees were stranded on the Moroccan-Algerian border from April to June, with both countries insisting the group was on the other country’s territory. Algeria offered to allow the refugees onto its territory on June 3 but they were not able to enter due to ambiguity regarding the border demarcation. Morocco announced on June 20 it would allow the migrants onto its territory, resolving the issue.

The Ministry of Interior estimated in 2016 that there were 21,073 irregular migrants residing in the country. Independent observers’ estimates in 2017 ranged from 25,000-200,000. Official statistics for 2017 were unavailable, but a government official said the numbers had likely increased compared to previous years due to instability in parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

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

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

School administrators must allow migrant and refugee children to enroll in primary school through high school and require only that they present their passport and documentation showing their level of schooling from their home country. International organizations reported the children had trouble in their attempts to integrate into the educational system but that migrants’ access to education was improving, particularly in the north of the country. These organizations reported that migrant parents were often reluctant to enroll their children in Algerian schools due to language barriers or cultural differences.

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

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

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

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

Elections and Political Participation

The law states that members of local, provincial, and national assemblies are elected for five-year mandates and that presidential elections occur within 30 days prior to the expiration of the presidential mandate. Presidential term limits, which were eliminated in 2008, were reintroduced in a 2016 revision of the constitution and limit the president to two terms. The Ministry of Interior is responsible for organizing the election and voting processes. In 2016 the government created a High Independent Election Monitoring Body (HIISE), charged with monitoring elections and investigating allegations of irregularities. The head of the HIISE, Abdelwahab Derbal, said after the May legislative elections that the mandate of the HIISE should be strengthened and the electoral law revised, based on deficiencies identified on election day.

Recent Elections: Presidential elections took place in 2014, and voters re-elected President Bouteflika for a fourth term. Bouteflika won approximately 81 percent of the votes, while his main rival and former prime minister, Ali Benflis, placed second with slightly more than 12 percent.

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

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

Elections for the lower chamber of parliament were held in May and did not result in significant changes in the composition of the government. The government allowed international observation of the elections but did not permit local civil society organizations to do the same. Most major opposition parties lost seats in the elections, and several parties claimed the results were significantly altered by fraud. Foreign observers from the African Union, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and Arab League characterized the elections as largely well organized and conducted without significant problems on election day. Local media outlets reported that a team of European Union elections experts provided the government a report noting a lack of transparency in vote counting procedures, but the report was not made public. In September, Algerian National Front party leader Moussa Touati stated that his party paid bribes in order to secure its single seat in parliament. Several opposition political parties claimed voter turnout figures were inflated and that the results were fraudulent.

After local elections in November, governing parties maintained control of the vast majority of provincial and municipal councils. There were no international observers for the local elections.

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

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

Pursuant to the constitution, all parties must have a “national base.” The electoral law adopted by parliament in July 2016 requires parties to have received 4 percent of the vote in the preceding election or to collect 250 signatures in the electoral district in order to appear on the ballot. Opposition parties from across the political spectrum criticized the new law for creating a more complex process for qualifying for the ballot, as well as for establishing an electoral monitoring body whose members would be appointed by the president and parliament, which is controlled by a coalition headed by the president’s party.

The law prohibits parties based on religion, ethnicity, gender, language, or region, but there were various political parties commonly known to be Islamist, notably members of the Green Alliance. According to the Ministry of Interior, in September there were 70 registered political parties.

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

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

Opposition party leaders complained that the government did not provide timely authorizations to hold rallies or party congresses.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minorities in the political process, and women and minorities did participate. The law requires parties to ensure that at least 30 percent of the candidates on their electoral lists are women.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides for criminal penalties of two to 10 years in prison for official corruption, but the government did not implement the law effectively. Corruption remained a problem, and officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

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

The Ministry of Justice declared that as through the first 10 months of 2016, 987 government employees or employees of state-run businesses had been charged with corruption. Statistics for the year were not available. Media reporting and public opinion viewed the absence of charges against the most senior of government officials as an indication of impunity for government officials.

In 2016 the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists published an article based on the “Panama Papers,” leaked documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, related to allegations of bribery in connection with contracts awarded by Sonatrach, the national oil company. Ministry of Justice officials said investigations related to the “Panama Papers” revelations were ongoing, but could not provide additional details due to restrictions on discussing active investigations.

Corruption throughout the government stemmed largely from a lack of transparent oversight. The National Association for the Fight Against Corruption noted the existence of an effective anticorruption law but stated that the government lacked the “political will” to apply the law.

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

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

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

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

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

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government extended an invitation to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances in 2014 and again in 2015, but no visit occurred. The country joined the HRC in 2014 but continued to deny requests for visits from the UN special rapporteurs on extrajudicial executions (pending since 1998), counterterrorism and human rights (pending since 2006), and the UN Working Group on arbitrary detention (pending since 2009). The government said it restarted discussions regarding a potential visit by the special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights in May.

Government Human Rights Bodies: In March the government replaced the National Consultative Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (CNCPPDH) with the CNDH. This new human rights body had budget autonomy and the responsibility to investigate alleged human rights abuses, officially comment on laws proposed by the government, and publish an annual report. At year’s end, the CNDH had presented its first draft report to President Bouteflika, but the report had not been made public by year’s end. During the year, the CNDH organized seminars and workshops on topics such as penitentiary reform and trafficking in persons. A CNDH representative said the organization viewed the most serious human rights concerns as limits on socioeconomic rights, as well as limits on free speech.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape but does not address spousal rape. Prison sentences for rape range from five to 10 years, and authorities generally enforced the law. A provision of the penal code allows an adult accused of “corruption of a minor” to avoid prosecution if he subsequently marries his victim and if the crime did not involve violence, threats, or fraud.

Domestic violence remains a society-wide problem. The law states that a person claiming domestic abuse must visit a “forensic physician” for an examination to document injuries and that the physician must determine that the injuries suffered “incapacitated” the victim for 15 days.

According to statistics from women’s advocacy groups published in the local press, between 100 and 200 women died each year from domestic violence. The government maintained two regional women’s shelters and was building three additional shelters. The Information and Documentation Center on the Rights of Children and Women (CIDDEF), a network of local organizations that promoted the rights of women, managed call centers in 15 provinces.

The law provides for sentences of one to 20 years’ imprisonment for domestic violence and six months to two years’ incarceration for men who withhold property or financial resources from their spouses.

Sexual Harassment: The punishment for sexual harassment is one to two years’ imprisonment and a fine of DZD 50,000 to DZD 100,000 ($438 to $877); the punishment doubles for a second offense. Women’s groups reported that the majority of reported cases of harassment occurred in the workplace. Women also reported harassment by men when walking in public.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: Although the constitution provides for gender equality, aspects of the law and traditional social practices discriminated against women. In addition, some religious elements advocated restrictions on women’s behavior, including freedom of movement. The law prohibits Muslim women from marrying non-Muslims, although authorities did not always enforce this provision.

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

The law affirms the religiously based practice of allowing a man to marry as many as four wives. The law permits polygamy only upon the agreement of the first wife and the determination of a judge as to the husband’s financial ability to support an additional wife. It was unclear whether authorities followed the law in all cases since local authorities had significant discretion and the government did not maintain nationwide statistics.

Women suffered from discrimination in inheritance claims and were entitled to a smaller portion of an estate than male children or a deceased husband’s brothers. Women did not often have exclusive control over assets that they brought to a marriage or that they earned.

Women may own businesses, enter into contracts, and pursue careers similar to those of men. The Ministry of Solidarity said 60 percent of the recipients of government microcredit loans for small businesses were women. Women enjoyed rights equal to those of men concerning property ownership, and property titles listed female landowners’ names.

Women faced discrimination in employment. Leaders of women’s organizations reported that discrimination was common and women were less likely to receive equal pay for equal work or promotions.

Children

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

Education: Education was free, compulsory, and universal through the secondary level to age 16. The United Nations estimated primary school enrollment at more than 98 percent.

Child Abuse: Child abuse was illegal but was a serious problem. The government devoted increasing resources and attention to it. A national ombudsperson was responsible for monitoring and publishing an annual report on the rights of children. The government supported the country’s Network for the Defense of Children’s Rights (NADA). The DGSN said it received reports of 1,173 instances of physical abuse and 600 cases of sexual abuse against children between January and September.

Laws prohibiting parental abduction do not penalize mothers and fathers differently, and the punishment for convicted kidnappers includes the death penalty.

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

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits solicitation for prostitution and stipulates prison sentences of between 10 and 20 years when the offense is committed against a minor under age 18. By law the age for consensual sex is 16. The law stipulates a prison sentence of between 10 and 20 years for rape when the victim is a minor.

The law established a national council to address children’s issues, gives judges authority to remove children from an abusive home, and allows sexually abused children to provide testimony on video rather than in court.

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

Anti-Semitism

Some religious leaders estimated that the country’s Jewish population numbered fewer than 200 persons.

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

In August the private newspaper, Echourouk El Youmi published a cartoon depicting a Jewish man with a Star of David on his sleeve clutching the surface of a globe, appearing to promote stereotypes of Jewish world domination. Also in August, Echourouk El Youmi published an article claiming that Jews had been plotting against Muslims for centuries, that Jews were responsible for most of the disasters that have befallen Muslims, and that Jews controlled the media, cinema, art, and fashion.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, although the government did not always effectively enforce these provisions. Few government buildings were accessible to persons with disabilities. Few businesses abided by the law that they reserve 1 percent of jobs for persons with disabilities. NGOs reported that the government did not enforce payment of fines. The Ministry of National Solidarity, Family, and the Status of Women provided some financial support to health-care-oriented NGOs, but for many NGOs, such financial support represented a small fraction of their budgets. The government provided disability benefits to persons with disabilities who registered.

The Ministry of Solidarity reported that it ran 242 centers throughout the country that provided support for persons with intellectual, auditory, vision, and physical disabilities. The ministry stated that it worked with the Ministry of Education to integrate children with disabilities into public schools to promote inclusion. The majority of the ministry’s programs for children with disabilities remained in social centers for children with disabilities rather than in formal educational institutions. Advocacy groups reported that children with disabilities rarely attended school past the secondary level. Many schools lacked teachers trained to work with children with disabilities, threatening the viability of efforts to mainstream children with disabilities into public schools.

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

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

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations by men or women and public indecency with penalties that include imprisonment of six months to three years and a fine of DZD 1,000 to DZD 10,000 ($9 to $92). The law also stipulates penalties that include imprisonment of two months to two years and fines of DZD 500 to DZD 2,000 ($4 to $17) for anyone convicted of having committed a “homosexual act.” If a minor is involved, the adult may face up to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of DZD 10,000 ($87).

LGBTI activists reported that the vague wording of laws identifying “homosexual acts” and “acts against nature” permitted sweeping accusations that resulted during the year in multiple arrests for same-sex sexual relations but no known prosecutions. LGBTI persons were reportedly arbitrarily detained and physically and sexually abused by police officers during the year.

Government officials did not take measures specifically to prevent discrimination against LGBTI persons.

LGBTI persons faced discrimination in accessing health services. Some organizations maintained a list of “LGBTI-friendly” hospitals, and several NGOs operated mobile clinics specifically for vulnerable communities.

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

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Strong social stigma towards the vulnerable groups in which HIV/AIDS was most concentrated–commercial sex workers, men who have sexual relations with men, and drug users–deterred testing of these groups. The government said it did not take measures to specifically prevent and treat HIV/AIDS in the LGBTI community.

The government’s National AIDS Committee met twice during the year. The committee brought together various government and civil society actors to discuss implementation of the national strategy to combat HIV/AIDS.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Academics and activists said that sub-Saharan African migrants sometimes faced discrimination and that there were tensions in some communities between the native and migrant populations.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

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

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

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

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

The law provides for the right to strike, and workers exercised this right, subject to conditions. Striking requires a secret ballot of the whole workforce. The decision to strike must be approved by majority vote of workers at a general meeting. The government may restrict strikes on a number of grounds, including economic crisis, obstruction of public services, or the possibility of subversive actions. Furthermore, all public demonstrations, including protests and strikes, must receive prior government authorization. By law workers may strike only after 14 days of mandatory conciliation or mediation. The government occasionally offered to mediate disputes. The law states that decisions reached in mediation are binding on both parties. If mediation does not lead to an agreement, workers may strike legally after they vote by secret ballot to do so. The law requires that a minimum level of essential public services must be maintained during public-sector service strikes, and the government has broad legal authority to requisition public employees. The list of essential services included banking, radio, and television. Penalties for unlawful work stoppages range from eight days to two months’ imprisonment. The law protects union members from discrimination or dismissal based on their union activities. Penalties for violations of the rights of union members range from fines of DZD 10,000-50,000 ($87-$438) for first offenses or DZD 50,000-100,000 ($438-$877) and 30 days-six months in prison for repeat offenses. The law says any firing or other employment action based on discrimination against union members is invalid.

The government affirmed there were 101 registered trade unions and employers’ organizations. No new trade unions were registered between January and September, and the government said it did not receive any applications. Many trade unions remained unrecognized by the government; they identified delayed processing and administrative hurdles imposed by the government as the primary obstacles to establishing legal status. In 2016 the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations stated that the lengthy registration process seriously impedes the establishment of new unions.

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

The government continued to deny recognition to the General Autonomous Confederation of Workers in Algeria (CGATA), an independent trade union confederation that includes public and economic sector unions and committees. CGATA membership included workers from unions representing government administrators, diplomatic personnel, state electricity and gas employees, university professors, public transport and postal workers, and lawyers. The confederation also included migrants working in the country.

SNAPAP and other independent unions faced government interference throughout the year, including official obstruction of general assembly meetings and police harassment during sit-in protests. Furthermore, the government restricted union activities and the formation of independent unions in certain critical public services sectors, such as oil and gas and telecommunications.

The Committee of Experts at the International Labor Conference in June 2016 requested that the government reinstate employees that the committee determined were fired based on antiunion discrimination and act expeditiously to process pending trade union registration applications.

Antiunion intimidation was commonplace, and there were several strikes launched in reaction to the government’s refusal to extend official recognition to fledgling new unions and its practice of engaging only with the UGTA.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. NGOs reported that irregular migrants sometimes worked in forced labor and that their lack of work permits made them more vulnerable to exploitation. For example, female migrants were subjected to debt bondage as they worked to repay smuggling debts through domestic servitude, forced begging, and forced prostitution. Prescribed penalties under this statute range from three to 20 years’ imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Construction workers and domestic workers were reportedly vulnerable. The government increased efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenders and to identify and provide protection services to trafficking victims, including those subject to forced labor.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

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

Although specific data was unavailable, children reportedly worked mostly in the informal sales market, often in family businesses. There were isolated reports that children were subjected to commercial sexual exploitation. According to UNICEF, 5 percent of children ages five to 14 were economically active as of 2013.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing child labor laws and refers violators to the Ministry of Justice for prosecution. There is no single office charged with this task, but all labor inspectors are responsible for enforcing laws regarding child labor. The Ministry of Labor conducted inspections and in some cases investigated companies suspected of hiring underage workers. The ministry’s Labor Inspector Service conducted inspections into child labor in 2016 of 11,575 businesses. It reported the discovery of 12 minors. The law for the protection of the child criminalizes anyone who economically exploits a child with a penalty of one to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of DZD 50,000 to DZD 100,000 ($438 to $877); the punishment is doubled if the offender is a family member or guardian of the child. These penalties are neither sufficiently stringent nor commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes. Monitoring and enforcement practices for child labor were inconsistent and hampered by an insufficient number of inspectors.

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

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

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

Men held a disproportionate percentage of positions of authority in government and the private sector. NGOs reported instances in which unaccompanied migrant female youth were exploited as domestic workers and were known to be loaned out to families for extended periods to work in homes and/or exploited as prostitutes.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

A tripartite social pact among business, government, and the official union established the national minimum wage of DZD 18,000 ($157) per month in 2012. There is no official estimate of the poverty income level.

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

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

The government requires employers to declare their employees to the Ministry of Labor and to pay social security benefits. Penalties for noncompliance include a prison sentence of two to six months and a fine ranging from DZD 100,000 to DZD 200,000 ($877 to $1,754) and DZD 200,000 to DZD 500,000 ($1,754 to $4,385) for repeat offenders. The government allowed undeclared workers to gain credit for social security and retirement benefits for time spent in the informal economy if they repay any taxes owed after registering.

The Labor Ministry employed 563 labor inspectors, insufficient to enforce broad compliance.

Libya

Executive Summary

Libya is a parliamentary democracy with a temporary Constitutional Declaration, which allows for the exercise of a full range of political, civil, and judicial rights. Citizens elected the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) in free and fair elections in June 2014. The Libyan Political Agreement, which members of the UN-facilitated Libyan political dialogue signed in 2015 and the HoR approved in January 2016, created the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) Presidency Council (PC), headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. In March 2016 the GNA PC took its seat in Tripoli. In August 2016 a quorum of HoR members voted against the proposed cabinet, limiting the government’s effectiveness. The proposed ministers, however, led their ministries in an acting capacity. The elected Constitutional Drafting Assembly completed a draft constitution that remains contested.

The government had limited effective control over security forces.

Conflict continued during the year between government-aligned forces and various nonstate actors. The “Libyan National Army” (LNA) under its commander Khalifa Haftar continued operations in the east. Extralegal armed groups filled security vacuums across the country, although several in the West nominally aligned with the government. ISIS maintained a limited presence primarily in the central desert region, areas south of Sirte, and urban areas along the Western coast. Other extremist groups also operate in the country, particularly in the and around Benghazi, Derna, and in the southwest.

The most significant human rights issues included arbitrary and unlawful killings, including of politicians and members of civil society, by extralegal armed groups as well as militias affiliated with the government; lethal terrorist attacks by ISIS that led to civilian casualties; forced disappearances; torture perpetrated by armed actors on all sides; harsh and life-threatening conditions in prison and detention facilities, some of which were outside of government control; arbitrary arrest and detention; political prisoners held by nonstate actors; unlawful interference with privacy, again often by non-state actors; limits on the freedoms of speech and press, including violence against journalists and authors and criminalization of political expression; corruption; trafficking in persons; criminalization of sexual orientation; and violations of labor rights including forced labor.

