Burma

Executive Summary

Burma’s military overthrew the democratically elected civilian government via a coup d’etat on February 1, declaring a state of emergency and transferring all executive, legislative, and judicial authorities to the State Administration Council, an authoritarian military-run administrative organization led by armed forces commander in chief Min Aung Hlaing. The military detained key elected civilian leaders and dissolved all national and subnational legislatures, including the Union Parliament, forcing many elected members to flee their homes and offices or face potential arrest. On February 5, elected parliamentarians from the National League for Democracy and allied political parties formed the Committee Representing the Union Parliament, which subsequently declared the regime “illegitimate” and the 2008 constitution abolished before proclaiming a “National Unity Government” on April 16.

The Myanmar Police Force is primarily responsible for internal security. The Border Guard Police is administratively part of the Myanmar Police Force but operationally distinct. Both fall under the regime’s Ministry of Home Affairs, led by an active-duty military general and itself subordinate to the military command. The armed forces under the Ministry of Defense are responsible for external security but are engaged almost exclusively in internal activities, including combat against ethnic armed groups. Members of the regime security forces continued to commit numerous gross violations of human rights.

Regime security forces arrested State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, and other leading members of the civilian government and National League for Democracy on February 1. Nationwide prodemocracy protests following the coup and the Civil Disobedience Movement, continuing as of November, opposed and disrupted efforts by the regime to exert full administrative control over governing institutions. The regime responded with repressive tactics such as the mass arrest of its political opponents and the use of widespread lethal violence against unarmed persons, including men, women, and children. Fighting between the military and ethnic armed organizations escalated, and the National Unity Government announced on April 16 that it would establish armed People’s Defense Force groups that would cooperate with various ethnic armed organizations.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings; forced disappearances; torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment and punishment by the regime; gender-based violence by the regime; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners or detainees; politically motivated reprisals against individuals in another country; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; punishment of family members for offenses allegedly committed by an individual; serious abuses in a conflict, including reportedly unlawful or widespread civilian harm, enforced disappearances or abductions, and torture and physical abuses or punishment; unlawful recruitment or use of child soldiers; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence or threats of violence against journalists, unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists, and censorship; and the existence of criminal libel laws; substantial interference with the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association; particularly severe restrictions on religious freedom; restrictions on freedom of movement; the inability of citizens to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence; trafficking in persons; crimes involving violence or threats targeting members of national and ethnic minority groups; the existence of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults, although those laws were rarely enforced; significant restrictions on workers’ freedom of association, including violence and threats against labor activists; and the use of forced and child labor, including the worst forms of child labor.

There continued to be almost complete impunity for abuses by the regime security forces. There was no credible information that the regime took actions to prosecute or punish officials responsible for human rights abuses or corruption.

Some ethnic armed organizations and Peoples Defense Force groups or members committed human rights abuses, including killings, disappearances, physical abuse and degrading treatment, and failure to protect local populations in conflict zones.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

There were numerous reports that regime security forces committed arbitrary or unlawful killings of civilians, prisoners, and other persons in their power. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), which noted that the actual number was likely to be much higher, there were 1,300 verified reports of persons killed by the regime as of November 22. Some ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) and Peoples Defense Force (PDF) groups or members committed human rights abuses, including killings, disappearances, physical abuse and degrading treatment, and failure to protect local populations in conflict zones (see also section 1.g.). Examples include the following.

On February 9, Mya Thwate Khaing was shot in the head by police while peacefully protesting the military coup in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw. She was taken to the hospital but died of her injuries several days later. Her death was widely considered the first fatality in the protest movement that began on February 2.

On February 28, regime security forces killed as many as 26 persons in eight cities and injured scores during a day of massive nationwide demonstrations against the regime. According to multiple media reports, eyewitnesses accounts, and documentary evidence, police arrested hundreds and used tear gas, flash-bang grenades, rubber bullets, and live rounds in confronting demonstrators.

On March 11, regime security forces shot and killed at least 11 persons in five cities according to multiple media reports, eyewitness accounts, and photographic evidence. Regime security forces used live rounds against unarmed demonstrators in addition to the use of tear gas, flash-bang grenades, and rubber bullets.

On March 27, a national holiday known as Armed Forces Day, regime security forces killed more than 100, including 13 children, across the country according to media reports, eyewitness accounts, and social media posts. Regime security forces met demonstrations on March 28 with further violence, killing at least 22 more individuals.

According to media reports, in April regime security forces continued to kill demonstrators and other civilians, including, on April 9, at least 28 persons in Bago Region. The killing came as regime security forces confronted demonstrators and sought to clear residents’ makeshift barricades.

In May the Chin Human Rights Organization reported that the military cremated the bodies of two civilians who were allegedly tortured to death by regime security forces in Chin State’s capital Hakha.

In July local media reported the death of 40 civilians allegedly killed by the military in Sagaing’s Kani Township. According to a local resident who spoke with the news website Irrawaddy, “Junta troops raided our villages. We fled and found corpses when we came back to the villages.”

In July local media reported the rape and killing of a 55-year-old woman by three soldiers in Kachin State. The military acknowledged the incident after the family filed a complaint, but no action was known to have been taken against the alleged perpetrators.

In September local media reported the King Cobra civilian defense group killed an alleged regime informant in Sagaing Region. King Cobra claimed its members committed 26 other killings.

AAPP alleged that at least 100 political prisoners died due to torture inflicted by authorities between February 1 and September 9. Well-known poet Khet Thi, who wrote the line, “They shoot in the head, but they don’t know the revolution is in the heart,” was reportedly tortured to death by regime security forces. The 45-year-old was detained on May 8 and died the following day in transit to the hospital in Monywa, Magway Region.

b. Disappearance

There were numerous reports of disappearances allegedly committed by the regime.

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

The law prohibits torture; however, members of regime security forces reportedly tortured and otherwise abused suspects, prisoners, detainees, and others. Such incidents occurred, for example, during interrogations and were widely documented across the country. Alleged harsh interrogation techniques were designed to intimidate and disorient and included severe beatings and deprivation of food, water, and sleep. Other reported interrogation methods described in news reports included rubbing salt into wounds and depriving individuals of oxygen until they passed out.

A 19-year-old prodemocracy supporter told local media that on April 9, he was taken to a military compound on the outskirts of Bago Township, Bago Region where “the commander tied my hands from the back and used small scissors to cut my ears, the tip of my nose, my neck and my throat.”

In April media reported regime forces struck Wai Moe Naing, a high-profile Muslim protest leader and a Muslim, with an unmarked vehicle during a motorbike demonstration in Monywa.

Transgender writer Han Nwe Oo shared on social media that while in detention she was ridiculed for being transgender, sexually assaulted, and faced “atrocious” interrogation for two days at a military camp inside Mandalay Palace, Mandalay Region in September.

According to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), women in custody were subjected to sexual assault, gender-based violence, and verbal abuse. Police in some cases verbally abused women who reported rape. Women who reported sexual assault faced further abuse by police and the possibility of being sued for impugning the dignity of the perpetrator. On July 19, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders noted “[w]omen human rights defenders are particularly at risk in remote rural areas and are often beaten and kicked before being sent to prison where they may face torture and sexual violence with no medical care provided.”

In one case in April, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that security force members severely beat and sexually assaulted a female detainee accused of involvement in small-scale bomb attacks against regime targets in Rangoon. Her injuries were so severe she struggled to eat or urinate. Her cellmate reported similar treatment.

Also in April, local media reported that a high school student from Rangoon was arrested with her mother and described how she was “touched by a police officer who told me he could kill me and make me disappear.”

In Rangoon a journalist detained in March told media he witnessed police burn a detained female journalist with cigarettes and threaten to rape her if she did not provide information on her involvement in prodemocracy activities.

Impunity for rights abuses was pervasive for security force leaders and members. There was no credible evidence that the regime took action to investigate incidents or punish alleged perpetrators of abuses or to include human rights training as part of its overall training of regime security forces. The regime routinely denied responsibility for atrocities. For example, in April local media reported that the regime issued a blanket denial of abuses during a meeting with the UN special envoy for Burma, rejecting her allegations as “one-sided,” while denying it had killed children, among other atrocities.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in prisons, labor camps, and military detention facilities were reportedly harsh and frequently life threatening due to overcrowding; degrading and abusive treatment; and inadequate access to medical care (including COVID-19 treatment) and basic needs, including food, shelter, and hygiene.

Physical Conditions: There were 48 known prisons and 50 known labor camps in 2020. Women and men were held separately. Some prisons held pretrial detainees together with convicted prisoners. Children were sometimes held in pretrial detention with adults. More than 20,000 inmates were serving court-mandated sentences in labor camps located across the country in 2020; data were not available for the reporting year. The Associated Press reported on October 28 that the military had transformed dozens of public facilities (e.g., community halls) into interrogation centers across the country after the coup.

Several reports document poor conditions within prison facilities, including inadequate sewage systems, insufficient – and often inedible – rations, and a lack of basic necessities. Overcrowding was reportedly a serious problem in many prisons and labor camps. According to AAPP, occupancy at Insein Prison, the country’s largest, was nearly three times its intended capacity prior to the military coup.

Medical care was inadequate, and this reportedly contributed to deaths in custody. Prisons failed to adopt measures to protect prisoners from COVID-19, and there were widespread reports of COVID-19 transmission, illness, and deaths among prisoners. Despite regular regime reporting at national and subnational levels on COVID-19 cases and deaths, the regime failed to make data available on the impact of COVID-19 in prisons. According to AAPP, COVID-19 vaccinations were limited only to high-profile prisoners. In addition to COVID-19, prisoners suffered from other health problems, including malaria, heart disease, high blood pressure, tuberculosis, skin diseases, and intestinal illnesses caused or exacerbated by unhygienic conditions and spoiled food. There were also numerous reports of political prisoners being denied medical services.

Former prisoners complained of poorly maintained physical structures that provided no protection from the elements and were infested with rodents, snakes, and molds.

Conditions for women were deplorable, with a lack of access to sufficient toilets and no privacy. Prison guards denied requests for sanitary products for menstruation and other basic hygiene products. After the coup, sexual violence, gender harassment, and humiliation by officials increased.

In September human rights watchdog Just Power reported that a prominent human rights activist suffered from deteriorating health conditions as a result of her “unjust arrest and detention.” According to the report, regime security forces denied her access to health services, including to medicines provided by her family.

Administration: Prisoners and detainees could sometimes submit complaints to judicial authorities prior to the coup, but there was no clear legal or administrative protection for this right. There is no credible evidence of prisoners and detainees submitting complaints after the coup. Some prisons prevented full adherence to religiously based codes of personal conduct, ostensibly due to space restrictions and security concerns.

In April local media reported that a journalist fasting in observance of Ramadan was accused of staging a hunger strike and sent to solitary confinement at Insein Prison.

Independent Monitoring: The Department of Corrections in the Ministry of Home Affairs operated the prisons and labor camp system.

The International Committee for the Red Cross had no access to prisons, labor camps, or military detention sites during the year. After March 2020, the Ministry of Home Affairs under the deposed civilian government claimed it could not allow access because of COVID-19 prevention measures. After the coup, the military continued to deny access to all prisons and detention sites.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime did not have access to prisons or labor camps and on February 1, ended cooperative capacity-building programs with the Department of Corrections. The drug and crime office continued to provide limited COVID-19-related personal protective equipment and primary basic health care assistance (e.g., infection prevention and control supplies) directly to the prisons.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law does not prohibit arbitrary arrest. Persons held generally did not have the right to appeal the legality of their arrest or detention either administratively or before a court. The law allows authorities to order the detention without charge or trial of anyone they believe is performing or might perform any act that endangers the sovereignty and security of the state or public peace and tranquility.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

Incommunicado detention was common. Since the coup, the regime detained politicians, election officials, journalists, activists, protesters, and Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) members and refused to confirm their locations in violation of international law, according to HRW. In August AAPP reported that an estimated 5,000 individuals listed by the regime as “under detention” were in unknown locations, accounting for approximately 82 percent of arrests since the coup. Even when the whereabouts of prisoners was known, prisoners were regularly denied access to lawyers and family members.

After the coup, the military regime suspended aspects of privacy protection law to legalize arrests and private property searches without a warrant.

Authorities may hold suspects in pretrial detention for two weeks (with a possible two-week extension) before bringing them before a judge or informing them of their charges. The regime is not, however, obliged to respect this provision of the law. There is a functioning bail system, although the courts regularly denied bail to prodemocracy supporters. There were numerous reports that authorities did not inform family members or attorneys of arrests in a timely manner, did not disclose their location, and regularly denied family visitations.

Arbitrary Arrest: There were numerous reports of arbitrary arrest, including detention by the regime in unknown locations. Since the coup, regime security forces have made at least 8,000 arrests and more than 6,500 of those individuals remain in some form of detention.

In May, HRW reported the arrest of a lawyer defending a deposed local political leader after a court hearing in Nay Pyi Taw and the arrest of lawyer defending a political prisoner in Ayeyarwady Region. In June, HRW reported the arrest of a lawyer defending more than 120 political prisoners in Kachin State.

In July, UN human rights experts expressed concern about the arbitrary arrest of human rights defenders, citing credible information of such treatment of human rights defenders, including labor rights and student activists.

According to AAPP, among those the regime detained as of September were more than 175 family members of prodemocracy supporters, including 15 children. In August, for example, a family member delivering food and medicine to a political prisoner was detained at Insein Prison for six days. In September regime security forces reportedly arrested the wife and young child of a human rights activist to coerce his surrender. The activist was charged under terrorism legislation for supporting the CDM. His wife and child were missing as of December.

According to the independent news service Myanmar Now, a 14-year-old boy was detained in Taungtha Township, Mandalay Region in September by the regime to coerce his father, a former local National League for Democracy (NLD) leader, to turn himself in to police. The boy’s mother told a reporter, “They came for my husband and took the kid, saying they needed him to show them where dad was.…I keep waiting for his release. I don’t want anything else; I just want my son back.”

Pretrial Detention: Prior to the coup, judges and police sometimes colluded to extend detentions. According to the Independent Lawyers’ Association in 2020, arbitrary and lengthy pretrial detentions resulted from lengthy, complicated legal procedures and widespread corruption. These problems continued following the coup, worsened by the regime’s ability to detain persons indefinitely without trial. For those facing trial, detention prior to and during trials sometimes equaled or exceeded the sentence after conviction. The regime amended the legal aid law in May, removing the right to legal aid services during pretrial detention. Additional amendments limited legal aid for stateless persons, asylum seekers, foreigners, and migrant workers.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Although habeas corpus exists in national law, regime security forces violated this law by arresting and detaining individuals without following proper procedures. Arbitrary arrest or detention was drastically increased to suppress political dissent, according to AAPP and detainees had limited ability to meaningfully challenge the lawfulness of detention before a court due to its lack of judicial independence from the regime.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, a protection the regime has not respected. On February 4, the regime dismissed five NLD-appointed justices of the Supreme Court and replaced them with justices who support the regime. The remaining four justices, including the chief justice, were holdovers from the previous military junta.

In February the regime declared martial law in numerous townships across the country and transferred judicial (and executive) power to regional military commanders in several cities. In martial law courts, defendants have few or no rights, including access to legal counsel and the right of appeal (except in cases involving the death penalty, which may be appealed to armed forces commander in chief Min Aung Hlaing). The hearings are abbreviated, the verdict is reached within one or two sessions, and the sentences are typically the maximum penalties allowed. According to regime public announcements, by November, 61 cases were heard in martial law courts, with 280 defendants convicted and sentenced, including at least 80 defendants sentenced to death.

Judicial corruption was a significant problem. According to NGOs, officials at all levels received illegal payments at all stages of the legal process for purposes ranging from influencing routine matters to substantive decisions, such as fixing the outcome of a case.

Trial Procedures

Although no formal changes to trial procedures in civilian courts were made following the coup, the lack of judicial independence leaves much to the interpretation of the regime. The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial but also grants broad exceptions, effectively allowing the regime to violate these rights at will. While the right to counsel remains in the law, many defense lawyers were unwilling to handle prodemocracy cases due to fear for their personal safety. According to HRW, at least six lawyers handling political cases were arrested since the coup. Defendants do not enjoy a presumption of innocence or, even when the law provides for them, the rights to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them; to be present at their trial; to free interpretation; or to receive adequate representation. There is no right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Trial procedures were also affected by COVID-19 pandemic mitigation measures.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

The regime detained and arrested politicians, election officials, journalists, activists, protesters, religious activists, and CDM members. Political prisoners were not always held separately from the prison’s general population. Many political prisoners were held incommunicado.

Many former political prisoners were subject to surveillance and restrictions following their release, including the inability to secure identity or travel documents. AAPP estimated that there were more than 6,000 political prisoners as of year’s end.

Deposed state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested on February 1 and held in an unknown location. She faced 11 separate charges for a range of offenses running from interacting with a crowd during the COVID-19 pandemic to sedition. Her trial was closed to the public and the regime placed a gag order on her attorneys so that the attorneys could not communicate with the public about her case. On December 6, she was convicted of inciting unrest and violating COVID-19 restrictions and sentenced to four years in prison. Also arrested February 1, deposed president Win Myint, was tried on the same charges and also convicted and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment. Just hours after the news of guilty verdicts for Aung San Suu Kyi and Win Myint broke on December 6, state media announced that the regime had “reduced [their] sentences…by two years.” The regime announcement also highlighted that the two would remain detained in their unknown locations, in conditions reportedly equivalent to house arrest.

Amnesty: The regime included some political prisoners among the more than 23,000 inmates released to mark Union Day on February 12. The regime released all those who met set criteria (e.g., not charged under Section 505 of the penal code, which criminalizes disseminating information that could agitate or cause security forces or state officials to mutiny), with no specific leniency for political prisoners. According to some human rights activists, the regime used the general pardon order to make space available for more political prisoners.

Amnesty was also granted to several high-profile ethnic Rakhine politicians, including Aye Maung and writer Wai Hin Aung, sentenced to long jail sentences for high treason under the deposed NLD government. In September the regime also released controversial ultranationalist Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu, charged with sedition by the deposed government for comments he made during a 2019 promilitary rally.

Politically Motivated Reprisal against Individuals Located Outside the Country

Bilateral Pressure: There were credible reports that the regime attempted to pressure the Thai government to impose stricter control on movement across the border with Burma to undermine the ability of prodemocracy supporters from organizations, including the National Unity Government (NUG) and the Committee Representing the Union Parliament that created it, to depart the country.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

The law allows complainants to use provisions of the penal code and laws of civil procedure to seek civil remedies for human rights abuses. Individuals and organizations may not appeal an adverse decision to regional human rights bodies but may make complaints to the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission. After the coup, the ability of complainants to raise human rights abuses through the judicial system or the commission was limited.

Property Seizure and Restitution

Under the 2008 Constitution the state owns all land, although there is a limited amount of freehold land, and the law allows for registration and sale of private land ownership rights. Most land is held in long-term lease, meaning that while the government still owns this leasehold, private parties may lease land on a long-term basis with a general expectation that the leasehold would automatically roll over upon its expiration. The law provides for compensation when the government acquires privately held land for a public purpose; however, the postcoup situation is unclear. The government may also declare land unused or “vacant” and assign it to foreign investors or designate it for other uses. There is no judicial review of land ownership or confiscation decisions; administrative bodies subject to regime control make final decisions on land use and registration. The law does not favor recognition of traditional land tenure systems (customary tenure). There were numerous reports that the regime used its authority to seize property of prodemocracy supporters.

In March the regime reportedly seized assets worth approximately $3.8 million from staff members of a foundation accused of financially supporting the CDM.

In September the regime Anti-Terrorism Central Committee released a public notice requiring landlords to provide a list of tenants to their ward administration offices or face confiscation of the property.

As of November 15, credible media reports indicated that the regime has seized approximately 70 properties owned by NLD officials. The regime’s amendment of three laws enabled the extrajudicial seizure of property owned by defendants. The regime has also seized properties belonging to members of the Committee Representing the Union Parliament and NUG or their families.

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

The law protected privacy and the security of the home, but enforcement of these rights was limited after the coup. Unannounced nighttime household checks were common. The law does not protect the privacy of correspondence or other communications. The regime regularly monitored private electronic communications through online surveillance; there were numerous reports that the regime monitored prodemocracy supporters.

On March 1, the New York Times reported that the military employed invasive dual-use surveillance, hacking, and forensic technologies to monitor and target critics and protesters. Before the coup, the military built an “electronic warfare capability” and bought surveillance technology, including cell phone-hacking tools to monitor prodemocracy activists.

In July local news outlet Frontier Myanmar reported that the regime ordered mobile phone companies to install equipment to enable them to monitor calls, text messages, and locations of selected users, flagging each time they use words such as “protest” or “revolution.” Mention of these words may trigger heavier surveillance or be used as evidence against those being watched. The regime also monitored social media use, including data from visited websites, as well as conversations in public and private chat groups. According to the magazine Frontier Myanmar, this “cybersecurity team” was based inside the police’s Special Branch, a notorious surveillance department that heavily monitored suspected dissidents in the previous era of junta rule.

g. Conflict-related Abuses

After the coup, escalating conflict between the regime and joint EAOs-PDF groups focused on the northwest part of the country, with frequent fighting in Chin State and Sagaing and Magway Region. Conflict was also reported in Kachin, Kayah, and Karen States and in the Mandalay, Bago, and Tanintharyi Regions. Conflict between the military and the Arakan Army (AA) in Rakhine State declined following the coup because of a pre-coup de facto ceasefire. In March the regime removed the Arakan Army from its designated list of terrorist organizations; however, local media reported clashes between the AA and the military on November 9 after the military entered an AA-controlled area in the border area of Maungdaw Township.

Fighting between EAOs in Shan State continued.

Reports of killings, disappearances, excessive use of force, disregard for civilian life, sexual violence, and other abuses committed by regime security forces and some EAOs and PDF groups were common.

The NUG issued a code of conduct for PDF groups in June and included a call to respect human rights in its September 7 “people’s defensive war” declaration. No data was available to measure the impact of the NUG’s efforts to prevent human rights abuses by PDF groups.

Killings: Deliberate killings and deaths due to excessive or unjustified use of force by the regime were reported. For example:

On March 3, regime security forces killed at least 24 persons across the country in confrontations with peaceful demonstrators. In one Rangoon neighborhood alone, at least seven protesters died and 17 were critically wounded in a confrontation with regime security forces. Over the March 13-14 weekend, regime security forces shot and killed demonstrators indiscriminately across the country, killing at least 42.

In May a young mother in Magway’s Salin Township reportedly died from indiscriminate military fire during a raid. According to Myanmar Now, the raid was in response to prodemocracy graffiti.

In July, NUG-designated Minister for Human Rights Aung Myo Min reported that the military killed at least 32 civilians and displaced more than 6,000 residents from 13 villages in Sagaing’s Debeyin Township during intensified military operations targeting EAO and PDF strongholds.

In September the military was suspected of killing and mutilating five civilians in Magway’s Gangaw Township. According to the Irrawaddy, the victims were shot, and in some cases mutilated or showed signs of torture.

Also in September, the Irrawaddy reported on the killing of 18 civilians in Magway’s Yaw village perpetrated by the military. One resident recalled, “Most of them were shot in the head. Their heads were broken, and their brains spilled out like a ripe papaya that has fallen from a tree.” An 86-year-old resident was found tied up, with signs that he had been beaten to death.

In late September, according to a Radio Free Asia report, security forces responding to an attack by local defense forces in Thantlang, Chin State, shot and killed Baptist pastor Cung Biak Hum as he and others tried to extinguish fires the forces set. When his body was recovered, his ring finger was cut off and the wedding ring apparently stolen.

On December 5, regime security forces violently suppressed prodemocracy protesters in Rangoon. Tactics included, according to numerous reports, ramming a police vehicle directly into a crowd, killing five and injuring another 15. Escalating violence between the military and EAOs exposed many children to violence. AAPP reported in September that 61 children were killed in military-EAO conflicts.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: There were reports of such abuses by EAOs and PDF forces. In December Myanmar Now reported the targeting of alleged military informants and others seen as sympathetic to the regime. In June commanders of the Karen National Defense Army, the armed wing of the Karen National Union, confirmed Karen National Defense Army soldiers killed 25 alleged military spies and detained 22 others for approximately one week near Waw Lay, Myawaddy Township, Karen State.

Child Soldiers: The military and some EAOs (Kachin Independence Army, AA, Ta’ang National Liberation Army, Karen National Liberation Army, Shan State Army, and Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army) were listed in the UN secretary-general’s 2021 Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict as perpetrators of the unlawful recruitment and use of children. There were no data on PDF groups. Meaningful use of the National Complaint Mechanism, focused on the elimination of forced labor but which also prohibits the use and recruitment of child soldiers, was limited after the coup. There was no credible evidence that the regime or EAOs prosecuted offenders.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Other Conflict-related Abuse: According to numerous local media reports, UN counterparts, and NGOs the regime restricted the passage of relief supplies, including medical supplies, and access by international humanitarian organizations to conflict-affected areas including in Kachin, Chin, Kayah, Karen, Tanintharyi, and Shan States. HRW reported on December 13 that restrictions on humanitarian assistance imposed by the regime since the coup were creating a “nationwide humanitarian catastrophe.” The United Nations estimated that the number of persons needing assistance would go from one million before the coup to 14.4 million by 2022. On November 8, the United Nations stated, “access to many people in desperate need across the country remains extremely limited due to bureaucratic impediments put in place by the armed forces.” HRW further reported that the military has seized food deliveries meant for displaced populations and arrested individuals on “suspicion of supporting aid efforts.” Visas for aid workers have also been delayed or denied. UNICEF reported in October that “the need to procure travel authorization [from the regime] remains a major access impediment and a high constraint factor for the humanitarian partners’ capacity to reach people in need.”

The regime reportedly forced civilians to act as human shields, carry supplies, or serve in other support roles. In September the Karen National Union reported to a local media outlet that approximately 300 civilians, including a number of women and children, were forced by regime security forces to perform military support duties. In September, Democratic Voice Burma reported that more than 100 soldiers abducted five local residents to act as guides for regime security forces in Kachin State.

As of September, the World Health Organization reported 260 attacks on health-care workers since the coup, representing 39 percent of such attacks globally during the year. In a February case, a doctor was arrested in Rangoon for providing first aid to prodemocracy supporters who had been shot while peacefully protesting. In July the Irrawaddy reported that the regime arrested five volunteer doctors working on COVID-19 prevention activities after luring them to a house under false pretenses.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The 2008 Constitution provides that “every citizen shall be at liberty in the exercise of expressing and publishing freely their convictions and opinions,” but it contains the broad and ambiguous caveat that exercise of these rights must “not be contrary to the laws enacted for national security, prevalence of law and order, community peace and tranquility, or public order and morality.” The postcoup regime led a full-scale crackdown on freedom of expression.

Freedom of Expression: Freedom of speech was severely limited. Those who spoke openly against the regime or in favor of the NLD, NUG, or democracy more broadly risked abuse and punishment by authorities. On September 4, poet and activist Maung Saungkha was convicted under Section 19 of this law after he placed a banner over a highway during a protest marking the one-year anniversary of restrictions on mobile internet communications in parts of Rakhine and Chin States. Maung Saungkha chose to pay a fine of 30,000 kyat ($22.50) rather than serve a 15-day prison sentence.

The regime used the Law Protecting the Privacy and Security of the Citizens to allow authorities to review content on individuals’ cell phones at checkpoints and during neighborhood raids. The regime reportedly employed violence and targeted killings to silence critics in civil society. Violence against persons engaged in speech deemed antiregime was allegedly used by proregime ultranationalist Buddhist groups as well as security forces and included maiming, kidnapping, and torture. The regime intimidated many prodemocracy voices among the public who previously spoke openly about politically sensitive topics. (See also “Internet Freedom,” below.)

