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Executive Summary

Angola is a constitutional republic. The ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) has been in power since independence in 1975. In August 2012, the government held the first presidential and legislative elections following the promulgation of the 2010 constitution. The MPLA received 71.8 percent of the vote, and in September 2012, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos began a five-year term as president under the new constitution.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces.

The three most important human rights abuses were cruel, excessive, and degrading punishment, including reported cases of torture and beatings; limits on freedoms of assembly, association, speech, and press; and official corruption and impunity.

Other human rights abuses included arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life; harsh and potentially life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; lengthy pretrial detention; impunity for human rights abusers; lack of due process and judicial inefficiency; forced evictions without compensation; restrictions on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); harassment of and violence against women and children; child labor; trafficking in persons; limits on workers’ rights; and forced labor.

The government took some steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses; however, accountability was weak due to a lack of checks and balances, lack of institutional capacity, a culture of impunity, and widespread government corruption.

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

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

In carrying out law enforcement activities, the government or its agents used excessive and sometimes deadly force.

For example, on August 6, security force members reportedly shot and killed a 14-year-old boy, Rufino Antonio, after they demolished his family’s and other allegedly illegally built homes in a suburban Luanda zone, according to media sources and several NGOs (see section 1.e.). The government and the national ombudsman launched separate investigations into the shooting death, both of which remained ongoing at year’s end.

On April 5, the Huambo provincial court sentenced Jose Kalupeteka, the leader of the Light of the World religious sect, to 28 years in prison for the 2015 clashes between members of his group and police that left 13 civilians and nine police officers dead, according to official figures, although opposition parties continued to allege a higher casualty rate. On August 9, new clashes between police and Light of the World followers in Kwanza Sul Province reportedly resulted in the deaths of five church members and three police officers, and a similar confrontation on August 13 resulted in an unknown number of casualties. The government stated the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) was investigating.

On August 21, media reported that an officer of Alfa 5 Security Services, a private security company affiliated with the government’s diamond enterprise, Endiama, allegedly killed 17-year-old Gabriel Mufugueno, in Lucapa, Lunda Norte Province. According to a relative of the victim, police detained the Alfa 5 officer allegedly responsible for the shooting. The incident elicited protests from artisanal miners in the area.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

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

The constitution and law prohibit all forms of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, but the government did not always enforce these prohibitions. Periodic reports of beatings and other abuses of persons on the way to and in police stations during interrogations continued. The government acknowledged that at times members of the security forces used excessive force when apprehending individuals. Police authorities openly condemned some acts of violence or excessive force against individuals and asked that victims report abuses to the national police or the Office of the Public Defender (Ombudsman).

On September 1, Jose Padrao Loureiro, suspected of belonging to a gang, was beaten and killed by police inside Rangel Police Station, following his arrest on August 31, according to press reports. During the one-day detention, Loureiro was allegedly tortured and killed. National Police Spokesperson Mateus Rodrigues said an autopsy revealed the victim was severely beaten. Authorities opened an investigation on September 5 and detained five police officers.

Security forces reacted harshly and sometimes violently to public demonstrations against the government. Several media and NGO accounts reported police around the country, in particular in the provinces of Luanda, Malanje, Benguela, and the city of Lobito, beat protesters. The visible presence of security forces was enough to deter significantly what were deemed by the government to be unlawful demonstrations. Authorities claimed known agitators who sought only to create social instability organized many of the public demonstrations.

The media reported that, on August 20, during a protest in Luanda calling for the resignation of President dos Santos and for the release of activist Dago Nivel, police allegedly beat several protesters and used the police canine brigade to disrupt the protest; dogs wounded three protesters. The media provided photographs of the incident, including of men with visible bite wounds. Police reportedly later drove a group of protesters, including the men wounded by the canine brigade, to the outskirts of the city and left them there. The General Command of the National Police denied any knowledge of the case.

There were reports of abuses by private security companies in diamond producing regions.

For example, on April 21, in the Cafunfo diamond area, in Lunda-Norte province, private security guards working for a private company allegedly severely beat 10 artisanal miners with machetes, according to a media report that included a video of the incident.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions were harsh and potentially life threatening. Domestic NGOs, activists, and the media continued to highlight corruption, violence, overcrowding, a lack of medical care, and generally poor conditions.

Physical Conditions: In April Antonio Fortunato, director general of penitentiary services, acknowledged overcrowding in prisons was a serious problem.

Authorities frequently held pretrial detainees with sentenced inmates, and short-term detainees with those serving long-term sentences for violent crimes, especially in provincial prisons.

Prison conditions varied widely between urban and rural areas. Prisons in rural areas were less crowded and reportedly had better rehabilitation, training, and reintegration services. Prisons did not always provide adequate medical care, sanitation, potable water, or food, and it was customary for families to bring food to prisoners. Local NGOs stated prison services were insufficient. In 2015 Fortunato acknowledged that approximately five prisoners died each month in the country’s prisons from diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.

In April, Fortunato acknowledged that Viana Jail (on the outskirts of Luanda) lacked adequate potable water and food for inmates. On September 14, activist Nuno Dala published photos allegedly taken inside Viana Jail depicting severely overcrowded conditions and several inmates suffering from malnutrition and tuberculosis due to a lack of food and potable water. On September 16, the newspaper Novo Jornal published a report on the allegedly deplorable conditions; the report included photographs of prisoners who appeared to be malnourished. Novo Jornal also reported that the Rapid Intervention Police (PIR) and the Special Prison Services Detachment (DESP) tortured one of the prisoners allegedly for his role in sharing photos with persons outside the jail. Observers generally regard the newspaper as credible; however, its reporting on conditions inside Viana Jail could not be independently verified.

According to a press report, female inmates accused two officials from the Human Resources and Penal Control Units of the Kwanza Sul Jail of coercing them to have sex in order to be released from prison under the new Amnesty Law. Authorities launched an investigation, and on September 26, the PGR announced the investigation concluded the claims of sexual abuse were false and there were no irregularities in the prison’s inmate release procedures.

Administration: The Ministry of Interior claimed that adequate statistics were available in each facility and that authorities were able to locate every prisoner.

The government investigated and monitored prison and detention center conditions. There was no prison ombudsperson.

Some offenders, including violent offenders, reported paying fines and bribes to secure their freedom but it was unclear how prevalent this practice was.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits to prisons by independent local and international human rights observers and foreign diplomats. For example, the government permitted foreign diplomats to visit the “15 + 2” activists during their imprisonment (section 1.d.). Nevertheless, civil society organizations faced difficulties in contacting detainees, and prison authorities undermined civil society work in the prisons.

Members of opposition parties visited prisons around the country on a regular basis and reported uneven improvements in living conditions and rehabilitation programs. A local NGO that provides pro bono legal services to inmates said prison officials were trying to improve conditions but overcrowding limited results. According to the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, the ministry made monthly visits to detention centers with representatives of the Office of the Public Defender, the PGR, and members of the National Assembly to assess prisoners’ living conditions.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, security forces did not always respect these prohibitions.

According to several NGO and civil society sources, police arbitrarily arrested individuals without due process and routinely detained persons who participated, or were about to participate, in antigovernment protests, despite this right being protected by the constitution. They often released the detainees after a few hours. For example, on August 21, in Lobito, police beat and arrested activists Paulo Vinte-Cinco and Francisco Catraio of the Revolutionary Movement while they participated in a weekly meeting with other youth to discuss politics. More than 20 police officers broke up the meeting and dispersed the participants. Police released the two activists the next day.


The national police, controlled by the Ministry of Interior, are responsible for internal security and law enforcement. The Expatriate and Migration Services (SME), also in the Ministry of Interior, is responsible for migration law enforcement. The state intelligence and security service reports to the presidency and investigates sensitive state security matters. The Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) are responsible for external security but also had domestic security responsibilities, including border security, expulsion of irregular migrants, and small-scale actions against Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda separatists in Cabinda.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the FAA and the national police, and the government has mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. The security forces generally were effective, although sometimes brutal, at maintaining stability. The national police and FAA have internal mechanisms to investigate security force abuses, and the government provided some training to reform the security forces. Impunity for security force abuses remained a problem, however.

Local population generally welcomed police presence in neighborhoods and on streets as enhancing general safety and security. Police officers, however, were believed routinely to extort civilians to supplement their income. Corruption and impunity remained serious problems. The national police handled most complaints internally through opaque disciplinary procedures, which sometimes led to formal punishment including dismissal. The national police participated in a television series designed to show a gamut of interactions between police and civilians. The goal of the show was to encourage the population to collaborate with police while discouraging security force members’ procurement of bribes or their payment. The PGR has an anticorruption unit, charged with oversight of police wrongdoing. The government disclosed publicly the results of some investigations that led to disciplinary action. On September 17, authorities terminated two police officers for extorting money from drivers during traffic stops, according to a press report. On September 13, the government announced the deployment of 400 newly trained police officers as part of an effort to eliminate corruption from the police force.

Police participated in professional training with law enforcement officials from several countries in the region.


In December 2015 a new law on pretrial procedures (Law 25/15) entered into force.

The law requires a magistrate or judge to issue a warrant before an arrest may be made, although a person caught committing an offense may be arrested immediately without a warrant. Authorities, however, did not always procure warrants before making an arrest.

By law the public prosecutor must inform the detainee of the legal basis for his or her detention within 48 hours; however, NGO sources reported authorities often did not respect this requirement. If the public prosecutor is unable to determine whether there is a legal basis for the detention within 48 hours, the prosecutor has the authority to release the person or, depending on the seriousness of the case, require the person to submit to one or more pretrial procedures prescribed by law such as posting bail, periodic appearance before authorities, or house arrest.

If the public prosecutor determines a legal basis exists for the detention, a person can be held in pretrial detention for up to four months without charge and up to 12 months before a judge is required to rule on the case. Cases of special complexity regarding crimes punishable by eight or more years allow for pretrial detention without charge for up to six months and up to 14 months before a judge is required to rule on the case. Under the law, the period of pretrial detention counts toward the total amount of time served.

The law states that all detainees have the right to a lawyer, either chosen by them or appointed by the government on a pro-bono basis. The lack of lawyers in certain provinces at times impeded this right. On September 24, the head of the Angolan Bar Association (ABA) stated there were 1,700 lawyers in the country, an insufficient number to handle the volume of criminal cases, and the geographical distribution of lawyers throughout the country was a problem, as most lawyers were concentrated in Luanda. In 2015 the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights reported that all municipal courts were staffed with licensed lawyers, but at the same time recognized access to a lawyer, especially in the provinces and in rural areas, remained a problem. Several lawyers and NGOs noted that even in Luanda most poor defendants do not have access to lawyers during their first appearance before a judicial authority or during their trial.

The law allows family members prompt access to detainees, but prison officials occasionally ignored this right or made it conditional upon payment of a bribe. The law requires detainees be held incommunicado for up to 48 hours until being presented to a public prosecutor, except they may communicate with their lawyer or a family member.

A functioning but ineffective bail system, widely used for minor crimes, existed. Prisoners and their families reported that prison officials demanded bribes to release prisoners.

Arbitrary Arrest: Unlawful arrest and detention remained serious problems. According to the PGR, allegations of government wrongdoing on arrest practices made by local and international NGOs were due to a lack of understanding of national laws.

Pretrial Detention: Excessively long pretrial detention continued to be a serious problem. An inadequate number of judges and poor communication among authorities contributed to the problem. In some cases, authorities held inmates in prison for up to two years before their trials began. The Ministry of Interior reported during the year that 11,000 inmates were pretrial detainees, approximately 45 percent of the total inmate population. The government often did not release detainees confined beyond the legal time limit, claiming previous releases of pretrial detainees had resulted in an increase in crime.

Detainees’ Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The constitution provides the right of habeas corpus to citizens to challenge their detention before a court. On June 29, the Supreme Court granted the group of activists known as the “15+2” a writ of habeas corpus, ruling that following their March conviction and sentencing to between two and eight years in prison by the Luanda Provincial Court the appeal lodged by their lawyers had a suspensive effect and required their release pending the outcome of their appeal. Judge Domingos Januario, the judge of first instance for the Luanda Provincial Court, was later accused of concealing the activists’ petition for habeas corpus from the Supreme Court. The attorney general launched an investigation of the judge’s handling of the case, which remained ongoing as of September.

The case against the “15+2” began in June 2015 in Luanda, when 15 activists were arrested by security forces during a book discussion. In September 2015, after 102 days of pretrial detention, they and two other individuals were charged with engaging in “preparatory acts to incite rebellion and for planning the overthrow of the president and other institutions of the state.” The activists are collectively referred to as the “15+2.” The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights and the PGR claimed the legal process to detain and charge the activists had been conducted within the law.

Amnesty: On July 20, the National Assembly passed the Amnesty Law (11/16), providing a general amnesty to criminals convicted prior to November 11, 2015, of nonviolent crimes whose sentences were 12 or fewer years in prison. Government representatives stated that the law, proposed by the president in honor of the country’s fortieth anniversary of independence in 2015, was also intended to ease overcrowding in prisons. As of September 23, more than 2,500 prisoners were released under the new law.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent and impartial judiciary. Institutional weaknesses in the judicial system, however, such as political influence in the decision-making process, were problems. The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights and the PGR worked to improve the independence of prosecutors and judges. The National Institute for Judicial Studies conducted capacity-building programs on the importance of an independent judicial system.

There were long trial delays at the Supreme Court. Criminal courts also had a large backlog of cases, which resulted in major delays in hearings. There were only 22 municipal courts for 163 municipalities. To increase access to justice, the PGR in 2014 established offices of legal counsel in most municipalities.

Informal courts remained the principal institutions through which citizens resolved civil conflicts in rural areas, such as disputes over a bartering deal. Each community in which informal courts were located established local rules, creating disparities in how similar cases were resolved from one community to the next. Traditional leaders (known as “sobas”) also heard and decided local civil cases. Sobas do not have the authority to resolve criminal cases; only courts can hear criminal cases.

Both the national police and the FAA have internal court systems that generally remained closed to outside scrutiny. Although members of these organizations can be tried under their internal regulations, cases that include violations of criminal or civil laws can also fall under the jurisdiction of provincial courts. Both the PGR and the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights have civilian oversight responsibilities over military courts.

In November 2015 the judge presiding over the case of the “15+2” activists charged with “preparatory acts to incite rebellion and for planning the overthrow of the president and other institutions of the state” ordered closure of the public trial to independent observers such as members of the diplomatic corps and local NGOs due to the high level of interest in the proceedings and space constraints. Attendance by the public was limited to two family members per defendant. He made special accommodations for reporters to follow the trial in a separate room via closed circuit television. Independent observers were present in other high-profile and sensitive trials such as the 2015 libel and defamation case of Rafael Marques and the 2015 rebellion case against Marcos Mavungo.


Although the law provides all citizens the right to a fair trial, authorities did not always respect this right. Defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Authorities must inform defendants of the charges levied against them in detail within 48 hours of their detention. Defendants have the right to free language interpretation during all legal proceedings from the moment charged through all appeals. By law trials are usually public, although each court has the right to close proceedings. Defendants have the right to be present and consult with an attorney, either chosen by them or appointed by the state, in a timely manner. According to the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, all public defenders are licensed lawyers. Defendants do not have the right to confront their accusers. They may question witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants have the right to sufficient time and facilities to prepare a defense. The law protects defendants from providing self-incriminating testimony. Individuals have the right to appeal their convictions. Authorities did not always respect these trial procedure rights.

Defendants and their attorneys have the right to access government-held evidence relevant to their cases, but authorities did not always uphold this right. For example, in March 2015 political activist Marcos Mavungo was arrested on suspicion of plotting an act of violence against the provincial government of Cabinda. In September 2015, more than 200 days after his arrest, Mavungo was convicted of charges of rebellion against the state and sentenced to six years in prison. His lawyers complained publicly they did not have access to the evidence the government claimed it had to prove guilt; however, the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights and the PGR stated that Mavungo’s case was conducted within appropriate parameters for a case involving national security and that the sentence reflected the seriousness of the crime. Mavungo appealed his sentence. On May 20, the Supreme Court ruled in his favor, acquitting the activist of the charge of rebellion against the state. The Supreme Court cited in its ruling a lack of sufficient evidence to uphold the charge.

A separate juvenile court is designated for children’s affairs. The juvenile court hears cases of minors between the ages of 12 and 16 accused of committing a criminal offense. Minors over age 16 accused of committing a criminal offense are tried in regular courts. In many rural municipalities, there is no provision for juvenile courts, so offenders as young as 12 can be tried as adults. In many cases traditional leaders have state authority to resolve disputes and determine punishments for civil offenses, including offenses committed by juveniles. Traditional authorities are defined in the constitution as ad hoc units of the state.

The president appoints Supreme Court justices for life terms without confirmation by the National Assembly. The Supreme Court generally hears cases concerning alleged political and security crimes.


The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights denied there were political prisoners in the country. Opposition political parties, however, often claimed their members were detained because of their political affiliations. Media reports of opposition parties’ members being harassed and detained for up to 48 hours were common but difficult to confirm.


Damages for human rights violations may be sought in municipal or provincial courts and appealed to the Supreme Court.


The constitution recognizes the right to housing and quality of life, and the law states that persons relocated should receive fair compensation. Under the constitution all untitled land belongs to the state. Throughout the year the government used eminent domain laws to raze housing settlements and other buildings to carry out urban redevelopment projects. According to NGO sources and multiple press reports, security forces demolished hundreds of allegedly illegal, privately built homes in Zango, a suburban Luanda zone that falls within the restrictive perimeter of the Luanda-Bengo Economic zone. These demolitions reportedly displaced thousands of persons and resulted in several deaths during the year. In addition to the shooting death of a 14-year-old boy in August (section 1.a.), the demolitions resulted in the accidental decapitation of an infant in April and the deaths of two individuals with medical conditions in August. Some persons forced to move did not receive fair compensation, at times due to lack of clear title or permits for the destroyed property. Relocated persons who received new housing units often complained their units were located far from their jobs or places of business, or were of substandard quality. There was no new information on the status of a 2015 investigation into reports security forces harassed activists working for SOS Habitat, an NGO dealing with land rights.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but the government did not always respect these prohibitions. Civil organizations and politically active individuals, including government critics, members of opposition parties, and journalists, complained the government maintained surveillance of their activities and membership. These groups also frequently complained of threats and harassment based on their affiliations with groups that were purportedly or explicitly antigovernment. On July 29, Monica Almeida, the wife of “15+2” activist Luaty Beirao, was stopped by two police vehicles while driving in Luanda. Almeida alleged that police blocked her cell phone to prevent her from calling for help and ordered her to drive with the police vehicles for three hours as they proceeded aimlessly around the city, according to press reports. The police responsible later claimed they had mistaken Almeida for a suspected criminal and announced an investigation into the incident.


Executive Summary

The Azerbaijani constitution provides for a republic with a presidential form of government. Legislative authority is vested in the Milli Mejlis. The president dominated the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. On September 26, constitutional amendments were approved that, inter alia, increased the president’s term in office from five to seven years and expanded the powers of the president. Other amendments included a provision permitting the further restriction of freedom of assembly. The constitutional referendum was marked by widespread credible complaints of irregularities. Legislative elections in November 2015 could not be fully assessed due to the absence of an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) election observation mission; independent observers alleged irregularities throughout the country. The 2013 presidential election did not meet a number of key OSCE standards for democratic elections.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

Separatists, with Armenia’s support, continued to control most of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven other Azerbaijani territories. The final status of Nagorno-Karabakh remained the subject of international mediation by the OSCE Minsk Group, cochaired by France, Russia, and the United States. There was an increase in violence along the Line of Contact and the Armenia-Azerbaijan border April 1-5. The heavy clashes led to the highest death toll since the signing of the 1994 cease-fire agreement. There were allegations of atrocities committed by the sides of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict during an April 1-5 outbreak of violence. The sides in the conflict also submitted to the European Court of Human Rights complaints accusing each other of committing atrocities during this period.

The most significant human rights problems during the year included:

Increased government restrictions on fundamental freedoms: Authorities limited the freedoms of expression, assembly, and association through intimidation, incarceration on questionable charges, and harsh abuse of selected activists and secular and religious opposition figures. The operating space for activists and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) remained severely constrained. There was a continuing crackdown on civil society, including intimidation, arrest, and conviction on charges widely considered politically motivated; criminal investigations into NGO activities; restrictive laws; and the freezing of bank accounts that rendered many groups unable to function. Authorities also restricted freedom of expression by closing a semi-independent television station that had been the country’s sole independent broadcaster until late 2006, when its independence began to decline, and by taking actions that resulted in the end of the print edition of a leading opposition newspaper.

Government use of the judicial system to punish dissent: Authorities arbitrarily arrested and detained activists, engaged in politically motivated imprisonment, conducted trials that lacked due process, and subjected activists to lengthy pretrial detention with impunity. Authorities used different pretexts to decrease the number of defense lawyers willing and able to defend the rights of peaceful activists. While authorities released 17 individuals widely considered to be incarcerated for exercising their fundamental freedoms, they held an even larger number of others.

Government restrictions continued on the ability of citizens to choose their government in free and fair elections.

Other problems reported included physical abuse in the military; alleged torture and abuse of detainees, at times leading to death; police violence against peaceful citizens; abuse of inmates in prisons; harsh and sometimes life-threatening prison conditions; detentions without warrants; and incommunicado detention. Authorities often failed to provide due process, including with regard to property rights. There were reports of arbitrary government invasions of privacy, incarceration of religious figures, and restrictions on the religious freedom of some unregistered groups. Authorities restricted freedom of movement for a growing number of journalists and activists. Constraints on political participation persisted. While the government took continued measures towards reducing low-level corruption in government services, allegations of systemic corruption at all levels of government continued. Violence against women, gender-biased sex selection, and trafficking in persons were reported. Societal intolerance, violence, and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity remained problems, as did societal stigma against persons with HIV/AIDS. Authorities did not effectively enforce laws prohibiting discrimination in employment or occupation.

The government did not prosecute or punish most officials who committed human rights abuses; impunity remained a problem.

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

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

Separatists, with Armenia’s support, continued to control most of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven other Azerbaijani territories. The final status of Nagorno-Karabakh remained the subject of international mediation by the OSCE Minsk Group, cochaired by France, Russia, and the United States. There was an increase in violence along the Line of Contact and Armenia-Azerbaijan international border April 1-5. The heavy clashes led to the highest death toll since the signing of the 1994 cease-fire agreement. There were allegations of atrocities committed by the sides of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict during an April 1-5 outbreak of violence. The sides in the conflict also submitted to the European Court of Human Rights complaints accusing each other of committing atrocities during this period.

Both the government and human rights monitors reported a drop in harmful hazing practices in the military. As of November 20, local human rights organizations reported at least 36 noncombat-related deaths in security forces, including suicides and soldiers killed by fellow service members. On February 20, for example, another conscript shot and killed State Border Service (SBS) member Sanan Mehdizade. The SBS refused to comment on the death to media outlets. No further details were available.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

As of July 5, the State Committee on the Captive and Missing reported that 3,866 citizens were registered as missing persons because of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) processed cases of persons missing in connection with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and worked with the government to develop a consolidated list of missing persons. According to the ICRC, more than 4,496 persons remained unaccounted for because of the conflict.

The ICRC assisted prisoners of war and civilian internees and conducted regular visits throughout the year to ensure protection of prisoners under international humanitarian law. The ICRC regularly facilitated the exchange of messages between them and their families to help them re-establish and maintain contact.

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

While the constitution and criminal code prohibit such practices and provide for penalties for conviction of up to 10 years’ imprisonment, credible allegations of torture and other abuse continued. In 2014, the most recent year for which data was available, domestic human rights monitors reported receiving 324 complaints of such abuse by security forces.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention reported receiving a large number of statements during its May 16-25 visit to the country from current and former juvenile, female, and male detainees it interviewed alleging that they had been subjected to torture and mistreatment. According to the working group, interviewees “described having a gun pointed at their head, severe beatings, sometimes lasting several hours, verbal abuse and psychological pressure, practices such as standing on one’s knees for long hours, threats of physical and sexual abuse as well as threats to arrest family members.”

Human rights defenders and media outlets reported at least four cases of torture or other physical abuse during the year that led to death. There was no single source to confirm the exact number of such cases. On April 27, for example, Sumgayit City police detained 37-year-old Rashad Mehdiyev, who died two days later, reportedly from abusive treatment at the police station. Police claimed Mehdiyev died due to a head injury incurred when he accidentally fell. Mehdiyev’s family refuted the claims and released photographs of him with multiple bruises on his body, which they alleged indicated torture. There were no reports on the results of a subsequent investigation.

Reports from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and human rights activists indicated that most mistreatment took place while detainees were in police custody, where authorities reportedly used abusive methods to coerce confessions. In one prominent example, on August 12, police arrested N!DA youth activist Elgiz Gahraman for alleged drug possession after he disparaged a proposed constitutional change that would remove the age limit for presidential candidates. Gahraman was held incommunicado for six days at the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Organized Crime Department. Gahraman later stated that during his detention he was subjected to torture and forced to sign a confession.

In November 2015 law enforcement forces arrested a large group of religious individuals in Nardaran, including the head of the Muslim Unity Movement, Taleh Baghirzada, on charges of alleged involvement in an effort to overthrow the government and put in place an Islamic state. During the trial of 17 of the individuals, Baghizada and 16 other Nardaran residents charged in the case informed the court they were tortured while police interrogated them at the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Organized Crime Department. The defendants specifically claimed that police officer Shahlar Jafarov beat detainee Farahim Bunyadov to death in custody and subjected them to physical abuse. Authorities did not investigate the claims.

Authorities reportedly maintained a de facto ban on independent forensic examinations of detainees who claimed mistreatment and delayed their access to an attorney, practices that made it easier for officers to mistreat detainees with impunity. For example, imprisoned Muslim Unity Movement leader Taleh Baghirzada and his lawyers stated that police tortured him for days in an attempt to force him to renounce his beliefs and provide false accusations against secular opposition leaders Dr. Jamil Hasanli and Ali Kerimli. The Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Organized Crime Unit reportedly denied him access to his attorney for more than a month.

In another prominent case, imprisoned N!DA youth movement activists Bayram Mammadov and Giyas Ibrahimov stated during their trial that police subjected them to torture while in custody. The two youths claimed that officers beat them, forced them to disrobe, and threatened to rape them with truncheons and bottles if they did not confess to charges of drug possession after closed-circuit television footage showed them painting graffiti on a statue of former president Heydar Aliyev. Their attorney reportedly was only able to meet with them after they had signed the coerced drug possession confessions. Despite physical evidence of abuse displayed by Mammadov and Ibrahimov during the trial and appeals to the Prosecutor General’s Office and Ombudsman’s Office in Baku, authorities failed to investigate their allegations.

There were media reports of police violence against citizens not involved in political activity. For example, Bakhtiyar Ismayilov reported that police from the Barda Police Department detained and subjected him to inhumane treatment on the night of September 16 for mistakenly stopping a police car instead of a taxi. He showed numerous bodily injuries after allegedly being beaten at the police department and claimed that police employees warned him not to report the incident. After his public statements, media outlets reported additional allegations of abuse at the same police department from individuals who previously were afraid to speak.

According to official data, the Prison Service investigated 334 complaints against prison system officials for torture or mistreatment between 2009 and 2013. The Ministry of Internal Affairs received 984 such complaints between 2010 and 2013, and the Office of the Prosecutor General received 678 similar complaints between 2010 and 2013. According to the UN Committee against Torture, this was a strong indication that torture investigations were not conducted in a prompt, efficient, and impartial manner.

Although there were reports of a decrease in abusive hazing practices, local observers reported bullying and abuse in military units during the year. The Ministry of Defense set up a telephone hotline for soldiers to report incidents of mistreatment in order to hold unit commanders responsible, which reportedly resulted in improved conditions throughout the armed forces.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

According to a reputable prison-monitoring organization, prison conditions were sometimes harsh and potentially life threatening due to overcrowding, inadequate nutrition, deficient heating and ventilation, and poor medical care. While the government continued to construct facilities, some Soviet-era facilities still in use did not meet international standards. Gobustan Prison, Prisons 3 and 14, and the penitentiary tuberculosis-treatment center reportedly had the worst conditions. Former prisoners and family members of imprisoned activists reported that prisoners often had to pay bribes to use toilets or shower rooms or to receive food. Detainees also complained of inhumane conditions in the crowded basement detention facilities of local courts where they awaited trial. They reported those facilities lacked ventilation and proper sanitary conditions.

Physical Conditions: Authorities held men and women together in pretrial detention facilities in separate blocks, but housed women in separate prison facilities after sentencing. Local NGO observers reported that female prisoners typically lived in better conditions than male prisoners, were monitored more frequently, and had greater access to training and other activities, but that women’s prisoners suffered from many of the same problems as prisons for men. Human rights monitors reported four cases of children under the age of seven living in adult prison facilities with their incarcerated mothers. Convicted juvenile offenders may be held in juvenile institutions until they are 20.

During the year the Ministry of Justice reported 122 deaths in ministry facilities, 81 of which occurred in medical treatment facilities. The ministry reported the majority of death cases occurred from various illnesses including cancer, cardiovascular pathology, and tuberculosis. The Ministry of Internal Affairs reported one death by suicide in its detention facilities in 2016. According to the ministry, as a result of an internal investigation, two police officers were dismissed for neglect of their official duties and one person was subjected to disciplinary action.

Prisoners at times claimed they endured lengthy confinement periods without opportunity for physical exercise. They also reported instances of cramped, overcrowded conditions; inadequate ventilation; poor sanitary facilities; and insufficient access to medical care. Although the law permits detainees to receive daily packages of food to supplement the food officially provided, authorities at times reportedly restricted access of prisoners and detainees to family-provided food parcels. Some prisons and detention centers did not provide access to potable water.

Human rights advocates reported that guards punished prisoners with beatings or by holding them in isolation cells. Local and international monitors reported markedly poorer conditions at the maximum security Gobustan Prison.

Administration: While most prisoners reported that they could submit complaints to judicial authorities and the Ombudsman’s Office without censorship, prison authorities regularly read prisoners’ correspondence, and domestic NGOs reported some prisoners in high-security facilities experienced difficulty submitting complaints. While the Ombudsman’s Office reported conducting systematic visits and investigations into complaints, NGOs reported that the office was insufficiently active in addressing prisoner complaints by, for example, failing to investigate allegations of torture by N!DA activists Bayram Mammadov and Giyas Ibrahimov.

Authorities at times limited visits by attorneys and family members, especially to prisoners widely considered to be incarcerated for political reasons.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted some prison visits by international and local organizations, including the ICRC, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture, the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and parliamentarians and diplomats from European countries. Authorities generally permitted the ICRC access to prisoners of war and civilian internees held in connection with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as well as to detainees held in facilities under the authority of the Ministries of Justice, Internal Affairs, and the National Security Services.

A joint government-human rights community prison-monitoring group known as the Public Committee was allowed access to prisons without prior notification to the Penitentiary Service. On some occasions, however, other groups that reportedly gave prior notification experienced difficulty obtaining access.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

Although the law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, the government generally did not observe these prohibitions, and impunity remained a problem. On May 25, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Arrests expressed concern about the conditions in the special facilities for persons with disabilities and over the ongoing prosecution of human rights defenders, journalists, and political opposition.

In one of the more prominent examples of arbitrary arrest during the year, according to activists, authorities detained 185 individuals prior to, during, and after authorized rallies held on September 11, 17, and 18 in opposition to the September 26 referendum on amending the constitution.


The Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Security Service are responsible for security within the country and report directly to the president. The Ministry of Internal Affairs oversees local police forces and maintains internal civil defense troops. In December 2015 the Ministry of National Security, which oversaw intelligence and counterintelligence activities and had a separate internal security force, was dissolved by presidential order. Its functions were split between the State Security Service, dealing with domestic matters, and the Foreign Intelligence Service, focused on foreign intelligence and counterintelligence issues. NGOs reported that both services detained individuals who exercised their rights to fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression. The State Migration Service and the State Border Service are responsible for migration and border enforcement.

Police crowd-control tactics varied during the year. In some cases police detained peaceful protesters and used excessive force against them.

While security forces generally acted with impunity, the Ministry of Internal Affairs stated that in the first nine months of the year, it took administrative disciplinary action against 259 employees for violation of human rights and freedoms(197 cases), unjustified detentions (12 cases), and rude treatment (62 cases).

Corruption among law enforcement officers was a problem. Low wages contributed to police corruption. In the first nine months of the year, the Ministry of Internal Affairs reported it took disciplinary action against 16 employees in connection with eight cases of corruption, dismissing seven from their institutions, and reassigning nine others. It did not hold any of the employees criminally liable, however.


The law provides that persons detained, arrested, or accused of a crime be accorded due process, including being advised immediately of their rights and the reason for their arrest. The government did not always respect these provisions.

According to the law, detainees are to be brought before a judge within 48 hours of arrest and the judge may issue a warrant placing the detainee in pretrial detention, place the detainee under house arrest, or release the detainee. The initial 48-hour arrest period may be extended to 96 hours under extenuating circumstances. During pretrial detention or house arrest, the Prosecutor General’s Office is to complete its investigation. Pretrial detention is limited to three months but may be extended by a judge up to 18 months, depending on the alleged crime and the needs of the investigation. Authorities at times detained individuals for several days without warrants, and legal experts asserted that judges sometimes issued warrants after a person was detained. There were reports of detainees not being promptly informed of the charges against them.

On March 22, Sumgayit city police mistakenly detained Rashad Abbasov and used physical force against him until he falsely confessed to stabbing another person. Police later identified the true perpetrator of the crime and released Abbasov, who was immediately hospitalized due to numerous bodily injuries. Abbasov’s family stated that police also used electric shock to force him to admit to the crime. Authorities did not investigate the mistreatment.

The law provides for access to a lawyer from the time of detention, but there were reports that authorities frequently denied lawyers’ access to clients in both politically motivated and routine cases. Access to counsel was poor, particularly outside Baku. Although entitled to legal counsel by law, indigent detainees often did not have such access. In one case, attorneys for arrested youth activists Bayram Mammadov and Giyas Ibrahimov reported they were denied access to their clients for two days, from their May 10 detention until minutes before their May 12 trial. During this period police held the two activists incommunicado.

Police at times held politically sensitive and other suspects incommunicado for periods that ranged from several hours to several days. On August 18, for example, authorities detained opposition Popular Front Party (PFP) youth activist Fuad Ahmadli and held him incommunicado for approximately 10 days. In another notable example, in November 2015 law enforcement forces arrested a large group of religious individuals, including the head of the Muslim Unity Movement, Taleh Baghirzada, (see section 1.c.). Following Baghirzada’s arrest, authorities detained more than 70 persons in different parts of the country. As of November 25, a working group of 24 activists considered 52 of those detained to have been arrested arbitrarily due to lack of evidence provided during court proceedings and were reviewing an additional 20 cases as possible arbitrary arrests.

Prisoners’ family members reported that authorities occasionally restricted visits, especially to persons in pretrial detention, and withheld information about detainees. Days sometimes passed before families could obtain information about detained relatives. Authorities sometimes used family members as leverage to put pressure on individuals to turn themselves in to police or to stop them from reporting police abuse.

A formal bail system existed, but judges did not utilize it during the year.

Arbitrary Arrest: Authorities often made arrests based on spurious charges such as resisting police, illegal possession of drugs or weapons, tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship, abuse of authority, or inciting public disorder. Local NGOs and international groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch criticized the government for arresting individuals exercising their fundamental rights and noted that authorities frequently fabricated the charges against them. In particular, police detained individuals who peacefully sought to exercise freedom of expression. For example, on November 7, police in Agstafa District detained PFP youth activist Vusal Zeynalov and charged him with resisting police. The local court sentenced Zeynalov to 30 days of administrative detention. The party headquarters reported that Zeynalov’s critical posts on social networking sites prompted authorities to detain him.

Pretrial Detention: According to the Ministry of Justice, the prison population numbered 23,311 persons, including 730 women. Of these, 3,102 were in pretrial detention. Authorities held persons in pretrial detention for up to 18 months. The Prosecutor General’s Office routinely extended the initial three-month pretrial detention period permitted by law in successive increments of several months until the government completed an investigation.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: By law, persons arrested or detained, regardless of whether on criminal or other grounds, are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention and obtain prompt release and compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained.

Amnesty: On March 18, the president pardoned 148 prisoners. NGOs considered 14 to have been political prisoners, including Anar Mammadli, chairman of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center; N!DA activists Rashadat Akhundov, Rashad Hasanov, Mammad Azizov, and Omar Mammadov; journalists Hilal Mammadov and Parviz Hashimli; human rights activist Rasul Jafarov; and the deputy chairman of Musavat Party, Tofig Yagublu. Also released were activists Taleh Khasmammadov, Nemat Panahli, Yadigar Sadigov, and Siraj Karimov. There were reports that authorities pressed some of the released prisoners to write letters seeking forgiveness for past “mistakes” as a condition of their pardon. Several prisoners, such as the chair of the opposition REAL movement, Ilgar Mammadov, reported that authorities used physical abuse, placement into isolation cells, assaults by other prisoners, and threats to family members to extract such letters.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, judges did not function independently of the executive branch. The judiciary remained largely corrupt and inefficient. Many verdicts were legally insupportable and largely unrelated to the evidence presented during the trial. Outcomes frequently appeared predetermined. Courts often failed to investigate allegations of torture and inhumane treatment of detainees in police custody.

The Ministry of Justice controlled the Judicial Legal Council. The council appoints a judicial selection committee (six judges, a prosecutor, a lawyer, a council representative, a Ministry of Justice representative, and a legal scholar) that administers the judicial selection examination and oversees the long-term judicial training and selection process.

Credible reports indicated that judges and prosecutors took instruction from the Presidential Administration and the Ministry of Justice, particularly in cases of interest to international observers. There were credible allegations that judges routinely accepted bribes.


The law provides for public trials except in cases involving state, commercial, or professional secrets or confidential, personal, or family matters. The law provides for: the presumption of innocence in criminal cases; the right to be informed promptly of charges; the right to free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals; the right to review evidence, confront witnesses, and present evidence at trial; the right of indigent defendants to a court-approved attorney; the rights to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense; the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt; and the right of both defendants and prosecutors to appeal. Authorities did not always respect these provisions.

Judges at times failed to read verdicts publicly or to give the reasoning behind their decisions, leaving defendants without knowledge of the reasoning behind the judgment. Judges also limited the defendant’s right to speak. In the trial of Bayram Mammadov, for example, judges ordered Mammadov to stop speaking and left the chamber when Mammadov asserted his right to make a final statement.

The courts often limited independent observation of trials. Civil society activists and defendants asserted that authorities filled the courtroom with paid agents to occupy more seats. Information regarding trial times and locations was generally available, although there were some exceptions, particularly in the Baku Court of Grave Crimes.

Although the constitution prescribes equal status for prosecutors and defense attorneys, judges often favored prosecutors when assessing motions, oral statements, and evidence submitted by defense counsel, without regard to the merits of their respective arguments. Lawyers for the accused in the Nardaran case noted that judges and prosecutors left the courtroom together to discuss a defense motion before it was denied. Judges also reserved the right to remove defense lawyers in civil cases for “good cause.” In criminal proceedings, judges may remove defense lawyers because of a conflict of interest, such as the placement of defense lawyers onto the witness list, or if a defendant requests a change of counsel.

The law limits representation in criminal cases to members of the country’s government-influenced Collegium (bar association). The number of defense lawyers willing and able to accept sensitive cases reportedly declined during the year due to various measures taken by authorities, including by the Collegium’s presidium, its managing body. Such measures included disbarment or threats of disbarment. For example, the Collegium disbarred lawyer Muzaffar Bakhishov after he criticized Supreme Court chairman Ramiz Rzayev. There were reports of Collegium pressure on lawyers. On April 1, the Collegium strongly reprimanded lawyers Bahruz Bayramov and Elchin Sadigov for “disrespect” when they objected to the court hearing the case of their client, Parviz Hashimli, in his absence. There were also reports of police physically intimidating lawyers, pressure from prosecutors and police, and occasional harassment of family members. Most of the country’s human rights defense lawyers practiced in Baku, which made it difficult for people living outside of Baku to receive timely and quality legal service.

The constitution prohibits the use of illegally obtained evidence. Despite some defendants’ claims that authorities obtained testimony through torture or abuse, courts did not dismiss cases based on claims of abuse, and there was no independent forensic investigator to substantiate allegations of abuse. Human rights monitors reported judges often ignored claims of police mistreatment. Examples during the year of judges ignoring such claims included the “Nardaran case” and the case against N!DA activists Bayram Mammadov and Giyas Ibrahimov (see section 1.c.). According to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, whereas it received “a large number of testimonies” of torture and mistreatment during its May visit to the country, none of the country’s officials or detainees with whom the group met indicated that a judge had questioned a detainee on his/her treatment in custody.

Investigations often focused on obtaining confessions rather than gathering physical evidence against suspects. Serious crimes brought before the courts most often ended in conviction, since judges generally sought only a minimal level of proof and collaborated closely with prosecutors.

With the exception of the Baku Court of Grave Crimes, human rights advocates also reported courts often failed to provide interpreters despite the constitutional right of an accused person to interpretation. Courts are entitled to contract interpreters during hearings, with expenses covered by the state budget.

There were no verbatim transcripts of judicial proceedings. Although some of the newer courts in Baku made audio recordings of proceedings, courts did not record most court testimonies, oral arguments, and judicial decisions. Instead, the court recording officer generally decided the content of notes, which tended to be sparse.

The country has a military court system with civilian judges. The Military Court retains original jurisdiction over any case related to war or military service.


In addition to the presidential pardons of 14 individuals widely considered political prisoners (see section 1.d.), authorities released three others in the spring: journalists Rauf Mirkadirov and Khadija Ismayilova, and defense lawyer Intigam Aliyev. Despite the release of these 17 individuals, local NGO activists estimated the number of political prisoners and detainees to range from 119 to 160. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 25 government critics remained incarcerated for politically motivated reasons at year’s end. NGO lists included the following incarcerated individuals, many of whom Amnesty International considered prisoners of conscience (also see sections 1.f., 2.a., 2.c., 3, 4, and 5).

On June 28, the Baku Court of Grave Crimes sentenced Rufat Zahidov and Rovshan Zahidov to six years in prison on charges of alleged possession of illegal drugs. Human rights activists and their lawyer stated that both defendants were imprisoned for being relatives of exiled opposition journalist and former political prisoner Ganimat Zahid. Editor in chief of Azadliq newspaper Zahid resided in France and published articles critical of Azerbaijani authorities on his online news outlet, Azerbaycan saati (Azerbaijan hour).

On April 19, authorities allowed prominent activists Leyla and Arif Yunus to leave the country for medical treatment after a number of court appeals. In August 2015 the Baku Court of Grave Crimes sentenced Leyla Yunus to eight and one-half years in prison for fraud, tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship, and forging official documents, and her husband, Arif Yunus, to seven years in prison for fraud.

On October 25, the Baku Court of Grave Crimes sentenced N!DA youth activist Giyas Ibrahimov to 10 years’ imprisonment for alleged drug possession. Authorities had arrested him and fellow youth activist Bayram Mammadov in May, after closed-circuit television footage showed them defacing a monument of former president Heydar Aliyev with graffiti. NGOs reported that, while in custody, they were tortured into confessing to drug possession charges (see section 1.c.). On December 9, the Court of Grave Crimes sentenced Mammadov to 10 years on similar charges.

Individuals considered by activists to be political detainees included Muslim Unity Movement leader Taleh Baghirzada (see section 1.c. and the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report, and deputy chairman of the opposition Popular Front party Fuad Gahramanli (see section 3). NGO lists also included individuals convicted in previous years, including REAL movement chair Ilgar Mammadov, who remained incarcerated despite a 2014 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights calling for his release; N!DA activist Ilkin Rustamzade; and journalist Seymur Hazi.

By law political prisoners are entitled to the same rights as other prisoners, although restrictions on them varied. Authorities provided international humanitarian organizations access to political prisoners.


Citizens have the right to file lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations. The law does not provide for a jury trial in civil matters; a judge decides all civil cases. District courts have jurisdiction over civil matters in their first hearing; the Court of Appeals and then the Supreme Court address appeals. As with criminal trials, all citizens have the right to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) within six months of exhausting all domestic legal options, including an appeal to and ruling by the Supreme Court.

Citizens exercised the right to appeal local court rulings to the ECHR and brought claims of government violations of commitments under the European Convention on Human Rights. The government’s compliance with ECHR decisions was mixed. For example, it implemented the part of one 2014 ECHR judgment requiring it to pay 22,000 euros ($24,200) in compensation to Ilgar Mammadov for violating his rights but failed to release Mammadov as stipulated by the judgment.

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

The law prohibits arbitrary invasions of privacy and monitoring of correspondence and other private communications. The government generally did not respect these legal prohibitions.

While the constitution allows for searches of residences only with a court order or in cases specifically provided for by law, authorities often conducted searches without warrants. It was widely reported that the State Security Service and the Ministry of Internal Affairs monitored telephone and internet communications, particularly those of foreigners, youth figures active online, some political and business figures, and persons engaged in international communication. There were indications the postal service monitored certain politically sensitive mail. For example, the postal service reportedly twice “lost” Popular Front deputy chairman Fuad Gahramanli’s appeal of his case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Police continued to intimidate, harass, and sometimes arrest family members of suspected criminals, independent journalists, political opposition members and leaders, as well as employees and leaders of certain NGOs. For example, Elnur Seyidov, opposition Popular Front Party chairman Ali Kerimli’s brother-in-law, remained incarcerated since 2012 on charges widely viewed as politically motivated. In February the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic threatened to arrest the family members of exiled businessman Mammad Gurbanov if he did not stop criticizing authorities. Gurbanov left Nakhchivan after reportedly experiencing long-standing harassment and physical abuse by police.

There were several examples of the use of politically motivated incarceration of relatives as a means of pressuring exiles. In the summer of 2015, authorities arrested Rufat and Rovshan Zahidov, relatives of the exiled editor of the opposition newspaper Azadliq, Ganimat Zahidov. In November the two incarcerated relatives publicly denounced Ganimat Zahidov, but he had not been released as of year’s end. In July 2015 authorities also incarcerated Nazim Aghabeyov, the brother-in-law of well-known journalist in exile Emin Milli. Aghabeyov was conditionally released on April 22. On September 29, opposition leader Jamil Hasanli’s daughter, Gunel Hasanli, was released from prison after serving nine months on charges that activists considered were politically motivated.

In September, prior, during, and after rallies against the referendum on constitutional amendments, police interrogated and reportedly intimidated family members of political and human rights activists as well as of independent journalists.

There were also reports that authorities fired individuals from their jobs or had individuals fired in retaliation for the political or civic activities of family members.

NGOs reported that authorities did not respect the laws governing eminent domain and expropriation of property. Homeowners often received compensation well below market value for expropriated property and had little legal recourse. NGOs also reported that many citizens did not trust the court system and were therefore reluctant to pursue compensation claims.


Executive Summary

The Republic of Burundi is a constitutional, multiparty republic with an elected government. The 2005 constitution provides for an executive branch that reports to the president, a bicameral parliament, and an independent judiciary. In June, July, and August 2015 voters re-elected President Pierre Nkurunziza and chose a new National Assembly (lower house) in elections boycotted by independent opposition parties, who claimed Nkurunziza’s election violated legal term limits. International and domestic observers characterized the elections as largely peaceful but deeply flawed and not free, fair, transparent, or credible.

Civilian authorities at times did not maintain control over the security forces. Observers considered the military generally professional and apolitical, but the National Intelligence Service (SNR) and police tended to be influenced directly by, and responsive to, the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) party. Members of the CNDD-FDD’s youth group, the Imbonerakure, sometimes operated in cooperation with police, but often acted independently of any identifiable oversight. Imbonerakure members arrested persons with impunity, despite having no legal powers of arrest.

The most important human rights abuses in the country were extrajudicial killings, including reports of mass graves; arbitrary and politicized detention; and widespread government infringement of the freedoms of speech, press and media, assembly, and association.

Other human rights abuses included disappearances; harsh and sometimes life-threatening prison conditions; a highly politicized judicial system that lacked independence from the executive branch; and prolonged pretrial detention, often without formal charges. Authorities harassed and intimidated journalists and ordered the closure of civil society and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that criticized the government and the CNDD-FDD. Government corruption was a serious problem. Security forces reportedly raped women and girls, and widespread sexual and gender-based violence and discrimination against women and girls were serious problems. Human trafficking occurred. Discrimination occurred against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community, persons with disabilities, and persons with albinism. Authorities did not respect labor rights, and forced child labor existed.

The reluctance of police and public prosecutors to investigate and prosecute and of judges to hear cases of government corruption and human rights abuse in a timely manner resulted in widespread impunity for government and CNDD-FDD officials.

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

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

There were numerous reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, although the number declined from 2015. As of October 5, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) documented more than 150 killings of individuals, many of them extrajudicial killings committed by police, the SNR, or military personnel, sometimes with involvement of local government officials. By comparison, the OHCHR documented more than 400 cases of arbitrary or unlawful killings in 2015.

In December 2015 police responded to an armed attack on three military installations by conducting house-to-house searches in several neighborhoods of Bujumbura perceived as opposed to the president serving a third term. Numerous civilian victims were found dead with their hands bound behind their back and shot in the head. The official death toll from the fighting was 87, but the nongovernmental organizations SOS-Torture Burundi and Ligue Iteka estimated that between 150 and 200 persons died in the fighting and subsequent searches. On January 15, the OHCHR released a statement calling for an immediate investigation into the events of December 2015, citing reports, including eyewitness accounts, of mass graves containing the bodies of those killed. The high commissioner stated, “We’ve received numerous allegations that during the initial search operations on 11 and 12 December in the Musaga, Nyakabiga, Ngagara, Cibitoke, and Mutakura neighborhoods of Bujumbura, police and army forces arrested considerable numbers of young men, many of whom were later tortured, killed, or taken to unknown destinations.” On January 28, Amnesty International (AI) released a report citing satellite imagery and eyewitness accounts indicating that victims from the fighting were buried in mass graves. On March 10, an investigation commissioned by the prosecutor general asserted that “no mass graves had been found in the locations cited by certain NGOs” and added that, on February 29, it had discovered a common grave dug for the victims of insurgents that had not been included in previous reports.

There were also reports of killings targeting security force personnel and individuals associated with the CNDD-FDD. Unidentified gunmen killed a senior CNDD-FDD member, Darius Ikurakure, on March 22; army General Athanase Kararuza on April 25; and an East African Legislative Assembly member, Hafsa Mossi, on July 13. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), a high-ranking Imbonerakure member reported the killings of more than 50 Imbonerakure since April 2015, including at least four killed in grenade attacks in Bujumbura in May.

According to a UN Independent Investigation on Burundi (UNIIB) report published in September, armed opposition groups were believed to be behind grenade attacks that killed civilians. The Republican Forces of Burundi and Resistance for a State of Law in Burundi (RED-Tabara) claimed responsibility for two attacks in Cibitoke and Musaga neighborhoods on February 6. Medecins Sans Frontieres reported that its trauma center in Bujumbura treated 55 persons injured in a grenade attack on February 11 and another 61 injured in an attack on February 15. The frequency of grenade attacks in Bujumbura declined in the second half of the year.

b. Disappearance

There were reports that individuals were victims of politically motivated disappearances after they had been detained by elements of the security forces. As of October 5, the OHCHR documented at least 30 cases of enforced disappearances. Ligue Iteka, a local human rights NGO, alleged 331 disappearances during the period between December 2015 and November. After meeting with the relatives of many individuals who had disappeared, UNIIB concluded that agents affiliated with the SNR, police, and the military were responsible for many disappearances. The OHCHR documented either members of police, the SNR, the Burundian National Defense Forces (BNDF), or Imbonerakure as the presumed perpetrators of 96 percent of enforced disappearances it recorded.

Ligue Iteka documented at least 15 alleged disappearances during the year in which the missing individual was a member of the security forces, specifically a member of the preintegration, Tutsi-dominated army. HRW released a report in February that alleged “an alarming new pattern of abductions and possible disappearances” that began after the December 2015 attacks on three government military facilities. According to the report, abductions sometimes targeted security forces suspected of involvement in the attacks.

Jean Bigirimana, a journalist for independent newspaper Iwacu, was abducted from his car on July 22. Bigirimana’s spouse was present at the abduction and stated publicly that SNR officers were responsible. Despite cooperation from the Independent National Commission for Human Rights (CNIDH) in searching for the journalist, his whereabouts remained unknown at year’s end.

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

The constitution and penal code prohibit cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, but there were reports government officials employed them. As of October 5, the OHCHR documented 558 cases of torture and mistreatment of persons that the government accused as participating in the failed 2015 coup attempt or subsequent efforts to remove it from power. UNIIB cited the SNR, Imbonerakure, and to a lesser extent the BNDF as being “consistently identified as the perpetrators.”

In a July 13 report, HRW stated that members of the security services or the intelligence services “had hit people repeatedly and slammed gun butts into detainees’ faces or limbs, in some cases breaking their bones or smashing their jaws until their teeth fell out. SNR agents beat detainees with steel construction bars, drove sharpened steel rods into their legs, tied cords to detainees’ genitals and pulled, used electric shock, and poured liquid on detainees, which burned them.” Both HRW and UNIIB cited information that senior figures in the security apparatus were aware of, or were personally involved in, torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. In June Minister of Public Security Alain Guillaume Bunyoni wrote to HRW that police could not have tortured or mistreated detainees and denied that police collaborated with the Imbonerakure.

In response to observations by the UN Committee against Torture adopted in August, the government asserted that all agents of the National Police as well as the SNR are subject to the penal code and that, “in cases [of alleged torture or mistreatment] known by the competent authorities, criminal and administrative cases are regularly opened to charge police officers involved.” The director of penitentiary administration stated that during the year no police officer was arrested for torture or abuse of prisoners or suspects in their custody and no officer was prosecuted for abusing detainees. Many police officers, however, were jailed for other crimes, including banditry, stealing, rape, unlawful use of a weapon, or losing a weapon.

On July 27, HRW released a report based on testimony from more than 70 rape victims who had fled to the Nduta refugee camp in western Tanzania. According to the report, “(members of) Imbonerakure known to victims, men in police uniforms, and unidentified armed men, some of whom accused the victims of supporting an opposition party or being married to an opposition supporter, were among those responsible for rapes or gang-rapes of 38 women interviewed by HRW.” The report suggested the more than 170 rape cases reported to UNHCR might have been only a fraction of the total, as medical staff of aid organizations believed many women did not report rape unless they sought treatment for medical problems related to their assault.

The government, in response to similar statements in the UNIIB report in September, denied any of the rape cases pending before courts were related to political dissent. It claimed that neither the Humura Center nor the Seruka Center, two centers that treat victims of sexual violence, had reported rape cases linked to political repression.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prisons were overcrowded, and conditions remained harsh and sometimes life threatening. Conditions in detention centers managed by the SNR and in local “lock-ups” managed by police generally were worse than in prisons. There were reports of physical abuse, lack of adequate medical treatment, and prolonged solitary confinement. Prisons did not have adequate sanitation systems (toilets, bathing facilities), drinking water, ventilation, and lighting. Prisons and detention centers did not have special facilities for persons with disabilities. Prisons did not meet the standards established by the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela rules).

Physical Conditions: The Office of Penitentiary Affairs reported that, at year’s end, there were 10,049 inmates, including 5,065 pretrial detainees, in 11 prisons, the majority of which were built before 1965, to accommodate 4,194 inmates in all. Of the 10,049 inmates, 457 were women and 106 were juveniles. Authorities held 129 juveniles in two juvenile detention facilities that opened in November 2015. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) stated that fully implementing an ordinance that no children were to be held in adult prisons “remained challenging.” In addition, there were 78 children living with their incarcerated mothers. The most crowded prisons were Muramvya (30 miles from Bujumbura), where the inmate population was at 533 percent of capacity, and Mpimba (in Bujumbura) which was at 409 percent of capacity. No information was available on the number of persons held in detention centers managed by the SNR or in communal jails operated by police. There was a prison for women in Kayanza. Authorities commonly held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners. No data were available on the number of deaths in detention, reports of abuse by guards, or prisoner-on-prisoner violence.

According to government officials and international human rights observers, many prisoners suffered from intestinal illnesses and malaria. An unknown number died from disease. Each inmate received 12 ounces of manioc and 12 ounces of beans daily; rations also included oil and salt on some days. Authorities expected family and friends to provide funds for all other expenses. Each prison had at least one qualified nurse and received at least one weekly visit by a doctor, but prisoners did not always receive prompt access to medical care; inmates with serious medical conditions were sent to local hospitals.

Radio Bonesha reported that in November Jean Claude Nduwayezu, an imprisoned member of the opposition Democratic Solidarity Movement (MSD) party, died after the director of the Mpimba prison did not give timely authorization for him to receive medical treatment. According to Nduwayezu’s family, the director allowed him to go to the hospital only after two previous requests were refused.

Conditions for political prisoners were sometimes worse than for ordinary prisoners. In September 2015 officials transported 28 high-profile prisoners accused of participating in the failed May 2015 coup attempt to the Central Prison in Gitega. They reportedly were incarcerated four to a cell in isolation cells intended to hold one person. Independent human rights observers noted the cells did not have windows or toilet facilities. According to one of the detainees’ lawyers, as of October, conditions of detention remained the same.

Administration: Prison authorities allowed prisoners to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship, but they rarely investigated prisoners’ complaints. There were credible reports of mistreatment of prisoners, but no record that abusers were punished. Visitors were authorized to see prisoners in most cases, and religious observance was allowed.

Independent Monitoring: Until October 10, the government permitted all visits requested by international and local human rights monitors, including monitors from the OHCHR and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Monitors visited all prisons, communal jails, and SNR detention centers regularly. Monitoring groups had complete and unhindered access to those prisoners held in known detention facilities. On October 10, however, the government suspended official cooperation with the OHCHR in the wake of the UNIIB report, although the government continued to allow some access to and monitoring of prisoners. As of October, the ICRC still had unhampered monitoring access to known detention facilities.

On April 18, UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein expressed deep concern over emerging reports of “secret detention facilities across the country.” The September UNIIB report concluded there were “reasonable grounds to believe” security forces and Imbonerakure had established 13 places of detention unacknowledged by the prosecutor general, according to alleged victims the UNIIB had interviewed.

In its response to the UNIIB report, the government challenged UNIIB’s “reasonable grounds to believe” there were unacknowledged detention centers by asserting there was no tangible evidence to support the allegations.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but the government often did not observe these prohibitions. The law provides for a fine of 10,000 Burundian francs ($6) and imprisonment of 15 days to one year for any member of the security forces implicated in arbitrary arrest. Police arrested persons on accusations of “undermining state security, participation in armed banditry, holding illegal meetings, illegal detention of weapons, or simply because they were traveling to or from other provinces or neighboring countries,” according to the OHCHR. As of October 5, the OHCHR documented 5,209 arrests it deemed arbitrary, since the individuals involved were arrested without charge, without arrest warrants, or for “investigation purposes.” Of the arrests, 2,467 eventually resulted in subsequent release for lack of evidence.

As of October, UNICEF documented more than 100 cases of children who had been detained for “participation in armed groups, participation in an insurrectional movement, or illegal possession of arms.” UNICEF stated these children were not recruited or used in armed groups, nor had they been in possession of arms. The children told UNICEF personnel they were arrested while traveling, walking in neighborhoods, or during searches and arrest operations by police, the military, or the SNR.

In May, June, and July, 440 students were suspended and 73 detained for defacing pictures of the president in school textbooks. The 73 detainees were charged with contempt for the head of state, a charge that normally carries a penalty of six months to five years in prison. Following advocacy by the OHCHR, UNICEF, and other international actors, the minister of education pardoned and released the detainees and lifted the suspensions of the other students. UNICEF reported a new case of a student detained for “scribbling” in October.

SOS-Torture Burundi alleged numerous instances of police arresting large groups of persons in raids; those arrested allegedly had to pay bribes to be released. The September UNIIB report stated that persons arrested by security forces were often subject to extortion and asked to pay “ransoms” of four to five million francs ($2,400 to $3,000) to middlemen to secure their release.

Minister of Public Security Alain Guillaume Bunyoni, in a June letter to HRW, wrote that allegations of police demanding money from detainees or their families in exchange for their release were “a lie” and that any police involved in extortion would face “severe administrative sanctions and penalties.”


The National Police, which is under the Ministry of Public Security’s authority, is responsible for law enforcement and maintenance of order. The armed forces, which are under the Ministry of Defense’s authority, are responsible for external security but also have some domestic security responsibilities. The SNR, which reports directly to the president, has arrest and detention authority. Members of the Imbonerakure were involved in numerous arrests, according to the OHCHR, although they have no arrest authority. Police, the SNR, the armed forces, and local officials committed human rights abuses, usually with impunity.

The constitution provides for equal numbers of Hutu and Tutsi in the military, police, and the SNR to prevent either of these ethnic groups from having disproportionate power that might be used against the other. The integration of police and the SNR did not achieve equilibrium between Hutu and Tutsi members, as a large majority remained Hutu.

Police generally were poorly trained, underequipped, underpaid, and unprofessional. Local citizens widely perceived them as corrupt, including demanding bribes and engaging in criminal activity. The Anticorruption Brigade, which reports to the Office of the President, is responsible for investigating police corruption.

Approximately 75 percent of police were former rebels. Eighty-five percent of police received minimal entry-level training but had no refresher training in the past five years, while 15 percent received no training. Wages were low, and petty corruption widespread.

Police were heavily politicized and responsive to the CNDD-FDD. Police officials complained that militant youth loyal to the CNDD-FDD and President Nkurunziza infiltrated their ranks. Civil society organizations (CSOs) claimed the weaponry carried by some supposed police officers was not in the official arsenal. Some police officers prevented citizens from exercising their civil rights and were implicated in torture, killing, and extrajudicial execution. The government was slow to investigate and prosecute these cases, which resulted in a widespread perception of police impunity and politicization.

AI cited the case of a police officer, Desire Uwamahoro, as “an emblematic example” of the ineffective criminal investigations and prosecutions that had allowed impunity to flourish. According to AI’s 2016 submission to the UN Committee against Torture, Uwamahoro was convicted of torture in 2010 and sentenced to five years in prison and a fine of 10 million francs ($6,000), but the sentence was never carried out, and he remained a police force member. In October 2015 he was appointed head of a new police unit, the Antiriot Brigade. In October the SNR arrested him on charges related to gold smuggling, and the government replaced him as head of the Antiriot Brigade. The Appeals Court of Bujumbura sentenced him to three months in prison.

On March 22, Human Rights Minister Nivyabandi told the Human Rights Council that “today’s Burundi is not a land where impunity exists.” He cited the incarceration as of that date of 139 police officers and 84 members of the military convicted of various crimes, including assassination, assault, rape, and torture. In August, Minister of Security Alain Guillaume Bunyoni announced the dismissal of 20 police officers for improper conduct.

The international community provided instruction at the police academy on human rights, the code of conduct, and community-oriented policing. Due to suspension of cooperation by international donors and the government’s suspension of the OHCHR’s activities, many, but not all, of these programs were suspended or canceled.

Mixed security committees, whose members came from local government, regular security services, and the citizenry, operated in towns and villages throughout the country. Local government authorities designed the committees to play an advisory role for local policymakers and to flag new threats and incidents of criminality for local administration. SOS-Torture and Ligue Iteka alleged the committees allowed the Imbonerakure a strong role in local policing, which permitted the ruling party to harass and intimidate opposition members on the local level. The mixed security committees remained controversial because lines increasingly blurred between Imbonerakure members and police. Imbonerakure members reportedly detained individuals for political or personal reasons.

Independent observers generally regarded the BNDF as professional and politically neutral. The BNDF’s Office of the Inspector General investigates allegations of military abuse.

The country has contributed peacekeepers to the AU Mission in Somalia since 2008 and to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSCA) in the Central African Republic since 2014. On March 28, the United Nations stated that it had received allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation against MINUSCA peacekeepers from Burundi. On June 3, the United Nations announced that the Burundi police units serving in the Central African Republic would not be replaced at the end of their tour, which ended in July. As of October, 850 BNDF soldiers remained in MINUSCA.

The SNR’s mandate is to provide both external and internal security. Independent observers asserted that the SNR’s ranks grew during the year with the inclusion of youth loyal to the CNDD-FDD. It investigated certain opposition political party leaders and their supporters. Many citizens perceived the SNR as heavily politicized and responsive to the CNDD-FDD. NGOs, including AI and HRW, asserted SNR officials colluded with the Imbonerakure in torture and extrajudicial killings.


Arrests require warrants issued by a presiding magistrate, although police may arrest a person without a warrant by notifying a supervisor in advance. Police have seven days to finish their investigation and transfer suspects to appear before a magistrate but may request a seven-day extension if they require additional investigation time. Police rarely respected these provisions and routinely violated the requirement that detainees be charged and appear before a magistrate within seven days of arrest.

A magistrate must either order the release of suspects or confirm the charges and continue detention, initially for 14 days, and for an additional seven days if necessary to prepare the case for trial. Magistrates routinely failed to convene preliminary hearings, often citing their heavy case backlog or improper documentation by police. A UN human rights team that visited SNR facilities in Bujumbura in April reported that 25 of the 67 detainees they saw had been kept in custody beyond the prescribed maximum.

Lack of transportation for suspects, police, and magistrates was the most frequently cited reason for the failure to convene preliminary hearings. This was a particular problem in the six provinces without prisons, where lack of transport prevented the transfer of suspects from the site of detention to the provincial court with jurisdiction over the case.

Judges have authority to release suspects on bail but rarely used it. They may also release suspects on their personal recognizance and often did so. Suspects may hire lawyers at their own expense in criminal cases, but the law does not require legal representation, and the government did not provide attorneys for those unable to afford one. Prisons have solitary confinement facilities, and detainees were sometimes held in them for long periods. Authorities on occasion denied family members prompt access to detainees, particularly those detainees accused of opposing the government.

The law provides for prisoners access to medical care and legal assistance. The SNR denied lawyers access to detainees held at its headquarters in Bujumbura. The ICRC stated that it had “full access” to prisons and detention centers. Several credible organizations, however, concluded that the SNR maintained clandestine holding cells unknown to the ICRC or human rights organizations. The UN Committee against Torture alleged that cases of torture and mistreatment occurred in unofficial detention centers where national and international observers had no access.

Arbitrary Arrest: The law provides for a fine of 10,000 francs ($6) and imprisonment of 15 days to one year for arbitrary arrest by security forces. There was no evidence that this law has ever been applied. According to the OHCHR, police, the SNR, and local administrative authorities had arrested 5,209 persons as of October 5; of whom 2,467 were released without charge. Authorities released many within a day or two of their detention.

Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention remained a serious problem. The law specifies authorities may not hold a person longer than 14 days without charge. As of October, according to the director of prison administration, 50.4 percent of inmates in prisons and detention centers were pretrial detainees. The average time in pretrial detention was one year, according to the Office of Penitentiary Affairs, and authorities held some without charge. Some persons reportedly remained in pretrial detention for nearly five years. In some cases the length of detention equaled or exceeded the sentence for the alleged crime. Inefficiency and corruption among police, prosecutors, and judicial officials contributed to the problem. For example, authorities deprived many persons of their legal right to be released on their personal recognizance, because public prosecutors failed to open case files or files were lost. Others remained incarcerated without proper arrest warrants, either because police failed to complete the initial investigation and transfer the case to the appropriate magistrate or because the magistrate failed to convene the required hearing to rule on the charges.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested or detained, regardless of whether on criminal or other grounds, are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention and obtain prompt release if found to have been unlawfully detained. There was no record that any person challenged their arrest on these grounds during the year.