Impunity from prosecution was a severe and pervasive problem. The government took limited steps to investigate abuses, but constraints on its reach and resources reduced its ability to prosecute and punish those who committed abuses. Security forces outside government control–to include armed groups in the West and LNA forces in the East–also did not adequately investigate credible allegations of killings and other misconduct by their personnel. Intimidation by armed actors resulted in paralysis of the judicial system, impeding the investigation and prosecution of those believed to have committed human rights abuses, including against public figures and human rights defenders.

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

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

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

Reports indicated extremist and terrorist organizations, criminal gangs, and militias played a prominent role in targeted killings, kidnappings, and suicide bombings perpetrated against both government officials and civilians. Criminal groups or armed elements affiliated with both the government and its opponents may have carried out others. Shelling, gunfire, airstrikes, and unexploded ordinances killed scores of persons during the year.

Through November the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) documented 287 civilian casualties. Airstrikes caused the largest number of deaths, while shelling injured the most victims. For example, on July 4, UNSMIL reported that the shelling of a beach in Tripoli killed five persons and injured six persons, all from the same family.

ISIS fighters committed extrajudicial killings and attacks against the military. On October 4, an ISIS suicide bomber attacked a court complex in Misrata, killing four persons.

Civil society and media reports claimed both pro-GNA, anti-GNA, and nonaligned militia groups committed human rights abuses, including indiscriminate attacks on civilians, kidnapping, torture, burning houses, and forced expulsions based on political belief or tribal affiliation. In February UNSMIL reported that a boy was fatally shot by members of an armed group when the car he was riding in reportedly failed to stop and was fired upon at a checkpoint in Zuwarah.

There were reports of killings of detainees by multiple actors. On April 1, the body of a man arrested by the al-Uruba Police Station in Benghazi the previous day was brought into the Benghazi Medical Center with a gunshot wound, broken ribs, and contusions. On September 4, a 26-year-old detainee of the Derna Mujahedeen Shura Council was killed in custody.

b. Disappearance

Government-aligned forces and armed groups acting outside government control committed an unknown number of forced disappearances. The government made few effective efforts to prevent, investigate, or penalize forced disappearances.

Kidnappings were common throughout the year. In November the World Health Organization condemned an attack on health facilities and health-care workers in Sabha and the reported kidnapping of a doctor from one medical center. Also in November, four Turkish nationals from the Ubari power plant were kidnapped by an unidentified armed group.

A Tripoli based activist, Jabir Zain, remained in captivity after an armed group linked to the Interior Ministry of the GNA abducted him in September 2016. Many disappearances that occurred during the Qadhafi regime, as well as many during the 2011 revolution, remained unresolved. Due to the continuing conflict, weak judicial system, legal ambiguity regarding amnesty for revolutionary forces, and the slow progress of the National Fact-finding and Reconciliation Commission, law enforcement authorities and the judiciary made no appreciable progress in resolving high-profile cases reported between 2013 and the end of the year.

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

While the Constitutional Declaration and postrevolutionary legislation prohibit such practices, according to credible accounts, personnel operating both government and extralegal detention centers tortured prisoners. At times during the year, due to its lack of resources and capability, the government relied on militias to manage its incarceration facilities. Furthermore, militias, not police, initiated arrests in most instances. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), militias held detainees at their discretion prior to placing them in official detention facilities. While judicial police controlled many facilities, management of a number of other prisons and detention facilities was under the partial or complete control of extralegal armed groups. Treatment varied from facility to facility and typically was worst at the time of arrest. Reported forms of abuses included beatings with belts, sticks, hoses, and rifles; administration of electric shocks; burns inflicted by boiling water, heated metal, or cigarettes; mock executions; suspension from metal bars; and rape. The full extent of abuse at the hands of extremists or militias remained unknown.

A November 3 article by Le Monde alleged that male detainees were raped systematically as an instrument of war by multiple factions.

UNSMIL documented cases involving deprivation of liberty and torture across the country. On May 20, the body of a man killed by a gunshot wound was brought to a Tripoli hospital. The victim’s hands and legs were bound with metal chains. An armed group reportedly abducted him approximately 40 days earlier in Wershfana. On September 13, the body of a boy age 17 showing signs of torture and bullet wounds was found in Benghazi.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prisons and detention facilities are often overcrowded, harsh, and life threatening, falling well short of international standards. Many prisons and detention centers were outside government control.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), migrant detention centers, operated by the Ministry of Interior’s Department to Combat Irregular Migration, also suffered from massive overcrowding, extremely poor sanitation conditions, lack of access to medical care, and significant disregard for the protection of the detainees.

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

Additionally, detention centers held minors with adults. There were reportedly separate facilities for men and women. Female judicial police staff reportedly guards female detainees in al-Quafiya prison. UNHCR and the IOM reported an estimated 14,000 migrant detainees in the country’s government-run centers alone as of December, with an unknown, large number of additional migrant detainees held in nongovernment centers.

There were reportedly no functioning juvenile facilities in the country, and authorities held juveniles in adult prisons.

In June unidentified armed groups killed 12 detainees upon their conditional release from al-Baraka prison in Tripoli. All 12 were members of the former Qadhafi government and accused of taking part in the violence against antigovernment protesters in 2011.

There were reports of killings and deaths in detention centers. Due to security conditions that limited monitoring, the exact number of those killed in prisons, jails, pretrial detention, or other detention centers was unknown.

Makeshift detention facilities existed throughout the country. Conditions at these facilities varied widely, but consistent problems included overcrowding, poor ventilation, and the lack of basic necessities. Officials, local militias, and criminal gangs moved migrants through a network of detention centers with little monitoring by the government or international organizations. Reports indicated the conditions in most of these detention facilities were below international standards.

Administration: The Judicial Police Authority, tasked by the Ministry of Justice to run the prison system, operates from its headquarters in Tripoli. It remained administratively split, however, with a second headquarters in al-Bayda near the HoR, reporting to a separate Eastern Ministry of Justice and providing oversight to prisons in eastern Libya and Zintan. During the year the ratio of detainees and prisoners to the generally poorly trained guards varied significantly. Monitoring and training of prison staff by international organizations remained largely suspended, although some training of judicial police resumed during the year.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted some independent monitoring, and, as of November 29, permitted increased access to transit facilities by the IOM and UNHCR. Nevertheless, the lack of clarity regarding who ran each facility and the sheer number of facilities made it impossible to gain a comprehensive view of the system.

Reports also raised questions concerning the capability and professional training of local human rights organizations charged with overseeing prisons and detention centers.

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

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Authorities generally transferred pretrial detainees, after presenting them before the prosecutor, to prisons rather than holding them in separate detention facilities. The government said pretrial detainees were normally held in cellblocks separate from those that housed the general prison population.

Independent Monitoring: The government allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and local human rights observers to visit prisons and detention centers. ICRC staff visited prisons, police and gendarme stations under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice, and an administrative detention center operated by the Ministry of Interior. During the year the ICRC hosted training sessions on human rights standards related to arrest, detention, and interrogation procedures for judicial police from the DGSN and National Gendarmerie, as well as for judges.

Improvements: Authorities improved prison conditions to meet international standards. The Ministry of Justice’s Directorate of Penal Affairs and Pardons said that the government alleviated overcrowding by opening new detention centers during the year, including minimum-security centers that permitted prisoners to work. The DGSN announced the creation of a new human rights office in July; one of its functions is to ensure implementation of measures to improve detention conditions.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

Nonstate armed groups detained and held persons arbitrarily in authorized and unauthorized facilities, including unknown locations, for extended periods and without legal charges or legal authority.

The prerevolutionary criminal code remains in effect. It establishes procedures for pretrial detention and prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but these procedures were often not enforced. Throughout the year the government had weak control over police and other state and local armed groups providing internal security, and some armed groups carried out illegal and arbitrary detentions unimpeded. The lack of international monitoring meant that there were no reliable statistics on the number of arbitrary detainees.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The government had limited control over the national police and other elements of the security apparatus. The national police force, which reports to the Ministry of Interior, has official responsibility for internal security. The military under the Ministry of Defense has as its primary mission the defense of the country from external threats, but it also supported Ministry of Interior forces on internal security matters. The situation varied widely from municipality to municipality contingent upon whether police organizational structures remained intact. In some areas, such as Tobruk, police functioned, but in others, such as Sebha, they existed in name only. Civilian authorities had nominal control of police and the security apparatus, and security-related police work generally fell to disparate militias–sometimes paid by government ministries–that exercised law enforcement functions without training or supervision and with varying degrees of accountability.

Impunity from prosecution was a serious problem. The government’s lack of control led to impunity for armed groups on all sides of the conflict. The killings of Sheikh Mansour Abdelkarim al-Barassi; International Committee of the Red Cross staff member Michael Greub; and human rights activist Salwa Bughaighis, all of which occurred in 2014, remained unresolved. At year’s end authorities had not investigated these attacks, and there had been no arrests, prosecutions, or trials of any alleged perpetrators of these killings.

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

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

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

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

Arbitrary Arrest: Authorities frequently ignored or were unable to enforce the provisions of the criminal code prohibiting arbitrary arrest and detention. Quasi-state or nonstate militias arbitrarily arrested and detained persons throughout the year. On August 12, an armed group detained former prime minister Ali Zeidan in Tripoli. On August 22, he was released after international pressure. No information was available on why or under whose authority Zeidan was detained. According to HRW, prison authorities and militias held thousands of detainees without charges or due process.

Pretrial Detention: While authorities must order detention for a specific period not exceeding 90 days, the law in practice results in extended pretrial detention. An ambiguity in the language of the law allows judges to renew the detention period if the suspect is of “interest to the investigation.” In addition, limited resources and capacity of the courts resulted in a severe backlog of cases. According to international NGOs, there were numerous inmates held in government-controlled prisons in pretrial detention for periods longer than the sentences for the minor crimes they allegedly committed. Some individuals detained during the 2011 revolution detainees remained in custody, mostly in facilities in the west.

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

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Affected individuals may challenge the measures before a judge. The law allows a detained suspect to challenge pretrial detention before the prosecutor and a magistrate judge. If the prosecutor does not order release, the detained person may appeal to the magistrate judge. If the magistrate judge orders continued detention following review of the prosecutor’s request, and despite the detainee’s challenge, there is no further right to appeal the assigned detention order. A breakdown in court system functions and security challenges transporting prisoners to the courts limited detainee access to the courts.

Amnesty: The government did not clarify whether it believed there was a blanket legal amnesty for revolutionaries’ actions performed to promote or protect the 2011 revolution.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The Constitutional Declaration provides for the presumption of innocence and the right to legal counsel, provided at public expense for the indigent. During the year, state-affiliated and nonstate actors did not respect these standards. There were multiple reports of individuals denied fair and public trials, choice of attorney, language interpretation, the ability to confront plaintiff witnesses, protection against forced testimony or confessions, and the right to appeal.

According to reports from international NGOs, arbitrary detention and torture by militias, including those operating nominally under government oversight, contributed to a climate of lawlessness that made fair trials elusive. Armed groups, families of the victims or the accused, and the public regularly threatened lawyers, judges, and prosecutors.

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

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

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

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

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The Constitutional Declaration provides for the right of citizens to have recourse to the judiciary. The judicial system did not have the capacity to provide citizens with access to civil remedies for human rights violations. The 2013 Law of Transitional Justice provided for fact-finding, accountability, and reparations for victims, but the judicial system had not implemented it in practice. In civil, administrative, family, commercial, and land and property law matters, cases were heard and proceeded through the courts, but authorities were challenged in enforcing judgements due to lack of security, intimidation of armed groups, and intimidation from outside sources.

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

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

The Constitutional Declaration considers correspondence, telephone conversations, and other forms of communication inviolable unless authorized by a court order. Reports in the news and on social media indicated militias, gangs, extremist groups, and government-affiliated actors violated these prohibitions by entering homes without judicial authorization, monitoring communications and private movements, and using of informants.

Invasion of privacy left citizens vulnerable to targeted attacks based on political affiliation, ideology, and identity. Extrajudicial punishment extended to targets’ family members and tribes. Armed groups arbitrarily entered, seized, or destroyed private property with impunity.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

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

Freedom of Expression: Freedom of speech was limited in law and practice. The law criminalizes acts that “harm the February 17 revolution of 2011.” The HoR, since its election in 2014 and the GNA, since taking its seat in Tripoli in 2016, did little to change restrictions on freedom of speech. Observers noted civil society practiced self-censorship because armed groups threatened and killed activists. Widespread conflict in major urban areas deepened the climate of fear and provided cover for armed groups to target vocal opponents with impunity.

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

In early November the Special Deterrence Force shut down the government-secured Comic Con in Tripoli and arrested the organizers, who were held without charges for almost two months.

Press and Media Freedom: Press freedoms, in all forms of media, are limited. Increased threats by various assailants forced many journalists to practice self-censorship.

There were numerous reports of the closing of media outlets and reports of raids by unidentified actors on organizations working on press freedom. Indirect restrictions on press freedom imposed by both foreign and domestic actors further polarized the media environment. In April Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that security forces had detained photographer Abdullah Doma multiple times while reporting on various events in LNA-controlled Benghazi.

Violence and Harassment: Attacks on media, including harassment, threats, abductions, violence, and killings reached the point where it was nearly impossible for media to operate in any meaningful capacity in areas of conflict.

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

On October 11, media reports stated LNA-affiliated forces arrested six journalists while covering a cultural event in Hun in the southwest.

In August the publication of an anthology containing a small amount of material deemed “obscene” by conservative members of the local community resulted in death threats against several authors.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The international NGO Reporters Without Borders reported that all sides used threats and violence to intimidate journalists to prevent publication of information. The unstable security situation created hostility towards civilians and journalists associated with opposing militias or political factions. In addition, journalists practiced self-censorship due to lack of security and intimidation. According to social media reports, the LNA confiscated books they claimed promoted Shi’ism, secularism, and perversion.

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

National Security: The penal code criminalized speech considered to “tarnish the [country’s] reputation or undermine confidence in it abroad,” but the government did not enforce this provision of the code during the year.

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

INTERNET FREEDOM

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

Facebook pages were consistently hacked by unknown actors or closed due to mass reporting and complaints.

The government did not exercise effective control over communications infrastructure for most of the year. Social media, such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, played a critical role in official and unofficial communications. A large number of bloggers, online journalists, and citizens reported practicing self-censorship due to instability, militia intimidation, and the uncertain political situation.

Internet penetration outside urban centers remained low, and frequent electrical outages resulted in limited internet availability in the capital and elsewhere. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 20.3 percent of the population used the internet in 2016.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

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

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

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

On September 25, political activist Basit Igtet held a demonstration against the leadership in Tripoli. Although the Ministry of Interior denied Igtet a permit to hold demonstrations, it provided security for the demonstrators and counter demonstrators, while enforcing checkpoints to keep armed groups from participating in the demonstration.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The Constitutional Declaration includes freedom of association for political and civil society groups. The government lacked capacity, however, to protect freedom of association, and the proliferation of targeted attacks on journalists, activists, and religious figures severely undermined freedom of association.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

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

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Refugees and migrants faced abuse, principally arbitrary detention, but also killings and gender-based violence. Instability in the country and lack of government oversight made human trafficking profitable. Migrants reported some human smugglers were Libyan nationals.

There were allegations of sexual violence, abuse, and exploitation of migrants and refugees by traffickers, and criminal gangs at unofficial and official detention centers. There were also reports of physical abuse of refugees by the Coast Guard, including beatings with whips and chains. A November media report showed videos where migrants unable to pay smugglers were sold into slavery, including being forced to work as prostitutes or manual laborers, at auctions. There were also numerous media reports during the year suggesting that traffickers had caused the death of migrants. For example, in February traffickers reportedly caused the death of 74 individuals off a beach in Zawiya.

To address the abuse of migrants and refugees and combat trafficking in persons, the government launched an investigation and vowed to bring perpetrators to justice. Starting on November 29, the government also authorized UNHCR, the IOM, and other international agencies to open offices in the country and to provide assistance to refugees and migrants, repatriate those who wished to return to their home countries, and access detention centers in areas controlled by the GNA. At the November African Union-EU Summit on Migration and a November 28 UN Security Council session, the government strongly condemned allegations of slavery in the country. In December the government committed to setting up a joint commission with Italy to counter human trafficking.

The country was the primary departure point for migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa, with more than 90 percent leaving from the country. As of July 22, more than 114,000 migrants arrived in Europe according to the IOM, with 2,471 migrants dying at sea. Conditions on vessels departing for Europe were poor, and human smugglers abandoned many migrants in international waters with insufficient food and water. Boats were heavily overloaded, and there was a high risk of sinking.

In-country Movement: The government did not exercise control over internal movement, although government-aligned groups set up checkpoints in some parts of Western Libya. The LNA established checkpoints targeting extremist movements around Benghazi and Derna. There were reports that militias controlling airports within the country conducted additional checks on citizens wanting to travel to other areas within the country or abroad.

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

There were also multiple reports of women who could not depart from the country’s western airports controlled by pro-GNA militias because they did not have “male guardians,” which is not a legal requirement in the country.

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

Additionally, the country’s Nationality Law states that citizens may lose citizenship if they obtain a foreign citizenship without receiving permission beforehand from authorities. Authorities have not established processes to obtain permission, however.

Citizenship may also be revoked if obtained based on false information, forged documents, withheld relevant information concerning one’s nationality, or all three. These actions may lead to revocation of citizenship by authorities. If a father’s citizenship is revoked, the citizenship of his children is also revoked. It is not specified if only minor children are susceptible to losing their nationality or if loss of nationality applies to adult children as well.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPS)

Limited access for assistance organizations to towns affected by fighting between rival armed groups and to official and unofficial detention centers within the country hampered efforts to account for and assist the displaced. There are 34 official detention centers across the country, which at year’s end housed 6,000 to 8,000 refugees and migrants in centers under the auspices of the Department for Combatting Irregular Migration, under the Ministry of Interior. Due to security concerns in the east, international organizations access was inconsistent.

In September UNHCR estimated there were 500,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country. Most of the citizens displaced were from Sirte or Benghazi. Approximately 40,000 members of the Tawarghan community remained displaced, the largest single IDP population. Because Tawargha served as a base for Qadhafi forces during the revolution, Misratan militias attacked the town following the fall of the regime in 2011, compelling all inhabitants, largely descendants of former slaves of sub-Saharan African origins, to leave their homes. In December the government announced that families displaced from their homes in Tawargha due to events dating back to 2011 would be able to return home in February 2018. This decision followed a reconciliation deal between representatives of the town and the city of Misrata.

