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Afghanistan

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

The government generally respected citizens’ right to demonstrate peacefully. Numerous public gatherings and protests took place during the year. In May a mass demonstration took place in Kabul over the government’s decision on routing of an electricity line from Turkmenistan to Kabul. Although government forces placed shipping containers to provide security and limited the areas in which the demonstration took place, protesters were allowed to march on the streets of Kabul. On July 23, protesters gathered again to protest the same electricity line but were attacked by insurgents with a bomb that killed 80 and injured an additional 250 protesters. After Da’esh claimed responsibility, the Ministry of Interior banned street protests for 10 days.

In September, Tajik supporters assembled to rebury the remains of a former king on a hill important to the Uzbek community in Kabul, leading to a standoff. After an agreement was reached, the reburial took place, although some criticized the government for not handling the issue properly.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The right to freedom of association is provided in the constitution, and the government generally respected it. The 2009 law on political parties obliges them to register with the Ministry of Justice and to pursue objectives consistent with Islam. By law a political party must have 10,000 registered members to register with the ministry.

In 2012 the Council of Ministers approved a regulation requiring political parties to open offices in at least 20 provinces within one year of registration. The regulation provides for removal of parties failing to do so from the Justice Ministry’s official list. In 2015 the ministry conducted a nationwide review of provincial political party offices. It found 10 political parties not in compliance with the regulation and deregistered all 10 of them. There were a total of 57 political parties registered with the ministry.

Albania

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Algeria

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY

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

On March 21, media outlets reported that police shoved and kicked protesters gathered in front of the Central Post Office in Algiers to demand permanent positions for teachers working on fixed-term contracts. Two women sought hospital treatment for injuries, according to HRW. On April 4, police stopped hundreds of protesting teachers in Boudouaou, preventing them from completing the final leg of a 140-mile march from Bejaia to Algiers. Protesters remained camped in Boudouaou until April 18, at which point police grabbed and shoved some protesters and loaded them onto buses.

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

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

In July police reportedly arrested more than 100 communal guards arriving in Algiers en route to a planned demonstration outside of parliament. In June authorities arrested several Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylie (MAK) activists who were preparing to hold an unauthorized meeting in Larbaa Nath Irathen to mark the 15th anniversary of a Berber-led protest in Algiers. Clashes ensued when area residents gathered in the town center to demand the activists’ release, resulting in injuries to police and some demonstrators, according to press reports. In February MAK president Bouaziz Ait Chebib stated to the El Watan newspaper that approximately 100 MAK activists had been briefly arrested in Tizi Ouzou to prevent their attendance at the MAK’s national assembly.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

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

The law’s extensive requirements and uneven enforcement served as major impediments to the development of civil society. The law grants the government wide-ranging oversight of and influence in the day-to-day activities of civil society organizations. It requires national-level civil organizations to apply to the Ministry of Interior for permission to operate. Once registered, organizations must inform the government of their activities, funding sources, and personnel, including notification of personnel changes. The law imposes an additional requirement that associations obtain government preapproval before accepting foreign funds. If organizations fail to provide required information to the government or attempt to operate with or accept foreign funds without authorization, they are subject to fines between DZD 2,000 and DZD 5,000 ($18 and $46) and up to six months’ imprisonment. The law prohibits formation of a political party with a religious platform, but observers stated they knew some political parties were Islamist.

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

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

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

During the year the Youth Action Movement, a civil society youth organization, was again unsuccessful in renewing its license despite submitting all documentation required by the Ministry of Interior. The ministry also did not renew the accreditations of the NGOs SOS Disparu (Missing) and LADDH, which submitted their renewal applications in 2013. According to members of the National Association for the Fight Against Corruption, the Ministry of Interior refused to approve the organization’s request for accreditation, stating that the application did comply with the law on associations but did not provide any further information. The organization first submitted its application for accreditation in 2012.

The government issued licenses and subsidies to domestic associations, especially youth, medical, and neighborhood associations. According to the Ministry of Interior, there were 108,940 local and 1,293 national associations registered. A 2015 study conducted by several prominent domestic civil society organizations found, however, that nearly two-thirds of the approximately 93,000 associations registered with the government when the law on associations went into force in 2012 were either inactive or no longer operating. Unlicensed NGOs did not receive government assistance, and citizens at times hesitated to associate with these organizations.

Andorra

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Angola

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for the right of assembly, but the government regularly restricted this right.

The law requires written notification to the local administrator and police three days before public assemblies are to be held. For public assemblies during a workday, the law requires the events to start after 7 p.m. The law, however, does not require government permission for such events. The government at times prohibited events based on perceived or claimed security considerations. Police and administrators did not interfere with progovernment gatherings. Nonpartisan groups intending to criticize the government or government leaders, however, often met a heavy police presence and government excuses preventing them from holding the event. Usually authorities claimed the timing or venue requested was problematic or that the proper authorities had not received notification.

According to press reports and NGO sources, on July 23, police detained 35 members of the protest movement “Revolutionary Movement” or “Revus” in Benguela as they traveled to a demonstration to protest the rising price of food in the province. The governor of Benguela denied the request to organize the protest, but the organizers decided to proceed, and police set up checkpoints on main roads to intercept and detain protesters. Police released the protesters the same day.

The government at times arbitrarily restricted the activities of associations it considered subversive by refusing to grant permits for organized activities. Opposition parties generally were permitted to organize and hold meetings; nevertheless, opposition officials continued to report obstructions to the free exercise of their parties’ right to meet.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and law provide for the right of association, but the government did not always respect this right (see also section 7.a.). Extensive delays in the NGO registration process continued to be a problem. NGOs that had not yet received registration were nevertheless allowed to operate.

The government published a new NGO regulation in March 2015 that civil society criticized as potentially restrictive and intrusive. For example, the new regulation requires NGOs to obtain approval from the government before the implementation of any project, imposes local authorities as the supervisors of NGO projects within their municipalities, and requires frequent financial reports of NGO activities to the government. The government stated this regulation is part of its strategy to combat money-laundering and terrorist financing.

Antigua and Barbuda

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Argentina

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Armenia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and the law provide for freedom of assembly. While many small-scale gatherings occurred without interference during the year, in multiple instances the government used violence and excessive force against demonstrators or detained them arbitrarily and otherwise hampered peaceful gatherings.

From July 17 to July 30 and subsequently, while the Sasna Tsrer group held hostage the Patrol-Guard Service Regiment of the Erebuni Police in Yerevan, persons sympathetic to the group or their political demands held numerous demonstrations. Protesters mainly gathered on Freedom Square or on Khorenatsi Street and staged marches in the streets of Yerevan. Police interfered with the marches, used force, and arbitrarily detained hundreds of individuals participating in the protests, subjecting many to violence, often asserting that the gatherings lacked a permit. In its report on the events between July 17 and August 5, the Helsinki Committee of Armenia stated the rallies “were accompanied by brutal interventions and unprecedented violations committed by police.”

The Brussels-based NGO International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) within the framework of Civic Solidarity Platform (CSP), an international coalition of human rights NGOs, conducted a fact-finding mission to the country from July 28 to August 1 and described the demonstrations as largely peaceful. CSP monitors also observed the efforts by demonstration leaders to restrain the public from acts of violence. The CSP looked into two instances in which police used nonlethal weapons against demonstrators on July 20 and July 29, concluding that such weapons were justified on July 20, when the crowd acted aggressively. The CSP concluded that police used excessive force subsequently, after the demonstrators had dispersed. According to the CSP, police use of rocket-projected or hand-held stun grenades on July 29 was disproportionate, excessive, and indiscriminate and employed without advance warning.

According to legal experts, the police practice of arbitrarily detaining peaceful demonstrators constituted a de facto application of “administrative detention” that was outlawed in 2005. According to the legal experts and IPHR, police employed detention primarily as a means of stopping what were largely peaceful protests.

The Helsinki Committee, in a report covering the observation of 126 assemblies between July 2015 and June, noted that police presence at those rallies was disproportionate to the number of participants and that police used blanket restrictions to ban rallies in certain venues, such as in front of the president’s office. The report cited significant police interference in 29 cases, including arrests, violence, and forcible removal of participants from one venue to another. The report also questioned the arbitrary interpretation by police of freedom of assembly laws as well as police methods, such as giving orders or instructions to participants without an accompanying justification or reason and then charging them with resisting a “lawful demand” when they did not comply.

According to official sources, as of November 25, SIS had not charged anyone or identified any suspects in connection with the charges of abuse of official authority related to the alleged abuses by law enforcement officers during the July protests.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and law provide this right, and the government generally respected it. The government did not provide a legal framework to support the financial sustainability of NGOs. The law does not permit such organizations to charge fees for their services, create endowments, or engage directly in profit-generating activities to fund their operations and achieve their statutory goals. As a result NGOs were dependent on grants and donations.

Australia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Although the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association are not codified in law, the government generally respected these rights.

Austria

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Azerbaijan

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

While the law provides for freedom of assembly, the government severely restricted the right. Authorities at times responded to peaceful protests and assemblies by using force and detaining protesters.

While the constitution stipulates that groups may peacefully assemble after notifying the relevant government body in advance, the government continued to interpret this provision as a requirement for prior permission. Local authorities required all rallies to be preapproved and held at designated locations, often at inconvenient sites, although a site often used in the outskirts of Baku was easily accessible by metro and bus. Most political parties and NGOs found the requirements unacceptable and believed them to be unconstitutional. Authorities throughout the country routinely refused to acknowledge notifications of planned public rallies, thereby effectively denying the freedom to assemble.

As modified by the September 26 referendum, the constitution provides that public gatherings not disrupt “public order and public morals.” The Venice Commission’s September 20 preliminary opinion on the proposed constitutional amendments noted that it is “almost inevitable” that peaceful gatherings may disrupt public order (for example, by disturbing traffic) or disturb someone’s views on morality and yet be permissible under the European Convention on Human Rights. The commission concluded, “The State should allow such gatherings and even facilitate them provided that those disturbances are not excessive and help convey the message of the public event.”

Early in the year, the devaluation of the local currency (manat) and worsening economic conditions sparked protests in different parts of the country, beginning on January 6 in the town of Saatli. On January 12, after dispersing a protest in Lankaran, police detained opposition Popular Front Party activist Nazim Hasanov and Musavat Party activist Imanverdi Aliyev. Both were sentenced to 30 days’ detention on charges of inciting people to public disorder. On January 13, Interior Ministry security forces used tear gas to disperse protesters in Siyazan. Police later reported that 55 persons were detained for participation in the various protests.

Activists reported that police harassed and/or detained 185 persons before, during, and after authorized rallies on September 11, 17, and 18 against the referendum on constitutional amendments. The courts subsequently sentenced 12 opposition activists to administrative detention that ranged from eight to 30 days, allegedly for resisting police, and fined one opposition activist 200 manat ($111) for violating public order.

The law permits administrative detention for up to three months for misdemeanors and up to one month for resisting police. Punishment for those who fail to follow a court order (including failure to pay a fine) may include fines of 500 to 1,000 manat ($278 to $556) and punishment of up to one month of administrative detention.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for freedom of association, but the law places some restrictions on this right, and amendments enacted during 2014 severely constrained NGO activities. Citing these amended laws, authorities conducted numerous criminal investigations into the activities of independent organizations, froze bank accounts, and harassed local staff, including incarcerating and placing travel bans on some NGO leaders. Consequently, a number of NGOs were unable to operate.

A number of legal provisions allow the government to regulate the activities of political parties, religious groups, businesses, and NGOs, including requiring NGOs to register with the Ministry of Justice if they seek “legal personality” status. Although the law requires the government to act on NGO registration applications within 30 days of receipt (or within an additional 30 days, if further investigation is required), vague, onerous, and nontransparent registration procedures continued to result in long delays that limited citizens’ right to associate. Other laws restrict freedom of association, for example, by requiring deputy heads of NGO branches to be citizens if the branch head is a foreigner. Authorities routinely rejected the registration applications of NGOs whose names contained the words “human rights,” “democracy,” “institute,” and “society.”

Laws affecting grants and donations imposed a de facto prohibition on NGOs receiving cash donations and made it nearly impossible for NGOs to receive anonymous donations or to solicit contributions from the public.

In 2014 the president approved a number of amendments to the administrative code and the laws on NGOs, grants, and registration of legal entities that imposed additional restrictions on NGO activities and closed several loopholes for the operations of unregistered, independent, and foreign organizations. The laws make unregistered and foreign NGOs vulnerable to involuntary dissolution, intimidated and dissuaded potential activists and donors from joining and supporting civil society organizations, and restricted their ability to provide grants to unregistered local groups or individual heads of such organizations.

A resolution detailing new grant registration implementing regulations, enacted by the Council of Ministers in June 2015, sets a 15-day limit for NGOs to register their grants with the appropriate ministry, 15 days for the ministry to approve or deny the registration, and an extension of 15 days if further investigation by the ministry is needed. Based on extensive authority provided in the 2014 amendments, the Ministry of Justice put into effect new rules on monitoring NGO activities in February. The rules empower the ministry to conduct intrusive inspections of NGOs, with few provisions protecting the rights of NGOs and the potential of harsh fines if they do not cooperate.

A far-reaching criminal investigation opened in 2014 into the activities of numerous domestic and international NGOs and local leadership continued during the year. The investigation covered prominent independent organizations focused on human rights and transparency in natural resource governance, as well as international organizations providing assistance to citizens. As a result of the investigation, at least 32 organizations closed rather than subject their staff to continued pressure and the prospect of incarceration. Authorities froze dozens of NGO bank accounts as well as the personal accounts of a number of organization heads. Domestic and international NGOs described the criminal investigations, arrests, bank account closures, and other pressure as a crackdown on civil society unprecedented for the country (see section 5). A few activists affiliated with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (a civil society coalition) reported that the government lifted the freeze on their bank accounts. Others affiliated with the coalition reported government constraints on their ability to operate.

The government continued to implement rules pursuant to a law that requires foreign NGOs wishing to operate in the country to sign an agreement and register with the Ministry of Justice. Foreign NGOs wishing to register a branch in the country are required to demonstrate they support “the Azerbaijani people’s national and cultural values” and commit not to be involved in religious and political propaganda. The decree does not specify any time limit for the registration procedure and effectively allows for unlimited discretion of the government to decide whether to register a foreign NGO. As of year’s end, no foreign NGOs had been able to register under these rules.

The Ministry of Justice reported it registered 99 NGOs and did not observe the practice of nonacceptance of applications during the year. The Ministry of Justice registered the human rights-focused NGO of Oktay Gulaliyev immediately before the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative board meeting in October, but it changed its name and removed all references to human rights. Some experts estimated 1,000 NGOs remained unregistered.

Bahrain

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for the right of free assembly, but the law restricts the exercise of this right. The government limited and controlled political gatherings and denied permits for organized demonstrations. For the second year, there were no authorized demonstrations, although the Ministry of Interior generally did not intervene in peaceful, unauthorized demonstrations. The ministry reported it did not approve any major demonstrations during the year due to past failures by organizers to control their own events. Political societies, however, reported the ministry refused even to accept permit requests, whether delivered by hand, by registered post, or by fax. The opposition group Wifaq reported that despite many new requests, its last approval for a march came in 2014.

According to the Ministry of Interior, three persons from the locality where an event will take place must submit a signed request to the chief of public security three days in advance, to receive permission to hold a public gathering. The law outlines the locations and times during which it prohibits functions, including areas close to hospitals, airports, commercial locations, security-related facilities, and downtown Manama. In addition to the locations listed in the law, the chief of public security may change the time, place, or route of the event if there is a possibility that it would cause a breach of public order. The law states mourners may not turn funeral processions into political rallies, and that security officials may be present at any public gathering.

The law states every public gathering shall have a committee consisting of a head and at least two members. The committee is responsible for supervising and preventing any illegal acts during the function. According to the law, the Ministry of Interior is not obligated to justify why it approves or denies requests to allow protests. The penal code penalizes any gathering “of five or more individuals” that is held for the “purpose of committing crimes or inciting others to commit crimes.” Lawyers asserted authorities should not prevent demonstrations in advance based on assumptions crimes would be committed. Authorities prohibited the use of vehicles in any demonstration, protest, or gathering unless organizers obtained special written permission from the head of public security.

Organizers of an unauthorized gathering faced prison sentences of three to six months. The minimum sentence for participating in an illegal gathering is one month, and the maximum is two years. Authorities gave longer sentences for cases where demonstrators used violence in an illegal gathering. The maximum fine is 200 dinars ($540). The law regulates election campaigning and prohibits political activities at worship centers, universities, schools, government buildings, and public institutions. The government did not allow individuals to use mosques, maatams (Shia religious community centers), or other religious sites for political gatherings. During the year authorities questioned and detained some political society officials for discussing political matters in religious venues.

Police arrested or summoned several dozen individuals, including Shia clerics, in relation to their alleged participation in the Diraz sit-in, which began June 20 following the revocation of Sheikh Isa Qassim’s citizenship. On July 30, police arrested Shia cleric Sheikh Sayed Majeed al-Mashaal, head of the banned Islamic Ulema Council, on allegations he participated on June 30 in the sit-in. On August 31, a court sentenced al-Mashaal to two years in prison on these charges and transferred him to Jaw Prison. On December 1, an appeals court reduced an additional one-year sentence he received on October 7 on other charges stemming from his participation in the sit-in on July 19.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for freedom of association, but the government limited this right. The government required all groups to register: civil society groups with the Ministry of Social Development, political societies with the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs, and labor unions with the Ministry of Labor. The government decided whether a group was social or political in nature, based on its proposed bylaws. The law prohibits any activity by an unlicensed society, as well as any political activity by a licensed civil society group. A number of unlicensed societies were active in the country (see also section 3).

A civil society group applying for registration must submit its bylaws signed by all founding members, together with minutes of the founding committee’s meetings containing the names, professions, places of residence, and signatures of all founding members. The law grants the Ministry of Social Development the right to reject the registration of any civil society group if it finds the society’s services unnecessary, already provided by another society, contrary to state security, or aimed at reviving a previously dissolved society. Associations whose applications the authorities rejected or ignored may appeal to the High Civil Court, which may annul the ministry’s decision or refuse the appeal.

Many NGOs and civil society activists asserted the Ministry of Social Development routinely exploited its oversight role to stymie the activities of NGOs and other civil society organizations. While some local NGOs asserted bureaucratic incompetence characterized the ministry’s dealings with NGOs, many others stated officials actively sought to undermine some groups’ activities and imposed burdensome bureaucratic procedures on NGO board members and volunteers. The Ministries of Justice and Interior must vet funding from international sources, and authorities sometimes did not authorize it.

(For information on the closure of the Wifaq political society, see section 3, Political Parties and Political Participation.)

Bangladesh

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution provides for the freedoms of assembly and association, but the government did not respect these rights for opposition political parties. The government limited both freedom of assembly and association for political reasons, ostensibly in the interest of national security.

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The government generally permitted rallies of nonpolitical entities and its political allies, but on occasion, it prevented political opposition groups from holding meetings and demonstrations. The law authorizes the government to ban assemblies of more than four persons. A Dhaka Metropolitan Police order requires advance permission for gatherings such as protests and demonstrations. According to human rights NGOs, authorities increasingly used this provision, and preemptively banned gatherings around the election anniversary. Occasionally, police or ruling party activists used force to disperse demonstrations.

On April 4, police fired upon a crowd after an alleged attack by demonstrators gathered to protest the planned construction of a coal-fired power plant to Chittagong District, killing four villagers and injuring 60. Following the protest, local authorities filed a legal case against 6,000 protesters for attacking the police and obstruction of law enforcers. The government, including the prime minister, supported construction of the power plant despite local concerns regarding economic and environmental impacts to the region. On July 28, police in Dhaka dispersed a march toward the prime minister’s office to protest similarly the planned Rampal power plant near the ecologically sensitive Sunderbans. Police used tear gas and batons, injuring more than 50 individuals.

Police prevented opposition party members from holding events in several cases. For example, police allegedly stopped BNP rallies on July 27 in four sub-districts of Narayanganj, which were organized to protest the sentencing of BNP’s senior vice chairman, Tarique Rahman, on corruption charges. Police prevented another BNP rally on October 2 to protest a government action against a BNP leader despite having given initial permission for the event.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for the right of citizens to form associations, subject to “reasonable restrictions” in the interest of morality or public order, and the government generally respected this right. The government’s NGO Affairs Bureau sometimes withheld its approval for foreign funding to NGOs working in areas the bureau deemed sensitive such as human rights, labor rights, indigenous rights, or humanitarian assistance to Rohingya refugees (see sections 2.d., 5, and 7.a.).

On October 5, Parliament passed the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act, which places additional restrictions on the receipt of foreign funds by NGOs or government officials and provides for punishment of NGOs making any ‘derogatory’ comments regarding the constitution or constitutional institutions (see section 5).

Barbados

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Belarus

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly; however, the government severely restricted this right. Authorities employed a variety of means to discourage demonstrations, disperse them, minimize their effect, and punish the participants.

Only registered political parties, trade unions, and NGOs could request permission to hold a demonstration of more than 1,000 persons. Authorities usually denied requests by independent and opposition groups. A general atmosphere of repression and the threat of imprisonment or large fines exercised a chilling effect on potential protest organizers. This appeared to have resulted in fewer and smaller demonstrations.

The law criminalizes the announcement of demonstrations via the internet or social media before official approval, the participation in the activities of unregistered NGOs, the training of persons to demonstrate, the financing of public demonstrations, or the solicitation of foreign assistance “to the detriment” of the country. Violations are punishable by up to three years in prison.

Organizers must apply at least 15 days in advance for permission to conduct a public demonstration, rally, or meeting, and government officials are required to respond no later than five days prior to the scheduled event. Authorities, however, generally granted permits only for opposition demonstrations if held far from city centers. Authorities used intimidation and threats to discourage persons from participating in demonstrations, openly videotaped participants, and imposed heavy fines or jail sentences on participants in unsanctioned demonstrations. In addition, authorities required organizers to conclude contracts with police, fire department, health, and sanitary authorities for their services during and after a mass event. In some localities, local officials told permit applicants that they must first secure these contracts before a permit could be issued. When the applicants asked the police, fire department, health, and sanitary authorities to sign contracts, however, they were told they first must have an approved permit. Any individual found guilty of violating the law on mass events may not apply for another permit for a year following the conviction. From January through March, local authorities across the country rejected a number of applications for permission for market vendors to stage small demonstrations to protest new regulations that ban vendors from selling clothing and footwear without documents certifying their compliance with the Customs Union’s safety requirements.

Opposition activists held dozens of unsanctioned rallies during the year and faced administrative charges and fines for allegedly violating the Law on Mass Events. Those who refused to pay fines, calling them politically motivated, potentially faced property confiscation and travel bans. Authorities regularly fined the same activists for their continuous political activity during the year. For example, on March 24, a Minsk district court fined approximately 11 opposition leaders and activists for participating in an unsanctioned February 28 demonstration in Minsk. Mikalai Statkevich, 2010 presidential candidate and former political prisoner, European Belarus campaign activist Maksim Vinyarski, and independent filmmaker Volha Mikalaichyk were tried in absentia and fined 105 rubles ($520) each. The court imposed similar fines on United Civic Party leader Anatol Lyabedzka and member Mikalai Kazlou, Belarusian Christian Democracy co-chair Vital Rymasheuski, market vendor Ales Makayeu, and European Belarus campaign activist Leanid Kulakou. Mikalai Autukhovich, a businessman from Vaukavysk and former political prisoner, and opposition activist Mikalai Kolas were fined 420 rubles ($210) each.

Authorities took various measures to limit how prodemocracy activists celebrated Freedom Day, the March 25 anniversary of the country’s 1918 declaration of independence (an event the government does not recognize), although Minsk city authorities authorized a demonstration. In the permit issued by Minsk authorities, the route requested by activists from central Minsk was changed to a remote park. While approximately 2,000 opposition and civil society activists participated in the sanctioned rally, approximately 600 defied the permit by marching to the central part of Minsk, laying flowers at the Yanka Kupala monument, and holding a demonstration with political speeches at the monument. For their activities during the unsanctioned-route march, authorities fined a number of activists. opposition leaders Paval Sevyarynets, Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu, Mikalai Statkevich, Anatol Lyabedzka, and several activists, including Leanid Kulakou, Maksim Vinyarski, Zmitser Dashkevich, and others received fines for their activities on March 25.

In spite of providing a permit to the opposition to demonstrate, authorities also fined a number of opposition leaders and activists for participating in the sanctioned rally and speaking at the assembly point of the March 25 sanctioned demonstration. Police alleged that activists, who addressed the crowd at the gathering point, violated the permit, which allowed participants to gather but not demonstrate at the assembly point and speak only at the venue of the actual demonstration at a remote park. For example, Ryhor Kastuseu, a Belarusian Popular Front deputy chair, told the press that he received a notice that on May 5 a district court fined him in absentia 630 rubles ($320) also for violating the Law on Mass Events, when he spoke at the assembly point of the March 25 Freedom Day sanctioned demonstration. Though Kastuseu was only at locations sanctioned by the city authorities, police claimed that since he spoke at the gathering point, it violated the permit.

On May 16, a court in Maladzechna convicted activist Paval Siarhei for holding an unsanctioned rally in front of the local government building on May 12 and sentenced him to seven days in jail. He was detained on May 14 and was kept in holding facilities pending trial. Siarhei and other activists protested the continuing construction of two large hog farms near the city on May 12.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for freedom of association, but the government restricted it and selectively enforced laws and registration regulations to restrict the operation of independent associations that might criticize the government. Particularly since 2010, authorities have sought to close any legal loopholes they considered beneficial to NGOs.

All NGOs, political parties, and trade unions must receive Ministry of Justice approval to become registered. A government commission reviews and approves all registration applications; it based its decisions largely on political and ideological compatibility with official views and practices.

Actual registration procedures required applicants to provide the number and names of founders, along with a physical address in a nonresidential building for an office, an extraordinary burden in view of the tight financial straits of most NGOs, and individual property owners’ fears of renting space to independent groups. Individuals listed as members were vulnerable to reprisal. The government’s refusal to rent office space to unregistered organizations and the expense of renting private space reportedly forced most organizations to use residential addresses, which authorities could use as a reason to deny registration or to deregister. The law criminalizes activities conducted on behalf of unregistered groups and subjects group members to penalties ranging from large fines to two years in prison (also see section 7.a.).

Following the 2010 repression, authorities sought to close any legal loopholes they considered beneficial to NGOs. For example, the law on public associations prohibits NGOs from keeping funds for local activities at foreign financial institutions. The law also prohibits NGOs from facilitating provision of any support or benefits from foreign states to civil servants based on their political or religious views or ethnicity, a provision widely believed to be aimed at the Polish minority.

Only registered NGOs can legally accept foreign grants and technical aid and only for a limited set of approved activities. NGOs must receive approval from the Department for Humanitarian Affairs of the Presidential Administration and the Ministry of the Economy for technical aid before they can accept such funds or register the grants.

The government continued to deny registration to NGOs and political parties, which President Lukashenka frequently labeled as “the fifth column,” on a variety of pretexts, including “technical” problems with applications. Authorities frequently harassed and intimidated individuals who identified themselves as founding members of organizations in an effort to induce them to abandon their membership and thus deprive groups of the number of petitioners necessary for registration. Many of the rejected groups previously had been denied registration on multiple occasions.

On January 5, authorities in Hrodna refused to register an NGO called Mothers’ Movement 328, consisting of a group of mothers and wives who seek to defend the rights of their children and spouses, who were convicted under Article 328 of the Criminal Code for illegal drug trafficking and who, according to their families, received incommensurately long prison sentences. Larysa Zhygar, the leader of the NGO, said that authorities noted questions about the name of the group and its stated goals, which included charitable activities and assisting former prisoners and drug addicts, in their decision to reject the NGO’s application for registration.

The Supreme Court upheld the Justice Ministry’s decisions to deny registration to the Christian Democratic Movement, a nascent NGO affiliated with the unregistered Belarusian Christian Democracy party, and the Campaign for Fair Elections. On March 10, the Court denied an appeal filed by the campaign on the grounds that a letter of guarantee from an individual providing the organization with an office had not been notarized and that the banker’s order contained abbreviations. This was the campaign’s fourth registration denial. Separately, on March 14, the court also turned down an appeal from the Christian Movement to challenge the Justice Ministry’s denial, citing the lack of an office number in the organization’s legal address, among other grounds as a reason for the denial.

On April 18, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal from the Belarusian Christian Democracy Party to challenge the Justice Ministry’s March 3 decision not to register the party, citing “gross violations” of procedures to establish a party. According to the ministry’s press release, a number of individuals, who were stated as founders of the party on the registration application, denied any connection to the party and claimed they did not participate in the party’s founding convention after they were reportedly pressured to withdraw and threatened to be dismissed from jobs or expelled from universities. Additionally, “certain individuals on the founders’ list were duplicated, and some of the personal information listed for founders was not valid,” the ministry explained. The ministry also claimed that some of the founders the party listed on its application were not citizens of Belarus This was the sixth time that the party has been denied registration.

On July 31, a show on the main state television channel, Belarus1, claimed that the Vilnius-registered Independent Institute for Social, Economic, and Political Studies (IISEPS) did not actually conduct polls in the country, but rather it put together falsified data. IISEPS announced on August 9 that it would suspend all polling in the country due to “authorities destroying the polling network.”

Belgium

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Belize

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Benin

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of assembly and association. Permits are required for demonstrations and other public gatherings. The government generally respected these rights. Although opposition groups cited instances in which they did not seek permits, anticipating they would be opposed, there were no instances of denial on political grounds.

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right.

The government requires and generally granted permits for use of public places for demonstrations. Authorities sometimes cited “public order” to deny requests for permits from opposition groups, civil society organizations, and labor unions.

On July 12, security forces disbanded a peaceful demonstration to demand the replacement of obsolete medical equipment staged by health-care staff of the Abomey Hospital (central Benin). The mayor of Abomey declared the demonstration a “threat to public order.”

Bhutan

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

While the constitution provides for the right to assemble peacefully, the government restricted this right. The 1992 National Security Act permits the government to control the public’s right to assembly “to avoid breaches of the peace” by requiring licenses, prohibiting assembly in designated areas, and declaring curfew. The penal code prohibits “promotion of civil unrest” as an act that is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony among different nationalities, racial groups, castes, or religious groups.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for freedom of association, and the government permitted the registration of some political parties and organizations that were deemed “not harmful to the peace and unity of the country.” Many of the NGOs in the country maintained formal or informal connections to members of the royal family. In its Freedom in the World 2016 report, Freedom House stated the government did not permit the operation of NGOs working on the status of Nepali-speaking refugees. Under the law, all NGOs must register with the government. In order to register an NGO, an individual must be a Bhutanese citizen, disclose his or her family income and assets, disclose his or her educational qualifications, and disclose any criminal records.

Bolivia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Although the constitution provides for the freedoms of assembly and association, civil society groups, especially, but not limited to, those critical of the government, faced harassment and threats of expulsion from government officials.

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

While the law requires a permit for most demonstrations, the government rarely enforced the provisions, and most protesters demonstrated without obtaining permits. Most demonstrations were peaceful, but occasionally demonstrators carried weapons, including clubs, machetes, firearms, firecrackers, and dynamite. Security forces at times dispersed protest groups carrying weapons or threatening government and private facilities.

Disability activists began protesting during May in the city of Cochabamba to demand an increase in their annual government stipends from 1,000 bolivianos ($146) to 7,000 bolivianos ($1,023). After more than a month of failed attempts to increase the government’s financial allocation, more than 500 persons with disabilities traveled to La Paz to demand a meeting with the president and other high government officials. Although they arrived in La Paz without disruption from the police, several citizens verbally and physically attacked the group along the way. The activists also faced public criticism from government officials after the protests began. Health Minister Ariana Campero was one of the most vocal critics of the movement, trying to discredit the claims of the protesters by stating various times that they were carrying out political stunts. She also claimed that the protesters were purposefully attempting to generate the image that the ruling party was insensitive to the needs of this population.