A prodemocracy activist in Rangoon said during a media interview that regime security forces beat him as authorities transported him to a local interrogation center in February. The next morning, he was unable to eat due to injuries he had sustained during his first night in detention. He reported being tortured for days and only released after signing a statement denying the use of torture by the regime.

Freedom of Expression for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media: Prior to the coup, independent media outlets were active and able to operate despite many official and unofficial restrictions, economic hardship, and an uncertain business environment. After the coup, analysts reported the closure of 71 media outlets, ranging from well-known national, regional, and ethnic media to small Facebook pages. Regime crackdowns on media resulted in the arrest, detention, loss of work, and forced exile of more than 1,000 journalists, editors, and media staff – approximately 50 percent of pre-coup total. For example, two Kamayut Media journalists were arrested in March, one was released on June 15 and the other remained in detention at year’s end. In Mandalay the regime arrested and subsequently released freelance journalists. Eleven media and the Voice Daily self-censored and avoided criticism of the regime. The Myanmar Times and Union Daily have ceased publication, and Irrawaddy, Frontier, and Myanmar Now operated mostly in exile from outside the country.

In May the regime banned satellite dishes to restrict access to international news. The regime offered three public television channels – two controlled by the Ministry of Information and one controlled by the military. Two private companies that had strong links to the previous military regime continued to broadcast six free-to-air television channels. The regime and regime-linked businesspersons controlled eight FM radio stations. In August the NUG launched Radio NUG, a clandestine service that provided two 30-minute reports daily with prodemocracy content.

Violence and Harassment: The regime subjected journalists and other media workers to violence, harassment, detention, and intimidation for their reporting. According to AAPP, at least 95 journalists were unjustly arrested after February, and more than half of those remained in detention as of November. Among journalists detained by the regime were reporters from the Associated Press, the Ayeyarwady Times News, and many more outlets. In April the New York Times reported that many journalists stopped wearing helmets or vests marked with the word “PRESS,” did not publish under their own names, and avoided sleeping at home. On December 14, local media reported that freelance photojournalist and graphic designer Soe Naing died in regime custody after his arrest on December 10 while covering the “Silent Strike.” Soe Naing reportedly died after a violent interrogation, marking the first known death of a journalist while in regime custody since the coup.

Authorities arrested Polish photojournalist Robert Bociaga on March 11 in Shan State and deported him after he was held in detention for 13 days.

In April authorities detained Yuki Kitazumi, a Japanese freelance journalist, and accused him of supporting prodemocracy protests. Authorities released and deported Kitazumi in May.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: After the coup, the regime banned independent media outlets that did not self-censor reporting on the prodemocracy movement. The regime also banned using certain terminology in reporting, such as “junta,” “coup d’etat,” and “military council.” The Myanmar Times suspended publication on February 21 after many of its staff quit to protest the leadership’s decision to follow the regime order not to describe the military takeover as a “coup.” On March 8, the regime banned broadcast, online, and print media Mizzima, Democratic Voice Burma, Khit Thit Media, Myanmar Now, and 7Day News from broadcasting or reporting on any platform. Each of these media organizations had extensively covered the protests, including on their social media pages. The regime later revoked the licenses of three ethnic-minority-run outlets: Myitkyina News Journal from Kachin State, Tachileik News Agency from Shan State, and 74 other media outlets suspended their operations in response.

Libel/Slander Laws: Even before the coup, the military could and did use various legal provisions, such as a criminal defamation clause in the telecommunications law, to restrict freedom of expression. After the coup, the regime primarily relied on Section 505 of the penal code to prosecute journalists. Following his arrest on March 3 in Bago Region, a reporter covering prodemocracy protests from the radio and television company Democratic Voice Burma was the first after the coup to be charged under this section of the law. According to media reports, he was brutally beaten and seriously injured during his arrest. On May 3, he was sentenced to three years in prison. In June two other journalists were sentenced to two years in prison. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 24 journalists were facing charges under the broadened Section 505A that includes penalties for spreading “false news.”

National Security: Although the regime prosecuted some media critics using laws related to national security, in general the regime used other methods to pursue its critics. The regime designated the NUG and related prodemocracy groups as terrorist organizations but as of November had not arrested or tried any members of these on terrorist charges.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The regime curtailed the exercise of the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

In the initial days after the coup, hundreds of thousands of individuals took to the streets peacefully to protest the military takeover and demand the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. On February 8, the regime ordered curfews and restrictions on the size of gatherings that effectively banned peaceful public demonstrations across the country, although demonstrations continued, nonetheless. Regime security forces met protesters with increasing violence and lethal force. According to numerous reports in local media, small-scale prodemocracy protests continued across the country as of November despite violent intimidation and suppression by security forces.

Freedom of Association

The regime restricted the right to freedom of association. The law on registering organizations stipulates voluntary registration for local NGOs and removes punishments for noncompliance for both local and international NGOs. Prior to the coup, the government interpreted the law as requiring NGOs that received foreign funding to register with the government. After the coup, the regime required banks to report on all foreign funds received by both local and international NGOs.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement and the Right to Leave the Country

The law does not protect freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, or repatriation. Local regulations limit the rights of citizens to settle and reside anywhere in the country. Authorized officials may require the registration of foreigners’ movements and require foreigners to register every change of address exceeding 24 hours.

In-country Movement: Regional and local orders, directives, and instructions restricted freedom of movement. The regime increased restrictions on freedom of movement after the coup. Numerous local media reports described regime security force roadblocks and the random searches of private cars and taxis. Nightly curfews in Rangoon and several other cities also restricted movement, as did a reinstated requirement that all visitors register with the local ward administrator. Local media reported that the regime harassed, including by seizing ambulances, health-care workers when medical emergencies required them to break curfew. Due to escalating conflict with the military, the NUG and EAOs warned civilians to travel only in case of an emergency. For example, the Thantlang Revolutionary Campaign informed residents in September not to go out after 7 p.m., not to go hunting or into the jungle unless absolutely necessary, and to take extra care when traveling. COVID-19 mitigation regulations also contributed to restriction of movement.

Limitations on freedom of movement for Rohingya in Rakhine State were unchanged. Rohingya may not move freely; they must obtain travel authorization to leave their township. In contrast to the pre-coup rule that Rohingya traveling without documentation could return to their homes without facing immigration charges, the regime’s General Administration Department issued a directive resuming legal actions against Rohingya traveling without permission in Sittwe and Kyauktaw.

Foreign Travel: The regime restricted foreign travel by prodemocracy supporters and expanded measures to increase oversight. According to an official order dated May 13, “The authorities have directed airlines that all bookings for departures from Myanmar must be made at least 10 days in advance of the intended departure and be shared with [the] Ministry of Foreign Affairs.” The regime also reportedly cancelled, or refused to issue, passports to prodemocracy supporters. The regime notified the diplomatic community in Thailand and India that it had taken this action against multiple prodemocracy leaders. Numerous prodemocracy supporters expressed concern for their security and safety if they tried to leave the country by air, and at least one person reported being denied boarding because she was related to an NLD member. COVID-19 mitigation efforts also restricted foreign travel.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that 296,000 recently arrived individuals were living as internally displaced persons (IDPs) as of December 17 due to postcoup violence in Southeast Burma, Kachin and Shan States, and Northwest Burma. A total of 666,000 persons were internally displaced in the country as of December 1. Decades of conflict between the central government and ethnic communities, exacerbated by the coup and the COVID-19 pandemic, resulted in large numbers of primarily ethnic-minority IDPs in ethnic-dominated parts of the country.

In June the United Nations estimated that more than 100,000 persons had fled their homes to escape conflict and risked starving in Kayah State alone. Myanmar Now reported on June 16 that the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force announced the temporary suspension of attacks on the military amid the growing crisis.

The regime has systematically obstructed humanitarian relief. In June local media reported that the military burned bags of rice, barrels of cooking oil, and other staples that locals from southern Shan State gathered to support those displaced from an escalation in fighting. In September, for example, amid an escalation in conflict, the military blocked humanitarian supply routes to 50,000 IDPs in Chin State, according to Radio Free Asia. According to local media, fighting erupted in Lay Kay Kaw Township, Karen State, the evening of December 14 between opposition forces and regime security, displacing at least 4,000 individuals including local residents and prodemocracy supporters seeking safe haven in the area. Democratic Voice Burma news reported that regime security forces continued to shoot at civilians as they fled for safety. HRW reported in December that the regime has imposed travel restrictions on humanitarian workers, blocked access roads and aid convoys, and destroyed nonmilitary supplies.

f. Protection of Refugees

The regime did not always cooperate with UNHCR or other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, or other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for granting asylum or refugee status, and the government has not established a system for providing protection to refugees. UNHCR did not register any asylum seekers during the year.

g. Stateless Persons

The law defines a “national ethnic group” as a racial and ethnic group that can prove origins in the country dating back to 1823, a year prior to British colonization, and the regime officially recognized 135 “national ethnic groups” whose members are automatically granted full citizenship. The law also establishes two forms of citizenship short of full citizenship: associate and naturalized. Citizens in these two categories are unable to run for political office; form a political party; serve in the military, police, or public administration; inherit land or money; or pursue certain professional degrees, such as medicine and law. Only members of the third generation of associate or naturalized citizens are able to acquire full citizenship.

Rohingya, most of whom are Muslim, are not recognized as a “national ethnic group” and the vast majority are stateless as a result. Following the forced displacement of more than 740,000 Rohingya to Bangladesh in 2017, up to 600,000 Rohingya were estimated to remain in Rakhine State. Some Rohingya may be technically eligible for full citizenship. The process involves additional official scrutiny and was complicated by logistical difficulties, including travel restrictions and significant gaps in understanding the Burmese language. In practice this also required substantial bribes to regime officials, and even then, it did not result in equality with other full citizens. In particular, only Rohingya were required to go through an additional step of applying for the National Verification Card, through which they receive identity documents that describe them as “Bengali.” Regime officials treat Rohingya with the presumption of noncitizenship. This could lead to discrimination in access to public services and a wide range of societal discrimination.

There were also significant numbers of stateless persons and persons with undetermined nationality, including persons of Chinese, Indian, and Nepali descent. Although these latter groups did not face the same level of official and social discrimination as Rohingya, the regime granted members of these groups only the lesser rights, and imposed the greater restrictions, of associate and naturalized citizenship. The regime did not single these groups out the same way as Rohingya when obtaining citizenship.

The law does not provide any form of citizenship (or associated rights) for children born in the country whose parents are stateless.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

Prior to the coup, the constitution provided citizens a limited ability to choose their government through elections held by secret ballot. The military deposed the democratically elected parliament and dissolved the Union Election Commission (UEC), appointing a former military major general to replace the ousted UEC chairman. On July 26, the military regime UEC announced that it had annulled the results of the November 2020 general elections, which domestic and international observers assessed as largely reflective of the will of the electorate, despite some identified irregularities and local election cancellations in some ethnic areas.

On October 16, the regime UEC announced that upcoming regional elections were cancelled across most of Rakhine State and in various other ethnic areas in Kachin State, Shan State and elsewhere.

The regime used laws against terrorism to arrest and punish groups and individuals who were active in the country’s precoup political life. The regime designated the NUG, the Committee Representing the Union Parliament, and PDF groups as unlawful terrorist organizations. According to the law, anyone associated with these groups could face 10 years to life in prison, although no one had come to trial as of year’s end.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Observers considered the 2020 national elections to be generally reflective of the will of the population, notwithstanding some structural shortcomings. The NLD, chaired by Aung San Suu Kyi, won more than 80 percent of the 1,150 contested seats at the state, regional, and union levels in those elections. The NLD won 396 of 476 races for national assembly seats; a military-affiliated party won 33, and various ethnic parties took 47 seats. The 2008 constitution bars Aung San Suu Kyi from the presidency due to her marriage to a British national.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Political parties faced narrowing political space amid regime investigations and threats to ban them from competing in elections. Political parties not aligned with the military were denied the rights to assemble and protest peacefully. The military regime, moreover, conducted politically motivated investigations into prodemocracy political parties and their leaders, particularly the NLD. In May the UEC began investigations into the 93 registered political parties, including financial audits. In an August 27 letter, the UEC threatened that if political parties did not submit financial statements, their party registration could be suspended.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women in the political process, and they did participate in elections. Laws limiting the citizenship status of many ethnic minority groups (see “Stateless Persons” above) also limited their rights to participate in political life. Women and members of historically marginalized and minority groups were underrepresented in government prior to the coup. Some policies (as opposed to laws and regulations) limited women’s participation in practice.

In the 2020 general elections, 194 women were elected to parliament.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

Since the coup, the Anti-Corruption Commission has regularly targeted deposed NLD politicians and other former civilian government leaders for prosecution under anticorruption law. As of November, the commission charged at least 45 former NLD and civilian government officials, including Aung San Suu Kyi, former president Win Myint, union-level ministers, and state and region ministers appointed by the previous government. Most observers considered these charges baseless.

Corruption was widespread in all dimensions of political life, including especially the judicial system. Petty extortion by police was paralleled by more serious graft at higher levels, such as demanding bribes from victims to conduct criminal investigations.

Corruption: Although corruption was widespread, unlike the civilian government it overthrew, the regime used corruption laws almost exclusively against opponents, as noted. Such cases, which often relied on coerced testimony, did not provide an accurate picture of actual corruption.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

The regime did not allow domestic human rights organizations to function independently. Human rights NGOs were able to open offices and operate, but reported harassment, monitoring by authorities, and arbitrary detention. The regime, for example, sometimes pressured hotels and other venues not to host meetings organized by activists or civil society groups. Regime security forces also raided and damaged NGO offices. These restrictions went beyond standard COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The regime systematically denied attempts by the United Nations and other international organizations and NGOs to investigate human rights abuses or to access the locations of alleged abuses. Foreign human rights activists and advocates, including representatives from international NGOs, continued to be restricted to short-term visas that required them to leave the country periodically for renewal. Several international NGOs’ local partners were repeatedly asked to show financial statements and other documents that revealed their relationship with foreign funders.

The regime refused to cooperate with or grant access to the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar created by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate alleged atrocities in the country.

The regime continued to refuse entry to the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the country. While the prior civilian government permitted the UN secretary-general’s special envoy for Burma to open an office in the country in 2019, the regime denied the envoy and her staff permission to enter the country after the coup.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission has the power to conduct independent inquiries, and in some cases may call for investigations into abuses. In fact the commission had limited ability to operate as a credible, independent mechanism. Before the coup, the commission investigated some incidents of human rights abuses, but no investigations took place after February 1. The commission released photos of commission members visiting prisons, labor camps, and police detention facilities between May and June. No findings from the visits were released. The NUG established a Human Rights Ministry, which pledged to document human rights abuses committed by regime security forces. The Independent Commission of Enquiry for Rakhine State has not been active since the coup.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of women and men is illegal but remained a significant problem, and the regime did not enforce the law effectively. Rape of a woman outside of marriage carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Spousal rape is not a crime unless the wife is younger than the legal age of marriage (which may vary according to ethnicity or religion), and the penalty is a maximum of two years in prison. The law prohibits committing bodily harm against another person, but there are no laws specifically against domestic violence or spousal abuse unless the wife is younger than the legal age of marriage. Overlapping and at times contradictory legal provisions complicated implementation of these limited protections.

Domestic violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained a serious problem. Abuse within families was prevalent and considered socially acceptable. Spousal abuse or domestic violence was difficult to measure because the government did not maintain comprehensive statistics and survivor typically did not report it, although the government attempted to document cases, and reported cases were on the rise.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and prescribes a maximum penalty of two years in prison if the harassment involves physical contact. Harassment is punishable by a fine or up to one year in prison. The regime did not report information on the prevalence of the problem, and many of these crimes were unreported. NGOs reported regime police investigators were not sensitive to survivors and rarely followed through with investigations or prosecutions.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. The law allows the government to impose coercive birth-spacing requirements – 36 months between children – if the president or national government designates “special regions” for health care based on factors such as population, migration rate, natural resources, birth rates, and food availability. In such special regions, the government may create special health-care organizations to perform various tasks, including establishing family planning regulations. The government did not designate any such special regions.

In Rakhine State, local authorities prohibited Rohingya families from having more than two children, although some Rohingya with household registration documents reportedly circumvented the law.

The law otherwise limits the right of individuals to manage their reproductive health. Access to sexual and reproductive health services, including emergency contraception, for sexual violence survivors through public and private facilities was very limited and further exacerbated by the collapse of the public-health system after the coup. While September reports from Population Services International indicated that demand for oral contraceptives increased significantly in Rangoon after the coup, access to family planning was limited in rural areas. Economic hardship and security concerns in conflict-affected regions also limited access to family planning.

The Department of Social Welfare adapted gender-based violence services to COVID-19 restrictions, including expanding virtual platforms for online training.

The United Nations estimated in 2017 that the maternal mortality rate nationwide was 250 deaths per 100,000 live births. No more recent reliable data were available. The 2017 National Maternal Death Surveillance and Response Report stated that the maternal mortality ratio was highest in Shan, Chin, and Ayeyarwady States. NGOs regularly reported throughout the year that humanitarian access and movement restrictions among Rohingya limited access to health-care services and contributed to maternal mortality rates in Rakhine State being higher than the national average. Complications resulting from unsafe abortions were also a leading cause of maternal deaths.

Other major factors influencing maternal mortality included poverty; the high rate of home births (63 percent; a number that likely rose after the coup); limited availability of and access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services and information, including contraception, and maternal and newborn health services; low coverage of antenatal care visits; and the lack of access to services from appropriately trained and skilled birth attendants and other trained community health workers.

Discrimination: By law women enjoy the same legal status and rights as men, including property and inheritance rights and religious and personal status, but regime officials did not enforce the law. Communities around the country implemented customary law to address matters of marriage, property, and inheritance that differed from the provisions of statutory law and which was often discriminatory against women. The law requires equal pay for equal work, but the formal sector did not respect this requirement, and the regime did not actively enforce it. NGOs reported other forms of workplace discrimination were common (see also section 7.d.). The law restricts the ability of Buddhist women to marry non-Buddhist men by requiring public notification prior to any such marriage and allowing objections to the marriage to be raised in court. The law was rarely enforced. Poverty affected women disproportionately.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

Wide-ranging governmental and societal discrimination against members of minority groups persisted, including in areas such as education, housing, employment, and access to health services. Members of ethnic minority groups constituted 30 to 40 percent of the population. The seven ethnic minority states comprised approximately 60 percent of the national territory, and a significant number of minorities also resided in majority ethnic Burmese regions. Rohingya continued to face severe discrimination based on their ethnicity and religion, although conflict between the military and ethnic Rakhine populations de-escalated.

Children

Birth Registration: The law automatically confers full citizenship to children when both parents are from one of the 135 recognized national ethnic groups and to some children who meet other citizenship requirements. Second generation children may acquire full citizenship if at least one parent has full citizenship. Third generation children of associate or naturalized citizens may acquire full citizenship. Many long-term residents in the country, including Rohingya, are not among the recognized national ethnic groups, and thus their children are not automatically conferred citizenship (see also section 2.g.). There were significant rural-urban disparities in birth registration, with an informal or almost nonexistent process in small, rural villages. Birth registration is required to obtain a national identification card, and it can provide important protections for children, particularly against child labor, early marriage, and underage recruitment into the armed forces and ethnic armed groups.

Education: By law, education is compulsory, free, and universal through the fourth grade (up to age 10). This leaves children ages 10 through 13 vulnerable to child labor, since they are not required to attend school and are not legally permitted to work (the minimum age for work is 14). Burmese is the mandatory language of instruction in public schools. The national education plan does not allow for other languages of instruction, although some public schools taught ethnic languages as extra subjects. Schools were often unavailable in remote communities and conflict areas, and access to them for internally displaced and stateless children was also limited.

In June the regime ordered all primary and secondary schools to reopen, after closing in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Myanmar Teacher’s Federation, more than 90 percent of students did not return on June 2 as mandated. The teachers’ federation reported that almost one-third of teachers from the primary to university level were suspended for participating in the CDM. A suspended teacher from Rangoon told international media in May, “I’m not afraid of arrest and torture. I’m afraid of becoming a teacher who teaches the students propaganda.” In early July the regime ordered all primary and secondary schools closed due to the third wave of COVID-19; the schools reopened before year’s end.

UNICEF reported in July that the regime and prodemocracy groups conducted 180 attacks against schools and school personnel and that the military used education facilities for military purposes in at least 157 cases.

Child Abuse: The laws were neither adequate to deter child abuse nor enforced. The United Nations reported in July that hundreds of children were killed or maimed and approximately 1,000 arrested in postcoup demonstrations and clashes. The chairperson of the Child Rights Convention described children as “under siege” since the coup.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The law stipulates different minimum ages for marriage based on religion and gender. The minimum age for Buddhists is 18, while the minimum age for non-Buddhists is 16 for boys and 15 for girls. Child marriage occurred, especially in rural areas. There were no reliable statistics on forced marriage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism (ECPAT), a Bangkok-based international NGO, characterized the problem of children experiencing sexual abuse and violence as “widespread,” despite the scarcity of data. Lifetime migrants constituted 20 percent of the country’s population, and the children who accompany them faced higher risks of sexual exploitation, forced marriage, and trafficking, according to UNICEF.

The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, including pimping; separate provisions within the penal code prohibit sex with a minor younger than 14. The penalty for the purchase and sale of commercial sex acts from a child younger than 18 is 10 years in prison. The law prohibits child pornography and specifies a minimum penalty of two years’ imprisonment and a modest fine. The law on child rights prescribes a penalty of one to seven years in prison, a substantial fine, or both, for sex trafficking and forced marriage. If a survivor is younger than 14, the law considers any sexual act to constitute statutory rape. The maximum sentence for statutory rape is two years in prison when the survivor is between ages 12 and 14, and 10 years to life in prison when the survivor is younger than 12. The law against trafficking in persons requires a demonstration of force, fraud, or coercion to constitute a child sex-trafficking offense. The deposed civilian government introduced these laws. ECPAT cited a lack of monitoring and evaluation mechanisms as well as publicly available data to ascertain the effectiveness of implementation.

Displaced Children: The United Nations estimated that as of October there were more than 589,000 IDPs, approximately 37 percent of whom were children.

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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

There was one synagogue in Rangoon serving a very small and primarily expatriate Jewish population. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. While the law requires job protection, equal access to education, and access to public transportation, there was no meaningful enforcement. According to the Eden Center for Disabled Children, children with disabilities had a lower school attendance rate than their peers. COVID-19 mitigation restrictions and the coup further limited access to services, including education and programs focused on reducing stigma and discrimination against persons with disabilities.

Military veterans with disabilities in urban areas received official benefits on a priority basis, usually a civil service job at pay equivalent to rank. Official assistance to civilians with disabilities in principle included two-thirds of pay for a maximum of one year for a temporary disability and a tax-free stipend for permanent disability.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Official and societal violence and discrimination, including employment discrimination, against persons with HIV or AIDS, continued. Reports of abuse included verbal insults, harassment, threats, and physical assault. Significant legal, social, and financial barriers impeded access to services for persons with HIV or AIDS. These barriers included stigma, unhelpful gender norms, poor infrastructure, an entrenched drug trade, political instability, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Laws criminalizing behaviors that increased the risk of acquiring HIV or AIDS fueled stigma and discrimination against persons engaged in these behaviors and impeded their access to HIV prevention, treatment, and care services.

The regime paused most high-level efforts to address these matters due to political instability and reduced engagement with the regime by persons and groups concerned with them.

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

Although consensual sexual activity between men remained a criminal offense, political reforms in prior years made it easier for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) community to hold public events and openly participate in society. Discrimination, stigma, and a lack of acceptance among the general population persisted. Transgender persons, for example, were subject to police harassment, and their identity was not recognized. After the coup, reported violence against LGBTQI+ persons increased. As of July the NUG minister of human rights claimed at least 12 LGBTQI+ community members died and another 73 were arrested while peacefully protesting against the regime. As of November, at least 65 LGBTQI+ community members remained in detention, and 28 were either in hiding or had fled to areas not under regime control. According to Radio Free Asia, LGBTQI+ prodemocracy supporters were targeted for humiliation by regime after arrest including sexual insults, taunts, mocking of clothing, and physical abuse.

There were reports of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment. Many LGBTQI+ individuals faced significant barriers to education and employment if they were vocal or visible about their status. LGBTQI+ persons reported facing discrimination from health-care providers, including public shaming.

A 2019 report by the British Council found mixed views on whether LGBTQI+ persons could be accepted in the culture: fifty percent of respondents rejected the idea. Overall, those polled were more willing to accept LGBTQI+ persons in the abstract but were less so when the person in question was a specific individual, such as a relative or politician.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

After the military coup on February 1, the regime committed widespread abuses against organized labor, including the unlawful detention and extrajudicial killing of labor union leaders and members for exercising their fundamental freedoms and basic human rights. After the coup, labor laws often went unenforced or were enforced primarily against organized labor and labor activists and in the interests of business owners and the regime.

The military declared at least 16 labor unions illegal and issued arrest warrants for more than 85 union leaders, including 11 of the Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar, and many union leaders remained in prison or missing. There were numerous reported raids of trade union offices and union leaders’ homes. More than a dozen union leaders were killed.

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct strikes. The law permits labor organizations to demand the reinstatement of workers dismissed for union activity, but it does not explicitly prohibit antiunion discrimination in the form of demotions or mandatory transfers, nor does it offer protection for workers seeking to form a union. The law does not provide adequate protection for workers from dismissal before a union is officially registered. The law prohibits civil servants and personnel of the security services and police from forming unions. The law permits workers to join unions only within their category of trade or activity, and the definition of trade or activity lacks clarity. Basic labor organizations must have a minimum of 30 workers and register through township registrars via the Chief Registrar’s Office of the regime Ministry of Labor, Immigration, and Population (Ministry of Labor). The law permits labor federations and confederations to affiliate with international union federations and confederations.

The law provides for voluntary registration for local NGOs, including labor NGOs working on labor matters, as long as they do not receive foreign funding. The military authorities interfered in the operations of the International Labor Organization (ILO) country office, including through the continued imposition of banking restrictions, the denial of visa extensions for ILO officials, and the denial of tax exemptions.

The law provides unions the right to represent workers, to negotiate and bargain collectively with employers, and to send representatives to a conciliation body or tribunal; however, there were reports that employers dismissed union leaders with impunity or with military support. The law stipulates that a management committee, including government and nongovernmental representatives, in the special economic zones be the first instance arbiter in disputes between employers and employees.

In March, however, the military took control and imposed martial law over two major industrial zones located in Hlain Thar Yar and Shwe Pyi Thar Townships, Rangoon Region, as well as other townships with a high concentration of industrial and manufacturing enterprises. Labor representatives alleged that some employers hired military-affiliated security guards to harass and intimidate workers, sometimes leading to fatal violence when disputes arose. On March 16 at Xing Jia shoe factory, the employer reportedly called in police to deal with a dispute with a group of workers seeking their pay. The police opened fire and killed at least six workers.

The law provides the right to strike in most sectors with significant requirements such as the permission of the relevant labor federations. The law prohibits strikes addressing problems not directly relevant to labor matters. The law does not permit strikes or lockouts in essential services such as water, electric, or health. Lockouts are permitted in public utility services (including transportation; cargo and freight; postal; sanitation; information, communication, and technology; energy; petroleum; and financial sectors), with a minimum of 14 days’ notice provided to the relevant labor organizations and conciliation body. Strikes in public utility services generally require the same measures as in other sectors, but seven days’ advance notice and negotiation between workers and management is required before the strike takes place in order to determine maintenance of minimum service levels.