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

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The country is not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 protocol, although the Constitutional Declaration recognizes the right of asylum and forbids forcible repatriation of asylum seekers. The government did not establish a system for providing protection to refugees or asylum seekers. Absent an asylum system, authorities could detain and deport asylum seekers without their having the opportunity to request refugee status. UNHCR, the IOM, and other international agencies operate within the country and are allowed to assist refugees and immigrants and repatriate those who wish to return to their countries. UNHCR monitors and publicly reports on the situation of all refugees and migrants in the country, including those detained in government detention centers. In November authorities permitted UNHCR to set up a “transit and departure facility” in Tripoli to facilitate the emergency evacuation and resettlement of vulnerable refugees to foreign countries. The government allowed only seven nationalities to register as refugees with UNHCR: Syrians, Palestinians, Iraqis, Somalis, Sudanese (Darfuris), Ethiopians (Oromo), and Eritreans. The government did not legally recognize asylum seekers without documentation as a class distinct from migrants without residency permits. The government cooperated with the refugee task force formed by the African Union, EU and the United Nations.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The IOM estimated that approximately 393,000 migrants and refugees traversed the country throughout the year, with the majority of migrants originating from Niger, Egypt, Chad, Ghana, and Sudan. UNHCR has registered approximately 42,000 refugees and asylum seekers in the country.

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

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

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

STATELESS PERSONS

By law, children derive citizenship only from a citizen father. Children born to a citizen father and a noncitizen mother are automatically considered citizens even if they are born abroad. Citizen mothers alone were unable to transmit citizenship to their children, but there are naturalization provisions for noncitizens. The law permits female nationals to confer nationality to their children in certain circumstances, such as when fathers are unknown, stateless, of unknown nationality, or do not establish filiation. In instances where the father is a noncitizen, the children produced from that union are effectively stateless and banned from entering higher education, travelling, and certain educational opportunities.

Without citizenship, stateless persons are unable to obtain legal employment.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

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

Elections and Political Participation

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

The UN Action Plan for Libya, announced by the UN special representative of the Secretary-General, Ghassan Salame, on September 20 at the UN General Assembly, calls for presidential and parliamentary elections in 2018. While the exact timing of elections had not been finalized, in December the HNEC began voter registration and was in the process of expanding the number of registration centers throughout the country to increase voter access.

The LNA appointed military figures as municipal mayors in some areas it controlled.

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

The HoR voted to suspend the law in 2015.

Participation of Women and Minorities: The Constitutional Declaration allows for full participation of women and minorities in elections and the political process, but significant social and cultural barriers–in addition to significant security challenges–prevented their proportionate political participation.

The election law provides for representation of women within the HoR; of the 200 seats in parliament, the law reserves 32 for women. There were 21 women in the HoR.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for conviction of corruption by officials. The government did not implement the law effectively, and officials reportedly engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year but, as in 2016, no significant investigations or prosecutions occurred.

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

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

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

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

While the government did not restrict human rights organizations from operating, it was unable to protect organizations from violence that often specifically targeted activists and human rights organizations struggled to operate.

In a July 27 report, HRW claimed that human rights defenders, activists, and social media bloggers faced continuing threats including physical attacks, detention, threats, harassment, and disappearances by armed groups, some of whom were affiliated with the GNA.

The government publicly condemned human rights abuses in Libya, including allegations of the abuse of migrants and human trafficking (see section 2.d).

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government did not comply with injunctions by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to transfer suspected war criminal Saif al-Islam Qadhafi to ICC jurisdiction for trial on grounds that it did not have access to him. The government claimed that it was unable to obtain custody of Qadhafi from Zintani militia forces; to obtain evidence, in particular from witnesses who had been tortured during detention by militias; or to appoint defense counsel. In 2014 the ICC announced it had referred the country to the UN Security Council for violating an obligation to transfer Saif al-Islam Qadhafi for trial. In 2015 a Tripoli court sentenced Saif al-Islam to death. Nevertheless, on June 10, the Zintan-based militia holding Qadhafi reportedly released him from prison. In August the ICC issued a warrant for the arrest of LNA member Mahmoud al-Warfalli (see section 1.g.).

Government Human Rights Bodies: Human rights defenders faced continuing threats and danger. The National Council for Civil Liberties and Human Rights, the UN-recognized national human rights institution, was not able to operate in the country due to security concerns. The council maintained limited international activity with other human rights organizations in Tunis and the UN Human Rights Council. It had a minimal presence in Tripoli. Its ability to advocate for human rights and investigate alleged abuses during the reporting period was unclear.

The former government passed the Transitional Justice Law in 2013 (see section 1.e.), establishing a legal framework to promote civil peace, implement justice, compensate victims, and facilitate national reconciliation. The law further establishes a Fact-finding and Reconciliation Commission charged with investigating and reporting on alleged human rights abuses, whether suffered during the Qadhafi regime or during the revolution. There was no known activity by the commission during the year. International organizations including the UN Development Program have established transitional justice programs throughout the country at the national and subnational levels.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape but does not address spousal rape. The Constitutional Declaration prohibits domestic violence, but it did not contain reference to penalties for conviction of violence against women.

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

There were no reliable statistics on the extent of domestic violence during the year. Social and cultural barriers–including police and judicial reluctance to act and family reluctance to publicize an assault–contributed to lack of effective government enforcement.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): There was no available information about legislation on FGM/C.

Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes sexual harassment, but there were no reports on how or whether it was enforced. According to civil society organizations, there was widespread harassment and intimidation of women by militias and extremists, including accusations of “un-Islamic” behavior.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

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

Women faced social forms of discrimination, which affected their ability to access employment, their presence in the workplace, and their mobility and personal freedom. Although the law prohibits discrimination based on gender, there was widespread cultural, economic, and societal discrimination against women. Sharia governs family matters, including inheritance, divorce, and the right to own property. While civil law mandates equal rights in inheritance, women often received less due to interpretations of sharia law that favor men.

On February 16, LNA commander Khalifa Haftar and the military governor of the region that extends from Derna to Ben Jawwad, Abdelrazeq al-Nadhouri, issued an order requiring women who wished to travel abroad by land, air, or sea to be accompanied by a male guardian. On February 23, al-Nadhouri repealed the order and expanded the travel restriction to all men and women ages 18 to 45. The PC issued a statement in response to condemn the travel bans and to state they were in violation of the rights of Libyan citizens and the rights stipulated by the Libyan Political Agreement, the Libyan Constitutional Declaration, and international conventions and treaties.

Children

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

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

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 18 for both men and women, although judges may provide permission for those under age 18 to marry.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: There was no information available on laws prohibiting or penalties for the commercial sexual exploitation of children or prohibiting child pornography. Nor was there any information regarding laws regulating the minimum age of consensual sex. According to UNICEF, 80,000 children were internally displaced and migrant children in the country particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, including in detention centers.

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

Anti-Semitism

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

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

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

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

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

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

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

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

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) status remained illegal, and official and societal discrimination against LGBTI persons persisted. Convictions of same-sex sexual activity carry sentences of three to five years’ imprisonment. The law provides for punishment of both parties.

There was little information on discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, access to education, or health care. Observers noted that the threat of possible violence or abuse could intimidate persons who reported such discrimination.

There were reports of physical violence, harassment, and blackmail based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Militias often policed communities to enforce compliance with militia commanders’ understanding of “Islamic” behavior, harassing and threatening with impunity individuals believed to have LGBTI orientations and their families.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There was no available information on societal violence toward persons with HIV/AIDS. There were reports the government denied persons with HIV/AIDS permission to marry. There were reports the government segregated detainees suspected of having HIV/AIDS from the rest of the detainee population, often in overcrowded spaces, and they were the last to receive medical treatment.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law does not provide for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, but it provides for the right of workers to bargain collectively and conduct legal strikes, with significant restrictions. The law neither prohibits antiunion discrimination nor requires the reinstatement of workers for union activity. By law, workers in the formal sector are automatically members of the General Trade Union Federation of Workers, although they may elect to withdraw from the union. Only citizens may be union members, and regulations do not permit foreign workers to organize.

The capacity limitations of the central government restricted its ability to enforce applicable labor laws. The requirement that all collective agreements conform to the “national economic interest” restricted collective bargaining. Workers may call strikes only after exhausting all conciliation and arbitration procedures. The government or one of the parties may demand compulsory arbitration, thus severely restricting strikes. The government has the right to set and cut salaries without consulting workers.

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

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

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

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

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

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits children younger than age 18 from employment except in a form of apprenticeship. The government lacked the capacity to enforce the law. No information was available concerning whether the law limits working hours or sets occupational health and safety restrictions for children.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

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

The capacity limitations of the central government also restricted its ability to enforce applicable laws. Discrimination in all the above categories likely occurred.

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

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The law stipulates a workweek of 40 hours, standard working hours, night shift regulations, dismissal procedures, and training requirements. The law does not specifically prohibit excessive compulsory overtime. The minimum wage was 450 dinars per month ($328 per the official exchange rate). There is not an official poverty income level.

The law provides occupational health and safety standards, and the law grants workers the right to court hearings regarding violations of these standards. The capacity limitations of the central government restricted its ability to enforce wage laws and health and safety standards.

Certain industries, such as the petroleum sector, attempted to maintain standards set by foreign companies. There was no information available on whether inspections continued during the year. The Ministry of Labor is responsible for occupational safety and health concerns; however, no information was available on enforcement and compliance.

No accurate data on foreign workers were available. Many foreign workers, especially in the health sector, departed the country due to the continuing instability and security concerns.

Morocco

Executive Summary

Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary national legislative system under which ultimate authority rests with King Mohammed VI, who presides over the Council of Ministers. The king shares executive authority with the Head of Government (prime minister) Saadeddine El Othmani. According to the constitution, the king appoints the head of government from the political party with the most seats in parliament and approves members of the government nominated by the head of government. International and domestic observers judged the 2016 parliamentary elections credible and relatively free from irregularities.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included reports that security forces used techniques that may have constituted torture in some cases, although the government was taking steps to eliminate the practice; allegations that there were political prisoners; limits on freedom of expression, including criminalization of certain political and religious content; limits on freedom of assembly and association; and corruption.

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

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

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

Regarding unresolved cases of disappearance dating to the 1970s and 1980s, the government shifted its overall focus in recent years from individual claims to community reparation projects, while the National Council on Human Rights (CNDH), a publicly funded national human rights institution, continued to investigate individual claims. From June 2016 to February 2017, the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances referred 14 new cases to the CNDH of disappearances between 1973 and 1977. When warranted, the CNDH recommended reparations in the form of money, health care, employment, or vocational training to victims (or victims’ families) of forced disappearance from previous years. (For more information on reparation claims in Western Sahara, see the Department of State’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights for Western Sahara.)

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

The constitution and the law prohibit such practices, and the government denies it allowed the use of torture. In October, at a North Africa regional meeting for the national mechanisms for the prevention of torture hosted by the CNDH, Minister of State for Human Rights Mustapha Ramid acknowledged that torture still occurred in isolated cases, but said it was no longer a systematic practice and the government was working to eradicate it. The law defines torture and stipulates that all government officials or members of security forces who “make use of violence against others without legitimate motive, or incite others to do the same, during the course of their duties shall be punished in accordance with the seriousness of the violence.”

The UN Human Rights Committee’s final observations on the country’s sixth periodic report in December 2016 for the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights noted that the government has taken steps to combat torture and mistreatment and that there was a “marked reduction” in such practices since its 2004 report. The committee remained concerned, however, by continued allegations of torture and mistreatment by government agents, in particular on persons suspected of terrorism or threats to national security or territorial integrity.

In the event of an accusation of torture, the law requires judges to refer a detainee to a forensic medical expert when the detainee or lawyer requests it or if judges notice suspicious physical marks on a detainee. In some cases, judges have refused to order a medical assessment when a detainee makes an allegation of abuse. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and media documented cases of authorities’ failure to implement provisions of the antitorture law, including failure to conduct medical examinations when detainees alleged torture.

In October the authorities established a national detention monitoring body officially known as the National Preventive Mechanism within the CNDH, after acceding to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture in 2014. In October and November, Morocco hosted meetings of the International Counter Torture Initiative Forum to encourage universal adoption of the UN Convention against Torture.

In June lawyers requested medical exams on behalf of 32 individuals detained in Al Hoceima who alleged that the police beat them. The judge denied the request, and the court convicted the 32 detainees on June 14 on charges related to violence during protests. On June 29, government spokesperson Mustapha Khalfi told press that the detainees who claimed to have been tortured would undergo medical examinations, in compliance with the king’s order to investigate all torture allegations. In July, Minister of Justice Mohammed Aujjar transferred a report by the CNDH-identified medical experts to the prosecutors in Al Hoceima and Casablanca. In September the Court of Appeals referred the defendants’ abuse allegations for investigation by the National Brigade of Judicial Police. The court-supervised investigations into the allegations were ongoing at year’s end.

On February 13, media reported that the Kenitra Court of Appeals ordered the preventive detention of a gendarme and the investigation of two others on charges of torture of a detainee. The detainee claimed that he was raped with a baton in front of other detainees and obtained a medical certificate after being transferred to the custody of a local hospital. The defendants denied the allegations and were pending trial as of September.

During the year the CNDH reported that it received 22 complaints alleging torture by police or prison officials in internationally recognized Morocco, a 32 percent decrease from the previous year. After investigating the allegations, the CNDH substantiated allegations involving eight detainees, including seven detainees in prisons around Casablanca and one in Tangier. The directors of both prisons where the substantiated allegations occurred were relieved of duty, and other officials were administratively sanctioned. Three substantiated allegations remained in judicial process as of October.

Government statistics indicate that through August, courts referred 36 cases involving 45 detainees and implicating 53 police officers to the police’s internal mechanism for investigation of possible torture or mistreatment. Results of the investigations were not available.

As of November 15, there were five new allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by Moroccan peacekeepers deployed to UN peacekeeping operations for events that occurred in previous years. Morocco and the UN jointly investigated three of the allegations and determined them to be unsubstantiated. Two other allegations remain under investigation. Morocco and the UN completed joint investigations of nine allegations reported in previous years. They determined that two claims of sexual abuse and one allegation of sexual exploitation were substantiated, and determined that six allegations were unsubstantiated. Two allegations reported in 2016 remain pending investigation. The government indicated that one member of the military whom an investigation implicated in sexual exploitation was repatriated from the peacekeeping mission, dismissed from the armed forces, and presented to a court, where he received a six month sentence in May.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

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

Physical Conditions: The Moroccan Observatory of Prisons (OMP), an NGO focused on the rights of prisoners, continued to report that some prisons were overcrowded and failed to meet local and international standards. The Prison Administration (DGAPR) reported less overcrowding as new prisons opened, including four during the year. Since 2008 the DGAPR has built 29 new prisons to international standards, representing approximately 37 percent of the country’s prisons. In the new prisons, pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners were held separately. As the DGAPR completed construction of each new prison, it closed older prisons and moved inmates to the new locations. Older prisons remained overcrowded, however, resulting in authorities frequently holding pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners together. According to government sources and NGOs, prison overcrowding was due in large part to an underutilized system of bail or provisional release, a severe backlog in cases, and lack of judicial discretion to reduce the length of prison sentences for specific crimes. Government sources stated that administrative requirements also prevented prison authorities from transferring individuals in pretrial detention or the appeals phase to facilities outside the jurisdiction where their trials were to take place.

The law provides for the separation of minors. In all prisons, officials classify youth offenders into two categories, both of which are held separately from other categories: minors under 18, and youthful offenders from 18 to 20 years old. Authorities held a number of minors with adults, particularly in pretrial detention in police stations, due to a shortage of juvenile prison facilities. The DGAPR has four dedicated juvenile “centers for reform and education,” but maintains separate, dedicated youth detention areas in all prisons for minors. The government reported that in cases where a juvenile court judge ruled that detention was necessary, minors less than 14 years old were detained separately from minors 15 to 18 years old. In cases where a minor is ordered detained, a judge must follow up on a monthly basis.

While there was less overcrowding in the women’s sections of detention facilities, according to a 2016 CNDH study, conditions in women’s sections often did not meet the 2010 United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Noncustodial Measures for Women Offenders. The study noted that health facilities were generally located in the men’s sections, restricting access for female prisoners, and that vocational training opportunities were limited for women. The study also noted that female prisoners faced discrimination from staff, including medical staff, on the basis of their gender.

Local NGOs asserted that prison facilities did not provide adequate access to health care and did not accommodate the needs of prisoners with disabilities, although government sources stated that each prisoner was examined by a nurse and a psychologist on arrival and received care upon request. According to the DGAPR, prisoners received an average of three to four general consultations with a medical professional per year, in addition to dental, psychological, or other specialist care, and that all care was provided free of charge. According to the DGAPR 2016 statistics, there was one doctor for every 675 inmates and one nurse for every 135 inmates.

The DGAPR provides food to inmates at no cost, certified by the Ministry of Health as meeting the nutritional needs of the average adult male. Prison commissaries stock fresh fruit and vegetables for purchase. As of November the DGAPR completed the phase-out of family food basket delivery now that nutritional needs are met through a 2015 revision to food provision in prisons.

NGOs frequently cited cases where prisoners protested the conditions of their detention with hunger strikes. According to Amnesty International (AI), prisoners launched hunger strikes to protest harsh conditions, including poor hygiene and sanitation, inadequate health care, severe overcrowding, and detention far from their families, as well as limited visiting rights and access to education. According to the DGAPR’s 2015 prisoner classification guide, the DGAPR placed restrictions on the level of visits, recreation, and types of educational programming for higher-risk prisoners. The CNDH and the DGAPR regularly addressed requests for transfer on the basis of family proximity, and the DGAPR sometimes granted such requests. At other times, the DGAPR informed the detainee that the requested transfer was not possible, often because of overcrowding at the requested location. On March 20, a prisoner from Oujda prison died at a local hospital after a hunger strike in protest of his sentence. He was serving a 20-year sentence for forming a criminal gang, abduction, kidnapping for ransom, and armed robbery. According to DGAPR, court officials attempted to dissuade the prisoner from continuing the hunger strike as his health deteriorated but were unsuccessful.

Some human rights activists have asserted that the prison administration reserved harsher treatment for Islamists who challenged the king’s religious authority and for those accused of “questioning the territorial integrity of the country.” The DGAPR denied that any prisoners received differential treatment and asserted that all prisoners were treated equally in accordance with the Prison Act.