In La Paz on April 27, after a small confrontation between disability protesters and police, the police released what then vice minister of interior Rodolfo Illanes referred to as a “fraction of chemical agent” to ward off the crowd. The action occurred after police formed a human blockade to bar the protesters’ entry into Plaza Murillo, where multiple federal government buildings are located. According to sources police released this spray indiscriminately and in a larger quantity than how Illanes described. Video footage provided by the independent news source Pagina Siete showed police again attacking protesters who tried to enter the same plaza on May 12. There were also multiple reports of police’s using pressurized water tanks against the protesters in an attempt to disperse them.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for freedom of association, but the government did not respect this right. NGOs continued to be targets of government officials, including the president, vice president, and government ministers, if they operated in a manner perceived as adversarial to the government. Some NGOs alleged that government registration mechanisms were purposefully stringent in order to deter an active civil society.

On July 4, the Constitutional Court upheld the constitutionality of Law No. 351, which grants legal operating status to NGOs in the country. With the court’s ruling, the government may close any NGO working in the country that “does not meet the standards of the law.” The ruling came despite the recommendation from UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Association Maina Kiai that the law was too vague and a threat to freedom of association.

In 2015 Vice President Garcia Linera stated the government would expel NGOs that receive international financing and “get involved in politics.” Garcia Linera specifically named four NGOs that he claimed were “spreading lies to defend foreign interests”: the Center for Bolivian Documentation and Information, the Center of Studies for Labor and Agrarian Development, the Millennium Foundation, and the Earth Foundation. All four had expressed their disapproval of government plans to explore for hydrocarbons in protected areas. Minister of Autonomies Hugo Siles threatened to rescind their legal permission to operate in the country.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The law provides for freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right. In the RS, assembly in front of public institutions is prohibited. According to an October 2015 law in the Tuzla Canton drafted in response to previous violent protests, police were permitted to limit access to public buildings and facilities as they deemed necessary.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right, although some NGOs reported difficulties registering as official entities with the government. Several NGOs expressed frustration over the lengthy bureaucratic procedures required for registration at the state level. Cooperation between the government and civil society organizations at the state and entity levels remained weak or nonexistent, while government support for civil society organizations remained nontransparent, particularly regarding the allocation of funds.

Botswana

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

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

On August 8, police dispersed a group outside the National Assembly protesting youth unemployment. Police took five protesters into custody and held three overnight. Police released all five without charge within 24 hours.

Brazil

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The government generally respected rights of freedom of assembly, but police occasionally intervened in citizen protests. In January in the city of Sao Paulo, for instance, military police used tear gas and stun grenades to keep Free Pass Movement (MPL) protesters opposing increases in bus and transit fares from marching on one of the city’s main thoroughfares. Local authorities stated MPL leaders had not informed police of the planned route of the march, and therefore police took action to prevent protesters from damaging property, such as banks that were vandalized in previous protests. NGOs reported both the police and MPL played a part in the escalation of events. Some noted police were not consistent in informing demonstrators how far in advance notification of the protest march was required; others noted that during the demonstrations the MPL had tolerated violence perpetrated by groups not affiliated with their organization.

There were a series of large-scale, national protests in March, April, and August calling for the impeachment of President Rousseff and an end to corruption. Police reported no serious security incidents during these protests.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for this right, the government generally respected it.

Brunei

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The emergency powers restrict the right to assemble. Public gatherings of 10 or more persons require a government permit, and police may disband an unofficial assembly of five or more persons deemed likely to cause a disturbance of the peace. Permits require the approval of the minister of home affairs. The government routinely issued permits for annual events, but occasionally used the restrictions to disrupt political gatherings. Organizers of events on sensitive topics tended to hold meetings in private locations rather than apply for permits, or practiced self-censorship at public events.

In March, 10 individuals including foreign nationals were fined BND 300-2,000 ($220-1,460) for organizing and taking part in an “unlawful assembly” in 2015 outside of a mosque that called for the ousting of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. The sentencing magistrate said the defendants should have been “more sensitive to the country’s norms” after having worked and lived in Brunei most of their lives.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law does not provide for freedom of association. It requires formal groups, including religious, social, business, labor, and cultural organizations, to register with the Registrar of Societies and provide regular reports on membership and finances. The government reported the majority of applications to form associations were accepted, but applicants were subject to background checks, and proposed organizations were subject to naming requirements, including a prohibition on names or symbols linked to triad societies (Chinese organized crime networks). Some new organizations reported delaying their registration application after receiving advice that the process would be difficult. The government may suspend the activities of a registered organization if it deems such an act in the public interest.

Organizations seeking to raise funds or donations from the general public are required to get permission to do so from the Ministry of Home Affairs, and each individual fundraising opportunity required separate permits. Approved organizations dealt with matters such as pollution, wildlife preservation, arts, entrepreneurialism, and women in business. An organization called Youth Against Slavery founded in 2015 continued to raise awareness about human trafficking, forced labor, and modern-day slavery, but it had not officially registered as of November.

Bulgaria

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right.

The law requires groups requesting a permit for gatherings to give 48 hours’ notice. The law prohibits public gatherings within a security zone (16 to 66 feet) around the National Assembly, the Council of Ministers, and presidency buildings. Mayors can prohibit, suggest an alternative site for, or dismiss (if in progress) a gathering they believe poses a threat to public order, security, or traffic.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and law provide for freedom of association. While the government generally respected these rights, the law prohibits some groups, including political parties that endangered national unity, promoted racial, national, or religious hatred, violated the rights of citizens, or sought to achieve their objectives through violent means. The government generally respected the rights of individuals and groups to establish political parties or other political organizations. According to the constitution, NGOs may not pursue political goals or engage in political activity. There was no legal limitation on NGOs participating in demonstrations, discussions, or developing and debating legislative amendments as long as those activities are not part of an election campaign. The law allows NGOs to engage in other activities, such as providing services or advocacy.

On July 8, Sofia City Court judge Lilia Ilieva denied the registration of political party DOST, asserting that it is an ethnic and religious organization because the majority of its founders have Turkish names, because its name, DOST, is a Turkish word, and because there are no guarantees that it will accomplish the goals in its manifesto. On July 29, the Supreme Cassation Court allowed DOST’s registration, stating that the lower court’s judgment of the ethnic and religious character of the party was hypothetical.

Burkina Faso

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly, but the government did not always respect this right. Authorities sometimes banned or violently dispersed demonstrations.

For example, RSP soldiers used force, including gunfire, to disperse and prevent public gatherings following the September 2015 attempt to seize power (see section 1.a.) and during a 2014 popular uprising. In October 2015 an independent commission was created to investigate RSP use of force during the 2014 uprising. The commission cited more than 30 individuals, including former president Blaise Compaore and former prime minister Yacouba Isaac Zida, as responsible for RSP-inflicted injuries and homicides. Legal action had yet to be taken against the accused by year’s end.

Political parties and labor unions may hold meetings and rallies without government permission, although advance notification and approval are required for public demonstrations that may affect traffic or threaten public order. If a demonstration or rally results in violence, injury, or significant property damage, penalties for the organizers include six months’ to five years’ imprisonment and fines of between 100,000 and two million CFA francs ($172 and $3,436). These penalties may be doubled for conviction of organizing an unauthorized rally or demonstration. Demonstrators may appeal denials or imposed modifications of a proposed march route or schedule before the courts.

Burma

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides the right to freedom of assembly, and the government took steps to ease restrictions on these rights. On October 4, the government passed an amendment to the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Processions Law. The new law requires 48-hour notice to local police for any peaceful assembly or procession, removing the requirement for permission. The law also reduces the maximum penalty for conducting a peaceful assembly or procession without notice from six months to three months in prison. For second violations of the law, the maximum penalty increases to one year. Under the previous law, six-month sentences could be, and often were, stacked consecutively for every township the procession passed through, resulting in multi-year sentences; the new law allows sentencing only for the township where the assembly begins.

Citizens and international civil society groups criticized provisions of the new peaceful assembly and processions law that make it a criminal offense to give speeches that “contain false information,” say anything that can harm the state, or “do anything that causes fear, a disturbance, or blocks roads, vehicles, or the public.”

As part of the April 8 amnesty, the government released all prisoners involved in the March 2015 Letbadan protests. The government also released student union leaders Kyaw Ko Ko and Lin Htet Naing, whom they had arrested in October and November 2015.

Farmers and social activists continued to hold protests over land rights and older cases of land confiscation throughout the country, and human rights groups continued to report some cases in which the government arrested groups of farmers and those supporting them for demanding the return of confiscated land. Many reported cases involved land taken by the army under the former military regime and given to private companies or individuals with ties to the military. Common charges used to convict the peaceful protesters included criminal trespass, violation of the Peaceful Assembly and Processions Act, and violation of section 505(b) of the penal code, which criminalizes actions that the government deemed likely to cause “an offence against the State or against the public tranquility.” The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) reported more than 100 arrests and indictments during the year, with approximately 116 individuals, including farmers and laborers, known to be facing trial.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

While the constitution and laws allow citizens to form associations and organizations, the government sometimes restricted this right. The former government reportedly blocked efforts of ethnic language and literature associations to meet and teach, and it impeded efforts of Islamic and Christian associations and other organizations to gather and preach. The new government did not address these restrictions as of November.

In 2014 the government adopted the Law Relating to Registration of Organizations, which effectively voided State Law and Order Restoration Council Law 6/1988. The 2014 registration law stipulates voluntary registration for local NGOs and removes punishments for noncompliance for both local and international NGOs.

Activists reported that civil society groups, community-based organizations, and informal networks operated openly and continued to discuss openly human rights and other political problems.

Burundi

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly, but the government severely restricted this right (see section 1.d.). The law requires political parties and large groups to notify the government with details at least four days prior to a meeting, but even when notified, authorities in most cases denied permission for opposition members to meet and dispersed meetings already underway. Many opposition political parties said their decision to boycott the 2015 elections was a response to consistent denials of permission by authorities to hold campaign rallies.

Freedom of assembly was further restricted following the failed coup attempt in May 2015, and these restrictions remained in place at year’s end.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for freedom of association within the confines of the law, but the government severely restricted this right. The law requires registration of CSOs with the Ministry of Interior, a complex process with unclear criteria. There is no recourse when authorities deny registration. Registration must be renewed annually.

On October 19, the government permanently banned five CSOs, led by those opposed to the president’s run for a third term. On December 22, in the wake of an internet video accusing the president of planning genocide, the government permanently banned Ligue Iteka, the country’s oldest human rights organization, for being “recidivist in its actions to tarnish the image of the country and sow hate and division among the Burundian population.” The government allowed 14 previously suspended organizations to restart activities after investigating their involvement in the 2015 protests and subsequent violence.

Cabo Verde

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Cambodia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly, but the government did not always respect this right.

The LANGO requires an advance permit for meetings, training, protests, marches, or demonstrations, although authorities sometimes inconsistently enforced this requirement. One provision requires five days’ notice for most peaceful demonstrations, while another requires 12 hours’ notice for impromptu gatherings on private property or protests at designated venues and limits such gatherings to 200 persons. By law provincial or municipal governments may issue demonstration permits at their discretion. Lower-level government officials, particularly in Phnom Penh, generally denied requests unless the national government specifically authorized the gatherings. All levels of government routinely denied permits to groups critical of the ruling party.

There were credible reports the government occasionally prevented associations and NGOs from organizing public events, arguing the groups had not registered under the newly passed LANGO, although implementation regulations on the law were not yet in place. Authorities cited the need for stability and public security as reasons for denying permits, although the law does not define the terms “stability” or “public security.” Government authorities also occasionally cited provisions in the LANGO to prevent associations and NGOs from organizing public events or to break up meetings and training deemed hostile to the government. In some cases police forcibly dispersed groups assembled without a permit, sometimes causing minor injuries to demonstrators. The press reported numerous public protests, most related to land or labor disputes.

A human rights NGO reported the government prevented at least 42 cases of peaceful gatherings or public speeches, double the number in 2015. The Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community, a community-based organization working with farmers to improve their livelihoods, reported that Prey Veng authorities stopped one of its training sessions and demanded it show its official registration documents, although the Ministry of Interior claimed the LANGO does not obligate such organizations to register.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for freedom of association, but the government did not always respect this right, particularly with regard to workers’ rights (see section 7.a.).

Vaguely worded provisions in the LANGO prohibit any activity that may “jeopardize peace, stability, and public order” or harm “national security, national unity, traditions, and culture of Cambodian society.” Civil society organizations expressed concern the vaguely worded provisions created a substantial risk of arbitrary restrictions to the right of association. According to critics the LANGO provides for a heavily bureaucratic, multistep registration process that lacks administrative safeguards, rendering the process vulnerable to politicization. The law also imposes burdensome reporting obligations on finances and activities. Additional obligations include the disclosure of all successful funding proposals, financial or grant agreements, and bank accounts held by associations and NGOs. While official statistics continued to be unavailable, many NGOs reported difficulties filing registration paperwork with the government.

Cameroon

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

Although the law provides for freedom of assembly, the government restricted this right. The law requires organizers of public meetings, demonstrations, and processions to notify officials in advance but does not require prior government approval of public assemblies and does not authorize the government to suppress public assemblies that it has not approved in advance. Nevertheless, officials routinely asserted the law implicitly authorizes the government to grant or deny permission for public assembly. The government often refused to grant permits for assemblies and used force to suppress assemblies for which it had not issued permits. The government also prevented civil society organizations and political parties from holding press conferences. Police and gendarmes forcibly disrupted meetings and demonstrations of citizens, trade unions, and political activists throughout the year.

In the early hours of April 8 in Yaounde, the police Mobile Intervention Unit (GMI) detained 12 political activists at the judicial police headquarters for hours. GMI agents initially arrested the activists at the Biyem Assi neighborhood for wearing black, as they prepared for a distribution of pamphlets calling on Yaounde residents to observe a Black Friday, and took them to the GMI office in the Tsinga neighborhood. Edith Kah Walla of Cameroon People’s Party (CPP) and Alain Fogue of Cameroon Renaissance Movement (MRC) went to the GMI to inquire about the others, and police detained them. Police subsequently transferred the detainees to the judicial police headquarters at Elig-Essono neighborhood and allegedly subjected them to humiliation for hours. Police took detainees’ pictures, fingerprints, height, and shoe sizes before releasing them later in the day. Kah Walla and 53 CPP party members were again detained in October for more than eight hours, during which they were questioned without being informed of the reason for their detention. Speaking to media following their release, Kah Walla indicated the police arrested them with claims they were holding an illegal meeting.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and law provide for freedom of association, but the law also places limits on this right. The minister of territorial administration may, on the recommendation of the SDO, suspend the activities of an association for three months on grounds the association is disrupting public order. The minister may also dissolve an association if it is deemed a threat to state security.

National associations may acquire legal status by declaring themselves in writing to the Ministry of Territorial Administration, but the ministry must explicitly register foreign associations and religious groups; if they do not, the law imposes heavy fines for individuals who form and operate any such association. The law prohibits organizations that advocate a goal contrary to the constitution, laws, and morality, as well as those that aim to challenge the security, territorial integrity, national unity, national integration, or republican form of the state.

Conditions for government recognition of political parties, NGOs, or associations were complicated, involved long delays, and were unevenly enforced. This resulted in associations operating in legal uncertainty, their activities tolerated but not formally approved.

Canada

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Central African Republic

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The new constitution provides for the right of assembly, and the government generally respected it. Any association intending to hold a public political meeting is required to obtain the Ministry of Interior’s approval.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected it. All associations, including political parties, must apply to the Ministry of Interior for registration.

A law prohibiting nonpolitical organizations from uniting for political purposes remained in place.

Chad

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

Although the constitution provides for freedom of assembly, the government did not respect this right. The government regularly interfered with opposition protests and civil society gatherings, particularly before and after the April election. The law requires organizers to notify the Ministry of Public Security and Immigration five days in advance of demonstrations, although groups that provided advance notice did not always receive permission to assemble. Following the 2015 Boko Haram attacks, the ministry often denied permission for large gatherings, including social events such as weddings and funerals. During the April election campaign, the government allowed ruling party supporters to gather and rally but banned such activities for opposition groups (see section 3).

For example, on May 24, police denied permission for an opposition press conference and barricaded the site. The minister of public security and immigration also banned opposition rallies scheduled for August 6 and 7 in advance of the August 8 inauguration of the president.

There were violent student protests, and security forces used lethal force to disperse demonstrators (see section 1.a.).

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and law provide for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right. While an ordinance requires the Ministry of Public Security and Immigration to provide prior authorization before an association, including a labor union, may be formed, there were no reports the ordinance was enforced. The ordinance also allows for the immediate administrative dissolution of an association and permits authorities to monitor association funds.

Chile

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau)

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

While the constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly, the government severely restricted this right. The law stipulates that such activities may not challenge “party leadership” or infringe upon the “interests of the state.” Protests against the political system or national leaders were prohibited. Authorities denied permits and quickly suppressed demonstrations involving expression of dissenting political views.

The law protects an individual’s ability to petition the government, but persons petitioning the government faced restrictions on their rights to assemble and raise grievances (see section 1.d.).

While the central government reiterated prohibitions against blocking or restricting “normal petitioning” and against unlawfully detaining petitioners, official retaliation against petitioners continued. This was partly due to central government regulations that took effect in 2015 requiring local governments to resolve complaints within 60 days and stipulating that central authorities will no longer accept petitions already handled by local or provincial governments. The regulations encourage all litigation-related petitions to be handled at the local level through local or provincial courts, reinforcing a system of incentives for local officials to prevent petitioners from raising complaints to higher levels. It also resulted in local officials sending security personnel to Beijing and forcibly returning petitioners to their home provinces to prevent them from filing complaints against local officials with the central government. Such detentions often went unrecorded and often resulted in brief periods of incarceration in extralegal “black jails.”

Petitioners faced harassment, illegal detention, and even more severe forms of punishment when attempting to travel to Beijing to present their grievances.

Citizens throughout the country continued to gather publicly to protest evictions, forced relocations, and inadequate compensation, often resulting in conflict with authorities or other charges.

Although peaceful protests are legal, public security officials rarely granted permits to demonstrate. Despite restrictions, many demonstrations occurred, but those motivated by broad political or social grievances were broken up quickly, sometimes with excessive force.

In June authorities arrested Wukan’s popularly elected village mayor, Lin Zuluan, on corruption charges. On September 8, Lin was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison and fined 200,000 yuan ($29,000). Large numbers of villagers took to the streets to protest what they considered bogus charges brought against Lin because of his resistance to land confiscation by higher-level authorities. Authorities deployed large numbers of riot police and used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the protest. Public security forces reportedly beat villagers at random, forcibly entered private homes to detain individuals suspected of participating in the protests, and prevented anyone from entering or leaving the village. The authorities also reportedly detained, interrogated, and assaulted foreign journalists, offering rewards for information leading to their detention. At year’s end dozens of villagers remained in detention, and at least 13 individuals suspected of leading the protest had been charged with crimes.

In July, thousands of citizens took to the streets in Lubu to protest plans for a new incinerator plant. Local citizens were concerned the plant would contaminate drinking water. The BBC reported that 21 protest leaders were detained, and other media reports indicated that the protests turned violent.

Rights lawyers and activists who advocated for nonviolent civil disobedience were detained, arrested, and in some cases sentenced to prison terms. In January a Guangzhou court convicted Tang Jingling, Yuan Xinting, and Wang Qingying of “inciting subversion of state power,” citing their promotion of civil disobedience and the peaceful transition to democratic rule as evidence. Media outlets reported the men were also signatories of the Charter 08 manifesto advocating political reform.

In April human rights activist Su Changlan stood trial at Foshan Intermediate Court on charges of “incitement to subvert state power” for activities in support of the 2014 Hong Kong prodemocracy movement. Five activists who gathered outside the court in support of Su were detained briefly. Authorities detained Su in 2014 and had held her for more than two years without sentencing her. She was refused a request for medical parole in September. Her husband reported being under police surveillance.

Concerts, sports events, exercise classes, or other meetings of more than 200 persons require approval from public security authorities. Large numbers of public gatherings in Beijing and elsewhere were not revived during the year after being canceled at the last minute or denied government permits in 2015, ostensibly under the guise of ensuring public safety.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for freedom of association, but the government restricted this right. CCP policy and government regulations require that all professional, social, and economic organizations officially register with and receive approval from the government. These regulations prevented the formation of autonomous political, human rights, religious, spiritual, labor, and other organizations that the government believed might challenge its authority in any area.

The government maintained tight controls over civil society organizations and in some cases detained or harassed NGO workers.

In January authorities detained a Swedish NGO worker, Peter Dahlin, on charges of endangering state security. He had worked for an organization that trained and supported activists and lawyers seeking to “promote the development of the rule of law.” After being paraded on state television in what his friends and colleagues characterized as a forced confession, which included an apology for “hurting the Chinese government and the Chinese people,” authorities deported Dahlin from the country.

On April 15, police detained 15 human rights activists while they ate dinner in a restaurant in Guangzhou. The activists had planned to gather at the Guangzhou Municipal Intermediate People’s Court the next day to show support for four prominent activists who faced charges of subversion for expressing their support for Hong Kong’s 2014 prodemocracy protest movement.

The regulatory system for NGOs was highly restrictive, but specific requirements varied depending on whether an organization was foreign or domestic. Domestic NGOs were governed by the Charity Law, which went into effect in September, and a host of related regulations. Domestic NGOs could register as one of three categories: a social group, a social organization, or a foundation. All domestic NGOs were required to register under the Ministry of Civil Affairs and find an officially sanctioned sponsor to serve as their “professional supervisory unit.” Finding a sponsor was often challenging, since the sponsor could be held civilly or criminally responsible for the NGO’s activities. All organizations were also required to report their sources of funding, including foreign funding. Domestic NGOs continued to adjust to this new regulatory framework.

On August 22, the CCP Central Committee issued a directive mandating the establishment of CCP cells within all domestic NGOs by 2020. According to authorities, these CCP organizations operating inside domestic NGOs would “strengthen guidance” of NGOs in areas such as “decision making for important projects, important professional activities, major expenditures and funds, acceptance of large donations, and activities involving foreigners.” The directive also mandates that authorities conduct annual “spot checks” to ensure compliance on “ideological political work, party building, financial and personnel management, study sessions, foreign exchange, acceptance of foreign donations and assistance, and conducting activities according to their charter.” An editorial in the CCP’s official mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, explained how the CCP intends to transform social organizations into CCP affiliates: “Social organizations are important vehicles for the party to connect with and serve the masses; strengthening the party’s leadership is the basic guarantee of accelerating the healthy and orderly development of social organizations. We must fully bring into play the combat fortress function of party cells within social organizations.”

In April the NPC Standing Committee passed the Law on the Management of Foreign NGOs’ Activities within Mainland China (Foreign NGO Management Law), which was scheduled to go into effect in January 2017. The law requires foreign NGOs to register with the Ministry of Public Security and to find a state-sanctioned sponsor for their operations. NGOs that fail to comply face possible civil or criminal penalties. The law provides no appeal process for NGOs denied registration, and it stipulates that NGOs found to have violated certain provisions could be placed on a “blacklist” and barred from operating in the country.

Although the law had not yet gone into effect, some international NGOs reported that it became more difficult to work with local partners, including universities, government agencies, and other domestic NGOs, as the law codified the CCP’s perception that foreign NGOs were a “national security” threat. Finding an official sponsor was also difficult for foreign NGOs, as sponsors could be held responsible for the NGO’s conduct and had to undertake burdensome reporting requirements. Implementation guidelines and a list of permissible government sponsors were released less than a month before implementation, leaving NGOs uncertain how to comply with the law. Even after a list of sponsors was published, NGOs reported that most government agencies had no unit responsible for sponsoring foreign NGOs. The vague definition of an NGO, as well as of what activities constituted “political” and therefore illegal activities, also left many business organizations and alumni associations uncertain whether they fell under the purview of the law. The lack of clear communication from the government, coupled with harassment by security authorities, caused some foreign NGOs to suspend or cease operations in the country, even before the law took effect.

According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, by June there were more than 670,000 legally registered social organizations, public institutions, and foundations. According to the Ministry of Public Security, in August there were more than 7,000 foreign NGOs. Many experts believed the actual number of domestic NGOs to be much higher. Domestic NGOs reported that foreign funding dropped during the year, as many domestic NGOs sought to avoid such funding for fear of being labeled as “subversive” in the face of growing restrictions imposed by new laws. NGOs existed under a variety of formal and informal guises, including national mass organizations created and funded by the CCP that are organizationally prohibited from exercising any independence, known as government-operated NGOs or GONGOs.

For donations to a domestic organization from a foreign NGO, the Foreign NGO Management Law requires foreign NGOs to maintain a representative office in the country in order to send funds or to use the bank account of a domestic NGO when conducting temporary activities. Foreign NGOs are prohibited from using any other method to send and receive funds under the law, and such funding must be reported to the Ministry of Public Security. Foreign NGOs are prohibited from fundraising and “for-profit activities” under the law.

Although all registered organizations came under some degree of government control, some NGOs, primarily service-oriented GONGOs, were able to operate with less day-to-day scrutiny. Authorities supported the growth of some NGOs that focused on social problems, such as poverty alleviation and disaster relief. Law and regulations explicitly prohibited organizations from conducting political or religious activities, and organizations that refused to comply faced criminal penalties.

Authorities continued to restrict and evict local NGOs that received foreign funding and international NGOs that provided assistance to Tibetan communities in the TAR and other Tibetan areas. Almost all were forced to curtail their activities altogether due to travel restrictions, official intimidation of staff members, and the failure of local partners to renew project agreements.

No laws or regulations specifically governed the formation of political parties. The Chinese Democracy Party (CDP) remained banned, and the government continued to monitor, detain, and imprison current and former CDP members. Activists Chen Shuqing and Lu Gengsong, who had been active with the banned CDP, were sentenced to more than 10 years’ imprisonment on charges of “subversion of state power” in June.

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

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The law provides for freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right. The police routinely issued the required “letter of no objection” for public meetings and demonstrations–including those critical of the SAR and central governments–and the overwhelming majority of protests occurred without serious incident. On June 4, tens of thousands of persons peacefully gathered without incident in Victoria Park to commemorate the 27th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. The annual vigil and a smaller annual event in Macau were reportedly the only sanctioned events in China to commemorate the Tiananmen Square anniversary.

Figures vary for participation in the annual July 1 prodemocracy demonstration, held on the anniversary of the 1997 transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong to the PRC. Police estimated 19,300 protesters; an independent polling organization estimated 29,000, and organizers claimed 110,000. Participants voiced concern over the Mighty Current booksellers’ detentions, called for CE Leung to resign, supported a relaunch of Hong Kong’s electoral reform process aimed at extending universal suffrage for all residents to vote in elections for the Chief Executive, encouraged abolition of LegCo’s Functional Constituencies in favor of directly electing all legislators; and demanded democratic amendments to the Basic Law. Police deployed hundreds of officers, and did not interfere with the legally permitted rally.

Government statistics indicated police arrested 125 persons in connection with public order events in the first half of last year; statistics were not yet available for 2016.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected it.

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

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The law provides for freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right. The law requires prior notification, but not approval, of demonstrations involving public roads, public places, or places open to the public. In cases where authorities tried to restrict access to public venues for demonstrations or other public events, the courts generally ruled in favor of the applicants. Police may redirect demonstration marching routes, but organizers have the right to challenge such decisions in court.

Activists alleged authorities were making a concerted effort to use both intimidation and criminal proceedings against participants in peaceful demonstrations to discourage their involvement. Activists reported police routinely attempted to intimidate demonstrators by ostentatiously taking videos of them and advising bystanders not to participate in protests. Activists also stated authorities gave orders to demonstrators verbally rather than through written communication, which made it difficult to challenge their decisions in court. Activists reported the use of internal circulars and “rumors” threatening civil servants not to join politically sensitive events and demonstrations.

Further, activists alleged the Macau High Court had begun to adjudicate against defendants in freedom of assembly cases. In March, Macau police shrank the area requested by an antigovernment political organization to host an assembly in the Senado Square. The court upheld the restriction and dismissed the applicant’s citation of law that “any restriction on the exercise of the right of peaceful assembly must conform to the strict tests of necessity and proportionality.” In June approximately 400 persons participated in a vigil at Senado Square to mark the 27th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected it. No authorization is required to form an association, and the only restrictions on forming an organization are that it not promote racial discrimination, violence, crime, or disruption of public order, or be military or paramilitary in nature. The SAR registered 570 new organizations from July 2015 to June.

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

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Even in areas officially designated as “autonomous,” Tibetans generally lacked the right to organize and play a meaningful role in the protection of their cultural heritage and unique natural environment. Tibetans often faced intimidation and arrest if they protested against policies or practices they found objectionable. A 2015 RFA report stated that authorities in Rebkong County in the Tibetan Region of Amdo, now administered under Qinghai Province, circulated a list of unlawful activities. The list included “illegal associations formed in the name of the Tibetan language, the environment, and education.” Sources in the area reported that this list remained in force and no new associations have been formed since the list was published.

In February 2015 public security officials in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, detained a group of Tibetans who were peacefully protesting the government’s seizure of land in Zoige County in the Tibetan Region of Amdo, now administered by Sichuan, outside a meeting of the Sichuan Provincial People’s Congress. In April four of these Tibetans were sentenced to prison terms of two to three years.

On June 23, a protest by Tibetans on Qinghai Lake over the demolition of unregistered restaurants and guest houses was violently dispersed by security forces, leading to the arrest of five demonstrators and the injury of at least eight others. Authorities decreed that these small businesses were illegal and needed to be torn down and that residents should leave the area, which was a popular tourist location. Local Tibetans likened it to a “land grab” meant to benefit ethnic Chinese at their expense.

At the Sixth Tibet Work Forum in August 2015, the CCP ordered a large-scale campaign to expel students and demolish living quarters at Larung Gar, the world’s largest center for the study of Tibetan Buddhism. The expulsion and demolition campaign commenced in July. According to a local CCP directive, authorities must reduce the resident population to no more than 5,000 by September 2017. Before the campaign began, the population at Larung Gar was estimated to range between 10,000 and 30,000. In July authorities banned foreign tourists from visiting the area.

In August authorities in the Kardze TAP in the Tibetan Region of Kham reportedly prevented Tibetans from holding a religious gathering and traditional horse race festival after Dargye Monastery, the organizer of the events, and local residents refused a government order to fly the PRC national flag at the two events, at the monastery, and from residents’ homes.

Colombia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The law provides for the freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for the freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right. Freedom of association was limited by threats and acts of violence committed by illegal armed groups against NGOs, indigenous groups, and labor unions (see section 1.g.). Some NGOs alleged that riot police used excessive force to break up demonstrations. During a two-week national agrarian strike that began May 30 and concluded with the signing of an accord with the government June 12, local social and human rights organizations accused the armed forces and National Police Anti-Riot Squad of using excessive force and alleged that at least 179 demonstrators were injured and three killed. The government stated the protests had not remained peaceful and noted 54 members of the security forces were also injured.

Although the government does not prohibit membership in most political organizations, membership in organizations that engaged in rebellion against the government, espoused violence, or carried out acts of violence, such as the FARC, the ELN, and illegal armed groups, was illegal.

Comoros

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of assembly and association, and, unlike the previous government, the Azali Assoumani government generally respected these rights.

Costa Rica

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Cote d’Ivoire

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The law provides for freedom of assembly, but the government did not always respect this right. The law requires groups that wish to hold demonstrations or rallies in stadiums or other enclosed spaces to submit a written notice to the Ministry of Interior three days before the proposed event. Numerous opposition political groups reported denials of their requests to hold political meetings and alleged inconsistent standards for granting public assembly permissions. In some instances public officials stated they could not provide for the safety of opposition groups attempting to organize both public and private meetings.

In July, in Yopougon (a Gbagbo-leaning neighborhood in western Abidjan), police arrested three pro-Gbagbo activists organizing the signing of a petition for the release of the former president from the ICC. They were released after two weeks.

Police use of excessive force to disperse demonstrators resulted in injuries and at least one death. In August the military tribunal sentenced Staff Sergeant Gervais Zoukou to 18 months in prison for striking a student with disabilities with his car during June protests at the University of Felix Houphouet-Boigny. The student subsequently died.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right. While the law prohibits the formation of political parties along ethnic or religious lines, ethnicity was often a key factor in party membership.

Croatia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Cuba

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

Although the constitution grants a limited right of assembly, the right is subject to the requirement that it may not be “exercised against the existence and objectives of the socialist state.” The law requires citizens to request authorization for organized meetings of three or more persons, and failure to do so could carry a penalty of up to three months in prison and a fine. The government tolerated some gatherings, and many religious groups reported the ability to gather without registering or facing sanctions.