The government did not effectively enforce labor laws related to freedom of association. Penalties for violations of related labor laws were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights; however, laws were enforced primarily against independent trade unions and not employers.

After the coup, strikes and collective worker action led to retaliation by the military, including workers forced to return to work at gunpoint. On February 19, shipping and jetty workers in Mandalay went on strike to support the CDM. There were reports that the military tried, at gun point, to force the workers back to work, but large crowds gathered to block and drive the military away. The military fired into the crowd, killing protesters. The military evicted striking railway worker and their families, forcing them to flee.

After a national work stoppage began on March 8, the military publicly stated that all public sector workers must return or face criminal charges. There were reports of at least 1,100 public-sector workers from various departments receiving some form of threat or discipline because of participation in the CDM.

Workers at some unionized factories negotiated leave agreements so they would be granted leave to attend the demonstrations. Employer refusal, in some cases, led to work stoppages. There are numerous reports of workers fired for participating in the CDM. Many reported postings at factories saying workers would be fired if they participated in the CDM.

Worker organizations reported that formal dispute settlement and court procedures were not effective at enforcing labor laws. After the coup, there were multiple reports of worker disputes handled with military interference.

Labor organizations also reported that local labor offices imposed unnecessary bureaucratic requirements for union registration that were inconsistent with the law.

The Confederation of Trade Unions in Myanmar reported the arrest and harassment of trade unionists by regime security forces after the coup, including the secretary general of Myanmar Infrastructure, Craft and Service who was detained in June when the regime raided the infrastructure, craft, and service union office in Mandalay. Labor sources reported the secretary general was not allowed to meet any visitors or access legal aid while in detention. In a separate case, regime authorities detained the director of the Solidarity Trade Union of Myanmar at his office in April. Labor sources reported the regime denied the director access to medicine and other necessary health care to manage her chronic illness while in detention. The regime released the director in October as part of a general amnesty and without pursuing formal charges. On October 12, a military tribunal also sentenced two union organizers, U Yen Tu Htauk and Ma Kyi Par Lay, to life in prison.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits most forms of forced or compulsory labor, although insufficient barriers exist for the use of forced labor by the military and penal institutions. The law also provides for the punishment of persons who impose forced labor on others. The law provides criminal penalties for forced labor violations; penalties differ depending on whether the military, the government, or a private citizen committed the violation. The penalties were commensurate with analogous serious crimes such as kidnapping. The regime did not effectively enforce the law, particularly in the areas where significant conflict was occurring.

In early 2020 the government established a forced-labor complaints mechanism under the Ministry of Labor. There were no data available on the functioning of or the number of cases reported to or processed by the mechanism since the coup. The ILO expressed profound concern over practices of the military authorities, including the use of forced labor.

The regime threatened CDM members with criminal charges if they did not return to work (see also section 7.a.).

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor, although the regime did not meaningfully enforce the law. The law sets the minimum age at 14 for work in certain sectors, including shops and factories; the law establishes special provisions for “youth employment” for those older than 14. There is, however, no minimum age for work for all sectors in which children were employed, including agriculture and informal work. The law prohibits employees younger than 16 from working in a hazardous environment, but the government did not issue a list of hazardous jobs. Some sector-specific laws identify activities that are prohibited for children younger than 18. Penalties under the Child Rights Law were analogous to other serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

Children worked mostly as street vendors, refuse collectors, restaurant and teashop attendants, garment workers, and domestic workers. Children often worked in the informal economy, in some instances exposing them to drugs and petty crime, risk of arrest, commercial sexual exploitation, HIV, AIDS, and other sexually transmitted infections (see also section 6). Children were also vulnerable to forced labor in teashops, agriculture and forestry, gem production, begging, and other fields. In rural areas children routinely worked in family agricultural activities, occasionally in situations that potentially involved forced labor. Child labor was also reported in the extraction of rubies and jade and the manufacture of rubber and bricks.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings/  and the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

Labor laws and regulations do not prohibit employment discrimination. Restrictions against women in employment exist based on social and cultural practices and beliefs. Women remained underrepresented in most traditionally male-dominated occupations (forestry, carpentry, masonry, and fishing) and were effectively barred from them by hiring practices and cultural barriers. Women were not legally prohibited from any employment except in underground mines. The law governing hiring of civil service personnel states that nothing shall prevent the appointment of men to “positions that are suitable for men only,” with no further definition of what constitutes positions “suitable for men only.”

There were reports that government and private actors practiced discrimination that impeded Muslim-owned businesses’ operations and undercut their ability to hire and retain labor, maintain proper working standards, and secure public and private contracts. There were reports of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, including the denial of promotions and firing of LGBTQI+ persons. Activists reported limited job opportunities for many openly gay and lesbian persons and noted a general lack of support from society. Activists reported that in addition to general societal discrimination, persons with HIV or AIDS faced employment discrimination in both the public and private sectors, including suspensions and the loss of employment following positive results from mandatory workplace HIV testing.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The official minimum daily wage was above the poverty line. The minimum wage covers all sectors and industries and applies to all workers in the formal sector except those in businesses with fewer than 15 employees. The law requires the minimum wage to be revised every two years. The government also established tripartite committees in the Special Economic Zones responsible for setting wage levels and an inspector for each zone.

The workweek is 44 hours per week for factories. For shops and other establishments, it is 48 hours per week. Although the law in general states that overtime should not exceed 12 hours per work week, the law allows up to 16 hours of overtime when special matters require additional overtime. Overtime for factory workers is regulated under a separate directive that limits overtime to 20 hours per week. The law also stipulates that an employee’s total working hours cannot exceed 11 hours per day (including overtime and a one-hour break). Laws did not apply to those in the informal sector or self-employed.

Occupational Safety and Health: The 2019 Occupational Safety and Health law sets standards for occupational safety, health, and welfare. The Ministry of Labor has the authority to suspend businesses operating at risk to worker health and safety until risks are remediated.

Labor unions reported instances in which workers could not remove themselves from situations that endangered their health or safety without jeopardizing their employment. Unions reported that workers concerned about COVID-19 positive cases in factories were nonetheless required to work.

The Ministry of Labor’s Factories and General Labor Laws Inspection Department oversees labor conditions in the private sector. Inspectors were authorized to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions.

The regime did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties for wage and hour violations were commensurate with those for similar violations, but penalties for safety and health violations were not. The number of labor law inspectors and factory inspectors was insufficient to address wage, salary, overtime, occupational safety and health standards, and other matters adequately. In some sectors other ministries regulated occupational safety and health laws (e.g., the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Irrigation).

Informal Sector: Observers agreed the great majority of the country’s workers were in the informal sector. Wage, hours and occupational safety and health laws did not apply to those in the informal sector or self-employed.

Informal workers’ jobs were less secure during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, in April 2020 the Ministry of Health ordered that no more than 50 workers could be present at a construction site. One of the largest employers of informal labor was the construction sector. The postcoup regime retained the policy.

Informal-sector jobs usually lacked basic benefits such as social and legal protections. In at-risk industries – defined as having occupational hazards, volatile payment structures, and ease in exploiting labor rights – on average, one in five workers had an informal work arrangement, although the proportion was even higher in manufacturing, construction, recreation, and personal services. In addition, nearly two-thirds of the workers in medium- to high-risk industries were employed informally.

Ethiopia

Executive Summary

Ethiopia’s constitution provides for an ethnic-based federal system of government. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed leads the Prosperity Party, which controls the government. The Prosperity Party dominated the sixth general election held on June 21, winning 96 percent of the seats in the House of Peoples’ Representatives, although results were only announced for 423 of the 547 seats (77 percent). On September 30, a second round of elections took place for some constituencies where voting was delayed due to logistical or security concerns. Voting in other constituencies, including the entire Tigray Region, remained postponed indefinitely. On October 4, newly elected members of parliament took their seats. The elections took place against a backdrop of grave instability, including inter-ethnic and inter-communal violence, and an electoral process that was not free or fair for all citizens, although observers assessed the result generally reflected the will of most citizens.

National and regional police forces are responsible for law enforcement and maintenance of order, with the Ethiopian National Defense Force sometimes providing internal security support. The Ethiopian Federal Police report to the Prime Minister’s Office. The Ethiopian National Defense Force reports to the Ministry of Defense. The regional governments control regional security forces, which generally operate independently from the federal government. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed numerous serious abuses.

In November 2020 fighting between the Ethiopian National Defense Forces and Tigray People’s Liberation Front Regional Security Forces resulted in protracted conflict in the northern part of the country and reports of serious and rampant abuses. The conflict spread into neighboring Amhara and Afar Regions, where serious and rampant abuses were also reported. By year’s end access to the majority of the Tigray Region remained limited, except for the regional capital of Mekele, resulting in a lack of reporting and difficulty ascertaining the extent of human rights abuses. Meanwhile political and ethnic tensions led to violence in other regions notably in Benishangul-Gumuz, Oromia, and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region – as well as credible reports of abuses of human rights throughout the year.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by the government; forced disappearance by the government; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; political prisoners or detainees; serious abuses in a conflict, including reportedly unlawful or widespread civilian harm, enforced disappearances or abductions, torture and physical abuses or punishments; reports of unlawful recruitment or use of child soldiers by militia groups; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence or threats of violence against journalists, unjustified arrests of journalists, censorship, and the existence of criminal libel and slander laws; serious restrictions on internet freedoms; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence; trafficking in persons; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting members of racial or ethnic minority groups; and existence or use of laws criminalizing same-sex sexual conduct.

The government at times did not take steps to prosecute officials who committed human rights abuses or were involved in corruption, resulting in impunity for abusers due to a lack of institutional capacity. The government took some steps toward holding government security forces accountable for abuses.

There were reports of killings of civilians, rape, and other forms of gender-based violence, forced displacement, and looting and destruction of property by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, Amhara regional militias, and other armed groups, and these were widespread in the context of the continuing conflict in the northern part of the county. Unnamed groups of ethnic Gumuz militants reportedly carried out attacks and killings of civilians in various part of Benishangul-Gumuz throughout the year. Local militia groups in Afar and Somali Regions reportedly carried out attacks and killings of civilians as part of a long-running regional boundary dispute in the northeast part of the country. The Oromo Liberation Army-Shane – an armed separatist group with factions in western, central, and southern Oromia – reportedly killed civilians and government officials in many parts of Oromia, especially in the west.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

There were numerous reports that the government and its representatives committed arbitrary and unlawful killings. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW), and the UN Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) in collaboration with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) reported numerous cases of unlawful or extrajudicial killings in the context of the conflict in Tigray and the northern part of the country (see section 1.g.). The Federal Police Internal Investigative Bureau investigated cases of criminal acts perpetrated by police. The internal unit’s decisions regarding penalties against police were kept confidential.

The Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) had a military police division with a military investigative unit that reported to the military attorney general’s office. The military police passed evidence from their investigations to the prosecutors and defense counsels. The ENDF attorney general directed the investigations and heard the cases in military court.

Unnamed groups of ethnic Gumuz militants reportedly carried out attacks and killings of civilians in various part of Benishangul-Gumuz throughout the year. Local militia groups in Afar and Somali Regions reportedly carried out attacks and killings of civilians as part of a long-running regional boundary dispute in the northeast of the country. The Oromo Liberation Army (OLA)-Shane – an armed separatist group with factions in western, central, and southern Oromia – reportedly killed civilians and government officials in many parts of Oromia, especially in the west.

b. Disappearance

There were reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

On August 18, HRW reported that since late June authorities had forcibly disappeared ethnic Tigrayans in Addis Ababa. While lawyers and families discovered that the government transferred some individuals to detention centers in Afar, the whereabouts of others – including 23 cases HRW documented – remained unknown as of early August. A lawyer shared with HRW a list of an additional 110 persons whose relatives said their whereabouts were unknown as of August 2. HRW reported that several disappeared individuals had been released and re-arrested as of early December.

On September 13, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated reports suggested, “people of Tigrayan ethnicity have been profiled and detained by law enforcement officials on ethnic grounds, with hundreds having reportedly been arrested in recent security sweeps, mostly in Addis Ababa, and several businesses belonging to ethnic Tigrayans having reportedly been closed.”

In early November the BBC, CNN, and other news agencies reported on widespread detentions of ethnic Tigrayans in Addis Ababa and throughout the country; such reports continued at year’s end.

On November 8, the EHRC reported authorities appeared to be arresting persons “based on ethnicity” under a nationwide state of emergency declaration, which gave them power to detain “people suspected of collaborating with terrorist groups on reasonable grounds.”

In early December East Africa regional representatives for OHCHR estimated security forces had detained between 5,000 and 7,000 individuals since the government declared the state of emergency on November 2, noting this information was based on preliminary information and likely an underestimate. There were also reports of widespread disappearances on the basis on ethnicity in Western Tigray (see section 1.d.).

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

Although the constitution prohibits such practices, there were reports that security officials tortured and otherwise abused detainees.

The World Organization Against Torture and its partner the Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia reported that the government reintroduced torture in its security operations connected to the armed conflict in the northern part of the country and failed to hold soldiers accused of torture accountable (see section 1.g.).

During an EHRC investigation in Oromia early in the year, detainees reported police beat them during arrests and in detention. The EHRC’s monitoring teams found evidence of injuries on some detainees who reported police beatings.

According to the Conduct in UN Field Missions online portal, there were two open allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by the country’s peacekeepers deployed to a UN peacekeeping mission: one submitted in 2018 allegedly involving an exploitative relationship with an adult in the UN Mission in Liberia and one submitted in late 2020 allegedly involving transactional sex in the UN Interim Security Force in Abyei. As of October the United Nations had substantiated the 2018 allegation and repatriated the perpetrator, but the government had not yet reported regarding accountability measures taken. Concerning the 2020 allegation, the United Nations had taken an interim action (suspension of payments), but results of the investigation remained pending, as was any final action.

Impunity remained a problem, although some measures were taken to hold security forces accountable for human rights abuses. Lack of transparency regarding those being charged and tried in courts of law made it difficult to assess the government’s accountability efforts. In May the federal attorney general’s office released a summary report of its efforts to ensure accountability regarding violations of national and international law in Tigray. Government investigators examined allegations that members of the ENDF engaged in killing of civilians, rape, and other forms of gender-based violence and looting and destruction of property. Military prosecutors charged 28 soldiers for killing civilians without military necessity, and 25 soldiers for committing acts of sexual violence including rape. As of year’s end trials were underway. In addition, three soldiers were convicted and sentenced for rape, and one soldier was convicted and sentenced for killing a civilian. At year’s end the military police were also investigating several other cases of alleged conflict-related crimes. Human rights groups criticized the military’s accountability efforts for lacking transparency.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and pretrial detention center conditions remained harsh and in some cases life threatening. Problems included gross overcrowding and inadequate food, water, sanitation, and medical care. Pretrial detention often occurred in police station detention facilities, where conditions varied widely, and reports noted poor hygiene.

Beginning in early November, according to media reports, the government began detaining thousands of ethnic Tigrayans under its state of emergency, converting warehouses, schools, youth centers, and other makeshift facilities to house the ever-growing detainee population. The conditions in such facilities were reportedly life threatening (see sections 1.b. and 1.d.).

Physical Conditions: Severe overcrowding was common, especially in prison sleeping quarters. The nongovernmental organization (NGO) World Prison Brief estimated the country’s prisons held 110,000 persons in March 2020, although they had no estimate of the prison system’s capacity. Prison cells were small and cramped. International organizations reported it was common for cells to have small windows that allowed only a little light into estimated 430-square-foot cells, one of which might hold as many as 38 cellmates. Authorities sometimes incarcerated juveniles with adults. Prison officials generally separated male and female prisoners, although mixing occurred at some facilities. Authorities did not provide information on deaths in prison.

Many prisoners supplemented their food allocation with daily food deliveries from family members or by purchasing food from local vendors. Reports noted officials prevented some prisoners from receiving food from their families, and some families did not know of their relatives’ locations. Medical care was unreliable in federal prisons and almost nonexistent in regional ones. Medical attention following physical abuse was insufficient in some cases.

Prisoners had only limited access to potable water. Water shortages caused unhygienic conditions, and most prisons lacked appropriate sanitary facilities. Many prisoners had serious health problems but received little or no treatment. There were reports prison officials denied some prisoners access to needed medical care.

The law prohibits detention in any facility other than an official detention center; however, local militias and other formal and informal law enforcement entities operated an unknown number of unofficial detention centers.

Most prisons and detention centers lacked adequate hand-washing facilities, personal protective equipment, and quarantine areas. As a result the prison system was vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19. To reduce crowding and slow the spread of COVID-19, the government released 30,000 prisoners from the federal prison system.

Administration: There were reports that prisoners were mistreated by prison guards and did not have access to prison administrators or ombudspersons to register their complaints. Legal aid clinics operated in some prisons. At the regional level, these clinics had good working relations with judicial, prison, and other government officials. Prison officials allowed some detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship, but courts sometimes declined to hear such complaints.

The law generally provides for visitor access to prisoners. Authorities, however, denied some indicted defendants visits with their lawyers. In some cases police did not allow pretrial detainees to have access to visitors, including family members and legal counsel. Prison regulations stipulate lawyers representing persons charged with terrorism offenses may visit only one client per day, and only on Wednesdays and Fridays. Authorities denied family members’ access to persons charged with terrorist activity.

Officials permitted religious observance by prisoners, but this varied by prison and even by section within a prison. There were allegations authorities denied detainees adequate locations in which to pray.

Independent Monitoring: From January to June, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited 17,919 prisoners in 32 places of detention throughout the country as part of its normal activities. After the government commenced its widespread detention of ethnic Tigrayans under the state of emergency (see section 1.d.), the ICRC was denied access to detention facilities.

Regional authorities allowed government and NGO representatives to meet with prisoners without third parties present. The EHRC monitored federal and regional detention centers and interviewed prison officials and prisoners.

During the period from November 20, 2020, to January 12, the EHRC deployed monitoring teams at 21 police stations across Oromia where large numbers of prisoners were arrested and detained in connection with what local authorities called “the current situation,” referring to unrest following the killing of popular singer Hachalu Hundessa. Detainees also reported extortion practices by police. In most police stations the EHRC observed, detainees were held in unhygienic and overcrowded rooms that posed serious health risks. The EHRC reported that most detainees faced dire conditions due to absence of food in the detention centers coupled with lack of access to water, sanitation, and medical services.

The EHRC and the attorney general’s office checked on the welfare of high-level political prisoners arrested for possible involvement in organizing violence following the June 2020 killing of popular singer Hachalu Hundessa. On February 2, the EHRC visited Kaliti Correctional Facility and Kilinto Prison to monitor the situation of Jawar Mohammed and other prisoners who had been on hunger strike that began on January 27, as well as the treatment of Colonel Gemechu Ayana and Tilahun Yami. The EHRC reported the detainees were in good health, had sustained no bodily injuries, and that those on hunger strike were subject to medical monitoring.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and federal law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government rarely observed these requirements, especially regarding the mass detentions made under the state of emergency (see section 1.b.).

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

The constitution and law require detainees to appear in court and face charges within 48 hours of arrest or as soon thereafter as local circumstances and communications permit. Travel time to the court is not included in this 48-hour period. With a warrant, authorities may detain persons suspected of serious offenses for 14 days without charge. The courts increasingly pushed authorities to present evidence or provide clear justifications within 14 days or release the detainee. Courts also demanded to see police investigative files to assess police requests for additional time.

A functioning bail system was in place. Bail was not available for persons charged with murder, treason, or corruption. In other cases the courts set bail between 500 birr ($11.60) and 10,000 birr ($232), amounts that few citizens could afford. The government provided public defenders for detainees unable to afford private legal counsel, but defendants received these services only when their cases went to trial and not during the pretrial phases. In some cases a single defense counsel represented multiple defendants in a single case. Some suspects were held incommunicado (see section 1.g., Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture).

Arbitrary Arrest: There were reports of arbitrary arrest by security forces.

HRW reported that security forces ethnically profiled and arbitrarily arrested Tigrayans throughout the year. HRW reported as of August hundreds of Tigrayans had been arrested, many of whom it assessed had been targeted based on ethnicity. In many cases security forces checked persons’ identification cards to confirm their identity before taking them to a police station or other detention facility. The Addis Ababa police commissioner maintained that arrested Tigrayans were under investigation for alleged support for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

In an investigation in January in Oromia, the EHRC found many detainees had been arrested without court orders or formal investigations, and many had not been brought before court within the time the law prescribed. In addition, the EHRC reported many police stations held suspects whose charges were dropped or who should have been released in accordance with court orders. In some cases children were held in detention on suspicion of involvement in criminal activity contrary to the law requiring their release on unconditional bail.

In November the government commenced mass detentions of Tigrayans on the basis of their ethnic origin in Addis Ababa and throughout the country.

On November 8, the EHRC reported authorities appeared to be arresting individuals “based on ethnicity” under a nationwide state of emergency declaration, which gave them power to detain “people suspected of collaborating with terrorist groups on reasonable grounds.” In early December East Africa regional representatives for OHCHR estimated security forces had detained between 5,000 and 7,000 individuals since the government declared the state of emergency on November 2, noting this information was based on preliminary information and likely an underestimate. Other credible sources estimated there to be thousands of arrests of Tigrayans and by year’s end. There were also reports of as many as several thousand arrests of ethnic Oromo in the context of the state of emergency.

On November 3, a joint OHCHR-EHRC investigation reported that the ENDF detained individuals in secret locations and military camps, in many cases arbitrarily (see section 1.g.).

Pretrial Detention: The percentage of the inmate population in pretrial detention and average length of time held was not available. Lengthy legal procedures, large numbers of detainees, judicial inefficiency, and staffing shortages contributed to frequent trial delays, in some cases lasting years.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: During the year no cases were brought to the courts by individuals claiming unlawful detention. The law does not provide for compensation for unlawfully detained persons.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary. Although the civil courts operated with a large degree of independence, criminal courts remained weak and overburdened.

Trial Procedures

Under the constitution accused persons have the right to a fair, public trial without undue delay, a presumption of innocence, legal counsel of their choice, appeal, the right not to self-incriminate, the right to present witnesses and evidence in their defense, and the right to cross-examine prosecution witnesses. The law requires officials to inform detainees of the nature of their arrest within a specific period time, which varies based on the severity of the allegation. The law requires that, if necessary, translation services be provided in a language defendants understand. The federal courts are required to hire interpreters for defendants that speak other languages and had staff working as interpreters for major local languages.

The federal Public Defender’s Office provided legal counsel to indigent defendants, but the scope and quality of service were inadequate due to a shortage of attorneys. A public defender often handled more than 100 cases and might represent multiple defendants in the same criminal case. Numerous free legal-aid clinics, primarily based at universities, also provided legal services. In certain areas of the country, the law allows volunteers such as law students and professors to represent clients in court on a pro bono basis. There was a lack of a strong local bar association or other standardized criminal defense representation.

The constitution recognizes both religious and traditional courts. Many rural citizens had little access to formal judicial systems and relied on traditional mechanisms for resolving conflict. By law all parties to a dispute must agree to use a traditional or religious court before such a court may hear a case, and either party may appeal to a regular court at any time. Sharia (Islamic law) courts may hear religious and family cases involving Muslims if both parties agree before the start of the formal legal process to use the sharia court. Sharia courts received some funding from the government. Sharia courts adjudicated most cases in the Somali and Afar Regions, which were predominantly Muslim. Other traditional systems of justice, such as councils of elders, functioned predominantly in rural areas. Women often believed they lacked access to free and fair hearings in the traditional court system because local custom excluded them from participation in councils of elders and due to persistent gender discrimination.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were multiple detentions of political leaders who were released or sentenced based on criminal acts. Following the June 2020 violence caused by the killing of popular singer Hachalu Hundessa, there were approximately 40 arrests of political leaders in Oromia and their followers. In February the EHRC visited the highest profile leaders in jail. These opposition leaders were provided the same protections as other detainees. Several opposition leaders who were arrested following the killing of Hachalu Hundessa were still in detention awaiting trial at year’s end.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

The law provides citizens the right to file cases in civil court, including in cases with human rights abuses. For human rights abuses where a government agency is the accused perpetrator, the victim initiates the process by filing a complaint at the EHRC. The EHRC investigates and makes recommendations to the concerned government agency.

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

The law generally requires authorities to obtain court-issued search warrants prior to searching private property, although the government did not always enforce this, especially under the state of emergency imposed in November. The law also recognizes exceptions for “hot pursuit” cases in which a suspect enters premises or disposes of items that are the subject of an offense committed on the premises. This legal exception also applies when police have reasonable suspicion that evidence of a crime punishable if convicted by more than three years’ imprisonment is concealed on or in the property and a delay in obtaining a search warrant could allow for the evidence to be removed. Freedom House reported the government used location tracking and other technical means to surveil online and telephone communications. In addition, the government blocked or filtered websites for political reasons, and there was reportedly no mechanism to appeal website blocking.

g. Conflict-related Abuses

Beginning in November 2020, fighting between the ENDF and TPLF resulted in protracted conflict throughout the northern area of Tigray Region. During the year the conflict spread into neighboring Amhara and Afar Regions, where serious abuses were also reported. As of year’s end there was very limited access to Tigray, except for the capital Mekele, resulting in a lack of reporting on human rights abuses in Tigray. There were numerous reports of looting and destruction of infrastructure in Tigray, Amhara, and Afar, including in refugee camps. There were reports that government security forces, regional security forces, the Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF), private militias, and the TPLF all committed human rights abuses.

Killings: There were widespread reports that government security forces killed civilians in the context of the continuing conflict in the northern part of the country. Reports of regional militias, EDF, and rebel groups killing civilians in the context of the conflict were likewise widespread.

In early and mid-January, local and international media reported that the ENDF killed at least 30 civilians in Mai Harmaz in western Tigray and at least 11 civilians in Mahibere Dego in central Tigray. Media also reported that on or about February 11, ENDF soldiers killed 18 civilians in Wikro in eastern Tigray Region. Staff from Medecins Sans Frontieres reported witnessing ENDF soldiers kill four civilians in Adigrat, Tigray, in March. On April 9, a partner organization of the NGO-operated Armed Conflict Location and Event Database Project reported that ENDF soldiers killed at least 33 civilians in Selekleka in northern Tigray.

In August multiple news agencies, including Agence France-Presse, the New York Times, the Associated Press, and CNN, did feature stories regarding the bodies of what appeared to be executed Tigrayans being found in the town Wad al-Hilou, Sudan, which is 40 miles along the Tekeze River from Humera, Ethiopia. On September 13, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated, “We have received disturbing reports that local fishermen found dozens of bodies floating along the river crossing between Western Tigray and Sudan in July. Some allegedly had gunshot wounds and bound hands, indications that they might have been detained and tortured before being killed.” CNN reported that many of the bodies bore marks of “extensive torture.” One CNN witness had counted 60 bodies to date. According to CNN, the bodies were believed to be the remains of Tigrayans incarcerated in Humera by the ENDF and associated militia groups. According to a Sudanese forensic expert who identified some of the bodies, “We found clear signs of a systematic manner of torture – aggressive and painful violence with intent to kill. The victims were dead before they hit the water.”