Amnesty: During the February visit of the UN Secretary-General, the president reportedly agreed to release up to 2,000 detainees. On February 23, the government granted an amnesty to some prisoners by presidential decree, freeing some who were serving sentences of less than five years and halving the sentences of others. The decree specifically excluded those imprisoned for the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, armed robbery, illegal possession of firearms, threatening the internal and external security of the state, voluntary homicide, being a mercenary, cannibalism, and all other crimes committed in association with organized gangs. As a result of a presidential decree, 1,370 prisoners were released from prisons. According to Human Rights Minister Martin Nivyabandi during his remarks to the Human Rights Council on March 22, the amnesty reduced the incarcerated population by one quarter.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, there were instances when authorities subjected members of the judiciary to political influence or bribery to drop investigations and prosecutions, predetermine the outcome of trials, or avoid enforcing court orders.

There were allegations the public prosecutor willfully ignored calls to investigate senior figures within the security services and national police. Serious irregularities undermined the fairness and credibility of trials, and the failure to prosecute members of the security forces accused of abuse created an atmosphere of impunity.


The law presumes defendants innocent. Panels of judges conduct all trials publicly. Defendants have the right to prompt and detailed information of the charges and free interpretation from the moment charged through all appeals, if necessary, although these rights were not always respected. Defendants have the right to a fair trial without undue delay and to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, although this did not always occur. Defendants have a right to counsel but not at the government’s expense, even in cases involving serious criminal charges. Few defendants had legal representation because few could afford the services of a lawyer. Some local and international NGOs provided legal assistance to some. Defendants have a right to defend themselves, including questioning prosecution or plaintiff witnesses, calling their own witnesses, and examining evidence against them. Defendants also may present evidence on their own behalf and did so in the majority of cases. Defendants have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt. The law extends the above rights to all citizens.

The right to a fair trial was often violated, especially in cases related to the May 2015 failed coup attempt. For example, persons convicted of participating in the failed coup were sentenced by the Supreme Court on January 15. Defense lawyers stated they were not allowed to speak to their clients during the trial or have access to case files before the hearing in eight cases. Seven lawyers were suspended for complaining about the inaccessibility of case files, and the court refused to hear certain witnesses presented by the defendants. The prosecution objected to the perceived leniency of the sentences and appealed the case. On May 9, an appeals court handed down tougher sentences to the defendants. During the appeal, the OHCHR reported that two defendants were denied the assistance of a lawyer, that some witnesses for the defense were not heard by the court, and that the court did not disclose the motivation for its judgment.

All defendants, except those in military courts, have the right to appeal their cases to the Supreme Court. The inefficiency of the court system extended the appeals process for long periods, in many cases for more than a year.

Procedures for civilian and military courts are similar, but military courts typically reached decisions more quickly. The government does not provide military defendants with attorneys to assist in their defense, although NGOs provided some defendants with attorneys in cases involving serious charges. Military trials generally are open to the public but may be closed for reasons such as national security or when publicity might harm the victim or a third party; for example, cases involving rape or child abuse. Defendants in military courts are entitled to only one appeal.

While many of the above rights were violated, no rights were systematically denied to persons from specific groups.


The OHCHR estimated there were more than 500 political prisoners or detainees as of year’s end. The government denied it held persons for political reasons, citing instead threats made against the state, participation in a rebellion, or inciting insurrection.

The director of prison affairs said he could not identify political prisoners, as they were incarcerated on charges just like ordinary criminals. In some cases, however, political prisoners were housed in separate cells. In its September submission to the UN Human Rights Council, AI also reported instances in which political prisoners did not receive access to adequate, timely, medical care.


Individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations and may appeal decisions to an international or regional court. In May 2015, for example, independent journalists contested the 2013 media law in the East African Court of Justice and won their appeal. The decision obliged Burundi’s parliament to review the law and make changes to it, which it did. These changes, adopted in May 2015, effectively repealed parts of the 2013 law that provided for specific punishments for journalistic crimes and required journalists to reveal their sources to the government.


In the wake of fears and severe economic hardship following the 2015 political crisis, more than 300,000 Burundians fled to neighboring states, primarily Tanzania. Radio Bonesha reported in February that government agents and private citizens seized land that had been owned or otherwise legally occupied by these refugees.

The National Commission for the Land and Other Properties (CNTB) was established in 2006 to resolve land ownership conflicts. In March 2015 the president suspended the implementation of all decisions to expropriate taken by the CNTB due to violence associated with land disputes in Makamba Province. He lifted the suspension in January, and the CNTB continued its work to resolve land ownership conflicts.

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

The constitution and law provide for the right to privacy and require search warrants, but authorities did not always respect these rights. Police, SNR agents, and Imbonerakure members–sometimes acting as mixed security committees–set up roadblocks and searched vehicles for weapons. They conducted search-and-seizure operations in contested neighborhoods of Bujumbura throughout the year. During these searches security agents seized weapons and household items they claimed could be used to supply an insurgency, including large cooking pots and mosquito nets.

Individuals often needed membership in, or perceived loyalty to, a registered political party to obtain or retain employment in the civil service and the benefits that accrued from such positions, such as transportation allowances, free housing, electricity, water, exemption from personal income taxes, and interest-free loans.

In 2015 protesters opposed to a third term for the president, led by civil society groups and opposition parties, engaged in peaceful protests allegedly infiltrated by armed opposition elements. Police, the SNR, and members of the irregular security forces, including Imbonerakure members, responded with live bullets, water cannons, and tear gas. The use of violence escalated on both sides in 2015 and continued through the year with targeted killings and grenade attacks. The government accused opposition supporters of targeted killings of several senior government officials during the year, including Colonel Darius Ikurakure on March 22, Brigadier General Athanase Kararuza with his wife and daughter on April 25, and East African Community Legislative Assembly member Hafsa Mossi, on July 13. Security forces accused residents in neighborhoods viewed as pro-opposition of throwing grenades at them. In at least two cases, opposition organizations claimed responsibility for grenade attacks against government forces. The population generally feared police, the SNR, and irregular security forces. By year’s end, more than 100,000 persons had fled the instability in the country, joining the 230,000 refugees that had fled the country in 2015 in refugee camps or settling elsewhere in Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Killings: As of October 5, the OHCHR had documented 157 killings associated with the political unrest during the year.

Abductions: Security forces abducted individuals, particularly young men, from neighborhoods perceived as supportive of the opposition. The OHCHR observed that local human rights defenders labeled many arbitrary detentions as abductions. Some abductions, particularly those for which the SNR was responsible, resulted in the death of the person detained. The OHCHR did not have an estimate of the number of persons authorities had abducted.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Detained individuals reported mistreatment by police and the SNR after their detention. HRW issued several reports citing hundreds of cases of torture, rape, abductions, and incarceration without charge, in which the victims were noncombatants whom the SNR, police, and Imbonerakure perceived to be disloyal to the Nkurunziza administration.

Child Soldiers: According to the OHCHR, the structure of the BNDF prevents the widespread use of child soldiers. Two isolated cases of recruitment by the armed opposition force RED-Tabara were documented.

Other Conflict-related Abuses: Some detainees were denied health care or had treatment for injuries and illnesses interrupted.

Central African Republic

Executive Summary

The Central African Republic is a presidential republic. After a three-year transitional government, most recently led by Catherine Samba Panza from January 2014 to March 2016, voters elected President Faustin-Archange Touadera in a February run-off. A new constitution came into effect on March 30, approved by 93 percent of voters in a December 2015 referendum; voter turnout was 38 percent. International observers reported both the presidential elections and constitutional referendum were free and fair, despite reports of irregularities. The constitution established a bicameral parliament, with a directly elected National Assembly and an indirectly elected Senate. On January 25, the Transitional Constitutional Court annulled the December 30 National Assembly elections due to widespread irregularities, voter intimidation, and fraud and ordered new elections. On May 3, the National Assembly was seated following several rounds of new elections; elections for the Senate were not held, and no date had been announced.

Civilian authorities did not maintain effective control over the security forces, and state authority barely extended beyond the capital, Bangui. Armed groups controlled significant swaths of territory throughout the country and acted as de facto governing institutions, taxing local populations, providing security services, and appointing armed group members to leadership roles.

The most serious human rights problems included arbitrary and unlawful killings, especially those perpetrated by the ex-Seleka and groups known as the anti-Balaka. (Note: This report refers to the “ex-Seleka” for all abuses attributed to the armed factions associated with Seleka, including the Popular Front for the Renaissance in the Central African Republic or FPRC, Union for Peace (UPC), and Patriotic Movement for Central African Republic or MPC, which occurred after the Seleka was dissolved in September 2013). Beginning in 2012 the violence claimed thousands of lives. More than 800,000 persons remained internally displaced or had fled to neighboring countries. Enforced disappearances, torture, and sexual violence, including rape, continued.

Other human rights problems included harsh and life-threatening conditions in prisons and illegal detention facilities; arbitrary arrest and detention; delays in re-establishing a functional judicial system, resulting in prolonged pretrial detention; seizure and destruction of property without due process; and the use of excessive and indiscriminate force in internal conflict. There were restrictions on freedom of movement. Many internally displaced persons lacked protection and access to basic services, especially outside Bangui. Corruption was widespread. Domestic and international human rights groups faced harassment and threats. Discrimination and violence were experienced by women; children; persons with disabilities; ethnic minorities; indigenous people; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons; individuals with HIV/AIDS; Christians; and Muslims. Forced labor and child labor, including forced child labor, and use of child soldiers were also problems.

The government did not take steps to investigate and prosecute officials who committed violations, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government, creating a climate of impunity that was reinforced by a general lack of citizen access to judicial services. There were numerous allegations that peacekeepers and staff in UN missions sexually abused adults and children in the country during the year (see section 1.c.).

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

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

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

Members of the Central Office for the Repression of Banditry (OCRB), a police anticrime unit, conducted extrajudicial killings near Bangui. International nongovernmental organization (NGO) Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported 18 extrajudicial killings allegedly committed by the OCRB between April 2015 and March. For example, on January 27, witnesses told HRW that OCRB members apprehended and unlawfully killed a market vendor. Led by Colonel Robert Yekoua-Kette, the OCRB was largely composed of soldiers of the Central African Armed Forces (FACA) who operated as police officers. In June the government removed Colonel Yekoua-Kette as commander of the OCRB but failed to investigate or punish suspected OCRB perpetrators.

Armed rebel groups, particularly members of the various factions of ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka, killed civilians, especially persons suspected of being members or sympathizers of opposing parties in the conflict (see section 1.g.). The killings, often reprisals in nature, included summary executions and deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on civilians.

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan rebel group that operated in eastern regions of the country, and other armed groups, including Reclamation, Return, and Rehabilitation (3R), Revolution and Justice (RJ), and the Democratic Front of the Central African People, were responsible for civilian killings (see section 1.g.).

Ethnic killings related to cattle theft occurred (see section 6).

b. Disappearance

There were reports forces from the ex-Seleka, anti-Balaka, and other armed groups were responsible for politically motivated disappearances. Those abducted included police and civilians (see section 1.g.).

There were many reports of disappearances committed by the LRA for the purpose of recruitment and extortion (see section 1.g.).

In June 2015 the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) issued a statement regretting the lack of progress by the Republic of the Congo government in the investigation of the disappearances following the arrest of persons from a private home in Boali in 2014. In June, HRW reported the discovery of a mass grave near a peacekeeping base in Boali, exhumed on February 16. The grave contained the remains of 12 persons identified as those detained by the Republic of the Congo peacekeepers. The Congolese government conducted no known investigations.

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

Although the law prohibits torture and specifies punishment for those found guilty of physical abuse, there were several reports government officials employed them.

The UN independent expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic and HRW reported allegations that security forces, particularly members of the OCRB, mistreated individuals in pretrial detention and during the arrest of suspected criminals. For example, on April 28, the OCRB arrested a former anti-Balaka fighter accused of armed robbery. Former OCRB commander Yekoua-Kette ordered his men to beat the arrestee in public.

In February the government arrested a member of the FACA guarding Bimbo Women’s Prison, near Bangui, for the alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl in the prison. On March 3, the suspect was remanded into custody and placed in Ngaragba Prison; he had not been brought before a judicial authority by year’s end. In March the UN independent expert expressed concern over allegations of rape of detainees at Bimbo Women’s Prison and raised the issue with the public prosecutor. MINUSCA subsequently took charge of national prison staffing in Bangui and Bouar and trained female prison officers to manage Bimbo Women’s Prison.

Forces from the ex-Seleka, anti-Balaka, LRA, and other armed groups abused, raped, and tortured civilians with impunity. Deaths due to torture occurred (see section 1.g.).

The United Nations reported it had received 50 allegations during the year (as of December 20) of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) by UN peacekeepers deployed to MINUSCA, with 16 alleged incidents occurring in 2016, 31 in 2015, one in 2014, and two for which the dates of the alleged incidents were unknown. These allegations involved peacekeepers from Burundi, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, the Republic of the Congo, and Zambia. Of the 50 allegations, 34 involved minors, 43 remained pending investigation by the United Nations or the troop or police contributing country at year’s end, and four allegations were found to be unsubstantiated. Three investigations substantiated the allegations and resulted in a one-year sentence for a peacekeeper from Bangladesh for sexually abusing a minor, a court-martial and five-year sentence for an Egyptian peacekeeper for sexually assaulting an adult, and 45 days’ imprisonment for a Gabonese peacekeeper for sexual activity with a minor.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on all countries that contribute peacekeepers to increase predeployment education and human rights training, enhance vetting procedures, conduct rapid and effective investigations, ensure consistent penalties for offenders, increase assistance to victims, and strengthen reporting of cases of sexual exploitation and abuse.

On December 5, the United Nations announced that its Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) had completed an internal investigation into more than 100 allegations of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers deployed in Dekoa, Kemo Prefecture, in 2014-15. During the investigation, which began in April, OIOS interviewed 139 persons and found that 45 were able to identify, via photographs and other corroborating evidence, 41 alleged perpetrators–16 of whom were from Gabon and 25 from Burundi. Of the 45 alleged victims, 25 were minors. Eight alleged victims, including six minors, made paternity claims. The United Nations announced it had shared the OIOS report with Gabon and Burundi, including the names of the identified alleged perpetrators, and requested appropriate judicial actions to ensure criminal accountability. The United Nations reported the alleged perpetrators had all been rotated out of the Central African Republic before the allegations surfaced. The United Nations requested a copy of the final national investigation reports to be transmitted urgently.

During the year MINUSCA continued to strengthen its prevention measures and reinforce its outreach among communities and peacekeepers across the country, especially in high-risk areas, to improve awareness and reporting on sexual exploitation and abuse and other forms of misconduct. MINUSCA also regularly monitored conditions and behavior of peacekeeping personnel and partnered with UN agencies and implementing partners in the country that provide psychosocial, medical, and legal assistance to victims of sexual exploitation and abuse.

There were credible allegations of human rights violations and abuses by members of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) deployed to the country since 2009 as part of the African Union Regional Task Force to counter the LRA. Preliminary investigations found at least 18 women and girls were subjected to sexual violence and harassment by UPDF members. There were an additional 14 reported cases of rape, including of victims who were minors. Several women and girls reported they had been taken from their villages by UPDF members and forced to become prostitutes or sex slaves or to marry Ugandan soldiers.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

According to the UN independent expert, detention conditions in the country’s prisons did not generally meet international norms and were often inhuman. The government operated two prisons in or near Bangui: Ngaragba Central Prison for men (with an estimated 500 inmates) and Bimbo Women’s Prison (with an estimated 300 inmates). A combination of international peacekeepers, FACA troops, and judicial police guarded the men’s prison and its perimeter, while female prison officers, trained by MINUSCA and the Ministry of Justice, guarded the women’s prison. There were also staffed prisons in 10 other towns. Conditions in other prisons not emptied or destroyed by recent conflict were life threatening and substantially below international standards. Basic necessities, including food, clothing, and medicine, were inadequate and often confiscated by prison officials.

MINUSCA’s contribution to prison administration resulted in a gradual demilitarization of facilities and a reduction in escapes.

Ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka forces held an unknown number of persons in illegal prisons and detention centers, but neither the government nor humanitarian agencies visited these sites, and their conditions were unknown.

Physical Conditions: Authorities sometimes held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners and juveniles with adults. In prisons outside Bangui, it was common practice to hold men and women together.

Official prisons lacked basic sanitation and ventilation, electric lighting, basic and emergency medical care, and sufficient access to potable water. Prisoners seldom had access to health care, and disease was pervasive. In the women’s prison, authorities divided inmates into three large rooms with no ventilation or electric lighting, and all, including pregnant women, slept on thin straw mats on concrete floors.

Administration: There was no centralized recordkeeping system to track the number of prisoners. There was no ombudsman system. Prison detainees have the right to submit complaints of mistreatment, but victims rarely did so, due to lack of a functioning formal complaint mechanism and fear of retaliation by prison officials. Authorities seldom initiated investigations of abuse in the prisons.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring by independent observers, including the UN independent expert in March.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law provides protection against arbitrary arrest and detention and accords detainees the right to a judicial determination of the legality of their detention, but the government did not always observe these prohibitions. In the territories they controlled, the ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka also ignored such provisions, and arbitrary arrest and detention remained serious problems throughout the country.


The police and gendarmerie have responsibility for enforcing law and maintaining order; however, both largely were withdrawn from the interior of the country during the violence in 2013 and had limited or no presence in many areas. While the police and gendarmerie increased the number of towns in which they were present during the year, they remained poorly trained and had few functioning arms and little ammunition.

Impunity was a problem. Contributing factors included insufficient staffing and resources; corruption; unpaid salaries for the police, gendarmerie, and judiciary; and too few prisons.

In April and May, 320 police officers and agents were trained by MINUSCA’s police component on community policing, human rights, and gender-based violence (GBV). MINUSCA also trained 77 police and gendarmes, including 18 women, on human rights and the use of force.

MINUSCA had a military police force of 11,820, including 1,820 police officers. The role of MINUSCA’s police force was to protect the civilian population from physical violence within its capabilities and areas of deployment. MINUSCA police had the authority to make arrests and transfer persons to national authorities but not to investigate cases.

On July 16, the EU launched its military training mission in the country. The mission contributed to defining the overall approach of the EU to security-sector reform.


Judicial warrants are not required for arrest. The law stipulates persons detained in cases other than those involving national security must be informed of the charges against them and brought before a magistrate within 72 hours. This period is renewable once, for a total of 144 hours, but authorities often did not respect these deadlines, in part due to inefficient judicial procedures and a lack of judges.

The bail system did not function. Authorities sometimes followed legal procedures in cases managed by gendarmes or local police. Lawyers continued to work and were sometimes accessible. For individuals detained by ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka and placed in illegal detention centers, legal procedures were not followed, and access to lawyers was not provided.

The prosecution of persons subject to sanctions was minimal, although arrest warrants reportedly were issued for several sanctioned individuals.

Arbitrary Arrest: The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention. Arbitrary arrest was a serious problem, however, and some ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka groups arbitrarily targeted and detained individuals.

Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention was a serious problem.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: No information was available on this subject.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for a judiciary, whose independence is guaranteed by the president. By year’s end no judges had been appointed to the Constitutional Court established by the new constitution. In 2013 the Seleka plundered the courts and destroyed records throughout the country, leaving the courts barely able to operate. Many magistrates and government workers who fled the violence in 2013 did not return to their homes during the year, especially outside the capital, due to fear for their safety. Corruption was a serious problem. Courts suffered from inefficient administration, a shortage of trained personnel, salary arrears, and a lack of resources. Authorities, particularly those of high rank, did not always respect court orders.


The penal code presumes defendants are innocent until proven guilty. Trials are public, and defendants have the right to be present and consult a public defender. Criminal trials use juries. The law obliges the government to provide counsel for indigent defendants; this process delayed trial proceedings due to the state’s limited resources. Defendants have the right to question witnesses, present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf, access government-held evidence, and file appeals. The law extends these rights to all citizens. The transitional government sometimes complied with these requirements. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges (with free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals), to receive adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, and not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Authorities seldom respected these rights.

The government reiterated its desire to establish the Special Criminal Court. The selection committee for national magistrates was established and the operating budget for the first 18 months was approved.

In June the International Criminal Court sentenced the former leader of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, Jean-Pierre Bemba, to 18 years’ imprisonment for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by his troops in the country in 2002-03.


There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.


The constitution provides for an independent judiciary in civil matters, but citizens had limited access to courts to bring lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, a human rights violation. There is no system for the protection of victims and witnesses, who faced intimidation and insecurity. Civil society organizations claimed victims, who often lived side-by-side with perpetrators, were unable to testify against perpetrators, especially since there was no guarantee of a credible judicial process.

The Criminal Court held its annual session in August and September. Some 55 cases were on the docket, many with multiple defendants, including trials for murder, criminal conspiracy, illegal retention of weapons of war, misappropriation of public funds, rape, and witchcraft.

For example, the court sentenced Honniset Sabin, Olivier Ngala, and Ghislain Kolet in absentia to 20 years’ imprisonment for conspiracy and armed robbery. A warrant was issued for their arrest.

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

The law prohibits searches of homes without a warrant in civil and criminal cases, and there were no reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

The country’s administrative and commercial infrastructure remained significantly damaged or destroyed due to widespread looting and pillaging in 2013.

Serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, including unlawful killings, torture and other mistreatment, abductions, sexual assaults, looting, and destruction of property were perpetrated by all armed groups in the conflict, including the ex-Seleka and the anti-Balaka, whose fighters operated freely across much of the country, facilitated by the widespread circulation of small arms.

In February armed Fulani (Peulh) herders, at times supported by ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka fighters, attacked civilians along a corridor used for the seasonal movement of livestock in the central regions, leading to temporary mass displacement of populations in the towns of Kouango, Kaga Bandoro, and Batangafo.

Killings: Attacks by armed groups resulted in numerous civilian casualties. For example, on January 5, outside the village of Pakam, in Nana Mambere Prefecture, armed Peulh affiliated with the 3R group led by self-proclaimed Colonel Siddiki reportedly shot and killed a civilian before burning the body. The same group allegedly was responsible for the death of two men on March 21 during an attack on the village of Ngouvota, near Kaga Bandoro. On March 4, members of the ex-Seleka UPC allegedly killed three women from the same family who were returning from their fields five miles from Bambari; the killings were in retaliation for the deaths of two UPC members.

Beginning in May localized communal violence increased in the North. The movement of nomadic herders in the Northwest sparked tensions, including in Ngaoundaye, in Pende, Ouham Prefecture, after a refusal by residents to allow herders to cross their land. Violence in Ngaoundaye on June 15 resulted in at least 10 deaths, destroyed houses, and the displacement of thousands of persons to surrounding towns, as well as to neighboring Cameroon and Chad, according to the United Nations.

In June and July, a series of attacks by armed groups occurred in and outside of Bangui. On June 20, for example, armed fighters clashed with MINUSCA soldiers in Bangui’s PK-5 area, which resulted in the deaths of six armed men and 15 civilians. On June 24, unidentified assailants killed a Senegalese peacekeeper. In early July clashes between the different ex-Seleka factions in Kaga Bandoro forced civilians to seek protection in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) protected by international forces. Since mid-June the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) registered more than 6,000 new refugees from the Central African Republic in Chad and Cameroon.

On September 16, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported attacks in Kouango that resulted in 19 deaths, 380 houses burned, and populations from 11 villages fleeing.

The LRA also killed civilians during the year, targeting in particular the Haute-Kotto and Mbomou prefectures. Attacks against civilians since the beginning of the year included killings, abductions, and GBV. Between January and April, the LRA abducted more than 290 persons, including 60 children. Thousands of civilians were displaced.

Abductions: The LRA, ex-Seleka, anti-Balaka, and other armed groups abducted numerous persons. According to MINUSCA, abductions and hostage taking were used to extort money from relatives, press authorities into releasing their incarcerated colleagues, and intimidate populations into allowing armed groups to impose authority.

On June 19, the armed group in Bangui’s PK-5 area led by Abdoulaye Issene held six police officers hostage for five days. Earlier security force members arrested armed Fulani (Peulh) herders who were bringing their cattle into Bangui, which spiraled into reprisal attacks against the police. After several days of government negotiations, the hostages were released unharmed, with MINUSCA facilitating their handover.

Kidnappings by the LRA reportedly increased. The LRA significantly stepped up its activity in the eastern region, especially in the mining areas east of Bria, in the Haute-Kotto Prefecture, and along the Mbomou River between the towns of Rafai and Obo. According to an international NGO, the LRA was responsible for 42 incidents, six civilian fatalities, and 252 civilian abductions in the country in the first quarter.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: The ex-Seleka and forces associated with anti-Balaka groups reportedly tortured, beat, and raped civilians in the course of the conflict.

Members of armed groups reportedly continued to rape girls and women with impunity. For example, on February 23, four armed men affiliated with the RJ movement gang-raped a 14-year-old girl who was returning home on foot in the village of Pende, Ouham and afterward attacked her with machetes. On February 26, an anti-Balaka leader raped a pregnant 25-year-old woman in the Batangafo, Ouham IDP camp before beating her husband and two other persons who were trying to protect her. MINUSCA arrested the attacker.

Between January and August, at least 110 persons were accused of witchcraft or quackery. Suspected individuals were often subject to arbitrary arrests and executions by members of armed groups, lynching by a mob, or expulsion from their communities.

There were reports peacekeeping forces, including MINUSCA and international contingents, exploited women and children, although some of the reports referred to cases that occurred prior to 2016 (see section 1.c.).

Child Soldiers: Reports of use of child soldiers continued during the year. According to estimates by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), between 6,000 and 10,000 child soldiers were recruited during the latest conflict through 2015; some remained with armed groups. NGOs reported children recruited by armed groups were sent to fight, used for sexual purposes, and used as cooks, porters, or messengers. According to the UN independent expert, the LRA forced children to commit atrocities such as looting and burning villages, killing village residents, and abducting or killing other children.

According to the 2016 Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, the United Nations documented 40 cases of child recruitment and use in 2015; more than half the cases were perpetrated by the LRA and more than a quarter by ex-Seleka faction the UPC. Armed groups forced children to be combatants, messengers, informants, and cooks. Girls also were used as sex slaves. In addition the United Nations documented the presence of children manning checkpoints and barricades alongside armed individuals reportedly sympathetic to or affiliated with anti-Balaka and ex- Seleka elements.

Also see the Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report at


Executive Summary

Chad is a centralized republic in which the executive branch dominates the legislature and judiciary. In April, President Idriss Deby Itno, leader of the Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS), was elected to a fifth term with 59.92 percent of the vote. While the election was orderly and had a high voter turnout, it was neither free nor fair, and there were numerous irregularities. Runner-up Saleh Kebzabo, who received 12.80 percent of the vote, refused to accept the outcome of the election, stating it was an “electoral stickup.” In the 2011 legislative elections, the ruling MPS won 118 of the National Assembly’s 188 seats. International observers deemed that election legitimate and credible.

Civilian authorities did not always maintain effective control of the security forces.

The most significant human rights problems were security force abuse, harsh prison conditions, and restrictions on freedoms of speech and assembly, particularly before and after the April election.

Other human rights abuses included arbitrary killings by security forces and use of torture; politically motivated disappearances; arbitrary arrest and detention, incommunicado detention, and lengthy pretrial detention; denial of fair public trial; and executive influence on the judiciary. The government restricted freedoms of press and movement. The government limited the ability of citizens to choose their government, the MPS party dominated the political process, and government corruption remained a problem. Societal abuse of refugees and discrimination and violence against women and children were problems. Child abuse, including female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), occurred, as did early and forced marriage and the sexual exploitation of children. Trafficking in persons, particularly children, was a problem. Interethnic discrimination occurred, as did discrimination against persons with disabilities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals; and persons with HIV/AIDS. Forced labor, particularly by children, occurred.

The government seldom took steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses, whether in the security services or elsewhere in the government, and impunity was a problem.

Members of Boko Haram, the Nigerian militant terrorist group, killed numerous persons in the country, often using suicide bombers.

There were allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse committed by personnel from the country who were deployed to UN peacekeeping missions.

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

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

There were reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary and unlawful killings, including by torture. Human rights groups credibly accused security forces of killing and torturing with impunity, according to Freedom House.

Security forces used excessive force to disperse demonstrators, which resulted in deaths.

For example, on February 15, hundreds of youths marched towards the N’Djamena courthouse to demand justice for a young woman named Zouhoura, whose kidnapping and rape by male classmates earlier in the month had been posted on social media. Police Mobile Intervention Group personnel dispersed the crowd with tear gas before the crowd reached the courthouse. Meanwhile another protest broke out in front of Zouhoura’s home. As an officer of the National and Nomadic Guard of Chad (GNNT) passed by, protesters reportedly threw rocks at and barred passage of his vehicle. To disperse the crowd, the officer fired his gun into the air, but the bullet ricocheted and killed Ousmane Abachou Hassan, a demonstrator. On February 22, in the northern town of Faya Largeau, one person died and five were injured after soldiers used lethal force to disperse demonstrations in support of Zouhoura.

The government released no information on its investigation into the August 2015 killings of two detainees at Radina substation in the fifth district of N’Djamena. According to their parents, the two were arrested after they had refused to flee when a military vehicle approached, stating they had done nothing wrong. The hospital medical certificates attributed one death to “chest trauma caused by beating causing thoracic hemorrhage” and the other to “injuries caused by torture.” The two gendarmes responsible for the beatings were arrested shortly after the incident.

Interethnic violence resulted in deaths (see section 6).

Boko Haram members attacked and killed civilians in the Lake Chad Region.

For example, on January 31, in the Lake Chad area, simultaneous Boko Haram suicide attacks in the towns of Guie and Miterine resulted in three deaths and injuries to 56 persons, according to local media.

In 2015 Boko Haram suicide bombings in N’Djamena resulted in 67 civilian deaths and numerous injuries. Ten Boko Haram members were executed by firing squad, and 350 Boko Haram members reportedly remained in pretrial detention at Koro-Toro Prison.

b. Disappearance

There were reports of politically motivated disappearances, abductions, or kidnappings, and allegations the government held detainees incommunicado. Following the April 10 presidential election, there were reports of missing soldiers allegedly arrested for voting against President Deby.

Laoukein Kourayo Medard, president of the opposition Chadian Convention for Peace and Development (TCDC), reported the disappearance and arrest of several members of his party.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but there were reports government officials employed them (see section 1.a.). In its Annual Report 2013, Amnesty International noted that “cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishments, including beatings, continued to be widely practiced by security forces and prison guards with almost total impunity.”

More than two dozen military members reportedly were jailed and beaten in April for refusing to vote for the president.

In an interview with the press, TCDC member Dionadji Dionheur said National Security Agency (ANS) agents arrested him on April 20 and subsequently beat and tortured him. After he was detained several days, ANS agents handed him over to the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights without charge. Dionheur said he was released after his lawyers filed a request based on health grounds. At the time of the interview, he was being treated at the regional hospital at Moundou, reportedly for injuries incurred during torture.

Security forces used excessive force against demonstrators.

The United Nations reported that between January and December, it received one allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse against a Chadian peacekeeper for an alleged incident occurring during the year. The allegation involved military personnel deployed to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). According to the United Nations, the allegation was pending a UN investigation at year’s end.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in the country’s 45 prisons remained harsh and potentially life threatening due to food shortages, gross overcrowding, physical abuse, and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care.

Physical Conditions: Prison overcrowding was a serious problem. Despite the near doubling of the prison population since 2012, no new facilities had been constructed. Authorities did not separate juveniles from adult male prisoners and sometimes held children with their inmate mothers. Authorities did not always separate male and female prisoners, and pretrial detainees were held with convicted prisoners.

Local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported food, potable water, sanitation, and health services were inadequate. Prison guards, who were not regularly paid, sometimes released prisoners if bribed. Provisions for heating, ventilation, and lighting were inadequate or nonexistent. The law stipulates a doctor must visit each prison three times a week, but authorities did not respect this provision. The few prisons that had doctors lacked medical supplies. Family members of detainees frequently provided them with food, soap, medicine, and other supplies. Forced labor in prisons occurred.

No estimate of deaths in prisons or detention centers was available.

Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports of inmate escapes or revolts due to harsh prison conditions.

From January to February 2015, a commission organized by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights conducted an inspection of judicial and prison administration as well as prison facilities. At Amsinene Prison, the central prison in N’Djamena, the inspection team found approximately 1,300 inmates in facilities designed to hold 300. The commission discovered detainee cases that had been pending for years and cases in which persons were incarcerated without commitment orders. In its final report, the commission recommended the adoption of a number of measures, including holding special hearings to reduce time in detention; releasing prisoners whose remand time exceeded the penalty; and constructing a separate facility for juvenile detainees, to include a social reintegration center. It was unknown whether any of these recommendations had been implemented by year’s end.

Regional prisons were crumbling, overcrowded, and without adequate protection for women and youths. They reportedly received insufficient funding to feed inmates.

Administration: Due to inadequate recordkeeping and management, some individuals remained in prison after completing their sentences or after courts ordered their release. There was no prison ombudsman, and there were no functioning mechanisms by which prisoners could submit complaints about prison conditions to judicial authorities.

Prisons were severely understaffed. According to the Directorate of Prison Management and Social Reintegration, the guard force at Sarh Prison was one-third its mandated strength. In Amsinene Prison, only 30 of the 70 guard positions were filled.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to visit prisons, and the ICRC conducted such visits during the year. At the maximum security Koro-Toro Prison, where few families visited due to its distance from N’Djamena, the ICRC visited every four to six weeks.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but the government did not always observe these prohibitions. In its Freedom in the World 2016 report, Freedom House stated security forces “routinely ignore” constitutional protections regarding detention. In its Annual Report 2013, Amnesty International stated, “People continued to be arrested and detained without charge.” Police and gendarmes also detained individuals for civil matters, contrary to law. Unlike in previous years, however, there were no reports that detainees were held in police cells or in secret detention facilities.


The military (ANT), gendarmerie, national police, GNNT, and ANS are responsible for internal security. A specialized gendarmerie unit, the Detachment for the Protection of Humanitarian Workers and Refugees (DPHR), is responsible for security in refugee camps. The ANT reports to the Ministry of Defense. The national police, GNNT, and DPHR are part of the Ministry of Public Security and Immigration. The ANS reports to the national security advisor. The National Antipoaching and Environmental Protection Mobile Brigade is part of the Ministry of Environment and Fisheries, and the Customs Mobile Brigade is part of the Ministry of Finance and Budget.

Security forces were corrupt and involved in extortion. According to media reports, police also were involved in violence and arms trafficking. Impunity was a problem. Members of the Judicial Police, an office within the national police with arrest authority, did not always enforce domestic court orders against military personnel or members of their own ethnic groups. There were isolated reports of former soldiers posing as active-duty soldiers and committing crimes with government-issued weapons.

Two gendarmerie entities, the National Judiciary Investigations Section and the Special Intervention Squad of the Gendarmerie, investigate all gendarmerie, GNNT, and army killings to determine whether they occurred in the line of duty or were otherwise justifiable. The Judicial Police investigate police killings.

The government continued efforts to reform police forces and, in partnership with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), trained police and gendarmes on child rights.


Although the law requires a judge to sign and issue arrest warrants before arrests may take place, this did not always occur. By law detainees must be charged within 48 hours or released, unless the district attorney authorizes an extension of detention for investigative purposes. Nevertheless, authorities often did not make judicial determinations promptly. The law provides for bail and access to counsel, but there were cases in which authorities provided neither. In some cases authorities denied detainees visits from doctors. While the law provides for legal counsel for indigent defendants and prompt access to family members, this often did not occur. Authorities occasionally held detainees incommunicado.

Arbitrary Arrest: Security forces arbitrarily arrested journalists, demonstrators, critics of the government, and other individuals.

On March 21, security force members arrested Mahamat Nour Ahmed Ibedou, spokesperson for the coalition “Ca Suffit” (Enough), for attempting to disturb public order, opposing legitimate authority, and organizing an unauthorized, unarmed gathering; Ca Suffit had organized demonstrations during the year calling for the president to cancel his candidacy for a fifth term (see section 3). On March 22, police arrested three other prominent civil society activists aligned with Ca Suffit–Celine Narmadji, Kaina Nadjo, and Younous Mahadjir–on the same charges. On April 7, the court of N’Djamena issued six-month suspended prison sentences for the four, later reducing the sentences to four-month suspended sentences. A fifth Ca Suffit organizer, Albissaty Allazam Saleh, was summoned on April 4 and sentenced to a four-month suspended sentence on April 18.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem, despite government efforts to address it. Authorities sometimes held pretrial detainees without charge for years, particularly for felonies allegedly committed in the provinces. The length of detention sometimes equaled or exceeded the sentence for conviction of the alleged crime. Lengthy pretrial detention resulted from a weak judiciary.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law does not provide for persons arrested or detained to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention or to obtain prompt release and compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, the judiciary was underfunded, overburdened, and subject to executive interference and corruption. Members of the judiciary sometimes received death threats or were demoted for not acquiescing to pressure from officials. Government officials, particularly members of the military, often were able to avoid prosecution. Courts generally were weak and in some areas nonexistent. Judicial authorities did not always respect court orders.

A judicial oversight commission has the power to investigate judicial decisions and address suspected injustices. The president appointed its members, increasing executive control of the judiciary.

The legal system is based on French civil law, but the constitution recognizes customary law in locales where it is long established, provided it does not interfere with public order or constitutional provisions for equality of citizens. Courts tended to blend the formal French-derived legal code with traditional practices. Local customs often superseded Napoleonic law. Residents of rural areas and refugee/internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps often lacked access to formal judicial institutions, and legal reference texts were not available outside the capital or in Arabic. In minor civil cases, the population often relied on traditional courts presided over by village chiefs, canton chiefs, or sultans. Penalties in traditional courts sometimes depended on the clan affiliations of the victim and perpetrator. Decisions of traditional courts may be appealed to a formal court.

A 2011 law provides that crimes committed by military members be tried by a military court, although as of year’s end the government had not established a military court. In the absence of a permanent military court, members of the military were tried in civilian courts.


The law provides for a presumption of innocence. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them and to be provided free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals; these rights, however, were seldom respected. Trials are public. Only criminal trials used juries, but not in politically sensitive cases. While defendants have the right to consult an attorney in a timely manner, this did not always occur. By law indigent persons have the right to legal counsel at public expense in all cases, although this seldom occurred. Human rights groups sometimes provided free counsel to indigent clients. Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants and their attorneys have the right to question witnesses and present witnesses and evidence. Defendants and their attorneys may obtain government-held evidence if their cases are not politically sensitive, but administrative delays were common, in part because documents often were handwritten. Defendants have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, but the government did not always respect this right. Defendants have the right to appeal court decisions. The law extends these rights to all citizens.

Local leaders may apply the Islamic concept of “dia,” which involves a payment to the family of a crime victim. The practice was common in Muslim areas. Non-Muslim groups challenged the practice, asserting it was unconstitutional.


There were no reports of political prisoners.


Lawsuits for human rights violations may be brought before a criminal court, but compensation is addressed by a civil court. Administrative and judicial remedies, such as mediation, are available. The judiciary was not always independent or impartial in civil matters.


In May and June, the government began demolishing without due process homes in several neighborhoods in eastern N’Djamena. Homes in the seventh district were demolished to widen roads, but other homes were demolished following a determination the previous mayor had sold land without authorization. The previous mayor was fired, and homeowners took steps to pursue legal action, but no law suits had been filed by year’s end. Reimbursement through legal recourse takes approximately two years.

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

Although the constitution provides for the right to privacy and inviolability of the home, the government did not always respect these rights. Authorities entered homes without judicial authorization and seized private property without due process. Security forces routinely stopped citizens to extort money or confiscate goods.

A government decree prohibits possession and use of satellite telephones.

Equatorial Guinea

Executive Summary

Equatorial Guinea is nominally a multiparty constitutional republic. Since a military coup in 1979, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has dominated all branches of government in collaboration with his clan and political party, the Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE), which he founded in 1991. On April 24, President Obiang received a claimed 93.7 percent of the vote in an election that was considered neither free nor fair. In the most recent 2013 legislative/city council elections, the PDGE won a claimed 98.7 percent of seats in the bicameral legislature and 98.1 percent of city council seats. The lopsided results and weak independent monitoring of electoral processes in both elections raised suspicions of systematic vote fraud. Foreign diplomatic observers noted numerous irregularities and the presence of military personnel at all voting stations.

Civilian authorities did not maintain effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights problems in the country were disregard for rule of law, including police use of excessive force and torture, denial of freedom of speech, and widespread official corruption.

Other human rights problems included the inability of citizens to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections, abuse of detainees and prisoners, poor conditions in prisons and detention facilities, arbitrary arrest and detention, including incommunicado detention, lack of judicial independence, restrictions on rights to privacy and internal movement, and the use of internal exile against political opponents. The government denied freedom of press, assembly, and association. Security forces harassed and deported foreign residents without due process. The government used deadly force against political opponents and restricted political parties and the activities of domestic and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Violence and discrimination against women and children were problems, and trafficking in persons occurred. Societal discrimination against ethnic minorities and immigrants; the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community; and persons with HIV/AIDS was a problem. Labor rights were restricted, and forced labor, including by children, occurred.

The government took few steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government, and impunity was a serious problem.

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated abductions.

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

The law prohibits such practices, but torture and excessive force by police occurred “routinely,” according to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Police officers and military personnel used excessive force during traffic stops, house-to-house searches, and interrogations, sometimes to facilitate their own robberies and extortion. Police tortured opposition members.

For example, in May security forces arrested and tortured Celestino Okenve, a prodemocracy activist and leader of the opposition Popular Union, for more than seven hours, at the direction of Minister of Security Nicolas Obama Nchama, who supervised the beating. The minister subsequently gave Okenve a plane ticket to Spain and instructed him not to return. Okenve sought immediate medical attention upon arrival in Madrid and narrowly avoided the loss of one eye.

Security forces beat and threatened detainees to extract information or force confessions.

For example, in July an officer with the traffic police stopped a prominent member of the expatriate business community to check his registration, removed the man from his car, and beat him until he collapsed for refusing to pay a bribe. No action was taken against the officer, who continued to operate checkpoints at year’s end.

Police also detained and threatened to torture foreign diplomats and local staff of foreign embassies. For example, in April security forces detained a local employee of a foreign embassy and threatened to apply an electrocution vest if he failed to provide information about contacts between opposition leaders and the embassy. In August police detained a foreign diplomat for taking a photograph of a presidential campaign poster, subsequently demanded that he pay a bribe, and threatened to “beat some manners” into him for “disrespecting the country.”

Authorities harassed, intimidated, arbitrarily arrested, detained, and often deported foreigners–primarily irregular African immigrants–without due process (see section 2.d.).

Security forces sexually assaulted and beat women, including at checkpoints. Senior government officials took no steps to address such violence and were sometimes implicated in the violence themselves. For example, in April a Mongomo district council chairman raped and beat his sister-in-law until she was unconscious. He was neither arrested nor charged.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in the country’s three prisons and 12 police station jails were harsh and life threatening due to abuse, overcrowding, disease, inadequate food, and lack of medical care.

Physical Conditions: There were approximately 500 adult inmates, 5 percent of whom were women. Six inmates were incarcerated due to mental disabilities. There was no information available on the number of juvenile detainees.

Men, women, and minors had separate sleeping quarters and bathrooms but shared a common area for meals. Pretrial and convicted prisoners were housed separately, although they shared a common area. Two juvenile detention centers built in 2015 had not opened at year’s end.

Authorities generally permitted families of prisoners to visit on weekends, but political prisoners and others often were kept in solitary confinement for lengthy periods and not allowed to see their families.

Lawyers and others who visited prisons and jails reported serious abuses, including beatings.

Prison cells were overcrowded, dirty, and lacked mattresses. Inmates rarely had access to exercise. Diseases including malaria, typhoid, tuberculosis, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS were serious problems. Authorities provided sporadic medical care to a limited number of prisoners and detainees as well as basic meals, but the food was generally insufficient and of poor quality. It was unknown whether ventilation or lighting was adequate.

Statistics on prisoner deaths were unavailable; in 2015 two prisoners died from malaria and one from HIV/AIDS, according to the Ministry of Justice.

Civilian prisons were located on military installations and manned by the Ministries of Justice and National Security, with military personnel handling security around the prison and civilians working and providing security inside.

Conditions in jails and detention centers were harsh. Authorities beat foreigners and citizens on their hands and feet, and there was no medical care. Police station jails were frequently overcrowded, particularly when police conducted sweeps for irregular migrants. In the Guantanamo Detention Center, located inside the Ministry of Interior compound, authorities held men, women, and children together. Water from rain and overflowing toilets often soaked into the bedding of detainees. Up to 30 detainees shared one toilet facility that lacked toilet paper and a functioning door. Rodent infestations were common.

Jails did not provide food, but authorities generally allowed families and friends to bring meals twice daily, although police did not always deliver food to detainees. Visitors had to pay guards small bribes to see detainees and drop off food.

Administration: The Ministry of Justice registered cases and tracked prisoners. Authorities assigned a prosecutor to regularly visit prisons and track the status of the inmate cases. The Department of Human Rights is responsible for conducting annual visits to view conditions and direct the release of prisoners being held without charge; however, it was unclear whether such visits occurred during the year.

Authorities often granted provisional liberty to nonviolent juvenile offenders, who were subsequently monitored. Courts did not use alternatives to sentencing.

A local judge served as full-time ombudsman to monitor the status of inmates and hear complaints about sentencing, but authorities generally did not permit prisoners and detainees to submit complaints or request investigations. Apart from political prisoners, most prisoners had reasonable access to visitors and were permitted religious observance.

Independent Monitoring: The International Committee of the Red Cross had only limited access to prisons, even with extensive advance notice. In June 2015 the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) requested permission to visit youths in prison but did not receive an answer. The government allowed UNICEF to visit the new youth rehabilitation centers in Centro Sur and Riaba, but no juvenile detainees had been transferred to the centers by year’s end.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but security forces arrested and detained persons arbitrarily. Authorities held detainees incommunicado, denied them access to lawyers, and jailed them for long periods without charge. Some perpetrators of arbitrary arrests and other abuses were tried by military courts and received prison sentences or were dismissed from their posts.


Police generally are responsible for maintaining law and order in the cities, while gendarmes are responsible for security outside cities and for special events. Both entities report to the minister of national security. Military personnel, who report to the minister of defense, also fulfill police functions in border areas, sensitive sites, and high-traffic areas. Additional police elements are in the Ministries of Interior (border and traffic police), Finance (customs police), and Justice (investigative/prosecuting police). Presidential security officials also exercise police functions at or near presidential facilities.

Police, gendarmes, and military personnel were ineffective and corrupt, and impunity was a problem. Security force members, who often were inebriated on the job, extorted money from citizens and foreigners at police checkpoints and during routine traffic stops. The government did not maintain effective internal or external mechanisms to investigate security force abuses.

No government body examines security force killings to evaluate whether they occurred in the line of duty or were otherwise justifiable.

In October 2015 the Department of Human Rights held awareness training for police on human trafficking. The training emphasized identifying victims of trafficking and the humane treatment of immigrants and called for an end to their extortion.

During the year the United Nations sponsored a seminar on human trafficking, and the government authorized the participation of all local authorities, including governors, delegates of government, mayors and their deputies, border authorities, and police. Participants discussed government complacency and how to combat trafficking more effectively, although no action was taken following the seminar.


The constitution requires arrest warrants unless a suspect is caught in the act, but security force members frequently arrested persons in violation of the warrant requirement. A detainee has the right to a judicial determination of the legality of detention within 72 hours of arrest, excluding weekends and holidays, but determination of the legality of detention often took longer, sometimes several months. A prosecutor was assigned to each jail to work with police and the Justice Ministry to reduce such delays, but authorities generally held detainees without charge until investigations were completed. NGOs indicated the majority of detainees were not charged and that judges typically failed to issue a writ of habeas corpus within the legal time limit of 36 hours.

Some foreigners complained they were detained and subsequently deported without being informed of the charges against them. Although a bail system existed, it was rarely used. The bar association supplied public defenders to those who could not afford private counsel but only at the time they were charged. Detainees, particularly political detainees, occasionally were denied access to lawyers.

The law provides for family visits and prohibits incommunicado detention, but these provisions were not always respected and sometimes depended on the discretion of local police chiefs.

Arbitrary Arrest: The government arbitrarily arrested irregular immigrants, opposition members, businesspersons, and others. Many detainees complained about bribes required for their release from detention.

Police raids continued on immigrant communities, who make up 15 percent of the population. Reliable sources reported that police abused, extorted, or detained many legal as well as irregular immigrants during such raids. Police occasionally used excessive force to detain and deport immigrants. Many embassies in the country criticized the government for its harassment, abuse, extortion, and detention of foreign nationals and for not renewing residence and work permits in a timely manner, making foreign nationals vulnerable to such abuse.

In the first week of May, the government deported 53 individuals to Cameroon, although other nationalities besides Cameroonians were caught up in the dragnet-style deportations. Many deportees were simply snatched from the streets and given no opportunity to provide identification documents before being deported. Security officials handled such individuals roughly, piling some into trucks without informing them of options for asylum, refugee, or landed immigrant status.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem. Inefficient judicial procedures, corruption, lack of monitoring, and inadequate staffing contributed to the problem.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law stipulates that detainees have the right to challenge their detention and obtain release, although there is no provision for compensation if a detainee is found to have been unlawfully detained. Nevertheless, authorities did not respect this right, and detainees could not challenge the validity of the charges against them in practice.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution does not provide for an independent judiciary, in that the president is designated the “First Magistrate of the Nation” and chair of the Judicial Council responsible for appointing new judges and magistrates. In 2015 the president dissolved the entire judiciary by presidential decree, leaving the country with no judiciary for two weeks. Judges in sensitive cases often consulted with the Office of the President before issuing a ruling. Judges sometimes decided cases on political grounds; others sought bribes. Authorities did not always respect court orders, and many persons turned to the parliament for enforcement of civil judgments on matters such as employment, land, and personal injury disputes. These cases were regularly televised, and parliament had a full docket.

The military justice system, based entirely on the system in effect in Spain when Equatorial Guinea gained its independence in 1968, provided defendants with fewer procedural safeguards than in the criminal court system. The code of military justice states that persons who disobey a military authority or who are alleged to have committed an offense considered a “crime against the state” should be judged by a military tribunal, regardless of whether the defendant is civilian or military. A defendant may be tried without being present, and the defense does not have the right to cross-examine an accuser. Such proceedings were not public, and defendants had no right of appeal to a higher court.

In rural areas tribal elders adjudicated civil claims and minor criminal matters in traditional courts. These adjudications were conducted according to customary law and did not afford the same rights and privileges as the formal system. Persons dissatisfied with traditional judgments could appeal to the civil court system.


The law provides for the right to a fair hearing in court, but an independent judiciary generally did not enforce this right. The law provides for the presumption of innocence, and defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of charges against them and to have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. The courts did not respect these rights. Defendants have the right to a public trial without undue delay, and most trials for ordinary crimes were public. Defendants do not have the right to free interpretation. The law does not provide for trial by jury. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials but rarely were able to consult promptly with attorneys unless they could afford private counsel. A defendant who cannot afford a lawyer is entitled to ask the government to appoint one, but only after first appearing in court, which generally did not occur within the mandated 72 hours. The bar association assigned counsel to represent indigent defendants. The law provides for defendants to confront and question witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence. Courts seldom enforced this right. Defendants do not have the right to access government-held evidence. Defendants have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt and the right to appeal. The law extends these rights equally to all citizens, but authorities did not respect the law.


At year’s end there were two known political prisoners–Ernesto Mabale Eyang and Juan Antorio Mosuy Eseng–both of whom were members of the opposition Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS) party. On February 12, authorities at the airport detained Eyang and Eseng on allegations they had tried to take ruling party papers, posters, and other political materials out of the country. Both men remained in detention in Malabo because neither could pay the large bail set by the court. The government did not permit access to these individuals by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) or any other international organizations.


Courts ruled on civil cases submitted to them, some of which involved human rights complaints. Plaintiffs could not appeal decisions to an international regional court. Civil matters were often settled out of court, and in some cases tribal elders adjudicated local disputes.

The government sometimes failed, for political reasons, to comply with domestic court decisions pertaining to human rights, including political rights.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but the government often did not respect these prohibitions. Search warrants are required unless a crime is in progress or for reasons of national security. Nevertheless, security force members entered homes and arrested alleged criminals, foreign nationals, and others, often without required warrants, confiscating property and demanding bribes with impunity. Break-ins were widely attributed to military and police personnel.

Government informers reportedly monitored opposition members, NGOs, journalists, and foreign diplomats, including through internet and telephone surveillance. The government blocked employment of known members of opposition parties.

In recent years families made large down payments to the government to obtain affordable social housing. When completed, such homes were not released to many of the families who had made down payments, nor were funds returned. The government instead provided the most desirable housing to families with strong political connections. Some families who made deposits were offered alternative housing and others still awaited housing, with no means to reclaim their deposits or information on when or whether they might be granted a home.

Individuals may hold title to land, but the state has full power of eminent domain, which it exercised, often with little or no compensation to the land titleholders.


Executive Summary

Ethiopia is officially a federal republic. The ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a coalition of four ethnically based parties, controls the government. In May 2015 elections the EPRDF and affiliated parties won all 547 House of People’s Representatives seats to remain in power for a fifth consecutive five-year term. In October 2015 parliament elected Hailemariam Desalegn as prime minister. Government restrictions severely limited independent observation of the vote. A mission from the African Union, the sole international institution or organization permitted to observe the voting, called the elections “calm, peaceful and credible.” Some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported an environment conducive to free and fair elections was not in place prior to the election. There were reports of unfair government tactics, including intimidation of opposition candidates and supporters, and violence before and after the election that resulted in six confirmed deaths.

Civilian authorities at times did not maintain control over the security forces, and local police in rural areas and local militias sometimes acted independently.

Security forces used excessive force against protesters throughout the year, killing hundreds and injuring many more. The protests were mainly in Oromia and Amhara regions. At year’s end more than 10,000 persons were believed still to be detained. This included persons detained under the government-declared state of emergency, effective October 8. Many were never brought before a court, provided access to legal counsel, or formally charged with a crime. On June 10, the government-established Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) reported and presented to parliament a summary of its report. The EHRC counted 173 deaths in Oromia, including 28 of security force members and officials, and asserted that security forces used appropriate force there. The EHRC also asserted Amhara regional state special security had used excessive force against the Kemant community in Amhara Region. On August 13, the international NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported an estimate that security forces killed more than 500 protesters. In October the prime minister stated the deaths in Oromia Region alone “could be more than 500.” The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights requested access to Oromia and Amhara regions, which the government refused. Following dozens of deaths at a religious festival in Bishoftu on October 2, groups committed property damage. On November 9, international NGO Amnesty International reported more than 800 persons were killed since November 2015.

The most significant human rights problems were security forces’ use of excessive force and arbitrary arrest in response to the protests, politically motivated prosecutions, and continued restrictions on activities of civil society and NGOs.

Other human rights problems included arbitrary killings; disappearances; torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest, detention without charge, and lengthy pretrial detention; a weak, overburdened judiciary subject to political influence; infringement on citizens’ privacy rights, including illegal searches; a lack of participatory consultations and information during the implementation of the government’s “villagization” program; restrictions on civil liberties including freedom of speech and press, internet freedom, academic freedom and of cultural events, and freedom of assembly, association, and movement; interference in religious affairs; only limited ability of citizens to choose their government; police, administrative, and judicial corruption; restrictions on activities of civil society and NGOs; violence and societal discrimination against women; female genital mutilation/cutting; abuse of children; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against persons with disabilities, persons based on their gender identity and sexual orientation, and persons with HIV/AIDS; societal violence including violence based on ethnicity, property destruction, and the killing of security force members; and limits on worker rights, forced labor, and child labor, including forced child labor.

Impunity was a problem. The government generally did not take steps to prosecute or otherwise punish officials who committed abuses other than corruption.

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

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

There were numerous reports the government and its agents committed arbitrary and unlawful killings. Security forces used excessive force against protesters throughout the year, killing hundreds. The protests were mainly in Oromia and Amhara regions. A March 14 report from the independent Ethiopian NGO Human Rights Council (HRCO) covering 33 districts in Oromia from November 2015 to February 20 described more than 100 extrajudicial killings. On June 10, the government-established EHRC reported to parliament that it counted 173 deaths in Oromia, including 28 of security force members and officials, and asserted security forces used appropriate force there. The EHRC also asserted Amhara regional state special security had used excessive force against the Kemant community in Amhara Region. The EHRC did not publicly release its report. On August 13, HRW estimated security forces killed more than 500 protesters.

On August 6 and 7, security forces reportedly killed approximately 100 persons in response to demonstrations in major cities and towns across the Oromia and Amhara regions. Political opposition groups reported government forces killed more than 90 protesters in Oromia. The Amhara regional government reported seven deaths; other sources reported more than 50 were killed in Amhara Region.

b. Disappearance

Individuals reportedly arrested by security forces as part of the government’s response to protests disappeared. In a June report on the government’s response to Oromo protests, HRW reported hundreds of persons were “unaccounted for” including children.

Due to poor prison administration, family members reported individuals missing who were in custody of prison officials, but whom the families could not locate.

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

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

In its June report, HRW reported security force members beat detainees, including minors. Security force members used wooden sticks, rubber truncheons, and whips to do so. According to the report, several students stated they were hung by their wrists and whipped, four said they received electric shocks to their feet, and two had weights tied to their testicles. Several female detainees reported security force members raped them. The report stated, “Most of the individuals interviewed by HRW who were detained for more than one month described treatment that appeared to amount to torture.”

Mistreatment reportedly occurred at Maekelawi, official detention centers, unofficial detention centers, police stations, and in Kilinto federal prison. There were reports police investigators used physical and psychological abuse to extract confessions in Maekelawi, the federal crime investigation center in Addis Ababa that often held high-profile political prisoners. Interrogators reportedly administered beatings and electric shocks to extract information and confessions from detainees. HRW reported abuses, including torture, that occurred at Maekelawi. In a 2013 report, HRW described beatings, stress positions, the hanging of detainees by their wrists from the ceiling, prolonged handcuffing, pouring of water over detainees, verbal threats, and solitary confinement. Authorities continued to restrict access by diplomats and NGOs to Maekelawi, although some NGOs reported limited access.

The United Nations reported that during the year (as of December 20) it received one allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse against Ethiopian peacekeepers for an incident alleged to have occurred during the year. The allegation, against military personnel deployed to the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan, was investigated by the Ethiopian government and found to be unsubstantiated.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and pretrial detention center conditions remained harsh and in some cases life threatening. There were reports that authorities beat and tortured prisoners in detention centers, military facilities, and police stations. Medical attention following beatings reportedly was insufficient in some cases. Prisoners died in fires.

The country had six federal and 120 regional prisons. During the state of emergency, effective since October 8, the government announced detention centers in Awash, Ziway, and Dilla and stated suspects could be detained at various police stations in Addis Ababa. There also were many unofficial detention centers throughout the country, including in Dedessa, Bir Sheleko, Tolay, Hormat, Blate, Tatek, Jijiga, Holeta, and Senkele. As part of the government’s response to the protests, persons were also detained in military facilities, local administration offices, and makeshift government-owned sites.

A local NGO supported model prisons in Adama, Mekelle, Debre Birhan, Durashe, and Awassa; these prisons had significantly better conditions than those in other prisons.

Pretrial detention often occurred in police station detention facilities, where conditions varied widely, but reports indicated poor hygiene and police abuse of detainees.

Physical Conditions: Authorities sometimes incarcerated juveniles with adults. Prison officials generally separated male and female prisoners, although mixing occurred at some facilities.

Severe overcrowding was common, especially in prison sleeping quarters. The government provided approximately nine birr ($0.40) per prisoner per day for food, water, and health care, although this amount varied across the country. Many prisoners supplemented this amount with daily food deliveries from family members or by purchasing food from local vendors. Other reports noted officials prevented some prisoners from receiving food from their families. Medical care was unreliable in federal prisons and almost nonexistent in regional ones. Prisoners had only limited access to potable water. Water shortages caused unhygienic conditions, and most prisons lacked appropriate sanitary facilities. Many prisoners had serious health problems but received little or no treatment. There were reports prison officials denied some prisoners access to needed medical care. In 2012 the Ministry of Health stated nearly 62 percent of inmates in jails across the country experienced mental health problems due to solitary confinement, overcrowding, and lack of adequate health-care facilities and services.

The June HRW report on government response to Oromo protests stated detainees reported overcrowding, inadequate access to food and water, and solitary confinement, including in military camps. The report stated men and women were not held in the same cells in most locations, but children were detained with adults.

Fires in prisons occurred in Gondar in December 2015, in Ambo on February 19, in Debretabor on September 1, and, on September 3, at Kilinto Prison where at least 23 inmates died.

Visitors of political prisoners and other sources reported political prisoners often faced significantly different treatment compared with other prisoners. Allegations included lack of access to proper medication or any medical treatment, lack of access to books or television, and denial of exercise time. In at least one case, when such complaints were openly raised in a court of law, the presiding judges referred the complaints to the prison administration, which had already refused to look into the complaints.

Administration: Due to the lack of transparency regarding incarceration, it was difficult to determine if recordkeeping was adequate. There were reports prisoners mistreated by prison guards did not have access to prison administrations to complain. Prisons did not have ombudspersons to respond to complaints. Legal aid clinics existed in some prisons for the benefit of prisoners, and at the regional level had good working relations with judicial, prison, and other government officials. Prison officials allowed detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship. Courts sometimes declined to hear such complaints.

The law permits prisoners to have visitors. According to the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP), a lawyer is permitted to visit only one client per day, and only on Wednesdays and Fridays. Authorities allegedly denied family members access to persons charged with terrorist activity. There were also reports authorities denied the accused visits with lawyers or with representatives of the political parties to which they belonged. In some cases police did not allow pretrial detainees access to visitors, including family members and legal counsel.

After the September 3 fire in the federal prison at Kilinto, attorneys reported visitation for several prisoners was restricted to closely prison visits by family members only. Conversations could not touch on subjects such as trials, politics, and allegations of abuse. This was reported in the prisons in Kilinto, Shewa Robit, and Ziway. These restrictions also applied to political prisoners.

Officials permitted religious observance by prisoners, but this varied by prison, and even by section within a prison, at the discretion of prison management. There were allegations authorities denied detainees adequate locations in which to pray. Prisoners could voice complaints regarding prison conditions or treatment to the presiding judge during their trials.

Independent Monitoring: During the year the International Committee of the Red Cross visited prisons throughout the country as part of its normal activities. The government did not permit access to prisons by other international human rights organizations.

Regional authorities had allowed government and NGO representatives to meet with prisoners without third parties present. By September such allowances were severely curtailed, however. Prison officials reportedly denied access to prisoners for civil society representatives and family members, including in undisclosed locations. The government-established EHRC, which is funded by parliament and subject to parliamentary oversight, monitored federal and regional detention centers and interviewed prison officials and prisoners in response to allegations of widespread human rights abuses. An NGO continued to have access to various prison and detention facilities around the country.

Improvements: The government constructed two new prisons.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention; however, the state of emergency regulations allowed law enforcement to arrest and detain individuals without a court warrant. There were thousands of reports of arbitrary arrest and detention related to protests. Security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained protesters, professors, university students, musicians, businesspersons, health workers, journalists, children, and others. Security forces went door-to-door after protests to conduct arrests and arbitrarily detained opposition party members and supporters, accusing them of inciting violence.


The Federal Police report to the Office of the Prime Minister and are subject to parliamentary oversight. The oversight was loose. Each of the nine regions has a state or special police force that reports to regional civilian authorities. Local militias operated across the country in loose and varying coordination with regional and federal police and the military. In some cases these militias functioned as extensions of the ruling party. The military played a significant role in responding to the protests. The constitution provides for the military to perform duties assigned to it under a state of emergency.

Impunity remained a serious problem, including impunity for killings of and violence against protesters. The internal mechanisms used to investigate abuses by federal police were not known. On June 10, the government-established Ethiopian Human Rights Commission reported to parliament on the protests, stating it confirmed 173 deaths in Oromia, including 28 security force members and officials, and asserted security forces used appropriate force there. The EHRC also asserted Amhara regional state special security had used excessive force against the Kemant community in Amhara Region. The commission did not publicly release its report. The government rarely publicly disclosed the results of investigations into abuses by local security forces, such as arbitrary detention and beatings of civilians.

The government continued to support human rights training for police and army personnel. It continued to accept assistance from NGOs and the EHRC to improve and professionalize its human rights training and curriculum by including more material on the constitution and international human rights treaties and conventions.


The constitution and law require detainees be brought to court and charged within 48 hours of arrest or as soon thereafter as local circumstances and communications permit. Travel time to the court is not included in the 48-hour period. With a warrant, authorities may detain persons suspected of serious offenses for 14 days without charge and for additional and renewable 14-day periods if an investigation continues. The courts allowed security officials to continue investigations for more than 14 days without bringing formal charges against suspects.

Under the ATP police may request to detain persons without charge for 28-day periods, up to a maximum of four months, while an investigation is conducted. The law permits warrantless arrests for various offenses including “flagrant offenses.” These include offenses in which the suspect was found committing the offense, attempting to commit the offense, or just completing the offense. The ATP permits a warrantless arrest when police reasonably suspect a person has committed or is committing a terrorist act.

The law prohibits detention in any facility other than an official detention center; however, local militias and other formal and informal law enforcement entities used an unknown number of unofficial local detention centers. As part of the government’s response to the protests, persons also were detained in military facilities.

A functioning bail system was in place. Bail was not available for persons charged with terrorism, murder, treason, and corruption. In most cases authorities set bail between 500 and 10,000 birr ($22 and $444), which most citizens could not afford. The government provided public defenders for detainees unable to afford private legal counsel but only when cases went to court. There were reports that while some detainees were in pretrial detention, authorities allowed them little or no contact with legal counsel, did not provide full information on their health status, and did not allow family visits. There were reports officials held some prisoners incommunicado for weeks at a time, and civilians were also placed under house arrest for an undisclosed period of time.

The constitution requires authorities under a state of emergency to announce the names of detainees within one month of their arrest. In practice, the names of those detained under the state of emergency were generally announced. The names were not always made available within 30 days and civilians were not always able to locate the rosters of names of those imprisoned.

Arbitrary Arrest: Authorities regularly detained persons arbitrarily, including protesters, journalists, and opposition party members. There were thousands of reports of arbitrary arrest by security forces in response to protests. The March 14 HRCO report listed 84 individuals under “illegal detention,” with four having subsequently been released.

On March 8, authorities detained 20 students from Addis Ababa University and charged them under the criminal code with inciting the public through false rumors, holding an illegal demonstration, and encouraging the public to disobey the ATP. On August 1, the Federal First Instance Court acquitted nine of the students and reduced the charges against the 11 others, whose trial continued at year’s end.

The government continued to arbitrarily arrest journalists and those who express views that oppose the government (see section 2.a.). On March 3, federal police temporarily detained a foreign correspondent, a freelance journalist, and their translator near Awash Town. Police reportedly took their phones and identification cards and then escorted them back to Addis Ababa. On March 4, authorities released them without giving any explanation for their detention.

In December 2015 police arrested and detained former Blue Party spokesperson Yonatan Tesfaye. On May 4, the federal attorney general charged Yonatan with incitement of terrorism through posts under a pseudonym on Facebook, citing article 4 of the ATP. The court hearing the trial changed the charges to article 6, which pertains to encouragement of terrorism and carries a lesser sentence. Yonatan’s trial continued at year’s end.

There were developments in the case of three individuals detained in March 2015 at Bole International Airport while on the way to Nairobi. In mid-November a court reduced the charges against Omot Agwa Okwoy to the criminal code and dropped the charges against Ashinie Astin Titoyk, and Jemal Oumar Hojele, who were both released.