Administration: While authorities generally permitted relatives and friends to visit prisoners, there were reports that authorities denied visiting privileges in some instances. The DGAPR assigned each prisoner to a risk classification level, which determined visiting privileges. At all classifications, prisoners may receive visits, although the length, frequency, and number of visitors may vary. Most prisons assigned each prisoner a designated “visit day” to manage the number of visits to the prison.

The CNDH and the DGAPR investigated allegations of inhuman conditions. The CNDH and the DGAPR effectively served the function of an ombudsman, and a system of “letterboxes” continued to operate in prisons to facilitate prisoners’ right to submit complaints regarding their imprisonment. Detainees could submit complaints without censorship. Complaints were brought to the DGAPR Delegate General’s Office for processing, as well as to the CNDH. The DGAPR reported that it received and addressed more than 700 complaints, ranging from mistreatment to requests for transfer, healthcare, educational or vocational training, or disagreement with sentencing. Following complaints from detainees, the DGAPR dismissed an individual accused of violence against a detainee, transferred two officials for improper pressure on a detainee, suspended three individuals for theft of detainees’ items, and issued an administrative warning for an individual accused of fraud. Two individuals remain in disciplinary proceedings for corruption and abuse of authority.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted some NGOs with a human rights mandate to conduct unaccompanied monitoring visits. Government policy permitted NGOs that provided social, educational, or religious services to prisoners to enter prison facilities. Various NGOs conducted more than 450 monitoring visits through June and at least 22 of the visits through September were by the OMP. The CNDH conducted 250 monitoring visits.

Improvements: To alleviate overcrowding and improve overall conditions, government authorities reported opening four new detention facilities during the year (see section 1.c., Physical Conditions). Nine additional prisons are under construction to replace outdated prisons. The government reported increasing the number of vocational and educational training programs it administers in prisons. The Mohammed VI Foundation for the Reinsertion of Prisoners provided educational and professional training to inmates approaching their release date.

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. Observers indicated that police did not always respect these provisions or consistently observe due process. According to local NGOs and associations, police sometimes arrested persons without warrants or while wearing civilian clothing. Individuals have the right to challenge the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention and request compensation by submitting a complaint to the court.)

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

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

There were reports of abuses by the security forces that were not always investigated, contributing to a widespread perception of impunity. The perception of systemic and pervasive corruption undermined law enforcement and the effectiveness of the judicial system. There was an absence of effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. International and domestic human rights organizations claimed that authorities dismissed many complaints of abuse and relied only on police statements.

Authorities investigated some low-level incidents of alleged abuse and corruption among security forces. The judicial police investigated allegations, including those against security forces, and advised the court of their findings. Cases often languished in the investigatory or trial phases.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

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

In ordinary criminal cases, the law requires police to notify a detainee’s next of kin of the arrest immediately after the above-mentioned period of incommunicado detention, unless arresting authorities applied for and received an extension from a magistrate. Police did not consistently abide by this provision. Authorities sometimes delayed notifying the family or did not inform lawyers promptly of the date of arrest, and the families and lawyers were not able to monitor compliance with detention limits and treatment of the detainee.

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

At the conclusion of the initial detention period in police custody, the detainee must be presented to a prosecutor, who may issue provisional charges and order additional investigation by an investigatory judge in preparation for trial. The investigative judge has four months, plus a possible one-month extension, to interview the individual and determine what charges, if any, to file for trial. An individual may be detained in investigatory detention or at liberty during this phase. At the end of five months (if an extension is granted), the investigative judge must either file charges, decline to file charges and drop the case, or release the individual pending an additional investigation and a determination of whether to file. Authorities generally followed these timelines.

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

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

Pretrial Detention: Although the government claimed that authorities generally brought accused persons to trial within two months, prosecutors may request as many as five additional two-month extensions of pretrial detention. Pretrial detentions can last as long as one year, and there were reports that authorities routinely held detainees beyond the one-year limit. Government officials attributed these delays to the large backlog of cases in the justice system. The Foreign Ministry stated that a variety of factors contributed to this backlog: a lack of resources devoted to the justice system, both human and infrastructure; the lack of plea bargaining as an option for prosecutors, lengthening the amount of time to process cases on average; the scant use of mediation and other out-of-court settlement mechanisms allowed by law; and the absence of legal authority for alternative sentencing. The government reported that as of August 31, 39.9 percent of detainees were in pretrial detention, which includes those awaiting their first judgments as well as those in various stages of appeals processes. In some cases, detainees received a sentence shorter than the time they spent in pretrial detention, particularly for misdemeanors.

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

According to media reports, on March 1, the Administrative Court of Oujda ruled in favor of a Moroccan citizen who was wrongfully detained for less than 24 hours in August 2015 at a border crossing. The court awarded damages to the citizen, who resided abroad, for the replacement of his plane tickets, lost wages, and school fines for his children’s missed classroom days.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and, as in previous years, NGOs asserted that corruption and extrajudicial influence weakened judicial independence. On April 6, the king formally appointed the elected and pro-forma members of the Supreme Judicial Council, a new government body whose creation and composition was mandated by the 2011 constitution to manage the courts and judicial affairs directly in place of the Ministry of Justice. The president of the Court of Cassation (the highest court of appeals) chairs the 20-member body. Additional members include the president of the First Chamber of the Court of Cassation; the Prosecutor General (equivalent of the Attorney General); the Royal Mediator (national ombudsman); the president of the CNDH; 10 members elected by the country’s judges; and five members appointed by the king. In October the Supreme Judicial Council established its internal mechanisms and began the process of taking over day-to-day management and oversight from the Ministry of Justice, although the activities of the Supreme Judicial Council have experienced delays due to administrative and legal impediments. While the government stated the aim of creating the council was to improve judicial independence, its effect on judicial independence was not clear by the end of the year. The outcomes of trials in which the government had a strong political stake, such as those touching on Islam as it related to political life and national security, the legitimacy of the monarchy, and the Western Sahara, sometimes appeared predetermined.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial with the right of appeal, but this did not always occur. The law presumes that defendants are innocent. After an initial arrest and investigation period in which the order of a prosecutor can detain individuals, defendants are informed promptly of potential charges, and of final charges at the conclusion of the investigatory period, which may last several months. Trials are conducted in Arabic, and foreigners have the right to request interpretation if they do not speak Arabic.

Defendants have the right to be present at their trial and to consult in a timely manner with an attorney. Defendants have the right to refuse to participate in their trial, and a judge may decide to continue the proceedings in the defendant’s absence while providing a detailed summary to the defendant. In practice, authorities often denied lawyers timely access to their clients and, in the majority of cases, lawyers met their clients only at the first hearing before the judge. Authorities are required to provide attorneys in cases where the potential sentence is greater than five years, if the defendant is unable to afford one. Publicly provided defense attorneys were often poorly paid and often were neither properly trained in matters pertaining to juveniles nor provided to defendants in a timely fashion. The appointment process for public defenders is lengthy, often resulting in a defendant arriving to trial before a court-appointed attorney is designated. In these cases, the judge may ask any attorney present to represent the defendant. This practice often resulted in inadequate representation. Many NGOs provided attorneys for vulnerable individuals (minors, refugees, victims of domestic violence), who frequently did not have the means to pay. Such resources were limited and specific to larger cities. The law permits defense attorneys to question witnesses. Despite the provisions of the law, some judges reportedly denied defense requests to question witnesses or to present mitigating witnesses or evidence.

The law forbids judges from admitting confessions made under duress. NGOs reported that the judicial system often relied on confessions for the prosecution of criminal cases, and authorities pressured investigators to obtain a confession from suspects in order for prosecution to proceed. Human Rights Watch (HRW) and local NGOs charged that judges, at their discretion, sometimes decided cases based on forced confessions, particularly in cases against ethnic Sahrawis or individuals accused of terrorism. According to authorities, police sometimes used claims regarding detainees’ statements in place of defendants’ confessions when there was a possible question of duress.

The courts were moving away from a confession-based system to an evidenced-based system. By December 2016 the national police had opened 23 evidence preservation centers throughout the country to secure and preserve evidence collected at crime scenes and to ensure compliance with chain of custody procedures. Police are working with the courts to demonstrate the utility of the new evidence preservation rooms to increase judges’ confidence in evidence presented at trials

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

The law does not define or recognize the concept of a political prisoner. The government did not consider any of its prisoners to be political prisoners and stated that it had charged or convicted all individuals in prison under criminal law. Criminal law covers nonviolent advocacy and dissent, such as insulting police in songs or “defaming Morocco’s sacred values” by denouncing the king and regime during a public demonstration. NGOs, including the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH), and Sahrawi organizations asserted that the government imprisoned persons for political activities or beliefs under the cover of criminal charges.

On July 19, the civilian Rabat Court of Appeals issued new verdicts for 23 Sahrawis arrested during the 2010 dismantling of the Gdeim Izik Camp and subsequent violence in Laayoune, which resulted in the death of 11 members of the security forces. The court upheld all of the sentences initially imposed by a military tribunal in 2013, except for four individuals who received reduced sentences. Some NGOs alleged that these individuals were political prisoners. For more information, see the Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights for Western Sahara.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Although individuals have access to civil courts for lawsuits relating to human rights violations and have filed lawsuits, such lawsuits were frequently unsuccessful due to the courts’ lack of independence on politically sensitive cases, or lack of impartiality stemming from extrajudicial influence and corruption. The newly created Supreme Judicial Council is tasked with ensuring ethical behavior by judicial personnel (see section 4). There are administrative as well as judicial remedies for alleged wrongs. Authorities sometimes failed to respect court orders in a timely manner.

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

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

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

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution and law generally provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, although they criminalize and restrict some freedom of expression in the press and social media–specifically criticism of Islam, of the institution of the monarchy, and of the government’s positions regarding territorial integrity and the Western Sahara. Such criticism can result in prosecution under the penal code, with punishments ranging from fines to jail time, despite the freedom of expression provided for in the 2016 press code. The 2016 press code applies only to journalists accredited by the Ministry of Communication for speech or publications in the line of work; private speech by accredited journalists remains punishable under the penal code. International and domestic human rights groups criticized criminal prosecutions of journalists and publishers as well as of libel suits, claiming that the government principally used these laws to restrict independent human rights groups, the press, and social media.

Freedom of Expression: The law criminalizes the criticism of Islam, of the legitimacy of the monarchy, of state institutions, of officials such as those in the military, and of the government’s positions regarding territorial integrity and the Western Sahara. The government sometimes prosecuted persons who expressed criticism on these topics. According to government figures, 16 individuals were charged under the penal code this year for criminal speech, including praising terrorism, defamation, inciting rebellion, and insult (see Libel/Slander Laws and National Security).

Press and Media Freedom: Independent media, as well as partisan media, were active and expressed a wide variety of views within the restrictions of the law. In 2016 parliament passed a new press code that limits punishments for accredited journalists to fines. Three journalists were prosecuted under the press code during the year, compared with eight in 2016.

Many contributors working for online news outlets, and many online news outlets themselves, were unaccredited and therefore were not covered under the press code for their publications. They remained subject to provisions of the antiterrorism law and the penal code that permit the government to jail and impose financial penalties on anyone who violates restrictions related to defamation, libel, and insults. In addition, the government can apply the penal code to accredited journalists for actions outside of their official duties.

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

On July 25, the court of first instance in Al Hoceima sentenced Hamid El Mahdaoui, editor of news website badil.info, to a three-month prison sentence and 20,000 dirham ($2,000) fine for inciting individuals to participate in a prohibited demonstration. Although El Mahdaoui was an accredited journalist, he was prosecuted under the penal code for activities outside his official duties. Authorities claimed that El Mahdaoui had given a speech in Al Hoceima calling on citizens to demonstrate. El Mahdaoui denied the allegations and claimed he was in Al Hoceima to report on ongoing protests. His lawyer told HRW that El Mahdaoui was asked his opinion of the Hirak protest movement and responded that individuals have the right to protest. A police officer filmed the exchange, and the officer’s video was used as evidence in the trial. El Mahdaoui’s sentence was increased to one year in prison on appeal on September 12. In a separate case in Casablanca, authorities questioned El Mahdaoui on additional charges of failing to report a national security threat. Authorities alleged that El Mahdaoui received information that an individual intended to smuggle weapons into the country for use in protests but failed to report it. El Mahdaoui’s defense denied the conversation, and claimed that even if it had occurred, there would have been no need to report such information because El Mahdaoui knew it would be impossible to smuggle in weapons. The second case was expected to begin in November.

The trial for seven members of the Moroccan Association for Investigative Journalism, including Hicham Mansouri, Maati Monjib, and Hisham Almiraat, has been repeatedly delayed since 2015.

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

On July 25, authorities expelled journalists Jose Luis Navazo and Fernando Sanz with the Spanish newspaper El Correo Diplomatico. Navazo had resided in Morocco for more than 15 years. According to the journalists, police escorted them to the border without interrogation or providing a reason for the expulsion. The journalists allege, and the government later confirmed, that they were expelled for their reporting on protests in the Rif. The government claimed that their actions posed a threat to public security. Authorities expelled at least three other international journalists during the year, citing a lack of valid permits.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Self-censorship and government restrictions on sensitive topics remained serious hurdles to the development of a free, independent, and investigative press. While the government rarely censored the domestic press, it exerted pressure by pursuing legal cases that resulted in heavy fines and suspended publication. Such cases encouraged editors and journalists to self-censor. A Freedom House report in 2016 noted an “atmosphere of fear among journalists” that led to increased self-censorship. The press code lists threats to public order as one of the criteria for censorship. Publications and broadcast media must also obtain government accreditation. The government may deny and revoke accreditation as well as suspend or confiscate publications.

In June the Casablanca airport police removed from circulation an issue of the Arabic language Arab women’s monthly magazine Sayidaty. The magazine included an article with a map of the Arab world that showed the flag of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic over the area of Western Sahara.

Libel/Slander Laws: The press code includes provisions that permit the government to impose financial penalties on accredited journalists and publishers who violate restrictions related to defamation, libel, and insults. A court may impose a prison sentence if an accredited journalist is unable or unwilling to pay the fine.

Individuals who are not registered as journalists may be charged for defamation, libel, and slander under the criminal code, as can accredited journalists for their private actions. On August 18, Mohamed Taghra was sentenced to 10-months’ imprisonment and a 500 dirham ($50) fine under the criminal code on charges of libel and slander against the Royal Gendarmerie, following his posting of a video on YouTube accusing gendarmerie officers of falsifying records of accidents. Taghra was not a registered journalist and did not publish the video via a registered journalistic outlet, and he was charged under the criminal code.

National Security: The antiterrorism law provides for the arrest of individuals, including journalists, and filtering websites deemed to “disrupt public order by intimidation, terror, or violence.”

In December 2016, eight individuals were arrested for posting messages of support on social media for the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey. The group was charged with incitement and praise of terrorism and received sentences of between one and two years’ imprisonment in April. On July 29, the king pardoned the group. On June 10, authorities arrested El Mortada Iaamrachen for social media postings accusing the state of organizing terrorist attacks and the protests in the Rif to justify arrest campaigns. Iaamrachen’s supporters contend his posts were “sarcastic.” On November 30, the Rabat Court of Appeal sentenced Iaamrachen to five years’ imprisonment for incitement and praise of terrorism.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not disrupt access to the internet, but it did apply laws governing and restricting public speech and the press to the internet. The 2016 press code stipulates that online journalism is equivalent to print journalism. Laws on combatting terrorism permit the government to filter websites. According to Freedom House’s 2017 Freedom on the Net report, the government did not block or filter any websites during the year. However, Freedom House alleges that the threat of press code restrictions, and selective distribution of government advertising revenue had the effect of limiting the diversity of online content. Activists claimed access to certain hashtags on Twitter was restricted for short periods in advance of or during expected large protests to disrupt organization. The government also prosecuted individuals for expressing certain ideological views online (see section 2.a., National Security).

According to the International Telecommunication Union, 58 percent of the population used the internet in 2016.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

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

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The government limited freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

The law provides for the right of peaceful assembly. The government generally permitted authorized and unauthorized peaceful demonstrations to occur. Under the law, groups of more than three persons require authorization from the Ministry of Interior to assemble publicly. Security forces intervened on occasion to disband both authorized and unauthorized protests when officials deemed the demonstration a threat to public security.

Some NGOs complained that authorities did not apply the approval process consistently and used administrative delays and other methods to suppress or discourage unwanted peaceful assembly. According to HRW’s World Report 2017 and Amnesty International’s Freedom in the World 2017, police allowed many protests demanding political reform and protesting government actions, but on some occasions forcibly dispersed peaceful protests or prevented demonstrations from occurring.

Security forces were generally present both in and out of uniform at protests, particularly if the protest was expected to address a sensitive issue. In general, officers were under orders to observe and not intervene, unless the demonstration becomes unruly or threatening. In those cases, under standard operating procedures, officers are required to give the crowd three warnings that force will be used if they do not disperse before intervening. Security forces then attempt to force protestors to leave the area, using riot shields to push standing protestors into a designated area or carrying seated protestors to the designated area. If such lower level tactics fail, security forces may escalate to the use of batons, water cannons, or tear gas to clear the area and restore order. Security force tactics did not differ significantly whether the protest was authorized or unauthorized; however, the decision on whether to intervene did sometimes depend on whether the protest was permitted. The government organized ongoing training on human rights-based management of crowds throughout the year.

Protests continued in Al Hoceima following the October 2016 death of a fish vendor during a confrontation with authorities over illegally caught fish.

While the majority of protests proceeded peacefully, on several occasions violence erupted between protestors and police. On at least three occasions, police used tear gas to disperse crowds of unauthorized or violent protestors. Approximately 620 protests occurred in and around Al Hoceima between October 2016 and early November 2017, generally involving several hundred to a few thousand protestors demanding investment in the region and the release of detained prisoners. The government reported that 589 members of the security forces were injured during the protests, including eight with serious injuries. Authorities arrested more than 600 protestors during protests in and around Al Hoceima since October 2016 for alleged violence, including arson of a police barracks. Approximately 300 were convicted and serving prison sentences as of November, while the king pardoned 47 protestors. Protest leader Nasser Zefzafi, along with 50 other members of the Hirak protest movement are imprisoned at Oukacha (Ain Sebaa) prison in Casablanca, while their trial at the Casablanca Court of Appeals on national security related charges is ongoing. On April 26, the Court of First Instance in Al Hoceima sentenced seven individuals in connection with the vendor’s death to between five and seven months in prison plus fines, and found four others innocent; one of the individuals sentenced to prison was a Ministry of Interior official and the other six were civilians (see section 4).