Independent activists faced greater obstacles, and state security forces often suppressed attempts to assemble, even for gatherings in private dwellings and in small numbers. This trend was particularly pronounced in the eastern part of the country. For example, on March 27, UNPACU reported that state security forces forcibly detained more than 150 activists in the provinces of Santiago de Cuba, Las Tunas, and Guantanamo during a peaceful protest.

The government also continued to organize repudiation acts in the form of mobs organized to assault and disperse those who assembled peacefully. Participants arrived in government-owned buses or were recruited by government officials from nearby workplaces or schools. Participants arrived and departed in shifts, chanted revolutionary slogans, sang revolutionary songs, and verbally taunted the targets of the protest. The targets of this harassment at times suffered physical assault or property damage. Government security officials at the scene, often present in overwhelming numbers, did not arrest those who physically attacked the victims or respond to victims’ complaints and instead frequently orchestrated the activities. Officials reportedly took direct part in physical assaults.

The government did not grant permission to independent demonstrators or approve public meetings by human rights groups or others critical of any government activity.

In July police began blocking private UNPACU meetings in eastern provinces. On September 22, police detained 24 activists who were attempting to participate in a routine UNPACU meeting. Separately, in Havana, on September 22, police detained three labor union activists and placed five under house arrest to stop a meeting organized by human rights activist Ivan Hernandez Carrillo. The government also blocked meetings for independent academic and cultural organizations. For example, on September 23, Dagoberto Valdes, founder and director of the think tank Convivencia, suspended a course in Pinar del Rio on civic learning after two civil society participants from Cienfuegos were barred from entering the province.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The government routinely denied citizens freedom of association and did not recognize independent associations. The constitution proscribes any political organization not officially recognized. A number of independent organizations, including opposition political parties and professional associations, operated as NGOs without legal recognition.

Recognized churches (including the Roman Catholic humanitarian organization Caritas), the Freemason movement, and a number of fraternal and professional organizations were the only associations legally permitted to function outside the formal structure of the state, the CP, and government-organized groups. Religious groups are under the supervision of the CP’s Office of Religious Affairs, which has the authority to deny permits for religious activities and exerted pressure on church leaders to refrain from including political topics in their sermons.

Nonreligious groups must register through the Ministry of Justice to receive official recognition. Authorities continued to ignore applications for legal recognition from new groups, including several new religious groups as well as women’s rights and gay rights organizations, thereby subjecting members to potential charges of illegal association.

The government continued to afford preferential treatment to those who took an active part in CP activities and mass demonstrations in support of the government, especially when awarding valued public benefits, such as admissions to higher education, fellowships, and job opportunities.

Cyprus

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Czech Republic

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provides for the freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right. The government may legally restrict or prohibit gatherings, including marches, demonstrations, and concerts, if they promote hatred or intolerance, advocate suppressing individual rights, or jeopardize the safety of participants.

In May the Municipal Court in Prague received a complaint by citizens who wanted to stage a protest demonstration against the violation of human rights in China during the visit of the president of China to Prague in March. While the demonstration was announced to authorities as required by law, police banned it upon the decision of the Prague municipality, allegedly for security reasons. The complainants claimed that the constitutional right to assembly could not be restricted by a decree, but only under the law on assembly. The case was pending at year’s end.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and law provide for freedom of association. While the government generally respected this right, the law requires organizations, associations, foundations, and political parties to register with the Ministry of Interior. The courts may dissolve or ban, and the Ministry of Interior may refuse to register, groups that incite hatred based on race, religion, class, nationality, or other affiliation or that use prohibited symbols.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

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

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

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

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly, but the government sometimes restricted this right. The law requires organizers of public events to notify local authorities in advance of the event. The government maintained that public events required advance permission and sometimes declined to authorize public meetings or protests. The SSF occasionally beat, detained, or arrested participants in unauthorized protests, marches, or meetings.

UNJHRO’s report on opposition September 19-21 protests noted that, according to the constitution, neither permission nor justification is required prior to demonstrations but that citizens planning to demonstrate in public must inform the relevant authority in writing. UNJHRO found that the government was enforcing a 1999 law requiring prior authorization, which, according UNJHRO, is “in contravention with the constitution.”

According to MONUSCO at least 81 demonstrations organized by opposition political parties and/or civil society were either prohibited or repressed by the authorities from January to June. During the same period, at least 70 demonstrations, including 31 organized by the ruling party coalition, were held without incident. In October local authorities prevented, or SSF forcibly repressed, seven demonstrations planned or organized by opposition parties and civil society organizations and monitored by UNJHRO. On the other hand, at least 11 demonstrations, including nine organized by the ruling majority, took place without problems. For example, in September in Mbuji-Mayi, capital of Kasai Province, the governor organized a march in support of the head of state. The city’s mayor, however, banned a march scheduled by the opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress two weeks later and deployed police to prevent the rally.

After opposition protests in September, the government banned all public gatherings in most major cities, and SSF shut down subsequent peaceful protests and arrested participants. For example, on October 29, SSF arrested eight activists from the group Filimbi for staging a peaceful sit-in outside the African Union offices in Kinshasa. The Kinshasa governor’s office issued a press release on October 31 announcing it would continue to enforce the ban on public gatherings and demonstrations in order “to guarantee the tranquil and serene conditions necessary for communal life, tolerance, and democratic values.” On November 5, SSF surrounded the home of opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi and prohibited him from holding a planned public meeting.

On November 3, the UN special rapporteurs on freedom of peaceful assembly and association, the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the situation of human rights defenders issued a statement condemning the government’s protest ban, stating, “It is clear that the current situation in the DRC does not justify a general ban on demonstrations in several cities. In fact, given that the country is in a hotly disputed election period, people should be given more space, not less, to express their democratic freedoms.” The special rapporteurs called the prohibitions on marches “disturbing signs that democratic space is rapidly dissipating in the DRC, with human rights organizations and opposition parties bearing the brunt of the repression.”

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right. Civil society organizations and NGOs are required to register with the government and may receive funds only through donations; they cannot generate any revenue, even if it is not at a profit. The registration process is burdensome and very slow. Some groups, particularly within the LGBTI community, reported the government had denied their registration requests.

During an interactive dialogue with civil society in Kinshasa on March 21, the minister of justice and human rights stated that only 63 of more than 21,000 NGOs in the country were formally registered. Many NGOs reported that, even when carefully following the registration process, it often took years to receive legal certification. Many interpreted registration difficulties as intentional government obstacles for impeding NGO activity.

Denmark

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Djibouti

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

Although the constitution provides for freedom of assembly, the government restricted this right. The Ministry of Interior requires permits for peaceful assemblies. In contrast with the previous year, the Ministry of Interior allowed opposition groups to host events and rallies, particularly for the presidential campaign. Security authorities occasionally restricted this right (see section 1.c.).

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and law allow for freedom of association provided community groups register and obtain a permit from the Ministry of Interior. Nevertheless, the ministry ignored the petitions of some groups (see section 5). The government harassed and intimidated opposition parties, human rights groups, and labor unions.

Dominica

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Dominican Republic

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The law provides for freedom of assembly. Outdoor public marches and meetings require permits, which the government usually granted. On several occasions police used force to disperse demonstrations and injured demonstrators and bystanders.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right (see section 7.a.).

Ecuador

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The law provides for freedom of peaceful assembly. The government respected this right, with some exceptions. Public rallies required prior government permits that usually were granted. The government often deployed a large security presence at demonstrations. Security forces generally respected the rights of participants, but some exceptions occurred. On May 30, the criminal court in Loja sentenced Luisa Lozano and Servio Angamarca, members of the Saraguro indigenous nationality, to four years in prison for obstructing public services during a highway blockade in Loja Province in August 2015. According to the criminal code, obstructing public services is a crime punishable by one to three years in prison, but the judge added an additional year to their sentence due to “aggravating circumstances.” The two persons were part of a group of 35 Saraguros that police detained during the blockade. Human rights organizations reported that police beat several Saraguros, including a pregnant woman, while clearing the blockade. The court absolved eight other defendants, while a case continued against a second group of 12 individuals. The defendants’ lawyer claimed the conviction violated Lozano and Angamarca’s constitutional rights, since an indigenous justice process had already declared the two individuals innocent on the premise that they were peacefully exercising their right to resistance. On October 20, the Criminal Sala of the Loja Court of Justice ratified the four-year prison sentence against Lozano and Angamarca. According to media reports and local human rights organizations, the court also sentenced three additional Saraguro members for obstructing public services, even though these members had been found not guilty by a lower court on May 30.

On May 31, Public Defender Ernesto Pazmino stated in a press release his concern about “disproportionate charges registered across the country.” In subsequent media interviews, Pazmino called attention to the elevated sentences of the two Saraguro defendants. Pazmino proposed reforming the criminal code so that the blocking of public spaces during protests would no longer be subject to criminal penalties. In a July 7 interview with El Universo, Minister of Justice Ledy Zuniga accused Pazmino of lying due to political ambitions and urged him to resign.

A local human rights organization stated that police officers mistreated high school students during confrontations with the police that took place as part of an antigovernment protest on February 15-16. CEDHU and local media stated that police detained 20 students. A local newspaper reported that judges from the Judicial Unit of Young Offenders freed 14 minors on February 17 after sentencing each of them to pay a $50 fine and perform two hours of community service per week for three months. No public information was available on the judicial decisions for the six adult students.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for freedom of association, but the government took steps to limit this right. Presidential Decree 16, released in 2013, requires all social organizations (including NGOs) to reregister in a new online registration system within one year or face dissolution. In 2014 the National Secretariat for Policy Management announced that all NGOs registered in the old system would automatically be incorporated into the new system established under the decree. On June 29, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that 77,160 social organizations were registered in the Unified System of Social Organizations. As of November, three challenges to the decree remained pending before the Constitutional Court.

In 2015 President Correa issued a decree to reform Decree 16. The changes, codified in Decree 739, eliminate a requirement that NGOs report their levels of foreign financing and removed their obligation to have assets worth at least $4,000 before registering as an NGO, while also placing foreign NGOs under the decree’s regulations. Government officials argued that Decree 739 made it easier for NGOs to register, by eliminating the minimum equity requirement and standardizing the registration process so that the same requirements bind religious, community, and other organizations.

The decree provides the government discretion to dissolve organizations (including civil society, foundations, and churches) on multiple grounds, including compromising the interests of the government, engaging in partisan political activity, threatening public peace, deviating from the organization’s stated purpose, or not providing access to information requested by the government. Provisions limit the ability of organizations to choose their members.

On July 20, the Ministry of Education initiated dissolution proceedings against the National Union of Educators (UNE), the largest teachers’ union. UNE representatives stated the dissolution document did not cite specific wrongdoing but vaguely argued that UNE had violated the law and the union’s charter (see section 7.a.).

On December 20, the Ministry of Environment initiated a process to dissolve environmental NGO Accion Ecologica, based upon a claim by the Ministry of Interior that the NGO had made social media posts that rejected mining activities in Morana Santiago Province and supported the “violent” acts committed by the Shuar protestors, that resulted in the death of a police officer at a mining camp on December 14. The government argued that the NGO had deviated from its stated purpose and negatively affected “internal state security” and “public peace” in violation of Presidential Decrees 16 and 739. As of December 31, the case against Accion Ecologica remained open.

Egypt

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for freedom of assembly “according to notification regulated by law.” Authorities implemented a 2013 demonstrations law that includes an expansive list of prohibited activities and gives the minister of interior the authority to prohibit or curtail planned demonstrations. Domestic and international human rights organizations asserted the law was not in keeping with international standards regarding freedom of assembly. There were protests throughout the year that varied widely in size, and some occurred without government interference. In other cases the government rigorously enforced the law restricting demonstrations, even in cases of small groups of protesters demonstrating peacefully.

Research center Daftar Ahwal reported at least 37,059 cases of individuals being stopped, arrested, or charged under the protest law between November 2013 and September. Of these, authorities charged 15,491 individuals under the protest law resulting in 6,382 convictions and 5,083 acquittals.

In January security forces arrested more than 150 individuals in connection with protests on the fifth anniversary of the January 25 Revolution, according to media reports.

In February 2015 the Cairo Criminal Court sentenced prominent activist Alaa Abdel Fattah to five years in prison on charges of breaking the demonstrations law related to his participation in a protest in front of the Shura Council in 2013. The ruling was subject to appeal to the Court of Cassation, which at year’s end had not ruled whether it would accept the appeal.

Authorities arrested at least 382 persons in the days leading to April 25 protests against the government’s announcement of a maritime border demarcation agreement with Saudi Arabia that determined Tiran and Sanafir islands fall under Saudi sovereignty, according to an international rights organization. Authorities convicted many of these under the protest law; however, upon appeal authorities overturned many of the convictions or reduced sentences. For example, on May 24, a Dokki and Agouza court sentenced 111 individuals to five years’ imprisonment in connection with the protests. The following day, the Dokki Misdemeanor Court cancelled the prison sentences but upheld fines of LE 100,000 ($5,500) for 86 of the defendants and refused their request to pay the fines in installments.

Thousands of persons remained imprisoned whom authorities arrested during 2013 and 2014 due to their participation in demonstrations (some of which were peaceful); however, authorities released others who had completed their sentences. Authorities held such individuals under charges of attending an unauthorized protest, incitement to violence, or “blocking roads.” Human rights groups claimed authorities inflated or used these charges solely to target individuals suspected of being members of groups in opposition to the government or those who sought to exercise the rights to free assembly or association.

Demonstrations on university campuses decreased throughout the country as compared with the previous academic year, but security forces continued to disperse them forcefully, according to a local rights group. In April student mobilization increased with students protesting the government’s announcement of a maritime border demarcation agreement with Saudi Arabia that determined Tiran and Sanafir islands fall under Saudi sovereignty. According to the same local rights group, authorities arrested 84 students and expelled 47 students during the 2015-16 academic year.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and the 2013 constitutional declaration provide for freedom of association. The law governing associations, however, significantly restricts this right. The law on associations affects all nongovernmental civil society associations, the overwhelming majority of which were domestic welfare, educational, and environmental foundations. The Ministry of Social Solidarity applied the law in a highly restrictive manner on international and domestic organizations receiving international funding, denying government approval of programs that domestic and international organizations sought to implement or granting governmental approval after lengthy delays (which in some cases amounted to effective denials). Rights groups reported several incidents of security services ordering the cancellation of planned training programs or other events. Over the course of one week in May, the Ministry of Social Solidarity closed 75 NGOs in Beheira Governorate, according to a ministry statement. The ministry alleged all of the 75 had Muslim Brotherhood connections and claimed the governorate was “free” of any NGOs receiving foreign funding as a result of the closures.

The penal code criminalizes the request for or acceptance of foreign funds, materiel, weapons, ammunition, or “other things” from states or NGOs “with the intent to harm the national interest.” Violators may be sentenced to life in prison, or the death penalty in the case of public officials and for crimes committed during times of war or with “terrorist purpose.” The broad language raised concern among civil society that the article could be used to prosecute NGOs receiving or requesting international funding.

At year’s end the conviction of 27 mostly foreign NGO workers sentenced in 2013 for operating unlicensed organizations and receiving foreign funding without government permission stood. Appeals for some defendants were pending at year’s end; defendants had not yet filed appeals in the remainder of cases.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party, and its NGO remained illegal, and the Muslim Brotherhood was a legally designated terrorist organization.

Authorities reopened investigations of local NGOs that received foreign funding under a case originally brought in 2011, and on December 7, human rights attorney Azza Soliman was arrested in connection with the case. She was subsequently released on bail pending investigations. On December 14, a Cairo criminal court ordered asset freezes against Soliman and the law firm she headed, Lawyers for Justice and Peace. Separately in the case, on September 17, a Cairo criminal court ordered asset freezes against five individuals–including Hossam Bahgat, founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights; Gamal Eid, executive director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information; and Bahey el-Din Hassan, director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)–and three organizations, including CIHRS, the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, and Egyptian Center for the Right to Education. The court denied a request to freeze the assets of six others including family members of those whose accounts were ordered frozen and support staff of the NGOs. On June 15, a Cairo criminal court ordered asset freezes against the Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies and its director, Ahmed Samieh. Freeze orders are subject to appeal after three months. Asset freeze cases were also pending against women’s rights organization Nazra for Feminist Studies and its executive director Mozn Hassan at year’s end. The next hearing was scheduled for January 11, 2017.

In February el-Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence (also registered under the name el-Nadeem for Psychological Rehabilitation), which documents torture and other forms of abuse and provides counseling for torture and rape victims, received administrative closure orders from three governmental bodies. The organization asserted the letters were politically motivated, targeting el-Nadeem because of its work on torture, deaths in detention, and impunity for these crimes. At year’s end authorities had neither rescinded nor enforced the orders, and the organization continued to operate but had suspended its clinical activities

On February 29, a misdemeanor court sentenced Amr Ali, coordinator of the April 6 Youth Movement, a political advocacy group, to three years’ imprisonment for inciting protests and attempting to topple the government. On July 30, an appeals court reduced his sentence to two years.

In March student union leaders called for a general assembly meeting to discuss the future of the Egyptian Student Union–the largest countrywide student union–after the December 2015 decision by the Ministry of Higher Education to nullify the results of the union’s November 2015 elections. As of December no such assembly had taken place.

El Salvador

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution provides for the freedoms of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights, although there were occasions where the government used intimidation tactics to discourage assembly. On June 29, well-known LGBTI activist Bessy Rios was the single demonstrator in front of the President’s Office, protesting a proposed increase in electricity prices, when the riot police arrested her, leaving bruises and scrapes on her body.

Equatorial Guinea

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for the right of assembly, but regulatory provisions effectively undermined this right, and the government routinely restricted freedom of assembly. Although the government formally abolished permit requirements for political party meetings within party buildings, it requires prior permission for public events, such as meetings in other venues or marches, and frequently denied these permit requests. The government frequently dispersed peaceful, preapproved public gatherings if a participant asked a question that could be construed as criticism of the government or ruling party. By contrast, authorities pressured citizens to attend progovernment rallies.

For example, during the presidential election campaign, PDGE authorities directed citizens to attend rallies and register as party members to avoid adverse consequences. Citizens also received gifts such as smart phones, tablets, and even luxury cars. Women were given cloth imprinted with the president’s face to sew clothes for their families to wear at PDGE rallies.

On April 22, authorities used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse an unauthorized, nonviolent political rally of approximately 200 demonstrators at the headquarters of the opposition Citizens for the Innovation of Equatorial Guinea (CI) party. Six demonstrators were shot, while others were hospitalized due to injuries from tear gas. Authorities laid siege to the headquarters for five days, trapping those inside and limiting their access to food, water, and electricity.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and law provide for freedom of association, but the government severely restricted this right. All political parties, labor unions, and other associations must register with the government, but the registration process was costly, burdensome, opaque, and slow. During the year the government reduced funding for civil society organizations and distributed remaining funds among a few mostly progovernment organizations close to the president’s inner circle. Grant funding decisions continued to be arbitrary and nontransparent.

The law prohibits the formation of political parties along ethnic lines, and several political parties remained banned due to their ethnic nature, including the Progress Party of Equatorial Guinea and the Movement for the Self-Determination of Bioko Island. At year’s end only one labor organization was believed to be registered; the registry was inaccessible due to a change in leadership at the Ministry of Labor and Social Security.

Despite 2014 laws to facilitate the registration of political parties, the government interfered with the registration of four parties during the year. The government refused to register Gabriel Nse Obiang’s Independent Candidacy Party until it changed its name to the CI Party, and the government excluded Nse Obiang from inclusion on the ballot. The government also prevented the registration of three other parties–the National Democratic Party (PND), the National Congress of Equatorial Guinea (CNGE), and the National Union for Democracy and Social Policies (UNDPSGE). The government allowed the leaders of the three parties–PND leader Benedicto Obiang Mangue, CNGE leader Agustin Masoko, and UNDPSGE leader Tomas Mba Muanabang–to run as independent presidential candidates.

Eritrea

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The law and unimplemented constitution provide for freedom of assembly, but the government restricted this right. For some public gatherings, the government intermittently required those assembling to obtain permits. Authorities subjected gatherings of large groups of persons without prior approval to investigation and interference, with the exception of events that occurred in the context of meetings of government-affiliated organizations, were social in nature, or were events such as weddings, funerals, and religious observances of the four officially registered religious groups.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

Although the law and unimplemented constitution provide for freedom of association, the government did not respect this right. The government did not allow any political parties other than the PFDJ. It also prohibited the formation of civil society organizations except those with official sponsorship. The government generally did not allow local organizations to receive funding and resources from or to associate with foreign and international organizations.

Estonia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for the freedoms of assembly, and the government generally respected this right.

On July 30, the 20th Estonian Grenadier Division Veteran Association organized an annual memorial event to commemorate the World War II battle of Sinimae. The battle took place between the Soviet army and German forces, including the 20th Estonian Waffen SS Grenadier Division. Participants laid wreaths at monuments for soldiers from both sides who died in battles nearby. No national government officials participated in the ceremony. No Nazi symbols or insignia were in evidence.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

While the constitution provides for freedom of association, the law specifies that only citizens may join political parties. There are no restrictions on the ability of noncitizens to join other civil groups.

Ethiopia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly; the state of emergency regulations, however, prohibited demonstrations and town hall meetings that did not have approval from the command post, the entity that oversees the state of emergency. The government did not respect freedom of assembly and killed, injured, detained, and arrested numerous protesters throughout the year (see also sections 1.a., 1.b., 1.c., 1.d., and 1.e.). The majority of protests were in Oromia and Amhara regions. On August 13, HRW reported an estimate that security forces killed more than 500 protesters since November 2015. On January 21 and October 10, UN experts called on the government to end the “crackdown on peaceful protests.” The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights requested access to the regions, which the government did not provide. On November 9, Amnesty international estimated at least 800 had been killed.

On August 6 and 7, security forces reportedly killed approximately 100 persons in response to simultaneous demonstrations in major cities and towns across Oromia and Amhara regions (see section 1.a).

On October 2, dozens were reportedly killed at a religious festival in Bishoftu. Security forces’ response to agitation in the crowd, including the use of teargas and firing into the air, reportedly led to a stampede that left many dead. On October 7, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) called for an investigation and urged the government allow independent observers access to Oromia and Amhara regions. On October 10, a group of UN human rights experts highlighted the October 2 events and urged the government to allow an international commission of inquiry to investigate the protests and violence used against protesters since November 2015. The government-established EHRC conducted an investigation into the incident. The results of that investigation were unknown.

Prior to the state of emergency, organizers of public meetings of more than two persons or demonstrations had to notify the government 48 hours in advance and obtain a permit. Authorities could not refuse to grant a permit but could require the event be held at a different time or place for reasons of public safety or freedom of movement. If authorities determined an event should be held at another time or place, the law required organizers be notified in writing within 12 hours of the time of submission of their request. After the state of emergency, prior-issued permits were deemed invalid.

Prior to the state of emergency, the government denied some requests by opposition political parties to hold protests but approved others. Opposition party organizers alleged government interference in most cases, and authorities required several of the protests be moved to different dates or locations from those the organizers requested. Protest organizers alleged the government’s claims of needing to move the protests based on public safety concerns were not credible. Local government officials, almost all of whom were affiliated with the EPRDF, controlled access to municipal halls, and there were many complaints from opposition parties that local officials denied or otherwise obstructed the scheduling of opposition parties’ use of halls for lawful political rallies. There were numerous credible reports owners of hotels and other large facilities cited internal rules forbidding political parties from utilizing their spaces for gatherings. Regional governments, including the Addis Ababa regional administration, were reluctant to grant permits or provide security for large meetings. After the state of emergency, the prohibition on unauthorized demonstrations or town hall meetings limited the organization of meetings, training sessions, and other gatherings. For example, members of at least one opposition political party reported they were prevented from having a four-person meeting.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

Although the law provides for freedom of association and the right to engage in unrestricted peaceful political activity, the government severely limited this right (see sections 3 and 5).

The state of emergency and the accompanying regulations restricted the ability of organizations to operate (see also section 5). The prohibitions relating to communication and acts that undermine tolerance and unity resulted in self-censorship of reports and public statements. The prohibition on unauthorized town hall meetings limited the organization of meetings, training sessions, and other gatherings. The prohibition on exchanging information or contact with a foreign government or NGOs in a manner that undermines national sovereignty and security reduced communication between local organizations and international organizations and others.

The state of emergency regulations also prohibited any political party “from briefing local or foreign journalists in a manner that is anticonstitutional and undermining sovereignty and security.”

The Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSO) law bans anonymous donations to NGOs. All potential donors were therefore aware their names would be public knowledge. The same was true concerning all donations made to political parties.

A 2012 report by the UN special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association stated, “The enforcement of these (the CSO law) provisions has a devastating impact on individuals’ ability to form and operate associations effectively.”

International NGOs seeking to operate in the country had to submit an application via the country’s embassies abroad, which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs then submitted to the Charities and Societies Agency for approval.

Federated States of Micronesia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Fiji

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution provides for the freedoms of assembly and association, but with restrictions.

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for freedom of assembly but allows the government to limit this right in the interests of national security, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, and the orderly conduct of elections. The constitution also allows the government to limit freedom of assembly to protect the rights of others and imposes restrictions on a public official’s right to freedom of assembly.

The POAD allows the government to refuse permit applications for any meeting or march deemed to prejudice peace, public safety, and good order or to sabotage or attempt to undermine the economy. It also allows authorities to use whatever force is deemed necessary to prohibit or disperse public and private meetings after “due warning” to preserve public order.

According to the ODPP, on September 10 and 11, police detained opposition National Federation Party (NFP) Leader Dr. Biman Prasad, opposition Social Liberal Democratic Party (SODELPA) Leader Sitiveni Rabuka, Fiji Islands Council of Trade Unions Leader Attar Singh, former SODELPA politician and academic Dr. Tupeni Baba, Director of the NGO Pacific Dialogue Jone Dakuvula, and Fiji Labor Party Leader Mahendra Chaudhry “on suspicion of having breached the Public Order Act 1969 (as amended)” by attending a public meeting that had not been permitted by police.

On October 17, the ODPP dropped the charges, citing “insufficient evidence to sustain a charge for a breach of the Public Order Act in so far as there was no intention on the part of these persons to attend the meeting in breach of the Act.” The ODPP also noted that there was insufficient evidence for charges of incitement and that the arrests “appeared selective.”

Although event organizers said that the permitting process was sometimes very slow, authorities granted permits for public rallies in support of West Papuan independence, UN Human Rights Day, and the 16 Days of Activism against Domestic Violence Campaign.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for freedom of association but limits this right in the interests of national security, public order, and morality and also for the orderly conduct of elections. It allows the government to regulate trade unions and collective bargaining processes, strikes and lockouts, and essential industries in the interests of the economy and the population. On February 15, Fiji’s Employment Relations (Amendment) Act 2016 came into force, providing for the right for all workers to join trade or enterprise unions. The government generally did not restrict membership in other NGOs, professional associations, and other private organizations.

Finland

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

France

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for the freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right.

The state of emergency in effect during the year grants a number of exceptional powers to authorities, including the right to set curfews, limit the movement of people and forbid mass gatherings, establish secure zones where individuals may be monitored, and close public spaces such as theatres, bars, museums and other meeting places. Prefects in all regions may decide on the provisional closure of concert halls, restaurants, or any public place, and to prohibit public demonstrations or gatherings.

Between March and September, there were 14 demonstrations in the country to protest against the labor law, leading to violent clashes between protesters and police forces. Several demonstrators and unions claimed police used excessive force during the demonstrations. As of June 7, the head of the police internal affairs unit reported that 48 judicial inquiries into police violence had been opened.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and law provide for the freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right.

Under the state of emergency, police and prefects may dissolve associations acting in favor of serious disruption of public order.

Gabon

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly, and for the first half of the year, the government generally respected this right. As the date for the presidential election approached, however, there were reports the government failed to approve permits for public meetings. Some civil society activists stated they did not submit requests to hold public meetings because they expected the government to deny them.

On July 23, police used tear gas to disperse an opposition-led rally of several hundred demonstrators calling for the president to resign. The organizers claimed the government did not respond to their request for a permit for the demonstration, so they decided to go ahead with it.

In September, following the presidential election, security forces significantly increased their presence in major towns, particularly parts of Libreville and Port-Gentil, as part of an effort to dissuade large groups from assembling.

Georgia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law generally provide for freedom of assembly. While authorities routinely granted permits for assemblies, the government’s respect for the right was uneven. Police on occasion arrested or failed to protect participants in peaceful assemblies from counterdemonstrators. In addition, human rights organizations expressed concern about provisions in the law, including the requirement that political parties and other organizations give five days’ prior notice to local authorities to assemble on a public thoroughfare, thereby precluding spontaneous demonstrations.

Activists noted that freedom of assembly for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community remained restricted (see section 6, Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity).

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and law provide for freedom of association, but the government’s respect for this right was selective. There were reports that some government representatives and supporters of the ruling party pressured political opposition figures and supporters, central and local government employees, teachers, and union members, including by surveillance (see section 1.f.) and actual or threatened job loss (see section 7). Throughout the year, and especially during the campaign prior to the October parliamentary elections, there were reports of violence, intimidation, and harassment against opposition party figures and dismissal or the threat of dismissal from work for supporting opposition parties.

Germany

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right. Groups seeking to hold open-air public rallies and marches must obtain permits, and state and local officials may deny permits when public safety concerns arise or when the applicant is from a prohibited organization, mainly right-wing extremist groups. In rare instances during the year, authorities denied such applications to assemble publicly. Authorities allowed several nonprohibited, right-wing extremist or neo-Nazi groups to hold public rallies or marches when they did so in accordance with the law.

It is illegal to block an officially registered demonstration, including demonstrations organized by neo-Nazi groups. Many anti-Nazi activists refused to accept such restrictions and attempted to block neo-Nazi demonstrations or to hold counterdemonstrations, resulting in clashes between police and anti-Nazi demonstrators.

Police detained known or suspected activists, primarily right- or left-wing extremists, when they believed such individuals intended to participate in illegal or unauthorized demonstrations. The length of detention varied from state to state.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right. The law permits authorities to prohibit organizations whose activities the Constitutional Court or federal or state governments determine to be opposed to the constitutional democratic order or otherwise illegal. While only the Federal Constitutional Court may prohibit political parties on these grounds, both federal and state governments may prohibit or restrict other organizations, including groups that authorities classify as extremist or criminal in nature. Organizations have the right to appeal such prohibitions or restrictions.

The federal and state OPCs monitored several hundred organizations. Monitoring generally consisted of collecting information from written materials and firsthand accounts but also included intrusive methods, such as the use of undercover agents who were subject to legal oversight. The FOPC and state OPCs published lists of monitored organizations, including left- and right-wing political parties. Although the law stipulates that surveillance must not interfere with an organization’s activities, representatives of monitored groups, such as Scientologists, complained that the publication of the organizations’ names contributed to prejudice against them. In a number of cases, authorities banned organizations and raided their premises. Authorities stated that they took such actions if there was evidence the groups or persons were incompatible with–or caused a threat to–the country’s democratic order.

On March 16, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere banned the right-wing extremist group Weisse Woelfe Terrorcrew (WWT) following searches of WWT leaders’ apartments in 10 states. De Maiziere stated in a press release that during these raids officials found propaganda material and weapons, including throwing stars, a crossbow, and several small-caliber firearms. The Hamburg-based WWT consisted of neo-Nazis and former skinheads who committed violence against immigrants, asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants, as well as the police. According to the Report on Protection of the Constitution, the WWT was active nationwide beginning in 2014.

Ghana

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Greece

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right. On January 30, police issued a statement forbidding public gatherings in central Athens for a single 12-hour period from 6:00 a.m. until midnight citing reasons of public order.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

Although the constitution and law provide for freedom of association, the government continued to place legal restrictions on the names of associations of nationals who self-identified as ethnic Macedonians or associations that included the term “Turkish” as indicative of a collective ethnic identity (see section 6). Such associations, despite the lack of legal recognition, continued to operate.

Grenada

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Guatemala

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution provides for the freedoms of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights. In September the government issued a 15-day emergency decree that gave it the power to dissolve groups, meetings, protests, and media coverage that “contributed to or incited” disruption of public order. The decree was rescinded two days later after harsh reactions from many sectors of society, including the president of congress and the human rights ombudsman. The NGO Center for Legal Action on Environment (CALAS) and the National Unity of Hope party charged the executive branch with violating the constitution and abuse of power. The Supreme Court dismissed the charges on November 2; CALAS planned to appeal the decision.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right. There were reports, however, of significant barriers to organizing in the labor sector (see section 7.a.).