According to a mid-December Amnesty International and HRW report, Amhara security forces were responsible for a surge of mass detentions, killings, and forced expulsions of ethnic Tigrayans in Western Tigray. Earlier that month HRW reported Tigrayan forces had executed dozens of civilians in two towns they temporarily controlled in Amhara Region. According to the November 3 OHCHR-EHRC report, there were reasonable grounds to believe all parties to the conflict – including the ENDF, EDF, and TPLF – carried out indiscriminate attacks resulting in civilian casualties and destruction or damage to civilian objects. According to reports by the Guardian, New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, al-Jazeera, SkyNews, and others, on June 22, government forces bombed a marketplace in Togogo, Tigray Region, killing dozens of civilians. Medical personnel told Reuters the ENDF blocked them from reaching the site of the attack.

Abductions: According to the November 3 OHCHR-EHRC report, the ENDF detained individuals in secret locations and military camps, in many cases arbitrarily. The TPLF and groups allied to them reportedly arbitrarily detained and abducted non-Tigrayan civilians some of whom were killed or disappeared.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture:According to the November 3 OHCHR-EHRC report, all parties to the conflict engaged in torture and ill-treatment of civilians and captured combatants. Victims were reportedly beaten with electric cables and metal pipes, detained incommunicado, threatened with guns to their heads, and deprived of food and water. Civilians in Western Tigray were reportedly tortured and ill-treated mainly because of their ethnic identities as Amhara. Elsewhere, captured soldiers and fighters, as well as civilians suspected of providing support to them, were reportedly tortured. According to the OHCHR-EHRC report, on April 2, in Samre, EDF soldiers forcibly paraded at least 600 Tigrayan men, who were stripped to their underpants or naked, through the town. The report detailed how the TPLF also subjected captured ENDF soldiers to public view.

Reports were widespread that parties to the conflict in the northern part of the country used rape as a weapon of war, with numerous allegations against the ENDF, EDF, and Amhara Regional Special Forces and associated militia groups. Amnesty International documented 1,288 cases of sexual violence attributed to government forces between February and April. In February the Ministry of Women, Children, and Youth recognized the widespread use of rape in Tigray, establishing a task force to investigate allegations and send a report to the Attorney General’s Office. Women and girls in Tigray reported to local and international media that men in Ethiopian military uniforms subjected them to rape, gang rape, sexual slavery, sexual mutilation, sexual exploitation and abuse, and other forms of gender-based violence. Survivors reported that pregnant women, women with disabilities, and young girls were targeted, and that in some cases rapists used ethnic slurs. One woman reported to Reuters that men dressed in Ethiopian military uniforms killed her 12-year-old son in Mekelle, then took her to a camp where she was held with other female captives and repeatedly raped for 10 days in mid- to late-February. In other similar reports survivors reported difficulty distinguishing whether their abusers were Ethiopian soldiers or Eritreans wearing Ethiopian uniforms. According to the OHCHR-EHRC report, there were reasonable grounds to believe that all parties to the conflict committed sexual and gender-based violence, with the ENDF, EDF, and TPLF implicated in multiple reports of gang rape. A November 9 report by Amnesty International documented more than a dozen reports of rapes committed by TPLF fighters.

In June the Attorney General’s Office stated that the court convicted four ENDF soldiers of rape, and that 21 additional suspects had been charged with committing acts of sexual violence and rape.

Child Soldiers:There were some reports of conscription and use of child soldiers by government forces and armed groups.

In August Tigrayan teenagers reported to the BBC that the TPLF had been forcibly conscripting child soldiers. Since June the government accused the TPLF of using child soldiers, but the TPLF spokesperson denied the allegations.

On September 29, local media reported that authorities in the Borana Zone in southern Oromia were forcibly conscripting youth to join the ENDF. Local officials dismissed these reports as propaganda.

Other Conflict-related Abuse: In the context of the conflict in the northern part of the country, international organizations, including the United Nations, reported that a humanitarian crisis, including man-made widespread famine was unfolding and sought to assist with basic services, food, and medical supplies. The government, however, significantly impeded or blocked access to areas in need of humanitarian assistance, especially in Tigray. In June the UN’s top humanitarian official, Mark Lowcock, stated that soldiers were deliberately blocking supplies to the more than one million persons in areas outside of government control and told Reuters, “Food is definitely being used as a weapon of war.” On October 8, the NGO InterAction noted the use of “starvation as warfare.”

According to the November 3 OHCHR-EHRC report, there were reasonable grounds to believe all parties to the conflict – including the ENDF, EDF and TPLF – either directly attacked civilians and civilian objects, such as houses, schools, hospitals, and places of worship. In addition, there were reports of large-scale destruction and appropriation of property by all parties to the conflict, as well as forcible displacement of civilians on a broad scale.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech, including for members of the press and other media, and the government’s general respect for this right deteriorated, especially in response to the conflict in the northern part of the country. International organizations, including the International Federation of Journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Journalists Without Borders, and Freedom House, reported a decline in press freedoms.

Freedom of Expression: Upon taking office Prime Minister Abiy stated that freedom of speech was essential to the country’s future. NGOs subsequently reported that practices such as arrests, detention, abuse, and harassment of persons for criticizing the government diminished significantly. During the year, however, the government demonstrated a limited willingness to accept criticism, which was reflected in restrictive measures on freedom of speech.

Freedom of Expression for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media: While independent media were active, reports of harassment, intimidation, and other restrictions of journalists critical of the government – especially its response to the conflict and humanitarian crisis in the northern part of the country – were widespread. In April the government reformed and rebranded the Ethiopian Broadcast Authority – the entity that monitored, licensed, and issued proclamations on all media outlets – as the Ethiopian Media Authority (EMA). Although some reports characterized the changes as a continuation of a positive trajectory for media freedom reform, the EMA restricted some press freedoms.

According to the EMA, there were 20 public media, 38 commercial broadcast, 58 community broadcast, and three subscriptions (cable channels). There were eight newspapers published in Amharic and English and 31 mostly independent television stations representing national and regional interests. Community radio stations were widespread. Radio remained the most popular and accessible form of media in the country.

The still-developing media landscape faced persistent challenges. Many reporters were untrained, and most private stations reflected the political views of their owners. Regional news agencies and social media influencers amplified messages that led to “echo chambers,” which often were biased towards ethnic interests. News agencies withheld, underreported, downplayed, or discredited reports of abuses against rival ethnic groups.

Violence and Harassment: On January 19, government security forces in Tigray’s capital Mekele shot and killed Tigray TV journalist Dawit Kebede and his friend Bereket Berhe for allegedly violating the dusk-to-dawn curfew in the city. The government had previously detained Dawit without charge in November 2020 before eventually charging him with publishing false information and damaging the government’s image. Some reports alleged the killing was in response to Dawit’s reporting on Tigray.

On February 10, three armed intruders entered the Addis Ababa home of Los Angeles Times and al-Jazeera journalist Lucy Kassa, accusing her of spreading lies in support of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. The intruders stole Kassa’s computer and flash drive of photographs showing evidence of Eritrean soldiers in Tigray. Following the raid of her home, Kassa reported targeted harassment and verbal abuse via aggressive drivers in public and private transportation.

On February 27, the ENDF arrested two translators, Fitsume Berhanu from Agence France Presse, and Alula Akalu from Financial Times. Fitsume reported a soldier threatened to claim the journalists had broken the dusk-to-dawn curfew in Mekelle and kill them. While there was no official reason given for the arrest, the ENDF later claimed Fitsume was a journalist working for the “Tigray Media House.”

In March the government cancelled media credentials for New York Times journalist and Irish national Simon Marks after his return from a reporting trip in Tigray. On May 20, the government detained Marks, took him to the airport where they held him for eight hours, and deported him without explanation, although his residence permit was valid until October. Some reports accused the government of deporting Marks for his critical reporting on Tigray.

Libel/Slander Laws: According to the NGO End Blasphemy Laws, the law provides criminal sanctions for blasphemy or scoffing at religious places or ceremonies.

National Security: The government charged some journalists on national security grounds.

Between June 30 and July 2, federal police arrested 12 journalists from Awlo Media Center and Ethio-Forum and six staff members from Awlo Media Center for alleged affiliation with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. On August 9, police released 10 employees of Awlo Media Center after 41 days of imprisonment in the Afar Region. Police retained four journalists in custody: Abebe Bayu, Bekalu Alamrew, Fanuel Kinfu and Yayesew Shimeles. On August 17, police released the journalists on a 5,000-birr ($116) bail. Authorities in this case neither followed due process, nor did they make formal charges. Awlo Media and Ethio Forum had both reported extensively on abuses against Tigrayans.

In July the EMA suspended the national news magazine Addis Standard concerning its use of the name “Tigray Defense Forces” in its reporting. The EMA justified its suspension by claiming Addis Standard supported the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. EMA deputy director general Yonatan Tesfaye told the Committee to Protect Journalists they had suspended the license because the outlet was endangering the country’s national security by publishing content that was illegal and “legitimizes terrorist groups.”

Nongovernmental Impact: The rebel faction OLA-Shane controls an area that was considered a nonpermissive environment for journalists. On May 9, a hit squad affiliated with OLA-Shane – the Aba Torbe – allegedly shot and killed Sisay Fida, a reporter and coordinator for the Oromia Broadcasting Network, while he was walking home. While a motive was never identified, reports blamed OLA-Shane and its affiliates for the killing. A spokesperson for OLA-Shane’s Western Zone blamed the federal government. Both OLA-Shane and the government denied responsibility for the killing.

Internet Freedom

The government periodically restricted and disrupted access to the internet and blocked social media sites, especially in areas of internal conflict. The government’s monopoly on the telecommunications sector – through state-owned EthioTelecom – enabled it to control the online media space by leveraging nationwide and regional shutdowns.

In November 2020 telephone, cell phone, and internet services were shut down in the Tigray Region, and internet access remained disrupted in most areas in Tigray at year’s end. In other areas there were reports of intermittent blackouts targeting websites and social media platforms suspected of expressing or encouraging antigovernment sentiments (see section 1.f.).

On May 17, the government blocked Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger for several hours. Other social media platforms, including Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and Reddit, were unrestricted.

The Hate Speech and Disinformation Prevention and Suppression Proclamation addresses hate speech in social media. The law prohibits dissemination of hate speech or disinformation through broadcasting, print, or social media using text, image, audio, or video. Conviction of a crime described under the law is punishable with imprisonment for no more than two years or a substantial monetary fine. A person convicted of violating the misinformation law may face no more than one year in prison or a substantial monetary fine. If their action results in a person or group being attacked due to hate speech, the punishment for conviction may be between one year and five years of incarceration. If a person is convicted of hate speech or disinformation via broadcasting services, print media, or a social media account of more than 5,000 followers, the violator faces one to three years in prison or a substantial monetary fine.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

The laws governing academic curriculum rely on a proclamation from 2009, which restricts academic freedom by means of minimum requirements for being consistent with international good practice and cultural responsibility.

Cultural events and celebrations were not restricted. During the year the annual Oromo celebration of the harvest, Ireechaa, took place for the second time in Addis Ababa. Ethnic Oromo persons gathered freely, adorned the streets, and played Oromo music. Prior to 2020 the Ireechaa celebration only took place outside Addis Ababa in the Oromia Region.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights. Permission to hold peaceful rallies is required. Holding unrecognized rallies may result in legal liability.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

The Armed Conflict Location and Event Database (ACLED) reported that the country had an average of more than three weekly demonstrations. While the majority were peaceful, ACLED assessed security forces responded to five demonstrations with excessive force and 17 with some nonexcessive intervention.

On May 21, security forces reportedly killed at least four persons and injured approximately 20 others during a Prosperity Party rally in Merawi town in Amhara Region. Regional police stated the security forces intervened to control the situation because some youths at the rally attempted to disrupt the event. The opposition political party National Movement of Amhara released a statement describing the casualties and injuries as “a result of measures taken by the security forces against students who raised their voices peacefully.”

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement and the Right to Leave the Country

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

In-country Movement: In-country movement was generally unrestricted, except for movement into and out of the Tigray Region in view of the continuing conflict there and other regions experiencing violence, including parts of Benishangul-Gumuz and Western Oromia. Many routes connecting Tigray with other parts of the country were blocked or inaccessible, and federal and regional authorities erected an extensive system of checkpoints on the road connecting Semera in Afar Region to Tigray, which impeded travel including of those seeking to deliver humanitarian assistance.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

As of October 4, the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Displacement Tracking Matrix estimated there were 4.2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country spread across 1,957 sites. The number of IDPs more than doubled from 2020 (when IOM estimated 1.8 million IDPs). IOM estimated approximately 2.1 million persons were displaced due to the conflict that originated in Tigray and spread into Amhara and Afar Regions. There were significant IDP populations in Benishangul-Gumuz and Oromia Regions as well. IOM concluded that conflict remained the primary reason for displacement, followed by drought, flooding, and social tensions.

IOM found that IDPs had limited access to basic services and livelihood opportunities, and faced significant protection risks, including exposure to continuing violence, lack of educational opportunities, and lack of health care. In many displacement sites, IDPs reported food shortages, with COVID-19 pandemic restrictions having reduced the supply and availability of staple commodities. In some instances the government strongly encouraged returns of IDPs without adequate arrangements for security and sustainability.

f. Protection of Refugees

The government collaborated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in expanding protection and assistance to IDPs, refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern in most regions of the country. The government did not allow UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations unfettered access and delivery of life-saving assistance to refugees and other populations in need in the Tigray Region.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government used a refugee status determination system for providing services and protection to refugees. UNHCR reported the government did not register Eritrean arrivals because it ceased granting prima facie recognition for Eritrean asylum seekers in 2020. This led to an increase in unregistered Eritrean asylum seekers with no access to a refugee status determination.

The Tigray conflict continued to have a negative impact on the protection of Eritrean refugees. In February the government closed two of the four refugee camps hosting Eritrean refugees in Tigray – Shimelba and Hitsats – after they were destroyed in the fighting. The approximately 32,000 refugees who were resident in Shimelba and Hitsats were subsequently displaced, with some relocating to the Mai Aini and Adi Harush camps in southern Tigray, some relocating to Addis Ababa, and others remaining with host communities elsewhere in Tigray. As of October UNHCR could not account for the whereabouts of more than 6,000 Eritrean refugees. Refugees in Mai Aini and Adi Harush camps were deprived of life-saving assistance for months, as well as being targeted by armed factions through harassment and violence. UNHCR was working to establish a refugee camp in Dabat in Amhara Region to resettle refugees from Mai Aini and Adi Harush, but as of October UNHCR was unable to carry out the relocation due to continuing conflict in the area.

UNHCR also reported a change in the process for South Sudanese asylum seekers, who beginning during the year, were subject to a group screening process to determine eligibility for refugee status rather than prima facie recognition.

Freedom of Movement: In June 2020 the Agency for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) released a directive permitting refugees to leave the camps if they met certain criteria.

Employment: In June 2020 ARRA issued secondary legislation to codify rights in the 2019 Refugee Proclamation, which included procedures for refugees’ right to work. The Right to Work Directive provides for the right to work of refugees working on a joint project with local nationals, and for the right to work of refugees seeking wage-earning employment in a position unable to be filled by a citizen, or through self-employment. ARRA reported that as of July, approximately 5,000 work permits had been granted through the program.

Access to Basic Services: Refugee students who passed the required tests could attend a university with fees paid by the government and UNHCR.

Durable Solutions: The government welcomed refugees to settle in the country but did not offer a path to citizenship or provide integration.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The country’s sixth general election took place on June 21, despite pressure from the international community to postpone the election because of continuing insecurity and withdrawal of international observers. In May the EU withdrew its Electoral Observation Mission citing a “lack of agreement on key parameters.” The EU accused authorities of not giving assurances on the independence of the mission and refusing to let them import communication systems for their security. The National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) responded by saying they were trying to hold the elections in accordance with domestic laws and international standards.

Domestic and international nonpartisan observers generally agreed that the June 21 elections were peaceful. While observers considered the elections a positive step in the country’s democratic trajectory, they also cited challenges, including security problems and large turnouts that overwhelmed polling stations across the country. Observers also noted that the elections took place against a backdrop of grave instability, including interethnic and intercommunal violence, and an electoral process that was not free or fair for all citizens. While some major opposition parties boycotted the elections, observers assessed the result generally reflected the will of most citizens. According to NEBE, 30 of the 47 parties that participated in the elections filed complaints regarding the election, covering 160 constituencies.

On July 10, NEBE announced the results for 423 of the 547 (77 percent) of the House of Peoples’ Representatives (HOPR) constituencies. On September 30, the board held a second round of elections for an additional 47 constituencies (constituting 9 percent of the electorate) in Somali, Harari, and the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples’ Regions. Of these, NEBE held reruns of 11 constituencies where elections were held on June 21, but neither the board nor the courts identified irregularities requiring a rerun. Authorities postponed elections in an additional 74 constituencies (approximately 14 percent), which require elections in the future, including 35 constituencies spread across several regions and the 38 constituencies in the Tigray Region, which represent 7 percent of the HOPR seats.

Prime Minister Abiy’s Prosperity Party dominated, winning 96 percent of the seats. On October 4, the country began the process of forming a government during joint sessions of the HOPR and the House of Federation – the lower and upper chambers of parliament, respectively. The HOPR accepted the nomination by the majority Prosperity Party of Abiy Ahmed to serve as prime minister.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Registered political parties must receive permission from regional governments to open and occupy local offices. The law requires parties to report “public meetings” and obtain permission for public rallies.

In March the government issued Proclamation 1235/2021, A Proclamation to Amend the Political Parties Registration and Electoral Code of Conduct. This law reduced the 5,000 signatures private candidates were required to collect to 2,500. The signature requirement for candidates with disabilities was also reduced from 3,000 to 1,500. Collection of signatures was not required during the year as part of the government’s efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The government allowed opposition parties to participate in debates, hold rallies, and campaign actively, although there were serious allegations of government abuses. In June prior to the election date, several political parties issued a joint statement concerning the electoral process. The political parties alleged government abuses against their candidates, including killings, attempted killings, beatings, arbitrary detention, and harassment. Some government organizations reportedly forced candidates to accept leave without pay on a mandatory basis. Opposition parties complained that measures the government took against their candidates negatively affected their preparations for the election.

In March two major political parties in Oromia boycotted the election. The Oromo Liberation Front – one of the country’s oldest parties with a major following in Oromia – pulled out, citing the jailing of some of its leaders and the alleged closure of its offices by the government, including its headquarters in the capital. In the same month, the Oromo Federalist Congress announced that it was forced to pull out of the election on similar grounds.

More opposition parties withdrew from the second round of the elections scheduled for September 30. On September 17, the Executive Committee of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) – the major opposition group in Somali Region – announced its decision to “withdraw from the 2021 election.” ONLF’s statement on the election accused NEBE of failing to ensure conditions for a free and fair election despite the party’s “repeated appeals” on the ruling party’s fraud in voter and candidate registration. On September 21, the Freedom and Equality Party and the Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice (EZEMA) also announced their withdrawal from the elections.

Although some reports characterized the election process as not conducive for opposition parties, opposition parties won 11 seats in the HOPR. The National Movement of Amhara (NAMA) won five seats in Amhara, while EZEMA and the Gedeo People’s Democratic Organization won four and two seats, respectively, in Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region. In Oromia two independent candidates with no clear ties to the government won seats. The other two winning independent candidates – one in Oromia and one in Addis Ababa – were known advisors to the prime minister. While opposition parties garnered more seats than before, they did not win the 21 seats needed to introduce legislation or amendments or to raise topics for discussion within the HOPR.

The government invited opposition parties to work together and participate in the government. In October the government appointed EZEMA Executive Committee member Girma Seifu as head of the Investment Commission and the deputy chairman of NAMA as head of the Addis Ababa Public Property Administration Authority, although they were not elected. During its first extraordinary session on October 6, the HOPR approved the appointment of a 22-member cabinet including three opposition leaders: EZEMA Leader Berhanu Nega as minister of education, NAMA Chair Belete Molla as minister of innovation and technology, and Oromo Liberation Front deputy chair Qajela Merdassa as minister of culture and sports.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws prevent women or members of minority groups from voting or participating in political life, although patriarchal customs, religious factors, and family commitments limited female participation in political life in some cases. Since same-sex activity is illegal, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons did not identify themselves in political activity, and it was thus difficult to determine their participation. During election periods women experienced more psychological abuse and violence than physical violence in comparison to men. Women were also more likely to experience sexual harassment within political party structures or when running for office. Although many women went to the polls, the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA) reported that the environment at polling stations was not conducive for women. EWLA criticized NEBE for not taking a more gender-sensitive approach to election day administration. EWLA stated that the extension of voting time until 9:00 p.m. had a disproportionately negative impact on women voters, observers, and officials because women faced a higher risk of sexual harassment and gender-based violence at night. EWLA also explained that the long lines left women voters at higher risk of experiencing sexual harassment and recommended separate lines for men and women. In June the Federation of Ethiopia Associations of Persons with Disabilities (FEAPD) deployed its representatives to observe the election. In its preliminary report, FEAPD noted accessibility for persons with disabilities was hindered, and that persons with disabilities required additional assistance to access 22 percent of the polling stations visited by observers. FEAPD also noted that of the approximately 200 polling stations they observed, only one government official in one polling station was a person with a disability. In 11 percent of polling stations, political parties fielded persons with disabilities as partisan observers. Local human rights organizations also reported that millions of IDPs could not participate in the election because NEBE did not establish polling places in displacement camps.

Although there were increases in women’s representation, women remained significantly underrepresented across both elected and appointed positions. On October 6, the HOPR appointed only seven women ministers to the 22-member cabinet – a decrease from approximately 42 percent of the ministers previously to 30 percent.

The government’s policy of ethnic federalism led to the creation of individual constituencies to provide representation for all major ethnic groups in the House of the Federation (the upper chamber of parliament). The government recognized more than 80 ethnicities, and the constitution states that at least one member represent each “Nation, Nationality, and People” in the House of the Federation.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for conviction of corruption. The government did not implement the law effectively or comprehensively. The government enacted policies to hold government officials more accountable. There were isolated reports of government corruption. Officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

On February 19, the HOPR issued the revised proclamation for the establishment of the Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, which assessed that the revised proclamation would increase its capacity to implement the law.

Corruption: In September the federal prosecutor withdrew charges against Ministry of Education officials Mekonnen Addis, Eshetu Asfaw, Taye Mengistu, and Nigusse Beyene who had been arrested in September 2020 for corrupt procurement resulting in a loss of 280 million birr ($6.48 million) and the production of books not meeting the requirements of the bidding contract. The federal prosecutor dropped the charges against all the officials due to doubts concerning the reliability of the material evidence used in the case.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

While a variety of domestic and international human rights groups operated in the country, persistent insecurity and government-imposed access restrictions limited the groups’ ability to conduct investigations and publish their findings on human rights cases. Authorities limited the access of domestic and international human rights organizations, media, humanitarian agencies, and diplomatic missions in certain geographic areas. Government officials were less cooperative than in 2020 and particularly sensitive to any investigation or reporting connected to the continuing conflict in the northern part of the country. Although the civil society organization (CSO) sector continued to expand, and more CSOs registered to establish themselves, the limited capacity of domestic human rights organizations, as well as their self-censorship due to fear of government retaliation, remained a challenge.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: International human rights groups were allowed to travel to most areas within the country to investigate and report but received a tepid reception from the government. As part of their joint investigation into human rights abuses in Tigray, OHCHR and the EHRC conducted 200 interviews in Mekelle, Wukro, Samre, Alamata, Bora, Maichew, Dansha, Maikadra, Humera, Gondar, and Bahir Dahir, as well as in Addis Ababa. On September 13, they released their initial findings and on November 3, published their final report. In June the African Union (AU) launched a human rights investigation into human rights abuses in the Tigray Region. Prime Minister Abiy initially welcomed the probe with the understanding it would work with the government; however, after the AU clarified that it was obliged to conduct the investigation independently, the government criticized and subsequently discredited the probe. On June 17, the government urged the AU inquiry to “immediately cease.”

On August 4, the Ethiopian Agency for Civil Society Organizations of Ethiopia announced the suspension of work permits of three foreign NGOs. The agency suspended the license of Doctors Without Borders Holland, the Norwegian Refugee Council, and the al-Maktoume Foundation. The reasons behind the ban ranged from operation in a restricted area to disseminating misinformation. Other accusations included employing workers without the correct permits, use of unauthorized and illegal satellite communications equipment, and a lack of COVID-19 protocol adherence. The agency later lifted its suspension of al-Maktoume’s work permit.

On September 30, the government declared seven UN officials persona non grata and expelled them from the country for meddling in internal affairs. Some reports suggested the expulsions were related to September 29 comments by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs under-secretary general Martin Griffiths criticizing the government and referring to the suffering in Tigray as “man-made” and the inability to deliver life-saving assistance as a “stain on our conscience.” The UN expulsions included an OHCHR investigator into the human rights situation in Tigray.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Ombudsman has the authority to investigate complaints regarding administrative mismanagement by executive branch offices and officials, and to investigate prison conditions. A 2019 proclamation gives foreign nationals the right to present administrative complaints or rights abuse cases to the office.

The EHRC is an independent government agency accountable to parliament and responsible for investigating and reporting on the country’s human rights. The EHRC has the jurisdiction to observe elections. The law requires EHRC senior staff to be funded as full-time employees. The EHRC investigated human rights abuses across the country. The EHRC did not face adverse action from the government despite criticizing the government for disregarding the rule of law and abusing human rights, including through ethnic profiling of Tigrayans, arbitrary arrests of journalists, and ethnically and politically motivated killings.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and provides for a penalty of five to 20 years’ imprisonment if convicted, depending on the severity of the case. The law does not expressly address spousal rape. The government did not fully enforce the law. The law generally covers violence against a marriage partner or a person cohabiting in an irregular union without specifically mentioning spousal rape. Some judges interpreted this article to cover spousal rape cases, but others overlooked such cases.

In June the EWLA announced that EWLA election observers witnessed three cases of physical assault and eight cases of sexual assault against women at polling stations during the national election. Authorities did not take any enforcement action.

There were numerous reports that parties to the conflict in the northern part of the country engaged in widespread sexual and gender-based violence (see section 1.g.).

Domestic violence is illegal, but government enforcement of the law was inconsistent. Depending on the severity of injuries inflicted, penalties for conviction ranged from small monetary fines to 15 years’ imprisonment. Domestic violence, including spousal abuse, was a pervasive social problem. According to the 2016 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), 34 percent of married women and girls between ages 15 and 49 had experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence from spouses.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law criminalizes the practice of clitoridectomy and provides for three months’ imprisonment or a monetary fine if convicted. Conviction of infibulation of the genitals (the most extreme and dangerous form of FGM/C) is punishable by five to 10 years’ imprisonment.

According to research by BioMed Central Public Health published in January, the prevalence of FGM/C among girls from birth to age 14 was 18.6 percent, representing a decline compared with 24 percent reported in the Ethiopia DHS conducted in 2005. BioMed’s research indicated FGM/C was still widely practiced across communities (16 percent among girls younger than age 14, and 65 percent among girls and women ages 15 to 49 years).