On April 15 and 16, there were small, unauthorized, and peaceful protests of up to several hundred participants in several cities in response to the April 11 death of a three-year-old Amazigh girl from the rural area of Tinghir, who died from trauma following a fall when two hospitals nearby lacked medical equipment to diagnose and treat her. Protestors accused the Ministry of Health of neglect and called for better provision of services. Police did not intervene in these protests, which dispersed peacefully.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and the law provide for freedom of association, although the government sometimes restricted this freedom. The government prohibited or failed to recognize some political opposition groups by deeming them unqualified for NGO status. The government denied official recognition to NGOs that it considered advocates against Islam as the state religion, the legitimacy of the monarchy, or Morocco’s territorial integrity. Authorities obstructed the registration of a number of associations perceived to be critical of the authorities by refusing to accept registration applications or to deliver receipts confirming the lodging of applications (see section 5).

The Ministry of Interior required NGOs to register before being recognized as legal entities, but there was no comprehensive national registry publicly available. A prospective organization must submit its objectives, bylaws, address, and photocopies of members’ identification cards to the ministry. The ministry issues a receipt to the organization that signifies formal approval. If the organization does not receive a receipt within 60 days, it is not formally registered, although the government tolerated activities of several organizations without these receipts. Unregistered organizations could not access government funds or legally accept contributions.

The National Federation of Amazigh Associations, an organization supporting the inclusion of the Amazigh population in public life, reported that nine Amazigh organizations were denied registration this year as of September, including the Federation itself (see section 6, National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities).

Authorities continued to monitor Justice and Charity Organization activities.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

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

The government continued to make travel documents available to Sahrawis, and there were no reported cases of authorities preventing Sahrawis from traveling out of the country. The government encouraged the return of Sahrawi refugees from Algeria and elsewhere if they acknowledged the government’s authority over Western Sahara.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Refugees and asylum seekers, as well as migrants, were particularly vulnerable to abuse; however, since the 2014 and ongoing migrant regularization programs, there were fewer reports of mass arrests and abuse of sub-Saharan migrants by security forces. While human smuggling and trafficking appeared to increase due to difficulties with other routes, Moroccan authorities cooperated with Spanish authorities to break up trafficking networks and arrest traffickers. Parliament also passed legislation in 2016 to improve protections for victims. There were reports of government authorities arresting or detaining migrants, particularly around the Spanish enclave cities of Melilla and Ceuta, and forcibly relocating them to other parts of the country to deter attempts to cross illegally into the two enclaves.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of refugee status. The government has historically deferred to UNHCR as the sole agency in the country entitled to perform refugee status determinations and verify asylum cases. UNHCR referred cases that meet the criteria for refugee recognition to the government’s interministerial Commission in Charge of Hearings for Asylum Seekers within the Bureau of Refugees and Stateless Persons. The government recognizes two types of asylum status: refugees designated according to the UNHCR statute and the “exceptional regularization of persons in irregular situation” under the 2016 migrant regularization program. The government continued to grant status to UNHCR-recognized refugees, temporary status to registered Syrians, and regularized migrant status to qualifying applicants under the migrant regularization program.

Access to Basic Services: Recognized refugees and migrants were able to work and access health care and education services, including publicly funded professional and vocational training. Requests on behalf of women and children receive automatic approval, with immediate access to education and healthcare. Asylum seekers were, however, sometimes unable to access the national health care system and continued to have little access to the judicial system until recognized as refugees.

Durable Solutions: In December 2016 the government launched the second phase of its migrant regularization program to provide legal status to migrants in exceptional circumstances. The program, similar to the 2014 campaign, grants legal status to foreign spouses and children of citizens and other legal residents of the country, as well as individuals with at least five years of residence in the country, a valid work contract, or chronic illness. As of October, 22,986 individuals had received status under the program, of the more than 25,000 requests submitted. Migrants and refugees may obtain Moroccan nationality if they meet the legal requirements of the Nationality Law and submit a request to the Ministry of Justice. The government facilitated the resettlement of recognized refugees to third countries when necessary, or voluntary returns, in cooperation with UNHCR.

Temporary Protection: The government also provided temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees. On June 20, World Refugee Day, the king instructed the government to admit 28 Syrians who had been stranded between the borders of Morocco and Algeria for two months. Syrians and Yemenis benefit from “exceptional regularization” outside of the more permanent migrant regularization program.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

Morocco is a constitutional monarchy under which ultimate authority rests with King Mohammed VI, who presides over the Council of Ministers. The king shares executive authority with the head of government (prime minister). According to the constitution, the king appoints the head of government from the political party with the most seats in parliament and approves members of the government nominated by the head of government.

The law provides for, and citizens participated in, free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage for parliament’s Chamber of Representatives and municipal and regional councils. Regional and professional bodies indirectly elected members of parliament’s less powerful Chamber of Counselors.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In October 2016 the country held direct elections for the Chamber of Representatives (the more powerful lower house of parliament). The major political parties and domestic observers considered the elections free, fair, and transparent. International observers considered the elections credible; noting voters were able to choose freely and the process was free of systemic irregularities. As stipulated by the constitution, the king tasked the Party of Justice and Development, which won the most seats in the newly elected chamber, to form a governing coalition and nominate new ministers. The new government was seated on April 6.

Political Parties and Political Participation: A political party may not legally challenge Islam as the state religion, the institution of the monarchy, or the country’s territorial integrity. The law prohibits basing a party on a religious, ethnic, or regional identity.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit participation of women or members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate. Voters elected a record number of women in the October 2016 elections, although very few subsequently won leadership positions as ministers or parliamentary committee presidents.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government generally did not implement the law effectively. Officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were reports of government corruption in the executive, judicial, and legislative branches during the year.

Corruption: Generally, observers considered corruption a serious problem, with insufficient governmental checks and balances to reduce its occurrence. There were reports of petty government corruption and authorities investigated few cases.

Some members of the conservative judicial community were reluctant to implement newly adopted reforms and procedures to strengthen controls against corruption. In some cases, judges received disciplinary sanctions for corruption, but were not prosecuted. The newly created Supreme Judicial Council is tasked with ensuring ethical behavior by all judicial personnel (see section 1.e.).

On May 24, the Ministry of Justice announced the arrest of Rabat Court of Appeals judge Rachid Mechkaka on charges of accepting a bribe of 10,000 dirhams ($1,022) to give a favorable decision in a family court appeal case. On July 12, the Court of First Instance in Casablanca sentenced Mechkaka to one year’s imprisonment and a fine of 1,000 dirhams ($102). At year’s end he was imprisoned in Oukacha (Ain Sebaa) prison in Casablanca, pending appeals.

Observers noted widespread corruption among police. The government claimed to investigate corruption and other instances of police malfeasance through an internal mechanism (see section 1.d.). On July 21, media reported that 14 police officers were detained on charges of complicity in drug trafficking and receiving bribes. Their case was referred to the Rabat Court of Appeals. The status of the case was unknown as of November. The government reported that through September, 54 police officers were investigated for corruption, and 35 were suspended from duty as a result. Of 56 accused police officers in 2016, 15 remained under investigation, four were dismissed, three received formal reprimands, and three were demoted. In the past two years, the DGSN has referred 45 officers to courts for corruption allegations.

The Central Authority for the Prevention of Corruption (ICPC) is responsible for combating corruption. In 2015 parliament adopted a constitutionally mandated law providing the ICPC with the authority to compel government institutions to comply with anticorruption investigations. However, the ICPC was without senior leadership at year’s end.

In addition to the ICPC, the Ministry of Justice and the High Audit Institution (government accountability court) had jurisdiction over corruption issues. In June the High Audit Institution released a public report flagging misuse of public funds in some ministries. The institution has no authority to conduct investigations or assign responsibility, and no cases were referred for prosecution. In October the king dismissed several ministers following reports from the High Audit Institution that their ministries had mishandled development projects in the Rif region. No further accountability measures were taken against the ministers.

The Ministry of Justice ran a hotline for the public to report instances of corruption.

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

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

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

On January 8, the AMDH, the country’s largest independent human rights organization, reported that authorities refused to renew the registration for its branch office in Laayoune. The AMDH appealed the decision to the courts, but the appeal was rejected for failure to follow formal procedures. According to the government, the AMDH submitted appeals to the courts for registration of 58 of its 96 branches during the year, and as of September received 14 approvals. The organization has regularly had difficulties in renewing the registration of its offices. Also in January, Aqaliyat, a newly formed domestic NGO working on minority rights announced that the government had denied its registration application. Authorities announced that the denial was for failure to comply with registration requirements; however, some activists believed the denial was related to the organization’s support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) rights. Aqaliyat has submitted an appeal. Several of the organization’s leaders have since left the country, according to media reports.

On February 7, the Rabat Appeals Court reversed a 2016 Administrative Court ruling that had ordered the registration of NGO Freedom Now. The organization is not registered. The government explained that Freedom Now’s request did not respect the law on associations, but that a compliant request would be considered if submitted.

AI’s local office continued to operate and issue statements, including on sensitive issues such as the Rif protests. In November the government informed AI it would not face any restriction on its activities as long as it operated within the law on associations. AI’s international researchers, however, say they continue to face some difficulties in carrying out their work in the country, following government objections to some AI reporting in 2015.

Although HRW remained officially suspended during the year, the organization sent researchers to the country and continued to publish information on the situation in the country without government interference.

During the year activists and NGOs reported continuing restrictions on their activities in the country. Many activists alleged that the government restricted their use of public spaces and conference rooms, as well as informing the proprietors of private spaces that certain activities should not be welcomed. Organizations claimed that government officials told them their events were cancelled for failing to follow required procedures for public meetings, although the organizations claim to have submitted the necessary paperwork except in cases where they believed the law did not require it.

On May 13, authorities required Tafra, an organization that promotes democratic reform and access to information, to end an in-progress conference on the transition from absolute to parliamentary monarchies in Europe, claiming that the event was unauthorized. The event had originally been scheduled to take place at the Hassan II University, but on the day of the event, the university claimed that it could not host due to the “unavailability of conference rooms.” The organization shifted the conference to a think tank’s office, but authorities arrived shortly after and ordered the presentations to stop as no public event was authorized at that location.

Some unrecognized NGOs that did not cooperate officially with the government still shared information informally with both the government and government-affiliated organizations.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government cooperated with the UN and permitted requested visits. Morocco submitted and presented its quadrennial Universal Periodic Review to the Human Rights Council in May and responded to recommendations. In October the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment visited Morocco, met with government officials, visited detention centers, and met with prisoners.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The CNDH is a national human rights institution established by the constitution that operates independently from the elected government. It is publicly funded and operates in conformity with the Principles of Paris according to the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, which recognized it in 2015 as a “class A national human rights institution” within the UN framework. It served as the principal advisory body to the king and government on human rights. The council filled the role of a national human rights monitoring mechanism for preventing torture. The CNDH oversees the National Human Rights Training Institute, which partners with international organizations to provide training to civil society, media, law enforcement, medical personnel, educators, and legal practitioners.

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

The mission of the Interministerial Delegation for Human Rights (DIDH), which reports to the minister of state in charge of human rights, as of April, is to promote the protection of human rights across all ministries, serve as a government interlocutor with domestic and international NGOs, and interact with relevant UN bodies regarding international human rights obligations. The DIDH has the primary responsibility for coordinating government responses to UN bodies on adherence to treaty obligations.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law punishes individuals convicted of rape with prison terms of five to 10 years; when the conviction involves a minor, the prison sentence ranges from 10 to 20 years. Spousal rape is not a crime. Numerous articles of the penal code pertaining to rape perpetuate unequal treatment for women and provide insufficient protection. A sexual assault conviction may result in a prison sentence of up to one year and a fine of 15,000 dirhams ($1,530). According to local NGOs, survivors did not report the vast majority of sexual assaults to police due to social pressure and the concern that society would most likely hold the victims responsible. Police selectively investigated cases; among the minority brought to trial, successful prosecutions were rare.

The law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence against women, but the general prohibitions of the criminal code address such violence. Legally, high-level misdemeanors occur when a victim’s injuries result in 20 days of disability leave from work. Low-level misdemeanors occur when a victim’s disability lasts for less than 20 days. According to NGOs, the courts rarely prosecuted perpetrators of low-level misdemeanors. Police were slow to act in domestic violence cases, and the government generally did not enforce the law and sometimes returned women against their will to abusive homes. Police generally treated domestic violence as a social rather than a criminal matter. Physical abuse was legal grounds for divorce, although few women reported such abuse to authorities.

Statistics on rape or sexual assault were unreliable due to underreporting.

The government funded a number of women’s counseling centers under the Ministry of Solidarity, Women, Family, and Social Development. Statistics provided by the government indicated that in 2016 it provided direct support to 29 women’s counseling centers for female survivors of violence, as well as 48 family mediation centers, as part of a broader effort to support projects benefitting women in society. A few NGOs provided shelter, assistance, and guidance for survivors of domestic abuse. There were reports, however, that these shelters were not accessible to persons with disabilities. Courts had “victims of abuse cells” that brought together prosecutors, lawyers, judges, women’s NGO representatives, and hospital personnel to review domestic and child abuse cases to provide for the best interests of women or children, according to proper procedure.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is criminal only when it is an abuse of authority by a superior in the workplace, as stipulated by the penal code. Violations are punishable by one to two years’ imprisonment and a fine of 5,000 to 50,000 dirhams ($511 to $5,108). Authorities did not effectively enforce laws against sexual harassment.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: The constitution provides women equal rights with men in civil, political, economic, cultural, and environmental affairs; however, laws favor men in property and inheritance. Numerous problems related to discrimination against women remained, both with inadequate enforcement of equal rights provided for by the laws and constitution and in the reduced rights provided to women in inheritance.

According to the law, women are entitled to a share of inherited property, but a woman’s share of inheritance is less than that of a man. Generally, women are entitled to receive half the inheritance a man would receive in the same circumstances. A sole male heir would receive the entire estate, while a sole female heir would receive half the estate with the rest going to other relatives. The 2004 reform of the family code did not change inheritance laws, which the constitution does not specifically address.

The family code places the family under the joint responsibility of both spouses, makes divorce available by mutual consent, and places legal limits on polygamy. Implementation of family law reforms remained a problem. The judiciary lacked willingness to enforce them, as many judges did not agree with their provisions. Corruption among working-level court clerks and lack of knowledge about its provisions among lawyers were also obstacles to enforcement of the law.

The law requires equal pay for equal work, although in practice this did not occur.

The government led some efforts to improve the status of women in the workplace, most notably the constitutional mandate for the creation of an Authority for Gender Parity and Fighting All Forms of Discrimination. In October the parliament published the final legislation creating the Gender Parity Authority. The institution will become functional once its members are nominated by the king and head of government.

Children

Birth Registration: The law permits both parents to pass nationality to their children. There were, nonetheless, cases in which authorities denied identification papers to children because they were born to unmarried parents, particularly in rural areas or in the cases of poorly educated mothers unaware of their legal rights. According to press reports and Amazigh NGOs, during the year representatives of the Ministry of Interior refused to register the births of some children whose parents sought to give them Amazigh names until those parents appealed the decision.

On January 30, a family court judge in Tangier, citing international conventions and the country’s constitution that provides equal judicial protection to all children regardless of family status, ordered the government to recognize the biological link between a father and child born out of wedlock, as proven by a DNA test. The judge ordered that the father’s name be listed on the birth certificate, and that the father pay a fine to the child. In October an appeals court ruled in the father’s favor and instead ordered the mother to pay legal costs to the father. The mother lodged an appeal with the Court of Cassation, the highest court of appeal.

Child Abuse: NGOs, human rights groups, media outlets, and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) claimed child abuse was widespread, although the government has noted that reports are decreasing. In 2016 parliament passed a law prohibiting children under the age of 16 years old from working as domestic servants and strictly limiting the work of children under the age of 18 (see section 7.c.). Prosecutions for child abuse were extremely rare.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 18 years, but parents, with the informed consent of the minor, may secure a waiver from a judge for underage marriage. The judiciary approved the vast majority of petitions for underage marriages.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The age of consent is 18 years. The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation, sale, offering or procuring for prostitution, and practices related to child pornography. Penalties for sexual exploitation of children under the criminal code range from two years’ to life imprisonment and fines from 9,550 dirhams ($960) to 344,000 dirhams ($34,600).

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

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

Community leaders estimated the size of the Jewish population at 4,000. Overall, there appeared to be little overt anti-Semitism, and Jews generally lived in safety.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, and access to health care. The law also provides for regulations and building codes that provide for access for persons with disabilities. The government did not effectively enforce or implement these laws and regulations. While building codes enacted in 2003 require accessibility for all persons, the codes exempt most pre-2003 structures, and authorities rarely enforced them for new construction. Most public transportation is inaccessible to persons with disabilities, although the national rail system offers wheelchair ramps, accessible bathrooms, and special seating areas. Government policy provides that persons with disabilities should have equal access to information and communications. Special communication devices for persons with visual or audio disabilities were not widely available.

The Ministry of Social Development, Family, and Solidarity has responsibility for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and attempted to integrate persons with disabilities into society by implementing a quota of 7 percent for persons with disabilities in vocational training in the public sector and 5 percent in the private sector. Both sectors were far from achieving the quotas. The government maintained more than 400 integrated classes for children with learning disabilities, but private charities and civil society organizations were primarily responsible for integration.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The majority of the population, including the royal family, claimed some Amazigh (Berber) heritage. Many of the poorest regions in the country, particularly the rural Middle Atlas region, were predominantly Amazigh and had illiteracy rates higher than the national average. Basic governmental services in this mountainous and underdeveloped region were not extensive. Official languages are Arabic and Amazigh, although Arabic predominates. Amazigh cultural groups contended they were rapidly losing their traditions and language to Arabization. The government offered Amazigh language classes in some schools. Amazigh NGOs contend that the number of qualified teachers of Amazigh languages has decreased. The palace-funded Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture created a university-level teacher-training program to eliminate the shortage of qualified teachers. Instruction in the Amazigh language is mandatory for students at the Ministry of Interior’s School for Administrators.