Guinea

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for freedom of assembly, but the government restricted this right. The law bans any meeting that has an ethnic or racial character or any gathering, “whose nature threatens national unity.” The government requires 72-working-hour advance notification for public gatherings. The law permits local authorities to prohibit a demonstration or meeting if they believe it poses a threat to public order. Authorities may also hold event organizers criminally liable if violence or destruction of property occurs. After protests by citizens in October against the lack of electricity, a mixed unit of police and gendarmes arrested 30 persons on charges of illegal gathering and disturbance; 12 were convicted and 18 acquitted.

Police use of excessive force to disperse demonstrators–often protesting poor public services–resulted in deaths and injuries. During the August opposition demonstration in Conakry, a 21-year-old man was killed by a police bullet. The suspected agent was arrested. According to the minister of security and civil protection, 12 other persons were injured.

In April Conakry governor Bangoura prohibited at the last minute a previously authorized march in Conakry by women protesting the imprisonment of opposition party members.

Part of the 2013 and 2015 political accords promised an investigation into the political violence that resulted in the deaths of more than 50 persons in 2012 and 2013, punishment of perpetrators, and indemnification of victims. The government had taken no action on these promises by year’s end.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for freedom of association, and authorities generally respected this provision. Requirements to obtain official recognition for public, social, cultural, religious, or political associations were not cumbersome, although bureaucratic delays sometimes impeded registration.

Guinea-Bissau

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Guyana

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Haiti

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right. There were several instances when police used force to impose order during demonstrations. Citizens must apply for a permit to hold legal demonstrations. Although impromptu political demonstrations in some instances provoked aggressive law enforcement responses, the police generally responded to these protests in a professional and effective manner.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right.

Honduras

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right. Some local and international civil society organizations, including the Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), alleged that members of the security forces used excessive force to break up demonstrations. On several occasions police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse violent protesters. Authorities temporarily detained protesters wielding rocks, machetes, and other dangerous items but usually released them without pressing charges. Many civil society leaders and organizations condemned a decision by UNAH leaders authorizing police to break up a two-month student sit-in in July. Police briefly detained approximately two dozen protest leaders, and university officials then brought criminal charges against them. As of early December, student protesters and UNAH leadership remained in discussions to address the concerns of all parties, including the judicial proceedings and administrative actions that university officials took against protest leaders.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and law provide for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right. The penal code prohibits illicit association, defined as gatherings by persons bearing arms, explosive devices, or dangerous objects with the purpose of committing a crime, and prescribes prison terms of two to four years and a fine of 30,000 to 60,000 lempiras ($1,300 to $2,600) for anyone who convokes or directs an illicit meeting or demonstration. There were no reports of such cases during the year.

Hungary

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for freedom of peaceful assembly, and the government generally respected this right. By law, demonstrations do not require a police permit, but event organizers must inform police of a planned assembly in a public place at least three days in advance. The law authorizes police to prohibit any gathering if it seriously endangers the peaceful operation of representative bodies or courts or if it is not possible to provide for alternate routes for traffic. Police may not disband a spontaneous, unauthorized assembly that remains peaceful and is aimed at expressing opinion on an event that was unforeseeable, but organizers must inform police without delay after the organizing has begun. Police are required to disband an assembly if it commits a crime or incites the commission of a crime, results in the violation of the rights of others, involves armed participants, or is held despite a preliminary official ban. A police decision to prohibit or disband a public demonstration is open for judicial review.

On June 6, parliament amended the law to introduce new police measures in case of a terrorist attack or the preparation of such, including the right to disband public events in the geographic area affected by the terrorist act. The police can order such special security measures for 72 hours, which can doubled if deemed necessary. The national police chief can decide on the further extension of the measure if it is justified by concrete and verified new information. The minister of interior is responsible for informing parliament’s relevant committees on the extension of the security measures and for providing the relevant information used as the basis for the decision.

Through the end of September, police prohibited seven demonstrations, which constituted 0.8 percent of total announced demonstrations. Organizers requested judicial review of four demonstration requests rejected by police, and courts ultimately permitted the demonstration in one case.

NGOs continued to criticize shortcomings in the law that resulted in inconsistent police practices and court decisions with regard to both prohibiting and disbanding demonstrations.

On July 12, the Constitutional Court rejected the complaint of a petitioner concerning the police banning of a planned protest in 2014. The applicant wished to stage demonstrations at several locations on one day but police banned gatherings at three sites, including the prime minister’s residence. The applicant filed a legal challenge to the ban, but the Budapest Metropolitan Administrative and Labor Court rejected it on the basis of protecting the right to privacy. The Constitutional Court found that, because the demonstration organizer could have protested at other, nonrestricted locations, the right to peaceful assembly was not disproportionately curtailed. The Constitutional Court called on parliament to amend the relevant legislation by the end of the year to resolve the conflict between the basic rights to privacy and assembly. The applicant appealed to the ECHR; that appeal remained pending. The HCLU harshly criticized the Constitutional Court ruling on the grounds that the law clearly stipulates how others’ rights (e.g., right to privacy) can be protected from an assembly and therefore no further restrictions are necessary, especially in the phase of planning and organizing a demonstration. According to the HCLU, the new restriction on freedom of assembly that the Constitutional Court considers necessary would provide too broad discretion for law enforcement agencies in making unilateral decisions curtailing freedom of assembly. Despite the Constitutional Court order, parliament failed to amend the legislation on freedom of assembly by the end of the year.

On July 23, police banned a demonstration of 100 individuals planned by Zoltan Buki of the Facebook group For a Democratic Hungary for July 24 at the prime minister’s residence. Police based their decision on protection of the privacy rights of the residents of the area. Buki appealed the police ban at the Budapest Metropolitan Administrative and Labor Court, which upheld the police decision on July 28. In response, on the same day, Buki announced another demonstration at the same location for July 31, but promised to keep the gathering under 50 participants, who would remain silent and only hold banners to express their opinions. On July 30, police again prohibited the demonstration attempt, but a subsequent ruling of the Budapest Metropolitan Administrative and Labor Court permitted it on August 3. On August 7, 15 persons finally held a demonstration in front of the prime minister’s residence.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and the law provide for freedom of association and the government generally respected it.

Iceland

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

India

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The law provides for freedom of assembly. Authorities often required permits and notification before parades or demonstrations, and local governments generally respected the right to protest peacefully, except in Jammu and Kashmir, where the state government sometimes denied permits to separatist political parties for public gatherings, and security forces sometimes reportedly detained and assaulted members of political groups engaged in peaceful protest (see section 1.g.). During periods of civil unrest in Jammu and Kashmir, authorities used the criminal procedure code to ban public assemblies or impose a curfew.

Security forces, including local police, often disrupted demonstrations and used excessive force when attempting to disperse protesters.

On March 22, following the suicide of Dalit doctoral student Rohith Vemula, police responded to protests by teachers and students against the University of Hyderabad administration. Students and human rights NGOs alleged the police used disproportionate force. Two teachers and 36 students were detained.

There were restrictions on the organization of international conferences. Authorities required NGOs to secure approval from the Ministry of Home Affairs before organizing international conferences. Authorities routinely granted permission, although in some cases the approval process was lengthy. Some human rights groups claimed this practice provided the government with tacit control over the work of NGOs and constituted a restriction on freedom of assembly and association.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for freedom of association. While the government generally respected that right, the government’s increased regulation of NGO activities that receive foreign funding has caused concern. In certain cases, for example, the government required “prior approval” of some NGOs foreign funds, and in other instances declined to renew NGOs’ FCRA registration.

NGOs expressed continued concern regarding the government’s enforcement of FCRA, provisions of which bar some foreign-funded NGOs from engaging in activities the government believed were not in the “national or public interest,” curtailing the work of some civil society organizations. Some NGOs expressed concern over politically motivated enforcement of the act to intimidate organizations that address social issues or criticize the government or its policies, arguing that the law’s use of broad and vague terms such as “public interest” and “national interest” have left it open to abuse. Some multi-national and domestic companies also stated that in some instances the act made it difficult to comply with government-mandated corporate social responsibility obligations due to lengthy and complicated registration processes.

According to media reports, in early November the Ministry of Home Affairs rejected FCRA registration renewals of 25 NGOs, including Lawyer’s Collective and Compassion International’s two primary partners. In addition, some NGOs were placed on a “prior permissions” list, which requires government preapproval of any transfer of funds from abroad. Several NGOs stated these actions threaten their ability to continue to operate in the country.

In April the UN special rapporteur on freedom of assembly and association published a legal analysis asserting that the FCRA did not conform to international law, principles, and standards. In June the UN special rapporteurs on human rights defenders, on freedom of expression, and on freedom of association called on the government to repeal the FCRA.

According to media reports, the government took action to suspend foreign banking licenses or freeze accounts for NGOs on the basis that they received foreign funding without the proper clearances or illegally combined foreign and domestic funding streams, although some human rights organizations reported these types of actions were sometimes used to target specific NGOs.

Indonesia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The law provides for freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right. The law requires demonstrators to provide police with a written notification three days before any planned demonstration and for police to issue a receipt for the written notification. This receipt acts as a de facto license for the demonstration. Police in Papua routinely refused to issue receipts of notification to would-be demonstrators on the grounds that the demonstrations would likely involve calls for independence, an act that is prohibited under the same law.

LGBTI NGOs operated openly, but they frequently held low-key events in public places because the licenses or permits required for holding registered events were difficult to obtain.

On April 13, police dispersed Committee of West Papua (KNPB) rallies in support of the United Liberation Movement of West Papua’s (ULMWP) bid for full-membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), and reportedly arrested 44 activists on April 12 and 13. Police arrested 2,689 KNPB members on May 1-2 before and during demonstrations to commemorate Papua Annexation Day and support ULMWP. Police released all those arrested on the same day or the day after. On May 31, police in Papua arrested hundreds of protesters planning demonstrations across the region. Between June 10-15, police arrested at least 1,235 Papuans before and during a rally to reject the integrated human rights team established by former coordinating minister Luhut Pandjaitan. On July 15, police arrested hundreds of Papuans during a rally to support ULMWP’s MSG membership. On that day in Yogyakarta residents protested outside a dormitory for Papuan students in order to prevent them from demonstrating. Police arrested six activists and the dormitory was closed. On August 15, police arrested, but quickly released, six Papuans who rallied to reject the 1962 New York Agreement, which transferred administration of the western half of New Guinea from the Netherlands to Indonesia.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and laws provide for freedom of association, which the government generally respected.

By law, to receive official registration status, foreign NGOs must have a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with a government ministry. Some organizations reported difficulties obtaining these MOUs and claimed the government was withholding MOUs to block their registration status, although a cumbersome bureaucracy within the Ministry of Law and Human Rights was also to blame.

Some LGBTI advocacy groups reported encountering difficulties when attempting to register their organizations.

Iran

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution permits assemblies and marches of unarmed persons “provided they do not violate the principles of Islam.” The government restricted this right and closely monitored gatherings such as public entertainment and lectures, student and women’s meetings and protests, meetings and worship services of minority religious groups, labor protests, online gatherings and networking, funeral processions, and Friday prayer gatherings to prevent anything it considered as antiregime. According to activists the government arbitrarily applied rules governing permits to assemble, with pro-regime groups rarely experiencing difficulty and groups viewed as critical of the regime experiencing harassment regardless of whether authorities issued a permit.

Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported on the October 30 arrest of organizers of a gathering celebrating the birth of Achaemenid King Cyrus the Great on October 28 in Fars province for “norm breaking and antivalues” slogans. ICHRI reported more than 70 individuals held since October were sentenced in December to serve between three months to eight years for participating in and organizing the event.

According to a report by ICHRI on December 2, security agents arrested Nasser Zarafshan, prominent human rights lawyer and several members of the Writers’ Association of Iran at a commemoration event for victims of the “chain murders” of dissidents in the 1990s.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for the establishment of political parties, professional and political associations, and Islamic and recognized religious minority organizations, as long as such groups do not violate the principles of freedom, sovereignty, national unity, or Islamic criteria; or question Islam as the basis of the country’s system of government. The government limited freedom of association through threats, intimidation, the imposition of arbitrary requirements on organizations, and the arrests of group leaders and members.

Teachers were barred from commemorating International Labor Day and Teachers’ Day, and several teachers’ union activists remained in prison, including Mahmoud Beheshti Langroudi, Esmail Abdi, Mohammad Davari, Mohammad Reza Niknejad, Mehdi Bohlooli, and Mahmoud Bagheri. Esmail Abdi, the general secretary of the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association, was charged with “propaganda against the Islamic system” and “conspiracy to disrupt the security of the country.” Mahmoud Beheshti Langroudi, spokesperson of the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association, was sentenced to six years in prison on charges of “colluding against national security” and “propaganda against the state.” Both Langroudi and Abdi, who reportedly did not have access to a lawyer, engaged in hunger strikes to protest prison conditions. Langroudi was released on a temporary medical furlough on May 11 after complications arose from his strike, according to ICHRI. Abdi was also released on bail. Both were ordered back to prison in October after a Tehran Appeals Court upheld their six-year prison sentences.

Iraq

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration “regulated by law.” Regulations require protest organizers to seek permission seven days in advance of a demonstration and submit detailed information about the applicants, the reason for the protest, and participants. The regulations prohibit all “slogans, signs, printed materials, or drawings” involving “sectarianism, racism, or segregation” of citizens. The regulations also prohibit anything that would violate the constitution or law; encourage violence, hatred, or killing; or prove insulting to Islam, “honor, morals, religion, holy groups, or Iraqi entities in general.” Provincial councils traditionally maintained authority to issue permits. Authorities generally issued permits in accordance with the regulations.

In April and May, thousands of protesters took to the streets in response to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s call for protests of the government’s failure to combat corruption and provide security. Protesters stormed the International Zone in Baghdad and overran the Council of Ministers’ Secretariat and the COR buildings, before ISF stopped them. Media reported security forces killed four and injured dozens of demonstrators with tear gas, water cannons, and live fire.

Most protests in the South during the year were accompanied by a heavy security presence and were peaceful. One notable exception was in Nassiriyah on February 2, when a demonstration turned violent after protesters reached the Da’wa Party’s main office. They chanted that Prime Minister Abadi and former prime minister Maliki were “thieves,” “Iran’s spies,” and “corrupt.” Masked men with sticks came out of the office and began to beat the protesters. The police were present but did not intervene to stop the violence. The Dhi Qar Provincial Council formed an investigatory committee but did not identify any of the masked men or hold anyone responsible.

In some cases the government dismissed unauthorized protests or restricted protests for security reasons.

There were limited reports of violence or official interference in protests in the IKR. Media reported that on December 1, PUK authorities in the city of Sulaimaniyah arrested at least 13 teachers before a demonstration over unpaid public-sector salaries.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for the right to form and join associations and political parties, with some exceptions. The government generally respected this right, except for the legal prohibitions on groups expressing support for the Ba’ath Party or Zionist principles. The law stipulates that any person who promotes Zionist principles, associates with Zionist organizations, assists such organizations through giving material or moral support, or works in any way towards the realization of Zionist objectives, is subject to punishment by death. There were no applications of this law after the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime.

On July 30, parliament passed the Banning the Ba’ath, Entities and Racist Parties and Takfiri and Terrorist Activities Party Law, which observers portrayed as addressing the injustices of the de-Ba’athification process. Rather than ending the collective stigmatization of all those associated with the party, however loosely, the Banning of the Ba’ath Party Law arguably amplified rather than limited de-Ba’athification. Notably, while previous de-Ba’athification processes prevented individuals from political participation or certain economic benefits, this law criminalizes the very idea of “Ba’athism,” metes out lengthy prison sentences for those promoting “Ba’athist ideas,” and strikes at the heart of basic freedoms of expression, assembly, and protest, as well as the principle of nondiscrimination. The law specifically criminalizes “Ba’athists” participating “in any rallies, sit-ins, or demonstrations.” Given the broad and wide-ranging definitions of Ba’athist activities and ideas, its stated application to “any entity, party, activity or approach,” political parties, nongovernmental, civil society organizations and groups of citizens, demonstrating, protesting or simply holding meetings may violate the law.

Bureaucratic delays continued in the government’s NGO registration process. The slow process impeded development and legal protection of NGOs. NGOs can only register in Baghdad, and must periodically reregister. The NGO Directorate in the Council of Ministers Secretariat issued registration certificates to 244 NGOs, from January to August. The NGO Directorate reported 2,844 registered NGOs.

Ireland

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Israel and The Occupied Territories

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

In April and May 2015, thousands of Ethiopian Israelis and their supporters gathered to protest police brutality and discrimination following the publication of a video showing police beating Ethiopian IDF soldier Demas Fekadeh in the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon. The demonstrations at some points resulted in clashes with police. The demonstration resulted in 56 officers and 12 protesters injured; authorities arrested 43 persons. Police set up a committee to investigate the events. Government officials, including the president and prime minister, met with Fekadeh and Ethiopian community representatives in the wake of the demonstrations and pledged that police would conduct a thorough and transparent investigation. The government dropped charges against one officer who apprehended Fekadeh and also against Fekadeh himself, concluding Fekadeh had not initiated the altercation. According to the NGO Tebekah, the attorney general indicated in June that he would re-examine the charges against the officer. Tebekah filed a petition with the Supreme Court to compel the attorney general to give a response to the question of re-examining the charges, and the case continued as of December 9.

The police committee created to investigate the events led to several steps toward reform in partnership with an Ethiopian Israeli NGO, including a pilot project for police body cameras, which began in August, and a new police code of conduct.

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The law provides for this right, and the government generally respected it.

Human rights NGOs alleged that in prior years, police engaged in mass arrests of Arab protesters, claiming they did not have a permit, although Israeli law does not require one in certain circumstances, or after incitement by Israeli agents provocateurs dressed as Arabs. There were no such mass arrests during the year.

There were some instances in 2015 in which police required organizers of demonstrations to accept criminal responsibility for any disturbance or prohibited behavior by participants of the demonstration before approving a permit application. Following submission of a petition to the Supreme Court by ACRI, police agreed to eliminate this condition, and ACRI withdrew its petition.

In December 2015 the government loosened police regulations to allow the use of live fire as a first resort against protesters throwing stones or incendiary devices.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for this right, and the government generally respected it.

Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, particularly those focused on human rights problems and critical of the government, asserted that the government sought to intimidate and stop their foreign funding (see section 5). According to ACRI, the law prohibits registration of an association or a party if its goals include denial of the existence of the State of Israel or the democratic character of the state. A political party will not be registered if its goals include incitement to racism or support of an armed struggle, enemy state, or terror organization against the State of Israel.

Italy

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Jamaica

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Japan

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Jordan

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for freedom of assembly, but the government limited this right. Security forces generally permitted demonstrations and provided security at announced demonstrations.

On February 21, security forces disrupted a demonstration in front of parliament organized by several political parties against the draft elections law. Two female members of parliament participating in the protest accused security forces of using excessive force. Authorities arrested and later released three protesters who refused to disperse and one journalist covering the event. Security officials stated that the protesters did not have approval for the demonstration.

On June 22, authorities used force to disperse an eight-week-long protest in the central town of Dhiban. Eighteen unemployed youths demanded government assistance in finding employment. Gendarmerie used tear gas to disperse the protesters and removed a tent the protesters had erected. In response, several protesters threw rocks, burned tires, fired in the air, and chanted slogans against the government. Authorities arrested more than 30 individuals for throwing stones at security forces but released the majority at dawn the next day. The government detained three individuals for attempted murder, resisting arrest, firing live ammunition in the air, and insulting the king. Authorities released two on bail on July 17 and the third on July 29. Charges were pending at year’s end.

Several local and international NGOs reported that hotels required them to present letters of approval from the governor prior to holding training, private meetings, or public conferences. The government denied authorization for several events. Without letters of approval from the government and security services, hotels cancelled the events and trainings. In some cases NGOs relocated the events and training to private offices. Authorities denied permission to the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood association (which is not legally registered as an association or NGO by the government) and the Islamic Action Front (legally registered as a political party) to hold meetings and events on several occasions throughout the country.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for the right of association, but the government limited this freedom. The law authorizes the Ministry of Social Development to reject applications to register an organization or to permit any organization to receive foreign funding for any reason. It prohibits the use of associations for the benefit of any political organization. The law also gives the ministry significant control over the internal management of associations, including the ability to dissolve associations, appoint new boards of directors, send government representatives to any board meeting, prevent associations from merging their operations, and appoint an auditor to examine an association’s finances for any reason. The law requires associations to inform the ministry of board meetings, submit all board decisions for approval, disclose members’ names, and obtain security clearances for board members from the Interior Ministry. The law includes penalties, including fines up to 10,000 JD ($14,000), for violations of the regulations. During 2015 the Ministry of Social Development introduced an application form for the approval process for associations that receive foreign funding. Associations criticized the procedure, which incorporated additional ministries into the decision process and removed the deadline for review of funding requests.

During the year NGOs reported that the government sometimes rejected requests for foreign funding, whereas such rejections were previously extremely rare. As of August 25, the ministry had received 250 applications for foreign funding. The government approved 170 applications, denied 10, and requested additional documentation for five applications. Sixty-five applications remained “under consideration.” NGO contacts reported that unexplained, months-long delays in the decision process increased significantly.

As of April the ministry registered 40 NGOs, dissolved 65, and warned 50. Authorities dissolved NGOs for violating the Associations Law.

Citizens widely suspected that the government infiltrated civil society organizations, political parties, and human rights organizations and their internal meetings.

Kazakhstan

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The law provides for limited freedom of assembly, but there were significant restrictions on this right, and police used force to disrupt peaceful demonstrations. The law defines unsanctioned gatherings, public meetings, demonstrations, marches, picketing, and strikes that upset social and political stability as national security threats.

The law includes penalties for organizing or participating in illegal gatherings and for providing organizational support in the form of property, means of communication, equipment, and transportation, if the enumerated actions cause significant damage to the rights and legal interests of citizens, entities, or legally protected interests of the society or the government.

By law organizations must apply to local authorities for a permit to hold a demonstration or public meeting at least 10 days in advance. Opposition figures and human rights monitors complained that complicated and vague procedures and the 10-day notification period made it difficult for groups to organize public meetings and demonstrations and noted local authorities turned down many applications for demonstrations or only allowed them to take place outside the city center.

Authorities often briefly detained and fined organizers of unsanctioned gatherings. The NGO KIBHR, which monitored demonstrations in nine cities, recorded 19 peaceful demonstrations during the year, none of which were sanctioned by the government.

In April and May, a series of unsanctioned peaceful protests took place in a number of cities. Participants protested a law extending the period during which agricultural land could be leased to foreigners. On April 24, the first rally was held in Atyrau, despite local authorities’ denying permission, followed by more protests three days later in Aktobe and Semey. Government authorities for the most part did not use force against the protesters, trying instead to dissuade them from the gatherings.

Activists of the protest movement used social media to announce plans to hold nationwide protests May 21. While more than 1,700 activists and 50 reporters were detained in different cities on May 21, most were released the same day. According to official statistics, 51 individuals were brought to court, four were sentenced to administrative arrests, 13 were fined, and 34 were given warnings.

Law enforcement officials also detained a number of activists throughout the country in the lead-up to the May 21 protests.

Two activists in Atyrau, Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayan, were arrested May 17 and charged with organizing unsanctioned protests, inciting social discord, and intentionally spreading false information. Their court trial began on October 12, following repeated extensions of pretrial detention that amounted to nearly five months. During detention Bokayev reportedly suffered from health problems, but the court denied his release to house arrest, citing a risk of flight.

Authorities repeatedly denied applications by civil society activists to hold peaceful protest actions in support of Bokayev and Ayan, with the justification protest actions would exert pressure on the court proceedings. On October 23, a group of activists gathered in Almaty to demonstrate their support for the two. Police arrested five protesters, with three sentenced to 10-day administrative arrests. Other activists supporting Bokayev and Ayan reported harassment by authorities or being prevented from traveling to observe the trial.

Maina Kiai, UN special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, provided a legal analysis of the Bokayev and Ayan case, expressing concern over the implications for freedom of assembly and highlighting the danger of vague laws being applied selectively in ways that criminalize peaceful dissent. KIBHR director and leading human rights activist Yevgeniy Zhovtis criticized the charges as a threat to freedoms of speech and peaceful assembly, as well as to political dialogue in the country.

On November 28, Bokayev and Ayan were sentenced to five years in prison, as well as fines and three years’ deprivation of public activity. Supporters in the courtroom who chanted and sang to register their disagreement were urged to disperse as they had not been authorized in advance to protest.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for limited freedom of association, but there were significant restrictions on this right. Any public organization set up by citizens, including religious groups, must be registered with the Ministry of Justice, as well as with the local departments of justice in every region in which the organization conducts activities. The law requires public or religious associations to define their specific activities, and any association that acts outside the scope of its charter may be warned, fined, suspended, or ultimately banned. Participation in unregistered public organizations may result in administrative or criminal penalties, such as fines, imprisonment, the closure of an organization, or suspension of its activities.

NGOs reported some difficulty in registering public associations. According to government information, there were discrepancies in the submitted documents. The special rapporteur encouraged authorities to facilitate the formation of public associations proactively, since they could play a crucial role in advancing human rights and development.

Membership organizations other than religious groups, covered under separate legislation, must have at least 10 members to register at the local level and must have branches in more than half the country’s regions for national registration. The government considered political parties and labor unions to be membership organizations but required political parties to have 40,000 signatures for registration. If authorities challenge the application by alleging irregular signatures, the registration process may continue only if the total number of eligible signatures exceeds the minimum number required. The law prohibits parties established on an ethnic, gender, or religious basis. The law also prohibits members of the armed forces, employees of law enforcement and other national security organizations, and judges from participating in trade unions or political parties.

According to Special Rapporteur Kiai, the law regulating the establishment of political parties is problematic as it imposes onerous obligations prior to registration, including high initial membership requirements that prevent small parties from forming and extensive documentation that requires time and significant expense to collect. He also expressed concern regarding the broad discretion granted to officials in charge of registering proposed parties, noting that the process lacked transparency and the law allows for perpetual extensions of time for the government to review a party’s application.

In 2015 parliament passed amendments to NGO financing laws that include new provisions governing registration and recordkeeping. Under the new law, all “nongovernment organizations, subsidiaries, and representative offices of foreign and international noncommercial organizations” are required to provide information on “their activities, including information about the founders, assets, sources of their funds and what they are spent on….” An “authorized body” may initiate a “verification” of the information submitted based on information received in mass media reports, complaints from individuals and entities, or other subjective sources. Untimely or inaccurate information contained in the report, discovered during verification, is an administrative offense and may carry fines up to 53,025 tenge ($159) or suspension for three months in case the violation is not rectified or is repeated within one year. In extreme cases criminal penalties are possible, which may lead to a large fine, suspension, or closure of the organization.

The law prohibits illegal interference by members of public associations in the activities of the government, with a fine of up to 636,300 tenge ($1,910) or imprisonment for up to 75 days. If committed by the leader of the organization, the fine may be up to 1.06 million tenge ($3,180) or imprisonment for no more than 90 days. The law does not clearly define “illegal interference.”

Under the law a public association, along with its leaders and members, may face fines for performing activities outside its charter. The delineation between actions an NGO member takes in his or her private capacity versus as part of an organization is not clear in the law.

An NGO observer estimated that 20 of the almost 27,000 formally registered NGOs in the country remain independent of the government. In February the NGO International Legal Initiative (ILI) filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Sports and Culture, claiming that the rules for compilation of ILI’s database did not comply with legislation. In On July 1, the Astana economic court, and on September 7 its appellate panel, both rejected the NGO’s lawsuit.

At least one NGO, Caspi Tabigaty in Atyrau, ceased operations, citing the redundancy and burden of the new requirements.

On July 26, the president of the country signed legislation affecting civil society organizations. The law includes reporting requirements concerning the receipt and expenditure of foreign funds or assets, and a requirement to label all publications produced with support from foreign funds as such. The Law on Payments also introduces administrative and criminal penalties for noncompliance with these new requirements and potential restrictions on the conduct of meetings, protests, and similar activities organized with foreign funds.

Kenya

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

Although the constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly, the government sometimes restricted this right. Police routinely denied requests for meetings filed by human rights activists, and authorities dispersed persons attending meetings that had not been prohibited beforehand. Organizers must notify local police in advance of public meetings, which may proceed unless police notify organizers otherwise. By law authorities may prohibit gatherings only if there is another previously scheduled meeting at the same time and venue or if there is a perceived specific security threat.

Police used excessive force at times to disperse demonstrators. In April and May, the Kenya Police Service used excessive force to disperse nationwide demonstrations led by the political opposition coalition against the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), resulting in at least 10 deaths and numerous injuries (see section 1.c.). Many human rights and civil society organizations condemned the excessive use of police force against demonstrators. IPOA’s investigation of resulting complaints continued as of early October. A lack of police cooperation frustrated IPOA’s investigation into some of the alleged abuses.

There were complaints during the year that police were available for hire by private interests to dissuade or disperse demonstrators.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and law provide for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right, but there were reports that authorities arbitrarily denied this right in some cases. In at least one case, courts affirmed the right to freedom of association. In April 2015 a High Court panel decided that the national NGO Coordination Board’s inability to register the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission because homosexual sexual acts are illegal violated the constitutional right to freedom of association and ordered the board to register it; the government’s appeal remained pending as of October 25. On May 20, however, the Court of Appeal ruled the judgment of the High Court stands in the interim.

The Societies Act requires that every public association be either registered or exempted from registration by the Registrar of Societies. The NGO Coordination Act requires that NGOs dedicated to advocacy, public benefit, or the promotion of charity or research register with the NGO Coordination Board. In October 2015 the board announced its intent to deregister and freeze the bank accounts of 959 civil society organizations, including NGO Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), for reportedly failing to submit proper accounting and donor funding information. The cabinet secretary for the Ministry of Devolution and Planning, which oversaw the NGO Coordination Board, suspended the deregistration notice shortly thereafter. Per the KHRC’s legal challenge to the NGO Coordination Board’s actions, a High Court ruled on April 29 that the NGO Coordination Board’s actions were unconstitutional and “riddled with impropriety and procedural deficiencies.” On September 9, the Ministry of Devolution and Planning announced its intention to implement immediately the 2013 Public Benefits Organization (PBO) Act, an important step in providing a transparent legal framework for NGO activities. On October 19, the cabinet secretary of the Ministry of Devolution and Planning dismissed the chief executive officer (CEO) of the NGO Coordination Board and dissolved the three-member board; however, a High Court injunction subsequently reinstated the CEO and restored the board. In late November the government transferred responsibility for the NGO sector to the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government, without prior stakeholder consultation. As of year’s end, the PBO Act had not yet been implemented.

Kiribati

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Kosovo

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of assembly and association, and the government, EULEX, and KFOR generally respected these rights. The law on public gatherings requires organizers to inform police of protests 72 hours prior to the event. Police must notify protest organizers within 48 hours whether their application is accepted, otherwise the request was considered approved.

Kuwait

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for freedom of assembly, but the government restricted this right in the case of noncitizens. The law prohibiting them from demonstrating or protesting.

Officials sometimes also restricted the location of planned protests to designated public spaces, citing public safety and traffic concerns. Courts tried and sentenced participants in unlicensed demonstrations to as many as two years in prison for their involvement, and authorities also administratively deported dozens of noncitizens for participation in rallies.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for freedom of association, but the government restricted this right. The law prohibits officially registered groups from engaging in political activities.

The government used its power to register associations as a means of political influence. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor can also reject an NGO’s application if it deems the NGO does not provide a public service. There were approximately 120 officially licensed NGOs in the country, including a bar association, other professional groups, and scientific bodies. Dozens of unlicensed civic groups, clubs, and unofficial NGOs had no legal status, and many of those chose not to register due to bureaucratic inconvenience or inability to meet the minimum 50-member threshold. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor rejected some license requests, contending established NGOs already provided services similar to those the petitioners proposed. Members of licensed NGOs must obtain permission from the ministry to attend international conferences as official representatives of their organization.