In February the EHRC stated that the COVID-19 pandemic stalled the implementation of prevention action plans against FGM/C and other harmful traditions. The EHRC also noted that Somali, Afar, the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region, and Gambella Regions made the least progress towards eliminating FGM/C.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Marriage by abduction is illegal, although it continued in some regions despite the government’s attempts to combat the practice. Abductions led to fighting among families, communities, and ethnic groups. In cases of abduction, the perpetrator did not face punishment if the survivor agreed to marry the perpetrator. The practice of forced marriage as a remedy for rape continued, although rape and forced marriage are illegal. These crimes were difficult to prosecute, however, since they were usually settled outside courts of law. Some communities forced rapists to marry the survivor to protect her family’s reputation. Rapists who married survivors escaped punishment and might also benefit from a lowered bride price demanded by the survivor’s family.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was widespread. The law prescribes penalties of 18 to 24 months’ imprisonment, but authorities generally did not enforce the law. During the year the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions in collaboration with EWLA established a gender-based violence/sexual harassment reporting desk in several industrial parks.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Couples and individuals generally have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children. The constitution protects the rights of women to access family planning resources and safeguard their health during pregnancy and childbirth. Social and cultural barriers, however, limited women’s access to reproductive health services. According to the 2016 DHS, 85 percent of married or in-union women in the country made decisions on their health care; 94 percent had autonomy in deciding to use contraception; but only 53 percent could refuse to have sex with their partners. Overall, only 45 percent of married or in-union women ages 15 to 49 made their own decisions in all three key areas of sexual and reproductive health and rights: deciding on their own health care, deciding on the use of contraception, and saying no to sex. While 53 percent of married or in-union women reported being able to say no to sex, the law does not protect this right. According to the 2016 DHS, 61 percent of women of reproductive age had access to family planning with modern methods. According to 2018 World Health Organization (WHO) data, the country had an adolescent birth rate (per 1,000 girls ages 15 to 19) of 79.5. Despite nationwide access to contraception, negative cultural stigma around premarital sex reduced utilization of contraception. Transportation problems in remote areas of the country also reduced utilization of contraception. According to a small-scale DHS in 2019, the modern contraception prevalence rate was 41 percent, up from 35 percent in 2016. Prevalence and utilization of contraception varied widely among regions.

Skilled health personnel attended 28 percent of births according to 2019 WHO data. Although the government provided free maternal and child health services, challenges from resource constraints and poor transportation in remote areas persisted for women in accessing skilled health attendance during pregnancy and childbirth. Lack of skilled health attendance during pregnancy correlated with the country’s high maternal mortality rate – 401 deaths per 100,000 live births according to 2017 WHO data. Major causes of maternal mortality included hemorrhage, obstructed labor/ruptured uterus, pregnancy-induced hypertension, sepsis, and unsafe abortion.

Girls and women who have had FGM/C were significantly more likely to have adverse obstetric outcomes, including maternal death (see FGM/C sub-subsection for additional information). While access to some sexual and reproductive health services was available for survivors of gender-based violence at public-sector facilities, more comprehensive services for survivors – including legal and judicial support – were limited. Survivors of gender-based violence in areas impacted by the conflict in the northern part of the country faced lasting medical and mental health complications due to a lack of sexual and reproductive health services associated with the destruction of medical facilities and limitations on humanitarian access.

Social and cultural barriers related to menstruation and access to menstruation hygiene, as well as pregnancy and motherhood, limited girls’ access to education. According to a 2017 UNICEF regional survey, 11 to 46 percent of girls missed between one and seven days of school a month due to menstruation, depending on the region in which they lived. The girls surveyed attributed their absences to lack of adequate hygiene facilities at school and embarrassment due to cultural stigma regarding menstruation. UNICEF also cited early pregnancy as a key factor that kept girls out of school, especially in rural areas.

Discrimination: The law gives equal rights to women and men. Women and men have the same rights entering marriage, during marriage, and at the time of divorce. Discrimination against women was widespread. It was most acute in rural areas, where an estimated 80 percent of the population lived. Traditional courts applied customary law in economic and social relationships.

All federal and regional land laws empower women to access government land. Inheritance laws enable widows to inherit joint property acquired during marriage; however, enforcement of both legal provisions was uneven.

Women’s access to gainful employment, credit, and the opportunity to own or manage a business was limited by fewer educational opportunities and by legal restrictions on women’s employment. These restrictions include limitations on working in occupations deemed dangerous and in specific industries such as mining and agriculture. There were several initiatives aimed at increasing women’s access to these critical economic empowerment tools.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The constitution and law provide for equal protection to all persons without discrimination on grounds of race, nation, nationality, or other social origin. While the government generally enforced the law effectively, there were widespread allegations of government security forces targeting individuals for arrest and detention based on ethnicity in response to the conflict in the north of the country.

According to the 2007 census, the country had more than 80 ethnic groups, of which the Oromo, at approximately 34 percent of the population, was the largest. An updated census remained controversial and was slated for 2019 but was postponed until further notice. The federal system and constitution define political boundaries based on ethnic considerations, but the documents themselves were not drawn along such boundaries. Most political parties were primarily ethnically based, although the ruling party and one of the largest opposition parties were not organized along ethnic lines.

There were several cases of societal violence affecting members of national, racial, or ethnic minorities or groups. In January armed groups that witnesses identified as OLA-Shane and Gumuz Liberation Front attacked a village in Dibate District in Metekel Zone of the Benishangul-Gumuz Region, killing more than 60 ethnic Amharans, according to reports. A mass funeral for the victims took place with the support of members of a special task force the prime minister and local authorities created. The special task force later announced that the perpetrators were OLA-Shane militants, and government security forces killed several and captured others.

In late June following federal forces’ withdrawal from Tigray, government security forces allegedly started arbitrary detention and arrest, closed businesses, and conducted other types of harassment targeting ethnic Tigrayans in some parts of the country, including Addis Ababa. The ethnically targeted arrests, business closures, and harassment continued in July and August, according to reports. In August the Federal Police Criminal Investigation Bureau stated government security forces arrested 1,642 suspects and closed 1,616 businesses, including hotels, buildings, warehouses, investment farms, factories, and real estate companies. Police also seized more than 58 million birr ($1.34 million) in cash and blocked 93 bank accounts, which remained under investigation. The Attorney General’s Office dismissed the allegation that these measures constituted ethnic profiling and explained that because the TPLF was organized along ethnic lines, most of the TPLF supporters and financiers the government targeted happened to be from one ethnic group. In November the government began unlawfully detaining ethnic Tigrayans throughout Addis Ababa (see sections 1.d. and 1.g.).

Tensions between the Kimant minority group in Amhara and the Amhara regional administration rose following a referendum held in 2017 to determine the administrative jurisdiction of the Kimant people. In April an unknown number of persons were killed and properties destroyed in Chilga Woreda in Central Gonder Zone in Amhara because of a clash among Kimant armed groups, OLA-Shane, and government security forces, according to the Peace and Security Bureau head of the Amhara Region. While witnesses reported 32 civilians were killed, the total number of casualties could not be verified. Members of the Kimant community blamed the Amhara Special Forces and a local youth group called Fano for attacks targeting the community.

During February and March, a federal government taskforce held public peace and reconciliation forums in more than 75 wards throughout Metekel Zone in the Benishangul-Gumuz Region to address increasing incidents of ethnically motivated violence. The government solicited thoughts on how to resolve interethnic violence in the region from more than 160,000 residents and trained more than 10,000 community members to serve in multi-ethnic militias tasked with quelling violence. The government also delivered humanitarian assistance to communities displaced by the violence. Despite these efforts, ethnically motivated violence persisted in Metekel Zone and other parts of Benishangul-Gumuz.

Children

Birth Registration: A child’s citizenship derives from its parents. The law requires registration for children at birth. Children born in hospitals were registered; most of those born outside of hospitals were not. The overwhelming majority of children, particularly in rural areas, were born at home. The government continued a campaign initiated in 2017 to increase birth registrations by advising that failure to register would result in denial of public services. In January the Addis Ababa City Administration Vital Events Agency announced it was prepared to issue birth certificates to 500,000 students in Addis Ababa in collaboration with the Addis Ababa Education Bureau.

Education: The law does not make education compulsory. Primary education is universal and tuition free; however, there were not enough schools to accommodate the country’s youth, particularly in rural areas. The cost of school supplies was prohibitive for many families. During the year the city government of Addis Ababa provided school uniforms and supplies to students in all government schools. According to the most recent data, more than 18 million children were enrolled at the primary level with a net enrollment rate of 100 percent. The high enrollment overburdened the education system, and student learning suffered. There were no significant differences in enrollment rates between boys and girls in primary schools, but girls’ enrollment and completion declined in the upper grades.

The war in the northern part of the country and other violence throughout the country negatively affected the education system. HRW reported that the fighting in Tigray deprived many children of an education. The government announced that more than one million students were out of school in Amhara because the TPLF destroyed 260 schools and partially damaged an additional 2,511 schools.

Child Abuse: Child abuse was widespread. Uvula cutting, tonsil scraping, and milk-tooth extraction were among the most prevalent harmful traditional practices. The African Report on Child Wellbeing 2013, published by the African Child Policy Forum, found the government had increased punishment for conviction of sexual violence against children. “Child-friendly” courtrooms heard cases involving violence against children and women.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The law sets the legal age of marriage for girls and boys at 18. Authorities, however, did not enforce this law uniformly, and rural families sometimes were unaware of this provision. Some regions worked on banning early marriages. The Amhara State Attorney General’s Office reported that the regional government rejected 1,030 of 3,266 wedding application requests made between July 2020 to July 7 due to concerns regarding early marriage. The government charged 49 couples with conducting marriage in violation of the ban. Based on 2016 UNICEF data, 40 percent of women between ages 20 and 24 were married before age 18, and 14 percent were married before age 15. The government strategy to address underage marriage focused on education and mediation rather than punishment of offenders.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum legal age for consensual sex is 18, but authorities did not enforce this law. The antitrafficking law criminalizes all forms of child sex trafficking. Some families and brothel owners exploited girls from the country’s impoverished rural areas for domestic servitude and commercial sex. There were reports that brothel owners exploited girls for commercial sex in Addis Ababa’s central market.

Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: Ritual and superstition-based infanticide, including of infants with disabilities, continued in remote tribal areas, particularly in South Omo. Local governments worked to educate communities against the practice.

Displaced Children: According to a 2010 report of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, approximately 150,000 children lived on the streets, 60,000 of them in the capital. The ministry’s report stated this was caused by the inability of families to support children due to parental illness or insufficient household income. Research in 2014 by the ministry noted the problem was exacerbated by rapid urbanization, illegal employment brokers, high expectations of better life in cities, and rural-to-urban migration. These children often begged, sometimes as part of a gang, or worked in the informal sector.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ 2021 Ethiopia Humanitarian Needs Overview, conflict and climate contributed to a high number of unaccompanied displaced children. The report stated that all children faced multiple kinds of violence, loss of essential services like education and exploitation including child labor and child sex trafficking. According to the IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix, there were more than 21,659 unaccompanied and separated children in the country.

The government worked in collaboration with various organizations in rehabilitating needy children.

Institutionalized Children: There were an estimated 4.5 million orphans in the country in 2012, which comprised 4.9 percent of the population, according to statistics published by UNICEF. The vast majority lived with extended family members. Governmental and privately operated orphanages were overcrowded, and conditions were often unsanitary. Institutionalized children did not receive adequate health care.

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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community numbered approximately 2,000 persons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts, and the Addis Ababa Jewish community reported it believed it was protected by the government to practice its faith; however, it did face limited societal discrimination.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

Persons with disabilities could not access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. The constitution does not mandate equal rights for persons with disabilities. Employment law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities but does not explicitly mention intellectual or sensory disabilities. It was illegal for deaf persons to drive; despite the law, in April the government launched a program for the training and issuance of driver’s license for deaf persons. There were reports that the government allegedly denied antenatal and postnatal care services, as well as vaccination, for children with disabilities.

Property owners are required to give persons with disabilities preference for ground-floor apartments, and they generally did so.

Women with disabilities faced more disadvantages in education and employment. According to the 2010 Young Adult Survey by the Population Council, 23 percent of girls with disabilities were in school, compared with 48 percent of girls and 55 percent of boys without disabilities.

Nationally there were several schools for persons with hearing and vision disabilities, and several training centers for children and young persons with intellectual disabilities. There was a network of prosthetic and orthopedic centers in five of the 10 regions.

The law does not restrict the right of persons with disabilities to vote and otherwise participate in civic affairs, although accessibility problems made participation difficult for some persons with more significant disabilities. Older persons, pregnant women, and nursing mothers received priority when voting. The FEAPD preliminary report on its observation of the June elections noted accessibility for persons with disabilities was hindered and that persons with disabilities required additional assistance to access 22 percent of the polling stations visited by observers (see also section 3, Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups).

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Societal stigma and discrimination against persons with or affected by HIV and AIDS continued in education, employment, and community integration. Persons with HIV and AIDS reported difficulty accessing various services. There were no statistics on the scale of the problem.

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

There were reports of violence against LGBTQI+ persons; however, reporting was limited due to fear of retribution, discrimination, or stigmatization. There are no hate crime laws or other criminal justice mechanisms to aid in the investigation of abuses against LGBTQI+ persons. Individuals generally did not publicly identify themselves as LGBTQI+ due to severe societal stigma and the illegality of consensual same-sex sexual conduct. Activists in the LGBTQI+ community reported surveillance and feared for their safety. The law does not prohibit discrimination by state and nonstate actors against LGBTQI+ persons.

Consensual same-sex sexual conduct is illegal, and conviction is punishable by three to 15 years’ imprisonment. No law prohibits discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons. There were no reports of persons incarcerated or prosecuted for engaging in consensual same-sex sexual conduct.

Sporadic but deadly clashes occurred in the border area between Afar and Somali Regions. In April border clashes led to more than 100 civilian deaths in Haruka, Geware, and Gelalo towns. There were contradicting narratives regarding the clashes from both regions. The Afar regional government and activists blamed the violence on Issa-Somali militiamen from Djibouti backed by Somali Regional State Special Forces, claiming that they targeted mostly Afar residents of the area. On the contrary, the Somali regional government accused Afar Special Forces of collaborating with Uguguma (the Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front) to target the Somali people. In July there were additional reports of violence in the Garba Issa, Undhufto, and Aydetu towns of Somali Region followed by the same contradicting narratives concerning the violence. The Somali government blamed federal security forces for failing to protect Somali civilians, while members of the Afar community dismissed the Somali government’s accusation as propaganda.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The constitution and law provide workers, except for civil servants and certain categories of workers primarily in the public sector, with the right to form and join unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. Other provisions and laws severely restrict these rights. The law specifically prohibits managerial employees, teachers, health-care workers, judges, prosecutors, security-service workers, domestic workers, and seasonal agricultural workers from organizing unions. The law requires employers guilty of antiunion discrimination to reinstate workers dismissed for union activities.

A minimum of 10 workers are required to form a union. While the law provides all unions with the right to register, the government may refuse to register trade unions that do not meet its registration requirements. The law allows for refusing registration for a union when union leaders are restricted from certain civil rights by court and when the union is not willing to replace them. There were no reports of a registration refused on this basis. The government may unilaterally cancel the registration of a union. Workers may not join more than one trade union per employment. The law stipulates a trade union organization may not act in an overtly political manner.

The law allows administrative authorities to seek recourse via court actions to cancel union registration for engaging in prohibited activities, such as political action.

While the law recognizes the right to collective bargaining, this right was severely restricted under the law. Negotiations aimed at amending or replacing a collectively bargained agreement must take place within three months of its expiration; otherwise, the prior provisions on wages and other benefits cease to apply. The law restricts enterprise unions to negotiating wages only at the plant level. Civil servants, including public-school teachers, have the right to establish and join professional associations created by the employees but may not bargain collectively. Arbitration procedures in the public sector are more restrictive than in the private sector. Penalties for violations were not commensurate with those for comparable crimes.

Although the constitution and law provide workers with the right to strike to protect their interests, the law contains detailed provisions prescribing extremely complex and time-consuming formalities that make legal strike actions prohibitively difficult. The law requires aggrieved workers to attempt to reconcile with employers before striking; it also includes a lengthy dispute settlement process. These provisions apply equally to an employer’s right to lock workers out. For a strike to be authorized, two-thirds of the workers must support such action. If not referred to a court or labor relations board, the union retains the right to strike without resorting to either of these options, provided they give at least 10 days’ notice to the other party and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and make efforts at reconciliation.

The law also prohibits strikes by workers who provide essential services, including air transport and urban bus services, electric power suppliers, gasoline station personnel, hospital and pharmacy personnel, firefighters, telecommunications personnel, and urban sanitary workers. The list of essential services goes beyond the International Labor Organization (ILO) definition of essential services. The law prohibits retribution against strikers, but it also provides for civil or criminal penalties against unions and workers convicted of committing unauthorized strike actions. If the provisions of the penal code prescribe more severe penalties, the punishment for conviction codified in the penal code becomes applicable. Any public servant who goes on strike, who urges others to go on strike, or who fails to carry out his or her duties in a proper manner, to the prejudice of state, public, or private interest, is subject to imprisonment that involves forced labor.

Trade unions made credible reports of antiunion discrimination and retaliation against workers attempting to organize at Ethiopian Airlines and textile factories located in special economic-zone industrial parks. The informal labor sector, including domestic workers and seasonal agricultural workers, was not unionized, or protected by labor law. The law defines workers as persons in an employment relationship. Lack of adequate staffing prevented the government from effectively enforcing applicable laws for those sectors protected by law. Court procedures were often subject to lengthy delays and appeals.

Lawsuits alleging unlawful dismissal often took years to resolve because of case backlogs in the courts. Labor officials reported that high unemployment, fear of retribution, and long delays in hearing labor cases deterred workers from participating in strikes and other labor actions. Two-thirds of union members belonged to the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions. Labor-sector stakeholders reported that the confederation demonstrated increasing independence from the government.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits and criminalizes all forms of forced or compulsory labor but permits courts to order forced labor as a punitive measure. The government did not effectively enforce the law, and forced labor occurred.

The law prescribes harsh penalties for conviction of human trafficking and exploitation crimes, including slavery, forced labor, debt bondage, sex trafficking, and servitude. Penalties were commensurate with those for comparable crimes. Police at the federal and regional levels received training focused on human trafficking and exploitation.

Some businesspersons exploited boys in forced labor in traditional weaving, construction, agriculture, and street vending; traffickers also exploited women and children in domestic servitude. Labor recruiters frequently targeted young persons from the country’s vast rural areas with false promises of a better life; increasingly, traffickers were replicating legitimate app-based recruitment tools to illegally recruit vulnerable populations and exploit them in forced labor.

The government sometimes deployed prisoners to work outside the prisons for private businesses, a practice the ILO stated could constitute compulsory labor.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. The government did not effectively enforce applicable laws. Penalties were not commensurate with those for comparable offenses.

In 2019 labor law increased the minimum age for wage or salaried employment to 15 from 14. The minimum age provisions, however, apply only to contractual labor and do not apply to self-employed children or children who perform unpaid work, which constituted the vast majority of employed children. The law prohibits hazardous or night work for children between ages 15 and 18. The law defines hazardous work as any work that could jeopardize a child’s health. Prohibited work sectors include passenger transport, work in electric-generation plants, factory work, underground work, street cleaning, and many other sectors. Hazardous work restrictions, however, do not cover traditional weaving, a form of work in which there is dangerous machinery, equipment, and tools. The law expressly excludes children younger than 16 who are attending vocational schools from hazardous work. The law does not permit children between ages 15 and 18 to work more than seven hours per day, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., or on public holidays or rest days.

Child labor remained a serious problem (see section 7.b., Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor), and significant numbers of children worked in prohibited, dangerous work sectors, particularly construction.

In both rural and urban areas, children often worked. Child labor was particularly pervasive in subsistence agricultural production, traditional weaving, fishing, and domestic work. Thousands of children ages eight to 17 reportedly worked in the production of khat. A growing number of children worked in construction. Children in rural areas, especially boys, engaged in activities such as cattle herding, petty trading, plowing, harvesting, and weeding, while girls collected firewood and fetched water. Children worked in the gold-mining industry. In small-scale gold mining, they dug mining pits and carried heavy loads of water. Children in urban areas, including orphans, worked in domestic service, often working long hours, which prevented many from attending school regularly. Children also worked in manufacturing, shining shoes, making clothes, parking, public transport, petty trading, as porters, and directing customers to taxis. Some children worked long hours in dangerous environments for little or no wages and without occupational safety protection. Child laborers often faced abuse at the hands of their employers, such as physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.

Traffickers exploited girls from impoverished rural areas, primarily in domestic servitude and commercial sex within the country.

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

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, nationality, gender, marital status, religion, political affiliation, political outlook, pregnancy, socioeconomic status, disability, or “any other conditions.” The law prohibits discrimination in respect of employment and occupations. Authorities, however, enforced these rights unevenly. The law specifically recognizes the additional burden on pregnant women and persons with disabilities. The penalty for conviction of discrimination on any of the above grounds was not commensurate with those for comparable offenses. The government took limited measures to enforce the law. Sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV-positive status have no basis for protection under the law.

There were legal restrictions on women’s employment, including limitations on occupations deemed dangerous and in industries such as mining and agriculture. Women had fewer employment opportunities than men. The law did not require, and the jobs available did not provide, equal pay for equal work. Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The law gives refugees and asylum seekers the opportunity to work on a development project supported by the international community that economically benefits both refugees and citizens or to earn wages through self-employment.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: There is no national minimum wage, but the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (Ministry of Labor) made progress toward establishing a national minimum wage with the support of the ILO, by forming a minimum wage board. The minimum wage board includes representatives from the government, employees and trade unions, and other stakeholders. The board reviewed studies of the economic development of the country and labor market to decide on a potential minimum wage. During the year the Labor Ministry also drafted the wage board regulation and submitted it to the Attorney General’s Office for approval. Some government institutions and public enterprises set their own minimum wages. Public-sector employees, the largest group of wage earners, earned a monthly minimum wage that was above the poverty line. Workers in the country’s industrial parks earned wages below the poverty line.

The law provides for a 48-hour maximum legal workweek with a 24-hour rest period, premium pay for overtime, and prohibition of excessive compulsory overtime. Four conditions allow employers to make use of overtime work: urgency of the task, danger, absence of an employee, and lack of alternatives. Additionally, employers may not engage their employees in overtime work exceeding two hours a day, 20 hours a month, and 100 hours a year. The law entitles employees in public enterprises and government financial institutions to overtime pay; civil servants receive compensatory time off for overtime work. Most employees in the formal sector worked a 39-hour workweek, but only a small percentage of the population, concentrated in urban areas, was involved in wage-labor employment. Overall, the government did not effectively enforce wage laws. Penalties were not commensurate with those for similar crimes.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government, industries, and unions negotiated occupational safety and health standards, which do not fully address worker safety in many industries. Workers specifically excluded by law from unionizing, including domestic workers and seasonal agricultural workers, generally did not benefit from health and safety regulations in the workplace. Penalties were not commensurate with those for comparable violations of similar laws.

The Labor Ministry’s inspection department was responsible for enforcement of workplace standards. Occupational safety and health measures were not effectively enforced. The ministry carried out some regular labor inspections to monitor compliance, but the government had an inadequate number of labor inspectors to enforce the law and did not effectively record or track violations. The ministry lacked detailed, sector-specific health and safety guidelines.

Hazardous working conditions existed in the agricultural sector, which was the primary base of the country’s economy. There were also reports of hazardous and exploitative working conditions in the construction and industrial sectors, although data on deaths and injuries were not available.

Informal Sector: Although few recent data were available, the World Bank and the National Employment Policy and Strategy of Ethiopia reported that the informal sector included more than 70 percent of urban workers. Worker activities in the country’s informal sector included small-scale manufacturing of food products, cotton textiles, wood and carpentry products, leather products, chemical and plastic products, nonmetal products, structural stone goods and bangles; commerce such as trade in eggs and milk products, retail fruit and vegetable sales, haircutting, domestic services, laundry, auto repair, repair and maintenance, and work in hotels and restaurants; mining; quarrying; transport including taxis and rickshaw pulling; construction, and agriculture. Some formal-sector companies produced goods with inputs from home-based producers in the informal sector like traditional weaving, shoemaking, tailoring, pottery, carpets, maintenance and repair, and local beverage-making. Wages in the informal sector generally were below subsistence levels.

Compensation, benefits, and working conditions of seasonal agricultural workers were far below those of unionized permanent agricultural employees. The government did little to enforce the law. Many foreign, migrant, and informal laborers worked more than 48 hours per week.

Indonesia

Executive Summary

Indonesia is a multiparty democracy. In April 2019 Joko Widodo (popularly known as Jokowi) won a second five-year term as president. Voters also elected new members of the House of Representatives and the Regional Representative Council, as well as provincial and local legislatures. Domestic and international observers deemed the elections to be free and fair.

The Indonesian National Police is responsible for internal security and reports directly to the president. The Indonesian National Armed Forces, which also report directly to the president, are responsible for external defense and combatting separatism, and in certain conditions may provide operational support to police, such as for counterterrorism operations, maintaining public order, and addressing communal conflicts. Civilian authorities maintained control over security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings by government security forces; torture by police; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary and unlawful interference with privacy; serious abuses in the conflict in Papua and West Papua Provinces, including unlawful civilian harm, torture and physical abuses; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists and religious figures, censorship, and the existence of criminal libel laws; serious restrictions on internet freedom; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting members of racial and ethnic minority groups; crimes involving violence or threats of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons; and the existence of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults.

While the government took steps to investigate and prosecute some officials who committed human rights abuses and corruption, impunity for historic and recent serious human rights abuses and corruption remained a significant concern, especially as some of those implicated in past abuses received promotions, were given public awards and honors, and occupied senior official positions.

Armed conflict between government forces and separatist groups continued in Papua and West Papua Provinces. There were numerous reports of both sides committing abuses against civilians including killings, physical abuse, and destruction of property. The conflict caused the displacement of thousands of residents. Outside Papua and West Papua, there were numerous reports of unknown actors using digital harassment and intimidation against human rights activists and academics who criticized government officials, discussed government corruption, or covered issues related to the conflict in Papua and West Papua.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

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

There were numerous reports that security officials committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Many of these reports related to security forces’ counterinsurgency operations against armed separatist groups in Papua and West Papua (see section 1.g.).

In many cases of alleged extrajudicial killings, police and the military did not conduct any investigations and, when they did, failed to disclose either the fact or the findings of these internal investigations. Official statements related to abuse allegations sometimes contradicted nongovernmental organization (NGO) accounts, and the frequent inaccessibility of areas where violence took place made confirming facts difficult.

The Commission for Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS), a local NGO, reported 16 deaths due to alleged torture and other abuse by security forces between June 2020 and May 2021. KontraS also reported 13 deaths attributable to police shootings in the same period. On January 8, the National Commission on Human Rights released its report on the December 2020 police shootings of six members of the Islamic Defenders Front (see also section 2.b.) on the Jakarta-Cikampek toll road in West Java Province. The commission found that police unlawfully killed four front members who were already in police custody and labelled the killings a human rights violation. In April a police spokesperson stated that three police officials from the Mobile Reserve Unit of the Greater Jakarta Metropolitan Regional Police had been named as suspects and were being investigated, noting that one of the three had died in an accident in January. On August 23, media reported the filing of charges against the two suspects in the East Jakarta District Court.

On April 25, Baubau City Police in Southeast Sulawesi Province arrested Samsul Egar on suspicions of involvement in drug trafficking. According to media reports, police chased Egar; after he was captured, he was seen handcuffed on the ground and unconscious. Egar was brought to a hospital where he was declared dead. Human rights organizations reported Egar had bruises on his body. Police allegedly did not tell Egar’s family they believed he was a drug trafficker until 28 days after his death. As of September 10, there was no indication that authorities had investigated the report or taken action against the officer involved.

On August 31, the Balikpapan District Court of East Kalimantan Province began the trial of six Balikpapan City Police officers charged with abuses resulting in the 2020 death of Herman Alfred, a 39-year-old man accused of stealing a phone. The six officers were removed from duty in February when they were named as suspects in the case. According to prosecutors, Alfred was arrested on December 2, and brought to the Balikpapan police station. The six officers allegedly physically abused him while in custody, inflicting injuries that led to his death. As of September 10, the trial of the six officers was ongoing.