Amazigh materials were available in the news media and, to a much lesser extent, educational institutions. The government provided television programs in the three national Amazigh dialects of Tarifit, Tashelhit, and Tamazight. According to regulations, public media are required to dedicate 30 percent of broadcast time to Amazigh language and cultural programming, however, according to Amazigh organizations, only 5 percent of broadcast time is currently given to Amazigh language and culture. The National Federation of Amazigh Associations submitted a complaint to the High Authority for Audiovisual Communications in June to request compliance with the quota.

For more information regarding the situation of Sahrawis in Moroccan-administered Western Sahara, see the Department of State’s 2017 annual Country Reports on Human Rights for Western Sahara.

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

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity, with a maximum sentence of three years in prison. Media and the public were allowed to address questions of sexuality, sexual orientation, and gender identity more openly than in previous years.

Antidiscrimination laws do not apply to LGBTI persons, and the penal code does not criminalize hate crimes. There was a stigma against LGBTI persons, but there were no reports of overt discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, access to education, or health care.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Persons with HIV/AIDS faced discrimination and had limited treatment options. A 2016 Afrobarometer poll reported that 60 percent of citizens would not welcome an HIV positive individual as their neighbor. The Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS reported that some health-care providers were reluctant to treat persons with HIV/AIDS due to fear of infection. There were 16 HIV/AIDS treatment centers countrywide and domestic NGOs focused on treating HIV/AIDS patients.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The constitution provides workers with the rights to form and join unions, strike, and bargain collectively, with some restrictions.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and prohibits companies from dismissing workers for participating in legitimate union-organizing activities. Courts have the authority to reinstate workers dismissed arbitrarily and may enforce rulings that compel employers to pay damages and back pay. Trade unions complained that the government at times used the penal code to prosecute workers for striking and to suppress strikes.

The law prohibits certain categories of government employees, including members of the armed forces, police, and some members of the judiciary from forming and joining unions and from conducting strikes. The law excludes migrant workers from assuming leadership positions in unions.

The law allows several independent unions to exist but requires 35 percent of the total employee base to be associated with a union for the union to be representative and engage in collective bargaining. The government generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Employers limited the scope of collective bargaining, frequently setting wages unilaterally for the majority of unionized and non-unionized workers. Domestic NGOs reported that employers often used temporary contracts to discourage employees from affiliating with or organizing unions. Legally, unions can negotiate with the government on national-level labor issues. At the sectoral level, trade unions negotiated with private employers concerning minimum wage, compensation, and other concerns. Labor disputes were common and, in some cases, the result of employers failing to implement collective bargaining agreements and withholding wages.

The law concerning strikes requires compulsory arbitration of disputes, prohibits sit-ins, and calls for a 10-day notice of a strike. The government may intervene in strikes. A strike may not take place over matters covered in a collective contract for one year after the contract comes into force. The government has the authority to disperse strikers in public areas not authorized for demonstrations and to prevent the unauthorized occupancy of private space. Unions may neither engage in sabotage nor prevent those individuals who were not on strike from working.

The government did not adequately enforce labor laws due to a lack of inspection personnel and resources. Inspectors do not have punitive power and cannot levy fines or other punishments. Upon action of the state prosecutor, the courts can force the employer to take remedial actions through a court decree. Penalties were not sufficient to deter violations. Regulations also required inspectors to serve as mediators in disputes, requiring them to spend a significant amount of time in their offices, not conducting inspections. Enforcement procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals.

Most union federations strongly allied with political parties, but unions were generally free from government interference.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. Penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

Authorities did not adequately enforce the legislation. Labor inspectors did not inspect small workshops and private homes where the majority of such practices occurred, as the law requires a warrant to search a private residence. The small number of inspectors, the scarce resources at their disposal, and the broad geographic dispersion of sites also limited effective enforcement of the law.

Local NGOs reported that an undetermined number of Filipina and Indonesian domestic workers filed suits against their former employers. These suits included significant indicators of potential trafficking abuses, such as withholding passports or wages. Information on disposition of these cases was not available.

Reports indicated that forced labor, especially of children, occurred (see section 7.c.).

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law established a minimum age for employment and the government effectively enforced these laws. Punishments for violations of the child labor laws include criminal penalties, civil fines, and withdrawal or suspension of one or more civil, national, or family rights, including denial of legal residence in the country for five to 10 years. Penalties were not sufficient to deter violations.

The overwhelming majority of child laborers worked in rural areas, according to the government’s statistical agency, the High Planning Commission.

Some children became apprentices before they were 12 years old, particularly in small family-run workshops in the handicraft industry and in the construction industry and mechanic shops. Children also worked in hazardous occupations as designated by law (see section 7.e.). These included fishing and, in the informal sector, in textiles, light manufacturing, and traditional handicrafts. Children’s safety, health conditions, and wages were often substandard.

In some cases employers subjected children to the worst forms of child labor, including commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as the result of human trafficking (see section 6, Children); forced domestic work, sometimes as the result of human trafficking; and forced labor in the production of artisan crafts and construction.

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

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The labor code prohibits discrimination with respect to employment and occupation based on race, religion, national origin, color, sex, ethnicity, or disability. The law does not address age or pregnancy.

Discrimination occurred in all categories prohibited by law, as the government lacked sufficient human and financial resources to enforce these laws effectively. Migrant worker organizations reported that some migrants experienced discrimination in hiring, wages, or conditions of employment.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The minimum wage was 108 dirhams ($11.13) per day in the industrialized sector, 70 dirhams ($7.22) per day for agricultural workers, and 65 dirhams ($6.70) per day for domestic workers. The World Bank established the absolute poverty level threshold wage as 70 dirhams ($7.22) per day. Including traditional holiday-related bonuses, workers generally received the equivalent of 13 to 16 months’ salary each year.

The law provides for a 44- to 48-hour maximum workweek with no more than 10 hours in a single day, premium pay for overtime, paid public and annual holidays, and minimum conditions for health and safety, including a prohibition on night work for women and minors. The law prohibits excessive overtime.

Occupational health and safety standards, reviewed and enforced by the Ministry of Employment and Vocational Integration, are rudimentary, except for a prohibition on the employment of women and children in certain dangerous occupations. The law prohibits persons under the age of 18 years from hazardous work in 33 areas, including working in mines, handling dangerous materials, transporting explosives, and operating heavy machinery.

Many employers did not observe the legal provisions for conditions of work. The government did not effectively enforce basic provisions of the labor code, such as payment of the minimum wage and other basic benefits under the National Social Security Fund. The country’s 356 labor inspectors attempted to monitor working conditions and investigate accidents, but lack of resources prevented effective enforcement of labor laws. Penalties were generally not sufficient to deter violations. Labor inspectors are also tasked with mediation of disputes, which competed with proactive inspection of worksites for compliance with labor laws.

According to NGOs, no major workplace accidents occurred during the year. There were, however, numerous media reports of accidents, sometimes fatal, on construction sites that had substandard standards or lacked safety equipment. In the formal sector, workers can remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in such situations.

Tunisia

Executive Summary

Tunisia is a constitutional republic with a multiparty, unicameral parliamentary system and a president with powers specified in the constitution. In 2014 the country held free and fair parliamentary elections that resulted in the Nida Tounes (Call of Tunisia) Party winning a plurality of the votes. President Beji Caid Essebsi came to office in 2014 after winning the first democratic presidential elections. Nida Tounes formed a coalition government with the Nahda Party and several smaller parties. On September 11, parliament approved Prime Minister Youssef Chahed’s second government, composed of 28 ministers and 15 state secretaries.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included some allegations of torture of prisoners and detainees, despite an overall reduction in the number of torture cases compared with previous years; arbitrary arrests and detentions of suspects under antiterrorism or emergency laws; violence against journalists and criminalization of libel; corruption, although the government took steps to combat it; lack of adequate enforcement of laws on rape and domestic violence, although the government passed a law during the year designed to deter violence against women and criminalize previously uncovered acts; and criminalization of same sex sexual activity that resulted in arrests and abuse by security forces.

The government took steps to investigate officials who allegedly committed abuses, but investigations into police, security force, and detention center abuses lacked transparency and frequently encountered long delays and procedural obstacles.

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

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

Media and civil society reported the suspicious deaths of several individuals in detention as a result of mistreatment and/or inadequate medical care. In its 2016 report, the independent Tunisian Organization against Torture (OCTT) noted 153 registered cases of torture and mistreatment of prisoners or detainees, including cases of suspicious death under detention, rape, and unlawful detention.

In February, Mohamed Amine Soudi was arrested by local police officers and held in detention in Kairouan prison until the night of his trial on February 6, when he was urgently transferred to the Kairouan hospital. Soudi died after five days in intensive care. The OCTT asserted that Soudi did not have health problems before his arrest and that his death was due to mistreatment while in prison. The general prosecutor launched an investigation, which remained pending at year’s end.

During the year five security force members were killed and one other was injured. While on patrol near the parliament building on November 1, two police officers were injured in a knife attack by an individual belonging to a known extremist group; police officer Riadh Barrouta subsequently died from his injuries.

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 law prohibits such practices, police reportedly subjected many detainees to harsh physical treatment, according to first-hand accounts provided to international organizations. Several prominent local human rights lawyers decried the practice of torture in police stations and detention centers. Human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) criticized the government for its application of the antiterrorism law, the appearance of impunity for abusers, and for reluctance to investigate torture allegations. The OCTT noted that it filed court cases for more than 100 cases alleging torture and mistreatment during the year, with no action by the courts as of November.

NGOs noted, however, a reduction in the number of torture cases compared with previous years due in part to implementation of legislation passed in 2016 that provided greater rights to detainees, including pretrial access to a lawyer. According to the justice minister, Mandela Rules (UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners) were added to the training curriculum of all new correctional staff, including awareness of human rights and use of force. The Director General for Prisons and Rehabilitation (DGPR) reported a substantial improvement in human rights awareness during the year due to training programs. The government stated it distributed a guidebook on the prevention of torture to prisons, detention centers, and the judicial system and provided training for judges and other law enforcement personnel on the content. In its June addendum to the UN Committee against Torture (UNCAT) report, the government stated it had opened 18 investigations into acts of torture committed by antiterrorism officers; all investigations were in progress as of October. As of October the Ministry of Interior reported that security inspectors within the ministry had received 76 cases of physical aggression and mistreatment by security forces or National Guard officers and an additional 77 cases of security forces exceeding their authority. The ministry took disciplinary measures against 295 security officers following investigations, with judicial proceedings initiated against 58 security officers.

The Ministry of Interior created a new Directorate General of Human Rights on June 16, mandated to conduct analytical studies related to the security sector, establish procedural safeguards to eliminate the likelihood or risk of torture, and submit recommendations on human rights and individual liberties to legislative and executive bodies. This new structure, which replaced the Directorate General for Political Affairs within the Ministry of Interior, is also responsible for evaluating training programs for internal security forces related to human rights and civil liberties.

There was one reported case of rape and sexual abuse by government agents during the year. According to the OCTT, police arrested Hada Saidi on April 5 for a complaint filed by her neighbor but did not inform her of the reason for her arrest. Security forces allegedly sexually assaulted her at the al-Omrane police station. The OCTT reported she suffered severe internal bleeding and a nervous breakdown from the assault. Several days later she was transferred to a psychiatric hospital, where she spent two days for treatment. No security officers were reported to have been charged or held accountable.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions were below international standards, principally due to overcrowding and poor infrastructure.

Physical Conditions: Prisons were understaffed and lacked adequate equipment to deal with the number of inmates. Despite periodic amnesties since the 2011 revolution, overcrowding persisted, due at least in part to the transfer of a large number of prisoners from 14 prisons damaged during prisoner uprisings in 2011. Most of the prisons that were damaged were either completely or partially renovated.

According to the DGPR, the rate of prison overcrowding dropped from 155 percent in 2016 to 114 percent as of September. The highest rates of overcrowding were found in five prisons: Morneg (225 percent), Kairouan (196 percent), Messadine Prison of Sousse (196 percent), Sfax prison (174 percent), and Monastir (163 percent). As noted in the country’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the Ministry of Justice and the Directorate General for Prisons and Rehabilitation refurbished many prisons and added a new health-care center to one, increasing their capacity to accommodate additional inmates in new wings of the prisons in Sfax, Mahdia, Monastir, Messadine Sousse, and Borj el Roumi.

Following his visit on January 30 to February 3, Ben Emmerson, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism, expressed concern about prison conditions he witnessed in Mornaguia Prison, which he said fell well below international minimum standards. He noted the prison was approximately 150 percent over capacity, with more than 90 prisoners held in dormitories with inadequate space, natural light, and sleeping and sanitary facilities. He noted unacceptable conditions disproportionately affected those charged with terrorism because they were less likely to be granted provisional release, their cases sometimes took years to come to trial, and they received the longest sentences.

In its 2016 report, the Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH) criticized prison overcrowding and unsanitary conditions. It claimed space allotted for inmates averaged 22.6 square feet per person, well below the 43 square feet recommended by international norms. The report also noted that many detention centers were well over capacity.

The law requires pretrial detainees to be held separately from convicted prisoners, but the Ministry of Justice reported that overcrowding forced it to hold pretrial detainees together with convicts. As of October there were 20,755 prisoners and detainees, of whom 52 percent were in pretrial detention. The high percentage of pretrial detainees stemmed largely from delays in the judicial system. The prison system lacked sufficient resources to transport detainees to court hearings securely, although the Ministry of Justice during the year received international assistance for additional transport vehicles and training for transport staff.

Most prisons were originally constructed for industrial use and then converted into detention facilities and suffered from poor infrastructure, including substandard lighting, ventilation, and heating.

Of the country’s 27 prisons, one was designated solely for women, and eight prisons contained separate wings for women. According to the UNCAT addendum, as of December 2016, minor convicts comprised a small number of prisoners and were strictly separated from adults; the majority of minors were detained in separate correctional facilities.

Health services available to inmates were inadequate. Very few prisons had an ambulance or medically equipped vehicle. Officials mentioned they lacked equipment necessary for the security of guards, other personnel, and inmates.

To reduce the number of persons held in prison for drug-related offenses (28 percent of the prison population, according government statistics in June), the government amended the law in May to permit judges discretion to hand down reduced or suspended sentences for drug use, including decriminalizing first-time marijuana consumption, an offense that previously received up to a one-year prison term.

As part of the Ministry of Justice’s rehabilitation program for countering violent extremism (CVE), the DGPR had a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Religious Affairs to permit vetted and trained imams to lead religious sessions with prisoners who were classified as extremist, in an effort to deradicalize their religious beliefs. As part of CVE measures in place in the prison system, organized, communal prayers are prohibited, but prisons permitted individual detainees to have religious materials and to pray in their cells.

Administration: According to prison officials, other problems included lengthy criminal prosecution procedures that led to extended periods of pretrial detention, understaffing at prisons and detention centers, difficult work conditions, and low pay.

Authorities allowed prisoners to receive one family visit per week. A minority of adult prisoners reportedly had access to educational and vocational training programs, due to limited capacity.

The government established the Independent National Authority for the Prevention of Torture (INPT) in 2013 to respond to allegations of torture and mistreatment an administratively independent body. Its members have the authority to visit any prison or detention center without prior notice and at any time to document torture and mistreatment, to request criminal and administrative investigations, and to issue recommendations for measures to eradicate torture and mistreatment. Since its establishment, INPT members reported the body faced material and logistical difficulties that prevented it from conducting its work effectively. A year after being elected, chairman of the board Hamida Dridi resigned on June 30, citing administrative and procedural pressures as well as bureaucratic obstacles that prevented the function of the body.

Independent Monitoring: The government granted access to prisons for independent nongovernmental observers, including local and international human rights groups, NGOs, local media, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the OCTT. The LTDH may conduct unannounced prison visits and issue reports about conditions inside prisons. Other organizations are issued a permit after a case-by-case examination of their requests. The new Directorate General of Human Rights within the Ministry of Interior coordinated with international governmental and NGOs working on human rights.

UN Special Rapporteur Emmerson noted concerns about prolonged periods and conditions of detention, the use of executive orders to restrict freedom of movement and to impose house arrest without proper judicial review, and allegations of mistreatment and torture.

Improvements: The Ministry of Social Affairs and the Danish Institute against Torture opened a new rehabilitation center, Nebras, to assist and support victims of torture as they rehabilitate and reintegrate into society. Other NGOs reported that they referred victims to this center.

Director General (DG) of Prisons and Rehabilitation Elyes Zalleg initiated several steps to strengthen anticorruption efforts and to improve DGPR operations. On April 27, DG Zalleg removed former chief of prison security Imed Dridi on suspicion of corruption. Dridi subsequently was arrested on June 22, and his case was undergoing court proceedings. In early July the DG replaced 75 percent of senior leadership at the DGPR, including 14 prison wardens and three juvenile facility wardens, due to poor performance and possible corruption, according to a DGPR press statement.

In an effort to reduce the potential for violence and mistreatment of detainees by prison staff, early in the year the DGPR established an Emergency Response Unit composed of 200 law enforcement officers who were to be trained to intervene peacefully in security events within the prison system.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, although security forces did not always observe these provisions. The law provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court. Human rights organizations expressed concern that the government used its powers under the state of emergency to place citizens under house arrest with limited evidence or foundation for suspicion.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Ministry of Interior holds legal authority and responsibility for law enforcement. The ministry oversees the National Police, which has primary responsibility for law enforcement in the major cities, and the National Guard (gendarmerie), which oversees border security and patrols smaller towns and rural areas. The Ministry of Interior has three Inspectorate General Offices that conduct administrative investigations into the different ministry structures. These offices play a role in both onsite inspections to ensure officers’ appropriate conduct and investigations in response to complaints received by the public. They can hold agents accountable and issue administrative reprimands even before the courts announce a final verdict. Investigations into prisoner abuse lacked transparency and often lasted several months and, in some cases, more than a year.

Civilian authorities maintained control over police, although international organizations, such as Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW), reported instances of detainees subjected to harsh physical treatment. The government lacked effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse, corruption, and impunity by police and prison officials, and there was little transparency in internal investigations. On February 10, AI published a report asserting that violations by security forces fostered a culture of impunity. On a February 20 television show, a police captain who represented a national police union, defended torture as a means to get information necessary for police investigations. The AI report contended that only a few security officers were held to account despite repeated commitments by authorities to investigate all allegations of torture and other mistreatment. The Ministry of Interior responded that the National Security General Inspectorate had investigated one allegation of torture in both 2015 and 2016 and found it to be false.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires police to have a warrant to arrest a suspect, unless a crime is in progress or the arrest is for a felony offense. The 2015 counterterrorism law allows for five days of incommunicado prearrangement detention for detainees suspected of terrorism, which can be renewed for two five-day extensions with the court’s approval. Arresting officers must inform detainees of their rights, immediately inform detainees’ families of the arrest, and make a complete record of the times and dates of such notifications. Media and civil society reported that police failed at times to follow these regulations and on occasion detained persons arbitrarily.