Kyrgyz Republic

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for this right, and the government generally respected it, with some exceptions. Organizers and participants are responsible for notifying authorities of planned assemblies, but the constitution prohibits authorities from banning or restricting peaceful assemblies, even in the absence of prior notification. Local authorities, however, have the right to demand an end to a public action and, in the event of noncompliance, are empowered to take measures to end assemblies.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected it. NGOs, labor unions, political parties, and cultural associations must register with the Ministry of Justice. NGOs are required to have at least three members, and all other organizations at least 10 members. The Ministry of Justice did not refuse to register any domestic NGOs. The law prohibits foreign-funded political parties and NGOs, including their representative offices and branches, from pursuing political goals.

The government continued to maintain bans on approximately 20 “religiously oriented” groups it considered to be extremist, including al-Qaida, the Taliban, the Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkistan, the Kurdish People’s Congress, the Organization for the Liberation of Eastern Turkistan, Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), the Union of Islamic Jihad, the Islamic Party of Turkistan, the Unification (Mun San Men) Church, Takfir Jihadist, Jaysh al-Mahdi, Jund al-Khilafah, Ansarullah At-Takfir Val Hidjra, Akromiya, Da’esh, Djabhat An Nusra, Katibat al-Imam al-Buhari, Jannat Oshiqlari, and the Jamaat al-Tawhid wal-Jihad. Authorities also continued the ban on all materials or activities connected to A. A. Tihomirov also known as Said Buryatsky.

On August 8, the Ministry of Justice publicized list of extremist materials banned in the country.

Similar to 2015, numerous human rights activists reported continued arrests and prosecution of persons accused of possessing and distributing Hizb ut-Tahrir literature (see section 1.d.). Most arrests of alleged Hizb ut-Tahrir members occurred in the southern part of the country and involved ethnic Uzbeks. The government charged the majority of those arrested with possession of illegal religious material. In some cases NGOs alleged police planted Hizb ut-Tahrir literature as evidence against those arrested.

Laos

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The law provides for freedom of assembly, but the government continued to restrict this right. The law prohibits participation in demonstrations, protest marches, or other acts that cause turmoil or social instability. Participation in such acts is punishable by a maximum five years’ imprisonment. Although only charged with cybercrimes (see section 2.a.), Somphone Phimmasone, Lodkham Thammavong, and Soukane Chaithad also led a demonstration of Lao democracy advocates in Thailand in front of the Lao Embassy in Bangkok in December 2015.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides citizens the right to organize and join associations, but the government continued to restrict this right. For example, political groups other than mass organizations approved by the LPRP remained prohibited. Moreover, the government occasionally tried to influence board membership of civil society organizations and forced some organizations to change their names to remove words it deemed sensitive, such as “‘rights.”‘ The registration process was generally burdensome, and authorities restricted NGOs’ ability to disseminate information and conduct activities without interference.

By decree the government regulates the registration of nonprofit civil society organizations, including economic, social welfare, professional, technical, and creative associations at the district, provincial, or national level, depending on their scope of work and membership. The registration process continued to be time consuming. Since 2015 there has been no change in the number of registered associations: 147 national-level associations were fully registered, 22 had temporary registration, and 32 others had pending applications, while authorities approved 43 associations in the capital, and 96 associations had registration at the provincial level. During the 2015 UN universal periodic review (UPR) process, the government accepted the recommendation to reconsider decrees and guidelines that were overly burdensome on domestic and international nonprofit organizations due to lengthy and opaque registration requirements, taxation, and other problems. Taxation of civil society organizations varied from organization to organization. Taxation requirements for international and local nonprofit organizations that receive foreign funding could be cumbersome and lacked uniformity, relying heavily on prenegotiated memorandums of understanding. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Department of Treaties and Law held a meeting in September with line ministries to work on a National Action Plan to comply with the UPR.

In 2015 the Ministry of Home Affairs submitted two decrees to the Prime Minister’s Office that provide additional clarity to the registration of civil society organizations but also require the organizations to report donations to the government. Although the National Assembly and the former prime minister indicated they would approve the decrees, the vote was postponed twice during the year; however, the ministry began taking steps to ensure organizations met their annual financial reporting obligations. Prime Minister Thongloun issued Decree 315 on Management and Protection of Religious Activities in the Lao PDR dated August 16, replacing the previous Decree 92, which had been undergoing a lengthy amendment process. The decree on management of civil society organizations remained pending.

Some ministries appeared more open to engagement with civil society organizations, illustrated by an increase in invitations to attend meetings at ministries and UPR information sessions. The government also invited NGOs to the National Assembly’s intersession and plenary. Despite some positive steps, civil society organizations still faced many challenges for effective civil engagement and participation.

Latvia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and the law provide for freedom of assembly. The government generally respected this right, but there were some restrictions. Organizers of demonstrations typically must notify authorities 10 days in advance, although this requirement can be reduced to 24 hours if the longer advance notice is “reasonably impossible” to meet. Officials may deny or modify permits to prevent public disorder.

On March 16, an annual march in Riga commemorated Latvians who fought in German Waffen SS units against the Soviet Army in World War II. Approximately 800 individuals, including veterans and their families, attended the unofficial march. In addition, approximately a dozen far-right activists, whom organizers requested not to participate in the event, laid flowers at the Freedom Monument at the end of the ceremony. Observers noted that, despite the presence of demonstrators and counterdemonstrators, the procession was peaceful. The Cabinet of Ministers agreed not to participate in the event. Domestically, the march was generally viewed as a commemoration of national identity and remembrance of those who fought for independence, rather than as a glorification of Nazism. No Nazi symbols or insignia were observed.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and the law provide for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right. The law prohibits the registration of communist, Nazi, or other organizations that contravene the constitution or advocate the violent overthrow of the government.

Lebanon

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for the freedoms of assembly and association with some conditions established by law, but the government sometimes restricted this right. Organizers are required to obtain a permit from the Interior Ministry three days prior to any demonstration. In previous years the ministry sometimes did not grant permits to groups that opposed government positions, but there were no known examples of this restriction being applied during the year.

Security forces occasionally intervened to disperse demonstrations, usually when clashes broke out between opposing protesters.

On August 16, protesters, including members of the Kataeb party students, blocked the entrance to the Bourj Hammoud landfill to prevent dump trucks from entering the site. Security forces deployed in the area and tried to convince them to open the road. The protesters remained in the road and forced the dump’s closure for a month. On September 11, the protesters suspended their actions. Security forces and demonstrators were both peaceful throughout the month-long protest.

In August 2015 police clashed with civil society activists from the “You Stink” movement over similar waste management issues. After the clashes authorities arrested many of the protesters involved in the violence and rioting. Ultimately, authorities opened three case files after the protests. Although the details of two of the cases were unknown and investigations were in progress, in the third case authorities charged 14 persons of suspected riot assembly. Authorities charged three of the 14 with attacking the ISF, and another three of the 14 were charged with destroying public property. As of November the case was still open, although none of the accused were in detention. The hearing for the case file was set for January 2017.

NGOs that advocated for women’s rights, particularly those focused on combating domestic violence with organized protests and media campaigns, were met with some interference by security forces.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for freedom of association with some conditions established by law, and the government generally respected the law.

No prior authorization is required to form an association, but the Interior Ministry must be notified for it to be recognized as legal, and the ministry must verify that the organization respects public order, public morals, and state security. The ministry sometimes imposed additional inconsistent restrictions and requirements and withheld approval. In some cases the ministry sent notification of formation papers to the security forces to initiate inquiries on an organization’s founding members. Organizations must invite ministry representatives to any general assembly where members vote on bylaws, amendments, or positions on the board of directors. The ministry must then validate the vote or election. Failure to do so may result in the dissolution of the organization by a decree issued by the Council of Ministers.

The cabinet must license all political parties (see section 3).

Independent NGOs in areas under Hizballah’s sway faced harassment and intimidation, including social, political, and financial pressures. Hizballah reportedly paid youth who worked in “unacceptable” NGOs to leave the groups.

Lesotho

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly and association, but the law requires public meetings and procession organizers to obtain a permit seven days in advance. The government generally respected these rights if a permit was sought. Police prevented the September 5 and 6 NUL students’ demonstration against the National Manpower Development Secretariat over unpaid allowances. Police asserted that the students had not applied for a permit to demonstrate, while students indicated they were only marching to Maseru to seek information on their student grants. On September 7, police reportedly assaulted students in off-campus residences. A police spokesperson denied the claim.

According to the Sunday Express newspaper, in a letter dated September 19, the Maseru Urban District Police Commissioner, Senior Superintendent Motlatsi Mapola refused to grant the students a permit for another march on September 27, citing concerns the procession would not be peaceful and encouraging them to schedule the protest for another date. The students appealed to Police Minister Monyane Moleleki, who overturned the decision and granted them a permit to march. On October 5, the commissioner of police and the Office of the Attorney General challenged the police minister’s decision in court and lost. The march went ahead on October 6.

Liberia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution provides for the freedoms of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights. Permits are required for public gatherings.

Libya

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

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

Absent an effective security and judicial apparatus, the government lacked the ability to provide for freedom of assembly. The government failed to protect protesters and, conversely, to manage protester violence during the year. On May 5, according to the government, the LNA indiscriminately shelled peaceful demonstrators in the al-Kisk square in Benghazi.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The Constitutional Declaration includes freedom of association for political and civil society groups. In practice, however, the government could not enforce freedom of association, and the proliferation of targeted attacks on journalists, activists, and religious figures severely undermined freedom of association.

Liechtenstein

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Lithuania

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The law and constitution provide for freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

Although the law provides for this freedom and the government generally respected it, the government continued to ban the Communist Party and other organizations associated with the Soviet period.

Luxembourg

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Macedonia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The law provides for the freedom of assembly. While the government mostly respected this right, some cases of government interference were reported.

The most significant protests during the year were organized by the civil activist movement #Protestiram following President Ivanov’s controversial April 12 decision to pardon 56 individuals connected to the illegal wiretapping scandal. During these protests, later dubbed the “colorful revolution,” police impeded some protestors from exercising their right to freedom of assembly and there were some instances of clashes between police and protestors, resulting in injuries on both sides. Police called in for questioning or detained several of protesters, including members of the country’s Helsinki Committee (see section 1.d.).

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for the freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right.

Madagascar

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly, but authorities restricted this right. Security forces regularly impeded opposition gatherings throughout the country and used excessive force to disperse demonstrators. They sometimes invoked legal procedures for unrelated crimes to dissuade protest leaders.

Several times during the year, security forces used tear gas to disperse demonstrations by university students and journalists in Antananarivo as well as protests in rural areas, such as Soamahamanina, where local residents had been protesting foreign mining operations for several months. Students generally retaliated by throwing stones at security forces, which often resulted in injuries and arrests.

Security forces were particularly active in restricting protests related to the communications code prior to its adoption by the legislature in July. For example, on July 13, security forces stopped a march in Antananarivo led by leaders of the Movement for Freedom of Expression. The march was billed as a “funeral for press freedom.” Security forces also used tear gas on a group of demonstrators gathered by a monument to press freedom at the railway station in Analakely, in central Antananarivo.

On July 14, security forces imposed restrictions on the movement of residents of the rural commune of Soamahamanina after the local population protested the impact of Chinese mining operations on local tapia forests and associated traditional silk production. Gendarmes required all households to take down the protest banners they displayed on their walls, and those who refused had their banners confiscated. Later a group of villagers marched to the office of the commune to retrieve their confiscated banners, but security elements used tear gas and shot in the air to disperse the group. Protests continued at year’s end.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and law provide for the right of association, but the government did not always respect this right. Opposition parties were regularly restricted from conducting public demonstrations.

Malawi

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly, but the government did not always respect this right. On September 21, 26 peacefully protesting students from Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources were arrested and charged with conduct likely to breach the peace. They were subsequently released on bail. Their case was pending at year’s end.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and law provide for the freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right. Nevertheless, the government required registration of all NGOs and political parties. NGOs must register with three different government entities and pay significant yearly registration fees.

Malaysia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides all citizens “the right to assemble peaceably and without arms;” however, several laws restricted this right. The law does not require groups to obtain a permit for assemblies. Nonetheless, police frequently placed time, location, and manner restrictions on the right to assemble. Authorities generally banned street protests, and police often confronted civil society and opposition demonstrations with water cannons, tear gas, and mass arrests. Protests deemed acceptable by the government usually proceeded without interference. In July police warned civil society coalition Bersih to avoid organizing protests that called for the resignation of PM Najib, later investigating Bersih and other civil society leaders for their roles in organizing an August protest.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for the right of association; however, the government placed significant restrictions on this right, and certain statutes limit it. By law only registered organizations of seven or more persons may legally function. The government often resisted registering organizations deemed particularly unfriendly to the government or imposed conditions when allowing a society to register. The government may revoke the registration of a society for violations of the law governing societies.

In September the government announced it would allow the provisional registration of a new political party formed by former members of the ruling coalition but placed restrictions on the party’s name.

The law prohibits students who hold political posts from conducting political party activities on campus, and universities may ban any organization deemed “unsuitable to the interests and well-being of the students or the university.” Students also are prohibited from “expressing support or sympathy” for an unlawful society or organization.

Some human rights and civil society organizations had difficulty obtaining government recognition as NGOs. As a result some NGOs registered as companies, which presented legal and bureaucratic obstacles to raising money to support their activities. Authorities frequently cited a lack of registration as grounds to take action against organizations. Some NGOs also reported the government monitored their activities.

Maldives

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for “freedom of peaceful assembly without prior permission of the State,” but the government did not respect this. In 2013 the president signed a law on peaceful assembly that restricted protests outside designated areas, and in August the president ratified an amendment to the law further restricting the designated areas for lawful protests. Protesters must now obtain prior written permission from the MPS to hold protests in restricted areas in violation of the constitution. Opposition political parties expressed concern the amendment effectively banned protests in the city.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for freedom of association, but the government imposed some limits on this freedom. The government only allowed clubs and other private associations that did not contravene Islamic or civil law to register.

The Political Parties Act restricts registration of political parties and eligibility of state funds to those parties with 10,000 or more members. Existing parties with fewer than 10,000 members had three months to acquire enough members or they would be ineligible for state funding. On August 17, the president ratified an amendment to the act requiring all political parties to submit fingerprints with each membership application, legalizing a 2011 Elections Commission (EC) requirement. Forms without fingerprints would be considered invalid, and those persons would not be counted as members of a political party. TM and MDN raised concerns the law and subsequent amendments restricted the constitutional right to form and participate in political parties.

Mali

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly, but the government did not always respect this right. For example, on July 12, three protestors in Gao were killed and approximately 30 injured when national police fired into a crowd protesting the installation of interim authorities in the city.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for freedom of association, although the law prohibits associations deemed immoral. The government generally respected freedom of association except for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community.

Malta

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Marshall Islands

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Mauritania

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for freedom of assembly. Registered political parties are not required to seek permission to hold meetings or demonstrations. The law requires NGO organizers to apply to the local administrative chief for permission to hold large meetings or assemblies. Authorities usually granted permission but on some occasions denied it in circumstances that suggested the application of political criteria.

On several occasions, officials with the IRA and other organizations reported security force members arrested their activists for failing to obtain the local prefect’s permission to hold a rally.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for freedom of association, and the government generally, but not in every instance, respected this right.

All local NGOs must register with the Ministry of Interior and Decentralization. Generally, if the ministry fails to respond within 45 days to a request to establish an NGO, the NGO may proceed with its work, although it was not considered officially registered.

On August 2, the newspaper Calame reported police closed the office of the Progressive Forces for Change, previously the African Liberation Forces of Mauritania, for unauthorized activities.

The government encouraged locally registered NGOs to join the government sponsored Civil Society Platform. Approximately 7,000 local NGOs did so. IRA Mauritania, whose president challenged President Aziz in the 2014 presidential election, has been awaiting official recognition since 2008. Other similar organizations have received government permission to operate. In August a court sentenced 13 IRA members to three to 15 years’ imprisonment for their membership in the unregistered organization and participating in a Nouakchott riot on June 29. President Aziz has publicly stated more than once that IRA has never applied for recognition, a claim denied by the IRA vice president.

Mauritius

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

On February 9, the government terminated the contract of Jean Max Baya, a former journalist who was recruited as press advisor to the minister of gender equality, children’s rights and family welfare, allegedly due to his close ties with the former administration led by the Labor Party. The recruitment of private radio journalist Yaasin Pohrun as press advisor for the minister of financial services, good governance, and reform institutions did not go through for the same reason.

Mexico

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the freedoms of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights. There were some reports of security forces using excessive force against demonstrators.

Moldova

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The law provides for freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right.

Large-scale antigovernment protests took place during the year, and opposition groups installed protest camps in front of government buildings. The government did not obstruct the protesters and provided adequate security and crowd control.

On August 27, a number of civic activists and opposition leaders and groups held an antigovernment rally under the slogan, “I have no fear.” Several hundred persons attempted to enter the central square where Independence Day celebrations were taking place. Police impeded the crowd from approaching the square perimeter and used tear gas to stop the protesters. Protest leaders, NGOs, and a number of independent media outlets called the police actions illegal, as police failed to warn the protesters prior to using tear gas and ignored the fact that a number of women, children, and elderly were in the crowd. On August 29, Amnesty International Moldova issued a press release expressing its concern over “the abusive and baseless use of tear gas by police forces against peaceful protesters during the Independence Day celebrations.”

Media outlets reported that Transnistrian prosecutors initiated administrative cases against some demonstrators.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for freedom of association and states that citizens are free to form parties and other social and political organizations. The law prohibits organizations “engaged in fighting against political pluralism, the principles of the rule of law, or the sovereignty and independence or territorial integrity” of the country.

In Transnistria, authorities severely restricted freedom of association. Separatist authorities granted the legal right of association only to persons they recognized as citizens of Transnistria. All nongovernmental activities had to be coordinated with local authorities. Groups that did not comply faced harassment, including visits from security officials. Authorities strictly prohibited organizations favoring reintegration with the rest of Moldova.

The human rights NGO Promo-Lex, which suspended its activities in the Transnistrian region in April 2015 following notifications about a criminal case opened against it, did not renew attempts to enter the region.

Monaco

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Mongolia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The law provides for freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right. The Ulaanbaatar city government, however, banned public entertainment and sporting events from June 28-30, immediately before and after the parliamentary elections, for the stated purpose of preserving public order. The city government also prohibited civil society organizations, political parties, and individuals from organizing demonstrations and protests on Ulaanbaatar’s central square and in other public areas from July 1-17 to ensure public order and foreign guests’ safety during the July 11-13 Naadam festival and the July 15-16 Asia-Europe Meeting Summit.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for the freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right.

Montenegro

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for the freedom of assembly. The government usually respected this right, but on several occasions the Ministry of Interior denied permits to workers and LGBTI groups wishing to assemble and express their grievances. Public gatherings within 164 feet of government buildings are prohibited. After the Constitutional Court found in 2014 that some provisions of the old law on assembly violated the constitution’s freedom of assembly provisions, parliament passed a new law on assembly during the year.

Police asserted that they prohibited gatherings that would disturb public peace and order and interfere with traffic. In some cases authorities offered protesters other locations for their demonstrations. In a few cases, when protesters assembled without authorization or failed to obey police orders to disperse, police detained them for questioning and charged them with misdemeanors.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and law provide for the freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right.

Morocco

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

Legally, groups of more than three persons require authorization from the Ministry of Interior to assemble publicly. Some NGOs complained that authorities did not apply the approval process consistently and have claimed that the government used administrative delays and other methods to suppress or discourage unwanted peaceful assembly. In the absence of authorization, authorities disbanded meetings organized by groups ranging from reformers to student teachers, sometimes with excessive force.

According to HRW’s, World Report 2016, police allowed many protests demanding political reform and protesting government actions, but on some occasions, they dispersed protestors or prevented demonstrations from occurring.

On January 7, police responded violently to teacher trainees demonstrating peacefully in Inezgane and other cities against new decrees to reduce their stipends and access to employment. According to witnesses police used rubber batons and shields to beat protesters without prior warning to protesters to disperse. Over 150 protesters were injured, including 100 in Inezgane, some with fractures and injuries to the face and head, according to AMDH.

In February, as a result of public outcry against police actions in the January student-teacher protests, the Ministry of Interior launched a training program on nonviolent dispersal of demonstrations and management of peaceful protests in response to complaints about police brutality. Although protests by student teachers continued sporadically into September, police intervention was infrequent after January.

Authorities authorized small public protests on politically sensitive subjects occasionally during the year. For example, in June the Ministry of Interior granted permission for a group of atheist and non-Muslim citizens to protest in front of parliament against an article in the penal code relating to fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The protest proceeded and was not dispersed.

A number of civil society contacts reported instances when private event spaces abruptly cancelled bookings, citing official pressure not to allow “controversial” activities on their premises.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and the law provide for freedom of association, although the government sometimes restricted this freedom. The government prohibited or failed to recognize some political opposition groups by deeming them unqualified for NGO status. The government denied official recognition to NGOs that it considered advocates against Islam as the state religion, the monarchy, or territorial integrity.

Authorities obstructed the registration of a number of associations perceived to be critical of the authorities by refusing to accept registration applications or to deliver receipts confirming the lodging of applications.

In June the Spanish NGO International Institute for Non-Violent Action (NOVACT) decided to close its office after the government denied entry to two members of its staff. In May 2015 the government expelled a representative of NOVACT. NOVACT had operated in the country since 2012 (see section 5).

In September 2015 the government requested that HRW suspend its activities in the country. The suspension remained in effect at year’s end.

In June 2015 authorities detained and expelled AI research staff. AI engaged in a dialogue with the authorities to resolve obstacles to access; however, some restrictions remained on research as of the end of October.

The Ministry of the Interior required NGOs to register in order to be recognized as a legal entity, but there was no comprehensive national register publicly available. A prospective organization must submit its objectives, bylaws, address, and photocopies of members’ identification cards to the ministry. The ministry issues a receipt to the organization that signifies formal approval. If the organization does not receive a receipt within 60 days, it is not formally registered. Unregistered organizations could not access government funds or legally accept contributions.

Several organizations the government chose not to recognize functioned without the receipts, and the government tolerated their activities. The National Federation of Amazigh Associations, an organization supporting the inclusion of the Amazigh population in public life, reported that two Amazigh organizations were denied registration this year. Despite a December 2015 court ruling that the Ministry of Interior had acted inappropriately in refusing to receive a petition by the Moroccan AMDH to renew their permit to operate a local branch in Temara, the organization continued to report difficulties in renewing registrations in multiple locations in the country even after court decisions in their favor.

On November 7, authorities informed historian Maati Monjib that the administrative court in Rabat ruled that the Ministry of Interior had acted inappropriately in refusing to register his NGO Freedom Now. The court ordered the ministry to pay a fine and grant Freedom Now’s registration request.

Authorities continued to monitor Justice and Charity Organization activities.

Mozambique

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly; nevertheless, the government did not always respect this right. By law protest organizers do not require government “authorization” to peacefully protest; however, protest organizers must notify local authorities of their intent in writing at least four business days beforehand. The government used alleged errors in protest organizers’ notification documents to disallow protests. For example, on May 14, organizations sent Maputo Mayor David Simango a letter to notify their intent to organize a march against recently revealed (109 billion meticais) $1.5 billion in “hidden” sovereign guarantees for loans to state-owned enterprises contracted by the previous administration. Simango replied that the march could not take place as planned since he could not determine if the letter’s signatories represented the organizations they claimed to. Unknown assailants abducted and beat Joao Massango, protest spokesperson and president of the Earth Ecologists Movement Party, shortly after the Mayor’s Office received the notification.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and law provide for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right. The Ministry of Justice, Constitutional, and Religious Affairs did not act on LAMBDA’s (the country’s only LGBTI advocacy NGO) registration request, which was pending since 2008. The registration process usually takes less than two months. Civil society leaders and some diplomatic missions continued to urge Justice Minister Chande to act on LAMBDA’s application and to treat all registration applications fairly. Minister Chande and other government officials cited the country’s culture and religious sentiments as reasons the ministry had not acted.

Namibia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights. Government institutions of higher learning, including the University of Namibia and the Namibian University of Science and Technology, however, continued to ban activities by political organizations on campus.

Nauru

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Nepal

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

Freedom of assembly generally was respected for citizens and legal residents, but during the period of widespread civil unrest in the mid-western hills and Terai region, local officials imposed curfews and bans on gatherings in numerous districts and localities where violence had occurred. The law authorizes chief district officers to impose curfews when there is a possibility that demonstrations or riots could disturb the peace. The district administration offices in many Terai districts also declared certain zones to be “riot-affected areas.” In such zones gatherings of five or more persons were prohibited (under “prohibitory orders”) and police could arrest and search individuals without warrants. Such declarations also empowered chief district officers to call in the army to assist civilian security forces, a situation that occurred in some districts. Human rights organizations accused police of using excessive force, including firing rubber bullets and live ammunition, to enforce curfews and prohibitory orders, in some cases leading to deaths and injuries.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right.

Netherlands

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

New Zealand

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Nicaragua

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The law recognizes the right to public assembly, demonstration, and mobilization but requires demonstrators to obtain permission for a rally or march by registering its planned size and location with the police. CENIDH and the Permanent Commission for Human Rights (CPDH) reported police generally protected or otherwise gave preferential treatment to progovernment FSLN demonstrations while disrupting or denying registration for opposition groups. In many cases police did not protect opposition protesters when progovernment supporters harassed or attacked them.

On November 30, groups opposing the planned construction of an interoceanic canal organized a nationwide protest centered in Managua. Organizers reported that police arbitrarily stopped thousands of protesters and prevented their participation, using tactics that included a heavy deployment of antiriot police at key rural intersections leading to the capital, using heavy machinery to block bridges and roads near communities where protesters lived and threatening to revoke licenses or seize buses and trucks from companies transporting demonstrators. NNP officials seized two vehicles owned by protest organizer and recognized leader of the anti-canal movement, Francisca Ramirez. The vehicles were later returned with significant damage. The NNP reportedly used rubber bullets on protesters, injuring several, and there were reports of traffic backups of up to 12 miles on highways leading into the capital due to checkpoints.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for freedom of association, including the right to organize or affiliate with political parties; however, the CSE and National Assembly used their accreditation powers for political purposes. National Assembly accreditation is mandatory for NGOs to receive donations. Domestic NGOs complained the Ortega administration’s control of access to funding from foreign donors reduced their ability to operate.

Niger

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

Although the constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly, police forcibly dispersed demonstrators. The government retained authority to prohibit gatherings under tense social conditions or if organizers did not provide 48-hour advance notice.

The government banned planned opposition political rallies in February and April.

Municipal authorities often denied official permission for opposition demonstrations and rallies. For example, in October police in Zinder city forcibly dispersed university students protesting delayed education subsidy payments.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and law provide for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this freedom. The law does not permit political parties based on ethnicity, religion, or region.

Nigeria

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

Although the constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly, the government occasionally banned gatherings when it concluded their political, ethnic, or religious nature might lead to unrest. Open-air religious services held away from places of worship remained prohibited in many states, due to fears they might heighten interreligious tensions. In October several northern states enacted restrictions on religious activities shortly before the Shia commemoration of Ashura. When the IMN attempted to observe Ashura, security forces seeking to enforce the restrictions killed at least 15 IMN members. In November a similar situation between the IMN and the NPF during a pilgrimage march in Kano State resulted in the death of one police officer and more than 40 IMN members.

The Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, a law prohibiting marriages and civil unions among persons of the same sex, criminalizes the free association of any persons through so-called gay organizations (see section 6, Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity).

In areas that experienced societal violence, police and other security services permitted public meetings and demonstrations on a case-by-case basis.

Security services continued to use excessive force to disperse demonstrators during the year (see section 1.a.).

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and law provide for the right to associate freely with other persons in political parties, trade unions, or other special interest organizations. While the government generally respected this right, on occasion authorities abrogated it for some groups. In October the government of Kaduna State proscribed the IMN, alleging the group constituted a danger to public order and peace, and ordered the arrest of IMN spokesperson Ibrahim Musa for allegedly violating the ban. As of December Musa was in hiding.

Norway

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Oman

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The law provides for limited freedom of assembly, but the government restricted this right. Government approval was necessary for all public gatherings of more than nine persons, although there was no clear process for obtaining approval for public demonstrations. Authorities enforced this requirement sporadically. A 2014 report from the UN special rapporteur on rights to freedom of peaceful assembly expressed concern with government attempts to limit assembly and association rights and stated that individuals seeking reform were “afraid to speak their minds, afraid to speak on the telephone, afraid to meet.”

Private-sector employees in the energy and industrial manufacturing sectors threatened strikes in isolated cases. In all cases workers threatened to picket to protest company downsizing. These did not occur, however, because company leadership used incentives, like promises of job security and other material benefits, to persuade organizers to call off the strike. The threat alone of a strike or demonstration was sufficient to compel management to negotiate with the workers, resolving the underlying issue (see section 7.a.).

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for freedom of association for undefined “legitimate objectives and in a proper manner.” Examples of such associations include labor unions and social groups for foreign nationalities, such as the Indian Social Group. The Council of Ministers limited freedom of association in practice by prohibiting associations whose activities it deemed “inimical to the social order” or otherwise not appropriate. A royal decree in 2014 promulgated a new nationality law that stipulates citizens joining groups deemed harmful to national interests could be subject to revocation of citizenship.

Associations must register with the Ministry of Social Development, which approves all associations’ bylaws and determines whether a group serves the interest of the country. The average time required to register an association ranged from two months to two years. Approval time varied based on the level of preparedness of the applying organization and the subject matter of the organization, as well its leadership and focus of the organization’s mission. The approval time was often longer when a group required significant help from the ministry to formalize its structure. Formal registration of nationality-based associations was limited to one association for each nationality. For example, the Indian Social Group had many different subcommittees based on language and geography.

Associations are forbidden from receiving funding from international groups or foreign governments without government approval. Individuals convicted of accepting foreign funding for an association may receive up to six months in jail and a fine of 500 rials ($1,300). Foreign diplomatic missions are required to request meetings with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by diplomatic note. NGOs may not meet with foreign diplomatic missions and foreign organizations without prior approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The government robustly enforced this law, stopping most foreign funding of educational and public diplomacy programs pending a government-wide review.

Pakistan

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution and laws provide for the freedoms of assembly and freedom of association, but these freedoms were subject to restrictions.

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

By law district authorities may prevent gatherings of more than four persons without police authorization. The law permits the government to ban all rallies and processions, except funeral processions, for security reasons.

Authorities generally prohibited Ahmadis, a religious minority, from holding conferences or gatherings. In December, Punjab provincial police raided the publications department at the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community headquarters in Rabwah and arrested four workers for publishing religious material deemed offensive. According to Ahmadi representatives, the “unprecedented” raid was indicative of worsening conditions for the community in Pakistan.

Several protests, strikes, and demonstrations, both peaceful and violent, took place throughout the country. The government generally prevented political and civil society groups of any affiliation from holding demonstrations in Islamabad, citing security restrictions that limit all public rallies and gatherings in the red-zone section of the city, a secured area where the diplomatic enclave and government buildings are located.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for freedom of association subject to certain restrictions imposed by law. The government adopted a series of policies that steadily eroded the freedom of international NGOs (INGOs) to access the communities that they serve. For many project activities, INGOs must request government permission in the form of so-called no-objection certificates (NOCs). INGOs, UN organizations, and international missions have long been required to obtain NOCs before they can conduct most in-country travel or initiate new projects.

In October 2015 the government required that INGOs reregister, a process entailing extensive document requirements, multiple levels of review, and repeated investigations by security and other government offices. As of December more than 60 percent of INGOs that applied for registration under the new system were awaiting a registration decision; none had been rejected. In the meantime the unregistered INGOs ostensibly could not accept new foreign funding or initiate new projects. The government continued to restrict the operating space for the INGOs registered under the new process, delaying or denying visas for some foreign staff or NOCs for official travel.

The government, at both the federal and/or provincial level, similarly restricted the access of local NGOs through NOCs and other requirements. Authorities required NGOs to obtain NOCs before accepting foreign funding, booking hotel or university spaces for events, or working on sensitive human rights issues. Even domestic NGOs with all required NOCs faced government harassment.

Palau

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Panama

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Papua New Guinea

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for freedom of assembly. Public demonstrations require police approval and 14 days’ advance notice. Asserting a fear of violence from unruly spectators, police rarely gave approval. If public demonstrations occurred without official approval, police normally requested crowds to disperse. If that failed, and if violence or public disturbances ensued, police used tear gas and fired shots in the air to disperse crowds.