Pretrial Detention: Some detainees reported being held for several years without charge or trial. The percentage of the inmate population in pretrial detention and average length of time held was not available. Lengthy legal procedures, large numbers of detainees, judicial inefficiency, and staffing shortages contributed to frequent trial delays. The state of emergency regulations allow authorities to detain a person without a court order until the end of the state of emergency.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law provides for detainees to be informed of the nature of their arrest. It also provides persons accused or charged of a crime the ability to appeal. During the year there were no reported cases of a court ruling that a person was unlawfully detained. The law does not provide for persons who are unlawfully detained to receive compensation.

Amnesty: In September, in keeping with a long-standing tradition of issuing pardons at the Ethiopian New Year, the government released more than 12,000 prisoners, including prisoners convicted under the ATP such as Abubeker Ahmed Mohamed and other members of the Muslim Arbitration Committee. Of those, 757 were released from federal prisons and more than 11,000 from regional prisons.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary. Although the civil courts operated with a large degree of independence, criminal courts remained weak, overburdened, and subject to political influence. The constitution recognizes both religious and traditional or customary courts.


By law accused persons have the right to a fair public trial “without undue delay”; a presumption of innocence; the right to legal counsel of their choice; the right to appeal; the right not to self-incriminate; and the right to present witnesses and evidence in their defense, cross-examine prosecution witnesses, and access government-held evidence. In practice, however, detainees did not always enjoy all these rights, and as a result, defense attorneys were sometimes unprepared to provide an adequate defense. Defendants were not always presumed innocent, able to communicate with an attorney of their choice, provided timely free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals, or provided access to government-held evidence. Defendants were often unaware of the specific charges against them until the commencement of their trials. There were reports of detainees being subjected to torture and other abuse while in detention to obtain information or confessions.

The federal Public Defender’s Office provided legal counsel to indigent defendants, but scope and quality of service were inadequate due to the shortage of attorneys, who in some cases may individually handle more than 100 cases and many more individual clients at the same time. Numerous free legal aid clinics, based primarily at universities, provided services. In certain areas of the country, the law allows volunteers, such as law students and professors, to represent clients in court on a pro bono basis.

Many citizens residing in rural areas had little access to formal judicial systems and relied on traditional mechanisms for resolving conflict. By law all parties to a dispute must agree to use a traditional or religious court before such a court may hear a case, and either party may appeal to a regular court at any time. Sharia (Islamic law) courts may hear religious and family cases involving Muslims if both parties agree to use a sharia court before going to trial. Sharia courts received some funding from the government and adjudicated a majority of cases in Somali and Afar regions, which are predominantly Muslim. Other traditional systems of justice, such as councils of elders, continued to function. Some women stated they lacked access to free and fair hearings in the traditional court system because local custom excluded them from participation in councils of elders and because of strong gender discrimination in rural areas.


The number of political prisoners and detainees at years’ end was not known. The government detained journalists and political opposition members.

Police arrested Bekele Gerba, deputy chairman of recognized political party the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), and 21 others in November and December 2015. On April 22, the attorney general charged them under the ATP. Authorities reportedly mistreated Bekele and others, including denying adequate medical care and access to visitors, including legal counsel. Their trial continued at year’s end.

Police arrested other leaders and members of political parties during the year, including Merera Gudina on November 30 (see also section 3, Elections and Political Participation, Political Parties and Political Participation).

There were further updates in the cases of 10 persons including opposition party leaders and others whom police detained in 2014. On May 10, the Federal High Court sentenced Zelalem Workagegnehu to five years and four months in prison, Tesfaye Teferi to three years and 11 months, and Solomon Girma to three years and seven months in prison. The other two defendants in the same trial, Yonatan Wolde and Bahiru Degu, were acquitted and released on April 15. Separately, the prosecution appealed the August 2015 Federal High Court acquittal of Habtamu Ayalew, Yeshiwas Assefa, Daniel Shibeshi, Abraha Desta, and Abraham Solomon. On December 2, the Supreme Court upheld the High Court’s acquittal of Habtamu Ayalew, Yeshiwas Assefa, and Abraham Solomon but remanded to the High Court the cases of Daniel Shibeshi and Abraha Desta.

There were also developments in cases of the Zone 9 blogging collective. In October 2015 the Federal High Court acquitted Natnael Feleke, Atnaf Berahane, Abel Wabella, and Soleyana Shimeles Gebremichael (in absentia) and reduced the charges against Befekadu Hailu. The prosecution’s appeal of the acquittals continued at the Supreme Court, and the Federal High Court continued to hear the trial of Befekadu Hailu. On October 4, Natnael Feleke was arrested again. He was later released on bail and charged with “inciting the public through false rumors” in relation to having made critical remarks regarding the government during a private conversation at a restaurant. On November 11, authorities arrested Befekadu Hailu again. On December 21, he was released without charge.


The law provides citizens the right to appeal human rights violations in civil court. Citizens did not file any such case during the year.

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

The law generally requires authorities to obtain court-issued search warrants prior to searching private property, however, after the state of emergency, prior court approval for searches was suspended. In an amendment to the state of emergency provisions, security officials had to provide a reason, an official identification card, and be accompanied by someone from the community before conducting a search. The law also recognizes exceptions for “hot pursuit,” in which a suspect enters premises or disposes of items that are the subject of an offense committed on the premises, and when police have reasonable suspicion evidence of a crime punishable by more than three years of imprisonment is concealed on or in the property and that a delay in obtaining a search warrant would allow the evidence to be removed. Moreover, the ATP permits warrantless searches of a person or vehicle when authorized by the director general of the Federal Police or his designee or a police officer has reasonable suspicion a terrorist act may be committed and deems a sudden search necessary.

Opposition political party leaders and journalists reported suspicions of telephone tapping, other electronic eavesdropping, and surveillance, and they alleged government agents attempted to lure them into illegal acts by calling and pretending to be representatives of groups–designated by parliament as terrorist organizations–interested in making financial donations.

The government reportedly used a widespread system of paid informants to report on the activities of particular individuals. Opposition members, journalists, and athletes reported ruling party operatives and militia members made intimidating and unwelcome visits to their homes and offices and intimidated family members. These included entry into and searches of homes without a warrant.

There were reports authorities dismissed opposition members from their jobs and that those not affiliated with the EPRDF sometimes had trouble receiving the “support letters” from their kebeles (neighborhoods or wards) necessary to get employment (see section 3, Political Parties and Political Participation).

Security forces continued to detain family members of persons sought for questioning by the government.

The national and regional governments continued to implement the policy of Accelerated Development (informally known as “villagization”) plans in the Afar, Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambella, the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’, Oromia, and Somali regions, which might include resettlement. These plans involved relocation by regional governments of scattered rural populations from arid or semiarid lands vulnerable to recurring droughts into designated communities closer to water, services, and infrastructure. The stated purposes of accelerated development were to improve the provision of government services (health care, education, and clean water), protect vulnerable communities from natural disasters and attacks, and change environmentally destructive patterns of shifting cultivation. Some observers alleged the purpose was to enable large-scale leasing of land for commercial agriculture. The government described the program as strictly voluntary. The government had scheduled to conclude the program in 2015, but decided to continue it.

International donors reported assessments from more than 18 visits to villagization sites since 2011 did not corroborate allegations of systematic, grave human rights violations. They found delays in establishing promised infrastructure and inadequate compensation. Communities and families appeared to have agreed to move based on assurances from authorities of food aid, health and education services, and land; some communities were moved before adequate basic services such as water pumps and shelter were in place in the new locations. Follow-up visits suggested the government had done little to improve consultations with affected communities, and communities were not fully informed when consenting to cede their rights for land projects.


Executive Summary

Note: This report was updated 3/29/17; see Appendix F: Errata for more information.

Iraq is a constitutional parliamentary republic. The outcome of the 2014 parliamentary elections generally met international standards of free and fair elections and led to the peaceful transition of power from former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

Civilian authorities were not always able to maintain effective control of all security forces which include: the regular armed forces and domestic law enforcement bodies; the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a state-sponsored umbrella military organization composed of nearly 60, predominantly Shia components , which report directly to the prime minister; and the Peshmerga–the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) principal military force. Prime ministerial decrees on February 22 and July 27, as well as a November 26 parliamentary vote, boycotted by most Sunnis, established prime ministerial authority over the PMF; however at year’s end the command and control over the PMF remained inconsistent and ineffective.

Violence continued to divide the country, largely fueled by Da’esh’s actions. Violence occurred throughout the year as government forces fought to liberate territory lost to Da’esh, principally in Arab Sunni and some other minority and mixed areas. Armed clashes between Da’esh and government forces caused civilian hardship. At year’s end the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) declined to 3.03 million from a peak of 3.4 million in March. The decrease in IDPs was primarily due to Iraqis returning to their homes after those areas were liberated from Da’esh. The country also accommodated approximately 225,000 Syrian refugees, mostly in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR). Although donor funding increased, the government’s response fell short of rapidly rising humanitarian demands, and displaced populations became destitute, leading some citizens to seek refuge abroad.

Severe human rights problems were widespread. Sectarian hostility, widespread corruption, and lack of transparency at all levels of government and society weakened the government’s authority and worsened effective human rights protections. Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), members of the Federal Police, and the Peshmerga committed some human rights violations, and there continued to be reports of PMF killing, torturing, kidnapping, and extorting civilians. Nonetheless, the terrorist organization Da’esh committed the overwhelming majority of serious human rights abuses, including attacks against: civilians, (particularly Shia but also Sunnis who opposed Da’esh); members of other religious and ethnic minorities; women; and children. Observers also reported other significant human rights-related problems: harsh and life-threatening conditions in detention and prison facilities; arbitrary arrest and lengthy pretrial detention, sometimes incommunicado; denial of fair public trial; insufficient judicial institutional capacity; ineffective implementation of civil judicial procedures and remedies; arbitrary interference with privacy and homes; child soldiers; limits on freedom of expression, including press freedoms; violence against and harassment of journalists; undue censorship; social, religious, and political restrictions in academic and cultural matters; limits on freedoms of peaceful assembly and association; limits on religious freedom due to violence by extremist groups; restrictions on freedom of movement; refugee and IDP abuse; both forced IDP returns and preventing IDPs from returning home; discrimination against and societal abuse of women and ethnic, religious, and racial minorities, including exclusion from decision-making roles; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons; seizure of property without due process; and limitations on worker rights.

The government announced investigations into reports of PMF abuses, but results of the investigations or convictions were often not publicly available. Information about government investigations or prosecutions of abuses by officials and members of the security forces was also often not publicly available. The KRG High Committee to Evaluate and Respond to International Reports considered charges of Peshmerga abuse, largely against IDPs, and exculpated them in public reports and commentaries. Impunity effectively existed for government officials, security force personnel, including the Peshmerga, and militias.

Terrorists committed the majority of serious human rights abuses. Da’esh members committed acts of violence on a mass scale, including killings through the use of suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), executions including shootings and public beheadings, as well as use of chemical weapons. They also engaged in kidnapping, rape, enslavement, forced marriage, sexual violence, committing such acts against civilians from a wide variety of religious and ethnic backgrounds, including Shia, Sunni, Kurds, Christians, Yezidis, and members of other religious and ethnic groups. Reports of Da’esh perpetrating gender-based violence, recruiting child soldiers, trafficking in persons, and destroying civilian infrastructure and cultural heritage sites were credible and common. Secretary Kerry stated on March 17 that in his judgment, Da’esh was responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims, and was also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups and in some cases also against Sunni Muslims, Kurds, and other minorities.

The government investigated some of Da’esh’s human rights abuses, and in some instances, results were publicly available. For example, on August 21, the Ministry of Justice announced the conviction, sentencing, and execution of 36 men convicted of involvement in the 2014 Camp Speicher massacre of hundreds of Shia Air Force recruits after trials international observers criticized as unfair.

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

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

There were numerous reports that Da’esh and other terrorist groups, some government forces, and militias acting outside government orders, had committed arbitrary or unlawful killings (see section 1.g.). During the year the security situation remained unstable due to widespread fighting between the ISF and Da’esh, and, to a lesser extent, the Shia PMF and Da’esh. During the year the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) recorded a total of 19,266 civilian casualties: 6,878 killed, and 12,388 wounded. These casualty figures do not include the civilian casualty figures for Anbar for the months of May, July, August, and December. The corresponding period in 2015 showed 7,515 killed and 14,855 wounded.

Some security forces were alleged to have committed extrajudicial killings, although the government’s identification and prosecution of specific killers were rarely made public. Ministry of Interior personnel allegedly tortured detainees to death, according to reports from human rights organizations. For example, Amnesty International (AI) reported receiving information that men wearing military and federal police uniforms unlawfully killed men and boys in a village north of Fallujah in October and in some cases tortured them beforehand (see section 1.c.).

Although officially under the command and control of the prime minister, some Shia PMF operated independently and with limited government oversight or accountability. According to multiple nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), more than 643 men and boys were reported missing near Saqlawiyah following the June liberation of Fallujah after PMF units intercepted them at ad hoc security screening sites. All 643 reportedly remained missing.

During the year Iraq witnessed frequent unlawful killings by unidentified gunmen throughout the country. For example, on February 11, a Kurd and a Turkmen Shia in Salah al-Din Governorate were killed in the center of Tuz Khurmatu in separate attacks; on April 29, a Sunni man in his 70s was killed in the Ma’qal area of Basrah; and on May 17, a local council member was killed outside his home in al-Amal al-Sha’abi neighborhood, northwest Kirkuk.

Terrorist activities continued throughout the year, particularly with Da’esh’s attacks on cities. Baghdad was most affected, and was the site of more than half of the total fatalities. UNAMI reported that Baghdad experienced attacks of IEDs on a nearly daily basis from January to October. Some attacks targeted government buildings or checkpoints staffed by security forces, while others targeted civilians. Da’esh reportedly carried out attacks against civilians in Baghdad’s Shia-majority neighborhoods. The largest was on July 3, when a coordinated bomb attack in Baghdad’s Shia district of Karrada resulted in 292 civilians killed and hundreds wounded.

During the year authorities discovered several mass graves. On August 30, the Associated Press reported that analysis of satellite imagery identified a possible mass grave site at Badoush Prison near Mosul, where more than 600 inmates died. Approximately 35 mass graves in Sinjar District were found. In May media outlets reported the discovery of a mass grave in western Mosul containing the remains of 80 Yezidis. A representative from the Yezidi Affairs Council in the IKR reported these individuals were likely victims of Da’esh, and the remains showed signs of brutal treatment in captivity.

UNAMI reported that IEDs, suicide vests, and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) caused at least half of all verified casualties during the year. Media reported that Da’esh IEDs infested Ramadi, which was nearly destroyed during fighting, which began with air strikes in July 2015 and ended with the capture of the city on February 6. Many civilians could not return to their homes because of the destruction and the threat of IEDs. UNAMI reported that IEDs placed in homes in Ramadi killed at least nine people in April. Spillover across the porous border from the conflict in Syria continued to destabilize the security situation in the country. The government’s lack of the border with Syria facilitated Da’esh’s movement of fighters and materiel into the country.

Ethnic-based fighting escalated in ethnically mixed governorates after liberation operations. For example, according to a January 31 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, following January 11 bombings claimed by Da’esh, members of Shia militias reportedly abducted and killed scores of Sunni residents in Muqdadiya, in Diyala Governorate, and demolished Sunni homes, stores, and mosques. None of those responsible within the Shia militias were brought to justice by year’s end. Media also widely reported instances when, after Sunni tribes turned against Da’esh and allied with the ISF, Da’esh conducted mass executions of tribesmen.

There were significantly fewer reports of killings or other sectarian violence in the IKR than in the rest of the country. Minority groups reported threats and attacks targeting their communities in non-IKR areas that the KRG effectively controlled.

On May 3, the IKR press reported several killings for which the families of the deceased alleged KRG security forces were responsible. On August 13, Wedat Hussein Ali, a journalist working for ROJ News, was abducted and later found dead. Media reports indicated his injuries were consistent with torture and quoted Wedat’s family as saying the KRG internal security service had previously questioned him about his ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The press reported that the KRG internal security service temporarily detained several other journalists.

There were no known developments in other cases of arbitrary or unlawful killings reported in 2015.

b. Disappearance

Da’esh orchestrated most abductions, which focused on members of various ethnic and religious communities. There was no comprehensive account publicly available on the extent of the problem of disappeared persons.

In areas it controlled, Da’esh engaged in frequent abductions of members of the security or police forces, ethnic and religious minorities, and other non-Sunni communities. According to the director general for Yezidis in the KRG Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs, more than 2,900 kidnapped Yezidi men, women, and children had been rescued from Da’esh captivity by year’s end, while another 3,735 Yezidis, mainly women and children, were believed to remain in Da’esh captivity. According to officials from the Turkmen Women’s Association, Da’esh militants have kidnapped 500 Turkmen Shia women and children from Tal Afar and Mosul since June 2014, all of whom remained in captivity at year’s end.

There were a number of disappearances and kidnappings that appeared to have been politically motivated. For example, on December 27, the Interior Ministry reported that unidentified gunmen broke into the home of female journalist and political activist Afrah Shawqi al-Qaisi in Baghdad and abducted her. Al-Qaisi regularly criticized the rampant corruption in the country. Prime Minister al-Abadi ordered the security forces to investigate the kidnapping and to “exert the utmost effort” to save her. There were no further developments by year’s end.

Some militias exploiting the security situation carried out kidnappings, either for personal gain or for sectarian reasons. On June 22, the council of al-Quarnah District raised concern about the rise of child abduction, demanding that the security forces take decisive actions against it.

In December 2015, unknown gunmen kidnapped 27 members of a Qatari hunting party in the Muthanna Desert. The kidnappers released one Qatari and one non-Qatari member of the hunting party. There were no further developments in the case, and the 25 other members of the hunting party remained missing at year’s end.

There were no known developments in other cases of disappearances from prior years.

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

Although the constitution expressly prohibits torture in all its forms under all circumstances, including cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, government officials as well as local and international human rights organizations documented instances of government agents committing torture and other abuses. Police throughout the country continued to use abusive and coerced confessions as methods of investigation, and courts continued to accept forced confessions as evidence. Da’esh, however, committed the overwhelming majority of such abuses.

As in previous years, abuse and torture occurred during arrest, pretrial detention, and after conviction. Former prisoners, detainees, and human rights groups reported that methods of torture and abuse included: putting victims in stress positions, beating, including on the soles of feet with plastic and metal rods, suffocating, burning, removing fingernails, suspending from the ceiling, overextending spines, denying sufficient water and the use of sanitation facilities, sexual assault, denying medical treatment, and threatening to rape female relatives of detainees or kill family members. A number of inmates reported that prison guards mistreated their families during visits.

International human rights organizations documented credible cases of torture and abuse in facilities of the Ministry of Interior and to a lesser extent in detention facilities of the Ministries of Justice and Defense, as well as in facilities of the KRG. The Human Rights Ministry and the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR) noted that torture cases were underreported because many detainees were afraid to file complaints. HRW reported that widespread torture and systematic abuses continued in detention facilities and reported several instances of torture and rape of detainees. For example, according to NGOs, the men who had been convicted after confessing to taking part in the 2014 Camp Speicher massacre showed signs of torture. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported police and investigators continued to rely heavily on the evidence of secret informants or coerced confessions. Following confession, the coercion generally ceased.

The IHCHR could not confirm allegations of torture and systematic abuses in prisons and detention centers in part because the ministry was disbanded and the commission’s last meeting of the year was in May. In February the parliamentary Human Rights Committee confirmed one case of torture in a Ministry of the Interior detention center in Baghdad; it was the only case the committee reported.

Abusive interrogation under certain conditions reportedly occurred in some detention facilities of the KRG’s internal security unit, the Asayish, and the intelligence services of the major political parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s (KDP) Parastin and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’s (PUK) Zanyari. During monitoring visits to IKR prisons and places of detention between January 2015 and June 2016, UNAMI reported 70 detainees had raised allegations of torture or other ill treatment during the interrogation phase, or both.

Abuses by terrorist groups were widespread. For example, in March HRW reported Da’esh fighters beat a man in custody every day for 18 days to force him to confess to selling cigarettes. The report also said witnesses reported 15 female Da’esh guards biting a woman in public as punishment for not covering her face. On September 13, Da’esh reportedly cut off the feet of seven civilians from Hawija southwest of Kirkuk for urging residents to take up arms and rise-up against the organization. Human rights and humanitarian groups reported numerous cases of rape, forced labor, forced marriage, forced religious conversion, material deprivation, and battery.

There were no known developments in cases of torture and abusive treatment or punishment first reported in 2015.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions at some prison and detention facilities remained harsh and life threatening due to overcrowding, abuse, and torture. There were also cases of food shortages and inadequate access to sanitation facilities and medical care.

Both the government and the KRG operated secret detention facilities during the year, according to international observers and to the head of the KRG parliamentary Human Rights Committee. There was no information available to verify whether–or the extent to which–they remained in use. In May HRW reported that Da’esh had set-up at least three prisons where former prisoners reported regular floggings and torture.

The Ministry of Justice reported that there were no accommodations for disabled inmates and the previously announced initiative by the ministry to establish facilities for disabled detainees had not been implemented by year’s end.

Physical Conditions: NGOs, such as AI, reported overcrowding in prisons was a serious problem as the number of detainees increased as a result of the capture of suspected Da’esh members. Detainee conditions and treatment of detainees were generally poor, according to UNAMI’s 2016 report, with overcrowding becoming a growing problem in most facilities. NGO contacts reported that due to the closure of prisons after Da’esh’s 2014 advances, some remaining prisons held more than twice their designed inmate capacity. Three of the 24 correctional facilities managed by the Iraqi Corrections Service (ICS)–the only government entity with legal authority to hold persons after conviction–were not operational due to the security situation.

Prisons also became overcrowded in the South due an increased incarceration rate of criminals involved in drugs and kidnapping, and the transfer of 1,000 prisoners from northern governorates to Basrah. For example, the sole prison in Muthanna Governorate should hold no more than 50 prisoners in each cell; however, observers reported more than 100 persons in one cell. Basrah central prison, with capacity of 1,100, held more than 2,500 inmates, and Ma’aqal Prison, with a capacity of 250, held 500 prisoners. Overcrowding exacerbated corruption among some police officers and prison administrators in the South, who reportedly took bribes to reduce or drop charges, cut sentences, or release prisoners early.

Many inmates lacked adequate food, water, exercise facilities, vocational training, and family visitation. Access to medical care was inconsistent. Some detention facilities did not have an onsite pharmacy or infirmary, and authorities reported that existing pharmacies were undersupplied. Moreover, NGO contacts reported a significant shortage of social workers at prisons. Women’s prisons often lacked adequate child-care facilities for inmates’ children, whom the law permits to remain with their mothers until the age of four. Limited infrastructure or aging physical plants in some facilities worsened marginal sanitation, limited access to potable water, and led to preparation of poor-quality food.

Authorities separated detainees from convicts in most cases. Prisoners facing terrorism charges were isolated from the general population and were more likely to remain in Interior Ministry facilities in harsher conditions.

Although the government held most juvenile pretrial detainees and convicts in facilities operated by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, international and local NGOs reported that authorities held some juveniles in Justice Ministry prisons, Interior Ministry police stations, and other Interior Ministry detention facilities. Due to a lack of facilities in Maysan Governorate, juvenile offenders and adults were jointly incarcerated.

On May 3, AI reported that Shia militia units were holding more than 1,000 detainees, including some as young as 15, without charge in “horrendous conditions at makeshift holding centers” in Anbar Governorate (see section 1.g.).

Da’esh reportedly continued to operate three facilities in areas under its control, including the Justice Ministry’s Badoush Prison in Mosul, and two Interior Ministry prisons in Ninewa Governorate. The condition of individuals detained in these facilities was unknown.

Published in its January-June report, UNAMI found overcrowding driven by terrorism-related detentions, such as in the Anti -Terrorism Directorate facility in Erbil. According to UNAMI, the KRG’s new detention facilities in major cities were well maintained, although conditions remained poor in many smaller detention centers operated by the KRG Ministry of Interior. In some KRG Asayish detention centers and police-run jails, KRG authorities occasionally held juveniles in the same cells as adults.

Administration: Although there were credible allegations of mistreatment in both central government and KRG facilities, especially in pretrial detention, there was no information indicating that authorities undertook credible investigations into the allegations, and no prosecutions resulted therefrom (see section 1.c.). According to the Iraqi Kurdistan Independent Human Rights Commission and IKR parliamentary Human Rights Committee, instances of torture have occurred in IKR prisons. UNAMI reported during monitoring visits to prisons and places of detention in the IKR that 70 detainees raised allegations of torture or other ill-treatment during their interrogation.

The Ministry of Justice reported that budgetary constraints had significantly reduced the number of its visits to prisons. There was no information available about censorship or action on the complaints.

Recordkeeping on prisoners and detainees was generally inadequate. The Ministry of Justice reported it employed new technology to keep track of prisoners and detainees. The fully digitalized ministry-wide tracking system keeps track of judicial records relating to detainees and decreased the likelihood of individuals being detained past their release date. Moreover, it reduced corruption opportunities as prison officials could no longer alter prisoners’ records in exchange for bribes. Despite these attempts at modernization, however, officials at the Ministries of Interior, Justice, and Defense, and at the Counterterrorism Service, indicated each entity maintained its own records, although some facilities held individuals detained by several entities, making it difficult to account for a facility’s total population. Additionally, human rights organizations reported that prison guards or arresting officers released detainees after the detainees paid a bribe, a practice that further contributed to inaccurate detainee recordkeeping.

International and local human rights groups reported that authorities in numerous cases denied family visits to detainees and convicts. In many cases guards allegedly demanded bribes when detainees asked to call their relatives or legal counsel.

Independent Monitoring: ICS prisons allowed regular visits by independent nongovernmental observers. The ICRC continued to have its customary access to Justice, Interior, Defense, and Labor and Social Affairs Ministry prisons and detention facilities. Authorities also granted UNAMI access to Justice Ministry prison and detention facilities in Baghdad. There were reports of institutional interference in prison visits, and in some cases institutions required advance notification to wardens and prison officials of visits by outside monitors.

The KRG generally allowed international human rights NGOs and intergovernmental organizations to visit convicted prisoners and pretrial detainees but occasionally delayed or denied access to some individuals, usually in cases involving terrorism. The UNAMI Human Rights Office and ICRC continued to receive regular access to IKR prisons and detention facilities.

Improvements: The Ministry of Justice reported that during the year it had installed surveillance cameras in all federal prisons, providing real-time information to a centralized office responsible for monitoring prisons. The camera system was meant to act as a deterrent to would-be abusers by allowing the government to record possible abuses for later investigation.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution provides some basic legal safeguards against arbitrary arrest and detention. Emergency laws give security forces broad discretion over arrest and detention when the government has declared a national emergency, which authorities declared in Baghdad on April 30 after protesters breached the International Zone. During the year there continued to be many reports of arbitrary arrests and detentions.

The government made minimal progress by year’s end in improving enforcement of the rights governing arrest and detentions, despite the encouragement of an executive order and a reform law. In federal prisons the government reported the installation and use of video cameras to deter and record abuse.

In 2014 the prime minister issued an executive order to enforce the existing rights of detainees–a principal concern of Sunnis. The executive order prohibits the arrest or remand of individuals except by an order issued by a competent judge or court or in the conditions warranted by the code of criminal procedures. The authority that enforced the arrest warrant or detention is required within 24 hours of the detention to register in the government’s central electronic and manual registers the detainee’s name, place of detention, reason for detention, and legal article. The Ministry of Justice is then responsible for updating and managing these registers. The order requires the Ministries of Defense and Interior and the National Security Service to establish guidelines and mechanisms for commanders to register detainees’ details in this central register. The executive order also prohibits any entity, other than legally competent authorities, to detain any person.

On August 25, the Council of Representatives (COR) passed the amended amnesty law. The reformed law permits retrials for detainees convicted on the basis of forced confessions or from reliance on evidence provided by secret informants.

After bombings on April 4, security forces in the southern governorate of Dhi Qar arrested persons under the Antiterrorism Law. Local residents alleged that the ISF used the bombing as an excuse to arrest innocent Sunnis, IDPs, and civil activists. For example, security forces arrested Mufeed al-Shanoon and Sala’am Dlejan, civil activists in the reform protests from Nassiriyah. By the end of the year, of the original 31 arrested, authorities released 18 for lack of evidence.

In August the human rights staff of an international organization reported concerns about government security forces, the PMF, and Peshmerga detention and arrest of IDPs. With the cooperation of the Ministries of Interior and Justice, the international organization representative visited IDP detainees, but authorities prevented the representative from conducting confidential interviews. Numerous reports of arrests and temporary detention by government forces, the PMF, and Peshmerga of predominantly Sunni Arab IDPs continued throughout the year.

Prison authorities sometimes delayed the release of inmates who were exonerated or who had served their complete sentence unless the prison authorities received bribes. According to NGO contacts, inmates whom the judiciary ordered to be released continued to face delays from the Interior Ministry or other ministries to clear their record of other pending charges.

There were many reports of Shia PMF forces detaining Sunnis following the liberation of Da’esh-dominated areas. For example, reports persisted that up to 3,000 prisoners were illegally held by the hard-line militias, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and the terrorist Kata’ib Hizballah, advised by members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force. The prisoners included Sunnis and others suspected of working with Da’esh, and were held in up to five makeshift jails, some for alleged crimes and some to exchange for ransoms that help fund militia activities.

According to the PMF spokesman, the Justice Ministry appointed a judge who was, at year’s end, working his way through 300 reported cases of abuse by militia members ranging from alleged prisoner abuse to summary executions. According to the spokesman, only approximately one-quarter of those accused were “genuine” militia members, and the rest were part of volunteer groups receiving no pay, medical, or survivor benefits from the government.

According to local NGOs and the head of the IKR parliamentary Human Rights Committee, prisoners held in KRG-administered Asayish prisons sometimes remained in detention for more than six months without trial. IKR police and internal security service officers in the IKR arrested protesters and activists critical of the KRG, and detained them for several days, according to NGO contacts and local press reporting. For example, Iraqi Kurdistan authorities in the northern city of Sulaimaniyah arrested 13 teachers on December 1, ahead of a demonstration over unpaid public-sector salaries.

Prime Minister Abadi said in an interview that some fighters participating in the battle for Fallujah had committed “mistakes.” A government spokesperson later announced the establishment of a human rights committee to investigate alleged abuses. As of year-end, there were no updates regarding the men and boys who were missing in Saqlawiyah or concerning the progress of the investigation.

Da’esh continued to seize persons in order to silence its critics in the areas it controlled. In October, Da’esh arrested five former imams in Mosul on charges of sedition, according to local media. During the first week of January, Da’esh abducted five male teachers from around Mosul city for refusing to propagate Da’esh doctrines.


The ISF consists of security forces administratively organized within the Ministries of Interior and Defense, the PMF, and the Counterterrorism Service. Interior Ministry responsibilities include domestic law enforcement and maintenance of order relying on the Federal Police, Provincial Police, Facilities Protection Service, Civil Defense, and Department of Border Enforcement. Energy police, under the Ministry of Oil, are responsible for providing critical infrastructure protection. Conventional military forces under the Defense Ministry are responsible for the defense of the country, but working with elements of the Interior Ministry, they often also carry out counterterrorism and internal security operations. The Counterterrorism Service reports directly to the prime minister and oversees the Counterterrorism Command, an organization that includes the three brigades of special operations forces.

The November 26 PMF law, one and a half pages long, was the latest in a series of efforts to place the PMF, composed of nearly 60 militia groups, under the ISF umbrella but reporting to the prime minister in a similar fashion as the Counterterrorism Service. Details on implementation, mission, and force structure of the PMF were not finalized as of year’s end.

The authorities reportedly initiated some investigations of security forces accused of committing human rights abuses. As in the previous year, the minister of defense publicly called for holding perpetrators of human rights abuses within the security forces accountable, but there was little information available on the outcome of any investigations or of official punishment for human rights violations. On June 4, the government announced an investigation into “transgressions against civilians” and the PMF’s killing of IDPs who fled Fallujah during the more than month-long struggle for its liberation. Authorities did not make public any findings of investigations by year’s end, except the PMF spokesman’s reference to a judge “working his way through” 300 reported cases of PMF abuse of which, he said, approximately one-quarter pertained to genuine militia members, while the rest pertained to “wannabe groups” like the Sunni Knights of Ninewa.

There were reports of torture and abuse throughout the country in Interior and Defense Ministry facilities. According to international human rights organizations, abuse took place primarily during detainee interrogations while in pretrial detention. The Interior Ministry did not release the number of officers punished during the year, and there were no known court convictions for abuse.

An NGO in Muthanna Governorate reported that guards on occasion beat prisoners for talking to outsiders about poor conditions and mistreatment inside the prison. On September 10, local media reported that authorities arrested and charged five police officers in the Rania District of Sulaimaniyah Governorate with torturing a man in their custody.

Problems persisted, including corruption, within the country’s provincial police forces. The army and federal police recruited and deployed soldiers and police officers on a nationwide basis. This practice led to complaints from local communities that members of the army and police were abusive because of ethno-sectarian differences.

Security forces made limited efforts to prevent or respond to societal violence. Although 16 family protection units, located in separate buildings at police stations around the country, operated under police authority to respond to claims of domestic violence made by women and children, they lacked sufficient capacity. The most recent report detailing the units’ work dated from 2014.

The two main Kurdish political parties, the KDP and PUK, had their own security apparatuses. Under the federal constitution, the KRG has the right to maintain regional guard brigades, supported financially by the government but under the KRG’s control. Accordingly, the KRG established a Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs. There are 14 infantry brigades and two support brigades under the authority of the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs, but the PUK and KDP controlled tens of thousands of additional military personnel.

The KDP had its own internal security unit, the Asayish, and its own intelligence service, the Parastin. The PUK also maintained its own internal security unit, known also as the Asayish, and its own intelligence service, the Zanyari. While the PUK and KDP took some nominal steps to unify their internal and external security organizations, they remained separate, since political party leaders effectively controlled these organizations through party channels. The KRG Independent Human Rights Commission routinely notified the Kurdistan Ministry of Interior when it received credible reports of police human rights violations. Local NGOs reported a sense of impunity among KRG security force officials; local human rights monitors reported an allegation of rape and manslaughter by mid-ranking officers during the year.

KRG security services detained suspects in areas the regional government controlled. The poorly defined administrative boundaries between the IKR and the rest of the country resulted in continuing confusion about the jurisdiction of security forces and the courts. Da’esh’s control of parts of these areas exacerbated this situation.


The constitution prohibits “unlawful detention” and mandates that authorities submit preliminary documents to a competent judge within 24 hours of arrest, a period that may extend in most cases to a maximum of 72 hours. For offenses punishable by death, authorities may legally detain the defendant as long as necessary to complete the judicial process. According to local media and rights groups, authorities arrested suspects in security sweeps without a warrant, particularly under the antiterrorism law, and held some detainees for prolonged periods without charge.

The government arbitrarily detained individuals and often did not inform them promptly of the nature of the charges against them. The government periodically released detainees, usually after concluding that it lacked sufficient evidence for the courts to convict them. Many others remained in detention pending review of other outstanding charges. The law allows release on bond for criminal (but not security) detainees. Authorities rarely released detainees on bail. KRG internal security units held some suspects incommunicado without an arrest warrant and transported detainees to undisclosed detention facilities.

The law provides for judges to appoint paid counsel for the indigent. Attorneys appointed to represent detainees frequently complained that insufficient access to their clients hampered adequate attorney-client consultation. In many cases detainees were not able to meet their attorneys until their scheduled trial date. There were reports that defendants did not have access to legal representation during the investigation phase, appointed lawyers lacked sufficient time to prepare a defense, and courts failed to investigate claims of torture while in detention. The Human Rights Ministry, which was dissolved in August 2015, acknowledged the need for public defenders and judges far exceeded supply, resulting in delayed trials.

Arbitrary Arrest: Police and military personnel arrested and detained individuals without judicial approval, although there were no reliable statistics available regarding the number of such acts or length of detentions. Authorities often failed to notify family members of the arrest or location of detention, resulting in incommunicado detention.

Pretrial Detention: The Ministries of Justice, Defense, Interior, and Labor and Social Affairs are legally entitled to hold pretrial detainees.

Although there were no independently verified statistics concerning the number of pretrial detainees in government facilities, most individuals in Interior and Defense Ministry facilities were reportedly pretrial detainees. In February the Ministry of Justice stated there were approximately 30,000 detainees in the ministry’s correction centers, including 200 foreign detainees. NGOs noted actual detainee figures could be as high as 50,000. As of October 5, there were an estimated 1,681 pretrial detainees, including 82 women, at various KRG facilities, according to the KRG Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs.

Lengthy detentions without due process and without judicial action were a systemic problem. The lack of judicial review resulted from several factors, including a large number of detainees, undocumented detentions, slow processing of criminal investigations, an insufficient number of judges and trained judicial personnel, authorities’ inability or reluctance to utilize bail or other conditions of release, lack of information sharing, bribery, and corruption. Overcrowding of pretrial detainees remained a problem in many detention facilities. There were allegations of detention beyond judicial release dates as well as unlawful releases.

According to some observers, authorities held many detainees for months or years after initial arrest and detention, particularly those detained under the antiterrorism law. Authorities sometimes held detainees incommunicado, without access to defense counsel or without formal charge before a judge within the legally mandated period. Authorities at times detained spouses and other family members of fugitives, mostly Sunnis wanted on terrorism charges, as proxies to pressure the fugitives to surrender.

KRG authorities also reportedly held detainees for extensive periods in pretrial detention. According to local NGOs and the head of the Iraqi Kurdistan parliamentary Human Rights Committee, prisoners held in regional government-administered Asayish prisons sometimes remained in detention for more than six months without trial. According to IKR judicial officials, IKR law permits extension of pretrial detention of up to six month under court supervision.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The constitution grants detainees the right to a prompt judicial determination on the legality of their detention, and persons arrested or detained may obtain prompt release and compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained. In practice individuals faced lengthy detentions without possibility of prompt release, regardless of guilt. Despite the 2014 executive order and the August 25 reform law concerning rights of detainees, NGOs widely reported that detainees had limited ability to challenge the lawfulness of detention before a court and that a bribe was often necessary in order to gain release. The law does not allow for compensation if a person was found to have been unlawfully detained.

Amnesty: There were no amnesty cases outside of the routine, religious holiday amnesties for minor crimes.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, although certain articles of law restricted judicial independence. The country’s security situation and political history left the judiciary weak and dependent on other parts of the government. Additionally, in 2013 the Supreme Court overturned a court order mandating the separation of the Federal Supreme Court and the Higher Judicial Council, thus allowing one individual to head both the court, which rules on issues related to federalism and constitutionality, and the council, which manages and supervises the court system, including disciplinary matters. Local and international media claimed the decision was politically motivated and undermined judicial independence.

There were reports that corruption influenced authorities’ willingness to respect court orders. For example, the Integrity Committee of the COR reported that Interior Ministry and Justice Ministry employees frequently demanded bribes from detainees to release them even after court orders for their release had been issued, or after their mandated jail term had expired.

Corruption or intimidation reportedly influenced some judges presiding over criminal cases at the trial level and on appeal to the Court of Cassation. The Commission of Integrity routinely investigated judges on corruption charges, but there were numerous reports that such investigations often were politically motivated.

Numerous threats and killings by sectarian, tribal, extremist, and criminal elements impaired judicial independence. Judges, lawyers, and their family members frequently faced death threats and attacks. Lawyers participated in protests demanding better protection from the government against threats and violence. Judges were also vulnerable to intimidation and violence. In January unidentified gunmen shot and killed an investigating magistrate in Diyala Governorate. In February the president of the Basrah Court of Appeal survived an assassination attempt near his house in Kut al-Hijjaj.

The Kurdistan Judicial Council is legally, financially, and administratively independent from the KRG Ministry of Justice, but the KRG Executive continued to influence politically sensitive cases.


The constitution provides all citizens the right to a fair trial–but not necessarily a public trial–and the right to be present at their trial, with the assistance of free interpretation through all appeals, if necessary. Observers, including some government officials, the United Nations, and NGOs reported that trial proceedings fell short of international standards. Although investigative, trial, and appellate judges generally sought to enforce the right to a fair trial, defendants’ insufficient access to defense attorneys was a serious defect in proceedings. Many defendants met their lawyers for the first time during the initial hearing and had limited access to legal counsel during pretrial detention. Trials were public, except in some national security cases, but some faced undue delays.

Accused persons are innocent until proven guilty under the law, and detainees are required to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, as well as the right to a privately retained or court-appointed counsel, at public expense if needed. Nonetheless, officials routinely failed to inform defendants promptly or in detail of charges against them. Judges assemble evidence and adjudicate guilt or innocence. Defendants and their attorneys have access to government-held evidence relevant to their cases before trial and have the right to confront witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence. In many cases, according to AI, forced confessions served as the only source of evidence without the corroboration of forensic evidence or independent witness testimony. The law provides the right to appeal, although there is a statute of limitations for referral; the Court of Cassation reviews criminal cases on appeal.

KRG officials noted that prosecutors and defense attorneys frequently encountered obstacles in carrying out their work and that prisoners’ trials were unnecessarily delayed for administrative reasons. According to the IKR’s Independent Human Rights Commission, detainees have remained in KRG internal security service facilities for extended periods even after court orders for their release.


The government did not consider any incarcerated persons to be political prisoners or detainees and stated that all individuals in prison had been either convicted or charged under criminal law or were detained and awaiting trial while under investigation.

It was difficult to assess claims that there were no political prisoners or detainees due to the lack of government transparency, prevalence of corruption in arrest procedures, slow case processing, and inaccessibility to detainees, especially those held in counterterrorism, intelligence, and military facilities. Political opponents of the government asserted the government imprisoned or sought to imprison persons for political activities or beliefs under the pretense of criminal charges ranging from corruption to terrorism and murder.

Niaz Aziz Saleh, who was convicted in 2012 of leaking KDP party information related to electoral fraud, remained in prison following the completion of his sentence in 2014, according to the chairman of the IKR Parliamentary Human Rights Committee.


Individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies for, or cessation of, human rights violations. Administrative remedies also exist, although due to the overwhelming security focus of the executive branch, coupled with an understaffed judiciary dependent on the executive, the government did not effectively implement civil or administrative remedies for human rights violations. In 2014 in collaboration with the IHCHR, the Higher Judicial Council established special courts to investigate human rights violations and reports of abuse wherever there is a court of appeal. On February 3, IHCHR members stated they had referred approximately 4,000 cases of human rights violations from 2015; however, the prosecutor dismissed hundreds of cases for lack of evidence or failure to complete required documents. At year’s end the courts had not issued any convictions for human rights violations.

KRG law provides for compensation to persons subject to unlawful arrest or detention. The KRG’s Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs handles compensation for unlawful arrests or detentions, and its Human Rights Commission reported that while approximately 8,000 cases (including many historical cases) received approval for compensation, the government was not able to pay compensation due to budget constraints.

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

The constitution mandates that authorities may not enter or search homes except with a judicial order. The constitution also prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, but security forces often entered homes without search warrants.

According to accounts by family members provided to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) Protection Cluster, some government forces and militia groups continued to force alleged Da’esh sympathizers out of their homes in Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, and Salah al-Din Governorates. For example, in late October local security forces in Kirkuk allegedly evicted hundreds of households perceived to be affiliated with Da’esh before destroying their homes, although public statements by local authorities denied government participation in the forced evictions. Similarly, the Protection Cluster reported that in Diyala Governorate, local authorities announced in October that more than 6,300 IDP families residing in and around the city of Khanaquin would be required to depart their homes and relocate to IDP camps, or return to their areas of origin. According to the Protection Cluster, the order was in reaction to security concerns regarding the displaced households’ possible affiliation with Da’esh.

A November 16 HRW report, Marked With An “X,” alleged that KRG forces, mostly Peshmerga, destroyed buildings and homes and, in many cases entire villages, making them uninhabitable. On April 4, the KRG, having been given access to HRW’s evidence and findings prior to the publication of its report, set up a committee to investigate the allegations of unlawful destruction of property and movement restrictions on IDPs in territory under KRG control. The committee proposed that the destruction might have resulted from Da’esh IEDs, was part of collateral damage from fighting or bombing, or was required by the de-mining process to ensure returning IDPs were not injured by IEDs and booby-traps left behind by withdrawing Da’esh.

According to a November 3 HRW report, fighters of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq detained and beat shepherds, including a boy, from a village near Mosul on suspicion of Da’esh affiliation, then stole about 300 sheep–the village’s entire flock.

During the year Da’esh fighters entered homes, destroyed or looted private property, and converted houses into operational bases. Media reported throughout the year that Da’esh opened markets called “Spoils of the Nazarenes” to sell electronics, furniture, and other items looted from Christian homes. In January Christian groups reported that Da’esh arranged a market where they sold 400 houses, 19 high-rise buildings, and 167 stores, warehouses, and shops in the Mosul area belonging to Christians. In September media reported that Da’esh terrorists destroyed more than 17,000 homes in Salah al-Din, according to Governor Ra’ed al-Jabouri. In September, Da’esh reportedly burned approximately 25 homes of ISF members and government employees around Hit, northwest of Ramadi.

Killings: During the year UNAMI recorded a total of 19,266 civilian casualties: 6,878 killed and 12,388 wounded, although how many civilians were intentionally targeted was not indicated.

According to the United Nations and international human rights organizations, some Iran-backed Shia militias, nominally under government control, committed human rights violations. The groups participated in operations against Da’esh as part of the PMF and were implicated in several attacks on Sunni civilians, reportedly avenging Da’esh crimes against the Shia. A few Sunni tribal forces that had rallied to the government, especially in Anbar Governorate, were also implicated in revenge killing of Sunni civilians, some of whom may have simply coexisted with Da’esh during Da’esh’s rule in the area. UNAMI and HRW reported that members of Shia militias allegedly had abducted and killed scores of Sunni residents in Muqdadiya, in Diyala Governorate, and demolished Sunni homes, stores, and seven mosques following January 11 bombings claimed by Da’esh. In early January armed groups targeted Sunni mosques in Babil Governorate. None of those responsible were brought to justice by year-end.

Da’esh was the major human rights violator in the country, responsible for deaths of many innocent civilians. The United Nations, international human rights groups, and media reported that Da’esh executed hundreds of noncombatants. These included not only civilians who did not flee their homes in advance of Da’esh advances but also those who attempted to flee Da’esh held territory, captured or surrendered soldiers, police officers, and others associated or who had been associated with the government. For example, ISF discovered in November several mass graves containing the bodies of at least 400 former local police officers near the village of Hammam al-Alil, 19 miles southeast of Mosul. They appeared to have been killed at the end of October while in Da’esh’s custody.

Media widely reported instances when, after Sunni tribes turned against Da’esh and allied themselves with the ISF, Da’esh conducted mass executions of tribesmen. For example, HRW reported they interviewed 20 residents in May from villages in Makhmur District who had fled to an IDP camp. The villagers said that before government forces retook the area in March, Da’esh executed government security personnel, civilians attempting to flee, and suspected government informants, while many others went missing.

Da’esh also reportedly killed and abducted religious leaders who failed to support the terrorist group. In September, Da’esh reportedly shot and killed two imams in eastern Mosul for not complying with instructions to encourage young men to join Da’esh and fight against the ISF.

Throughout the year Da’esh detonated VBIEDs and suicide bombs in public markets, security checkpoints, and predominantly Shia neighborhoods. For example, on November 24, a suicide truck bomber killed at least 77 persons, largely Iranian Shia pilgrims, in the southern city of Hilla.

On April 26, Yezidi religious leaders in Lalish published an open letter to diplomats and human rights organizations reporting 410 Yezidi men had been missing for a year after Da’esh transported the men to a mosque in the Da’esh-controlled city of Tal Afar.

Abductions: Militias, illegal armed groups, Da’esh, and other unknown actors kidnapped many persons during the year. While in some cases individuals were kidnapped due to their ethnic or sectarian identity, other individuals were taken for financial motives. Da’esh reportedly detained children in schools, prisons, and airports, and separated girls from their families to sell them in Da’esh-controlled areas for sexual slavery. Da’esh also punished minors in areas under its control.

UNAMI reported that Da’esh held approximately 3,500 persons in slavery, predominantly women and children from the Yezidi community, as well as other ethnic and religious minorities from the Sinjar District of Ninewa Governorate. On June 25, according to UNAMI, Da’esh moved 42 Yezidi women to Mayadeen in the Deir ez-Zor Governorate in eastern Syria and sold them to Da’esh fighters for amounts ranging from approximately 500,000 dinars to 2.2 million dinars ($450 to $2,000) each.

Kidnappings also continued to be a common tactic in tribal conflicts. In January members of the al-Halaf tribe abducted a man from the Garamsha tribe after the establishment of a truce between the two tribes failed. A photo of the man, bound and beaten, went viral on social media; the photo caption described him as a “captive of the war between the two tribes.”

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Reports from international human rights groups alleged that government forces and Shia PMF abused prisoners and detainees, particularly Sunnis (see section 1.a.).

Da’esh reportedly used torture and other brutal tactics to abuse and punish individuals connected to the security services and government, as well as those they considered apostates, such as Yezidis, according to international human rights organizations. According to a January-June UNAMI report, thousands of women, particularly those from ethnic and religious communities that Da’esh considered takfiri, or not conforming to their doctrine of Islam, had been subjected to rape, sexual enslavement, murder, and other forms of physical and sexual violence.

Da’esh forces killed civilians who cooperated with the government and anyone who refused to recognize Da’esh and its caliphate, or tried to escape Da’esh-controlled territory. During the first week of January, Da’esh abducted five male teachers near Mosul for refusing to propagate Da’esh doctrines. In March media widely reported that Da’esh electrocuted 15 civilians charged with spying for the government in Baghdad.

Da’esh attempted to attack both ISF units and civilian-populated areas with chemical substances, including chlorine and sulfur mustard gas. They developed a small number of crude chemical weapons that had a negligible effect on the battlefield. On March 16 and May 2, respectively, Da’esh fired chemical weapons into the Salah al-Din villages of Taza and Basheer, injuring more than 400 civilians, primarily Turkmen Shia.

Child Soldiers: There were no reports that regular ISF units conscripted or recruited children to serve in the security services. Some NGOs and an IDP camp manager reported that, while there was no instruction for children to join fighting, children continued to be associated with the PMF and militias in conflict areas. In August, NGOs reported Sunni tribal militias recruiting teenagers aged 15-17 from the Debaga IDP camp. KRG and independent sources alleged the Yezidi Resistance Forces and Yezidi Women’s Protection Units militias employed Yezidi minors in paramilitary roles in Sinjar. For example, an HRW December 22 report documented 29 cases in which two armed groups affiliated with the PKK recruited Kurdish and Yezidi children, and abducted or seriously abused children who tried to leave their forces.

Additionally, armed Shia groups, under the banner of the PMF, continued to give weapons training and military-style physical fitness conditioning to children under the age of 18 at summer training camps. The government and the statements of Shia religious leaders expressly forbid children under the age of 18 from serving in combat; there was evidence on social media, however, of children serving in combat positions. For example, the official “Ideological Guidance” page of the PMF website lauded a 14-year-old volunteer from Basrah for fighting alongside his father in Fallujah. The head of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Basrah office said, “children from poor neighborhoods in Basrah are leaving school to volunteer” with PMF groups. The head of a Basrah NGO visited PMF units in Salah al-Din, where she encountered teenage volunteers serving on the front lines. On April 20, the United Nations verified 12 reported cases of recruitment of children by militias affiliated with the PMF, all of whom had been killed in combat. According to the IHCHR, during the year authorities detained 857 juveniles, including 804 on charges of terrorism, murder, theft, and kidnapping. An international organization reported that an estimated 30 percent of juveniles in pretrial or post-trial detention were held on security-related charges.

According to UNAMI, Da’esh forcibly recruited children to serve as informants, checkpoint staff, and suicide bombers. In January international media cited KRG sources who said Da’esh abducted up to 400 Yezidi children and trained them for combat or as suicide bombers. In March, Da’esh moved approximately 25 children from an orphanage in Mosul to a training camp in Tal Afar. The boys, some as young as eight years, included Yezidis and Turkmen, and were reportedly trained on weapons use and other combat skills. On September 20, Da’esh released a video that showed children executing prisoners in Mosul.

According to UNICEF, Da’esh violations against children included killing and maiming, recruitment and use as soldiers or suicide bombers, sexual violence, attacks against schools or hospitals, denial of humanitarian access for children, and abduction. For example, on August 21, police in Kirkuk cut a suicide vest off a 15-year-old boy wearing it under a Lionel Messi football shirt before he could carry out a Da’esh plan to detonate the vest inside a Shia mosque.

See also the Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report at

Other Conflict-related Abuse: Active areas of conflict continued to disrupt the lives of hundreds of thousands of persons throughout the country, particularly in Baghdad and the IKR, but also in Anbar, Ninewa, Salah al-Din, and Diyala Governorates.

On October 25, UNAMI warned that expulsions of relatives of suspected Da’esh members were becoming widespread without due process, and that “collective punishment” endangered civilian lives and undermined efforts at reconciliation. For example, media reported in August that police forced relatives of suspected Da’esh members to leave 52 houses in Dhuluiya, in Salah al-Din Governorate. On September 9, international media reported that authorities expelled the families of more than 200 suspected Da’esh members from their homes in Hit, northwest of Ramadi.

The government, the PMF, and Da’esh all established roadblocks that impeded the flow of humanitarian assistance to communities in need. The KRG–specifically KDP-run checkpoints–also restricted the transport of food, medicines and medical supplies, and other goods into Sinjar and Rabia Districts. NGO and diplomatic contacts stated the measures appeared to be aimed at limiting the influence of the PKK and their local affiliates, but they claimed unpredictability and the extent of the restrictions limited IDP returns to these areas.

Reports of Da’esh’s targeted destruction of civilian infrastructure were common, including attacks on roads, religious sites, and hospitals.

Da’esh continued to attack cultural and religious heritage sites in areas under its control. On January 21, UNESCO reported Da’esh had destroyed the Monastery of Saint Elijah, which was more than 1,400 years old and the oldest Christian monastery in Iraq. On April 25, Da’esh destroyed Mosul’s Clock Tower Church.

UNAMI stated in an October report that Da’esh violations against Christians, Faili (Shia) Kurds, Kaka’i, Sabaean-Mandean, Shabaks, Shia Arabs, Turkmen, Yezidis and others appeared to be part of a policy to suppress, permanently expel, or destroy these communities.

Da’esh increasingly used civilians as human shields in combat and targeted civilian areas with mortars. In May police chief Lieutenant Colonel Aref al-Janabi told local media that Da’esh took civilians, mostly women, children and the elderly, hostage in Albu Hawi and Hasi villages. He added that Da’esh terrorists used scores of civilians as human shields when tribal fighters, together with security forces, launched an operation to retake the two besieged villages. In October UN human rights spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani reported Da’esh had forced “tens of thousands of people from their homes in sub-districts around Mosul, and had forcibly relocated civilians inside the city itself” to “use them as human shields.”

Israel and The Occupied Territories

Executive Summary


Israel is a multiparty parliamentary democracy. Although it has no constitution, parliament, the unicameral 120-member Knesset, has enacted a series of “Basic Laws” that enumerate fundamental rights. Certain fundamental laws, orders, and regulations legally depend on the existence of a “state of emergency,” which has been in effect since 1948. Under the Basic Laws, the Knesset has the power to dissolve the government and mandate elections. The nationwide Knesset elections in 2015, considered free and fair, resulted in a coalition government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. An annex to this report covers human rights in the occupied territories. This report deals with human rights in Israel and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security services. During the year, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Palestinians committed 12 terror attacks within the Green Line that led to the deaths of seven Israelis and one foreign citizen, as well as injuries to 62 Israelis. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Palestinian militants fired 46 projectiles into Israel, and there were 21 incidents of mortar fire or cross-border shooting from Syria. Further information on the human rights situation in the occupied territories is in the annex.

The most significant human rights problems were terrorist attacks targeting civilians and politically and religiously motivated societal violence; institutional and societal discrimination against Arab citizens of Israel, many of whom self-identify as Palestinian, in particular in access to equal education, housing, and employment opportunities; and institutional and societal discrimination against Ethiopian Israelis and women.

Other human rights problems included administrative detention, often extraterritorial in Israel, of Palestinians from the occupied territories; stigmatizing of human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); the treatment of asylum seekers and irregular migrants; institutional and societal discrimination against non-Orthodox Jews and intermarried families; and labor rights abuses against Arab and foreign workers.

The government took some steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses within Israel regardless of rank or seniority.

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

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

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

The number of terrorist attacks by armed individuals decreased during the year, while attacks by rocket and mortar fire increased. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, militant groups launched 46 projectiles from the Gaza Strip, and there were 21 incidents of mortar fire or cross-border firing from Syria.

The wave of uncoordinated attacks, which began in September 2015, mostly by lone attackers not directed by any organization, decreased during the year. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during the year terrorist attacks killed eight persons and injured 62. Inside the Green Line, the location of attacks included West Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Netanya, Petah Tikva, Rahat, and Ramle. Most of the attackers were Palestinians from the West Bank, and four were Arab citizens of Israel. A much higher number of attacks occurred in the West Bank and Jerusalem (see annex).

For example, a bar on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv was the site of an attack on January 1, when Arab citizen of Israel Nashat Milhem killed two persons, injured eight others, and later killed a taxi driver. Security forces killed Milhem after a weeklong hunt.

On June 8, Palestinian cousins Khaled and Mahmoud Mahamrah fired on customers in a Tel Aviv marketplace, killing four Israelis. Authorities captured the two gunmen and indicted them for murder on July 4 in Tel Aviv District Court. Authorities indicted Yunis Aish Musa Zin, from the same West Bank town, on charges of aiding and abetting a terrorist attack. The cases continued as of the end of the year.

On October 25, the Egyptian military shot and killed 15-year-old Arab citizen of Israel Nimer Abu Amer, who was accompanying relatives employed in maintenance work on the border fence between Israel and Egypt by a contractor for the Ministry of Defense. An investigation was underway as of November 1.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

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

The law does not refer to a specific crime of torture but prohibits acts such as assault and pressure by a public official. In 1999 the Supreme Court ruled that although torture and the application of physical or psychological pain were illegal, Israeli Security Agency (ISA) interrogators might be exempt from criminal prosecution if they used such methods in extraordinary cases determined to involve an imminent threat, the “ticking bomb” scenario. Human rights organizations such as the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), Defense for Children International-Palestine, and Military Court Watch reported that “physical interrogation methods” permitted by Israeli law and used by security personnel could amount to torture. The methods included beatings, forcing an individual to hold a stress position for long periods, and painful pressure from shackles or restraints applied to the forearms. The government insisted it did not use any interrogation methods prohibited by the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT).

NGOs continued to criticize other alleged detention practices they termed abusive, including isolation, sleep deprivation, unnecessary shackling, denying access to legal counsel, and psychological abuse such as threats to interrogate family members or demolish family homes.

In May a report in the newspaper Ha’aretz alleged that Israeli soldiers abused three Palestinian minors from Gaza for three days after their arrest in October 2015. The abuse included being stripped, kicked, sleep deprived, beaten with a rifle butt, and burned with cigarette butts. After the three minors completed sentences of four to six months, authorities released them from prison and returned them to Gaza. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) stated that the allegations were under investigation by the Military Advocate General.

The government established the Turkel Commission to implement the findings of the 2010 report of the Public Commission to Examine the Maritime Incident–the interception and capture by the Israeli Navy of ships carrying humanitarian aid bound for Gaza. Following the publication of the Turkel Commission’s Second Report in 2013, which examined the country’s mechanisms for investigating alleged violations of the laws of war, the government in 2014 established a team of professionals led by Joseph Ciechanover to recommend practical steps to implement the recommendations of that report.

The Ciechanover report, released in September 2015, found that overall the country’s internal mechanisms for investigating and prosecuting alleged war crimes, many initiated following and in response to the Turkel Commission report, were sufficient and unbiased. Civil society groups criticized the Ciechanover Commission for deferring a decision to impose responsibility on military commanders and civilian superiors for offenses committed by their subordinates. The Ciechanover Commission opted instead to recommend that: “[T]he question of the explicit anchoring of the responsibility of military commanders and civilian superiors in Israeli law would continue to be examined by the relevant parties before being decided.” The report also recommended increasing and clarifying civilian oversight (via the attorney general) of the military justice system. In July the security cabinet adopted the report’s recommendations. In the context of the Ciechanover report, and in response to more than 60 complaints of soldier violence that the military closed without response from 2014 to September, the Supreme Court ruled in September that complaints should be examined within 14 weeks.

Authorities continued to state the ISA held detainees in isolation only in extreme cases and when there was no alternative option and that it did not use isolation as a means of augmenting interrogation, forcing a confession, or as punishment. The government rejected claims that interrogations of minors breached the convention, claiming that reforms implemented since 2008 improved the treatment of Palestinian minors, including the establishment of a Juvenile Military Court, raising the age of majority to 18 years old, introducing a special statute of limitation for minors, improving notification to a minor’s family and the minors themselves regarding their rights, and reducing detention periods (see annex). An independent Inspector for Complaints Against ISA Interrogators in the Ministry of Justice handled complaints of misconduct and abuse in interrogations.

In contrast to criminal cases investigated by police for crimes with a maximum imprisonment of 10 years or more, in which regulations require recording interrogations, an extended temporary law exempts the General Security Services from audio and video recording of interrogations of “security suspects.” The Ciechanover report recommended installing cameras in all ISA interrogation rooms that broadcast to a control room in real time, via closed-circuit. The government’s implementation team recommended locating this control room in an ISA facility where interrogations are not conducted and that it be accessible and available to a supervising entity from the Ministry of Justice at any time. According to the recommendation, the supervising entity will prepare a concise memorandum on what the observer saw, but no other record will be kept. In the event that the supervising entity believes that interrogators used illegal means during the interrogation, the observer must report the matter to the Inspector for Complaints against ISA Interrogators in the Ministry of Justice. Human rights NGOs, criticizing this mechanism as insufficient to prevent and identify torture since there is no recording of interrogations for later accountability and judicial review, submitted a petition to the Supreme Court opposing it in June 2015. The case continued as of November 7.

According to PCATI, despite more than 800 complaints of torture by detainees in Israel since 2001–in 15 percent of which cases the government acknowledged that the torture took place–the government had never brought criminal charges against an interrogator. Authorities had never indicted an ISA interrogator for torture during an investigation, but they stated every complaint was investigated and reviewed at the level of the deputy state prosecutor, at a minimum. Some complaints led to disciplinary action. PCATI reported 41 new cases of alleged torture as of September 13.

The UN Committee Against Torture, in its May review of the country’s compliance with UNCAT, recommended, among 50 other recommendations, that the government provide for independent medical examinations for all detainees. PCATI added that medical personnel should be trained and equipped to identify, document, and report all allegations and evidence of torture.

PCATI stated the government’s system for investigating allegations of mistreatment of detainees was complex and fragmented. For example, allegations against police and the ISA are investigated by two separate departments of the Police Investigation Department in the Ministry of Justice State Attorney’s Office, with different procedures. The National Prison Wardens Investigation Unit is responsible for investigating allegations against members of the Israel Prison Service (IPS). PCATI reported that this fragmentation created a disorganized system characterized by widely varying response times and professional standards. PCATI noted that victims often did not know the institutional affiliations of the perpetrators and that complaints were often passed from one organization to another for months or years, each authority denying jurisdiction in the case.

In December 2015 the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by prisoners under questioning for alleged involvement in a terror attack in Duma, the West Bank, in July 2015. The prisoners’ lawyer claimed the ISA prevented the prisoners from meeting with a lawyer and alleged ISA interrogators used illegal methods against the prisoners, including physical force and sleep deprivation. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel called on the Ministry of Justice to investigate the allegations. The Ministry of Justice took no action during the year.

The ISA reported the number of hate crimes by Jews dropped significantly after the Duma attack, including only one in the first eight months of the year, compared with 14 hate crimes in 2015 prior to the attack. A September report by Ha’aretz alleged that the government denied legal counsel to dozens of Jews arrested by the ISA in recent years for up to three weeks, which their lawyers claimed unfairly targeted settlers.

On May 22, plainclothes Border Police officers beat an Arab citizen of Israel, Maysam Abu Alqian, outside the supermarket where he was working in central Tel Aviv. After requesting to see his identification, the officers beat Alqian severely. The officers later alleged that he attacked them, but the Tel Aviv District Court ordered him released the day after his arrest. On May 31, police internal investigations unit announced that they were investigating the incident. As of November 4, the case remained under investigation.

The government’s investigation into the death of Palestinian prisoner Arafat Jaradat, who died in custody at Megiddo Prison in 2013, concluded in August 2015 when a judge ruled that the cause of death was uncertain, after taking into account differing forensic opinions. He ruled that most of the bruises were likely caused by resuscitation efforts and that the other bruises did not lead to Jaradat’s death.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

The law provides prisoners and detainees the right to conditions that do not harm their health or dignity. Conditions in permanent detention facilities run by the IPS generally met international standards, according to the International Commission of the Red Cross (ICRC), but an Israel Bar Association inspection visit at Neve Tirza, a women’s prison, revealed major flaws, including unacceptable physical conditions, misuse of solitary confinement, and violence against prisoners. African migrants and asylum seekers detained in the Holot detention facility complained of severe cold in winter, heat in summer, and poor food quality. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, authorities provided detainees with a bed, clothes, clean towels, food, free medical care, and air-conditioned living quarters. The facility offered classes and professional training, and detainees received a monthly allowance of 480 shekels ($127). NGOs reported, however, that very few detainees participated in the classes, and authorities regularly docked detainees’ monthly allowance for minor infractions.

Since 2014 NGOs have had access to Holot, and in September the government reported that five NGOs visited the facility on a periodic basis. The NGO Hotline for Refugees and Migrants (HRM) reported its representatives could access Saharonim Prison by providing authorities with the name and prison identification number of the detainee who had requested their assistance, but they could not move about and engage with individuals in the facility freely and, therefore, could not obtain new detainees’ names and prison numbers. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported it could regularly access Saharonim, Givon, and Holot detention facilities by submitting a request in advance. The ICRC reported that the IPS granted it access to protected persons, including migrants in detention.

There were reports of mistreatment and abuse by Nachshon, the IPS transportation unit. For example, in May Ha’aretz reported that Nachshon prevented prisoners from drinking water or using the toilet for 11 hours during a routine transfer from Ramle to a prison in northern Israel. The guards provided them with a sandwich. According to the report, these circumstances forced some of the prisoners to urinate in the transport vehicle, after which all the prisoners sat in the urine for the remainder of the trip.

Physical Conditions: As of December 18, according to the government, there were 9,555 prisoners in IPS facilities in Israel and the occupied territories who were citizens of Israel, 10,488 prisoners who were residents, and 6,599 Palestinian prisoners. As of September 8, the government reported 49 minors who were citizens or residents of Israel and 77 Palestinian minors. Of the total prisoner population, 6,815 were characterized as security prisoners as of December 18. These prisoners often faced harsher conditions than those of the general prison population, including increased incidence of administrative detention, restricted family visits, ineligibility for temporary furloughs, and solitary confinement. According to an interministerial team established to address racism against Israelis of Ethiopian origin, the percentage of minors of Ethiopian origin in prison was nearly 10 times their proportion of the population, comprising 18.5 percent of the inmates in Ofek Prison for juveniles as of June. Data from the Public Defender’s Office, reported byHa’aretz in September, revealed that the proportion of Ethiopian Israeli minors convicted of crimes sentenced to prison instead of treatment was nearly 90 percent, which was three times the percentage for non-Ethiopian Jewish minors and almost double that of minors who are Arab citizens of Israel. The publication +972 Magazine reported in September that it obtained data indicating 60 percent of the prisoners in Israeli prisons were Arab.

In response to a petition by the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), in January the Supreme Court ordered the government to explain within 120 days why the average prison cell size was less than 43 square feet. According to ACRI, the average size was 32 square feet. The government replied that it would take steps to decrease the number of prisoners, thereby increasing the average living space per prisoner. A follow-up hearing was scheduled for February 2017.