The 2016 revisions to the code of criminal procedures in relation to detainee rights shortened the maximum time of precharge detention for crimes to 48 hours, renewable once by a prosecutor’s order, for a maximum of four days. For minor offenses the time limit is 24 hours, renewable once. The law also includes a provision giving the detainee or a family member the right to request the assistance of a lawyer or medical assistance during precharge detention. When police receive the request, they are required to inform the lawyer of the accusations against the client and the time of questioning. Police must notify the lawyer of all interrogations and interactions between the accused and witnesses or victims of the alleged offense and allow the lawyer to be present, unless the accused explicitly waives the right to a lawyer, or the lawyer does not arrive at the prearranged time of questioning.

Several NGOs, including HRW and the Observatory of Rights and Freedoms of Tunisia (ODL), stated torture and mistreatment cases in pretrial detention decreased as a result of changes in the law. Human rights groups believed the law was generally applied since its adoption, particularly in larger cities.

According to 2016 penal code amendments, detainees have the right to know the grounds for their arrest before questioning and may request access to their lawyers, their families, and medical consultation. The law permits authorities to release accused persons on bail, and the bail system functioned. Detainees can exercise their right to representation by counsel immediately upon detention, and they have the right to counsel during police interrogation, with the exception of terrorism suspects, who may be held without access to counsel for 48 hours. By law the prosecutor provides legal representation in case of criminal offenses and for underage offenders. A lawyer may be assigned in a criminal case even if the accused person did not ask for one during the investigation. For those who cannot afford a lawyer, judicial aid is provided at the expense of the government if certain conditions are met. In civil cases both parties can request judicial aid, but in criminal cases legal aid is only provided to nationals if the minimum possible sentence is at least three years and if the person on trial is not a recidivist, and to foreigners under conditions outlined by law. Judicial aid is also extended to administrative matters once the police investigation has been completed and the case goes to court. The military code of justice gives the same rights to detainees for assigning a legal counsel as described in the penal code, although it was unclear whether the government consistently provided this service. At arraignment the examining magistrate may decide to release the accused or remand the detainee to pretrial detention.

In cases involving crimes for which the sentence may exceed five years or that involve national security, pretrial detention may last six months and may be extended by court order for two additional four-month periods. In cases involving crimes for which the sentence may not exceed five years, the court may extend the initial six-month pretrial detention only by three months. During this stage the court conducts an investigation, hears arguments, and accepts evidence and motions from both parties.

Early in the year, the DGPR established the first legal aid office in the Messadine Sousse office prison, with the intention of expanding this pilot program to other prisons nationwide.

Arbitrary Arrest: NGOs criticized the use of the emergency law to put under house arrest any individual suspected of representing a threat to state security, often without offering these individuals access to the court orders that led to their initial arrest. The ODL stated that up to 500 persons were put under house arrest since 2015–many of whom were subsequently prevented from working or providing for their families, in violation of the law. Mohamed Sami Ayedi, a public-sector employee without a prior criminal record, remained under house arrest by the Azzahra police station since 2015. In spite of repeated requests, authorities refused to grant a copy of his arrest order to him or his lawyers, and as a result, he could not appeal this decision.

While praising new efforts to crack down on corruption, civil society observers claimed that in a small handful of cases, in making arrests authorities disregarded laws on due process and respect for human rights (see section 4).

Pretrial Detention: The length of pretrial detention remained unpredictable and could last from one month to several years, principally due to judicial inefficiency and lack of capacity.

The government noted in its June UNCAT addendum report that as of December 2016 almost 50 percent of all detainees were being held without sentences. Ministry of Justice officials reported they were focused on finding alternatives to pretrial detention, including the proposed use of electronic bracelets in lieu of detention, changing prosecutorial behavior, and improving the appeals process.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees are allowed to challenge the legal bases or arbitrary nature of their arrest. The court will order released anyone it finds to have been unlawfully arrested or detained. Although individuals who were unlawfully detained have the right to request compensation by submitting a request to the court of appeal, the procedures are complex, and most requests were rejected for failure to meet all required conditions, according to legal groups.

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, although defendants complained authorities did not consistently follow the law on trial procedures. In civilian courts defendants have the right to a presumption of innocence. They also have the right to consult with an attorney or to have one provided at public expense, to confront witnesses against them, to present witnesses and evidence, and to appeal verdicts against them. The law stipulates defendants must be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, with free interpretation if necessary. They must also be given adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense and not be compelled to testify or confess guilt.

The 2015 counterterrorism law stipulates that in cases involving terrorism, judges may close hearings to the public. Judges may also keep information on witnesses, victims, and any other relevant persons confidential, including from the accused and his or her legal counsel. The counterterrorism law also extends the amount of time that a suspect may be held without access to legal counsel from five to 15 days, with a judicial review required after each five-day period. Human rights organizations objected to the law for its vague definition of terrorism and the broad leeway it gives to judges to admit testimony by anonymous witnesses.

Military courts fall under the Ministry of Defense. Military tribunals have authority to try cases involving military personnel and civilians accused of national security crimes. A defendant may appeal a military tribunal’s verdict and may resort to the civilian Supreme Court. Human rights advocates argued that national security crimes are too broadly defined but acknowledged that, following the 2011 reform of military courts, defendants in military courts have the same rights as those in civilian courts. These include the right to choose legal representation, access case files and evidence, conduct cross-examinations, call witnesses, and appeal court judgments. There is no specialized code for military courts.

AI and the Tunisian Forum for Social and Economic Rights (FTDES) documented flaws in due process and the failure to secure fair trial guarantees in the context of absentia court sentences issued to protesters in Gafsa (see section 2.b). According to AI the defendants in these cases were neither notified of the charges brought against them nor summoned to court and only found out about the cases against them when they received the sentence notification from the police. Of the 80 individuals whose case files AI reviewed, as of October most were waiting for their next court date or had appealed the charges and were waiting for a retrial.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Citizens and organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts, with the exception that military courts handle claims for civil remedies for alleged security force abuses in civil disturbances during the revolution. Civilian courts heard cases involving alleged abuse by security forces during the year. Some cases did not move forward because security force officials, and occasionally civilian judges, failed to cooperate in the investigations. According to HRW, the lack of provisions criminalizing command dereliction, which would hold senior officers liable for crimes committed by subordinates with explicit or tacit approval, contributed to military courts’ light sentences for security force members.

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

The constitution provides for the right to privacy. The International Commission of Jurists claimed the counterterrorism law extensively infringes on the right to privacy through the use of surveillance. The law allows interception of communications, including recording of telephone conversations, with advance judicial approval for a period not to exceed four months. Government agents are subject to a one-year prison sentence if they conduct surveillance without judicial authorization. No complaints were filed against government agents for improper use of surveillance during the year.

According to the ODL, authorities harassed family members and close associates of the 22 individuals originally arrested for their suspected involvement in the 2015 Bardo Museum attack. Even after these individuals were released from custody for lack of evidence, the ODL stated their relatives were targets of increased police harassment, in some cases sufficient to prevent the conduct of their normal lives. Similarly, AI reported that security forces continued to harass a number of individuals after being investigated on terrorism-related charges even though they were no longer a part of a trial or investigation. These individuals were reportedly subjected to house raids without judicial warrants, arbitrary arrest and interrogations, and summons to police stations. Several human rights organizations also noted that individuals who were subject to the “S17” (border control list) security-related travel restrictions (see section 2.d) and their family members also continued to face increased police harassment.

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 mainly respected this right, although there were constraints. An independent press and a functioning democratic political system contributed to an environment generally conducive to this freedom. Some media outlets and civil society expressed concerns over security forces and other actors committing violence against journalists, occasional government interference in media, a perception the government or individual ministries were using negative media stories to discredit the work of civil society organizations, and the concentration of media ownership in the hands of a few political parties or families.

Freedom of Expression: Public speech considered offensive to “public morals” or “public decency,” terms undefined in the law, continued to be treated as criminal acts. Provisions of the penal and telecommunications codes, for example, criminalize speech that causes “harm to the public order or public morals” or intentionally disturbs persons “in a way that offends the sense of public decency.”

Press and Media Freedom: Activists expressed concern about government interference in media and in the concentration of media ownership. UN Special Rapporteur Emmerson noted concerns about the use of counterterrorism law and other legislative acts against journalists. In particular, journalists and several press freedom advocacy groups expressed concern that the government did not always respect laws regulating the work of journalists and providing journalists legal protections, including the abolishment of prison sentences for criminal defamation and other speech offenses. Article 19, an international NGO, called for reforms to the penal code and military justice code, which NGOs stated were used to target journalists, lawyers, and civil society activists. The codes criminalize defamation, false allegations against members of an administrative or judicial authority, and attacks against the “dignity, reputation, or morale of the army.”

In November 2016 prosecutors charged journalist Rached Khiari with impugning the reputation of the army and undermining its morale after his participation in a popular talk show during which he claimed that authorities signed an agreement allowing the United States to establish a military base in the country. He faced charges of up to three years in prison and was being tried in a military court, although he was a civilian. He faced additional charges of defamation of a civil servant and damaging the morale of the army to harm national defense, which carries a possible death penalty. As of September Khiari had not been arrested, and his case was still undergoing the appeals process.

Violence and Harassment: Security officials continued to harass and threaten journalists, according to human rights organizations. The NGO Tunis Center for Press Freedom (CTLP) reported 14 assaults and attacks on journalists between October 2016 and February 4, of which 58 percent were committed by security forces. The National Union of Tunisian Journalists expressed concerns about growing pressure exerted on local journalists and foreign media correspondents after an Israeli journalist traveled to the country to report on the December 2016 assassination in the country of engineer Mohamed Zouari, who was linked to Hamas. While the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) noted a decreasing number of attacks against journalists between March and August, it stressed assaults against journalists were still committed by security forces–mostly police or security guards during public events to prevent press coverage. The OHCHR attributed the decrease in part to the reduced number of large social gatherings during the year.

AI condemned the conviction in May of two journalists for criticizing a violent raid by security forces on their family home in Tozeur, purportedly to search for their brother, who was suspected of having extreme religious views. Following their criticism of these tactics, Salam Malik, president of the Tunisian Union for Media Association and director of the radio station Djerid FM, was sentenced to six months in prison by a court in Tozeur on May 10. His sister, Salwa Malik, director of programming at the radio station, received a six-month suspended sentence the same day. On appeal their sentences were reduced to a fine.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The government penalized individuals who published items counter to government guidelines. While online and print media frequently published articles critical of the government, journalists and activists at times practiced self-censorship to avoid violence targeting journalists, mainly from security forces or other anonymous attackers, according to the CTLP.

The Committee to Protect Journalists reported officers from the National Guard’s Central Investigation Brigade interrogated Sami Ben Gharbia, the cofounder of the independent news website Nawaat on May 3, demanding he reveal the sources of an April 24 article in which he published a draft economic and financial reconciliation law. The officers also demanded he supply the contact information of all journalists who worked on the article.

Libel/Slander Laws: Various civil society organizations expressed concern about the use of criminal libel laws to stifle freedom of expression. HRW highlighted the case of Nabil Rabhi, a blogger arrested on July 23 for Facebook posts in which he criticized Hafedh Caid Essebsi, the executive director of the Nida Tounes Party and son of the president, as well as other prominent members of the party. He was charged with defaming President Caid Essebsi and his family, sentenced on August 5 to six months in prison, and fined 1,200 dinars ($490). Rabhi appealed and was released from prison on October 22, after serving half of the sentence.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without legal authority. There was no censorship of websites, including those with pornographic content, with the exception of websites linked to terrorist organizations. According to Internet World Stats, 50.5 percent of the population used the internet.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no reports of government restrictions on academic freedom.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the rights of freedom of peaceful assembly and association. The state of emergency limited the right of assembly, although the government allowed limited protests to occur. The government did not always respect the right of association.

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

The law provides for the freedom of peaceful assembly, and the government generally respected these rights. Human rights organizations credited police with taking measures to improve their response to protests, and, in contrast to 2016, there were no reports of violence by security forces during public protests. There was one security force fatality as a result of actions by protesters (see section 1.a.).

AI and FTDES reported that in a few cases the government intimidated peaceful protesters through the use of absentia sentences. According to a FTDES report in May, several protesters in Gafsa received absentia court sentences for violation of article 136 of the penal code, which sets forth prison sentences for impeding commercial activity (see section 1.e).

According to the International Center for Non-Profit Law, the primary barriers to assembly are a requirement to notify authorities at least three days before an assembly and the broad grounds upon which the government may object to an assembly.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for the right of freedom of association, but the government did not always respect it. A 2011 law on associations eliminated penalties in the previous law, as well as the prohibition on belonging to, or serving in, an unrecognized or dissolved association. The law eased the registration procedure, making it more difficult for government entities to hinder or delay registration. Several independent monitoring organizations asserted, however, that the government delayed registration of associations through unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles, at times for political reasons, a practice counter to the law. As of September the government reported there were 20,758 registered associations. In some cases the government issued warnings to associations for violations of the law, temporarily suspended their operations, or initiated their legal dissolution.

According to the 2011 law, only the judiciary has the authority to suspend or dissolve an association. On June 12, the prime minister issued a communique that gave all civil society groups one month to submit financial reports to the government detailing foreign assistance or donations. Foreign funding may come only from a country with diplomatic relations with Tunisia. According to the Prime Minister’s Office, 16 associations were dissolved by a court decision since 2011 on the grounds that these associations did not provide justification for funds received from abroad. Between May 2016 and June 2017, authorities suspended the activities of an additional 50 associations for failure to make public their financial sources or adequately to report foreign sources of funds, according to the government watchdog NGO, I-Watch. These associations were requested to provide additional information about their financing or risk dissolution. The Prime Minister’s Office claimed that proper procedure was followed in all cases.

On June 6, the court of Tunis announced a one-month suspension of the Islamist party Hizb Ettahrir’s activities for violating the law of associations. The court concurred with the accusation submitted by the Ministry of Relations with Constitutional Bodies, Civil Society, and Human Rights that the party incited hatred, violated constitutional principles, and advocated for the establishment of an Islamic state. A Hizb Ettahrir spokesperson asserted the party had been neither informed about the legal judgment nor asked to testify. The party resumed its normal activities following the suspension.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

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

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

In-country Movement: In its 2016 report, the ODL estimated more than 100,000 individuals were on a border control order list known as “S17.” Originally created to restrict individuals’ movement outside the country, the ODL stated the government was also using this list to restrict internal travel. The ODL and other human rights groups explained that if a police officer stopped an individual for a routine traffic stop or at a police checkpoint, the individual’s name would be run through electronic security databases. If the individual was on the “S17” list, the individual would often be held pending approval from the officer’s superior to be released or brought to a police station for hours of interrogation. These civil society groups noted lack of transparency surrounding this list, as well as police inconsistency handling those listed, leaving many individuals without recourse to address limitations on their freedom of movement.

Since 2014 more than 500 individuals filed complaints with the ODL, claiming the government prevented them from traveling, due to suspicions of extremism, in some cases apparently based on the travelers’ religious attire. The group added that some persons were prevented from traveling despite having a clean record, because they were related to a terrorist suspect. In other cases the observatory claimed that women were prevented from traveling if suspected of prostitution, often based on appearance alone. The Ministry of Interior noted that as of August, 1,869 individuals were prevented from traveling because they had not met legal requirement to travel or because the ministry had reason to suspect they would travel to international conflict zones.

Foreign Travel: On May 23, parliament passed an amendment to the 1975 Law on Passports, including new provisions requiring that authorities promptly inform those affected by travel restrictions or who have had their passports seized the reasons for these decisions. In addition the new amendment provides that the affected individuals have the right to challenge the decision and sets a maximum of 14 months during which their travel can be restricted before requiring another court order. While human rights groups viewed this amendment positively, they noted the changes were not consistently applied and security forces did not always respect court decisions to reverse travel restrictions.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The country does not have a law for granting asylum or refugee status. The Ministry of Interior noted it coordinated regularly with UNHCR in spite of the absence of this legal framework. Pending the creation of a legal framework, UNHCR is the sole entity conducting refugee status determination. UNHCR provided assistance to registered refugees for primary medical care and, in some cases, for basic education. The government granted access to schooling and basic public health facilities for registered refugees. When UNHCR ceased providing assistance to the Shousha camp for refugees from Libya in 2013, the camp still housed more than 300 persons who had been denied refugee status. On June 19, security forces attempted to evacuate the remaining occupants of the camp, as part of a highly publicized government initiative to convert the land into a free trade zone. In September, UNHCR reported that after the resettlement and return of many of the original occupants, 33 persons remained in the area where the camp once existed. Of those, three had been recognized as having a claim to refugee status, with the rest having been determined after an evaluative process to be migrants.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. On February 2, parliament passed an electoral law that codified regulations regarding municipal and local elections, as well as granting members of the armed forces and security services the right to vote. Security forces had historically been denied suffrage on the grounds that the security forces must be “completely impartial.”

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Citizens exercised their ability to vote in free, fair, and transparent elections in 2014 for legislative and two rounds of presidential elections.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Of the approximately 200 registered parties, 70 ran electoral lists in the 2014 parliamentary elections. Authorities rejected parties that did not receive accreditation due to incomplete applications or because their programs were inconsistent with laws prohibiting discrimination and parties based on religion.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit participation of women and/or members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate. Women continued to be politically active but faced societal barriers to their political participation.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government took some preliminary steps to implement these laws, although they were not always effective, according to transparency NGOs.

The National Commission to Combat Corruption (INLUCC), an independent body established in 2011 to investigate and prevent corruption and to draft policies to combat corruption, continued to process corruption cases. In July the president of the commission, Chawki Tabib, testified before parliament’s Finance, Planning and Development Committee that the budget (less than two million dinars or $820,000) was insufficient to carry out its mandate to conduct investigations, support civil society, and put in place a research center.