In June students at the University of Papua New Guinea attempted to stage a protest calling for Prime Minister O’Neill to step down. After several weeks of trying and failing to obtain a permit, students and other protesters gathered to march toward parliament. Police intercepted the crowd and opened fire; more than 20 protesters were injured. The incident sparked unrest nationwide and many human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Transparency International, condemned the use of high-powered firearms to shoot unarmed protesters. The government launched a commission of inquiry into the incident, although human rights groups lamented that the commission’s mandate was to investigate student action and not police use of force. By the end of November the government had not released results of separate inquiries by the police and the Ombudsman Commission.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right.

Paraguay

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Peru

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution provides for the freedom of assembly and association.

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The law does not require a permit for public demonstrations, but organizers must report the type of demonstration planned and coordinate its intended location to the appropriate regional representative. The government suspended freedom of assembly in certain emergency zones where armed elements of the Shining Path and drug traffickers operated as well as in regions suffering from crime and public health crises.

The government may restrict or prohibit demonstrations in specific times and places for public safety or health. Police used tear gas and occasional force to disperse protesters in various demonstrations. Although most were peaceful, protests in some areas turned violent, resulting in deaths and injuries (see section 6, Other Societal Violence and Discrimination).

On October 14, the police shot and killed one individual during a clash over noise and pollution allegedly caused by Las Bambas mining trucks using a secondary road in the Apurimac Region.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for freedom of association; however, there were reports the government did not sufficiently respect this right, particularly with regard to minority religious groups’ right to government registration and equal access to some benefits. In July the government adopted new regulations pertaining to the 2010 Religious Freedom Law that eliminated the requirement for official registration, which resolved this concern.

Philippines

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The police generally exhibited professionalism and restraint in dealing with demonstrators. The PNP’s forcible dispersal of farmers and protesters at a large protest in Kidapawan City on April 1 left two protesters dead, four critically wounded, and many others less seriously injured, drawing significant media attention and prompting a full investigation by the CHR. PNP officers fired on the drought-affected farmers and protesters who had gathered to demand food assistance from the local government. The CHR investigation found that PNP authorities abused their authority and used unnecessary force to disperse the protest. As of September, the case was still under preliminary investigation by the PNP. No disciplinary action was taken and no charges were filed.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for the freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right.

Poland

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for the freedoms of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights. The antiterrorism law of 2015 permits restrictions on public assemblies in situations of elevated terrorist threats.

On December 2, the Sejm passed amendments to the public assembly law establishing a new category of “cyclical” or recurring assemblies and introducing a 328-foot distance requirement between demonstrations and counterdemonstrations. Opposition politicians and human rights advocates immediately condemned the legislation and called on the senate to reject the amendments. The Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner and the director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe jointly expressed concerns the amendments could undermine freedom of assembly. On December 13, the senate passed the legislation and sent the bill to the president to sign into law. On December 29, the president referred the legislation to the Constitutional Court for review without signing it.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right.

Portugal

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Qatar

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for freedom of assembly, but this right is restricted by law, including the General Assembly and Demonstration Law and the Associations and Private Institutions Law. Noncitizens are also exempt from the constitutional protections on freedom of assembly. Organizers for a public meeting must meet a number of restrictions and conditions and obtain approval from the Ministry of Interior to acquire a permit. Religious groups are required to register with the government; however, although groups that worship in private have not been prosecuted.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for the right to form groups, defined by the law as professional associations and private institutions, but the government significantly limited this right. Noncitizens are exempt from the constitutional protections on freedom of association. There were no reports of attempts to organize politically. There were no organized political parties, and authorities prohibited politically oriented associations. The government prohibits professional associations and private institutions from engaging in political matters or affiliating internationally. Civil society organizations must obtain approval from the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor, and Social Affairs, which may deny their establishment if it deems them a threat to the public interest. Twenty-six professional and private organizations existed.

Administrative obstacles, including the slow pace of procedures required to form professional associations and private institutions, and strict conditions on their establishment, management, and function, restricted their recognition. The minister of administrative development, labor, and social affairs must approve applications, and the number of noncitizens cannot exceed 20 percent of the total membership without approval by the ministerial cabinet.

Professional societies must pay QAR 50,000 ($13,750) in licensing fees and QAR 10,000 ($2,750) in annual fees, and have QAR 10 million ($2.75 million) in capital funds. Private institutions must also have QAR 10 million ($2.75 million) in capital funds, but the Council of Ministers may waive this requirement. Registrations expire after three years, and an association must reregister.

Informal organizations, such as community support groups and activity clubs, operated without registration, but they may not engage in activities deemed political.

Republic of Korea

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The law provides for freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right. The Assembly and Demonstrations Act prohibits or places limitations on assemblies considered likely to undermine public order and requires notification of police in advance of demonstrations of all types, including political rallies. Police must notify organizers if they consider an event impermissible under this law. Police banned some protests by groups that had not properly registered or that were responsible for violent protests in the past. Police also banned nine assemblies in the first half of the year because two or more assembly applications were submitted for the same place. Some NGOs suggested companies work through pro-employer “yellow” unions to submit assembly applications in advance and thereby prevent other groups from protesting near the company building. The KNPA reported 38 of more than 10,000 assembly applications received through June were denied or conditionally limited. Some NGOs contended that Article 314 of the Criminal Act, regarding obstruction of business, restricts the right to peaceful assembly.

Local and international observers questioned the tactics and technology used by the KNPA to manage large-scale protests. For example, much of the violence at a November 2015 “People’s Rally” (see section 7.a.) surrounded a barricade of hundreds of buses parked bumper to bumper completely blocking off access to streets. Protesters sought to break through or knock over the bus barricade, and physical clashes between the KNPA and the protesters ensued. Baek Nam-gi, an elderly protester hit by a water cannon at the rally, was in a coma for many months following the incident, dying in September. No charges were filed against the KNPA operator of the water cannon, and civil society groups called on the government to issue a formal apology and investigate the circumstances surrounding Baek’s death. In response, the KNPA applied for a warrant to perform an autopsy on Baek, but family opposition had blocked the effort as of November.

The June 15 “Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association on his mission to the Republic of Korea” stated that the use of police bus barricades “triggers increased tensions” and that these barricades were “not used reactively to manage the conduct of participants, but rather pre-emptively to interfere with the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.”

Police arrested 22 labor unionists in the aftermath of 2015 protests and the president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions was sentenced to five years in prison in July. All 22 unionists were indicted; six were still detained at the Seoul Detention Center as of October (see section 7.a.). On his visit to the country in January, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association expressed his concern about “a trend of gradual regression on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.”

In the series of protests that drew unprecedented numbers of participants in November against President Park (see section 4), the Seoul Administrative Court ruled in favor of allowing protesters to march toward the Blue House. For the first time in the country’s history, protesters were permitted to march on Yulgok Street, a major road within 0.6 miles of the Blue House.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right.

Republic of the Congo

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly; however, the government did not respect this right during the campaign period prior to the March 20 presidential election. For example, officials temporarily blocked at least two opposition candidates from visiting the northern region of Likouala during the official campaign period.

The government required groups that wished to hold public assemblies to seek authorization from the Ministry of Interior and Decentralization and appropriate local officials. Both the ministry and local officials sometimes withheld authorization for meetings they claimed might threaten public order. They also created unnecessary obstacles to gaining authorization and called police to disperse meetings they claimed had not received proper authorization.

On June 16, authorities stopped the Initiative for Democracy in Congo-Republican Front for the Respect of Constitutional Order and Democratic Change (IDC-FROCAD), a coalition regrouping most major opposition figures, from holding a press conference in Brazzaville to condemn the incarceration of opposition leader and candidate General Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and law provide for freedom of association, and the government sometimes respected this right. Political, social, or economic groups or associations were required to register with the Ministry of Interior and Decentralization. Authorities sometimes subjected registration to political influence. According to a local NGO, groups that spoke openly against the government encountered overt or veiled threats and found the registration process more time-consuming.

Between February and April, members of Ras-le-Bol (“enough is enough”)–a political youth activist group whose members had been arrested for politically oriented activities in the past–reported numerous direct threats from police to stop their activities. Police officially summoned two of the group’s members. Other members reported police harassed their families and friends to ascertain their whereabouts.

Romania

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right. The law provides that unarmed citizens may assemble peacefully but also stipulates that meetings must not interfere with other economic or social activities and may not take place near such locations as hospitals, airports, or military installations. Organizers of public assemblies must request permits in writing three days in advance from the mayor’s office of the locality where the gathering is to occur. There were reports that some protesters had difficulty obtaining permits.

In June, 10 human rights NGOs wrote an open letter to the minister of the interior, claiming the gendarmerie had abused protesters at events with the aim of discouraging free speech. The letter referred mainly to an event commemorating the October 2015 Colectiv nightclub fire, which killed more than 60 persons and led to the resignation of the prime minister. A few days after the event, the organizer was fined for organizing an undeclared and unregistered public gathering.

The LGBTI rights group Accept Association claimed the procedures for organizing a pride parade during the year were overly burdensome, with some authorizations coming through only shortly before the event, although initial requests had been made months before.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right. The law prohibits fascist, communist, racist, or xenophobic ideologies, organizations, and symbols.

In February the Mures Court of Appeals rejected the registration request of an association seeking to promote the historically ethnic-Hungarian region of Szeklerland as a tourist destination and bearing a name that included “Szeklerland.” The court upheld the decision of the lower-level Mures Tribunal on the grounds that Szeklerland was being defined along ethnic lines, which, according to the courts, is not permitted in the country. The court acknowledged that other historic regions of the country could be promoted as tourist destinations because they were not defined along ethnic lines and their existence as tourist areas could be recognized for other reasons.

Russia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The law provides for freedom of assembly, but local authorities increasingly restricted this right. The law requires organizers of public meetings, demonstrations, or marches by more than one person to notify the government, although authorities maintained that protest organizers must receive government permission, not just provide notification. Failure to obtain official permission to hold a protest resulted in the demonstration being viewed as unlawful by law enforcement officials, who routinely dispersed such protests. While numerous public demonstrations took place, on many occasions local officials selectively denied groups permission to assemble or offered alternate venues that were inconveniently or remotely located. The law provides heavy penalties for engaging in unsanctioned protests and other violations of the law on public assembly, up to 300,000 rubles ($4,500) for individuals, 600,000 rubles ($9,000) for organizers, and one million rubles ($15,000) for groups or companies.

Under the law the government may punish “mass rioting,” which includes teaching and learning about organization of and participation in “mass riots.” The law provides that the government may levy fines for violating protest regulations and rules on holding public events and prohibit nighttime demonstrations and meetings. Protesters who violate the regulations multiple times within a six-month period may be fined up to one million rubles ($15,000) or imprisoned for up to five years. In December 2015 a Moscow court sentenced Ildar Dadin to three years’ imprisonment for participation in four protests constituting “repeated violations of the rules on conducting public acts.” Two more activists, Irina Kalmykova and 76-year-old Vladimir Ionov, fled the country to avoid similar charges. In January, Presidential Human Rights Council chairman Mikhail Fedotov criticized the law and called on authorities to remove it from the criminal code.

In April authorities arrested Maxim Panfilov in Astrakhan on charges of taking part in a mass riot and assaulting a police officer, making him the 36th and most recent person charged in connection with the 2012 Bolotnaya Square case. Originally initiated in connection with clashes between police and protesters at demonstrations on the eve of President Putin’s inauguration (see section 1.e.), the term for Bolotnaya investigations was extended through September.

There were reports that activists were subject to threats and physical violence in connection with organizing or taking part in public events or protests. In February in Chelyabinsk, unknown attackers beat Vyacheslav Kislitsin, an organizer of a local march to commemorate the killing of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, outside of the factory where he worked. Kislitsin suffered a heart attack and a broken rib and had to be hospitalized. Kislitsin was quoted as claiming that local police officers were among his attackers.

Police often broke up demonstrations that were not officially sanctioned and at times used disproportionate force when doing so. On April 8, Moscow authorities arrested several protesters, including Dmitriy Boynov, for protesting the construction of a building at Park Dubki. Boynov was beaten by police and hospitalized with a fractured leg as well as contusions on his back and chest (see section 1.c.). On April 29, police in Sochi attacked and dispersed a protest by approximately 100 residents of the Lazarev district against the closure of a pedestrian crossing leading to the sea, according to Caucasian Knot. According to witnesses, law enforcement authorities arrived at the peaceful demonstration and began forcibly removing and beating people, leading to the hospitalization of several protesters.

In its annual report in February, AI noted that the right to freedom of peaceful assembly remained severely curtailed. The report also noted that protests were infrequent, their number having declined following severe restrictions introduced in earlier years.

On February 26, the State Duma adopted a law requiring that “motor rallies” and other “tent city” gatherings in public places receive official permission. The new law requires gatherings that will interfere with pedestrian or vehicle traffic to receive official agreement 10 days prior to the event; those that do not affect traffic require three days’ notice. Consequently, single-person pickets remained the sole form of public protest that does not require official approval.

Although they do not require official approval, authorities restricted “single-person pickets,” which require there be at least 164 feet separating protesters from each other. On June 15, Moscow police arrested opposition leader Leonid Volkov for a single-person picket outside the Federation Council building in Moscow protesting the reappointment of Yuriy Chayka as prosecutor general. According to police, the street where Volkov was protesting was considered “protected territory” and therefore, an illegal venue to stage a picket.

Authorities continued to deprive LGBTI individuals and their supporters of free assembly rights. Despite a Supreme Court ruling that LGBTI individuals are a “protected class” and should be allowed to engage in public activities, the law prohibiting so-called propaganda of homosexuality to minors (see section 6) provides grounds to deny LGBTI activists and their supporters the right of assembly and was used on multiple occasions to interrupt public demonstrations by LGBTI activists. In May, Moscow City officials refused an application by representatives of the LGBTI community to hold a parade, upholding a 2012 decision to prohibit gay parades in Moscow for 100 years, despite an ECHR ruling that the ban contravened the European Convention on Human Rights.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The Russian Constitution provides for freedom of association. During the year, however, the government instituted new measures and expanded existing restrictive laws to stigmatize, harass, fine, close, and otherwise raise barriers to membership in organizations that were critical of the government.

Public organizations must register their bylaws and the names of their leaders with the Ministry of Justice. The finances of registered organizations are subject to investigation by tax authorities, and foreign grants must be registered.

The government expanded its use of a 2012 law, which requires NGOs that receive foreign funding and engage in “political activity” to register as foreign agents, to harass, stigmatize, and in some cases halt the operation of NGOs. During the year the Ministry of Justice added 37 NGOs to the list of foreign agents. At the end of the year, 150 NGOs were designated as foreign agents.

In addition to continued widespread inspections of NGOs designated as foreign agents, authorities began to levy heavy fines against NGOs for failing to disclose foreign agent status on websites or printed materials. According to HRW, while authorities inspected a wide range of designated civil society groups from nearly every region of the country, groups that were warned, fined, or prosecuted generally were those active in areas such as election monitoring, human rights advocacy, anticorruption work, and environmental protection. During inspections law enforcement agencies typically brought representatives from as many as a dozen different bodies, including fire inspectors, tax inspectors, and health and safety inspectors, to issue citations to NGOs. In addition, state-controlled media crews frequently accompanied authorities during such inspections. On June 27, authorities also initiated criminal charges for the first time under the foreign agents law against the NGO Union of the Women of the Don. As of August 30, the case was still under consideration.

Organizations the government deemed as foreign agents reported experiencing the social effects of stigmatization, such as being targeted by vandals and online criticism, in addition to losing partners and funding sources and being subjected to smear campaigns in the state-controlled press. As a result some organizations discontinued their work and closed their doors. Notable NGOs that closed included St. Petersburg’s Antidiscrimination Center Memorial and the Committee against Torture. In February the Supreme Court of Tatarstan ruled to liquidate the NGO AGORA at the request of the Ministry of Justice for violations of the law on foreign agents. This was the first case of a so-called foreign agent forced to close based on a court ruling.

In May at the behest of President Putin, the government clarified and ultimately expanded the definition of political activities covered under the foreign agent law. Putin signed the related amendments in June. Under the new definition, political activities include: organizing public events, rallies, demonstrations, marches, pickets; organizing and conducting public debates, discussions or presentations; ‎participating in election activities aimed at influencing the result, including election observation and forming commissions; public calls to influence local and state government bodies, including calling for changes to legislation; disseminating opinions and decisions of state bodies by technology; and attempts to shape public political views, including public opinion polls or other sociological research.

On September 5, the Ministry of Justice added the first polling organization, the Levada Center, to the register of foreign agents, for the first time making use of the expanded definition of political activity. The addition came two weeks before the State Duma election and only days after the Levada Center published a poll showing a significant decline in support for the ruling United Russia party. The Levada Center indicated in the press that it would have to close if the decision was not canceled, because conducting polling with such a stigma attached would be impossible. The expanded definition of political activity was widely criticized by civil society NGOs, as well as the government’s own Presidential Human Rights Council.

In 2015 the foreign agent law was amended to create a mechanism to allow qualifying NGOs to be removed from the foreign agent list. To be delisted, the NGO in question must submit an application to the Ministry of Justice proving it received no foreign funding or engaged in no political activity within the previous 12 months. If the NGO received any foreign funding, it must have returned the money within three months. The ministry would then initiate an unscheduled inspection of the NGO to determine whether it qualified for removal from the list. During the year only six NGOs were successful in their efforts to qualify for removal from the foreign agent list. In such cases, however, the Ministry of Justice did not remove the organizations from the list on its website but noted in a separate column the date the NGO qualified for removal and “ceased performing the functions of a foreign agent.”

Use of the law on “undesirable” foreign organizations expanded during the year with the additions of the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, and the Media Development Fund to the list of such organizations. The organizations joined the National Endowment for Democracy, Open Society, Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation, and the U.S.-Russia Foundation. According to the definition of the law, a foreign organization may be found undesirable if that group is deemed “dangerous to the foundations of the constitutional order of the Russian Federation, its national security, and defense.” To date, authorities have not clarified what specific threats the undesirable NGOs posed to the country. In accordance with the law, any foreign organization deemed undesirable must cease its activities, any money or assets found by authorities may be seized, and any citizens found to be continuing to work with the organization in contravention of the law may face up to seven years in prison.

NGOs engaged in political activities or activities that “pose a threat to the country” that receive support from U.S. citizens or organizations are also subject to suspension under the “Dima Yakovlev” law, which prohibits these NGOs from having dual Russian-U.S. citizen members.

There were multiple reports that civil society activists were beaten or attacked in retaliation for their professional activities and that law enforcement officials did not adequately investigate the incidents. On March 16, a mob of unidentified individuals attacked Igor Kalyapin, head of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, in Chechnya. No arrests were made in connection with the attack. The attack occurred a week after masked men, armed with baseball bats, attacked a group of foreign and Russian journalists and activists from Kalyapin’s organization, setting their bus on fire. No arrests were made in connection with the attack (see section 1.c.).

In multiple cases authorities arbitrarily arrested and prosecuted civil society activists in political retaliation for their work (see sections 1.d. and 1.e.).

There were reports that authorities targeted NGOs and activists representing the LGBTI community for retaliation (see section 6, Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity).

Rwanda

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly, but the government did not always respect this right. In 2014 the UN special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of assembly and association, Maina Kiai, reported, “peaceful protests voicing dissent and criticizing government policies are reportedly not allowed.”

Authorities may legally require advance notice for public meetings and demonstrations and must respond to notification within one week or 15 days, depending on the type of event. Even with prior written authorization, public meetings were subject to disruption or arbitrary closure. For example, during the July AU Summit, police prevented local human rights organizations from organizing a press conference with their regional counterparts. The conference organizers obtained authorization from relevant ministries well in advance of the event, but RNP officers forcefully dispersed the participants and prevented the event from taking place.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

While the constitution provides for freedom of association, the government limited the right. The law requires private organizations to register. Although the government generally granted licenses, it impeded the formation of new political parties, restricted political party activities, and delayed or denied registration to local and international NGOs seeking to work on human rights, media freedom, or political advocacy (see section 3). In addition the government imposed difficult and burdensome NGO registration and renewal requirements, especially on international NGOs, as well as time-consuming requirements for annual financial and activity reports (see section 5).

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution provides for freedom of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights. Opposition parties and media, however, reported incidents in which the exercise of these rights was restricted. They further reported that the media climate was sensitive, due in part to the country’s small size.

Saint Lucia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

According to civil society reporting, police interfered on several occasions with a group of protesters who established themselves in front of the electoral office following the December 2015 elections. The police reportedly harassed the protesters, seized their property, and arrested several, charging them with minor infractions. According to the government, all police intervention occurred in the lawful enforcement of laws or regulations, including a law that prohibits protests within 200 yards of any government building.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for the freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right.

Samoa

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

San Marino

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Sao Tome and Principe

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Saudi Arabia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law does not provide for freedom of assembly and association, which the government severely limited.

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The law requires a government permit for an organized public assembly of any type. The government categorically forbids participation in political protests or unauthorized public assemblies, and security forces reportedly arrested demonstrators and detained them for brief periods. Security forces, nonetheless, allowed a small number of unauthorized demonstrations throughout the country, despite a 2011 Ministry of Interior statement that demonstrations were banned and that it would take “all necessary measures” against those seeking to “disrupt order.” The CSS reinforced the ministry’s position, stating that “demonstrations are prohibited in this country” and explaining that “the correct way in sharia of realizing common interests is by advising.”

There were an increased number of protests in the Qatif area of the Eastern Province in January and February following the execution of Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr (see section 1.a.). Activists reported a significant presence of security forces. YouTube videos portrayed residents, largely Shia, protesting alleged systematic discrimination and neglect in government investment in physical and social infrastructure, including education, health care, and public facilities. Protests were largely nonviolent and decreased in size and number after February.

In contrast with previous years, there were no significant protests by family members of long-term detainees in Mabahith-run prisons.

The CPVPV and other security officers also restricted mixed gender gatherings of unrelated men and women in public and private spaces (see section 1.f.).

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law does not provide for freedom of association, and the government strictly limited this right. The government prohibited the establishment of political parties or any group it considered as opposing or challenging the regime. All associations must be licensed by the Ministry of Labor and Social Development and comply with its regulations. Some groups that advocated changing elements of the social or political order reported their licensing requests went unanswered for years, despite repeated inquiries. The ministry reportedly used arbitrary means, such as requiring unreasonable types and quantities of information, to delay and effectively deny licenses to associations. In November 2015 the cabinet passed a law authorizing the Ministry of Labor and Social Development to license NGOs. According to the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, the Ministry of Labor and Social Development had registered 736 associations and 164 foundations as of April. The government previously provided licenses only to philanthropic and charitable societies; organizations that have social or research mandates required royal backing to avoid government interference or prosecution.

The few local NGOs that had operated without a license, including ACPRA, Union for Human Rights, and the Adala Center for Human Rights, ceased operating in 2013 and 2014 after authorities ordered them disbanded. By year’s end the government had sentenced all 11 ACPRA founding members to prison terms. In 2014 ACPRA effectively ceased operations because of the continued harassment, investigation, prosecution, or detention of most of its members. While ACPRA maintained a presence on social media networks such as Twitter, the government severely curtailed its operations and closed down its website. In October, HRW reported that authorities filed charges against two activists, Mohammad al-Otaibi and Abdullah al-Attawi, for “forming an unlicensed organization” and other charges related to establishing a short-lived human rights organization called the Union for Human Rights, which was disbanded in 2013.

Government-chartered associations observed citizen-only limitations.

Senegal

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly, but the government sometimes restricted this right. Some groups complained of undue delays in response to authorization requests for public demonstrations. Other groups were denied such authorization.

In February, for example, the government denied authorization to civil society groups calling for a rally in Dakar to campaign for a “no” vote in the March constitutional referendum.

The government forcibly dispersed demonstrators. For example, in January the government used teargas to disperse a demonstration against homosexuality by a coalition of 17 organizations; authorities had earlier denied the group a permit to demonstrate. Police detained 11 participants who defied the ban and subsequently released them without charge.

On October 14, a coalition of opposition parties, the Front for the Defense of Senegal, held a demonstration in Dakar that drew more than 15,000 demonstrators. Prior to the demonstration, the prefect of Dakar granted the coalition permission to march but altered the proposed route, which triggered a clash when police blocked demonstrators from their initially planned route. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd, a few of whom were detained and subsequently released on October 16. Some demonstrators also were injured, including former prime minister Abdoul Mbaye.

In January members of the main opposition Parti Democratique Senegalaise–Toussaint Manga, Bocar Niang, Gallo Tall, Aminata Sakho, Djibril Sarr, Daouda Dieye, Pape Fall, and Serigne Ndame Dieng–were released on bail. In February 2015 the eight had been remanded to custody pending trial for participating in an unauthorized public rally.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and law provide for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right.

Serbia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for the freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected the right. The law obliges protesters to apply to police for a permit, providing the exact date, time, and estimated number of demonstrators. Police generally issued a permit if a protest was not likely to disturb the public or public transportation; otherwise, police consulted city authorities before issuing a permit. Higher-level government authorities decided whether to issue permits for gatherings assessed as posing high security risks. In 2013 the Constitutional Court ruled that limiting freedom of assembly for security reasons violated the constitution, but the Ministry of Interior continued to do so.

In 2015 the Serbian Institute for Social Sciences released a report that identified several gaps in citizens’ full enjoyment of freedom of assembly. These gaps included bans of peaceful assemblies because of potential violence from counterdemonstrators, the large number of permits that some organizers were forced to acquire, and laws that prohibit gatherings in the vicinity of the National Assembly.

On January 26, parliament passed a new law on public gatherings and formally adopted it on February 5. The law prohibits protests and public gatherings in front of health-care institutions, schools, and facilities of strategic and special significance for state security and defense. NGOs criticized the new restrictions, stating that they would prevent medical workers and teachers from protesting in front of their places of employment. In March during the pre-election period, NGOs criticized authorities for unevenly applying the new restrictions and cited numerous examples of government and ruling party officials holding election rallies in front of locations banned under the new law.

In February a Belgrade court held a first hearing in the case of Anita Mitic, director of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, for organizing a Srebrenica commemoration event in a park between Belgrade City Hall and the Office of the President building in July 2015. The event was held despite a government ban on public assemblies marking the 20th anniversary of the massacre in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Activists stated that this ban undermined the freedom of assembly. The case remained pending at year’s end.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for the freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right.

On June 16, the Belgrade Higher Court president issued a ruling recusing Judge Aleksandar Tresnjev from ruling on a criminal case because Tresnjev was a member of the NGO Center for Judicial Research (CEPRIS), a professional association of judges, and counsel for the defendant in the case was also a member of CEPRIS. In response, the High Judicial Council decided to investigate whether a judge could maintain a CEPRIS affiliation and remain impartial. Activists criticized these decisions as impeding the judge’s freedom of association and as interference in judicial independence. The High Judicial Council’s session to discuss for the issue was scheduled for July 15 but was postponed indefinitely.

Seychelles

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly, but the government did not always respect this right, and authorities had wide discretion to ban public gatherings and prosecute demonstrators, according to Freedom House.

In October 2015 the National Assembly replaced the Public Order Act with the Public Assembly Act, which requires organizers of gatherings of 10 or more persons to inform the police commissioner five working days prior to the date proposed for the planned gathering. The police commissioner may impose conditions or deny the right to assemble on security, morality, and public safety grounds. Unlike in previous years, authorities did not restrict the holding of lawful public opposition gatherings.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and law provide for freedom of association, but civil servants allegedly refrained from participating in opposition party activities due to fear of political reprisal. On September 15, Today in Seychelles reported that leader of the opposition Seychellois Democratic Union (LDS) Roger Mancienne called on the president to end the political victimization of civil servants who supported the LDS. Mancienne stated that they were harassed and threatened with termination. On October 11, the National Assembly approved a motion with bipartisan support to set up an antivictimization commission.

Sierra Leone

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of assembly and association, and the government generally respected the right of freedom of association.

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

Due to the need to combat the Ebola epidemic that occurred between May 2014 and November 2015, the government issued in August 2014 and August 2015 state of emergency measures that limited freedom of assembly and association, including the activities of “secret societies” that perform traditional cultural initiation and other practices. On August 15, the Office of the Attorney General reported that, although the government had not made a formal announcement, all of the state of emergency measures had expired on August 7, by virtue of statutory lapse provisions in the constitution. As of October 31, neither President Koroma nor parliament had formally confirmed the end of the state of emergency.

As of October, nine persons arrested and detained without trial in April 2015 for demonstrating in front of a foreign embassy were awaiting a trial date; they were directed to report monthly to the SLP Criminal and Investigations Division (CID).

Singapore

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides citizens the right to peaceful assembly but permits Parliament to impose restrictions “it considers necessary or expedient” in the interest of security, public order, or morality, and the government restricted this right. Public assemblies, including political meetings and rallies, require police permission. By law a public assembly may include events staged by a single person. Citizens do not need permits for indoor speaking events, unless they touch on “sensitive topics” such as race or religion, or for qualifying events held at Speakers’ Corner. Police also have the authority to order a person to “move on” from a certain area and not return to the designated spot for 24 hours.

In June activist and blogger Han Hui Hui received a fine for organizing a rally without prior approval to protest the government’s management of the national retirement fund. The judge stated the evidence proved Han rallied her Facebook readers to go to the event to protest, but that she did not have the approval of authorities to organize a demonstration or had she applied for one.

The government closely monitored political gatherings regardless of the number of persons present.

Spontaneous public gatherings or demonstrations were virtually unknown.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

Most associations, societies, clubs, religious groups, and other organizations with more than 10 members are required to register with the government under the Societies Act. The government can deny registration to groups that it believed had been formed for unlawful purposes or for purposes prejudicial to public peace, welfare, or public order. One application, of 236 submitted from January to October, was denied (155 were approved). The government has absolute discretion in applying criteria to register or dissolve societies.

The government prohibits organized political activities except by groups registered as political parties or political associations. The latter may not receive foreign donations but can receive funds from citizens and locally controlled entities. The PAP was able to use nonpolitical organizations, such as residential committees and neighborhood groups, for political purposes far more extensively than was the case for opposition parties. Due to laws regulating the formation of publicly active organizations, there were few NGOs apart from nonpolitical organizations, such as religious groups, ethnically oriented organizations, environmental groups, and providers of welfare services.

In June, three days after the annual LGBTI “Freedom to Love” rally organized by the advocacy group Pink Dot, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a press statement saying “foreign entities should not interfere in our domestic issues, especially political issues or controversial social issues with political overtones,” to include LGBTI issues. The announcement sparked much commentary online and in the press, as well as criticism from human rights groups.

Slovakia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Slovenia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Solomon Islands

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution provides for freedom of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights. Demonstrators must obtain permits, which the government generally granted.

Somalia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The federal provisional constitution provides for freedom of assembly, but the government limited this right. A general lack of security effectively limited this right as well. Federal and regional authorities killed protesters (see section 1.a.). The federal Ministry of Internal Security continued to require its approval for all public gatherings, citing security concerns, such as the risk of attack by al-Shabaab suicide bombers. Suppression of opposition meetings and gatherings increased during the election cycle, which began in August and continued at year’s end.

On July 9, the minister of internal security released a letter banning all meetings in Mogadishu hotels without prior approval from the ministry. On September 19, Mogadishu mayor Yusuf Hassan Jimale stated that opposition demonstrations would not be allowed in the capital due to security concerns; authorities did not impose any such restrictions on progovernment demonstrations.

The Somaliland government banned opposition political rallies outside the official campaign window, which typically began 45 days ahead of a scheduled national election. Authorities did not impose any such restrictions on progovernment rallies. On July 25, according to the Somaliland Journalists Association, Somaliland’s minister of national planning suspended three workshops for journalists in reprisal for media accusations that he mismanaged the Somaliland Development Fund.

Al-Shabaab did not allow any gatherings without its prior consent.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The provisional federal constitution provides for freedom of association, but government officials harassed NGO workers. There were also reports that regional authorities restricted freedom of association. Al-Shabaab did not allow most international NGOs to operate.

Persons in the southern and central regions outside of al-Shabaab-controlled areas could freely join civil society organizations focusing on a wide range of problems. Citizens generally respected civil society organizations for their ability to deliver social services in the absence of functioning government ministries.