There were also multiple reports of killings outside of Papua and West Papua by terrorist groups. The government investigated and prosecuted all such killings.

For example, media and the government reported that the East Indonesia Mujahedeen group was responsible for the May 11 killing of four farmers, reportedly all Christians, in Poso Regency, Central Sulawesi Province. The same group was accused of killing four residents of Sigi Regency, Central Sulawesi, in November 2020. As of October, security force operations seeking to apprehend members of the group continued. On September 18, security forces killed the group’s leader, Ali Kalora, in a firefight.

On March 28, two suicide bombers attacked the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic cathedral, in Makassar, South Sulawesi Province, killing both assailants and injuring 20 bystanders. The attack occurred during a Palm Sunday mass. Police identified the two bombers as part of Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, a terrorist organization responsible for the 2018 bombings of three churches in Surabaya, East Java Province. As of May 19, a police spokesperson told the media that 53 persons had been detained and named as suspects in connection with the bombing.

b. Disappearance

Outside Papua and West Papua (see section 1.g.) there were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities. The government and NGOs reported little progress in accounting for persons who previously disappeared, including disappearances that occurred when Timor-Leste was still part of Indonesia. NGOs reported little progress in prosecuting those responsible for such disappearances and noted many officials suspected of being involved in disappearances continued to serve in the government (see section 1.c.).

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

The constitution prohibits such practices. The law criminalizes the use of violence or force by officials to elicit a confession, but no law specifies or defines “torture.” Other laws, such as on witness and victim protection, include antitorture provisions. Officials face imprisonment for a maximum of four years if they use violence or force illegally.

NGOs made numerous reports of police and security forces using excessive force during detention and interrogation, with some cases resulting in death (see section 1.a.).

National police and the military maintained procedures to address alleged torture. All police recruits undergo training on the proportional use of force and human rights standards. In cases of alleged torture (and other abuse), police and the military typically conducted investigations but often did not publicly disclose either the fact or the findings of these internal investigations. Official statements related to abuse allegations sometimes contradicted NGO accounts, and the frequent inaccessibility of areas where violence took place made confirming facts difficult. NGOs and other observers criticized the short prison sentences often imposed by military courts in abuse cases involving civilians or actions by off-duty soldiers.

KontraS reported 166 injuries from alleged torture and other abuse by security forces between June 2020 and May 2021. KontraS also reported 98 persons injured in police shootings during the same period. KontraS noted there had been a decrease in police violence cases compared with previous years but attributed the decrease to the COVID-19 pandemic rather than reforms in police behavior.

On May 25, a uniformed solider, Joaquim Parera, assaulted an employee of a gas station in East Nusa Tenggara Province. The employee refused to provide service to Parera because he had cut in line. The assault was filmed, and the video was spread widely online. A mediation session between Parera and the victim was held and the military reported the dispute had been settled peacefully. The military also stated that Parera could still face a military tribunal, but as of November 24 there were no updates on whether Parera faced punishment for the incident.

On June 22, police detained a 20-year-old man, Yohan Ronsumbre, on suspicion of theft in Biak Numfor Regency, Papua Province. NGOs reported that during the detention police officers attempted to force Ronsumbre to confess by punching him and pouring boiling water on his right arm. Ronsumbre’s lawyers reported the incident to police, the national Ombudsman, and the National Commission on Human Rights. In July a police representative told media they were investigating the incident. As of November 24, there was no update on the investigation or action taken against the officers involved.

On August 19, two soldiers from the 1627/Rote Ndao District Military Command in East Nusa Tenggara Province physically abused a 13-year-old boy who they suspected of stealing a mobile phone from one of the soldiers. The soldiers beat the boy, burned him with cigarettes, and burned his genitals with a candle. On August 23, the two soldiers were arrested by military police and were reportedly under investigation for the incident.

Aceh Province has special authority to implement sharia regulations. Authorities there carried out public canings for violations of sharia in cases of sexual abuse, gambling, adultery, alcohol consumption, consensual same-sex conduct, and sexual relations outside of marriage. Sharia does not apply to non-Muslims, foreigners, or Muslims not resident in Aceh. Non-Muslims in Aceh occasionally chose punishment under sharia because it was more expeditious and less expensive than secular procedures. For example, in February three non-Muslims convicted of illegal possession of alcohol requested punishment under sharia and each received 40 lashes. One of those punished publicly stated he did so to avoid a lengthy prison sentence.

Canings continued to occur in public spaces despite the Aceh governor’s 2018 order that they should be executed only in prison facilities. Individuals sentenced to caning may receive up to 100 lashes for each crime for which they were convicted, depending on the crime and prison time served.

NGOs reported that some female police and military recruits were subjected to invasive virginity testing as a condition of employment, which activists claimed were painful, degrading, discriminatory, and frequently inaccurate. The law does not require such testing, but some police and military regulations include the testing in their recruitment process, leading to inconsistent application across the country. Media reported that, per regulation, fiancees of military personnel were sometimes subjected to this testing. In June the army issued a technical regulation eliminating virginity testing for recruits and fiancees – the status of this testing for the navy and air force remained unclear.

In December 2020 President Widodo signed a government regulation on chemical castration and the use of tracking devices for individuals convicted of sexual abuse of children. The regulation allows chemical castration and electronic tracking for a maximum of two years after offenders are released from prison.

Security force impunity remained a problem. Members of the army special forces’ Rose Team, which was involved in the kidnapping, torture, and killing of students in 1997-98, continued to serve as senior officials in the government despite being convicted and serving prison sentences for their involvement in these abuses. On August 12, President Widodo awarded the nation’s third-highest civilian honor to Eurico Guterres, an alleged former pro-Indonesia militia leader in East Timor. In 2002 Guterres was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for crimes against humanity for his involvement in mass violence and killings in East Timor prior to its independence in 1999. In 2008, however, the Supreme Court overturned the convictions of Guterres and all others convicted on such charges.

Internal investigations undertaken by security forces were often opaque, making it difficult to know which units and actors were involved, especially if they occurred in Papua or West Papua. Internal investigations were sometimes conducted by the unit accused of the abuses, or in high-profile cases by a team sent from police or military headquarters in Jakarta. Cases involving military personnel could be forwarded to a military tribunal for prosecution or, in the case of police, to public prosecutors. These trials lacked transparency, and the results were not always made public. Victims or their families may file complaints with the National Police Commission, National Commission on Human Rights, or National Ombudsman to seek an independent inquiry into the incident. The lack of transparent investigations and judicial processes continued to hamper accountability in multiple past cases involving security forces. NGOs continued to advocate for investigations and judicial resolution of historical cases of security force involvement in killings and disappearances that date back to 1965.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in the country’s 526 prisons and detention centers were often harsh and sometimes life threatening, due especially to overcrowding.

Physical Conditions: Overcrowding was a serious problem, including at immigration detention centers. According to the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, as of July there were 271,231 prisoners and detainees in prisons and detention centers designed to hold a maximum of 132,107. Overcrowding posed hygiene and ventilation problems. The degree of overcrowding varied at different facilities. Minimum- and medium-security prisons were often the most overcrowded; maximum-security prisons tended to be at or below capacity. On September 8, a fire at the Tangerang Level I Prison in Banten Province killed 49 inmates. Media reported that the fire occurred in a cell block designed for 38 inmates but that held 122.

From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 to September 2021, concern about the rapid spread of COVID-19 in prisons led officials to grant early releases to nearly 70,000 prisoners. This mass sentence reduction, however, did not apply to inmates convicted for “political crimes,” such as Papuan and Moluccan activists.

By law prisons are supposed to hold those convicted by courts, while detention centers hold those awaiting trial. Most prisons have two facilities on the same compound, one designed for pretrial detainees and one for convicted prisoners. Persons held at the two facilities did not normally mix. At times, however, officials held pretrial detainees together with convicted prisoners due to overcrowding.

By law children convicted of serious crimes serve their sentences in juvenile prison, although some convicted juveniles remained in the adult prison system despite efforts to end this practice.

Authorities generally held female prisoners at separate facilities. In prisons with both male and female prisoners, female prisoners were confined in separate cellblocks. According to NGO observers, conditions in prisons for women tended to be significantly better than in those for men. Women’s cellblocks within prisons that held prisoners of both genders, however, did not always grant female prisoners access to the same amenities, such as exercise facilities, as their male counterparts.

NGOs noted authorities sometimes did not provide prisoners adequate medical care. Human rights activists attributed this to a lack of resources.

International and local NGOs reported that in some cases prisoners did not have ready access to clean drinking water. There were widespread reports the government did not supply sufficient food to prisoners, and family members often brought food to supplement relatives’ diets.

Guards in detention facilities and prisons regularly extorted money from inmates, and prisoners reported physical abuse by guards. Inmates often bribed or paid corrections officers for favors, food, telephones, or narcotics. The use and production of illicit drugs in prisons were serious problems, with some drug networks basing operations out of prisons.

Administration: The law allows prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to authorities without censorship and to request investigation of alleged deficiencies. Complaints are submitted to the Ministry of Law and Human Rights where they were investigated and were subject to independent judicial review.

Independent Monitoring: Some NGOs received access to prisons but were required to obtain permission through bureaucratic mechanisms, including approval from police, attorneys general, courts, the Ministry of Home Affairs, and other agencies. NGOs reported authorities rarely permitted direct access to prisoners for interviews and that health restrictions implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19 had further impeded their ability to monitor prison conditions. There was no regular independent monitoring of prisons.

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. The government generally observed these requirements, but there were notable exceptions.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

Security forces must produce warrants during an arrest. Exceptions apply, for example, if a suspect is caught in the act of committing a crime. The law allows investigators to issue warrants, but at times authorities, especially police from the Criminal Investigation Department, made questionable arrests without warrants.

By law suspects or defendants have the right to contact family promptly after arrest and to legal counsel of their choice at every stage of an investigation. Legal aid organizations reported numerous cases in which they had difficulty accessing detainees, especially if physical or other abuse during or after the arrest was discovered or alleged when access was granted.

Court officials are supposed to provide free legal counsel to all persons charged with offenses that carry the death penalty or imprisonment for 15 years or more, and to destitute defendants facing charges that carry a penalty of imprisonment for five years or more. Such legal resources were limited, however, and free counsel was seldom provided. Additionally, NGOs reported that some police and prosecutors maintained a “pocket lawyer” who could be called in to provide a pro forma defense for their clients.

Suspects can only be detained for 110 days before charges must be filed; however, in special circumstances that period can be extended to 170 days, and in terrorism cases the period can be extended to 290 days. During an investigation police can detain suspects for 20 days but then must seek an extension of detention from public prosecutors, which can be granted for an additional 40 days. NGOs reported numerous cases in which investigators’ requests to extend detention did not contain information required under the law, such as the details of the alleged crime and a citation of relevant law. Following the 60 days of detention allowed for police investigation, prosecutors can continue detention for 20 days for prosecutorial investigation and request an additional 30 days of detention from a judge. Detention can be extended another 60 days if the suspect has severe mental illness or is suspected of a crime carrying a punishment of nine years or more in prison. In terrorism cases, police may detain a suspect for 21 days before naming them as a suspect or having to seek an extension from public prosecutors. Prosecutors can extend pretrial detention of terrorism suspects up to a total of 240 days, or up to a total of 290 days with approval from the chief magistrate of the district court.

There is no system of bail; however, detainees can request a suspension of detention, which can be granted by investigators, prosecutors, or judges. Additionally, detainees may challenge their arrest and detention by petitioning for a pretrial hearing. According to the law, a judge must begin the pretrial hearing within three days of receipt of the application and render a decision within seven days after the beginning of the hearing. Some defense lawyers indicated reluctance to request these suspensions, since sometimes the paperwork their clients must sign as a condition of release include language that can be interpreted as an admission of guilt.

Lack of legal resources was particularly problematic for persons involved in land disputes. Local government officials and large landowners involved in land grabs reportedly accused community activists of crimes, hoping the resulting detentions or arrests and the community’s lack of legal and financial resources would hamper efforts to oppose the land grab.

Arbitrary Arrest: There were reports of arbitrary arrests by police, primarily by the Criminal Investigation Department and the Mobile Brigade Corps. There were multiple media and NGO reports of police temporarily detaining persons for criticizing the government, participating in peaceful demonstrations, and other nonviolent activities.

In February for example, police detained three members of the Dayak indigenous community in East Kutai Regency, East Kalimantan Province, for surveying assets on land in dispute between the Dayaks and a palm oil company, PT Subur Abadi Wana Agung. The three were released the next day. NGOs criticized the detentions as an attempt to criminalize the community’s efforts to defend their land rights.

NGOs reported numerous cases of arbitrary arrest across the country, with numerous cases in Papua and West Papua and in connection with political protests and property disputes. Most of those detained in such cases were released within 24 hours.

Pretrial Detention: The legal length of pretrial detention depends on factors such as whether the suspect is a flight risk or a danger or is charged with certain crimes. The maximum period of pretrial detention is 170 days for most suspects, 290 days for terrorism suspects. If convicted, time in pretrial detention is counted against the sentence. Media reported, however, cases in which suspects were detained longer than allowed by law, in some cases – especially of low-level crimes with sentences less than a year – resulting in immediate release of persons found guilty because the time served in pretrial detention equaled or exceeded their sentence. Terrorism suspects are governed by special rules. The government did not report the number of individuals in pretrial detention.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary and the right to a fair public trial, but the judiciary remained susceptible to corruption (see section 5) and influence from outside parties, including business interests, politicians, the security forces, and officials of the executive branch.

In March the Corruption Court sentenced former secretary of the Supreme Court, Nurhadi Abdurrachman, to six years in prison and a substantial fine, for receiving bribes worth nearly 50 billion rupees (IDR) ($3.5 million) to influence cases appearing before the Supreme Court.

Decentralization created difficulties for the enforcement of court orders, and at times local officials ignored them.

Four district courts are authorized to adjudicate cases of systemic gross human rights violations upon recommendation of the National Human Rights Commission. None of these courts, however, has heard or ruled on such a case since 2005.

Under the sharia court system in Aceh, 23 district religious courts and one court of appeals hear cases. The courts usually heard cases involving Muslims and based their judgments on decrees formulated by the local government rather than the national penal code.

Trial Procedures

The constitution provides for the right to a fair trial, but judicial corruption and misconduct hindered the enforcement of this right. The law presumes defendants are innocent until proven guilty, although this was not always respected. Defendants are informed promptly and in detail of the charges at their first court appearance. Although suspects have the right to confront witnesses and call witnesses in their defense, judges may allow sworn affidavits when distance is excessive or the cost of transporting witnesses to the court is too expensive, hindering the possibility of cross-examination. Some courts allowed forced confessions and limited the presentation of defense evidence. Defendants have the right to avoid self-incrimination. The prosecution prepares charges, evidence, and witnesses for the trial, while the defense prepares their own witnesses and arguments. A panel of judges oversees the trial and can pose questions, hear evidence, decide on guilt or innocence, and impose punishment. Both the defense and prosecution may appeal a verdict.

The law gives defendants the right to an attorney from the time of arrest and at every stage of investigation and trial. By law indigent defendants have the right to public legal assistance, although they must prove they have no funds for private legal assistance. NGOs reported that defendants in many areas of the country do not have access to legal assistance due to the lack of legal aid organizations in those areas. Where they existed, their legal staffs were often too small to represent all indigent defendants. There were, consequently, numerous cases in which defendants faced trial without counsel. Defendants facing offenses that carry the death penalty or imprisonment for 15 years or more are required to have legal counsel; however, NGOs reported cases in which the legal counsel provided to these defendants was associated with the prosecution. All defendants have the right to free interpretation. In some cases, procedural protections were inadequate to ensure a fair trial. With the notable exceptions of sharia court proceedings in Aceh and some military trials, trials are public.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

NGOs estimated that as of July, seven political prisoners from Papua and West Papua were incarcerated, either awaiting trial or after being convicted under treason and conspiracy statutes, including for the display of banned separatist symbols. Additionally, eight Moluccan political prisoners remained in prison, according to NGOs.

According to Amnesty International, a small number of the 188 Papuans detained between January and July for participating in peaceful protests were charged with treason or other criminal offenses.

On February 10, environmental activists Samsir and Syamsul Bahri were arrested by the Tanjung Pura Police in Langkat Regency, North Sumatra for an alleged assault in December 2020. On May 31, the two were sentenced to two months in prison. NGOs claimed that the accusations made against the activists were false and meant to criminalize the two activists and thereby impede their efforts to rehabilitate mangroves in the area.

On May 9, security forces arrested Victor Yeimo, spokesperson for the pro-independence National Committee for West Papua in Jayapura, Papua Province. Lawyers for Yeimo reported he was arrested without a warrant and moved to the Mobile Brigade Corps’ detention center without notification to his lawyers. On August 30, the Jayapura District Court rejected Yeimo’s pretrial challenge to detention on the grounds of his unprocedural arrest. Yeimo was charged with criminal conspiracy, incitement, and treason for his alleged involvement in violent antiracism protests in Papua and West Papua Provinces in 2019. NGOs alleged that the charges against Yeimo were a baseless attempt to silence nonviolent advocacy for Papuan separatism. NGO requests for his release on health grounds were rejected. His hospitalization, however, delayed the start of his trial, and as of November 24, the trial had yet to begin.

On July 22, the East Jakarta District Court sentenced Roland Levy and Kevin Molama, two members of the Papuan Student Alliance, to five months in prison minus time served for assaulting another Papuan student. Police arrested the two activists on March 3 at a student dormitory in Jakarta. NGOs claimed the charges against the two were a fabricated attempt to disrupt the activists’ efforts.

Local activists and family members generally were able to visit political prisoners, but authorities held some prisoners on islands far from their families.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

Victims of human rights abuses may seek damages in the civil court system, but widespread corruption and political influence limited victims’ access to justice.

Property Seizure and Restitution

An eminent domain law allows the government to expropriate land for the public good, provided the government properly compensates owners. NGOs accused the government of abusing its authority to expropriate or facilitate private acquisition of land for development projects, often without fair compensation.

Land access and ownership were major sources of conflict. Police sometimes evicted those involved in land disputes without due process, often siding with business-related claimants over individuals or local communities.

In January the Ministry of Agrarian Affairs and Spatial Planning launched an electronic land certificate program to register land claims across the country. Stated goals of the program included reducing the number of land disputes by making it more difficult to falsify land deeds.

On January 5, President Widodo held a virtual ceremony where he announced the distribution of 584,407 land certificates (i.e., titles) to demonstrate the government’s commitment to addressing land disputes. The Ministry of Agrarian Affairs reported that in 2020 it had issued 6.8 million land certificates across the country.

On January 29, the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources announced an agreement with PT Tambang Mas Sangihe allowing the company to expand its operations on Sangihe Island, North Sulawesi Province. In June the Save Sangihe Island movement, made up of local community members, filed a lawsuit against the agreement, arguing it had been made without a proper evaluation of environmental impact, without consultation with the local community, and in violation of several other laws.

On March 4, five UN special rapporteurs and a team of independent experts sent a letter highlighting human rights abuses associated with the Mandalika tourism project on the island of Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara Province. The Mandalika project was managed by the Indonesia Tourism Development Corporation, a state-owned enterprise, and was designated a priority project by the government; the land confiscated was designated a Special Economic Zone. The United Nations and NGOs reported the project was associated with numerous claims of land grabbing, forced evictions, and police and unknown actors threatening and intimidating residents. Local activists were also detained and sentenced for creating “disturbances.”

On March 17, an armed group forcibly evicted residents of Pancoran Buntu II in Jakarta. The residents were evicted from land subject to a court case with PT Pertaminia Training and Consulting, a subsidiary of a state-owned enterprise. During the incident, 28 residents suffered injuries, including broken bones, lacerations, and breathing difficulties due to tear gas. Human rights organizations reported that police in the area did nothing to stop the armed group.

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

The law requires judicial warrants for searches except in cases involving subversion, economic crimes, and corruption. Security forces generally respected these requirements. The law also provides for searches without warrants when circumstances are “urgent and compelling.” Police throughout the country occasionally took actions without proper authority or violated individuals’ privacy.

NGOs claimed security officials occasionally conducted warrantless surveillance on individuals and their residences and monitored telephone calls.

The government developed Peduli Lindungi (Care Protect), a smartphone application used to track COVID-19 cases. Government regulations sought to stop the spread of the virus by requiring individuals entering public spaces like malls to check in using the application. The application also stores information on individuals’ vaccination status. NGOs expressed concerns about what information was gathered by the application and how this data was stored and used by the government.

The eastern provinces of Papua and West Papua are home to separatist movements advocating the creation of an independent state. The most well-known armed separatist group is the Free Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka or OPM), which has been responsible for hundreds of attacks on government officials and civilians since the 1970s. The government has attempted to suppress these separatist movements primarily through a large military and police presence in the two provinces, and through a “special autonomy” status granted to the region in 2002 and revised in July. The most controversial provision of the revised autonomy law allows the central government to divide Papua Province into several smaller provinces without local legislative approval. Additionally, the revision provides for increased budgetary support for the Papuan region, but critics claimed these provisions also establish greater central government control of development and could further increase inequality. There were numerous reports of government and OPM forces engaging in killings, physical abuse and excessive force, and other abuses.

Killings: Restrictions on independent press and NGOs in the area, and on visits by international investigators, made it difficult to determine the authenticity of reports of, or to attribute responsibility for, killings in Papua and West Papua. The government and separatist groups often provided conflicting accounts about responsibility for a killing and whether the victim was a civilian or a combatant. The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project reported a total of 59 fatalities in Papua and West Papua from January 1 to September 3, with 31 deaths caused by armed exchanges between separatist and government forces, 25 deaths caused by violence directed at civilians by separatist or government forces, and three deaths caused by riots or mob violence. KontraS reported that government forces had been involved in 16 cases of armed violence from January to July 29 resulting in 10 deaths, 17 injuries, and 73 arrests.

On February 15, security forces in Intan Jaya Regency, Papua, killed three brothers, Janius, Soni and Yustinus Bagau. The brothers were detained during joint police-military operations in the region following the killing of a soldier by members of an armed separatist group. Human rights organizations stated the brothers were physically abused and then killed while in government custody at a local clinic. The government reported the three were shot after attempting to escape and seize weapons from their guards. The government also stated that the brothers were members of an armed separatist group. As of November 24, there were no reports of a government investigation into the incident.

On March 6, soldiers from the 715/MTL Raider Infantry Battalion fatally shot Melianus Nayagau, a 17-year-old student, in Intan Jaya Regency, Papua. Military officials stated that Nayagau was a member of an armed separatist group, while his family and human rights organizations maintained he was a civilian and that his death constituted an extrajudicial killing. Media reported that military forces killed Nayagau’s father in February 2020. As of November 24, there was no indication authorities had investigated the incident.

Media reported that on April 9, two soldiers dressed in civilian clothing belonging to the RK 762/VYS Infantry Battalion dragged Moses Yewen to a military post in Tambrauw Regency, Papua Province, and beat him after he asked to see their identification. On May 7, Yewen died, with some local politicians and human rights activists attributing his death to his beating a month prior and the lack of proper medical attention. Before his death Yewen reported the incident to the military police, but as of November 24 there were no reports of an investigation into the incident.

Investigations into some past high-profile cases of security force killings in Papua and West Papua continued. The investigation into the September 2020 killing of a Christian pastor, Yeremia Zanambani, in Intan Regency, Papua, was ongoing when, on June 5, an autopsy was conducted on Yeremia’s body. Military officials maintained that separatists killed Yeremia, while the National Commission on Human Rights and other human rights organizations stated that Yeremia’s death was an extrajudicial killing by members of the Hitadipa District Military Command.

In December 2020 the military named nine soldiers from the 1705/Paniai District Military Command and PR433/Julu Siri Infantry Battalion as suspects in the April 2020 killing of Luther and Apinus Zanambani while in military detention in Intan Jaya Regency, Papua. As of November 24, however, there was no update on the investigation.

Media and government sources reported Papuan armed separatist groups’ killing of civilians. On January 30, separatist forces killed Boni Bagau in Intan Jaya Regency, Papua. According to media reports, the attackers suspected the victim was a military and police spy. In the days following the killing, police officials received a letter, purportedly from OPM, calling for “open war” in Papua. On April 8-9, separatist forces killed two teachers and burned several school buildings in Puncak Regency, Papua. An alleged spokesman for militants claimed that the teachers were armed, undercover security personnel. On August 22, six armed separatists killed two workers building the Trans-Papua Highway in Yahukimo Regency, Papua.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Human rights organizations and media reported security forces in Papua and West Papua often used excessive force on civilians and physically abused persons in detention.

In December 2020 police arrested 13 activists from the pro-independence National West Papua National Committee in Merauke, Papua Province. Kristianus Yandum, one of the detained activists, was rushed to hospital from detention on February 8 and died on February 27. The West Papua National Committee stated Kristianus’ death was a result of physical abuse by police during his detention.

On July 28, two air force personnel forcibly restrained Steven Yadohamang, a deaf, indigenous Papuan man, in Merauke, Papua Province, with one of the officials pinning the man’s head to the ground with his boot. A video of the incident spread widely online. Military and government officials apologized for the use of excessive force and removed the commander of the Johanes Abraham Dimara Air Base in Merauke for failure to supervise his subordinates. An air force spokesperson stated the two officers would be tried in military court. As of November 24, there was no update on the status of trial.

Other Conflict-related Abuses: Separatist forces have publicly called for nonindigenous Papuans to leave Papua and West Papua. In June a spokesperson for OPM stated that migrants from other parts of the country should immediately leave Puncak, Intan Jaya, and Nduga Regencies to escape the violence there or be prepared to “bear the risk” of staying. In September the OPM spokesperson appealed to migrants from other parts of the country to immediately leave Sorong city in West Papua, which the spokesperson stated had become a war zone between government and separatist forces. These statements, as well as the ongoing violence displaced thousands of residents (see section 2.e.).

On August 16, protesters gathered in Yahukimo Regency, Papua Province, to protest the arrest of Victor Yeimo (see section 1.e.) and the extension and revision of special autonomy for Papua. NGOs reported that police opened fire on the demonstration and arrested 48 protesters. One protester, Ferianus Asso, was allegedly hit by police gunfire in the abdomen; he was treated at home until August 20, when he was taken to a local hospital. On August 22, Asso died from complications related to his injuries. As of November 24, there were no reports that the government investigated the incident.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media. The law places various restrictions on its exercise, including criminal penalties for defamation, hate speech, blasphemy, obscenity, and spreading false information. There were numerous reports of the law being used to limit political criticism of the government.

Freedom of Expression: The law criminalizes speech deemed defaming of a person’s character or reputation (see Libel/Slander Laws below); insulting a religion; spreading hate speech; spreading false information; obscenity; or advocating separatism. Spreading hate speech or false information is punishable by up to six years in prison. Language in the law regulating pornography has been broadly applied to restrict content deemed as offending local morals. Under the criminal code, blasphemy is punishable for up to five years in prison. Blasphemy cases, however, were usually prosecuted under the Electronic Information and Transactions law, which was increasingly used to regulate online speech and carries a maximum six-year prison sentence. NGOs reported these laws were often used to prosecute critics of the government.

In February Sulaiman Marpaung, a man in North Sumatra Province, was sentenced to eight months in prison for hate speech after he posted comments on Facebook critical of Vice President Ma’ruf Amin’s religious bona fides and a collage of photos comparing the vice president with an elderly Japanese pornography actor.