In a January 26 statement, Tabib said two billion dinars ($816 million) was lost annually to corruption and the lack of adequate governance mechanisms in public transactions. According to Tabib, the INLUCC received more than 9,000 cases in 2016. Of the cases INLUCC received in 2016 and 2017, more than 200 cases were determined to meet the legal definition of corruption and have enough corroborating evidence to warrant further legal action. On October 21, Tabib reported the INLUCC had transmitted these cases to the Ministry of Justice and that, of these cases, up to 80 were transportation-related, ranging from bribes for driving licenses to “major corruption” related to infrastructure projects.

On February 22, parliament passed a comprehensive whistleblower protection law that gives a clear definition of whistleblower, outlines procedures for reporting corruption and protecting those who report it, and toughens prison sentences against those who assault or threaten whistleblowers. Political parties and civil society leaders praised the new law.

In October civil society representatives reported that, although the new commission created by the 2016 information law was not operational and public awareness about the law was limited, the law itself had been implemented in most cases. The information law grants citizens access to documents from public institutions, government agencies, and certain publicly financed associations and requires public entities to make information about their offices, including budgets and contact information, publicly available online.

On September 13, parliament adopted the Administrative Reconciliation Law, which offers amnesty to civil servants for acts of corruption committed prior to the 2011 revolution, provided that the individuals did not obtain personal benefit from the corruption. The amnesty does not apply to acts of corruption related to accepting bribes or embezzlement of public funds. Proponents of the bill, including the two largest political parties, asserted the law was necessary for economic growth and national reconciliation. Opponents criticized the law as contrary to the government’s stated goals of fighting corruption and characterized the law’s passage as offering amnesty for the corrupt.

Corruption: Following the passage of the access to information and whistleblower protection laws, the government initiated an anticorruption campaign led by the prime minister. A series of arrests and investigations targeted well-known businessmen, politicians, journalists, police officers, and customs officials. Preliminary charges included embezzlement, fraud, and taking bribes. On May 23, authorities arrested a businessman with political ties to the Nida Tounes party, Chafik Jarraya, and seven other prominent businessmen, including two former customs officials. Jarraya remained in detention as of November, accused of smuggling and embezzlement, as well as conspiracy against the safety of the state and complicity with a foreign government. His trial, to be held in the military rather than civilian court, was postposed to February 2018. Another businessman arrested on May 23, Yassine Chennoufi, was under house arrest until his transfer to Mornaguia prison on October 2. He was charged in a money laundering case that included several customs officials.

While many expressed full support to the prime minister’s campaign and urged him to take further steps, a number of human rights organizations criticized the use of the state of emergency law as the basis for the arrests. They expressed concern that it gives the government full discretion to try civilians before a military court rather than a civilian one.

Financial Disclosure: The constitution requires those holding high government offices to declare assets “as provided by law.” At year’s end there was no law requiring appointed or elected officials to disclose their income or assets.

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

A wide variety of domestic and international human rights groups investigated and published without government restriction their findings on human rights cases. Government officials generally were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The government’s primary agency to investigate human rights violations and combat threats to human rights is the Ministry of Justice. Human rights organizations contended, however, that the ministry failed to pursue or investigate adequately alleged human rights violations. Within the President’s Office, the High Committee for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms is a government-funded agency charged with monitoring human rights and advising the president on related topics. The Ministry of Relations with Constitutional Bodies, Civil Society, and Human Rights has responsibility for coordinating government activities related to human rights, such as proposing legislation, representing the government before international bodies such as the UN Human Rights Council, and preparing human rights reports.

The Truth and Dignity Commission (IVD) was established in 2014 to investigate gross violations of human rights committed by the government or those who acted in its name; it began hearing cases in 2016. The IVD received 62,326 complaints and petitions, according to the 2017 UPR. Of these cases, the IVD held 13,165 hearings for victims and broadcast six public hearings in the media between November 2016 and January 2017. As of October it processed approximately 45,000 cases. Civil society organizations noted the IVD faced criticism from certain factions of the governing coalition. While the IVD concurred that some government opposition hampered its work, it noted the Ministry of Finance approved its budget, removing previous financial constraints.

The government established the INPT in 2013 to respond to allegations of torture and mistreatment (see section 1.c.).

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: On June 27, parliament unanimously passed a comprehensive law addressing all forms of gender-based violence, including physical, economic, and social violence. It broadly defines violence against women as “any restriction denying women equality in the civil, political, economic, social, or cultural domains.” The law, which enjoyed widespread support from both political parties and civil society organizations, adds or updates articles in the Penal Code to meet international best practices. The law criminalizes previously uncovered acts of incest, sexual harassment of women in public places, and gender discrimination.

Rape remained a taboo and cultural pressures often dissuaded victims from reporting sexual assault.

Laws prohibiting domestic violence provide penalties for assault committed by a spouse or family member that are double those of an unrelated individual for the same crime, but enforcement was rare, and domestic violence remained a serious problem. The new law strengthens the penalties for domestic violence and allows women to seek restraining orders against their abusers without filing a criminal case or filing for divorce.

There were no government public education programs on domestic violence, including rape. Victims received services at two dozen social centers throughout the country.

Sexual Harassment: In the new gender-based violence law, the article related to sexual harassment was revised. It allows up to a two-year sentence for the harasser and a 5,000-dinar ($2,040) fine, instead of the previous one year in prison. The law further clarifies that sexual harassment can include any act, gesture, or words with sexual connotation. The punishment is doubled if the victim is a child or the perpetrator has authority over the victim.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: The constitution and law explicitly prohibit discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status, and the government generally enforced these prohibitions. Women faced societal rather than statutory barriers to their economic and political participation. Codified civil law is based on the Napoleonic code, although on occasion, judges drew upon interpretations of sharia (Islamic law) as a basis for customary law in family and inheritance disputes.

Newly married couples must state explicitly in the marriage contract whether they elect to combine their possessions or to keep them separate. On September 14, the government cancelled the 1973 decree law that prevented the marriage of Muslim female citizens with non-Muslim men unless the men presented proof of conversion to Islam. Sharia requires men, but not women, to provide for their families. Because of this expectation, in some instances sharia inheritance law provides men with a larger share of an inheritance. Some families avoided the application of sharia by executing sales contracts between parents and children to ensure that daughters received shares of property equal to those given sons. Non-Muslim women and their Muslim husbands may not inherit from each other. The government considers all children of those marriages to be Muslim and forbids those children from inheriting from their mothers. Spouses may, however, freely give up to a third of their estate to whomever they designate in their will.

The law explicitly requires equal pay for equal work, and the government generally enforced it. The law allows female employees in the public sector to receive two-thirds of their full-time salary for half-time work, provided they have at least one child under 16 or a child with special needs, regardless of age. Qualifying women may apply for the benefit for a three-year period, renewable twice for a maximum of nine years. Societal and cultural barriers significantly reduced women’s participation in the formal labor force, particularly in managerial positions. Women in the private sector earned on average one-quarter less than men for similar work. The new law on gender-based violence contains provisions aimed at eliminating the gender-based wage gap.

The government initiated a “Council of Peers” during the year, with participation of each ministry and the major labor organizations, to institutionalize changes to promote gender sensitivity and integration at all levels of public administration, including budget proposals and government programs.

Gender-biased Sex Selection: The ratio of boy-to-girl births was 107 to 100. There was no information on any government efforts to examine whether this imbalance was due to gender-biased sex selection.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth from one’s parents, and the law provides for a period of 10 days to register a newborn. Thereafter, parents have 30 days to explain why they failed to register a newborn and complete the registration. Female citizens can transmit citizenship on an equal basis with male citizens, and there is no discrimination between a mother and father regarding passport application and authorization to leave the country.

Child Abuse: As of October the government reported that police officers received 398 complaints of violence and 570 of sexual assaults against children. The Ministry of Women, Family, and Childhood designated 21 psychologists to treat victims and announced its collaboration with civil society to provide increased services for child victims in shelters in Sousse, Sfax, and Tunis.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage for both sexes is 18, but the courts may, in certain situations, authorize the marriage of persons younger than 18 upon the request and approval of both parents.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Anyone who has sexual relations with a girl under age 10 is subject to the death penalty. The new comprehensive law against gender-based violence addresses all forms of gender-based violence. Under previous laws, intercourse with a girl under the age of 15 without the use of violence was punishable by six years in prison; the new law raised the age of consent to 16 and removed a clause in the legal code that allowed the court to drop the charges of sex with a minor if the perpetrator agreed to marry the victim, with the approval of her parents. The law prohibits child pornography.

In September the Ministry of Social Affairs announced that it organized training for 54 social workers during the year related to the prevention of sexual violence against children, particularly girls.

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

Anti-Semitism

An estimated 1,400 Jews lived in the country. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts as of September.

On May 14-15, an annual Jewish pilgrimage took place on the island of Djerba. Local media estimated participation at up to 4,000 persons. The event took place without incident and included the participation of several government ministers. Leaders in the Jewish community and government publicly praised the pilgrimage as a sign of the excellent relationship between the Jewish and Muslim communities.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical or mental disabilities. It mandates that at least 2 percent of public- and private-sector jobs be reserved for persons with disabilities. NGOs reported authorities did not widely enforce this law, and many employers were not aware of it.

Since 1991 the law requires all new public buildings to be accessible to persons with physical disabilities, and the government generally enforced the law. Persons with physical disabilities did not have access to most buildings built before 1991. The government did not ensure access to information and communications.

The Ministry of Social Affairs is charged with protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. The government issued cards to persons with disabilities for benefits such as unrestricted parking, free and priority medical services, free and preferential seating on public transportation, and consumer discounts. The government provided tax incentives to companies to encourage the hiring of persons with physical disabilities. There were approximately 300 government-administered schools for children with disabilities, five schools for blind pupils, one higher-education school, and one vocational training institution. The Ministry of Social Affairs managed centers that provided short- and long-term accommodation and medical services to persons with disabilities who lacked other means of support.

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

The law criminalizes sodomy. Convictions carry up to a three-year prison sentence. According to NGOs, authorities occasionally use the law against sodomy to detain and question persons about their sexual activities and orientation, reportedly at times based on appearance alone. In other instances LGBTI individuals were targeted under the article of the penal code that criminalizes infringement of morality or public morals with six months in prison and a fine of 1,000 dinars ($408). LGBTI-focused NGOs reported at least 45 known cases of arrests under the sodomy law as of September and 150 violent assaults committed against LGBTI individuals. Human rights organizations and LGBTI-focused NGOs stated that police and the courts often ordered men suspected of sodomy to take a rectal exam in order to collect evidence.

On March 29, Shams association, a local LGBTI advocacy group, released a documentary highlighting testimonies from LGBTI individuals who were violently assaulted for their sexuality by security forces and others. On April 3, the National Council of the Medical Order in Tunisia issued a statement calling for doctors to cease conducting forced anal and genital examinations. Despite praise by NGOs such as HRW, Shams asserts that the statement has neither deterred these exams nor reduced the rate of individuals being sentenced to jail under the sodomy law, since judges often assumed guilt of individuals who refused to submit voluntarily to an exam.

On March 10, Achraf Bouasker and Sabri Chehdi were sentenced to eight months in prison for homosexuality after being arrested in December 2016 at a train station in Sousse. The police officer reported that he caught them in the midst of a sexual act; the two men denied it, claiming that the officer targeted them for their appearance only. In an effort to prove their innocence, they voluntarily submitted to a rectal exam. An appeal in court continued.

Anecdotal evidence suggested LGBTI individuals faced increasing discrimination and violence, including death and rape threats, although societal stigma and fear of prosecution under sodomy laws discouraged individuals from reporting problems, according to a Euromed report released in September 2016. Due to societal intolerance of same-sex sexual relationships, LGBTI individuals were discreet, and there was no information on official discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, access to education, or health care, although the Euromed report cited widespread anecdotal evidence of systemic denial of services to LGBTI individuals due to their sexual orientation.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides workers with the right to organize, form and join unions, and bargain collectively. The law allows workers to strike, provided they give 10 days’ advance notice to their federations and receive Ministry of Interior approval. The International Trade Union Confederation and the International Labor Organization characterized the requirement for strike notification as an impediment to freedom of association. The right to strike extends to civil servants, with the exception of workers in essential services “whose interruption would endanger the lives, safety, or health of all or a section of the population.” The government did not explicitly stipulate which services were “essential.” Authorities largely respected the right to strike in public enterprises and services. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination by employers and retribution against strikers. The government generally enforced applicable laws.

Conciliation panels with equal labor and management representation settled many labor disputes. Otherwise, representatives from the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT), and the Tunisian Union for Industry, Commerce, and Handicrafts (UTICA) formed tripartite regional commissions to arbitrate disputes. Observers generally saw the tripartite commissions as effective.

Unions rarely sought advance approval to strike. Wildcat strikes (those not authorized by union leadership) occurred throughout the year but at a level reduced from previous years, according to labor rights organizations. Sector-based unions carried out some strikes and sit-ins, such as those in education and health services and in extractive industries. Even if not authorized, the Ministry of Interior tolerated many strikes if confined to a limited geographic area.

The UGTT alleged antiunion practices among private-sector employers, including firing of union activists and using temporary workers to deter unionization. In certain industries, such as textiles, hotels, and construction, temporary workers continued to account for a significant majority of the workforce. UTICA, along with the government, maintained an exclusive relationship with the UGTT in reaching collective bargaining agreements. The government held organized collective social negotiations only with the UGTT. Representatives from the General Confederation of Tunisian Labor and the Union of Tunisian Workers complained their labor organizations were ignored and excluded from tripartite negotiations.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced and compulsory labor and provides for penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment for capturing, detaining, or sequestering a person for forced labor. The government effectively enforced most applicable codes dealing with forced labor. While penalties were sufficient to deter many violations, transgressions still occurred in the informal sector.

Some forced labor and forced child labor occurred in the form of domestic work in third-party households, begging, street vending, and seasonal agricultural work (see section 7.c.).

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law generally prohibits the employment of children younger than 16. Persons under 18 are prohibited from working in jobs that present serious threats to their health, security, or morality. The minimum age for light work in the nonindustrial and agricultural sectors during nonschool hours is 13. Workers between the ages of 14 and 18 must have 12 hours of rest per day, which must include the hours between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Children between the ages of 14 and 16 may work no more than two hours per day. The total time that children spend at school and work may not exceed seven hours per day. The penal code provides for penalties of up to two years’ imprisonment for forced child begging. The penalties were adequate to deter violations.

Labor inspectors from the Ministry of Social Affairs monitored compliance with the minimum age law by examining the records of employees. The number of inspectors and resources at their disposal lagged behind economic growth. According to ministry officials, the labor inspectorate did not have adequate resources to monitor fully the informal economy, officially estimated to constitute 38 percent of GDP. Some estimates placed the total percentage of the informal sector as greater than 60 percent. Occasionally, labor inspectors coordinated spot checks with the UGTT and the Ministry of Education.

The Ministry of Women, Family, and Childhood noted its annual report published in March that it received 112 cases related to child labor in 2016. Of these, approximately 48 percent dealt with children who worked as beggars and another 29 percent who were working in the informal commercial sector. Children were subjected to commercial sexual exploitation and used in illicit activities, including drug trafficking (see section 6, Children).

The Ministry of Employment and Vocational Training and the Ministry of Social Affairs worked together to implement the National Action Plan to Eliminate Child Labor, to discourage children and parents from entering the informal labor market at an early age through the use of vocational training centers and to encourage youth to stay in school through secondary school, to stem the estimated 100,000 dropouts per year. The Ministry of Education also incorporated vocational training into secondary school curriculums. The ministry stated that such efforts resulted in the return of 15,000 dropouts to their studies in 2016.

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

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law and regulations prohibit employment discrimination regarding race, sex, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation and gender identity, HIV-positive status or presence of other communicable diseases, or social status. The government did not always effectively enforce those laws and regulations due to lack of resources and difficulty in identifying when employers’ traditional attitudes toward gender identity or sexual orientation resulted in discriminatory employment practices (see section 6).

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The labor code provides for a range of administratively determined minimum wages. On March 10, tripartite negotiations led to an agreement on private sector wages, which included a two-year 6-percent general wage increase and a 6-percent increase in bonuses. On June 6, the government announced a 6-percent wage increase and a new monthly minimum wage for a 40-hour workweek for industrial workers of 306 dinars ($125), and a daily minimum wage for agricultural-sector workers of 13.8 dinars ($5.63) for basic workers and 15 dinars ($6.10) for highly qualified workers. In 2015 the Ministry of Social Affairs, the UGTT, and the Tunisian Union of Agriculture and Fishing reached an agreement to improve labor conditions and salaries in agricultural work to match those in the industrial sector. The agreement allows for the protection of rural women against dangerous employment conditions, sets safety standards for handling of hazardous materials, and gives tax incentives for agricultural employers to provide training for workers.

The law sets a maximum standard 48-hour workweek for manual work in the industrial and agricultural sectors and requires one 24-hour rest period per week. For administrative jobs in the private- and public-sectors, the workweek is 40 hours with 125-percent premium pay for overtime. The law prohibits excessive compulsory overtime. Depending on years of service, employees are statutorily awarded 18 to 23 days of paid vacation annually. Although there is no standard practice for reporting labor code violations, workers have the right to report violations to regional labor inspectors.

Special government regulations control employment in hazardous occupations, such as mining, petroleum engineering, and construction. Workers were free to remove themselves from dangerous situations without jeopardizing their employment, and they could take legal action against employers who retaliated against them for exercising this right. The Ministry of Social Affairs is responsible for enforcing health and safety standards in the workplace. Under the law all workers, including those in the informal sector, are afforded the same occupational safety and health protections. UGTT representatives noted that these health and safety standards were not adequately enforced. Regional labor inspectors were also responsible for enforcing standards related to hourly wage regulations. In 2016 the country’s 347 labor inspectors visited most firms approximately once every two years. In 2016 the Ministry of Women, Family, and Childhood also had 83 inspectors specifically assigned as child protection delegates distributed throughout the country. The government did not adequately enforce the minimum-wage law, particularly in nonunionized sectors of the economy. The prohibition against excessive compulsory overtime was not always enforced.

Working conditions and standards generally were better in export-oriented firms, which were mostly foreign owned, than in those firms producing exclusively for the domestic market. According to World Bank statistics, the informal sector employed more than 54 percent of the total workforce, more than half of which was women. According to the government and NGOs, labor laws did not adequately cover the informal sector, where labor violations were reportedly more prevalent. Temporary contract laborers complained they were not afforded the same protections as permanent employees. There were no major industrial accidents during the year. Credible data on workplace accidents, injuries, and fatalities were not available.