Regional administrations took steps to control or gain benefit from humanitarian organizations, including by imposing duplicative registration requirements at different levels of government; attempting to control humanitarian organization contracting, procurement, and staffing; and opaque and vague taxation.

Some Puntland civil society members alleged interference by security forces in political activities during the year. For example, in July authorities arrested and detained Yacub Mohamed Abdalla, a former minister and director of a local NGO, for publicly criticizing the Puntland president’s record on development.

South Africa

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly, but police violently dispersed hundreds of demonstrations during the year, which resulted in numerous deaths and injuries. According to a 2014-15 SAPS report, there were 11,151 peaceful protests and an additional 3,542 demonstrations that turned violent. Protest action was most common in Gauteng, North West, Western Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal Provinces. Police used batons, rubber bullets, and water cannons to control demonstrators and quell violence, resulting in hundreds of injuries.

On August 14, students revived nationwide student protests, coined #FeesMustFall Reloaded, to demand free tertiary education. The #FeesMustFall campaign began in October 2015 after an increase in university fees. Major universities around the country suspended operations, including the universities of Pretoria, Cape Town, and the Witswatersrand. On September 19, in Johannesburg, police fired stun grenades and arrested 31 students at the University of the Witwatersrand. Protests were triggered by a government decision to allow universities to determine 2017 tuition fee increases, but capping them at 8 percent above the country’s inflation rate of 6 percent. One university employee died several days after inhaling fumes from a fire extinguisher sprayed by a protesting student.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for the right of association, and the government respected this right.

South Sudan

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The transitional constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly, and the government generally respected this right, but many citizens did not gather due to fear of targeted violence. Security officials lacked nonviolent crowd control capabilities and at times fired live ammunition into the air to disperse crowds.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The transitional constitution provides for freedom of association, but the government did not respect this right for those suspected of associating with or having sympathies for opposition figures (see section 1.g.). Some civil society leaders interpreted the 2012 Political Parties Act as an attempt to suppress opposition to the SPLM (see section 3).

In February the president signed into law a bill that strictly regulates the activity and operations of civil society. The law focused particularly on NGOs working in the governance, anticorruption, and human rights fields, and imposed a range of legal barriers including limitations on the types of activities in which organizations can engage, onerous registration requirements, and heavy fines for noncompliance.

During the September 2-5 visit of the UN Security Council (UNSC) to South Sudan, UNSC Permanent Representatives met with CSOs that argued in favor of the deployment of a Regional Protection Force. Before the UNSC delegation had even left Juba, security forces began to target CSOs, detaining and threatening several CSO representatives. Security officials informed others they had to shut down their operations and their assets would be seized, because of the “antigovernment” messages they had been spreading.

Spain

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

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

In July 2015 the government adopted a new public security law that includes fines of up to 600 euros ($660) for failing to notify authorities about peaceful demonstrations in public areas, up to 30,000 euros ($33,000) for protests resulting in “serious disturbances of public safety” near parliament and regional government buildings, and up to 600,000 euros ($660,000) for unauthorized protests near key infrastructure.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and law provide this right, and the government generally respected it.

Sri Lanka

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the freedoms of assembly and association, but the government restricted these rights in a limited number of cases.

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The law provides for freedom of assembly, but the government did not always respect this right.

In March police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse an Inter-University Students Federation protest, after the students refused to follow police orders and started climbing over police barricades.

In July Sinhalese nationalists, allegedly aided by the police, attacked protesters from the Association to Protect the Environment and Health in Kandy.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for freedom of association but limits the right, for example by criminalizing association with or membership in banned organizations.

Evangelical churches, especially in the south, reported local government pressure and harassment to suspend worship activities that some authorities classified as “unauthorized gatherings” or to close down because they were not registered with the government.

Sudan

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

Although the Interim National Constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly, the government severely restricted this right. The criminal code considers gatherings of more than five persons without a permit to be illegal. Organizers must notify the government 36 hours prior to assemblies and rallies.

In February, NISS dispersed a peaceful protest against the construction of new dams in Northern State, arrested a number of protesters, and later released them.

In April NISS arrested 27 students, including five female students, who were involved in protests at the University of Khartoum. The students protested April 11 to 14, following reports the government planned to sell the main campus to foreign investors. NISS released the 27 students without charge on April 16. An additional University of Khartoum student arrested separately but in conjunction with the protests, Asim Omer, remained detained and was charged after three months with the murder of a police officer, a capital offense, during campus protests. Human rights observers and classmates of Omer insisted the charges were based on falsified evidence, asserting the student was not present during the campus protests. As of year’s end, trials of the students continued.

On November 20, NISS arrested without charge 28 college students who demonstrated on Africa Road against the government’s austerity measures (fuel subsidy cuts) and subsequent price increases. The judge released all 28 students on bail November 21, and the students faced trials on November 22 and 23. On December 4, cases of all 28 students were dismissed. The arrests of the students were concurrent with a large-scale NISS arrest campaign, during which NISS detained 22 leading figures from the Sudan Congress Party (see section 1.e.) and several members of the National Unionist Party (NUP), Sudanese Communist Party, Arab Ba’ath Party, National Consensus Forces, and the Reform Now Movement, as well as civil society activists and journalists.

The government continued to deny permission to Islamic orders associated with opposition political parties, particularly the Ansar (Umma Party) and Khatmiya (Democratic Unionist Party), to hold large gatherings in public spaces, but parties regularly held opposition rallies on private property. Government security agents occasionally attended opposition meetings, disrupted opposition rallies, or summoned participants to security headquarters for questioning after meetings.

Authorities reportedly took only limited, if any, action against security force members who used excessive force. In November 2015 media reported the Ministry of Justice agreed to pay diya (blood money) totaling 35 million SDG ($5.3 million) in compensation to families of identified victims of the September 2013 protests and lift the immunity of four security officers. As of year’s end, cases against the security officers remained pending (see section 1.a.).

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The Interim National Constitution and law provide for freedom of association, but the government severely restricted this right. The law prohibits political parties linked to armed opposition groups. The government closed civil society organizations or refused to register them on several occasions. Government and security forces continued arbitrarily to enforce provisions of the NGO law, including measures that strictly regulate an organization’s ability to receive foreign financing and register public activities.

Throughout the year, according to the Sudanese Confederation of Civil Society, authorities either rejected or failed to approve applications to reregister more than 40 registered organizations and began investigations into their activities.

Under the government’s “Sudanization” policy, many organizations reported they faced administrative difficulties if they refused to have progovernment groups implement their programs at the state level. In Blue Nile, for example, HAC authorities prevented one humanitarian organization from implementing a food security program for several months until it agreed to collaborate with CORD, a local organization selected by the state government.

Organizations reported delays in obtaining permits to hold general assembly meetings. In the absence of general assemblies, the government prevented some organizations from holding elections or filling vacant positions. Some civil society activists believed the government delayed these approvals to disrupt the organizations’ work or force them out of compliance with government regulations.

On February 29, NISS officers raided the Khartoum Center for Training and Human Development (TRACKS), a civil society capacity-building organization, for the second time in less than a year. The officers confiscated five laptops and nine telephones belonging to staff, trainees, and visitors. They collected documents, publications, flip charts, passports, and car keys belonging to the TRACKS directors, Khalaf-Allah al-Afif Muktar and Midhat Afifaddin Hamadan. Before departing the officers returned the equipment belonging to trainees and allowed them to leave. They also instructed Midhat, as well as Abuhrira Abdelrahman, another TRACKS staff member, and Adam Finun, an artist who happened to be visiting TRACKS at the time, to report to NISS headquarters in central Khartoum on March 3 before they were later released. In March NISS agents detained Director Khalafalla, Office Supervisor al-Shazali Ibrahim al-Sheikh, and Mustafa Adam, director of sister organization al-Zarqaa who was visiting TRACKS, and interrogated them separately before releasing them in intervals. One detainee who suffered from diabetes was deprived of food during his daylong detention.

Between March 3 and 13, NISS summoned and interrogated multiple activists associated with TRACKS, questioning all about their activities and relationship with the al-Khatim Adlan Center for Enlightenment and Human Development, an organization forcibly shut down by the government in 2012. Multiple activists were arrested and released in association with TRACKS through May.

On May 21, NISS arrested Khalaf-Allah al-Afif Muktar, Mustafa Adam and Midhat Afifaddin Hamadan from their homes and held them in cells with reported dimensions of 13 feet by 13 feet, which held over 26 prisoners, and had no ventilation. Due to the harsh conditions, Khalafalla, who had a heart condition, fainted on August 14 after being refused medical care three weeks previously. On August 15, the three detainees were transferred to al-Huda Prison in Omdurman North to face capital charges, including Article 50 (Undermining the Constitutional System), Article 51 (Waging War against the State), Article 53 (Espionage), and Article 65 (Criminal and Terrorist Organizations). In addition to these charges, Mustafa Adam and Midhat Afifaddin Hamadan faced charges related to the Information Crimes Law.

Three additional TRACKS associates, Arwa al-Rabie, Imany-Leila Ray, and al-Hassan Kheiry, who were arrested and released on bail after 10 days of detention in May, faced the same four charges as above. As of year’s end, trials continued for all six individuals related to the TRACKS raid on February 29, three of whom were still in custody.

On May 5, a group of armed NISS officers raided the offices of prominent human rights lawyer Nabil Adeeb in Khartoum. At the time of the raid, Nabil Adeeb, chairperson of the Khartoum-based Sudanese Human Rights Monitor, was meeting with a group of students, some of whom had recently been dismissed or suspended from the University of Khartoum following the April protests. NISS arrested 10 students at the office, together with two lawyers and two female employees.

During the armed raid, NISS officers seized legal files and equipment, including Adeeb’s personal laptop, without a warrant. With the exception of Adeeb’s cell phone, none of his property was returned.

Two National Umma Party (NUP) members, brothers Emad and Erwa al-Siddiq, were arrested and detained by NISS on December 14, 2015 and January 6 respectively. NISS charged the brothers with capital crimes and other charges, including undermining the constitution, warring against the state, affiliation with terrorist organizations, defamation, and criminal plotting. The charges were prompted by the brothers posting statements online critical of NISS, to include GPS coordinates of reported “ghost-houses” where NISS agents reportedly detained and physically abused human rights activists. Observers believed NISS sought to make an example of the case to discourage subversive political activities from both the Umma Party and the broader opposition. Emad al-Siddiq was convicted on September 5 and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, which he had already served. As such, he was released the day of the ruling and fined 10,000 SDG ($1,500). Erwa al-Siddiq was also convicted and sentenced to one year in prison; he was released in September. Erwa was also fined 20,000 SDG ($3,000).

In November and December, authorities arrested the entire senior leadership of the Sudan Congress Party, and detained them without charges and, with one exception, without visitation. NISS released the opposition members in late December with no charges.

Suriname

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution protects the freedom of assembly, and this right was respected in most cases. The “We are Tired” Movement, a domestic NGO that frequently protested government policy, was reportedly summoned by the district commissioner and required to obtain a permit to organize its rallies. This permit placed various restrictions on the group’s protests. The same organization was denied a permit for a silent march supporting rule of law and protesting against what it considered to be attacks on the legal system. While security forces tried to stop marching protesters by lining up and forming a barricade, the march took place on August 5 without violence.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law protects the right to freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right.

Swaziland

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

Although the constitution provides for freedom of assembly, the government often restricted this right. The law requires police consent and a permit from the municipal council to hold political meetings, marches, or demonstrations in a public place. Unlike in prior years, these permits generally were granted. Rallies during the Southern African Development Community Summit, however, were actively discouraged. Marches were directed away from high-traffic areas. Chiefs prohibited political rallies in rural areas.

The government harassed opposition members and conducted surveillance on members of labor unions, political groups, and groups considered potentially political. Authorities attempted to prevent meetings and demonstrations by withholding consent. When demonstrations took place, security officials were deployed in force, on occasion outnumbering protesters. Political activists alleged authorities monitored their telephone calls.

On February 22, during a student protest at the University of Swaziland, the Operational Support Services Unit, a paramilitary branch of the RSPS, drove an armored vehicle at high speed into a crowd of hundreds of unarmed protesters. A second-year student, Ayanda Mkhwanazi, was severely injured and left disabled as a result of the incident. The government initiated an investigation into the case; no findings were released by year’s end.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for freedom of association, but the government restricted this right. The constitution does not address the formation or role of political parties. It states that individual merit shall be the basis for election or appointment to public office. While officials argued the constitution replaced and superseded the 1973 decree that banned political parties, there were no legal mechanisms for parties to register or contest elections. Several prodemocracy groups have been declared terrorist organizations due to statements calling for disbanding the government system and alleged connections to a bombing campaign in the mid-2000s.

Sweden

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Switzerland

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Syria

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for the right of assembly, but the government restricted this right. Even after the 2011 repeal of the emergency law, a subsequent 2011 presidential decree grants the government broad powers over freedom of assembly.

The Ministry of Interior requires permission for demonstrations or any public gathering of more than three persons. As a rule the ministry authorized only demonstrations by the government, affiliated groups, or the Baath Party, orchestrating them on numerous occasions. The government continued to use excessive force against peaceful demonstrators.

In opposition-held areas, extremist armed opposition groups targeted activists, protesters, documentation groups, and media groups for detention, hostage taking, harassment, and executions. The COI reported that residents in Da’esh-controlled parts of Aleppo and Raqqa governorates noted severe restrictions on assembly.

According to allegations by Kurdish activists and in press reporting, the PYD and the YPG suppressed freedom of assembly and severely limited freedom of speech in areas under their control.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution permits private associations but grants the government the right to limit their activities. The government restricted freedom of association, requiring prior registration and approval for private associations and restricting the activities of associations and their members. The executive boards of professional associations were not independent of the government.

The government often denied requests for registration or failed to act on them, reportedly on political grounds. None of the local human rights organizations operated with a license, but many functioned under organizations that had requisite government registration. The government continued to block the multi-year effort by journalists to form a countrywide media association. The government selectively enforced the 2011 decree allowing the establishment of independent political parties, allowing only progovernment groups to form official parties (see section 3). According to local human rights groups, opposition activists declined to organize parties, fearing the government would use party lists to target opposition members.

Under the authority of laws that criminalize membership and activity in illegal organizations as determined by the government, security forces detained hundreds of persons linked to local human rights groups and prodemocracy student groups. The government also searched these individuals’ personal and social media contacts for further potential targets.

According to media reports and reports from former residents of Da’esh-controlled areas, Da’esh did not permit the existence of associations that opposed the structures or policies of the “caliphate.”

Taiwan

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

In May the Executive Yuan withdrew its lawsuit against 126 participants in the 2014 Sunflower student protest movement. Activists welcomed the withdrawal of the lawsuit, which some had alleged was politically motivated.

Tajikistan

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides the right to freedom of assembly, but the government required that individuals obtain permission from the government to stage public demonstrations. Individuals considering staging peaceful protests reportedly chose not to do so for fear of government reprisal. On September 19, the families of exiled opposition figures protesting in Warsaw reported retaliatory law enforcement harassment and detention at their homes in Tajikistan.

On May 15, approximately 200-300 individuals organized a celebration in honor of the Indian holiday “Holi” in the local stadium “Spartak,” a central Dushanbe building belonging to the MIA. Organizers of the event told human rights activists they obtained an official permit from the MIA to hold the event in the stadium and that it was the fourth time the group celebrated this holiday in Dushanbe. As the celebration neared its conclusion, the crowd of mostly minors were exiting the stadium when police arrived and forcefully detained approximately 200 participants. The detainees reported they were verbally abused for celebrating a non-Muslim holiday, beaten, and threatened with rape. Some of the detainees recorded the incident and later posted the recordings on social media. NGO Civil Liberties filed a complaint with the MIA on behalf of the detainees, but the alleged victims never subsequently submitted a formal request for an investigation.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution protects freedom of association, but the government restricted this right. Civil society organizations reported a noticeable increase in the number and intensity of registration and tax inspections by authorities. The government continued to enforce the ban on activities held under the banner of the IRPT. As a result of the May 22 constitutional referendum, non-secular political parties became illegal.

On March 30, the government adopted new regulations to the Law on Public Associations that indicated how organizations registered with the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) must inform the MOJ of their foreign funding. Shortly after the MOJ adopted the regulations, the ministry discussed them publicly with members of civil society and donor organizations. The MOJ created a working group, which included NGO representatives, to consider possible changes to the form NGOs must submit to notify the government of their foreign funding. On June 9, the MOJ approved a new form, based in part upon the suggestions of NGO representatives. The president signed the new regulations into law on August 8. International human rights organizations and NGOs criticized the regulations, saying they created an unnecessary burden on NGOs and that the MOJ did not have the capacity to process all the information it would receive from organizations.

Tanzania

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for freedom of assembly, but the government did not always respect this right.

The government requires organizers of rallies to obtain police permission. Police may deny permission on public safety or security grounds or if the permit seeker belongs to an unregistered organization or political party. The government and police continued to limit the issuance of permits for public demonstrations and assemblies to political parties, NGOs, and religious organizations. During a June speech at State House, the president declared the 2015 election over and the opposition should confine its political opinions to appropriate platforms, such as parliament, until the next election cycle in 2020. Also in June the police commissioner for operations and training announced the police had banned any form of political demonstration or rally until further notice, claiming such meetings were intended to incite civil disobedience. The same day police broke up a rally by opposition party Chadema, which had previously been issued a permit, and made 22 arrests. Later that month police barred opposition party ACT Wazalendo from holding an indoor meeting to discuss and review the 2016-17 budget. Again in June police in three cities broke up graduation ceremonies organized by an opposition party for members of its student organization.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right. Thousands of NGOs and societies operated in the country. Political parties were required to register and meet membership and other requirements. Freedom of association for workers was limited (see section 7.a.).

The registration process for associations outside Zanzibar was slow, particularly for religious and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex organizations. The law makes a distinction between NGOs and societies and applies different registration procedures to the two. It defines a society as any club, company, partnership, or association of 10 or more persons, regardless of its purpose, and notes specific categories of organizations not considered to be societies, such as political parties. The law defines NGOs to include organizations whose purpose is to promote economic, environmental, social, or cultural development; protect the environment; or lobby or advocate on issues of public interest. Societies and organizations may not operate until authorities approve their applications.

Religious organizations are registered as societies and wait the longest–an average of four years–for registration. From July 2015 to March, the Registrar of Societies received 472 registration applications, 26 of which came from religious institutions. The registrar registered 404 societies and rejected 13 applications; 55 applications remained unprocessed. The government rarely registered societies within the legally required 14-day period. The Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly, and Children registered other NGOs. The process took two to five years.

NGOs in Zanzibar apply for registration with the Zanzibar Business and Property Registration Agency. While registration generally took several weeks, some NGOs waited months if the registrar determined additional research was needed.

Thailand

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The 2016 constitution grants the freedom to assemble peacefully, subject to restrictions enacted to “protect public interest, peace and order, or good morals, or to protect the rights and liberties of others.”

Invoking authority under Article 44 of the interim constitution, coup leaders prohibited political gatherings of five or more persons and penalized persons supporting any political gatherings. Human rights groups argued the prohibition violated the country’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The 2015 Public Assembly Act codified restrictions on freedom of assembly and requires, among other provisions, that protesters obtain permission from police for rallies at least 24 hours in advance. Moreover, it bans all demonstrations within 500 feet of the prime minister’s headquarters, parliament, royal palaces, and courthouses. The emergency decree in effect in the southernmost provinces also provides authority to limit freedom of assembly.

Police arrested citizens assembled in violation of government orders. According to a government watchdog organization, in advance of the August 7 referendum officials arrested and charged more than 150 persons nationwide for violating the prohibition on political gatherings of five or more persons. While the NCPO enforced bans against political gatherings critical of the coup or the NCPO, authorities allowed some pro-coup and pro-military demonstrations. In August police arrested 19 men for violating a ban on political gatherings after they set up a monitoring center to oversee the August 7 constitutional referendum. On December 16, the attorney general charged all 19 with violating the government’s ban and the court accepted the charges. On September 21, local administrators in Pattani Province intervened and stopped approximately 500 people from gathering to celebrate International Peace Day.

Surat Thani, Phuket, and Phang Nga Provinces have their own regulations that prohibit migrant workers–specifically persons from Cambodia, Burma, and Laos–from gathering in groups, while Samut Sakhon Province prohibits migrant gatherings of more than five persons. Authorities did not enforce these provisions strictly, particularly for gatherings on private property. Employers and NGOs may request permission from authorities for migrant workers to hold cultural gatherings.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The interim constitution did not explicitly provide for freedom of association. The 2016 constitution grants individuals the right to free association subject to restrictions by law enacted to “protect public interest, peace and order, or good morals.”

The law prohibits the registration of a political party with the same name or logo as a legally dissolved party.

The Bahamas

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for freedom of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights, although the climate for civil society groups appeared to be worsening. Civil rights organizations protesting the government’s immigration enforcement policy and an environmental organization credibly alleged that some government officials sought to constrain their freedom of speech and association rights by publicly labeling the groups as traitors and refusing to conduct adequate investigations of or provide police protection from threats. Cabinet members also sought to intimidate a local environmental group by reading its hacked e-mails and financial information from the floor of Parliament, accusing the group of attempting to overthrow the ruling political party. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights requested the government to undertake precautionary measures to protect six members of the environmental group following reported threats against their lives and personal integrity “as a result of their work as human rights defenders.” An activist with a reform-oriented organization claimed police questioned him for his activities. He also stated that the government warned clients away from his business. Police reportedly investigated the background of a judge who ruled in favor of a human rights nongovernmental organization (NGO).

The Gambia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly; however, police systematically refused requests for permission to hold demonstrations, including peaceful ones, and occasionally refused to issue permits to opposition parties wishing to hold rallies.

On April 14, UDP supporters assembled peacefully at Westfield Junction in Serrekunda, the commercial center, and called for “proper electoral reform.” The UDP’s Youth Wing Leader, Solo Sandeng, who led the protest, was arrested along with an unspecified number of fellow protesters by officers of the Police Intervention Unit (PIU). The PIU reportedly used excessive force to disperse the crowds. Sandeng died in police custody soon after his arrest. UDP leader, Ousainou Darboe, led a peaceful protest march on April 16, demanding the release of Sandeng “dead or alive.” Darboe was arrested, along with a relative, Fanta Jawara, a Gambian-American citizen. Members of the UDP executive, and several others were also arrested. The government described the protest as “illegal,” on the grounds the demonstrators did not have a police permit, even though the constitution allows for peaceful protests.

In April 2015 officers from the PIU and other security agencies armed with riot gear intercepted a team of officials and supporters of the opposition UDP, including leader Ousainou Darboe. The group arrived at the village of Fass Njaga, Choi, in the North Bank Region, on the first day of a 10-day campaign tour. The UDP decided to embark on the tour despite lacking a police permit for use of a public address system. Under the Public Order Act, political parties planning to hold public meetings must apply for a permit allowing them to use a public address system and must provide details of place, date, and time of each rally. The PIU prevented the UDP team from holding a meeting in Fass Njaga or proceeding on the campaign tour. A tense four-day standoff continued until police finally issued a permit allowing the UDP to continue its tour.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and law provide for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right in practice.

Timor-Leste

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution guarantees “freedom to assemble peacefully and without weapons, without a need for prior authorization.” The law on assembly and demonstrations establishes guidelines on obtaining permits to hold demonstrations, requires police be notified five days in advance of any demonstration or strike, and establishes setback requirements at some buildings. The power to grant or deny permits is vested only in the PNTL. According to the PDHJ, in Ermera, PNTL officers and FRETILIN party members broke up a veterans’ organization assembly. In January during the state visit of Indonesian President Joko Widodo, the government banned protests.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution guarantees freedom of association, although the government continued to pursue cases against members of two armed opposition organizations (the KRM and the CPD-RDTL) declared illegal in a March 2014 parliamentary resolution.

Togo

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Tonga

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Trinidad and Tobago

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Tunisia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The Presidency of the Republic declared several extensions of a nationwide state of emergency, in effect since November 2015, when a suicide bomber attacked members of the Presidential Guard. The most recent extension was issued on October 18 for three months. The government previously ordered extensions of the state of emergency in January after widespread social unrest, in March following a terrorist attack in Ben Guerdan, and in June and July. Protests and clashes with security forces throughout the country started on January 16 in the governorate of Kasserine after the death of Yahyaoui. Local media reported that security forces used violence against protesters and arrested 1,105 persons, including 523 individuals accused of violating a nationwide curfew imposed on January 22.

On April 9, security forces violently dispersed a peaceful group of demonstrators of the General Union of Tunisian Students who were demanding jobs and prohibited them from demonstrating in front of the Prime Ministry.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for the right of freedom of association, but the government did not always respect it. A 2011 law on associations eliminated penalties in the previous law, as well as the prohibition on belonging to, or serving in, an unrecognized or dissolved association. The law eased the registration procedure, making it more difficult for government entities to hinder or delay registration. The International Observatory of Associations and International Development, an independent association that monitors the functioning of civil society, asserted the government was delaying registration of associations through unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles, at times for political reasons, a practice counter to the law on associations.

According to the 2011 law, only the judiciary has the authority to suspend or dissolve an association. According to the Prime Ministry, during the period 2011-16, the government sent warnings to 805 associations and requested the suspension of 234 for violations of the law of associations. Courts suspended 112 of these associations and in four cases ordered the dissolution of the organizations. The Prime Ministry claimed that proper procedure was followed in all cases.

In November 2015 some members of parliament called for the dissolution of LGBTI-focused NGO Shams. On January 4, an administrative court suspended Shams’ activities pursuant to a government claim that the association had registered to advocate for the rights of “sexual minorities.” The government claimed that the Shams’ charter did not allow it to advocate explicitly for gay rights, since the charter only listed the purpose of the organization as advocating for the rights of “sexual minorities.” On February 24, an administrative court ruled in Shams’ favor, overturning the government’s complaint and allowing Shams to function legally; however, the government had not published the organization’s charter in the national gazette, leaving Shams unable to register for a bank account or conduct financial activities.

The government issued a ban of the annual conference of Islamist party Hizb Ettahrir scheduled for June 4, citing security reasons. An administrative court overturned the ban on June 3. On the morning of June 4, the governor of Tunis announced the closing of the venue until June 20, using powers granted to him under the state of emergency. The governor told media he took the decision “to avoid disturbing public order.” After several warnings to party leaders that the party violated Decree Law 88 of 2011 requiring that associations respect the rule of law and basic democratic principles and are prohibited from calling to violence, hatred, intolerance, or discrimination on a religious basis, the government suspended the activities of Hizb Ettahrir for 30 days beginning on August 15. On August 30, an administrative court overturned the suspension, citing “procedural problems” with the government’s case. On September 2, the government brought a criminal case against the party for inciting violence against the state, and the chief prosecutor referred the case to a military court. On September 20, members of Hizb Ettahrir refused to appear before the military court. The case remained pending as of December.

Turkey

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

Although the constitution provides for freedom of assembly, the law provides several grounds for the government to limit that right. The 2015 Internal Security Package increased penalties for protesters carrying items that might be construed as weapons, prohibited the use of symbols linked to illegal organizations (including chanting slogans), and criminalized covering one’s face during a protest. The law permits police to use tinted water in water cannons potentially to tag protesters for later identification and prosecution. The law also allows police to take persons into “protective custody” without a prosecutor’s authorization, if there is reasonable suspicion that they are a threat to themselves or to public order.

The government regarded many demonstrations as security threats to the state, deploying large numbers of riot police to control crowds, often using excessive force. At times, the government used its authority to detain persons before protests were held on the premise that they might cause civil disruption. The government selectively restricted meetings to designated sites or dates, particularly limiting access to Istanbul’s Taksim Square and Ankara’s Kizilay Square, and set up roadblocks to prevent protesters from gathering there. The government banned many demonstrations outright if they touched sensitive issues.

Security forces regularly responded with excessive force to protests, resulting in dozens of injuries, detentions, arrests, and even deaths. The government generally supported security forces’ actions.

Human rights organizations remained critical of the violent police response to demonstrations and police use of tear gas. The current year European Commission’s progress report on Turkey noted widespread use of excessive force by authorities against peaceful protesters.

During events commemorating the Kurdish new year holiday of Newroz in March, there were clashes reported between celebrants and police in Batman, Adana, Mardin, Sirnak, Sanliurfa, Mersin, and Bursa. Media reported that at least 160 persons were detained by police nationwide during the celebrations and that police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse celebrants in some cities. Gatherings of as many as a million participants in Diyarbakir and 75,000 in Istanbul were peaceful.

Pro-Kurdish demonstrations of many kinds faced violent police responses throughout the year. On January 9 in Izmir, a group of women protesting in favor of peace in the Southeast were disrupted by police. Police detained 13 members of the group calling itself Women for Peace, including pro-Kurdish Evrensel reporter Eda Aktas, on the grounds that protesters’ press statements insulted the Turkish nation or its institutions. On February 2 in Adana, police allegedly shot and killed 20-year-old Murat Daskan during a protest against the curfews in the Southeast. Eyewitnesses reported police shot Daskan, took his body away, returned later to collect bullet shells, and then reported they “found” his body in the neighborhood. Another 20-year-old, Kadir Caliskan, was injured in the same protest. Police said the PKK shot the protesters. On February 9 in Diyarbakir, 16-year-old Mahmut Bulak was shot in the head while participating in a protest against curfews for Cizre and Sur.

On May 1 (Labor Day), the government took extraordinary security measures in Istanbul, with Taksim Square closed to the traditional annual demonstrations. Police intervened against crowds in Istanbul using tear gas and water cannons and reportedly detained more than 200 protesters. Nail Mavus was killed in Istanbul after being hit by a police water-cannon vehicle, apparently accidentally. After the government announced that Taksim square would be closed, the unions decided to hold their official demonstration in Bakirkoy, another neighborhood, where the event was peaceful. In the Southeast the governors of Adana, Gaziantep, and Sanliurfa cancelled May Day demonstrations, citing security concerns.

On June 19, police dispersed crowds using tear gas when activists attempted to hold a “trans pride” parade. Citing security concerns, the Istanbul Governor’s Office also banned the LGBTI community’s annual pride parade, which had been planned for June 26. Police actively prevented both those who nonetheless gathered for the pride parade and an anti-LGBTI group that had gathered the same day to protest parade participants (see section 6: Acts of Violence).

On September 20, an Ankara court found 45 students of Middle East Technical University guilty of violating the law on meetings and protests, resisting public officers, and obstructing the latter from doing their jobs. The charges related to a 2012 student protest against then prime minister Erdogan while he was visiting their campus. Police used tear gas and water cannons against the peacefully protesting students, injuring some of them. In the scuffle that ensued, several students were detained. Each of the 45 students was sentenced to 10 months in prison.

On November 6, a police officer was killed when PKK supporters threw Molotov cocktails at security forces during an unauthorized demonstration in southern Adana province.

Decrees issued under the state of emergency after July 15 increased the discretion of individual governors to limit citizens’ ability to demonstrate. For example, the government prevented teachers’ groups from demonstrating to protest the suspension and dismissal of tens of thousands of educators after the July 15 coup attempt. On September 23 in Diyarbakir, a group of suspended teachers staged a protest in front of the Ministry of National Education provincial office. Police intervened to stop the protest and detained 17.

On October 18, the Ankara governor’s office banned all demonstrations through November. Several times in November, the municipality allowed demonstrations against EU countries accused of supporting the PKK. Crowds of as many as 500 protesters staged outside of related embassies, with some contacts alleging the government had bused supporters to the demonstrations.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

While the law provides for freedom of association, the government increasingly restricted this right during the year.

In the aftermath of the July 15 coup attempt, the government used its expanded powers under the state of emergency powers to close 1,694 associations and foundations for alleged threats to national security. The Ministry of Interior reported at year’s end that 1,390 had alleged links to the Gulen movement, about 240 to the PKK, 38 to DHKP/C or other leftist groups, and 12 to Da’esh. Many sources reported that the appeals process was opaque and ineffective. Decrees permitted the reopening of nearly 200 shuttered associations/foundations on November 22, although overall numbers of reopened institutions remained unclear at year’s end.