In 2015 the Knesset passed a law authorizing force-feeding of hunger-striking prisoners under specific conditions; however, the Israel Medical Association declared the legislation unethical and urged doctors to refuse to implement it. Security prisoners organized several open-ended hunger strikes during the year to demand the government end administrative detention and to protest prison conditions. Mohammad al-Qiq, a Palestinian journalist detained on suspicion of affiliation and contact with Hamas, ended a 94-day hunger strike in February after authorities agreed not to extend his administrative detention past May 21. Authorities placed Bilal Kayed in administrative detention on June 13, just before completing a sentence of 14 and one-half years for attempted murder and membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and he went on hunger strike for 71 days before reaching a similar agreement with security services in August. From July to September, brothers Mahmoud and Muhammad al-Balbul went on hunger strike for more than 70 days, and Malik al-Qadi for more than 60 days, before reaching similar agreements. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) expressed strong opposition to the continuous shackling of detainees throughout their hunger strike–both hand and leg in the case of Muhammad al-Balbul–which PHR-I claimed was not based on any danger after two months of hunger striking, but rather on the government’s efforts to break the strike. The government stated that the IPS reduced restraints to the minimum necessary, and it reassessed the need for restraints every few days.

On August 11, the district court in Be’er Sheva ruled that independent doctors such as PHR-I, hunger striker Bilal Kayed’s authorized representative, could not examine him because the ICRC was already examining him. The ICRC noted their medical doctor assesses the overall medical condition and treatment of detainees on hunger strike but does not act in the role of a treating physician. According to PHR-I, in contravention of Israel’s Law of Patient Rights, which states that a patient has the right to receive a copy of his own medical records, Barzilai Medical Center declined to provide Kayed’s records, referring PHR-I instead to the IPS.

Palestinian Yasser Diab Hamdouna, 41, died in an Israeli prison on September 25. Palestinian media reported that the cause was a stroke or heart attack and accused the IPS of medical neglect. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that he collapsed while exercising and was pronounced dead after receiving unsuccessful medical treatment. As of November 6, according to the ministry, nine other prisoners also died in IPS prisons: six from a heart attack or heart condition, two from suicide, and one from cancer.

NGOs reported lack of access to legal and social services in detention centers for irregular migrants. Social workers provided individual social and supportive treatment, with emphasis on identifying and providing services for trafficking victims, victims of abuse, and victims of sexual violations.

Administration: While authorities generally allowed visits from lawyers and stated that every inmate who requested to meet with an attorney was able to do so, this was not always the case. NGOs alleged authorities did not allow Palestinian detainees, including minors, access to a lawyer during their initial arrest. Travel restrictions on entry into the country affected the access of lawyers and other visitors to some Palestinian prisoners. The government granted permits to family members from the West Bank on a limited basis and restricted those entering from Gaza more severely. In November 2015 the IPS reportedly issued regulations limiting members of the Knesset (MKs) to one visit per month, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied any such regulation exists.

The law allows prisoners to submit a petition to judicial authorities alleging substandard prison conditions, and the government stated that authorities investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions, documented such investigations, and released the results publicly. The state comptroller serves as ombudsman and investigates public complaints against government institutions, including the IPS.

Independent Monitoring: The ICRC regularly monitored IPS facilities for irregular migrants, including Holot and Saharonim, and the two IDF provisional detention centers. The ICRC monitored all facilities in accordance with its standard modalities, except for urgent or isolated cases raised bilaterally with the concerned authorities (that is, relating to the composition of the visiting team and the conditions for interviews without witnesses). PCATI continued to press for structural reforms, including mandatory video recordings of interrogations. The Public Defenders’ Office is officially responsible for monitoring and reporting on prison conditions, which it does every two years. The most recent report was issued in July 2015.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions for all citizens. Authorities subjected non-Israeli residents of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to the same laws as Israeli citizens. Noncitizens of Palestinian origin detained on security grounds fell under military jurisdiction even if detained in Israel (see annex).

With regard to irregular migrants, the most recent amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law, passed in 2014, allows the government to detain migrants and asylum seekers who arrived after December 2014 for three months in the Saharonim Prison facility “for the purpose of identification and to explore options for relocation of the individual.” The law also states that authorities must bring irregular migrants taken into detention to a hearing within five days and inform them of their rights, including the right to legal counsel. After three months in Saharonim, the government may then hold them for 12 months in Holot, a remote, semi-open facility run by the IPS. Authorities closed Holot from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and required daily check-in at 10 p.m. (see section 2.d.). Authorities did not confine detainees to their rooms during the night, but they could not leave the facility.

Authorities soon replaced the 1,178 Eritrean and Sudanese migrants released from the Holot facility after an August 2015 Supreme Court ruling with new 12-month detainees. In accordance with the Supreme Court decision, authorities may hold detainees for only one year without charging them with any offenses. The government barred those freed from Holot from living or working in either Tel Aviv or Eilat, where they would have supportive communities and access to the limited medical facilities and other social services available to the migrant population. In August authorities stopped summoning asylum seekers from Darfur or Sudan to Holot; however, many Darfuri detainees already in Holot were not released early.

The most recent amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law also allows authorities to send those who fail to renew their visas on time to Holot for up to 120 days. The Ministry of Interior provided renewal services in Tel Aviv, Be’er Sheva, and Eilat. HRM reported that authorities required asylum seekers applying to renew their visa to provide a copy of a lease agreement and a current wage slip in support of their application, yet applicants could not obtain those documents without a visa, creating a vicious cycle. The law prohibits detention in Holot based on certain factors including age, health, gender, or other protected status. Authorities can send those who violated rules at Holot to Saharonim Prison. HRM reported that authorities sent more than half of Holot detainees to Saharonim for up to several months for various infractions.


Under the authority of the prime minister, the ISA combats terrorism and espionage in the country and the occupied territories. The national police, including the border police and the immigration police, are under the authority of the Ministry of Internal Security. The IDF is responsible for external security and has no jurisdiction over Israeli citizens. ISA forces operating in the occupied territories fall under the IDF for operations and operational debriefing. The Ciechanover report (see section 1.c.) clarified that the Ministry of Justice and its investigators and the IDF and its investigators would divide investigative and prosecutorial responsibilities in incidents in which police operated under the authority of the military. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the ISA and police forces, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. The government took steps to investigate allegations of the use of excessive force by police and military. NGOs continued to criticize the extremely low number of indictments issued relative to the number of investigations opened and the high percentage of cases closed due to investigation failures by military police. In May human rights NGO B’Tselem announced that it would no longer refer complaints to the military law enforcement system.

The Department for Investigation of Police Officers (DIPO) in the Ministry of Justice is responsible for investigating complaints against ISA bodies, including incidents involving police and the border police occurring on Israeli territory and Jerusalem and incidents taking place in the occupied territories that do not involve the use of a weapon. In 2015 DIPO reviewed more than 3,500 cases and reached decisions in 640, of which 102 cases ended in criminal indictments (leading to 87 convictions) and 85 in disciplinary proceedings. DIPO closed 974 cases without further investigation, and it closed another 843 following a preliminary examination.

Investigative responsibility for alleged abuses by the IDF, including incidents involving a weapon in which police units were operating under IDF authority in the occupied territories, remains with the Ministry of Defense in the Military Police Criminal Investigations Department. During the year authorities arrested or detained four soldiers, convicted 11 (including nine indicted in prior years), and sentenced 12 (including 10 indicted in prior years).

Human rights NGOs continued to allege that accountability mechanisms precluded serious internal investigations by the military and were marred by severe structural flaws that rendered them incapable of conducting professional investigations.


Police must have warrants based on sufficient evidence and issued by an authorized official to arrest a suspect. The following applies to detainees, excluding those in administrative detention: Authorities generally informed such persons promptly of charges against them; the law allows authorities to detain suspects without charge for 24 hours prior to bringing them before a judge, with limited exceptions allowing for up to 48 hours; authorities generally respected these rights for persons arrested in the country; there was a functioning bail system, and detainees could appeal decisions denying bail; and authorities allowed detainees to consult with an attorney in a timely manner, including one provided by the government for the indigent, and to contact family members promptly.

Authorities detained most Palestinian prisoners arrested by Israeli security forces in the occupied territories extraterritorially in Israel. The government stated that the establishment of new prisons in the West Bank could adversely affect detainees’ living conditions and affect local residents on whose land the new prisons would be built. Authorities prosecuted them under the Israeli military law applicable to the occupied territories, which denies many of the rights Israeli law would grant them. According to the circumstances of each case, such as the severity of the alleged offense, status as a minor, risk of escape, or other factors, authorities either granted or denied bail to noncitizens of Palestinian origin detained for security violations.

Authorities may prosecute persons detained on security grounds criminally or hold them as administrative detainees or illegal combatants, according to one of three legal regimes. First, under a temporary law on criminal procedures, repeatedly renewed since 2006, the IPS may hold persons suspected of a security offense for 48 hours prior to bringing them before a judge, with limited exceptions allowing the IPS to detain a suspect for up to 96 hours prior to bringing the suspect before the senior judge of a district court. In security-related cases, authorities may hold a person for up to 35 days without an indictment (versus 30 days for other than security-related cases), and the law allows the court to lengthen the holding of a detainee on security grounds for an initial period of up to 20 days for interrogation without an indictment (versus 15 days for other than security-related cases). Authorities may deny security detainees access to an attorney for up to 21 days under Israeli law or 60 days under military regulations.

Second, the Emergency Powers Law allows the Ministry of Defense to detain persons administratively without charge for up to six months, renewable indefinitely. As of October authorities issued administrative detention orders against 20 Israeli citizens, most of them Arabs. In 2015, following several arson attacks in Israel and the West Bank, the government announced it would expand administrative detention to Jewish extremists suspected of terrorist activity. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that, as of the beginning of December, authorities issued 1,764 administrative detention orders against 1,037 Palestinian adults, 29 administrative detention orders against 19 Palestinian minors over the age of 14, and none to minors under the age of 14 years old. Additionally, authorities issued 106 administrative restraining orders against 42 Israeli adults, 42 orders against 11 Israeli minors, seven orders against Palestinian adults, and none against Palestinian minors (see annex).

Third, the Illegal Combatant Law permits authorities to hold a detainee for 14 days before review by a district court judge, deny access to counsel for up to 21 days with the attorney general’s approval, and allow indefinite detention subject to twice-yearly district court reviews and appeals to the Supreme Court.

While international law allows the use of administrative detention in rare “ticking time bomb” scenarios, civil society organizations and some MKs continued to criticize the government for using it excessively, adding that the practice was undemocratic since there was no due process. The government claimed that it issued administrative detention orders “against those who plan terrorist attacks, or those who orchestrate, facilitate, or otherwise actively assist in the commission of such acts when the evidence against those individuals cannot be revealed for security reasons,” and it is a preventive measure of last resort. The government said it used administrative restraining orders only “when it is necessary to protect security and order and when it is not possible to use penal measures for various reasons.”

Arbitrary Arrest: An annual report from the Office of the Public Defender on September 4 highlighted indictments on issues of trivial importance or against persons who break the law to obtain basic needs such as food, electricity, water, or housing. In 2015 there were allegations of arbitrary arrests of Arab citizens during protests, as well as such arrests of Ethiopian-Israelis.

Pretrial Detention: Administrative detention continued to result in lengthy pretrial detention for security detainees, who were mostly Palestinian; some, however, were Jewish Israelis or Arab citizens of Israel. Authorities held most detainees for less than one year but held some for more than one year and a small number for more than two years.

Detainees’ Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: An administrative detainee has the right to appeal any decision to lengthen detention to a military court of appeals and then to the Supreme Court, and both Palestinian and Jewish detainees routinely did so. The military courts may rely on classified evidence denied to detainees and their lawyers when determining whether to prolong administrative detention. There is no system whereby authorities may clear a defense team member to view classified information used to justify holding an administrative detainee. Some detained Jewish youths, alleged to belong to extremist organizations, questioned the validity of their arrest and use of administrative detention, house arrest, and administrative orders banning them from certain areas of the West Bank.

Protracted Detention of Rejected Asylum Seekers or Stateless Persons: The Prevention of Infiltration Law defines all irregular border crossers as “infiltrators” and permits authorities to detain irregular migrants, including asylum seekers and their children.

In 2014 the Supreme Court struck down the section of the Prevention of Infiltration Law that allowed irregular migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers, to be detained in the Holot open facility indefinitely. In August 2015 the Supreme Court set the limit at one year. This resulted in the release of 1,178 asylum seekers from Holot; authorities soon replaced them with other asylum seekers. The government may still hold irregular migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers, in Saharonim Prison for three months on arrival and then move them to Holot for 12 months. The Supreme Court’s ruling affirmed the use of the Holot facility to house irregular migrants, albeit for a limited period.

Under the Law of Entry, the Ministry of Interior and police developed an outline of cooperation that allows for detention of irregular migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers living in the community and suspected of criminal activity, based on an administrative order rather than through the legal process.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence. (The annex covers military court trials of Palestinians and others in the occupied territories.)


The law provides for the right to a fair public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Exceptions to the right for a public trial include national security concerns, protection of the interest of a minor or an individual requiring special protection, and safeguarding the identity of an accuser or defendant in a sex-offense case.

Defendants enjoy the rights to a presumption of innocence, to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, to be present at their trial, to a fair and public trial without undue delay, and to adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense. They may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt and may consult with an attorney or, if indigent, have one provided at public expense. Defendants have the right to free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. Defendants have the right to confront witnesses against them, to present witnesses and evidence on their behalf, to access evidence held against them, and to appeal to the Supreme Court. The prosecution is under a general obligation following an indictment to provide all evidence to the defense. The government may on security grounds withhold from defense lawyers evidence it gathered but will not use in its case against the accused. The Supreme Court in civilian courts or the Court of Appeals in military courts can scrutinize the decision to withhold such evidence. The rules of evidence in cases of espionage tried in criminal court do not differ from the normal rules of evidence–no use of secret evidence is permissible.

The Ministry of Justice determined the law allows the courts to consider secret evidence in reviewing the cases of Palestinians convicted in civilian courts and granted conditional release from prison as part of a prisoner exchange and later rearrested for violating the terms of their release, because authorities considered this parole board review procedural.

On August 2, in response to the wave of attacks that began in September 2015, many perpetrated by minors, the Knesset passed a “Youth Bill” legalizing imprisonment of children as young as 12 years old if convicted of serious crimes such as murder, attempted murder, or manslaughter.

Security or military trials are open to the public, but since authorities conduct them in a military camp, members of the public require an entry permit from the military. Authorities conducted certain trials in a closed setting, not open to the public, for reasons of security or for the protection of the identity of a minor.

Military courts provide some of the procedural rights granted in civilian criminal courts, although their rates of conviction of Palestinians charged with various crimes were much higher. The evidentiary rules governing trials of Palestinians, and others subject to military law in the occupied territories, are the same as evidentiary rules in criminal cases. According to the Ministry of Justice, the law does not permit convictions based solely on confessions. The government stated that the evidentiary rules applied in military trials were the same as those applied in civilian courts and did not allow presentation of secret evidence not provided to the defendant or their counsel. Counsel may assist the accused in such trials, and a judge may assign counsel to defendants. Indigent detainees do not automatically receive free legal counsel for military trials, but almost all detainees had counsel, even in minor cases. Court indictments were read in Hebrew and, unless the defendant waived this right, in Arabic. Authorities translated all military court indictments into Arabic. At least one interpreter was present for simultaneous interpretation in every military court hearing, unless the defendant waived that right. Defendants may appeal through the Military Court of Appeals and then to the Supreme Court.


There were no reports of civilian political prisoners or detainees. ACRI, however, petitioned the Supreme Court in 2013 regarding a practice by the ISA to call in political activists suspected of “subversive” activity for questioning under caution, meaning they might be charged with a crime. In response the government confirmed that there is a classified secret procedure that regulates Israel National Police assisting the ISA in the summoning process. As of November 4, the case was still pending with the Supreme Court.


An independent and impartial judiciary adjudicates lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations. Administrative remedies exist, and court orders usually were enforced. By law Palestinians may file suit to obtain compensation through civil suits in some cases, even when a criminal suit is unsuccessful and the actions against them considered legal.


In the 35 unrecognized villages in the Negev claimed by various Bedouin tribes, the government viewed all buildings as illegal and subject to demolition. In cases of demolitions with no agreement from the residents to relocate, the government levied fines against residents to cover expenses incurred in the course of demolitions. Many Bedouin whose residences or structures authorities subjected to demolition orders elected to self-demolish to avoid fines.

According to the NGO Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality (NCF), in recent years the government approved plans for the establishment of 15 new towns and settlements in the Negev region, the vast majority intended for the Jewish population. Authorities approved plans for settlements called Hiran (see below), Daya, and Neve Gurion to replace existing Bedouin villages. Authorities planned Daya to replace the unrecognized village al-Qatamat, and Neve Gurion was to replace some houses in the recognized village of Bir Haddaj. On October 9, the government demolished seven houses in Bir Haddaj, which the NCF claimed belonged to an extended family relocated there by the government 13 years earlier. In response on October 16, approximately 1,500 participants demonstrated near the regional council of Ramat Negev. The NCF noted the Negev was sparsely populated, with only 8 percent of the population living on 60 percent of Israel’s land, so there was ample room to establish new communities without razing existing ones.

In January the Supreme Court ruled again that eviction orders issued against residents of the Bedouin unrecognized village Umm al-Hiran, where they had been moved by the Israeli military regime in 1956, were valid. The NCF reported that construction work on Hiran progressed and expanded during the year, reaching to within a few yards of Bedouin houses in Umm al-Hiran, and residents suffered from the dust raised by construction. As of November a group of 30 Jewish families who planned to move to Hiran remained in mobile homes in the forest outside Umm al-Hiran while waiting to obtain the land. The government offered plots of land and cash compensation to villagers who accept resettlement to the nearby Bedouin town of Hura, three miles away, but village leaders had rejected this option because, according to the Hura local council, there was insufficient space even for natural growth in the town and because of fears it would force the villagers to abandon a more traditional rural lifestyle for an urban one, with attendant problems of drugs, crime, and disintegration of the traditional family/clan structure. Village leaders expressed openness to almost any option that would allow them to remain in place, including living side-by-side with Jewish neighbors in an expanded community. Authorities scheduled demolition of structures that would have displaced approximately 30 to 40 persons in one extended family for November 22, but the Be’er Sheva Magistrate Court postponed the demolition for a last-minute appeal, which the court denied the following day. As of November 30, the targeted villagers agreed to move to Hura and began self-demolishing in order to avoid steep fines and to reuse building materials.

Other Bedouin communities, such as Attir and al-Araqib, faced eviction due to the government’s forestation plans, while a planned extension of the Cross Israel Highway will affect approximately 400 structures. In May 2015 the Supreme Court rejected Bedouins’ claims of ownership of al-Araqib, a small community in the northern Negev, which the government had demolished more than 100 times since 2010. Residents of al-Araqib typically rebuild their shelters within one day of demolition. In July the Jewish National Fund worked in al-Araqib for 10 days, preparing land in four lots in preparation to plant trees in the winter.

The government noted its policy in Bedouin areas was to demolish “new vacant illegal structures” built without permits after 2010 and found in areas it determined to be state land, not belonging to any local authority. The NCF recorded 982 demolitions in 2015, down from 1,073 in 2014. Demolitions by Israeli authorities increased slightly to 365 in 2015 from 355 in 2014, while Bedouins demolished the remainder to avoid fines. In May a report from the State Comptroller stated: “The ongoing circle of construction for housing and demolition of these structures deepens the alienation of the Bedouin residents of the Negev towards the state and does not contribute to the regulation of their settlement.”

The government maintained a program to encourage Bedouins to relocate from unrecognized villages to established towns by providing low-cost land and compensation for demolition of illegal structures for those willing to move to designated permanent locations. Bedouins often refused to participate in this program because they asserted that they owned the land or that the government had given them prior permission to settle in their current locations. The NCF alleged the seven government-established towns were unable to accommodate their own natural growth, much less the arrival of new residents. Court-ordered demolitions and the rejection of their designated relocation sites for reasons of overcrowding caught some residents between these policies. Additionally, many Bedouins complained that moving to government-planned towns would require them to surrender claims to land they had occupied for several generations and would separate them from their livelihood. Conversely, the government claimed it was difficult and inefficient to provide services to clusters of buildings throughout the Negev that ignored planning procedures. Some Bedouins continued to pursue legal recognition of their 3,200 claims to parcels of land based on practices of land ownership and sales predating the establishment of the state in 1948, although in all cases the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the government.

NGOs and Bedouin leaders noted that the implementation of the government plan for developing the Negev, with the resultant home demolitions and planned relocations of some Bedouin communities, continued apace in the absence of specific legislation to address Bedouin land claims. The NCF raised concerns that the policies of Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Uri Ariel had exacerbated the gaps between recognized and unrecognized Bedouin villages.

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

The law prohibits such actions, and the government generally respected those prohibitions. Separate religious court systems adjudicate matters such as marriage and divorce for the Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Druze communities. Each year an estimated 20,000 civil marriages, marriages of some non-Orthodox Jews, marriages in non-Orthodox ceremonies, marriages of a Jew to a non-Jew, or marriages of a Muslim woman to a non-Muslim must take place outside the country to be considered legal, because religious courts refuse to accept these marriages, and the country lacks a civil marriage law. Many Jewish citizens objected to exclusive Orthodox control over aspects of their personal lives. For example, the Orthodox Rabbinate did not consider to be Jewish approximately 337,000 citizens who considered themselves Jewish and who immigrated either as Jews or as family members of Jews; therefore, they may not be married or buried in Jewish cemeteries in the country. The Orthodox Rabbinate had the authority to handle divorces of any Jewish couple regardless of how they were married, as well as the divorce of any couple wherein one spouse considers him or herself to be Jewish. The government stated that 24 cemeteries in the country served immigrants not considered Jewish by the Orthodox Rabbinate. The estimated 15,000 Messianic Jews, who believe Jesus is the Messiah and consider themselves Jews, also experienced these infringements on their personal lives, since the Orthodox Rabbinate regards them as Jewish apostates. Authorities did not fully implement a law requiring the government to establish civil cemeteries.

The Law of Citizenship and Entry, which is valid through April and renewed annually, prohibits Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza, including those who are spouses of Israeli residents or citizens, from obtaining resident status in Jerusalem or Israel unless the Ministry of Interior makes a special determination, usually on humanitarian grounds. The law allows the entry of spouses of Israelis on a “staying permit” if the male spouse is age 35 or older and the female spouse is age 25 or older. Authorities required East Jerusalem residents who relocated to forfeit their Jerusalem identification cards. The government may revoke the Jerusalem identification cards of those who have been away from Jerusalem for seven years, and the government may seek to revoke a Palestinian’s Jerusalem identification card if the person obtains citizenship or residency in another country. The only way to qualify for Jerusalem residency and an identification card is to derive it from one’s parents or through a spouse. There is no immigration process, and one usually may not regain Jerusalem residency if authorities revoke it. (The annex addresses revocation of identity cards for Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem in more detail.)


Executive Summary

The Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) is ruled by its only constitutionally legitimate party, the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP). The most recent National Assembly election held on March 20 was not free and fair. The LPRP selected all candidates, and voting is mandatory for all citizens. Following the election the National Assembly approved Thongloun Sisoulith to be the new prime minister.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights problem continued to be that the government denied citizens the ability to choose their government.

Other human rights problems continued to include: abusive prison conditions; lack of due process, including arbitrary arrest and detention; government infringements on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association, as well as on the right to privacy; government restrictions on academic freedom; local restrictions on religious freedom; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination based on sexual orientation and against persons with HIV/AIDS; and restrictions on workers’ rights.

The government neither prosecuted nor punished officials who committed abuses, and police and security forces acted with impunity.

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

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

There were no credible reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, including of insurgents.

There were no developments in cases of persons allegedly killed by the military or police in previous years.

b. Disappearance

There was still no progress in the 2012 abduction of Sombath Somphone, a prominent civil society leader and retired founder of a nonprofit training center, by persons in plainclothes after what appeared to be an orchestrated stop of his vehicle by traffic police in Vientiane. The government denied knowledge of his whereabouts and claimed its investigation was continuing.

Sompawn Khantisouk, owner and manager of a small ecotourism lodge, disappeared in early 2007 after mobilizing local villagers and speaking out against land seizures. Authorities revealed no information on his whereabouts.

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

There were no credible reports of torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by government officials.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention facility conditions varied widely and in some prisons were harsh due to minimal food supply, overcrowding, and inadequate medical care. There was a separate prison for foreigners. The government conducts annual pardons of prisoners, including female inmates and foreign prisoners. The government also reduces prison sentences for good behavior.

Physical Conditions: Some prisons reportedly held juveniles with adults, although no official or reliable statistics were available on the overall population or gender of prisoners countrywide. Cells were crowded. Food rations were minimally adequate, and family members were responsible for bringing food to their relatives in prison. Some prisons required inmates to reimburse authorities upon release for the cost of food eaten during incarceration. Prisoners reportedly could grow fruits and vegetables to supplement their meals, and some prisons had a sundry shop where prisoners could purchase basic food and toiletries. Prisoners in the larger facilities in the capital generally fared better than did those in smaller, provincial prisons.

Although most prisons had some form of clinic, usually with a doctor or nurse on the staff, medical facilities were usually deficient. Prisoners had access only to basic medical care, and treatment for serious ailments was unavailable. For example, in a Vientiane prison there was a clinic with four sick beds and a staff of three for 700 inmates. Prisoners received vaccinations upon arrival; if sick, they had to pay for necessary medicine. In some facilities, prisoners could arrange for treatment in police hospitals, and authorities sent prisoners to these hospitals in emergencies. There was no information available on the prevalence of death in prisons or pretrial detention centers.

Administration: There was no information available regarding the adequacy of recordkeeping on prisoners. At times authorities continued to detain prisoners after they completed their sentences, particularly if prisoners were unable to pay court fines. In some cases officials released prisoners after they agreed to pay fines later. In certain cases the government released offenders convicted of nonviolent crimes without formally sentencing them to prison.

There was no ombudsperson to serve on behalf of prisoners and detainees. Prison wardens set prison visitation policies. Family members generally had access to prisoners and detainees once per month. Prisoners and detainees could follow some religious observances, but authorities did not provide any facilities.

The Ministry of Public Security had responsibility for monitoring prison and detention center conditions. Authorities permitted prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and to request investigation of credible allegations of inhuman conditions, although there were no reports prisoners, detainees, or their family members made such requests due to fear of exacerbating poor detention conditions. There were also no known investigations of complaints.

Independent Monitoring: Government officials did not permit regular independent monitoring of prison conditions. Authorities did not allow foreign diplomats access to prisons, other than for consular visits, and such access was strictly limited.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but some government officials did not respect these provisions, and arbitrary arrest and detention persisted.


The Ministry of Public Security maintains internal security but shares the function of state control with the Ministry of Defense’s security forces and with the LPRP and the LPRP’s mass organizations. The Ministry of Public Security includes local, traffic, immigration, and security (including border) police, village police auxiliary, plus other armed police units. The armed forces have domestic security responsibilities, including counterterrorism and counterinsurgency.

Impunity remained a problem, as did police corruption; however, there were no statistics available on their prevalence. The Ministry of Public Security’s Inspection Department maintained complaint boxes throughout most of the country for citizens to deposit written complaints, but statistics on utilization were not publicly available. The government revealed no information regarding the existence or nonexistence of a body that investigates abuses by security forces. There were no known actions taken by the government to train security forces on respect for human rights.

The government continued to cooperate with international organizations to implement a national strategy to strengthen law enforcement and deal with increased drug trafficking and abuse, as well as related crime and police corruption.


Both police and military forces have arrest powers, although normally only police exercised them. The law provides detainees the right to a prompt judicial determination of the legality of their detention. The law also requires authorities to notify detainees of the charges against them and inform next of kin of their detention within 24 hours of arrest, but this did not always occur in remote provinces. Prisoner access to family members was not certain, but officials generally allowed it. There is a bail system, but authorities implemented it arbitrarily. There were procedures for house arrest of detainees, particularly for health reasons, and there were isolated reports of detainees held under house arrest. There were no reports of prisoners held incommunicado. The law provides detained, arrested, or jailed citizens and foreigners the right to legal representation upon request.

Arbitrary Arrest: Police continued to exercise wide latitude in making arrests, relying on a provision of the law that permits warrantless arrests in urgent cases. According to the national criminal investigation unit, police make arrests based on clear evidence of wrongdoing instead of probable cause, and police wait to make an arrest until the person is caught breaking the law. Police reportedly sometimes used arrest as a means to intimidate persons or extract bribes.

Pretrial Detention: There is a one-year statutory limit for detention without trial. The length of detention without a pretrial hearing or formal charges is also limited to one year. The Office of the Prosecutor General reportedly made efforts to have authorities bring all prisoners to trial within the one-year limit, but officials occasionally did not meet the requirement. The Office of the Prosecutor General must authorize police to hold a suspect pending investigation. It grants authorization in three-month increments, and police must release a suspect after a maximum of one year if they lack sufficient evidence to bring charges.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The detainee, or accused, must appeal to the Office of the Prosecutor General, not the court.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, but impunity and corruption continued to be problems. Some judges reportedly accepted bribes. There were no reports of government or party officials influencing the courts. The National Assembly may remove judges from office for impropriety but did not announce any such removals during the year. The legal framework provides for defense counsel, evidentiary review, and the presumption of innocence. Despite these provisions, the country was still developing a formal justice system. The preferred and widely used policy for resolving disputes continued to be the “‘Harmonious Village Policy”‘ or “‘No Case Village Policy,”‘ which discouraged villages from referring cases to the formal justice system and provided incentives to village leaders to resolve legal disputes within village mediation units.

Village mediation units are an outgrowth of traditional village mediation. The Ministry of Justice established them as a semiformal mechanism for resolving disputes and providing compensation in civil and criminal cases. Although village mediation units officially do not accept criminal cases, these units frequently handled sensitive cases such as family law and divorce where disputants might prefer to avoid using the formal justice system. Village mediation units also served as the forum for awarding civil damages to victims of crime and restitution or other mediated settlements in civil cases, such as property disputes and car accidents. Disputants must pay 50,000 kip ($6) to have the village mediation unit hear a case. The unit consists of seven leading community representatives, usually from members of government mass organizations (Lao Women’s Union (LWU), village security service, Youth Union), most of them untrained in alternative dispute resolution. Many in rural areas begin dispute resolution with the village chief, who represents customary justice practices, and may seek the opinion of the Village Mediation Unit if not satisfied. Often the village chief heads the mediation unit panel. The formal justice system also refers some cases to village mediation units.


Although the law provides defendants a presumption of innocence, judges usually decided guilt or innocence in advance, basing their decisions on police or prosecutorial investigation reports. Most trials, including criminal trials, were primarily pro forma examinations of the accused and reviews of the evidence. Trials are open, except for those involving certain types of family law or related to national security, state secrets, or children younger than 16 years.

The law provides defendants the right to defend themselves with the assistance of a lawyer or other persons, but there was a lack of qualified lawyers. Lawyers sometimes were unwilling to defend a sensitive case due to fear of retaliation by local authorities. A defense attorney may be present during a trial, but his role is passive, such as asking the court for leniency in sentencing or appealing a technical matter, but not arguing the merits of the case, challenging evidence, or mounting a true defense for the client. Authorities provided defense attorneys at government expense only in cases involving children, cases likely to result in life imprisonment or the death penalty, and cases considered particularly complicated, such as ones involving foreigners.

Defendants do not have a legal right to know promptly and in detail the charges against them, but the law requires authorities to inform persons of their rights. The constitution allows accused persons the right to defend themselves; however, the general population’s actual knowledge of the law and their rights was very limited. Government-recognized interpreters who have some ability to communicate in the defendant’s language can provide explanation of the law and their rights. They receive payment based on the court fee system, which the court passes on to the defendant. This may limit the defendant’s ability to have an interpreter throughout the legal process, although those with financial means might be able to hire private interpreters from the moment charged through final appeal.

The accused has no legal right to examine government-held evidence; however, a defendant may request to view such evidence if the arresting authority has completed its investigation report. Nevertheless, in more serious cases (such as drug cases with a life-imprisonment penalty), the arresting authority normally does not allow the accused to examine government-held evidence. There is no legal right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants may have anyone assist them in preparing written cases and accompany them at trial, but only the defendant may present oral arguments at a criminal trial. Defendants may question, present witnesses, and present evidence on their own behalf. Defendants may refuse to testify, although authorities sometimes imposed harsher penalties on defendants who did not cooperate. Defendants have the right to object to charges brought against them, and they have the right to appeal, but only in civil cases. The Court of Appeals is legally obligated to decide a case within 45 days from the time it receives the appeal; however, appeals often took longer than six months or remained pending indefinitely.

Litigants may select members of the Lao Bar Association to represent them at trial. The association had 196 members, 156 of whom were lawyers and only 30 that took cases to court. Of these, 26 worked in Vientiane. The Bar Association was nominally independent but received some direction from the Ministry of Justice. The association had four legal aid clinics in Vientiane, Champasak, Xieng Kuang, and Oudomxay Provinces that provided legal services to citizens. For several reasons, including the general perception that attorneys cannot influence court decisions, most defendants chose not to have attorneys or trained representatives. In preparation for the launch of the Association of South East Asian Nations Economic Community in 2016 and the resulting potential for more foreign direct investment and with cases pending at international tribunals, the government made efforts to train more lawyers and improved the curriculum at the Faculty of Law at the National University. In 2015, 125 students attended the one-year program, and 172 new students enrolled during the year.

Most judges and attorneys were LPRP members. Most had only basic legal training, and some court districts had few or no reference materials available for guidance. The National Assembly’s Legal Affairs Committee occasionally reviewed People’s Supreme Court decisions for accuracy and returned cases to it or the Prosecutor General’s Office for review when the committee believed the court made decisions improperly.


There were no government statistics or reliable estimates available regarding the number of political prisoners, but the government confirmed that three political prisoners, Thongpaseuth Keuakoun, Seng-aloun Phengpanh, and Bouvanh Chanmanivong, arrested in 1999 and tried for attempting to organize a prodemocracy demonstration, served their prison sentences. Authorities released Thongpaseuth Keuakoun and Seng-aloun Phengpanh on January 25, 16 years and three months into their 20-year sentence, according to a government official. According to authorities, Bouvanh Chanmanivong died in 2005 from illness while incarcerated. This could not be independently confirmed.

Authorities reportedly detained Zoua Yang, an ethnic Hmong, in 2005 after Thai authorities arrested her with 28 children while promoting Christian beliefs in Thailand and deported her to Laos. Authorities reportedly released most of the children in Thailand and Laos, but the government did not confirm whether Zoua Yang was still serving a prison sentence, was released from prison, or died while incarcerated.


The law provides for judicial independence in civil matters, but enforcement of court orders remained a problem. A person may seek a judicial remedy for violations of civil or political rights in a criminal court or pursue an administrative remedy from the National Assembly. Individuals may seek redress for violations of social and cultural rights in a civil court.

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

The law generally protects privacy, including privacy of mail, telephone, and electronic correspondence, but the government reportedly continued to violate these legal protections when there was a perceived security threat.

The law prohibits unlawful searches and seizures. Although the law requires police to obtain search authorization from a prosecutor or a panel of judges, police did not always obtain prior approval, especially in rural areas. Security laws allow the government to monitor individuals’ movements and private communications, including via mobile telephones and e-mail (see section 2.a.).

The Ministry of Public Security monitored citizen activities through a surveillance network that included secret police. A police auxiliary program in urban and rural areas, operating under individual village chiefs and local police, shared responsibility for maintaining public order and reported undesirable elements to police. Members of the LPRP’s front organizations, including the LWU, the Youth Union, and the Lao Front for National Construction, also played a role in monitoring citizens.

The law allows citizens to marry foreigners only with prior government approval. Authorities may annul marriages done without approval, with both parties subject to arrest and fines. The government normally granted permission to marry, but the process was lengthy and burdensome, offering officials opportunity to solicit bribes. Premarital cohabitation with foreigners is illegal, although it was rarely enforced, and generally only when the Lao party complained of some injustice.


Executive Summary

Liberia is a constitutional republic with a bicameral national assembly. In 2011 Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of the Unity Party won a second term in multiparty presidential elections domestic and international observers considered generally free and fair. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most serious human rights abuses were those linked to deficiencies in the administration of justice, official corruption, and violence against women and children, including rape, domestic violence, and human trafficking.

Other important human rights abuses included police abuse, harassment, and intimidation of detainees and others; arbitrary arrest and detention; press harassment; corruption; female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C); racial and ethnic discrimination; discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons; mob violence; and child labor.

Impunity remained a serious problem despite intermittent and limited government attempts to investigate and prosecute officials accused of abuses, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government. Corruption at all levels of government continued to undermine public trust in state institutions.

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

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

There were a few reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. For example, on February 27, three officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) Emergency Response Unit responded to a call from Bright Farms rubber plantation in Mount Barclay, where they fired several shots during a confrontation, one of which hit Stephen Bordor–a Bright Farms resident–in the back of the neck, leading to his eventual death. The three officers were dismissed and charged with manslaughter by the magisterial court. They were released on bail, and their cases were submitted to the Montserrado County court for prosecution. The prosecution dismissed charges in October, and the officers were subsequently reinstated.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

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

The constitution prohibits practices such as torture and inhuman treatment. Sections 5.1 and 5.6 of the penal code provide criminal penalties for excessive use of force by law enforcement officers and address permissible uses of force during arrest or in preventing the escape of a prisoner from custody. Nonetheless, police and other security officers allegedly abused, harassed, and intimidated persons in police custody. For example, in October a woman was arrested during an LNP raid, and two LNP officers reportedly stripped and beat her severely. They hit her head repeatedly with a nightstick, kicked her between her legs, and stomped on her shins. In a separate incident, the police inspector general directed an investigation into the Grand Gedah LNP commander for abuses including beatings and other human rights violations by police. The LNP commander was relieved of duty pending the outcome of an investigation that had yet to conclude at year’s end.

In 2015 the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services identified the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) as having a high incidence of alleged sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA). The UN’s Conduct and Discipline Unit (CDU) of the Department of Field Support identified 85 cases of alleged SEA in the period 2008-14. Of these, five were reported in 2014. One involving military personnel accused of sexual abuse remained under active consideration by both the United Nations and the troop contributing country (Nigeria), which had primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute–if appropriate–alleged misconduct by its uniformed personnel. There were six cases reported in 2015, with no cases substantiated. During the year only one case was reported, involving military personnel, and was still under investigation by both the troop contributing country (Ghana) and CDU. According to the UNMIL chief of staff and the CDU, both responsible for oversight of disciplinary issues, there continued to be problems with personnel involved in transactional sex and breaches of the nonfraternization rule.

In October, UNMIL issued new standard operating procedures on reporting and investigating allegations of misconduct to combat further SEA cases. UNMIL also worked with the Ministry of Gender and Social Protection to integrate its SEA referral pathway with the ministry’s own sexual and gender-based violence pathway, and it undertook a comprehensive training and awareness campaign through its Anti-SEA Champions program involving prominent representatives from both UNMIL and local communities.

According to a 2015 UN assessment on Human Rights issues emanating from harmful traditional practices in Liberia, accusations of witchcraft were common in the country and often had “devastating consequences” for those accused, including “trial by ordeal.” Although illegal, in some cases public officials or those acting in an official capacity, including tribal chiefs, initiated trial by ordeal. Authorities often failed to investigate or prosecute cases involving trial by ordeal, in part due to the perceived cultural aspects of the practice, and in part due to lack of resources and capacity. Many viewed trial by ordeal as a means of criminal investigation or “fact finding,” and it was sometimes employed to investigate crimes that had no connection with accusations of witchcraft. While the Ministry of Internal Affairs–a ministry that includes many of the chief traditional practitioners and tribal leaders–worked to get traditional practitioners to conform to the country’s formal legal framework, the practice of trial by ordeal remained common.

Trial by ordeal included: forcing the ingestion of poison; hanging the accused from a tree by the arms or feet for extended periods of time; requiring the accused to retrieve an item from a pot of hot oil; heating a metal object until it glows red and then applying it to the accused’s skin; beatings; rubbing chili pepper and mud into the accused’s bodily orifices (including the vagina); depriving the accused of food and water; requiring the accused to sit in the sun or rain for extended periods; forcing the accused to sit on hot coals; and forcing the accused to ingest food or nonfood substances to induce severe vomiting, diarrhea, and other illnesses.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were harsh and at times life threatening due to overcrowding, food shortages, lack of sanitary facilities, and inadequate medical care.

Physical Conditions: Inadequate space, bedding and mosquito netting, food, sanitation, ventilation, cooling, lighting, basic and emergency medical care, and potable water contributed to harsh and sometimes life-threatening conditions in the country’s 16 prisons and detention centers. Prison officials misappropriated food and other items intended for inmates. Many prisoners supplemented their meals by purchasing food at the prison or receiving food from visitors. The local press and the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Prison Fellowship Liberia (PFL) reported that prison officials threatened prisoners’ lives. The Ministry of Justice’s Bureau of Corrections and Rehabilitation (BCR) reported three prisoner deaths through September 15.

According to the BCR, as of September approximately half of the country’s 2,023 prisoners were at the Monrovia Central Prison (MCP). This prison operated at nearly two and one-half times its 375-person capacity; 63 percent were pretrial detainees. As of September 14, the MCP population of 917 individuals included seven women and four male juveniles, and there were approximately 20 women in other prisons. Prisons remained understaffed and prison personnel salaries were irregularly paid.

The BCR had eight vehicles but was often unable to transport prisoners and detainees to court or to a hospital. According to BCR officials, this was due to the breakdown of vehicles or lack of fuel. The LNP staff often used personal vehicles or commercial motor bikes to transport prisoners to or from court.

The Ministry of Justice funded the BCR; it did not have a funding allocation under the national budget. Due to inadequate funding, the BCR lacked funds for the purchase of adequate food, maintenance of prison facilities, fuel, vehicle maintenance, cellular or internet communications, and regular and timely payment of employees.

Medical services were available at most of the prisons but not on a daily or 24-hour basis. The only location where medical staff was available Monday through Friday was at the MCP. Health-care workers visited most other prisons and detention centers one to two times per week.

The Ministry of Health and County Health Teams had primary responsibility for the provision of medicines. The United Nations, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Carter Center, and PFL continued to provide medical services, medicines, and related training and to improve basic sanitary conditions at the MCP and other facilities where such services and conditions remained inadequate. The supply chain for medicines was weak throughout the country; prison medical staff often did not have access to necessary medicines. NGOs and community groups also provided medicines to treat seizures, skin infections, and mental health conditions. The ministry and county health teams replenished medications to treat malaria and tuberculosis only when stocks were exhausted. Since replenishment sometimes took weeks or months, inmates went without medication for lengthy periods.

There were reports of inadequate treatment for ailing inmates and inmates with disabilities. In March the BCR began identifying individuals with special needs, including those with tuberculosis, through screening provided by the Ministry of Health. While the law provides for compassionate release of prisoners who are ill, such release was uncommon because the government had yet to develop a policy to implement the law. Authorities determined whether to release a prisoner on an ad hoc basis. For example, authorities arbitrarily denied the request for compassionate release of a prisoner in Voinjama with prostate cancer who died a month after he submitted the request.

Authorities held men and women in separate cellblocks at the MCP, but in counties with smaller detention facilities, a single cell was designated for female prisoners, and juveniles were held with adults in the same cells. Except at the MCP, which had a juvenile cellblock, children were held in separate cells within adult cellblocks. Because many minors did not have identity documents, they were sometimes misidentified as adults and held in adult cellblocks. There were also reports of inmates in the juvenile facility reaching age 18 who were not transferred to the adult population. Pretrial detainees were generally held with convicted prisoners.

Conditions for women prisoners were somewhat better than for men; women inmates were less likely to suffer from overcrowding and had more freedom to move within the women’s section of facilities.

Administration: During the year, BCR capacity declined in part due to reduced support from the Corrections Advisory Unit (CAU) of UNMIL. The BCR relied heavily on the CAU for correctional officer training, logistical support, and other financial assistance. While the government continued to make efforts to improve recordkeeping on prisoners, the official process was manual and problems remained. Prior to the UNMIL drawdown, the BCR maintained a prison roll that included prisoners from all facilities at headquarters. After the drawdown, the BCR ceased preparation of the complete prison roll, modernization efforts, and the transfer of paper records from field facilities to headquarters. The roll included prisoner names, dates of entry into prison and sentencing, and courts of initial appearance, but it did not include court appearance dates and other relevant information. It was not always accurate.

Testing of an electronic recordkeeping system and a biometric intake processing system ceased. Developed through a cooperative international initiative by two NGOs and a donor country, progress ceased due to inconsistent access to electricity and the internet, lack of computer maintenance, virus attacks, and insufficient government support.

Authorities sometimes used alternatives to prison sentencing for nonviolent offenders, but courts failed to make adequate efforts to employ alternatives to incarceration at the pretrial stages of criminal proceedings. Courts issued probationary sentences in some cases for nonviolent offenders. A supervised pretrial release program has been used in circuit courts in conjunction with the Magistrate Sitting Program to expedite the administration of justice, but it was not widely used outside Monrovia. During the year public defenders introduced a plea-bargaining system in some courts. The law provides for bail, including release on the detainee’s own recognizance. The bail system, however, was inefficient and susceptible to corruption. No ombudsman system operated on behalf of prisoners and detainees.

Staff complaints prompted a July investigation of the prison system by the BCR in conjunction with the MOJ Internal Audit Division that revealed corruption in the distribution of food, including misappropriation. In prior years NGOs reported severe food shortages, but Ministry of Justice central administration records showed sufficient food purchased and sent to facility warehouses. In one instance at MCP, prison officials allegedly sold food taken from a BCR warehouse to inmates through a prison canteen. The prison superintendent in that case was dismissed but not charged and prosecuted after investigation.

The government did not make internal reports and investigations into allegations of inhuman conditions in prisons public; however, the BCR sometimes made prison statistics publicly available.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions by local human rights groups, international NGOs, the United Nations, the ICRC, diplomatic personnel, and media. Some human rights groups, including domestic and international organizations, regularly visited detainees at police headquarters and prisoners in the MCP.

Improvements: The ICRC worked with the BCR to implement a system-wide food chain management and distribution system, including mandatory recordkeeping for any food coming into the prison system. It also performed body mass index checks on all prisoners, every three months at the MCP and every six months at the other 15 facilities in the country. The ICRC provided therapeutic feeding supplements for underweight inmates at the MCP; the majority of them were newly arrived or inmates with pre-existing health problems.

The UNMIL CAU worked with the BCR to improve the latter’s accountability and adherence to international corrections standards. In addition to mentoring, advising, and capacity building, the unit assisted with refurbishment and rehabilitation of facilities. For example, UNMIL installed solar lights at 10 facilities and built a new cellblock in Robertsport. UNMIL officers also provided constant access to cellular, computers, and internet services helped increase communications among different prisons.

In late August, UNICEF funded renovation of the juvenile cells at the MCP. The ICRC provided soap to all prison facilities bimonthly, other hygiene items to the MCP, and essential medicines to all 16 prisons and detention centers. The ICRC also worked with the Ministry of Justice to improve water supply in five prisons, water infrastructure improvement in four prisons, and sanitation and waste infrastructure in four facilities. The ICRC also worked to establish a comprehensive prison health-care system and improve food distribution and documentation, renovated kitchens in three prisons, installed energy efficient stoves in four prisons, and did capacity building for prison maintenance teams so that facilities could perform basic repairs in-house. It built an exercise yard for cellblock D at the MCP that prison authorities began using during the year to give prisoners outdoor access for up to one hour a day. With the assistance of international donors, the government hired and trained 137 additional correctional officers during the year.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but the government did not always observe these prohibitions. The arbitrary arrest, assault, and detention of citizens continued. For example, in May an LNP patrol officer reportedly beat a suspect while in custody, and the detainee later died from his injuries. The officer was suspended for one month. An investigation of the incident concluded that there might have been other causes of the suspect’s injuries.

Police officers or magistrates frequently detained citizens for owing money to a complainant. On August 8, Chief Justice Francis Korkpor ordered judges and magistrates to stop issuing criminal writs of arrest without the approval of prosecutors from the Ministry of Justice or based on case-specific police requests. Despite Korkpor’s order, some magistrates continued to order writs of arrest in exchange for payment from complainants. This occurred in both civil cases and criminal cases.


Prior to June 30, the government shared security responsibility with UNMIL. The Ministry of Justice has responsibility for enforcing laws and maintaining order through supervision of the LNP and other law enforcement agencies. The armed forces, under the Ministry of National Defense, provide external security but also have some domestic security responsibilities, specifically coastal patrolling by the Liberian Coast Guard.

The Independent National Commission on Human Rights reported that violent police action during arrests was the most common complaint of misconduct. The LNP’s Professional Standards Division is responsible for investigating allegations of police misconduct and referring cases for prosecution. There were instances during the year in which civilian security forces acted with impunity. During the year the legislature passed and the president signed a new police act that mandates establishment of a civilian complaints review board to improve accountability and oversight. In January 2015 officers of the division participated in a three-day training activity related to a plan intended to decentralize its operations into five regions; training covered division policy and procedure, investigation, and report writing.

An armed forces disciplinary board investigates alleged misconduct and abuses by military personnel. The armed forces administer nonjudicial punishment. As of September the disciplinary board had no active cases. In accordance with a memorandum of understanding between the ministries of justice and defense, the armed forces refer capital cases to the civil court system for adjudication.


In general police must have warrants issued by a magistrate to make arrests. The law allows for arrests without a warrant if necessary paperwork is filed immediately afterwards for review by the appropriate authority. Arrests often were made without judicial authorization, and warrants were sometimes issued without sufficient evidence.

The law provides that authorities either charge or release detainees within 48 hours, and detainees generally were informed of the charges against them upon arrest and sometimes brought before a judge for arraignment within 48 hours. Once jailed, those arraigned were often held in lengthy pretrial detention. Some detainees, particularly among the majority who lacked the means to hire a lawyer, were held for more than 48 hours without charge. The law also provides that, once detained, a criminal defendant must be indicted during the next succeeding term of court after arrest or, if the indicted defendant is not tried within the next succeeding court term and no cause is given, the case against the defendant is to be dismissed; nevertheless, cases were rarely dismissed on either ground.

The law provides for bail for all noncapital or drug-related criminal offenses; it severely limits bail for individuals charged with capital offenses or serious sexual crimes. Detainees have the right to prompt access to counsel, visits from family members, and, if indigent, an attorney provided by the state in criminal cases. The government frequently did not respect these rights, and indigent defendants appearing in magistrate courts–the venue in which most cases are initiated–were rarely provided state-funded counsel. Public defender offices remained understaffed and underfunded, and some allegedly charged indigent clients for their services. Although official policy allows suspects detained to communicate with others, including a lawyer or family member, inadequate provision of telephone services resulted in many inmates being unable to communicate with anyone outside of the detention facility. House arrest was rarely used.

Arbitrary Arrest: Security forces continued to make arbitrary arrests, especially during major holidays, in an effort reportedly to prevent expected criminal activity. For example, on October 3, the LNP launched “Operation Visibility,” aimed at demonstrating police presence to counteract violent crime in high-crime communities. This resulted in the arrest of drug dealers and users on the assumption of a high probability of committing a crime, rather than in response to actual evidence of criminal activity. During the operation the LNP also cleared streets and raided suspected criminal hideouts and other sites to prevent the return of petty criminals.

Pretrial Detention: Although the law provides for a defendant to receive an expeditious trial, lengthy pretrial and prearraignment detention remained serious problems. As of September 14, an estimated 63 percent of prisoners were pretrial detainees despite the large number of detainees released by the Magistrate Sitting Program during 2015. Nevertheless, this was a decline from 78 percent the previous year. Unavailability of counsel at the early stages of proceedings contributed to prolonged pretrial detention. A 2013 study of the MCP population revealed pretrial detainees were held on average more than 10 months. On September 22, the Ministry of Justice installed a public defender at the MCP, in an effort to increase pretrial detainee case processing.

The corrections system continued to develop its capacity to implement probation, including the use of the supervised pretrial release program. In some cases, however, the length of pretrial detention exceeded the maximum length of sentence that could be imposed for the alleged crime. A shortage of trained prosecutors and public defenders, poor court administration and file management, inadequate police investigation and evidence collection, and judicial corruption exacerbated the incidence and duration of pretrial detention.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested or detained, regardless of whether on criminal or other grounds, are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention and to obtain prompt release. The government frequently did not respect these rights, and the court system lacked the capacity to process promptly most cases. Additionally, public defenders lacked the capacity to file the requisite motions, and many clients lacked the means to hire private attorneys to do so.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but judges and magistrates were subject to influence and engaged in corruption. Uneven application of the law and unequal distribution of personnel and resources remained problems throughout the judicial system. The government continued efforts to harmonize the formal and traditional customary justice systems, in particular through campaigns to encourage trial of criminal cases in formal courts. Traditional leaders were encouraged to defer to police investigators and prosecutors in cases involving murder, rape, and human trafficking, as well as some civil cases that could be resolved in either formal or traditional systems.


By law trials are public. Circuit court but not magistrate court proceedings may be by jury. In some cases defendants may select a bench trial. Jurors were subject to influence and corrupt practices that undermined their neutrality. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials, consult with an attorney in a timely manner, and have access to government-held evidence relevant to their case. Defendants have the right to be informed of charges promptly and in detail. If a defendant, complainant, or witness does not speak or understand English, the court provides interpreters for the trial. Interpreters are not provided throughout the legal process, however. For example, there are no accommodations or sign-language interpreters provided for the deaf, and rarely is free interpretation available, unless paid for by the defendant. Defendants also have the right to a trial without delay and to have adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense, although these rights often were not observed. Defendants are presumed innocent, and they have the right to confront and question prosecution or plaintiff witnesses, present their own evidence and witnesses, and appeal adverse decisions. The law extends the above rights to all defendants. These rights, however, were not observed and were rarely enforced.

Established to expedite the trials of persons detained at the MCP, the Magistrate Sitting Program suffered from poor coordination among judges, prosecutors, defense counsels, and corrections personnel; deficient docket management; inappropriate involvement of extrajudicial actors; and lack of logistical support. Some local NGOs continued to provide legal services to indigent defendants and others who had no representation. The Liberian National Bar Association continued to offer limited pro bono legal services to the indigent. Financial constraints remained a major challenge in recruiting experienced lawyers for this service. Many lawyers also could not practice because they failed to pay bar association dues, further limiting the pool from which the association could draw pro bono attorneys. Ranging from L$20,000 ($223) to L$30,000 ($335) per year, bar dues are very expensive when compared to the World Bank’s 2015 estimated per capita gross national income of L$38,000 ($424) for the country.

According to PFL, women had less access to the courts and on average spent significantly longer periods in pretrial detention.


There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.


No specialized court exists to address lawsuits seeking damages for human rights violations. While there are civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts, and adverse decisions in human rights cases may be appealed, the majority of human rights cases are brought against nonstate actors. Human rights violations are generally reported to the Independent National Commission on Human Rights, which refers cases to relevant ministries, including the Ministry of Justice. In some cases individuals and organizations may appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies. While there is an Economic Community of West African States human rights court that Liberians may access, few could afford to do so.

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

The constitution prohibits such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions.


Executive Summary

Libya is a parliamentary democracy with a temporary Constitutional Declaration, which allows for the exercise of a full range of political, civil, and judicial rights. Citizens elected the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) in free and fair elections in June 2014. The Libyan Political Agreement, which members of the UN-facilitated Libyan political dialogue signed in December 2015 and the HoR approved in January, created the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) Presidency Council (PC), headed by Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj. The GNA PC took its seat in Tripoli on March 30. A minority bloc of HoR members prevented a vote on the PC’s proposed GNA Cabinet in February, and a quorum of members voted against the proposed cabinet in August, limiting the government’s effectiveness. The proposed ministers, however, led their ministries in an acting capacity. The elected Constitutional Drafting Assembly’s work has stalled due to infighting and boycotts by some members.

The government did not maintain civilian control over the “Libyan National Army” (LNA) despite efforts to persuade LNA Commander Khalifa Haftar to integrate into civilian-led governmental security forces. Some Libyan forces outside Haftar’s command aligned with the government and joined a successful campaign against Da’esh in and around the city of Sirte. During the year the LNA, backed by the HoR, continued its military campaign against violent extremist organizations in the east, occupying cities and replacing elected municipal leaders with military appointees. Other extralegal armed groups continued to fill security vacuums in other places across the country. Neither the GNA nor the HoR had control over these groups. Da’esh maintained presence in the areas around Benghazi and Derna. Sirte was Da’esh’s stronghold for most of the year, but a government-aligned Libyan military operation that started in May regained the city in December.

The most serious human rights problems during the year resulted from the absence of effective governance, justice, and security institutions, and abuses and violations committed by armed groups affiliated with the government, its opponents, terrorists, and criminal groups. Consequences of the failure of the rule of law included arbitrary and unlawful killings and impunity for these crimes; civilian casualties in armed conflicts; killings of politicians and human rights defenders; torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; and harsh and life-threatening conditions in detention and prison facilities.

Other human rights abuses included arbitrary arrest and detention; lengthy pretrial detention; denial of fair public trial; an ineffective judicial system staffed by officials subject to intimidation; arbitrary interference with privacy and home; use of excessive force and other abuses in internal conflicts; limits on the freedoms of speech and press, including violence against and harassment of journalists; restrictions on freedom of religion; abuses of internally displaced persons, refugees, and migrants; corruption and lack of transparency in government; violence and social discrimination against women and ethnic and racial minorities, including foreign workers; trafficking in persons, including forced labor; legal and social discrimination based on sexual orientation; and violations of labor rights.

Impunity was a severe and pervasive problem. The government had limited reach and resources, and did not take steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish those who committed abuses and violations. Intimidation by armed actors resulted in paralysis of the judicial system, impeding the investigation and prosecution of those believed to have committed human rights abuses, including against public figures and human rights defenders.

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

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

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

Reports indicated extremist and terrorist organizations played a prominent role in targeted killings, kidnappings, and suicide bombings perpetrated against both government officials and civilians. Although many incidents saw no claims of responsibility, observers attributed many to terrorist groups such as Da’esh, Ansar al-Sharia, and their affiliates. Criminal groups or armed elements affiliated with both the government and its opponents may have carried out others. Extremist groups using vehicles carrying explosive devices typically targeted military officials and killed scores of persons during the year.

The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) documented 440 civilian casualties, including 204 killed and 236 injured from LNA military operations. Airstrikes caused the largest number of deaths, while shelling injured the most victims. On March 16, prominent civil society activist, Abdul Basit Abu-Dahab, was killed in Derna by a bomb placed in his vehicle. On July 21, UNSMIL reported that authorities found 14 bodies with signs of torture and gunshot injuries to the heads in a dumpster in Benghazi.

Da’esh fighters also committed numerous extrajudicial killings in areas where the group maintained presence. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that Da’esh unlawfully killed at least 49 persons in its stronghold of Sirte between February 2015 and May.

Da’esh fighters were driven from Sirte by the Libyan government’s military operation al-Bunyan al-Marsous (ABAM). According to UNSMIL officials, ABAM fighters in Sirte allegedly tortured and executed Da’esh prisoners of war and possibly their family members.

Civil society and media reports claimed both pro-GNA and anti-GNA militia groups in Tripoli committed human rights abuses, including indiscriminate attacks on civilians, kidnapping, torture, burning houses, and forced expulsions based on political belief or tribal affiliation. In a series of incidents in Bani Walid on April 26 and 27, UNSMIL reported three Libyan and 12 Egyptian nationals were killed. On June 9, 12 former regime officials were shot and killed in Tripoli within hours after the Libyan Supreme Court ordered their release from the Ministry of Justice-operated al-Baraka prison.

Impunity was a serious problem. The government’s lack of control led to impunity for armed groups on all sides of the conflict across the country. In 2015 human rights activist Entissar al-Hassaeri and her aunt were killed in Tripoli, and an investigator involved in the case disappeared. In the summer of 2015, judge Mohamed al-Nemli was tortured and killed near Misrata. The cases of Sheikh Mansour Abdelkarim al-Barassi; International Committee of the Red Cross staff member, Michael Greub; and human rights activist, Salwa Bughaighis, all of whom unknown assailants killed during 2014, remained unresolved. At year’s end authorities had not investigated these attacks, and there had been no arrests, prosecutions, or trials of any alleged perpetrators of these killings.

b. Disappearance

As in 2015 government forces and armed groups acting outside government control committed an unknown number of forced disappearances. The government made few efforts to prevent, investigate, or penalize, forced disappearances.

Kidnappings were common throughout the year. On January 27, HoR member of parliament for Misrata, Mohammed al-Ra’id, was kidnapped for ransom in Tobruk. On February 24, authorities found an 11-year-old child dead in Tripoli after his family failed to pay the ransom. On March 27, anti-LNA activist, Ali al-Absilly, was kidnapped in front of his house at al-Marj.

Many disappearances that occurred under the Qadhafi regime, as well as many related to the 2011 revolution, remained unresolved. Due to the continuing conflict, weak judicial system, legal ambiguity regarding amnesty for revolutionary forces, and the slow progress of the National Fact-Finding and Reconciliation Commission, law enforcement authorities and the judiciary made no appreciable progress in resolving high-profile cases reported in 2013, 2014, and 2015.

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

While the constitutional declaration and post-revolutionary legislation prohibit such practices, according to credible accounts, personnel operating both government and extralegal detention centers tortured prisoners. At times during the year, due to its lack of resources and capability, the government continued to rely on militias to manage its incarceration facilities. Furthermore, militias, not police, initiated arrests in most instances. Militias, at their discretion, held detainees prior to placing them in official detention facilities. Armed groups also managed their own detention facilities outside government control.

Treatment varied from facility to facility and typically was worst at the time of arrest. Reported abuses included beatings with belts, sticks, hoses, and rifles; administration of electric shocks; burns inflicted by boiling water, heated metal, or cigarettes; mock executions; suspension from metal bars; and rape. The full extent of abuse at the hands of extremist or militia (government-allied and not) remained unknown.

UNSMIL documented cases involving deprivation of liberty and torture across the country, including in sections of the Mitiga detention facility in Tripoli, under the control of the Special Deterrence Force; in the Abu Salim detention facility; and in detention facilities under the control of other armed groups in Tripoli. Observers also reported similar violations and abuses in detention facilities in al-Bayda, Bani Walid, Benghazi, Khoms, al-Marj, Warshafanah, and Zintan.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Overcrowded, harsh, and life threatening prisons and detention facilities fell well short of international standards and were a significant threat to the well-being of detainees and prisoners. Many prisons and detention centers were outside government control.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), migrant detention centers, operated by the Ministry of Interior’s Department to Combat Irregular Migration (DCIM), also suffered from massive overcrowding, dire sanitation conditions, lack of access to medical care, and significant disregard for the protection of the detainees. Additionally, many of these detention centers held minors with adults, and had no female guards for female prisoners. UNHCR reported an estimated 8,500 migrant detainees in the country as of March, although another humanitarian organization stated the actual number could be much higher.

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

The government urged military councils and militia groups to transfer detainees held since the 2011 revolution to authorized judicial authorities. Observers believed the greatest concentrations of such detainees were in greater Tripoli, Misrata, and Benghazi. Many facilities continued day-to-day operation under militia control.

Makeshift detention facilities existed throughout the country. Conditions at these facilities varied widely, but consistent problems included overcrowding, poor ventilation, the lack of necessities such as mattresses, and lack of hygiene and health care. Militias reportedly held detainees at schools, former government military sites, and other informal venues, including private homes. As violence escalated, the disruption of goods and services affected prisons, worsening the scarcity of medical supplies and certain food items.

There were reportedly separate facilities for men and women. In prior years in some instances, government-operated prisons and militias held minors with adults, according to human rights organizations. This practice continued in migrant detention centers and may have continued in prisons, due to the deterioration of conditions throughout the year.

These problems also existed in several migrant detention centers. Officials, local militias, and criminal gangs moved migrants through a network of detention centers. Reports indicated the conditions in most of these detention facilities were below international standards.

Administration: The Judicial Police, tasked by the Ministry of Justice to run the prison system, operates from its headquarters in Tripoli, but also opened a second headquarters in al-Bayda near the HoR. Additionally, many armed groups ran their own facilities outside the criminal justice system. The DCIM also operated its own detention facilities for migrants and refugees detained in the country.

There were multiple reports that recordkeeping on prisoners was not adequate and there was no known prison ombudsperson or comparable authority available to respond to complaints. It was unclear whether authorities allowed prisoners and detainees access to visitors and religious observance. Because there was no effectively functional judicial system during the year, oversight was problematic. Whether authorities censored prisoners’ complaints submitted to judicial authorities was unclear.

Administration of prisons and detention centers continued to fall under the authority of judicial police. During the year the ratio of detainees and prisoners to the generally poorly trained guards varied significantly. International organizations involved in monitoring and training prison staff continued suspension of their activities amid continuing violence.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted some independent monitoring, but the lack of clarity over who ran each facility and the sheer number of facilities made it impossible to gain a comprehensive view of the system. Reports also raised questions about the capability and professional training of local human rights organizations charged with overseeing prisons and detention centers.

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

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

Following the 2011 revolution and attendant breakdown of judicial institutions and process, the government and nonstate militia forces continued to detain and hold persons arbitrarily in authorized and unauthorized facilities, including unknown locations, for extended periods without legal charges or legal authority.

The prerevolutionary criminal code remains in effect. It establishes procedures for pretrial detention and prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but both government and nonstate forces often disregarded these provisions. Throughout the year the government had little control over police and regional militias providing internal security, and armed groups carried out illegal and arbitrary detentions unimpededly. The lack of international monitoring meant that there were no reliable statistics on the number of arbitrary detainees.


National police and other elements of the security apparatus operated ineffectively. The national police force, which reports to the Ministry of Interior, has official responsibility for internal security. The military under the Ministry of Defense has as its primary mission the defense of the country from external threats, but it primarily supported Ministry of Interior forces on internal security matters. The situation varied widely from municipality to municipality contingent upon whether police organizational structures remained intact. In some areas, such as Tobruk, police continued to function, but in others, such as Sebha, they existed in name only. Civilian authorities had nominal control of police and security apparatus, and security-related police work generally fell to self-constituted, disparate militias exercising police power without training or supervision and with varying degrees of accountability.

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


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

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

Arbitrary Arrest: Authorities frequently ignored the provisions of the criminal code prohibiting arbitrary arrest and detention. Quasi-state or nonstate militias arbitrarily arrested and detained persons throughout the year.

The government and militias continued to hold many prisoners without charge. A specific number was unknown, but observers estimated it to be several thousand. The government took no concrete action to reform the justice system. Gaps in existing legislation and the unclear separation of powers among the executive, judicial, and legislative branches contributed to a weak judicial system. Few detainees had access to counsel, faced formal charges, or had the opportunity to challenge their detention before a judicial authority.

Pretrial Detention: According to international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), there were numerous inmates held in government-controlled prisons in pretrial detention for periods longer than the sentences for the minor crimes they allegedly committed.

While authorities must order detention for a specific period not exceeding 90 days, the law in practice results in extended pretrial detention. An ambiguity in the language of the law allows judges to renew the detention period if the suspect is of “interest to the investigation.”

After the pretrial detention is ordered by an authorized judge, no appeal is allowed. This also applies to migrants charged with illegal border crossing.

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

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law allows a detained suspect to challenge pretrial detention before the prosecutor and a magistrate judge. If the prosecutor does not order release, the detained can appeal to the magistrate judge. If the magistrate judge orders detention following review of the prosecutor’s request, and despite the detainee’s challenge, there is no further right to appeal the assigned detention order.