On May 19, Kahiri Amri, head of the KAMI opposition political organization in Medan, North Sumatra Province, was sentenced to one year in prison for hate speech. In October 2020 Amri sent messages in a WhatsApp chat about organizing protests against the government’s proposed Omnibus Bill on Job Creation. In those messages he referred to police as “brown planthoppers” – a kind of insect – which the court deemed to constitute hate speech.

On August 19, an “antimask” activist, Yunus Wahyudi, was sentenced to three years in prison for spreading false news. In 2020 Wahyudi had posted a video online in which he claimed that there was no COVID-19 in Banyuwangi Regency, East Java Province.

According to the Legal Aid Foundation, in 2020 there were 67 blasphemy cases following at least 40 arrests on blasphemy charges. On August 25, police arrested Muhammad Kece in Bali for videos he uploaded to YouTube that allegedly insulted the Prophet Muhammad. On August 26, police arrested Yahya Waloni in Bogor Regency, West Java, for comments made in a video claiming that the Bible is fake. As of November 24, both Kece and Waloni were still in detention, with Waloni’s trial having begun and Kece’s trial scheduled to begin. For additional cases see section 2.c.

Although the law permits flying a flag symbolizing Papua’s cultural identity generally, a government regulation specifically prohibits the display of the Morning Star flag in Papua, the Republic of South Maluku flag in Maluku, and the Free Aceh Movement Crescent Moon flag in Aceh.

On May 21, Nasruddin (aka Nyak Din) was sentenced to one year in prison and his co-defendant Zulkifli was sentenced to eight months in prison for treason for flying the Free Aceh Movement Crescent Moon Flag in Indrajaya District, Aceh Province.

On May 15, police arrested three men for raising the Republic of South Maluku flag in Central Maluku Regency, Maluku Province. The three men have been named as suspects for treason and could face up to life imprisonment. As of November 24, there was no update on this case.

Freedom of Expression for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views. The government, however, sometimes used regional and national regulations, including those on blasphemy, hate speech, defamation, false information, and separatism, to restrict media. Obtaining permits for travel to Papua and West Papua was difficult for foreign journalists, who reported bureaucratic delays or denials, ostensibly for safety reasons. The constitution protects journalists from interference, and the law states that anyone who deliberately prevents journalists from doing their job shall face a maximum prison sentence of two years or a substantial fine.

Violence and Harassment: From January to August, the Alliance of Independent Journalists reported 24 cases of violence against journalists that included doxing, physical assaults, and verbal intimidation and threats perpetrated by various actors, including government officials, police and security personnel, members of mass organizations, and the general public.

On March 4, Yasmin Bali, a journalist for Malukunews.com, was assaulted by Galib Warang, reportedly a friend of West Seram Regent Muhammad Yasin Payapo, in Maluku Province. Bali and several journalists had originally come to the regent’s office to interview the regional secretary. While waiting for the interview, Bali attempted to take a photo, at which point Warang punched him. Media reported that the assault happened in front of the regent. As of September 16, Warang was on trial for the incident.

On March 27 in Surabaya, East Java, security guards assaulted Nurhadi (no last name), a journalist for Tempo magazine, who was covering a story about a former Ministry of Finance official named as a suspect in a corruption case. Nurhadi went to the official’s daughter’s wedding reception to collect information for the report. While escorting Nurhadi from the reception, security guards allegedly destroyed his phone, punched him, and threatened to kill him. Nurhadi was taken to a second location where he was interrogated and beaten by two police officers. In May police named the two officers, Purwanto (no last name) and Firman Subkh, as suspects for assaulting Nurhadi. As of November 24, the trial for the two officers was ongoing. The suspects were not detained during the trial per a request from Surabaya Police.

In May IndonesiaLeaks, a joint investigative journalism project, reported the attempted hacking of websites and personal social media accounts of those associated with the project. Journalists associated with the project also reported that police followed them and took photos as they interviewed sources at cafes. The alleged intimidation occurred after IndonesiaLeaks made public its investigation into the head of the Corruption Eradication Commission and the reasons behind his alleged use of a civil service test to weaken the commission (see section 4). As a result of threats and intimidation, IndonesiaLeaks discontinued the use of its Twitter account in June.

In July the Bukit Barisan Regional Military Command identified four soldiers as suspects in the June 19 killing of Mara Salem Harahap, editor in chief of lassernewstoday.com, in Simalungun Regency, North Sumatra Province. Police had previously named two other suspects, the owner and staff of a local nightclub, in the killing. Police reported that Harahap often visited the nightclub and threatened to report on its involvement in drug trafficking if he was not given free drugs. The nightclub owner provided money to one of the soldiers to “deter” Harahap from continuing this extortion. On September 13, one of the soldiers, Awaluddin (no last name), died due to unknown causes at a hospital. As of October 28, another soldier, Dani Effendi, was reportedly on trial in military court for his involvement in the killing. As of October 28, the trial for the owner and staff of the night club was ongoing.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The Attorney General’s Office has authority to monitor written material and request a court order to ban written material; this power was apparently not used during the year.

The Broadcasting Commission has the power to restrict content broadcast on television and radio and used that authority to restrict content deemed offensive. On March 17, the commission issued a circular on television programs aired during the month of Ramadan, which contained a provision that programs not show physical intimacy such as kissing or cuddling. Another provision prohibited television programs from having lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer content. In June the commission issued a list of 42 English-language songs that were prohibited from being played before 10 p.m. due to their content. Included in the list were songs by Bruno Mars, Ariana Grande, Maroon 5, and Busta Rhymes.

The government-supervised Film Censorship Institute censored domestic and imported movies for content deemed religiously or otherwise offensive.

Libel/Slander Laws: Criminal defamation provisions prohibit libel and slander, which are punishable with five-year prison terms. The truth of a statement is not a defense.

NGOs alleged that government officials, including police and the judiciary, selectively used criminal defamation to intimidate individuals and restrict freedom of expressions.

On June 22, Andi Dharmawansyah was sentenced to one month in jail for defaming Andi Suryanto Asapa, the former district head of health for Sinjai Regency, South Sulawesi Province. On February 16, Dharmawansyah posted an accusation online that Asapa was the mastermind behind cuts to a compensation fund intended for the heirs of health workers who died from COVID-19.

On September 10, presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko filed criminal defamation complaints with police against researchers from Indonesia Corruption Watch. The criminal complaint focuses on statements made by the organization in July accusing Moeldoko of having a conflict of interest in promoting the use of Ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19 because of his daughter’s close relationship with PT Harsen Laboratories, the producer of Ivermectin. Moeldoko denied that his daughter had any business relationship with PT Hansen Laboratories. Prior to filing these charges, Moeldoko sent three cease and desist letters to Indonesia Corruption Watch, the first delivered on July 29. As of year’s end, the Criminal Investigative Agency of the police was investigating the complaint.

On September 22, Coordinating Minister of Maritime and Investment Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan filed criminal and civil defamation complaints with police against Fatia Maulidiyanti, coordinator for KontraS, and Haris Azhar, executive director of the Lokataru Foundation. The complaints focus on statements made by Maulidiyanti in an August 20 video hosted on Azhar’s YouTube channel accusing Pandjaitan of having an economic interest in the conflict in Papua, based on an August report by a coalition of 10 NGOs on mining interests in Papua. Pandjaitan’s lawyers and spokesperson denied the activists’ accusations and stated they lacked a factual basis for claiming Pandjaitan has a conflict of interest in Papua. As of year’s end, the Criminal Investigative Agency was investigating the complaint after efforts to arrange mediation sessions between the parties stalled.

National Security: The government used legal provisions barring advocacy of separatism to restrict the ability of individuals and media to advocate peacefully for self-determination or independence in different parts of the country.

Nongovernmental Impact: Hardline Muslim groups sometimes intimidated perceived critics of Islam. On September 3, a group destroyed an Ahmadiyya mosque in Sintang Regency, West Kalimantan Province. The destruction of the mosque followed protests against the Ahmadi by a group called the Alliance of the Islamic Ummah and an August 14 order by the Sintang regent closing the mosque. Police arrested 22 individuals in connection with the case, naming three of those arrested as potential masterminds of the attack. As of November 24, government officials were investigating the incident and the involvement of hardline groups and the local government.

Criminal groups also reportedly used intimidation and violence against journalists who exposed their operations. On June 13, unknown persons set fire to the house of Syahzara Sopian, a journalist for a local newspaper in Binjai, North Sumatra. On June 26, four unknown armed persons, in an apparent attempt to kill him, attacked Sopian in a cafe; Sopian escaped. As of July 14, police had arrested five individuals and were still pursuing four other suspects in the case. Police reported that the apparent motive for the arson and attempted murder was Sopian’s reporting on an illegal gambling ring operating in the city.

On November 7, a group calling itself the “Homeland Militant Defender Army” threw an explosive device into the house of the parents of human rights activist Veronica Koman in Jakarta, leaving behind a note containing threats and demanding that Koman return to the country. No one was injured in the bombing. Koman went to Australia in late 2019 after police stated she would be arrested on charges of inciting violent protests related to Papua. A police spokesperson stated that the bombing was likely related to Koman’s activism related to the situation in Papua. As of November 24, there has been no update on the status of the police investigation into the attack.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, but the government sometimes restricted these freedoms.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

The law provides for freedom of assembly, and outside Papua the government generally respected this right. The law requires demonstrators to provide police with written notice three days before any planned demonstration and requires police to issue a receipt for the written notification. This receipt acts as a de facto license for the demonstration. Restrictions on public gatherings imposed to address the COVID-19 pandemic limited the public’s ability to demonstrate. NGOs claimed that the government selectively enforced COVID-19 related restrictions to prevent antigovernment protests.

Police in Papua routinely refused to issue such demonstration receipts, believing the demonstrations would include calls for independence, an act prohibited by law. A Papua provincial police decree prohibits rallies by seven organizations labeled as pro-independence, including the National Committee of West Papua, the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, and the Free Papua Movement.

On May 25, several hundred persons joined a protest against the extension and revision of Papua’s special autonomy in Manokwari Regency, West Papua. Police dispersed the crowd, stating it was a violation of COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings, arresting 146 individuals. On August 10, police arrested 14 students from Cendrawasih University in Jayapura, Papua Province for involvement in a protest demanding the release of Victor Yeimo (see section 1.e.). NGOs reported that these protesters were often injured in the process of arrest.

NGOs reported that protests related to Papua across the country were routinely disrupted by police and protesters were arrested. On January 27, protesters gathering in front of the parliament building in Jakarta were arrested before they could begin their demonstration against the extension and revision of Papua’s special autonomy. On March 5, Papuan students held a protest in Semarang, Central Java Province opposing the extension and revision of Papua’s special autonomy. Police disbursed the protest and arrested 20 individuals. On March 8, police arrested 46 persons in Denpasar, Bali Province, during a protest against the extension and revision of Papua’s special autonomy; police said they were arrested for violating COVID-19 related restrictions.

On March 9, Malang Police Chief Senior Commander Leonardus Harapantua Simarmata Permata threatened protesters from the Papuan Students Alliance in Malang, East Java. In a video of the incident, which was spread widely online, Permata can be heard saying “if you cross that line your blood is halal.” Activists and media reported the statement as a threat to shoot the protesters if they crossed a police barrier. On March 23, a Police Internal Affairs spokesperson stated they were investigating the incident. In June Permata was reassigned to be principal examiner for the National Police Forensic Lab; it was not clear whether this reassignment was related to the incident.

On May 1, students in Medan, North Sumatra Province, protested against the 2020 Omnibus Law on Job Creation, calling for its cancellation. Police arrested 14 of the protesters, during which time several students were injured.

Freedom of Association

The constitution and law provide for freedom of association, which the government generally respected. The regulations on registration of organizations were generally not onerous. Some LGBTQI+ advocacy groups, however, reported that when attempting to register their organizations, they were unable to state explicitly that they were LGBTQI+ advocacy groups on their registration certificate.

To register officially, foreign NGOs must have a memorandum of understanding with a government ministry. Some organizations reported difficulties obtaining these memoranda and claimed the government withheld them to block their registration, although cumbersome bureaucracy within the Ministry of Law and Human Rights was also to blame. Foreign NGOs could continue to operate in the country without registration, but those lacking registration were unable to work directly with government programs.

In December 2020, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Mahfud MD announced a joint ministerial decree that declared the Islamic Defenders Front, a hardline Islamic organization, “nonregistered” and banned the organization, its symbols, and its activities. The Islamic Defenders Front’s permit to operate as a religious organization expired in June 2019; it was operating without a clear legal status for 18 months. Mahfud MD stated that during this period the organization had broken the law and violated public order and refused to amend its articles of association to make it consistent with the law, specifically the national ideology of Pancasila. A coalition of prominent human rights organizations released a statement asserting that while they criticized the Islamic Defenders Front’s violent actions, hate speech, and violations of the law, the joint ministerial decree was not consistent with the country’s constitution and was an unjust restriction on the rights of association and expression.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement and the Right to Leave the Country

The law provides for freedom of internal movement and generally allows for travel outside of the country. The law gives the military broad powers, in a declared state of emergency, to limit land, air, and sea traffic. The government did not use these powers during the year. The government instituted a variety of restrictions on movement intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some NGOs and activists criticized the frequent changes of these restrictions and their inconsistent enforcement.

In-country Movement: The government continued to impose administrative hurdles for travel by NGOs, journalists, foreign diplomats, and others to Papua and West Papua. After the COVID-19 pandemic began, authorities severely limited movement in and out of Papua and West Papua, enforcing these restrictions far more strictly and for a longer period than elsewhere.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

The government collects data on displacement caused by natural hazards and conflict through the National Disaster Management Authority, although the lack of systematic monitoring of return and resettlement conditions made it difficult to estimate reliably the total number of internally displaced persons (IDPs). The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center reported there were 161,000 IDPs due to disasters and 40,000 IDPs due to conflict and violence as of December 2020.

The law stipulates the government must provide for “the fulfillment of the rights of the people and displaced persons affected by disaster in a manner that is fair and in line with the minimum service standards.” IDPs in towns and villages were not abused or deprived of services or other rights and protections, but resource and access constraints delayed or hindered the provision of services to IDPs in some cases, notably for those who fled to the countryside and forests to escape conflict in Papua and West Papua.

The return of persons displaced by conflict in Papua and West Papua was slow and difficult. Fighting in the highlands of Puncak Regency, Papua Province in 2019 led to thousands of displaced persons relocating to the capital of Illaga. The local government recorded that as of June 2, approximately 3,019 persons from 23 villages remained displaced as a result of conflict.

f. Protection of Refugees

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The country is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and does not allow permanent local settlement or naturalization of asylum seekers or persons judged to be refugees. The government allows refugees to settle temporarily while awaiting permanent resettlement. The law acknowledges UNHCR’s role in processing all refugee status determinations in the country. Regulations establish a detailed refugee management process, outlining the specific responsibilities of national and subnational agencies from the time of refugee arrival to departure for resettlement or repatriation. UNHCR officials reported 13,343 known refugees and asylum seekers were in the country as of August.

Rohingya Muslims were a small but growing segment of the refugee and asylum-seeker population. Members of the community stated they were often denied proper medical treatment. Community representatives alleged the government aggressively monitored them and that they faced severe restrictions on their freedom of movement – for example, Rohingya who married locals were not permitted to leave refugee housing – and faced challenges finding work. In January hundreds of Rohingya who had been residing in a refugee camp in Aceh Province were reported missing, suspected to have been smuggled, or potentially trafficked, to neighboring Malaysia. Officials reported that just 112 refugees remained in the camp, although almost 400 arrived between June and September 2020.

Employment: The government prohibits refugees from working, although it did not strictly enforce this prohibition. In May immigration officials in Wajo Regency, South Sulawesi, arrested two Afghan refugees for working as construction laborers.

Access to Basic Services: The government did not generally prohibit refugees from accessing public elementary education, although many barriers prevented enrollment of more than a small number of refugee children, including lack of access to government-issued student identification numbers. A small number of refugees enrolled in language and other classes in private, refugee-run schools or in NGO-sponsored programs. Refugees have access to basic public-health services through local health clinics, which the government subsidized. Treatment for more serious conditions or hospitalization, however, was not covered under this program. Since early in the year, the government also prohibited refugees from receiving COVID-19 vaccinations, despite repeated requests from refugee advocacy organizations. Some local governments provided vaccines to refugees. Authorities in Aceh vaccinated 81 Rohingya upon disembarkation, and authorities in Banten and Bekasi vaccinated a few hundred refugees.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In April 2019 Joko Widodo (popularly known as Jokowi) won a second five-year term as president. Voters also elected new members of the House of Representatives and the Regional Representative Council, as well as provincial and local legislatures. Domestic and international observers deemed the elections free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits participation of women and members of historically marginalized or minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. The law on political parties mandates that women comprise a minimum of 30 percent of the founding membership of a new political party.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, but government efforts to enforce the law were insufficient. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year. Despite the arrest and conviction of many high-profile and high-ranking officials, including the former ministers of maritime and social affairs, there was a widespread perception that corruption remained endemic. NGOs claimed that endemic corruption was one cause for human rights abuses, with moneyed interests using corrupt government officials to harass and intimidate activists and groups that impeded their businesses.

The Corruption Eradication Commission, national police, the armed forces’ Special Economics Crime Unit, and the Attorney General’s Office may all investigate and prosecute corruption cases. Coordination between these offices, however, was inconsistent and coordination with the armed forces unit was nonexistent. The Corruption Eradication Commission does not have authority to investigate members of the military, nor does it have jurisdiction in cases where state losses are valued at less than IDR one billion ($70,000).

Many NGOs and activists maintained that the Corruption Eradication Commission’s ability to investigate corruption was limited because its supervisory body was selected and appointed by the president and because the commission was part of the executive branch. Commission investigators were sometimes harassed, intimidated, or attacked because of their work.

On May 5, the Corruption Eradication Commission conducted a civics exam for all commission employees as part of a legally mandated transition process to convert commission staff to regular civil service status. Seventy-five employees failed the test, including prominent investigators who had criticized the commission’s leadership and 2019 amendments to the commission’s statute and who were involved in many high-profile investigations, including those of two ministers (see below). On July 15, the national ombudsman concluded the exam was improperly administered and that the commission lacked the legal standing to compel employees to take the exam. NGOs and media reported that the test was a tactic to remove specific investigators, including Novel Baswedan, a prominent investigator who had led a case resulting in the imprisonment of the speaker of the House of Representatives and who had been injured in an acid attack perpetrated by two police officers. On September 30, the commission dismissed 57 of the 75 who failed the test.

On August 30, the commission’s supervisory board determined that the commission Deputy Chairperson Lili Pintauli Siregar was guilty of an ethics violation in her handling of a bribery case involving the mayor of Tanjung Balai, Muhammad Syahrial. The board determined Siregar had inappropriate contact with the subject of an investigation for her own personal benefit and imposed a one-year, 40 percent pay reduction for Siregar for the infraction.

Corruption: The Corruption Eradication Commission investigated and prosecuted officials suspected of corruption at all levels of government. Several high-profile corruption cases involved large-scale government procurement or construction programs and implicated legislators, governors, regents, judges, police, and civil servants. In 2020 the commission recovered state assets worth approximately IDR 152 billion ($10.7 million); it conducted 114 investigations, initiated 81 prosecutions, and completed 111 cases resulting in convictions. The Attorney General Office’s Corruption Taskforce was also active in the investigation and prosecution of high-profile corruption cases.

On March 10, two police generals were convicted and sentenced for taking bribes from Djoko Soegiarto Tjandra, a fugitive from charges of involvement in a Bank Bali debt scandal, to assist him in traveling around the country while a fugitive. Inspector General Napoleon Bonaparte was sentenced to four and one-half years in prison for taking IDR 7.2 billion ($500,000) in bribes; Brigadier General Prasetijo Utomo was sentenced to three and one-half years for taking IDR 1.4 billion ($100,000). On April 5, Tjandra was sentenced to four and one-half years in prison for bribing Bonaparte, Utomo, and a prosecutor.

On July 16, former minister of marine affairs and fisheries Edhy Prabowo was found guilty of accepting bribes from businessmen and misusing his authority to expedite export permits for lobster larvae. Prabowo was sentenced to five years in prison, a substantial fine, and barred from public office for three years after the end of his sentence.

On August 23, former social affairs minister Juliari Peter Batubara was found guilty of accepting IDR 20.8 billion ($1.45 million) in kickbacks related to government food assistance programs created to alleviate hunger during the COVID-19 pandemic. Juliari was sentenced to 12 years in prison, ordered to pay IDR 14.6 billion ($1 million) in restitution, a fine of IDR 500 million ($34,700), and barred from running for public office for four years after the end of his prison term.

According to NGOs and media reports, police commonly demanded bribes ranging from minor payoffs in traffic cases to large amounts in criminal investigations. Corrupt officials sometimes subjected Indonesian migrants returning from abroad, primarily women, to arbitrary strip searches, theft, and extortion.

Bribes and extortion influenced prosecution, conviction, and sentencing in civil and criminal cases. Anticorruption NGOs accused key individuals in the justice system of accepting bribes and condoning suspected corruption. Legal aid organizations reported cases often moved very slowly unless a bribe was paid, and in some cases, prosecutors demanded payments from defendants to ensure a less zealous prosecution or to make a case disappear.

In 2020 the National Ombudsman received 284 complaints related to maladministration in court decisions. From January 1 to October 30, 2020, the Judicial Commission received 1,158 public complaints of judicial misconduct and recommended sanctions against 121 judges. The Judicial Commission reported that from January 4 to April 30, they had received 494 complaints of judicial misconduct.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights organizations generally operated without government restriction, except in Papua and West Papua, investigating and publishing findings on human rights cases and advocating improvements to the government’s human rights performance. Government representatives met with local NGOs, responded to their inquiries, and took some actions in response to NGO concerns. Some officials subjected NGOs to monitoring, harassment, interference, threats, and intimidation. On May 10, General Paulus Waterpauw stated that some NGOs and activists enflamed the situation in Papua and perpetuated the separatist movement there.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government generally permitted UN officials to monitor the human rights situation in the country, except in Papua and West Papua. Security forces and intelligence agencies, however, tended to regard foreign human rights observers with suspicion, especially those in Papua and West Papua, where their operations were restricted. NGOs continued to press the government to allow the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights to visit Papua and West Papua to assess the human rights situation there.

Government Human Rights Bodies: Many independent agencies addressed human rights problems, including the Office of the National Ombudsman, the National Commission on Violence against Women, and the National Human Rights Commission. The government is not required to adopt their recommendations and at times avoided doing so. Some agencies, including the human rights and violence against women commissions, may refer cases to police or prosecutors.

The Aceh Truth and Reconciliation Commission, established to investigate human rights violations perpetrated by the government and the then active Free Aceh Movement between 1976 and 2005, has taken statements from victims, former separatists, and witnesses between 2016 and 2020. Budget constraints posed challenges for the commission.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, domestic abuse, and other forms of violence against women. The legal definition of rape covers only forced penetration of sexual organs, and filing a case requires a witness or other corroboration. Rape is punishable by four to 14 years in prison and a substantial fine. While the government imprisoned some perpetrators of rape and attempted rape, sentences were often light, and many convicted rapists received the minimum sentence. Marital rape is not a specific criminal offense in law but is covered under “forced sexual intercourse” in national legislation on domestic violence and may be punished with criminal penalties.

The National Commission on Violence against Women reported receiving 2,300 complaints of violence against women in 2020, up from 1,400 in 2019 – the Commission attributed the upswing in part to social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as increased willingness of victims to report incidents. On August 24, the commission reported that in the first six months of the year, it received more than 2,500 complaints – the majority of which were domestic violence incidents. Civil society activists underscored that many cases went unreported, as many victims did not report abuse because of fear of social stigma, shame, and lack of support from friends and family.

On June 13, a 16-year-old girl was detained for questioning in West Halmahera Regency, North Maluku Province and taken to the South Jailolo Police Station. While detained the girl was raped by a police officer at the station who threatened her with jail time if she refused to have sex with him. On June 23, North Maluku police reported that the officer had been dishonorably discharged from the police and arrested pending trial for rape.

Civil society organizations operated integrated service centers for women and children in all 34 provinces and approximately 436 districts and provided counseling and support services of varying quality to victims of violence. Larger provincial service centers provided more comprehensive psychosocial services. living in rural areas or districts with no such center had difficulty receiving support services, and some centers were only open for six hours a day, not the required 24 hours. Nationwide, police operated “special crisis rooms” or “women’s desks” where female officers received reports from female and child victims of sexual assault and trafficking and where victims found temporary shelter.

In addition to 32 provincial-level antitrafficking-in-persons task forces, the government has 251 task forces at the local (district or city) level, which were usually chaired by the head of the local integrated service center or of the local social affairs office.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C reportedly occurred regularly. There were no recent reliable data on FGM/C. Using 2013 data, UNICEF estimated that 49 percent of girls aged 11 and younger underwent some form of FGM/C, with the majority of girls subjected to the procedure before they were six months old. National law prohibiting this practice has never been tested in court, as no one has ever been charged for performing FGM/C. The Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection continued to lead official efforts to prevent FGM/C.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibiting indecent public acts serves as the basis for criminal complaints stemming from sexual harassment. Violations are punishable by imprisonment of up to two years and eight months and a small fine. Civil society and NGOs reported sexual harassment was a problem countrywide.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. NGOs reported that social stigma and bullying of female students related to menstruation occurred, and that female students had inadequate access to menstrual education, hygiene products, and hygienic facilities at schools. Such inadequacy prevented female students from appropriately managing menstruation, frequently resulting in absenteeism from school during menstruation. (See the Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting subsection for additional information.)

The law recognizes the basic right of couples and individuals to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, but various regulations undercut its effective implementation for women. By law the government must provide information and education on reproductive health that do not conflict with religious or moral norms. NGOs reported that government officials attempted to restrict the provision of reproductive health information related to contraceptives and other services deemed as conflicting with religious or moral norms.

While condoms were widely available, regulations require husbands’ permission for married women to obtain other forms of birth control. Local NGOs reported that unmarried women found it difficult to obtain contraceptives through health-care systems. Media and NGOs reported such women were stigmatized, including by health-care staff who repeatedly asked about marital status and sometimes turned away unmarried women seeking routine procedures such as pap smears.

The UN Population Fund reported that the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted access to family planning and reproductive services. The National Agency for Population and Family Planning reported that approximately 10 percent of its clients dropped out of its programs during the pandemic.

NGOs reported that reproductive health services were not consistently provided to victims of sexual violence. NGOs reported rape victims sometimes experienced difficulties obtaining emergency contraceptives from medical providers.

According to 2017 World Health Organization data, the maternal mortality rate was 177 per 100,000 live births, down from 184 in 2016. The Ministry of Health and NGOs identified several factors contributing to the maternal mortality rate, including lack of training for midwives and traditional birth attendants, continued lack of access to basic and comprehensive emergency obstetric care, and limited availability of essential maternal and neonatal medications. Hospitals and health centers did not always properly manage complicated procedures, and financial barriers and the limited availability of qualified health personnel caused problems for referrals in case of complications. A woman’s economic status, level of education, and age at first marriage also affected maternal mortality.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men in family, labor, property, and nationality law, but it does not grant widows equal inheritance rights. The law states that women’s work outside the home must not conflict with their role in improving family welfare and educating the younger generation. The law designates the man as the head of the household.

Divorce is available to both men and women. Many divorced women received no alimony, since there is no system to enforce such payments. The law requires a divorced woman to wait 40 days before remarrying; a man may remarry immediately.

The National Commission on Violence against Women viewed many local laws and policies as discriminatory. These included “morality laws” and antiprostitution regulations.