Under the law persons organizing an association do not need to notify authorities beforehand, but an association must provide notification before interacting with international organizations or receiving financial support from abroad and must provide detailed documents on such activities. Representatives of associations stated this requirement placed an undue burden on their operations. Human rights and civil society organizations, LGBTI, and women’s groups in particular complained that the government used regular and detailed audits to create administrative burdens and to intimidate them through the threat of large fines. Bar association representatives reported that police sometimes attended civil society organizational meetings and sometimes recorded them, likely as a means of intimidation.

Turkmenistan

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly, but the government restricted this right. During the year authorities neither granted the required permits for public meetings and demonstrations nor allowed unregistered organizations to hold demonstrations. In some instances religious groups reported their members were arrested while gathering for private dinners.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

Although the constitution and law provide for freedom of association, the government restricted this right. The law requires all NGOs to register with the Ministry of Justice and all foreign assistance to be coordinated through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Unregistered NGO activity is punishable by a fine, short-term detention, and confiscation of property.

Of the estimated 109 registered NGOs, international organizations recognized only a few as independent. NGOs reported the government presented a number of administrative obstacles to NGOs that attempted to register. Authorities reportedly rejected some applications repeatedly on technical grounds. In 2014 the government reported it registered three NGOs whose primary focus was sports and leisure activities. Some organizations awaiting registration found alternate ways to carry out activities, such as registering as businesses or subsidiaries of other registered groups, but others temporarily suspended or limited their activities. Although the law states there is a process for registering foreign assistance, NGOs had difficulty registering bilateral foreign assistance in practice due to a 2013 decree requiring such registration.

Sources noted a number of barriers to the formation and functioning of civil society. These included regulations that permitted the Ministry of Justice to send representatives to association events and meetings and requirements that associations notify the government about their planned activities.

Tuvalu

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The law provides for freedom of assembly but also gives island chiefs authority to restrict religious activities of organizations deemed a threat to the values and culture of the island community or deemed divisive, unsettling, or offensive to the people. The government continued to protect the right to choose and practice religion freely but called for religious organizations to abide by island chiefs’ restrictions on public worship and public religious group meetings. Religious minorities practiced openly in violation of the restrictions. There were no reports of arrests or fines.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right.

Uganda

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

While the constitution provides for freedom of assembly, the government did not respect this right. The government used the 2013 Public Order Management Act (POMA) to limit the right to assemble, especially for political opponents and critics of the government. The act places a significant bureaucratic burden on those wishing to organize or host gatherings and affords the UPF wide discretion to prevent or disrupt gatherings.

During and after the presidential election, UPF officers disrupted scheduled opposition rallies and meetings, even in some cases when authorities had granted permission. In many instances, the UPF provided no official response to requests to hold public meetings.

In two separate incidents on February 15, the final day of the presidential campaign, UPF officers prevented Besigye from appearing at campaign rallies approved by the Electoral Commission by blocking his access. Police fired teargas to disperse supporters who had gathered at the rally sites. During both incidents police arrested Besigye before releasing him without charge. Media reported that, during the second incident, police also fired bullets to disperse the crowd, resulting in one civilian death.

On February 19, a day after the elections, police arrested senior FDC officials, blockaded their party headquarters, and cancelled a scheduled FDC press conference. When FDC supporters gathered at party headquarters to protest, police reportedly fired tear gas and bullets to disperse the crowd and arrested eight supporters.

After the elections the UPF cited its legal powers of “preventive arrest,” which allow police to remove and detain persons to prevent them from committing a crime and the POMA to harass opposition leaders. Police “preventively” arrested several opposition leaders attempting to hold meetings and other events, generally releasing them the same day. Police often prevented Besigye and other opposition leaders from participating in political events by confining them to their residences. When police allowed Besigye to leave his home, they often arrested him to prevent him from meeting with supporters or party officials. FHRI reported that, on February 22, police arrested Besigye and remanded him to the Naggalama Police Station after he attempted to go to the Electoral Commission to collect forms to contest the election results. According to IGP Kayihura, Besigye’s intent was to rally supporters and cause chaos in the city, in violation of the POMA.

In response to the FDC’s “Free My Vote” campaign, which called for an independent audit of presidential election results, police often disbanded peaceful protest meetings, including prayer groups, and arrested protest organizers.

In response to the FDC’s May 5 call for nationwide protests to contest the outcome of the presidential election, the head of the Constitutional Court, Deputy Chief Justice Steven Kavuma, issued an order prohibiting the FDC from organizing “demonstrations, processions, other public meetings, media campaigns or pronouncements including but not limited to planned demonstrations or processions scheduled for May 5 or any other day among other orders.” On May 6, media reported police had arrested 88 opposition supporters for participating in banned demonstrations.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

While the constitution and law provide for freedom of association, the government did not always respect this right. On January 30, the president signed the NGO Act passed by the National Assembly in November 2015. The law includes a clause that requires NGOs to receive approval from local NGO monitoring committees, local governments, and relevant line ministries in each district in which they operate to be registered and active. The law also prohibits NGOs from engaging in acts “prejudicial to the interests of Uganda and the dignity of the people of Uganda.” Discriminatory aspects of the law prevented LGBTI organizations from registering as NGOs.

The NGO Board, under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, regulates NGO activities and approves their registrations. It is composed of representatives from various ministries, including the security services.

FHRI reported that during the year intruders broke into various NGO offices, taking computers, files, and other sources of information. The nature of the crimes, along with limited police action to pursue perpetrators, led some of the affected organizations to suspect government involvement. In a May 22 incident, closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage showed four unidentified intruders breaking into the Kampala office of the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), which provides legal support for sexual minorities. The next morning, HRAPF staff found the dead body of the guard on duty at the time of the break-in, along with documents, a television screen, and keys, on the organization’s compound. Police arrived at the scene two hours after HRAPF reported the incident, but no investigation had been initiated by year’s end.

On April 10, according to Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ) staff, a late evening female visitor to HRNJ’s Kampala office offered the security guard food laced with sedatives. CCTV footage showed four men entering the premises and ransacking them after the guard apparently had passed out.

Ukraine

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides citizens with the right to freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right. There are no laws, however, regulating the process of organizing and conducting events to provide for freedom of peaceful assembly. Authorities have wide discretion under a Soviet-era directive to grant or refuse permission for assemblies on grounds of protecting public order and safety. Organizers are required to inform authorities in advance of plans for protests or demonstrations.

During the year citizens generally exercised the right to peaceful assembly without restriction in areas of the country under government control. Most assemblies were peaceful and at times accompanied by a very large police presence to maintain order. The HRMMU noted an overall improvement in the ability of the National Police to provide security for demonstrations.

There were some reports of violence at LGBTI demonstrations during the year (see section 6.).

On July 4, more than 100 persons protested peacefully against the presence of military equipment in Toretsk, Donetsk Oblast. Police arrested eight men, charged them with disobeying police, interrogated them without lawyers present, and did not bring them before the court within three hours, as required by the law. SBU officers reportedly threatened and intimidated the detainees. The detainees spent the night sleeping on the floor of a small cell with only one mattress and a wooden bench. After the court hearing ordering their release, they were brought back to a police station where the head of police in the Donetsk Oblast allegedly insulted and threatened them before their release.

In the territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists, the HRMMU noted an absence of demonstrations because “people are concerned that they may be ‘arrested’ if they organize protests or assemblies against the policies of the armed groups.” The HRMMU also noted that the only demonstrations permitted in these areas were ones in support of local authorities, often apparently organized by the armed groups, with forced public participation.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and law provide for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right.

The HRMMU noted a pattern of harassment of Communist Party members. For example, on June 28, the apartment of a first secretary of the Kharkiv local branch of the Communist Party was searched, and she was charged with violating the territorial integrity of Ukraine and bribing state officials. On June 30, a Kharkiv court ruled to place her in pretrial detention.

According to the HRMMU, in the territories controlled by the Russian-backed separatists, “civil society organizations, including human rights defenders, cannot operate freely.” Residents informed the HRMMU that they were being prosecuted (or were afraid of being prosecuted) by the “ministry of state security” for their pro-Ukrainian views or previous affiliation with Ukrainian NGOs. The HRMMU also noted an increase in civil society organizations run by the armed groups, which appeared to have compulsory membership for certain persons, such as public sector employees.

Ukraine (Crimea)

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

Organizations representing minority communities reported gross and widespread harassment and intimidation by occupation authorities to suppress their ability to assemble peacefully. Abuses included arbitrary searches, interrogations, threats of deportation, and unsubstantiated accusations of possessing “extremist” literature.

According to the HRMMU, on July 4, occupation authorities amended a 2014 resolution listing the places in Crimea where public events could be held, decreasing the number almost by half (from 665 to 366). The HRMMU noted that the amendments further restricted freedom of assembly to a shrinking number of “specially designated spaces,” an unnecessary move that appeared “designed to dissuade the exercise of the right of freedom of assembly.”

On March 1, authorities in Simferopol refused to allow the commemoration of the birthdate of Taras Shevchenko, the national poet of Ukraine. On March 9, Simferopol authorities issued a blanket prohibition on public gatherings not organized by the government from March 7 to March 22.

Occupation authorities prohibited gatherings and meetings to commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the 1944 Soviet mass deportation of Crimean Tatars on May 18. On May 17, Ilmi Umerov received a preemptive warning from police not to organize any type of gathering. In the days leading up to the anniversary, schoolteachers forbade students, particularly Crimean Tatar students, to skip school to participate in commemorative events. The Mejlis reported that Crimean Tatar communities did not seek permission for gatherings as they assumed that occupation authorities would forbid them. Throughout Crimea peaceful assemblies took place, but authorities arrested Crimean Tatars displaying flags and other symbols, including at least one person in Bakhchysarai, four in the Kirovsky District, and four in Sudak.

Occupation authorities forbade any assembly marking Crimean Tatar Flag Day on June 26.

On August 20, a group named The Deceived of Crimea gathered in Simferopol to protest rampant corruption in Crimea following Russia’s occupation in 2014. Despite having obtained permission from the local government, authorities prohibited protesters from assembling for a demonstration planned to coincide with a visit by President Putin of Russia.

There were reports of occupation authorities using coercive methods to provide for participation at pro-”government” rallies. For example, according to press reports, a Duma candidate shared on social media a photograph of an order authorities sent to municipal government offices in Feodosia, which stated that attendance at a September 8 rally in support of the United Russia party was mandatory and that those unable to attend must write an explanatory note to their superiors.

There were reports that occupation authorities charged and fined individuals for allegedly violating public assembly rules in retaliation for gathering to witness security force raids on homes. For example, courts fined at least five Crimean Tatars for gathering to witness security force raids on neighboring homes in Bakhchisarai in May. Crimean Tatar leaders claim the charges were designed to intimidate Crimean Tatars into passively remaining in their homes during raids.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

Occupation authorities broadly restricted freedom of association for individuals that opposed the occupation.

On February 15, the “prosecutor general” of Crimea filed a motion to ban the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, an elected, representative body of Crimean Tatars that the Ukrainian government legally recognizes. On April 13, the prosecutor general provisionally banned the Mejlis pending a court decision; the Russian Ministry of Justice upheld the decision on April 18. On April 26, a Russian occupation court declared the Mejlis an extremist organization for continuing to recognize Ukrainian sovereignty in Crimea. On September 29, the Russian Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s decision. The ban forbids Mejlis organized meetings or demonstrations, sharply restricts its financial activities, and prohibits the display of the Mejlis flag and symbols. While the Mejlis was led by a central council of 33 members, its organization extended to towns and villages, meaning that up to 2,000 local members of Mejlis groups were under threat.

In late September authorities fined at least eight Mejlis members for allegedly taking part in a meeting of an illegal organization, stemming from their informal gathering at the home of Ilmi Umerov on September 22. They had gathered to wish exiled Crimean Tatar leader, Refat Chubarov, a happy birthday via Skype, but authorities had monitored the meeting and determined that it constituted a meeting of the banned Mejlis. On December 29, Umerov announced that he was unable to pay the fine as occupation authorities had frozen his bank accounts by putting him on a list of “extremists.”

On February 11, Russian authorities summoned Nariman Jelal, the highest ranking member of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis not incarcerated or exiled, demanding he detail the activities of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis and his future travel plans.

Russian authorities raided groups and institutions associated with Ukrainian culture. On March 31, security forces raided the Taras Shevchenko Association in Simferopol and seized approximately 250 books for promoting Ukrainian nationalism. Many of the seized materials dealt with the Holodomor, a famine produced by Soviet authorities in 1932 and 1933 that led to the deaths of millions of Ukrainians. On July 18, authorities questioned Leonid Kuzmin, a member of the Ukrainian Cultural Association. Authorities compelled Kuzmin to sign a nondisclosure agreement, forbidding discussion of the grounds for his questioning.

Russian occupation authorities carried out numerous raids on Crimean Tatar cultural and spiritual institutions. On January 27, Russian police raided the Crimean Tatar children’s center Elif in Dzhankoi, seizing books and materials. On January 28, police raided the Islamic Cultural Center in Simferopol, again seizing books and materials.

Russian laws imposed on Crimea that regulate NGOs prohibit any group that receives foreign funding and engages in vaguely defined “political activity” to register as a “foreign agent,” a term that connotes treason or espionage. While authorities had not included any Crimean NGOs on the list during the year, the law had a chilling effect on their activities (see sections 2.b. and 5 of the Country Reports on Human Rights for Russia).

United Arab Emirates

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution provides for the freedoms of assembly and association; however, the government did not always respect these rights.

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The law provides limited freedom of assembly and the government imposed restrictions.

The law requires a government-issued permit for organized public gatherings. Authorities dispersed impromptu protests such as labor strikes and at times arrested participants. While there was no uniform standard for the number of persons who could gather without a permit, civil society representatives in the past have reported authorities could ask groups of four or more to disperse if they did not have a permit. The government did not interfere routinely with informal, nonpolitical gatherings held without a government permit in public places unless there were complaints. The government generally permitted political gatherings that supported its policies. Hotels, citing government regulations, sometimes denied permission for groups such as religious organizations to rent space for meetings or religious services.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The law provides limited freedom of association. The government imposed some restrictions.

Political organizations, political parties, and trade unions are illegal. All associations and NGOs are required to register with the Ministry of Social Affairs, and many that did received government subsidies. Domestic NGOs registered with the ministry were mostly citizens’ associations for economic, religious, social, cultural, athletic, and other purposes. Registration rules require that all voting organizational members, as well as boards of directors, must be Emirati; this excluded almost 90 percent of the population from fully participating in such organizations.

Associations must follow the government’s censorship guidelines and receive prior government approval before publishing any material. In Abu Dhabi, exhibitions, conferences, and meetings require a permit from the Tourism and Culture Authority. To obtain a permit, the event organizer must submit identification documents for speakers along with speaker topics; the government denied permits if it did not approve of the topic or speaker.

United Kingdom

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Uruguay

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Uzbekistan

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly, but the government often restricted this right. Authorities have the right to suspend or prohibit rallies, meetings, and demonstrations for security reasons. The government often did not grant the permits required for demonstrations. Authorities subjected citizens to large fines, threats, arbitrary detention, and abuse for violating procedures for organizing meetings, rallies, and demonstrations or for facilitating unsanctioned events by providing space, other facilities, or materials. Organizers of “mass events” with the potential for more than 100 participants must sign agreements with the Ministry of Interior for the provision of security prior to advertising or holding such an event. This regulation was broadly applied, even to private corporate functions.

Authorities dispersed and occasionally detained persons involved in peaceful protests and sometimes pressed administrative charges following protest actions. Authorities repeatedly detained such activists as Elena Urlaeva, Malokhat Eshonkulova, and Chamangul Negmanova for attempting to protest outside government buildings for fair elections and government action to redress citizen grievances. In December, the government did permit Urlaeva to protest outside of government buildings on two occasions without incident.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

While the law provides for freedom of association, the government continued to restrict this right. The government sought to control NGO activity and expressed concerns about internationally funded NGOs and unregulated Islamic and minority religious groups. The operating environment for independent civil society, in particular human right defenders, remained restrictive. Activists reported ongoing government control and harassment.

The Ministry of Justice, which oversees the registration of NGOs, requires NGOs to obtain the ministry’s approval to hold meetings with nonmembers, including foreigners; to seek the ministry’s clearance on any event materials to be distributed; and to notify the ministry in writing of the content and scope of the events in question.

There are legal restrictions on the types of groups that may be formed, and the law requires that all organizations be registered formally with the government. Authorities used registration requirements to bar foreign NGOs from the country. The law allows for a six-month grace period for new organizations to operate while awaiting registration from the Ministry of Justice, during which time the government officially classifies them as “initiative groups.” Several NGOs continued to function as initiative groups for periods longer than six months.

NGOs intending to address sensitive issues, such as HIV/AIDS or refugee problems, often faced increased difficulties in obtaining registration. The government allowed nonpolitical associations and social organizations to register, but complex rules and a cumbersome bureaucracy further complicated the process and created opportunities for government obstruction. The government compelled most local NGOs to join a government-controlled NGO association that allowed the government considerable oversight over their funding and activities. The government required NGOs to coordinate their training sessions or seminars with government authorities. NGO managers believed this stipulation created a way for the government to require prior official permission for all NGO program activities. The government claimed these regulations were intended to simplify registration requirements and lower registration fees, but independent civil society groups reported these requirements had not simplified registration procedures.

The degree to which NGOs were able to operate varied by region because some local officials were more tolerant of NGO activities, particularly when coordinated with government agencies. Civil society groups reported that authorities imposed restrictions after groups had registered, such as requiring advance permission from the Justice Ministry for many public activities.

The administrative liability code imposes large fines for violations of procedures governing NGO activity as well as for “involving others” in “illegal NGOs”; the law does not specify whether the term refers to NGOs suspended or closed by the government or merely NGOs not officially registered. The administrative code also imposes penalties against international NGOs for engaging in political activities, activities inconsistent with their charters, or activities the government did not approve in advance.

The government continued to enforce the 2004 banking decree, ostensibly designed to combat money laundering, which complicated efforts by registered and unregistered NGOs to receive outside funding. The Finance Ministry required humanitarian aid and technical assistance recipients to submit information about their bank transactions. The Ministry of Justice required NGOs to submit detailed reports every six months on any grant funding received, events conducted, and events planned for the next six months. NGO leaders may be fined for conducting events without explicit permission from the ministry, and the fine was several times higher than for some criminal offenses.

Parliament’s Public Fund for the Support of Nongovernmental, Noncommercial Organizations, and Other Civil Society Institutions continued to conduct grant competitions to implement primarily socioeconomic projects. Some civil society organizations criticized the fund for primarily supporting government-organized NGOs. The law criminalizes membership in organizations the government broadly deemed “extremist.”

Vanuatu

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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

Venezuela

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for freedom of assembly, but the government significantly restricted it. The Law on Political Parties, Public Gatherings, and Manifestations and the Organic Law for Police Service and National Bolivarian Police Corps regulate the right to assembly. Human rights groups continued to criticize such laws that enable the government to charge protesters with serious crimes for participating in peaceful demonstrations. Ambiguous language in the laws also allowed the government to criminalize organizations that were critical of the government. Protests and marches require government authorization in advance and are forbidden within designated “security zones.” The opposition held large peaceful protests in September and October.

As part of the “states of exception” in place throughout the year in municipalities bordering Colombia and imposed via the “Economic Emergency Decree,” the government ordered the suspension of the constitutional right to meet publicly or privately without obtaining permission in advance, as well as the right to demonstrate peacefully and without weapons.

Security agencies did not routinely provide sufficient protection for protesters in public rallies or to political leaders sponsoring them. NGOs and political activists cited a widespread fear of repression due to the militarization of the country and the increasing activities of progovernment gangs, (“colectivos,”) against demonstrations.

The government continued repressing protesters and their leaders. On September 3, authorities briefly detained 30 individuals on Margarita Island for heckling President Maduro, after scores of inhabitants protested food shortages by banging pots and pans.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for freedom of association and freedom from political discrimination, but the government did not respect these rights. Although professional and academic associations generally operated without interference, a number of associations complained the National Electoral Council (CNE), which is responsible for convoking all elections and establishing electoral dates and procedures, and the Supreme Court repeatedly interfered with their attempts to hold internal elections. On July 26, Jorge Rodriguez, the mayor of Libertador municipality in Caracas and PSUV party leader, called on the CNE to dissolve the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) opposition coalition due to alleged fraud committed during its campaign to organize a recall referendum.

The president’s May 13 “state of exception” decree called upon the Foreign Ministry to suspend international funding to NGOs when “it is presumed” that funding is used with “political purposes or for destabilization.” Human Rights Watch pointed out that in a country where authorities routinely accused human rights defenders of destabilizing democracy, this order could effectively shut down or dramatically scale back the operations of NGOs that rely on foreign funding to work independently. As of December 1, there were no reports of the government implementing the threats contained in this decree.

Vietnam

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

Although the constitution affords individuals the right to assemble, local authorities routinely inhibited assembly, and the government continued to restrict and monitor all forms of public protest or gathering. Law and regulations require persons wishing to gather in a group to apply for a permit, which local authorities issued or denied without explanation. Only those arranging publicized gatherings to discuss sensitive matters appeared to require permits, and persons routinely gathered in informal groups without government interference. The government generally did not permit demonstrations perceived to be political. The government also restricted the right of certain religious groups, both registered and unregistered, to gather for worship.

The Ministry of Public Security and local police routinely prevented activists from peacefully assembling. There were numerous reports of police dispersing gatherings of anti-China activists, land rights advocates, human rights defenders, bloggers and independent journalists, and former prisoners of conscience. On March 22, one day before the trial of bloggers Nguyen Huu Vinh (also known as Anh Ba Sam) and Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, the ministry made public a new decree, Circular 13/2016/TT-BCA, which allows security forces to detain individuals gathering or protesting outside of courthouses during trials.

On February 27, authorities in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and other major cities dispersed peaceful demonstrations held by victims of land seizures and other perceived government injustices in commemoration of the “International Day for Vietnam Land Petitioners.” Police reportedly assaulted multiple demonstrators, held them in police custody for hours, and forcibly transported them far away from town centers.

In mid-July authorities prevented multiple demonstrations to celebrate the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s July 12 ruling in favor of the Philippines, and against China, concerning certain issues in the South China Sea. Local authorities in Duong Noi village, Hanoi, reportedly detained multiple land rights protesters, including Dang Bich Phuong, Truong Van Dung, and Nguyen Thuy Hanh, when they sought to join the demonstrations.

On February 20-22, local security forces in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province reportedly harassed individuals attending a cybersecurity training session organized by Reporters Without Borders and Defend the Defenders at Saigon-Binh Chau Resort. Harassment included questioning organizers about permits, verbally threatening participants, cutting power to the conference site, pressuring the hotel to terminate the event contract, and entering the event room and forcing the gathering to disperse.

On March 30, a court in Ho Chi Minh City sentenced land rights activists Ngo Thi Minh Uoc, Nguyen Thi Be Hai, and Nguyen Thi Tri to four, three, and three years in prison, respectively, with two years of probation for each. In 2014 police charged them with “conducting propaganda against the state” (article 88 of the penal code) after they staged a demonstration in Ho Chi Minh City demanding that the government return seized land to farmers and criticizing government corruption, China, and CPV slogans.

The government typically allowed groups to assemble for meetings on nonsensitive issues and on occasion allowed larger sensitive gatherings. In August hundreds of persons participated in Pride Walk events for Viet Pride in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. In July and August, local authorities in Nghe An and Phu Yen Provinces largely allowed thousands of Catholics to participate in environmental demonstrations and volunteer activities to press the government to address fish deaths caused by an industrial spill.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution affords individuals the right of association, but the government continued to restrict freedom of association severely and neither permitted nor tolerated opposition political parties. The government prohibited the establishment of private, independent organizations, insisting that persons work within established, party-controlled mass organizations, usually under the aegis of the VFF. Some entities, including unregistered religious groups, operated outside of this framework with little or no government interference, and authorities demonstrated some increased tolerance of independent NGOs. Some registered organizations, including governance and environment-focused NGOs, reported increased scrutiny of their activities due to leadership transitions, the May National Assembly election, and an environmental disaster in the central region in April.

The country’s legal and regulatory framework codifies the primacy of the CPV and establishes mechanisms for restricting freedom of NGOs to act and organize, including restricting freedom of association, assembly, expression, and the press. The government used complex and politicized registration systems for NGOs and religious organizations to suppress unwelcome political and religious participation. Despite these restrictions, the number of independent NGOs continued to grow throughout the year.

Laws and regulations governing NGOs restrict their ability to engage in policy advocacy or conduct research outside of state-sanctioned topics. Decision 97, for instance, which took effect in 2009, prohibits organizations focused on social science and technology from operating in fields such as economic policy, public policy, political issues, and a range of other areas considered sensitive. Authorities also do not permit them to engage in the public distribution of policy advocacy positions.

On March 3, authorities in Ho Chi Minh City prevented the League of Independent Vietnamese Writers from holding its first literary awards ceremony. Local authorities pressured the owner of the venue to withdraw permission, forcing the writers to move the ceremony to a private residence. Authorities also prevented several prominent writers and intellectuals, including Do Trung Quan, Bui Chat, Le Phu Khai, Pham Dinh Trong, and Nguyen Dang Hung, from attending the ceremony.

Western Sahara

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Moroccan law applies; however, a somewhat more restrictive practice operated in Western Sahara.

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

According to Moroccan law, groups of more than three persons require authorization from the Ministry of Interior to assemble publicly. As in internationally recognized Morocco, the government used administrative delays and other methods to suppress or discourage unwanted peaceful assembly.

Authorities rarely granted permission for politically oriented events other than those related to elections. It prohibited or failed to accept requests from groups associated with human rights activism or proindependence opinions. Proindependence organizations and some human rights NGOs stated that in recent years the submission of applications for permits to hold demonstrations declined because police rarely granted them. In most cases the organizers proceeded with planned demonstrations in the absence of authorization, and there was no discernable difference in security forces’ reaction to authorized or unauthorized protests. NGOs estimated that on average, a demonstration was held once a month, with the majority related to socioeconomic problems such as unemployment and housing; a minority had political overtones, such as sit-ins by proindependence activists or relatives of alleged political prisoners. Violent confrontations between security forces and protesters were less common than in previous years according to several local NGOs, although violent dispersals did occur on occasion.

The April 19 UN Secretary-General’s report on the Western Sahara noted, “public life proceeded peacefully and included large gatherings at social events in urban areas without major incident.” The same report cited claims by some human rights organizations that authorities prevented or dispersed demonstrations in the territory in April 2015-2016, notably preventing demonstrations calling for self-determination or raising socioeconomic issues.

In some cases security forces subjected protesters and activists to arbitrary arrest, according to the Secretary-General’s report (see section 1.d.). Furthermore, the report indicated that some injured protesters, including those detained, did not receive medical attention. As a result, most were unable to obtain a medical certificate to document formally the effects of the violence.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

Moroccan law and practice apply. Generally, the government resisted official recognition of NGOs it accused of advocating against the state religion of Islam, the monarchy, or the government’s official position regarding territorial integrity and claim to Western Sahara. Several organizations the government chose not to recognize functioned without authorization, but the government tolerated their activities.

Yemen

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The law provides for freedom of assembly. The government was unable to prevent infringements on freedom of assembly by Houthi-Saleh rebels and their affiliates, who responded at times with excessive force to demonstrations and protests in various parts of the country.

In October international media reported that gunmen loyal to Houthi militias suppressed demonstrations in Sana’a organized by mothers to protest the treatment of their sons who had been detained by Houthi forces.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

While the law provides for freedom of association, the government lacked the capacity to protect this right, and there were reports that Houthi-Saleh rebels harassed and shut down NGOs. The law regulates associations and foundations and outlines the establishment and activities of NGOs. Authorities required annual registration. The law exempts registered NGOs from taxes and tariffs and requires the government to provide a reason for denying an NGO registration, such as deeming an NGO’s activities “detrimental” to the state. It forbids NGO involvement in political or religious activities. It permits foreign funding of NGOs. The law requires government observation of NGO internal elections. There were no known attempts by NGOs to register during the year.

The OHCHR documented 10 cases in which Houthi-Saleh rebels raided the premises of human rights organizations; international NGOs operating in Sana’a also reported scrutiny, surveillance, and raids by Houthi-Saleh rebels. According to media reports, the rebels shut down three Bahai organizations in connection with the August arrest of individuals at a youth workshop (see section 1.d.).

Zambia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly; however, the government continued to restrict this right. Police and progovernment groups disrupted meetings, rallies, and other activities of opposition political parties and civil society organizations. On April 21, police disrupted a Judicial and Allied Workers Union of Zambia quadrennial conference two days after its opening. Police later claimed the group had failed to notify them of the meeting. On October 6, police arrested UPND President Hakainde Hichilema and Vice President Mwamba on charges of sedition and unlawful assembly. The men were accused of holding an unauthorized political rally and encouraging the crowd to reject the legitimacy of President Lungu’s reelection. Hichilema and Mwamba were released on October 7 after posting bail; their trial was ongoing at year’s end.

The Public Order Act requires political parties to notify police in advance of any rallies but does not require formal approval. In practice, however, police did not allow some gatherings to take place without granting a “permit.” Opposition political parties frequently complained about the selective application of the law, noting that police allowed ruling party gatherings without notification or permits. Police often prevented opposition groups from gathering on the grounds that police received notifications too late, had insufficient staff to provide security, or the gathering would coincide with presidential events in the same province. Although police claimed inadequate staff to provide security for gatherings, police responded in force to disrupt opposition gatherings and often allowed ruling party supporters to disrupt them. In April a UPND supporter died as a result of police disruption of a party gathering.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for freedom of association, but the government placed some limits on this right. All organizations must formally apply for registration to the registrar of societies in the Ministry of Home Affairs. The registration process was long and allowed the registrar considerable discretion.

Zimbabwe

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

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

The Public Order and Security Act requires organizers to notify police of their intention to hold a public gathering–defined as 15 or more individuals–seven days in advance. Failure to do so may result in criminal prosecution as well as civil liability. The law also allows police to prohibit a gathering based on security concerns but requires police to file an affidavit in a magistrates’ court stating the reasons behind the denial. Although many groups did not seek permits, other groups informed police of their planned events, and the police either denied permission or gave no response.

Authorities often denied requests by civil society, trade unions, religious groups, or political parties other than ZANU-PF to hold public events if the agenda conflicted with ZANU-PF policy positions. There were few reports of political rallies interrupted by opposing political parties.

On August 24, opposition supporters held a demonstration against police brutality that turned violent when police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd. The police used force against passersby not involved in the protest, including one American citizen who was hit with a baton by police. On August 26, police used tear gas and batons to disperse a crowd of demonstrators who gathered for a march calling for electoral reforms. Even though opposition leaders received High Court approval to proceed with the demonstration, police dispersed protesters using tear gas. Less than one week later, the government passed Statutory Instrument 101a, banning all demonstrations in the Harare Central Police District during a two-week period. Although the High Court ruled the ban unconstitutional on a technicality September 7, police announced a Proposed Prohibition Order on all public demonstrations in central Harare during a one-month period.

On August 15, the RTUZ began a 120-mile march to Harare to protest poor working conditions in rural schools. The RTUZ abandoned its march several days later, citing intimidation by state security agents.

On September 25, police disrupted a peaceful meeting of the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) in Mutare and arrested 19 of ZINASU’s student leaders. Police released 17 of the 19 leaders after a court found their arrests to be unlawful. The remaining two leaders faced charges of not notifying the police of a public gathering and insulting or undermining the president.

ZANU-PF trained and deployed youths to harass and disrupt the activities of opposition political party members, labor groups, student movements, civic groups, and journalists considered critical of ZANU-PF.

For example, on January 19, police disrupted an MDC-T meeting in Mbare. Several ZANU-PF youths entered the complex and reportedly assaulted MDC-T participants, injuring five.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and law provide for freedom of association, but the government restricted this right. Although the government did not restrict the formation of political parties or unions, security forces and ZANU-PF supporters continued to interfere with their activities. ZANU-PF supporters, sometimes with government support or acquiescence, intimidated and abused members of organizations perceived to be associated with other political parties. In addition to intimidation and harassment, ZANU-PF supporters sometimes burned to the ground the homes of individuals perceived to be associated with opposition political parties.

Persons suspected of being security force members visited the offices and inquired into the activities of churches, numerous NGOs, and other organizations believed to oppose government policies. Organizations generally were free of governmental interference only if the government viewed their activities as apolitical or supportive of ZANU-PF.