Amnesty: The government did not clarify whether it believed there was a blanket legal amnesty for revolutionaries’ actions performed to promote or protect the revolution. It took no action to address violations committed during the revolution by anti-Qadhafi forces, resulting in a tacit amnesty.

During the year Misratans staged a series of high-profile releases of detainees in conjunction with the UN-led Libya Political Dialogue, as a confidence-building measure. The detainees included 300 former regime figures, including former head of State Security Mohamed Ben Nayil and Tuerga tribe members who had worked for the Qadhafi regime.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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


The Constitutional Declaration provides for the presumption of innocence and the right to legal counsel, provided at public expense for the indigent. During the year state-affiliated and nonstate actors did not respect these standards. There were multiple reports of individuals denied fair and public trials, choice of attorney, language interpretation, the ability to confront plaintiff witnesses; protection against forced testimony or confession to crimes; and the right to appeal. According to reports from international NGOs, arbitrary detention and torture by militias, including those operating nominally under government oversight, continued to contribute to a climate of lawlessness that made fair trials elusive. Armed groups, families of the victims or the accused, and the public regularly threatened lawyers, judges, and prosecutors.

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


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

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


The Constitutional Declaration provides for the right of citizens to have recourse to the judiciary. The judicial system did not have the capacity to provide citizens with access to civil remedies for human rights violations until the 2013 Law of Transitional Justice provided for fact-finding, accountability, and reparations for victims. Civil proceedings were difficult, with no courts functioning in Benghazi, Derna, and Sirte. Courts processed only a minimal number of cases in Tripoli, and there were continuous threats to justices and judicial police in all areas.

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

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

The Constitutional Declaration considers correspondence, telephone conversations, and other forms of communication as inviolable unless authorized by a court order. Reports in the news and on social media indicated militias, gangs, extremist groups, and government-affiliated actors violated these prohibitions through the entry of homes without judicial authorization, the monitoring of communications and private movements, and the use of informants. Invasion of privacy left citizens vulnerable to targeted attacks based on political affiliation, ideology, and identity. Extrajudicial punishment extended to targets’ family members and tribes. Armed groups arbitrarily entered, seized, or destroyed private property with impunity.

Killings: There were numerous reports that government-aligned militias, antigovernment militias, and some tribes committed arbitrary and unlawful killings of civilians. Primary targets of killings included political opponents; members of police, internal security apparatus and military intelligence; and also judges, political activists, members of civil society, journalists, religious leaders, and Qadhafi-affiliated officials and soldiers.

LNA Commander Khalifa Haftar’s Operation Dignity continued during the year. The LNA continued attacks by ground and air forces against extremist forces in Benghazi, including Da’esh, Ansar al-Sharia, and their affiliates. While casualty numbers were uncertain, reports from media and NGOs estimated that Haftar’s campaign resulted in hundreds of dead and thousands injured, including civilians. Amnesty International (AI) also reported indiscriminant and disproportionate shelling of the densely populated Benghazi neighborhood of Ganfouda.

On February 7, an unidentified aircraft bombed the al-Wahda hospital compound in Derna, killing at least two civilians and causing extensive damage. Other airstrikes targeted the city that day. There was no claim of responsibility.

In April there was extensive social media reporting of disproportionate shelling by the LNA in Derna, which caused a significant number of civilian casualties and infrastructure destruction.

On September 20, an airstrike killed at least nine civilians including women and children and injured 20 in Sokna in Jufra. There were claims that either the Misratan air force or the LNA carried out the attack, but neither claimed responsibility.

Although exact figures were impossible to obtain, extremist bombings and killings probably resulted in hundreds of deaths. Terrorist organizations, such as Da’esh, Ansar al-Sharia, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, and their affiliates likely carried out much of the violence, although in many instances the perpetrators were unknown.

Abductions: Forces aligned with both the government and its opponents were responsible for the disappearance of civilians in conflict areas, although in most cases, the details remained obscure. In the eastern region, a campaign of killings, kidnappings, and intimidation continued to target activists, journalists, former government officials, and the security forces. Kidnappings remained a daily occurrence in many cities.

Over the past 18 months, Da’esh abducted and took into captivity at least 540 refugees and migrants, including at least 63 women forced into sex slavery for Da’esh fighters.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Jailers at both government and extralegal detention centers reportedly tortured prisoners. Militia control of most government and extralegal detention facilities obscured understanding of the situation.

The extent of torture at extremist or militia hands remained unknown, although some militias reportedly physically abused detainees. Individuals who expressed controversial opinions, such as journalists, suffered from violence. There were no developments in the case of Naseeb Miloud Karfana, a television journalist based in Sabha, and her fiance, killed in 2014.

Child Soldiers: There were reports of minors joining GNA-aligned forces, although GNA official policy required proof recruits were at least 18 years old. There were multiple reports of underage militia enlistees, but there was no verifiable information about any age-related requirements for joining. The government did not make efforts to investigate or punish recruitment or use of child soldiers. According to media reports, Da’esh claimed to have been training children in the country for its operations, such as suicide attacks, firing weapons, and making improvised explosive devices (IEDs). In April the LNA claimed Da’esh forced child soldiers from Libya and other Arab countries into a training camp in Sirte.

Also see the Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report at

Other Conflict-related Abuse: Additional abuses stemming from increased conflict included restrictions on travel, deliberate attacks on health-care facilities, and the forceful displacement of civilians. Media reported armed groups involved in Tripoli clashes used IEDs in heavily populated urban areas. Authorities reported the same abuse in Benghazi, and on May 2, UNSMIL reported that an IED explosion in the al-Hawari district in Benghazi killed three children and injured one.

According to AI, under an LNA military blockade, hundreds of civilians, including Libyans and foreign nationals, remained trapped in the Ganfouda neighborhood of southwest Benghazi and suffered from a severe shortage of water, food, medical supplies, and electricity. On December 10, the LNA announced a temporary, six-hour ceasefire to allow the evacuation of civilians. Only a handful of civilians, however, were able to leave the besieged Benghazi neighborhood. The UN condemned the failure of the LNA to assure safe passage to civilians during its pledged cessation of hostilities.


Executive Summary

The Republic of Maldives is a multiparty constitutional democracy. Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom won the presidential election in 2013 in what most international observers and local nongovernmental organization (NGO) Transparency Maldives (TM) determined to be a credible and transparent election. Parliamentary elections held in March 2014 were also well administered and transparent, according to TM, although there were reports of vote buying due to shortcomings in the legal system and lack of enforcement.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights problems included efforts by parliament, courts, and police to restrict freedoms of speech and assembly; reports of a politicized and inefficient judiciary; and reports of corruption of senior government officials.

Other human rights problems included the use of flogging as a punishment, detention of political prisoners, restrictions on religious freedom, targeted harassment and arbitrary detention of journalists, abuse and unequal treatment of women, employment discrimination on the basis of political opinion, and discrimination against foreign laborers. Migrant laborers experienced labor abuses and were the primary victims of human trafficking. In August parliament passed an antidefamation law that the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression asserted limited the right to freedom of expression to such a degree that the right itself was in jeopardy.

The government did not take steps to prosecute and punish police and military officers who committed abuses.

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

In April Chief Inspector of Police Abdulla Satheeth publicly stated unknown persons had abducted Minivan News (now Maldives Independent) journalist and human rights advocate Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla, the first acknowledgement from police of foul play in Rilwan’s 2014 disappearance. A delegation from the government traveled to Geneva in May to provide information on the investigation into Rilwan’s disappearance to the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, but the United Nations had not published its findings by year’s end. In July police released the only two suspects held in connection with Rilwan’s disappearance, citing a lack of evidence linking them to the incident. As of August law enforcement’s working hypothesis was that members of an organized gang abducted Rilwan because of his criticisms of gang violence and Islamic radicalization. Rilwan’s family, however, continued to blame publicly senior government officials for his disappearance and accused police of negligence in the handling of the case. The National Integrity Commission (NIC) continued to investigate the allegations against police but reported its preliminary assessment that police were timely in response to reports of Rilwan’s disappearance.

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

The constitution prohibits such practices, but the law permits flogging and other forms of corporal punishment, and security officials employed such practices.

The Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) reported it received and prosecuted one case of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment during the year, but it did not disclose the identities of the defendant or plaintiff. According to the Human Rights Commission of Maldives’ (HRCM) third annual antitorture report released in 2016, the Maldives Police Service (MPS) was accused in 48 of the 55 cases of torture submitted to them between July 2015 and June 2016. The victims were under the age of 18 in three of the cases alleging police torture. The HRCM completed investigations in 46 of the 55 cases and found no evidence of torture in any cases. There were several allegations of police brutality from journalists and opposition protesters who were routinely arrested during antigovernment protests.

A regulation permits flogging as a form of punishment. As of September the courts sentenced six women and three men to flogging. According to an October 2014 Supreme Court guideline, the court must delay the execution of a flogging sentence on minors until they reach the age of 18. The Penal Code, which came into effect in July 2015, does not provide for banishment as a sentence, and there were no new banishment sentences during the year. The Maldives Correctional Service (MCS), however, reported there were nine persons still serving their banishment sentences.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Although overcrowded, prisons generally met international standards.

Physical Conditions: According to the Prisons and Parole Act, pretrial detainees should be held separately from convicted prisoners, but this was not always followed. The MCS oversaw the operation of three prison facilities: Maafushi Prison, Asseyri Prison, and Male Prison. The MCS also operated Hulhumale Detention Center and the Ahuluveri Marukazu rehabilitation center for upcoming parolees, while the MPS operated Dhoonidhoo pretrial Detention Center and Male Custodial Center. Detainees reported overcrowding and inadequate hygiene and sanitation standards in prisons and pretrial detention facilities. The MCS prison system, with an estimated capacity of 1,365 prisoners and detainees, had a prison population of 1,504 as of October. The MPS detention system, with an estimated capacity of 337 detainees, had a detainee population of 376 as of November. Local NGO Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) claimed prisoners lacked access to adequate and timely medical services in Dhoonidhoo Detention Center, especially for arrested opposition protesters. The MDN reported prison officials selectively provided medical access to detainees. Some high-profile convicts reported being denied permission to travel abroad for necessary medical treatment. There were also reports authorities occasionally held migrant workers in a facility that also housed pretrial detainees. Three detainees died in MPS or MCS custody during the year. Both the HRCM and NIC were investigating the cases and were yet to report their findings.

Administration: A police procedure introduced March 20 prohibits meetings between detainees and legal counsel on Fridays and public holidays. Former solicitor general Ibrahim Riffath called the new procedure “unconstitutional,” saying only a law passed by parliament could narrow fundamental rights or freedoms. The law was used in May to stop one detainee, who was arrested while protesting against the development of the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge, from meeting his lawyer.

Independent Monitoring: The government generally permitted regular and unannounced prison visits by the HRCM, which provided recommendations to the government to address deficiencies. As of August the HRCM conducted 11 visits to prisons and other government centers. The government generally permitted visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross/Red Crescent and other international assessment teams. The committee conducted visits to prisons and police stations in January.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, the government failed to enforce the law consistently, especially in cases against members of the political opposition.


The MPS is responsible for internal security, public safety, and law and order, and is subordinate to the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) is responsible for external security and disaster relief, but the MPS at times requested its assistance in matters of internal security and law and order during some political protests. The chief of the MNDF reports to the minister of defense. The president is commander in chief of the MNDF.

Civilian authorities generally maintained control over the MPS and MNDF, and the government had generally effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. The NIC, formed in October 2015, replaced the Police Integrity Commission as the primary mechanism to investigate abuses by law enforcement agencies and employees, and it has the authority to forward any cases with criminal elements to police for further investigation. The NIC reported it received 84 complaints of MPS human rights violations as of July 31, but it had completed investigations in only one of the cases. Human rights organizations reported allegations of police brutality were not fairly adjudicated by the courts and, as a result, police enjoyed impunity.

There is no independent review mechanism to investigate abuses by military forces. Parliament and the judiciary, however, could initiate investigations on an ad hoc basis. There were no reported complaints of human rights abuses by military forces, and military operations generally remained separate from civilian political activities.


The law states an arrest may not be made unless the arresting officer observes the offense, has reasonable evidence, or has a court-issued arrest warrant. According to the MPS, however, if a police officer has reason to believe that a person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit an offense, s/he may arrest the person. The constitution provides for an arrestee to be verbally informed immediately of the reason for arrest and to be informed in writing within 24 hours. Prisoners have the right to a ruling on bail within 36 hours, but bail procedures were not implemented consistently. The law also requires an arrestee be informed of the right to remain silent and have access a lawyer at the time of arrest. A lawyer may be court appointed in serious criminal cases if the accused cannot afford one. Authorities generally permitted detainees to have counsel present during police questioning. Police normally informed the arrestee’s family of the arrest within 24 hours, although the law does not require that police inform the family of the grounds for the arrest.

The law provides for investigative detention. Once a person is detained, the arresting officer must present evidence to a court within 24 hours to justify continued detention. Based on the evidence presented, the prosecutor general has the authority to determine whether charges may be filed. If law enforcement authorities are unable to present sufficient evidence within 24 hours, the prisoner is eligible for release. Judges have the authority to extend detention at 15-day intervals upon receiving an arresting officer’s petition, citing factors such as the detainee’s previous criminal record, status of the investigation, type of offense in question, and whether the detainee posed a threat if released.

Arbitrary Arrest: The NIC confirmed proper arrest procedures were in place but noted police did not always fully implement them due to lack of adequate training. Sources reported police held suspects under investigative or administrative detention without formal arrest for periods ranging from a few hours to several weeks. Police allegedly used this procedure to remove opposition supporters and journalists from the streets, and to control gang activities.

In November 2015 social media activist Ahmed Ashraf was arrested in Sri Lanka and returned to Maldives. The Sri Lankan Department of Immigration and Emigration issued a statement stating it allowed Ashraf’s repatriation based on a request received by the Maldivian High Commission in Colombo, but according to a November 2015 statement from the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry, his repatriation may have violated Sri Lankan immigration laws. Ashraf was one of eight “suspects of terrorism” allegedly linked to the 2015 explosion of President Yameen’s speedboat. During the year the PGO charged Ashraf for a separate crime, and he remained in remand.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The constitution stipulates conditions under which a person can be arrested or detained and provides everyone the right to appeal and the right to compensation for unlawful arrest or detention. Various laws and regulations govern arrest and detention procedures. The High Court routinely hears appeals of arrest warrants or pretrial detention orders, but defense lawyers claimed High Court judges tend to seek justification for upholding such orders rather than questioning the grounds and merits of detention. In October the PGO declined to press charges against Shamoon Jaleel, a social media activist who was held in pretrial detention for more than 40 days, citing lack of evidence. Jaleel had previously appealed his detention at the High Court, which had ruled to uphold the order. The appeal courts do not accept appeals of detentions authorized for the duration of an ongoing trial, based on a 2012 High Court decision that ruled trial judges have discretionary authority to authorize detention of suspects for the duration of ongoing trials and a 2009 Supreme Court decision that stated decisions made by judges using discretionary authority cannot be appealed. In March the High Court dismissed an appeal filed by a former magistrate judge using this justification.

Victims of unlawful or arbitrary arrest or detention can submit cases to the Civil Court to seek compensation but this right was not commonly exercised.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, but the judiciary was not completely independent or impartial, and was subject to influence. There were numerous allegations of judicial impropriety and abuse of power. Government officials, opposition members, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and members of domestic and international civil society at times accused the judiciary of bias and accused the executive branch of manipulating judicial outcomes. The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative also alleged that the Supreme Court attempted to control the lower courts “to influence the administration of justice in the interest of the government.” After her April 2015 visit, Mona Rishmawi, chief of the Rule of Law, Equality, and Non-Discrimination Branch at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights stated the judicial system was perceived as politicized, inadequate, and subject to external influence. In their joint August 2015 report, the International Commission of Jurists and South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) alleged the government, in particular the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), manipulated the judiciary to “further vested interests.”

The five-member Supreme Court is constitutionally independent from the executive. It hears appeals from the High Court and considers constitutional matters brought directly before it. In June 2015 the Supreme Court issued an 11-point guideline barring the HRCM from communicating with foreign organizations without government oversight and cited the HRCM’s submission to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) as treasonous. In its 2015 annual report released in March, the HRCM stated the guideline was “the biggest challenge” to the commission’s ability to do its work. On September 25, the International Service for Human Rights filed a case with the UN Human Rights Committee on behalf of two former HRCM commissioners alleging the guideline violated international law by restricting human rights defenders from submitting information to the United Nations. In response the HRCM released an October 7 statement defending the guideline by claiming it did not impede the HRCM’s ability to cooperate with the United Nations, in direct contradiction to the guideline. Many judges, appointed for life, held only a certificate in sharia, not a law degree. Most magistrate judges could not interpret common law or sharia because they lacked adequate English or Arabic language skills. An estimated one-quarter of the country’s 183 judges had criminal records. Media, human rights organizations, and NGOs criticized the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) for appointing unqualified judges and, according to a 2016 Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative report, the composition of the JSC, tasked with vetting and appointing judges, is flawed, leading to a politicized judiciary. In its report the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative accused the Supreme Court of harshly targeting independent institutions and lawyers and failing to guarantee the right to a fair trial to accused. There was no government response.

In June the Supreme Court rejected former defense minister Colonel Mohamed Nazim’s appeal of his March 2015 conviction on charges of importation and possession of illegal weapons. On June 21, just after Nazim filed the appeal but prior to the Supreme Court ruling, the MPS revealed the investigations into Nazim’s case were incomplete, adding it uncovered new evidence not previously available to the court that may exonerate him. The Supreme Court did not consider this additional evidence when deciding on Nazim’s appeal. During Nazim’s trial, the High Court denied the defense team’s request to present rebuttal evidence it claimed would have exonerated Nazim.


The law provides that an accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Most trials were public and conducted by judges and magistrates, some of whom were trained in Islamic, civil, or criminal law. Regulations rather than laws govern trial procedures. Judges question the concerned parties and attempt to establish the facts of a case. Accused persons have the right to defend themselves and during a trial may call witnesses and retain the right to legal representation. Defendants and their attorneys have the right to full access to all evidence relating to their case, may cross-examine any witnesses presented by the state, and may present their own witnesses and evidence. The judiciary generally enforced these rights, with a few notable exceptions.

In the case of at least one death row convict, Hussain Humaam, MDN and other human rights advocates insisted due process rights were ignored. Humaam was accused of murdering parliamentarian Afrasheem Ali, who was found dead in October 2012. Humaam was 19 years old at the time of the incident. NGOs reported there were multiple contradictions in witness testimonies and evidence presented during the trial, making it impossible to arrive at a verdict “beyond any doubt”, as required by law. The Criminal Court found Humaam guilty of murder in January 2013. In December 2015, the High Court upheld the verdict, and on June 24, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the original conviction. With the Supreme Court’s ruling, only an official pardon from the victim’s family could get Humaam off death row.

Under existing death penalty provisions and in Islamic law, a case must be proven “beyond any doubt” to be eligible for a death penalty verdict. For cases where the death penalty is imposed for qisas (retaliation in kind under Maldives Islamic law), the heirs of the deceased must agree to the punishment. In the event the heirs are below the age of 18, Islamic law jurisprudence requires the state to halt the implementation of the death penalty until the children reach 18 and can give their agreement.

Islamic law as interpreted by the country is applied in situations not covered by civil law. The law provides for the right to legal counsel, and those convicted have the right to appeal. The testimony of women is equal to that of men in court, except on rape and other issues specifically stipulated by the country’s legal code.


The government asserted there were no political prisoners; however, the opposition, international and domestic NGOs, and members of the international community estimated there were at least two political prisoners and likely many more. Former president Mohamed Nasheed, who is leader of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and ran against President Yameen during the 2013 presidential election, was subjected to a rushed trial and many of his due process rights were ignored, according to international observers. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions in September 2015 determined Nasheed’s detention was politically motivated and opined there were serious due-process violations that indicated Nasheed had not received a free and fair trial. The government announced its rejection of the working group’s findings in a September 2015 press release. In January the government granted approval for Nasheed to travel to London on a medical furlough. He remained in London at year’s end and stated he was unable to return due to concerns he would again be arbitrarily detained.

Opposition Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran was arrested in May 2015 on terrorism charges on the grounds his speech at an opposition rally incited protesters to become violent. Human rights NGO TM, however, asserted “during the speech Sheikh Imran repeatedly denied any intent of violence against the government.” On February 16, a court sentenced Imran to 12 years’ imprisonment.


Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations. The Civil Court addressed noncriminal cases.

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

The law prohibits security officials from opening or reading radio messages, letters, or telegrams, or monitoring telephone conversations, “except as expressly provided by law.” Security forces may open the mail of private citizens and monitor telephone conversations if authorized to do so by a court during a criminal investigation. There were reports, nevertheless, of illegal recording of telephone conversations and monitoring of text messages allegedly executed by the MNDF and other government agencies.


Executive Summary

Senegal is a republic dominated by a strong executive branch. In 2012 voters elected Macky Sall to succeed Abdoulaye Wade as president for a seven-year term. In 2012 Sall’s coalition won a majority of seats in the National Assembly. Local and international observers viewed the elections as largely free and fair.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights problems included harsh prison conditions, lengthy pretrial detention, and discrimination and violence against women, including rape and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C).

Other major human rights problems included security force abuse, including torture, arbitrary arrest, questionable investigative detention, and lack of judicial independence. Corruption–particularly in the judiciary, police, and executive branch–was a problem. Child abuse, early and forced marriage, infanticide, and trafficking in persons occurred. Violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons continued, as did discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. Forced labor, including by children, was a problem.

The government took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed abuses, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government, but impunity existed.

In the southern Casamance region, situated between The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau, a de facto ceasefire between security forces and armed separatists continued for a fourth year. Gunmen associated with various factions of the separatist Movement of Democratic Forces of the Casamance (MFDC), however, continued to rob and harass local populations. While there were occasional unplanned skirmishes between security forces and MFDC units, neither side conducted offensive operations. Mediation efforts continued in search of a negotiated resolution of the conflict, which began in 1982.

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

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

There was at least one report the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

On March 17, Paul Prince Johnson, a foreign detainee, died in prison in the city of Diourbel. Amnesty International, the Senegalese Human Rights League, and the International Society for Human Rights reported allegations that Johnson died from inhuman and cruel treatment by prison guards. Despite their calls for an independent investigation, none had been conducted by year’s end, and the government’s post-mortem examination attributed Johnson’s death to natural causes.

On June 24, a court in Dakar sentenced police officer Mouhamed Boughaleb to 20 years of hard labor for the 2014 shooting death of student demonstrator Bassirou Faye.

In July a criminal court in the city of Mbacke convicted four police officers–Thiendella Ndiaye, Waly Almamy Toure, Mame Kor Ngong, and Ousmane Ndao–of violence and assault following the 2013 death of Ibrahama Samb, a bus conductor who died in police custody while being transported to a police station in the locked trunk of a car. The court also ordered the government to pay compensation up to 20 million CFA francs ($34,000) to Samb’s family. There was no indication the government had paid the compensation by year’s end.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but there were occasional reports government officials employed them.

Human rights organizations noted examples of physical abuse committed by law enforcement, including cruel and degrading treatment in prisons and detention facilities. In particular, they criticized strip search and interrogation methods. Police reportedly forced detainees to sleep on bare floors, directed bright lights at them, beat them with batons, and kept them in cells with minimal access to fresh air. The government claimed these practices were not widespread and that it usually conducted formal investigations into allegations of abuse. Investigations, however, often were unduly prolonged and rarely resulted in charges or indictments.

On July 29, the Appellate Chamber of the Criminal Court of Dakar acquitted Cheikh Diop and Cheikh Sidaty Mane, who were sentenced in 2015 to 20 years’ imprisonment in connection with the 2012 lynching of Fode Ndiaye, a police officer. Ndiaye was killed in clashes between police and opposition supporters holding a peaceful rally to protest former president Wade’s attempt to stand for a third term. According to Amnesty International, Diop and Sidaty were convicted despite their statements police had tortured them into confessing. In a statement to the press after their release, the two men reiterated their allegations of torture. Amnesty called on authorities to investigate, but no investigation had been initiated by year’s end.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions were harsh and potentially life threatening due to food shortages, overcrowding, poor sanitation, and inadequate medical care.

Physical Conditions: Overcrowding was endemic. For example, Dakar’s main prison facility, Rebeuss, held more than twice the number of inmates for which it was designed. Female detainees generally had better conditions than did men. Pretrial detainees were not always separated from convicted prisoners. Juvenile boys were often housed with men or permitted to roam freely with men during the day. Girls were held together with women. Infants and newborns were often kept in prison with their mothers until age one, with no special cells, additional medical provisions, or extra food rations.

In addition to overcrowding, the National Organization for Human Rights, a nongovernmental organization (NGO), identified lack of adequate sanitation as a major problem. Poor and insufficient food, limited access to medical care, stifling heat, poor drainage, and insect infestations also were problems throughout the prison system.

On March 28, four juvenile detainees at Rebeuss Prison went on a hunger strike to protest lengthy pretrial detention and poor prison conditions. The government subsequently increased the daily allotment for prisoner food and care to 680 CFA francs ($1.15) in all prisons. Despite the increase, prison conditions remained unsatisfactory. In late August several prisoners in Kaolack engaged in a hunger strike to protest conditions. In September hundreds of prisoners in Rebeuss engaged in a two-week hunger strike to protest lengthy pretrial detention and poor prison conditions. This hunger strike culminated in a September 20 prison riot, during which at least one prisoner died. On September 21, in solidarity with their fellow inmates in Rebeuss, prisoners in Thies engaged in a one-day hunger strike. Following these incidents, authorities announced they would construct additional prison facilities and hire additional prison staff.

According to 2014 government statistics, the most recent available, 50 inmates died in prisons and detention centers in 2014.

Administration: Authorities did not always conduct credible investigations into allegations of mistreatment. In 2014, however, prisoner complaints of harsh treatment prompted at least two inspections by the National Prevention Mechanism, which subsequently criticized living conditions and lengthy pretrial detention. The inspection resulted in the filing of criminal charges against two prison officials, and the case continued at year’s end.

Prison officials kept some records on prisoners and detainees, but computerized records were inaccurate due to inadequate staff training and power shortages at many government facilities. Authorities did not use alternatives for sentencing nonviolent offenders. Ombudsmen were available to respond to complaints, but prisoners did not know how to access them or file reports. Prisoners generally had reasonable access to visitors and some access to lawyers, and they could observe religious practices. Unlike in previous years, authorities permitted prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and to request investigation of credible allegations of inhuman conditions, but there was no evidence that officials conducted any follow-up investigations.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted prison visits by local human rights groups, all of which operated independently, and international observers. The National Observer of Detention Facilities had full and unfettered access to all civilian prison and detention facilities, but not to military and intelligence facilities. The observer published an annual report, although the 2015 report had not been published by year’s end.

Members of the International Committee of the Red Cross visited prisons in Dakar and the Casamance.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention; however, the government did not always observe these prohibitions.


Police and gendarmes are responsible for maintaining law and order. The army shares that responsibility in exceptional cases, such as during a state of emergency. The National Police are part of the Interior Ministry and operate in major cities. The Gendarmerie is part of the Ministry of Defense and primarily operates outside of major cities.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over police, gendarmes, and the army, but the government did not have effective mechanisms to punish abuse and corruption. The Criminal Investigation Department (DIC) is in charge of investigating police abuses but was ineffective in addressing impunity or corruption.

An amnesty law covers police and other security personnel involved in “political crimes” committed between 1983 and 2004, except for killings in “cold blood.”

The Regional Court of Dakar includes a military tribunal, which has jurisdiction over crimes committed by military personnel. The tribunal is composed of a civilian judge, a civilian prosecutor, and two military assistants to advise the judge, one of whom must be of equal rank to the defendant. The tribunal may try civilians only if they were involved with military personnel who violated military law. The military tribunal provides the same rights as a civilian criminal court.


Although the law requires warrants issued by judges for police to make an arrest, police often lacked warrants when detaining individuals. The law grants police broad powers to detain prisoners for long periods before filing formal charges. The DIC may hold persons up to 24 hours before releasing or charging them. Authorities did not promptly inform many detainees of the charges against them. Police officers, including DIC officials, may double the detention period from 24 to 48 hours without charge if a prosecutor so authorizes. Investigators may request that a prosecutor double this period to 96 hours. For cases involving claimed threats to state security, the detention period may extend to 192 hours. The detention period does not formally begin until authorities officially declare an individual is being detained, a practice Amnesty International criticized for the resulting lengthy detentions. Bail was rarely available, and officials generally did not allow family access. Except for the first 48 hours of detention, the accused has the right to an attorney, and an attorney is provided at public expense in felony cases to all criminal defendants who cannot afford one after the initial period of detention. Indigent defendants did not always receive attorneys in misdemeanor cases. A number of NGOs provided legal assistance or counseling to those charged with crimes.

Arbitrary Arrest: On April 28, four members of the coalition Non aux APE, including coalition leader Guy Marius Sagna, were arrested while protesting against the signing of an Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and 16 West African states, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the West African Economic and Monetary Union. Apart from the EU, the country was a member of each organization. On June 3, one day prior to the opening of the annual summit of ECOWAS heads of states and governments in Dakar, authorities arrested eight members of the coalition, including Sagna; on June 6, they were released without charge. Again on September 22, authorities arrested Sagna during another Non aux APE demonstration coinciding with a visit to Dakar by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls. Sagna was released on September 24. In all three instances, authorities allowed demonstrations to proceed but arrested Sagna and others for not complying with police orders for not complying with police orders to vacate certain areas and resisting arrest.

Pretrial Detention: According to a 2014 EU-funded study, more than 60 percent of the prison population consisted of pretrial detainees. The law states an accused person may not be held in pretrial detention for more than six months for minor crimes; however, authorities routinely held persons in custody until a court demanded their release. Judicial backlogs and absenteeism of judges resulted in an average delay of two years between the filing of charges and the beginning of a trial. In cases involving allegations of murder, threats to state security, and embezzlement of public funds, there were no limits on the length of pretrial detention. In many cases pretrial detainees were held for longer than the length of sentence later received.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees are legally permitted to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention and obtain prompt release and compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained; however, this rarely occurred due to lack of adequate legal counsel.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, the judiciary was subject to corruption and government influence. Magistrates noted overwhelming caseloads, lack of adequate space and office equipment, and inadequate transportation, and they openly questioned the government’s commitment to judicial independence. According to Freedom in the World 2016, “inadequate pay and lack of tenure expose judges to external influences and prevent the courts from providing a proper check on the other branches of government. The president controls appointments to the Constitutional Council.” Authorities did not always respect court orders.


Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and cannot be compelled to testify against themselves or confess guilt. All defendants have the right to a public trial, to be present in court during their trial, to confront and present witnesses, to present evidence, and to have an attorney (at public expense if needed) in felony cases. Defendants have the right to be informed of the charges against them promptly and in detail with free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. They also have the right to sufficient time and facilities to prepare their defense. Nevertheless, case backlogs, lack of legal counsel, judicial inefficiency and corruption, and lengthy pretrial detention undermined these rights.

Evidentiary hearings may be closed to the public and press. Although a defendant and counsel may introduce evidence before an investigating judge who decides whether to refer a case for trial, police or prosecutors may limit their access to evidence against the defendant prior to trial. A panel of judges presides over ordinary courts in civil and criminal cases.

The right of appeal exists in all courts, except for the High Court of Justice. These rights extend to all citizens.


There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.


Citizens may seek cessation of and reparation for human rights violations in regular administrative or judicial courts. Citizens may also seek administrative remedies by filing a complaint with the ombudsman, an independent authority. Corruption and lack of independence hampered judicial and administrative handling of these cases. At times prosecutors refused to prosecute security officials, and violators often went unpunished. In matters related to human rights, individuals and organizations may appeal adverse decisions to the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja, Nigeria.

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

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

The de facto ceasefire in the Casamance has been in effect since 2012, and President Sall continued efforts to resolve the 34-year-old conflict between separatists and government security forces. Both the government and various factions of the MFDC separatist movement accepted mediation efforts led by neutral parties, including Christian and Islamic organizations. Progress toward resolution of the conflict has been incremental.

Killings: Although neither government forces nor MFDC rebels conducted offensive operations in the Casamance during the year, there were several brief, unplanned skirmishes. An undetermined number of MFDC rebels were injured or killed in these encounters.

Abductions: On at least two occasions, individuals believed to be MFDC rebels took hostages, according to local sources. Both incidents were related to acts of banditry.

Solomon Islands

Executive Summary

Solomon Islands is a constitutional multiparty parliamentary democracy. Observers considered the 2014 parliamentary election generally free and fair, although there were incidents of vote buying. Parliament elected Manasseh Sogavare as prime minister, and he formed a coalition government.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

Violence and discrimination against women remained the most significant human rights problem in the country.

Other human rights problems during the year included lengthy pretrial detention and government corruption.

The government took steps to prosecute officials who committed abuses.

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

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

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

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

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

The law prohibits such practices, and there were no confirmed reports government officials employed them. A few detainees alleged mistreatment by police during interrogation, but the allegations were difficult to evaluate because of a lack of substantiating evidence.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions generally met international standards.

Physical Conditions: There was a reported death of one person held in pretrial detention. Police have not released the results of the postmortem examination or investigation.

Administration: Authorities permitted prisoners and detainees to submit complaints and request investigations of credible allegations of inhuman conditions. The respective prison commanders screened the complaints and requests. The Professional Standards Unit of the Correctional Service and the Office of the Ombudsman investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions and documented the results in a publicly accessible manner. The government, through the judiciary and Office of the Ombudsman, investigated and monitored prison conditions.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring by independent human rights observers, and such visits occurred during the year. The International Committee of the Red Cross covered costs for family visits to long-term prisoners from other provinces held in Honiara.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.


Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the Royal Solomon Islands Police (RSIP), and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish police corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year. A commissioner (normally a foreign resident), who reports to the minister of police, heads the RSIP force of 1,353 members, including 266 women. The RSIP is beginning the process of rearmament in preparation for the withdrawal of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) forces in 2017. Only three units within the force would be armed: the airport police, a dignitary protection unit, and the Police Response Team, which responds to civil unrest. The RSIP has been conducting community consultations and public campaigns to discuss the need for limited rearmament and the controls that would be in place.

A unit of 97 RAMSI Participating Police Force (PPF) officers supported the RSIP. The RAMSI/PPF officers retained executive powers, but generally did not do frontline policing. They acted in advisory roles within the police force and continued to exercise the armed response aspect of policing when necessary. The PPF continued to focus on working in partnership with the RSIP to build the capacity of its officers and to assist with logistical challenges. The RAMSI/PPF was the only armed security force in the country following withdrawal of the RAMSI military contingent in 2013, although they provide training and support to rearm the RSIP. The RAMSI/PPF ended its presence in Gizo in April as part of its staged withdrawal. Australia consulted closely with the government to design a new policing, justice, and governance programs in preparation for the departure of RAMSI.

The RSIP continued to lack capacity to conduct investigations and prepare reports despite increased recruitment of investigators. The police service has an inspection unit to monitor police discipline and performance. Officials who violate civil liberties are subject to fines and jail sentences.


Only a magistrate or judge may issue warrants, although police have power to arrest without a warrant if they have reasonable belief a person committed a crime. The law requires detainees be brought promptly before a judge. Authorities respected this right. Delays sometimes arose after the preliminary hearing, but authorities brought detainees to court as soon as possible following arrest, especially if they were held without bail.

Police generally informed detainees promptly of the charges against them. The Public Solicitor’s Office provided legal assistance to indigent defendants, and detainees had prompt access to family members and counsel. There was a functioning system of bail for nonserious cases, and police and courts frequently granted bail.

During the year the Australian government provided 15 legal advisers under the Solomon Islands Justice Program. Three worked with correctional services, and 12 worked in the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs, including in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. They included a chief magistrate, a High Court judge, lawyers, and training and finance advisers. Advisers helped develop the capacity of government lawyers and contributed to reducing the backlog of cases.

Pretrial Detention: Delays in adjudication of the large number of cases before the courts resulted in lengthy pretrial detention for some detainees. Pretrial detainees comprised 50 percent of the prisoner population. The average length of time held in pretrial detention was approximately two years.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested or detained were entitled to challenge in court the legal basis of their detention and obtain prompt release if found unlawfully detained.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

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


The law provides for the right to a fair, public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Nonetheless, prisoners were not afforded timely trials due to a judicial backlog that resulted in long delays in bringing cases to trial.

Trial procedures normally operated in accordance with British common law, with a presumption of innocence and the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges. Detainees had access to attorneys of their choice and the right to be present at their own trial, access government-held evidence, prepare a defense, confront witnesses, present witnesses and evidence, refrain from self-incrimination, and appeal convictions. The law extends these rights to all citizens. Judges conduct trials and render verdicts. The courts provided an attorney at public expense for indigent defendants facing serious criminal charges as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals.


There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.


The constitution provides that any person whose rights or freedoms were contravened may apply directly to the High Court for redress. The High Court has taken a leading role in applying human rights principles in rulings.

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

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


Executive Summary

The Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), formed in 2012, was led by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. Clan elders nominated the members of the House of the People of the Federal Parliament in 2012, and parliament elected Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as president later that year. Former Transitional Federal Government (TFG) president and presidential candidate, Sheikh Sharif, described the presidential vote as fair and conceded defeat. Indirect elections for the lower house of parliament, the new upper house, and the president, scheduled for August and September, had not been completed by year’s end. The government of the self-declared Republic of Somaliland in the northwest and the regional government of Puntland in the northeast controlled their respective jurisdictions. The Interim Galmudug Administration (IGA), Interim Juba Administration (IJA), and Interim South West Administration (ISWA) did not fully control their jurisdictions. The terrorist organization al-Shabaab retained control of the Juba River Valley and maintained operational freedom of movement in many other areas in the south-central part of the country. Conflict during the year involving the government, militias, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and al-Shabaab resulted in death, injury, and displacement of civilians. AMISOM and Somali security forces did not conduct any major offensive operations to liberate additional areas during the year.

Civilian authorities did not maintain effective control over the security forces.

Major human rights abuses included killings of civilians by, Somali security forces, al-Shabaab, and unknown assailants. Violence and discrimination against women and girls, including rape and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), were widespread. Civilians did not have the ability to change their government through free and fair elections.

Other major human rights abuses included disappearances; torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary and politically motivated arrest and detention; denial of fair public trial; use of child soldiers; restrictions on freedoms of speech and press, assembly and association, religion, and movement; forced eviction and relocation of internally displaced persons (IDPs); disruption, diversion, and seizure of humanitarian assistance; corruption; trafficking in persons; abuse of and discrimination against minority clans and persons with disabilities; social stigmatization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals; restrictions on workers’ rights and forced labor, including by children.

Impunity generally remained the norm. Government authorities took minimal steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed violations, particularly military and police officials accused of committing rape, killings, clan violence, and extortion of civilians.

Clan militias and al-Shabaab continued to commit grave abuses throughout the country, including extrajudicial and politically motivated killings; disappearances; cruel and unusual punishment; rape; and attacks on employees of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the United Nations, and diplomatic missions. It also blocked humanitarian assistance, conscripted child soldiers, and restricted freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and movement.

AMISOM troops killed civilians and committed sexual abuse and exploitation, including the rape of women and girls (see section 1.g.).

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

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

Government security forces and allied militias, other persons wearing uniforms, regional security forces, al-Shabaab, and unknown assailants committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Government and regional authorities executed persons without due process. Armed clashes and attacks killed civilians and aid workers (see section 1.g.). Impunity remained the norm.

Federal and regional forces killed protesters. For example, on March 26, police fired on civilians protesting the state formation process for Hiiraan and Middle Shabelle Regions in Beledweyne, killing one civilian and injuring four. In the Puntland-Somaliland contested regions of Sool and Sanaag, security forces used excessive force against residents who opposed Hargeisa-led voter registration efforts during the year. The use of force resulted in at least 10 deaths and multiple injuries.

On April 18, following days of clan clashes, a mother and her six children were killed when soldiers burned their house in a village near the town of Merka, Lower Shabelle Region.

In January 2015 government forces reportedly shot supporters of Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama (ASWJ), who were violently protesting against the federal government in Galhareeri, Galguduud Region; two persons died and others were injured. During the year the case was settled by local elders with assistance from FGS officials; no further details were available.

Military courts continued to try cases not legally within their jurisdiction and in proceedings that fell short of international standards. Federal and regional authorities sometimes executed those sentenced to death within days of the court’s verdict, particularly in cases where defendants directly confessed their membership in al-Shabaab before the courts or in televised videos. National figures on executions were unreliable, but the UN Mission to Somalia (UNSOM) tracked 20 executions across the country during the year, including four of alleged members of al-Shabaab, 11 of armed forces members, and five of civilians. Human rights organizations questioned the military courts’ ability to enforce appropriate safeguards with regard to due process, the right to seek pardon, or commutation of sentence as well as to implement sentences in a manner that meets international standards.

Fighting among clans and subclans, particularly over water and land resources, occurred throughout the year, particularly in Merka, Galkayo, and Hiiraan Regions (see section 6). Revenge killings occurred.

Al-Shabaab continued to kill civilians (see sections 1.g. and 6). The killings included al-Shabaab’s execution of persons it accused of spying for and collaborating with the FGS, Somali national forces, and affiliated militias.

Al-Shabaab also reportedly killed journalists. For example, on June 5, gunmen suspected of belonging to al-Shabaab shot and killed a female journalist working for state-run station Radio Mogadishu.

Unidentified gunmen also killed persons with impunity, including members of parliament, judges, National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) agents, Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers, and other government officials, as well as journalists, traditional elders, and international organization workers.

On June 8, in Galkayo town, unidentified gunmen shot and killed Dhudi Yusuf Adan, a regional peace activist and head of the Mudug Women’s Association. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility. No investigation was conducted.

In a separate incident on September 27, unknown gunmen in Mogadishu killed Abdiaziz Mohamed Ali, a journalist with Radio Shabelle.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports that government authorities committed politically motivated or other disappearances. Al-Shabaab continued to abduct persons, including humanitarian workers. Pirates continued to hold persons kidnapped in previous years.

The 14 Iranian fishermen kidnapped in 2015 by al-Shabaab in Somali waters near El-Dheer, Galguduud Region, were released during the year.

Unlike in previous years, there were no reports of piracy. The vessel and crew of a Pakistani-owned, Iranian-flagged vessel hijacked by armed men in November 2015 were released during the year. On October 23, the 26 crewmembers of the Naham 3, captured in 2012, were released.

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

The provisional federal constitution prohibits torture and inhuman treatment. Nevertheless, torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment occurred. The UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea (SEMG) reported it received allegations that NISA officials committed torture. Government forces, allied militia, other men wearing uniforms, and AMISOM troops committed sexual violence, including rape (see section 1.g.).

Federal and regional authorities used excessive force against journalists, demonstrators, and detainees, which resulted in deaths and injuries.

NISA agents routinely conducted mass security sweeps despite having no legal mandate to arrest or detain. NISA held detainees for prolonged periods without following due process and mistreated suspects during interrogations.

Al-Shabaab imposed harsh punishment on persons in areas under its control (see sections 1.a. and 1.g.).

Clan violence sometimes resulted in civilian deaths and injuries (see sections 1.g. and 6).

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions in most areas of the country remained harsh due to poor sanitation and hygiene, inadequate food and water, and lack of medical care. Conditions were better in Central Mogadishu Prison, but overcrowding was a problem. Two new facilities–Garowe Prison in Puntland (completed in 2014) and Hargeisa Prison in Somaliland (completed in 2011)–met international standards and reportedly were well managed. Prisons in territory controlled by al-Shabaab and in remote areas where traditional authorities controlled holding areas were generally inaccessible to international observers. Prison conditions in such areas were believed to be harsh and at times life threatening.

Physical Conditions: Overcrowding in urban prisons–particularly following large security incidents involving arrests–sometimes occurred. Authorities sometimes held juveniles and adults, due in part to the belief that juveniles were safer when housed with members of their own subclan. Prison authorities often did not separate pretrial detainees from convicted prisoners, particularly in the southern and central regions.

Only inmates in Central Mogadishu Prison, Garowe Prison, and Hargeisa Prison had daily access to showers, sanitary facilities, adequate food and water, and outdoor exercise. Authorities in some states, however, made modest improvements in these areas in recent years with support from international organizations. Inmates in most prisons relied on their family and clan to supplement food and water provisions. The incarceration of juveniles at the request of families who wanted their children disciplined remained a problem, primarily in Puntland and Somaliland. This practice occurred mainly with diaspora children, whose families paid prison authorities to hold children with substance abuse problems as a form of rehabilitation due to the lack of other treatment options.

Authorities generally required the families of inmates to pay the cost of health services; inmates without family or clan support had limited access to such services. Disease outbreaks, such as tuberculosis and cholera, continued to occur, particularly in overcrowded prisons, such as Mogadishu. Such outbreaks could be life threatening during the rainy season.

Prison infrastructure often was dilapidated, and untrained guards were unable to provide security.

Information on deaths rates in prisons and pretrial detention centers was unavailable.

Al-Shabaab detained persons in areas under its control in the southern and central regions. Those detained were incarcerated under inhuman conditions for relatively minor “offenses,” such as smoking, having illicit content on cell phones, listening to music, watching or playing soccer, wearing a brassiere, or not wearing a hijab.

Administration: Apart from Central Mogadishu, Garowe, and Hargeisa Prisons, which tracked prisoners and their status, recordkeeping generally was inadequate. Most prisons did not have ombudsmen.

Federal law does not specifically allow prisoners to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship. Somaliland law, however, allows prisoners to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship, and prisoners reportedly submitted such complaints.

Prisoners in Central Mogadishu, Garowe, and Hargeisa Prisons had adequate access to visitors and religious observance; infrastructure limitations in other prisons throughout the country impeded such activities. Many prisoners relied on visitors to provide supplemental food and water.

Independent Monitoring: Somaliland authorities and government authorities in Puntland and Mogadishu permitted prison monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers during the year. Representatives from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime visited prisons in Bosaso, Garowe, and Hargeisa several times. UNSOM representatives, other UN organizations, and humanitarian institutions visited a few prisons throughout the country. Geographic inaccessibility and insecurity impeded such monitoring in territory controlled by al-Shabaab or in remote areas where traditional authorities controlled holding areas.

Improvements: Building on improvements at Central Mogadishu Prison that started with the 2015 appointment of a new federal custodial corps commissioner, authorities relocated juvenile, nonviolent, and female prisoners to a renovated wing of the prison with less overcrowding and better access to running water, toilets, and modest educational and vocational programs. Independent monitors visited Central Mogadishu, Garowe, and Hargeisa Prisons and confirmed improved access and conditions.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

Although the provisional federal constitution prohibits illegal detention, government security forces and allied militias, regional authorities, clan militias, and al-Shabaab arbitrarily arrested and detained persons (see section 1.g.).


The provisional federal constitution states that the armed forces are responsible for assuring the country’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity and that the national federal and state police are responsible for protecting lives, property, peace, and security. Police were generally ineffective and lacked sufficient equipment and training. In Mogadishu, for example, police lacked sufficient vehicles to transfer prisoners from cells to courts or to medical facilities. There were reports of police engaging in corrupt practices.

AMISOM and the SNA worked to maintain order in areas of the southern and central regions. The FGS regularly relied on NISA forces to perform police work, often calling on them to arrest and detain civilians without warrants. Some towns and rural areas in the southern and central regions remained under the control of al-Shabaab and affiliated militias. The Ministry of Defense is responsible for controlling the armed forces. Police forces fall under a mix of local and regional administrations and the government. The national police force remained under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Internal Security, while regional authorities maintained police forces under their areas’ interior or security ministries.

Civilian authorities did not maintain effective control of security forces. Security forces abused civilians and often failed to prevent or respond to societal violence. Although authorities sometimes used military courts to try individuals believed to be responsible for abuse, they generally did not investigate abuse by police, army, or militia members; a culture of impunity was widespread. For example, on August 1, in Mogadishu an SNA soldier reportedly killed a bus driver during an extortion attempt. The soldier was not arrested.

The Ministry of Defense’s control over the army remained tenuous but improved somewhat with the support of international partners. At year’s end the army consisted of between 11,000 and 14,000 soldiers, according to estimates by international organizations. The bulk of forces were located in Middle Shabelle and Lower Shabelle regions, as well as in the ISWA and IJA. The Ministry of Defense exerted some control over forces in the greater Mogadishu area, extending as far south as Lower Shabelle Region, west to Baidoa, Bay Region, and north to Jowhar, Middle Shabelle Region. Army forces and progovernment militia sometimes operated alongside AMISOM in areas where AMISOM was deployed.

The federal police force maintained its presence in all 17 districts of the capital. AMISOM-formed police units complemented local and FGS policing efforts in Mogadishu. These police officers provided mentoring and advisory support on basic police duties, respect for human rights, crime prevention strategies, community policing, and search procedures. More than 300 AMISOM police officers worked alongside the formed units to provide training to national police.


The provisional federal constitution provides for arrested persons to be brought before judicial authorities within 48 hours. The law requires warrants based on sufficient evidence and issued by authorized officials for the apprehension of suspects. The law also provides that arrestees receive prompt notification of the charges against them and judicial determinations, prompt access to a lawyer and family members, and other legal protections. Adherence to these safeguards was rare. The FGS made arrests without warrants and detained individuals arbitrarily. The government sometimes kept high-profile prisoners associated with al-Shabaab in safe houses before officially charging them. The law provides for bail, although authorities did not always respect this provision. Authorities rarely provided indigent persons a lawyer. The government held suspects under house arrest, particularly high-ranking defectors from al-Shabaab with strong clan connections. Security force members and corrupt judicial officers, politicians, and clan elders used their influence to have detainees released.

Arbitrary Arrest: Government and regional authorities arbitrarily arrested and detained numerous persons, including persons accused of terrorism and supporting al-Shabaab. Authorities frequently used allegations of al-Shabaab affiliation to justify arbitrary arrests (see section 1.a.).

Government, regional authorities, and clan militias arbitrarily arrested journalists.

Government forces conducted operations to arrest youths they perceived as suspicious without executing warrants.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was common, although estimates were unavailable on the average length of pretrial detention or the percentage of the prison population being held in pretrial detention. The large number of detainees, shortage of judges and court administrators, and judicial inefficiency resulted in trial delays.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law provides detainees the right to challenge in court the legal basis of their detention, but only politicians and business persons could exercise this right effectively.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The provisional federal constitution states, “The judiciary is independent of the legislative and executive branches of government.” The civilian judicial system, however, remained largely nonfunctional across the country. Some regions established local courts that depended on the dominant local clan and associated factions for their authority. The judiciary in most areas relied on some combination of traditional and customary law, sharia, and formal law. The judiciary was subject to influence and corruption and was strongly influenced by clan-based politics. Authorities did not respect court orders. Civilian judges often feared trying cases, leaving military courts to try the majority of civilian cases.

In Somaliland, functional courts existed, although there was a serious shortage of trained judges, limited legal documentation upon which to build judicial precedent, and increasing allegations of corruption. Somaliland’s hybrid judicial system incorporates sharia (Islamic law), customary law, and formal law, but they were not well integrated. There was widespread interference in the judicial process, and government officials regularly intervened to influence cases, particularly those involving journalists. International NGOs reported local officials interfered in legal matters and invoked the public order law to detain and incarcerate persons without trial.

Puntland courts, while functional, lacked the capacity to provide equal protection under the law and faced similar challenges and limitations as courts in Somaliland.

Traditional clan elders mediated conflicts throughout the country. Clans frequently used and applied traditional justice practices swiftly. Traditional judgments sometimes held entire clans or subclans responsible for alleged violations by individuals.


The provisional federal constitution states, “Every person has the right to a fair public hearing by an independent and impartial court or tribunal, to be held within a reasonable time.” According to the provisional federal constitution, individuals have the right to a presumption of innocence. They also have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them in a language they understand, although the constitution is unclear on whether the right to translation applies through all appeals. Detainees have the right to be brought before a competent court within 48 hours of arrest, to communicate with an attorney of their choice (or have one provided at public expense if indigent), and may not be compelled to incriminate themselves. The law extends these rights to all citizens, but authorities did not respect most rights relating to trial procedures. The provisional constitution does not address access to government-held evidence, confronting witnesses, the right to appeal a court’s ruling, the provision of sufficient time and facilities to prepare a defense, or the right to present one’s own evidence and witnesses.

Military courts tried civilians. Defendants in military courts rarely had legal representation or the right to appeal. Authorities sometimes executed those sentenced to death within days of the court’s verdict (see section 1.a.). Some government officials continued to claim that a 2011 state of emergency decree gave military courts jurisdiction over crimes, including those committed by civilians, in parts of Mogadishu from which al-Shabaab had retreated. There was no clear government policy indicating whether this decree remained in effect.

In Somaliland, defendants generally enjoyed a presumption of innocence and the right to a public trial, to be present at trial, and to consult an attorney at all stages of criminal proceedings. The government did not always inform defendants promptly and in detail of the charges against them and did not always provide access to government-held evidence. The government did not provide defendants with dedicated facilities to prepare a defense but generally provided adequate time to prepare. The government provided defendants with free interpretation or paid for private interpretation if they declined government-offered interpretation from the moment charged through all appeals. Defendants could question witnesses, present witnesses and evidence in their defense, and appeal court verdicts.

Somaliland provided free legal representation for defendants who faced serious criminal charges and could not afford a private attorney. Defendants had the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt. A functioning legal aid clinic existed.

In Puntland clan elders resolved the majority of cases using customary law. The administration’s more formalized judicial system addressed cases of those with no clan representation. Defendants generally enjoyed a presumption of innocence, the right to a public trial, the right to be present and consult an attorney at all stages of criminal proceedings, and the right to appeal. Authorities did not always inform defendants promptly and in detail of the charges against them and did not always provide access to government-held evidence. Defendants had the right to present their own witnesses and evidence. Authorities did not provide defendants with dedicated facilities to prepare a defense but generally provided adequate time to prepare. Puntland authorities provided defendants with free interpretation services when needed. The government often delayed court proceedings for an unreasonable period.

There was no functioning formal judicial system in al-Shabaab-controlled areas. In sharia courts defendants generally did not defend themselves, present witnesses, or have an attorney represent them.


The number of persons detained during the year for politically motivated reasons was unknown. Government and regional authorities arrested journalists as well as other persons critical of authorities.

Somaliland authorities continued to detain Somaliland residents employed by the federal government in Mogadishu, sometimes for extended periods. Somaliland authorities did not authorize officials in Mogadishu to represent Somaliland within or to the federal Somali government and viewed such actions as treason, punishable under the constitution of Somaliland.

During the year Ahmed Hussein Sitin, a member of the federal parliament arrested and detained in July 2015 for returning to Somaliland without government authorization, was released.


There were no known lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations in any region during the year, although the provisional federal constitution provides for “adequate procedures for redress of violations of human rights.”


In Mogadishu the government and others evicted persons, primarily IDP returnees, from their homes without due process (see section 2.d.).

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

According to the provisional federal constitution, “every person has the right to own, use, enjoy, sell, and transfer property” and the private home is inviolable. Nonetheless, authorities searched property without warrants.

During the year AMISOM and Somali forces retained control over several areas liberated from al-Shabaab in 2015. The return of IDPs to areas recently liberated continued to result in disputes over land ownership. There was no formal mechanism to address such disputes.

Government and regional authorities harassed relatives of al-Shabaab members.

Killings: Conflict during the year involving the government, militias, AMISOM, and al-Shabaab resulted in death, injury, and displacement of civilians. Clan-based political violence involved revenge killings and attacks on civilian settlements. Clashes between clan-based forces and with al-Shabaab in the Galmudug, Lower Shabelle, and Hiiraan Regions, also resulted in deaths.

Somaliland used military force to suppress opponents of voter registration in contested regions (see section 1.a.).

According to UNSOM reports, security force attacks against al-Shabaab, other armed groups or individuals, and civilians between January and August resulted in 492 civilian deaths, with casualties attributed to the SNA (44 deaths, 76 injured), AMISOM (eight deaths, nine injured), and Kenya Defense Forces operating bilaterally (38 deaths, including four children, and 11 injured). Al-Shabaab caused significant civilian casualties, including 214 deaths and 346 injured, during that period.

Al-Shabaab committed politically motivated killings that targeted civilians affiliated with the government and attacks on humanitarian NGO employees, UN staff, and diplomatic missions. Al-Shabaab often used suicide attacks, mortar attacks, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). It also killed prominent peace activists, community leaders, clan elders, and their family members for their roles in peace building, and it beheaded persons accused of spying for and collaborating with Somali national forces and affiliated militias.

On August 21, al-Shabaab used vehicle-borne IEDs to attack a government office located next to a market in Galkayo; 23 persons were killed, including government officials, security personnel, students, and merchants.

Abductions: From January to September, al-Shabaab abducted 152 persons, 80 of whom it subsequently released.

Following a September 22 attack on a Kenyan police station in the border town of Liboi, al-Shabaab publicly claimed it had captured two Kenyan police officers. According to Kenyan officials, the two officers remained missing at year’s end.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Government forces, allied militias, men wearing uniforms, and AMISOM troops used excessive force, including torture, and raped women and girls, including IDPs. While the army arrested some security force members accused of such abuse, impunity was the norm.

Al-Shabaab also committed sexual violence, including through forced marriages.

On May 7, 14 AMISOM soldiers from Ethiopia allegedly raped two girls, ages 15 and 17, in the Galguduug Region. AMISOM investigated but stated it could not corroborate the facts sufficiently to convene a board of inquiry.

According to UN Mine Action Service, IEDs killed 267 persons and injured 727; land mines killed one person and injured another; explosive remnants of war killed one person and injured 13.

Child Soldiers: During the year there were continued reports of the SNA and allied militia, the ASWJ, and al-Shabaab using child soldiers.

UN officials documented the recruitment and use during the year of 1,744 children (1,679 boys, 65 girls), including by al-Shabaab (1,091), the SNA (169), clan militia (415), the ASWJ (67), and other armed elements (two). There were 1,381 children (1,306 boys, 75 girls) abducted: 857 by al-Shabaab, 373 by the SNA, 125 by clan militia, and 12 by the ASWJ, with AMISOM and unknown armed elements responsible for seven abductions each. More than half of the children al-Shabaab abducted were used to increase its numbers before joint SNA/AMISOM operations, including the March attack in Puntland. The number recruited during the first half of the year equaled the total number recruited throughout 2015, demonstrating an increase in al-Shabaab recruitment. Children abducted by AMISOM were typically released unharmed within a couple of days. The reason for the abductions remained unclear.

Implementation of the government’s 2012 action plan with the United Nations to end the recruitment and use of children by the national army remained incomplete.

The SNA’s Child Protection Unit (CPU) reported it conducted training awareness campaigns in Mogadishu, Guul Wadayasha, and at the Siyad Army Base on the importance of preventing child recruitment into the security forces. The CPU and regional focal points continued to monitor the SNA, including conducting inspections of the main SNA training center in Mogadishu and several subnational military recruitment and stipend payment locations in Mogadishu, Guul Wadayasha, and at the Siyad Army base. The CPU did not identify any child soldiers during the year.

During the year the United Nations supported the reintegration of 854 children associated with armed forces (722 boys, 132 girls) into their families and communities. Reintegration activities included the provision of psychosocial assistance, “back-to-school” support programs, and vocational training.

Due to the absence of birth registration systems, it was often difficult to determine the age of national security force recruits.

Al-Shabaab continued to recruit and force children to participate in direct hostilities, including suicide attacks. Al-Shabaab raided schools, madrassas, and mosques to recruit children. Children in al-Shabaab training camps were subjected to grueling physical training, inadequate diet, weapons training, physical punishment, and religious training. The training also included forcing children to punish and execute other children. Al-Shabaab used children in combat, including placing them in front of other fighters to serve as human shields and suicide bombers. In addition, al-Shabaab used children in support roles, such as carrying ammunition, water, and food; removing injured and dead militants; gathering intelligence; and serving as guards. The organization sometimes used children to plant roadside bombs and other explosive devices. The Somali press frequently carried accounts of al-Shabaab indoctrinating children at schools and forcibly recruiting students into its ranks.

Authorities transferred children separated from armed groups to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

In March government forces in Puntland and Galkayo captured 108 children fighting alongside al-Shabaab in Puntland and Galkayo. Of the 108 children in Puntland, soldiers transferred 70 to Mogadishu to receive reintegration support from an NGO supported by UNICEF. Although the president of Puntland expressed his commitment not to execute any of the 108 children, 10 received death sentences and 28 received prison sentences ranging from 10 to 20 years, based on age. UNICEF continued to advocate for the reduction of sentences and for the transfer of the remaining 38 children for integration support.

Other Conflict-related Abuse: Armed groups, particularly al-Shabaab but also government forces and militia, deliberately restricted the passage of relief supplies and other items indispensable to the survival of the civilian population as well as access by humanitarian organizations, particularly in the southern and central regions.

Humanitarian workers regularly faced checkpoints, roadblocks, extortion, car-jacking, and bureaucratic obstacles. Humanitarian organizations were often treated with suspicion and extorted. In the first six months of the year, according to the United Nations, more than 80 security-related incidents with direct effect on humanitarian organizations occurred, including the deaths of five aid workers, injuring of eight, arrest of 10, abduction of three, and physical assault on five.

Government forces seized relief supplies. For example, on March 31, SNA forces reportedly intercepted a World Food Program (WFP) truck traveling from Mombasa, Kenya, to El Wak, Somalia, and stole the food. The El Wak local administration recovered the consignment. In May and June, government authorities seized WFP food at the Mogadishu airport following anonymous and incorrect reports that it had expired. While in government custody, the condition of the seized food deteriorated and it was no longer fit for human consumption.

Al-Shabaab also seized relief supplies. For example, on April 13, al-Shabaab seized a truck transporting WFP food commodities near El Wak. WFP halted critical activities outside El Wak, including the treatment of acute malnutrition, until the driver, truck, and commodities were released.

Conflict in contested territories of Sool and Sanaag, between Somaliland and Puntland, restricted humanitarian access. NGOs reported incidents of harassment by local authorities in both Somaliland and Puntland.

Al-Shabaab blocked humanitarian access to 28 districts in southern and central Somalia, including critical transportation routes to areas liberated by AMISOM. Human Rights Watch reported al-Shabaab imposed blockades around Hudur, Bulo-Burte, Elbur, Qoryoley, and other towns that had been liberated by AMISOM and Somali government forces, severely restricting the movement of goods, assistance, and persons.

Al-Shabaab restricted medical care, including by impeding civilian travel to other areas to receive care, destroying medications provided by humanitarian agencies, and closing medical clinics.

International aid organizations evacuated their staff or halted food distribution and other aid-related activities in al-Shabaab-controlled areas due to killings, extortion, threats, harassment, expulsions, and prohibitions by al-Shabaab. On March 15, for example, unidentified gunmen kidnapped three aid workers in the southwest. International aid agencies continued to rely on Somali staff and local organizations to deliver relief assistance, particularly in remote rural areas.

Because of fighting between al-Shabaab, AMISOM, and the SNA, al-Shabaab’s humanitarian access restrictions and taxation on livestock, and the lack of security, many residents in al-Shabaab-controlled areas fled to refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia and IDP camps in other areas of the country. ASWJ militias and federal forces skirmished throughout the year, displacing civilian populations.

South Sudan

Executive Summary

South Sudan is a republic operating under the terms of a peace agreement signed in August 2015. President Salva Kiir Mayardit, whose authority derives from his 2010 election as president of what was then the semiautonomous region of Southern Sudan within the Republic of Sudan, is chief of state and head of government. While the 2010 Sudan-wide elections did not wholly meet international standards, international observers believed Kiir’s election reflected the will of a large majority of Southern Sudanese. International observers considered the 2011 referendum on South Sudanese self-determination, in which 98 percent of voters chose to separate from Sudan, to be free and fair. President Kiir was a founding member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) political party, the political wing of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). Of the 30 ministers in the government, 16 were appointed by Kiir, 10 by the SPLM in Opposition (SPLM-IO), two by a political faction known as the Former Detainees, and two by the group known as “other political parties” as provided for in the peace agreement. The bicameral legislature consists of a Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA) with 400 seats (68 were added in accordance with the peace agreement), of which 296 were filled, and a Council of States with 50 seats. SPLM representatives controlled the vast majority of seats in the legislature. The SPLM-IO alleged, however, that appointments to the 68 new seats did not meet the criteria of the peace agreement. Through presidential decrees, Kiir appointed new governors, having already replaced eight of the 10 state governors elected since 2010. The constitution states that a gubernatorial election must be held within 60 days if an elected governor has been relieved by presidential decree. This has not happened.

Civilian authorities routinely failed to maintain effective control over the security forces.

In 2013 armed conflict between government and opposition forces began when violence erupted within the SPLA’s Presidential Guard, also known as the Tiger Division. Some reports indicated Presidential Guard members of Dinka ethnicity attempted to disarm members of Nuer ethnicity. During the weeks that followed, Dinka members of the Presidential Guard and other security forces reportedly conducted targeted killings of Nuer civilians in Juba. International nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported largescale reciprocal targeting of Dinka civilians by Nuer forces in the city of Bor. The events led to armed conflict between government forces and a newly formed opposition force, the SPLA-IO, in several states and to ethnic violence by civilians that continued throughout 2014 and 2015, despite multiple ceasefire agreements. While initial violence was concentrated in Juba in Central Equatoria state, the conflict quickly spread to–and largely remained in Upper Nile, Jonglei, and Unity states, known collectively as the Greater Upper Nile region. Human rights abuses by government and opposition forces and their associated armed militias occurred on a massive scale.

In April 2015, a largescale government offensive in the Greater Upper Nile region led to some of the worst violence of the conflict. Rape, extrajudicial killings, targeting of civilian populations along ethnic lines, destruction of homes to drive possible opposition supporters into the wilderness, and denial of humanitarian access took place. The numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) increased significantly during the year. In August 2015, members of the armed opposition, Former Detainees (led by 10 former SPLM officials), and the government signed the Intergovernmental Authority on Development Plus Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan. Despite efforts to implement the agreement, fighting continued in some areas, particularly in Upper Nile and Unity states.

In October 2015, the president issued a controversial order to increase the number of the country’s states from 10 to 28, a move that may have contravened the 2011 transitional constitution and some provisions of the peace agreement. The SPLM-IO and Former Detainees protested. Beginning in December 2015, more than 200 members of the SPLM-IO arrived in Juba, as parties began to implement major provisions of the peace agreement, including establishing a transitional government. In April, after months of negotiations, SPLM-IO leader Riek Machar Teny returned to the capital from abroad and was sworn in as first vice president under the terms of a power-sharing agreement. By June; however, little progress had been made to implement the peace agreement.

Early July fighting in Juba between the SPLA and SPLA-IO resulted in more than 300 deaths. Widespread attacks on civilians, including ethnically based killings and sexual assaults, were reported. During approximately five days of fighting in the capital, thousands of persons were displaced, with an estimated 12,000 seeking refuge at UN Protection of Civilians (PoC) sites in the capital. According to the UN Panel of Experts on South Sudan, there was an apparent ethnic dimension to the fighting, and, “the indiscriminate use of weapons by both the SPLA and the SPLA-IO displayed a flagrant disregard for the lives of civilians and the inviolability of UN premises.” Having suffered heavy losses, Machar and hundreds of his fighters fled the capital and, eventually, the country. At year’s end, Machar remained in South Africa.