In January media widely reported that a Christian female student was forced to wear a hijab in Padang, West Sumatra. In May the Supreme Court invalidated a government ban issued in February on such school regulations, stating that it conflicted with laws regarding the national education system, protection of children, and local government. A March report by Human Rights Watch detailed widespread and intense social pressure for women to wear hijabs in schools and government offices, in addition to requirements in official regulations. Women faced discrimination in the workplace, both in hiring and in gaining fair compensation (see section 7.d.).

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The law contains provisions specifically aimed at eliminating racial and ethnic discrimination, providing criminal penalties for individuals who discriminate on ethnic/racial grounds, as well as sentencing enhancements for violent actions that include a racial or ethnic motivation. The law defines hate speech as spreading hate against a race, tribe, religion, or group. The government generally applied hate speech law in cases related to race.

NGOs reported that persons of Melanesian descent, predominantly from Papua and West Papua, faced widespread discrimination throughout the country. Persons of Melanesian descent often faced police abuse (see sections 1.c., 1.g., and 2.b.)

In a January interview, former National Intelligence Agency chief General Hendropriyono suggested that two million Papuans should be resettled away from their homeland so that they would be “racially separate from the Papuans in Papua New Guinea” and feel more Indonesian.

In January Ambroncius Nababan, chairman of the pro-president Widodo Projamin Volunteer Organization, used racist language and images of a gorilla to attack Natalius Pigai, former human rights commissioner and an ethnic Papuan, over Pigai’s criticism of the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine.

An Amnesty International report covering protests in July and August related to the extension and revision of special autonomy found that police officers involved in arresting or causing injury to Papuan protesters had referred to them as “monkeys.”

Papuan activists emphasized that although Papua and West Papua are rich in natural resources, the local Melanesian population has historically not fully benefitted from these resources and much of the local economy has long been controlled by non-Melanesians. Statistics Indonesia, a government agency, reported that in 2020 the provinces of Papua and West Papua had the lowest Human Development Index and highest poverty rate of the country’s 34 provinces. On July 15, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill extending special autonomy for the provinces of Papua and West Papua, which included an increase in the yearly allocation of government funds to Papua from 2 to 2.25 percent of the national budget intended to address this inequality. Opponents of this bill claimed the economic benefits of this increase would disproportionately benefit non-Melanesians.

Indigenous Peoples

The government viewed all citizens as “indigenous” but recognized the existence of several “isolated communities” and their right to participate fully in political and social life. The Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago estimated that between 50 and 70 million indigenous persons were in the country. These communities include the Dayak tribes of Kalimantan, families living as sea nomads, and the 312 officially recognized indigenous groups in Papua. Indigenous persons, most notably in Papua and West Papua, were subjected to discrimination.

There was little improvement in respect for indigenous persons’ traditional land rights and access to ancestral lands remained a major source of tension throughout the country. The government failed to prevent companies, often in collusion with local military and police units, from encroaching on indigenous peoples’ land. Central and local government officials were also alleged to have extracted kickbacks from mining and plantation companies in exchange for land access at the expense of indigenous peoples.

Mining and logging activities, many of them illegal, posed significant social, economic, and legal problems for indigenous communities. Melanesians in Papua cited racism and discrimination as drivers of violence and economic inequality in the region.

NGOs reported that as of January, only approximately 193 square miles of a proposed 38,610 square miles has been granted to local indigenous groups. These hutan adat (customary forest) land grants are specifically designated for indigenous groups. Nevertheless, large corporations and the government continued to displace individuals from ancestral lands. NGOs reported that security forces and police sometimes became involved in disputes between corporations and indigenous communities, often taking the side of the businesses.

From January 2020 to March 2021, Amnesty International reported 61 cases of indigenous community members arrested without due process of law – a trend the NGO identified as an attempt to criminalize indigenous community’s efforts to maintain their customary rights.

In May the West Papua government rescinded 12 licenses held by companies operating palm oil plantations in the province. The 12 licenses covered a total of 1,034 square miles. The recensions came after the provincial government collaborated with the Corruption Eradication Commission and the NGO EcoNusa to review 24 palm oil license holders for administrative and legal violations.

On May 18, security personnel from PT Toba Pulp Lestari clashed with thousands of residents in Toba Regency, North Sumatra, injuring dozens of residents. The confrontation started because of the company’s plans to plant eucalyptus trees on 2.3 square miles claimed by the local indigenous community as customary land. The conflict was part of a long-standing dispute. From 2020 to May 2021, PT Toba Pulp Lestari reported 71 members of the local indigenous community to police for a variety of offenses.

In June Human Rights Watch released an in-depth report on the operations of PT Sintang Raya’s palm oil plantations and the company’s disputes with the local indigenous community in Kubu Raya Regency, West Kalimantan Province. The report stated that government “authorities have done very little to mediate and resolve disputes” about land ownership.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived through the citizenship of one’s parents. If citizenship of the parents cannot be determined, or the parents lack citizenship, citizenship can be acquired by birth in national territory.

The law prohibits fees for legal identity documents issued by the civil registry. Nevertheless, NGOs reported that in some districts local authorities did not provide free birth certificates.

Education: Although the constitution states that the government must provide tuition-free education, it does not cover fees charged for schoolbooks, uniforms, transportation, and other nontuition costs. The Ministry of Education and Culture, representing public and private schools, and the Ministry of Religious Affairs for Islamic schools and madrassahs, operated a system giving students from low-income families a financial grant for their educational needs. Nonetheless, high poverty rates nationwide put education out of reach for many children.

According to the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection’s 2019 Children Profile Report, approximately 10.9 million children ages five to 17 had not attended school and 3.2 million children had dropped out of school.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits child abuse, but NGOs criticized the slow police response to such allegations. The law also addresses economic and sexual exploitation of children. Some provincial governments did not enforce these provisions. In April, six female primary school students alleged their school principal had sexually assaulted them in Medan, North Sumatra. In May the principal was arrested and named as a suspect by police. In May a Quran teacher in Bekasi, West Java Province, was arrested for allegedly molesting a 15-year-old female student in a mosque where he worked.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum marriage age for women and men is 19. Exceptions to the minimum age requirements are allowed with court approval. The courts officially permitted more than 33,000 child marriages with parental consent between January and June 2020, with 60 percent of these involving individuals younger than 18. Children’s rights activists are concerned that increased economic pressure from COVID-19 may be leading parents to resort to child marriage to reduce the economic burden on their households. The National Statistics Agency reported in 2018 that approximately 11 percent of girls in the country married before the age of 18. Provinces with the highest rates of early marriage include West Sulawesi, Central Kalimantan, Southeast Sulawesi, South Kalimantan, and West Kalimantan. The main drivers of early marriage were poverty, cultural tradition, religious norms, and lack of sexual reproductive-health education.

The reduction of child marriage is one of the targets set in the National Mid-Term Development Plan 2020-2024. The government aimed to reduce new child marriages to 8.7 percent of all marriages by 2024.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law forbids consensual sex outside of marriage with girls younger than 15. It does not address heterosexual conduct between women and boys, but it prohibits same-sex sexual conduct between adults and minors.

The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and the use of children in illicit activities. It also prohibits child pornography and prescribes a maximum sentence of 12 years and a substantial fine for producing or trading in child pornography.

According to 2016 data, the most recent available from the Ministry of Social Affairs, there were 56,000 underage sex workers in the country; UNICEF estimated that nationwide 40,000 to 70,000 children were victims of sexual exploitation and that 30 percent of female commercial sex workers were children.

In February media reported that an online matchmaking service named Aisha Weddings promoted services for those between the ages of 12 and 21 on its website and advertised unregistered and polygamous marriages. The website was blocked soon after being reported. Police stated that the website was registered in a foreign country.

From April to July, a mosque administrator allegedly sexually abused 16 children in Makassar, South Sulawesi Province in the mosque. The administrator paid the victims 10 to 20 thousand IDR ($0.70 to $1.40) to agree to engage in the sexual acts. In August police arrested the man, who faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Displaced Children: Ministry of Social Affairs data from December 2020 estimated there were 67,368 street children in the country. The government continued to fund shelters administered by local NGOs and paid for the education of some street children.

Institutionalized Children: The Ministry of Social Affairs reported that in 2019 183,104 children were registered in its Integrated Social Welfare Data system, of whom 106,406 were residing in 4,864 child welfare institutions; 76,698 were in family placement.

In August two orphan children at the al-Amin Orphanage in Gresik Regency, East Java Province, were abused by the son of the orphanage’s administrator. The abuser used a wire to beat the two children, aged 10 and 11. The incident was reported to police.

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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

The country’s Jewish population was extremely small, estimated at approximately 200. There were no significant reports of anti-Semitism, but studies in recent years indicated a high level of anti-Semitic sentiment, often linked with strong anti-Israeli sentiment.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities and mandates accessibility to public facilities for persons with disabilities. The law applies to education, employment, health services, transportation, and other state services but was seldom enforced. Comprehensive disability rights law provisions impose criminal sanctions for violators of the rights of persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities were disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 crisis. They had difficulties accessing information on the pandemic, following virus-related public health strategies, and receiving health care from service providers.

According to Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection data from 2019, approximately 650,000 children ages two to 17 have disabilities. There was no reliable data on their access to education, but observers believed it was low.

According to the General Election Commission, there were potentially 137,247 voters with disabilities out of 105 million voters registered to vote in the 2020 regional head elections. The law provides persons with disabilities the rights to vote and run for office, and election commission procedures provide for access to the polls for voters with disabilities.

Despite a government ban, NGOs reported that families, traditional healers, and staff in institutions continued to shackle individuals with psychosocial disabilities, in some cases for years. The government continued to prioritize elimination of this practice. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the practice of shackling increased, after declining for several years. According to Ministry of Health data, in the year prior to the pandemic there were 5,227 cases of shackling nationwide, but during the pandemic the number increased to 6,278 by the end of 2020, with the largest increase coming in East Java Province where the number of cases jumped from 961 to 2,302. NGOs noted a lack of public awareness of the issue.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The stigmatization of and discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS were pervasive, despite government efforts to encourage tolerance. Societal tolerance varied widely and official fear of a backlash from religious conservatives often resulted in muted prevention efforts. Societal barriers to accessing antiretroviral drugs and their expense put these drugs beyond the reach of many. Persons with HIV or AIDS reportedly continued to face employment discrimination. Closer collaboration between the Ministry of Health and civil society organizations increased the reach of the government’s awareness campaign; however, some clinics refused to provide services to persons with HIV or AIDS.

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

No national law criminalizes same-sex sexual conduct, except between adults and minors. NGOs reported numerous cases of local government regulations that define same-sex sexual conduct as a form of sexual deviance. Aceh’s sharia makes consensual same-sex sexual conduct illegal and punishable by a maximum of 100 lashes, a considerable fine, or a 100-month prison term. According to Aceh’s sharia agency chief, at least four witnesses must observe individuals engaging in consensual same-sex sexual conduct for them to be charged. Local organizations held anti-LGBTQI+ protests. NGOs reported that fear of prosecution under Aceh’s sharia at times caused LGBTQI+ activists to flee the province, sometimes permanently. Producing media depicting consensual same-sex sexual conduct – vaguely and broadly defined in the law – can be prosecuted as a crime under the antipornography act. Penalties include potentially extremely large fines and imprisonment from six months to 15 years, with heavier penalties for crimes involving minors.

In August a military tribunal in North Kalimantan dismissed a soldier from service and sentenced him to seven months in prison for having same-sex intercourse. The judges stated that the soldier had violated military regulations against immorality and LGBTQI+ activities.

Antidiscrimination law does not protect LGBTQI+ individuals, and discrimination and violence against LGBTQI+ persons continued. Families often put LGBTQI+ minors into conversion therapy, confined them to their homes, or pressured them to marry persons of the opposite sex.

According to media and NGO reports, local authorities harassed transgender persons, including by forcing them to conform to cultural standards of behavior associated with their biological sex or to pay bribes following detention. In many cases, officials failed to protect LGBTQI+ persons from societal abuse. Police corruption, bias, and violence caused LGBTQI+ persons to avoid interaction with police. Officials often ignored formal complaints by victims and affected persons, including refusing to investigate bullying directed at LGBTQI+ individuals. In criminal cases with LGBTQI+ victims, police investigated the cases reasonably well, as long as the suspect was not affiliated with police. Human Rights Watch Indonesia noted anti-LGBTQI+ rhetoric in the country has increased since 2016.

In 2020 Hendrika Mayora Kelan was elected to head of the consultative body of a small village in East Nusa Tenggara Province, becoming the country’s first transgender public official.

Transgender persons faced discrimination in employment and access to public services and health care. NGOs documented government officials’ refusal to issue identity cards to transgender persons. NGOs reported that transgender individuals sometimes faced problems in getting COVID-19 vaccinations due to the lack of identity documents. The law only allows transgender individuals officially to change their gender after the completion of sex reassignment surgery. Some observers claimed the process was cumbersome and degrading because it is permissible only in certain undefined special circumstances and requires a court order declaring that the surgery is complete. In June the Ministry of Home Affairs announced that it would start providing electronic identity cards to transgender individuals; however, the name and gender on the card would remain those given at birth, absent a court order showing a change of name or gender.

LGBTQI+ NGOs operated but frequently held low-key public events because the licenses or permits required for holding registered events were difficult to obtain or they were pressured by police not to hold such events to avoid creating “social unrest.”

Individuals diagnosed with or suspected of having the COVID-19 virus faced discrimination in their communities.

Individuals suspected of using black magic were often targets of violence. In May prisoners in Merauke, Papua, killed two ethnic Marind prisoners accused of using magic to curse other prisoners. In May, three men killed a farmer in the Kangean Islands for his suspected use of magic to kill a woman.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law, with restrictions, provides for the rights of workers to join independent unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination.

Workers in the private sector have, in law, broad rights of association and formed and joined unions of their choice without previous authorization or excessive requirements. The law places restrictions on organizing among public-sector workers. Civil servants may only form employee associations with limitations on certain rights, such as the right to strike. Employees of state-owned enterprises may form unions, but because the government treats most such enterprises as essential national interest entities, their right to strike is limited.

The law stipulates that 10 or more workers have the right to form a union, with membership open to all workers, regardless of political affiliation, religion, ethnicity, or gender. The Ministry of Manpower records, rather than approves, the formation of a union, federation, or confederation and provides it with a registration number.

The law allows the government to petition the courts to dissolve a union if it conflicts with the constitution or the national ideology of Pancasila, which encompasses the principles of belief in one God, justice, unity, democracy, and social justice. Authorities may compel a union to dissolve if its leaders or members, in the name of the union, commit crimes against the security of the state, and they may receive a minimum of five years in prison. Once a union is dissolved, its leaders and members may not form another union for at least three years. The International Labor Organization remained concerned that dissolving a union could be disproportionate to the seriousness of the violation.

The law includes some restrictions on collective bargaining, including a requirement that a union or unions represent more than 50 percent of the company workforce or receive a vote of more than 50 percent of all workers to negotiate a collective labor agreement. Workers and employers have 30 days to conclude a collective labor agreement. Such agreements have a two-year lifespan that the parties may extend for one year. Unions noted that the law allows employers to delay the negotiation of collective labor agreements with few legal repercussions.

The right to strike is legally restricted. By law workers must give written notification that includes the location and start and end time to authorities and employer seven days in advance for a strike to be legal. Before striking, workers must engage in mediation with the employer and then proceed to a government mediator or risk having the strike declared illegal. In the case of an illegal strike, an employer may make two written requests within a period of seven days for workers to return. Workers who do not return to work after these requests are considered to have resigned.

All strikes at “enterprises that cater to the interests of the general public or at enterprises whose activities would endanger the safety of human life if discontinued” are deemed illegal. Regulations do not specify the types of enterprises affected, leaving this determination to the government’s discretion. Presidential and ministerial decrees enable companies or industrial areas to request assistance from police and the military in the event of disruption of or threat to “national vital objects” in their jurisdiction. The International Labor Organization believes that the regulatory definition of “national vital objects” imposed overly broad restrictions on legitimate trade union activity, including in export-processing zones. Human rights activists and unions alleged that the government continues to label companies and economic areas as “national vital objects” to justify the use of security forces to restrict strike activity.

The government did not always effectively enforce provisions of the law protecting freedom of association or preventing antiunion discrimination. Antiunion discrimination cases moved excessively slowly through the court system. Bribery and judicial corruption in workers’ disputes continued, and unions claimed that courts rarely decided cases in the workers’ favor, even in cases in which the Ministry of Manpower recommended in favor of the workers. While such workers sometimes received severance pay or other compensation, they were rarely reinstated. Authorities used some legal provisions to prosecute trade unionists for striking, such as the crime of “instigating a punishable act” or committing “unpleasant acts,” which criminalized a broad range of conduct.

Penalties for criminal violations of the law protecting freedom of association and the right to enter into collective labor agreements include a prison sentence and fines and were generally commensurate with similar crimes. Local Ministry of Manpower offices were responsible for enforcement, which was particularly difficult in export-promotion zones. Enforcement of collective bargaining agreements varied based on the capacity and interest of individual regional governments.

Several common practices undermined freedom of association. Antiunion intimidation most often took the form of termination, transfer, or filing unjustified criminal charges. Unions alleged that employers commonly reassigned labor leaders deemed to be problematic. For example, on May 21, union leader Zulkarnain (one name only) was dismissed by PT Schneider Electric; the company said it was for inability to do his work. The company in May 2020 transferred Zulkarnain from his position of 10 years as a metrology engineer to a supplier quality engineer and said he could either take the offer or leave. On March 10, management gave him both a first and second warning letter alleging underperformance. The company allegedly threatened to cut his severance payment if he appealed the dismissal through the union. The district labor department said underperformance could not be grounds for dismissal. As of October 14, there were no additional updates on this case.

Labor activists claimed that companies orchestrated the formation of multiple unions, including “yellow” (employer-controlled) unions, to weaken legitimate unions. Some employers threatened employees who contacted union organizers. Companies often sued union leaders for losses suffered in strikes.

Many strikes were unsanctioned or “wildcat” strikes that broke out after a failure to settle long-term grievances or when an employer refused to recognize a union. Unions reported that employers also used the bureaucratic process required for a legal strike to obstruct unions’ right to strike. Unions noted that employers’ delays in negotiating collective labor agreements contributed to strike activity and legal measures taken against union members in the event of a failed agreement negotiation.

The 2020 Omnibus Law on Job Creation and the subsequent implementing regulations allowed for increased use of contract labor and eliminated restrictions on outsourcing labor. Both changes affected workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively. Under the law, outsourcing contract labor can be done for any business activity without limitation. The provider company, rather than the user company, is solely responsible for the working conditions and wages of contract workers. The user company may source contract workers from multiple outsourcing companies, making it impossible for workers to bargain collectively at the workplace.

The Omnibus Law provides vague limits to the use of fixed-term contracts. For example, fixed-term contracts can be used for any work that is temporary in nature or can be completed in “not too long a time.” The implementing regulations also increased the maximum duration of fixed contracts from three years to 10 years. These broad guidelines made it difficult to ensure that the threat of contract renewal was not used to inhibit freedom of association and collective bargaining. In March workers at two unions, PTTEL security union and PTTEL care and service union, went on strike after failing to negotiate a new collective agreement with management. Part of the dispute was a result of the company outsourcing workers at the factory, and the dismissal of 38 of those workers. The union reported that police violently dispersed the picket line.

In 2020 the Indonesian Trade Union Confederation and the Confederation of Indonesian Workers Welfare Union, the two largest labor unions, filed requests for judicial review of the constitutionality of the 2020 Omnibus Law with the Constitutional Court due to the adverse impact of the law on workers. In June the Constitutional Court refused the judicial review request from the Confederation of Indonesian Workers Welfare Union; however, the request from the Indonesian Trade Union Confederation was still under consideration as of October 25.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, prescribing penalties of imprisonment and a fine, which were commensurate with similar crimes.

To prevent forced labor among Indonesian workers abroad, the National Social Security Administration enrolls these migrant workers and their families in the national social security program, enables authorities to prosecute suspects involved in illegal recruitment and placement of workers, and limits the role of private recruitment and placement agencies by revoking their authority to obtain travel documents for migrant workers. Government agencies may suspend the licenses of recruitment agencies for coercive or deceptive recruitment practices and contract signings, sending migrant workers to an unauthorized destination country, document forgery, underage recruitment, illegal fees (such as requesting several months of workers’ salaries), and other violations.

The government continued its moratorium on sending domestic workers to certain countries where its citizens had been subjected to forced labor. Some observers noted this moratorium resulted in an increasing number of workers seeking the services of illegal brokers and placement agencies to facilitate their travel, increasing their vulnerability to human trafficking. The government asserted such moratoriums were needed until receiving countries can guarantee protections against the abuse and exploitation of its migrant workers.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. There were credible reports that forced labor occurred, including forced and compulsory labor by children (see section 7.c.). A May Greenpeace report released covering a period of six years indicated a significant increase in reports of forced labor on fishing vessels at sea in 2020. Forced labor also occurred in domestic servitude and in the mining, manufacturing, fish processing, construction, and plantation agriculture sectors.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

Law and regulations prohibit all labor by children between the ages of five and 12. Children ages 13 and 14 may work up to 15 hours per week; children ages 15 to 17 may work up to 40 hours per week (not during school or evening hours and with written permission from parents). The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor, as defined by the International Labor Organization. It does not, however, extend to the informal economy, where most child labor takes place. Companies which legally employ children for the purpose of artistic performances and similar activities are required to keep records of their employment. Companies that legally employ children for other purposes are not required to keep such records. In 2020 through its Family Hope Program, the government removed 9,000 children from child labor.

The government did not effectively enforce the law prohibiting the worst forms of child labor. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes.

Child labor commonly occurred in domestic service, rural agriculture, light industry, manufacturing, and fishing. There were reports of child labor on palm oil plantations. The worst forms of child labor occurred in commercial sexual exploitation, including the production of child pornography (also see section 6, Children); other illicit activities, including forced begging and the production, sale, and trafficking of drugs; and in fishing and domestic work.

According to a National Statistics Agency report, in August 2020 there were approximately 1.17 million children ages 10 to 17 working, primarily in the informal economy. The International Labor Organization estimated 1.5 million children between ages 10 and 17 work in the agricultural sector.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings  and the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination in employment and occupation based on race, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, and disability but not specifically with respect to sexual orientation or gender identity, age, language, or HIV or other communicable disease status. There were no legal restrictions against women in employment to include limiting working hours, occupations, or tasks.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties were commensurate with those for violations of similar laws, but they were not applied outside the formal sector. According to NGOs, antidiscrimination protections were not always observed by employers or the government. Human rights groups reported some government ministries discriminated against pregnant women, persons with disabilities, LGBTQI+ individuals, and HIV-positive persons in hiring. For example, on June 23, the chief of staff of the navy stated that he would dismiss any naval personnel involved in LGBTQI+ activities. The Ministry of Manpower, the Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Agency, the Ministry of Home Affairs, and the National Development Planning Board worked in partnership to reduce gender inequality, including supporting equal employment opportunity task forces at the provincial, district, and municipal levels. , however, still lagged behind men in wages.

In January courts dismissed a suit filed by a gay police officer in Central Java Province for reinstatement into the police force. In 2018 he was fired after being seen with his same-sex romantic partner.

In March a West Sumatran man with a disability lost his appeal to be admitted as a civil servant for the National Audit Board. The man passed the required test but was told he was not healthy enough in mind and body. The man appealed this initial decision and submitted complaints to the National Commission of Human Rights and the Ombudsman.

Migrant workers and persons with disabilities commonly faced discrimination in employment and were often only hired for lower status jobs.

In June IndustriAll reported that the Ministry for Women’s Empowerment and Children agreed to the establishment of an additional 10-15 “protection houses” in key industrial zones where women employees can report gender-based violence, discrimination, and noncompliance with maternity protection. Government agencies provided physical, mental and rehabilitation support. The program began in 2020 and included six protection houses.

Some activists said that in manufacturing, employers relegated women to lower paying, lower-level jobs. Jobs traditionally associated with women continued to be significantly undervalued and unregulated. NGOs reported discriminatory behavior toward domestic workers continued to be rampant.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: Minimum wages varied throughout the country since provincial governors had authority to set a minimum wage floor and district heads had authority to set a higher rate. Minimum wages were above the official poverty line.

Most workers are not covered by the minimum wage laws. Government regulations exempt employers in certain sectors, including small and medium enterprises and labor-intensive industries such as textiles, from minimum wage requirements. Implementing regulations issued from February to April for the 2020 Omnibus Law require that sectors exempt from minimum wage rules should pay workers at least 50 percent of the average public consumption or 25 percent above the poverty level of their province. The new regulations also make part-time workers eligible for hourly wages.

For certain sectors, the overtime rate for work in excess of a 40-hour workweek was 1.5 times the normal hourly rate for the first hour and twice the hourly rate for additional overtime, with a maximum of four hours of overtime per day and a maximum of 18 hours per week. The 2020 Omnibus Law allows certain businesses that require temporary employees to be exempt from the 40-hour workweek. According to the February implementing regulation related to this provision, the sectors exempt from the 40-hour workweek include, but are not limited to, energy and natural resources, mining, natural gas and oil, agribusiness, and fisheries.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law requires employers to provide a safe and healthy workplace and to treat workers with dignity and provides appropriate standards for the main industries. Workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment.

There were no reliable national estimates for workplace deaths or injuries. Unions continued to urge the government, especially the Ministry of Manpower, to do more to address the country’s poor worker safety record and lax enforcement of health and safety regulations, particularly in the construction sector. NGOs and unions reported that many businesses continued to operate in defiance of government lockdown orders, at times resulting in COVID-19 outbreaks. In August the Ministry of Manpower released guidance for business-labor relations during the pandemic and items that should be covered in collective labor agreements to avoid disruptions and disputes.

Local officials from the Ministry of Manpower are responsible for enforcing minimum wage, work hours, and health and safety regulations. Penalties for violations include fines and imprisonment (for violation of the minimum wage law), which were generally commensurate with those for similar crimes. Government enforcement was inadequate, particularly at smaller companies, and supervision of labor standards was not fully enforced. Provincial and local officials often did not have the technical expertise needed to enforce labor law effectively. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and can initiate sanctions in the formal sector. The Ministry of Manpower employed 1,352 labor inspectors in 2020 and allocated IDR 191 billion ($13.3 million) for the labor inspections, down from IDR 231 billion ($16.1 million) in 2019. The number of inspectors was inadequate to enforce compliance.

Informal Sector: Authorities enforced labor regulations, including minimum wage regulations, only for the estimated 43 percent of workers in the formal sector. Workers in the informal sector did not receive the same protections or benefits as workers in the formal sector, in part because they had no legal work contract that labor inspectors could examine. The law does not mandate that employers provide domestic workers with a minimum wage, health insurance, freedom of association, an eight-hour workday, a weekly day of rest, vacation time, or safe work conditions.

Plantation agriculture workers often worked long hours without government-mandated health insurance benefits. They lacked proper safety gear and training in pesticide safety. Most plantation operators paid workers by the volume of crop harvested, which resulted in some workers receiving less than minimum wage and working extended hours to meet volume targets.

Gig workers were not protected under wage, work hours, and occupational safety and health regulations. This led to several large work stoppages by gig workers. For example, on April 6, approximately 1,000 Shopee Express couriers conducted a one-day work stoppage in Bandung following a cut in their pay that meant drivers would earn less than the minimum wage. In June drivers at GoKilat and LalaMove held two major work stoppages related to working conditions.