While fighting in Juba ended in July, it expanded to other parts of the country. The conflict displaced approximately 3.1 million persons displaced internally and as refugees in neighboring countries. In late July, Kiir replaced Machar as first vice president with Taban Deng Gai, a move Machar deemed unconstitutional. Although the SPLM-IO members who remained in Juba selected Gai as Machar’s replacement, other SPLM-IO members questioned the legitimacy of the selection process and Gai’s position as first vice president. At year’s end, ethnic polarization was on the increase, and hate speech, spread by both conventional and social media, was on the rise, accompanied by targeted killings and rape on ethnic lines. In a December 1 press release, the UN Commission on Human Rights warned, “There is already a steady process of ethnic cleansing underway in several areas of South Sudan using starvation, gang rape and the burning of villages.”

The most serious human rights problems in the country were conflict related abuses by government security forces, opposition forces, armed militia groups affiliated with the government and the opposition, and rival ethnic communities, including ethnically based killings of civilians and ethnically based discrimination and violence; extrajudicial killings, abuse, and mass displacement of civilians; and intimidation and inhuman treatment of civilians such as arbitrary arrest and detention, abductions and kidnapping, recruitment and use of an estimated 16,000 child soldiers; and conflict related sexual violence. Attacks on military and civilian targets often resulted in rape, destruction of villages, theft, looting, and revenge attacks on civilians. Security force abuses unrelated to the armed conflict included extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, intimidation, unlawful detention, and other inhuman treatment of civilians.

Other human rights abuses included harassment, intimidation, and violence against journalists, civil society organizations, and human rights defenders; harsh prison conditions; lack of access to justice, including arbitrary arrest and indefinite pretrial detention; government restriction of freedoms of privacy, speech, press, and association; and abductions related to inter-communal and inter-ethnic conflict, particularly of women and children. Corruption among government officials was pervasive. Violence and discrimination against women and children and within communities by officials were widespread. In addition, trafficking in persons, government incitement of tribal violence, and child labor, including forced labor, also occurred.

Security force abuses occurred throughout the country. Impunity was widespread and remained a major problem.

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

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

The United Nations, human rights organizations, and media reported the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Security forces, opposition forces, armed militias affiliated with the government and the opposition, and ethnically based groups were also responsible for extrajudicial killings in expanding conflict zones (see section 1.g.).

There were numerous reported unlawful killings similar to the following example: On July 11, John Gatluak, a radio journalist was shot and killed, allegedly by government forces, when the Terrain Hotel compound in Juba was attacked. According to multiple sources, Gatluak was targeted for being an ethnic Nuer.

b. Disappearance

Security and opposition forces, armed militias affiliated with the government or the opposition, and ethnically based groups abducted an unknown number of persons, including women and children (see section 1.g.). There were regular reports security forces conducted arbitrary arrests, including of journalists, civil society actors, and supposed political opponents.

There were numerous reported disappearances similar to the following: On June 4, journalist Isaac Vuni and his brother were kidnapped from their home near the border with Uganda, allegedly by men in military uniforms. On September 26, Vuni’s body was discovered on a farm in the vicinity. Vuni reportedly died from a gunshot wound. While the motivation for his murder remained unclear, Vuni had previously been detained in connection with his work. In 2009 he was arrested for reporting the SPLA and the government was implicated in a financial scandal. In 2011 he was detained during a crackdown on local journalists.

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

The transitional constitution prohibits such practices, but security forces tortured, beat, and harassed political opponents, journalists, and human rights workers (see sections 2.a. and 5). Government and opposition forces, armed militia groups affiliated with both, and warring ethnic groups committed torture and abuses in conflict zones (see section 1.g.).

There were numerous reported abuses similar to the following example: According to UN reporting, in July, during fighting in Juba and in the days following the fighting, government soldiers raped women and girls in the PoC sites and in area homes.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were harsh and potentially life threatening. Overcrowding and inadequate medical care at times resulted in illness and death. While some prisons employed doctors, medical care was rudimentary, and prison physicians often had inadequate training and supplies. There were reports of abuse by prison guards.

Physical Conditions: Men and women were generally, but not always, held in separate areas, but male and female inmates often mixed freely during the day due to space constraints. Due to overcrowding authorities did not always hold juveniles separately from adults and rarely separated pretrial detainees from convicted prisoners. Children, especially infants, often lived with their mothers in prison.

Health care and sanitation were inadequate, and basic medical supplies and equipment were lacking. According to NGOs, prisoners received one meal per day and relied on family or friends for additional food. Potable water was limited. In some locations prisoners slept in overcrowded open hallways and buildings lined with bunk beds. Ventilation and lighting were inadequate.

Malnutrition and lack of medical care contributed to inmate deaths, although no statistics were available.

Detention centers were under the control of local tribal or state authorities, and conditions were uniformly harsh and life threatening. Many facilities in rural areas consisted of uncovered spaces where authorities chained detainees to a wall, fence, or tree, often unsheltered from the sun. As with state run prisons, sanitary and medical facilities were poor or nonexistent, and potable water was limited. Detainees sometimes spent days outdoors but slept inside in areas that lacked adequate ventilation and lighting.

Conditions in SPLA run detention facilities were similar, and in some cases worse, with many detainees held outdoors with poor access to sanitary or medical facilities.

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) maintained facilities at PoC sites in Juba, Malakal, Bentiu, and Bor to hold IDPs who were criminal suspects. Authorities did not intend the holding facilities to house IDPs for more than 72 hours but sometimes held IDP suspects longer due to delays in determining how to treat individual cases. UNMISS observed prisoners daily and offered medical treatment for serious complications. Prisoners received food twice a day.

The National Security Service (NSS) operated a detention facility in Juba that held civilian prisoners (see section 1.d.).

Administration: The National Prison Service (NPS) continued weekly reporting of prisoner totals from all state prisons to its Juba headquarters, including statistics on juveniles and persons with mental disabilities (see section 1.d.). There were no prison ombudsmen.

Nonviolent offenders were kept with violent offenders because of resource and spatial constraints. There were a reported 132 juveniles in detention. The NPS reported holding 162 inmates with mental disabilities determined by a judge to be sufficiently dangerous (and “mentally ill”) after referral by family or the community, incarcerating, medicating, and keeping them in detention until a medical evaluation revealed they were no longer ill and could depart.

The NPS allowed prisoners access to visitors and permitted them to take part in religious observances, but NSS and SPLA authorities were less likely to do so. The NPS allowed prisoners to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and to request investigation of allegations of inhuman conditions; prison authorities sometimes investigated such allegations, although they seldom took action.

Independent Monitoring: The NPS permitted visits by independent human rights observers, including UNMISS human rights officers, nongovernmental observers, international organizations, and journalists. Although authorities sometimes permitted monitors to visit detention facilities operated by the SPLA, they rarely, if ever, permitted monitors to visit facilities operated by the NSS, which held both military prisoners and civilians without legal authority.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The transitional constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention without charge. The government, however, arrested and detained individuals arbitrarily. Since the start of the crisis in 2013, there were numerous reports of arbitrary arrests and detentions (see sections 1.a., 1.c., and 1.g.). While not legally vested with the power to arrest or detain civilians, the SPLA often did so. The NSS also routinely detained civilians. Security services rarely reported such arrests to police, other civilian authorities, or, in the case of foreigners arrested, diplomatic missions. Police also routinely arrested civilians based on little or no evidence prior to conducting investigations and often held them for weeks or months without charge or trial.

There were numerous reported arbitrary arrests or detentions similar to the following example: On June 26, men in military intelligence uniforms arrested the former governor of newly created Wau State, Elias Waya Nyipuoch, at his residence in Juba. He remained in detention, and by year’s end no charges had been brought against him. Nyipuoch had been relieved of office on June 24.


The South Sudan National Police Service, under the Ministry of Interior, is responsible for law enforcement and maintenance of order. It consisted largely of former SPLA soldiers, was poorly trained, corrupt, and widely distrusted. Authorities often based detentions on accusations rather than investigations. They rarely investigated complaints of police abuse. Police often went months without pay; they solicited bribes or sought compensation, often in the form of food or fuel, for services rendered to civilians.

The SPLA is responsible for providing security throughout the country and ostensibly operates under the Ministry of Defense and Veterans’ Affairs; current and former military personnel staff the ministry. The SPLA does not have law enforcement authority, unless acting at the request of civil authorities. Nevertheless, the SPLA regularly exercised police functions, in part due to the limited presence and general ineffectiveness of law enforcement in many areas. It routinely detained persons, including in SPLA run detention facilities to which monitors generally had little or no access. The SPLA’s approach to internal security and civilian disarmament was often unsystematic and disproportionate, contributing to conflict within and between communities while undermining the government’s legitimacy in conflict areas. The law requires cases of SPLA abuse of civilians to be heard in civilian courts, but there were no reports of cases being referred.

The NSS, which has arrest and detention authority only in matters relating to national security, often detained civil society activists, businesspersons, NGO personnel, journalists, and others to intimidate them, particularly if the NSS believed they supported opposition figures. Authorities rarely investigated complaints of arbitrary detention, harassment, excessive force, and torture.

Impunity of the security services was a serious problem. Although some internal investigations within the army and police were reportedly launched, no cases of security sector abuse were referred to civilian courts. According to media reports, the SPLA court-martialed at least 60 soldiers accused of looting and other human right abuses in July in Juba; however, undue command influence over the military justice system was a persistent problem.


While the law requires police to bring arrested persons before a public prosecutor, magistrate, or court within 24 hours, there were no public prosecutors or magistrates available below the county level in most areas. Court dockets often were overwhelmed, and cases faced long delays before coming before a judge. Police may detain individuals for 24 hours without charge. A public prosecutor may authorize an extension up to one week, and a magistrate may authorize extensions of up to two weeks. Authorities did not always inform detainees of charges against them and regularly held them past the statutory limit without explanation. Police sometimes ignored court orders to bring arrested persons before the court. Police, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges were often unaware of the statutory requirement that detainees appear before a judge as quickly as possible. Police commonly conducted arrests without warrants, and warrants were often irregular, handwritten documents. Warrants were commonly drafted in the absence of investigation or evidence.

The code of criminal procedure allows bail, but this provision was widely unknown or ignored by justice sector authorities, and they rarely informed detainees of this possibility. Because pretrial appearances before judges often were delayed far past statutory limits, authorities rarely had the opportunity to adjudicate bail requests before trial. Those arrested had a right to an attorney, but the country had few lawyers, and detainees were rarely informed of this right. The transitional constitution mandates access to legal representation without charge for the indigent, but defendants rarely received legal assistance if they did not pay for it. Authorities sometimes held detainees incommunicado.

Arbitrary Arrest: Security forces arbitrarily arrested opposition leaders, civil society activists, businesspersons, journalists, and other civilians due to ethnicity or possible affiliation with opposition forces. The SPLA and NSS often abused political opponents and others whom they detained without charge. Ignorance of the law and proper procedures also led to many arbitrary detentions. Many justice sector actors, including police and judges, operated under a victim-centric approach that prioritized restitution and satisfaction for victims of crime, rather than following legal procedure. This approach led to many arbitrary arrests of citizens who were simply in the vicinity when crimes occurred, were of a certain ethnicity, or were relatives of suspects. For example, there were numerous reports women were detained when their husbands, accused of having unpaid debts, could not be located.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was a problem, due largely to the lack of lawyers and judges, the difficulty of locating witnesses, misunderstanding of constitutional and legal requirements by police, prosecutors, and judges, and the absence of a strong mechanism to compel witness attendance in court. The length of pretrial detention commonly equaled or exceeded the sentence for the alleged crime. Estimates of the number of pretrial detainees ranged from one-third to two-thirds of the prison population. The chronic lack of access to law enforcement officers and judicial systems became even more severe as armed conflict displaced officials (see section 1.g.). In October the NPS reported approximately 30 children were being held in pretrial detention in Juba Central Prison, some for up to eight years.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The Code of Criminal Procedure Act, 2008 (Article 50 (305)) provides compensation for wrongful arrest if the court determines there was no sufficient ground for detention. In practice, there were no known cases where an appellant successfully sought compensation for wrongful detention.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The transitional constitution provides for an independent judiciary and recognizes customary law. While the law requires the government to maintain courts at federal, state, and county levels, lack of infrastructure and trained personnel made this impossible, and few statutory courts existed below the state level.

In the majority of communities, customary courts remained the principal providers of justice services. Customary courts maintained primary authority to adjudicate most crimes other than murder. Customary courts can deal with certain aspects of murder cases if judges remit the cases to them to process under traditional procedures and determine compensation according to the customs of the persons concerned. If this happens, the judge can sentence the individual who commits a killing to no more than 10 years. Government courts also heard cases of violent crime and acted as appeals courts for verdicts issued by customary bodies. Legal systems employed by customary courts varied, with most emphasizing restorative dispute resolution and some borrowing elements of sharia (Islamic law). Government sources estimated customary courts handled 80 percent of all cases due to the capacity limitations of statutory courts.

Political pressure, corruption, discrimination toward women, and the lack of a competent investigative police service undermined both statutory and customary courts. Patronage priorities or political allegiances of traditional elders or chiefs commonly influenced verdicts in customary courts. Despite numerous pressures, some judges appeared to operate independently.

Human rights organizations raised concerns about a court martial that reportedly convicted approximately 77 soldiers of crimes associated with the July violence. In early August, monitoring groups were told there would be a court-martial and they would be provided with information so they could attend the proceedings. Approximately two weeks later, they were informed the proceedings had already taken place. An advocate for one of the accused reported he had not had time to confer with his client.


Under the transitional constitution defendants are presumed innocent and have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of charges (with free interpretation as necessary), be tried fairly and publicly without undue delay, be present at any criminal trial against them, confront witnesses against them, present witnesses and evidence, not be compelled to incriminate themselves, and to legal counsel.

Despite these protections, law enforcement officers and statutory and customary court authorities commonly presumed suspects to be guilty, and suspects faced serious infringements of their rights. Free interpretation was rarely, if ever, offered. Most detainees were not informed promptly of the charges against them. Prolonged detentions often occurred, and defendants generally did not have adequate access to facilities to prepare a defense. While court dates were set without regard for providing adequate time to prepare a defense, long remands often meant detainees with access to a lawyer had sufficient time to prepare. Defendants generally did not have access to government evidence, which often was minimal due to the government’s lack of forensic capability. Magistrates often compelled defendants to testify, and the absence of lawyers at many judicial proceedings often left defendants without recourse.

Public trials were the norm both in customary courts, which usually took place outdoors, and in statutory courts. Some high level court officials opposed media access to courts and asserted media should not comment on pending cases. The right to be present at trial and to confront witnesses was sometimes respected, but in statutory courts, the difficulty of summoning witnesses often precluded exercise of these rights. No government legal aid structure existed.

Defendants did not necessarily have access to counsel or the right of appeal, and discrimination against women was common. Some customary courts, particularly those in urban areas, had fairly sophisticated procedures, and verdicts were consistent. Some customary court judges in Juba kept records that were equal to or better than those kept in government courts.


There were reports of political prisoners and detainees, which civil society groups estimated to number in the dozens at any given time. Authorities typically held them from a few hours to a few days or weeks prior to release, usually without charge, reportedly in an effort to intimidate or stifle opposition.

For example, Professor Leonzio Angole Onek, Dean of the College of Applied and Industrial Sciences at the University of Juba, was arrested in December 2015 and detained until April 25 without charge. According to Amnesty International, Onek was one of 35 individuals detained illegally at NSS headquarters in Juba. Reportedly, most had been detained for contacts with the SPLM-IO and/or SPLA-IO. Onek was released in April, apparently because of a worsening medical condition.


Statutory and customary courts provided the only options for those seeking to bring claims to address human rights violations, and these claims were subject to the same limitations that affected the justice sector in general.


The government rarely provided proportionate and timely restitution for the government’s confiscation of property.

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

The transitional constitution prohibits interference with private life, family, home, and correspondence. Authorities, however, reportedly violated these prohibitions.

To induce suspects to surrender, officials at times held family members in detention centers.

During the conflict between the government and opposition forces that began in 2013, security forces, opposition forces, armed militias affiliated with the government and the opposition, and civilians committed conflict related abuses and violations around the country. Patterns of abuse continued throughout 2015 and intensified after renewed fighting broke out during the year.

Casualty totals were difficult to estimate because the belligerents typically did not maintain accurate records. The number of IDPs and refugees increased to approximately 1.3 million at year’s end. International NGOs and the United Nations reported atrocities including the targeting of civilians, rape and gang rape employed as a weapon of war, and the mass destruction of homes and personal property.

Killings: In February fighting broke out between armed actors at the UNMISS PoC site in Malakal town, where an estimated 50,000 IDPs were sheltering. Fighting among armed elements aligned along ethnic lines–Dinka, Shilluk, and Nuer–resulted in the deaths of more than 29 persons. More than 140 were injured. According to the United Nations, government soldiers involved in the fighting fired on IDPs, and looted and burned humanitarian equipment. A February 29 UN Security Council press statement, “stressed that attacks against civilians and United Nations premises may constitute war crimes.”

In July a series of clashes between government and opposition forces sparked days of intense fighting in Juba and resulted in the deaths of approximately 300 persons. Both sides sustained casualties when fighting broke out July 8 between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and others loyal to First Vice President Riek Machar, during a meeting between the two leaders. Two days later, during intense fighting across the capital, several civilians and two peacekeepers were killed.

Government forces were accused of widespread human rights abuses during the fighting and in the days following. According to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, while some civilians were accidentally killed in the exchange of fire between opposing forces, others were specifically targeted, largely for suspected affiliation with the SPLM-IO or SPLA-IO. Targeting along ethnic lines was also reported. According to UN reports, on July 11, SPLA soldiers arrested eight civilians in house-to-house searches, and brought them to a nearby hotel where they executed four of them. According to the report of a government investigative committee, government forces were responsible for the murder of a Nuer journalist during the attack on the Terrain hotel compound.

Following the fighting in Juba, ethnic skirmishes intensified in pockets around the country, in particular in Leer, Malakal, and Yei. In October, attacks on buses leaving Juba by armed men believed to be associated with the opposition left more than 25 dead. The majority of those killed were Dinka women and children.

Scorched earth tactics typical of the way all the armed forces conducted operations included: killing and raping civilians; looting cattle and goods; destroying property to prevent the return of those who had managed to flee, followed by repeated incursions into an area to ensure those who had fled did not return; and frequently obstructing humanitarian assistance. These actions multiplied the numbers of displaced civilians, who often were forced to travel great distances in dangerous circumstances to reach the shelter, food, and safety of UN-run PoC camps or to hide in marshes where they risked drowning or starvation.

Abductions: Abductions, particularly of children, took place in both conflict and non-conflict zones as government and opposition forces and affiliated armed militia groups recruited children and women against their will.

On April 15, armed men from the Murle ethnic group reportedly attacked 13 Nuer villages in the Gambella region of Ethiopia. According to the United Nations, the attack led to more than 200 deaths and the abduction of an estimated 159 children. Another 80 persons were reportedly wounded and more than 2,000 cattle stolen. In the first two months after the attack, Ethiopian and South Sudanese authorities rescued 91 children, but at year’s end, more than 60 remained unaccounted.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Government, opposition forces, and armed militias affiliated with the government and the opposition tortured, raped, and otherwise abused civilians in conflict areas.

Sexual and gender-based violence, and conflict related sexual violence, were widespread. Rape was used widely as a weapon of war. In an August 1 press release, UNMISS stated, over the preceding few weeks, it had received reports of widespread sexual violence, including rape and gang rape of women and young girls, by soldiers in uniform and also by unidentified armed groups of men in plainclothes. UN officials who interviewed survivors reported gang rape was common. Monitors described how groups of armed men went house-to-house in the Jebel neighborhood of Juba, looting and raping. The UN Human Rights Division catalogued more than 100 separate cases in Juba alone of sexual violence against and rape of unarmed civilians, including gang rapes and sexual abuse of minors between July 8 and August 1. Men were also victims of sexual violence, but on a far reduced scale.

Child Soldiers: Following the outbreak of conflict in 2013, forced conscription by government forces, as well as recruitment and use of child soldiers by both government and anti-government forces increased. During the year, there were widespread reports government forces were recruiting child soldiers. Opposition forces and affiliated armed militias also recruited child soldiers.

International organization experts estimated 16,000 child soldiers had been recruited in the country since the conflict began in 2013 and blamed government, opposition, and militia forces. On August 19, UNICEF announced more than 650 children had been recruited into armed groups between January and August.

The August 2015 peace agreement mandated specialized international agencies work with all warring parties to demobilize and reintegrate child soldiers from the SPLA, the SPLA-IO, the Nuer White Army, and other groups, usually those involved in community defense. Between January and June 2015, UNICEF’s program in the Greater Pibor (Jonglei State) Administrative Authority demobilized and reintegrated 1,755 child soldiers, most of whom were released by chief administrator David Yau Yau’s Cobra Faction. Another 145 children were released in October. UNICEF warned renewed fighting undermined the progress it had made in demobilizing and reintegrating child soldiers, and acknowledged some of the children had been re-recruited.

Also, see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

Other Conflict-related Abuse: Throughout the year the environment for humanitarian operations grew increasingly difficult and dangerous as the geographic scope of humanitarian need expanded. Armed actors, including government and opposition forces, continued to restrict the ability of the United Nations and relief organizations to function safely and effectively deliver humanitarian assistance to populations in need. Access was impeded by direct denials, bureaucratic barriers, and renewed fighting in areas of the country where humanitarian needs were highest. Despite repeated safety assurances, armed elements harassed and killed relief workers, looted and destroyed humanitarian assets and facilities, and imposed bureaucratic impediments on relief organizations. On multiple occasions, fighting between armed forces put the safety and security of humanitarian workers at risk, prevented travel, forced the evacuation of relief workers, and jeopardized humanitarian operations, including forcing organizations to suspend operations entirely in areas of active conflict. Between the start of the crisis in December 2013 and December, relief workers recorded more than 2,500 incidents of access denial or interference by the SPLA, SPLA-IO, or other armed elements. During the year, relief organizations reported more than 683 humanitarian access incidents, including 100 in November. Delayed flight safety assurances, insecurity, and movement restrictions often prevented relief workers from traveling to conflict and nonconflict areas. Humanitarian personnel, independently or through a UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) access working group, negotiated with the SPLA, SPLA-IO, and other armed groups to address access problems; however, these negotiations were often protracted and caused significant delays in the delivery of assistance.

The humanitarian operating environment became more volatile, increasingly jeopardizing the safety of humanitarian workers throughout the country. The most common forms of violence against humanitarian workers included robbery and looting, harassment, armed attacks, commandeering of vehicles, and physical detention. UNMISS reported at least 67 humanitarian staff members had been killed in the country since December 2013, 22 of them during the reporting year. For example, unidentified armed actors ambushed a group of Danish Refugee Council relief workers traveling in marked vehicles near Central Equatoria State’s Yei town on April 12, resulting in the deaths of two South Sudanese humanitarian staff.

Armed actors clashed in the UNMISS PoC site in Upper Nile state’s Malakal town from February 17-18. The violence and subsequent events resulted in at least 29 deaths, including of three aid workers, and injured more than 140. Fire that began during the violence destroyed several humanitarian facilities, including three medical clinics, two schools, nutrition centers, and water tanks.

In late February, violence broke out in Jonglei state’s Pibor town, displacing thousands of civilians and forcing the relocation of relief workers. Humanitarian assets, including lifesaving nutrition supplies meant to treat 600 severely malnourished children, medical equipment, fuel, and medicines, were looted. The fighting also destroyed Pibor’s Humanitarian Hub, which provided workspace and accommodation for more than 40 aid workers.

Armed elements looted humanitarian assets and facilities during fighting in Western Bahr el Ghazal State’s Raja town on June 15. According to OCHA, the attackers looted six humanitarian compounds and the town’s main health clinic, stole three International Committee of the Red Cross vehicles, and attacked and looted a WFP warehouse in Raja.

Restrictions on humanitarian operations took other forms as well. From June 24-25, fighting in Western Bahr el Ghazal State’s Wau town displaced thousands; an estimated 79,200 persons remain displaced in and outside the town at year’s end. The violence prompted the NGO World Concern to suspend activities in the town and evacuate 10 staff members. Although relief organizations were able to assist populations outside Wau in late June and early July, access outside the town was severely limited in the months that followed. Humanitarian workers attempting to travel outside Wau were frequently stopped at checkpoints, harassed, and threatened by armed elements. On September 15, a humanitarian team planning to deliver assistance to populations outside Wau was denied access at a checkpoint, despite assurances and a letter from authorities approving unrestricted access.

Clashes between SPLA and SPLA-IO forces broke out in Juba on July 8. The violence resulted in the deaths of hundreds, including two UN peacekeepers, and temporarily displaced as many as 42,000 persons. During the clashes, armed actors and civilians looted the primary WFP warehouse in the city. Prior to the incident, the warehouse contained an estimated 4,500 metric tons of emergency food and nutrition commodities, as well as fuel, generators, office equipment, vehicles, and other items. The WFP estimated the looted nutrition supplies would have been sufficient to provide one-month rations to 220,000 persons. The looting resulted in a financial loss to WFP of approximately $28 million, including $8 million in nutrition commodities.

Artillery shells struck the maternity wing of International Medical Corp’s (IMC) hospital in the UNMISS House PoC site during the Juba clashes. The incident did not injure IMC staff or patients, although the attack forced IMC to relocate patients to another facility inside the PoC site. Despite significant impediments, including fuel and water shortages, IMC was able to continue treating injured persons during the fighting.

The early July violence in Juba spread through the Greater Equatoria region of Central Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria, and Western Equatoria states. In Central Equatoria’s Yei, armed actors from both sides nearly surrounded the town with checkpoints that inhibited civilian and humanitarian movement in and out of the town, preventing persons from harvesting crops and delaying relief operations. In addition, road attacks were frequently reported in the region throughout the year; unidentified persons launched four ambushes of humanitarian workers between September 28 and October 2. During the incidents NGO vehicles were shot at and damaged, and aid workers were robbed of personal belongings. An aid worker traveling in a clearly marked NGO vehicle was killed in another ambush near Eastern Equatoria’s Torit town on October 14.

Fighting that began on July 13 in Unity State’s Leer County forced an estimated 350 persons, including relief workers, to seek refuge at a nearby UNMISS base. As a result of the clashes, more than 50 aid workers were evacuated from Leer between July 14 and 20. Due to violence, an estimated 1,600 persons were sheltering at the UNMISS base in early December.

In addition to physical security challenges, bureaucratic access constraints seriously affected humanitarian workers’ ability to deliver timely aid to populations in need. In July government delays in providing tax exemption papers left WFP-contracted trucks stranded on the Uganda-South Sudan border. The 27 trucks, carrying more than 700 metric tons of nutrition commodities, were kept at the border for more than a month until WFP could obtain the paperwork, incurring more than SSP 31.6 million ($400,000) in demurrage charges.

During the year, government officials hindered humanitarian air operations on several occasions. In late July, they demanded the WFP provide renewed clearances for air operations into South Sudan originating from Ethiopia. Resolving the issue required more than two weeks of negotiations and seriously delayed WFP distributions of emergency food assistance. On September 3, the government began requiring flight safety assurances for airdrops to all locations in the country, regardless of conflict status. This included Northern Bahr el Ghazal state, government-controlled territory that had not seen conflict yet, which faced the most acute food insecurity and had the greatest need for food assistance. The new requirement postponed WFP airdrop operations in that area for nearly two weeks.

Abyei is a disputed region between Sudan and South Sudan that, according to agreements between the two governments, is to be jointly administered until a referendum on the final status of the area is held. After South Sudanese independence, the United Nations established the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). The security situation in Abyei was calm but unpredictable throughout the year. UNISFA reported some progress in communities returning property/livestock or receiving compensation for stolen property/livestock. The mission also noted a peaceful reverse migration of Misseriya communities. Crime remained a problem, but there was a decrease in thefts and break-ins at UN and UNISFA compounds.

UNISFA and NGOs continued to provide humanitarian assistance to more than 130,000 vulnerable persons in Abyei. The conflict in South Sudan undercut the provision of aid, including by forcing the temporary relocation of international staff to Juba; looting of supplies procured in South Sudan and subsequent cost increases for those supplies; and delays in NGO activities. An estimated 1,000 displaced South Sudanese transited Abyei towards Sudan.


Executive Summary

Sudan is a republic with power concentrated in the hands of authoritarian President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and his inner circle. The National Congress Party (NCP) maintained control of the government, continuing 27 years of near-absolute political authority. The country last held national elections (presidential and National Assembly) in April 2015. Key opposition parties boycotted the elections when the government failed to meet their preconditions, including a cessation of hostilities, holding of an inclusive “national dialogue,” and fostering of an environment conducive to discussions between the government and opposition on needed reforms and the peace process. In the period prior to the elections, security forces arrested many supporters, members, and leaders of boycotting parties and confiscated numerous newspapers, conditions that observers said created a repressive environment not conducive to free and fair elections. Only 46 percent of eligible voters participated in the elections, according to the government-controlled National Electoral Commission (NEC), but others believed the turn out to have been much lower. The NEC declared President Bashir winner of the elections with 94 percent of the votes.

Civilian authorities at times did not maintain effective control over the security forces. Some armed elements did not openly identify with a particular security entity, making it difficult to determine under whose control they operated. In January 2015 the NCP absolute-majority parliament broadened the mandate of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) to include authorities previously reserved for the armed forces.

Since January 2014 the president has led a national dialogue process aimed at solving the country’s internal political and social challenges. In October the political forces participating in the national dialogue concluded the process by signing the National Document, which includes the general features of a future constitution to be finalized by transitional institutions. Most opposition groups boycotted the process; many doubted the government’s commitment to genuine dialogue and peacebuilding. Meanwhile, parallel negotiations between the government and other opposition movements continued primarily under auspices of the African Union High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP).

In March the government unilaterally signed the AUHIP “Roadmap” in a move toward consensus on a monitored cessation of hostilities and humanitarian access. On June 17, President Bashir declared a four-month unilateral cessation of hostilities in Blue Nile and South Kordofan (the “Two Areas”) and an end to offensive military actions in Darfur. In August key armed movements and holdout opposition parties signed onto the AUHIP Roadmap. In October, President Bashir extended the ceasefire for a two-month period; on December 31, he declared a one-month extension of its cessation of hostilities in conflict zones.

The three most significant human rights problems were inability of citizens to choose their government, aerial bombardments of civilian areas by military forces and attacks on civilians by government and other armed groups in conflict zones, and abuses perpetrated by NISS with impunity through special security powers given it by the regime. On January 14, the government launched an intensive aerial and ground offensive against Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid (SLA/AW) strongholds in the Jebel Marra area of Darfur. This operation displaced more than 44,700 persons by January 31, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). In February the government established in Darfur a suboffice of the National Human Rights Commission to enhance the commission’s capacity to monitor human rights in Darfur. Meanwhile, ground forces comprising Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and Border Guards carried out attacks against more than 50 villages in an attempt to dislodge the armed opposition. Attacks on villages often included killing and beating of civilians; sexual and gender-based violence; forced displacement; looting and burning entire villages; destroying food stores and other infrastructure necessary for sustaining life; and attacks on humanitarian targets, including humanitarian facilities and peacekeepers. In September, Amnesty International issued a report alleging that, through September the government engaged in scorched-earth tactics and used chemical weapons in Jebel Marra, Darfur. UN monitors were unable to verify the alleged use of chemical weapons, due in part to lack of access to Jebel Marra, including by rebel commanders loyal to Abdel Wahid. By year’s end the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had not been presented with sufficient corroborating evidence to conclude chemical weapons had been used.

The NISS continued to show a pattern of widespread disregard for rule of law, committing major abuses, such as extrajudicial and other unlawful killings; torture, beatings, rape and other cruel or inhuman treatment or punishment; arbitrary arrest and detention by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; incommunicado detention; prolonged pretrial detention; obstruction of humanitarian assistance; restrictions on freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, and movement; and intimidation and closure of human rights and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

Societal abuses included discrimination against women; sexual violence; female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C); early childhood marriage; use of child soldiers; child abuse; sexual exploitation of children; trafficking in persons; discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, persons with disabilities, and persons with HIV/AIDS; denial of workers’ rights; and child labor.

Government authorities did not investigate human rights violations by NISS, the military or any other branch of the security services, with limited exceptions relating to the national police. The government failed to adequately compensate families of victims of shootings during the September 2013 protests, make its investigations public, or hold security officials accountable. Impunity remained a problem in all branches of the security forces.

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

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

There were numerous reports government forces and ethnic militia groups committed arbitrary and unlawful killings of civilians in connection with the conflicts in Darfur and the Two Areas. Unlike previous years, abuses in Abyei were mostly the result of intercommunal violence.

Security forces used fatal excessive force against civilians, demonstrators, and detainees, including in the conflict zones (see section 1.g.).

On January 31, NISS agents detained Salah Gamar Ibrahim, a Darfuri student aligned with a Sudan Liberation Army-Abdel Wahid (SLA/AW)-affiliated student political organization, following a political forum. According to family members, NISS agents “dumped [him] in a critical state” outside his family’s home that same day. His family immediately took him to the hospital, where the next day a doctor recommended transferring him from Darfur to Khartoum for further treatment. NISS rejected the request, and Ibrahim died the same day. As of year’s end, the government had not released results of an investigation.

There were numerous abuses reported similar to the following examples: On April 20, the administration of Kordofan University ordered the closure of the university indefinitely due to the killing of student Abu Baker Hashim reportedly by the NISS during April 19 university student elections in El Obeid, North Kordofan. The school remained closed until July 31, when it reopened with a heavily armed police presence. On April 28, al-Ahlia Omdurman University ordered the school’s indefinite closure due to the killing of student Mohammed al-Sadig in April 27 clashes between progovernment and opposition students on campus. No investigations were made public.

In 2014 security forces used force and live ammunition to disperse students at the University of Khartoum protesting escalating violence in Darfur. One student, Ali Abakar Musa Idris, died of injuries. As of year’s end, the government had not released any report on the incident.

In August 2015 the government announced it would compensate families of the victims of the September 2013 protests. The Sudan Advisory Council for Human Rights reported that 81 of 85 families had agreed to accept financial compensation, while four requested authorities to open court cases. Observers estimated 200 deaths resulted from the protests. According to the government, families not initially identified for compensation were eligible for compensation if a court so decided. It was not clear this decision was publicly known. In November 2015 media reported that the Ministry of Justice had allocated three million Sudanese pounds (SDG) ($450,000) to compensate the families of the 85 identified victims killed in the protests, equivalent to 40,000 SDG ($6,000) for each victim. In addition 35 million SDG ($5.3 million) would go toward compensating victims who suffered property damage. Some members of parliament recommended postponing compensation until perpetrators of the crimes were brought to justice. Other members suggested that neither compensation nor criminal prosecutions were needed because the security forces were acting in official capacities. As of August the government had not released a report on the events of September 2013, and no lawyers representing the victims’ families reported that any of the claimants had been compensated. A prominent activist published an article challenging the government to publish the name of one compensated family member. The government gave no response. A lawyer for one family reported that most families preferred justice and accountability for perpetrators rather than compensation.

During the year President Bashir continued to have two outstanding warrants for arrest against him based on International Criminal Court (ICC) indictments in 2009 and 2010 for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity in Darfur. Nonetheless, Bashir still traveled by invitation to countries including Ethiopia, China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Uganda, Chad, Rwanda, Mauritania, Djibouti, Morocco, Equatorial Guinea, and the United Arab Emirates.

b. Disappearance

There were reports of politically motivated disappearances. As in prior years, this included disappearances in non-conflict (as well as conflict) areas.

On May 5, nine University of Khartoum student protesters were seeking legal counsel at the office of lawyer Nabil Adeeb when NISS personnel forcibly entered, severely beat Adeeb’s staff and clients, and took the students and one staff member to unknown locations, later revealed to be NISS facilities in Khartoum and Omdurman. NISS arrested six more student protesters from their and their friends’ homes. Following domestic and international pressure, all 14 students were released. They all reported suffering physical and verbal abuse while in NISS custody, and some showed visible signs of torture. As of November, a 15th student, Asim Omer, who was arrested separately on the University of Khartoum campus, remained in custody and had been charged with murder of a police officer. Trials were underway, although delayed considerably.

According to the government, NISS maintained public information offices to receive inquiries about missing or detained family members. Families of missing or detained persons often reported that such inquiries went unanswered. In November and December, the government detained dozens of persons in front of witnesses but later refused to confirm that it had custody of any of them. In some instances, national police admitted arrest and transfer of persons to NISS custody, but NISS later would not admit custody.

There were no developments in the alleged NISS abduction of political activist Sandra Kadouda in April 2015.

Government forces and armed criminal elements were responsible for the disappearance of civilians, humanitarian workers, and UN and other international personnel in conflict areas (see section 1.g.).

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

The 2005 Interim National Constitution prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, but security forces, government-aligned groups, rebel groups, and ethnic factions continued to torture, beat, and harass suspected political opponents, rebel supporters, and others.

In accordance with the government’s interpretation of sharia (Islamic law), the penal code provides for physical punishments, including flogging, amputation, stoning, and the public display of a body after execution, despite the constitution’s prohibitions. With the exception of flogging, such physical punishment was rare. Courts routinely imposed flogging, especially as punishment for the production or consumption of alcohol.

The law requires police and the attorney general to investigate deaths on police premises, regardless of suspected cause. Reports of suspicious deaths in police custody were sometimes investigated but not prosecuted. For example, in November authorities detained a man upon his return from Israel. He died while in custody, allegedly from falling out a window, although the building had sealed windows.

The president called on the chief prosecutor and chief justice to ensure full legal protection of police carrying out their duties and stated that police should investigate police officers only when they were observed exceeding their authority.

Government security forces (including police, NISS, and military intelligence personnel of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF)) beat and tortured physically and psychologically persons in detention, including members of the political opposition, civil society, religious activists, and journalists, according to civil society activists in Khartoum, former detainees, and NGOs. Torture and other forms of mistreatment included prolonged isolation, exposure to extreme temperature variations, electric shock, and use of stress positions. Some female detainees alleged NISS harassed and sexually assaulted them. Some former detainees reported being injected with an unknown substance without their consent. Many former detainees, including detained students, reported being forced to take sedatives that caused lethargy and severe weight loss. The government subsequently released many of these persons without charge.

Government authorities detained members of the Darfur Students Association during the year. Upon release, numerous students showed visible signs of severe physical abuse. Government forces reportedly used live bullets to disperse crowds of protesting Darfuri students. There were numerous reports of violence against student activists’ family members.

Security forces detained political opponents incommunicado, without charge, and tortured them. Some political detainees were held in isolation cells in regular prisons, and many were held without access to family or medical treatment. Human rights organizations asserted NISS ran “ghost houses,” where it detained opposition and human rights figures without acknowledging they were being held. Such detentions at times were prolonged.

Journalists were beaten, threatened, and intimidated (see section 2.a.).

The law prohibits (what it deems as) indecent dress and punishes it with a maximum of 40 lashes, a fine, or both. Officials acknowledged authorities applied these laws more frequently against women than men and applied them to both Muslims and non-Muslims. Courts denied some women bail, although by law they may have been eligible.

There were numerous abuses reported similar to the following example: On June 25, the Public Order Police arrested several young women and men in Khartoum under the Public Order Act for “indecent dress.” During the sweep, all women who did not have their hair covered were taken into custody. The Public Order Police further arrested two young men for wearing shorts. According to NGO reports, the Public Order Police released the young women and men later the same day without charges.

Security forces, rebel groups, and armed individuals perpetrated sexual violence against women throughout the country; the abuse was especially prevalent in the conflict areas (see section 1.g.).

As of year’s end, no investigations into the allegations of mass rape in Thabit, Darfur, had taken place (see section 6).

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

The Ministry of Interior generally does not release information on the physical conditions of prisons. Information about the number of juvenile and female prisoners was unavailable.

Physical Conditions: Prison conditions throughout the country remained harsh, overcrowded, and life threatening. The Prisons and Reform Directorate, a branch of the national police that reports to the Ministry of Interior, oversees prisons. According to human rights activists and released detainees, military intelligence officials also detained civilians on military installations, especially in conflict areas.

Overall conditions, including food, sanitary and living conditions, were reportedly better in women’s detention facilities and prisons, such as the Federal Prison for Women in Omdurman, than at equivalent facilities for men, such as Kober or Omdurman Prisons. In Khartoum juveniles were not held in adult prisons or jails, but they were reportedly held with adults elsewhere.

Prison health care, heating, ventilation, and lighting were often inadequate. Some prisoners did not have access to medications or physical examinations. Authorities generally provided food, water, and sanitation to prisoners, although the quality of all three was basic. Whereas prisoners previously relied on family or friends for food, families were no longer allowed to provide food or other items to family members. Most prisoners did not have beds. Ventilation and lighting conditions differed between prisons. Overcrowding was a major problem.

There were reports of deaths due to negligence in prisons and pretrial detention centers, but comprehensive figures were not available. Local press reported deaths resulting from suspected torture by police (see section 1.a.). Human rights advocates reported that additional deaths resulted from harsh conditions, such as extreme heat and lack of water, at military detention facilities.

In March the Sudan News Agency reported the Ministry of Justice would release 1,749 inmates to alleviate overcrowding. The releases included 431 inmates from Dabak Prison, 70 from Kober Prison, 84 from Omdurman Men’s Prison, 521 women with 107 children from the Omdurman Women’s Prison, 479 from Sob and Jeriaf Prisons, and 164 from al-Huda Prison. Whether those released included political prisoners or captured rebels was not known.

In March media reported that Nyala Prison, built to accommodate 650 inmates, held more than 1,000 inmates.

Authorities regularly denied prisoners held in NISS facilities visits from family and lawyers and, in the case of foreign prisoners, from foreign government representatives. Some former detainees reported security forces held them incommunicado; beat them; deprived them of food, water, and toilets; and forced them to sleep on cold floors.

Political prisoners were held in special sections of prisons. The main prison in Khartoum, Kober Prison, contained separate sections for political prisoners, those convicted of financial crimes, and others. NISS holding cells in Omdurman prisons were known to local activists as “the fridges” due to the extremely cold-controlled temperatures and the lack of windows and sunlight.

The number of deaths in prison was unknown. On August 18, the Sudan Tribune newspaper reported five Justice and Equality Movement/Debajo (JEM/D) faction rebel detainees died of tuberculosis due to neglect, overcrowding, and prison authorities’ refusal to send prisoners for treatment.

Detainees reported physical violence by guards. Political detainees reported facing harsher treatment. One former detainee recounted being forced to beat a fellow-detainee while both were blindfolded. He stated he did not know who he was beating until the other detainee screamed in pain. Other former detainees recounted hours-long beating sessions during which NISS agents reportedly rounded up multiple prisoners, moved them to a large room, beat them with closed fists, and struck them with weapons.

Rebel groups in Darfur and the Two Areas reportedly detained persons in isolated locations in prison-like detention centers.

Administration: It was difficult to confirm prison administrative records were complete and accurate, as the government considered such information confidential and did not release it. Prison officials reportedly did not always know how many inmates NISS held in prisons.

Police reportedly allowed some visitors, including lawyers and family members, while prisoners were in custody and during judicial hearings. Political detainees and other prisoners held in NISS custody seldom were allowed visits from lawyers or family members, despite repeated requests for access. Visitors generally were not allowed access to prisoners held in NISS custody, however.

Christian clergy held services in prisons, but access was irregular and varied across prisons. Imams were granted access to facilitate Friday prayers.

There was no ombudsman or inspector general specifically designated for prisons. The police inspector general, the minister of justice, and the judiciary are authorized to inspect prisons.

Independent Monitoring: The government did not permit unrestricted monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The ICRC was not allowed to visit prisons during the year and was required to get permits to travel to conflict areas. The majority of its work comprised tracing missing persons and reuniting families separated by conflict.

The government denied unrestricted access to diplomatic missions for consular visits. Diplomatic missions rarely were notified when nationals from their countries were arrested. When embassies were notified of arrests, representatives were allowed to speak to detainees’ families and lawyers but never allowed to visit inmates. There was no access to NISS or military intelligence detention facilities.

The Ministry of Justice occasionally granted the UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) access to government prisons in Darfur, but with restrictions. The government in most cases denied access to specific files, records, and prisoners. As such, UNAMID was unable to verify inmates who reportedly were held illegally as political prisoners brought in by NISS, after having undergone no judicial process. The human rights section had unfettered physical access to general prisons (with the exception of NISS and Military Intelligence detention centers) in South, North, East, and West Darfur, but in Central Darfur (where most of the conflict occurred during the year), UNAMID had no access to any prison or detention center.

During the year the government granted the UN independent expert for the human rights situation in Sudan access to the Omdurman Men’s and Women’s Prisons, where he was briefed on detention conditions.

The state of detention facilities administered by Sudan Liberation Movement–Abdul Wahid (SLM/AW) and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement–North (SPLM-N) in their respective rebel-controlled areas could not be verified due to lack of access.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The Interim National Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and requires that individuals be notified of the charges against them when they are arrested. Arbitrary arrests and detentions, however, remained common under the law, which allows for arrest without warrants and detention up to four and one-half months. Authorities often released detainees when their initial detention periods expired but took them into custody the next day for an additional period. Authorities, especially NISS, arbitrarily detained political opponents and those believed to sympathize with the opposition (see section 1.e.).


Several government entities have responsibility for internal security, including the Ministries of Interior and Defense and NISS. The government attempted to respond to some interethnic fighting, and, in a few instances, was effective in mediating peaceful solutions. The government had a poor record, however, in preventing societal violence. Numerous residents in Darfur, for example, routinely complained of a lack of governing presence or authority that could prevent or deter violent crime.

NISS is responsible for internal security and all intelligence matters. It functions independent of any ministry. Constitutional amendments passed in January 2015 expanded NISS’s mandate to include authorities traditionally reserved for the military and judiciary. Under the amendments, NISS may establish courts and is allowed greater latitude for making arrests; its officers are shielded from normal prosecution. The Ministry of Interior oversees the national police, including security police, Special Forces police, traffic police, and the combat-trained Central Reserve police. There was a police presence throughout the country. The Ministry of Defense oversees all elements of the SAF, including the Border Guards and military intelligence units.

In 2013 the government created the RSF, a new element of the security apparatus. A former SAF general commanded the RSF, but NISS oversaw its operations. The RSF continued to play a significant role in the government’s campaigns against rebel movements and was implicated in the majority of reports of human rights violations against civilians. The government tightly controlled information about the RSF, and public comment critical of the RSF often resulted in arrest or detention (see section 2.a.). In June the president decided the RSF would report directly to him. In at least one case in October in White Nile State, the RSF clashed with SAF after the RSF caused a disturbance in a nearby settlement resulting in several casualties. Afterward, the SAF commander (not the RSF commander) was summoned to Khartoum for reprimand.

While the law provides NISS officials with legal protection for acts committed in their official capacity, the government reported NISS maintained an internal court system to address internal discipline and investigate and prosecute violations of the National Security Act, including abuse of power under the act. Penalties included up to 10 years in prison, a fine, or both for NISS officers found in violation. During the year, however, the government gave no access to information regarding how many cases it had closed. In October a key national dialogue recommendation was to rescind unilateral additions to the constitution that exempt NISS from the national jurisprudence system. Despite promises to implement all national dialogue recommendations, as of December the government did not include NISS reforms as part of the national dialogue package of laws it presented to the National Assembly.

NGOs reported that clashes between protesters and government forces in September 2013 caused more than 185 deaths (see section 1.a.). The government announced the Ministry of Justice would investigate the government’s use of force. The government provided its conclusions to the UN independent expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan in 2014. Contrary to the independent expert’s recommendations, the government did not make its full report public. Lawyers representing the affected families stated that most of the families did not want compensation but wanted apprehension and trial of the perpetrators. Lawyers stated that only a minority of families settled for compensation, and the government had not compensated any families who had opted for such compensation. Government officials asserted only 85 families were eligible for compensation. Of the 85 families, the government claimed it had already compensated 81. Opposition figures denied any compensation had been made and challenged the government to publish names of those who had been compensated, but the government refused.

Following a July visit to Darfur by a foreign government official, 15 Darfuri internally displaced persons (IDPs) who had spoken with him in Nertiti and Sortoni were arrested as was a UNAMID worker who had aided in arranging the meetings. By September, eight were released, including the UNAMID staff member; seven others remained detained and were transferred to a central location in Zalengei, Darfur. When pressed about these cases in August, Human Rights Advisory Council rapporteur Yassir Ahmed Alhassan stated that the council could not respond to every human rights abuse reported by media. By November, six more detainees had been released, and one remained in detention in Zalengei.

Corruption among police and other security forces continued to be a problem. Security forces including police harassed suspected government opponents. On June 1, the Ministry of Justice announced it had closed the case of the 2012 deaths of three students of al-Jazeera University. The general counselor reported the investigation confirmed the involvement of some police, and the prosecution ordered the lifting of their immunity as a step toward taking them to court. The ministry reportedly contacted the three students’ families afterward and offered financial compensation of an unknown amount, which the three families reportedly accepted.

Impunity remained a serious problem throughout the security forces, although crimes involving child victims were prosecuted more regularly. Aside from the inconsistent use of NISS’ special courts (see above), the government infrequently lifted police immunity or pressed charges against SAF officers. The government also generally failed to investigate violations committed by any branch of the security forces.


Under the National Security Act, warrants are not required for an arrest. The law permits authorities to detain individuals for three days for the purpose of inquiry. The magistrate can renew detention without charge for up to two weeks. The superior magistrate may renew detentions weekly during investigation for up to six months for a person who is charged.

The law allows detentions for up to 45 days before individuals are charged. The NISS director may refer certain cases to the Security Council and request an extension of up to three months, allowing detentions of up to four and one-half months without charge. Authorities often released detainees when their detentions expired and rearrested them soon after for a new detention period, so that detainees were held for several months without charge.

The constitution and law provide for an individual to be informed in detail of charges at the time of arrest, with interpretation as needed, and for judicial determination without undue delay, but these provisions were rarely followed. Individuals accused of threatening national security routinely were charged under the national security law, rather than the criminal code, and frequently detained without charge.

The law allows for bail, except for those accused of crimes punishable by death or life imprisonment. There was a functioning bail system; however, the cases of persons released on bail often awaited action indefinitely.

The law provides for access to legal representation, but security forces often held persons incommunicado for long periods in unknown locations. By law, any person may request legal assistance and must be informed of the right to counsel in cases potentially involving the death penalty, imprisonment lasting longer than 10 years, or amputation. The government was not always able to provide legal assistance, and legal aid organizations and lawyers partially filled the gap.

Arbitrary Arrest: NISS, police, and military intelligence arbitrarily arrested and detained persons. Authorities often detained persons for a few days before releasing them without charge, but many persons were held much longer. The government often targeted political opponents and suspected rebel supporters (see section 1.e.).

NISS officials frequently denied holding individuals in their custody or refused to confirm their place of detention. In lieu of formal detention, NISS increasingly called individuals to report to NISS offices for long hours on a daily basis without a stated purpose. Many human rights observers considered this a tactic to harass, intimidate, and disrupt the lives of opposition members and activists, prevent the carrying out of “opposition” activities, and prevent the recording of formal detentions.

In November and December, hundreds of persons were detained without charges, including several prominent human rights activists and the leadership of registered political parties, some for weeks without visits from families or counsel. Most of the arrests were part of a general crackdown that followed calls for civil disobedience over government austerity measures. For example, NISS agents arrested prominent human rights activist Mudawi Ibrahim Adam on December 7. He remained in detention without charge at year’s end.

Authorities also arbitrarily arrested and detained foreign nationals without charge. In some cases authorities used intimidation and financial pressure to force foreigners to leave the country.

The government sometimes sought to get Sudanese citizens living abroad deported from their countries of residence. In July 2015 Waleed al-Hussein, the creator of critical online news outlet al-Rakoba, was arrested in Saudi Arabia, where he had been residing with his family. He was subjected to interrogations about his work with al-Rakoba, held in solitary confinement without charge for more than two months, and threatened with deportation to Sudan. In November 2015 he was transferred to a general holding cell. Family members believed he was arrested at the request of the Sudanese government, which had targeted Hussein for his work in the past and was seeking to have him extradited to Sudan. The government, however, denied having anything to do with the journalist’s detention. Al-Hussein was released from prison in March, but Saudi authorities did not give him an exit permit to depart Saudi Arabia until September.

There were reports of individuals detained due to their actual or assumed support of antigovernment forces, such as the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) and Darfur rebel movements. Local NGOs reported that some women were detained because of their association with men suspected of being SPLM-N supporters (see section 1.g.).

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was common. The large number of detainees and judicial inefficiency resulted in trial delays. In cases involving political defendants accused of subverting national security, the accused may be held for as long as four and one- half months, with the possibility of further extended detention periods, before being formally charged. In his report to the Human Rights Council, the UN independent expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan expressed concern about several reports received of prolonged detentions and persons held without access to legal aid. He called on the government to release all detained persons or charge them with a recognizable offense in accordance with the law.

A number of pastors arrested in December 2015 remained detained during the year. Some were released but required to report daily to NISS. In December 2015 Kowa Shamal, Hassan Abdelrahim, and Christian activist Talahon Nigosi Kassa Ratta were arrested. Yamani Abraha, Filmon Hassan, Ayoub Talian, and Yacoub Naway were arrested and released later the same day. NISS arrested Christian activists Peter Jasek (a Czech citizen), Ali Omer, and Abdelmoneim Abdelmaula in December 2015 in connection with the pastors. Shamal, Abdelrahim, Jasek, and Abdelmaula were held without charge until August, when they were charged with eight crimes, including espionage and warring against the state, crimes that carry the death penalty. As of year’s end, all remained in custody and trials continued. In late December, Sudanese Church of Christ Pastor Kuwa Shamal was released after charges against him were dropped due to insufficient evidence.

Detainees’ Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested or detained, regardless of whether on criminal or other grounds, were not entitled to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention and, therefore, were not able to obtain prompt release or compensation if unlawfully detained.

Amnesty: In September 2015 the government granted general amnesty for leaders and members of the armed movements taking part in the national dialogue. The amnesty covered “all words and deeds that constitute crimes during the period of the participation in the national dialogue.” Many observers considered the amnesty a government incentive to encourage opposition members living abroad to return to the country for participation in the dialogue without fear of arrest or reprisal. As of November there were no known reports of arrests of opposition members who participated in the dialogue, although NISS detained and seized the travel documents of opposition members who met abroad (see section 2.d.). Leading opposition members living in exile who had called for more freedoms as a condition to their participation in the dialogue had not taken advantage of the general amnesty. The decree also called for the release of political prisoners whose parties participated in the dialogue. There were no known reports of such releases.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the constitution and relevant laws provide for an independent judiciary, courts were largely subordinate to government officials and the security forces, particularly in cases of alleged crimes against the state. On occasion courts displayed a degree of independence. Political interference with the courts, however, was commonplace, and some high-ranking members of the judiciary held positions in the Ministry of Interior or other ministries in the executive branch.

The judiciary was inefficient and subject to corruption. In Darfur and other remote areas, judges were often absent from their posts, delaying trials.

A state of emergency in Darfur, Blue Nile, and Southern Kordofan allowed for arrest and detention without trial.


The constitution and law provide for a fair and public trial as well as a presumption of innocence; however, this provision was rarely respected. Trials are open to the public at the discretion of the judge. In cases of national security and offenses against the state, trials are usually closed. The law stipulates that the government is obligated to provide a lawyer for indigents in cases in which punishment might exceed 10 years’ imprisonment or include execution. Accused persons may also request assistance through the legal aid department at the Ministry of Justice or the Sudanese Bar Association.

By law criminal defendants must be informed promptly of the charges against them at the time of their arrest and charged in detail and with interpretation as needed. Individuals arrested by NISS often were not informed of the reasons for their arrest.

Defendants generally have the right to present evidence and witnesses, be present in court, confront accusers, and have access to government-held evidence relevant to their cases. Some defendants reportedly did not receive legal counsel, and counsel in some cases could only advise the defendant and not address the court. Persons in remote areas and in areas of conflict generally did not have access to legal counsel. The government sometimes did not allow defense witnesses to testify.

Defendants have the right to appeal, except in military trials, where there is no appeal. Defendants were sometimes permitted time and facilities to prepare their defense, although in more political cases, charges could be disclosed with little warning and could change as the trial proceeded. Defendants in common criminal cases, such as theft, as well as in politicized cases were often compelled to confess guilt while in police custody through physical abuse and police intimidation of family members.

Lawyers wishing to practice are required to maintain membership in the government-controlled Sudanese Bar Association. The government continued to arrest and harass lawyers whom it considered political opponents.

Military trials, which sometimes were secret and brief, lacked procedural safeguards. For example, a defendant’s attorney could advise the defendant but could not address the court.

A 2013 amendment to the 2007 Sudanese Armed Forces Act subjects any civilians in SAF-controlled areas believed to be rebels or members of paramilitary group to military trials. NISS and military intelligence officers applied this amendment to detainees in the conflict areas. In 2013, SPLM-N forces attacked and captured Abu Karshola, South Kordofan. The government launched an intensive campaign to liberate Abu Karshola from the SPLM-N. Afterwards, seven civilians who supported SPLM-N were arrested and charged in a military court with treason and waging war against the state, which carries the death penalty. The court-martial concluded in June; charges against one defendant were dropped, and the remaining six awaited the final verdict as of September.

Three-person security courts deal with violations of constitutional decrees, emergency regulations, and some sections of the penal code, including drug and currency offenses. Special courts composed primarily of civilian judges handled most security-related cases. Defendants had limited opportunities to meet with counsel and were not always allowed to present witnesses during trial.

Due to long distances between court facilities and police stations, local mediation was often the first resort to try to resolve disputes. In some instances tribal courts operating outside the official legal system decided cases. Such courts did not provide the same protections as regular courts.

While Islamic jurisprudence (sharia) strongly influenced the law, sharia was generally not applied to Christians in civil domestic cases such as those concerning marriage, divorce, inheritance, and other family matters.


The government continued to hold political prisoners and detainees, including protesters. Due to lack of access, the numbers of political prisoners and detainees could not be confirmed. Human rights monitors reported political prisoners as being in the hundreds; the government claimed it did not have political prisoners.

The government severely restricted international humanitarian organizations’ and human rights monitors’ access to political detainees. The government allowed UNAMID extremely limited access to Darfuri political detainees in Khartoum and Darfur.

The government also arbitrarily detained and otherwise targeted numerous Darfuri students on university campuses. On June 28, the Criminal Court in Khartoum North locality sentenced Ahmed Baggari to death by hanging in April, following legal proceedings after Baggari was accused of the April 2015 killing of Mohamed Awadelkarim, a fellow student and the secretary general of the ruling NCP Party-aligned Islamic Movement in East Nile College in Khartoum. Baggari’s defense team appealed the case to the Court of Appeals. In December the Court of Appeals cancelled the death sentence and ordered his imprisonment for five years and a payment of SDG 40,000 ($6,000) in compensation to the relatives of Awadelkarim.

Government authorities detained Darfuri students and political opponents throughout the year, often subjecting them to torture (see section 1.c.).

The government continued to arrest or temporarily detain opposition members. In November, following the government’s announcement of fuel subsidy cuts, NISS “preventatively” detained 29 political opposition leaders, primarily from the Sudanese Congress Party (SCoP), the Communist Party, and the National Consensus Forces. There were numerous examples similar to the following: On November 27, NISS agents followed the vehicle of Dr. Galal Yousif, a member of the SCoP, before intimidating, forcefully abducting, and taking him to an unknown location. As of December, Yousif remained in detention without access to his family or his lawyer.

In April authorities detained more than 25 University of Khartoum graduates after they participated in a protest against the reported selling of the university’s main campus. Numerous university students were also arrested and released in May and again detained after a raid on their lawyer’s office (see sections 1.b. and 1.f.). The length of their detentions varied.


Persons seeking damages for human rights violations had access to domestic and international courts. The judiciary, however, was not independent. There were problems enforcing domestic and international court orders (see section 5). According to the law, individuals and organizations may appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies. Individuals, however, reported they feared reprisal (see section 2.d.).

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

The Interim National Constitution and law prohibit such actions, but the government routinely violated these rights. Emergency laws in Darfur, Southern Kordofan, and Blue Nile states legalize interference in privacy, family, home, and correspondence.

Security forces frequently conducted searches without warrants and targeted persons suspected of political crimes. NISS often confiscated private property, especially electronic equipment. During a May raid on the legal office and home of prominent human rights lawyer Nabil Adeeb, NISS agents entered without judicial authorization and confiscated Adeeb’s personal laptop, hardcopy files, and mobile phone. The authorities never returned Adeeb’s laptop and files, although they returned his mobile phone shortly afterward.

The government monitored private communication and movement of individuals and organizations without due legal process. A wide network of government informants conducted surveillance in schools, universities, markets, workplaces, and neighborhoods.

Under sharia a Muslim man may marry a Jewish or Christian woman. A Muslim woman may not marry a non-Muslim man. This prohibition was not universally enforced. Non-Muslims may adopt only non-Muslim children; a comparable restriction does not apply to Muslim parents.

In May 2014 a local court sentenced Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag to 100 lashes and death by hanging for committing apostasy and adultery by marrying a Christian man. Ishag identified herself as a Christian. The government released Ishag from custody in June 2014 after the Court of Appeals overturned her conviction, citing mental health issues. Following significant international pressure, authorities allowed her to leave the country the following month but did not officially rescind the charges against her. In December 2015 Ishag’s defense panel appealed the court decision to the Constitutional Court in an effort to challenge the constitutionality of apostasy. As of September the case remained pending.

Killings: From January to September, military personnel and paramilitary forces committed numerous killings in Darfur and the Two Areas. In mid-January the government launched an aerial and ground offensive to dislodge the SLA/AW from its strongholds in the mountainous areas of Central, North, and South Darfur.

According to press and NGO reports, RSF personnel under NISS command committed numerous killings, often after barrel bombs were dropped by Antonov An-26 aircraft during government offensives in Darfur and the Two Areas. Human rights groups reported such aerial bombardments disproportionately hurt civilians. Most reports were difficult to verify due to continued prohibited access to conflict areas, particularly Jebel Marra in Darfur and SPLM-N-controlled areas in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States.

In late September, Amnesty International issued a report alleging that, during the first nine months of the year, the government engaged in scorched earth tactics and used chemical weapons in Jebel Marra, Darfur, resulting in deaths. UN monitors were unable to verify the alleged use of chemical weapons, due in part to the lack of access to Jebel Marra from rebel commanders loyal to Abdel Wahid. At year’s end the OPCW had not been presented with sufficient corroborating evidence to conclude chemical weapons had been used.

Clashes between government forces, government-armed militias, and rebel movements, notably the SLA/AW in Darfur and the SPLM-N in the Two Areas, resulted in casualties on all sides. Sudan Liberation Army/Minni Minawi and Justice and Equality Movement/Gibril were generally inactive during the year. Intercommunal conflict and societal violence continued to be the most deadly consequences of the conflict in Darfur. The continued utilization and arming of local militias as proxies and the continued influence of these groups in part due to their heavy armament, coupled with widespread impunity, allowed the conflict to spread systemically as clashes over land, cattle, and other resources intensified. Clashes between heavily armed communal groups, particularly in East, South, and North Darfur, resulted in significant casualties (dead and injured) on all sides.

Many deaths continued to be attributed to the SAF and militia groups. Security deteriorated in North Darfur. Violence in the Jebel Marra area of East Darfur, including indiscriminate SAF aerial and artillery bombardments, continued, although this largely ceased by September.

On May 1, the SAF bombed Heiban, South Kordofan, killing six children. The incident drew widespread protests in Khartoum following the sharing of their pictures via social media. On May 23, during the memorial service for the six children, an SAF jet dropped two bombs in the area, injuring four more children and killing a six-month-old baby. On May 27, two parachute bombs were dropped onto the compound of St. Vincent Primary School in Kauda, injuring a Kenyan teacher and damaging classrooms and a library. Casualties were limited, as the attack did not take place during school hours. Reports of such aerial attacks in South Kordofan and Blue Nile State ceased by September.

SAF air raids resulted in civilian deaths and the destruction of fields and impeded the planting of crops throughout Darfur and the Two Areas. Throughout the year the SAF repeatedly bombed cultivated land, disrupting planting cycles, which, coupled with forced displacements and the denial of humanitarian assistance, resulted in near famine-like conditions. There were also numerous reports of the SAF using cluster bombs in both Darfur and the Two Areas. NGOs accused the government of using the denial of food as a weapon of war.

On June 9, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda reported to the UN Security Council that aerial bombardments had resulted in more than 400 civilian deaths and up to 200 villages destroyed. She also reported that air raids on January 21 on an East Jebel Marra village reportedly killed 48 women and destroyed six houses. The UN Security Council’s Panel of Experts on Darfur stated it had evidence the country’s air force had RBK-500 cluster bombs at the weapon-loading area at the Nyala Forward Operation Base. On March 25, the SAF shelled al-Habel village in Um Dorein County of South Kordofan and injured two girls, 11 and 10 years old.

In April, SAF raids killed five children and injured 22. Multiple schools were reportedly bombed and others closed due to the fighting, particularly those near the front line. The Sudan Social Development Organization (SUDO UK), a UK-based human rights monitoring organization with sources on the ground in conflict areas, also reported that aerial bombardments in Darfur and the Two Areas killed 391 persons and injured 417. Various reports corroborated a minimum of seven aerial bombardments in Darfur in August alone, focused on the Jebel Marra region, Central Darfur, with two raids in North Darfur and one in South Darfur. There were numerous abuses similar to the following example: On August 29, in the North Darfur village of Kator, government-aligned militias attacked a group of displaced civilians, killing three and injuring four. The IDP’s were fleeing earlier bombardments on their home village of Qabas.

In Darfur clashes between the government and rebel factions continued, as did attacks by the government’s RSF forces on unarmed civilians in South, North, and East Darfur and in the Two Areas.

Ground attacks targeting civilians were also serious problems in both Darfur and the Two Areas. There were numerous abuses similar to the following example: On June 12, an SAF soldier shot and killed Amna Adam Kuku in Elfaid Um-Abdalla because he reportedly suspected her brother was a sympathizer of the SPLM-N.

The following incident involving NISS is illustrative of abuses taking place in West Darfur: On January 8, the body of a shepherd for the Arab Bani Halba tribe was found near the Massalit village of Moli, approximately six to 12 miles south of El Geneina. According to UNAMID, the Bani Halba demanded compensation, but the Massalit denied involvement and refused. On January 9, Bani Halba tribesmen, many or all of whom served as border guards–supported by fellow border guards from the Arab tribes of Maharia, Awlad Janoub, Awlad Marni, and Sheigerat–attacked Moli with up to 200 men and 20 Toyota Land Cruisers in retaliation. Reportedly five to 10 Massalit were killed, and many IDPs fled to El Geneina. On January 10, the displaced Massalit from Moli protested in front of the governor’s offices. Protests reportedly turned violent when no one acknowledged their complaints. The demonstrators forcefully entered the governor’s office and residence, set afire a tent and offices (reportedly the residence of the governor’s security guards), and burned or upended multiple vehicles.

The protesters put up barricades of burning tires in front of the governor’s compound. Police and NISS subsequently clashed with the protesters and opened fire with live ammunition, killing six. There were also unconfirmed reports that either Arab tribesmen or Massalit protesters killed a NISS officer during the protests, taking his weapon, in addition to seven to eight NISS officers injured. On January 11, while Massalit protesters were still occupying the governor’s compound (although confrontation had ceased), shots were fired into the funeral procession of those who were killed on January 10, killing at least three additional Massalit IDPs and wounding six others. The shots were reportedly fired while the procession was passing NISS offices, and reportedly security forces had mistaken the large group of mourners for protesters. In all, at least 13 persons were killed, while many more were wounded.

There were also numerous abuses of detainees reported similar to the following: On February 16, NISS in Tadamoun locality arrested Elnour Mohammed Elfadeel at his house following accusations he possessed a gun without a license. On February 17, he arrived at Damazine Military Hospital in critical condition and died in the hospital that same day. Medical sources stated the cause of death was fractures to the neck and skull.

According to the ICC prosecutor’s June report, in both Darfur and the Two Areas, there were reported attacks on humanitarian aid workers and peacekeepers, with one peacekeeper killed in Darfur.

In Abyei, the security situation remained unpredictable but generally calm. Most human rights abuses were due to tribal conflict between the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya, with several major security incidents occurring in and around the marketplaces. On May 8, UN Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA) troops disarmed a Misseriya and an Ngok Dinka found with a rifle and hand grenade, respectively, at the Noong common market. On June 21, in the Kolom area, unknown assailants armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades opened fire on a commercial pickup vehicle transporting traders from Twic County in Warrap State, South Sudan, to the common market at Noong. The attack left three persons dead and two seriously wounded. On June 21, UNISFA reported that unknown armed men shot at a civilian vehicle with seven persons on board travelling from Agok to Noog, Abyei, killing three persons and injuring two others.

Abductions: International organizations were unable independently to verify reports of disappearances due to lack of access to the region. Humanitarian actors reported unverified cases of government-aligned forces abducting or detaining civilians, including women, due to their suspected affiliation with the SPLM-N.

There were numerous abuses similar to the following: According to the Human Rights and Development Organization, a monitoring organization with sources on the ground in the Two Areas, Musa Aabdein Ali, a government employee, was found alive but in poor health in military intelligence custody on March 15 after five years of detention. He was abducted in 2011 soon after hostilities erupted in South Kordofan. Ali reportedly had no political affiliation. Military intelligence, NISS, and political authorities denied knowing his whereabouts. Ali reported he was detained incommunicado and faced physical abuse and poor health and sanitary conditions.

SUDO UK reported 86 abductions throughout the conflict areas from January to August, 45 in May alone. UNAMID reported 55 abductions in Darfur from January to September 15. While government or government-aligned entities perpetrated the majority of these abductions, some were carried out by unknown armed criminal groups. One such incident in January included a carjacking, two robberies, and the abduction of a World Food Program (WFP)-contract driver and his truck. The driver was released in the Kutum area several days later.

UNAMID reported that abduction remained a coercive method adopted by the various tribes in Darfur to obtain the payment of diya(“blood money” ransom) claimed from other communities.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Human rights organizations accused government forces and rebel groups in Darfur and the Two Areas of perpetrating torture and other human rights violations and abuses. Government forces abused persons detained in connection with armed conflict as well as IDPs suspected of having links to rebel groups. There were continuing reports that government security forces, progovernment and antigovernment militias, and other armed persons raped women and children.

In Darfur, fighting involved government forces, rebels, and ethnic militias, and it was often along communal lines. These armed groups, including the RSF, which NISS controlled, killed and injured civilians, raped women and children, looted properties, targeted IDP camps, and burned villages in all of Darfur’s five states. Multiple sources reported the RSF also destroyed and plundered water wells, food stores, and community resources, including livestock. A September Amnesty International report alleged the government used chemical weapons to target civilian areas in Jebel Marra, Darfur from January to September. UN monitors were unable to verify the alleged use of chemical weapons, due in part to lack of access to Jebel Marra and insufficient corroborating evidence. The report that also alleged the government engaged in scorched earth tactics was corroborated by multiple sources from Darfur.

These acts resulted in approximately 80,600 newly displaced persons by September, but, nevertheless, a decrease from 243,000 reported during the same period the previous year. An increase in criminality and banditry also contributed to a deterioration of overall security in Darfur. UNAMID continued to document hundreds of cases of human rights abuses, including unlawful killings, other abuses of the right to physical integrity, and arbitrary arrest and detention.

Sexual and gender-based violence continued throughout Darfur and the Two Areas. The ICC prosecutor in her June report to the UN Security Council noted 107 reported incidents of sexual crimes affecting 225 victims, indicating that 70 per cent of these incidents involved gang rape, of which 19 per cent victimized minors. Authorities often obstructed access to justice for rape victims. IDPs reported perpetrators of such violence were often government armed force or militia members. SUDO UK reported the confirmed rape by RSF agents of 125 persons, mostly IDP’s, including 32 minors, from January to August in both Darfur and the Two Areas.

Widespread impunity remained a major challenge, aggravated by government’s limited capacity, the absence of a security environment conducive to civilian safety across Darfur, and use of excess force by security forces. For example, on March 24, NISS agents reportedly arrested a female student on her way to the University of El Geneina and assaulted her. Seven students from Nyala University who were arrested on April 26 for demonstrating against the increase in public transport fees reported having been similarly beaten in detention. Neither case had been investigated by year’s end.

The government prosecuted some crimes involving government officials. Although rare, prosecutions were most common in cases involving violations against minors. On May 10, a court in El Geneina convicted and sentenced a soldier to 20 years’ imprisonment for the rape of a seven-year-old girl. The UN Independent Expert for the human rights situation in Sudan expressed concern about nine rapes of women from the Zam camp in April, when they were outside the camp engaged in livelihood activities.

The SAF and government-aligned forces also reportedly burned and looted villages in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. There were reports of physical abuse and violent interrogations of SPLM-N-affiliated individuals in Kadugli Prison and military installations.

Human rights groups continued to report that government forces and allied militias raped, detained, tortured, and arbitrarily killed civilians in government-controlled areas of Blue Nile. SUDO UK reported 269 cases of arbitrary arrest, 56 of which involved civilians detained in containers in Damazine, Blue Nile.

On March 31, Radio Tamazuj reported shelling by the SPLM-N of civilian areas in Kadugli town, specifically Sama, Saraf, and Um Bataha neighborhoods. Reported claims by “local sources” that “nobody was hurt” were difficult to verify.

In July and August, the government accused the SPLM-N of attacking a Chinese-run gold mine bordering South and North Kordofan. The attacks were difficult to verify due to lack of access.

There were varying reports in July of violence that affected civilians in Lima, Southern Kordofan, including reports that eight Misseriya tribesmen were killed during an altercation with an SPLM-N soldier over a reported cattle theft. It was unclear, however, whether the Misseriya killed were civilians or part of the government-aligned militia Popular Defense Forces.

Unexploded ordinance killed and injured many innocent civilians in the country’s conflict zones. There were numerous examples similar to the following: On November 27, in Singa, north of Damazine, Blue Nile, the explosion of an undetonated remnant of war injured five children.

On March 27, the Radio Dabanga online newspaper reported six gold miners died in an explosion in Tawila locality of Darfur when their vehicle drove over and detonated unexploded ordinance. Apart from the six miners who were killed, three others were reportedly seriously injured.

Child Soldiers: The law prohibits the recruitment of children and provides criminal penalties for perpetrators. Allegations persisted, however, that armed movements, government forces, and government-aligned militias had child soldiers within their ranks.

According to several reports, the government provided material and logistical support in the country to the South Sudan opposition group, Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition, which was widely reported to recruit and use child soldiers.

Many children lacked documents verifying their age. Children’s rights organizations believed armed groups exploited this lack of documentation to recruit or retain children. Due to problems of access, particularly in conflict zones, reports of child soldiers were limited and often difficult to verify. The government denied allegations it recruited or used child soldiers within its armed forces. During the March 27 to 30 visit of the UN special representative for children and armed conflict, the government signed an action plan to end and prevent recruitment and use of children by its security forces. The special representative documented 21 children detained by NISS since April and August 2015 for their alleged association with the rebel group JEM. The children had allegedly been recruited in South Kordofan and South Sudan and used in combat in Darfur and South Sudan. In September the government pardoned and released the children to a reintegration program. JEM representatives claimed the children did not belong to their faction. In addition, the United Nations documented the recruitment of six children by JEM from refugee settlements in Unity State, South Sudan. In September the country’s Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) Commission reported that 169 child soldiers, all from the Liberation and Justice Movement, had been assembled in South Darfur for DDR procedures.

In September, UNAMID reported that concerted efforts to curb the recruitment of child soldiers in Darfur had led to significant progress, but the potential use of children in ethnic clashes remained a major concern.

Representatives of armed groups reported they did not actively recruit child soldiers. They did not prevent children who volunteered from joining their movements. The armed groups stated the children were stationed primarily in training camps and were not used in combat.

There were reports of the use of child soldiers by the SPLM-N, but numbers could not be verified, in part due to lack of access to SPLM-N-controlled territories. On November 23, in Geneva, Malik Agar of the SPLM-N and Leila Zerrougui, the representative of the UN secretary-general on children and armed conflict, signed an action plan to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers. In her remarks, Zerrougui said the government, nonstate actors, and everyone involved in armed conflict must cooperate and acknowledge that the rules of law “apply to children two times over.” She noted that Sudan ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990 and is party to other international agreements, meaning the legal framework is in place and the main focus should be implementation.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

Other Conflict-related Abuse: All parties to the conflict in Darfur obstructed the work of humanitarian organizations, UNAMID, and other UN agencies, increasing the displacement of civilians and abuse of IDPs. The government also continued to deny access to humanitarian organizations and UN agencies in Darfur, the Jebel Marra region in particular, and all government-controlled areas of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile (the SPLM-N also denied access to areas in their control), isolating an estimated 800,000 IDPs and severely limiting access to life-saving humanitarian assistance. Violence, insecurity, the delay and denial of visas and travel permits, and refusal of access to international organizations reduced the ability of humanitarian organizations to provide needed services. As of December 20, 30 visas requested in January by UNAMID remained pending.

Government forces frequently harassed NGOs that received international assistance. The government restricted or denied permission for humanitarian assessments, refused to approve technical agreements, changed operational procedures, copied NGO files, confiscated NGO property, questioned humanitarian workers at length and monitored their personal correspondence, restricted travel, and publicly accused humanitarian workers of aiding rebel groups. Unidentified armed groups also targeted humanitarian workers for kidnapping and ransom.

Fighting, insecurity, bureaucratic obstacles, and government and rebel restrictions reduced the ability of peacekeepers and humanitarian workers to access conflict-affected areas. Armed persons attacked, killed, injured, and kidnapped peacekeepers and aid workers. Humanitarian organizations often were not able to deliver humanitarian assistance in conflict areas, particularly in Jebel Marra, South Darfur. According to the UN secretary-general’s report on UNAMID on March 22, the SLA/AW faction attacked UNAMID forces with heavy weapons near Kutum on January 1, injuring one South African peacekeeper. In November armed men abducted three staffers of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR): two Nepalese and one a Sudanese national. During the same week, five armed masked men in a Land Cruiser without license plates abducted three Sudanese employees of UNAMID in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, while they were traveling to the mission’s headquarters, which is 13 miles southeast of Nyala.

All states in Darfur were under varying states of emergency. Between December 2015 and September, there were 1,626 cases of criminality and banditry, which included 384 killings. The attacks included rape, armed robbery, abduction, ambush, livestock theft, assault/harassment, arson, and burglary and were allegedly carried out primarily by Arab militias, but also by government forces, unknown assailants, and rebel elements.

Security in Darfur continued to deteriorate due to the rise in criminal activity and intercommunal conflict. The independent expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan noted with concern that, during the year, the size and scale of intercommunal clashes over cattle rustling and control of natural resources in Eastern Darfur had been unprecedented, as were the sophisticated firearms used by the combatants.

Large-scale displacement continued to be a severe problem in Darfur and the Two Areas, and government restrictions and security constraints continued to limit access to affected populations and impeded the delivery of humanitarian services (see section 2.d.).

Throughout the year the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) obstructed the work of NGOs and international humanitarian actors in the country’s conflict zones (see section 5).

Following meetings between UNAMID and the government, food-ration containers were released from Port Sudan, while, as of September, 59 shipments (101 containers) were still pending clearance. A total of 367 shipments of UN-owned and contingent-owned equipment, some of which had been there since April 2015, remained at Port Sudan and Khartoum, pending Ministry of Finance approval and customs clearance. The resulting shortages severely hampered the ability of UNAMID troops to communicate, conduct robust patrols, and protect civilians; they incurred demurrage charges and additional costs for troop- and police-contributing countries and the United Nations.

Attacks on humanitarian and UNAMID convoys continued. Bandits obstructed humanitarian assistance, regularly attacked the compounds of humanitarian organizations, and seized humanitarian aid and other assets, including vehicles. Instability forced many international aid organizations to reduce their operations in Darfur. The UN secretary-general stated, however, that the number of attacks against UN agencies and humanitarian organizations continued to decline. On March 27, a national staff member of the WFP was robbed in Nyala, South Darfur. On April 5, three local staff members of an international nongovernmental organization were robbed near El Geneina, West Darfur. Humanitarian organizations regularly reported encountering challenges in their humanitarian action and protection activities owing to access restrictions, interference with program administration and implementation by authorities, and the negative effects of continuing hostilities and incidents of violence and intimidation.

There were several reports of government forces, and armed militias and individuals, raiding IDP camps. On April 18, IDPs at the North camp, Central Darfur, reported that authorities had instructed them not to release any information to UNAMID. Moreover, the government did not allow civil society groups operating health-care centers to deal with cases involving conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence, especially in Central Darfur.

Largely unregulated artisanal gold-mining activities continued to expand in all of the Darfur states and to be a source of tension between communities. Claims to land rights continued to be mostly ethnic and tribal in nature. Clashes sometimes resulted from conflicts over land rights, mineral ownership, and use of gold-mining areas, particularly in the Jebel Amer area in North Darfur. Observers believed those clashes resulted in significant numbers of deaths and displacement.

Although the government made public statements encouraging the return of IDPs to their homes and the closure of camps in Darfur since “peace” had come to Darfur, IDPs expressed reluctance to return due to lack of security and justice in their areas of origin or elsewhere.

In the Two Areas there continued to be reports that SAF air raids destroyed homes, schools, churches, mosques, other civilian structures, and farms, and that humanitarian aid workers and centers, including hospitals, were targeted (see section 1.g.).

Restrictions imposed by the government in Abyei on NGOs limited the implementation capacity of humanitarian and development actors, especially in the northern parts of Abyei. Additional problems included inadequate funds, high implementation costs owing to security and logistical constraints, delays in the issuance of travel permits, and government restrictions on the movement of personnel and supplies.

The United Nations reported that during the year it received two allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by a civilian and by a UN volunteer deployed to UNISFA. One incident allegedly took place in 2015; the date of the other alleged incident was unknown. Because the allegations were against a UN civilian staff member and volunteer, the United Nations did not provide the nationalities of the accused. Both allegations were being investigated by the United Nations at year’s end.

UNISFA regularly conducted sensitization and awareness raising activities with staff members of all components. UN personnel carried out similar campaigns with the local population during which they highlighted and explained the UN policy on zero tolerance of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel.


Executive Summary

Turkey is a constitutional republic with a multiparty parliamentary system and a president. A unicameral parliament (the Grand National Assembly) exercises legislative authority. Binali Yildirim succeeded Ahmet Davutoglu as prime minister in May.

Civilians at times did not maintain effective control over security forces. On July 15, elements of the military staged an unsuccessful coup attempt that killed more than 240 citizens and injured more than 2,100. The government asserted that cleric Fethullah Gulen and his supporters masterminded the coup attempt and engaged in a pattern of subversion of the judiciary and state institutions.

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and groups linked to it declared autonomy in some cities in the Southeast and undertook attacks on security forces, sparking government responses. Clashes resulted in the death of more than 600 security forces, at least 200 civilians, and an unknown number of PKK terrorists. The violent conflict displaced an estimated 300,000 persons, many of whom remained displaced at year’s end. The PKK, its subgroups, and Da’esh also conducted terror attacks throughout the country, resulting in hundreds of civilian casualties.

The most significant human rights problems during the year were:

Inconsistent access to due process: Following the July 15 coup attempt, the government on July 20 declared a three-month state of emergency, which was renewed in October, that allowed suspension of some due process protections for those accused of ties to terrorist groups. The government ascribed responsibility for the attempt to the Fethullah Gulen movement, which it defined as a terrorist organization. Courts imprisoned tens of thousands of persons accused of supporting the coup or terrorist groups, in many cases with little clarity on the charges and evidence against them. Government decrees issued under the state of emergency restricted suspects’ access to legal assistance, allowed suspects to be held without charge for up to a month, and in some cases froze the assets of suspended or fired civil servants or their family members. Human rights groups documented some cases in which family members were held or subjected to restrictions on their freedom of movement in lieu of suspects who remained at large. The government suspended and dismissed tens of thousands of civil servants, who generally had little access to legal recourse or appeal, and closed thousands of businesses, schools, and associations.

Government interference with freedom of expression: The government restricted freedom of expression, media, and the internet, intensifying pressure on the media following the failed coup attempt. Authorities arrested at least 140 journalists, most accused of affiliation with the Gulen movement or connections with the PKK. The government also exerted pressure on media, closing media outlets and publishing associations; conducting raids on media companies; confiscating publications with allegedly objectionable material; instigating criminal investigations of journalists and editors for alleged support of terrorist groups; banning books; instigating gag orders on terrorism-related stories; and blocking internet sites. Self-censorship was widespread amid fear that criticizing the government could prompt reprisals. The closure of nearly all Kurdish-language media outlets reduced vulnerable populations’ access to information and alternative viewpoints. The government impeded access by international media and observers to conflict areas, limiting independent reporting about conditions.

Inadequate protection of civilians: In fighting the terrorist PKK, government security forces failed to take sufficient measures to protect civilians. Hundreds of thousands of residents of the Southeast were forced to flee their homes and most remained internally displaced at year’s end. Upwards of 200 civilians were killed in the fighting. Human rights groups reported that security forces killed and injured persons who attempted to cross illegally from Syria into Turkey and documented reports of torture and abuse of prisoners following the coup attempt.

Other human rights problems included prison overcrowding compounded by the influx of tens of thousands of new prisoners after the coup attempt. The government fired more than 3,000 members of the judiciary, creating an atmosphere of fear that further limited judicial independence and complicated or delayed court proceedings. Many refugees lacked access to schools, work, and social assistance. Authorities failed to protect women and children adequately, including by failing to prevent early marriage. Minority groups, including Alevis, Christians, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) individuals, continued to face threats, discrimination, and violence and reported that the government took insufficient steps to protect them. The worst forms of child labor, especially among the refugee population, persisted. Progovernment media used anti-LGBTI, anti-Armenian, anti-Alevi, and anti-Semitic rhetoric.

Impunity was a problem as the government took limited steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish members of the security forces and other officials accused of human rights abuses. A new law approved in July rendered the prosecution of security officers involved in the fight against terror more difficult.

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

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

There were credible allegations that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings in connection with the violent clashes between government security forces and the terrorist PKK organization in the Southeast (see section 1.g.).

A coup attempt on July 15 resulted in the death of more than 240 individuals and the injury of more than 2,100, most of them civilians who took to the streets to defend their democratically elected government. The government attributed the coup attempt to the Fethullah Gulen movement, which it formally designated as the “Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organization.” On July 16, angry mobs beat soldiers surrendering following the attempted coup as they tried to leave Istanbul’s Bosporus Bridge, killing at least one.

The PKK continued its nationwide campaign of deadly attacks on government security forces and, in some cases, civilians during the year. According to the government, 208 civilians died and 1,259 were injured in clashes between security forces and the PKK in the first eight months of the year. The government noted that 451 security personnel were killed in the same period, with 2,810 injured.

The Human Rights Association (HRA), a domestic nongovernmental organization (NGO), attributed more than 300 civilian deaths during the first eight months of the year to the security forces, most of them in the fighting with the PKK. Human rights groups alleged that the government took insufficient measures to protect civilian lives in its fight with the PKK in the Southeast (section 1.g.).

A range of groups criticized the government’s slow-moving investigation of the suspicious death of Diyarbakir Bar Association president, Tahir Elci, who was shot and killed at a press gathering in Diyarbakir in November 2015 under unclear circumstances. The investigation continued as of year’s end.

During the year the government tightened control of its border with Syria in response to requests from foreign governments to restrict the entry of Da’esh fighters who were moving through Turkey to commit terrorist acts elsewhere. This border tightening restricted humanitarian access to Turkey for those fleeing the conflict in Syria. Turkey allowed access only to those needing immediate medical assistance. Some Syrians attempting to cross the border illegally were injured or killed during border crossings (see section 2.d.).

Human rights groups documented several suspicious deaths of detainees in official custody following the coup attempt and noted 16 to 23 reported suicides of detainees as of November. On September 16, Seyfettin Yigit in Bursa allegedly committed suicide after being detained for Gulen-related connections. His family claimed he was a victim of police violence. Yigit had been heavily involved in developing the case announced in 2013, alleging high-level official corruption that implicated members of then-prime minister Erdogan’s family and close circle, including four ministers.

Security officers reacted with force to some protests and demonstrations. Human rights groups claimed the use of force might have contributed to civilian deaths during certain protests in the Southeast. Human rights organizations continued to assert that the government’s failure to delineate clearly in the law the circumstances that justify the use of force contributed to disproportionate use of force during protests (see section 2.b.).

In addition to the violence resulting from the coup attempt and attacks perpetrated by the PKK (see section 1.g.), citizens were also affected by five terrorist attacks attributed to Da’esh. On January 7, a suicide bomber in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet Square killed 12 persons and injured 14. On March 19, another suicide bomber targeted tourists in Istanbul’s Istiklal Street, killing five persons and injuring 36. On May 1, a vehicle-borne suicide bomb killed three police officers and injured 21 persons. On June 28, three men attacked Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, killing 45 persons and injuring more than 200. On August 20, a child suicide bomber killed 54 persons and injured 69 at a wedding in Gaziantep.

b. Disappearance

There were no confirmed reports of politically motivated disappearances during the year.

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

The constitution and law prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, but there were reports that some government officials employed these tactics. Human rights groups alleged that, although torture and mistreatment in police custody decreased following installation of closed-circuit cameras in 2012, police continued to abuse detainees outside police stations. The Ministry of Justice reported there were 457 investigations into allegations of mistreatment in prison or detention centers through October 20. In 39 cases the investigations resulted in fines, and in two cases the suspects were found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment. There was one allegation of rape or sexual abuse in prison during the year, which was forwarded to prosecutors.

The HRA reported receiving hundreds of requests for assistance in connection with allegations of torture and inhuman treatment both in detention centers and outside police stations during the year, adding that intimidation and shaming of detainees by police were common. The HRA reported that victims hesitated to report abuse due to fear of reprisal. Following the coup attempt in July, detainees regularly reported problems including prison overcrowding and lack of access to legal representation and medical treatment.

Thousands of detainees taken into custody in the initial aftermath of the July 15 coup attempt were held in stadiums, meeting rooms, and other sites without cameras, where some were allegedly subject to mistreatment or abuse. Amnesty International (AI) alleged some detainees in Ankara and Istanbul were tortured and reported widespread use of stress positions, denial of food and water, detention in unsanitary conditions, in addition to beatings and rapes. On July 25, AI reported that an anonymous witness at the Ankara police headquarters gym described the following: “…650-800 male soldiers were being held in the Ankara police headquarters sports hall. At least 300 of the detainees showed signs of having been beaten. Some detainees had visible bruises, cuts, or broken bones. Around 40 were so badly injured they could not walk. Two were unable to stand. One woman who was also detained in a separate facility there had bruising on her face and torso.” Bar Association representatives corroborated the allegations; in some cases before-and-after photos appeared to show evidence of beatings by security forces. Authorities restricted lawyers’ access to the detainees as allowed under decrees passed during the state of emergency.

The UN special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, Nils Melzer, reported following his visit (November 27-December 2) that the government’s changes to due process implemented in response to the July coup attempt created an environment conducive to torture. He interviewed many inmates who reported experiencing torture either in connection with detentions in the immediate aftermath of the coup attempt, or in connection with alleged PKK support in the Southeast. He concluded that in the days and weeks following the failed coup, torture and other forms of ill-treatment were widespread in the initial detention and interrogation phases. Melzer noted that very few of those who reported torture had made any official complaint due to fear of reprisals or mistrust of the institutions meant to prevent torture. Intimidation and distrust prevented not just inmates, but also other sectors of society such as lawyers, doctors, and NGOs, from initiating actions that might be perceived as critical of the government, including complaints about torture.

Two journalists detained on August 16 in connection with the closure of pro-Kurdish news media outlet Ozgur Gundem reported being beaten and threatened with rape by police officers.

On October 25, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that the government’s decrees under the state of emergency facilitated torture by removing safeguards that protected detainees from mistreatment. The report described a pattern of denial of access to legal aid and detainees’ medical reports, which it claimed prevented substantiation of allegations of physical abuse. A provision in the emergency decrees absolved government officials of any responsibility for abuses in connection with duties carried out in the context of the decrees.

The government claimed witness reports described in the AI and HRW reports described above were a smear campaign on the part of Gulenists.

The TNP reported 24 criminal investigations into allegations of torture during the year, all of which led to decisions not to prosecute the officials involved. There were three disciplinary investigations related to torture; all three continued at year’s end.

The newly organized National Human Rights and Equality Institution (NHREI), parliament’s Human Rights Commission (HRC), and the Ombudsman Institution are administratively responsible for investigating reports of human rights violations, including allegations of torture, excessive use of force, or extrajudicial killings (see section 5).

Police harassment of LGBTI persons, particularly transgender sex workers, remained common.

According to the NGO Soldiers’ Rights Platform, some military conscripts endured severe hazing, physical abuse, and torture that sometimes resulted in suicide. The NGO reported that at least five soldiers had committed suicide as of September 27 but claimed the actual number was at least double. The Human Rights Joint Platform (HRJP), a domestic NGO, alleged that hate crimes, sexual orientation, and discrimination based on ethnicity played a role in military suicides and suspicious deaths, but it noted an absence of empirical data because the military did not recognize ethnic minorities or collect data on sexual orientation.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison facilities generally met international standards for physical conditions in many respects, with certain exceptions. Overcrowding, particularly in the wake of wide-scale arrests following the July 15 coup attempt, and lack of access to adequate health care remained problems.

Physical Conditions: In August, Justice Minister Bozdag reported the prison population was 215,000. As of October 20, the Ministry of Justice reported there were 372 prisons in the country with a capacity of 189,269 inmates. As of October 20, the prisons were occupied by 196,415 prisoners. Of these, 66,644 were in pretrial detention while 129,771 were convicted of a crime. Some 80 percent of the pretrial detainees had been in prison for less than a year. Pretrial detainees were held in the same facilities with convicted prisoners.

The government reported it used separate prisons for children where such facilities were available; otherwise, children were held in separate sections within adult prisons.

Human rights organizations asserted that prisoners frequently lacked adequate access to potable water, proper heating, ventilation, and lighting. According to the HRA, prisoners sometimes complained about food quantity and quality.

Through October 17, the Justice Ministry reported 283 inmate deaths from natural causes as well as 48 suicides and 16 deaths from other causes. It reported that 181 seriously ill prisoners had been released during the year.

Although the government asserted that doctors were assigned to each prison, according to Ministry of Justice statistics, 11 doctors served prisons in the country as of March 4, or one doctor for every 33 prisons and 16,839 inmates. Human rights associations expressed serious concern over the inadequate provision of health care to prisoners, particularly the insufficient number of prison doctors. As of September the HRA reported that 926 inmates were sick, including 331 in critical condition, and that three inmates had been released for health reasons during the year.

Chief prosecutors have discretion, particularly under the wide-reaching antiterror law, to keep in prison inmates whom they deem dangerous to public security, regardless of medical reports documenting serious illness.

In August, the Istanbul Prison Monitoring Commission of the Istanbul branch of the Progressive Lawyers Association reported that the state of emergency had negatively affected prison conditions. The report, based on information acquired through complaints received and interviews conducted by the association’s lawyers, identified several alleged violations of prisoners’ rights, including prisoners injured during prison transfers, restrictions on telephone calls and family visits, restricted access to information and reading material, recording of attorney-client meetings, and abuse of sick prisoners.

The HRA reported that political prisoners typically were held in higher-security prisons and only received one to two hours per week of recreational time. The law normally allows prisoners 10 hours of recreational time per week, a provision restricted by government decree following the coup attempt.

Administration: Authorities at times investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions but generally did not document the results of such investigations in a publicly accessible manner or take action to hold perpetrators accountable. The Ministry of Justice reported 457 investigations (both criminal and administrative) of alleged prison violence or mistreatment through October 20. The ministry did not supply prison monitoring boards reports for the year but stated that in 2015 monitoring boards made 1,302 visits to 358 prisons throughout the country.

The NHREI and the Ombudsman Institution were established to function as a human rights check for prisons as well as for broader human rights and personnel issues. Parliament’s HRC and the Ombudsman Institution had authorization to visit and observe prisons, including military prisons, without advance permission. During the year the HRC issued one report–on prison conditions in Tekirdag.

Independent Monitoring: The government reported it allowed prison visits by some international delegations, the EU, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), and UN bodies. A CPT delegation visited the country in April and carried out an ad hoc visit in August-September. The government postponed a visit in September requested by the UN special rapporteur on torture, citing limited government resources to support such a visit, which subsequently took place in late November.

The government did not allow NGOs to monitor prisons. The HRA reported it had received numerous complaints of inhuman treatment and torture by prison wardens or other inmates.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but numerous credible reports, especially in the wake of the failed July 15 coup attempt, indicated the government did not always observe these prohibitions. For example, in the three months following the coup attempt, police detained more than 75,000 individuals and formally arrested more than 41,000. The vast majority were accused of ties to the Gulen movement, as opposed to direct participation in the coup attempt itself. Under the state of emergency, detainees could be held without charge for up to 30 days. There were numerous accounts of persons waiting beyond 30 days to be formally charged. Bar associations reported that detainees had difficulty gaining access to lawyers, both because government decrees restricted lawyers’ access to detainees and prisons–especially those not provided by the state, such as legal aid lawyers–and because many lawyers were reluctant to defend individuals suspected of ties to the coup attempt. A variety of sources reported instances of individuals wrongfully detained for ties to the coup based on poison-pen allegations driven by personal or other rivalries.


The Turkish National Police (TNP), under the control of the Ministry of Interior, was responsible for security in large urban areas. The Jandarma, a paramilitary force previously under the joint control of the Ministry of Interior and the military, was moved to strictly civilian control by decree on July 27. It was responsible for rural areas and specific border sectors where smuggling was common, although the military has overall responsibility for border control and overall external security. The Jandarma supervised the “village guards,” a civilian militia historically involved in human rights abuses that provided additional local security in the Southeast, largely in response to the terrorist threat from the PKK. Village guards were renamed “security guards” in an October 29 decree.

Government mechanisms to investigate and punish alleged abuse and corruption by state officials remained inadequate, and impunity remained a problem. National Intelligence Organization members have had legal immunity from prosecution since 2014. On July 14, a new law granted additional, retroactive immunity to security officials fighting terror. The law gave expansive powers to the military and made it harder to investigate human rights abuses by requiring permission from both military and civilian leadership to pursue prosecution.

The Ombudsman Institution, the NHREI, and parliament’s HRC are authorized to investigate reports of security force killings, torture or mistreatment, excessive use of force, and other abuses, but military and civil courts remained the main recourse to prevent impunity.

The Jandarma reported that the Jandarma Human Rights Inquiry and Evaluation Center received 19 complaints of human rights violations during the first eight months of the year. Of those the center found no fault with Jandarma personnel in 16 cases; three cases continued as of year’s end. The TNP reported that, during the same period, 60 personnel were the subjects of internal disciplinary investigations for excessive use of force. As of year’s end, 57 of the investigations continued while three had concluded without finding fault by TNP personnel. There were also 83 TNP criminal cases related to excessive use of force. One case concluded with an acquittal while 82 resulted in decisions not to prosecute.

Prosecutors filed more than 6,000 criminal cases against civilians accused of perpetrating violence against the state during the 2013 Gezi Park protests. Only nine security officials have faced charges for their role in protesters’ deaths. In three cases, courts found police criminally responsible for deaths. In one case an Anatolian court in December concluded a retrial of police officer Ahmet Sahbaz, finding him guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the 2013 shooting death of Gezi Park protester Ethem Sarisuluk. The court sentenced Sahbaz to 16 months in prison, converted to a fine of 10,100 lira ($2,900), a significant sentence reduction compared with the outcome in 2014 of the original trial that was overturned on procedural grounds, which found Sahbaz guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced him to more than seven years in jail. The retrial in one of the other two cases concluded, reaching the same guilty verdict as initially rendered and ruling for the release of the guilty parties after ruling they had served sufficient prison time. In the third case, the appeal remained pending as of year’s end.

Istanbul prosecutors announced on March 3 that they had identified a police officer responsible for firing the tear gas canister that killed 14-year-old Berkan Elvan. Prosecutors indicted the suspect, known only as F.D., on December 7. Prosecutors had not filed charges at year’s end in the case of protester Ahmet Atakan, killed when shot in the head with a tear gas canister in Hatay in 2013. On November 8, a Diyarbakir court acquitted Adem Ciftci, an army private accused of shooting Medeni Yildirim as he allegedly watched a group of protesters throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at soldiers guarding a new police station in Lice district in 2013.

Officials employed the tactic of counterfiling lawsuits against individuals who alleged abuse. Mustafa Yıldız, the father of a nine-year-old with Down syndrome, was fined more than 7,000 lira (about $2,000) on July 11 after his son’s behavior bothered an unnamed police officer at a sporting match in Konya in January. The father filed a complaint against the officer for insulting him and his son, prompting the police officer to counterfile, alleging the man called him “ill-mannered.” A court dismissed the father’s complaint for lack of evidence but found in favor of the police officer, levying a suspended fine against Yildiz.

During the first eight months of the year, the Jandarma reported that more than 2,000 personnel were trained on human rights topics. The TNP reported that more than 8,000 personnel received some human rights training through September.


The law requires warrants issued by a prosecutor for arrests, unless the suspect is detained while committing a crime. Under ordinary circumstances individuals may be detained for up to 24 hours, after which a prosecutor may authorize extending the period to 48 hours, excluding transportation time, before arraigning them with a prosecutor’s warrant before a judge. A chief prosecutor may apply to extend this period of custody up to four days before arraignment under certain circumstances, including cases with multiple suspects and charges. Formal arrest is a later step, separate from detention, and means a suspect will be held in jail until and unless released by a subsequent court order. Authorities must notify suspects of the charges against them within 24 hours, although human rights activists claimed that authorities did not always inform suspects of the basis of a given charge. For crimes that carry sentences of fewer than three years in prison, a judge may release the accused after arraignment upon receipt of an appropriate assurance, such as bail. For more serious crimes, the judge can either release the defendant on his or her own recognizance or hold the defendant in custody (arrest) prior to trial if there are specific facts indicating that the suspect may flee, attempt to destroy evidence, or attempt to pressure or tamper with witnesses or victims. Judges often kept suspects in detention without articulating a clear justification for doing so.

While the law generally provides detainees the right to immediate access to an attorney at any time, laws enacted in 2015 allow prosecutors to deny such access for up to 24 hours. In criminal cases the law also requires that the government provide indigent detainees with a public attorney if they request one. In cases where the potential prison sentence is more than five years or where the defendant is a child or is disabled, a defense attorney is appointed, even absent a request from the defendant. Human rights observers noted that in most cases, authorities provided an attorney where a defendant could not afford one. Judges also may limit a lawyer’s access to the investigation file, should the judge decide the case is confidential. Defense lawyers’ access to their clients’ court files for a specific catalogue of crimes (including crimes against state security, organized crime, and sexual assault against children) may be restricted until the client is indicted.

The state of emergency declared following the July 15 coup attempt provided the government with expanded authorities to detain individuals for up to 30 days without charge and deny access to counsel for up to five days. Decrees gave prosecutors the right to suspend lawyer-client privilege, observe and record conversations between the accused and their legal counsel, and intervene in the selection of defendants’ legal counsel. In October the government used a state-of-emergency decree to reestablish a 24-hour limit for which detainees could be held without access to legal counsel, but legal contacts asserted at year’s end that the five-day rule was still being applied. Following the extension of the state of emergency in October, these provisions remained in place.

Private attorneys and human rights monitors reported irregular implementation of laws protecting the right to a fair trial, particularly with respect to attorney access. Prior to the July 15 coup attempt, human rights groups alleged that authorities frequently denied detainees access to an attorney in terrorism-related cases until security forces had interrogated the suspect.

Arbitrary Arrest: Although the law prohibits holding a suspect arbitrarily or secretly, there were numerous reports that the government did not observe these prohibitions, especially following the July 15 coup attempt. Human rights groups alleged that in areas under curfew or in “special security zones,” security forces detained citizens without official record, leaving detainees at greater risk of arbitrary abuse.

Pretrial Detention: Changes to the law in 2014 reduced from 10 years to five the maximum time that a detainee could be held pending conviction, including for organized crime and terrorism-related offenses. For other major criminal offenses tried by high criminal courts, the maximum detention period is two years plus three one-year extensions, for a total of five years.

The trial system does not provide for access to a speedy trial, and hearings in a case may be months apart. In 2007 police apprehended five individuals for killing three Christians in Malatya, also known as the Zirve Publishing House massacre. The trial concluded at its 115th hearing on September 28 when a court found seven defendants guilty and acquitted 14 others. Emre Gunaydin, Cuma Ozdemir, Hamit Ceker, Salih Gurler, and Abuzer Yildirim were convicted of the 2007 torture and murder of two Turkish converts to Christianity (Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel) and a German citizen (Tilmann Geske). The convicts recorded the torture on their cell phones and murdered their victims after police arrived. While the lengthy trial was ongoing, all the suspects were released from pretrial detention in 2014 because they had reached the five-year maximum allowable time in pretrial detention, although the court had discretion to make exceptions for violent crimes.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees’ lawyers may appeal pretrial detention, although the state of emergency imposed limits on this ability. Changes to the country’s judicial process in 2015 introduced a system of lateral appeals for the Criminal Courts of Peace, substituting appeal to a higher court with appeal to a lateral court. Lawyers criticized the move, which rendered ambiguous the authority of conflicting rulings rendered by horizontally equal courts.

In cases of alleged human rights violations, detainees have the right to apply directly to the Constitutional Court for redress while their criminal case is proceeding. On February 25, the Constitutional Court ruled for the release of opposition daily Cumhuriyet editor in chief, Can Dundar, together with Ankara bureau chief, Erdem Gul, on the grounds that their pretrial detention (on charges of revealing state secrets and seeking the violent overthrow of the government) was a violation of their right to liberty and freedom of expression.

Protracted Detention of Rejected Asylum Seekers or Stateless Persons: The Directorate General of Migration Management (DGMM) reported that it operated 18 readmission and removal centers with a capacity of 6,670. The DGMM reported that as of September 18, there were 3,781 individuals in these facilities. The DGMM stated that facilities had shortcomings, largely because they had not been designed to serve as readmission and removal centers. NGOs reported that some detainees were held for extended periods, although many were released within days.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) noted that detention center conditions varied and were often challenging due to limited physical capacity and increased referrals–some of them related to the country’s March agreement with the EU to accept migrant returns from Greece in return for the resettlement of refugees in Turkey to Europe. Refugee-focused human rights groups alleged that migrants placed in detention and return centers were prevented by authorities from communicating with the outside world, including their family members or lawyers, creating a situation of impunity.

Amnesty: To alleviate prison overcrowding, an August 17 government decree under the state of emergency provided for the release of persons convicted of a selected catalogue of nonviolent crimes, who had less than two years remaining on their sentence and at least half of their sentence completed. Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag announced in September that this provision had allowed the release of approximately 34,000 persons from prison, making space for some of the more than 41,000 arrested after the failed coup attempt.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, but the judiciary remained subject to influence, particularly from the executive branch. Parliament in early July approved legislation restructuring two of the country’s high courts, the Court of Appeals and the Council of State. Among other actions the legislation reduced the number of judges on each court and imposed 12-year term limits on newly appointed judges. The government claimed the reform would streamline the judiciary constructively. Critics charged that the move increased executive influence over the judiciary.

Although the constitution provides tenure for judges, the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) controls the careers of judges and prosecutors through appointments, transfers, promotions, expulsions, and reprimands. Broad leeway granted to prosecutors and judges, challenges the requirement to remain impartial, and the judges’ inclination to protect the state over the individual contributed to inconsistent application of criminal laws.

The suspension, detention, firing, and freezing of personal assets of more than 3,000 members of the judiciary after the July 15 coup attempt (representing about 22 percent of the total) accused of affiliation with the Gulen movement had a chilling effect on judicial independence. The government alleged some obtained their positions through collusion with officials or after cheating on professional entrance exams prior to the dissolution of the partnership between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Gulen movement. The government in many cases presented little evidence and had not allowed the accused to see or respond to the claims against them. By September most of those who had initially been suspended were fired, in many cases without adequate due process. On October 13, in response to an appeal, the HSYK reinstated 198 judges and prosecutors who had previously been suspended. As of September 2, the government hired 956 new judges and prosecutors.

The country has an inquisitorial criminal justice system.

The country’s system for educating and assigning judges and prosecutors created close connections between them; observers (including the European Commission) claimed this process led to the appearance of impropriety and unfairness in criminal cases. Prosecutors and judges studied together at the country’s Justice Academy before being assigned to their first official posts by the HSYK; after appointment they often lodged together, shared the same office space, worked in the same courtroom for many years, and even swapped positions over their careers. Prosecutors entered courtrooms through doors reserved for judicial officials and sat next to judges throughout court proceedings. Human rights and bar associations noted that defense attorneys generally underwent less rigorous training than their prosecutorial counterparts and were not required to pass an examination to demonstrate a minimum level of expertise.

The constitution provides for the trial of military personnel in civilian courts if their alleged crime was committed against the state or the constitutional order. Decisions of the Supreme Military Council were generally not open to civilian review, although the constitution provides for civilian judicial review when specific circumstances are met.


The constitution provides for the right to a fair public trial. Increasing executive interference over the judiciary and actions taken by the government under the state of emergency jeopardized this right.

Under the law defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and the right to be present at their trial. Judges can restrict lawyers’ access to defendants’ files during the prosecution phase. Defendants and their attorneys generally have access to government-held evidence relevant to their cases, although the state increasingly made use of a clause allowing cases to be sealed for national security reasons. The European Commission’s current year progress report and other observers noted that indictments often lacked logical reasoning or evidentiary support.

Courtroom proceedings were generally public for all cases except those involving minors as defendants. The state increasingly used a clause allowing closed courtrooms for hearings and trials related to security matters, such as those related to “crimes against the state.” Court files, which contain indictments, case summaries, judgments, and other court pleadings, were closed to everyone other than the parties to a case, making it difficult to obtain information on the progress or results of court cases.

A single judge or a panel of judges decides all cases.

Defendants have the right to be present at trial and to consult with an attorney in a timely manner. Defendants have the right to legal representation in criminal cases and, if indigent, to have representation provided at public expense. Defendants or their attorneys could question witnesses for the prosecution although questions must usually be presented to the judges who will then ask the questions on behalf of counsel. Defendants or their attorneys could, within limits, present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Secret witnesses were frequently used, particularly in cases related to state security. Defendants have the right not to testify or confess guilt and the right to appeal. The law provides for free interpretation to all parties in a case when needed. The HRA alleged that free interpretation was not always provided, leaving some poor, non-Turkish-speaking defendants disadvantaged by the need to pay for interpretation.

Trials sometimes took years to begin, and appeals could take years to reach conclusion. The courts were capable of moving more quickly in certain cases. In March a 54-year-old teacher employed by the Ensar Foundation, an education-focused body associated with the AKP, was implicated in a sexual assault case in Karaman, where he was accused of systematically assaulting at least 10 male students between the ages of nine and 12, who lived in dorms operated by the foundation. The accused perpetrator stood a one-day trial six weeks after the crime was reported (April 20). Although the court found the perpetrator guilty and gave a record 500-year prison sentence, critics charged the speed of the trial and the court’s refusal to expand the investigation to dozens of other potential victims constituted political protection for the AKP-favored foundation.

In April the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the convictions of all defendants in the Ergenekon case, a large-scale trial that began in 2008 and eventually involved 275 defendants accused of plotting to overthrow the government. A lower court had ruled against most of the suspects in 2013, but most were released from prison in 2014 after the Constitutional Court ruled that their rights were violated on the grounds that the detailed explanation of the judgment against them was not issued within the legal timeframe, precluding appeal. The decision to overturn the convictions was based on lack of concrete evidence proving the existence of the alleged Ergenekon terrorist organization, irregularities in evidence and procedure, and violation of due process. As of year’s end, the case was scheduled to be retried in a lower court.


The number of political prisoners was not a matter of public record and remained the subject of debate at year’s end. In March media reported that 6,592 prison inmates were alleged members of the PKK, while 518 were alleged members of Da’esh and 366 were alleged members of the Gulen movement. Some observers assessed that many imprisoned after the failed coup attempt could be considered political prisoners, a charge disputed by the government. The Justice Ministry reported that, as of October 20, there were 47,512 prisoners in detention on terror-related charges.

Despite limits placed on the use of the antiterror law during 2013 and 2014 by the Fourth and Fifth Judicial Packages, prosecutors continued to use a broad definition of terrorism and threats to national security to launch criminal charges against a broad range of defendants, including more than 140 journalists and hundreds of mostly pro-Kurdish politicians, party officers, and supporters. Notable detentions and arrests during the year included Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) cochairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, and other HDP parliamentarians in November, as well as several Democratic Regions Party (DBP) local mayors in the months following the coup attempt. At year’s end approximately 70 mayors had been removed from office, detained, or arrested for allegedly supporting terrorism (section 1.g.). Antiterror laws were broadly used against Kurds, suspected PKK sympathizers, and alleged members of the Gulen movement. Human rights groups alleged that many detainees had no substantial link to terrorism and were detained to weaken the pro-Kurdish HDP and DBP or to silence critical voices. Authorities used both the antiterror laws and increased powers accorded to the government under the state of emergency to detain individuals and seize assets, including those of media companies, charities, and businesses, of pro-Kurdish groups accused of supporting the PKK, and of individuals alleged to be associated with the Gulen movement.

Credible media reports claimed that some persons jailed on terror charges were subject to a variety of abuses, including long solitary confinements, severe limitations on outdoor exercise and out-of-cell activity, inability to engage in professional work, denial of access to the library and media, slow medical attention, and in some cases the denial of medical treatment. Media also alleged that visitors to prisoners accused of terror-related crimes faced abuse, including limited access to loved ones, strip searches, and degrading treatment by prison guards.


The constitution provides for an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, although this differed in practice. Citizens have the right to file a civil case for compensation for physical or psychological harm, including for human rights violations. A 2015 law established new regional appeals courts to act as first-level appellate courts, which became operational in September. The Supreme Court of Appeals (Yargitay) remained the initial appellate body for redress until the regional appeals courts were functional. The law also allows individuals to appeal their cases directly to the Constitutional Court on constitutional and human rights issues, theoretically allowing for faster and logistically easier high-level review of human rights violations within contested court decisions, although the Constitutional Court experienced a backlog that slowed access to justice. The right of citizens to apply directly to the Constitutional Court for redress of human rights issues led to a decrease in recent years in the number of applications made to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against the country, as applicants to the ECHR must first exhaust all domestic remedies available to them. An ECHR spokesperson in November reported a substantial increase in applications from Turkey in connection with the government’s response to the coup attempt.


Cabinet decrees in March and April expropriated properties in several districts of Diyarbakir, Sirnak, Hakkari, and Mardin Provinces for the purposes of facilitating government reconstruction of areas damaged in clashes between the government and the PKK. The expropriation decrees provided minimal information about restitution and compensation for property owners. In April the Diyarbakir Bar Association and 750 individual citizens filed applications in court against the expropriation decisions, including by arguing that property owners were not given adequate means to contest decisions. As of year’s end, the courts had not ruled on these cases, but the government had moved forward with the destruction and reconstruction of expropriated properties (see section 1.g.).

After the July 15 coup attempt, the government seized hundreds of businesses and an estimated 15 billion lira ($4 billion) in assets from alleged members of the Gulen movement. In December the Istanbul 11th Criminal Court of Peace authorized the government to seize all personal assets of 54 journalists due their alleged links to the Gulen movement, although they had not been convicted of a crime. Under the state of emergency, these businesses and individuals generally had limited legal recourse to appeal government actions as of year’s end.

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

While the constitution provides for the “secrecy of private life” and states that individuals have the right to demand protection and correction of their personal information and data, the law provides the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) the power to collect information while seriously limiting the ability of the public or journalists to expose abuses. The MIT may collect data from any entity without a warrant or other judicial process for approval. At the same time, the law establishes criminal penalties for interfering with MIT activities, including MIT data collection, for obtaining information about the MIT, or for publishing information about the MIT. Additionally, the law gives the MIT and its employees immunity from prosecution. Only the Prime Minister’s Office has oversight of the MIT and the ability to investigate MIT activities. The Constitutional Court partially revoked the law in 2015 but did not rule on the controversial articles expanding the powers of the institution.

The law gives police and the Jandarma authority without cause to compel citizens to identify themselves, a power expanded by the state of emergency.

The 2015 Internal Security Package of laws provides broader police powers for personal search and seizure. Senior police officials may authorize search warrants, with judicial permission to follow within 24 hours. Individuals subjected to such searches have the right to lodge complaints, but judicial permission occurring after a search has already taken place failed to serve as a check against abuse.

Security forces can conduct wiretaps for up to 48 hours without a judge’s approval. As a check against abuse of this power, the Prime Ministry’s Inspection Board can conduct annual inspections and present its reports for review to parliament’s Security and Intelligence Commission. Human rights groups noted that wiretapping without a court order circumvented judicial control and potentially limited citizens’ right to privacy.

After the coup attempt, the government targeted family members to exert pressure on some wanted suspects. Under the state of emergency, the government cancelled the passports of family members of civil servants suspended from work as well as of those who had fled authorities. In some cases the government cancelled or refused to issue passports for the minor children of accused Gulenists who were outside the country, forcing family separation. In August police detained the wife of editor in chief Bulent Korucu of the now-closed Gulenist daily Zaman and its successor publication, Yarina Bakis. Authorities reportedly detained former AKP parliamentarian Hakan Sukur’s 75-year-old father, Sermet Sukur, on August 12 in lieu of his son. On November 26, the father was reportedly released under house arrest. His son, who was reportedly out of the country at year’s end, was accused of Gulenist ties.

On April 7, parliament approved the Law on the Protection of Personal Data. The legislation stipulates that personal data–information about race, ethnicity, political thought, philosophical beliefs, religious affiliation, appearance, membership in organizations, health, sexual life, and criminal record, as well as security-related information and biometric/genetic data–cannot be processed or transferred abroad without the individual’s explicit consent. Under the law personal data can only be transferred to a foreign country if there is adequate protection in the receiving country, a written assurance of adequate protection, and permission of the country’s newly created data-protection authority. Some legal experts asserted that the law fails to protect personal data adequately, particularly because it introduces a series of exceptions that could give the state flexibility in collecting and using private data.

The European Commission’s current year progress report on Turkey noted the April 7 Law on the Protection of Personal Data was not aligned with EU standards.

Government seizure and closure of hundreds of businesses accused of links to the Gulen movement created ambiguous situations for the privacy of client information. An Istanbul fertility center owned by Aret Kamar, who was accused of Gulenist affiliations, was closed by government decree following the July 15 coup attempt. The government seized personal files of 40,000 patients, and all embryos were transferred to Koc University laboratories, leaving couples in a state of uncertainty about the potential violation of their right to privacy.

Many citizens believed authorities tapped their telephones and accessed their e-mail messages or social media accounts, which led to widespread self-censorship, especially following the coup attempt. Human rights groups assessed that self-censorship due to fear of official reprisal accounted, in part, for the relatively low number of complaints they received regarding allegations of torture or mistreatment.

In addition to conducting deadly terror attacks throughout the year, the PKK and affiliates declared autonomy and dug trenches in some cities in the Southeast. The government responded with active security operations in the country’s Southeast. The government issued curfews in dozens of urban neighborhoods throughout the Southeast, usually giving residents of these areas only hours to abandon their homes prior to the launch of counter-PKK security operations. Those who remained faced 24-hour curfews, sometimes for weeks or even months at a time, as well as extremely difficult living conditions while government-PKK clashes took place, at times involving heavy artillery. Medical services were sometimes unable to reach persons in distress. Human rights groups reported that hundreds of civilians were killed, while thousands were rendered homeless. Multiple sources, including the government, asserted that the PKK forced noncombatants to act as human shields, exacerbating civilian casualties.

Killings: Estimates of casualty tolls from renewed government-PKK fighting varied considerably and remained a topic of debate.

The government reported that, in the first eight months of the year, 208 civilians died and 1,259 civilians were injured by PKK-related violence. According to data from security institutions and media reports, as of year’s end, PKK-related incidents and operations resulted in the deaths of 637 security personnel, including 398 soldiers, 187 police, and 52 village guards (renamed “security guards” by decree in October). PKK tactics included assault with conventional weapons, vehicle-born bombs, suicide bombing attacks, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). At times IEDs or unexploded ordinance, usually attributed to the PKK, killed or maimed civilians. The HRA reported that, in the first nine months of the year, IEDs generally attributed to the PKK killed two adults and eight children, and injured 29, including 21 children.

On June 18, President Erdogan claimed that more than 7,600 PKK terrorists were “neutralized” in nationwide and cross-border operations since July 2015, a figure disputed by some experts.

The HRA maintained that security officers killed 317 civilians and injured 130 in arbitrary killings throughout the country in the first nine months of the year, including at government checkpoints, deaths in government-PKK violence (for example, the Cizre basement incident described below), and excessive use of force in crowd control. The HRA linked the majority of these deaths to the government’s fight against the PKK in the Southeast.

In two cases, human rights groups alleged that government security forces killed dozens of civilians, including women and children, who had pled for days for safe passage out of besieged basements in districts under curfew in Cizre in Sirnak Province and in Sur in Diyarbakir Province. Witnesses told HRW that, in February in the Cizre district of Sirnak Province, security forces surrounded three buildings and deliberately killed at least 130 persons who had sheltered in the basements, among them unarmed civilians. The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRF) reported that, during the 79-day-long curfew in Cizre, approximately 200 persons were killed, most of them in the basements referred to by HRW. The Ankara-based HRA reported that 171 bodies, the majority belonging to unarmed civilians, were retrieved from three basements in Cizre after February 5. The HRA’s president alleged to media that the government used the time between the end of security operations in Cizre and the lifting of the curfew in the area to destroy the basements and, with them, any evidence of wrong-doing. The HRA’s claims were based on the testimony of witnesses and victims’ family members, as well as the discovery by HRA volunteers of body parts at the site. Separately, the HRA alleged that seven persons were killed in the Sur basement in question in February. The president of the HRF, Sebnem Korur Fincanci, recorded finding a human jawbone in the remains of a Sur basement she was allowed to visit on March 3.

The government responded that such allegations were a baseless smear campaign, that it had taken necessary precautions to protect civilians, and the PKK was responsible for any deaths. The government stated that the PKK had prevented civilians from exiting the besieged basements to protect its injured fighters, assigning responsibility to the terrorist group for the alleged civilian deaths. The government declined to allow independent media or international observers to investigate. The government also reported at year’s end that the Cizre prosecutor’s office was undertaking an investigation of security force actions.

In several cases during the year, human rights groups alleged the government failed to take adequate steps to protect civilians caught in the conflict between security forces and the PKK. HRW established, through interviews with residents and witnesses, that while many civilian deaths occurred in neighborhoods where the PKK had erected barricades and dug trenches, there were also civilian deaths in areas removed from direct clashes.

PKK-related attacks also claimed the lives of police officers and civilians in Ankara, Istanbul, and other cities throughout the year. On March 13, a vehicle-borne bomb in central Ankara claimed 37 lives and injured 125. On December 10, a double suicide bombing attack in Istanbul killed 44 and injured more than 150 outside Istanbul’s Vodafone Stadium at the conclusion of a soccer match. The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, a PKK affiliate, claimed responsibility for these attacks and several more throughout the year.

PKK attacks also targeted political figures. On August 25, a PKK attack on a convoy belonging to the leadership of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in Artvin killed one soldier and injured two others. On September 11, the PKK announced it intended to target government-appointed trustees installed to replace elected mayors removed for alleged ties or providing support to the PKK. Between September 11 and November 11, the PKK carried out at least six attacks on political targets, killing two and injuring dozens. On September 12, a PKK car bomb attack targeting local AKP offices and the provincial governorship in Van injured 48 persons.

Abductions: The PKK continued to abduct both officials and civilians throughout the year. The government reported that through September, the PKK kidnapped 74 civilians and six village security guards. The HRA alleged as of December 23, the PKK was holding 31 soldiers and police officers hostage.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: In January an alternative media IMC TV cameraman, Refik Tekin, was injured when the 10-person delegation with which he was traveling, which included an HDP lawmaker, attempted to retrieve bodies and injured persons from a besieged house in Cizre and came under fire from unidentified perpetrators. Tekin reported he was kicked and beaten as he was detained by police; after an hours-long delay, he was sent to Mardin for treatment of his gunshot injury, where police denied him access to visitors. After receiving medical treatment, he was arrested and charged with being a terrorist. Two members of the delegation injured in the attack, Cizre municipal assembly members, Hamit Pocal and Selman Erdogan, subsequently died.

Human rights groups alleged that police, government security forces, and the PKK abused some residents of the Southeast. AI reported that, on May 26, days after clashes between security forces and the PKK ended, 42 persons (including 10 children) were detained in Nusaybin; all reported being mistreated, including being hooded, while some were reportedly beaten; one was denied medical treatment for a serious injury. There was no indication of an official investigation of the report.

The government alleged that pro-Kurdish residents of the Southeast abused security force members, including by sometimes withholding medical services from security force members injured in the fighting with the PKK.

Child Soldiers: The government alleged the PKK continued to recruit and forcibly abduct children for conscription purposes. An April 24 government report claimed that the PKK abducted children from urban areas of the Southeast, estimating that 40 percent of the group’s rural or mountain divisions were underage, with almost 10 percent under age 15. The government alleged the PKK had used children as suicide bombers.

Other Conflict-related Abuse: Prior to commencing counter-PKK military operations, the government commonly declared curfews with just a day’s notice, leaving residents only hours to decide whether to evacuate or shelter in place. Human rights observers noted that about 80 percent of the inhabitants of neighborhoods placed under curfew elected to leave their homes, most of them sheltering with friends or extended family. Those who remained faced hardship, including cuts to water and electricity services. Human rights observers reported that both the PKK and the government destroyed critical infrastructure, adding that government security forces targeted air conditioners and water tanks, making life uncomfortable for those who decided to stay. Medical personnel sometimes could not reach residents in distress. Curfews and government-PKK clashes lasted days and in some cases months, leaving residents in a state of siege.

The PKK’s use of asymmetric warfare and security forces’ use of heavy artillery in urban environments led to extensive damage in some urban areas in the Southeast. Large sections of Diyarbakir’s historic Sur district, Cizre, Nusaybin, and Yuksekova were heavily damaged. The government subsequently bulldozed many of the damaged buildings without collecting evidence that might have otherwise helped clarify the source of the damage and casualties.

On March 25 and again on April 5, a cabinet decision allowed the expropriation of certain properties in specific districts of Cizre, Idil, and Silopi (Sirnak); Sur, Baglar, and Kayapınar (Diyarbakır); and Cukurca and Yuksekova (Hakkari); Kızıltepe (Mardin). The land expropriated by the government included properties belonging to residents, businesses, public institutions, local governments, and NGOs, as well as historic places of worship and cultural heritage. The 500-year-old Kursunlu Mosque, the historic Hasirli Mosque, the Surup Giragos Church, and the Chaldean Church were among the sites affected.

The cabinet decision gave the Ministry of Interior the right to take immediate possession of all property in these specified districts to facilitate postconflict reconstruction efforts. The expropriation decrees stated that the expropriations was temporary and that the government would return property to the owners, but were unclear on restitution/compensation for property owners and did not provide a clear means for owners to contest decisions. Many affected homeowners lacked property titles and, therefore, faced uncertainty. As of year’s end, many property owners remained unsure about how to pursue compensation or regain possession of their properties. While some owners had reported receiving compensation payments for household goods destroyed by the fighting, few had received offers of compensation for immovable properties.

The government and adverse security conditions limited journalists’ and international observers’ access to the affected areas, which made monitoring and assessing the conflict difficult. The government deferred a request by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for an official observation visit, although it stated that UN representatives could visit the areas in their capacity as UN staff.

On September 11, the government used a decree issued under the state of emergency to replace 28 elected local mayors with trustees in Silvan and Sur (Diyarbakir); four municipalities in Mardin, Van, and Batman, Hakkari; two municipalities in Sirnak; Adana; Erzurum; Giresun; and Konya. The government claimed that 24 of the removed mayors were linked to the PKK, while it linked the remaining four to the Gulen movement. At year’s end the government had placed at least 47 municipalities under trusteeship, and arrested an additional seven mayors without installing trustees. At year’s end 70 elected officials had been removed from office, detained, or arrested for allegedly supporting terrorism.

The women’s democracy NGO Ka-Der noted that women were disproportionately affected by the clashes in the Southeast. Women suffered more than men when security measures forced them to depart their homes, denying them their rights to shelter and education for themselves or their children. Women were also disproportionately displaced by government removals of elected officials, as local political parties had maintained a 50 percent quota for women candidates, which the government did not honor in naming male trustees to run affected municipalities.


Executive Summary

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is an authoritarian state ruled by a single party, the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), and led by General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, President Tran Dai Quang, and Chairwoman of the National Assembly Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan. The most recent National Assembly elections, held on May 22, were neither free nor fair, despite limited competition among CPV-vetted candidates.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The National Assembly delayed the implementation of several laws passed in 2015 affecting the rights of citizens, including a new penal code, criminal procedure code, and law on custody and temporary detention.

The most significant human rights problems in the country were severe government restrictions of citizens’ political rights, particularly their right to change their government through free and fair elections; limits on citizens’ civil liberties, including freedom of assembly, association, and expression; and inadequate protection of citizens’ due process rights, including protection against arbitrary detention.

Other human rights abuses included arbitrary and unlawful deprivation of life; police attacks and corporal punishment; arbitrary arrest and detention for political activities; continued police mistreatment of suspects during arrest and detention, including the use of lethal force and austere prison conditions; and denial of the right to a fair and expeditious trial. The judicial system was opaque and lacked independence, and political and economic influences regularly affected judicial outcomes. The government limited freedom of speech and suppressed dissent; exercised control over and censored the press; restricted internet freedom and freedom of religion; maintained often-heavy surveillance of activists; and continued to limit privacy rights and freedoms of assembly, association, and movement. The government continued to control registration of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) closely, including human rights organizations. Authorities restricted visits by human rights NGOs and foreign press agencies that did not agree to government oversight. Corruption remained widespread throughout public-sector institutions, including police. The government maintained limits on workers’ rights to form and join independent unions and did not enforce safe and healthy working conditions adequately. Child labor persisted, especially in agricultural occupations.

The government sometimes took corrective action, including prosecutions, against officials who violated the law, and police officers sometimes acted with impunity.

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

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

There were multiple reports indicating officials or other agents under the command of the Ministry of Public Security or provincial public security departments committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, including reports of at least nine deaths of persons in custody. In most cases authorities either provided little information regarding investigations into these deaths or stated the deaths were the result of suicide or medical problems. In a small number of cases, the government held police officials responsible. Despite guidance from the Supreme People’s Court to charge police officers responsible for causing deaths in custody with murder, such officers typically faced lesser charges.

On March 25, Y Sik Nie died at Cu M’gar district hospital, Dak Lak Province, after more than three months of detention by local police. In December 2015 authorities took Nie to a local police station for theft allegations; his family was not able to visit him until March 25, when a family friend informed them that Nie was in critical condition at a local hospital. When the family arrived at the hospital, they found him dead. The family told media that Nie was a very healthy man before his arrest and that an autopsy indicated injury to his internal organs. Police and hospital staff denied the family access to his medical records. On May 27, Dak Lak provincial authorities announced Nie died of heart failure; Nie’s family disagreed and requested a government investigation into the death.

On July 3, Pham Quang Thien reportedly hanged himself in a detention facility in Thong Nhat district, Dong Nai Province. Authorities took Thien into custody on June 29 for allegedly stealing a tablet computer. Per media reporting, Dong Nai provincial police conducted an autopsy with a representative of Thien’s family present. The examiner concluded Thien died of hanging, but Thien’s family stated they had evidence Thien died from physical assault.

During the year in a small number of cases, the government held security officers responsible for arbitrary deprivation of life. On May 17, the People’s Court of Dong Thap Province convicted Huynh Ngoc Tong, the former vice chief of the Police Investigation Agency of Cao Lanh City, and investigator Pham Xuan Binh of “using corporal punishment” against Nguyen Tuan Thanh. Thanh had died of his injuries sustained while in detention in 2012. The court sentenced Tong to 18 months in prison and Binh to time served in pretrial detention (11 months and 11 days). Both Tong and Binh claimed authorities forced them to confess to the charges.

Do Dang Du’s lawyer and human rights organizations criticized the People’s Court of Hanoi’s decision to sentence Du’s cellmate Vu Van Binh to 10 years in prison for “deliberately inflicting injuries” and causing Du’s death, stating authorities had made Binh a scapegoat. After Du’s death authorities reportedly forced the family to bury his body immediately, and the family alleged Du’s autopsy report failed to include the full extent of his injuries. In October 2015, 17-year-old Do Dang Du reportedly died due to torture while in police custody in Hanoi for allegations of theft.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

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

The law prohibits physical abuse of detainees, but suspects commonly reported mistreatment and torture by police, plainclothes security officials, and drug-detention center personnel during arrest, interrogation, and detention. Police, prosecutors, and government oversight agencies seldom conducted investigations of specific reports of mistreatment.

In June 2015 the National Assembly released a report describing multiple cases of forced confessions or use of corporal punishment during police investigations from 2011 to 2014. The Ministry of Public Security reported it received 46 complaints of forced confession or use of corporal punishment; of these, authorities substantiated only three, and six remained under investigation.

In November the National Assembly delayed the implementation of the criminal procedure code, passed in November 2015, pending further revisions to the penal code.

Political and religious activists and their families alleged numerous and sometimes severe instances of harassment by Ministry of Public Security officials and agents, ranging from intimidation and insults to more significant abuses, such as physical assault during interrogation or attacks on their homes with rocks by plainclothes police. Activists also reported assaults on them and their families that caused injury and trauma requiring hospitalization. During the year there was at least one credible report that ministry officials and police in a province in the central region of the country physically beat a detained human rights activist and threatened to reveal his sexual orientation to his family members unless he ceased his advocacy activities.

On multiple occasions in January and February, plainclothes police officers in Lam Dong Province reportedly attacked human rights activist and former prisoner of conscience Tran Minh Nhat and his family members with stones, causing head injuries. From January to April, local police reportedly also verbally threatened his family members, prevented him from travelling to receive medical treatment, burned his crops, killed his livestock, and sprayed his house with pesticides.

During the year local police in Pleiku city, Gia Lai Province, reportedly harassed, assaulted, and threatened repeatedly Tran Thi Hong, the wife of imprisoned pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh. On March 30, police temporarily detained Hong and her son and locked them out of their house while they were on their way to meet foreign diplomats. From March to May, Hong reported that Pleiku city police officers assaulted her on three different occasions. On May 27 and 28, police reportedly broke into her home and forced her to attend interrogation sessions at a local police station. Local police also reportedly summoned Hong for questioning every day from June 1 through June 10. Harassment by police, including regular home searches and seizures of her personal property such as her cell phone, continued through July and August.

From April to July, police officers and plainclothes security forces in multiple locations around the country reportedly assaulted individuals attending demonstrations related to an environmental disaster that caused mass fish deaths along the central coastline. These demonstrations coincided with the period preceding National Assembly elections and the visit to the country by a foreign leader. On May 1 and May 8, police in Ho Chi Minh City reportedly detained and assaulted dozens of activists attending or attempting to join environmental demonstrations. On May 8, plainclothes police officers in Hanoi reportedly beat Ha Anh Tu, a person with disabilities, while he was participating in an environmental demonstration. On May 19, Ho Chi Minh City police reportedly assaulted activists Tran Hoang Han, Nguyen Huu Tinh, and Nguyen Phuong. On June 5-6, Ho Chi Minh City authorities reportedly detained, assaulted, and subsequently strip-searched human rights activist Tran Thu Nguyet for taking part in an environmental demonstration. On July 18, police in Phu Xuan Commune, Nha Be District, Ho Chi Minh City, reportedly detained and repeatedly assaulted activist Nguyen Phuong after Phuong participated in environmental demonstrations in May and June (see also section 1.d.).

On July 9, plainclothes security officials reportedly abducted former prisoner of conscience Nguyen Viet Dung at a hotel in Ho Chi Minh City, took him to Tan Son Nhat Airport, and forced him to buy a ticket and return to his hometown of Vinh in Nghe An Province. Upon arriving in Vinh, plainclothes police from Nghe An Province confined him in a vehicle for approximately one hour, beating him, threatening to kill him, and questioning him about his activities in Ho Chi Minh City. Dung reportedly had visited Ho Chi Minh City to protest the local government’s plans to demolish the United Buddhist Church of Vietnam’s Lien Tri Pagoda.

There were also numerous reports of police mistreatment and assaults against individuals who were not activists or involved in politics. For example, on March 2, plainclothes police in Hung Yen Province summoned Nguyen Van Manh to police headquarters. Police reportedly questioned Manh about an allegation of theft and subsequently assaulted him, including striking his genitalia with a police baton and crushing his fingers.

On April 4, Ho Chi Minh City police beat fruit vendor Pham Thien Minh Phong to the point of unconsciousness, resulting in brain injury and Phong’s hospitalization. The leadership of the local police unit issued an apology, suspended one of the officers who beat Phong, and stated police would open an investigation into the incident.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were austere but generally not life threatening. Insufficient diet and unclean food, overcrowding, lack of access to potable water, and poor sanitation remained serious problems. According to Amnesty International and former prisoners of conscience, prison authorities singled out political prisoners, particularly in the Central Highlands and sensitive ethnic minority areas, for physical abuse, solitary confinement, denial of medical treatment, and punitive prison transfers.

Physical Conditions: Authorities generally held men and women separately, with some reported exceptions in local detention centers where space was often limited. Authorities also typically utilized separate facilities for holding pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners. Although authorities generally held juveniles in prison separately from adults, on rare occasions juveniles reportedly were held in detention with adults for short periods due to lack of space.

Prisoners had access to basic health care, although in many cases officials prevented family members from providing medication to prisoners. Family members of imprisoned activists who experienced health problems claimed medical treatment was inadequate and resulted in greater long-term health complications. Heating and ventilation were inadequate in many prisons.

During the year the family of imprisoned Hoa Hao Buddhist and land rights activist Tran Thi Thuy reported prison officials at An Phuoc Prison in Binh Duong Province had repeatedly denied medical treatment for a tumor on her uterus and an open wound on her abdomen, despite repeated requests. Authorities reportedly told Thuy that she would not receive treatment unless she “confessed” to the crimes for which she was convicted. Police had taken Thuy to a police hospital in September 2015 and in March, but the hospital and prison officers reportedly refused to share Thuy’s medical records with her family. Thuy’s family reported that prison authorities forced her to work under poor conditions and stated family members experienced regular police harassment.

In March prisoners of conscience Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Dinh Nguyen Kha, Tran Vu Anh Binh, and Lieu Ly conducted a 13-day hunger strike at Xuyen Moc prison in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province to protest a prison rule prohibiting inmates from sharing food with each other and from sending and receiving documents to family members. On May 24, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc started a 14-day hunger strike to protest his transfer to a prison in Nghe An Province, significantly further from his family, and to demand a national referendum on the country’s political system.

Serious health conditions exacerbated by poor or delayed medical care, forced prison labor, poor sanitation, and malnutrition caused most deaths in prison. Some prisoners’ family members alleged death resulted from lethal force by authorities (see section 1.a.).

Prisoners generally were required to work but received no wages. Authorities placed prisoners in solitary confinement for standard periods of three months. Some political prisoners reported they experienced solitary confinement more frequently than nonpolitical prisoners. Prison authorities reportedly also placed some transgender individuals in solitary confinement due to confusion over whether to place them in male or female quarters. Ministry of Public Security officials often prohibited reading and writing materials, especially for political prisoners. Family members continued to make credible claims prisoners received extra food or other preferential treatment by paying bribes to prison officials.

Authorities typically sent political prisoners to specially designated prisons that also held regular criminals and, in many cases, kept political prisoners separate from nonpolitical prisoners. Authorities completely isolated some high-profile political prisoners. Activists reported Ministry of Public Security officials assaulted prisoners of conscience to exact confessions or used other means to induce written confessions, including instructing fellow prisoners to assault them or making promises of better treatment.

Some former and existing prisoners of conscience reported prisoners received insufficient food and that of poor quality. Several former prisoners reported they received only two small bowls of rice and vegetables daily, often mixed with foreign matter such as insects or stones.

Administration: There was no active system of prison ombudsmen, but the law provides for oversight of the execution of criminal judgments by the National Assembly, people’s councils, and the CPV’s Vietnam Fatherland Front (VFF), an umbrella group that oversees the country’s government-sponsored social organizations.

Authorities limited prisoners to one 30-minute family visit per month and generally permitted family members to give various items, including money, supplemental food, and bedding to prisoners. Family members of political prisoners reported that prison authorities at times revoked visitation rights, often after political prisoners staged hunger strikes or refused to follow instructions. Family members also continued to report government surveillance and harassment by security officials as well as frequent interference with their work, school, and financial activities.

In contrast with normal practice for nonpolitical prisoners, authorities routinely transferred political prisoners to facilities far from their families, making it difficult for family members to visit them. On May 6, the Ministry of Public Security transferred prisoner of conscience Tran Huynh Duy Thuc from Xuyen Moc Prison in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province to Detention Center 6 in Nghe An Province, nearly 1,000 miles away from his home and relatives in Ho Chi Minh City.

Religious leaders and former prisoners of conscience reported Ministry of Public Security officials did not permit prisoners to conduct religious services or receive visits by religious leaders. Family members and some former prisoners reported certain prison authorities did not permit prisoners to have religious texts while in detention.

Independent Monitoring: Local and regional International Committee of the Red Cross officials neither requested nor carried out prison visits during the year. The government did not allow foreign diplomats or domestic or foreign NGOs to conduct credible monitoring of prison conditions.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution states that a decision by a court or prosecutor is required for the arrest of any individual, except in the case of a “flagrant offense.” The law allows the government to arrest and detain persons for significant periods of time under vague national security provisions of the penal code, such as the continued pretrial detention since 2015 of Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thu Ha for “conducting propaganda against the state” (article 88). The government continued to arrest and detain individuals for peacefully expressing political or religious views under other legal provisions of the penal code, including “causing public disorder” (article 245), “resisting persons on duty” (article 257), or “abusing democratic freedoms” (article 258). Authorities regularly subjected activists and suspected criminals to administrative detention or house arrest.


The Ministry of Public Security is responsible for internal security and controls the national police, a special national security investigative agency, and other internal security units. Provincial and local-level police often maintained significant discretion in their activities. The Bureau of Investigation of the Supreme People’s Procuracy (national-level public prosecutor’s office) examines allegations of abuse by security forces. Four of 19 members of the Politburo were actual or former Ministry of Public Security officials, compared with three of 16 members of the previous Politburo. The government appointed existing and former Ministry of Public Security officials to a range of senior positions, including President Tran Dai Quang, Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh, Chairman of the Office of the Communist Party Central Committee Nguyen Van Nen, Chief Justice of the Supreme People’s Court Nguyen Hoa Binh, and Acting Chairman of the Government Committee on Religious Affairs Bui Thanh Ha. Former security officials also held key leadership positions in provincial-level government, including Hanoi People’s Committee Chairman Nguyen Duc Trung and Thai Nguyen Province Party Secretary Tran Quoc To.

People’s committees (the executive branch of local governments) had substantial authority over police forces and prosecutors at the provincial, district, and local levels. Although the Supreme People’s Procuracy had authority to investigate security force abuse, police organizations operated with significant discretion, little transparency, and limited public oversight. Police officers sometimes acted with impunity. At the commune level, guard forces composed of residents or members of government-affiliated social organizations commonly assisted police. Police were generally effective at maintaining public order, but other police capabilities, especially investigative, were very limited. Police training and resources, particularly at the local level, were inadequate. Several foreign governments and international organizations continued to assist in training provincial police and prison management officials to improve their professional skills.

A variety of specialized government agencies oversee migration and border enforcement. The Ministry of Public Security’s Department of Immigration Management is responsible for overseeing migration in and out of the country. The military performs public safety functions in border areas. The Ministry of Finance controls the customs agency, and other agencies oversee quarantine and other functions. The official responsibilities, jurisdictions, and command structures of these agencies vary considerably. Border control officers often lacked the capacity to identify and interdict illegal border movements such as trafficking in persons; narcotic drugs and precursor chemicals; and trafficking of wildlife, timber, and counterfeit goods.


The law includes provisions related to arrest procedures and the treatment of detainees prior to case adjudication. Police and other investigative agencies usually executed warrants for arrest, custody, and temporary detention. By law police generally need a decision by the People’s Procuracy to arrest a suspect, although in some limited cases they need a court decision. In most cases the People’s Procuracy at the state, provincial, and district levels issued such arrest warrants. Under urgent circumstances, such as when evidence existed a person was preparing to commit a crime or when police caught a person in the act of committing a crime, police could make an arrest without a warrant. In such cases the People’s Procuracy must issue a decision to approve or not to approve the arrest within 12 hours of receiving notice from police.

The People’s Procuracy must issue a decision to initiate a formal criminal investigation of a detainee within three days of arrest; otherwise, police must release the suspect. The law allows the procuracy to request two additional three-day extensions allowing for an extension of the custody time limit to a maximum of nine days.

The law affords detainees access to counsel from the time of their detention, but authorities continued their use of bureaucratic delays to deny timely access to legal counsel. In cases investigated under national security laws, the government has the authority to prohibit access by defense lawyers to clients until after officials complete an investigation and formally charge the suspect with a crime.

By law authorities may keep individuals in detention pending investigation for up to 24 months, in four-month increments, for “especially serious offenses,” including national security cases. During this period of detention, authorities have the discretion to deny family visits or access to counsel. In many such cases, authorities did not provide attorneys access to their clients or the evidence against them until immediately before the case went to trial and without adequate time to prepare their cases. On September 23, blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh stated at his appeals court trial that he learned about the trial only one day prior, from a prison guard. By law authorities must request the local bar association, legal aid center, or the VFF to appoint an attorney for criminal cases involving juveniles, individuals with mental or physical disabilities, and persons formally charged with capital crimes. The National Assembly passed a revised criminal procedure code in November 2015 but delayed its implementation during the year, pending additional revisions to the penal code.

The law requires authorities to inform persons held in custody, accused of a crime, or charged with a crime of their rights under the law, including the right to an attorney. Under most circumstances, once advised, the accused are responsible for obtaining their own attorney. The law obligates defense attorneys to begin the defense of their client from the time authorities issue custody decisions.

Authorities generally provided notification to consular offices of the arrest of foreign nationals but sometimes delayed that notification. Government officials usually provided consular access to arrested or detained foreign nationals but imposed strict conditions on this access, including requiring police and other government officials to be present during meetings between consular officers and the arrested foreign nationals and, on occasion, videotaping these meetings.

The law allows defense counsel to be present during interrogations of their clients. The law also requires authorities to give defense attorneys access to case files and permit them to copy documents. Attorneys were usually able to exercise these rights. Defense lawyers representing politically sensitive detainees reported significant difficulty carrying out their responsibilities and exercising their rights under the law. Many detainees reported limited access to materials and information that would assist in the preparation of their legal defense, including the penal code itself. This was especially the case for detainees held on national security charges.

Police generally informed families of detainees’ whereabouts, but family members could visit a detainee only with the permission of the investigator. During the investigative period, authorities routinely denied detainees access to family members, especially in national security cases. Before a formal indictment, detainees have the right to notify family members, although the Ministry of Public Security held a number of detainees suspected of national security violations incommunicado. Time spent in pretrial detention counted toward time served upon conviction and sentencing.

Authorities continued to deny requests for family visitation to activist Le Thi Thu Ha since her arrest in December 2015. Authorities reportedly allowed the wife of activist Nguyen Van Dai to visit him for the first time on November 3, after Dai had spent nearly 11 months in pretrial detention. Authorities in Nha Trang city did not allow the mother of blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (also known as Me Nam or Mother Mushroom) to visit her in pretrial detention following her October 10 arrest but allowed the mother to deliver food and clothing.

For crimes infringing on national security as well as some exceptionally serious offenses, courts may impose probation or administrative detention upon an individual for a period of one to five years after completion of the original sentence. Terms of the probation typically included confinement to a residence and deprivation of the right to vote, run for office, or perform government or military service.

As of June the country confined approximately 14,000 persons in “compulsory detoxification establishments” (previously referred to as “06” centers or “compulsory treatment institutions”). This was a decline from approximately 40,000 persons in 2008 (when authorities introduced methadone maintenance treatment). There were 123 centers, of which 39 were voluntary treatment centers (including methadone clinics), and the remainder were in the process of transitioning as part of a government initiative to reform the drug treatment system. The law requires a judicial proceeding before sending any individual to a compulsory detoxification establishment. Despite this legal requirement, judicial procedures were often perfunctory, did not occur in the formal judicial system, and “defendants” were not given legal counsel. Authorities continued to send sex workers who used drugs to compulsory detoxification establishments. The Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs (hereafter Ministry of Labor) estimated there was a high HIV prevalence rate of 13 percent in such centers. The law also specifies detainees in such establishments may work no more than three hours per day. There continued to be reports that forced labor occurred in at least some of these establishments.

The law allows for bail as a measure to replace temporary detention, but authorities infrequently used it. The law authorizes investigators, prosecutors, or courts to allow for the depositing of money or valuable property in exchange for bail.

Arbitrary Arrest: Arbitrary arrest and detention, particularly for political activists and individuals protesting land seizures or other injustices, remained a serious problem. Authorities subjected many religious and political activists to varying degrees of arbitrary detention in their residences, in vehicles, at local police stations, at “social protection centers,” or local government offices. Officials also frequently detained human rights activists upon their return from overseas trips.

Police and plainclothes security officers detained or placed under house arrest numerous activists in the days leading up to the May 23-25 visit of a foreign leader to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

On May 24, plainclothes Ministry of Public Security and Hanoi police officers prevented human rights advocate Nguyen Quang A from meeting a foreign leader. The officers surrounded Quang A’s residence to prevent him from leaving, and when Quang A attempted to leave, they forced him into an unmarked vehicle and drove him around the outskirts of the city for several hours. The officers released Quang A after it was clear he would not be able to attend the diplomatic event in time. On a separate occasion, security officials detained blogger and activist Pham Doan Trang at a hostel in Ninh Binh Province while she was on her way to meet the same foreign leader. On May 25, authorities in Ho Chi Minh City detained activist Tran Hoang Phuc at a police station for eight hours to prevent him from taking part in a youth event with a visiting foreign leader. Police reportedly searched his bag and confiscated his cell phone and personal documents.

On multiple occasions in May and June, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City police blocked activists from leaving their homes or detained them in social rehabilitation centers or “social support centers” to prevent or punish attendance at environmental demonstrations. On June 3, Hanoi City police reportedly confined activist and violinist Ta Tri Hai at a social rehabilitation center for sex workers, drug addicts, and homeless persons in Dong Anh District for two days.

On March 24, authorities released prisoner of conscience Dinh Tat Thang after a court in Thanh Hoa Province sentenced him to time served in pretrial detention (seven months and 11 days). In August 2015 police arrested Thang and charged him with “abusing democratic freedoms” for writing public letters criticizing provincial leaders and police.

On December 16, a Thai Binh Province court sentenced democracy activists and former prisoners of conscience Tran Anh Kim and Le Tranh Tung to 13 and 12 years in prison, respectively, with four years of additional probation for each. The court convicted both individuals for “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” (article 79 of the penal code) for attempting to create a new political organization, “National Forces Raising the Democratic Flag.”

Authorities also subjected many individuals who were not activists, particularly individuals suspected of crimes, to varying degrees of arbitrary detention. On January 11, police officials in Tinh Bac commune, Son Tinh District, Quang Ngai Province, detained Nguyen Tan Tam on allegations of theft without notifying his family or school. Police then searched Tam’s house and belongings without a search warrant. Tam committed suicide two days later, leaving a letter stating he was innocent. Tam’s family alleged that police had assaulted Tam while in custody and forced him to plead guilty. According to press, police began an investigation into the incident.

Pretrial Detention: The law defines four levels of crimes: less serious offenses, serious offenses, very serious offenses, and especially serious offenses. The allowable time for temporary detention during an investigation varies depending on the level of offense. Activists often reported some of these investigations exceeded these prescribed periods, which ranged from a maximum of four months for less serious offenses to 24 months for the most serious cases. Activists also reported police and prosecutors used lengthy periods of pretrial detention to punish or to pressure human rights defenders to confess to crimes.

In 2014 Ministry of Public Security officials arrested well-known activist blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh (also known as Anh Ba Sam) and his assistant Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy and charged them with “abusing democratic freedoms” (article 258 of the penal code). On March 23, a Hanoi court sentenced Vinh and Thuy to five and three years in prison, respectively, after they had served more than 22 months in pretrial detention, exceeding the maximum length permitted by law for their charges. On September 23, an appeals court upheld their sentences.

Authorities continued to hold activists Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thu Ha (since December 2015) in pretrial detention.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested or detained often were not entitled to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention and obtain prompt release or compensation if detention is found to be unlawful.

Amnesty: The government released two prisoners of conscience under amnesty provisions. On May 17, authorities granted amnesty and early release to Catholic priest Nguyen Van Ly approximately three months before the end of his eight-year jail term. On October 7, authorities granted amnesty and early release to land rights activist Nguyen Kim Nhan two months before the end of his five and one-half-year jail term.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for the independence of judges and lay assessors, but the judiciary was not strong and was vulnerable to influence by outside elements such as senior government officials and CPV leadership. During the year there were credible reports that political influence, endemic corruption, and inefficiency strongly distorted the judicial system. Most, if not all, judges were members of the CPV and underwent screening by the CPV and local officials during their selection process to determine their suitability for the bench. The party’s influence was particularly notable in high-profile cases and other instances in which authorities charged a person with challenging or harming the party or state. Trial outcomes were largely predetermined in trials considered politically sensitive.

The law specifies that judges and people’s assessors (trained laypersons who participate in hearings in socialist judicial systems) shall adjudicate independently; prohibits agencies, organizations, and individuals from interfering in trials; and provides that hearings shall be timely and public, that courts shall emphasize the principles of equality before the law and the adversarial process, and that authorities consider the accused innocent until proven guilty. There continued to be a shortage of well-trained and experienced lawyers (including defense lawyers) and judges.


The constitution states that all persons are equal before the law, that defendants are innocent until proven guilty, and that they have the right to a defense lawyer and a speedy public trial. The court uses an inquisitorial system, where the judge plays the primary role of asking questions and ascertaining facts in a trial. Prosecution and defense attorneys, and people’s assessors play a limited role. The constitution contains a provision “guaranteeing the adversarial principle in trials,” but the courts had not introduced adversarial procedures into the judicial system. The National Assembly passed a new criminal procedure code in November 2015 but delayed its implementation during the year. Defense lawyers routinely complained that in many of their cases, it appeared judges made a determination of guilt concerning the accused prior to conducting the trial. Trials generally were open to the public, but in sensitive cases judges closed trials or strictly limited attendance.

The People’s Procuracy submits charges against an accused person and serves as prosecutor during trials. Defendants have the right to prompt, detailed information of the charges levied against them, but defendants did not always experience such treatment. Authorities generally upheld the rights of defendants to be present and have a lawyer at trial, although it was not necessarily the lawyer of their choice. The law stipulates that the spoken and written language of criminal proceedings is Vietnamese, but the state provides interpretation if participants in the criminal procedure use another spoken or written language. The government provided a lawyer to defendants unable to afford one only in cases involving a juvenile offender or someone with mental or physical disabilities, or with possible sentences of life imprisonment or capital punishment.

Defense lawyers routinely reported having little time before trials to talk to their clients or examine the evidence against their clients. Although the defendant or defense lawyer has the right to examine evidence and cross-examine witnesses, there were multiple instances in which neither defendants nor their lawyers had access to government evidence in advance of the trial, knowledge of which witnesses would be called, or the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses or challenge statements. A defendant has a right to present a defense, but the law does not expressly state that the defendant has the right to call witnesses. Judges presiding over politically sensitive trials often did not permit defense lawyers and defendants to exercise their rights under the law.

Police routinely interrogated suspects without their attorneys present, and there were many reports that investigators used physical abuse, isolation, excessively lengthy interrogation sessions, and sleep deprivation to compel detainees to confess. In national security cases, judges occasionally silenced defense lawyers who were making arguments on behalf of their clients in court. Convicted persons have the right to at least one appeal. District and provincial courts did not publish their proceedings, but the Supreme People’s Court continued to publish the proceedings of all cases it reviewed.

On March 2, a court in Long An sentenced a 15-year-old boy, Nguyen Mai Trung Tuan, to 30 months in prison for “intentionally inflicting injury on state officials” (article 104 of the penal code). The court reportedly rejected the defense of nine lawyers who represented Tuan pro bono. Local authorities did not allow family members or supporters to enter the courtroom, and they detained activist Le Thi Em during the trial.

There continued to be credible reports that authorities pressured defense lawyers not to take religious or democracy activists as clients. Authorities also restricted, harassed, arrested, disbarred, and, in some cases, detained human rights attorneys who represented political activists. Authorities prohibited lawyers Le Tran Luat, Huynh Van Dong, Le Cong Dinh, Nguyen Van Dai, and Nguyen Thanh Luong from practicing law.


The government held fewer political prisoners than in previous years due to completion of prison sentences and a trend toward shorter sentences for political prisoners. There were approximately 94 political prisoners as of December 16, compared with approximately 95 political prisoners at the end of 2015. The government asserted there were no political prisoners in the country and did not permit regular access to such persons by international human rights or humanitarian organizations.

During the year the government sentenced 12 activists for peacefully exercising internationally recognized human rights. The government convicted one individual for “causing public disorder” (article 245), three for “abusing democratic freedoms” (article 258), two for “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” (article 79), and six for “conducting propaganda against the state” (article 88). In comparison, the government sentenced two activists in 2015.


The 2013 constitution provides that any person illegally arrested and detained, charged with a criminal offense, investigated, prosecuted, brought to trial, or subjected to judgment enforcement illegally has the right to compensation for material and mental damages and restoration of honor. The law provides a mechanism for pursuing a civil action to redress or remedy abuses committed by authorities. Administrative and civil courts heard civil suits, with legal procedures being similar to criminal cases and using members of the same body of judges and people’s assessors to adjudicate the cases. All three systems of courts–criminal, administrative, and civil–continued to be vulnerable to corruption and outside influence, lack of independence, and inexperience. Very few victims of government abuse sought or successfully received redress or compensation through the court system.

Although the law provides for a process for civil redress in cases of human rights violations by a civil servant, there was little effective recourse to civil or criminal judicial procedures to remedy human rights abuses, and few legal experts had relevant experience.

The government continued to prohibit class-action lawsuits against government ministries, thus rendering ineffective joint complaints from land rights petitioners.


Widespread complaints persisted of inadequate or delayed compensation, official corruption, and a general lack of transparency and due process in the government’s process of confiscating land and displacing citizens to make way for infrastructure projects. In 2014 a revised land law went into effect that makes some efforts to address challenges to land expropriation and provides improved procedural transparency. Many still complained the most worrisome clauses and principles remained. The revised law maintains considerable decision-making authority over land pricing, allocation, and land reclamation for local people’s committees and people’s councils, which many asserted contributed to unfair business practices and corruption. Furthermore, many contended that by allowing land seizures for socioeconomic development, as opposed to only for national defense and public welfare, the law fails to provide significant reform.

During the year there were numerous reports of clashes between local residents and authorities at land expropriation sites. Disputes over land expropriation for socioeconomic development projects remained a significant problem, causing public grievances. Many villagers whose land the government forcibly seized protested at government offices for failure to address their complaints. Some coercive land seizures resulted in violence and injuries to both state officials and villagers. There were also reports of suspected plainclothes officers or “thugs” hired by development companies intimidating and threatening villagers or breaking into activists’ homes. Authorities arrested and convicted multiple land rights protesters on charges of “resisting persons on duty” or “causing public disorder.”

In early 2015 local authorities in Ky Anh District, Ha Tinh Province, reportedly denied 155 Catholic students admission to schools near their homes and instructed them to go to schools much farther away. Parishioners alleged local officials tried to force them to leave their homes to seize their land for an economic development project. In July 119 of these students returned to neighborhood schools, and the provincial government directed local authorities to provide supplemental training to help the students catch up with others for the new school year, official press reported.

The number of complaints filed over land disputes increased dramatically in the last decade, constituting 70 to 90 percent of all petitions and complaints, according to government figures.

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

The law prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence, but the government did not consistently protect these rights, and authorities at times violated these rights.

By law security forces need public prosecutorial orders for forced entry into homes, but Ministry of Public Security agents and local police officers regularly chose not to follow proper procedures to obtain such orders in the cases of activists and instead asked residents’ permission to enter homes with the threat of repercussions for failure to cooperate.

Authorities routinely physically prevented political activists and family members of political prisoners from meeting with foreign diplomats or traveling abroad. Tactics included setting up barriers or guards outside activists’ residences and summoning individuals to local police stations (also see section 1.d).

On February 4, nearly 50 police officers and local officials, both in uniform and plainclothes, from Dong Da District, Hanoi, reportedly broke into the house of labor activist Le Thi Cong Nhan’s mother after verbally reading, but refusing to provide a hard copy of, a search warrant. During the search police officers violently dragged Le Thi Cong Nhan and her sister Le Thi Minh Tam out of the house.

Throughout the year authorities reportedly sought to prevent human rights advocate Nguyen Quang A from meeting foreign officials. On June 2, plainclothes security officials in Hanoi prevented Quang A from meeting a visiting foreign delegation, forcing him into a vehicle, and driving him to a province near the border with China. On August 24, Bac Ninh Province authorities physically prevented Quang A from meeting a foreign diplomat. Local authorities placed a bulldozer in the middle of the street leading to the place where Quang A was staying.

Authorities opened and censored targeted private mail; confiscated packages and letters; and monitored telephone conversations, e-mail, text messages, blogs, and fax transmissions. The government cut telephone lines and interrupted cell phone and internet services of a number of political activists and their family members.

The Ministry of Public Security maintained a system of household registration and block wardens to monitor unlawful activity. While this system was less intrusive than in the past, the ministry closely monitored individuals engaged in, or suspected of engaging, in unauthorized political activities. Family members of activists widely reported incidents of physical harassment, intimidation, and questioning by ministry officials. Such harassment included denying jobs or business opportunities to family members of former or existing prisoners of conscience.

On multiple occasions in January and February, plainclothes police officers in Lam Dong Province reportedly attacked human rights activist and Catholic former prisoner of conscience Tran Minh Nhat and his family members with stones, causing head injuries to multiple individuals. Throughout January to April, local police reportedly also verbally threatened his family members, prevented him from travelling to receive medical treatment, burned his crops, killed his livestock, and sprayed his house with pesticides.

The government continued to encourage couples to have no more than two children. While the law does not prohibit or provide penalties for those having more than two children, some CPV members reported informally administered repercussions, including restrictions on job promotion (see section 6, Women).

CPV membership remained a prerequisite to career advancement for nearly all government and government-linked organizations and businesses. Nevertheless, economic diversification continued to make membership in the CPV and CPV-controlled mass organizations less essential for financial and social advancement.


Executive Summary

Zambia is a constitutional republic governed by a democratically elected president and a unicameral national assembly. On August 11, the country held elections under a new constitution for president, national assembly seats, and local government, as well as a referendum on an updated bill of rights. The incumbent, Patriotic Front (PF) President Edgar Chagwa Lungu, was re-elected by a tight margin. A contorted legal process saw the opposition candidate unsuccessfully challenge the election results. International and local observers deemed the election to have been conducted freely but cited a number of irregularities. The pre- and post-election periods were marred by limits on press freedom and political party intolerance resulting in sporadic violence across the country. Although the results were ultimately deemed a credible reflection of votes cast, media coverage, police actions, and legal restrictions heavily favored the ruling party and prevented the election from being genuinely fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights problems during the year were political violence; restrictions on freedoms of the press, assembly, association, and speech; and gender-based violence (GBV).

Other serious human rights problems included abuses by police; life-threatening prison conditions; politically motivated arbitrary arrest; prolonged pretrial detention; interference with privacy; government corruption; child abuse; trafficking in persons; discrimination against persons with disabilities and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community; and child labor.

The government took selective and halting steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses, targeting mostly those who opposed the ruling party. Impunity remained a problem, as ruling party supporters were either not prosecuted for serious crimes or, if prosecuted, released after serving small fractions of prison sentences.

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

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

There were several unconfirmed reports of extrajudicial killings by the government or its agents during the election period. The most prominent and widely reported incident occurred on July 9 when police allegedly shot and killed Mapenzi Chibulo, an opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) supporter, after security forces clashed with a group of opposition supporters protesting the cancellation of a planned UPND rally in Lusaka.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

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

Although the constitution prohibits subjecting any person to torture or to inhuman or degrading punishment, no laws address torture specifically. There were reports police used excessive force, including torture, and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, when apprehending, interrogating, and detaining criminal suspects.

For example, on October 5, armed police officers assaulted Komboni Radio station director Lesa Kasoma Nyirenda as she attempted to enter the station, previously closed by the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) on August 22. The IBA subsequently lifted the closure. Kasoma Nyirenda was arrested for assault after biting an officer on the hand as police reportedly attempted to strip her naked. Her trial had yet to commence by year’s end. Vice President Inonge Wina issued a public apology to Kasoma Nyirenda in which she acknowledged police had acted inappropriately and used excessive force during the arrest.

The United Nations reported that as of December 20 it received one allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) against Zambian peacekeepers for an alleged incident occurring during the year. The allegation involved military personnel deployed to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic. In early December the Zambian Ministry of Defense sent a team of officers to the Central African Republic to investigate the allegation. On December 23, the ministry submitted a report containing the team’s findings to the United Nations. The report stated that the team found no credible evidence to corroborate any claims of sexual assault or SEA involving Zambian peacekeepers. The team found that the alleged victim of the crime denied ever having been assaulted and that both the medical doctor at the local hospital and the local gendarmerie commander stated they received no reports of SEA by Zambian peacekeepers during the period in question. The team of investigative officers recommended the case be closed.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were harsh and life threatening due to overcrowding, frequent outbreaks of disease, food and potable water shortages, and poor sanitation and medical care.

Additionally, criminal justice system centralization, delayed Justice Sector Reform Commission results, understaffing, poor diet among inmates, outdated laws, harsh bail conditions, and court delays were identified as problems.

Physical Conditions: According to NGO Prisons Care and Counseling Association (PRISCCA), there were 90 prisons, of which 54 were traditional institutions and the remainder were open-air prison farms.

An inefficient judiciary and a failure to process detainees eligible for release on bond or bail contributed significantly to overcrowding. According to the Human Rights Commission (HRC), more than 80 percent of accused persons at the pretrial stage who were eligible for bail or bond were not processed.

According to data supplied by both PRISCCA and the commissioner general of prisons, an average of 19,000 prisoners were incarcerated in prisons designed to hold 8,150. Overcrowding was slightly reduced during the year due to increased sleeping capacity in new prisons opened in 2015. PRISCCA noted overcrowding was compounded by a slow-moving judicial system, outdated laws, and increased incarceration due to higher numbers of persons driven to crime by poverty. Other factors included limitations on judges’ power to impose noncustodial sentencing, a retributive culture of police officers, and poor bail and bonding conditions. Indigent inmates lacked access to costly bail and legal representation through the Law Association of Zambia. Other organizations such as the Legal Aid Board and the National Prosecutions Authority were also difficult for inmates to access due to a lack of representation outside Lusaka.

The Prisons Act requires separation of different categories of prisoners, but only female prisoners were held separately; juveniles were often held together with adult inmates and pretrial detainees with convicted inmates. Prisons also held an undetermined number of “circumstantial children,” who were either born in prison or living in prisons while their mothers served out sentences. According to PRISCCA, the constitution does not take into account the biological and health needs of incarcerated women or their children. Although a law on the care of circumstantial children exists, there were no prison facilities for breastfeeding or pregnant women. Incarcerated women, who had no alternative for childcare, could choose to have their infants and children under the age of four with them in prison. Prisons provided no food or medical services to children, and mothers had to share meager rations with their children in an environment lacking appropriate medical care, which often exposed children to disease.

Prisons did not adequately address the needs of persons with disabilities. Prisons generally had inadequate ventilation, temperature control, lighting, and basic and emergency medical care.

Many prisons had deficient medical facilities and meager food supplies, and a lack of potable water resulted in serious outbreaks of water- and food-borne diseases, including dysentery and cholera. Inmates received breakfast, mostly a cup of simple meal or porridge for which inmates must secure their own sugar, and lunch served in double portions. Failure to provide lunch and supper separately was attributed to a lack of electric stoves and pots.

The prison system remained understaffed with only two doctors–one of whom also performed managerial duties–to attend to 21 prison-based clinics. The Ministry of Health provided mobile hospital facilities to prisons. The supply of tuberculosis (TB) medication and other essential drugs was erratic, which NGOs attributed to inadequate funding. A failure to remove or quarantine sick inmates resulted in the spread of TB and other illnesses and the deaths of several prisoners. The HRC and PRISCCA expressed concern at the lack of isolation facilities for the sick and for persons with psychiatric problems. The incidence of TB remained very high due to congestion, lack of compulsory testing, and prisoner transfers.

Access to health care services for inmates, including HIV/AIDS and TB diagnoses, antiretroviral therapy (ART) and other treatments, improved since the establishment in 2015 of the Zambia Correctional Service (ZCS) Health Directorate. For example, 90 percent of inmates reportedly received counselling and testing for HIV. Sixty-five percent of those diagnosed with HIV had access to ART. HIV prevalence in prisons, however, was 27 percent, compared to 13 percent in the general population. The HIV rate was worsened by prisoners’ inability to maintain the strict diet needed for effective treatment, overcrowding, and a lack of adequate prevention and treatment services.

Authorities denied prisoners access to condoms because the law criminalizes sodomy and prevailing public opinion weighed against providing condoms. Prison authorities, PRISCCA, and the Medical Association of Zambia advocated for prisoners’ conjugal rights as a way to reduce prison HIV rates. Discriminatory attitudes toward the most at-risk populations (persons in prostitution and men who have sex with men) stifled the development of outreach and prevention services for these groups.

According to the 2013 National Audit of Prisons, female inmates had limited access to health services. Gynecological care, cervical cancer screening, prenatal services, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission programs were nonexistent. Female inmates relied on donations of underwear, sanitary pads, diapers for infants and toddlers, and soap. Kabwe Female Prison was the sole prison built for female occupancy; other prisons improvised to accommodate female inmates.

Administration: Recordkeeping was inadequate. PRISCCA attributed delays in appeals for convicted offenders to the judiciary’s poor recordkeeping and misplaced and lost files. Although provided for by the penal code, alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders were applied sparingly, generally to juvenile offenders. There were no ombudsmen to promote the interests of inmates. Prisoners and detainees generally could not submit complaints to judicial authorities or request investigation of credible allegations of inhuman conditions.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted prison visits by both domestic and international NGOs, including religious institutions. Local NGOs visited prisons, advocated for better prison conditions, and published critical reports. The HRC campaigned to eradicate torture within the prison system.

Improvements: In November the ZCS incorporated new skills training programs for prisoners to prepare them for reintroduction into society.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

Although the constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, the HRC reported authorities frequently violated these prohibitions. Immigration Department officers raided religious and other places of assembly and detained suspected undocumented migrants before thorough investigation. The HRC recorded some politically motivated arrests during and after the August 11 general elections. The UPND alleged 15 of its members were arrested under politically motivated pretences and charged with nonbailable offenses. The Zambian Police Service (ZPS) claimed these individuals were arrested while committing assault and theft. Many of them have yet to appear in court.


The ZPS reports to the Ministry of Home Affairs. Divided into regular and paramilitary units, the ZPS has primary responsibility for maintaining law and order. The Zambia Security and Intelligence Service (ZSIS), under the Office of the President, is responsible for external and internal intelligence. The Central Police Command in Lusaka oversees 10 provincial police divisions with jurisdiction over police stations in towns countrywide.

The army, air force, and national service are responsible for external security. The commander of each service reports to the minister of defense. By law defense forces have domestic security responsibilities only in cases of national emergency. In addition to security responsibilities, the Zambia National Service performs road maintenance and other public-works projects and runs state farms for displaced children.

Paramilitary units of the ZPS, customs officers, and border patrol personnel watch over lake, river, and other border areas. The Drug Enforcement Commission is responsible for enforcing the laws on illegal drugs, fraud, counterfeiting, and money laundering. The Drug Enforcement Commission, customs, and border patrol personnel operate under the Ministry of Home Affairs. Impunity was a problem. Senior police officials disciplined some officers for engaging in extortion of prisoners by suspending them or issuing written reprimands, but many abuses went unaddressed. Dismissals of officers for extortion were rare.


The constitution and law require authorities to obtain a warrant before arresting a person for most offenses. Police do not need a warrant, however, when they suspect a person has committed offenses such as treason, sedition, defamation of the president, or unlawful assembly. Police rarely obtained warrants before making arrests. For example, in September police entered the premises of MuviTV without a warrant to seize equipment and halt operations, following the Independent Broadcasting Authorities’ suspension of the station’s operating license.

Although the law requires that detainees appear before a court within 24 hours of arrest and be informed of the charges against them, authorities routinely held detainees for much longer periods while prosecutors and police collected evidence before presenting cases to a court. The HRC noted this abuse remained common, particularly in rural districts, where subordinate courts operated in circuits. Since by law magistrate courts have no jurisdiction over cases that occur outside the district, detainees could be tried only when a circuit court judge was in the district. Problems with inadequate transportation, investigatory inefficiency, and political interference also delayed detainees being promptly charged and judged.

The Criminal Procedure Code provides for bail in case of any detention. The accused can only be granted bail upon providing a sufficient surety or sureties. Bail is not authorized in cases of murder, aggravated robbery, and violations of narcotics laws. Any bail inquiry must be conducted impartially, judicially, and in accordance with the law. Despite this requirement more than 6,000 inmates remained incarcerated without trial, creating a massive administrative backlog in bail and bond cases. Courts often required at least one employed person, often a government employee, to vouch for the detainee, which many see as a particularly onerous requirement for government opponents and the poor. According to the HRC, this requirement posed a challenge in rural areas, where most are informally employed. Authorities frequently refused or delayed bail in politically sensitive cases. For instance, following the September 9 arrest of opposition leader Nevers Mumba after he publicly challenged the outcome of the presidential election, the accused was held for three days before being granted bail.

Detainees were not allowed prompt access to a lawyer in many cases. Although the law obligates the government to provide an attorney to indigent persons who face serious charges, many indigent defendants received no legal counsel. The government’s legal aid office and the Legal Resources Foundation provided some legal services to indigent arrestees.

Arbitrary Arrest: According to human rights groups, arbitrary or false arrest and detention remained problems. Police often arbitrarily summoned family members of criminal suspects for questioning, and authorities arrested criminal suspects based on uncorroborated accusations or as a pretext for extortion. Human rights groups reported police routinely detained citizens after midnight, a practice only legal during a state of emergency. For example, in several “compound” areas–urban settlements characterized by high population density–police arrested residents after dark to clear the streets. The HRC noted that in politically motivated arrests, police detained suspects on Fridays to keep them in custody over the weekend. Police arbitrarily arrested opposition leaders and journalists. Police detained and questioned opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilema and his Vice President, Godfrey Bwalya Mwamba, several times, as well as other UPND members and other opposition leaders who supported the UPND. On August 12, former Lusaka Province Minister Obvious Mwaliteta and UPND Copperbelt Provincial Chairperson Elias Matambo were arrested. The two were charged with aggravated robbery; the UPND claimed they were thwarting election rigging. In early December the director of public prosecution attempted to add previously undisclosed charges to the docket.

Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention continued to be a problem. Thirty-two percent of prison inmates were in pretrial detention. On average detainees spend an estimated two years in pretrial detention, which often exceeded the length of the prison sentence corresponding to the alleged crime. Contributing factors included inability to meet bail requirements, trial delays, and adjournments due to absent prosecutors and their witnesses.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detainees had the ability to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention, but police often prevented detainees from filing challenges to prolong detention. For example, UPND Vice President Mwamba was detained on numerous occasions during the election campaign and prevented from challenging the legality of his arrest in court until he had spent several days in jail.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary; the government largely respected judicial independence. The ruling party intervened in criminal and civil cases in which it had an interest. For example, in late November Special Assistant to the President Amos Chanda criticized two High Court justices for overturning the election victories of PF parliamentary candidates.


The constitution provides for the right to a fair hearing, but the judicial system is open to influence by the ruling party in cases in which it has an interest. Defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence, but they were not always informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them. Trials were public but usually delayed. Defendants enjoy the right to consult with an attorney of their choice, to have adequate time to prepare a defense, to present their own witnesses, and to confront or question witnesses against them, although they had limited access to government-held evidence. Indigent defendants were rarely provided an attorney at state expense. Interpretation services in local languages were available in most cases. There were no reports defendants were compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants had the right to appeal.


There were some reports of political prisoners or detainees, particularly around the election period. Members of the opposition UPND party claimed 15 of their supporters were arrested for political purposes and later charged with nonbailable offenses. The ZPS claimed these individuals were arrested while committing assaults and robberies.


Complainants may seek redress for human rights abuses from the High Court. Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations and appeal court decisions to the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights. In May 2015 a group of Barotse activists appealed to the court, seeking to compel the government to respond to a legal argument for the region’s independence. The appeal was still pending.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but the government frequently did not respect these prohibitions. The law requires a search or arrest warrant before police may enter a home, except during a state of emergency or when police suspect a person has committed an offense such as treason, sedition, defamation of the president, or unlawful assembly. Police routinely entered homes without a warrant even when a warrant was legally required. Domestic human rights groups reported authorities routinely detained, interrogated, and physically abused family members or associates of criminal suspects to obtain their cooperation in identifying or locating the suspects. In one of the more prominent examples, police teargassed and raided the family house of the opposition UPND’s vice presidential candidate on July 20, ostensibly to search for illegal weapons.

The law grants the Drug Enforcement Commission, ZSIS, and police authority to monitor communications using wiretaps with a warrant based on probable cause, and authorities generally respected this requirement. The government required cell phone service providers to register all subscribers’ SIM cards. Critics contended the government’s Zambia Information and Communications Technology Agency monitored telecommunications.


Executive Summary

Zimbabwe is constitutionally a republic. President Robert Mugabe, his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party, and its authoritarian security sector have dominated the country since independence in 1980. Presidential and parliamentary elections held in 2013 were free of the widespread violence of the 2008 elections, but the process was neither fair nor credible. Numerous factors contributed to a deeply flawed election process: a hastily convened and politically compromised Constitutional Court that unilaterally declared the election date before key electoral reforms were in place; heavily biased state media; a voter registration process that did not comply with the law and that skewed registration towards supporters of the ruling party; partisan statements and actions by security forces, including active-duty personnel running for office in contravention of the law; limitations on international observers; failure to provide a publicly useful voters register; and a chaotic, separate voting process for the security sector. The elections resulted in the formation of a unitary ZANU-PF government led by President Mugabe and ZANU-PF supermajorities in both houses of parliament. ZANU-PF used intimidation and targeted violence again to retain some parliamentary seats during by-elections.

Civilian authorities failed at times to maintain effective control over the security forces.

The most important human rights problems remained the government’s targeting members of non-ZANU-PF parties and civil society activists for abduction, arrest, torture, abuse, and harassment; partisan application of the rule of law by security forces and the judiciary; and restrictions on civil liberties, including freedoms of expression and assembly.

There were many other human rights problems. Prison conditions were harsh. The government’s expropriation of private property continued. Executive political influence on and interference in the judiciary continued, and the government infringed on citizens’ privacy rights. The government generally failed to investigate or prosecute state security or ZANU-PF supporters responsible for violence. Authorities restricted freedoms of expression, press, assembly, association, and movement. The government evicted citizens, invaded farms and private businesses and properties, and demolished informal marketplaces and settlements. The government arrested, detained, prosecuted, and harassed members of civil society, including members of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Government corruption remained widespread, including at the local level. Violence and discrimination against women; child abuse; and trafficking of men, women, and children were problems. Discrimination against persons with disabilities; racial and ethnic minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons; and persons with HIV/AIDS continued. The government also interfered with labor-related events.

The government took limited steps to punish security sector officials and ZANU-PF supporters who committed violations, but impunity was a problem.

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

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

There were reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Police units sometimes organized or participated in political violence. Security sector impunity for politically motivated abuses remained a problem.

For example, on February 5, police detectives reportedly shot and killed Passmore Mazariro, whom police suspected of cell phone theft, at his home in Harare. They forced entry into Mazariro’s house and ordered him to lie on his stomach. One of the detectives then allegedly shot and killed him.

Impunity for past politically motivated violence remained a problem. Investigations continued of prior years’ cases of violence resulting in death committed by security forces and ZANU-PF supporters, but by year’s end no one had been arrested or charged in these cases.

There were no advances in holding legally accountable those responsible for the deaths of at least 19 citizens who died of injuries sustained during the 2008 political violence that targeted opposition party members; more than 270 others were also killed that year. Observers believed the primary perpetrators of the violence were members of ZANU-PF, including the party’s youth militia, and individuals identifying themselves as war veterans.

Unwillingness to acknowledge past atrocities or seek justice for victims continued to influence Shona-Ndebele relations negatively. Approximately 20,000 persons were killed during the 1980s because of a government-sanctioned crackdown on persons believed to be insurgents in the Matabeleland and Midlands regions.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of long-term politically motivated disappearances. Although the High Court ordered the government to provide updates on the 2015 disappearance of democracy activist Itai Dzamara, government officials failed to do so. There were no reports of authorities punishing any perpetrators of previous acts of disappearance.

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

Although the constitution prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, security forces engaged in such practices with impunity and with the implicit support of officials affiliated with ZANU-PF. Police used excessive force in apprehending, detaining, and interrogating criminal suspects. According to NGOs, security forces assaulted and tortured citizens in custody, including perceived opponents of ZANU-PF. In some cases police arrested and charged the victims of violence instead of perpetrators.

Human rights groups reported the continuance of physical and psychological torture perpetrated by security agents and ZANU-PF supporters. Reported torture methods included beating victims with sticks, clubs, whips, cables, and sjamboks (a heavy whip); burning; falanga (beating the soles of the feet); electric shocks; solitary confinement; sleep deprivation; and forcing victims into sex acts.

According to one NGO, from January through August, 493 victims of organized violence and torture sought medical treatment and counseling after sustaining injuries in separate incidents across the country. The NGO reported the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) was responsible for 66 percent of the violations, while ZANU-PF supporters were responsible for 25 percent of the violations. Nearly 49 percent of the cases occurred in the capital, Harare. Although the majority of victims did not indicate their political affiliation, more than 30 percent of all victims associated themselves with the Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T), Zimbabwe People First, or other opposition political parties.

On February 17, state security agents allegedly abducted a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) official in the town of Gwanda. An NGO reported they forced the victim into a truck and drove off. State security agents allegedly tortured the victim, releasing him after PDP officials made a report to the Gwanda police.

On September 12, six alleged state security agents abducted Tajumuka/Sesjikile activist Sylvanos Mudzvova from his Harare home in view of his wife and children. These men reportedly blindfolded Mudzvova and subjected him to electric shocks to his feet and genitals while interrogating him. He was left unconscious several miles outside of Harare.

Police used excessive force to disperse demonstrators, resulting in injuries.

For example, on February 18, police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse hundreds of war veterans planning a march on ZANU-PF’s headquarters.

On August 26, police used tear gas, water cannons, and batons to disperse an estimated crowd of 150 demonstrators who gathered for a march calling for electoral reforms. According to one NGO, 43 persons sought medical assistance after sustaining injuries while participating in the demonstration. The NGO reported police arrested 70 persons, 20 of whom sustained injuries that required medical attention.

ZANU-PF supporters–often with tacit support from police or government officials–continued to assault and mistreat scores of persons, including civil society activists and known opposition political party members and their families, especially in Harare neighborhoods and nearby towns. Presidential Spokesman and Information Ministry Permanent Secretary George Charamba threatened to deploy ZANU-PF militia on antigovernment protesters instead of regular police. Violent confrontations between youth groups of the ZANU-PF (known as “Chipangano”) and opposition political parties continued, particularly in urban areas. ZANU-PF supporters were the primary instigators of political violence.

On September 26, media reported ZANU-PF activists tortured and detained peaceful marchers at ZANU-PF headquarters, including MDC-T legislators protesting against Mugabe, before releasing them to police.

The courts punished some ZANU-PF supporters accused of political violence. Police investigated and arrested four ZANU-PF activists implicated in abducting, torturing, and robbing MDC-T supporter Stewart Chandimhara on June 18. On September 9, the Rusape Magistrates’ Court charged the four men with kidnapping and robbery. Their cases were pending at year’s end.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions remained harsh, partly due to overcrowding in older urban remand facilities, and the Zimbabwe Prison and Correctional Services (ZPCS) struggled to provide adequate food and sanitary conditions. The 2013 constitution added prisoner rehabilitation and reintegration into society to ZPCS responsibilities.

Physical Conditions: There were approximately 17,000 prisoners, spread across 46 main prisons and 26 satellite prisons. While some prisons operated below capacity, NGOs reported overcrowding continued due to outdated infrastructure and judicial backlogs.

Prison guards occasionally beat and abused prisoners, but NGOs reported that the use of excessive force by prison guards was not systematic and that senior prison officials increased efforts to address the problem.

NGOs reported female prisoners generally fared better than male prisoners. Authorities held women in separate prison wings and provided women guards. Women generally received more food from their families than did male prisoners. The several dozen children under age three living with their incarcerated mothers were required to share their mothers’ food allocation. NGOs were unaware of women inmates reporting rapes or other physical abuse. NGOs suggested either women guards were more diligent in protecting women prisoners from abuse or that female prisoners did not report abuse. With support from NGOs, prisons distributed some sanitary supplies for women, although prison officials often reserved some of these supplies for themselves. Officials did not provide pregnant women and nursing mothers with additional care or food rations, but the ZPCS solicited donations from NGOs and donors for additional provisions.

There was one juvenile prison housing boys only. Girls were held together with women. Authorities held boys in adult prisons throughout the country while in remand. Officials generally tried to place younger boys in separate cells. Authorities generally sent juveniles to prison rather than to reformatory homes as stipulated in the law. Juveniles were particularly vulnerable to abuse by prison officials and other prisoners.

According to the ZPCS, remand prisons were overcrowded. Conditions in prisons, jails, and detention centers were often harsh. Authorities often held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners until their bail hearings.

Food shortages were widespread but not life threatening. Prisoners identified as malnourished received additional meals. The harvest of prison farm products provided meals for prisoners. Prisoners had limited access to clean water.

Poor sanitary conditions contributed to disease, including diarrhea, measles, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS-related illnesses. Lighting and ventilation were inadequate. There were insufficient mattresses, blankets, warm clothing, sanitary supplies, and hygiene products.

Prisoners had access to very basic medical care, with a clinic and doctor at every facility. In partnership with NGOs, the ZPCS offered peer education on HIV/AIDS. The ZPCS tested prisoners for HIV only when requested by prisoners or prison doctors. Due to outdated regulations and a lack of specialized medical personnel and medications, prisoners suffered from routine but treatable medical conditions such as hypertension, tuberculosis, diabetes, asthma, and respiratory diseases.

Those detained for politically motivated reasons were held at police stations for days while their court dates or bail hearings were pending.

Administration: The ZPCS established an inspections and audit unit to assess prison conditions and improve monitoring of prisoners’ rights, but the unit did not release the results of such assessments. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) increased the number of monitoring visits it conducted in prisons. There was no prison ombudsman, but there were statutory mechanisms to allow alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders.

Record keeping on prisoners was inadequate. Prisoners moved from one facility to another were occasionally lost in the ZPCS’ administrative system for weeks or months. Authorities permitted prisoners to submit complaints without censorship, but investigations were rare.

Prisoners and detainees had relatively unrestricted access to visitors, except in maximum-security prisons, where geographic constraints hampered access by relatives of prisoners.

Independent Monitoring: The law provides international human rights monitors the right to visit prisons. Church groups and NGOs seeking to provide humanitarian assistance gained access. All organizations working in prisons reported that meetings with prisoners occurred without third parties present and with minimal restrictions.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, although other sections of the law effectively weakened these prohibitions. The government enforced security laws in conflict with the constitution. Security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained persons, particularly political and civil society activists perceived as opposing the ZANU-PF party. Security forces frequently arrested large numbers of persons during antigovernment protests. State security agents often arrested opposition activists from their homes at night, refused to identify themselves, and used unmarked and untraceable vehicles.


The constitution provides for a National Security Council (NSC) composed of the president, vice president, and selected ministers and members of the security services. The NSC, chaired by the president, is responsible for setting security policies and advises the government on all security-related matters. The ZRP is responsible for maintaining internal law and order. The Department of Immigration and the ZRP are primarily responsible for migration and border enforcement. Although the ZRP is officially under the authority of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Office of the President controlled some ZRP roles and missions. The Zimbabwe National Army and Air Force constitute the Zimbabwe Defense Forces under the Ministry of Defense. The armed forces are responsible for external security, but the government sometimes deployed them as a back-up to the police as a show of force. For example, in July the Zimbabwe Defense Forces deployed army personnel in response to the riots at the Beitbridge border post. The Central Intelligence Organization (CIO), under the Office of the Vice President, is responsible for internal and external security. All security sector chiefs report directly to the president, who is commander in chief of all security services.

Implicit assurances of impunity and a culture of disregard for human rights contributed to police use of excessive force in apprehending and detaining criminal suspects. Ignorance of the provisions of the constitution also compromised the quality of police work. Police were ill equipped, underpaid (frequently in arrears), and poorly trained, particularly at the lower levels. A lack of sufficient fuel and resources reduced police effectiveness. Poor working conditions, low salaries, and high rates of dismissal resulted in corruption and high turnover. The government changed pay dates for security forces on a month-to-month basis.

The constitution calls for a government body to investigate complaints against the police. Despite this provision, there were no internal or external entities to investigate abuse by the security forces. Authorities reportedly investigated and arrested corrupt police officers for criminal activity but also punished or arrested police officers on arbitrary charges for failing to obtain or share illicitly gained funds.

Government efforts to reform the security forces were minimal, and there were no reports of disciplinary actions against security officers who erred in ZANU-PF’s favor in their official conduct. Training on allegiance to ZANU-PF for securing the country’s sovereignty was commonplace, while authorities rarely provided training on nonpartisan implementation of the rule of law or human rights.


The law stipulates that arrests require a warrant issued by either a court or senior police officer and that police inform an arrested person of the charges before taking the individual into custody. Police did not respect these rights. The law requires authorities to inform a person at the time of arrest of the reason for the arrest. A preliminary hearing must be held before a magistrate within 48 hours of an arrest. According to the constitution, only a competent court may extend the period of detention.

The law provides for bail for most accused persons. In 2015 the Constitutional Court declared section 121(3) of the Criminal Procedures and Evidence Act unconstitutional. According to human rights attorneys, it allowed prosecutors to veto bail decisions made by the courts and keep accused persons in custody for up to seven days based on the prosecution’s stated intent to appeal bail. Despite the Constitutional Court ruling against section 121(3), the government amended the law by including provisions that allow prosecutors a veto over judicial bail decisions. Prosecutors relied on the provisions to extend the detention of opposition political activists.

Authorities often did not allow detainees prompt or regular access to their lawyers and often informed lawyers who attempted to visit their clients that detainees or those with authority to grant access were unavailable. An indigent detainee may apply to the government for an attorney in criminal cases, but requests were rarely granted except in capital cases. This occurred with cases involving opposition party members, civil society activists, and ordinary citizens. In contrast with previous years, there were no reported cases of detainees held incommunicado.

The government also harassed and intimidated human rights lawyers when they attempted to gain access to their clients.

Arbitrary Arrest: The government used arbitrary arrest and detention as tools of intimidation and harassment, especially against political activists, civil society members, journalists, and ordinary citizens asserting their rights. There were numerous reports that security forces arbitrarily arrested political and civil society activists and then released them the next day without charge.

After a nationwide protest in July, police arrested Pastor Evan Mawarire, leader of the social media movement #ThisFlag. He was initially charged with inciting violence after he organized the protest and later charged with “attempting to overthrow the government by unconstitutional means.” Police also arrested protest leader Promise Mkwananzi several times during a three-month period, detaining him on charges ranging from failure to stop at a police checkpoint to public violence.

In September police arrested opposition Member of Parliament for Mutasa North Trevor Saruwaka for leading an antigovernment demonstration organized by a coalition of opposition parties.

Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention was limited for nonpolitical prisoners. Delays in pretrial procedures were common, however, due to a shortage of magistrates and court interpreters, poor bureaucratic procedures, the low capacity of court officials, and a lack of resources. The constitution provides for the right to bail for detained suspects. Despite this provision, the government routinely opposed bail for political detainees. For example, after the arrest in early July of Occupy Africa Unity Square movement leader Linda Masarira, the government denied her bail for nearly three months while she awaited her trial.

Other prisoners remained in prison because they could not afford to pay bail, which remained exorbitant in view of economic conditions in the country. Magistrates rarely exercised the “free bail option” that authorizes them to waive bail for destitute prisoners. Lawyers reported juveniles usually spent more time in pretrial detention than adults because they could not attend court unless a parent or guardian accompanied them. Authorities occasionally did not notify parents of a juvenile’s arrest or the closest kin of an adult detainee’s arrest.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law provides arrested persons with the right to be brought before the courts within 48 hours of arrest. Political and civic leaders routinely challenged the lawfulness of their arrests in court. In July police arrested Pastor Evan Mawarire on charges of inciting violence. His lawyers argued successfully that prosecutors then presented different charges to the court from those read out to Mawarire when he was first arrested. The magistrate ruled that prosecutors must read out charges against an accused person at the first appearance in court.

The law absolves individual security agents from criminal liability regarding unlawful arrests and detention. Police officers routinely argued that they merely followed orders in conducting arrests and were not responsible for compensating victims of unlawful arrests.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but executive influence and interference remained a problem. For example, on September 3, President Mugabe publicly criticized judges as “negligent and reckless” for having approved public protests during his absence from the country. As was the case in 2015, however, there were instances where the judiciary demonstrated its independence despite being under intense pressure to conform to government policies.

The government often refused to abide by judicial decisions and routinely delayed payment of court costs or judgments awarded against it in civil cases. Judicial corruption was widespread, extending beyond magistrates and judges. For example, NGOs reported senior government officials undermined judicial independence, including by giving farms and homes to judges.

Magistrates heard the vast majority of cases. Legal experts claimed defendants in politically sensitive cases were more likely to receive a fair hearing in magistrates’ courts than in higher courts, in which justices were more likely to make politicized decisions. ZANU-PF sympathizers used threats and intimidation to force magistrates, particularly rural magistrates, to rule in the government’s favor. In politically charged cases, other judicial officers such as prosecutors and private attorneys also faced pressure, including harassment and intimidation. Some urban-based junior magistrates demonstrated a greater degree of independence and granted opposition party members and civil society activists bail against the government’s wishes.


The constitution provides for the right to a fair public trial, but political pressure and corruption frequently compromised this right. By law defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence, although courts did not always respect this right. Magistrates or judges held trials without juries. Trials were open to the public except in cases involving minors or state security matters. Assessors, in lieu of juries, could be appointed in cases in which conviction of an offense could result in a death penalty or lengthy prison sentence. Defendants have the right to a lawyer of their choosing, but most defendants in magistrates’ courts did not have legal representation. In criminal cases an indigent defendant may apply to have the government provide an attorney, but requests were rarely granted except in capital cases, in which the government provided an attorney for all defendants unable to afford one. Individuals in civil cases may request free legal assistance from the Legal Resources Foundation or the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR). The Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association also provides some free legal assistance to women and youth. Free interpretation is provided for by law, and Shona-English interpretation was generally available. The right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense is also provided for by law but was often lacking.

Authorities sometimes denied attorneys access to their clients, especially in cases in which those detained were alleging torture. Defendants have the right to present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf and to confront adverse witnesses. Any person arrested or detained for an alleged offense has the right to remain silent and may not be compelled to confess. Defendants and their attorneys have the right to access all government-held evidence relevant to their cases. Authorities did not always respect these rights.

Conviction requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and the prosecution bears the burden of proof. The right to appeal against both conviction and sentence exists in all cases, and it is automatic in cases in which the death penalty is imposed. No groups were denied those rights.

Unlike in normal criminal proceedings, which proceed from investigation to trial within months, in cases of members of political parties or civil society critical of ZANU-PF, prosecuting agents regularly took abnormally long to submit their cases for trial. As with many other cases in which authorities granted bail to government opponents (see section 1.d.), they did not conclude investigations and set a trial date but instead chose to “proceed by way of summons.” This left the threat of impending prosecution remaining, with the accused person eventually being called to court, only to be informed of further delays. The prosecutors and police routinely retained material confiscated from the accused as evidence.

Government officials frequently ignored court orders in such cases, delayed bail and access to medical care, and selectively enforced court orders related to land disputes favorable to those associated with ZANU-PF.

The public had fair access to the courts of law, particularly the magistrates’ courts, although observers reported occasional physical and procedural impediments.


There were reports of individuals arrested for political reasons, including opposition party officials, their supporters, NGO workers, and civil society activists. Authorities held many such individuals for one or two days and released them. Political prisoners and detainees did not receive the same standard of treatment as other prisoners or detainees, and prison authorities arbitrarily denied access to political prisoners. There were reports police beat and physically abused political and civil society activists while they were in detention.

On September 17, police arrested six protesters participating in demonstrations organized by the National Electoral Reform Agenda. While appearing at the Mbare Magistrates’ Court two days later, the protesters’ lawyers took pictures of their clients’ lacerated backsides. The protesters reported police beat them while in detention with rubber truncheons and denied them medical attention.


Civil judicial procedures allow for an independent and impartial judiciary, but the judiciary was subject to political influence and intimidation, particularly in cases involving high-ranking government officials, politically connected individuals, or individuals and organizations seeking remedies for violations of human rights.

Lack of judicial and police resources contributed to problems enforcing domestic court orders.


The constitution stipulates the government must compensate persons for improvements made on land subsequently taken by the government, but it does not set a timeline for the delivery of compensation. The government rarely provided restitution or compensation for the taking of private property, and police did not take action against individuals who seized private property without having secured sanction from the state to do so.

Support was uneven and inconsistent for households resettled from the diamond mining grounds of Marange in Chiadzwa to a government-owned agricultural estate outside Mutare. Since 2010 authorities relocated more than 1,800 families. Each household was entitled to receive $1,000 for relocation, although reportedly only a handful received the money. Most of the relocated families had not received compensation of any kind, including agricultural land, while the government classified them as “people with no recognizable legal rights or claim to the land that they are occupying,” citing their former land as now state land, despite customary and traditional rights to the contrary. The government held mining companies responsible for restitution and did not complete appraisal of the land and property lost by each family for the purpose of property restitution. The mining companies insisted the government was responsible. Relocated families reportedly did not have access to adequate social services, including education and health facilities. In addition an estimated 2,510 families remained without a timeframe or destination for their impending relocation at year’s end.

The government also failed to compensate most of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) relocated forcibly from the Tokwe-Mukosi area during flooding in 2014. Approximately 3,125 families were legally entitled to compensation.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but the government did not respect these prohibitions. Government officials pressured local chiefs and ZANU-PF loyalists to monitor and report on persons suspected of supporting political parties other than ZANU-PF. Through threats and intimidation, local chiefs and ZANU-PF loyalists also compelled individuals, mostly in rural areas, to contribute money toward President Mugabe’s birthday celebrations.

Government entities manipulated the distribution of government-provided food aid, agricultural inputs, and access to other government assistance programs such as education assistance to exclude suspected political opposition supporters and to compel support for ZANU-PF.

In September the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission announced ZANU-PF was interfering in the distribution of government food aid for personal political gain at the expense of deserving beneficiaries. An NGO reported that more than 122 incidents of partisan distribution of food aid took place across the country from January to July.

The government forcibly displaced persons from their homes, often without providing adequate notice, consulting victims, or providing alternative accommodation. According to local human rights and humanitarian NGOs, sporadic evictions continued. In September police evicted approximately 50 families from a farm in Darwendale. Media reported police accused the families of illegal settlement and burned the families’ houses, personal property, and food.

Land seizures remained a serious problem. According to the attorney general and Ministry of Lands, every white-owned farm in the country was gazetted (officially announced as available in state media) and effectively became state property. According to the Commercial Farmers Union of Zimbabwe, after authorities gazetted a property, it was transferred to a politically connected individual at the first available opportunity. The exact number of remaining white commercial farmers was unknown; those remaining continued to be targeted, harassed, and threatened with eviction by farm beneficiaries, unemployed youth, and individuals hired by those standing to benefit. Abuse of the land reform laws continued, with invasions and seizures of noncommercial land on the privately owned wildlife conservancies and with the collusion of high-ranking government officials and provincial ZANU-PF party structures and leaders.

Titleholders who lost their homes or properties–where most of their life earnings were invested–were not compensated. By 2013 between 180 and 230 farmers had accepted settlements worth 5 to 10 percent of the value of their investments. As a result, like their former farm workers whom the new farm owners evicted, there were scores of destitute elderly former farmers.

Farm allocations continued to be politicized and used as a reward for political support to ZANU-PF. Beneficiaries divided many reallocated farms near cities for sale as small residential lots and sold them for personal gain without any compensation to the titleholders.

For example, in 2014 Raymond Ndhlukula, deputy chief secretary in the President’s Office, seized a farm near Figtree, Matabeleland South, while police watched. David Conolly, the lawful owner of the property, approached the courts for protection and received a High Court injunction against the seizure. When Conolly confronted Ndhlukula regarding the court order, Conolly alleged Ndhlukula stated he was a senior civil servant and “white people could not come before the courts of Zimbabwe regarding land matters.” Ndhlukula’s workers eventually forced Conolly off the property. Conolly filed an urgent high court application regarding the seizure of his farm, and Ndhlukula was found in contempt of the court order, which Ndhlukula appealed. On September 13, Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister Douglas Mombeshora filed for Conolly’s eviction–giving him seven workdays to vacate the property–even though the case remained before the Supreme Court.

On February 3, a ZANU-PF provincial chairperson reportedly seized a farm in Masvingo belonging to Yvonne Goddard, a widow who had lived on the farm for 45 years. The ZANU-PF official justified the invasion by arguing the seizure was lawful as the farm was underutilized.

ZANU-PF supporters also forcibly seized the property of nonwhite landowners. For example, in August dozens of youth linked to ZANU-PF invaded the farm of Victor Matemadanda, secretary of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA), after he lost favor with the ruling party.

There were other reports of farmers forced off their farms, despite being in possession of a court order allowing them to remain on the property, and denied the opportunity to collect their personal belongings. Black farm workers were beaten, intimidated, or displaced. Police in most cases did not intervene while invaders and looters carried on their activities, nor did police enforce court judgments evicting squatters on illegally seized properties.

The law permits the interception and monitoring of any communication (including telephone, postal mail, e-mail, and internet traffic) in the course of transmission through a telecommunication, postal, or other system in the country. Civil liberties advocates claimed the government used the law to stifle freedom of speech and target political and civil society activists.